Friday, July 29, 2011

Keepin' It Simple...

I love this photo of my niece, Aubrey.  She wasn't feeling too
well, and I took her a goody bag.  She enjoyed the coloring
book and crayons, as well as the fruit roll ups and other snacks
that I tucked in the bag!
Simplicity isn't a term that is often practiced in our culture, and that realization becomes more clear at certain times of the year.  As we head into yet another over-commercialized season, I find myself being tempted to indulge in the seeming endless array of accessories that are touted as "essential" for students and teachers. I'm enticed by the new coordinating organizational tools, totes, planning helps, and tech gadgets, and so are my kids.  It's easy to see how analysts come up with the enormous figures that represent the cost of getting "back to school," and it's kind of mind-boggling to think that we as parents can so easily become so suckered into this merchant's game. "Wants" come masked as "needs," and before we know it, we have spent hundreds of unnecessary dollars on things that really have no impact on the overall process of learning and retention.
But isn't this fairly typical?  Look at the average birthday party, Christmas celebration, graduation, and wedding...the numbers are staggering!  And the pressure is, too. 
A couple of years ago, I decided I wasn't going to get caught up in the back-to-school hype.  Although we want to provide for the needs of our kids, we define that term a little more narrow than most.  At the end of the 2010 school year, I put all of their existing supplies in a box for safe keeping through the summer.  The following August, we pulled it all out (half-used pencils, partial notebooks, everything), and decided what we could put into use again.  That saved a ton!  We did the same with uniforms.
This year, now that I am much more alert to "deals", we are watching each week's ads to see what's free or dirt cheap.  It is difficult to drag the kids through office supply stores, especially when they see things they "need" for school that aren't on sale yet, but I keep reinforcing the trait of patience, encouraging them to check next week! 
So far, we have snagged these:
  • 5 count. mechanical pencils - $1 (reg $3.89)
  • 2 count scissors - $.99 (reg $1.99)
  • protractor - $.05 (reg $1.99)
  • pencil pouch - $.05 (reg. $1.99)
  • 2-pocket folder with 3 prong - $.05 (reg $.25)
  • 10 count #2 pencils - $.10 (reg $.99)
  • wooden ruler - $.01 (reg $1.58)
  • 24 count crayons - $.01 (reg $.99)
  • hp photo paper - $1 (reg $10.99)
  • 1" durable binder - $1.79 (reg $3.29)
  • composition notebook - $.50 (reg $1.79)
  • backpack and lunch combo  - free with $15 purchase (another girl and I went together to get this one cause it took so many items to reach $15 with the sales!)
By starting when the kids were young, we avoided a lot of expectations and preconceived ideas, and this has been helpful!  Our premise includes:
  • Backpacks are reusable.  You will only get one as your other one wears out.
  • Licensed items are probably not happening.  In the event of a great sale, you may get lucky.  :-)
  • If your tennis shoes or school shoes wear out in March and you receive new ones at that time, you may or may not receive new ones at the beginning of the school year.  If you keep them nice, they may still look fairly new.  If they still fit and aren't sporting holes, you'll probably be wearing them back to school.
  • Uniforms are to be given some respect.  They are durable, and one shirt can eventually clothe several kids if care is taken.
  • Your lunch will consist of a minimal amount of pre-packaged "cool" lunch items.  Hopefully, you'll be taking leftover home cooked foods, but since that's not always possible, bologna sandwiches, baggies of chips, and pb&j will be part of your diet.  Each item will not be in it's own cute little wrapper, but will likely be coming from a much larger sized package and put into zip bags. ***Exceptions are made for items like juice pouches (Capri Sun or Kool-Aid) or yogurt (Go-Gurt or Danimals) that are found on sale and with coupons. 
  • When you go on field trips, you will not be given extra money for gift shops, etc.  If you want to use your own money, be wise. 
  • Your ability to learn is neither inhibited nor enhanced by whether or not you receive a pile of new stuff with which to begin each year, rather it lies within your determination to do your best in reading, comprehension, and critical thinking.
Teaching for thirteen years has taught me a few things.  My students who receive the highest grades in the classroom and on standardized tests tend to be the kids who have less "stuff" to distract them.  They are focused, diligent, and willing to do the things that many other students consider a waste of time.  These are the traits that I want to encourage my children to pursue this school year.

