Clothing my Kids for Free

Or really close to it! Jidge is 3, I have spent about $100 combined in his life on his clothing and that counts shoes and socks. My daughter is only 4 months but I have a wardrobe organized and stored through 2T and I have spent $20 ($8 on hairbands, of course, and $12 on baby leggings).

How have I managed this? My kids are out in public fully clothed everyday and living in Ohio that is actually 3 wardrobes (winter, spring/fall, summer) spanning 3 years now!

It’s not a groundbreaking strategy at all, I never turn down free clothes!!! I am a teacher and active in my church and community which means when the belly gets big a lot of people start offering and I graciously accept! I am from Alabama about a 1,000 miles away so this is not from family (although we have gotten some from long distance relatives a time or two as well:),  these are just friends…and even friends of friends (hey my friend had a garage sale and they had a lot leftover so…here ya go soon to be mommy!).

This is the core of my children’s clothing, gently used hand-me-downs from people they often don’t even know but there are times we don’t have enough of a certain size during the correct season, when that happens I hit the kids resales! I have only had to do it twice and once I got about 40 items for $30 and the next I got about 25 for $20, thanks to timing (toward the end when they are desperate to unload stuff) and bargaining (hey would you take $5 for this whole bag?). [I have gone to resales other times and gotten some other awesome finds like my $40 train table with 2 trundle drawers but this is strictly about the clothes].

This does require preparation though, you can’t realize last minute that you are out (resales here take place primarily in the fall and spring). Enter the dollar tree (which I have written about my love affair with here). I go and buy their closet “space saver” bags, the jumbo ones and every season I sort clothes using them: storing or passing on outgrown ones, pulling out current ones and putting away any that might still fit next season. By doing this I minimize the amount of stuff in the dresser/closet (these are stored on the shelf in the closet out of the way until needed) and am able to keep track of what I will be needing in the near future.

The only things I buy new are socks (dollar bin at target, I collect the different characters as they come out) and shoes (which I try to buy off season so I can get awesome sale prices) and since we are potty training soon undies.

If hand-me-downs don’t fit or are the wrong season we just pass them on with the rest of that size/season 🙂

Here’s a pic of my $30 dollar haul (there are also $7 worth of toys pictured 🙂

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And a Child Shall Lead Them

My son, whose introverted nature I wrote about here, loves to learn about the Bible and loves to pray and sing about God. He sings “My God is So Big” while running through the front yard hitting things with sticks, asks me to read him “one more” Bible story at least 3 times each night and loves chapel at his daycare. He really loves to pray though, he seems to understand how important it is. On nights when Dad is at work and he and I pray he does not want to recite his “nite nite” prayer he wants to make his own because he wants to thank God for his daddy. When he is done he proceeds to thank the Lord for each member of his family by name, for Jesus, for God (yes he thanks God for God but…shouldn’t we all?) as well as every single friend, teacher and pet and he often follows this with the many small wonders adults forget are actually tiny miracles like trees and water as well as all the amazing comforts of life in America in the year 2014 such as: my shows, elmo, bathtubs, my toys, our big, big car (which is a camry not a tank as the description might lead you to believe). These lists of gratitude go on in the dark still of his room for minutes until his voice gets slower and heavy with sleep. He never asks God for anything though…in fact my son doesn’t do alot of asking, he is frequently very happy with what he gets. He is a joy to give gifts too because even if there is a pile of presents he will not move one by one like a machine, no he opens one and enjoys it for minutes or hours if allowed before moving to another, a skill a desperately wish to master regarding the gifts I’m given daily.

For the last few months he has had to remind me constantly to pray before we eat. Frequently, as I whirl around in our kitchen throwing something to eat on the table before the exhaustion of the day can catch me, I will plop in my chair, grabbing a bite as I do, only to hear his tiny voice, “Mama, we forgot to pray!” I say your right buddy and take a breath so we can indeed thank the Lord for food to eat, in our warm home with abundance surrounding us. It’s rather backwards for him to have to remind me of this, i’m a devoted follower of Christ, unshakable in my faith and knowledgeable in theology but i’m also a sinful adult, all to often consumed by the busyness of all the “important” day to day matters I must take care of. Jidge is not yet a follower of Christ at the tender age of 3, he cannot explain all the details of Bible stories correctly (in fact he sometimes gets them comically wrong) but he has one thing I don’t, the ability to just love. He loves God purely, without all the entanglements that adults get caught up in and this causes him to remember, every single time we sit to eat, that he is thankful for the meal we are eating only by God’s grace.

