Saturday, October 30, 2010

A kitty update.

The new kitty Patch went to the vet this week.

Poor Patch. He has ear mites (BAD), fleas (eww), intestinal parasites (ick), a fever, a head cold, and a brewing eye infection.

No wonder he seemed so laid back. He felt like poop.

It hasn't stopped him from making himself at home, though.

Look at Ladybug. You know she's thinking don't eat the kitty, don't eat the kitty. Or maybe what have you stupid humans gone and done now?

Ya' know how I'm always talking about simplifying life? Yeah, well, nothing about bringing a stray kitten into your home is simple. For one thing, I detest fleas. And I'm not crazy about having to teach a kitty to use the litter box, to use scratching posts, and that he can't sleep on my face. But I'm sure it will all be worth it in a few months when Patch is curled in my lap purring contentedly.

I can't wait for the first time one of my future grandchildren brings a stray home to Sam or Rachel and asks if they can keep it. Heh.

The good news is Patch is perking up quite nicely after just a few doses of antibiotics. Tomorrow he gets the treatment that will take care of all the pesky freeloaders, inside and out.

See? He's already gettin' feisty. 
Just look at those eyes.
Lord help us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "good" one. The "other" one.

This week I have been sharing about our son's struggle with ADHD and ODD and how it affects our family. Previous posts can be found
Here (re: recent discipline at school)
Here (re: his diagnosis)
and Here (re: my perspective as a parent)
They'll give you some good background if you haven't read them already.

Thank God it's Friday. I'm ready for a break in the morning routine and hopefully for some separation of these two yahoos I call my children. Somebody needs to go to grandma's for a night or two.

There has been a lot of screaming going on here lately. And when I say "screaming" I mean the serious, top-of-your-lungs, get the hell out of my face before I claw your eyes out kind of screaming.

No, not from me! From Rachel.

I used to joke that God thought we were such good sports for wanting another child - even though we already had one who was high maintenance - that he blessed us with the sweetest, kindest, most compliant child he possibly could. And a girl to boot. It was pretty fun that first few years, but now that Rachel has figured out she's an easy target for her brother's shenanigans she has begun to fight back.

We told Sam this would happen.

Rachel no longer follows Sam around and does his bidding so easily. She has grown into quite an independent soul. Great for standing up to her big brother; not so great for the mama who has to break up the tussles - sometimes physical, sometimes verbal, sometimes both.

Imagine a typical argument between siblings. Now multiply that by 100. Got that? Now take that and put it in a big Army tent filled with 100 people attending a church revival. Now drop a sports bar on Superbowl Sunday down in the middle of it. That's what it sounds like in our house on a regular basis. Some nights it's like the UFC. I could seriously set up bleachers and sell tickets.

And people wonder why I never turn the TV on during the day when they're gone at school. I'm enjoying the peace and quiet!

In all seriousness, I wanted to mention siblings today because it is so important for parents of kids with special needs to give as much focused attention as possible to the other children in the family, too. Yes, after the one has sucked you dry, you must somehow garner the energy to slap on a smile and take the other one for a walk or cuddle on the couch and read a book together. Just like any child, if the siblings feel they are not getting enough attention they will seek it out, positive or negative. I know this for two reasons: 1) because I see it happen with Rachel, and 2) because I grew up with an ADHD brother.

I see so much of myself and my brother in my own children. He would pick and pick and pick at me until I exploded. I wanted to hang out with him because he was older and cooler than I, but because of that he was also the one who could make me more angry than anyone else. By the time we were both in high school and he had his driver's license we were best friends. He can still drive me crazy, but I still adore him.

I hope the same will hold true for Sam and Rachel - that at some point they call each other friends. Sure they would like to bash each other's heads in right now, but they also spend weekend mornings making pancakes together in the kitchen, they kick around a soccer ball together, they build forts together, they draw pictures together. And I'm pretty certain they regularly conspire against me. So there's hope!

