Monday, May 30, 2011

Adventures in Couponing: Third (and final) Trip of the Great 3-Day Couponing Weekend

Final run to the last few sales I wanted to catch, before everything rose back to pre-Memorial Day prices.

First Stop:  PETCO
I worked in pet retail for 3 years, so I know some of the tricks.  The best deal is if you can find a clearance item to stack with a manufacturer's coupon.  And PETCO, with its ever-changing product lines and planograms, always has a ton of clearance.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Adventures in Couponing: Second Trip

Hubby and I have our big beginning-of-the-month grocery run planned for tomorrow, so I decided to make a couple more small couponing ventures tonight, so we can get whatever's left on our shopping list on our last big trip tomorrow.  Here's the breakdown:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Adventures in Couponing: First Trip

I decided to try to go small after my first experimental couponing trip to Harris Teeter (where I got $50 worth of groceries for $20).  So I made a list of just a few things I wanted to go at each store, organized my coupons into envelopes (stacking manufacturer and store, where I had both), made a shopping list, grabbed some circulars, and hit the road.

For a beginner couponer, I am very pleased with the results.  See for yourself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Couponing: Perfect hobby if you have OCD

My latest big obssession has become couponing.  I made one half-hearted couponing trip to Harris Teeter during Triple Coupons week, and walked out with $50 worth of much-needed groceries for $20.  That was a big thrill.

Then I started watching a couple of episodes of "Extreme Couponing" and saw the much more impressive discounts self-taught housewives were receiving.  And I thought, "I can do that!"  I worked as an accounting tech for six years.  I managed a retail store for three.  Now I work in finance for a state government division.  If anyone can take obssessive organizing and use it to maximize cost-effectiveness, it's a numbers nerd like me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

TTC Insanity

Every morning when my alarm clock goes off, I reach with one hand to silence it while my other hand goes to the thermometer I keep next to the bed.  I pop the thermometer in my mouth and wait until it beeps, getting the reading before I so much as sit up.

Once I do sit up, I turn to my laptop and enter the temperature reading onto a handy little line graph.  Normally, I'm disappointed by what I see.

I get a shower, get dressed, and head downstairs.  While I prepare my morning coffee, I pop pills from three different bottles, kept next to the coffeepot so I don't forget.  One is a basic multivitamin, one is an iron supplement, and one is a folic acid pill, which is completely uncoated and about as easy to swallow as a handful of sawdust.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Having a lot of people you care about is expensive.

I love my large, crazy family.  I love that my son has cousins and aunts and grandparents that he gets to see all the time.  I love that he will grow up with a huge network of people who love and support him.

I love the ease of finding a babysitter on short-notice.

And I love family events.  Especially when I have the opportunity to give presents.

For starters, I hate to shop for myself.  I hate shopping for groceries.  I find these things boring and tedious.  (And, as I've mentioned before, if my clothes from 8th grade still fit and don't have too many holes in them, I see no need to buy new ones.)

But I love gift shopping.  Shopping for other people gives me a huge charge, and I spend months before Christmas comparing gifts, prices, picking out stocking-stuffers, etc.  It's not uncommon for me to have all my shopping done and everything wrapped by at least Thanksgiving, if not Halloween.

This effort has been recognized as I am viewed, by my family, as one of the better gift-givers.  It's not something I'm arrogant about.  It's just something I enjoy that I've become very good at.

However, through the years, as my family has grown and multiplied, I'm not able to be as generous as I once was.  When we were younger, in our high school and college years, I bought presents for my sisters like they were my own kids.  When the oldest cousin, my niece, was born, I spoiled her like she was my own.

But now we have four babies in the family.  And with every new addition comes not only an extra set of presents to buy at Christmas, but another birthday as well.  All those birthdays and holidays start to really add up, until my whole calendar is filled with special occasions that require a present.  I'll break it down for you by month:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dear Fox Broadcasting Company...

You have four primetime television series which I follow very closely.  There are, in descending order of favoritism:  Glee, House, Bones, and Fringe.

"Glee" is about singing, dancing, nerdy highschoolers.  "House" is about a misanthropic, Vicodin-addicted genius diagnostician.  "Bones" is about a forensic anthropologist and team who assist the FBI on murder cases.  No one is still entirely sure what "Fringe" is about.  (Two universes?  Creepy bald men in hats?  Practical applications for LSD?)

But there is something that all four of these very disparate shows have in common (apart from my loyal viewership).  100% of these shows have major story arcs regarding pregnancies.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We need to pray for Harold Camping and his followers.

