Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coupon Queen

Okay, well maybe "queen" is a little strong, but I am doing a darn good job of taking advantage of coupons and sales, if I do say so myself.

I grew up with green stamps and coupons.  My mom is of Scotch-Irish descent and considers that her gateway to thriftiness.  I obviously inherited the "thriftiness gene" from her (not to mention years of training at her knee) which has come in handy now that I am "mom-o-five!"

I used to think we could not really benefit much from coupons because we tend to shop the outer aisles of the store, making most things from scratch and not buying that much processed food.  However, though I serve healthy meals, I also have 5 really normal, hungry kids, so we do buy a lot of cereal, yogurt, milk, and occasional snack foods. 

I bought a Sunday paper for a houseguest a couple of days after watching an episode of Extreme Couponing  on TLC.
I pursued the coupons and found quite a few for things we could use.  The money-saving spark was kindled, and now it has fanned into a full-blown flame.

I only clip coupons for things we actually use -- so no crazy food, no air fresheners, nothing we don't need or want to use.  I use lots of cereal coupons, yogurt, crackers, and shampoo.  Those are my biggies.  I clip everything I think we will use and put it all in a binder.  Then each week I check the sales at our two closest grocery chains.  I still buy everything we want every single week, but my choices are guided more by what's on sale.

For example, this week big, juicy pork loins were on sale at Randalls so I picked one up;  it was so yummy.  I bought chicken thighs at HEB because they were $1/pound!  Most weeks, we have 3 to 8 boxes of cereal in storage;  all of which came for $1 to even 50% off.  It's so cool.  We also have tons of shampoo and other girly products; two teen girls use a lot of product!

I am by no means an extreme couponer.  But I am really proud of the progress I've made and how I am able to get us all our favorite foods at a considerable discount.  In early July, I started tracking my expenditures and savings. I now save between 14% and 50% every week on our groceries (80% from coupons alone), averaging exactly 30% savings in the last two months.  Just in case you think that isn't much, that's equated to our family not spending $652 since then and we have gotten to try new products (like whole-grain crackers) that I would not normally have purchased.  Or to put it another way, we have saved $652.  That's money in the bank!  Can you believe it?  That's a significant pile of money!  Maybe I really am the couponing queen!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Celebrating Pepper

Our Pepper turned 15 last Saturday.    A few weeks before her birthday she said all she wanted was to be able to take several of her friends to Red Lobster for her birthday dinner.  She didn't need a lot of presents, she was just wanted to dress up and go out to eat.

This is a characteristically Pepper kind of request.  She is all about the connections.  We said, "yes," of course.

We decided to celebrate a day early so her besties could all join in.  Her friends came right after school and I didn't see the girls for an hour and a half.  But there were a lot of giggling sounds coming from that side of the house.  Suddenly all five of them emerged, coiffed and polished.  Here they are posing with our Bubby whom none of us noticed sneaking into the photo.

Since it was a Friday night, there was quite a wait.  They managed to entertain themselves; I had no doubt.  I was a little worried about the choice of venue since lots of kids don't eat fish, but all these girls did.  I was impressed with their manners and their menu choices. 

After a huge meal, we headed home for presents and cake with Daddy and Grandma.  She seemed to love all her gifts. 

Pepper is a gift to us.  She is big-hearted, smart as a whip and completely creative.  The first time I laid eyes on her, I knew it was meant to be.  15 years later, I am still so grateful she's mine!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Goin's On

Here's what happening in Little People Land:

When I say things to Tinker like, "You are so smart."  She looks at me seriously and says, "Yes I am."

The Blitz has a new nickname:  "Gabby Gander."  Why oh why did we encourage him to talk?  Holy cow.  He never stops.  Really.

"See dat Mommy?  Dat blue mommy.  Dat green flower mommy.  Dat red apple mommy.  Doggy mommy.  White doggy mommy.  See dat mommy? "  That's what he said while I typed this paragraph!

Gabby Gander is learning to dress himself.  When I ask him to turn around to facilitate dressing, he turns around and around and then says, "See dat Mommy?"  He totally does not get what I am asking.

Apparently The Captain is finally getting the hang of talking too.  Yesterday he was the last one eating because he talked Tinker's ear off all through lunch;  he was explaining to her an incident that had happened earlier in the day.  If you've met this quiet boy you will be shocked at all he said:

"I knock Baby over and Mommy grab me.  I start cry.  She say, "I sorry.  I scare you?" I say yes.  She say, 'No be scare.  I not want you knock over baby.'  I say 'okay' mommy and I not have fit.  I not knock over baby.  Dat not friendly.  We got be careful baby Mag."

I can't believe it.  I'm thrilled for him not only to have words, but to be able to relay something that happened pretty accurately.  He is such a happy boy these days. 

Tinker thinks it's funny to snub people.  After she snubbed our neighbor (who was showering us with gifts) I decided we'd work on it this week.  So as we drove to Grandma's house, I reminded her we need to be friendly.  When we enter a room, we say hello to everyone there.  "Okay Mommy."  We walked in and she snubbed Great Aunt Ruth and Grandma.  Seriously.

