Calling all Commissary shoppers!

So saving money seriously makes me high! (So does spending money, but that's another story...)  And I love to share all my money saving tips with everyone.  Whether they care or not...  I guess it enhances the high. ;) So I share now with you, my best tip for saving money on groceries.

In my last two grocery store trips, I saved a total of $76.00 in coupons.  Amazing right?!  So I'm going to let you in on how.

I've always been a coupon user.  From the time I was 5 or 6, I'd clip my dad's coupons for him every Sunday.  He'd read the paper while I read to him the deals; he'd answer yea or nay, and I clipped accordingly.  A little nugget of wisdom he passed on to me then:  "No matter how great the savings a coupon offers, it's only saving money if you'd buy it anyway".

When you buy the Sunday paper, it's a crap shoot.  I mean yeah, there are coupon preview sites which help, but there are variances place to place.  And let's face it, some weeks you may only save $3.00.  The paper is going to eat at least $2.00 of that savings.  Then you need to go through and do all the clipping... Ugh.  But I still always did it because overall, it was a good amount of savings.

I was always a casual coupon user, but really started getting into couponing back in New Jersey.  As a stay at home mom on a budget it was a lot more important; but also a lot easier at the commissary.  At the commissary the prices are amazing! Yeah, I know there's a surcharge (WTH?!), but there's no sales tax... so I always just look it as that.  Normally it's hard to get a great price on name brands even with coupons.  At the commissary however, it's cake!  Then came,, and  And Sunday papers from the Dollar Tree!   Score!  Not to mention the coupons all over the commissary. 

But once I got to Hawaii, Dollar Tree was no longer an option, and the Sunday coupons here really blew.  I was at a loss as to how to keep my savings high going, and my budget under control.  I did a little online surfing for coupons and discovered... wait for it... EBay.  Duh.  I guess I had always thought of it as some place where crazy people sold junk.  But no... there are coupons!  It's not legal to sell coupons, but you can charge people for your time and efforts in collecting coupons! lol  So get this, you can get 100 coupons (in the average packet) for $2.00 (including shipping).  Let's recap:  You get so many more coupons without the annoying clipping for the same price as the Sunday paper!  Killer!  I do still use the online coupon sites too!

So my shopping trip today cost me $4.00 in EBay fees, which made for an overall savings of $35.50.  Saving even an average of $20.00 a trip would save $520.00 a year! (Helloooo Ipod touch I've been jonesing for!)  I spent $240.00 and walked away with 2 full shopping carts, including: 2 cans of Enfamil, 2 cases of diapers, (those alone would normally run $80.00 right there!) and other higher ticket items.  And remember, these are Overseas prices!  So imagine how much you could lower your bill too!

If you know other commissary shoppers that would like to know about this nifty thrifty tip, hit the facebook or twitter buttons at the bottom of this post to share the tip!  And if you have any saving tips to share with other readers, leave a comment!

Fall is here!

Dboy in his froggy get up
Ahh....  I love fall!  I can't put the feeling into words.  Fall brings so many wonderful things!  Crunchy leaves, spicy beverages (I love you Starbucks!), crunchy rainbow leaves under your feet, costumes, pumpkins, candy, and best of all... FALL TELEVISION PREMIERES!  I am love, love, loving all the premieres!

K the lovable puppy
I've always said t.v. is "the devil" (remember "Waterboy"?)... lol  it sucks me in so badly!  I've always loved a good escape from reality.  A good mystery, thrill, laugh.  With things as chaotic as they've been lately, fall couldn't have come at a better time!

Among my favorites this year: Parenthood, Glee, NCIS, Desperate Housewives, Modern family, and Cougar town.  So have they sucked you into too?

Kekito stuffing his face last year with Reeces

Seriously though, I think the highlight I'm most looking forward to is Halloween.  It's my favorite "holiday".  I loved the magic of pretending to be something neat each year.  Now getting to see my boys have that same fun is somehow even better!  This year I think Kekito will finally be able to really enjoy Trick or treating!  Last year his bedtime was before sunset, and we only got to go out on a little walk in his Elmo costume.  He did get lucky though- someone ran out a Reece's cup for him!  This year he is so social, and I can just imagine how much he's going to enjoy parading around in his puppy costume.  Already he's wanting to wear it for hours around the house!