As you may have noticed, the world did NOT end Saturday night.  And, for the most part, I think people are pretty okay with that.  I agree with the mentality of, "Even so, come now Lord Jesus," but that doesn't mean I'm in a hurry to leave this world.  There's still a good bit I would like to do, and I'm not disappointed that I'll have a little bit more time to do it in.

But there are a lot of people who are very, very disappointed.  Most notably, those poor misguided souls who truly believed the Rapture was going to roll around at 6:00 Saturday night.  Many of Harold Camping's (the May 21st Doomsday predictor) followers spend through their savings, racked up credit card debt, and moved their families across the country to spread the message of Jesus's immediate return.  Unfortunately, their faith was misplaced, and they were left broken and disillusioned.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sweet, sweet freedom...

I love my son.  Looooove him.  He is the coolest kid to ever exist.  He's sweet, funny, bright, handsome, and popular.  And not in a "look at the cute baby way" but popular like a varsity quarterback.  Everyone knows his name and wants to hang out with him.  He is the man.

And, every once in a while, it's really nice to have a day, or maybe a half-day off work to hang out with my miniature best bud.  We can cruise the mall, hit the playground or the pool, and it's all good.

If he's feeling well.  The problem is, the last two days, he has been home sick from school.  And he really is sick, not just "got the sniffles and just want some time with Mom" sick.  So I've been home with him.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick and dirty.

No big post this morning, as my routine has been somewhat thrown-off.  My son came home "sick" (I swear he fakes it) from daycare yesterday, and I can't take him back until 24-hours is up.  So today I'm stuck cleaning runny diapers and trying not to think about how much work is piling up in my in-box.

A few highlights from yesterday:

Watched "Horton Hears a Who" and it was adorable and had great voice-casting.

Practiced my new couponing skill and took advantage of Harris Teeter's triple-coupon week.  Got $50 worth of much-needed groceries for $20, so I would call that a success.

Found out that an easy way to relax and entertain my son at the same time is to play PS3 and let him hold an unplugged controller so he thinks he's playing.

And a couple of lowlights...

The baby turning a sports water bottle upside down over the bed and yelling, "It's raining!"

Him coming to me upset and asking, "Where kitty go?  See kitty?  Kitty play?"  I found the cat for him, and he immediately tried to sit on the poor thing.  "I ride it!"
"No baby, you can't ride him.  Hurt kitty."
"Oh.  Where doggy go?"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 1920s called. They want this generation back.

Taking time off work, but can't afford to go anywhere?  That's a staycation.  Salvaging used goods thrown away by others is no longer dumpster-diving, it's "free-cycling".  And books and books of clipped coupons are no longer the domain of grandmas, but of twenty-somethings.

Things that haven't been in vogue since the Great Depression are now skyrocketing back into popularity.  Don't believe me?  Take a visit to Google and see how many people now raise chickens at home (even in urban dwellings).

Frugality is my generation's new hobby.  "Sure," you might be thinking.  "Times are tight."  But it's my belief that there are several issues beyond the Great Recession contributing to this widespread penny-pinching.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something needs to change, and it's not little girls.

Self-tanning.  Eyebrow-shaping.  Bikini waxes.  Botox.  The prices women pay for beauty, right?

But, in the midst of a bizarre culture that fetishizes feminine youth to disturbing levels, women are getting these procedures younger, and younger.  And I'm not talking about those poor deluded sisters who are worried about wrinkles at 20.

They're at least adults.  I'm talking about 8-year-olds.

Or 6-year-olds, even.  That's how early some little girls are coming in for bikini waxes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is this really all we have to be proud of?

My in-laws, though originally from New York, now live in the tiny town of Liberty, North Carolina.  Every time my husband and I go to visit, we pass a sign at the Liberty city limits, that proudly boasts they are home of Craig Kirkman, 1987 World Skeet Champion.

I'm really afraid that, in 50 years, Garner will still be displaying a sign that they are home of 2011 American Idol Runner-Up, Scotty McCreery.

Now, let me start by saying that I'm not much of an "American Idol" fan.  I watched the first couple of seasons because I was in high school and no one had invented TiVo yet, and I followed a little bit of the season where the infinitely more-talented Adam Lambert lost to some boring nice guy.

I did watch a little bit of the beginning of this season because I'm an Aerosmith fan and Steven Tyler's drug-fried brain forces him to say hilariously inappropriate things.  But it became obvious early on, when all the superior female singers kept getting voted off, that it was truly just a popularity contest, and crush-obsessed tween girls were dominating the voting.

Unfortunately, living in the Triangle, I can't avoid what has to be the stupidest side-effect of "American Idol":  Scotty McCreery Hysteria.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Big graduation sale!

