We Are Both Right

Best of: Road Trip Games

©MEJones/stock.xchng

When your family goes on a road trip, how do you keep the kids entertained?

Road trip! The words have different connotations depending upon your age and station in life. For families with young children, the notion of hours (and hours and hours) in a moving metal box with four wheels and finite space can seem a bit daunting.

There are, luckily, devices designed to keep the whole family entertained while you are on the way to the main entertainment (Walley World anyone?). From portable DVD players to handheld video games (and let’s not forget books!), there are myriad ways to keep kids busy while you drive from Point A to Point B (and stop at Landmark C in between).

But now, not to get all “when I was your age I walked uphill in a snowstorm seven miles both ways,” but when we were younger, there were no electronic toys to keep us occupied. It was just ourselves (and a sibling or two), confined to the back seat, trying to stay sane. What did we do? Road trip games of course! Here are some of our favorites:

  • I Spy
  • 20 Questions
  • License Plate Bingo
  • Team Storytelling
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Banana Game (Whoever finds the most yellow cars wins)
  • Punchbuggy! (In which you keep an eye out for VW Bugs)
  • Mad Libs (buy the books or make up your own in advance)
  • Which Hand?
  • Quiz the Big People (the little one picks a topic and you name as many Pokemon, dinosaurs, etc. as you can in a minute)
  • Be Weird Al (and create your own song parodies)
  • Build an Imaginary Sandwich (the only time you will OK a pretzel, chocolate chip, syrup, white bread combo)
  • Colorforms on the windows
  • Magnetic fishing

What about you? What kind of road trip games do you like to play in the car with your kids?

(Originally published on July 22, 2011)

Preserving Memories – What’s Your Style?

old family photos

What are your family's memories made of? ©Jean Scheijen/stock.xchng

The other night, while I was rearranging the game closet (because it was about time) my daughter came up behind me and asked for her special pink book. “The one that’s all about me,” she said.

I reached up two shelves and handed over a fuzzy covered photo album that contains about two hundred pictures of her first two weeks of life. Yes, I take a lot of pictures. And my kids love me for it. ;-)

Actually, I have archived so many pictures that my husband jokes around that when we’re both gone someday, our son and daughter will be sitting in our house, looking at a room full of photo albums and portable hard drives, saying: “What are we supposed to do with all of this?”

But hey, it’s my memory-preserving style of choice.

Kids grow up so fast. There are so many special moments that I’m always thinking, I wish I could bottle this up and take it out down the road. The color of my daughter’s hair as I put it into pigtails for the first time. My son as a toddler digging into his favorite vegetable — corn on the cob. The looks on their faces the first time each of them rode a pony. Family gardening days out in the yard. Trips to the beach. Visits with great-grandma.

All of the random stuff that makes our family’s world go ’round. And so I take pictures. Lots of them.

There are so many other ways to capture a memory:

Keeping a baby book (although most moms feel a slight tinge of guilt when they think about their unfulfilled wishes for their baby book).

Blogging. I’ve gone so far as to print out most of the blogs I’ve written about my children, but somehow I don’t see them paging through these as much as they will our photo albums.

Scrapbooking, whether digitally or traditionally.

Logging highlights on Facebook–which our kids will probably hate us for someday when their potty training progress (and hang-ups) is still on full display for their prom date’s reading pleasure.

Videos–which are probably the best way to go back in time, if we could just settle on a format that’s going to last a lifetime!

What’s your memory-keeping style of choice?

Taking a Break (from Sleep) on Vacation

©We Are Both Right

They look sweet enough, but try sleeping between them. ©We Are Both Right

When is a two-night stay at hotel and spa not an exercise in relaxation?

When you have to share your bed with a two-year-old and an eight-year old. A double bed. With two pillows.

While the facility advertised “luxurious linens, fluffier pillows & down comforters” I spent my weekend resting my head on a bright yellow duck pillow pet, curled up under a corner of the decorative blanket that looks nice when you first walk into the hotel room, but most people don’t give it too much thought when it comes time for actually sleeping.

Not that I did too much of that.

It was a quick getaway two hours north of our house. A visit to a museum, some laps in a hotel pool, a few meals out — a nice way to bond as a family. And it was. We had a great time. The grownups just didn’t get any sleep. Normally we’d put the three kids (11, 8 and 2) in one bed and the adults in the other (and sometimes the 11-year-old opts to sleep on an air mattress on the floor), but the littlest guy was coming down with a cold and had a cough, so I decided to sleep with him and my daughter.

Toddler S. still sleeps in the crib, so to keep him comfortable and safe in the bed, we positioned it up against the wall. Our daughter A. slept on the other edge and I took the least-coveted middle spot. (There’s a reason why when you are picking your seats on an airplane those seats are never taken by the way. Even so, an eight-hour flight wedged between two sumo wrestlers would be preferable to what I endured.)

It was 10 p.m. on the first night and we were all tired from the day and our trip. We had arrived at our room a half hour earlier and everyone was ready to settle down. Everybody that is, except S. who was excited that all of his favorite people were all going to “sleep” in the same room at the same time and whose second wind seemed to kick in the second we walked into the hotel.

