Our shopping extravaganza is over, and the results are better than expected. With calculator in hand, three little boys did quite well after hitting no less than 6 stores, here are the results:
7 pairs of jeans
1 pair orthopedic shoes
1 package socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
1 shirt (because it was cool and only $3.49)
Grand Total $200.39
7 pairs of jeans
1 package socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
15 shirts (half of them for next year because the prices were so good!)
Grand Total $208.57
6 pairs of jeans
2 packages socks
1 package underwear
1 hoodie jacket
15 shirts (half of them also for next year)
1 pair of shoes
Grand Total $181.20
So I think our winner is definitely Joshie, although admittedly his pants were less expensive. Poor Matthew had almost half his budget spent on shoes, about which there was no choice or ability to shop around for them, so it wasn't as fair a contest as it could have been. But we would have been further below budget if we hadn't seen the camouflage hoodies at Walmart for fall...and no surprise here, they all wanted the exact same one, just as they all wanted the exact same backpack. I think this is so funny because I expect them to want to express their individuality more and all the three of them want is to be alike! I am glad about that, I guess, except for when it comes to laundry time and I have to sort clothes that are all similar and need to actually look at tags to figure out whose is whose.
You would think we would have a ton of hand-me-downs even within our own family, but as the boys are growing older that is proving to happen less often than I would have thought. Matthew is a totally different body shape than Kenny or Josh, and pants other than dress slacks are worn so hard by all 3 of them that they just don't last long enough to pass down most of the time. Kenny is our hardest on clothes, being more "boy-like" in terms of stains, rips and tears, therefore he will not hand down much to Joshie. Joshie is kind of on the tiny side, he has a very slight build and Matthew's bulkier framed clothes won't hand nicely on him at all and instead make him look swallowed up. Plus Kenny and Josh are often in the same shirt size. Kenny has totally different taste than Matthew when it comes to shirt...he loves turtle necks and Matt doesn't. He loves and would wear button down collar shirts every day to school if he could while Matthew prefers bolder patterns, is on a Hawaiian shirt kick right now, and loves abstract patterns even if on a polo shirt.
But man, did we "score" on the shirts for Kenny and Joshua! Beautiful polo shirts on clearance at Sears for $4.49 each as well as nicer striped/patterned T-Shirts for $3.99. Believe it or not, Kenny is still wearing a 4/5 in some shirts because he is so thin. He only weighs 58 lbs soaking wet, and finding pants for him is a real challenge. Anyone needing to find much thinner than the usual "slim" pants for boys should check out Sears Toughskins. I know many of you reading this are planning on or might bring home a toddler or older boy who is malnourished and have the same problem as we are having finding something to fit. We have tried on no less than 10 different brands of "slim" jeans over the past year only to have them all at least 3 inches too large in the waist, and found Sears was the only one that was REALLY slim.
One of the cutest moments of the day was when Matthew and I went to JCPenney to shop for pants for him, and on a sale rack we found some boys clip on ties. Matthew smiled at me, looked at the price and said "Mommy we HAVE to get these for Kenny, they are only $1.97 each!". Kenny has begged for a couple more ties, as he loves wearing them with a dress shirt to church. Now, our church is not at all formal and he is the ONLY boy there wearing a tie, but he has decided that he will make a fashion statement and loves dressing up (he has even asked for a sport coat!), and I am tired of seeing the same blue tie on him that was a cast off from some outfit of Matt's years ago...actually I think it may even be the one from his court outfit when we went to adopt Joshie. So, grinning to each other we picked out 4 ties, and after paying for our purchase we wandered back to the play yard where Dominick was keeping an eye on them while Kenny and Josh played. We called Kenny over and Matthew said "Kenny, close your eyes! We have a surprise for you!" and Kenny said "A present for me?" and closed his eyes. Matthew laid all 4 ties in Kenny's hands and when Kenny realized what they were he was SO excited, he actually jumped up and down. It was a hoot! So now I will be escorted by my bargain hunting, tie wearing Kyrgyz gentleman this Sunday :-)
This proved to be a really effective way of getting our kids, especially Kenny, to better understand the cost of clothing them, to look for bargains, and to shop very carefully. Although Joshua still doesn't really understand it all, he loved walking around with the calculator punching in the prices he found on tags. Matthew has always been very frugal with his money and I think will be a wise spender in the future. He already has no need for the "cool clothes" or name brands as he thinks they are a waste of money when he can have something equally nice for less. I realize that may change as he gets older but with him I tend to doubt it, as he has already learned to carefully budget when he has earned money himself and wants to spend it on a trip or for a Lego item. He often says "I can't believe how much that is!" when thumbing through the beloved Lego catalog. Kenny, on the other hand, is just beginning to understand the value of labor vs. money spent, and this was a great way to teach him today. He was at first looking at $25 jeans and saying "Look momma...that's a LOT of money! I can't buy much if I get that!" and then we saw the shirts at Sears and he got very excited about the price which was marked $5.99 but was even more reduced at the register. At the end of the evening tonight he was most impressed with how much they all got for the money they had, and I could tell the lesson had started to really sink in.
