Monday, February 28, 2011

I hate homework

Confession: Just like my kids, I hate homework.

As a child, I did my homework with the thought that, once I was an adult, I wouldn't have to do it any more. Was I ever wrong.

Now that I have children, I have homework. And I don't mean making sure theirs is done or even the projects that require a bit of parental oversight. I'm referring to the math logs, reading logs, conduct sheets, review sheets and all the other paperwork that comes home from school requiring my signature.

And, just like when I was a kid, if the parent homework isn't turned in, there are MY CHILD.

If the signature is missing, even if the work is done and done correctly, my child won't receive credit. If I forget to sign the dreaded log, even tho my child completely her reading and math practice every night, it means absolutely nothing.

Supposedly, this is designed to teach kids to be responsible. I call BS on that.

The intention of this is to make sure the parents are involved. Great. Fan-freaking-tastic.

But it fails at this. Big time.

As Leelee's music teacher said "I see from the logs that all your students are practicing every night. I hear during their performances, that they are not."

Parents lie on the logs. They sign the logs because the child will get in trouble if they don't.

What message is this really sending to kids?

I am going to be held accountable for other people's mistakes or forgetfulness.
It's OK to lie to stay out of trouble.

Neither are messages I want to send to my children. My children are accountable for their own actions. If my child doesn't do the practice I don't sign.

The problem is most of the time, I forget to sign until Monday morning as we're leaving for the bus. My child becomes frantic because if I don't sign, she gets her ticket pulled. If her ticket gets pulled, she doesn't get to pick from the treasure box and there is no way for her to earn back this perk of being in first grade until the following week. It doesn't matter if she did the work. None of it counts because MOM didn't do HER homework.

Or there's the scenario that the teachers must have a certain number of homework grades entered in to the computer and it's faster to grade a reading or math log than to actually check homework for accuracy. And, if parents remember to sign, it's a grade booster! But if the parents are signing just to keep the kids out of trouble, what real benefit does this have?

To be even more honest, the Stepford school is the last place they need to be using this motivational tool. The kids have to pass a test to get in. They must maintain specific GPAs and behavior marks. It is competitive to get in. It is a competitive environment all around. I once heard a parent tear in to a teacher because she wasn't immediately notified her THIRD GRADER had dropped to a B+ in a subject. These Tiger Parents don't need more reasons to become hyperinvolved. The school has so many involved parents, they don't need parents like me to show up and help, with younger siblings in tow. They get to pick and choose the students and the parent volunteers. With a set-up like that, no wonder the school is ultra high performing!

So where does this leave me?

Complaining on a blog because it falls on deaf ears with the teachers who have bought in to the idea the only way children will do reading and math outside of school is if there is some sort of incentive. As if reading and math aren't fun to do on their own. Again, another message I have no desire to send to my children.

We read for fun. We do math for fun. Bonus, we do SCIENCE for fun. We even watch documentaries together as a family.

But none of that counts because I forgot to sign the logs.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Feburary 28

February went by so fast! March is going to be a crazy busy month for us. The Boy will turn 14 in two weeks. We have spring break. Lots of activities at church.

The weather is GORGEOUS this week. It is supposed to be in the 80s. Saturday, which is usually reserved for spaghetti night, was changed to BBQ this week. I spoke with my MIL who said there was snow at her house. I'm still not used to the fact that it's very much winter in other parts of the country while we're enjoying spring.

Meals this week are all taken from our stockpile of food. I shouldn't have to go out for too much at the store this week. That isn't saying I could pass by an awesome sale if there is one!

Sunday: Pork chops in rosemary, garlic and brown butter sauce, steamed veggies, potatoes, rolls
Monday: Grandma's Goulash
Tuesday: Mongolian Beef
Wednesday: convenience night. possibly something from a box.
Thursday: Christine's Salsa Chicken
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Spaghetti

Pepperoni Pretzels
Homemade Taquitos (except I'm using precooked shredded Mexican chicken i found on sale!)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Frugal Friday...Shopping Totals

So here's how I used my money wisely this week...stocking up on essentials! It was a HUGE week at Rite Aid for me. I spent a whopping $14 there in two visits, suggested retail value of $138.81! It's starting to feel like a game show LOL I left with $24 in rewards to spend on a future purchase. Some people count those rewards into their totals...I don't. I take them off the total when I use them.

Here's what I got: 8 of the purex 3 in 1 sheets, 4 viactiv, 1 sucrets, 6 johnson's baby wash! The great part is the purex put me over on the Rite Aid winter rewards program, so I got back a $20 UP certificate to use on a future purchase!

This week Publix continued their Italian Days and I was able to make some crazy stock up purchases. I spent $28 before our crazy 10 percent sales tax (the tax usually adds a LOT to my OOP expenses) for $140 retail!

