I love you, Cliff R.

13

Posted on : 10:09 AM | By : Jennifer

That was the name of the tall, dark, devastatingly handsome young cashier who baptized me into the waters of couponing at Albertsons a mere four hours ago.  Any of my three faithful readers who may have known me when I was younger, thinner, and much cooler may be surprised to learn that, three kids and ten pounds later, it has indeed come to this:  I now not only clip and use coupons, I proudly use that word in the singular as a straight up verb.

A few weeks ago I attended a free "coupon class" in my neighborhood, wherein many of my good friends and I sat on couches and floors, mesmerized buy the silky promises of a shiny young mother who spends roughly four dollars a week on groceries.   In spite of the thick index charts and multiple logarithms necessary to understand the process of saving money, we were all smitten by her presentation and gleefully subscribed to multitudes of Sunday papers, within whose deep, heavy folds the coveted coupon books hide.

And so began my neighborhood's--and my personal--obsession with couponing.  It's kindofbutnotreally easy, kindofbutnotreallyfun, and you get to feel smart and virtuous as you smugly scan your coupons while the poor shmuck behind you pays full price.  I'd say if I added up the hours I spent finding, organizing and shuffling coupons, then divided those hours by the money I saved, I'd come up with a personal salary of at least $2.50 an hour. Can't you see why I do it?  That's the highest income I've grossed in over eleven years.

Think of the 'ole frog-in-the-boiling-water adage: the frog doesn't know it's boiling to death because the water's heating up gradually.  So it's been with my steady decline into Dorkiness.  It started with a young marriage to an engineer (social suicide, obviously), followed by a well-intentioned but sorely misguided haircut, which then led directly to three kids, a minivan, and moving back to my small (sworn off forever) hometown.  Add to that the heavy influence of local stay-at-home-mom friends/church friends/PTA friends/kids' friends' moms' friends and all of my mother's old friends, and you have the Perfect Storm of Geekiness brewing with no George Clooney to save me from myself.

The upside?
a) Saving a lot of money.  (I guess.)
b) Meeting men like Cliff R., whom I've decided is my (other) soulmate.  (I think we're allowed at least two.)
c)  I now get to use words like freebies and doublers and coupon fraud.  My husband laughed out loud the first time he heard me talk about Coupon Fraud.  I personally don't see what's so funny about Coupon Fraud.  It's real.  It's out there.  I'm telling you.

The downside?
a)  Logarithms.
b)  Feeling flustered and hurried in front of the other customers at the checkout line--people I used to feel quite attractive around by comparison.  (I shop at Wal-Mart.  Draw your own conclusions.)
c)  So far, I've mostly just amassed outrageous quantities of cold cereal, all of which are the kind I never used to buy for my kids (think 13 grams of sugar per serving.)  But I'm getting each box for a dollar, so the fact that we now have cereal for dinner four nights a week somehow makes sense.
d)  Our paper carrier, whoever he/she is, is incapable of delivering the Sunday papers to my home.  So far I have gotten one Sunday paper on a Monday, and one Tuesday paper on a Tuesday.  That's it.  Whoever the carrier is, he/she simply cannot get it right.  I've called.  I've been polite.  I've made two trips to the downtown office to pick up the papers myself.  And still, this Sunday: no papers.  He. She. Cannot. Do. It.

Enough grumbling.  Let's get back to Cliff R.

Oh, ladies, he was dreamy.  Think Jude Law in a grocer's apron.  And so polite.  He kept saying, "Oh, I just need your Albies card again really quick."  Albies--could you die with how adorable that is?  And I kept falling all over myself, apologizing for the fifteen "doublers" I was using, in addition to the twenty original coupons (I'm not kidding), and he just smiled suavely and said, "Oh, no problem--we just want to keep everyone happy."  I'm pretty sure he winked at me when he said this.  And then he apologized profusely when he accidently overcharged me 50 cents on two boxes of pasta, but I just smiled prettily and said, "Oh, don't worry about it...that will be my little tip to Albies for how patient you've been with me tonight."  I batted my eyelashes and shrugged really cute-like when I said this, hoping he'd see how young these gestures made me look.  The height of the drama came when, because of his obviously powerful position, he pulled his own little gold key out of his apron pocket to unlock the register, not needing to call any managers over for the usual "coupon overriding" nonsense.  He just smiled confidently and worked that till like it was nobody's business.  It was awesome

And here's the kicker, my three faithfuls:  Albies was out of a few things because of the massive sale, so Cliff R. had to write down my name and number so he could call me directly when they got the products in.  I will then return to the store and meet him at a predetermined destination for our second rendezvous.  I'm considering it an official first date, and I think Derrick is really happy for me.  (I mean, I think he would be if he knew about it.)  And now the only thing I need is wardrobe advice from you all.  Would you go funky-casual or over-the-top glam?  And should I be embarrassed that the products I'll be collecting from my beloved Cliff R. are toilet paper and Fruit Loops?