Is there anything you are doing this year, either to save money or encourage contentment?  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Trust His Heart"

Trusting doesn't come easily to me, and it's days like today that I have to remind myself that "God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind..."  Why would emotion threaten to smother belief?  Quite frankly, it's because I don't understand.  I don't see the bigger picture.  And I may never.
My students wrap themselves around my heart in such a way that their pain becomes mine.  Whether their suffering involves physical infirmity, a traumatic family situation, or simple insecurity, my instinct is to want to shelter them from the hurt that life inevitably brings.
But today I can't. I can't reverse the tragic physical effects of brain trauma. I can't bring back the father that was taken from his two young boys only moments ago.  I can't come up with a reason that is "good enough" for a situation such as this.  With everything that is in me, I wish things were different, but reality has once again reminded me that life is fragile and uncertain.  It's a reality we all must face, but it never becomes any easier to accept.  Death seems like such a thief. 
It's times like these that I must grasp the promise that He knows what is best, He sees the first and last, and His ways are not our ways, and with that knowledge somehow attempt to comfort hearts that, like mine, cannot see His plan. 
And because I know how big His love really is, I'm confident that He will wipe tender tears and shelter little hearts with the love that only a Heavenly Father could provide.  I can trust Him on that.
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PCS PreK/K School Supply List...

can be found here.  It is so exciting to be connecting with kids who are ready to get back into the classroom, or who will be joining us for their very first year!  There is exactly one month left of this wonderful thing called summer!

Friday, July 22, 2011


I know that being from a town that doesn't even have a traffic light classifies me as a little out of the loop, but it caught me off guard when I saw this in a public restroom in Indy...

water-saving, dual-function handle
I'm all about saving money, and water, and whatever else, but "up with the green flusher for liquid waste and down for solid waste"?  Ewww...just bring on the water.  Waste is waste, and those toilets need all the water and all the pressure they can get!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Buying/Selling Good Used Kids Clothes

(logo from corporate website)

OUAC is a chain used clothing store, which also offers a small variety of new items.  They are a franchise store, and have locations in multiple cities and towns. 
One of the biggest complaints from people who are used to shopping garage sales and thrift stores is that OUAC is overpriced, and for many items I feel they are, as well.  Some things to keep in mind when buying from OUAC:
  • Tops will usually run from $2.99 to $4.99, depending on name brand.  Bottoms are about the same.  I paid $8 for a Tommy H. denim dress for Allison that was used but adorable, modest, and in excellent condition. 
  • Skirts of a modest length can many times be found at OUAC.  They are worth more to me because they are difficult to find. Since I don't sew, I have no difficulty paying $4.99 for a skirt that we can feel good about.  I recently paid $3.99 for a dressy CATO skirt at OUAC that still had tags on it.  I know that Cato clearances out little girls skirts quite often, but the chances of me finding that skirt for that price are too slim.
  • OUAC sells about everything related to baby.  You can probably get things off Craigslist or at garage sales a little cheaper, but if you need something in a pinch, you can count on this store to have it.
  • They often have "bag sales" and "discount days" which they advertise through email if you are on their list.  They also have a stamp card which can be used for discounts.
  • Even though they are a higher end used clothing store, now and then you may find a spot on an item.  I have never asked for a price reduction (I don't buy stained items), but they may do that.
Things to remember when selling to OUAC:
  • It is important to call your store before you take in items.  Not all stores accept all seasons and sizes at all times.  They become especially overrun with infant and toddler items.  Just check to be safe, especially if you are driving a distance.
  • This store would buy a name brand item that has some wear (not stains or holes) before they would take a Walmart item that looked much newer.  Name brands are not a big deal to me, but they are to OUAC!  I tend to buy clearance name brands now because I know they provide a bigger return and many times cost me less to start with!  They seem to especially like Osh Kosh (best success for me), Old Navy, Gymboree, Gap, and some Children's Place.  Carter's does ok, too.  They readily took all of my Laura Ashley toddler dresses, which I had found at Value City for almost nothing.
  • OUAC does not wash or iron any items.  They must arrive ready to sell.  They hold each piece under a light and inspect for flaws, stains, tears, etc.  If there is a stain, they might rub a Shout stick on it to see if it will come out, but for the most part, they will not accept anything that isn't shelf ready.
  • OUAC will not accept outdated items.  If something has a history of not selling well for them, the won't accept.  If they don't accept something, they will give you a reason.  Usually they either already have too many, the item has a defect, or the item has not been a good seller.  I took them a ton of maternity clothes that were name brand and were in excellent condition, and they only accepted about three pieces.  The styles were a problem.  In my circles, the styles were fine, but I'm assuming that this generation of pregnant women prefer tigher, more form-fitting maternity clothes.  Anyway, that is something to consider.
  • Clothes should be folded and in boxes or totes, not bags.  They don't like bags.  :)
  • OUAC pays cash on the spot, or gives a slight increase if you will take store credit. I have not done store credit because I do not have a local store, and I do not purchase frequently.
My routine these days is to keep a tote strictly for OUAC clothes.  As the kids outgrow things, I sort them either into a Goodwill bag or the tote.  If they brand is right and it is in good shape, it hits the tote.  When the tote is full (or when I'm headed to a city with OUAC), I take it along, drop it off, and come back for my cash and leftovers within a few minutes or sometimes as long as a couple of hours, depending on how many people are in front of me. 
What do you do with unused or outgrown clothing?  I'd like to hear from you!
***I visited the Greenwood, IN OUAC store a couple of nights ago.  It is much bigger than any other location I have been in, and I was able to snag a two skirts that I'm excited about.  Until you've had to buy for a girl with long legs and a tiny waist, it's difficult to appreciate this!
Cherokee Khaki - $3.50