I sent her out to sit on the stoop.  We didn't have to worry about her going anywhere since we could hear her wailing.  I brought her in for a do-over.  She snubbed them again.  Back out she went.  More wailing.  One more chance "or you will sit in your car seat in the car." She greeted them warmly and with a hug.  She is one stubborn kid.  She apparently got the message though because the same speech on the way to Weight Watchers prompted her to walk in, hug my leader and say "hello" to literally everyone in the room one at a time.  It got pretty funny.

She must realize growing up has requirements and babies have license because she told Pepper the other day, "I want to grow down not up."

A few funny family words:
"Clute" = cute
"lello" = yellow
ugry = ugly (and refers to a way of acting not looking)
dat goss = that's gross
yutty = yucky
handle = hand (to the Blitz)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Family Funnies

They crack me up sometimes.  Recently I am driving down the road thinking "aloud" about all I have to do.

Tinker pipes up,
"Who you talking to Mama?" 
"Who do you think I'm talking to?"
"You talkin' to Chanelle?"
"Nooooo.  You talking to yo-SELF!"

 She's smarter than she looks.  Just kidding.  I said that for Mamaw.  Don't send me hate mail.

 The Blitz was sitting on my lap as we visited Grandma (recouping from hip replacement) and her sister, Aunt Ruth.  He scooted forward and accidentally tooted, loudly.   I said, "Oh, my, Bennie.  Excuse me!"  

He smiled and said, "Es-scuse me."

Five minutes later, he giggled and said, "Momma, I have an 'excuse me' in my pull-up."

In the same visit, he pretended Grandma's sitting room is an aquarium and there were fish swimming all around us.  Some were in his back and in his pocket.  He kept throwing them to Grandma.  He also has an imaginary friend named "girlfriend."

He has also begun opera singing.  So far I can't catch it on tape.  He sings loudly and heartily and then says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

He also inexplicably knows his colors and can count to 5. I'm not taking credit for either of these -- I think he has picked them up in me working with the other two.

I love two-year olds.  The fits are worth it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meet the Fam!

This post is a little late in coming but the three weeks since we came home from Colorado have flown by!  I wrote a little about our adventures at Rocky Mountain National Park but saved the best for last.  It was a family reunion, of sorts, dreamed up by yours truly and my niece, Lisa Uhlenkott.  It started out as way for Lisa's family and mine to get together without either of us having the travel the entire 2200 miles.

Eventually, it morphed into a family outing and we tried really hard to get the whole family there.  Missing -- and greatly missed -- were my brothers and my sister's middle child.  In the end, my parents and 17 of their offspring and spouses/significant others got there. Here's the group photo which was no easy shake with 19 people!

Top row (left):  Chanelle (Sunshine) and Gabriel (The Captain) Tischler, Kolby and Mikayla Uhlenkott;
Middle row:  Royce Huntley, TJ and Melissa Schmidt, Ted and Lisa Uhlenkott, David Venters, Benjamin (The Blitz) Tischler with me; Front row: Allison and Maggie Rose (Tinker) Tischler, Anneka, Donna, Les and Darinda Huntley, Paul (Dear Hubby) Tischler.

We woke up slowly with the mom of 5 being first up to steal a couple of kid-free minutes and the rest of the family slowly waking and gathering through the morning.  A couple of days we all got up earlier than we wanted to because of a couple of loudmouth Magpies messing around in camp.  We all brought our own breakfast and lunch to the table and then shared a communal supper.  Mom-o-5 had a bad year with the dutch oven/foreign charcoal/high altitude and burned or undercooked every dessert.  Oopsie.  Nonetheless, we had a great time visiting, eating and playing together.  I'm hoping we can stage a re-run in 2013 in Gospel Hump Wilderness in Idaho. 

Here are some of the family a little closer up.
Lisa (my niece) and Ted Uhlenkott.  Lisa is my sister's oldest and mom to Mikayla and Kolby.
My sister Darinda Huntley with her friend, David Venters, and our three youngest hooligans.

Most or all of these next photos were taken by Melissa and TJ Schmidt.  Turns out Mom-o-5 didn't have much time to take photos!

Here's the darling Melissa with my mom, Donna Huntley and then my dad, Les Huntley - the instigators of this crazy crew!
My niece, Lisa and my nephew TJ Schmidt.

A good example of why you should take time to get your haircut before you go on vacation to the land of no humidty and therefore no hair volume.  That's Pepper -- Alli -- and the Blitz in Paul's arms.

Here is Lisa's sweetheart (and ours!), Ted Uhlenkott.  Looks like he is really enjoying dish duty!

Cute pics of Pepper and The Tink.
 Royce and Anneka Huntley;  these two are the offspring to my brother, Guy.

Cousins:  Melissa and TJ, Anneka, Alli, Royce, Chanelle and Kolby.

I could post pics for hours but based on the number of interruptions I'm getting, I probably should now pay attention to the kids.  Maybe next time we can get Guy, John, Carin and Clan and Jason all there.  WOW -- that would be fantastic!.  John will be in charge of dessert!