January 08, 2013

Hawkins in 2012, Part 1

Hi.  Welcome back?
So, uhhm, I am terrible at keeping up with my blog.  I knew it had been a while, but I didn't realize I hadn't written here in over a year and a half...A YEAR AND A HALF!!!  At least I've kept up with my two blogs for my kiddoes a little bit better.  (Don't look for them, they're currently kept private.  One day I'll probably share.)
I hate that I have let this much time go by, because even though I've never done if for a huge audience, just family, I have been keeping this blog off and on for like 6 or 7 years.  It is the closest thing to journaling that I have been doing since I got married.
Oh well.  I'm back.  Something with the new year or 2013 makes me want to catch up and get back on the blogwagon.
I'm not promising much, though.  I probably won't keep up with it well.  I'm just warning you ahead of time, keep your expectations low, very low.  I will do the same, maybe that will keep us both from being disappointed.tt

Where to start?  Maybe one day I'll go back and catch up a little bit.  For today, let's just attempt to go with a month by month recap of 2012.  As much as stands out in my mind, at least. 

Hawkins in 2012~
January 2012 marked 3 years of living in Houston!  Mini-rewind: We spent the holidays here at home, with my family (Hays) coming in to help us celebrate Christ's birth.  This is the second time they have joined us here for Christmas, and we are very thankful for the time at our own home with our kids on Christmas morning.  It was Briley's first Christmas~Noah is 4 1/2~and both kids enjoyed all the festivities and family time.  Noah put cookies and milk and carrots out for Santa, and Santa brought him a pogostick, among other things, which he played with for all of maybe 15 min.  B of course doesn't understand any of it, but she does enjoy the lights and sounds and presents under the tree that she can bang around.  At Christmas time she was not walking yet, but could scoot around where she wants to go, and Brad accidentally taught her how to climb the stairs, which she now loves.  In Jan. Matt and Carrie also went on Winter Retreat with our teens, and I stayed home with both kids for the first time ever.  I have always tried to go for part of it, maybe going a day late or leaving to come home early.  I just wasn't ready to leave Briley overnight with anyone for three days, nor was I up to the 4+ hour drives. 

February we got to celebrate my sister Carrie's 30th birthday, and we planned a fun little weekend for her.  We took her to Red Robin as a family, which has always been the place that she goes with friends to celebrate birthdays, and that was nice.  I gave her a Visa gift card with enough money to go sky diving, and the promise that I'll go with her, whenever she decides that she's ready to do that.  She's always wanted to go, and I think it meant a lot to her.  I also was able to give her a little scrapbook that I had put together with letters/notes and a few pictures from many of her friends who sent stuff in.  Not everyone replied, and I had to follow-up with people quite a bit, but I think it meant a lot to her, too.  After Red Robin, we returned home and a handful of friends came over to our house for yummy cake and icecream.  Carrie always loves parties, and loves celebrating people, so I know I could have done something bigger and she would have enjoyed it, but I still think it was nice.  We got some cute pics from the night, and Briley decided to really start taking a few steps with all eyes on her, so I think that was cool.  Also in Feb. Carrie and I took a day trip to Galveston and had a lot of fun.  We went during Mardi Gras week and they were having a family-friendly parade on the coastal highway.  It was very cold, but we took some fun jumping pictures, got tons of beaded neclaces, laughed alot, and ate at the most yummy Mexican place on the water, called Tortugas.  Also found a Rita's Italian Ice that I did not know existed :)

March brought on Noah's 5th birthday.  Carrie helped me plan a super fun Mario Bros party for him at the church.  I made Mario and Luigi hats for all the kids and we had moustaches for them to wear.  We set up a few Wiis and the kids played Mario Cart and hunted for golden coins.  We had toadstool cupcakes and pizza and multi-colored snacks.  It was pretty theme-y, but I thought it was pretty cool.  I think Noah had a blast.  I'm always worn out after his birthday parties!  During Spring Break Carrie and I took the kids to Galveston beach for the first time.  Briley loved feeling sand and ate quite a bit of it while I attempted to get some cute pictures.  Carrie played in the waves with Noah most of the time, and it was a messy but successful day, which concluded of course, with more Rita's.

