Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More fun with coupons

A few months ago, I put up a blog detailing a recent trip to Safeway and all of the mad crazy cash I saved using coupons.  Admittedly, it wasn't all wholesome crunchy granola all organic fare.  But here's the thing - I make a serious effort to put a healthy dinner on the table every night.  There is always fruit in my house and the minions know that they can have a piece whenever they want without asking.  If all else fails, we always have milk, bread, eggs, and cheese or I can toss together a PB&J.  And being a novice Weight Watchers slave, I'm eating a lot of salad.  Although we have our fair share of junk in the house, I really do make an effort to feed my family well.  

The bottom line is this:  I'm no chef.  But I do what I can and I do my best.  And kids are expensive and you have to feed them.  Constantly.  So when I can grab snacks on sale and sock them away for weekends, car rides, and summer break, you bet your sweet buns I do it.   And if I can stockpile stuff that won't spoil and rest assured that when a jar of applesauce runs out, I know that I already have more on hand, well....that makes me happy.  I'm easy to please like that.

Which brings me to my most recent Safeway Adventure:  Last Night I Went to Safeway, And All I Spent Was a Dollar Twenty Four.

And I bought:
1 bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian Salad Dressing
1 bottle of Light Asian Sesame Salad Dressing
1 bottle of Catalina Salad Dressing (my kids love it)
All three bottles of salad dressing cost me about fifty cents, total.

THEN I bought a box of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins and a box of Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers for kids' snacks and for my Weight Watchers carb attacks.  I had a BOGO coupon, plus the crackers were on sale.  

After THAT, I got two bottles of Vitamin Water, because it's sweet crack that's almost as good as regular soda.  They were on sale for eighty eight cents and I had coupons for a dollar off.  So THOSE cost me negative 12 cents.

And finally, I bought my kids a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies.  They have gotten hooked on them through softball and I don't mind buying them because I don't eat them.  They were a whopping ninety nine cents with a coupon.

So to sum it all up:

My total before savings was $23.90 and after my club card and my coupons, I spent $1.24 for a total savings of ninety five percent!!

My beloved coupon mentor Laura stood beside me while I completed my purchase and I swear that just for a second, I saw a lone tear of joy.


Were my purchases enough to make a six course meal for a twelve person dinner party?  Of course not.  But I stocked up on salad dressing, bought the kids some snacks, and got a happy Vitamin Water fix for next to nothing.  And when you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, you have to find your fun wherever you can!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My life is a zoo? No we WENT to the zoo!

Sometimes you just have to throw good old fashioned frugality to the wind and do something fun with your kids.  You know?  And this past Memorial Day weekend, we did just that.

Friday morning I was chatting online with Skippy.  This isn't unusual - we ping back and forth throughout the day.  What was somewhat out of the ordinary was that he was pinging me from Atlanta.  He had been there throughout the week doing whatever Googly things he does, and the kids and I had been holding down the fort at home.  I for one, was holding it by the skin of my teeth.  It had been a l-o-n-g week.  Between softball games, preschool graduation, and the first round of ninety degree temperatures, I was done flying solo and ready for my husband to be back in the same time zone.

So imagine my delight when we agreed to wing things a bit.  I booked a hotel near PDX for Friday night, tossed a handful of clean little girl undies, diapers, and swim suits into an overnight bag, buckled in three wound up kidlets, and hit the road to Portland.  Skippy's flight was due to arrive somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 that night and that left us plenty of time to hit the golden arches, conquer the play place, check into our hotel, exclaim over the itty bitty bottles of shampoo, flip through all fourteen TV channels three times, contemplate the meaning behind the door that joined us to another room, change into swim suits, and paddle around in the pool for an hour. 

When we returned dripping wet to our room around 9:30, the girls enjoyed the novelty of HBO and a queen size sofa sleeper (Mom!!  There is a BED in the COUCH! SWEET!).   We went on a safari-style hunt for the ice machine, made microwave popcorn, changed into jammies, and had ourselves a regular old slumber party.  Finally, they all passed out - Chunk sprawled in his pack and play, Kbear wrapped snugly in her blanket on the sofa sleeper, and Banana ....."camping out" under the hotel desk.   Skippy snuck in around 12:30 amidst three snoring kiddos and promptly crashed in an effort to sleep off a full day of travelling.  

Now at this point, I must say a quick word about hotel drapes.  They are wonderful and amazing and I totally want to rig up some sort of high tech pulley system that will allow me to cover my whole house with them this summer.  Why, you may ask?  Because those beautiful light-blocking pieces of heavenly fabric kept the room so dark that my children slept until after eight o'clock Saturday morning.

Be still my heart.

Then we three girls decided to let my two favorite boys sleep in for a little while longer and we trooped down to the buffet room for our complimentary breakfast.  We put down cereal, waffles, bananas, and in Bree's case, a whole half of a grapefruit before we made our way back to our room loaded down with biscuits and gravy for Daddy, and half of a peanut butter sandwich and fruit for Chunk.  While the boys ate and watched TV in their underwear in the big hotel bed, I took the girls for one last dunk in the pool.  We requested a late checkout, relaxed, packed up, and finally headed for the zoo around one o'clock.  

