Monday, March 28, 2011

Skimping and Saving

$0.50 off. B1G1. RedPlum. ExtraCare Card. eMealz.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, you know the deal. You clip, you cut, you compare, and you pray that all the time spent with the kitchen scissors pays off at the check-out line. Literally.

My mom never used coupons or shopped on sale when I was growing up. She just shopped at Wal-Mart, of course! So, really the world of intentional saving has been very, very new to me.

When I was living on my own, I could spend upwards of SEVENTY-FIVE dollars a WEEK on groceries/household products! $75!!! A WEEK!! FOR ONE PERSON!!! And I usually threw 1/3 of my groceries out at the end of the week. Now, I think I spend about $75 while shopping for four people (me, Mom, Fred, and Blake - the boys usually eat with us)... and that's not even with real coupon use. I've only done some hardcore couponing a few times, and have gotten away from it thanks to a hectic school schedule. But, now that things are winding down and school is less stressful, I'm back to clipping, cutting, comparing, and praying that all my efforts will be worth it at the register!

My goal... and who knows if I can actually do this... is to spend $50 a week or less (about $200 a month) on groceries/household supplies/pet food once Blake and I get married. I think that's a generous amount, and it should be totally doable.

So far, I've got the basics down. I shop for my groceries at Publix because I know their system the best, and I think they usually have pretty good deals. I shop at CVS for beauty/hair/medical products when they have a really good sale and offer ECBs. Other places (Walgreen's, RiteAid, WinnDixie, etc.) really have to catch my attention for me to even step foot inside. And, then, when all else fails... there's Wal-Mart! :) I really hate shopping at Wal-Mart for lots of various reasons, but I have to admit they usually have the lowest price on just about everything. I hate it! But, when I really need something (usually pet food and face wash!) and don't have a coupon or I can't find it on sale, I have no shame in heading to the W.

I know that I am supposed to match sale prices with coupons, and that I am supposed to generally buy only items that are on sale. This is where eMealz comes in. I don't have a subscription yet because our schedule is so crazy, but this is definitely a service I'd consider. You purchase a subscription and they send you a weekly menu and grocery list based of the sale items at your favorite grocer. For now, I just scour the sales papers on Sundays and Wednesdays and plan the week's meals accordingly.

I stock up on the things we use most when it's on sale, I have a coupon, or it's a "surprisingly low price" (Publix!): ground beef, chicken, pasta, pasta sauce, CoffeeMate, milk (yes, milk! I freeze it!), rice, canned vegetables, chicken stock, etc. I don't go overboard, because I know it'll go on sale again in about four to six weeks.

So. If you are still reading this, props to you. Seriously. I wouldn't read this. I just wanted to type it all out! Just kidding... my point is this: I know the basics, but I'm ready to move to the next level. I want, for the first time, to SAVE more than I SPEND! That's my goal for the next couple of months. I am about to "technically" save more than I spend at CVS with one of their deals, but I'm getting ECBs instead of cold hard cash. I want to go in and CONQUER the grocery store with my mad couponing skills. Not the spend-$1.50-save-$543.50 kind of Extreme Couponing like on the TLC show (which I think will probably make me more depressed than encouraged!), but just as an everyday gal saving some money on the essentials of life.

Any advice on how to accomplish this goal is certainly welcome. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

newness... and a wedding update

Yesterday, we hit the three-month mark. Three months exactly until the wedding day! This is the time I've been waiting for, somewhat like my "final trimester" of engagement. ;) When we got engaged (waaaaaaay back in July!!!), I thought, 'Everything will seem more real once we get to March 25.' In many ways, I was right. In many ways, I was wrong.

Three months is still a long time, in engagement-land. Ninety days/2,160 hours/129,600 seconds long, for those of you who, like me, need the numbers. But, at the same time, three months is very little time, and we have a lot to do!

Since life is changing, I decided to spruce up the blog (hence the layout change and the new title!). I can't change the URL address of my blog because some other creative person already has a blog with the same name. But, I'll keep what I've got for now. This is the first header I have ever done, and I am somewhat disappointed in the way it turned out... mostly because of the picture. But, I wanted a picture that showed where we are in life - engaged - and this is the only one I have that appropriately displays our stage in life. It probably would be better if I changed it to a sepia-toned picture or edited it better, but... I really am not up for all that hassle at the moment! I will probably change it to a better picture once we get our professional engagement pictures back. :) But, hey, in three months... it'll be a picture of us on our WEDDING DAY! So... I can live with the so-so header for ninety more days, if I have to!

