Hand-Me-Downs Aren’t Just Frugal

When I was a child I’m sure I got hand-me-downs from my sister, two years older.  Well, at least until I got taller than her – which happened by the sixth grade.  The fact that I don’t remember wearing her hand-me-downs tells me that I really didn’t care one way or the other.  I’ve never been a clothes horse, so as long as I was dressed in something reasonably comfortable that fit reasonably well and looked reasonably presentable (which didn’t matter until about age thirteen), I was a happy girl.

I hardly ever got new clothes.  We’d do a shopping trip before school started and I’d get a few outfits, one pair of shoes and one pair of sneakers to last me, well, as long as they lasted.  I’d get a few more outfits for Christmas, and every now and again my Dad would buy an item or two, but that was pretty much it.

True, I wasn’t really interested in fashion, so it didn’t bother me.  In retrospect, though, I can see that our limited wardrobes were partly because almost everyone had limited wardrobes in those days, and partly as a result of finances.

Perhaps I was oblivious, but it seemed to me only the really rich girls had huge wardrobes.  I don’t recall any of my friends having more than one pair of “school shoes”, sneakers and perhaps sandals and flip-flops for the summer.  I had enough outfits to not have to wear the same clothes to school twice in about a week and a half, and it seemed to me that many of my friends had similar wardrobes.  We had play clothes for after school – clothes that were stained or torn or slightly too short – fine for around the house.

Even so, my Mom was notoriously terrible with money.  Or she had holes in her hands.  If given a choice between spending money on clothes and spending it on daily trips to Carvel, we shivered our way through soft chocolate on a sugar cone with chocolate sprinkles.  But it wasn’t a conscious choice for my Mom; she just never prioritized.  Never gave it a thought.  Always lived in the present and the past – not a thought for the future.  I’m sure that she dressed me in my sister’s outgrown clothing, and I’m equally sure that helped us keep our electricity running.

Today’s kids seem to have huge wardrobes no matter how much money their parents have.  Sure, some parents spend hundreds of dollars on sneakers and designer jeans and $30 Abercrombie tee shirts (I hope that the parents that buy this way are handing them down from one child to another, but perhaps not, at least if they care about what season’s fashions their children are sporting).

But even on our limited income my own son’s wardrobe is rather large.  He has about forty shirts of varying sleeve length,  ten pair of shorts (we do live in Florida), four pair of jeans and two other pairs of pants, plus an array of sweaters, sweatpants and sweatshirts.  He has one pair of sneakers that fit, and two pair of Crocs (both gifts).  And that doesn’t count the items in larger sizes, held in reserve.

Why so large?  Well, I do admit to a weakness for clothes off the Gymboree clearance rack, and the clearance racks of some of my other favorite stores.  And Grandpa hardly ever meets us for breakfast without a stop at Bealls outlet to see what’s on their clearance rack.  But one of the biggest reasons Son’s wardrobe is so large is that we are the recipient of hand-me-downs from Son’s older cousins.

And they are, without a doubt, his favorites.  He proudly wears A’s Hawaiian shirt, and J’s orange T-shirt is  almost always the first worn when it’s freshly laundered.  And Son tells people that he’s wearing A’s shirt, or J’s tee.  He loves his cousins so much, and gets to see them so seldom.  Wearing their old clothes makes him feel closer to them, and as cool as them, and his happiness makes me smile.

In these uncertain times I’m cutting down on my spending – even clearance rack spending.  It’s good to know that I can count on Son getting more clothes from his cousins.  And I look forward to handing Son’s clothes down to someone else, as more cousins make their appearances…

Is the Flu Shot Necessary? An Alternative by a Genius or a Yahoo – You Decide

Son is asthmatic, so a flu shot has been very strongly recommended by his pediatrician every year since birth. Even though I knew there were some few risks, Son is so susceptible to bronchitis and bronchiolitis we have definitrly been more afraid of what the flu would do. So we’ve had him vaccinated and have been lucky that he had no side effects.  And no flu.