Now all I have to do is negotiate with the hubs who gets to take him out on the first round!

Pure genius: The mama dramas

The mama dramas... Go check on it!  For real, it's pure awesomeness.  If you are a mommy, wife (& wives to be), or husband, then I hereby demand it.

Mama blogger Mary is hilarious!  She and her husband created their first episode of their new web series, "The Mama Dramas" loosely based on her life.  Her web series "Mama Mary Show" is equally entertaining!

The first episode finds Mary and her husband going out on date night.  She provides entertaining tips & quips.  And my favorite part- the self professed Twitter addict makes a deal with her husband that if he catches her checking her Twitter on her beloved IPhone one more time... BJs every night for a week!  Oh snap!  Hilarious...  I am dying for the next episode already!

I won't spoil how that one ends for you- go watch it... now! ;) ENJOY!

"When I grow up" I want to work for Early Intervention

So I've been trying to figure out "what I want to be when I grow up" for a long time now.  I've bounced ideas around like crazy.  As a child I wanted 5 different careers all at once.  When I was 19 I decided I really wanted to be a teacher and have an impact on lives at the high school level.  I felt for a long time that that was what I was meant to do.

When I got out of the military and began to pursue a degree.  Going to online school was my only real option at the time.  Of the credible schools I could afford, teaching just wasn't going to be a choice.  So I was back to the drawing board.  Determined to get my degree finally over with I decided to get a business degree and hope I could work in some capacity with the Veteran's Administration.  The one thing I knew for sure at this point was that I wanted to help people for a living.  But even the idea of working with the VA wasn't entirely fulfilling to me.  I really had a desire to help young people, knowing that I would essentially play a part in changing their futures; hopefully for the better.

Well wouldn't you know that Autism has turned out to be a huge blessing for me?  I had never once thought of working with special needs babies and toddlers.  Working with K's first teacher, seeing how much she changed his life, our life, and his future got me thinking.  After the problems arose with K, school was put on the back burner.  It quickly became clear that I'd have to wait until he was in school before I could begin to finish my own.  As much as I want to get it done now it's freed me up to attend a brick and mortar school later; thus giving me greater options.  I decided once and for all that I want to work for Early Intervention.  I think this close encounter has given me my calling.

What brings me to writing about this today? I spoke with the child psychologist who diagnosed K and she told me she's never seen a mom work so diligently, thoroughly, or effectively with their child.  She then told me that she hoped that when my boys were in school maybe I would consider getting a degree and working for Early Intervention.  I laughed and told her that was absolutely already my intention.  She said that was good because I seemed to have a knack for it and have first hand experience now.  She said they are always looking for this, "because there's just no substitute for that when someone is just starting out, and you just can't teach that".

Hope that doesn't sound like tooting my own horn- that's totally not my intention.  Publishing this makes me worry about that because I've never been good at getting my points across the right way, lol.  It's just that her comments made me grin ear to ear! Having her professional experience validate my potential competence to do this work for a living utterly made my day!  I had to just get out my excitement somehow!  So why not shout it to the world?

For more on Early childhood intervention... click here

Monday funday!

Today was a really fun day for us.  We went to my niece's 3rd birthday party, and it was great!  She got lots of awesome toys... which K will thoroughly enjoy : P (and will cause many screeching matches to come). 

K enjoying some birthday frosting
Days like this make me feel blessed to have my little bit of family here on the island.  Technically Saree is not my sister.  Not by blood.  But in every other way.  We met at just 7 years old when we moved next door to each other.  From then on we were inseparable!  Even down to our extended family members we've become forever intertwined. 

We've maintained an insanely close bond through cross country moves, long separations, both our military careers & our husband's military careers (and all the PCSing that entails...), babies, love, and heartaches.  We've been there through it all for each other conquering any time, distance, or space.

Being isolated on an island, I can't tell you the blessing it is to be just a hop skip and a jump away from family.  Having someone who knows me to the core to laugh with, cry with, and share all life's struggles with is amazingly therapeutic!  All I can say is God sure does know what he's doing!  While my family couldn't pick up and follow me when I needed it... God put me across a continent, and across an ocean with someone just as special!

