Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mae Mae, you complete us

I never knew I needed four kids. I never knew I wanted four kids. And I was never more sure of this than after I received a positive pregnancy test a mere months after our third child was born.
But what was done was done, and Matt and I were left to deal with the aftermath, as impossible as the circumstances might have been.
And the times didn’t get any easier, because while adjusting to being outnumbered with the other wild ones, I battled first-trimester fatigue and eventually a last trimester-back problem.
But Masen came, just like the doctor had promised, in January 2008.
You’d think by my fourth time in the hospital in as many years, it would be a walk in the park. Not so with this guy. After the rocky delivery, he spent some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and our final night in the hospital hallway waiting out tornadoes.
Oh, yes, life with four was off to a great start.
And the fun hasn’t stopped, even though we get more sleep now and the nursing phase and baby food are gone.
Challenges come in the form of taking an afternoon sprint to catch the little twinkle-toed man before he makes it to the traffic-laden road.
Or getting him off the kitchen table where he is standing.
Or redressing him after he takes off all his clothes and comes up and says, “Uh, oh!”
But little Mae Mae, our wanderer, has added an element of completeness to our brood. Our lives wouldn’t be the same without the guy who lays his entire body on top of the dog and rubs his face into his fur. Gotta love it.
There are very few grown-ups who are so content and happy with just waking up, eating and playing.
And I know he will grow out of it, the other three did. But for right now, since we’re done having babies and I can bask in the happenings of daily life, relishing the little things with my little guy, I plan to be content.
I try to absorb his enthusiasm and store it away in a hidden place to use again some day when my kids are all teenagers and happy smiles are few and far between.
This time in our life when our children are 5, 3, 2 and 1 is precious and irreplaceable.
And so as I hear our fourth and final child run with the little pitter-patter that is unique to him, I can think back on the moment when I first found out he was coming. Life seemed impossible.
But now that the impossibility and I have survived nearly two years, I can’t imagine a life with only three.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Shopping 101

Want to go grocery shopping?
If you said no, then this is the column for you. Your friendly neighborhood cheapskate mother of four is here to motivate you to spend less time and less money on your edible necessities.
I know, you are shaking your head, debating on whether to read on. But do. Keep reading. Hopefully, I’ll share some of my weird, pragmatic ideas on this seemingly mundane task and make it fun for you, too.
First off, I want to explain why I care so much and why I am so annoyingly enthusiastic about groceries. My biggest piece of motivation: We don’t have as much money as I’d like to spend at the store. So I have to work hard to get all we can out of what we can afford to spend. And with four little birdies chirping for snacks and drinks and all those meals in between, it does takes some work.
And I’m not perfect; I still have those weekends when I send Matt to the store with my detailed list, but overall, I purpose to get every ounce of goodness out of every cent.
But before I get into my “process,” I would love to blow your mind with a tidbit of information.
Shocking, right? But believe me, I’ve done the legwork. Some toiletry items are cheaper at the big retailers, but the every day, ins and outs you need for your kitchen are either the same price, cheaper or not enough cheaper at the big guys to make up for the gas you spent to get there!
So my advice to you is this: Shop locally more often. It will save you time, more than likely money and you’ll be supporting your neighbor. So here’s the plan, open up your weekly Record and take out the inserts (don’t forget to check the inside pages for ads stores place within the body of the paper). Scan the ad. Typically, the best deals are on the front cover.
I make a list of all the sale items I can’t miss. Then I create a seven-day menu incorporating the sale items and stuff I already have in my cupboards or freezer. Don’t forget to plan for snacks, desserts and breakfast items. Be exhaustingly thorough.
Also throughout the week, I keep a running list of items we’ve run out of or are about to run out of. If it’s a necessity, I buy it. If it’s luxury items, like paper products, sometimes it has to wait. (And actually, we rarely buy things like napkins, paper plates, etc. If you can live without them for awhile, you’ll never miss them!)
So now you have your grocery list (which would be most efficient if you re-wrote according to the layout of the store), now it’s time to get cash. Yes, I said it. I try to buy groceries only with cash because it hurts more. Literally.
When you’re standing in that line handing over your beautiful hard-earned $20 bills, you really start to reconsider that box of oatmeal cream pies or other “luxuries” you thought weren’t going to add that much. So you really end up spending less when you pay with cash.
Want to keep more money in your pocket? DO NOT deviate from your list. Period.
And while we’re on the things you aren’t supposed to do, do not bring coupons unless it’s for an item you were already going to buy. Never buy an item just because you have a coupon.
I rarely use coupons. Besides being a pain to keep organized, I have come to the conclusion that in most circumstances, the store-brand product is still cheaper than the name-brand product plus the coupon. And probably of equal quality!
So we’re off to shop. List. Check. Cash. Check. Calculator. Check. Yep, take the handy pocket calculator with you. You will be amazed when you break down the different costs by ounce. Some times, the bulk item is MORE expensive. The key here is knowledge. Don’t rely on the store. They want you to buy certain products, and you can tell by the signage. Calculate and compare every purchase to ensure you are getting the best deal.
My last shred of advice to you is this: Take your time. Think it through. Take advantage of big store sales. Stock up now to save later. Just make sure it’s an item that you usually use. Because you know what’s cheaper than a sale? Not buying it at all.
Happy shopping!
As seen in the Lawrence County Record