There have been moments when I wondered if having a second child wasn't our best idea. Perhaps if Sam was an only child we could provide him with more of what he needs. But that wouldn't prepare him for the reality of the world, would it? And even if we could turn back the clock I wouldn't give up my Rachel for anything. I wouldn't give up either of my babies. I wouldn't even change a thing about who they are.

OK, maybe I'd have 'em lighten up on the screaming. But that's it.

Oh, and I'd probably make it so Sam's feet don't smell so stanky. But that's really it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A parent's perspective.

This week I've been writing about our son, Sam, who lives with ADHD and ODD, among other issues. You can read previous posts here and here.

You might want to grab a Diet Dr. Pepper and some pretzels for this installment ...

Sam was back in class yesterday. Last night when he got home he obediently took his homework out of his bag, completed it, and showed his completed work to me before putting it back in his backpack.

Parenting overtime
Sam and I also continued our conversation - calmly and respectfully - about the consequences for his misbehavior. Here at home he is not allowed to watch television or use the computer, and he has some extra chores around the house for a while. (The bonus for me is we're all watching less TV, the kids are finding other things to do together, and the dog gets walked a little more often.) Sam's teachers and the student handbook make it very clear what will happen at school if he exhibits disrespectful behavior again.

At some point it becomes very difficult to know how to dole out the discipline. We have tried it all, and everything at this point becomes as much work for me as it is punishment for him. Even positive reinforcement/reward-based systems are difficult to put into place in our home because Sam gets so steeped in negativity that he just knows he'll never be able to do what it takes to earn XYZ. That doesn't mean I don't do my job as a parent, it just means I am often exhausted and frustrated and prayerful that some of the good stuff is getting through to him.

But we as parents can't spend all our time focused on Sam.

I remember reading somewhere that parents of children with ADHD/ODD should maintain their own hobbies, go out with friends, and basically have a life other than the one where they are constantly hounding their kid. I laughed. Do the people who write this stuff actually have kids with these disorders? It's hard, y'all. It's hard to not wallow in the anger and hurt I feel after Sam spews his negativity at me. It's hard to keep up with the much-needed routines and rewards when all I want to do is scream, "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST DO IT?!?" It's hard for me because I have the luxury of being here with Sam every single day and night, and it's hard for Steve because he isn't.

We have chosen to live this way - with Steve on the road - because even though he has to travel, Steve's job pays well enough that I can be here full-time to do just what I'm doing: focusing on the kids, the routines, the homework, the followup with teachers. And that's what our son needs. The last year I worked was pretty hellish for me. I'm not even sure how I kept my job for all the late mornings, leaving early, and all the personal phone calls I had to take. All because Sam got kicked off the school bus or Sam got into a fight at school or Sam was disrupting his class. God bless his teachers because every single one of them has been an angel.

Connecting with others
All that said, this is why I continue to have a social life. This is why I don't feel a smidge of guilt when I leave the kids in the care of relatives while I take an overnighter to go see Steve. I regularly meet friends for coffee and girls' nights out. I do things by myself - wander around in a book store, go get an iced coffee, sit in my truck at the beach and watch the waves, take naps, go shopping. Heck, even a trip to the grocery store without hearing "can we get some Pop Tarts?" a hundred times is bliss.

I am also fortunate to have close friends who are raising their own children of varying ages with similar issues, so it helps to have people to vent to and know I am not alone. I spend a good amount of time on-line, too, chatting with folks who I became friends with over a completely different mutual interest, but who also have kids who need extra attention. Even the friends who don't have kids can and do sympathize and offer prayers for us.

When Steve and I are able to parent together we try to always be on the same page. I try to keep him updated on what's happening here and how I am handling things, and I always ask for his input. I don't want him to always be The Bad Guy when he's home for such short periods of time, but it's such a relief when I can just leave some things up to him. Sam needs to hear his father's voice reinforcing some of the same things I have told him.

