Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shopping Victory

Some of you loyal readers may remember some of the great grocery shopping victories we've had in the past. Well, we have had some more success! I have posted a few directly to Facebook (thanks to my smartphone) but I figured I'd blog about this one today as a few people on Facebook have asked "how I do it".

Well, there is no real secret to it. The key is to take a little time and plan. Each week we get a packet of all of the "shoppers" for the grocery stores in the area. We usually page through them and just browse to see what the good deals are to see what jumps out. After the first browse-through I will hop online to check out the lists from Money Saving Mom for each store's great deals for that week. It's a really great resource because she lists the sale price and which coupons to use. If the coupons are available to print online, the link will be there too. (She lists weekly deals for a lot of stores so chances are, your local store will be there.) After I look at those deals I will go through the sales again and see what we need and see if we have coupons for those items.

Here is this week's victory purchase:
Total: $8.70 plus $13.00 towards our next purchase, 2 recyclable shopping bags and 2 RedBox movie free rental codes!

How I did it: This week ShopRite is running a "Dollar Days" sale where buying certain amounts of specific company/brand items will yield you a certificate for money towards your next purchase. One of the companies was General Mills. The deal was if you bought 12 General Mills items you got a $10 certificate for your next purchase. I happened to still have a bunch of coupons for free boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios that I won through an online promotion. This made the big difference. (We go through a lot of cereal so 5 boxes isn't too much for us to have in our pantry.) I also had coupons for all of the other General Mills products I selected too so I knew it was worth the deal to get the $10.00 back. Unilever was also a part of the Dollar Days promotion. If you bought 6 of the items, you got $3 for your next purchase. I got 3 Ragus and 3 pasta sides to fill out those 6 items because I had coupons for each.

After a minor setback (leaving my wallet at home....oops! Thankfully Eddie works pretty close to this store so he hopped over quickly to pay!), we got the total. The total should have been a little higher because the Cheerios coupons took off the full price of the cereal (vs. their sale price for the week) but the total came to $8.70. As I noted above, I also have $13.00 to spend on our next purchase at the store. I will use it towards some of the meat for our next week of meals. As a fun bonus, we have two free reusable grocery bags (which get you 5 cents off your order for each one you use....not much but every cent counts!) and two codes for movie rentals through RedBox.

I'm pretty pleased with how it went today and know that while every trip to the grocery store will be this good, every dollar counts on a budget!

All in all, totally worth the extra time and planning.

Friday, February 17, 2012

18 Month Update: A little late

I started this entry last month around Henry's 18-month "birthday" but didn't post it because I wanted to update from his doctor and cardiologist appointments.

It's really hard to believe that Henry is already 18 months old. A few days ago I was looking at some of the first videos I took on my phone (last July) and it is funny how little Henry still is. He wasn't even walking yet! Now it seems like he is turning into more and more of a "big boy" with every day that passes.

These days he's still very much into books. He's been interested in them for a long time and I hope that it never changes. He sometimes prefers books over any other toys, sometimes even at bedtime he'll cuddle up with a book. (But generally he likes to snuggle with Toby the Turtle.) He enjoys going to the library to look at books and also to do the puzzles. He also enjoys storytime there, especially at the end when the librarian takes out the bubble machine! He just finished up his last "Baby and Me" storytime and will move up to the next age group!

Henry is also getting to become interested in boy things like cars ("vroom vroom") and trains ("choo choo"). He still has his obsession with flags, mainly of the American variety. My parents got us a flag for our front yard and Henry insists on saluting it first thing every morning. (He can see it from one of his bedroom windows.)

As he gets older and more curious (and mischievous!) we've had to set limits and groundrules. He's very good at remembering what is a "no-no" but that doesn't always mean that he won't do it. He will now go to his time-out spot and sit down when told. He also went there on his own after he hit me when he was mad about something. He also did the sign for "sorry" after he got back up. So...he's learning!

Now that we're in the house and in a routine again I've started doing more intentional learning/playing with him. I've been reading a lot online about different "home-schooling" activities for kids Henry's age and there are some really cool things out there. We are starting out simple with focusing on one thing at a time, like the color red or the letter A. (However, Henry's obsession with the letter H has kind of taken over any other letters. He finds Hs everywhere we go and practically hyperventilates with excitement as he makes the H sound!)