“S., stop kicking the wall.” (pause, kick) “S., get your feet off the wall.” (pause, kick) “S., stop kicking the wall.”

“I not tired! I no want sleep! I watch tv! Turn tv on!”

Kick. Kick. Kick.

Eventually (e-ven-tu-al-ly) he fell asleep, but as those of you who have shared a bed with a toddler know, I still wasn’t safe. Because that’s when the kicking, punching and head-butting portion of our evening started.

The thing is, I’m a big advocate of bedsharing. We’ve done it with all of our infants. The problem I have with co-sleeping is that once the kids get older (and their heads get harder), sharing a bed with your little one is less of a portrait of a snuggling family cuddled up under blankets and more of an image of a WWE wrestling ring. And guess what parents? You never get to win. Ever.

Sigh. Still, I tell my husband all the time that one day in the far too soon future, we won’t have a little person kicking us in our sleep or leaving sticky fingerprints on the television or pouring an entire cup of RED fruit punch in the middle of the sage green living room carpet (two months later we still can’t get rid of the stain) and we will miss every single second.

Even in my no-sleep-induced haze, I know we will.

What are sleeping arrangements like when you are on vacation?

Our Two Cents: To the Mom Mulling a Mohawk

Would you let your child sport this haircut? ©Margan Zajdowicz/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Just when did mohawks become the summer haircut of choice for boys?

Because no sooner had I finished telling my ten-year-old son that there’s no way he’s getting a mohawk haircut on our next trip to the barber, two of his friends show up to swim in our pool with their hair freshly buzzed, each with a stripe running from front to back.

What is up with that? I must have blinked and lost my edge, because the last time I checked only punk rockers sported that ‘do and it had something to do with egg wash.

So tell me: 1) Is this a neighborhood fad? and 2) Should I be giving my son some slack in choosing his own hairstyle?

To be honest, my husband is not entirely keen on the look either, but says maybe we should let him get it out of his system. I’m not sure I can go along with it though. What would you do?

–Clean Cut Mom

Suzanne: You don’t say where you live, but rest assured, this is all the rage by me too. The other night at my son’s baseball game, I spotted not one, not two, but three mohawks among his teammates (8 and 9 year olds). As soon as their caps came off, I started thinking: How long before my son asks for one too?

And I think I would probably struggle with it just as much as you. Except my son’s not asking for one. Phew.

But if I were you, I would probably want to know why this look appeals to him. And if he’s like most ten-year-olds, there won’t be much explanation or thought behind his argument. He’ll probably say something to the effect of all of his friends have it, and he just wants one too. Maybe he’ll go so far as to tell you that you’re old and so not cool and that you have no idea what style is. And maybe he already has.

So basically you have two choices. The first would be to say: “I’m your mother and as long as I’m paying for your haircut, I have a say in how it’s done.” (My first approach if need be.)

The second would be to count this among the battles you choose not to fight. Sure, you might worry that giving in to him on this will set you up to be a pushover when it comes to more serious stuff. But if you set some limits, and can come to terms with it in your own mind, then maybe tell him he can try it out once and only once. Hopefully he’ll hate it as much as you. Or grow tired of it. Or be itchy on day two and ask you to buzz it off in the backyard.

Whichever way it goes, this won’t be the last time you talk to your son about making a choice to stand out in the crowd (or in this case blend in with the crowd). So the practice sure won’t hurt. Good luck and happy buzzing!

Amanda: I asked my son, a 10-year-old boy who also happens to have the aforementioned mohawk haircut (for the third summer in a row), why he likes it so much, he said: “I just like it. It’s cool.”

So there you go. As his mom, I’m not thrilled with the cut, but it’s what he wants and it’s harmless enough, so in the summertime, when school is not in session, he’s permitted to get one. He’s happy, I’m somewhat happy (come September anyway) and peace reigns in our house.

I know what you are asking. If I don’t like him having a mohawk, why does he have one? Because it’s his body, not mine, and to me, a crazy haircut really isn’t that big of a deal. It has been my experience that hair always grows back.

In the summer for my son, a mohawk is his hair style of choice. But during the school year, he and his friends refuse to get haircuts, instead holding a contest to see who can grow their hair the longest. I think for school-age boys, hair is less a political or a fashion statement and more about topping their friends. And to me, that’s fine. Because I don’t look in the mirror and see spikes or a mop on my head.

In fact, the same reason why I chose not pierce my daughter’s ears as an infant is the same reason why I don’t interfere with my son’s choice of hair style.

Your body, your choice. And if you are old enough to express a preference, you are old enough to get it, especially if it’s non-permanent. And a haircut is decidedly non-permanent. (This is all within reason of course. No body piercings just yet. We need to save some drama for the teenage years.)