Outward appearances
For as frustrated as I get with him sometimes, Sam has also taught me to be humble, to have compassion for others, and to step out of my judgypants and look for the good in everyone. He has forced me to keep my sense of humor, because without it our lives - my life - would be a very depressing place.

I always hated it when people would say "you don't know what it's like to live with _______" but it doesn't bother me so much anymore. I truly believe parents who have never had to physically restrain their child from hurting himself or who have never felt the hurt of sitting in a psychologist's office and listening to the doctor tell them how their child has indicated he doesn't respect them or trust them and isn't proud of his family ... well, parents who have never done that probably don't get it. Parents who have never feared for their child's safety because one stupid thing a bully says to them at school could set off a string of self-destructive behavior ... those parents probably don't understand. Parents who have never prayed that their child would just be granted happiness for today don't know what it's like to live with a child who is so unhappy so much of the time.

Most adults would be appalled at some of the thoughts that run through my head when I am crazy angry with Sam. And they would be deeply saddened  if they knew what was on my mind at times when I hurt for him.

But people don't see this because it is not a physical handicap. People (including me) often mistake children with ADHD or autism or Asperger's Syndrome as children with lack of discipline. You know what lack of discipline translates to? Bad parenting. And that hurts.

I try not to care what people I don't even know think of me, but the fact is I always will care on some level. Who doesn't want to be liked and thought of as a good parent (or a good person in general)? When I catch those funky glances from people I want to tell them my son is hiding behind his hoodie because the world screams at him. I told him this needs to be a quick trip to the store and he pulled his hood up so he can keep up with me and won't be distracted by everything. What others see as a brooding adolescent is really a kid who is using his coping skills. He gets through his days the best way he knows how.

OK, maybe he doesn't apply his best every day, but neither does every "normal" kid. So please don't judge us. When you see me struggling to keep my composure or you hear me holler at my kid in the middle of the parking lot, don't assume I'm a lousy parent. When you see my son misbehaving or hear him throw a smartass comment my way, tread lightly; I can tell you with one glance whether I'd like your help or not. Chances are a friendly smile from you to both of us will do the most good.

Remember, everybody is dealing with something. Some people are dealing with a lot. So please be kind in your actions, don't think poorly of these children, and try not to blame their parents.

~ ~ ~

I am an open book, so questions and comments are welcome; however, I thought I'd answer one I feel might be brewing ...  Why write about this topic? Why share details about your son's struggles? Are you trying to embarrass him?

This is my answer: Why not write about it? It's no big secret that Sam has struggled with certain things since he was a toddler. His begindergarten teacher knew it, his kindergarten teacher saw it, and every kid who has been going to school with him for any length of time knows it. Most adults we are close to have seen some of Sam's poor behaviors and heard his sassy mouth (or heard me tell them about it), and they know at least something about how we have chosen to treat the misfires in his brain. If what he might read here someday embarrasses him, I have done my job as a parent. Kidding! But really, it is what it is and he can't change who he is so we work on acceptance. I think he's more likely to be embarrassed by the stories his friends and family will tell at his graduation open house, if we all live to see it.

I also write it because there is bound to be someone out there who will stumble across this blog, read Sam's story, and feel relieved that he or she is not alone. I want parents raising children with psychological and emotional struggles to know it's OK to be angry sometimes. It's OK to blow your top sometimes (but you might consider apologizing later). And especially if you are going it alone for whatever reason, it's certainly OK to ask for help.

Tomorrow: siblings.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making progress.

Yesterday I wrote about our son being disciplined at school. You can read that post here. This is the continuation ...

So, because he forgot the signed note that would allow him back into class, Sam had to sit all day in the school's "student responsibility center." I couldn't take the note to school because I was tied up with something else.

Not that I would have taken it to him anyway.

We are long past that point where we quit smoothing out the rough patches in the road for our kids and we start letting them experience some of the stumbling blocks and pain that are a part of life. Screw up? Well you better figure out a way you're going to make it right. Make a bad choice? You'll reap the consequences.