This year Son’s asthma is markedly better. We’re hoping that asthma will soon be in his past, or at the very worst he’ll be left with a very mild case. And now it’s flu shot time again.

For the first time we’re considering not immunizing him, though we probably still will. Husband and I were having a conversation about it yesterday and today he sent me a link with video of a doctor calling into question the effectiveness of the vaccine for children in Son’s age group.

Sigh.

This guy has some interesting things to say.  Why, then, do I think he’s a yahoo?  Husband hears this and gets all nervous about the vaccine.  I hear this guy say that most deaths attributed to the flu are actually caused by pneumonia, therefore the government is lying to us and I roll my eyes.  I’m not a doctor, but pneumonia is a lung infection.  Why is it not possible for the flu to precede, cause or at least create an environment ripe for lung infections, making the flu the proximate cause of death? And therefore acceptable to be included in statistics as a flu death?

Still, I’m open to hearing about other things we can do to stave off the flu.  Aren’t you?

He recommends we take megadoses of Vitamin D to prevent the flu instead.  And he thinks that the best way to get that is through sunlight, though that may be hard to come by in the winter.  So he recommends a tanning bed (aren’t those UNsafe???) for those who won’t be able to bake themselves in sunlight.  If neither of those are an option only then does he recommend taking vitamins, at 2000 international units (iu) per day for a child and 5000 iu per day for an adult.

He asserts that such megadoses of Vitamin D can also help lessen the severity of the flu if you’ve got it.  He recommends 2000 iu per kilogram of body weight taken as one dose every day for three days.

I know that last year’s flu shot was a big bust.  But I think I have to trust the doctor we’ve known for nearly five years when he tells us that this year’s shot is much better, that they learned a great deal from last year’s debacle, and that all of the metals that Dr. Yahoo warns us about are ever-present in our bodies.  Still, I’m going to call Son’s Doctor on Monday to ask about the Mercury.  Mercury scares me ever since Mr. Ski, my 7th grade science teacher,  told us that Mercury ingested now can kill us 10, 20 or even thirty years later.  As we made our own thermometers with real Mercury.  Nightmares, I tell you.

This is the double-edged sword that is the internet.  There is so much information out there that we have no way of knowing if the source is credible.  How do I even know this guy is truly an MD?  And believe me,  if there’s a conspiracy theory to be found, Husband will find it.

As I keep telling him, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Accident Schmaccident

Son got bit at school on Friday.

This didn’t thrill me, but I wasn’t angry. Kids do these things, I understand. The boys were arguing over whose turn it was to use the bathroom (is anyone surprised this story is potty-centric?). I wanted to find out what happened, how it was handled and what, if anything, needed correction. I was not irate about it, I just was being a responsible, parent, following up on a incident at school.

This morning as I dropped Son at school I approached the teachers to talk about it. The head teacher proceeded to tell me what happened, emphasizing that she didn’t see the actual bite occur, as she was outside on the playground. She told me that Son had gone inside “without permission” and tried to enter a bathroom that another boy, who HAD gotten permission, had just entered (Son, obviously, should have waited his turn).

What I didn’t like was the teacher continually stressing that Son didn’t have permission while the other boy did. If she had mentioned it once it would not have risen my ire, but with every question I had she just kept hammering that point home, never really answering my questions. I maintained that if Son was inside without permission then:

A. Neither Son nor the other boy were being properly supervised, and

B. Whether or not he had permission to be inside was irrelevant to the other boy choosing to bite and the school’s subsequent handling of the incident.

I couldn’t get her to get past the permission issue to give me the details of what actually happened. I understand that she’s just trying to mitigate her own culpability (which the school director later dismissed as “human nature”) in this molehill incident, but her unwillingness to shift and discuss the actual incident was giving me a mountain of frustration and irkedness.

The other thing that kept me from just letting it go was that they kept calling it “an accident”. I immediately took issue with that characterization. It was most decidedly NOT an accident. Dropping a book on one’s toe is an accident. This was a deliberate act; an incident; the result of a poor choice. This is not an indictment of nor judgment about the child, but he – and Son – and the other children – need to understand that it was a poor choice to bite. NOT an accident. I don’t believe it serves Son or the other boy to whitewash what happened, or give them a way to dismiss poor behavior by shifting the accountability from themselves to whatever nebulous being in the karmic universe causes accidents.

