Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crazy Coupon Lady

This is who I have become, at least according to my children. I was introduced by a friend of mine into "extreme coupon-ing" a few months ago. Since we were trying to decrease our monthly expenses to save money for our new addition to the house I thought I would give it a try. What an eye opener! There are stores out there basically giving food away! It has become almost fun to grocery shop and see what kind of deals I can find.

Many people ask me "Can't I save more buying no-name brand stuff?" The answer to that is no. Off brand stuff is usually cheaper, but not that much cheaper. Let me give you a scenario. Kraft American Cheese slices are 2.49. The off brand is 1.99. At a certain store the Kraft goes on sale for 1.49. I have a $1.00 off coupon making them $.49. I bought several at this price today. I also got 8 oz Kraft grated cheese bags for $1.25 a piece- Kroger has a buy one get one free deal and I had a $1.00 off coupon. Today I saved $146! (I spent $112) We are lucky enough to live where most grocery store double coupons up to $.50 and triple up to $.35. This way of shopping is certainly more time consuming, because I have to match store ads up with my coupons and then make three separate trips to area grocery stores to get the deals at each specific store, but I am watching my food storage pantry fill up and I have sliced my grocery bill at least in half. I am beginning to learn what constitutes a "stock-up" price and buy a lot when the price is right. This week I bought BBQ sauce because they were on sale for 50 cents, and I had coupons for $2.00 off Country Time lemonade when I bought 2. The country time and kool aid canisters were on sale for $2, so it was free for every 2 bottles of BBQ sauce I bought, which were only a $1 total for both. 30 bottles of BBQ sauce and 15 canisters (8 quarts) of Country Time and Kool Aid for $17.50 is a good deal to me!

The other deals happen at the drugstores in our area, Walgreens and CVS. They offer deals that include "register rewareds" (coupons to spend on your next shopping order). For example: buy 2 Herbal Essences and receive $2.97 towards your next purchase. They are on sale 2 for $6. I have a coupon for $1.00 off 2, making it 2 for $5. I spend my $5 and they give me $2.97 back, basically making them 2 for $2. I then do a seperate transaction, purchasing 2 right guard deoderants. THey are on sale for $1.99, and they are giving $1.99 back in register rewards....and I have a buy one get one free coupon. I use my previous $2.97 reward, and my coupons to get 4 deoderants for $1.03 and they give me $3.98 to spend on my next order. Do you see the way this works?

Anyway, I have to keep myself reigned in, because it is easy to go overboard, printing multiple coupons from multiple computers and spending 20 hours a week planning shopping trips, like the people you see on the TV show "Extreme Couponing". But in a just a few hours, I find I can save my family a ton of money and have a little fun doing it. It's a win-win!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A month and a half late and a dollar short?

I had set a goal to post once a week this year, but seeing that it is the 14th of February, I am already quite behind. The old me would have felt the need to not post until I had 6 posts ready, one for each week that I am behind. They would all be filled with pictures depicting each event. But the new me knows me better than that. I am learning my limitations. I have so many that it has taken me nearly 40 years to learn them. But it is very liberating to let yourself have limits. I'm not saying I'm going to roll over and play dead for the rest of my life because of them, but I'm going to be a bit more reasonable about what I can and cannot do. For instance, a woman with 8 children, a dog, and my housekeeping skills should not sign up to host a birthday brunch on Monday morning if I want any hope of keeping the Sabbath Day work free. See, I'm learning.

Well, January was exciting. Busy. Purposeful. Let me recap.

My parents came to to visit us for a week. My kids love when they come to visit. To give you some idea of what kind of grandmother my mom is, when the kids opened up the XBox Kinect game system on Christmas morning, one of their comments was "Grandma is going to love this!" Emily also interviewed her grandmother for a report, and she had to list three characteristics of her. This is exactly what she wrote:

1) CRAZY! (she did the moonwalk in McDonald's)

2) Loving

3) Funny!

Yes, my mom keeps us laughing when she is here and this week was no exception. She also helped us all gain a few pounds by making the most delicious whole grain bread and " Monster" chocolate chip cookies. Grandpa has taken the kids for walks and given Makayla her new nickname: Sunshine. He has given each of my kids a nickname over the years: Autumn is Princess , Sean is Professor, Kyle is Squirt , Emily is Twerp, Rebekah is Dolly, Hunter is Mighty Ruler, Julia is Minnie (as in a mini-version of me!) and now Makayla will be known as Sunshine at Grandma and Grandpa Spears' house. Grandma and Grandpa were supposed to be here 9 days and ended up being here for 15 due to the crazy winter weather the South has been having. We had just gotten used to the idea of their moving in permanently when things finally melted and they had to leave!