Here is Henry having some "spill and fill" fun with a bottle, some foam blocks and a cupcake tin. Simple and kept him occupied for quite some time.
Henry still uses a lot of sign language but is starting to use actual words now too. "More" is his favorite word at the moment. "More more" everything! A lot of his words are his own version of words (like "kkkk" for milk and "ooose" for juice) but he's getting there. He's getting pretty good at animal noises too, which is pretty cute. My favorites are his owl and monkey. (I have to get a video of him "performing" all of his tricks to post here.)

Henry's 18 month check-up went well. He now weighs 23 pounds, which vaulted him into the 30th percentile for weight! He's always been proportional with his height and weight, just a little on the smaller side but he's been so consistent that his pediatrician said it's just the way he is!

Some of you may remember reading last fall about Henry's heart issue. He had a check-up with his cardiologist last week. She was pleased that he is so active and growing well. He was a SUPER patient when he had to sit still for an EKG and an ultrasound of his heart. (Having Finding Nemo on the TV in the office helped!) He had to be hooked up to a 24-hour monitor again for comparison. It was a little different having him hooked up now (vs. 6 months ago) because he was more aware of the little pack and the sensors on his chest. He didn't rip anything off and other than a wakeful night he did well. We turned the monitor back in this morning and will have to wait a week or two to get results. He hasn't shown any real signs that the heart issue is bothering him at all so we are hoping that means things haven't changed and we can just continue him being monitored every so often.

So we continue to feel lucky to have such a funny, smart, happy and energetic little boy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Catching Up...Yet Again

Well, it's been far too long (yet again) since my last real post. Needless to say, we've been a little busy!

We have been in our house for a little while now and it is nice to finally feel pretty settled. Most of our "things" are in their place and it looks like "ours" now. This is thanks to my parents, who were just here for almost a week. With their help we have all new window blinds, the kitchen cabinets and pantry are organized properly (things had been put in pretty randomly as we unpacked since we did it in phases), there are pictures on the walls, baby gates are installed on the stairs, etc. It would have taken us months to do all of that so...thanks Mom and Dad!

We pulled up the photos from the real estate listing for comparison and boy oh boy, what a difference! I will be putting together some Before and After side-by-sides in the next few weeks so you can see exactly what we've done. It really looks and feels like a new house, which is pretty exciting. I'm glad that we were able to look past the old carpet, ugly kitchen, etc. and see the potential.

I realize it's been a while since I've posted pictures so I'll have to get a few uploaded to share of Henry. It's hard to believe he is almost 18 months old!

I promise I'll have more exciting and interesting updates to come!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eddie's Race Narrative

I wrote this about two weeks ago, but my editor never got around to looking at it. So I’m about to look through it on 2/6/12 (almost 4 weeks after the race) and get this posted for you! This is certainly not as well written as Beth’s blog entry on her run, but hopefully it isn’t too painful for you to get through!

I can start this post with one of two numbers: A) 3 seconds or B) 2 minutes and 27 seconds. It is still a bit tough for me, but I’ll choose to go with the 2 minutes and 27 seconds- the amount of time I improved my PR time by at Sunday’s Walt Disney World Marathon.

I’m not really sure when the Disney Marathon became a thing we were going to do. I’m pretty sure Kathleen suggested it at some point a while back, but I’m not really sure when. I know I ran a half in early May and then the entire Seavers clan did a Memorial Day 5k and that was the start of the training toward Marathon Weekend.

I did the run with Kevin, Kathleen and Joe. Kathleen and I have been running buddies since January of 2009. We did our first 8k and half together. We trained together for the 2009 Outer Banks Marathon and even when she made the decision that she couldn’t run the race, she still trained with me and led the cheering contingent that helped me get through my first marathon. We then ran together in March of 2010, with Kathleen completing her first 26.2 mile trek! Training for this race without Kathleen, and for the most part, without anyone, was tough. The long runs above 13 miles were all a challenge and I was thankful for the couple of runs that Kevin joined me for or the run that Beth did miles 12-19 with me. I was acutely aware that I hadn’t really had a good long run and that I hadn’t been able to do the four runs a week I had done for my other two marathons.

