Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday and Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Vacation Bible School edition

Please forgive my delay in posting, but this week, I am teaching Bible verses to a gaggle of beautiful three, four, and five year olds. I'm a little cooked by the end of the day! Because of that my menus are simple and to the point this week.

Monday: fending for self, Baboo tailgating at Brewers game: popcorn with parmesan cheese
Tuesday: Date night!! A backpacking cooking seminar at REI, then probably Qdoba (if I can talk my sweet baboo into it)
Wednesday: Pork loin, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad
Thursday: Picnic at softball game (hot dogs, chips, apples, cookies)
Friday: Date night!! Very likely to be dinner at Il Mito, thanks to my very best friend in the whole world, who gave me a gift card and told me to let someone else cook for a change.
Saturday: Costco!! Pizza!!
Sunday: Whatever my sweet Baboo desires.

My tightwad tip for today: use a lot of peanut butter and jelly? Make sure to use a good old kitchen spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the jar. You can usually get another sandwich worth's, or at least enough to smear on the back of a couple chocolate covered graham crackers. (go ahead, ask me how I know).

Friday, July 24, 2009

For Everything Else There's The Debit Card

Family membership to Discovery World: $75.00

Parking: $5.00

Ice cream: $12.00

Watching my kids squeal with delight as seagulls swoop down to catch their sandwich crusts in mid air?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today's Haul: Walgreens School Supplies

Took myself to the Walgreens to get the crazy cheap school supplies. The haul:

10 two-pocket folders (.90)
1 package Pilot G2 gel pens (1.00)
4 packages Bic highlighters (.49X4-2.00 in coupons) (-.04)

total out of pocket $2.08 (tax included)
with a $1 register reward for buying Pilot pens to use next time I go -- which will be tomorrow, when I spend the $1.00 register reward on 6 packages of Papermate mechanical pencils and spend less than a quarter out of pocket.

Link Luv: Bic coupons/free highlighters

Go here to print a $1.00/2 any Bic stationary product; print twice (use your back button). Take to Walgreens sometime before Sunday. Bic highlighter multipacks are .49 each this week. You get two free with your coupon. You will need to add a small "filler" item so that your coupon doesn't beep when they scan it. Thanks, MoneySavingMom!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Price Book: How it Helps You Manage Your Money and your Time

In order to really start saving money, you have to know where you are starting and you have to know when a "deal" is really a deal -- for YOU. I recognize and appreciate fully that certain seasons of life, personal preferences, and other factors play into the amount of money spent at a store. That is perfectly, perfectly fine. What I believe is helpful in controlling your costs, even in a situation where you have limited time or resources, is to know (1) what is important to you and (2) work on getting your costs as low as they reasonably can be.

This is where a price book comes in handy. I'll give you a great example. Diapers; toilet paper; feminine hygiene products. This is an area in which one is, literally, throwing away money; the product is designed to be used once and then trashed.

Now, it is unquestionable that the most frugal and environmentally friendly option in these cases would be reusable products: cloth diapers, cloth wipes, cloth menstrual pads and reusable cups. You incur a one time only cost and the longer you use them, the smaller the cost per use.

That said, are you ever going to get me to give up my toilet paper? No. Nosiree. And will I judge you if your personal ick factor causes you to say "nuh-uh, no way" to any one of these options (though if you aren't icked out, as I said, they can be incredibly cost effective)? Noooooo. You and I are different people.

Let's say it isn't your ick factor, but other external factors that keep you from going reusable. Your kid is in daycare and they won't use cloth. You work and can't imagine using cloth pads outside the home. Your husband thinks you have gone mad when you suggest cloth wipes instead of toilet paper. Fair enough. We all have limits.

There are physical limitations, too. Some babies get rashes from a particular brand of diaper. They can only use a certain kind of wipe without a flaming hot diaper rash. Only one kind of toilet paper is appropriate for your husband's delicate nether regions. This is a perfectly legitimate limitation. Happy babies are a bargain. Happy husbands, too.

So you have determined your non-negotiables. Your job, at that point, is to determine how you can get the cost per use down to the smallest it can possibly be, because anything more than that and you are literally, actually throwing away money.

Bah, you say. What's a little loose change per diaper matter? Well, you'll change that kid at least 2500 times before she's potty trained. Multiply .10 times 2500. Two hundred and fifty bucks. Nothing to sneeze at. If you put that in the kid's college fund, it might be able to buy a semester's worth of books in 18 years. Multiply that times the number of kids you have.