Steve and I aren't drill sergeants, but we make it clear to our children what we expect of them, and we do our best to model positive behavior. We don't expect them to be perfect either, but we do want them to be good citizens. We also want them to know they are loved unconditionally and when the world has turned its back on them we will be here.

Sometimes that just isn't enough.

A few years ago when we had finally reached our wits' end with Sam and it was obvious he wasn't happy with himself, we called a counselor. Months of therapy and all kinds of testing revealed what we kinda' already knew: Sam would have a rougher time of things than your average kid, and we as his parents would have to develop some pretty thick skin and work our fannies off to keep him on the straight and narrow.

It felt good to have some answers. I won't share all the details of Sam's diagnosis, but I will say (and I've mentioned here before) that it includes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder along with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. You can Google either one of these disorders and find a crazy amount of information to sift through - some good information, some so-so. Some helpful, some not so much. And everyone has an opinion about whether ADHD and/or ODD are over-diagnosed or even legitimate diagnoses. I'm not going to argue those points here. What I will say is that from the time Sam was about 18 months old I always felt there was something a little special about him and I would lament to family members that he was high maintenance. I wasn't kidding, people!

A person can't help feeling compassion for the kid. He's genetically predisposed to emotional and psychological disorders. It wasn't until recently that he started to understand what it means to have chemical imbalances and how it can affect people. It's frustrating to know this about yourself and wonder why you were blessed with this particular cross to bear. From the parents' perspective, it's frustrating to know that most likely your wonky DNA caused some of the kid's issues.

On the flip side, it's pretty cool to know your DNA created all the great things about him, too. He's funny. He's a talented sketch artist. He is fiercely loyal to friends and family (though the family thing is a recent development, for which I am thankful). He is creative and a great problem-solver. He is amazing with children and animals, to the point that I sometimes call him the pied piper because children who know him - like, toddlers and preschoolers - seek him out. This speaks volumes to me, because it tells me that beneath that hardened exterior which Sam uses just to deal with life every day, he is a sweet boy. He values others and the relationships he has with them.

It's taken us a while to chip away at that wall and get Sam to realize it's OK to have and experience feelings. Showing love and happiness does not make you weak, and raging when you are angry or hurt does not make you stronger. We have worked with him a lot to help him find that middle ground. There are some days when it seems like we're not moving forward much, but we have made a lot of progress.

I recently pulled out a binder where I kept my own notes and some papers from his counselors and I was blown away at how different our days are now compared to just three short years ago. It's just that when you are in the thick of parenting a child like Sam, every tiny step forward feels like major progress. Just like every small great moment - a heartfelt hug, a game of cards with no arguing, hearing him belly laugh - causes so much happiness.

Hmm. It looks like I might have a series going here. I have so much more to share on the topic. More tomorrow ...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond frustrated.

Sam has a little problem with authority. Always has. He used to take it out mostly on me and Steve, but as he has gotten older he has begun to spread the love a little more - to his teachers, his grandparents, anyone who would have the audacity to give him orders, or even politely ask him to do something.

He will be 12 years old in a few weeks. I know some of this behavior is typical of a preteen, but when we have struggled with him all his life it's hard to know what is "normal" and what isn't. Either way, there are some things that are just plain unacceptable. Unacceptable in our home, unacceptable at school or in society. 

As an added bonus, Sam's moods are unpredictable. One minute he could be quietly working on a project with his sister, all lovey-dovey, and the next he is hollering about how unfair it is that emptying the dishwasher is on his chore list again.

He is also a negotiator. Read: manipulator. He's always trying to make deals with anyone who will listen. "I'll let you have my iPod for two days if you take the dog out for me" was a common one until Rachel finally realized that he will renege every time. He'll come up with some loophole like "well I didn't say when I'd let you have my iPod" and he will insist he hasn't truly defaulted on his end of the bargain, which of course sends Rachel into a tailspin. These kinds of things happen every day in our house. It's like a power play for Sam, a way to feel in control; he thinks life is so unfair and everyone is out to disappoint him, so he's going to get revenge by disappointing someone else.