The zoo was....well it was a zoo.  For one thing, the weather was absolutely spectacular with cloudless blue skies and sunny seventy degree temperatures.  And it was a Saturday.  And Memorial Day Weekend.  And families were out in droves.  But we scored a great parking spot, wrestled Chunk into his stroller, and went in search of our first exhibit, Samundra the baby elephant - affectionately referred to as Sam by many Oregonians.  It was by far the busiest exhibit, but totally worth the wait.  Skippy (being as tall as he is) got some awesome pictures:


And after that we just had more fun.  We saw the bats, penguins, sea lions, zebras, giraffes, ducks, eagles, sun bears, polar bears, birds, meerkats, and who knows what else.   And although the baby elephant definitely stole the day, we also say my favorite, the black bears (who were sleeping in a big old furry pile) and Skippy's favorite, the otters.  By the time we finally wandered towards the gate it was coming up on five o'clock so we treated ourselves to dinner out and then finally drove our separate vehicles back through the Gorge, until we were home sweet home to a slightly stuffy house and two very happy dogs.

And what did I learn from our mini-weekend trip?  Sometimes, you just gotta let it all go and have some fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pomp and Preschoolers

It's official folks.  My little girl is finished with preschool.  Her last summer of freedom has officially been kicked off before she trots off to Kindergarten in the fall with the big kids.

Last night we all gathered under the picnic shelter at Sorosis Park here in town (I know the name is weird, I recently learned that it has something to do with the cherry processing process....more info to come soon after some google searches) and we watched our adorable kiddos don their adorable tasselled caps and receive their awards for their successful completion of preschool.  Each solemn child accepted his or her "diploma" with huge smiles to lots of applause and flashing cameras.  Then we all enjoyed cupcakes and hugs and played at the park because really, what else would you do after a graduation ceremony?

Kbear was also the recipient of the "Leadership Award."  And not for her stellar good Samaritan ways....not for her upstanding citizen-like behavior....but because (according to Teacher Mary) "the rest of the children would follow her anywhere.  She could lead a mutiny."

That's my girl.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The post Mother's Day blog

First, the sap.

On June 10, 2002, after eighteen hours of labor, my Banana baby came into the world.  The second they announced, "here she is!" I burst into tears while still up in stirrups.  She was beautiful and perfect and had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.  She transformed my life and took me from "Amy" to "Mommy" and I have never looked back.

Just seventeen months later, on November 18, 2003 Kbear came shooting into the world.  She was my drug free birth, but I don't hold that against her.  From the moment she opened her eyes, she had the entire nursing staff cooing over her gorgeous curly hair.  She officially made me the mother of two.  

And two years ago, on March 29, 2007 my Oregon baby was born.  Chunk was the hardest labor, and to me he represents everything we have worked for here in Oregon.  I was pregnant when we undertook one of the biggest transitions of my life, and when he came into the world out here in the Pacific Northwest, I really felt like my family in Oregon was complete.  I cannot begin to imagine my life without him.  He made me the mother of a son and he is a little dose of sunshine in every day.

So there you go.  My three sappy beautiful Mother's Day blessings.  

Now, on to business.

You probably noticed it already....there are no lists posted on my blog.  Nothing singing my many praises.  No warm fuzzy feelings.

You may be wondering if my husband is lying somewhere in the fetal position, missing various important pieces of vital anatomy.  But he's not.  I promise.  In fact, he's completely off the hook at least for another year.  Here's why:

First of all, he let me sleep in.  I slept in until TEN O'CLOCK completely uninterrupted.  This never happens.  Even when you're "on vacation" (aka in the hospital after birthing yet another baby) you don't get that much uninterrupted sleep because someone is always coming in to check on you or take your blood pressure.  So for that alone, I love him and he rocks.

But then he made breakfast.  Fresh strawberries, coffee cake, bacon, and icy cold mimosas.  Can you say total yummy?  While we ate, I read the six cards that the kids made for me.  I only have three kids (and one can't write yet) but I got six cards.  How totally special is that?

Then I got to lay around on the couch for awhile.  I watched the Cubs game in my pajamas.  And wonderful smells started coming out of the kitchen.  Lo and behold, for dinner we had from-scratch chicken Parmesan with from-scratch spaghetti sauce.  Warm bread, salad, and raspberry brownies completed the trip to my happy place.  

AND, he and the kids gave me the Magic Bullet blender, which I have wanted FOREVER.  I've been having a serious amount of fun with it already, including making Chunk a smoothie with his breakfast,  As a bonus, according to my math if I make 13 more blendy coffee drinks, it will have paid for itself!

So between not giving him enough notice for compiling a laundry list of my many fine and lovable attributes and the fact that we didn't get home until 1:30 in the morning after my sister-in-law's 50th surprise party on Saturday night, I think I can safely let him off the hook.

You hear that honey?  You're in the clear.

But that being said, I kind of WAS looking forward to reading what the kids came up with.  So next year I want those lists.  And don't say I didn't give you enough notice.

I love you, thank you for a wonderful day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

An open letter to my family.....

