Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday

You guys, I freaking LOVE animals, especially reptiles and amphibians. When I was a kid, my heroes were Steve Irwin(The Crocodile Hunter) and Jeff Corwin and my dream was to be a herpetologist and discover a new species. I was always bringing some new animal home, whether it be frogs, turtles, lizards or snakes(much to my mother’s dismay). My mom would take me and my sister out for hours to local ponds and ditches with a bait net and we would swish it through the shallows to see what cool critters we could come up with. This is a tradition that I plan on continuing with my own children, so the ‘lil Burghers have decided to introduce a new series: Wildlife Wednesday.

wildlife wednesday

I am hoping to take the kids out at least once a week to explore local ponds, streams, lakes and parks. If you are local and have recommendations for places to explore or if you would like to join us on our adventures, please hit us up in the comments. My goal is to observe the beauty of our world, to educate and entertain our readers, but most of all, it will be a vital bonding experience with my children that I can cherish forever.

snapping turtle
Evan and a baby Snapping Turtle

I should also add that I am not a professional zoologist, but I have a fairly decent knowledge of the wildlife we will be encountering and have many years of experience catching and handling them. Especially when it comes to snakes, please use caution; and kids, never pick up a wild snake by yourself. I will be going over snake guidelines in another post, including how to tell if that snake in your yard is venomous, or just harmless pest control.

I truly believe that it is important to learn all we can about these beautiful creatures so that we can learn to protect them for generations to come. Maybe we will even inspire some of you to go and check out the critters in your own backyard.

Until next week, happy herping, ya’ll!

{Be sure to follow along with Wildlife Wednesday on social media with #wildlifewednesday & #lilburghers for extra content!}

Who’s your Daddy?

Everyone always talks about moms and Stay-At-Home-Moms, there are magazines devoted to them and countless articles written but you rarely hear about the dads who make it their job to be the care-givers. Some people might see my life as ideal, a lazy man’s dream, an excuse not to work. Well I am here to dispel the stigma and set the record straight. Being a Stay-At-Home-Dad is HARD WORK!!!  

I have a job and it is the definition of full-time. My boss doesn’t listen to reason…most of the time they don’t listen at all. They walk all over me (literally, ask my back), and don’t like to take no for an answer. Here is a taste of what a day in the life of a SAHD is like.

On days when A has preschool, I wake up to help mrsburgher get her ready and out the door and then decide if it is worth it to try to get another hour of sleep before going to pick her up or not. Some days mrsburgher has to go to work early so I wake up E and we take lil miss A to school. Since her preschool only lasts for 2.5 hours, we usually hang out in the area and do some couponing instead of coming home. After picking A up, we go coupon hunting for a bit, then back to the house. 

When we get home, the first thing that is demanded is a meal of course, so I take off my chauffeur hat and put on my hair net, cuz lets be for real, I’m no chef. As they eat, I work on cleaning up the kitchen, bathrooms, doing laundry, vacuuming, dusting, or lately, rearranging and reorganizing the guest room/E’s room and coupon goodies. After lunch and A’s numerous “I’m hungry” rants, even though she still has food on her plate, they retire to the toy room to play so I can continue to work on the never-ending project that is our disorganized house. Five minutes later, E is at my feet wanting something, though he still has not found the words to tell me what and A is not far being to rat him out and state the obvious, that he has escaped the toy room. So my work is on hold as we return to the toy room where I sit and watch A draw and throw the ball with E. Once I am sure they are content to play by themselves, I again, go about my chores…only to be interrupted 10 minutes later by A yelling that E is climbing on the table…or she is in the bathroom announcing to the world that she pooped, and the dogs need to go out, or E stinks…it really all goes back to poop. As I am writing this now, I have 4 little eyes peering up at me as A shows me her drawing board “look what I made Daddy” and E pulls at the power cord. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to make it clear and say that I LOVE what I do and I can’t imagine my life any other way, nor would I want to. This post is not to make you think otherwise or discourage any would be SAHDs, but to give a glimpse into the inner workings of a still taboo lifestyle and to let it be known that it is in fact a job, one that can be incredibly trying and exhausting, but ultimately more fulfilling than any other I have encountered.

On days that A does not have preschool, it is just longer hours at home and more of the same, a mixture of chores being interrupted by playtime, yelling and of course crying. My only reprieve is nap time, which thankfully run concurrently so as to provide a break for me to do as I please. Much of this time I actually use to complete chores earlier abandoned but sometimes I do just lay on the couch and watch television. 