As a parent, this is exhausting. We are always on guard, always trying to predict his next move, always feeling there must have been something we failed at to have caused him to be this way. OK, well that last one is mostly me, but still. I get frustrated because while Steve is working away from home he's not here to give Sam the evil eye or back me up on discipline or be a good male role model for Sam. Steve gets frustrated because ... well ... for the same reasons. He gets the phone calls from me saying "I've handled it as well as I know how, now what?"

I hate that it is this way, but when things appear to be going really good with Sam I start to wonder what's up. I try to be an optimist and not assume all the good is about to come crashing down, but I've been disappointed so many times I just throw up my hands in defeat when it finally happens. Because it will happen, and it did happen last night.

After an evening full of struggles over chores and homework and all the usual suspects, I finally tucked the kids into bed and sat down to get lost in some mindless TV. About 15 minutes later Sam calls me from his room. He needs me to sign something, he says.


He came out from his room and brought me a packet of papers containing details about how he had been disciplined at school for disrespecting and defying two of his teachers, not doing his work, and disrupting class. He would not be allowed back to his classes until he brought this packet back to school, signed by a parent.


I might as well start beating my head against a wall. I swear it would accomplish more than trying to get this kid to make good choices.

We had a chat. He shed some tears. I sent him back to bed with the promise that I would be talking to his dad and together we would devise a plan to make Sam's life a living hell. (I'm kidding! Sort of.) I signed the papers and left them on the table for him to take back to school. I even put a check for his lunch money right on top of the pile so he wouldn't forget them. I set it all at his place at the table.

He took the check.

He did not take the papers.

Hear that? It's me beating my head against a wall.

More tomorrow ...

Friday, October 22, 2010


The kitty saga continues.

I had barely gotten used to the fact that we lost Snowbell when Sam walks in last night with an orange tabby kitten in his arms.

Like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Me: "Wait. Wait! Wha?"

Sam: "Can we keep it? Just for a little while?"

As the dog slobbered all over the poor thing I did a quick assessment. Kitty is in pretty rough shape. It had been hiding under grandpa's car and emerged at just the moment Sam walked outside.

Perfect timing, right?


I cannot say no. I am a sucker for kittens always, but this one just weaseled his way into my heart.

Meet Patch:

It's been difficult to type this because Mr. Patch apparently thinks I'm his mama. He likes to curl up on my chest, and he won't take no for an answer.

He's had a bath already, but it's going to take a few days to get him thoroughly cleaned up. He has something gray - paint, I think - all over his tail and on his ears. The insides of his ears are nasty; I cleaned them with Q-tips last night and it was not pretty. The pads on his paws are caked with grit, and he has a couple patches of missing fur (hence his name, Patch) where he's been injured or maybe got too cold outside.

But he's a sweet, sweet kitty. He is not bothered by the dog, who seems to think Patch is her new toy. I think he already has the litter box thing figured out.

He slept on my bed last night.

Oh, dear. This was not how I planned things.

Aren't life's little surprises the best? Heh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sadness the way it should be: followed by laughter.

Bad news. I found our missing kitty.

Dead on the side of the road.


I was afraid of that.

But like I posted yesterday, we always kinda' know we take a chance with letting our cats outside. When I gave Sam and Rachel the news they took it better than I thought they would. Actually they didn't react much at all. Perhaps they had it in their minds as a possibility since Snowbell had been gone for three days already.

I told the kids I was sorry. Sorry that the story didn't have a happy ending. Sorry that life isn't fair sometimes. Sorry that our goofy, cuddly, beautiful Snowbell is gone.

I don't know what I expected. A moment of silence, maybe? A group hug? Someone to at least say, "He was a good cat?"

What I got was, "Hey, can we get two pets to replace him?" with a reminder that we never did replace the dead goldfish.