1 pepperidge farm bread
1 lb strawberries
1bunch bananas
1 pam cooking spray
1 generic oreos
2 bags Gorton's Fish Sticks
4 jars Classico
5 boxes cereal (2 were FREE!)
8 cans hunts diced tomatoes
10 Grands Biscuits
10 Valley Fresh Steamers Veggies
20 Uncle Ben's Ready Rice

Not too bad a week! I don't think I can fit anything else in my freezer. There were some good deals on convenience meals I passed by in favor of frozen veggies. Frozen veggies are better than canned and better than convenience meals :)

I also did a quick CVS run for more purex (I cleared the shelf at RiteAid). I learned on this trip that CVS won't let you leave with a negative balance. They owed me 22 cents after using my extra care bucks and coupons! I bought a piece of candy and paid 14 cents for 2 packs of purex and the candy. Not too shabby. I think that works out to be 99 percent savings at CVS!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Be Smart Update

February has been the month for me to Be Smart. What started out as my intention to be smarter with my time and money, has morphed in to me being smarter with my money and smarter with the use of space in my home. I'm very happy with the goal transition!

As my couponing has intensified, I've started to accumulate much more of a stockpile of goods. Last week, I showed off my neatly labeled pantry. This week, I needed to clear out more out of my pantry to store more food! The sad part for me, is I needed to admit that I am not really crafting much any more. I purchased a storage bin and boxed up many of my stamping supplies. I cleared off two shelves in the hall closet. Instead of placing the food in the hall closet, I moved infrequently used items from the pantry over, freeing up lots more space!

Sometimes when reorganizing, you really have to take a step back and examine the reality of the situation. My crafting supplies are still easily accessible...just in a different closet in a box instead of on a shelf.

I was also super excited to find the perfect hamper for our bathroom! I like things that maximize the use of limited space and this hamper certainly does. It fits in to the corner and supposedly holds 3 loads of laundry. I have a gigantic washer, so for us, it holds one load.

As for being smart with my money...I was very lucky this week to get to share some of the things I've learned about couponing with my women's group at church. I was asked to speak for 30 minutes. And, if you've done any sort of couponing, you know this is not nearly enough time to discuss all the tips, tricks and strategies for maximizing the cost savings.

Another surprise this month was getting a jump start on March's theme of Be Involved. The local school board has debated several changes to schools and zoning issues. A facebook group was created by concerned parents...and from there I started getting involved. I contacted school board members and even tried to attend meetings! Parents showed up in such large numbers that I was never actually able to get IN to a meeting.

The decision of the school board left me with mixed feelings. It was a hard decision. Budgets are what they are. Rumors flew about why certain schools were targeted. Other plans were presented to the board and rejected, confirming in the mind of the parents that the rumors were true. After the vote tonight, we know that my child's school is closing and moving to a better location. And it will be displacing other children. It's like a great big school shuffle. But, if the rumors are true, then it's the best decision overall.

I also put my name in to serve on the PTA board at Little B's school next year! We'll see if it happens, but I do hope to be more involved with his school. We really do love it there!

It has been quite the week, with a trip out of state, a viral illness running through the kids, little miss with a kidney infection, and the Fabulista with a concussion. I'm ready to be in to a new month!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food Storage!

Over the last few months, our food storage has really been depleted. Between Christmas and everything breaking and blowing up, we've had to really cut back on groceries and use what we have. Plus, I like to stock up at the beginning of the year and use it all up at the end of the year to make sure our food storage stays in a good rotation.

This is the first year I've been actively couponing and this is also the first month where I've purchased by inserts instead of just getting them in the paper. I was very skeptical how much I'd actually save by including the priority mail shipping. My total for the inserts was about $13! Ouch.

My first task was to see how long it took to make that back. Anything after that was money actually saved.

Lucky me, there were two excellent coupons from this last week's insert! I made my money back in ONE trip to the store where I spent only $6! I got 8 bags of cookie mix and 9 containers of yogurt.

The rest of my money savings this week, having enough coupons to actually get more than a week's worth at a time BLEW. My. MIND.

I made two trips to publix and a trip to the new Earthfare. Earthfare was offering a promotion: spend $10 get a chicken dinner free. I purchased my arnica gel and got the $17 dinner for FREE! It included a free range chicken, organic baby carrots, and rustic mashed potatoes. I also hit a quick trip to Winn Dixie and ended up filling up my freezer! In total, I ended up with $400 worth of groceries for....$100! It may "only" be 75 percent savings but when you look at my gorgeous pantry which was empty of all those cans except the rotel and pumpkin before I went shopping (please note the neatly labeled shelves and straight rows)

And that I was able to pick up SEVEN pork tenderloins (normally $10 each!) for $35...well it's not too shabby. This trip to Winn Dixie cost me a whopping $50! This includes 5 cans of soup, 5 country crock side dishes, and 18 lemons :) The country crock was a pricing error the store honored.

And here are my publix receipts. There were just too many items to take pictures! My freezer and fridge are packed. I was hoping to go to WinnDixie tomorrow to stock up on chicken, but I don't think it will fit between the venison, beef and now pork tenderloin. We have approximately three months worth of meat and canned goods. It feels really good to have this in place again.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Goats, Cops and Amway, oh my!