Completely unsatisfied by the conversation with his teacher, and given that the teacher was unable to give me any more information, she suggested I speak with the school director. She wasn’t there yet, so I arrived before the normal pickup time to meet with her.

It was equally unsatisfying, for more reasons than I’ll talk about here. First, her story about what happened was very different from the teacher’s. I pointed out to the director this was not the first time I’d seen children slip unnoticed from the playground into the building, and have in fact stopped a few myself. This she dismissed with excuses that the children see their mother is coming (sometimes, but often I am the only parent approaching), and that the teachers are busy trying to ensure that each child leaves with the correct parent (a very important task).

I’m sorry, but if your system isn’t working develop a new one.

In my meeting with the director I also learned why the word “accident” is used so liberally, and incorrectly. When something like this happens each child gets a report in their file. The “offender” gets an “Incident Report”; the “offendee” an “Accident Report”. It’s so very ingrained in their vernacular to use the word “accident” that getting the school to use a more fitting word just is not going to happen. These are government forms. A very poor choice of words, likely designed to discourage litigation. Anyone think I can get the state to change the name of the forms? Me neither.

I’m a pretty good communicator, at least most of the time. I know and understand that often these things happen so quickly they’re over before even the most attentive parent or teacher can react. I did not enter Son’s school today planning to make a big fuss about the incident. Just find out what happened, have them tell me, have them assure me that if there was anything they could do better, they would, and if there was anything I could do better, they’d tell me that, too. Then move on.

Apparently that’s too much to expect.

Should it be?

Deal of the Day July 2, 2008

It’s double Too Bucks time over at Limited Too. For every $50 spent you’ll earn two $25 Too Bucks and two $15 bonus cards to use on future purchases. This is really a terrific deal, and the best I’ve ever seen from this retailer of girls apparel, shoes, and accessories. Perfectfor back to school!

This is such a good deal that Son is lucky I’m not going to make him wear girl clothes just so I can take advantage. That would be unhealthy. For both of us.

Wouldn’t it?

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Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

Deal of the Day June 28, 2008

The Great Summer Sales are beginning!

The Monster Sale at The Children’s Place offers kid’s apparel, shoes, and accessories at prices of $7.99 and under. As if that weren’t enough, they slice an extra 15% off purchases of $75 or more via coupon code MSAT78. Shipping is a flat rate of just $5. Coupon expires 07/05/2008.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Prevent Drowning – Water Safety Tips for Parents

There’s a large publicity campaign going on right now in my county, and it’s one they do every year. It’s aim is to save lives, particularly of young children. As summer approaches more people all over the counrty will be hitting the swimming pools, lakes and beaches for family fun, so let’s talk safety.

Here in South Florida our pools are open all year, and the risk of accidental drowning is obviously much higher than in places where the pools are closed and covered for 8 months every year. In fact drowning is the #1 cause of death for children ages 1-4 in my home county. That makes me shudder, as does every news story that documents the tragedy.

Here are some things you can do to make sure your children remain safe around the water:

1. Never leave children unattended near any body of water – even for a moment. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water in less than a minute. Be mindful of leaving a child with an older sibling – kids’ attention strays.

2. Install a self-closing gate around the pool. These are mandatory with all new construction here, unless the pool area is fully screened with doors that lock.

3. Alarm every door leading to water to alert you if a child has gone outside. One of my friends has this and believe me, no one will miss the ear-shattering siren that alerts to open doors!

4. Teach children water and swimming skills. The youngest children can be taught to reach for the wall if they fall in, increasing their chances of survival. Check in your area for lessons, or look online to teach them yourself!

5. Designate an adult to watch children during pool parties and family beach gatherings.

6. Remove any toys that may attract children to the pool area. Stow balls, rafts and other items for safety and neatness.