Or take toilet paper. We never, ever (unless we are willing to go enviro-mental) stop using toilet paper during our lives. A few pennies per flush times 4 per day times the number of people in your household times 365 days times 45 years equals a really good start at a retirement fund.

Thus, you must determine your non negotiables and then work to get the cost per use down. That's why you need a price book.

Again, diapers. Your sweet munchkin can only use Huggies, par example. Regular price for a Huggies jumbo pack is 9.99 for 34 diapers. That is .29 per diaper. A quarter and four pennies every time you change your baby.

Can you wait for a sale or find a lower everyday price? Say, 8.99 per jumbo pack? That's .26 per change. You saved .03 per change.

If you can find a sweet coupon, say for $1.00 off, then you are at .23 per diaper. That's a .06 savings per change. A $2.00 off coupon (not unheard of) makes it .20 per change. Not bad.

Now you know what the cost per usage range is for your particular brand or product, and this makes it easier to assess the difference in cost between packages (mega?! super mega? boxes?) Divide the price by the number of diapers in the box, and you are there. The lower your CPU, the better off you are. And if you should happen to find a deal that is consistently the lowest CPU, that is where and when you should buy.

Now expand this knowledge to everything you use or consume in your household. How will you keep track of all those numbers? Your price book. You write down the highest and lowest number in the range for your product category in a little notebook, which goes in your purse. Thus, you can determine whether that "SPECIAL VALUE" box of Huggies on 15 percent clearance at the Target plus your high value coupon is really a good deal (sometimes yes, sometimes no). Or the jar of peanut butter, of which you use one per week. Or that loaf of bread, of which you use four per week. And so on.

But first, you must keep track, either in a little book or (if you are very very good or have been doing it a long time and know your prices dead) in your head. That is where you start. I recommend starting with the ten products that are on your list every single week. You know what they are for you. Bread. Milk. Diapers. Laundry detergent. Whatever they are, list them. Identify any preferences. Identify your regular cost per use. Then work to get that cost per use down.

I'll give my own final example. Milk. In this house we drink A LOT of milk. (Five kids. Four boys. ) A LOT. Can be up to four gallons a week, depending on growth spurts. So it's always on the list. But our family's limitation is that it must be 1 percent or less milkfat, and it must be artificial growth hormone free. This means no grocery store brand milk for me. Still, I can manage my milk cost to about $2 per gallon, sometimes even less, because I know my limitations and I know my prices.

How does this save you time? Well, if you know that your price target for milk is $2.00, and there is a sale on milk for $1.79, then by all means, buy enough for the week (or two, if you have room in your fridge and it won't go bad). Similarly, if the box of Huggies plus your coupon makes the diapers .15 each, then buy until you are out of coupons or money. You won't have to go buy diapers for a long long while. Conversely, if some yahoo on the internet tells you about a screaming deal you must get RIGHT NOW that makes your cost per usage .23 per diaper, you can determine whether you want to stop watching Jon Minus Kate plus Eight to hop in the car and get it, or whether you'd rather pass.

Similarly, let's say you are tight on time one week. (Been there, done that, nailed it shut.) You can assess whether it is worth your time to make a special trip to the store that has the lowest price on whatever, or whether you will just suck it up and for the week pay the higher price to save you time. Or, knowing you will be tight on time one week, you can buy up at lower prices the week before and sail through. The choice is yours. The beautiful thing is, you will be making a conscious choice, one that is well informed.

As I said, if you're new to all ths, start small. Start with the 5 or 10 things that are consistently on your buying list. Find out what you are paying for those things right now. Write that number down in your little book. Then work to see if you can get that number lower. When you find a lower number, note how you got it (with a coupon, at a different store, etc). Rinse. Repeat.

What's the Deal at Walgreens

Couple of good things here if you need them.

Bic Comfort 3 disposable razors, 4 pack, $2.99. Use a $2.00 off 1 package coupon from last week's paper to get them for .99.

Pocket folders, fun pencils, posterboard, and highlighters are .09 (yes, nine cents) this week. Stock up for the school year. Limit 12.

Papermate mechanical pencils, 5 ct, are .19 (yes, nineteen cents). again, stock up. Limit 6.

Pilot g2 gel pens are FREE after register rewards. Limit 1.

What's the Deal at CVS

Good stuff this week at CVS.