The goldfish Snowbell ate - and then puked up on the rug - while we were on vacation a few years ago.

I was processing the pet question when Sam started to chuckle.

"Well I guess he kinda' deserved that for eating the fish," he said.

Oh my. Did my son just say that karma killed the cat? Because it sounded like he just said karma killed the cat.

Now that right there is funny.

Morbid, maybe. But funny. We laughed ourselves silly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


We have two cats. I haven't seen this one for about three days:

Snowbell is the mouthiest, but lovingest cat I have ever known. I think he thinks he's a dog; he'll greet you at the door, follow you around the house (I can't tell you how many times I've tripped over him as he tried to run ahead of me), and let you know when his food dish is anywhere near empty.

The cats come and go as they please. They have been spayed and neutered, so we're not concerned about adding to the kitty population, but out here in the country they have the potential to encounter any number of wild animals and who knows what else while they're outside. I suppose it's a risk we take, knowing full well that every time we open the door for them they might never come back. Especially Snowbell, because he likes to be outside at night. He's a great mouser.

Oh, dear.

Think good thoughts for him, will ya'?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ack! I just gotta' say it: nobody's perfect!

I appreciate a quiet Sunday afternoon when I can catch up on some of the blogs I follow, hoping to spark some creativity, see what friends and fellow writers have been up to, or sometimes just get lost in someone else's world for a while.

Inevitably I click from a blog I know and love to one on their reading list that looks interesting, and so on and so on. What a fun way to work my way around the world from the comfort of my own home!

But occasionally my journey into other's lives causes me to log off and smack my laptop shut in exasperation. I see perfectly-lit pictures of beautiful, clean homes and happy, organically-fed children, and I read about how they fill each day with fun and educational activities. It's all about love and hugs and rainbows and fuzzy little kittens.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!? Nobody's life could possibly be that perfect.

My name is Jane. I school my children at home and I feed them only foods we grow in our back yard, sans chemicals. I support baby-wearing and I abhor spanking. My husband is a genius and an entrepreneur. We never speak a harsh word to each other in any of the three languages in which we are fluent. We don't own a television. We have no debt. Our children don't know who Hannah Montana is. We make our own furniture and milk our own cow. Look at my beautiful home!

Seriously? Hhhhhhh.

There was a time when I would have been a little jealous of Jane's seemingly wonderful life and might have even tried to be more like her - the her in the snapshot she posted on-line, anyway. Now I just sorta' lift an eyebrow. Just a little. I don't judge Jane, but neither do I assume that her children have never thrown temper tantrums, her husband loves his job, Jane lives caffeine-free, and she has never been embarrassed by the state of her home when company stops by unexpectedly.

If her life really is that way? Well. Then more power to her. It sounds exhausting.

The fun thing about blogging (and the Internet in general) is that we can present only the aspects of our lives we wish to share. We can stage our photos. We can skip blogging on our crappiest days and write twice as much about the best days. We can make our lives look as perfect as possible. Or we can use our space in the blogosphere as a place to dump all the drama and share all the frustrations of life. I try to land somewhere in the middle.

I use this blog as a sort of journal and even though I haven't been at it very long I look back on my previous posts and remember the good days, bad days, ugly days, and yes, even the seemingly perfect days. My life is about striving for ... I don't know ... goodness. Peace. My family's happiness. But it gets messy sometimes, and I'm OK with you seeing that because messiness keeps me humble. Messiness is real.

My friend B is forever reminding me, "progress, not perfection." Pretty good words to live by.

I can't help but think some people spend so much time polishing the facade that they forget to live the life, and that's a shame.

That's all. I just had to get that off my chest. I feel better now.

Oh, and chances are if you are reading this, my imaginary character Jane does not represent you. Jane is all those people whose real names I don't know but whose perfect photos and children and spouses and homes are just too sugary sweet for my taste.

Now I'm really done. Off my soap box. Carry on!