When you have a child who has never used money, spent money, or earned money in their 8 or 9 years of life, nor have they heard their parents discuss it on a practical basis, it is hard to teach them the entire concept of what money can buy, the value of things, helping them have a basis for comparison. When you have never even bought a candy bar before, money is an intangible concept...$25 is the same as $100. You don't realize how much the baby steps to budgeting happen when kids are little and they get the quarter for a gumball and then gradually that quarter becomes a dollar for a candy bar, and then the dollar becomes 10 dollars for a toy bought with birthday money. Without those building block experiences, it is all meaningless. So with an older child, you have to go back and recreate those building block experiences...and not just in the area of finances but in all areas of life. There are the building blocks of learning about members of a family and how they are related, the building blocks of how a person owns a house, the building blocks of how the government works and who pays for fireman and roads to be built, the building blocks of country versus state versus county versus city. All of these things are gradually learned by kids in families through conversation and explanations when they are toddlers on up. But it is often assumed that a 9 year old ought to know many, many things about life. Our 9 year old does not and it is our job to provide the puzzle pieces to him that he will then eventually put together to create the entire picture.
Today, for example, we had explanations about the following:
1) When a person dies, who makes the decisions about how to bury them. What is the hierarchy of power in that situation (i.e. do kids make the decision? Do spouses make the decision? etc.). This conversation and subsequent explanation went on for over 15 minutes.
2) Why would someone want expensive clothes?
3) What is a budget?
4) How do mommy and daddy pay for things like school clothes? Do we have enough money for them?
...and so many more things I can't remember. Honestly, there are moments when I suffer "brain fry" from all the questions, but then I remind myself that if I am suffering brain fry, he must be too as he tries to figure this all out. Often I have to think really hard about the approach I use to explain something, especially the more nebulous topics. I have to backtrack to explain something that is the building block for the actual answer to the question. Luckily Kenny is a really bright kiddo and usually understands why I backtracked and he appreciates the fuller explanation. There are also many times when his questions remind me just how many gaps still remain in his life experiences, and how many times I have assumed something or forgotten that he couldn't have possibly known something, and then I beat myself up for a few minutes over it. But just as it will take him years to catch up, it will take us years to explain it all. It won't happen overnight.
We received our final letter from the boys from camp today. They asked that I put pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes in their suitcases so they could easily write to us. I did so half-expecting that we would receive nothing from them knowing that the hustle and bustle of camp would keep them busy. I'll be darned if we didn't receive 2 letters from each of them and they both sent one to Joshua as well to surprise him! Kenny had his bunkmate help him write his as he, of course, can't really write a letter yet. When we checked the mailbox on the way in last night as we returned home, Matthew and Kenny were both very excited to see their letters had arrived and they could hardly wait for us to open them. It was pretty special to know they cared that much.
We heard from our Wichita friends today and learned it was a good thing they returned home when they did without a moment's delay. I hate it when you care about someone and are far away when they need to feel more cared about than ever. You feel helpless and useless. But I am reminded that God is with us always, even when others can not be. It is far better for Him to be there than little old us. And no doubt, He is with them right now.
We received our dossier preparation package right before we left, so now it is time to get busy on Stage 2. You'd think I'd have all this memorized by now, wouldn't you? But it is always a little different each time. Tomorrow evening we will be spending the evening with a local family whom I have never met but who is adopting 3 children, siblings, from Kazakhstan. Dominick has met them before and they called and asked us to come over and share our experiences with them. I am a little nervous, as always, when meeting new people but it should be a nice time.
Now I have tags to cut off clothes, washing and folding to do. Hmmm....we passed Purchasing 101 with flying colors, maybe we need to move on to Laundry 204!! But if we do that, we might find ourselves back at Purchasing 101 because of damaged clothing so maybe we'll just stick with the basics for now :-)