April...can't remember a whole lot to be honest.  Easter egghunts at church and coloring eggs with the kids, of course.  Briley's 1st birthday was a quiet celebration after the crazy big one we had for Noah's.  We just had the Porters join us for dinner and cake and opened up presents at the house.  The weekend before I had her 1-year photos taken by Shannon Wright, who took her newborn ones.  I brought a smash cake and balloons to the park, and I LOVE how they turned out.  We have yet to print any enlargements for the walls yet, but the coloring turned out great, and she smiled perfectly for the pics.  Oh, I know...April brought the end of my sister's time here in Houston, as she decided to take a job in Colorado at Golden Bell.  So April was filled with a lot of doing things with her "for the last time."  Sad, sad.  It was an incredible year having her here with us.  

May brought my birthday--uneventful I suppose, as I don't even remember where we went to dinner!  Hard transistion for us, not having Aunt Carrie here anymore.  The end of school was close and I know I struggled a bit with telling my principal, but very greatfully resigned my position for the coming school year.  I packed up my classroom and gave many things away to new teachers, with hopes that I may not be back to full-time teaching for a while. 

June was very typical for us---youth camp with the teens the very first week of summer--& I actually went this year.  Guess the kids stayed with Michelle, because I can't remember doing anything else!  It was a great week, with very little problems or conflicts from our own group and lots of fun times.  I struggle with the teens not wanting to participate in games and things, and not feeling very connected to many of them because of working full time during the year/missing FUEL, but we did have some good moments and taught everyone how to play Spoons.  Matt left for RTA in Colorado as usual and was gone for the typical 10 days.  I made plans to keep us busy while he was gone and we had lots of fun together, going swimming, to Pump It Up, the Zoo, playdates with friends, etc.  When Matt returned from RTA, we turned around and left for Florida within 24 hours.  We planned 3 days in Orlando before heading down to Vero Beach for the Mark Robison wedding.  Matt's parents met us in Orlando and we checked into our very nice hotel, with just enough time to have some Moe's Mexican and catch a night time swim.  We went to Magic Kingdom the first day and Hollywood Studios the 2nd.  Noah loved both days and it was so fun to see him enjoy Disney for the first time.  Matt's parents were very helpful and allowed us to go on almost all the rides with him.  It was really quite rainy the first day, but that kept it cooler and less crowded than it could have been.  Noah was really into getting the characters to sign his autograph book.  We got Merida, Goofy, Jessie and Woody the first day.  I even got to rendevous with my college roommate Beth and meet her husband Rick for the first time while at MK.  So random!  At Hollywood Studios both kids really loved the Disney Jr. show with all the characters from the cartoons we watch, and Noah got to meet Jake and Phineas and Ferb.  Matt and I enjoyed the Rockin Roller Coaster and I regretfully took Noah on the Tower of Terror, which he and I both ended up hating.  Good days, both days.  Great first Disney trip as a fam. 

In Vero, we went to the beach twice and hosted a little party time at Wendy Kramer's and invited people over to hang out.  It was the best way we could think of to see the most people in our short time.  Matt did the wedding for Mark, and Noah was the ring boy.  They both looked handsome and it was special to be able to be apart of all three of their kids weddings.  Had very little time to spend with the Robisons, though.  We saw most of the church people at the wedding, but did not have very much time to talk or catch up.  I left immediately after the reception to fly with the kids to Kansas, and I left feeling really bad that I had not made the effort to see a few specific people more.  It was good to see people, but i should have planned better.  I had a lot of inner conflict over who to share time with though, and I knew that the kids only had a few days left with their grandparents, too.

July: The kids and I flew into Kansas to catch the very last morning of the Hays family reunion.  A few of my cousins had already left, but almost everyone was still there.  It was great to see them if only for a few hours.  We had breakfast and a morning worship time together, then went swimming and fishing with who was still there.  Noah got to "help" my dad fish for the first time, which he talks about quite a bit, but really did very little.  I, however, caught 3 little fish on my own!  It has been so long since I did it, but I grew up fishing with my dad quite a bit.  Good memories.  Noah loved playing with his newly found cousins, and Briley was as cute as could be.  We left the reunion and drove over with my parents and Carrie for a couple of days to Oklahoma City, where we got to spend time with my aunt Mary and cousins.  Noah and Bri got to jump on the trampoline with his 2nd cousins Savannah and Riley and we went to a splash pad with them.  On the 4th, we enjoyed our first 4th of July parade and BBQ time with the Busic families.  That night, we picnicked out on the front of BFC and watched fireworks together.  It was a very busy, but great 2 weeks of vacation!  Matt, by the way, flew home from FL instead of attending the reunion/OK and took our teens on a mission trip to Nashville, TN...which, I hear, went very well.  Matt and I celebrated 10 years of marriage when he returned from the trip by going to Cheesecake Factory and a little chocolate place downtown called The Chocolate Bar.  Kind of typical that we would have to be apart on the actual day of our anniversary, (July 6), and of course I wasn't thrilled about it at first...but I am so honored to be married to the man of God that I am, I shouldn't really complain.  We have spent many an anniversary at the local steak and potato bar after sneaking away from youth camp.  That's just our life.  We were able to buy a new flat screen t.v. with money from Matt's grandmother, as an anniversary present to each other. :)