K and my nephew at the party.
Saree- Thank you for being my rock these days with all the madness and stress.  Thank you for making me laugh until I think I might pee my pants! 

To all my other amazing friends- Wishing so much you could be here with me too!  I appreciate deeply all your love and support over the years.  My life has been so blessed by so many.  If I had the energy left in me, I'd write an ode to you all! ;)

Point is:  There's something special about the friends you call family- because you choose to call them family.  I challenge everyone to take the time today to tell a close friend how meaningful they are in your life!  It may just make their day to know they are treasured.

From "G.I. Jane" to mommy mechanic

Me on top of a KC-10 back in the day

So there I was in the kitchen taking apart my son's mag-na-doodle, and desperately trying to keep it from his prying eyes.  I knew that if he saw it my day would be shot and he'd be asking me to draw "clues" (Thanks Steve, Joe, & Blue...) on a broken doodler.

I stood there trying to figure out how best to fix the broken components and unscrewing various pieces when my muscle memory triggered thoughts of being a mechanic on KC-10 aircraft.  I thought how funny it was that I went from changing tires dang near as big as I am to fixing all these little broken gadgets.  What a change of pace my life has taken in the last few years...  I went from chasing after jets shouting, "I'll get the oil!", to chasing after a toddler and a baby screaming, "Get that out of your mouth... NOW!"

KC-10 in a desert sunrise

When I realized I couldn't fix it without the super glue I don't have, my heart sunk.  In that moment I realized how much I love chasing after my boys and how much I love making them happy.  Be it fixing their toys, baking cupcakes, or... (dare I say it?) even drawing "clues".

Sure, being a full time stay at home mom can be rough, but I think that all the little smiles, cuddles, and the memories they are making make it all worthwhile.  I've been wanting to get back to work lately, but I'm thinking now it had better wait until K has done all his work with his skills trainer and is off to preschool.  I've survived being a full time mommy mechanic thus far; I think I can stick it out until January!

...And that's why I Blog!

Danny Boy, 9 months
 So over there at SITs site today is day number 5 of the "Back to Blogging Week".  The theme for the day is to answer the question: "Why do I blog?". 

I've actually asked my self this a lot.  Especially after taking two long breaks from it and then returning two times!  I started this on a lark when my friend Lesley told me about her blog and suggested that I might really love one and should start it. 

Life got really busy about that time.  I was newly pregnant with Danny Boy and just starting to realize that maybe my oldest son wasn't "neuro-typical".  We went on a long excursion to California which severely limited my computer access- so there's the first break in my blogging adventure.  The second break started (and lasted a very very long time) when Kekito started Early intervention.  I was so desperate for his outlook to improve that I poured all of my time into his therapies.  Well... all the time I wasn't exhausted at least, my last pregnancy really wiped me out badly.

So once the dust started to settle after Danny Boy was born I realized that I had been thinking of my blog over and over both times I was away.  It was something I missed.  It was something I was not content to just stop doing forever.

So it made me ask why am I doing this?  What I really think most is that even if no one is reading, it makes me feel heard.  It's like my own little diary were I can put all my thoughts into the world; my catharsis.  It's amazing to be able to look back at everything and be able to be proud of something I've accomplished for myself- lately I've really lost myself in motherhood, marriage, and autism.  I've had zero time for me and have lately been feeling like I am mourning the loss of "Jill as we knew her".  But getting back into blogging and keeping it up(!) are really helping me to re-establish that time an sense of being.  I love being able to look back and see what all has gone on in my life.  I like seeing how my son has improved; how much both my boys have grown.

Blogging is something I love and will continue doing for me and my family!  And hopefully 1 or 2 interested readers.

My inspiration has a first name... it's M-o-M-m-Y...

Continuing with the SITs Girls "Back to Blogging" theme, I am writing today about the woman who most inspires me.  While there are so many woman who greatly inspire me and whom have impacted my life; none are quite like my mom.

She is one of 12 kids- that right there is amazing!  And she truly has the patience of a saint. 