I can honestly say he has been teaching me spiritual truths since the day he was born and I felt, for the first time, what it meant to love someone so selflessly and completely you would be willing to die for them. But these days its different, he is not just teaching me truth by existing but by his own heart and intentions and actions. As we sat down for Easter dinner at my in laws this last weekend, my child who can barely speak to his extended family because of his own shyness and nerves gleefully prayed clear and pure over our meal in front of all the adults and children present without a second thought. His own comfort at speaking was forgotten entirely as he chose to honor God and for that moment he was not a shy three year old, he was a confident young man strengthened by the power of Christ.

I’m not forgetting to pray these days. In the hustle and bustle of adding a new little one and moving and maternity leave and returning to work I had been forgetting far to often to stop and thank my heavenly father for the gifts, big and little, in my life. My son has reminded me in earnest of the importance of prayer and I am not ashamed to follow his lead, because sometimes a child shall lead them.

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Public Parenting Fail.

Jidge is 3. In private he is a sweet, well spoken, witty, fun and funny little man. His daycare and sunday school teachers love him and he rarely needs disciplined, This is my day to day reality and I love it, sure he is high energy and high needs, but the private parenting of my child is pretty pleasant. He gleefully reminds us when we forget to say a prayer before a meal then leads us in his tiny voice, asks to hold his sister because he loves her, learns quickly and obeys well.

Then we go out in public. Not the routine stuff mind you, he loves the store, library, school, church, playground, etc.

No. I mean with pushy strangers or friends or family. Watching.

My kid HATES to have strangers attention on him. Like literally hates it. It stresses him out, causes him anxiety and anger and frustration. He tries to tell them this with his body language and when that doesn’t work with his words but people can’t resist his adorable little self and they want more…this is when it happens everytime:

“Hi, aren’t you cute?!” to which he responds by letting out an angry sound “AAGGHHHHHHH!” and hiding behind my leg.

“Oh” they say slightly taken aback, but then they come at him again, “Is that your baby sister, are you a good big brother?” This time he wants them to get the picture, “NOOOOOO, Leave me alone!”

Frequently people are bad enough at reading his clear expressions of disinterest in communicating with them that they go in again, “Oh are we grumpy, are we having a bad day?” to which the only reasonable option left in his eyes is wailing. Loud, loud wailing.

This happens all the time, my sweet, loving, typically polite son tries to make his boundaries clear but, because he is small, they are not respected so he turns into this angry, scared, emotional mess.

Where am I in all of this?

Trying to make excuses, trying to explain his behavior, why? I have no idea. If an adult made it clear they didn’t want spoken to or touched we would leave them alone but for some reason we think children should be exempt, they are not allowed these discomforts. They should accept interactions from complete strangers (who we also tell them shouldn’t be trusted by the way), they should take forced hugs from mild acquaintances. Why? and why do I feel the need to apologize and rationalize when other people overstep my son’s boundaries of comfort in their interaction and cause him to have a meltdown? Why do I not stop them?

Because I don’t want to offend them, because my child having a tantrum in public makes me feel like a failure, because I know my son is quirky and he gets it from me so I feel like I am really apologizing for me when I apologize for him.

I don’t want my child to get a complex from hearing me try to reason away these tantrums though, i’m tired of hearing myself say (sorry, he takes a while to warm up, sorry, he doesn’t usually like hugs, sorry, he’s a little scared of strangers, sorry he’s a little shy, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry..)

I am sorry, sorry I keep apologizing. My son is who he is, he is an amazing little person who happens to have a very introverted personality until he feels comfortable and I shouldn’t be allowing people to force themselves upon him by touching or talking to him just because they want to and not giving him a choice in the matter.

So while I am going to continue teaching him polite ways to tell people no I am also going to try and stop apologizing for him because there is nothing wrong with him.

Find Your Escape Moms: Guiltless Me Time

So…I read and enjoyed Twilight. I’m woman enough to admit it. I just finished the Divergent trilogy. I will probably read the Maze Runner soon.

I like young adult fiction. I enjoy escaping reality for a few hours each week without fixing my eyes on yet another digital device of some kind. (For me I enjoy YA because it doesn’t get into things that I would find morally questionable, because I am a Christian I like “clean” reading, no 50 shades of anything here).

Here’s the thing though…sometimes admitting this gets me “the look”. You know the one like your wasting time and energy that could be better spent (people frequently give it too women who get their nails or hair done alot).

I would sometimes feel guilty, or at very least like I needed to explain myself. (I only read it when my kids are sleeping, I am also reading my Bible and at least one Christian non fiction book, I don’t buy them I check them out from the library…) I felt like I needed to justify why I was spending time on something so “useless” or that I wasn’t wasting money.

While all those things are true I have decided I am not apologizing anymore and neither should you.

Why?

Because Moms, particularly in today’s society, are expected to be selfless superwomen who manage all things at all times with a smile on their faces and high heels on their feet.

That’s. Not. Me.