And for heaven's sake, enjoy the journey. It can be imperfect and beautiful at the same time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I applied for a job.

But that was three weeks ago and since I haven't heard anything I'm assuming I am not being considered for it.

And that's OK.

In fact, I'm kinda' glad. Because if nobody offers me a job I don't have to make the decision of whether I should accept it.

It seemed like good timing. A friend passed along the job posting when Steve was between jobs and I was doing my best not to freak out about the future. "Why not apply?" I thought. I really enjoy being a stay-at-home mom, but if it comes down to needing to support our family, of course I would look for a job. And if all turned out fine with Steve's work status (which it did) and I was offered a job, too, I might still consider it. Who couldn't use a little extra income these days?

Then I started to think about having to buy a whole new professional wardrobe again. And figuring out what to do with the kids after school. And commuting to work. And the inevitability of office politics. And how we'd have to leave the dog inside all day because she's a wuss in the snow. And the list went on.

There were positive points, too. For one, I would be forced to get out of my pajamas every day. (*ahem*) The particular job in question offered great benefits. And spending a few years working in an office again would end that gap I call "No Man's Land" in my work history - the big void that began when I quit my job in the spring of 2008 and will continue indefinitely.

That first week or so when I didn't get a phone call I was a little disappointed. I got over it quickly, though. I've been so busy with life and being a mom and wife and friend that I can't even imagine how I could do both - work full time and do all the other stuff. In fact, I'm not so far removed from that season of my life that I don't remember what it was like, and I can honestly say I couldn't do it all. All those years of trying just made me very very cranky. I'm not ready to put that kind of pressure on myself again.

Nope. I like things just the way they are. Is it an easy life? Nah. No one ever promised me it would be. But it is a good life. And for now I know I'm right where I need to be.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I love coupons!

You all know I am a frugal-minded mama. But I haven't posted much (or at all?) about using coupons because I'm not really sure what to say other than this: I love them!

I am not one of those women who gets all kinds of free stuff using coupons. I cannot get over the embarrassment I would feel over asking for three different transactions at Walgreens in order to get the most out of coupon-and-sale combinations. I don't know why. It's just a thing with me. I don't care when other people do it, but I won't. (Plus, I just don't like to shop that much - I like to get in, get my stuff, and get out.) Nor do I want to offer a how-to on coupon clipping or reports on which stores have the best sales; there are people who do this regularly on the Web and do a great job of it, and I would be happy to point anyone interested their way.

But today I just have to share my couponing success.

I am so blessed to have a friend who sends me coupons regularly, so between what she sends and what I can pilfer from my mom (ha!) and the coupons I get from the occasional Sunday paper I purchase, I have a pretty good stash going.

This is how I keep them:
I keep them like this because I had this old bill sorter lying around the house. Easy peasy.

I sort them by categories that work for me.

Often this is how my dining room table looks on a Saturday afternoon. I actually enjoy this. Which is good, because the time I spend sorting through coupons and matching them up with sales is worth the savings.

Especially this week.

It's been a few weeks since I last hit the grocery store, so I knew it was going to be a big trip. On top of that, it's fall and in the fall I always stock up on certain things, especially items I need for holiday baking.

I wanted to get it all done in one store. I chose Meijer because a quick glance at their ads showed some great deals and several items I wanted to stock up on. I spent some time last night perusing Meijer's Web site, adding items to my virtual grocery list (which I eventually printed out - LOVE that feature!) and organizing the largest stack of coupons I have ever used in one store.

This is how many coupons I used:

This is how much the coupons combined with the sales saved me:

I saved $92.48!! Totally worth the hour or so I spent getting it all organized.

For perspective, my out-of-pocket cost was $151.44, and my receipt tells me I took home 90 items which includes a $12 tub of cat litter (the priciest item).

Not bad, eh?

And to top off this sweet trip, as I was gathering my purchases at the checkout a sweet older couple came over to me and the woman handed me a $2.50 store coupon and said, "Could you use this next time?"

How cool is that?