After nap time, we come back down stairs and have a snack while watching “Your Baby Can Read”. A absolutely loves it while E is still unsure but I highly recommend it to new parents! After playing some more in the toy room, it is time for mrsburgher to come home from work so depending on the dish, I put my hair net back on and start dinner. Working in the kitchen is always a challenge because all 4 kids (pups included) know what goes on in there and are constantly at my feet to beg for scraps (We have gates but they have all figured out how to get around them).

Once dinner is prepared and mrsburgher is home we all sit down to enjoy our meals. The kids of course would rather have whatever we are eating and so the crying begins. Mrsburgher and I have several tv shows that we record and watch in the evenings but this is always a challenge since E and A would rather have all of our focus on them. We rarely get through one show in the 2-3 hours between mrsburgher coming home and the kids bedtime. From E screaming because he is getting tired and doesn’t know what he wants anymore to A having to show us everything and ask 20,000 questions to the dogs having to go outside as soon as I sit down from putting our dishes in the sink, it just doesn’t happen. The funny thing is, as soon as we pause the tv, everyone is quiet. Sometimes we get lucky and they will just come up and snuggle with us and be content to just sit but those moments are few and far between .

When it is bedtime, we ask A and E to clean up their toy room, a simple request you would think, especially since A cleans up at school and at Grammy and Pappy’s. Sometimes she listens but 3 is a funny age and she is becoming more defiant lately. After baths, brushing teeth and a bedtime story, they are tucked in for the night and the Mrs and I can relax and enjoy the rest of the evening before going to bed ourselves.

I realize I only really talked about the trials and hardships of my day-to-day but that is not to say there aren’t plenty of positives. The good moments far outweigh the bad and I get to be there for all of it, not many parents get to say that. I have memories of my kids that I will cherish forever and that beats a paycheck any day. You can’t put a price on first steps, first words, a rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the nastiest blowout in history. It all falls under the job description “Stay-At-Home-Dad”.

This one’s for the ladies!

I have several influential amazing women in my life and since it is International Women’s Day, I thought I would take a minute to call them out and let them know how important they are to me.

Of course, I have to start with my mother, the most hard working, kind-hearted, happy-go-lucky person I know without whom I would not exist. I can never tell her enough that I love her and that I am forever grateful for the love shes shown me all my life and the example she set to put me on the path to be the man I am today.

My wife, Mrsburgher, is quite simply my world and I don’t know where I would be without her. She is one of the strongest women I know and the best wife and mother to our children that I could have asked for.

My sisters and I have been both friend and foe throughout the years but as we’ve matured, we have grown into the lifelong friends we God intended us to be. My older sister has had her struggles and has kept her head up through enormous odds and is now thriving. She just found out that she will soon be a published academic which is really no surprise to me, the lady is brilliant! I am so proud to call her my big sister and I hope she knows how much I look up to her, her strength gives me strength. 

My younger sister has got to be the most independent, free thinking people on the planet and there is nothing she can’t and won’t do if she sets her mind to it. She is currently being awesome in Morocco while volunteering for the Peace Corps. I’d have to say she is my best friend and has been pretty much all our lives.  She is the most likable person with an infectious personality, just that person that everyone wants to hang with. I can’t wait to see what is in store for her next, but hopefully it will bring her back closer to home because I do miss her terribly!

I have got to say, I have the best In-laws ever! My wife’s mom, aunts, cousins and grandma have all made me feel like I was born into this family. I really couldn’t have asked for better and I hope they know how much I truly adore them. Thank you all.

Last but certainly not least, my beautiful daughter, lil miss A. You brighten up my day little one, you are so smart and inquisitive and the most helpful big sister. I never knew that I had so much love to give until you came into my life. I know that you are going to grow up to do amazing things, just do your daddy a favor and don’t be in too much of a hurry, you can stay my little girl for as long as you’d like. I love you princess!

I hope everyone is blessed to have amazing women in their life like I am, cherish them and let them know how important they are.

 

Couponing: The Rub

Now that I had my seemingly endless supply of inserts, it was time to sort, clip and organize the coupons. This is no easy task and while the end result can be very rewarding, this part of the prep is why many people don’t take couponing to such an extreme level.

There are 3 main inserts, Smartsource, which comes in the Saturday or Sunday paper. Redplum, which as I mentioned before, comes once a week in the mail. Then there is the P&G Brandsaver, which only comes once a month in the mail, for that reason, it, while hardest to find, can have some of the best deals on health and beauty products.

