Friday, June 17, 2016

My Life: Couponing Gone Wrong

Image from page 534 of "Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine" (1912)
I thought this old coupon photo was funny, considering my own coupon problems.
One of the things I find most frustrating about myself is my good intentions that don't work out. For what ever reason, stuff is always forgotten, left behind, unplanned, or just late. I don't want to be that person. But my brain doesn't always process as fast as life demands.

This probably why I've got such a love hate relationship with coupons. I feel good about myself when I save money and get a good deal. But coupons also add stress and pile up in annoying places. I always seem to end up at the store intending to use them only to discover they aren't in my purse, but are still in that pile on the counter. Or I discover they expired or aren't good until the next day.

Couponing is the tired mom-brain's worst enemy. I swear.

I got a coupon to Target at the first of the month. It was one of those kinds that you have to spend a certain amount to get the discount. In this case, I'd save fifteen whole dollars. Target is close and I shop there pretty often so I kept the coupon. Yesterday, I decided to use it. I have some other reward program things going with Target. I do the red card stuff (getting five percent off every purchase) and cartwheel (their coupon app that eliminates that piling up paper problem I mentioned.) I decided to think of things we might need in the next few weeks and see if I could pair them up with my cartwheel offers. Then I'd be getting the best discounts on products I would have to buy in the future anyway. I'd spend a little more today, but would save money in the long run.

I had to take my children. Which isn't so bad, I only have two, but they were bored and my son was crawling on the bottom of the basket area when he wasn't begging to push the cart. He also wanted to scan all the prices on our items on the price checker he found. My daughter announced she had to go to the bathroom and we had to race across the store, my son pushing the cart and my daughter yelling, "Go faster, she's catching up!" Meaning me. Catching up to my children.


At the checkout line, I remembered I needed batteries. The battery station is right by the checkout so I slipped over and tried to make a quick decision. I don't do well with quick decisions. The batteries had coupons on them.  Yeah. I didn't know what to do. Get one package of batteries and ignore the coupon that said I had to purchase two packs to use it? AHHHH!

Meantime it's our turn in the line and my son has loaded everything on the belt while my daughter yells that she wants to help. I picked a package that had no coupons on it and raced over to the checkout. The cashier had already rung up most my items. It was more than I expected. Frazzled, I dug out my wallet, and my phone with the cartwheel app. I remembered I had a gift card for 5 dollars from the last time I was at Target. I pulled it out too.

I handed her the gift card and she scanned it in. When I offered my phone to be scanned to use cartwheel, she informed me it was too late and I couldn't use cartwheel since we'd already progressed to the payment stage, meaning, I'd used that gift card at the wrong part of the checkout process.

I don't usually loose it with cashiers, but as she casually told me "Sorry, maybe next time," my heart dropped to that place were you fill a little sick.

My voice held a borderline panicked tone. "What? No. I'm not buying these things, then. I only got them because there were coupons on cartwheel for them." I really was ready to put everything back but the stuff I needed for that day.

She decided to help me out. She back tracked and scanned cartwheel.

I knew it was all my fault. I'd handed her that gift card too soon. I felt bad for making more work for her and bad for nearly losing my temper. Now anxious, frazzled, and guilty, I apologized too many times and then put in the wrong pin number on my debit card.  When I finally loaded my purchases and headed out, something was nagging at me. I looked over the receipt. Two of my items hadn't rung up their discounts, although the other identical items had rung up as expected. It totaled about a dollar, and I didn't care at that point to go stand in a customer service line for a buck, so I headed out.

At least I got to use cartwheel and the cashier had figured out how to make my gift card work.

I got home, carried my tired two-year-old inside, and started unpacking.

At that point I realized I had never used the original coupon. The one that came in the mail that required a certain amount spent to get fifteen dollars off. The one that was the reason I even went to Target today.

Cue Mommy Overload reaction.

I threatened to return everything to Target, curse their coupon system, and walk out with my money back. Let them keep their stupid items and the stupid coupon. I'd planned this all out! It was supposed to be a feat of superpower-like awesomeness when I couponed like a pro.

I spent ten minutes wondering if there was anything I could do or even if there was, if it was worth it.