She met my dad on a blind date just before she turned 16, and they are still in love today (a whole other inspiring story).  She has taught me how to love.  How to love God; how to love your partner in life; how to love your children; how to love friends; how to love even those who are less desirable to have in your life.  Love is the most important part of our human experiences; and this I learned in great part from her.

Being a mom now has given me a whole other insight to how patient she is.  I always admired that about her, but now it's multiplied immeasurably.  Mothering a toddler with Autism has been extremely challenging and so much of the way I cope and manage his daily interactions are based on the life lessons learned from mom.  She is a Registered Nurse and takes care of people day in and day out. Her whole life is devoted to helping others.  Once she was given a little plaque that said, "Nurses have real patience".  I like that play on words, because it is unbelievably true of my mom.  I actually think of that plaque often.  I remember it at least once a month when I consider my mom and her gift of great patience.  I've complimented her many times on it, and the funny thing is she is so humble and often says she really doesn't think her patience is so great.  If she only knew.  Maybe me putting this out to the whole world will help her to really believe how much I mean it!

I look back now on all the things she did for us growing up, like teaching us to bake, clean, and take care of ourselves, and so many other things and realize now how much work it is to be responsible for another human's life and outcome!

My greatest goal in life is to mother my sons and be appreciated half as much as my mom has succeeded.

Making it official!

Yesterday was a game changer.  Kekito was OFFICIALLY diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It's amazing what a relief it was to have the psychologist emphatically say that it was obvious and to immediately start him on 10 hours a week with a skills trainer. 

Obviously, it's not that I am glad the is has Autism, but I am so glad that he is going to finally get more therapy!  Also it just feels like a weight off my shoulders.  The "what if I'm wrong" somehow?  I didn't want to be the crazy person convinced my son was autistic then turn out wrong; because I would have felt really badly for selling him short of his abilities.  I don't think I am saying this right. Sigh.... Anyway, so many people in my life that did not get to see him regularly have seemingly tried to make me feel nuts for feeling like I knew he had it.  The thing is that at this point, after all the work we've done at such an early age, he is very high functioning.  I'm sure the people in my life meant well, they probably thought they were reassuring me.  In reality it made me feel paranoid.  But I kept thinking to myself, I am the only person in his entire life who has spent this much time with him; we need to figure this out.

I am so glad I've stuck through this far, and with the progress he's made so far, I think his future looks so bright... "I'll need sunglasses" ;)  Really though.  Going from nonverbal and non responsive before the iron fix and Early Intervention, the difference is astounding and encouraging!

If you ever have concerns for your baby's development, don't hesitate to call EI (birth-3).  Even if all it does is give you piece of mind!  The earlier the intervention, the better the result in most cases!

wow, I could have had another pregnancy almost complete since my last post

Here is a post I wish had been read more.  Not sure totally why.  But I guess mostly I want to make sure others are aware of the things I was not; and to re-assure moms who second guess their guts like I did.

It's been awhile yet again. Life has been up and down. I guess keeping up with this has been an overwhelming thought for me. =)
I have no free time really, so I guess that would be why.

Since my last post- right about that time actually- K started the Early Intervention program. Every moment I've had since then has been spent working with him and his therapy strategies.

He appeared to have many autistic traits; which is how it all began. Since working on the intervention, he has made leaps and bounds! He is now mostly caught up developmentally. He is behind in some areas but not enough to be considered a delay any longer.

At first I thought he was 100% improved (by my standards he is 500% improved!), but upon seeing him with many of his peers I believe he does have High Functioning Autism. I think had we not had the intervention it would have been worse. Even just looking at pictures now, I feel like I am looking at a different person I knew in another life. Before EI he wasn't making any eye contact. VERY few of our pictures have him looking into the lens. The few there are, are ones I had to twist and contort into place to get with a quick button finger. Now we have MANY smiling photos.

