Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hopefully the last weekend of doublers for a while...

I'm ready for a break!  For the 4th week in a row, Alberstons put doublers in the paper.  Couponing takes a lot of work, not to mention that I have been getting up early and going shopping, before things sell out!  I went to Wal-mart this week too, to price match Tide since Albertsons did not have "Free and Gentle" that I use to wash cloth diapers.  Here are this week's purchases: 5 boxes (big boxes this week!) of Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 box of Lucky Charms, 2 boxes Saltines, 6 boxes Barilla pasta, 10 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 2 frozen Marie Callenders pies, 4 jars pasta sauce, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, 5 boxes Pasta Roni, 2 cans coconut milk, 2 cans evaporated milk, 1 frozen orange juice concentrate, a canister of hot cocoa mix, a gallon of milk, Crisco oil, a bag of hash browns (OreIda is local here!), 4 boxes of cream cheese, 4 cans Progresso soup, a bottle of Tide, 2 bottles juice, a pack of 4 cans of sparkling juice, 2 bottles Aveeno body wash, 2 bags of marshmallows, and a bag of Twix minis (for Aaron's stocking!  Don't tell him!).  The total cost before sales and coupons was $206.71.  I paid $77.18.  Eventually, I might even be under budget for groceries!  :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Couponing is addicting!

Albertsons had doublers for the 3rd week in a row last weekend (and there are rumors of double coupons coming AGAIN this weekend!).  It was also the first weekend I got 5 Idaho Press-Tribune newspapers delivered to my door!  I ended up buying 3 more newspapers at the store, which meant I had 24 doublers to use!  I definitely added to our stockpile!  This week's purchases include: 10lbs flour, 4 lbs powdered sugar, 4lbs brown sugar, 4 bottles of juice, 6 cans Progresso soup, 2lbs Tillamook cheese, a gallon of milk, a loaf of bakery French bread, 2 cans of cranberry sauce, 4 boxes of brownie mix, half gallon of soy milk, 5 packages of Oreos, 2 bags Werther's candies, yeast, 12 bags of microwave popcorn, 2 cans of SpaghettiOs, a package of Bear Creek soup mix, 8 jars of applesauce, a box of cake mix and frosting, 8 Yoplait yogurts, a sippy cup for Nolan, and a bottle of iced tea.  The total value of all my purchases was $252.84.  After sale prices, 3 trips to the store, 8 transactions, and more than 50 coupons, I paid $59.46.  I could get used to this.  I don't think I'm obsessed or addicted, but, embarrassingly, there have been multiple times when I have been woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby and realized that i have been dreaming about coupons.  How could you not be excited about saving so much money???

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Daily Battle With Poland Syndrome

Many people have commented on my previous post (I Have Poland Syndrome) that they admire my courage and bravery in sharing my birth defect with the world. They appreciate that I look on the bright side and love life, being confident that God made me this way for a reason.

Well, I want to let you in on a little secret... I'm not courageous. I'm not brave.

I'm self-conscious.

Now, some of you might think that I am courageous relative to others that have Poland Syndrome. Others with this birth defect are afraid to even tell their closest friends that they have a misshapen body and a figure that would get stares from people at the pool or beach. That may be true, but it is hiding the whole truth.

The reality is that all of my family and friends often forget that I even have Poland Syndrome. They thought it was interesting at first, and now they don't even notice it. It is not who I am, it's just what's under my shirt.

The real battle is with my own self-image. I still see my one-sided chest every morning. Every day I see my puny right bicep and thin arm. When I have my shirt off at the pool, I often intentionally put my towel over my right shoulder in order to hide my missing right pec muscle. When I pose in photos, I often intentionally stand on the left side of people to show off my left bicep rather than exposing my right. These are things I think about.

The first photo above was taken four years ago when we moved to Portland. I have this photo in a frame by my desk at work and every time I look at it, it reminds me how I purposefully stood that way to hide my right arm. I like the way I look in it because it shows off my left bicep and pec muscle.

