Friday, March 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. I figured out this morning that my phone has a limit on how many times you can push the snooze button on the alarm: 7 times. Yes, that's right, folks! I attempted to snooze 8 times this morning. Alas, it didn't work, and I had to drag my bum out of bed. Lest you think I slept the day away, I still did manage to make it out of bed by 6:30, and my alarm only has a 5-minute snooze (pretty lousy, if you ask me). We've been having some sleep issues here with our sweet darling princess girl so Mommy's had a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings.

2. Me to Tacoma News Tribune customer service: "Um, hi, yeah, I have a problem with the delivery of my newspaper." Customer Service: "Oh, did we miss a delivery?" Me: "No, I've been getting my papers." Customer Service: "Were there pieces missing?" Me: "No, everything's fine with the paper, it's just that I wanted to ask if you could ask the paper carrier to try to hit my driveway if possible. For the past 3 days I've gone outside to see my newspaper in my flower bed where my crocuses and daffodils are trying to bloom, and he keeps crushing my flowers!" I'm sure they thought I was the dumbest person alive, and I'm sure the carrier really thinks he's hitting my driveway -- but maybe a little more focus on the 15 feet of pavement and a little less on the 2-foot width of flower bed would be nice.

3. I'm sporting a nice welt and bruise on my eye thanks to James's attempt to simultaneously climb in to my bed and hand me a hard-cover book to read to him. A little eyeshadow and it *almost* looks like part of my makeup routine.

4. With all the nuclear craziness in Japan the past week, we've been on standby, just waiting for Tom to go to Japan for 2 weeks - 1 month to help with efforts to monitor the environment and the people for detectable radiation. Thank goodness it looks like he won't have to go. At least not now, anyway. But, even though we're civilians, we've learned that with the Navy, things could be very different 5 minutes from now.

5. We finally have Tom home on a somewhat normal schedule now. For the past few weeks he was working 12 hours a day, first on swing shift, then on the back shift (6-6 through the night). Ugh. I *hate* it when he's on weird schedules, because it throws our whole family off. It's nice to have him back for a while. The back shift is the hardest, because I have to try to keep kids quiet while he sleeps during the day, and then he's gone for the most trying part of my day -- late afternoon/evening. I try (somewhat successfully) to have a good attitude and just be thankful that I have such a hard-working husband who takes good care of his family.

6. Clare and James's most recent favorite things: grapes. I literally can't bring them out until the end of a meal because once they spot those things there's no getting them to eat anything else. I guess it's a good problem to have.

7. On the menu for tonight: black bean and rice enchiladas. It's a great Friday meal, and one that every time we have, Tom says, "These are good, but they'd be so much better with some meat in them." I guess that's the point of making a little sacrifice, huh? :)

Happy Friday to everyone!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A day in pictures

Smoke raises from Fukushima Daiichi power plant's Unit 1 in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Saturday, March 12, 2011

A large ship sits among rubble after it was hit by a tsunami in Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, on Saturday March 12, 2011

Japanese civilians climbing amidst the remains of their homes, following the 9.1 magnitute earthquake

President Obama enjoys 18 holes of golf, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Little Lenten Practices

Happy first Friday of Lent!

I'm not kidding at all when I say that this is my favorite of all liturgical seasons. There's something wonderful about purging bad habits, starting good ones, and cutting down on the distractions in our lives so we can focus more on what's important.

Clare is understanding WAY more than I thought she would. I've been turning on EWTN after lunch to watch their Stations of the Cross as I tidy the kitchen and we get ready for naps, and today Clare got so excited when at the end they showed an image of the Risen Christ -- she ran to me yelling, "Mommy! Mommy! Jesus came back from the dead!!!"

We made the Crown of Thorns shown here, although mine didn't turn out as pretty. Turns out that braiding the salt dough ought to have been done on the cookie sheet on which I baked it instead of braiding it all together and then having to transfer it to the sheet, which stretched it and totally disfigured it. Oh well. Good enough for a crown of thorns for a 3-year old. :) She loves this activity. I told her that she gets to remove a thorn for every extra good thing that she does to show Jesus that she loves Him, and I can really see her making an effort and being creative in her charity. How beautiful to see our little girl learning to grow in virtue!

I also figured out that the Crown of Thorns she loves so much can be used as a disciplinary tool. Last night she'd been so helpful that I let her take out TWO thorns from Jesus' crown. But then later in the evening, she pushed James hard enough off her bed that he hit his face and his lip was bleeding. I was shocked that I didn't lose my patience (see, Lent is good for me too!), but then I came up with a really good idea: instead of the normal swat or time out and apologize to James, I first made her go out and put one of the thorns back in to Jesus' crown. I think that worked more than any time out could have! She was really sad. Maybe a little overkill, but it illustrated the point I was trying to get across to her.

