Friday, February 26, 2010

THAT WAS EASY! or Why I Love Staples

Wait, you're in the right place. You may think you're at Amanda's Frugal Report blog, but I assure you, you're in the right place.

I have been a huge fan of Staples ever since I got a Teacher Reward card a few years ago and began getting some healthy discounts. Then, when I had the first copies of my book printed in 2007, no printer could come close to Staples price, plus, I still earned rewards.

Staples adjusts their Rewards program periodically, but it always involves a coupon that's as good as cash-- not just a discount. And it can be applied to any purchase.

Sometimes they really outdo themselves. Last October I needed to reprint a few dozen copies of my book. Lo and behold! Staples was offering 50% rewards on all print orders until mid-November. So I had plenty of time to calculate about how many I wanted and placed my order. The price would have been reasonable anyway compared to their competitors. But 50% rewards for me meant that I would eventually be getting a store coupon for $154.00. I said $154. 00.

Now that money doesn't go as far at Staples as it would at Wal-mart. Staples is pretty high-priced and doesn't carry a lot of the things I would have purchased if I'd had an equal amount of money at Wal-mart (like birdseed, garden supplies, tarps for the woodpile).

But needless to say, I had no trouble spending the money, and here's the list.

1 Five-foot walnut-top folding table 54.99
3 62 Quart Buckle-up storage boxes 35.97
3 10-packs of trading card pages 9.87
6 10-packs of 4x6 photo pages 20.94
1 10-pack of poster board 4.99
1 2-pack of compressed air 6.00
1 10-pack of Zebra Z-grip pens 3.79
1 Office-size Energy Club Mojo Mix 5.99
1 40 ounce bag of Snickers Minis 12.99

Grand Total: $1.64 (11 cents tax)

The nice thing was, none of these were necessities. By the way, the Snickers and Mojo Mix were like a "reward within a reward." I didn't really have to get them.

I could have gotten the Peanut M&M's instead.

The whole experience didn't take much time. It was very satisfying, but I can't really compare it to the way Amanda, Judy, and Jennifer (not to mention Amanda's growing list of "disciples") regularly whittle their grocery bills down astonishingly. Their system is to study, diligently organize, and squeeze every penny out of store and manufacturer coupons and other offers. These offers have proliferated as stores compete for your business during the economic recovery.

I won't be getting any more mega-deals from Staples anytime soon, but you can get deals at some of the drugstores and grocery chains weekly. If you want to save big bucks, don't forget to visit Amanda's Frugal Report blog. She'll direct you to many other helpful resources.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mystery Note or Pop Rap?

I came across a piece of paper I found at school a few years ago and saved. I never was sure of its nature. It was written in a rap style, but I could never decide if it was a student's adapted version of a real rap hit or a note of friendly advice from one student to another who had gotten in trouble. Remember, I was at a K-5 school and rap was pretty big.

I can't supply the appropriate sound effects, so feel free to make your own as you read this (original author's errors are left intact). And if you have your own theory as to its origin and true meaning, feel free to share it with me and other readers.

Shame and Lame
It's a shame you did that.
It's a shame you yelled and got excspeld.
It's a shame. Just a shame.
You could of shaved your face
or combed your hare
but at least you didn't akced
like a wild bear.
It's a shame.
Just a shame or extremely lame.
Yo' you what are you.
Are you a shame or extremely lame?
It's plan dom to yell and get excspeld.
The worst that can happen
at shcools like mine is to
eat lunch by yourself or eat
in the precables ofece yo.
Now don't yell or
you well get excspeld.
Any theories? Don't be shy about sharing. No matter how LAME it may sound.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Last of the Snow? A Photo Journal

We asked for it, we got it. The snow of Valentine's weekend was better than the one a couple of weeks earlier, which was mainly sleet around here. Some of us were glad to get some snow worthy of making snow cream. It was delish!

I toured the property with camera in hand. Does this photo essay make you glad Spring is almost here or are you hoping for one more bout with wintry weather?

You can tell which corner of our tin roof is heated by the woodstove's pipe.

We've had our invitation out for snow since well before Christmas.
This doesn't look like a mock-orange bush, does it?

In just a few weeks the white snow of this dogwood will be replaced by its own white blossoms.

Entrance to the Loyd place.

A hushed woodland scene.

Deer have left their hoofprints as a reminder that I wasn't the first early morning visitor to "the outback" of our property.
The sun amplifies the beauty of snow-laden magnolia branches.

The old station wagon won't be hauling any wood until the snow is gone. But next year's wood supply is beckoning.

This canoe won't be venturing onto any lakes, ponds, or streams any time soon, either. Judy and I aren't into ice fishing.

And with this icy weather, we've had to curtail using our outdoor tub. (Just kidding, for those of you who don't get my sense of humor.)

Peeking through the underbrush into an open field is like opening a window into another world. A magical world.

Another view of the house, which offers a warm refuge after these winter strolls.

I'm sure the grandbabies and other visitors will wait until the saddle thaws before riding this bucking bronco.

A shortcut for critters AND humans.

It's not that the birds don't appreciate the food, but until some of this snow melts they prefer the seeds I scattered on the ground.