The second photo was taken about a month ago. In this photo, I immediately look at my right arm and see how small it looks. Many would say "Aaron, it doesn't look small. It's not a big deal," but it looks small to me. I struggle with focusing on all of the joys in the photo. I'm not ignoring my beautiful wife and cute son on a beautiful day at the pumpkin patch, it's just that my eyes keep panning down to my arm.

This is the battle of self-image that I struggle with. It's not eating me up inside or anything. I live a pretty normal life. Most of my time is spent thinking about work and my loving family that I come home to every day. But those other times of the day when I am daydreaming or looking at photos, I see a man who is not as physically attractive as I would like to be.

The life-long battle of being self-conscious is one that will never end. I am constantly fighting these self-image issues and accepting the fact that I am different. Some days I love being different, while other days I wish I had a normal chest and two normal arms. It's a battle that I don't think I'll ever win... but I don't ever plan on losing the battle either.

God tells us in the Bible that although I want to do good and think good thoughts, evil is right there with me. The battle of my flesh is raging with what I know God wants: He wants me to focus on the love that Jesus covers us matter what we look like. My body will eventually waste away and die, and it is what's in my heart and soul that counts. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ!

Related posts:
I Have Poland Syndrome
My Tattoo
Will My Child Have Poland Syndrome?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reflecting on God's Faithfulness

I was hunched over, face on the floor, crying out to God. Two and a half months ago, at the beginning of the school year, I was alone. I moved here to Ontario, Oregon, without my wife and son. My evenings were excruciatingly lonely and filling with worries about what the middle schoolers might do to me the following day.

Each night I had to put together sad, pathetic meals with only plastic silverware and paper plates. After living in a comfortable motel for a week with a cozy bed, I moved into an apartment with no furniture and empty cupboards.

I couldn't wait for my family to join me.

Now, after surviving one quarter as a full-time middle school math teacher in the poorest county in Oregon, I can see God's faithfulness. At the time, I felt like I would never get through the stress and pain of being a new teacher in a new school in a small town far away from the city I know so well. I'm currently feeling relief as I am beginning to get into a comfortable rhythm as a teacher. Tonight I ate a warm, delicious meal cooked by my beautiful wife. We have also been crawling around on the floor, playing with my cute son.

Even though life feels much better now, we are still experiencing stress and pain. I still work 65+ hour weeks as a new teacher. It's difficult to keep from thinking about anything other than solving for x and trying to figure out who is throwing the damn paper airplanes in class. I can't spend as much time with my family even when I know that I need to. Life is still really hard right now.

Thankfully, I look back on how God was faithful to me when I was hunched over, alone, crying on the floor of my empty apartment. He brought me my family and a warm meal. And he will do it again. There is a lot to look forward to.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Great deals at Albertsons this week!

Not quite"extreme" couponing like on TV, but I am pretty proud of myself.  Included in today's purchases: 9 boxes of cereal, 18 cans of vegetables, 4 cans of pineapple, 2 bottles of Torani syrup (can't live without it now that the closest Starbucks is a solid 30 minute drive away), 4 boxes of Jell-o pudding mix, 2 jars of peanut butter, 4 cans of SpaghettiOs, 4 boxes of pasta, 12 bags of microwave popcorn, a dozen eggs, and two 2.5lb beef roasts (yum, pot roast!).  The total value? $163.16. I spent (drum roll please)...$65.71!  AND, I have $9 in Catalina coupons to use on my next purchase.  :)

Learning to coupon

I have decided that I am going to learn to coupon. I decided to start with Rite Aid, which has a straight forward rewards system and is very coupon friendly.  In the past month I have scoured blogs, printed way too many coupons from the internet, and sharpened my math skills calculating the best deals.  I ended up with a free tube of toothpaste, free chapstick, 38 cent boxes of Kleenex, and got PAID to buy Zicam (cold medicine).  So now I am expanding to couponing for groceries, and working on building a stockpile.  I added Albertsons to my weekly calculations.  These are pictures of the deals I got last week (10/30/11): Tide, two bottles of conditioner, a bottle of shampoo, two packs of gum, two boxes of cereal, two bottles of corn syrup (for Special K bars as soon as I score some cheap Special K!), cornstarch, baking powder, spices, and ten yogurts for under $12 total.  At least it's not an expensive hobby!  :)