I start sorting by putting all Smartsources together, then Redplums, then P&G. I then organize inserts from each type in order of date. Once all inserts are together by type and date, I can start putting all like pages together, SS is the easiest, while RP and P&G have many 2-page coupons that need to be torn down the middle and takes more time. Once all like pages are together, the clipping can begin.

I started out using a pair of scissors, then upgraded to one of B’s scrapbooking cutters, however once I tried to cut more than 10 pages at a time, I knew I needed some heavy machinery. I did some research and the cheapest guillotine cutter I found initially was $35-40. Then I remembered that my brother-in-law told me that the store Harbor Freight had cheap ones, and since he helped me do a little coupon hunting, he’d found a 20% off coupon. I checked their website and they had a big industrial cutter for $25. After my coupon, I got it for $20, half of what much smaller, dinkier cutters would have cost me!

Once I got the new cutter, clipping was a breeze. I only cut about 15 of each coupon in order to prevent a bloated binder, the rest of the insert pages stay together in case they are needed. A label tab is put on the front card protector with the date and type of insert, then coupons are placed in the protector by expiration date. When coupons expire, they are removed and put in envelopes to send to the military, as they may still be used on base after expiration. All excess insert paper is recycled when I return to find the next batch.

At the moment, all the sorting and clipping is being done at our kitchen table and admittedly causes quite a messy cluster. B is mildly(hah!) OCD and is constantly annoyed at how unorganized my organizing process becomes and it has therefore spawned many an argument. The stress from the mess, coupled with the amount of time I end up devoting to sorting and clipping and the amount of gas being used on our couponing trips all builds up and boils over from time to time.

These are the downfalls to couponing, along with driving all the way to a store to find the sale item completely gone which is especially frustrating when the store just opened and the sale just started that day. We have overheard employees asking their coworkers to hide items for them on more than one occasion. To be honest, that infuriates me, I know that we are trying to get cheap or free items and I shouldn’t complain, however the store should order extra stock for employees wishing to take part in the sales. Moreover, the employees actually have control over the product placement and whether or not items are made accessible to customers. They know when the trucks come in and are responsible for the inventory, JUST ORDER MORE! If couponing were a sport, the store employees would have an unfair advantage.

The last bit of bad news about the coupon game is the checkout. Once you have all your items and are ready to checkout, it is wise to size up your cashier. Is she a middle aged single mom who looks like she’s having a bad decade? An overcompensating over-the-hill guy who thinks he has to exert every last ounce of authority to prove that his job doesn’t suck? Maybe it’s the teenager doing the after school gig? I’ll take “has never heard of the Brat Pack” for 1000 Alex! Now this isn’t always true but many younger cashiers (especially teenage guys) tend to be less jaded and therefore don’t care as much or overanalyze. They take your coupons and do their job, not fighting you over ever penny saved. B recently had a manager at our local Rite-Aid store get into a shouting match with her simply because he doesn’t know his own policies and takes his job far too seriously. He was lucky I was in the car with the kids and B wouldn’t let me go in to have a word with him. Needless to say, someone’s corporate office is getting an angry phone call.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared, knowing store coupon policies and paying close attention at checkout. Many times a deal will hinge on every item and coupon being scanned and coming up correctly in the register so watch the cashier to be sure that nothing is missed or you could end up paying retail!

Couponing: The Hunt

When I ended the last post I was explaining how I began helping B coupon. While watch “Extreme Couponing” I noticed a woman who would visit her local Recycling Center and dig through the newspapers and magazines in search of buried insert gold! The idea was initially shocking but the more I thought about it, the more excited and ok with it I became. She wasn’t going through garbage, it’s not like she had to weed through dirty diapers and banana peels, it was all paper. I started doing research on the Internet for local recycling centers in our area with no luck, although I admittedly did not look very hard at first as I was still worried about the appearance of it all and what people would think.

Eventually the prospect of free loot got the best of me and I decided to give it a shot. I knew that there was a recycling center in the town where B’s parents live, which is unfortunately a good 30 minutes away, however I still get my hair cut there, so I took the opportunity to do a little recon to see if it would be worth the dirty looks. After dropping the kids off for a little Grammie and Pappy time and getting a new fresh-to-death fade, I drove by the dumpsters. The first thing I saw were bags of newspapers sticking out of the opening and I started seeing dollar signs. I parked the truck, grabbed my gloves and went to investigate. The first bag I opened, there was a fresh, untouched Red Plum sitting on top, which every couponer knows is coveted, since it only comes in the mail once a week so multiples are difficult to come by. Back in the dumpster I noticed stacks and stacks crisp newspapers from the day before. I figured that business owners or distribution centers must dump their extra, unsold papers there, score! I knew that if I timed it right, I could get plenty of the latest inserts in mint condition. Thus began my great dumpster-diving adventure!