We also have a Lenten paper chain (we like paper chains in this house) and a little Lenten calendar that she got to color to keep track of the days.

We will be (attempting to) attend our parish's Stations of the Cross every Friday - but until Tom is done working 12 hours through the night I'm not sure I want to try this alone. :/

Also, I'm planning on doing this Last Supper craft with Clare duing Holy Week to get ready for the Triduum.

That's about it. Tom and I each have our own resolutions, and we're praying that this Lent is fruitful for our family and yours!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How I learned to coupon

By popular demand, I'm going to write down a few things that I've learned about couponing, and show you the system that I'm working on developing that seems to work for me.

It all started months ago, when my friend Cheri recommended a book she was reading - The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half. I was intrigued and I checked it out from the library and devoured it. But it seemed like a LOT to get a handle on, so I didn't really get in to it.

Then, my friend Kristine recommended a few coupon blogs that she subsribes to, so I tried that, but was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of daily updates and posts that I soon found myself behind and almost gave up.

Then I decided to really, really give it a go. Here's what I do:

1. Subscribe to these blogs in my Google Reader so that their multiple posts don't clog up my inbox. If you want to do this, simply click on "follow via RSS" on the blog site.

The Krazy Coupon Lady
Fabulessly Frugal

2. Read the posts on Krazy Coupon Lady and Fabulessly Frugal about couponing for beginners. This step is indispensable and makes the whole "world" of couponing (and it IS its own world) more accessible to the newbie.

3. I get 4 copies of the Sunday paper -- yep, that means I have 4 copies of every single coupon. Pretty sweet when you want to stock up on something. I resisted this for a long time and finally gave in when I saw so many stock-up deals pass me by when I was only able to buy 2 or 3 of an item because of a coupon limit. Fabulessly Frugal has a newspaper deal with a few newspapers in the northwest so you can get a discounted rate if you mention Fab Frugal.

4. Organize. Whatever system works best for you. I use a zippered binder with baseball card holders divided in to grocery category and a table of contents in the front (freakish, I know). Thanks, Kris, for pointing me to KCL for her table of contents. :) If you don't have a system, especially if you're getting multiple copies of each coupon, you'll soon be overrun by coupons and probably give up. Krazy Coupon Lady and Fabulessly Frugal both have great posts on some different systems of organization.

5. Now, the practical, every day things I do:

- Check my Google Reader a couple times a day. This really doesn't take long. I just scroll through all the posts and simply add a star to the ones that I'm interested in. Nothing more than that.

- I keep a weekly grocery plan (aka: blank sheet of paper) in my binder, ready for me to jot notes on. And usually a couple of days before I go shopping I'll simply look through all my starred items in my Reader and make notes of what items (including which coupons to use, quantity, and how many transactions I need to do) I want to get at what store this week. I've found that by shopping at multiple stores, you can really get the most bang for your buck. This note-taking really saves me having to comb meticulously through all the store circulars.

- The day before shopping day, I'll pull out my store ads and cut any coupons I need from there and toss the rest of the circular. No need to clutter either my counter or my binder.

- Since sometimes I make multiple transactions in order to use multiple coupons, I go through my coupons, pairing the manufacturers' coupons with the store coupons and staple them together. Then I paper clip each transaction's coupons together. This avoids having to hold up a line and flip through disorganized coupons and makes your cashier a little friendlier. :)

Goodness, that sounds like a LOT. And to be honest, it was in the beginning. But now that I'm getting the hang of it, it's really not too hard or time consuming at all.

I have to say, though, that the BEST thing I ever did was subscribe to the blogs. They do a lot of the "thinking" for you, pairing sales with weekly ads and manufacturers' coupons. If I had to do all that work myself, I wouldn't do it. Honestly. It's so nice to just check these blogs and make my grocery list according to the sales that they alert me to in my Reader.

I hope this helps anyone who might be on the verge of really going gung-ho about couponing. It's not just a freakish obsession with me (really it's not); I really feel God calling me as a wife to be the best darn home economist that I can be. If it's my husband's job to provide the income for our family, then it's my job to manage that money to the best of my ability and make the most of every dollar.

On a side note, I was talking to Tom recently about this...I've noticed a very positive change in our marriage since I've started to coupon seriously. Not that we've ever had problems in our marriage regarding money (thank Goodness!), but Tom and I both feel that now we're really working hard as a team to provide for our family, and it's been wonderful for our relationship.

So, what are you waiting for, Ladies? Jump in! And please let me know if this helped or if you have any questions.