The forecast for race day was warm- great for visiting the parks, but not great for running. Heat had impacted my first two marathons, especially the March 2010 marathon and when it was chilly on Sunday morning I was hopeful we’d be in better shape this time around. Beth and Julie drove Kevin and I, we met up with Kathleen and Joe and took a pre-race picture of the four of us and we were off. Although much to Joe’s dismay, there was no DJ playing “Everyday I’m Shuffling” (Editor's note: He is referencing Party Rock Anthem), which would have been appropriate theme music for the 30 minute slow procession to the starting coral.

Before getting to the coral we stopped for a moment of silence, then the national anthem and then kept moving up to coral D, slated for a 5:47 start time, 12 minutes after the first group. When we got to the coral, I gave Kevin, Joe and Kathleen a piece of paper with a quote that my friend Jenn had on her Facebook page about two weeks earlier, which I loved and stole and was aware of throughout the race: “There will be a day you cannot do this. Today is not that day.” With that, and some fireworks, it was time to get going.

The start was crowded, but not as bad as we thought it might be. By mile 3 we had brought our average time down to 10:18 per mile- the required pace to hit a 4:30:00 marathon time. 4:30:00 was our “ideal condition” top time, but I’m pretty sure we all knew it would be a long-shot to reach that. I had 4:42:00 as a goal on the slow end for me, as I wanted to set a PR if possible.

We ran together as a group of 4 for the first 17 miles. Some of these miles were dark and fairly boring, but others were pretty great. We saw our first supporters, Beth and Julie at the 2.5 mile mark as we entered Epcot for the first time. We were carrying glow sticks since we had found out the day before it was tough to see people in the dark. The four of us carrying the sticks helped us stand out for our supporters and led to supportive cheers from other runners and spectators. We ran around Spaceship Earth and then the fountain before making a left to head in front of Mexico and Norway and maybe another country or two before leaving the park. We then spent the next 5 miles on random roads before heading into the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot. We saw a number of our supporters including Karen and Ellen at this point, the 9 mile mark, before we took on the biggest of the hills we faced. It was then into the Magic Kingdom, through the same backstage area Beth mentioned in her ½ marathon blog. We made a right and headed up Main Street toward the castle. Mom, Julie and Henry cheered us on at the start of Main Street and then Beth was waiting for us after we had gone through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and through the castle. The four of us stepped to the side to get our picture taken, which is a pretty awesome keepsake for the event.
We then went through Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland on our way to some more backstage areas on our way out of the park. We saw Karen and Ellen on the roads alongside the Polynesian around mile 12. Soon after that we crossed the 13.1 mark- halfway there and only about 20 seconds off the pace for a 4:30:00 and we were feeling pretty good.

Over the next 4 miles, things were quiet, fairly boring and some of our runners started to feel it. We stayed as a group of 4 as we entered the Animal Kingdom in a back area. We passed some petting zoo animals they had out and then entered the actual park to the side of Africa and made a left to head toward Asia.

We then headed past Nemo in Dinoland U.S.A., Discovery Island, Oasis, through the guest entrance area (in the opposite direction) and into the parking lots. It was at about the 18 mile marker that Kevin had decided he couldn’t run any longer and he began a run-walk approach to cover his last 8 miles. Joe, Kathleen and I went on, up “McDonalds Hill” and onto the 21 mile marker. Kathleen was having some trouble at that point. We walked a bit as a group of three and then finished out the next mile. We tried it again at mile 22 but Kathleen said she wasn’t sure how long it would take her to finish and she wanted me to get the 4:40:00 I was aiming for. I took off for the last 4.2 miles on my own.

I had a burst of energy at first, but it had warmed up and the distance was taking a toll on my body and I wasn’t going to be able to run the rest of the way. I started my own run-walk, which was only a little walk at first but would become a minute of walking for every two minutes of running by the end. At mile 23 we went into Hollywood Studios. The coolest part of this was running through the tunnel the tram goes through the Backlot Tour showing a bunch of backstage costuming areas. In addition to being fun, it was actually cooler and a nice break. We ran past the sorcerer’s hat toward the exit. Before I entered Epcot again at mile 25, I saw Karen (but missed Ellen) around Disney’s Boardwalk/Yacht Club. I was pretty much dead at this point, but was running when I saw Karen, so bonus.