I'd like to think that I am not obsessed with getting married, but... let's face it. I am. I am 100% obsessed, and I really think I should be. I don't plan for all my subsequent posts to be marriage/wedding related, but... you never know. :)

Right now, I'm working on lots of little projects for the wedding. Hostess gifts, addressing the invitations, making checklists, and so on. I'm not too stressed, and we finally decided (and quite peacefully, I might add) on a place to live for our first year of marriage. Things are falling into place, and our friends and family members are surrounding us with their support and encouragement. This really is the best time of my life, and I am so thankful we have so many wonderful people to share in our excitement!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tuna Two Ways

Several months ago, I stood back and watched Blake make himself a tuna salad sandwich. He spooned the prepared cold salad onto two pieces of mayo-lathered white bread. I was in shock. This is not how I make tuna salad sandwiches, and certainly not the way I eat tuna salad sandwiches. I actually prefer my tuna salad hot with melted cheddar cheese on top. I either toast my wheat bread, or I scoop dollops of tuna salad on top of wheat thins and melt them in the microwave.

For months, I had been making his tuna salad sandwiches my way, and he willfully ate them without hesitation. But, once I discovered how he preferred his sandwiches, I felt a bit disappointed that I hadn't known sooner. This silly and seemingly insignificant detail led to a hefty conversation about honesty; a conversation neither of us anticipated.

The conversation simply revolved around knowing one another. I would have hated to find out about the tuna salad deal forty years from now, after making countless tuna salad sandwiches for my hardworking husband. I would have been living a lie... making him sandwich after sandwich, only to find that he preferred something different. This is just tuna salad, but there's a bigger picture attached.

I have to thank tuna salad for strengthening our relationship that day. Since then, we have been bound by honesty and make a point to speak truth in love to one another in order to live in truth with one another.

We like our tuna salad two totally different ways, and now we enjoy them two totally different ways every time. I love that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Discovery Zone

Two posts in one day!? What!? Well, I figure not too many people read my blog, but... for those of you who do (including you guys in Alaska! Thanks for keeping my readership up to a semi-respectable level!):

I had to re-learn how to pinch today!!!

Of course, being St. Patrick's Day, I just had to pinch Blake for not wearing green. Apparently, my pinch was rather wimpy, and I was kindly notified by my concerned fiance. I thought I knew how to pinch, but apparently not! So, as we sat waiting on the cushy comfy couches of Tuscaloosa Toyota, I practiced my pinching.

I don't think I am a good pincher, even after all that practice. But, I suppose being a good pincher isn't necessarily a positive character trait, so I am satisfied with my so-so pinching skills.

Plus, I am really good at Super Mario. That more than makes up for my lack of pinching abilities.

The Peace Which Passeth

The recent news about budget cuts in the department of education has not made it easy for me to sleep at night. Graduation is just around the corner, which means now is the time to start looking for a job. The only problem is that there are no jobs, and with the budget in shambles, I don't know if there will be any jobs. And what jobs are out there will be highly competitive. But, I'm clinging to a promise God gave me, and relying on His faithfulness throughout the whole process of returning to school to pursue a career in education. "God is bigger than the education budget!" - That is my motto.

For the past few months, I have been praying Philippians 4:6-7 quite frequently. It is my go-to passage when I start to feel the anxiousness about employment rise up in the pit of my stomach. I am a worrier by nature, so I often get caught up in the "what if's" of life. The biggest "what if" of my life is going on right now... What if I don't get a teaching job?