January flew by, and we kept busy tearing our house up, clearing out and getting rid of stuff because I do not want to be on one of those hoarding shows. The house was okay in that we could clean it up for guests, but I felt like stuff was just oozing out of every drawer and every cupboard. And it was. I have cleaned out about 10 bags of trash and a half of a garage full of stuff to give away so far. It's crazy how much stuff a family of 10 can collect if we do not stay on top of it. We are the blessed recipients of many hand me downs, and they add up. I am grateful for what we have been given, but I need to constantly be aware of when we have too much and we need to pass it along to someone else to use. I don't want this much stuff. I want room in my home for love, kindness, empathy, friendship, fun, and learning. If there is too much STUFF, it seems to take the place of those things. It drains the life out of us keeping up with it all. So out if goes. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Drawers were organized, cupboards lined with shelf paper, closets redone. No more clothes in dressers- they are all on hangers except pj's, socks and undies. I love it. The funniest part of all this work has been watching Makayla, who is now 15 months, find such joy in destroying any semblance of order in anything. It is almost as though she loves chaos as much as I love order. But that is nothing a few cupboard latches can't control!

February has us all working on being more loving and kind to each other. I love when our kids get along. It is the best gift they can give me for any occasion. When they peacefully play together, all is right with the world. And I've also noticed that the cleaner our house is, the calmer things become. The calmer things become, the calmer I am. The calmer I am, the calmer everyone seems to be. I hate wielding that kind of power but that seems to be my lot in life to set the tone of the home. It's a blessing and a curse. A blessing when I am setting the right tone, but a curse when I am not at my best. So I"m trying to teach the kids the connection between doing their chores and mom's level of happiness. I think it might actually be sinking in. Let's hope it lasts.

Valentines Day was sweet for our little family. We got each child a little gift, and Mike surprised me with fun things like a spa gift certificate, homemade chocolates from a friend of ours and some pedicure stuff. He is a much better gift giver than I am. I cooked a nice dinner, but it was so crazy that day I didn't do much else. I am planning a nice date for Friday night, and I"m having his car washed while he is gone. I'm not much of a romantic- I asked for a detail clean of my van for Valentines.

This week Mike is in California. I miss him when he is gone. He is the stabilizing force in my crazy life. I am glad I have all these little friends in my house to keep my busy and make the days go by faster.

So that's my first blog post for the year. I'm hoping it's not a semi-annual thing like it has been in the past. I don't want to forget all these precious moments in our home. And the not so precious ones are good to look back and laugh at in a few years.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We just got home from vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. We met my two sisters and my parents there for Camp Grandma this year because Autumn wanted to visit Southern Virginia University to see if she might want to go there. She is there this week for EFY and will fly home next Sat.

My good friend Melanie made these great shirts for the grandkids and my mom. We got comments on the shirts everywhere we went. They say Camp Grandma on the back and made it easy to spot each other from a mile away. Since Julia is such a great escape artist and runner and we were in many crowded places- Busch Gardens, Water Country and Colonial Williamsburg- this was a good thing. It was crazy hot while we were there- 105-110 for a few days- but we still had a great time. We went to Water Country to beat the heat. They offered a "bounce pass" for these three places where you could go as many times as you want within 7 days for a price that was lower than two regular tickets to the park. So there was no rush to see everything in one day....leaving us time to do things like stop and try honeysuckle.

I think my favorite part of this vacation was watching the way the cousins played together. They had not seen each other for nearly a year, but they just immediately pick up their close relationships with each other. I love this picture of Sean and Kathryn- it just seemed to capture the comfortable ease they felt with each other.

Of course not all children are perfect, and we did have to punish a few for being too rowdy!

But for the most part, it was a wonderful trip with the kids. Makayla, who was the unhappiest newborn we have ever had, has become the happiest infant we have ever had. She travelled like a pro and kept us all smiling.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wonderful World of Disney

For Spring Break this year, we decided to take the kids to Disney. We have not been for about five years. Autumn wanted to go again before she graduated, so it was either this year or next year. Next year, Makayla will be 16 months old, which to me is the worst age imaginable to bring a child to Disney. So we opted to bring her at 5 months old. Not ideal, but it worked out great.