I finally came to my senses and realized I'd better not do anything until I ate some lunch. I'm a grumpy sort of person when I haven't eaten and I clearly was not thinking straight. I found my son in his room, apologized for upsetting him (he didn't want me to take everything back) and made everyone peanut-butter and honey sandwiches for lunch. By the time I finished eating, I realized I didn't care about the coupon enough to drag everyone back to the store. All I wanted was to tell someone else about how incredibly frustrated I was with myself and the stupid, complicated system called couponing.

So I wrote a Facebook post in my head were I ranted about it all. Then I realized my rant was turning into book. So I put my daughter to bed and blogged about it.

Seeing my plans come from my head into real life in such a completely scattered, forgetful way is so painful sometimes. Now I feel a little like laughing at myself. Life's okay. I'm going to throw that coupon away and add this experience to my file of couponing disasters. It's a story at least.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Enter Harry Potter

I met Harry Potter in my impressionable early teen years and, like many of you, grew up with him. I read the last book in the series right after the birth of my first child, a son. I remember this clearly for one reason. I had my son in a bassinet right next to me. He was doing nothing but sleeping or breast feeding, but I still felt guilty for not giving that poor sleepy baby my undivided attention. Sorry, baby H. Mommy has got a previous engagement with a wizard named Harry. You will have to eat without me staring at you the whole time. 

I don't do books, any books, in small chunks. I'm a read it to the end sort of person.

But somehow, my son survived me reading Harry Potter in the first few weeks of his innocent life.

And I had never been more satisfied, more thrilled, with the ending of any book or series. It was brilliant.

From that moment on, I became somewhat of a crazy person, trying to create the perfect set of circumstances and timing for my son's eventual introduction to Harry Potter.

When he was three and four, his daddy was telling him the condensed, mostly child-appropriate versions of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

Sorry Luke my kid already knew Darth Vader was your father BEFORE he saw the movie.

I looked at Harry Potter, set it aside and pulled out The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Ramona, and Charlotte's Web.

He loved them. But he played Star Wars and talked about hobbits.

My mom got a Harry Potter Lego game on her phone. I told her and him it was too hard for him to play and did that until he didn't beg to play it whenever we were with her.

But he's played Lego Star Wars a million times.

I didn't let him watch the movies. I kept the exploding cultural movement, including amusement parks and fan art, away from him.

But he had Star Wars action figures.

He did watch Harry Potter Puppet Pals. (I'm Harry Potter, Harry, Harry Potter.) I relented. But, hey, no spoilers! And I think he was under three at the time.

Then something happened. It's called Third Grade. And my little boy started swallowing books whole. We read all five Fable Haven books together, but meanwhile he read the Percy Jackson series by himself. And the Hobbit. We read at least four Redwall books, and still ended up scouring the book shelves. He brought home dragon books, monster books, wizard books, and books about mythical creatures.

In December, I knew it was time.

I'd planned this with precision, but I still hesitated. I wanted the perfect time, and I knew the last books would have more moments of the dark, sad, and deep. I wanted to make sure he was ready to face that. I put it off until spring. But I knew if I didn't open that door with him soon, he'd open it on his own. I was literally telling him to wait.

Wait and read it with me.

Because I'm crazy like that. I wanted to be there when he first heard the story, when he first discovered Harry was a wizard, that owls can bring letters, that wands pick the wizard and flying on brooms can be a sport. I wanted to gift wrap all that wonder, give it to him as undiluted and unsoiled as it came to me, and I wanted to be there for the opening.

And so it began. After years of training him not to ask for more chapters when our bedtime reading was done, I read late, pass bedtimes, and often in the middle of the day to him. The kid is smarter than me. He picks out parts of the book and predicts endings I never saw coming. But I guess he's had training in the form of Tolkien and Brandon Mull, among others.

We finished the first book in record time. And I wanted to savor things. I'd waited years for this. We could read a different book between one and two, couldn't we?


Unless he finds book two in the school library and sneaks it out and starts reading it on his own.

Yes. He did that.

And yes, I made him stop and reread the part he already read with me. Remember that I'm crazy?

We are now almost through book two of Harry Potter and our wizard friend has come to stay. BOOM. Like that.

Yesterday, he repeated wingardium leviosa so many times it got stuck in my head. Then he started singing it. I had to tell him to stop. He found another spell to sing about.

Enter Harry Potter.
No closing that door again. And my two year old daughter will never get the pure, unspoiled version.

Because he's already taught her to ride brooms in the backyard.

They say you're less crazy with the second child.

Maybe that's because we don't get a choice.