Graduation sale happening now in 8PP Store!  Sale begins on today, May, 12th and will run through Monday, May, 16th! Details below . . .

Coupon Code: Associates
Discount: $5 off any order

Coupon Code: Bachelors
Discount: $10 off subtotal of $30+

Coupon Code: Masters
Discount: $20 off subtotal of $75+

Witness at Work

I'm very lucky when it comes to my office.  The guys I work with are all very nice, and have been nothing but helpful to me since I've started.  Excluding my position, there's been virtually zero turnover amongst my dozen coworkers.  My boss is amazing, and it's a largely Christian office.

Of course, that doesn't stop me from wanting to be a good witness at work.  Though the vast majority of my office is professing Christians, I stand out as openly evangelical.  Not bringing shame on my faith through my actions is very important to me.

Plus, we've almost all had that Christian co-worker.  You know the one.  She (it's usually a woman) sends mass e-mail forwards about alleged government attacks on Christian's religious freedoms, uses prayer requests as excuses to gossip, and goes on and on about her church's bake sale when you really wish she'd just return that document you asked her to work on a month ago.

I never want to be that woman.  So I walk that fine line between being a closet Christian and just being obnoxious.  I'm not saying this will work for everyone, but here's how I've worked it out for me, at my work:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Too much to cover: Big-kid friends, "Glee", and cultural myths

Tuesdays are always a busy day because of Life Group, and last night was our turn to cook, which only compounds things further.  (Though hubby's "breakfast for dinner" appeared to be a big hit, we were a little low attendance-wise, so it looks like leftover breakfast will be for dinner for the rest of the week.)

Then, due to a juxtaposition of circumstances, we didn't have a babysitter for the kids.  So while the grown-ups talked and read downstairs, I stayed upstairs with my 21-month-old son and a just-turned-5-years-old boy I often teach in Children's Church.

The two of them had a blast, and I'm sure our friends' son crashed just as hard as mine did when he got home.  But in the course of wearing themselves out, they really wore me out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Traumatizing kids' movie from the '80s: Labyrinth

I am about to criticize my all-time favorite movie.  "Labyrinth" came out in 1986, when I was one-year-old, and I think I've loved it since then.  It was the first DVD I bought with my own money.  The soundtrack was one of the first cds I ever bought.

And it kicked off a lifelong obsession with David Bowie.  I own a cd version of every David Bowie album (even rare stuff, like the German version of "Heroes", "Helden").  I own almost every movie Bowie has appeared in, ranging from "Gunslinger's Revenge" (where Bowie adopts a heavy southern accent) to musical about race relations in Britain, "Absolute Beginners" (a movie so English, you have to use subtitles to understand what they're saying).

I love David Bowie so much, it has extended into a disturbing tendency for me to crush on any British actor who is way too old for me.  Sure, Christian Bale is hot.  But he's got nothing on Hugh Laurie, Alan Rickman, or Anthony Stewart Head.  (House, Snape/Hans Gruber, and Giles from "Buffy", for the uneducated.)

This is all to say, please understand that I take the accusations I am about to make against "Labyrinth" very seriously.  For all I love it and have it memorized back-to-front, it is a seriously messed-up movie that no child should ever be subjected to.  For instance:

Monday, May 9, 2011

My brilliant new marketing strategy...

First off, let me say that I had an amazing Mother's Day weekend.  My son's awesome preschool teacher had a ton of goodies the kids helped make for us, including a framed poem with my baby's handprints and a photo of him.  (Though they did have to rearrange the layout on my son's poem/handprints/photo collage, since his hands are so much bigger than any of the other kids'.  The trials of having a giant baby never cease.)

And my husband made me breakfast in bed Sunday morning whilst presenting me with a vase of gorgeous flowers.  I'm not much of a botanist, but they look like something that would grow wild in a field while Julie Andrews twirls around and sings.  I showed a blurry cell phone photo of them to my friend who knows flowers, and she thinks they're marigolds and shasta daisies.  Either way, they're really pretty, and beat the crap out of cliched roses.

For my mom and stepmom, I baked heart-shaped cookie cakes from scratch, and decorated them all pretty and fancy.  I don't usually cook anything that requires more than a toaster, so this was a real labor of love, coming from me.  (Also, I managed to procure two Mother's Day gifts, my friend's baby shower gifts, and my niece's birthday gifts, all for under $100.  Yay frugal me!)

On the subject of cookies, I'm sure you've seen the new DiGiorno Pizza & Cookies packages.  My husband and I love these, because we often eat pizza and cookies on Saturday nights when we stay up late without the baby and forget about eating healthy.  Buying those two things together is easier and cheaper.