We drove this time, and I clearly had forgotten how long it takes or else we would have flown. That being said, the kids did great. We got there much later than we expected, which made for a late night of preparations for Mike and I to get us prepared for the park in the morning. I think we went to bed at about 1 am. Our plan was to be at the park by 8. We got about 5 minutes down the highway when I realized I left Makayla's formula on the counter, so back to the condo we go. We then decided to stop at Target on the way out to get autograph books for $2 instead of paying $8 at the park (total savings $42). We arrived at that parking lot at 9 am and by the time we got our tickets from will call, took the monorail, got a double stroller ($32 a day- what are they nuts?) it was 10 am and we walked into the park just in time for the morning parade. The kids loved it, but I was looking around and wondering really how we were going to maneuver our huge family amongst the seemingly millions of people that were at the park that day. Apparently, it had rained for two days straight prior to our arrival, so everyone was back at Magic Kingdom to celebrate the return of sunshine. I needn't have worried though, as I have "Super-Mike" on my side. He ran to get fast passes all day, and kept us out of lines. Having a child swap option makes it so easy to avoid waits! We would use 5 of our tickets for fast passes for the rides that everyone including Hunter could ride, and the other four tickets for fast passes for the rides only our 48 inch and over kids could ride. Mike would take four kids on, leaving one to help me with the little ones. At the front of the fast pass line you ask for a child swap and they give you a fast pass good for three more people to come through the line! So after they got off I would ride with two of the kids. It worked great. We didn't have time to go to Walmart to get food for the day because we got in so late, so the only lines we waited in were for food and to get autographs from characters.

We got home from the park at around 11 pm. The kids were fabulous for having such a long day. We were so grateful to have bought a Winnie the Pooh "harness" (fancy name for leash) at Walmart in Texas. It kept Julia from being lost, trampled, drowned.....several times over. Probably the best $20 investment we made for the trip.

We took the kids back to the condo and then Autumn and I went shopping for food to bring to the park on Monday ( Uncrustables, crackers, water bottles, nutrigrain bars, protein bars, pringles, apples, oranges, etc...) and food for Sunday meals (cereal and oatmeal, lunchmeat for sandwiches and lasagna for dinner) as well.

We took the day off from the parks on Sunday and went to a local ward for church. We showed up late because at the last minute we realized we had forgotten daylight savings time! We didn't stay for classes and instead assigned the kids to teach each other. Emily taught Julia's nursery class and did a great job with her providing snack, bubble time and a great lesson. We went to bed early to prepare for the crazy week we had coming up.

The rest of the week went much smoother and we arrived at each park much earlier and had ridden most of the rides before the crowds arrived. We did Hollywood Studios on Monday, Animal Kingdom on Tues, Epcot Weds, Magic Kingdom again on Thurs and Hollywood Studios again on Friday. The highlights were: "Finding Nemo- the Musical" at Animal Kingdom- we loved it so much we bought the CD and Julia goes to sleep to it every night. The rides we loved were "Splash Mountain", "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad", "Space Mountain", "Soarin", "Kilamanjaro Safari" and "Mickey's Philamagic". Our all time favorites were "Expedition Everest", the new roller coaster at Animal Kingdom, and "Toy Story", an amazing 3-D ride at Hollywood Studios where you play simulated carnival games. Disney really is amazing. The little kids loved dining with the Disney characters and meeting them. Julia and Hunter are still in the "magical" ages, where it is all real to them. Their faces lighting up with excitement at every new thing made it worth all the work to get them there.

Mike and I were able to sneak away one evening to Downtown Disney for a fun date night.
( Animal Kingdom closes early so that night Autumn babysat for us) I blew my diet at Ghiradelli chocolates but didn't even care because it was so good it was worth it :)

All in all the trip was a great success. We love being together as a family, and I love the way my older children look out so much for the younger ones when we are in situations like this. We will probably go one more time when Makayla is in those magical ages ( @ 4-6 years old) and then we will move on to the other parks that have bigger thrill rides for the older ones. By then we'll probably be bringing Autumn's husband and kids along..whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself there. If I could turn back time, this would be one vacation I would return to over and over!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An old post, but I have to share!

