Monday, July 9, 2012

not Tuesday's Tip

It's not Tuesday.  I'm not even sure the following counts as a Tip.  However, I've learned to strike while the iron's hot.  And the kids are watching a movie.  And I'm on my second cup of coffee.

People always comment on my ridiculous love of school supply shopping.  I know - it's an illness - and I have no problem admitting that.  I used to force myself to wait until August to buy anything.  Now, I start as soon as the ads do.  While "others have excuses; I have my reasons why" (thank you, Nickel Creek).

I've always loved stationery stores.  Pens, paper, you name it - as a child, that kind of stuff lured me in faster than any toys could.  While they still have their allure, my reasons for hitting Staples (and Office Depot and Target and Walmart and Walgreens and...) in early July go far beyond their allure.  It's really about self-preservation and a happy budget.  As a private school teacher, I pay for most of my own supplies as well as my classroom supplies.  As a mother of 4 children, I pay for everything (whoever believes public school education is free has been quite misled).  My husband works for the public school system, and I am well aware that public school teachers pay for more than their fair share, as well.  

So, I started watching the back-to-school ads very closely - and making a weekly trek to multiple stores to get their best deals.  Beginning in July, I examine all of the weekly ads and determine which stores are worth visiting.  The ones mentioned above are my favorites (in that order) but many drug stores and grocery stores are worth watching.  I especially pay close attention to the penny deals (right now, Staples has 1 cent glue, packs of pens, and 24 ct. crayons).  Next comes 25 cent, 50 cent, and dollar deals.  Of course, there are limits and, often, rebates are involved.   However, my experience has been that the rebates are returned very quickly.  And, interestingly, if you are a teacher, many stores will exempt you from the limit on sale items.  So, if the ad says "limit 4" on 25 cent glue sticks, you can get as many as you want.  Staples and Office Depot both have "teacher rewards" cards - in fact, at Staples, the only thing that teachers can not exceed the limit for are the penny deals (new policy this year).  But, if you use your teacher reward card, you can buy as many of the penny deals as you want - you pay the full price, but they send you a reward check at the end of the month that reimburses you for the full cost of those items.  The reward check can only be used in Staples (like a store credit) so it is not the same as a rebate - but well worth it!  

The real trick is following the ads and waiting for the best deals.  For example, Staples has marble composition books for $1 this week - not a bad deal.  But, I know from experience that throughout the next few weeks, someone will sell them for 50 cents or even 25 cents.  I'll be watching.  The ads truly do change from week to week - and it is important to get the good deals as they appear.  However, I've found that waiting too long can backfire - I've tried back to school shopping so late in August that there was nothing left.  Not good.

My other strategy is to stock up on all the good deals - not just what my kids or I have on our supply lists.  I keep a large bin filled with all our "extra" school supplies and we "shop" from that throughout the year.  There are plenty of times when someone needs a folder or extra pencils, and, at some point in the school year, the teachers make a desperate plea for glue sticks.  It's nice having those things on hand so I don't need to worry about buying them later.  In fact, my stock from last year was so good, I am starting my kids back-to-school shopping there before I head out to any stores.  We'll see how far I get.  I have a friend who uses a similar strategy with household items (toiletries, cleaning products, etc) - but I haven't started that yet.  Another project for another day.

OOH, another tip - and this one is a bonus.  I keep the kids bookbags (which I washed at the beginning of the summer) and their supply lists in a central place - and as I buy the supplies, I place them in the correct bookbag.  It's easier than having to sort through it all just before school starts.  Excessive?  Maybe.  But with 4 kids, it keeps me sane.

So, there it is, my sickness - justified like a strategy.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

oh, no, she didn't... (oh, yes, she did)

A few months ago, Chuck and I were at the movies (I could end this post right there as that is such a rare occurrence) when we both had a good laugh at a preview highlighting an upcoming movie entitled Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  While not offended by the concept, we did find it ridiculous at best.  A week or so later, however, something reminded me of the preview, and I did some digging which revealed that the seemingly laughable movie was actually based on the New York Times bestseller of the same name. 

I'm not gonna lie; I was intrigued.  

Typically, I am one to stick to my genre (I'm a sucker for historical fiction).  While this fell in that category, the apparent abundance of blood and gore certainly did not.  However, in recent years, I have found myself on that bandwagon of those who quickly "judge books by their covers."  In many cases, I  opted to read those books (despite my own self-imposed resistance) and was almost always surprised at just how wrong my snap judgment was.  You see where I'm going here?

I did it.  I read Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  And I'm glad I did.  It was everything I did not expect it to be.  
I expected a farce.  
I expected gratuitous violence.  
I expected the darkness to be glorified.  
I expected graphic passion.
I expected a national hero to be made into a joke.  
None of those things were in this book.

Now, that being said, do I think everyone should read it?  No, probably not.  But, if you do read it, you may be surprised what you discover.
You will discover surprising historical accuracy.
You will discover a (fictional) accounting for Lincoln's (actual) brooding nature and struggles with depression.
You will discover an interesting twist on the nature of good vs. evil in our nation.
You will discover an amazingly tasteful description of what could be a rather gory account.
You will discover an author who took the time to weave fiction into a very real and very important part of our nation's past.

I read this book because I knew that if I didn't, I would join the hoards of people naysaying it without an informed, educated opinion.  Yes, it sounds ridiculous.  Yes, it clearly did not happen that way.  But, come on, people - It's fiction!!  That is what fiction is.  It is a verbally artistic attempt to remove us from our reality so that we can glimpse a world that is not.   And, for a time in our nation's history that has probably been the most studied, the most researched, and the most exposed, this author did an impressive job of incorporating a purely fictitious, fantastical element without really changing that historical element that makes our 16th president who he is.

In no way do I feel that this story undermines Lincoln's reputation or the nation's deep reverence for him.  In fact, as many works of fiction do, it has almost made him a larger-than-life hero - someone who went to great lengths to save our nation from the evils of slavery and inequality.

Go ahead.  Add it to your summer reading list.  I won't tell.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

kt who?

I humor myself when I consider that anyone thinks about the fact that I have not posted in almost a year.  Interestingly, after perusing my blog list, I realized that I am not the only one.  I blame facebook - why post a blog entry when you can update all day long?  Anyway...

Yes, I am back. For now.  This year "away" has taught me quite a bit - one thing being, do not overcommit.  

I have so many things on my mind, and, because the school year has ended and summer vacation has officially begun, I have so much more time to think about them!  And, so... in an effort to process all that is in my brain and record for posterity, I will be writing.  If you are easily bored with the (sometimes) mundane elements of my life, feel free to pass.  However, if you are a looking for a diversion or are interested in an update, be on the lookout.  kt is back.