I can't believe it, either.

8

Posted on : 2:14 PM | By : Jennifer

While walking through the screaming, steaming, teeming, germ-infested labryinth that is Chuck E. Cheeses, little Ethan squeezed my hand and whispered in astonishment, "I can't believe I'm five!"  He said this with the same reverent awe that a young bride might say on the morning of her wedding--I can't believe I'm getting married!--his voice full of wonder and hope.

I can't believe it, either.  How could five years have passed since I brought our pink-and-white baby home from the hospital?  How can we already be done with bottles, diapers, potty-training, and tantrums?  (Okay, three out of four's not bad.)  How can my youngest, the baby, already be telling jokes, drawing masterpieces, taking showers, asking if he can drive, and be in full-time Jedi training?  How can his funny, spunky personality already have seen five Christmases and Easters?

And who taught him, in those five years, to hold the door open for his mom every single time she walks through it?  Not me.  Who taught him that you say goodbye and goodnight with a crisp kiss on each cheek, ala the French?  Still not me.  (Our family usually hugs.) And who taught him that, even at his advanced age of five, mom and dad's bed is still the comfiest place to get a good night's sleep? Definitely not me.  Mostly, I want to know who taught him that a lollipop is a good way to top off his breakfast, any and every day of the week?  (It was me, okay?  It was most definitely me.)

I want someone to explain to me where the time went.  I've been so busy, I hadn't noticed my children were growing up.  The only thing worse than having your oldest face middle school is having your baby officially out of toddlerhood and into the straight "little kid" category.  I've long since graduated from Young Motherhood, but this birthday eliminates me from the Mother-of-Young-Children category as well.  I'm toast.  (Cue Sunrise, Sunset please.)

In spite of Ethan's treacherous act of getting older, we had a very happy birthday.  Just once in their young lifespan, I allow each of my children a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheeses. (Megan rejected this offer.)  (She is completely terrified of Chuck E.)  (Smart girl.)  So it happened that Year Five was when Ethan's robust boyhood dreams would come true.

We kicked off the big day with the traditional birthday breakfast in bed.
(He likes a glass of bubbly to get him going in the morning.)


As you may have guessed, we followed up this meal with a much-needed haircut.
(Why can't we pull off the long-retro-curls thing with E's gorgeous locks?  It just doesn't work.)

Hours of anguished waiting later, it was finally time to meet Chuck E.
He did not disappoint.
Sorry about cutting off your head in this photo, Chuck E.  
But at least I didn't do it for real.
Which is what I really wanted to do.


The kids were invited to dance with the creepy oversized mouse Chuck E., 
but Ethan had other plans.


Isn't this a sweet picture of the birthday boy and an adorable little girl
helping him blow out the candles?  
At least, we assumed she was adorable.  
We didn't know her.
At all.
She just wandered over and helped herself to our cupcakes. By the end of the night, three other anonymous girls had followed suit.  We didn't mind.
Their parents are the ones who had to worry about stranger danger.
No skin off our frosting.


A young stud who knows he looks tough in the 
world's coolest crown.
(Which apparently doubles as a flotation device.)
You cannot imagine the sweaty head that lurked beneath that latex.


A good-lookin' (okay, tired and greasy) crew.
Notice Chuck E.'s frazzled gaze in the background, still
reeling from Megan's rejection.

All kidding aside, we actually had a great time at the "restaurant," and the pizza is really not that bad (concedes the hostess, three slices later.)  The kids played, danced, ate, and spent tokens like high rollers in Vegas drunk off orange Crush.  It was such a hoppin' party, in fact, that we all stayed an hour longer than we'd planned--and on a school night!  (No one accuses me of not being a fun mom.)  The highlight of the evening, however, awaited Mr. E. when we arrived home:


This gift from Mom and Dad went over like an inflatable red crown embedded
with gold tokens:  beautifully!  And he's a pretty impressive shooter, too.

Impressive--and adored--in so many ways.
Let the years keep on coming.
We're loving every minute of it.

Happy Birthday, Easy E!