Monday, July 21, 2014

Mind Your Manners.

I would like to think I'm reasonable when it comes to rules, regulations and expectations in our house.  I've never banned television or sugar.  Chores can be completed in twenty minutes, and as long as everything is finished and time has been spent outside the kids can play video games and watch their shows.  Within reason of course.

I believe every parent needs to pick their battles, because we can't nag our kids about everything.  We'll all be miserable and eventually they'll block us out.  Ignore us.  Hate us for eternity.  I can't say I'd blame them either.  We all need space to breathe and grow without crazy expectations to live up to all the time.

I decided thirteen years ago, when my oldest was a baby, to focus on teaching my kids to be considerate and kind.  My wish has always been for them to function in society and be welcome just about anywhere because they behave.  I wanted them to have manners, and I knew for me to teach manners I simply had to have them myself.

I needed to show my kids how to be kind.  How to be patient.  I needed to thank the lady at the drive thru and hold the door for strangers.

I'll stop here and mention I have bad days, and I'm not always patient.  I curse like a sailor and my kids tell me when I'm using bad words.  I also know all kids misbehave.  Mine do too.  Those little buggers tell fibs and try to get eachother in trouble and they all claim they don't leave empty cups in the living room yet there are ALWAYS empty cups in there!  It's baffling.

Ever since my munchkins were babies I insisted on "please" and "no thank you."  I believe in "you're welcome" and looking at people when you're spoken to and when you speak.

If you don't want another cup of milk you don't answer me with "nah," "nope," or shaking your head.  It's "no thank you."  

If I have groceries in the car you offer to carry some inside.  

When we're in the car, in the house, at a restaurant or anywhere I can't escape you don't make weird noises for no reason.  You don't scream or fight or poke your siblings.  If you make someone else scream or cry YOU will get into trouble.  Every single time.  It's common courtesy to be aware of the people around you, and there are already too many adults in this world who either don't care or they are simply clueless.

I don't want to contribute four more people to the world of clueless, unaware adults.  It's like I've said before, we're raising adults.  Not children.  My goal in life isn't to push my kids to have the highest GPA.  I don't need little Mozarts or gifted artists.  My goal is to raise good, hardworking kids to do the best they can while being courteous, respectful and polite.

I'll take a little of everything and A LOT of manners.  I'll take a good student and a strong athlete with a solid understanding of how to behave.  I need to be able to take my four kids somewhere and know they will function in an appropriate manner.  They don't always pull through, but we get up the next day and try again.

That is my mom mantra.  Get up tomorrow and try again.

It's an every day battle worth fighting, and one day they'll thank me.  You can teach many things, but courtesy has to be ingrained.  It has to be lived.  And we're working on it.  Every. Single. Day.

Happy Monday all!  It's a new week, make it awesome!



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Turning Dollars into Cents: How to Save Money on Groceries


I got married at 20, and had my first munchkin at 21.  As a result, my career has always been managing this circus (er, family).  I have had a few part time jobs here and there, but we basically survive on Hubby's salary.  This has always prompted the "How do you do it???" question from friends and acquaintances.

I can understand the curiosity.  We have a large family, and our children are all clothed (in public anyway) and they all wear shoes.  Hubby and I are also clothed, and we don't look like we walked out of 1985.  We obviously go shopping.  Our munchkins do sports and have birthday parties.  We live a semi-normal existence.  We are normal as it gets with munchkins wrecking havoc everywhere.

So, how do we do it?  How do we provide for our family on (basically) one salary?

It's NOT easy.

In order to make ends meet, it is imperative that I stretch our dollar.  I have learned the value of store fliers and which stores double coupons (and what that is exactly).  I have taught myself how to sell on eBay and how to rent our timeshare.  I am relentless when it comes to making ends meet.

For tonight I will focus on groceries.  I have enough money saving and stretch the dollar tips to write until next Saturday.  My munchkins and Hubby would be rather disgruntled with the lack of attention.

I understand there is only so much time in the day.  Yes, if you want to devote an hour each week to planning your meals and writing out your shopping list you can save a tremendous amount of money.  I don't have that kind of time.  Time is a luxury I can't afford, along with designer jeans and an in ground swimming pool.

GROCERIES: Tips on SAVING $. 

