Sunday, February 24, 2013

Growing boys & clothes

I find it really hard to find good, used clothing for boys past a certain age. I know boys can be harder on their clothes than girls... and I also think that parents with boys find that doing hand me downs is a little eaiser than reselling or donating boys clothing because the boys they hand them down to don't tend to be quite as picky nor as concerned to be wearing current styles as some girls are. Not always, but to a degree anyway.

So, I figured I'd share my frugal and organizing tips about clothes for my son.

I do check out the Goodwill, Salvation Army and consignment stores for boys clothes - I just don't usually have very much luck. I also browse a bit at garage sales, but they seem to even have less.

When we go clothes shopping (which isn't very often). I usually buy an outfit or two that fits him right now. But then I also hit the sale and clearance racks and pick up more clothing items in sizes 2-3 sizes bigger than he is currently in. Those clothes go into one of two (or three) bins in the closet that hold clothes that are either out-of-season or too big.

I keep an eye on the sales and if I see a great sale, but we don't need anything specific - I might still go pick up a pair of jeans, shirt, jacket, etc and throw it into those bins.

When he starts going through a growth spurt... I start going through the clothes as I pull them out of the dryer. Clothes that are outgrown, but still wearable, go into a tote I keep in the laundry room. When he needs more jeans or shirts, our first place to go look is in the closet.

Three to four times a year, I empty his dresser completely. Clothes that fit and are in-season get pulled out of the closet. Clothes that are too small get thrown into the bin in the laundry room. Clothes that are out-of-season join the clothes that are too big still and get tossed back into the closet until we repeat.

When the bin in the laundry room is full, I either take the clothes to someone for hand me downs.... or if I don't have someone around who can use them, I end up either donating them to someone on freecycle or taking them to Goodwill and donating them. The first is more convenient - because the people picking them up comes to me to get them when it's convenient for me - but isn't tax deductible. Goodwill requires making the trip, getting a receipt and documenting stuff for taxes to deduct the donations.

We go clothes shopping at the regular stores when we really, really need something specific that didn't manage to get picked up on sale prior to needing it. We also get a complete outfit, brand new, around Christmas and Birthdays. Birthday clothes just land in the dresser without much fan-fare. Christmas clothes get thrown into one large gift bag and the youngest looks at it and goes - oh, yeah... that's the clothes bag - sigh. The eldest still gets one (at 24) even though it's usually just a couple of items - but LOVES it to death. The key goodie is usually the new package of socks.

The one other time we do a LOT of  clothes shopping is when Iowa has their tax-free weekend in August before school starts. We usually make a trip of it and spend the day shopping for the school supplies we need and some clothes to make those first few days of school just a little more special. Not only are we not paying 6% tax on the clothes, but most of the stores in my area do BIG discounts and special sales. I find that the vast majority of my purchases is at least 40-60% off the normal price on that weekend. We hit two or three of our favorite stores and when we get done we often go out for dinner together as a family to make it a little bit of a holiday.

I find that these tactics work really well for buying clothes inexpensively because I can buy then when they are on sale or especially on seasonal clearance, as well as making the managing of those clothes and having them able to be gotten to easily pretty convenient. The clothes are just there and available, when I need them and don't seem to get in the way, when I don't. Occasionally, "a" will find something 'amazing' in the too big pile and insist on wearing it... which is just kind-a cute in the end.

Friday, February 22, 2013

head cold, new (used) car, winter weather, genes and Geneology with a scandalous twist

Randomness - I can own that.

I managed to get downed by a nasty head cold this last weekend. It's been six days and I sound like a truck driver, but am starting to feel at least human now.

When I'm back to 100% I'll try to post a pic of the used car I picked up right before I got sick. I'm nervous, I got it for a lot less than I had expected to have to pay for a used car (have you seen the prices lately???). I'm worried that there's a hidden problem and it's not going to end up being the great deal I think I got. In fact, I'm so certain that there's something I don't know, I'm almost afraid to talk about it. But, I will. I did a good job looking at prices before I went shopping. Saw some awful deals and stayed away from them. Saw some 'maybe' reasonable deals that I wasn't completely happy about... and then, just when we were really close to giving up looking? I found a deal that seemed pretty good.

We also got a good 6" of snow yesterday. And more planned for in the next couple of days. (bleh) I'm tired of winter. At least it's not very windy and the temperature isn't too bad. It could be worse.

I sent in a kit last month for which tests saliva for genetics. I wanted to know more about what's going on in my symptoms after having found that I'm homozygous for MTHFR and I have a lot of data now but am still working out how to turn that into information. I have several more genetic markers on the methylation panel that I need to understand what that means and what it means for my treatment. I also have a few genetic markers on detoxification... which I know NOTHING about. But, for one little clue about one little gene that might actually be good news. I don't understand it yet. But it's an 'ultra-fast metabolizer' which I'm thinking when it comes to detoxification might be a good thing. When it comes to warfarin (which I could never stabilize on) - it might actually be part of the insight into why that might have happened (maybe... lots of medical reading with three or four dictionaries opened is in my near future).