Yesterday was another one of those days where I was feeling unnervingly anxious. The realty of paying back school loans on top of living expenses post-nuptials was laying heavily on my heart. So, I started praying Philippians 4:6-7, and the gentle weight of God's words pressed on my anxious heart.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I have this unfounded belief that if I pray hard enough, I will somehow coerce God into granting me a job. It's a very legalistic view, and I don't really believe it, but at the same time, I want to believe it. I want to believe that I can talk God into what I think is best. But, in reality, I know that praying isn't about convincing God of anything, but instead changing my heart and conforming my will to His. These verses reminded me yesterday that what I need most is God's overwhelming peace, and for Him to guard my heart and my mind against worry, lies, and fear. All other needs are secondary, and will come with time.

God will provide; He always has and He always will. He is bigger than the education budget, bigger than my student loans, and bigger than the first year of marriage. And He is big enough to cover me in His grace and peace along the journey to wherever it is He is taking me.

On another note, today marks 100 days until our wedding! If ever there was a story of God's faithfulness, this is it! The next 100 days, I am sure, will go by quickly and I am hoping to savor up every moment. :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Look What I Did!

On a creative whim, I decided to paint a tryptic to hang in our [future] master bedroom. I found a painting on Sips 'N Strokes's website that I liked, and broke it up into three 8x10 flat canvases. This project was so much fun, I just had to share it:

I forgot to crop the last picture so that you wouldn't see the other pictures on that wall! My bedroom wall right now is ridiculously cluttered with pictures I've been collecting for our future home! But, I am really happy with the way it turned out. I might have discovered a new hobby! :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Me and Fifth Grade

I can tell that me and fifth grade are going to get along real well. In just the first five days at my new placement, I have been able to teach the following things:

- equivalent fractions
- equivalent fractions and decimal numbers
- whole number and decimal place values
- long division
- long division with decimals
- Greatest Common Factor
- Lowest Common Denominator
- linear equations
- acute and obtuse angles
- prime and composite numbers
- radius and diameter
- circumference and perimeter
- adding and subtracting whole numbers and decimals
- figurative language (metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, personification)
- prepositional phrases
- superlatives and comparatives
- past, present, and future tense
- spelling words with silent letters
- geographic location of Egypt and the Suez Canal (along with explaining what a canal is)
- the "single-digit dino"
- Kenya

And that's just in one week's time! Let's face it. I was made for fifth grade.

As I was teaching math on my second day (yes, my cooperating teacher let me teach whole group on the second day! I was ecstatic!), I thought, This is what I was made for.

I really felt myself come to life this past week. Usually, the upper-grade academic content scares people, but I love it. And, I love teaching it. Since I had such a difficult time with math at their age (and then finally "got it" one day), I truly understand the complexity of each problem. I understand why it's confusing to have to reduce a fraction not once, but twice (40/100 = 4/10 = 2/5). I get that. I understand why it doesn't make any sense to have letters in math problems (4y = 16). I get it. And I love showing my students that, even though it may not make sense, they can get the answer right if they think hard enough. The answers are all up there in their little brains, it's just a matter of learning how to retrieve what they need. I have learned to be a problem solver, and they can learn to be problem solvers, too.

I loved being in first grade, especially once I got the hang of it. And I would teach first grade (and teach it well!) in a heartbeat if that's where I need to be! But, I see myself in an upper-grade for the long-term, talking about participle phrases and literature and fractions for as long as my students will listen. :)

Oh, and it's also Spring Break! My to-do list for Spring Break is probably longer than a normal week's list, but at least I get to do all those things at my leisure... and I can work in my PJs. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Season of Lent

It's that time of year again. Time to break out Celebration of Discipline (Foster) and browse through "what to give up for Lent" on Google. Wait, is that just me?

The motive behind fasting for Lent is the hardest part for me. Richard Foster writes, "Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights -- these must never replace God as the center of our fasting." Maybe I'm alone in this, but putting God at the center of my fasting is often rather difficult. I can't help but think of the benefits of fasting. I have to remind myself that, first and foremost, my fasting is an act of worship to God and to God alone.

The secondary purpose of fasting is to discover what controls us (Foster). It's not just about what I choose to give up, how much I will miss it, how much I long for it, and all of that. It's about what is hidden underneath. Anger, pride, jealousy, fear... all of those spirits come to light. During fasting, God makes us keenly aware of what is within us.

This year, Blake and I are celebrating Lent together. I say "celebrate" because it really is a celebration. Though fasting is the removal or withdrawal or absence of something, the void of that thing is filled with the Spirit! And, at the end of Lent, is the beautiful grace of God displayed through the crucifixion and resurrection of His son.