Free after ECBs until Tuesday:

PaperMate pens, limit 2

CVS filler paper, limit 2
CVS memo books, limit 2

CVS pencils, 24 count, limit 2

1 inch vinyl binder, limit 2
All week, ECB deals as follows:

Speed Stick Pro deodorant 2.99 with card, .99 after ECBs. Limit 2

CVS pantiliners, FREE after ECBs, limit one.

The best deal, no coupons needed:
CVS Earth Essentials Bath Tissue, 12 pack, 100% recycled content, 60% post consumer recycled content, sale price $5.00. Limit 3.

The total square feet per package is 1311.5. Remember, move your decimal place to the right 2 places: $13.55.

FIVE BUCKS!! Screaming deal. Go get 'em.

What's the Deal at Sentry

Remember those double coupons are useful at certain Sentry locations in the Milwaukee area.

Chex Mix is 1.25 per bag; without doubles and a .50/1 coupon, it's .75. With doubles, it's .25 per bag.

General Mills Cereal can be FREE this week. Go to the coupon bar on the right and print some high value coupons for .55-.75 off 1 box of certain cereals (Cheerios, Reeses Puffs, Total).

There's a coupon in the ad that takes $4.00 off 4 boxes, to make the cereal $1.50 per box. Since you can use both a Sentry store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon, you can get those boxes of cereal for .75-.95 per box if you don't double them, and for FREE to .25 per box if you do.

Buitoni refrigerated pasta is $2.99 per container. Use a $1/1 coupon from the newspaper or that coupon bar on the right and get it for $1.99 without doubles, or .99 with doubles. This makes a great hot lunch with a bit of pasta sauce or garlic butter, and a great cold pasta salad with pesto.

Snuggle fabric softener is $2.79. If you have a $1/1 coupon, you can get a 64 oz. bottle for .99.

Kleenex 3 packs are $2.99. Use the .50/3 coupon from last week's paper and get 3 boxes for $1.99, or about .64 per box.

No coupons required good deals include a whole watermelon for $2.49, and 10 lb. potatoes for $1.99.

Tightwad Tip Tuesday: Frozen bananas

This is an oldie but goodie: Before those bananas go totally the way of the compost bin, slice them up and freeze the chunks on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or plastic wrap. When frozen, dump chunks into bag. Use as needed for banana bread, muffins, smoothies, etc.

Disclaimer: This was written while drinking a smoothie made from the aforementioned bananas.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

What a gorgeous weekend! We spent much of it outside at the lakeshore, riding bikes. We also spent some quality husband/wife time at the shooting range. Yes, I said the shooting range. I luv my .22.
This is a kid week, so the meals are simple and easy to prepare, and mostly cool.
Monday: Grilled cheese, soup, and fresh fruit
Tuesday: Breakfast burritos (this is one of few meals that make ALL my kids shout "yaaaay!")
Wednesday: Spaghetti and no-meat "meatballs" with garlic bread; I’ll tell you how this one turns out.
Thursday: Penne pasta with sauteed zucchini and chicken in a garlic butter sauce.
Friday: Carbo-loading for the running men: lo mein, grilled chicken, and fresh fruit
Saturday: Mini strombolis and salad
Sunday: Baked chicken, baked potatoes, and steamed veggies.
May God bless your week!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Quick Takes Friday: Fun Little Money Saving Hacks

I got one of those foaming dish detergent pumps recently (very cheap after coupon, natch) and really liked how well it worked. I was running out and wondered if I could dilute regular dish soap and get the same effect. As a matter of fact, I could, and so can you. Put three tablespoons of liquid dish soap in the foaming pump, then fill to the line with water. Swish gently to combine. This tip works equally well with those foaming hand soap pumps too.
To figure out if you are paying too much for your toilet paper, remember this little tip, thanks to Diane at http://dianehopkins.blogspot.com/2009/06/tp.html, by way of Gayle at www.thegrocerycartchallenge.blogspot.com. According to Diane, toilet paper should cost no more than .01 per square foot. Instead of doing the strenuous mathematical equations, simply look at the number of total square footage on the front of the package, then move the decimal place 2 places to the left. If you are paying more than that dollar amount, you are paying too much for your toilet paper.
A lovely example: Cottonelle 12 pack of single rolls were "on sale" for $3.99 at my local store. However, the square footage total for the entire package was 215.5 square feet. Thus, if you move the decimal point two places to the left, you should be paying $2.15 for that package of toilet paper to reach the golden number of .01 per square foot. Thus, the "sale" price is not a good deal at all – but combined with a $1 doubled coupon, the price is $1.99, which is under that target number.
The broader the spread between the number you are paying and the square footage calculation, the better the deal you are getting. In other words, you have gotten a respectable deal if you paid $11.00 for a package of toilet paper with a total of 1155 square feet; but if you got it for $5.00, it was a screaming deal and you should stock up – and by the way, where did you get it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Kids Bowl Free Summers