While they do this, they also give you TONS of other things about your ancestry and even have a place to document your family tree. For the people willing to do so, they even offer an option to find possible distant family members based on shared genetic sequences.

One thing that was verified that has always been a family rumor was that we definitely have a bit of Native American history in our blood. Though, I'm not sure if it's as recent as the rumor held. Supposedly, my Maternal Granmother's father was adopted and was half-Cherokee. But according to the genetics my genetic line is 99.9% European (expected that to be high) and .1% Native American. I would have thought that if four generations back was full-blooded Cherokee, that it would end up with more than that percentage. Of course, it all depends on which genes get passed on, right?  But, I'm wondering if perhaps there is Cherokee blood in the line, if it's not a little further back in the line.

They give you a place to document your family tree and surnames and other details. While I was documenting my Aunts & Uncles on my mother's side I came across one of my Aunt's obiturary which was commented on that someone had done the lineage for my Maternal Grandmother - they traced it back to the mid-1600's. I got ultra-absorbed in pulling that information into my family tree. I shut it down and when I went to search for it again, I found another member of the family had traced another line in their tree to the same people - but they were all the way back to the 1500's. Very fun. Very cool. A lot of information.

Now, my Maternal Grandfather's line has been documented previously by several people working on the geneology - like I have a book (literally, it's like 500 pages) for that family tree.

My Praternal Grandfather - I had done some research previously and found his parents in a census document. So I did some more searching and I was able to trace his family back to when his granfather first immigrated from Germany. I've found a few items with that man's name on it from Germany - Heinrich Heeren... but it's all in German. No idea if it's the same man, different man or what. Heinrich is basically German for "Henry" and Herren is an extremely common surname in Germany - though Heeren isn't as much we believe they went by Herren in Germany (not sure if the renaming occured during immigration or afterwards... I've got some clues that I originally thought meant it had happened during immigration I'll share in a bit,  but the latest information I found last night sheds some doubt on that). So basically, looking for Heinrich Herren in Germany is a little like looking for John Smith in England. It might be a little rough.

Sadly, I know very little about my Praternal Grandmother. I'll post it here in case someone else has info. I've lost contact with her side of the family (my only other surviving family on that side is through my Uncle and he's not into - well, anything, let alone finding family - we just keep our distance and don't talk - it works).  She was born in 1914 as Luella Virginia Aman somewhere in North Dakota. Moved to Sand Hill, Iowa (near Monticello) along with a sister to marry Albert G Heeren and by the 1940 census had given birth to my father who was 1 year old.

I know the Aman's had a big family and I've met some cousins through that side, but have lost contact since. Would love to find them again.

Anyway.... onto the 'hints/clues' about the renaming.

I sadly couldn't buy the box of books at my Great-Aunt's estate sale and this was pre-cell phone camera's... but during the sale I found a box of school books with "George Herren" and "George Heeren" written in them. Kindergarden through Second grade it was spelled Herren and the books were in German. Third grade it was spelled Heeren and those books were in English. So, I thought that meant that the family had emigrated together to America around the time that George would have been about 8-9 years old (reasonable assumption, right?). George would have been my Praternal Grandfather's father.

Only I found George's father's obituary last night. It was quite detailed as Heinrich was a gentleman of high standing in the community and had in fact chartered the local Lutheran Church and my family helped with construction of all forms of that church, well, except the one that's standing now. They just tore down the one my father helped build in the 40's a couple of years ago. He immigrated to Illinois from Germany in 1854 when he was 20 and married his wife (who was also from Illinois) in 1856. My great-grandfather wasn't born until after that (not sure exactly WHEN after that, but after that). So, that means that he might have been taught German because that was the tongue of his parents until they decided that they needed to improve their English skills and switched to an English set of school books. Nothing to do with immigration, it would appear.

So, is this scandelous? One might assume that adopting an English language and set of school books wouldn't necessitate a change of spelling in one's name. There are PLENTY of American "Herren's" around speaking English. PLENTY.

Well, rumour has it... and I'm dying to find the evidence of it in my family tree (just gotta keep digging).  But, that there were two first cousins who wanted to marry. And they both had the surname of Herren. Supposedly, the girls family changed their names so that there would be less questioning when they went to get their marriage license. That said. I have found the surnames of all of my Great-grandfather's sisters (well, at the time of their father's death, anyway) - and none of them were Herren... there was one baby who died who had kept Heeren (of course). Now, remarriage (esp. after being widowed) isn't impossible - so it's possible that one of the sisters had been the scandelous young girl who wanted to marry her cousin.  It's also possible that this might have been an arranged marriage... and it might have gotten planned while she was quite young. It's also possible that things might have gotten planned and then either of them might have decided to not marry the other.