In light of the current economic situation sweeping the globe, I have decided to cut back on my gift requests for this year's Mother's Day.  I am kind and considerate like that, and sometimes I like to torture my husband, so this hits two birds with one stone.

First, I would like free reign regarding buying my garden supplies so that I can get my cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and spices into the ground, fenced, and watered this weekend in an effort to have a more self-sustaining summer.  I foresee lots of salads and salsa.

Second, I would like my husband and my kids to each write me a list - ten things that they love about Mommy.  After coming in second for a job opportunity that I wanted quite badly, Mama needs her ego stroked, so hop to it beloved family members.  Help from Daddy is allowed.  Help from the dog is not.

It's out on the blog, folks.  Don't let me down!  Lists will be posted on Sunday so make 'em good!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cell Block W

So my resolution to blog more frequently lasted......a whole day.  Call me a failure if you must, but I prefer to just think of myself as insanely busy - although doing what I'm not sure.It's been a combination of mom stuff and wife stuff and Amy stuff and eating pretzels reading crappy books stuff.  But I've been busy.  Trust me.  Just go with it.

My gut tells me that the right thing to do would be to sit here and type out a massive missive that details every little moment of life in the W house over the last several weeks, from the significance of Chunk's second birthday to the insignificance of the fulfilling fact that Skippy and I finally produced a functional playroom for our children over the weekend.  It has neat foam mats and storage bins galore and more crayons than you can shake a stick at and it smells like lemon scented wood floor polish....but I digress.  

It's late and tomorrow we have our first official softball game (after the unfortunate weather cancelled the "softball jamboree" over the weekend, much to our overwhelming dismay) so instead I'll just tell you about my new parenting foray, otherwise known as "Reason 674 that my children will someday tell their significant others how I scarred them for life at a young age."  The focus of this life lesson: My kitchen sink.

I'd be willing to bet that a vast number of my fellow mommies can sympathize.  Dishes accumulate in my kitchen sink the way rabbits pile up under a farmhouse porch.  Overnight they simply seem to multiply.  No one seems to know where they came from, and no one but me seems to know how to get rid of them, which in either situation usually involves a thorough soaking with a water hose of some sort, a copious amount of sweat, and some very unladylike cursing.

My children apparently need a cup for milk.  And then a new cup for water.  And then a cup for juice.  Quickly followed by a cup to use with dinner.  Almost always without exception, this wide variety of cups are happily married with their own separate cereal bowls, PB&J plates, and assorted dinnerware.  And naturally, my house is sadly lacking a dishwasher.    Or to be more specific, my house lacks a dishwasher that isn't a sucker for romance novels, dark chocolate, and isn't named Amy.  

So a few days ago while standing at my kitchen sink (yet again), looking out my window at the beautiful Friday afternoon (yet again), and searching for the last sippy cup while up to my elbows in soapy water (yet again) I was quietly lamenting this sorry state of affairs to myself.   And somewhere in between shaking my tush to the radio and cursing because yet another pair of sexy yellow rubber gloves had gotten yet another f*&%$ing hole in them, I decided I was done washing mini tableware for awhile.

A trip to the dollar store was in order, quickly followed by a stop at my favorite thrift store.  And when I returned, I was armed for battle.  With a sharpie marker, I drew a bold "B" and "K" on my newly acquired purchases, and then I stepped back to admire my handiwork.  My girls were now the proud new owners of ONE new plate, ONE new bowl, and ONE new cup, color coded to avoid any possible confusion.  This was followed by even more drastic action: after I set aside a few things that Chunk would need and I relocated the remainder of our kid friendly dishes to a top secret location, guarded by the three headed dog from Harry Potter and accessible only after a retina scan and a blood sample.  

Okay, actually I moved them down to the back of the bottom cabinet, but who's going to tell my kids that, right?

And thus began Operation Cut Down On Dishes.  

At first, the girls were thrilled with their new fancy dinner duds...until I dropped the bomb.

These were to be their ONLY dinner duds.  For that matter, they were also the only breakfast duds.  And lunch duds.  And get the idea.  And not only were dishes suddenly in short supply, but Mom was being relieved of her dish washing duties for anyone under the age of 30 and over the age of two.  So in other words, if you want to eat off of it, you'd better wash it your damn self.

One bowl.  One plate.  One cup.  And a step stool to make the sink more easily accessible.

My mother hooted in semi-amusement over the phone later that night.  She told me I was mean - what's worse, she compared the situation to PRISON.  Apparently it's next to criminal to expect an almost seven year old and a five year old to (at least temporarily) wash their own dishes and to be completely responsible for keeping track of them in between meals.  You'd think I was only issuing bread and water on such meager eating receptacles, she made me feel so mean.

But then I remembered how it feels to scrub at a forgotten bowl of oatmeal, or to track down some one's brand new softball water bottle under the desk....with milk in it....from two days ago.  And I decided that I could handle being mean.  Mistress of the sippy cups I would be no more.

Just call me Warden.

Stay tuned, now that the playroom/computer room is clean I hope to be in here a whole lot more - it's hard to relax and blog when a mess is staring you down!  With any luck, I'll be able to check in tomorrow after the girls' first softball game!