I'm always looking for fun stuff for the kids to do for free, and this is a great freebie. Go here to find a participating bowling alley and sign your kids up for 2 games of bowling free per day until August 31, 2009. Shoe rentals are extra, as are adults, but there is a family pass you can purchase for 23.95 which provides 2 games for up to four adults per household. A screaming deal, especially if you have a large family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mythbusting: I Don't Use Coupons Because . . . .

If you know me, you know it's a rare thing that I step foot into a retail establishment without some form of coupon on my person. Coupons are a kind of hobby for me, much like quilting or scrapbooking are for other women, insofar as they all require scissors and elevate cutting things into small pieces into high art.

I started young, at the feet of my dear Granny T. She was a handmaiden of the Depression, raised 3 children and lost one during that terrible time in the middle of the Dust Bowl, and as a result was not one to let a penny get past her without some serious negotiation. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper Granny T showed me how I could save a nickel or dime or sometimes even a quarter just for cutting out squares from the Sunday papers. It stuck with me and I think I was the only teenager in my little Southern town who used coupons to satiate my desire for all manner of Cover Girl, Maybelline, and White Rain.

I recognize I am unusual. Most people don't get it. In fact, most people don't get it in a big way. Most people, when they find out I have this sickness, this obsession with not paying full price for anything, proffer some version of "I Don't Use Coupons Because." People, I've heard them all. And not a one of them is true.

Myth #1: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Eat Processed Foods

While it's fair to say that the majority of coupons out there are for what I call "flourescent foods," or "foods" that would not be recognized as such by my dear sweet Granny T were she still with us today (Yogos, anyone?), there are coupons a-plenty for fresh, wholesome foods, meats, produce, dairy, and other pantry items. A quick flip through my coupon file and I see coupons for bagged salad, cherry tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, milk, baking powder and baking soda, chicken, ham, bacon, Cornish game hens (yes. Cornish game hens). Also, do you eat cereal? That is processed. Do you eat condiments like ketchup and mustard? Processed. Yogurt? You guessed it . . . processed (though you can make your own!). If you live in the twenty-first century, you eat processed food.

All this talk of "food" also completely ignores the vast number of coupons out there for health and beauty aids, cleaners, detergents, and other products people use on a daily basis. So what if you don't eat processed food? You use toothpaste, yes? Laundry detergent? Of course you do. And coupons make those products less expensive. Myth #1 busted.

Myth #2: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Like To Stick To My Brands.

Shoot! If you know what brands you prefer, all the more reason to have the coupons that are available for those brands! Combine those coupons with a sale, and buy enough to get you to the next coupon and sale. You just saved money and time. And don't tell me they don't have coupons for what you use. Use your handy dandy google and enter the name of your brand with "printable coupon" in the search box. Click and print. Take to store and save. Easy.

Myth #3: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Save More Money Buying Generic

Although I have no problem with generics per se and they can be a great "gateway tactic" for saving a ton of money at the grocery store, I can beat the generic price 80 percent of the time when I use coupons and wait for a sale. For example: I could buy weird-brand peanut butter for 1.59 per jar at my local supermarket, but if I wait for a sale, I can get a jar of Skippy Naturals for .62. If I wait for double coupon day, I can get that jar of Skippy for .25. Which would you rather pay?

Myth #4: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Have Time

I wouldn't say I have a lot of time either. But I also don't think using coupons takes that much time. I estimate I spend about an hour a week clipping, matching, and sorting. I save at least $100 per week. Do you make $100 per hour? Is the third re-run of Jon and Kate Plus 8 worth $100 to you? Turn off the tube, or at least clip and sort while you're watching Kate ber8 Jon.