June 15, 2012

The World of Q

So it's been quite some time since I blogged here.  Thoughts on my mind, but too busy to take the time for it, I guess.  I don't blog for anyone but myself, anyway.  So I only get around to it when I really get everything else in my life balanced or when I have something on my mind I need to work out/think thru. 

This week I have some extra time on my hands (Matt is gone on RTA--a 9-day backpacking trip to CO with our sophomore class) and so I'm trying to keep my mind busy in hopes that the time will go by quicker.  So, I have (finally) started in on the world of couponing.  I have recently learned that it takes approx. 8-12 weeks of collecting and printing coupons to be able to purchase most items at their lowest prices (by using the coupons at the right times) thus being able to create a thorough stockpile of items...so although I am jumping right into it, it will be somewhat of a gradual process with a big learning curve.  As I begin this week, I have learned quite a bit already!  I would like to blog about my journey towards saving my family money and see where we can go with it.  I have a feeling it will start slowly and be a learn-as-I-go kind of deal, but then quickly pick up.  There is so much info out there on the web that I have already found to help, and after my first trip to some drugstores, I already feel an addiction coming on.  Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves yet.

So I'm currently what they call a coupon virgin.  I've always loved using coupons for restaraunts and fast food places, and for % off at retail places.  Who doesn't like free food and discounted clothing?  But, I have little to NO experience with using coupons at the grocery store.  I can not think of a SINGLE time I have used a coupon for groceries before.  There have been times when I have skimmed thru the manufacture ads on Sunday and found things that I normally buy--clipped the coupon, but then one of two things happen: 1) I never end up taking it with me to the store, or 2)I do, but only after the Q has already expired! I definitely am very conscious of food prices---most items I buy regularly, I could probably tell you within 10 cents how much I regularly pay for it and which stores sell it the cheapest.  I also have experience taking advantage of the Buy one Get one (BOGO) sales at grocery stores and feel like I have to explain to Matt how I am "stocking up" on a great deal.  But using coupons on a regular basis?  A big huge NO.  No experience.  Before this weekend began, I couldn't have even told you the difference between manufacturer and store coupons without thinking deeply about it.  I had NEVER heard of STACKING coupons or considered that you could be allowed to use coupons on Buy One Get One deals.  In fact, I admit that my opinion of people who use coupons is that they must really be desperate to be saving, for example, 50 cents on 3 boxes of cereal.  I would think, "REaLLY?  Like that's really going to save you money?  I never buy those cereals anyway, or not 3 at the same time!  You're getting fooled into thinking you should buy that with a little 50 cent savings."  Like I said, I have already learned a lot.
So I think I started on Sat. afternoon.  I have been tempted to check into it for the past 6 months or so because of recent posts on Facebook from friends of mine who are already in the club.  I also have seen an episode or two of the Extreme Couponing and some famous couponing gals on the Today Show/Nate B. show.  My first research came from The Krazy Coupon Lady website and today I found Southern Savers thru a link from Fbk.  I have read up on the couponing for beginners on both sites, and here's the things that I have learned so far.

1.)  Stacking.  Most stores allow you to use two coupons for an item at a time--a manufacturer coupon and also a store coupon/sale.
2.)  CVS and Walgreens both have cash (credit) back programs where you actually get savings in whole "dollars" that you can use on future purchases.  Many, many items can be picked up virtually for free by combining coupons and the credit offered thru these drugstores.
3.)  Stockpiling takes quite some time--up to 3 months of consistent saving coupons before you are able to get "Rock-bottom" prices.
4)  Getting 4-6 Sunday papers is really the best way to be able to stockpile items when they go on a great sale.
5)  You should save ALL coupons, even for items that you would never consider actually purchasing, because many times these items can be gotten for free or earn you credit that can be used on other items.  Plus, these items--often personal products--can always be donated to charities.  I would love to do this!
6)  There are many sites out there that are doing all the work for you--matching up current sale ads with recent coupons.  They even tell you the exact date a Q was released, how much your saving could be, and a scenario that would help you get your best bang for the buck.