7. Install a safety net pool cover to secure the water area.

8. Install a cordless phone, poolside. No one wants to have to run inside looking for a phone if there’s an emergency in the pool area.

9. Lifesaving equipment – a pole, life preserver and rope – should be kept in the pool area.

10. Clip back or cap long hair. Children with long hair should never leave it loose in the pool.

11. Avoid keeping water in buckets or other large containers when toddlers are home. For people who live in hurricane prone areas make sure you secure rooms if you fill up the tub or buckets during a hurricane warning. Better yet, stock up on bottled water. Better safe…

12. Don’t rely on flotation devices to protect your children in the water. They need to be watched just as closely with floaties as without.

13. Take a CRP class. The Red cross and many other organizations offer these classes for a nominal fee.

This last one isn’t in the materials I read, but since I’ve found out about it I want to pass it along.

14. Know the warning signs for Dry Drowning. People can actually die hours after swallowing water. I’d never heard of this until a friend sent me a link to this article. It is extremely scary to me that this happens. I know I’ve been in the pool with son when he’s swallowed water, and as long as he seemed okay I never, ever would have suspected a problem. And really, would a hospital even know to look for this if you were to bring in your child because he’s tired? Still, please keep an eye out for these warning signs, which are so very easy to overlook:

  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme tiredness
  • changes in behavior

Please, pass this information along.

Your Economic Stimulus Check Didn’t Include Money For Your Kids? You’re Getting Another Check!

The IRS has updated it’s FAQ’s to provide information for those whose Economic Stimulus Check didn’t include money for their kids, or sent the incorrect amount.  This is right from the IRS website:


Q. I received my stimulus payment and it didn’t include money for my kids. Does the IRS plan to send me an additional check?

A: Yes. The Internal Revenue Service will mail out approximately 350,000 additional economic stimulus payments starting in early July after discovering that some tax returns were improperly filed and did not capture the information needed to generate the $300 in qualifying child payments.

In some instances, taxpayers did not check the proper box to trigger the $300 child payment. In other instances, a few tax software products primarily used by tax professionals did not capture the proper information needed for issuing the child stimulus payment.

To fix the problem, the IRS is taking extra steps to identify the affected taxpayers and send them separate checks to cover their qualifying children. The IRS emphasized that the corrected checks will be mailed automatically, and taxpayers don’t need to call or take any additional steps.

The vast majority of tax returns with child payments were completed accurately by taxpayers, tax professionals and software providers. The IRS estimates that more than 99 percent of nearly 36 million returns eligible for child stimulus payments were filled out accurately by taxpayers, meaning that less than 1 percent will need the additional check mail-outs.

The additional payments involving qualifying children will be made starting in early July. These payments will be made by paper check, even if people received their regular tax refund or initial stimulus payment by direct deposit.

Taxpayers in this situation received — or will receive in the next few weeks — stimulus payments falling $300 short per eligible child.

The additional checks will be mailed as the regular weekly round of stimulus payments wrap up in early July. The regular stimulus payment timetable will not be affected by these additional checks.

The issue with the child payments involves the Child Tax Credit checkbox on line 6c, column (4) on Form 1040 and Form 1040A.

For the stimulus payments, IRS systems look for information in the checkbox area to generate the $300 qualifying child stimulus payment. In instances involving paper returns, taxpayers did not check this box when completing their return. In some instances, tax software may not have checked this box, meaning the $300 payment was not triggered.

The IRS has worked closely with the two affected software vendors on this. The IRS appreciates the willingness of these firms to help identify the problem. They have reported to the IRS that their software has been corrected.

The majority of the tax software issues involve commercial versions used by tax professionals and tax preparers. Included are Petz Enterprises’ professional and on-line software as well as ProSystems fx Tax software and on-line CompleteTax software from CCH.

Taxpayers with questions about whether they are affected can contact their tax preparer or software provider.

For taxpayers who haven’t filed a tax return yet, the IRS urges them to update their tax software before filing to ensure proper handling of their economic stimulus payment. Paper filers should make sure to review the eligibility requirements for qualifying children and check the box on line 6c, column (4) if appropriate.