Blue skies and white clouds often follow the gray backdrop of winter storms.

Our woodland gnome says, "This snow even caught ME by surprise!"

The red nandina berries make a startling contrast to the white fluffy stuff.
Soon, Judy's prayer garden will be a scene of activity by more than just scavenging birds. The snow will melt, sunshine will warm the swing. An evening fire will bring a glow to the chiminea. To everything, there is a season.

Just the way God planned it. Perfect.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cruel Truth or Pointed Parody?

In going through some old files from school I came across the following memo. As the title indicates, the subject was "Excess Paperwork." I'll let the undated document speak for itself.

To: All Employees of Moore County Schools
Concerning: Excess Paperwork

It has come to our attention that a major factor in teacher/support personnel stress is the continually expanding avalanche of reports, checklists, referral forms, and other required paperwork.

We would like your school's input in seeking solutions to this timely concern.

Please follow these steps:
  1. Present this proposal at your next staff meeting.
  2. Have your staff nominate a chairman to coordinate the school-wide study effort and a recorder to document findings and recommendations.
  3. Select from 1 to 3 sub-committee members for each grade span in your school (i.e. K-3, 4-6, 7-8)
  4. Have each faculty member keep a log (to be developed locally) of required paperwork for his/her job description. Include such information as Source of Paperwork, Purpose of Paperwork, Number of Man-hours involved in filling out Paperwork, or other pertinent data.
  5. On a bi-weekly basis have committee compile school-wide data and present to entire faculty for discussion.
  6. At the end of two months prepare final report for submission to the Central Office. One copy of each sub-committee report should be retained by the appropriate sub-committee, and copies of the entire report should be kept on file in the school's office and media center.
  7. After county-wide information is in, a Blue Ribbon Commission will be set up to determine how to proceed with the investigation of this insidious paperwork problem. At that time further information will be sent to local schools regarding nomination forms and questionnaires for potential Blue Ribbon Commission members.


We look forward to your response and hope you find ample time to fulfill the primary duties of your particular job description (TEACHING CHILDREN). We wish you a successful year.

The names of the creators of this memo have been withheld for their own good.

Well friends, as you may have guessed by now, this entire letter is a fraud. It is a parody I wrote many years ago, seeking to draw attention to the overwhelming volume of non-instructional duties that were weighing (and wearing) our teachers down. The copy I found was typed on an old Apple IIe computer, so it must have been composed at least 15 years ago. It troubles me that, not only has the problem remained, it has actually gotten worse.

In fact, additional burdens have been added to the pile. Those who remain in the classroom could enumerate them far better than I. Checklists and required documentation of every conceivable type have proliferated. There is no doubt they deter teachers from their instructional duties to a high degree and render them less effective through depleting energy and eroding morale. While these negatives have long been recognized (North Carolina's Teacher Working Conditions Survey identifies the same problems each time it is administered), a bad problem continues to get worse. A teacher cannot do one thing without documentation of some kind. In a typical office job, where producing paperwork might be the major part of a worker's job description, this might be appropriate. But for a teacher, only the most essential non-instructional tasks (perhaps 10-15 %) should take him or her away from the face-to-face teaching that is so crucial.

Instructional days have been lengthened. Planning time has been shortened. But in the midst of this illusion, teachers have less time for instruction than at any time in my 33 year career. It is a tragedy that is depleting our corps of dedicated professional teachers at a time we can ill afford to lose them. And many young people who may have a gift for teaching see that they would have the albatross of excessive and unreasonable documentation around their neck from day one. They often choose to direct their talents in another direction.

What could be eliminated? What tasks could be stream-lined? Teachers, what would YOU suggest. What truly helps you accomplish your stated goals and what serves only as an intrusion and an interference? Step up and let your leaders know! That, too, is one of your professional duties!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Search and Find With Brianna

Today's post consists of three videos of Brianna. I've created some "Search and Find" items for each one. Give yourself however many points you wish for each item you successfully identify.

Our first presentation is called "Brianna Crawls." Look for:

  • Brianna checking out bookshelves
  • Brianna checking out her cameraman
  • Brianna being annoyed by her carseat
  • Brianna awkwardly trying to pose for the camera while being annoyed
  • Brianna bumping her head on bookshelves (no harm done to either, I promise

Video number 2 is entitled "Driving is Fun." Don't ask. Look (or listen) for:

  • When does Brianna's first sock come off?
  • How many times does Brianna press the "Driving is Fun" button?
  • Brianna chews on and talks on her cell phone at the same time.
  • Brianna shows evidence of having 'rhythm.' It's in the eye of the beholder.
  • Brianna plays peekaboo.
  • Is Brianna's second sock ON or OFF at the end of the video?

Our final video is "Rock and Roll Brianna." It has a couple of trick questions. Look and listen for:

  • The tunes Brianna plays. Give yourself additional points for each melody you recognize.
  • What is the topic of the conversation you hear in the background?
  • Who do you think is talking?
  • What does Brianna do to signify "That's All Folks?"
  • Brianna isn't singing because something is in her mouth. Was it there in the previous two videos?

Thank you for playing Search and Find with Brianna. Enjoy your points.