I save at least an extra 30% every time I grocery shop.  On good days I cut my bill in half.  While starting any coupon system will take time to get used to, if you stick with it, it will only add a few minutes to your regular routine.

First and foremost, do your homework.  Read your fliers.  I am posting this Thursday evening, which means the Sunday Paper will soon be hot off the press.  Two words:  BUY IT.

The Sunday Paper is an arsenal of money saving information.  Fliers and coupons galore.  Read them.  Knowledge is not only power, but money.

One important note, DO NOT CLIP COUPONS FOR STUFF YOU DON'T BUY!  Coupons only save you $ if you buy items you need and use.  Saving $1.00 of a $3.00 yogurt no one eats isn't saving you money.  It's just wasting LESS money.

Make sure you read the coupons carefully. You may need to buy two of an item, which is not worth it if the shelf life is not long.  Also make a mental note of expiration dates.

I always tell Mommies to invest in a coupon organizer.  Clipping coupons is only helpful if you have them with you.  I bought my organizer at the "$1 Spot" at Target.  When I saw them for sale again last spring, I bought some for my friends.  Mine is small enough to keep in my giant "this is not a diaper bag" purse.  I have it organized according to where the items are in the supermarket.
I have the sections labeled:

Baby Items, Bread and Cereal, General Food/Drink, Cold Items, House and Hygiene, Store Coupons and Receipts.

About once a month, I also check online for grocery coupons.  My favorite site is Coupon Mom.  I print the coupons I need and file them away.

Before you head out to the store, read through the grocery store fliers.  Make your list according to what is on sale.  Do your best to match a coupon to as much as possible.  If you don't have a coupon for an item you need, check the manufacturer's website.  You may be able to find printable coupons there as well.

Sale is good.  Sale with a coupon is better.  Clearance with a coupon is BEST.

I like to make my grocery list on a business style envelope.  I mark what is on sale with an "S", and I star what I have a coupon for.  I then place all the coupons I will need for my shopping trip in my envelope.  This ensures you have the coupons ready when you go to check out.  I have been that frazzled mom at the checkout with a screaming baby many times...coupons flying everywhere...Mommy sweat dripping down my back.  Having coups handy in such debacles is quite a blessing.

DOUBLE COUPONS:  This was a term that scared me in my early days of motherhood.  What did it mean?  It sounded complicated.  What did I have to do to "Double" a coupon?

NOTHING.  Double coupons are a beautiful thing.  Several grocery stores (Shop Rite and Stop n Shop to name two) double manufacturer coupons.  You know all those coupons you just clipped in the Sunday Paper?  All of them, up to $0.99 will be doubled automatically at checkout.  Here's how it works:

Crest Toothpaste is on sale at Shop Rite for $1.00.  You have a coupon for $0.50 off any size Crest Toothpaste.  Shop Rite will match that $0.50, and you just got that Toothpaste for free!

I never pay full price for anything unless absolutely necessary.  If I am without a coupon I buy the store brand if it is cheaper.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to maximize your savings if you have "brand loyalty".  I do for some main items, such as Bounty Paper Towels.  I clean more spills at breakfast than a third grade art teacher does in a day.  Bounty is a must.  But cotton swabs?  I can assure you my ears don't care.  In some cases, even with a coupon, the generic is cheaper.  Give it a try.

I bought name brand eye solution for years.  Always with a coupon, but it was still expensive.  One day I decided to try Target's eye solution.  It was $4.00 cheaper.  A year later my eyes are still in my head and I can still see.

Items to buy generic:
Cleaning supplies
Hand Soap
Lotions
Cookies (Chips Ahoy or not, your kid will eat it.  I bet the farm.)

Sign up for email alerts at your favorite stores, and print coupons to save on clothes.  Do your best to know what you need before you shop.  Your wallet will thank you!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Creating a "Safe Place"

I'm convinced the world has gone mad.  The use of Internet and cell phones has created a place where everything can be shared at a moment's notice.  Privacy is null and void unless you constantly fight to have it and shun some of modern technology.

Remember when you could turn down an invite and that was the end of the story?  These days you best truly be busy or ill because if you turn down an invite and do anything else your ass is on Facebook.  And then you have some explaining to do.  

