Thursday, December 27, 2007

Out with the Old and in with the New

“Out with the old; in with the new.” That’s usually the motto at our house after Christmas when we attempt to put away our gifts and find that we need to make more room for them! Closets and drawers must be gone through to rid them of clothes that are too small, toys that are no longer played with, and books and CDs that can be resold.

This is always a little bit of a “downer” for me. This year, I finally gave up the last of my size 6 pants, resigned to the fact that my spreading hips will probably never go back to their pre-pregnancy width. It’s also sad to see all the baby clothes and toys go as I know I’ve given birth to my last babies. We recently gave away the high chairs and the double stroller used by our now-four-year-old twins. On the plus side, I think about the joy they will bring to another family (as well as the tax benefits of a charitable donation!).

My mom usually helps in cleaning out our closets. She’s a great organizer with a flair for decorating, and she can be ruthless in paring our wardrobes down to the bare essentials! When cleaning out the twins’ toy box, we’ve found that it can’t be done in their presence. Toys that haven’t been played with in a year are suddenly their “favorites” when faced with the prospect of losing them.

But it feels good to de-clutter. A new year calls for a new start, whether it’s in big ways, such as a change of career, or in small ways, such as organizing closets. However, my New Year’s resolution is to do the closet cleaning a little more often in 2008 so it’s not such a monumental task next December! May you have a wonderful new start in 2008, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

As I write this, it is less than an hour before the dawn of Christmas day. "Santa" has laid out the mounds of gifts, but in this time of bounty, I am most grateful for the gift of God's son, Jesus, and my beautiful family. May we all remember the true meaning of the season and extend gratitude for these gifts throughout the year, not just on Christmas day. I wish you all a very blessed Christmas and a new year full of hope, peace and love.

Hugs and kisses, Susan

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Favorite Family Christmas Movies

This is the time of year when we dust off the old Christmas videos (for those of us who still own a VCR) and DVDs, and enjoy them all over again. I also TiVo any Christmas specials that look interesting, hoping I’ll acquire another good one! Following is a list of my favorite Christmas movies and specials for children, as well as for the whole family. I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Strictly for children:

The Year Without a Santa Claus (I still know every word to the heat miser/cold miser songs!)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
(fortunately, the “bumble” no longer scares me!)

Frosty the Snowman (but skip Frosty Returns…yuck!)

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (it’s gotta be the animated one)

Max and Ruby’s Christmas

Caillou’s Holiday Movie (quite educational, too!)

Alvin and the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Christmas (dated, but still cute…Alvin is just so greedy!)

The Story of the Nativity (Beginners’ Bible series…my kids always laugh when the camels crash!)

Madeline at the North Pole

For the whole family:

It’s a Wonderful Life (yes, it’s overplayed, but I adore it anyway)

Miracle on 34th Street (the original with Natalie Wood, but please don’t watch it colorized!)

White Christmas
(satisfies my romantic streak!)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (it’s so stupid, it’s hilarious)

Monday, December 10, 2007

TV Trouble

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no joy in Christmas shopping—especially when you’re trying to score a deal! I had a heck of a morning trying to get a TV on sale. My sister had called me last week to say that Circuit City had a 15-inch Polaroid TV on sale for $219. She wanted to get one for our parents, but she lives out of state, so she asked if I could get one and wrap it up for my parents for Christmas. However, she wanted my husband to check it out online first to make sure the quality was good. Unfortunately, he took a few days in doing that, and the TV went up to $259! I felt bad that my sister would now have to pay $40 more, so I agreed to ask if Circuit City would honor the previous sales price. Thus, I found myself sauntering up to a nerdy guy this morning at Circuit City, pointing toward the TV, and asking if he would give me last week’s price.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” he said.

“But if you were willing to sell the TV last week for $219, why can’t you give me the same price this week?” I asked.

“Well, those prices are to encourage you to buy them the week they are on sale,” he explained. Well, duh.

“But I didn’t realize that the sale would end in a few days, and I’m doing this as a favor for my sister,” I added. “It’s my fault she missed the sale, so could I still get it for $219?”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.”

“Okay, then,” I said, “do you honor competitors’ prices?”

“Of course, we do,” he smiled.

I whipped out a Wal-Mart ad for a 15-inch Polaroid TV. “There,” I showed him, “they’re selling the same TV for $223. Can I have it for that price?”

He glanced at the paper I held. “That’s not the same TV,” he said.

“Sure, it is. It’s a Polaroid 15-inch TV, and the model number on both is 1511.”

“Yes, but the letters are different,” Mr. Smart-Aleck said.

“What letters?”

“The letters in the model number.”