Old Navy Denim - $4.50

Their 70% off sale is in progress, and we were able to get a couple of extra things dirt cheap. I was a little disappointed, though.  I called ahead and asked if they were accepting all items, and they said yes.  I took my tote, and they only purchased a few items.  They paid me $13.50, which was good for what they took.  I'm going to go back through the items I have left to determine why the weren't purchased, then I will take them to the Findlay, OH or Ft. Wayne, IN store next time I am in one of those areas. 
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What to do with the 'undies'?

For the last 11 years, clothing storage has been a huge frustration to me. I don't mean the 'hijack your life and push you toward the brink of suicide' type of frustration, but a complete annoyance, nonetheless. After Baby #1, I saved everything that wasn't Similac/poo poo stained, and stored it in a spare room (we had three spare rooms at the Fortunately, it was easily reachable, since Baby #2 came 14 months later and was also a boy. They were both born in winter, many clothes were able to be used again. As Baby #2 outgrew, the clothes were placed back into the tubs.
Then we moved, and once again I had a great storage area...a huge walk-in attic (not the kind you have to bend in half to walk into) right off of our bedroom. It was perfect.
Baby #3 came along in the spring, and she preferred pink to blue and was completely pint-sized, so only a few of the unisex newborn items were used. Since this little gal was the first daughter and the first granddaughter on the maternal side, she was given a wardrobe fit for a princess. As she outgrew them, her clothes were also transferred to the attic.
And we moved. House #4 (if you count the apt in which we lived for the 1st 9 months of marriage) is equipped with an overhead attic that is very narrow, and a shed at the edge of the backyard. Closet space is abundant, but out-of-the-way storage is a little more limited.
As we began to contemplate whether or not we would add #4 to the family, I began to get pretty edgy about all the kid stuff that had accumulated, but didn't feel that I could let go until I knew for sure what the future would hold.
Baby #4 came through liking pink, as well, and that was my cue.  Let the purge begin! 
I decided to have a garage sale (my husband will cringe if he as much as reads those words!), and pulled out stacks and stacks of clothes.  After the huge effort to match, price, and execute the sale, I was pretty disappointed.  Over the next couple of years, we had garage sales a couple of places, and I would pull out the piles again and again, getting rid of a lot, but still having way too much left. 
I felt like I needed to get some money from the clothes (as opposed to dumping them at Goodwill) since I was constantly needing to update wardrobes with bigger sizes.  Any little $ would help, right?  But the hassle just wasn't worth the meager amount we would take in. 
So, I began passing everything off to other kids in the church who would be able to use them.  Bags and bags of nice clothes.  At one point I was starting to think that it might be overwhelming for the mom who was the biggest beneficiary so, knowing that she has a small house, I asked if she wanted more or if she was maxed.  She indicated the latter, so I was back to square one.  I didn't like the idea of consignment with the waiting for payment, etc.  I sold lots of little girls dresses on Craigslist, advertising them together in sizes.  That seemed to be easy enough, but still a little complicated with meeting people, etc. 
Finally, I decided to sell to Once Upon A Child.  I was pretty amazed.  I had purchased items there, but never sold to them.  It has taken me a bit to get the hang of it, but I seem to do better each time.  People are always interested in hearing about how to sell to them, and I will do a post on it later in the week.  It's not rocket science, but I have found a few tricks in being successful with this company.
My real question is, what is the best thing to do with good, used underwear?  There are close to 20 pair of boys size M sitting on my dryer...waiting for their fate.  I have almost pitched them, but every time I get close I think about kids who have nothing and it makes me feel terrible!  Does Goodwill sell used undies?  I'm quite sure OUAC does not accept them.  Is it gross?  Should I throw them away?  Is there another alternative?  I don't want to have nightmares about underclothed children because of a bad decision.  :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011