I love coupons!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Color tour.

I shot these pictures with my phone out the window of the truck yesterday as I took kind of a round-a-bout way home from town.
They're not the best quality photos, but it gives you a little idea of the beauty we're experiencing here in Western Michigan these days.

 Seeing the fall colors in a four-season state is like our reward for enduring the winters here.

I love taking leisurely drives on the back country roads 
(which is ... oh ... all the roads around here).

This is a shot I say I'm going to take every year, and finally did. This is along the road we live on - I love how the hardwoods growing up on the edge of this pine forest provide bursts of color.
Hello, fall. I love you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Picture day!

Today is Rachel's school picture day. I had forgotten what a big deal this is for girls. It's almost as dramatic as picking the First Day of School Outfit.

Somehow I managed to convince Rachel to let me put her hair in a ponytail this morning after much debate about what to do with it. Her hair is thick and heavy like mine, so blowing it dry and straightening it at 6 a.m. was not high on my list of things I wanted to do.

I think she looks like such a doll when she pulls her hair away from her face. What a cutie.

So I, of course, had to take her picture before she left.

She, of course, got all goofy like she does every time the camera comes out.

Sam's picture day was a couple of weeks ago. It was as drama-free as a day can be for Sam. All boy, that one.

In fact, he was pretty unimpressed with Rachel's excitement this morning. I took a picture of him, too, but he was hiding behind his hoodie and growling at me so I cut him some slack and put the camera away. I can sympathize. I'm not much of a morning person, either.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On to the next adventure.

So ... last Thursday I started writing this post about Steve going back to work, and then the phone rang and plans changed.

Seems like I'd be bracing for change every time the phone rings around here.

Steve had just left when he got the call that the job was pushed back a day; he had one more day to enjoy being home. So after saying goodbye, we said hello again. The kids were surprised to see his truck in the driveway when they got home from school. Good thing they're old enough to understand how quickly things can change or they'd never believe a thing we told them.  

Dad's leaving today. Oh wait! No he's not.

The dog needs to go out. No, really!

Your pants are on fire. YES they are!

And having your kids think you're an idiot and have no idea what you're talking about would be tragic now, wouldn't it?

Hey, wait a second.

Anyway. Steve ended up leaving for real on Friday and starting the new job on Saturday. So far, so good. The great part about this new gig is he is back in Michigan, in an area he is familiar with, and just a three-hour drive from home.

Three hours! Piece o' cake.

And just last night I went and stumped him with a parenting dilemma. Turns out parenting from three hours away isn't any easier than parenting from nine hours away. Hmph.

It's all about perspective, I guess.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nothin' like a beautiful fall day.

There is nothing like a beautiful fall day to put me in a good mood and provide some motivation to get some work done around the house. I love being able to go about the day with a cozy-smelling candle burning and the windows cracked open just a little bit so I can hear the leaves rustling outside.

I love the smell of earth and leaves and crisp air. Cold nights and warm, sunny days. Squash with dinner and fresh apples for dessert. Turning the thermostat down and snuggling under an extra blanket when I go to bed.

And of course, the brightness of those hardy plants that hang on even after the first frost.

I hope you're finding as much beauty in these days as I am. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I hate Saturday morning cartoons.

How silly is that?

Of course I watched them as a child. And I used to enjoy cuddling with the kids on Saturday mornings and watching them. But somehow recently they have become the bane of my existence. (The cartoons, not the kids. Today anyway.)

We have to get up early every other day of the week and get ready to go; all I want on Saturday morning is to sleep in, wake up when my body decides it's ready, and enjoy the sound of the autumn breeze rustling through the trees outside, brew myself a strong cup of coffee, and have a nice, relaxing start to my day.

Remember how we hated it that there was no talking in the coyote and roadrunner cartoons? Just some dorky classical music playing while Wile E. Coyote opened his latest delivery from the Acme company?

Yeah. I'd love some classical music and a few "meep meep's!" right about now.