Myth #5: I Don't Use Coupons Because I'm Not Organized Enough

Okay, this is the one myth that hovers on that line between truth and fiction. Some people are organizationally challenged, and I get that. Believe me, I do (said as she looks over her shoulder at Baboo's desk). That said, it is not impossible to save with coupons even if you do not love the idea of clipping, filing, and matching. Look at your grocery list. What shows up regularly, every single time you go shopping? Take five or ten of those items. Clip coupons for those five or ten items. Place with your list and/or your money/debit card (you aren't using a credit card to pay for your groceries, are you?). When you hand your money to the cashier, hand the coupons over as well. Done, and you will have saved a little moolah in the process.

Or, do what I did in the beginning. Focus your efforts on one store. For me, that was CVS. I learned how to match sales with coupons and Extra Care Bucks deals and focused on that until I got the hang of it. I also was able to learn what a "good deal" really was by watching the prices in the ads and at the store fluctuate. Fast forward a couple of years, and I now have a nice little stockpile of toiletries, household items, and other needed stuff that I got for pennies, and I can wait for the "really good" deal.

Myth #6: I Don't Use Coupons Because I Don't Think They Save Me Enough Money.

Please. I regularly save 40% on my grocery bill without even trying very hard, and save 70-90% on toiletries, household goods, and other items we need (think school supplies, dishawasher detergent, light bulbs). Many times, I get items we need for free or I am paid to take an item out of the store. For example, this week I got pens, rulers, notebooks, and school scissors for free. How is "free" not saving you money? Yes, it requires effort. Yes, it requires time. But if you calculate the time spent multiplied by the amount saved, you will find that your hourly rate of return is more than most lawyers make, and it's pre-tax (a dollar you save is a dollar you don't have to earn). How is an hourly rate of $40-100 not saving you money?

The reality: for most people, "I Don't Use Coupons Because" is code for "I Don't Want to Be Bothered." This is fine, if you are within your budget and you have enough money to do all the things you want to do. But if you are consistently frustrated by the high cost of living, if your money ends before your month does, or you are simply trying to squeeze out a little money or raise your standard of living without working harder or longer for The Man, then why not try coupons?

What's the Deal at Sentry week of July 13-19, 2009

For those not in the know, I am aware of two Sentry foods on Lisbon Ave. in BrewTown that double coupons.

The one at 70th and Lisbon doubles coupons up to $1.00 (meaning you get $2.00 off for every $1.00 you present) every Wednesday and Thursday. The one at 92nd and Lisbon doubles coupons up to $1.00 every Thursday and Friday. No more than 3 identical coupons per transaction are permitted.

That said, there are some fabulous deals this week with doubles at Sentry:

Yo-Plus and Fiber One yogurt 4 packs are free when you double printable coupons available in the blue bar on the side of this blog, and also available here.

Cottonelle bath tissue 12 roll packs are $1.99 after you double $1.00 coupons that were available in an issue of Parade Magazine (the nifty little weekly that comes with your Sunday paper) a few weeks back.

Digiorno and California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas are $2.98 each after you double $1.00 coupons which were available as printables or in the Sunday coupon inserts.

If you need pads or tampons, Kotex are $.79 per box or bag after you double a $1.00 coupon.

Finally, Purex laundry detergent is $1.96 after you double a .35/1 coupon.

Link Luv -- Sonic Chillers .99 with Coupon!

Go here to get yerself a coupon for a .99 Sonic Chiller.
Flavors include Classic Limeade, Cherry Limeade, or Strawberry Limeade. If you can't limit yourself to a Chiller, I highly recommend the chili cheese tots. Flourescent food at its finest!!!

Tightwad Tip Tuesday

Today's Tightwad Tip: Save yourself a ton of money on children's advil!! Once your kids are old enough to swallow a pill (at about age 5 or 6 for mine), one regular ibuprofen tablet at 200 mg is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of ibuprofen liquid suspension or 2 chewable tablets.

Cost for one dose of generic ibuprofen suspension from an 8 oz bottle: .33 per dose.
Cost for one dose of generic ibuprofen from a 750 count bottle: .008 per dose.

I dunno about you, but with five kids, for a while there I wished they marketed ibuprofen suspension in 55 gallon drums. . . .

Monday, July 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's a relatively kid-free week here at Chez Oski, so Baboo and I are taking advantage of the sitch and resorting to the DINK standbys -- pizza, pasta, salad, and takeout. Oh, and ice cream.

Monday: it's just me, so . . . Trader Joe's green chile cheese tamales and way.too.many Pecan Sandies.

Tuesday:Date Night! Olive Garden, using a gift card we got from Baboo's aunt Bets for our anniversary. Plus a coupon. (Baboo said to me yesterday, "if we do it right, we could get two dates out of that card!!" sheesh, what a romantic.)