Kaitlynn wanted to dress Alli up, but didn't have a scarf.
Instead of asking me for one, she improvised.  I didn't realize
what it was until she turned around...and I saw the crotch
of a black pair of tights.  Couldn't tell from the front. 
Serious creativity!

If you can make the time today, read this true story from fellow blogger Dana.  I know that we can't bubble wrap our kids in order to protect them from every danger, but this tragedy may help us to deal with our minor frustrations a little better, hug our babies a little tighter, and spend a few more minutes each day doing the things that matter to them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kaitlynn's 1st Coupon Deal!

I think I have a convert!  I ran into CVS to pick up a couple of things yesterday, and Kaitlynn asked if she could come in with me.  She had $1 with her, and was sure that it would buy something.  I didn't want to dampen her enthusiasm by telling her how little $1 would actually buy these days.  I scanned my Extra Care card as soon as we entered, and it gave me what I considered some fairly worthless coupons.  Kaitlynn ran down the candy aisle, and pointed to the large bags of candy asking, "Can my $1 buy this?"  I shook my head with doubt, after all the tag read "Sale - 2/$5".  Remembering my worthless coupons, I opened my envelope and investigated a little further.  One of them was $2 off any one Skittles, Lifesavers, or Starburst bag 14oz. or larger!  I couldn't believe it...and I was so happy for her!  Gummy Lifesavers, 15.6 oz. bag, 50 cents!
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Good Old Summertime

In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that's a very good sign.
That she's your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.

What a light-hearted lyrical portrait of the wonderful months we call summer!  My memory recalls it as one of my very first piano pieces, and it's funny how those things never seem to be forgotten.  Although I haven't been able to spend too much time strolling through shady lanes holding hands with my 'baby', we have had some special family times in the last 5 weeks.  Being able to attend church camp together was the highlight.  As we were watching one of the archived services today, the kids were wishing we were back at camp.  It was such a good 10 days.  But, life moves on and it is up to us to take the encouragement we were given and use it to bless others. 
As the hours and days of summer roll by, I wince at the stacks of coupons uncut, the books unread, and the projects incomplete.  I am one of these types that looks forward and has all sorts of mental plans and expectations for myself.  Summertime is my oasis of rejuvenation.  It is a complete change of schedule (in some cases a complete lack of schedule), and if I have a task that seems overwhelming, I save it for summer...after all, I'm 'off work' and will have countless open hours at my disposal.
Any mom knows that mindset isn't exactly realistic, but from summer to summer I seem to forget how the moments become gobbled up with a few extra minutes spent snoozing in the morning (or afternoon), unexpected visits, phone conversations with friends, and endless daily meals for kids who are always hungry.  Added to that for this summer is many extra hours helping one of my students reach a goal, coordinating vbs, taking my boys to band camp, and spending a couple of days assisting my grandmother in a yard sale.  Then, of course, there is my lengthy list of personal goals, many of which will not be accomplished.  And I'm ok with that...most of the time.  :)  A selfish moment here or there will find me lamenting my lot, but when I am able to bring things into focus and understand that all my days are first God's days, and when I accomplish the things that He deems important my time is nothing short of well spent, I am fulfilled. 
So, I should probably start getting up a little earlier in the morning, moving a little more quickly from task to task throughout the day, and better organizing my moments to be more effective if I intend to accomplish all of my goals...maybe I will, and maybe I won't...after all, we are right smack in the middle of the good old summertime!