I was walking much more than I wanted to be at this point. I was willing my legs to keep going. I thought I still had a shot at 4:40:00 and was pretty sure that 4:42:00 wasn’t going to be an issue. We entered Epcot in the back of World Showcase. It was still before 11 am, so that half of Epcot wasn’t open yet and the course was pretty quiet even with the finish approaching. As we entered into Future World there were park patrons inside cheering. Joe’s parents and Kathleen’s sister (I’m pretty sure I’m remembering her there, unless I’m now totally confused) were on the course just before Spaceship Earth. We left the actual park, crossed the 26 mile marker and I had about 100 seconds to get the .2 miles I needed to be under 4:40:00. I knew my mom and Beth would be on the left at 26.05 mark- the same place mom had staked out and used the day before for the half. I stayed left to wave to them and then pushed for the finish. I kept thinking I had it and then I didn’t and then I did and then I didn’t. The video shows that I had a nice push into the finish but the time on my watch when I crossed the finish line said 4:40:06. Thankfully I leave the video screen before cursing about being so close. I would find out about 20 minutes later that the time announced for those tracking me was 4:40:05 and the next morning Beth told me that like her time yesterday, my time had been revised- to 4:40:02- so the THREE seconds I mentioned at the beginning are those three seconds that I missed the sub 4:40:00 for.

After Beth had said she gave a high five to Donald when crossing the finish I told her I was surprised Mickey wasn’t at the finish. Well, as you could see in the video, it may not have been Mickey (think it was Minnie) but I must have been about two feet from the character and had no recollection of it. I didn’t feel great after the race and needed to sit in the shade for about 10 minutes while waiting for Kathleen, Joe and Kevin. I didn’t see Joe and Kathleen and found out later they finished 8 minutes behind me (way to go!!). I had finally moved on from where I was recovering and sat down when I saw Kevin- who battled to finish sub 5 hours with a 4:55 (nice job on your first!!). Kevin and I met up with the family and then with Kathleen and Joe to get some pictures of us.

Kathleen could tell I was pretty out of it and asked if I would remember something if she talked to me at that point. I was pretty sure I would and this blog is evidence that I remember the fact that they asked me to be the Officiant for their wedding… wait, I’m pretty sure I remembered that wrong! They asked me to be an Usher for them at their wedding this summer and I’m really excited to be a part of their special day! It was nice of them to still ask me even though I had gone ahead of them for the last few miles.

Some other race notes:

-Even though I missed the sub-4:40 by 3 seconds, I don’t regret stopping for our picture in front of the castle. I do wish I hadn’t stopped to try to go to the bathroom at mile 23 and that I had turned one of my minute walk breaks into a 45 second walk break, but I didn’t poop my pants and I was able to visit the park after the run and the next few days, so I’ll have to attack 4:40 and other time goals and new PRs in a future race.

-Speaking of future races, I hope at some point I finally do a marathon where the temps don’t climb into the 70s.

-I loved wearing my shirt for 3 days at the park and getting congratulations from cast members and other guests....and Mickey!

-I knew my body was having a tough time so in addition to my gels, I ate pretty much everything on the course, including bananas, Hershey’s miniatures, and twizzlers.

-I was finally able to jog on Thursday (4 days later).

I’m reffing inside Saturday – Monday so hopefully sometime Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll go for an actual run (turns out it was 16 days after the race until I did my first run. The first mile was awful but I’ve done a couple of great short (3.1) runs since then which have felt awesome. I’m psyched to get more running in!!

Congratulations to Kevin and Joe on their first marathon- look forward to hearing when you are running your next.

Congratulations to Kathleen on cutting 22 minutes off your time from your first run.

Congratulations to Ellen, Karen and Beth on their first half marathon.

Yes, we are already talking about going back to Disney for the 2013 marathon (and I wish it was in 11 days, not 11 months)!!