Wednesday:Spinach lasagna and garlic bread.

Thursday:Crockpot chicken tacos and fresh fruit.

Friday: Chinese takeout.

Saturday: Grilled chicken salads.

Sunday: White spinach feta pizza with whole wheat crust.

What's the Deal at Target July 12-18, 2009

I rocked the house at Tar-jay yesterday. Here's the deal I did.

5 packages Keebler Fudge Shoppe cookies (Baboo loves these) for 2.54 each = $12.70
used 2 $1/1 coupons and 2 $.55/1 coupons to get the total down to $9 and some change;
then got back a $5.00 Target gift card!

I then used the gift card and various and sundry Target and manufacturer's coupons to get the following for NO money out of pocket after using that gift card:

9 packages Hefty quart zip bags
2 boxes Kashi cereal bars
2 small bottles contact solution
1 travel size first aid kit
1 40 count box of Electrasol dishwasher tablets

I saved 21.70 on the second transaction. Go Me!!!
That's the deal at Tarjay this week.

What's the Deal at Walgreens July 12-18, 2009

This week was pretty "meh" at Walgreens. The only real deal I saw was the Huggies/Pull-Ups deal. If you need diapers/pullups this week, buy 2 jumbo packs for $10 each, and the register should spit out a $5.00 off your next order coupon. If you use 2 $3.00/1 package coupons available here, your total for two packs of diapers/pullups after the coupons and the $5.00 coupon for your next order is 9.00, making them $4.50 per package.

That's the deal at Walgreens this week.

What's The Deal at CVS week of July 12-July 18, 2009

This is a good week!
free/very cheap after Extra Care Bucks Mon. and Tues

CVS brand 1 subject notebooks, limit 2 (.99 before ECB)
Paper Mate Grip pens, limit 3 (.99 before ECB)
Caliber/It's Academic 5" scissors, limit 2 (2.99 before ECB)
CVS/Caliber school glue or gel 5 oz., limit 2 (.99 before ECB)
Plastic or Wood ruler, limit 2 (.99 before ECB)
.05 portfolios, limit 10
.99 after ECB Caliber/CVS notebooks, limit 2 (3.99 before ECB)

Good Deals on Good Stuff

Dean RGBH free milk is 2.29 per gallon, limit 2. Some regions have a buy 5 get 1 free on milk with your ECB card.

Huggies and Pull-Ups are 8.99; pair this sale with some 2.00 off or 3.00 off Huggies/Pull-Ups coupons and they're a good deal (not as good as Walgreens this week, though).

Single Serving size Honey Nut Cheerios are free after 1.00/1 coupons.
That's the deal at CVS this week.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

The Scene: late afternoon, in line at the IMAX theater, attempting to distract the Fabulous Five (ages 9, 9, 7, 6, and 6) while waiting for the show to begin. In a fit of maternal desperation, I teach them the planet mnemonic, writing the letters on a scrap piece of paper. "My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas," I said.

The Girl said, "No, it's 'My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles.'"

He Who Pulls My Leg says "No. No. It's 'my vicious evil mother just sat under pluto.'"

Two ladies behind us begin to titter. I look at The Leg Puller, and I look at the ladies, and I say "Works for me. I'm his stepmom."

The titters turn into full-on belly laughs as the usher finally and blessedly lets us in.

Ask For Socks and Ye Shall Receive

So, my dear sweet hubs has been patiently waiting to get himself some athletic socks, since he spent all the money allotted for his clothing budget on a black Sta-Puft Marshmallow -- I mean, Mountain HardWare down jacket on our anniversary trip to Schaumburg back in May. (Hush, I got engaged in Schaumburg. It was super romantic. Plus, there's IKEA there!!!).

Anyway, since we do the Dave Ramsey thing, he's in the red and will be until August, but has a run coming up with one of the kids, and the last thing we all want is a daddy-type with owies on his feets. So we were going to go today to get athletic socks, and he was just gonna be in the hole that much longer.

Except last night, we got an e-mail coupon from Kohl's for $10 off any purchase to get people in the store after the local Kohl's completed their remodel. (Incidentally, I used two of these in June to get myself some running shoes.) Is God telling us He loves us and is providing in all ways, large and small? Or is He just telling us we need to get off our rears and get on the treadmill?

Dunno. Either way, thanks, God!!!