Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Changing my feathers

A few months ago, there was an article in Good Housekeeping about happiness.  Ok, there is always an article about happiness, and I rarely read them.  Sometimes, they are just touchy-feely crap and that annoys me.  Sometimes they talk about writing happiness journals.  You see the frequency that I'm on here to blog.  Do you think I really have time for that?  Anyway, I read the opening paragraphs, and it talked about choosing to be a bluebird of happiness or a pigeon of discontent.  I didn't go much further, but liked those expressions.

I want to be a bluebird, but know that I'm genetically programmed to be a pigeon.

But I want to change.  Since July of last year, our family has lost several significant members.  It's been rough, to say the least.  There was the dear family friend, who, to this day, I still call "Uncle."  He and his family were so critically interwoven with my childhood that to remove them would undo the whole fabric of my life.  He was one of the happiest people I had ever met, and you just felt good being around him.

My cousin-in-law (with whom I share a brain.  We seriously, have been able to finish each other's thoughts and sentences since our second meeting) lost her mom.  Her mom was awesome, just like her daughter.  It breaks my heart that my other brain half has to be without her mom for not only the everyday things, but for the big things too, like the birth of her child.

My great aunt, who was my grandfather's twin sister passed away last September.  I know that she had her struggles, and that maybe she was not the most pleasant to live with, but, boy, did she love me and my brothers.  Growing up, she lived across the back porch from my grandmother, and it was like having two sets of grandparents for the price of one.  My aunt always seemed happy to me, even when she was complaining.

I still cannot even begin to describe the hole that losing my Mimere has left.  She was so pragmatic about life, and NEVER complained.  I wish that I could be more like that.

This week, my mom's cousin passed away.  My mom had lived with him for a while growing up, and they all grew up together in the same four family house.  For her, it is like losing her big brother.  He was a golden boy, upon whom the sun always seemed to shine.  I'm sure that it didn't, but that was the perception.  He was another one of those happy people, even in sad times.  You couldn't help laughing when he was around, especially when he was picking on my mom, as only a "sibling" could.

It has been so many losses, but, in shedding my pigeon persona, I want to think about the gains.  I want to not want to want what others have, like my grandmother.  I want to be happy in nature, like Aunt Millie.  I want to make the best of the situation, just like Uncle Phil or John would have.  I want to enjoy my children and husband.  I want to laugh every day.  I want my life to be content.  I want to be a bluebird.

I'm trying, I really am.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A mother's pastime...grocery shopping

So, here in the great Capital District, we have two main grocery stores, Price Chopper and Hannaford.  Most people I know are loyal to one or the other.  There is not a lot of cross mingling.  Price Chopper is truly a local company, run by the Golub Corp out of Rotterdam/Schenectady.  It has been around forever.  PC has outlasted Grand Union, Shop Rite, A&P, Edwards, just to name a few.  My mom was never a PC shopper.  We were Grand Union all the way.

So, now that, somehow, I'm a "responsible" adult, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket.  And a lot of my money.  I feel obligated to get the best stuff for the best price.  I have looked around, and Hannaford (or the Big H, as I like to call it), really does have the best overall prices.  They do not have a loyalty card.  Everyone gets the sale prices.  I like that, no discrimination.  Price Chopper runs fantastic sales, so you can get some really good deals.  A lot of times, their BOGO offers run in conjunction with the coupon circulars, so you can get an even better deal.  And PC has the gas program.  However, they just doubled their requirement to earn money off of gas, making it a little less appealing.  Now, for every $100 spent, you earn $0.10 off per gallon of gas.  And the cents off do expire, so you have to be careful.  But, when I paid $3.09/gal for gas the other day, I was pretty pleased.

Hannaford does not double coupons.  PC does, up to $0.99, I believe.  They used to issue 1-3 coupons for double coupons in their circular, but you could double up to $5, if my memory serves me correctly.

The Big H does reward loyal shoppers throughout the year (at least once or twice) by offering cash coupons ($1 or $5 off next purchase).  Those $5 off coupons can really make a difference, especially when you have 3 or 4 of them.

So, enter Shop Rite back to the Capital District.  My cousin in New Jersey, who is pretty much a pro-shopper and coupon magician, has often told tales of fabulous deals at Shop Rite, especially using the loyalty card and TRIPLE coupons.  Woo Hoo, I'm so excited to try this new Shop Rite.  The store openings were news worthy events and people were all abuzz.  Coupons, oh, only doubled up to $0.99, just like PC.  Boo.  Maybe this Shop Rite is nothing special.  But then I heard about it.  Shop At Home.  I can go online, select my stuff.  Then I can either pick it up or have it delivered.  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  My groceries, delivered?  I think I hear the angels singing.  It is every mother's dream, especially during these summer months when grocery shopping means doing it with kids in tow.

I had a few friends try it out.  The comments were about the same, whether it was pick up or delivery.  The orders were not ready on time.  OK, I can probably deal with that, if I know that that is what I'm getting.  So, yesterday was the day.  We were out of milk.  We were out of OJ.  We were running dangerously low on Pop Tarts.  Grocery shopping MUST occur.  I dictate a list of essentials (ketchup, dishwasher detergent, kitty litter, tissues) to Jake while I'm trying to get Sophia up and ready for camp.  So, after my morning appointment, I cut my coupons at lightening fast speed, and log on and try to order.