I understand that kinks have to be worked out, and mistakes happen.  But mistakes cost money, both to the government (and, ultimately, you and me) as they correct them, and to the taxpayers who took the word of their government and counted on the money being there when their government said they would.

This is why I don’t count my chickens before they’re hatched.

Deal of the Day June 12, 2008

I know Father’s Day is this week,  but aren’t the kids much more fun to shop for?

The Children’s Place saves $10 on purchases of $75 or more via coupon code MSA68. This coupon should also work with sale items found in their Monster Sale, where merchandise can be bought for $7.99 or less. Expires 06/14/2008.

Sorry Dads!

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Water Pistols and Mimosas

I love traditions. Holiday traditions like decorating the tree to the soothing sounds of Frank Sinatra, birthday traditions like allowing the birthday person to dictate the day’s menu, wedding traditions like wearing your Mom’s necklace – they all make my heart happy. It’s a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself, being a blip on a timeline that started long ago, instead of being the beginning and the end. It’s knowing that others before me have had the same fun I’m having.

Son is only three and though he’s in preschool it’s only two days a week, and it’s not on a school year calendar. Once he is on a somewhat regular calendar I want to start some new school traditions, and I’m going to use my sister’s traditions as a starting off point…

The other night I was on the phone with her and she told me this great story. Every year on the last day of school the Moms in her neighborhood meet the bus with water pistols in hand and promptly start a water fight with the kids as they are getting off the bus. Everyone then heads over to the pool for a School’s Out! Party, and summer has officially begun.

I just love that. They’ve been doing it since he started school, and it’s become something everyone really looks forward to.

This year, though, my nephew tried to prepare. My sister had said nothing about the last day of school plans, but it seems my nephew remembered on his own. The day before he told my sister, “Mom, I’m just going to ride my bike over to the bus stop and come right back. I don’t want you to worry about it.” When she questioned him further he added, very nonchalantly, “I’m just going for a ride with my water pistol, but if I forget to bring it back I don’t want you to worry about it.”

Uh huh.

Later that night he laid out his clothes for the next day and instead of underwear he laid out a swimsuit. “Don’t worry about that, Mom. I just feel like wearing one. Just forget it.”

The next day the Moms were waiting, the water fight was on and the pool party was a blast! Terrific memories were made for each and every kid, and each and every Mom.

The kids aren’t the only ones to have school traditions. Come fall, when it’s time to go back to school after a long, activity-filled summer, my sister will do her yearly tradition to mark the beginning of the school year.

Every year on the first day of school she walks my nephew to the bus and sees him on his way. Then she goes home, takes out the orange juice and the champagne and waits for the other Moms in the neighborhood to arrive for their very own Back to School party.

Isn’t that great? I love it.

I want to have some of our own traditions, too, and I’m sure they’ll develop naturally.

Traditions help mark special days in our lives. What are some of your favorite traditions – back to school or otherwise?

Wish I Had Some Pretend Money

Son is nearly four and has just recently started asking me to buy him things. Last week we were at the airport waiting for some relatives and he eyed the Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk a few feet away.

“I want a donut!” was out of his mouth before the kiosk even registered in my subconscious.

“You do?”

“Yes!”

I looked at him and asked, “Well, do you have any money?” This is my standard response to that type of statement.

He looked at me, reached into his pocket and said, “I have pretend money!” This is his standard response to that type of statement.

“Hmmm,” I replied, “I don’t think the lady will take pretend money. You need real money to buy donuts and toys and food and trains.”

My determined little guy pronounced, “Yes she will!” and proceeded to walk up to the cashier and offer her pretend money in exchange for a donut.

The lady declined, despite the extreme cuteness factor.

I did not buy him a donut. I wanted him to take the lesson with him.

This morning we were in a store and he saw a toy he really wanted. We had the same conversation we had at the airport (with truck substituted for donut), but this time when I told him I didn’t think the lady would take the pretend money he looked at the cashier, looked at the toy and put it back on the shelf.

And my son just learned something about money.

I’d love to find someplace that takes pretend money. I could use me some of that.

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