Discipline is hard. Discipline is not pretty. But, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Living with AD... hey, look, a bee!... HD.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD-PI (inattentive type). I always thought ADHD meant hyperactivity, which is why my parents and I hadn't thought to get tested sooner. I can look back on my middle and high school years and clearly see the symptoms of ADHD-PI in full swing. But, I guess better late than never! So, I was diagnosed at 22, and started taking a prescription for treatment. The drug worked well, but it was a non-stimulant, which means I had to take it on a daily basis. Anyone who knows me knows I already have issues with taking medicine, and I want to avoid - at all costs - taking any daily prescription drugs. After just a few months of medication, I stopped the medicine and relied on coping methods.

Since I suffered with ADHD for years before being diagnosed, I unknowingly learned a whole lot of ways to successfully cope with it (though I didn't know at the time that's what I was doing!). Being naturally disorganized, I learned over time to be over-organized. I learned ways to combat forgetfulness and how to handle nervous energy. Most of the time, these coping methods work and are sufficient for dealing with ADHD in everyday life. Some of the methods I use:

- Have a place for everything: Frequently losing/misplacing items is a symptom of ADHD that can be really annoying. But, if I have a place for everything, I rarely lose things!
- Schedule life around routines: I am a creature of habit because it helps with forgetfulness. The more routine I have, the less likely I am to forget something. The things I need to remember become a habit, but breaking routine can be very stressful. Everything has a routine - packing for trips, getting ready in the morning, driving, etc.
- Write down EVERYthing: Because I have a hard time listening to people (even when being spoken to directly) and following directions, I need to write down as much as I can. I also make LOTS of to-do lists, and put up reminders around my house.
- SLEEP! I don't know if it's true with everyone, but I struggle with fatigue and also notice that my ADHD symptoms are more noticeable if I haven't had enough sleep.
- Work on projects/assignments over time: Since I have a hard time paying attention to, well, everything, I have to carefully plan out projects and assignments. I study for tests one to two weeks in advance, studying 20-30 minutes a day. I work on large projects in chunks - breaking the project down to smaller, manageable tasks.
- Use background noise: If I need to study, read, focus, I need to overstimulate my brain a little. Sounds counterproductive, but background noise helps drown out the little tickertape of thoughts scrolling through my brain. At night, I often need music or an old TV show to help lull me to sleep. Otherwise, I could lay in bed forever thinking about.... everything.
- Have a quiet place/time: I prefer a quiet, calm environment. I teach kids. Those two things contradict each other! Since I can't always control the environment I am in, I have to have a quiet place and/or time to unwind after being in a chaotic environment. I do best in a balanced environment - not too boring, not too overstimulating.
- Drink plenty of water: There's no argument against water being good for your brain. Water helps hydrate your brain (helping it work more efficiently) and hydrates everything else in your body! I still drink coffee, but usually only in the morning and I drink water or milk for the rest of the day (and maybe a Diet Coke for a treat).

Those are just a few tricks I've learned to cope with ADHD. Lately, I have also started taking krill oil to help with the symptoms. My symptoms grow stronger as I become more stressed (and this semester is very stressful!), so I decided to give krill oil a try. Krill oil is just like fish oil, except for a few minute differences. Well, the one major difference is that krill oil comes from krill. :) The Omega-3's in krill oil are attached to phospholipids rather than triglycerides, but I have no clue what that means! The best part about krill oil is that the pill is MUCH smaller and there's no fishy aftertaste or burping! I've only taken it for a few weeks, but I can tell a real difference.

I have also read studies that say ADHD is linked also to a Magnesium deficiency. Vitamins are usually large and can be hard to absorb, so I am just going to try to eat more Magnesium-rich foods (broccoli, whole grains, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc.) to see if that helps!

I am not really sure why I am writing about this, but, I guess it's just been on my mind (as well as lots of other things!!). I guess I am just really excited to say that I can live (and live well) with ADHD without taking prescription medication. There's nothing wrong with medicine, but I am just convinced that there are often perfectly suitable and effective natural remedies to even some of our most classic illnesses. :)