While I was documenting my maternal Gradmother's line - I did find a Littlefield who married someone with the same surname.  No idea if they were close cousins yet or not... but since I found two separate trees with the same root Littlefield, I'm hoping by digging through and tying those two trees together into one document we can see if we got a little bit of inbreeding going on ... lol!  Of course, it doesn't help that the Littlefields tended to use the same names over and over (and over again). Heck there were at least two families where there were more than TWO children in the same generation with the same name to the same parents. Apparently, if you liked the name enough you stuck it to more than one child in case the other child didn't survive? So, there's a Francis 'the elder' Littlefield and his little brother Francis 'the younger' Littlefield.  Not sure if they went with "Anne" the first and "Anne the second' or what, but I suppose if you really wanted to carry the name on, you found a way to hedge your bets???? Just a little odd, let me just say! And confusing???? I have to redo part of the family tree... because I deleted one of the names (thinking I had just entered it incorrectly) when it tried to show that Patricia (the 2nd) daughter of George & Patricia (the 1st) was married to her father and was her own child (I'm pretty sure that didn't really happen - lol).

But it was late at night. And I think I screwed up that whole side of the family right there and then on that... and it was midnight and it wouldn't paint the family tree anymore. So I closed it down and hope that when I try again this weekend, I can figure out what I broke.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

I have tornados

You know how folks have their 'pefect' family captured in images that they've stuck to the back to their vehicle windows?  (let's put aside my two current issues with that - one related to being lame and worthy of spite and the other related to watching too many episodes of criminal minds and thinking that one ought  not to advertise details about their family).

Well, I was behind a vehicle on Monday that had two cyclones in that spot in their window with the words - "I have tornados"

I can relate. My not-so-perfect family is just the two of us at home... yet my house looks quite regularly like it's been hit by a tornado or two.

Mostly the 9 yr old is expected to pick up after himself (which he never does). And mostly he has to give up tv watching if he doesn't fix his issues with remembering to pick up after himself (which he will do over cleaning for a while). Then he'll suddenly forget he's supposed to help with cleaning up his messes conveniently for a while.  Then I'll have to remind him (sometimes with some penalties) of his duties he's forgotten.

I don't always do a good job of picking up after myself, as it is... so I can understand a few days of 'oops, I forgot I'm supposed to clean'.

In Ravelry ( - which is facebook for knitters... I'm starting a new group. We're going to reward ourselves with prizes, points and badges for cleaning.  Because right now, I play a virtual game where we combine knitting with the concept of Harry Potter... and those points and badges really motivate me to make more and more items with my knitting just to earn another badge or a few more points. And it's hard enough for me to convince myself to clean when I don't feel well and I can earn points for knitting which is always more fun than cleaning tubs or changing sheets.

I've found other like-minded crafters who just are looking for 'motivation' ... something that they can reward themselves for doing what they need to do around the house. I'm really looking forward to the experience. I know that even just a few days in with the group and talking about cleaning and routines has already started to improve the chaos that I live in. Mind you, it still looks like a tornado hit the house... but I'm starting to make it look like it's not as bad as it was... which is definitely a step in the right direction.

My group? The SPEW games (Harry Potter related, but funny on other levels).

Can healthy 9 yr old's have heart attacks?

DISCLAIMER: Sorry - title is my sense of humor... this post is about my twisted parenting style, not health issues for children.

My 9 yr old is REALLY stubborn.

I know this and recognize it - because my 24 yr old son was too.

And they come by it honestly - I was worse as a child. I used to call my mother up to complain about my kids and she would just find it utterly hilarious that I was saddled with stubborn children. It was just too funny.

So, I've been working on getting my son to clean up after himself better. It's been a battle. The battle I've been losing the worst of all - is the car. The backseat is pretty much his domain. I don't ride back there. I don't store things back there. 90% of the time, he's the only one back there... and I've let things slide because I was trying to win the battle IN the house.

But, it's gotten so bad in the back seat that we're losing things in it. Like, he has no room for his legs because the trash, toys, mittens, hats, etc are up to the seat and overflowing.

I've tried several tactics and nothing is working. Until last night.

Last night I offered to clean it out for him (which I have done before when he was younger).

He liked that.

But I told him that I was going to throw any toys, video games, etc that I find - into the garbage.

He was still actually ok with this. Sadly, he's pretty thrilled with getting 'new' things. And not so much into taking care of older things. And while there are some things that I am sure are hidden in that back seat that he would love to find? It's kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind for him. He won't miss what he doesn't realize he has... and he's willing to risk losing it over doing the work to clean up after himself.


Then I told him that if there was even ONE video game, cartridge, or whatever that got thrown away?




That I was NEVER, EVER going to buy him another video game ever again. EVER. For his life EVER. As in, if he can't do the bare minimum to keep his video games, then he doesn't deserve new ones.


dramatic pause.

Ok, mom. I think I want to clean the car out by myself.


Pretty, please, mom? Can I clean the car out by myself?  How much time do I have, do I have enough time to clean it?

Mom, can I have some plastic bags? I can fill them during the ride to daycare or ride home with the trash. And I can put the good things I want to keep in my backpack.


I think I hit a nerve. I'm not sure I feel guilty. It really, REALLY is messy back there. And he's old enough to throw away his own trash. He really is. I just had to find a way to get past that stubborn-ness gene.

We'll see how long it lasts. I'm sure that I can expect it to get cleaned, but not necessarily stay that way... but he's a boy. And clean cars aren't high on his list of goals. I get it. But I think I know what might kick him back into gear when he lets it get too bad in the future now.