Adding my second son to the mix has meant even less time for myself and things like my blog. I look at his gorgeous smile and have mixed feelings most days. He will be six months old soon. I see his smiles and interaction and see Kekito's same faces and babbling. It makes me sad that those days are gone. It makes me happy that I have an easy reminder to help me remember those beautiful moments. It makes me happy to see how much closer K has gotten back to that. It makes me sad once more to realize that Danny may loose those same moments with me. K did not begin having problems until around seven months old. I look forward to seeing Danny grow, but hold my breath and dread the few coming months. Being a boy, being in NJ, being the sibling of K; combined all make him at a higher risk. It has been such a challenge. I cry often about the future K could have had and wonder what it will be like for him. I see there is still potential for a bright future, but will it be reached? Will he be happy? I want him to be able to have a family and love the way that I love. I don't want to see him hurt by the shunning of his peers (as it is already happening, and breaking my heart). I don't want to see Danny go through the same.

It's hard to wonder over and over if any of it is my fault. I feel such immense guilt. I know there are genetic factors likely, but I believe it was largely linked to a lack of iron (long story). All the time lines add up perfectly to that as a cause to trigger it. I saw a special on PBS about genetics. It talked about things being in your DNA but with an "Off switch", and explained that certain triggers turn the switch "On". I think a lack of Iron turned Autism on. I bounce back and forth between blaming myself and my pediatrician. I should have listened to my gut. He rubbed me wrong at every visit, and I kept meaning to switch....

I know that beating myself up won't change it. But the fact that autism won't change means I'll probably never stop.

At least with Danny I know to listen to my gut more and not make the same mistakes. This time around, I know what I am looking for. I am forever grateful to God for giving K a playmate to always love him.

My very first Blog.... I think? (re-posted)

Back to blogging week at SITS- and our first assignment is to re-post our very first blog post, so here mine is.  One of my very good friends suggested I start one, and start one I did.  It's getting there! It's starting to resemble a blog! ; )

I'm not so sure about what all this blog stuff is.... I think the first time I heard the word was about.... a year ago? Long after I had been reading people's "blogs" (little did I know....). I've written journals on personal networking sites... not sure if that counts.
Well anyway, I guess I'll just use the first phase of this experience to tell you about myself.

I am a CALIFORNIA GIRL! Through and through till the day I leave this Earth! I used to be a mechanic on airplanes in the military. Now I am a fulltime mom and online student- it's oh so exciting. Mmmm- mostly just really tiring. I wish I was in Diego Garcia instead sometimes- so far from the world!

Anyway. I am just pretty dang happy with life. I have my days... weeks... sometimes months.... but I just can't tell you how much I just feel like I'm on the verge of discovering something great and new each day. Even if it's a teeny-tiny something amazing- it's an amazing life none the less.

Thinking about my first giveaway...

So I have been really getting back into blogging, and my steam is building!  Lately I've been thinking about diving into my first giveaway! 

It's something I'll for sure be doing soon; but I'm trying to think of some things readers might really enjoy!  I do plan on reviewing and giving away a bottle of Avon ANEW Clinical stretch mark smoother next month. For this month, however, I am not sure if I should start with a gift card, or something awesome I can offer a review on!

So please let me know the sorts of things you'd be interested in seeing here as our very first ever giveaway!

Attention Defecit Disorder has my full attention (just about)...

Sigh...  I don't know where to begin about the topic of ADD.  It's been affecting my life in so many ways lately.  Today I was so bummed when one of my best friends told me she got ADD meds.  We both have been thinking lately about how badly we need to get on meds, and we both made Dr. appointments.  Well, i guess there is a big difference between Air Force doctors and Marine Core doctors.  We both were previously diagnosed; but she was prescribed meds, and I was referred to a psychiatrist to get them sometime in the next few weeks.  I know they have to look out for drug seekers (which I am not... but I realize they wouldn't know that), but man I am going to have a rough time getting ADD medication if I am not allowed to bring my boys to the appointments!

I was diagnosed with ADD close to 10 years ago.  It made my whole life make sense all of a sudden.  It was a complete and utter shock to realize that not everyone else in the world felt like I did.  Sometimes I still wonder how most "average" people think and feel, because there's just no way of knowing....

...Or is there?  I am hoping that being on ADD medication will give me a more "normal" sense of normal.  I tried for a long time to resist them and focus on behavior modification.  I am a firm believer in using medications only as necessary.  I have now reached that point of necessary!

One good book all ADDer's (or those who dearly love and ADDer) may want to read : You mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?!  This book is simply a must read!