This is where it all derailed.  It took me a while to find out where to apply for the loyalty card.  Then I got my order all ready for the Albany store (8.36 miles, 16 minutes away).  Trying to beat a 1 pm deadline so that the groceries can be delivered between 5-9pm.  Go to check out, no delivery to my area, pick up only.  Between 5-9 pm.  Uggh.  Switch over to the Niskayuna store (11.2 miles, 19 minutes away).  Thankfully everything stayed in my basket.  But I missed the delivery window, and now my only option was for delivery on Friday am.  FAIL.  Also, I could not figure out how to use the coupons while placing the order.

Oh, crap, now I have to go to the market.  With the kids.  In the 90 degree heat.  Play date first, will go on the way home.  Crap, forgot my purse at home.  All the way back home, get the purse, back to the market with two hungry and tired kids.  At this point, I employed the last ditch parenting strategy of "encouraging" (AKA bribing) the kids with a candy bar for good behavior.

It worked.  The shopping trip was AWESOME.  The Big H was not crowded.  It was nice and cool and refreshing.  The kids liked being able to pick out what they wanted and have an active role in what they are eating.  Ended up buying a lot more produce, but I'm ok with my kids wanting to eat lots of fruit and veggies.  Very little whining, even by me.  Got everything on the list, got to use my coupons.

And reaffirmed what I think I already knew.  Shop Rite, like PC, runs really good deals.  When something is not on sale, however, Hannaford has better prices.  Some items, like the English Muffins were more expensive ($2.99 Big H vs. $1.99 SR).  There were some moderate differences.  Lean Pockets (which Jake specifically requested) are $2.00 at the Big H, where they are $2.79 at SR.  The biggest difference was in the meat department.  SR had no chicken on sale this week.  A 4# package of chicken drumsticks was $7.16.  The same drumsticks were on sale at the Big H, and I ended up paying $3.89 for a 4# package.  The kitty litter that I had a coupon for was $7.99 at SR and only $5.99 at the Big H.  Also, with some of the sale items at SR, you had to buy multiple quantities to get the sale prices (3 BBQ sauce, 4 packages of ziplock bags).

In a perfect world, I would slowly comb the Sunday fliers and make my lists based on what is the best deal at each store.  Is the time and energy worth doing that just to save some money?  Maybe.  I can give it a try and see how much work it really is.

I still like the dream of my groceries just magically appearing on my doorstep.  Maybe someday.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

While you were gone...

Dear Jake,

I am anxiously awaiting your return from your first sleep-away camp.  You have been at Camp Boyhaven for three days and two nights.  You're with Dad, so I know that, theoretically, you're in good hands.  I'm gonna make a confession to you...in my mind, no one will ever care for you as well as I do, so it makes me worry when you're with someone else.  Luckily, Dad finally started checking in a little, even though he needed a message passed from me to Mrs. Vagianelis to Mr. Vagianelis to Dad to know that I wanted to hear from you guys.

The house has not been the same without you in it.  The first night you were gone, Sophia got up during the night to go the bathroom.  I heard the door first, and that is what woke me up.  My immediate thought was that it was you getting up.  When I realized that it had to be Sophia because you weren't here, it made me sad.  The cats have been playing in your room.  I had to prop the door open because Butch kept accidentally shutting the door and trapping himself in there.

Time for another confession...I really liked spending the one on one time with Sophia.  Part of me feels badly that she has never had the one on one time that you had your first three years.  On the other hand, it's been almost five years since we had a lot of one on one time with you as well.  In a few years, Sophia will undoubtedly go away to camp.  I hope that you're not too old and too cool to want to spend some quality one on one time with me.

Sophia and I did a lot of fun and girly things that you probably would not have enjoyed.  We did not go to the fireworks.  I know how much it upset you that you were going to miss it.  I think we'll see fireworks when we are in Disney next month.  Hopefully, next year we can see the Waterford ones again.

I can't wait for you to get home so I can hear about all the fun stuff you did.  What was your favorite:  archery, BB guns, map making, fishing?  Were you scared sleeping outside?  How was swimming in the lake?  I know that you're going to be very dirty and very smelly and very tired.  I hope you're not so grumpy that you won't want to snuggle (once you are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned, of course!).  I know Sophia has missed you as well.  Maybe we can get some Harry Potter in tonight, although I'm sure you'll want to watch some TV as well.

I've been going through old pictures this weekend, getting ready for my semi-annual scrapbooking weekend
in August.  I came across some from your first day of summer pre-K, three summers ago.  I can't believe how much you've grown up since then.  
07/07/09.  Exactly 3 years ago yesterday, when I looked at it and noticed how much you've grown.

I wonder if you'll look older when you get home today.  I bet so.

Jake, eating lunch on Day 1, 07/06/12.  Courtesy of the Vagianelises.