There is a reason we don't get professional pictures taken of our family very often. That reason was brought clearly back to the forefront of my mind this weekend as I prepared and executed this massive undertaking. I'm just grateful I didn't execute any of my children.

Makayla is a fussy baby at night, which basically means I have been confined to the house in the evenings for the better part of three months. Finally, Friday evening, the day before pictures, I told Mike that I would need to leave her in his care for a few hours so I could get coordinating outfits together. After deciding on a color scheme of cream, tan, grey and pink- based on one sweater that my 16 year old wanted to wear- I pulled together what we had and went out to find what we were lacking. Which was a lot. After racing through Target, Kohl's and Old Navy and purchasing nearly everything that they had in these colors, I went home to let the kids decide what to wear. Amazingly, I had forgotten tights for both little girls, and two cream colored shirts to wear under jumpers. We also discovered that as is customarily announced on Sunday morning but gratefully was caught early this week : two kids had outgrown their Sunday shoes.

I went to bed at about midnight after throwing in necessary laundry that needed to be done before our 11 am appointment. I was up at 6:30 am, showered and ready by 7. Nursed Makayla and woke up our very sick 3 yr old to give her another dose of antibiotics, praying they would kick in by the time we were taking pictures. Woke everyone else up at 8 to eat breakfast and get them headed for the showers. I took Autumn, 16, with me to Target at 9 to get the last needed items. We were home by 9:30, where I found my 14 and 12 and 5 year old boys still in pajamas, and Julia, my 3 yr old girl still asleep. Mike has been dealing with fussy Makayla all morning and had not noticed the lack of obedience of the boys. I threaten my 14 and 12 year olds with myriads of punishments if they are not showered and ready in 15 minutes, and proceed to put Hunter in the bath while I wake the sleeping dragon Julia. It is not pretty. She has not slept well. Getting her into a bath is a master class in negotiation skills. I should apply for a job at the UN. I pull Hunter out and put Julia in. Thankfully, I had the foresight to not get dressed in the outfit I am wearing for pictures yet, because by the time we are done with baths I am drenched. Julia ,however, is happy now. Until I start brushing our her hair, which brings on more shrieking, wailing and gnashing of teeth. She becomes reasonable when I show her the new clothes, shoes and headband she will be wearing. She is immediately the beautifully composed princess. I breathe a sigh of relief and move on to Hunter, who's newly purchased Sunday shoes still do not fit. Children should not be able to skip shoe sizes like that. His black Lightning Mcqueen shoes will have to work. It is now 10:45. Our appt is at 11, and it is 15 minutes away. Perfect....except for the fact that I AM NOT DRESSED YET! Mike loads the kids in the car while I throw on my outfit. Earrings.....where is the other earring? I am losing my mind. I throw a brush in my purse in hopes that I can do something with my hair on the way. Thank goodness I put on make-up at 6:30 this morning- I just hope it is still there. I also now remember that I forgot to put on mascara. Great, my kids eyelashes are crazy long so mine will now look even shorter in comparison. Can you photoshop eyelashes?

During the ride to the hotel where we were having the pictures taken, I find out that Sean has tried to make Julia happy by giving her a Jolly Rancher. When I begin to freak out at the thought of her adorable cream sweater being drizzled with Jolly Rancher drippings, he assures me that it is okay because she didn't like it and spit it out...thankfully missing the aforementioned cream sweater completely. Crisis averted! If I can keep them clean for ten more minutes it will be a miracle.

I have no number to contact Maddie, our photographer, so I call a mutual friend who gives me her cell number. Maddie is so kind in helping calm me down and lets me know that we can still make this work even if we are late. She is just great at what she does. We show up and she gets awesome shots of each individual child, boys with mom, boys with dad, girls with dad, girls with mom, family shots, baby shots....and everyone cooperates and looks great. Even Julia is happily running around. One would look at us and never guess the chaos that had ensued less than an hour earlier in my home to prepare for this event. And I guess that's the point right? To capture us at our best. Which I hope we accomplished. And we don't need to accomplish it again for a very long time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Newborn Joy

I love having a newborn in the house. I don't mind the occasional fussiness, the middle of the night feedings, or the dozens of diaper changes each day. This is still my favorite time. This child was, just a matter of weeks ago, in the presence of my Father in Heaven. There is a feeling that comes into my home when a new baby comes to our family that is like no other feeling on earth....because it is a heavenly feeling. Something celestial, or at least what I think "celestial" will feel like. I have always loved these lines from the William Wordsworth poem "Ode":