I have priorities but after God and family it gets a little blurry and when I start to try and list them I have noticed that I never list me. I am never going to be able to give my loved ones, my job, my causes, etc the best of me if I am thread bare.

Some women like to get their nails or hair done and if they can afford that great, some like to hit the gym and if they can find the time and energy for it more power to them, some of us like to escape into a good book.

Whatever your escape is we need to realize that it’s ok to go there sometimes. To be just you, not the mom version or wife version or whatever, to be a little “selfish” a few minutes a week and do something JUST because you enjoy it. If we don’t stop and recharge we may lose some of the joy we get from our children and our spouses.

Princessery and Other Made Up Ideas or “Why Disney Isn’t Responsible for Raising Your Daughter”

Who decided that Disney movies were responsible for creating girls dreams, aspirations and identities?

No one.

So why all the hating on princess movies? A quick spin around this interweb dealio will find thousands of straight up weirdos espousing the view that Frozen is the first healthy princess movie (Same rhetoric occured when Brave came out to some degree but this time it is pervasive like the internet, radio, morning news pervasive).

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Disclaimer:I haven’t seen Frozen. I know right. I live under a rock. However my Kindergarten girls perform what I am certain must be the entirety of the film during playtime everyday, I judged a talent show with 4 choreographed “Let it Go” song routines and I’ve read/heard/ seen clips all the over the place.

None of this matters though because my issue with these assertions is three fold.

1. I dispute Disney princesses are, overall, helpless or poor role models. 

There are technically 11 in the franchise but here is a taste of some of their role model worthy actions or character traits:

Belle – My personal favorite, loves books, sacrifices her own freedom, safety and happiness for her father, turns down the town hottie and slowly falls in love with a hideous beast because of the man he is inside. Really? How is she a poor role model? This girl is educated, selfless, brave and deep.

Fa Mulan- She is a commoner, she sacrifices herself for her father, she saves her country, becomes a respected military leader…shall I go on?

Ariel- She saves Eric first, she is a curious and brave (if a little reckless) girl. Yes she “gives up” her mermaidness to be with her prince but I look at this a little like a girl disappointing her parents by dropping out of Yale to go work as an artist, does it make practical sense? No, but it seems to me her dream was always to be on land and it was her parents dream for her to stay a mermaid. She was true to herself and her heart.

Cinderella – Are you kidding, yeah the happy ending is awesome and all but she kind of deserves it. Talk about humility! I would have likely spit in stepmothers soup is all i’m saying. The idea that patience and right behavior eventually may yield good results isn’t so bad if you ask me.

Pocahantas – (The butchering of actual history aside). She saves John Smith, eventually marries a commoner and stands up for things she believes in.

2. I dispute it is Disney or any other companies job to create a healthy self image, self esteem, realistic expectations of beauty or any other of the issues people wah wah wah about. 

Seriously, if your child’s self worth is being defined by dolls, movies, tv or any other media source you are failing at your job. I can’t sugar coat it because it’s a simple matter of fact. You control what she sees and does and also you should be such a shaping influence in her daily life that these princesses having little room for impact. If you are worried then balance them out with some female olympians or Joan of Arc or something but be forewarned you will find them all lacking somewhere. The best woman for the job is you.

3. I find it strange we have all this hubbub over princess and yet nary a peep about boys role models. 

Because Mutant Ninja Turtles, Superman, Spiderman, Gi Joe, or Buzz Lightyear are super realistic role models?

 

In closing, can we back off on the princessery and recognize that YOU are responsible for what your daughter takes away from these toys and movies? As for me, I hope my daughter will be bright enough to distinguish fantasy from reality and still take away some of the positive messages these princesses carry but I won’t leave it to chance instead I will engage her and open a dialogue so that I can guide her ideas.

 

Inside the Home of a Dollar Tree Diva

My house is partially furnished from the dollar tree.

Stop laughing.

I am nothing if not pragmatic. I don’t care where I buy it if it works!

I frequent both the Dollar Tree and Just a Buck stores. I scour them with an eye for quality and am pretty happy with my finds.

Some items I purchase almost exclusively from dollar stores:

Wine glasses: Yeah, I know super fancy right? Well guess what I have hosted grown up dinner parties with my set of 8 dollar tree wine glasses and no one was the wiser. They are glass. They hold wine. They are $1. They are awesome. Look they even blend in with Nana’s fancy china! (The champagne glasses on either end are also from the dollar tree).

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Metal serving trays, these actually look like sterling silver, they are good heavy shiny metal!

Soap dispensers, toothbrush holders, soap dishes (although mine holds small jewelry like earrings/rings) These bad boys are nice heavy duty ceramic and match my color scheme to boot.

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Dish scrubbers, they carry Betty Crocker dish scrub brushes that are cute red and white and very durable at most all dollar tree branches.