“I thought that just had something to do with the store it was being sold at,” I said naively.

“No, it means it’s not the same TV,” he smirked.

“Okay, here’s a Target ad for that TV for $229,” I said, whipping another paper out of my purse.

“Boy, you come prepared,” he noted. I ignored his comment. He glanced at the ad.

“That’s not the same TV either,” he said.

“Okay,” I sighed, “so do you have anything comparable to these TVs in the low-$200 range?”

“Just this Element,” he said. “It’s also made by Polaroid, but the quality’s not as good.” I could tell at a glance that he was right on that one.

“So, do you know if the Polaroid will go on sale again?” I asked.

“It might,” he said.

“Do you know when?”

“No, I don’t find out the prices until I come in on Sunday morning!” Yeah, right.

I shoved my lists into my purse and decided to drive up to Wal-Mart to get their $223 Polaroid TV. I located the TV on their shelf, but it had a price tag of $243. Obviously, they hadn’t put their sale price on it yet, I surmised. I waited ten minutes for the one salesperson they seemed to have in that department and then showed him my ad.

“Can I get this TV for $223?” I asked.

“No, that’s only if you order it online,” he said. “You need to order it online and have it sent to the store. Then I can give you the sales price.”

“But if you already have the TV in the store,” I said, “why do I need to order it online? Can’t you just sell that TV for $223 now?”

“I’m not allowed to do that,” he said. “I was told that they’re trying to encourage online sales to decrease their overhead, so you have to order it online first.”

“Decrease their overhead?”

“Yes, they can hire fewer employees if more people order online.”

“But if I send it to the store and an employee has to go get it and ring it up for me, isn’t that the same thing as buying it at the store?”

The salesman looked confused. “I don’t know. That’s just what they told me.”

“Okay, then,” I said, “why don’t I save them some overhead, order it online and have it shipped to my house?”

“But then they’ll charge you for shipping,” he said. “They’ll only give free shipping if it’s sent to the store, not to your house.” He shrugged.

I restrained myself from kicking him in the shin and stomped out of the electronics department, empty-handed once again.

Christmas shopping, I decided, is not for wimps. Do you think my sister would consider getting our parents a gift certificate this year?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We Are Our Children's First Teachers

The importance of parents being their children’s first teacher really struck home for me yesterday. My twins and I were playing at the park when I started talking to an older woman who was accompanied by a two-year-old girl. The woman told me she was staying with the girls’ family for a few months and had accompanied the little girl, with her mother, to her two-year doctor’s examination. The doctor asked the girl’s mother if the little girl could identify her nose, ears, eyes, and so on. Of course, she can do that, I immediately thought to myself when I heard that. Isn’t “Where’s your nose?” one of the first games that all parents play with their babies? Well, to my surprise, the woman told me that the girl couldn’t do any of that! Her parents never played with her. In fact, said the woman, they usually stuck her on the couch with the remote control in her hands and let her watch TV for hours at a time! I was in shock. It got worse…this little girl, who lived within walking distance of the very park we were in, had never been taken there by her parents before. It was her first trip there that day with her parents’ friend. I was so saddened and appalled by these parents’ lack of interest in their child. I wasn’t sure whether it was deliberate or just na├»ve on their parts that they should be interacting with their child, but either way I grieved the damage being done to that beautiful little girl.

Holly Engel-Smothers, a parent educator and early-childhood consultant, told me, “Baby development is a long-term building event, with each day being important in how the baby develops the next day, and each event being important in how the baby develops for the next event. Appropriate food, comfort, face-to-face interactions, tummy time, music, and even the lilt of Mommy’s voice are all brain developers. It is not a random happening when a milestone is reached. Just like an athlete has to practice his sport in a certain order to build up to the main event, so do babies have to take ‘baby steps’ toward optimal brain development, which is created and driven by experiences with Mommy, Daddy, and caregivers. These people play a critical role in baby’s life because milestones need personal experiences to be reached.”

The woman at the park told me that the little girl never interacted with other children. Her mother took her shopping for hours on end, but then didn’t understand when the child didn’t behave after a while. I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for this child. As Holly stresses, “Parents play a vital role in their children’s development.” We are their first teachers, and our actions in the first few years strongly influence their future success—physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s a shame that this little girl’s parents don’t understand how blessed they are to be given this awesome responsibility for another human being, as well as the amazing opportunity to play a hand in creating something wonderful.

Raising great kids begins the day that they are born. But, Holly points out, “Love isn’t all a baby needs. It is an excellent start, but there’s so much more you can give your baby.” Time, affection, play and attention are also crucial at all stages of our children’s lives.