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

The only thing I don't like about this newborn feeling is that it always fades with time. The world rubs off on us, and we get back to the day to day routine and forget this time. Maybe this blog post will help me remember. I hope so, because it is one of the dearest gifts Heavenly Father has given me as a mom- this time to remember what it feels like to be near Him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Makayla's Birth Story

I went to see Dr. Rost on Thursday. He checked my progress and found me to be dilated to a 3. I figured that would put me on track to be about 5 cm dilated by my induction date the following Weds, which is what I was with Julia. I had lost most of my mucous plug the week before, but I noticed some blood tinged mucous when I was collecting my urine sample, so I thought maybe I still might have a chance of having her before my induction date. Friday was a busy day. I made a few casseroles to freeze, cleaned quite a bit and did some laundry. Saturday Mike took the kids to their soccer games, and I took Emily to a birthday party. I wasn't feeling all that great. I felt uncomfortable, but I chalked it up to being dilated and walking around a lot. Mike and I went out to dinner at Chili's with a gift card my friend Amy Murdock gave me for my baby shower. By the time we got home I was exhausted and I laid down for a nap and ended up sleeping for an hour. I had a few hard contractions- but they were totally random. Sometimes one an hour, sometimes 2 in 15 minutes. It was confusing. Sunday when I woke up I didn't think I was going to be able to get to church. Walking had become difficult- it felt like I had a volleyball between my legs. But within an hour of waking up I felt a little better and got ready to go to church. I was fine for Sacrament meeting- I even sang with the choir for ward conference- but after Sunday school my back was really hurting so I went home. I got the lasagna on the table, made garlic bread and salad and set the table. By the time we were done with dinner, I was exhausted and took a 2 hour nap. I woke up at 7:45, got up and had ice cream with the kids. I sorted socks and went to back to bed at 9. The only way to describe how I felt is "not good". I woke up at 1:30 am to a very uncomfortable feeling in my abdomen and back. It wasn't a contraction- more like cramping/indigestion. I felt that way pretty solidly for about 20 minutes. I finally sat up and woke up Mike and told him that we probably needed to head to the hospital. I knew something was going on, even though it wasn't presenting like typical labor. I went to the bathroom, and took a five minute shower. During my shower, I had my first "traditional" feeling contraction, and it was hard and very much a real labor contraction without a doubt. They came about 3 minutes apart from then on, and I knew we were on a pretty tight time clock now to get me to the hospital. I toyed with the thought of calling an ambulance, but I really didn't want some random paramedic delivering my baby- I'd rather Mike and I handle it if we got to that point. We got in the car and when I sat down I felt her move down into the birth canal and I knew we had to go fast. I told Mike not to stop at any red lights! He was in a bit of shock about the whole thing I think. I called Dr. Rost's answering service and left a message that we were on our way to the hospital with contractions 3 minutes apart. We pulled into the Baylor emergency room parking lot at about 2:45, and Mike ran in got a wheelchair for me, because I wasn't sure I could walk anywhere. I told the people at the front desk that I was having a baby and that I might deliver right there on the ER floor if we didn't get to labor and delivery pretty quick. I'm sure they took that with a grain of salt, until I mentioned it was my 8th baby and then people started moving a little faster. I had the chattiest guy pushing my wheelchair so I got to go through transition while making small talk about his three year old. It felt a little surreal. By the time we got to the L&D floor I knew I was really close. I had one super contraction holding onto the edge of the bed, and then got into bed so the nurse could check me. I was a NINE! My first two thoughts were- "Great! I'm almost done!" and then "Dang it! I have to finish this without an epidural!" So I went through about 5-10 minutes of that "out of control/can't imagine how you are going to finish this/can't someone just shoot me" phase between that comes between 9-10 centimeters and then Dr. Rost said to give a little push, which broke my water. One big push and there was her head, and then one more for the rest of her and we were done! I was shaking so badly- I really think I was a little bit in shock of how fast this had gone. She was born at 3:07, nineteen minutes after we got there. This was the labor I had actually prayed for- a quick, fast one like Rebekah's. I just got a little more than I bargained for! This is the labor I would chose every time if I was brave enough, but I don't think I could be that brave every time. You do what you have to do when the circumstances call for it, but I don't know if I would volunteer for a natural delivery ever again!