But it got me to thinking, what other unexpected objects might be cleverly packaged together?  How about...

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's all about ME!!!

So, Mother's Day is coming up (and that means more than just hilarious entries on STFUParents).

It means my first real Mother's Day.

Yes, technically I was a mother on Mother's Day last year, and a mom-to-be the year before.  But being pregnant on Mother's Day only counts so much, and my jerk boss made me close the store on Mother's Day last year because he wanted to go play volleyball.

So, this is my first real Mother's Day, where my son is actually old enough to help make me a gift.  And, I'm going to be selfish this year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Argh! Kill it! Kill it!

Feliz cinco de mayo, todos.  I hope that you're reading this with a Margarita in-hand.  (I don't care if it's before noon.  It's very important that we celebrate Mexico's independence.  I know I wish I was drinking right now.

So, I'm gonna come clean, here.

I've not been having the best week.

Since Sunday, my adhesion pain has been hitting me pretty intensely, and has been more constant than since before my last surgery.  It hasn't gotten quite to the curled-up-on-the-bathroom-floor-uncontrollably-vomiting-and-screaming-that-this-is-worth-than-childbirth stage, but it's definitely been more troublesome than it has been in a long time.

The best way I can describe it is to use the illustration of a fork sticking into spaghetti, and then twisting it so it gets all wrapped around the twines.  My insides are the spaghetti.  (Sorry if you'd planned on eating Italian tonight, but not really, because it's cinco de mayo and you should be eating tacos.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Traumatizing kids' movies from the '80s: The Neverending Story

A few months back, my mom saw a DVD copy of "The Neverending Story" cheap, so she picked it up for me.  At the time, I wanted to wait to re-watch it until my son could enjoy it for me.  Well, the other night he was in a bit of a restless mood, so I popped in the movie for him to watch while we chilled out on the couch.

And you know what?  It's a wonder my generation is not more screwed up than we already are.  Kids' movies in the '80s were insane.  There is no way now that a movie like "The Neverending Story" could play in theaters nowadays without parents dragging their kids out in protest.  In case you haven't seen it in a while, let me remind you about the following scenes:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest post by Darrick Moreno

Progressive Nation 2008 -- A Display of Prog's Finest

Thanks for the post from Darrick Moreno

Progressive Nation 2008. A new tour spearheaded by progressive metal masters Dream Theater that brought together four bands to play on one stage. Aside from Dream Theater headlining the tour, the band lineup consisted of the progressive rock band Three, the extreme progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me, and progressive melodic death metal band Opeth.

I turned on my home security alarm from before heading out the door with my wife and my best friend to drive the one hour to Columbus, Ohio, where the concert event was taking place. The show starte! d in the late afternoon in a giant outdoor amphitheater called the "Lifestyle Communities Pavilion." The place was full of fans, yet not overly crowded, and everyone was in a good mood, which made for a very pleasant concert environment.

Three and Between the Buried and Me each played half hour setlists which gave way to Opeth playing for an hour as the sun was setting, bathing the outdoor area in blue twilight as they finished up their set. With the sun finally down, the lights came on and Dream Theater proceeded to stun the ground with an incredible hour and a half performance of thunderous progressive metal.

The show was an stunning display of some of the best progressive bands in the world, and one that I will never forget.

How then, should we pray?

Most adults, particularly those who have been Christians their entire lives, pretty much figure they have praying down-pat.  Maybe some are more formal, starting out with a "Dear heavenly Father", while other people are more casual.  For some reason, I think almost every 20-something girl leading prayer in a group starts off with, "Dear Jesus, we just come to you right now..."

But you know who really has prayer figured out?  Pre-schoolers.  On any given Sunday, my children's church kids range in age from 2 to 5.  Lately, they've all gotten more comfortable, and they all really want to pray.

Of course, it's normally, "Oh, I want to pray!" followed by 30 seconds of throat-clearing, and then something disjointed and totally unrelated to the lesson.  Pretty soon, everyone in the room wants a chance to get to say a prayer.

And I let them.  It may take up a few extra minutes we really don't have, but I'm never going to tell a child, "No, we don't have time for you to pray right now."

Monday, May 2, 2011

We interrupt this regularly scheduled post...

So, today I was originally planning on writing about getting baptized, and how cute preschoolers are when they pray, but, um, something came up.

Anyone in America who has checked the news this morning knows that Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks by Al Queda, has been found and killed by American military forces.

And, I know you shouldn't be excited about anyone's death, no matter who that person is, but I'm not going to lie and say I'm not breathing a little easier this morning.