When I was a kid if you had a bad day you could go home and be alone.  You could settle in, digest what happened and go to school the next day.  No one could reach you without walking to your house or calling your HOME phone.

Omg a "home phone."  And your parents answered.  Remember when boys tried to call and you just about died because they had to speak to your parents?  Horrifying.  But what we never realized is that it was a layer of protection.  When you were home kids couldn't make fun of you and you could escape from friends that weren't behaving in a manner that made you feel good.  Parents knew who you spoke to outside of school because they either called the house or came over.

Those days are forever gone.  People can reach you anywhere, anytime.  Kids are online and it's a world that offers no layer of protection.  Scary stuff.

In our house we have had many meetings with our kids on keeping eachother's privacy, being kind and giving support.  I call our home and family our "safe place."  Everyone deserves a place they can go where they feel loved, they are away from the chaos of the world and they know their not-so-great moments will stay private.

Our home is that place for our kids.  We fight to keep it that way and we remind them every so often to abide by certain rules.



RULE #1 NO OVERSHARING.

This is tough.  My kids have ipods and the xbox with the headset.  I tell you the first time my son put on that headset and played xbox with friends in different houses I was freaked.  I remember one evening it was time for dinner and my son said to his friend "Hang on I'll be back I'm going to have dinner..."

Then he set the headset down and walked away.  I asked him if the boy could still hear everything through it and my son said he could.  I told my son he needed to turn around and power it off because that is not allowed in my home.  When you walk away from that game console you turn it off.  I don't need more little ears than I already have in my house.

The xbox headset is what pushed my "safe place" rules into effect.  This was four years ago.

When we are home we deserve privacy.  All of us.  If my daughter farts I don't need one of my son's blabbing that on his Facetime.  I never imagined a day I would worry about who has gas and who is on an electronic device.  My kids are close in age, and I realized early on that a brother or sister sharing something embarrassing can have devastating effects.  

We're navigating new waters here.  Our parents would have had mini-strokes if they dealt with even half of the crap we deal with, but we have to stay vigilant no matter how tough it is.

Which brings me back to no over-sharing.  We all need a place to clog toilets and be an ass without worry it will be shared via iphone, xbox headset or by mouth.  We should all be able to have bedhead and mismatched pajamas without our brother showing what we look like on Facetime.

What happens in our home stays in our home unless it is a happy story worth sharing.  Secrets are respected and privacy is protected.  

This is a constant uphill battle, but it is very worth it.

Rule #2 BE A BIGGEST FAN.

I know kids argue and poke fun at eachother.  My kids do it all the time.  The troubles arise when feelings really get hurt.  My boys are the biggest offenders of this rule, and there are days I feel like a referee.

When I have one or both of the boys in a different state of mind because they feel they aren't loved I get angry.  And I remind my kids to BE KIND.  The world is cruel enough outside our front door and I don't need my kids bringing negativity inside our home.  

I do not tolerate name calling or nastiness.  We are to offer support and encouragement.  When my kids get home I want them to know the battles they face daily are over.  If one of us is having a bad day, no one is allowed to contribute to it.  We are a team, and we work to keep our teammates happy and feeling loved.

RULE #3 TURN IT OFF

It's tough to limit electronics.  I admit this wholeheartedly. I prefer the "as long as you've done _____, _____ and _____  you can play your video game.  It's easier for my family and it keeps the focus on what you ARE DOING and not WHAT YOU CAN'T DO.  When you work hard life rewards you.  That is the same in our house.

However, when I say you're done, you're done.  If I tell you to power off, you do it.  If I notice we're creeping past two hours on a device it goes off.  If the sun is out, you go outside.  If someone in our house needs a moment, you keep your Facetime and your headsets off.

I feel my approach focuses less on deprivation and more on earning your keep.  I just have to monitor the time and be aware of what they are doing on those devices.  

My goal is to teach my kids courtesy and to respect one another.  I know we won't all get along all day but there is no excuse for cruelty.  I want my children to feel respected and comfortable to be themselves when they drop their backpacks by the backdoor.  Our home is a sacred, safe place my kids can always return to and know they are loved, wanted and accepted.

How do you keep the peace and encourage kindness?  What do you do to keep your kids feeling confident and "safe" in your home?