Placemats, I got these lovely sunflower ones and I line the glass refrigerator shelves with them, they don’t show messes easily and when I need to clean the fridge I can easily take them out and scrub them 🙂

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Colorful baskets for the kids rooms, you know to help store those random items, I have different colored ones for their rooms, the bathroom, etc. (Ignore the slight disorganization of the actual items the barely 3 year old did clean and put these items away himself)

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Picture frames, this one depends on the use but for 5×7 or smaller that you are hanging these nice lightweight frames can be awesome. If you scour places like Just a Buck you can often find the good quality frames from Target or Walmart still tagged 9.97 but you get them for $1.

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Kids party favors, again hit or miss but I am usually successful. When my son has a class party for something like Christmas or Valentine’s day I look in the book sections. When he was a baby I would get the two packs of bath books for his baby classmates. Now I look for seasonal board books. For roughly $0.50 a piece I usually can give a book instead of a junky piece of plastic.

Small storage cubes, these 3 hold my daughter’s headbands, socks and bibs respectively. Also pictured dollar tree items: the frame on the right and the foil dandelion/butterfly/dragonfly wall decals.

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Kid’s tissues, the little pocket packs with characters are usually 6 for $1. My son loves having a pack of Toy Story tissues he can keep by the carseat.

Book/Display easels, perfect for displaying some favorite books/artwork and for displaying seasonal decorative items you don’t want to hang. The plaque with the black and white tree photo is crazy heavy/hard to hang but it stands beautifully!

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Sunglasses, if you are like me and lose 3 or 4 pair per season this is a life saver.

Step stools, my Just a Bucks usually have colorful little step stools and my son needs them to reach light switches so they are strewn about my house.

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Throw rugs. I have 6 doors that come in from outside on my house (garage/mudroom/sunroom/etc) Buying these easy cute little braided (right) and regular (left) rugs are terrific and easy.

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Small valances. I should have taken a picture of this so you would believe its cute but i’ve gotten compliments on our cute little shimmery beige valance with center tassle accent. It was a dollar.

Little decorative pictures & coat racks, small wastebasket & fruit bowl pictured are all from the dollar tree.

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Cheapy  shoe organizers, I have this one in my daughter’s room and holds off season items (bulky winter hats/mittens) and other rarely used accesssories.

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Greeting Cards, these babies are 2 for a 1 and anytime I need one I pop in and buy not only the one I want but any other cute ones for future use that I stumble upon in my quest for the “perfect” card. These are all filed in a coupon organizer deal with my wrapping paper. Speaking of which…

Coupon organizers. I use these for various storage and organization projects. For file size organizers I watch the target dollar section, they have $1 organizer that are not only cheap and durable but super cute!

Gift bags/ Tissue Paper, I rarely need to buy these since I reuse but sometimes you need a certain occasion or size and this place will have them nice and cheap.

Sadly this is just a portion of the dollar tree items in my home 🙂 I will post on kids learning/play items at a later date.

There are alot of crummy items that will break the moment you open them, foods I’m not brave enough to try, etc but for those willing to keep an eye out there are some real bargains to be had! What is you favorite dollar store buy?

The Childhood Time Warp

My own years of childhood seemed to take so long. Somehow ages 6-16 seemed like its own lifetime. Now I blink and it seems months pass. I do a load of dishes and my child looks less like a toddler, more like a tiny man. I go to work and suddenly my baby looks like a stranger, too big and vocal to really be my 3 month old. I’m not on anything, don’t worry. I’m just caught in the blur of life and my children growing constantly. Jidge turned 3 this week. It was terrific we ate cake and he opened his gift and ran around with Buzz Lightyear “flying” in his arms. But I saw something different in the happy scene. In his sweet capable hands I saw his fork, no longer unsure and in need of mommy’s hands. I heard his happy chatter, full of words from his ever growing vocabulary and tinted by a quick wit that often seems out of place in a 3 year old. I felt his impatience as I hugged just a little too long, squeezing goodbye to the two year old he would never again be. For a moment I could see him, no longer a baby or even a preschooler, I could envision that someday in that seat would be a man. These moments of childhood are slow and relaxed to my son but to me they fly at a disconcerting speed. Every moment I miss with him is irreplaceable, because he will never again be this little. Once a moment has passed it can not be regained. This is why I am leaving teaching next year to stay home for a time, as a teacher I live in a different kind of time warp, one where children never age. See to a Kindergarten teacher children are perpetually 5 to a 8th grade teacher they always stay 13 and so on and so on. When I return to teaching it will be as if I never left. Whatever grade I teach, as always, my students will progress only 1 year before I set them free and begin again. But at home time moves as steady as a heartbeat, never truly ceasing even in the moments you hear nothing. It is here, in this constant forward, motion I find myself thankful that God has allowed  for me to be home these next few years.

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