The follow accounts are true, to the best of my recollection and knowledge. It is further proof that our family is some sort of magnet for stuff that just never happens to anyone else.

Friday night, D and I were going out for Valentine's Day. It was my turn to pick the restaurant. D had never had Indian food, so it was the perfect chance to take him to a local favorite of mine.

D opened the menu and scanned it quickly.

"Why isn't there any beef?"

I gave him that "you're kidding, right?" look. He wasn't kidding. It took him a moment of me staring at him before he realized Indians don't eat beef. The cow is sacred. It was going to be a looong night!

I love Indian food. It's one of my absolute favorites. I couldn't decide exactly what to get, so I settled on the Thali. This isn't a review of the restaurant, so I'll spare you all the delicious details.

D opted to play it "safe" by ordering a tandoori sizzler platter of "assorted meats." It's basically delicious meats cooked in a clay oven. It comes out popping and sizzling. Very spicy.

D was eating something and couldn't place what meat it was. He was able to identify the chicken, shrimp, fish, lamb...and something else. We flagged over the waiter and asked him. He barely spoke English and got the owner.

"What meat is this?"

It's Chicken?

The pause was far too long for someone who's run a restaurant in our city for the last three years. And the inflection on the word chicken suggested the conversation in his head went more like this:

"What meat is this?"

It's Chicken?

A quick scan of the menu showed there was spiced goat available. Having eaten everything from squid to alligator and just about everything in between, D and I can both say with quite certainty, it was NOT chicken. Pretty sure it was goat. And if it was goat, it's pretty tasty.

So...after possibly being hoodwinked into eating goat (and y'all know my hate/hate relationship with goats) what else could possibly have happened? I only wish I would have been there to witness this one...but instead I get to relay the story D told me.

Saturday morning, he was running late for a meeting. He drove up to the gas station to see two officers handcuffing someone and placing him in the back of the squad car. One cop looked at D and kept staring. D was dressed in a white shirt, tie and slacks...on a Saturday.

He came out with the breakfast of champions: An energy drink and donuts.

One of the cops called to him: "Hey, you!"

Thoroughly confused, D went over to the officer, trying to figure out what he might have done to get the officer's attention. Keep in mind, they still have someone in cuffs in the back of the car.

"You like them energy drinks? Whatcha got there, is that a Red Bull?"

D, still completely confused, answered that he was drinking a Red Bull today.

"How'd you like it if I could get you an energy drink with less sugar that would keep you going longer without having that crash at the end?"

What? I can just picture D standing there, trying to figure out exactly what to say when the officer followed up with this...

"I sell Amway, and we have this great energy drink. Here's a sample for you. And here's my number if you want to order more"

You just can't make stuff like this up...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am...the snack police

The blog has been silent lately. February is the month I'm supposed to be smart with ...well, everything. I've been trying to spend less time writing and more time doing the mommy/housewife gig. Based on the disaster that is my house and the pile of laundry and the lack of writing, I don't think it's quite a win.

I've made a few changes around the house that aren't going so hot, like giving the kids more responsibility for their own laundry. For some reason, school uniforms are not being washed. I don't know if this is a subtle attempt on the part of the children to say ...undermine my efforts...or just their way of hoping if they don't have uniforms they don't have to go to school. I'm big on personal responsibility, so if they don't wash their clothes and don't mind smelling like a dirty gym sock, then....I don't care either.

(OK, I'm just going to keep telling myself that and maybe I'll actually believe it. Danger Girl has a knack for arriving at school filthy even though I send her clean. It's a massive embarrassment since she goes to the Stepford School for Over Achievers where all the girls have those massive head bows and if they didn't have uniforms, the would have monogrammed smocked dresses)

The Boy doesn't care about his laundry. We already knew that. He has his school uniform and his home uniform. The home uniform consists of plaid pants and his favorite shirt. He lets me wash the shirt once a week. That was our compromise. It must be washed and returned to his drawer for the next day. He'll be getting a duplicate of his favorite shirt for his birthday, though I suspect the original will still be preferred and somehow he will be able to tell the difference when no one else can. Autism ROCKS.

Leelee has discovered she can toss her uniforms in with the other laundry being done so she's never without clothes. It's undermining my efforts since she ends up wearing the same thing over and over. It's clean but her laundry is still out of control.

I am going to give this a full two weeks before I throw in the towel and go back to what we were doing before.

So far, my trying to be smarter with my time has been a complete and total FAIL and not just in laundry.

My goal was one day of grocery shopping. No other extra trips to the store. Period.

Despite my efforts to make a nice organized list, certain family members who shall not be named, fail to tell me of things needed for work and school until the last minute. This is everything from tissues to flash cards to money! I'm pulling my hair out. I get upset and look like the bad guy. They already refer to me as the snack police. Now, I'm the school supply police, too.

Maybe I just need to embrace this. Accept that I am a control freak when it comes to snacks and school supplies. I've taken to using my label maker to mark which snacks are allowed and how long they are supposed to last. That's normal, right?