Claire in Action

Claire says, "I'm here-- let the good times roll!" And they do!

"Grandma, I'll perform again as soon as I find out where Grandpa went with that camera."

Pure joy is being held in Grandma's arms.

"There's where the 'smooches' come out. I'm gonna get me a whole handful!"

"Grandpa, should they really depict such scenes of utter violence in a children's book?"

"I'm cute at any angle. I just have to work harder."

Babyzilla, Part I.
See the unsuspecting tower? See the innocent baby?
Babyzilla, Part II
DOWN comes the tower! Babyzilla has struck again!
This video wraps up this blog post. In it you'll see an exuberant Claire, with two-fisted, non-stop action. The title is either "Peekaboo With Claire" or "Grandma Makes a Save." You decide.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mama's Legacy

It's been exactly one year ago today since Mama went to be with the Lord. She's been very close to me during that year, as she has been to all of our family. The lessons Mama taught me and lived before me will be part of me as long as I live. And I, too, hope to pass along part of her legacy.

Last March I blogged in detail about the substance of her funeral service and the loving tributes that were paid to her. You can read about that in full here if you so desire. In honor and memory of her today, I am including some of her favorite scriptures in this blog post. I hope they will speak to your heart and lift your spirit.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. From Psalm 121

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. From Psalm 100

Mama in her 20's, before her marriage

The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. From Philippians 4

Mama and Daddy on their wedding day, May 15, 1948

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. From Psalm 1

God gave them 60 wonderful years together.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. From Philippians 4

Buddy, Caryn, and I owe so much to Mama and Daddy.
We saw Mama live and prove each of these scriptures throughout her life.
I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. From Philippians 4

I know of no one who lived out the truths of
these verses more faithfully than Mama.
I know Mama is smiling down brightly on all
of us today. Not only because she's thrilled
to look down on the happiness of her growing
family, but also because she's seen a favorite
scripture come to pass:
"I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Thank you for everything, Mama.
I love you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Double Barrel Babies

Faithful blog readers, this is the fourth and final post with an emphasis on the grandbabies, Brianna and Claire. I promise to blog on at least one eclectic topic before bringing them up again. Plus, I need time to accumulate some more pictures. How long do you think that will take?

In the past two weeks Judy and I have had a couple of wonderful opportunities to have Brianna and Claire at the same time. Oh, Happy Day! Here are a few priceless moments.

Brianna: "You're right, Claire. Mine's empty, too. Don't they trust us to measure anything?"

On Thursday, January 28, one day before the big ice storm, it hit 60 degrees in the Sandhills. Judy and I took the grandbabies on their first joint tour of our neighborhood. Babies, start your engines!!!

Claire: "Okay, let's see how fast this buggy can go, Grandpa. You've got me dressed up like Nanuk of the North, so there's no danger of me getting windburn."

Brianna: "Grandma, I still don't see how this counts as exercise."

Brianna: "Claire, that's even more impressive from this angle. If I don't flop over, that is."

Geniuses at work. No attention deficit disorder here."

Claire: "Did someone say MILK?"

Brianna: "Did someone say BANANA?"

Brianna: "Helpful hint-- page 3 tastes the best."

Claire: "I'll tell you what, Brianna. You start reading on that end, I'll start on this end, and we'll meet in the middle."

This is like heaven on earth to Grandma Judy.

Okay, for you diehards who never get tired of my baby pictures, we're going to kick it into overdrive. For the untrained eye, the following five pictures may look almost alike. But if you study those little faces and know how to read those little eyes, you'll see why I couldn't leave a single one out.

No Captions Needed

Did you have a favorite? Let me know. It's obvious Claire and Brianna are destined to be best friends, just like their moms.

Nothin' But Claire!

"Of course I know Brianna had her own blog post. I just read it. I hope you enjoy mine."

"Grandpa says this wooden toy looks like Chapel Hill's Old Well. But I make a few allowances for his age."

"See, the way they 'splained it to me is, we have a few months to get used to these cooking tools before they let us at the 'gredients."

"If I get any happier, I'll bust!"

"Oh, I see. I won't bust as long as I let the 'happy' out of my mouth. And Mommy, you are a world class dancer!"

Aside: These rattles have been retired and are on their way to The Bargain Box. Jennifer and Amanda shook them and teethed on them endlessly when they were babies. My question is, "Do they still make rattles with PEACE sign handles?"

"Touch my toes? Of course I can. I can even put them in my mouth."

"Change my own diaper? You've got to be kidding!"

"Grandma is waiting for me to become ticklish. Whatever that is. I humor her just like all the big people."

"YES, I asked them to supersize it. Is there anything wrong with that?"

"I LOVE my new laptop computer. I'm not sure I have enough lap for it, though."

"The thing I'm best at is slamming it shut."

"So Grandma, is this what the astronauts feel like when they're weightless?"

"This must be the first time Grandpa's read this book. I could tell him the ending, but I love to see the excitement on his face."

"Okay. Enough is enough. . . SPOILER ALERT. . . the one with the big ears did it."

"Yes, I like my toys. But I LOVE my Grandma and Grandpa!"