Every opportunity we got, the kids and I would pack up and go visit Grammie and Pappy. While the kids enjoyed time with their grandparents, daddy was sifting through circulars. The dumpsters are right beside a bike path and as people would go by, I would feel the eyes piercing, judging. I no longer cared, for they were ignorant to the riches I was soon to uncover. From time to time, cars would pull up and people would dump their recycling, and while most would pretend they didn’t see me, some would ask what I was doing or if I lost something. I would explain, and they seemed to understand, saying things like “nowadays, you gotta do what you gotta do”. If someone came to drop off newspapers, I would ask if I could take them off their hands, no one seemed to care, and I helped some elderly folks with the rest of their recycling in the process. The Mayor actually came by one day and after unloading his recycling, questioned my motives, saying that they have had problems with people leaving trash on the outside and misusing the bins. I explained and promised to leave the place as clean as I found it, which seemed to appease him.  B still gets nervous whenever I go coupon hunting, afraid that somehow I will get arrested, but I know that I am doing nothing wrong and will continue as long as there is no law against it.

I recently discovered some newspaper only dumpsters only a few miles from our house, which makes our wallets and our gas tank happy, we are doing this to save money after all. Finding coupons this way can have a huge payoff, but you should be willing to make a fool of yourself and leave your pride at home.

But…all that glitters isn’t gold…keep reading: Couponing: The Rub

Couponing: The Beginning

I have always been skeptical of the little old ladies who stand in front of me at the super market checkout with a fist full of coupons. How much could they possibly be saving that it is worth holding up the line for 15 minutes, I mean how much cat food can you really need anyhow? Upon marrying my wife, I had no clue that she could very well end up being one of those little old ladies, minus the cats of course, but what I DEFINITELY did not see happening is that I too would become that person who keeps you waiting in line while he watches every single coupon being swiped and the dollar signs diminish.

For B, she has always had a love of shopping, which in the past has gotten her, and now us, into a bit of financial disarray. For me, I was always happy to get free stuff. Coupled with my addictive personality, I didn’t stand a chance. As we creep closer to climbing out of that hole, we find ourselves searching for ways to combat both her shopping addiction and my need to have a hobby and collect things. Couponing it is!

B started to coupon before we got together, however, with the addition of 2 children and 1 hungry husband, I think it’s safe to say it has intensified. Once we bought our house and were closer to all the key coupon spots, it was game on. Every Sunday, B would buy 3-4 papers and start clipping. She’d search online sites and blogs for the current deals and printable coupons, then find the corresponding coupons in the paper to get the maximum savings. After she had all her coupons together, she would hit the stores. At first, I stayed home with the kids, as coupon fever had not yet struck me and I still did not understand her system. She would come home with her loot and I would help her put it all away, amazed but not quite sold.

Part of my hesitation had to do with the fact that I did not see my role in the process, as B seemed to have it all in hand. Then one day, the TV network TLC debuted a show called “Extreme Couponing”. This show features the savants who have turned a simple money saving venture into an artform! I was intrigued at how a person could take a $1000 purchase and reduce it to a few bucks and in some cases, make money! Being a stay-at-home parent, I am always struggling with the fact that I do not bring in a paycheck and therefore the brunt of the financial burden falls on B’s shoulders. But again, how could I become a cog in B’s coupon system?

As I continued to watch the show, I noticed how these people seemed to have an endless supply of coupons, some from inserts, printed, or even ordered from a clipper service. I also noticed that they seemed to be pretty well organized in binders and began thinking about how much time B spends sorting and cutting her coupons. While there is a procedure of calculating the deals that my brain is not quite suited for, the sorting, clipping and organizing aspect was right up my alley. Then I thought about my baseball card collections I had as a kid and how the card pages made it so easy to organize and sort my cards, which happened to be the same size as some coupons. But did we really need that much space for only a few newspapers worth of coupons? Or was the issue that we needed more coupons? With more coupons, we could take advantage of better deals, but where would we come up with extra coupons that wouldn’t involve buying them? A woman on the show had the answer, however it did seem a bit unorthodox and taboo.

And the story continues – Couponing: The Hunt