So I vote for letting your son get the hair style of his choice. If it makes you uncomfortable, set some parameters, like only during the summer like we do, or make the hair that makes up the mohawk wider. I think my son’s mohawk is about two or three inches wide across his head which definitely makes it less jarring than the one that our friend in the photograph (above right) has.

Good luck! While your son is at the barber, treat yourself to a pedicure — neon blue of course!

*********************

Is your child’s haircut a matter of personal choice? Yours or theirs?

Check in with us weekly for the next dose of advice x2. And if you have a question that has you bouncing between two sides, send it to advice@wearebothright.com and let us help settle the match.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Needs Some Rest

©hoefi/stock.xchng

Do your kids have a different bedtime in the summertime? ©hoefi/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I’m tired. Oh so tired. It’s summer obviously, and to my kids and my husband, among other things, that means everyone gets to stay up later. Lovely! Fabulous! Except it isn’t so much and I’m the mean one.

I love my kids (ages 7 and 10) and I’m glad they are home all day (I’m a stay-at-home mom), but I need a break. It used to be I got it at 9 p.m. after they had all gone to bed. Now they are both convinced that since they don’t need to wake up in the morning they can stay up as late as they like.

They have the backing of my husband who is glad to spend some “real time” with them. He works until 7:30 p.m. or so and usually doesn’t get home until after 8. During the school year he would only see them for an hour or so, now they have the whole evening together. And that’s great. But I am with them all day and I need some time for myself. Not to mention, I’m not really crazy about them sleeping in until 10 or 11 every morning.

I need a break, but how do I get it without being the scrooge who stole summer?

–ZZZZZZZZ

Amanda: Easy. You take it.

It sounds to me like you don’t begrudge your husband time with his kids. So give it to him. At 9 p.m., or whatever time it is you choose, announce that mom is done for the day. And mean it. Head into your room and go to sleep, catch up on your DVR viewing in the family room, go out for a drink with a friend. But whatever you do, don’t be a mom. Don’t unload the dishes, don’t make a snack for your daughter, don’t take the dog for a walk. Take your break and let the rest of your family fend for themselves.

Sound mean? Hardly. It’s just for a few hours every night and it’s not like you can’t put your “mom” hat back on in an instant if you need (or want to). Explain to everyone what you just told us. That you are working long, hard days and while you love your family very, very much, you need a break at the end of the day, a chance to unwind. And who knows, you may decide that you want to join dad and the kids in playing Monopoly or watching a movie or whatever it is they are doing until the wee small hours of the morning.

The one thing I would be firm on is the morning wake up time. It is summer, so I do give my kids a bit of a break in terms of not turning on the alarm clock. But I make them get up by 10 a.m. the latest and if they choose to sleep in that long, they don’t get to watch television until after dinner. It’s easy to whittle away the long summer days, but I know I don’t want my kids sitting on the couch or in bed all day, I’m afraid it will mess up their internal clocks too much. And if by chance we do have something to do that requires an early wake-up in the morning, I do make them go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Good luck! Enjoy your not-mommy time.

Suzanne: Ah, the curse of summer. Everyone is so happy to be footloose and fancy-free but at the same time you get robbed of any me-time you might have carved out during the rest of the year.

If you can’t get the family’s understanding that you are home but off-duty, then maybe you should find an evening summer course — tennis, book club, or yoga — that gives you some “scheduled” time away. Or, suggest to your husband that he take the kids to the ball field or playground after dinner, and tucker them out so they come home ready to climb into bed.

As for them sleeping in, why don’t you consider those extra hours a chance to fit in some bonus time for yourself? Read a book, do your nails, sit outside with your coffee. Take a slow start to your day and you could find yourself in sync with the rest of the crew, ready to enjoy a late summer evening together.

Just look at it this way — it’s really only for a few weeks. Soon enough you will be shopping for marble notebooks and glue sticks, and then it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming.

******************************

What is your advice to our poor, tired mom? (Whisper, I think she might be asleep.) Do your kids have a different bedtime in the summer?

And if you need advice x 2, send us a note at advice@wearebothright.com.

Best of: Summer Perks

What's your idea of summer fun with the kids? ©Joe Batluck/stock.xchng

Summer’s in the air, and suddenly everything seems a little bit calmer, and a lot more fun.

The kids are content playing in the sand box. You are happily flipping and flopping over to the hammock with a magazine. And the sun just keeps on shining.

Does it get any better than this? Even the sticky hands can wait until later because nothing much matters on these lazy summer days.

There are lots of perks to spending a summer with kids. Here are our top ten:

1. Finger painting outside.

2. Fewer clothes. Fewer battles.

3. Ice pops all day long.

4. Ice cream for dinner.

5. When it’s over 100 degrees, everyone is welcome in the kiddie pool!

6. Naps in the car on the way home from the beach.

7. No excuses needed if you just feel like running through the sprinkler.

8. A walk or bike ride every night after dinner.

9. Trading the shower for a hose.

10. Going to the library on super-hot days and spending an afternoon reading in the cool. Ahhh.

So while the kids are decorating the driveway (and each other) with chalk, and before it’s time for the next round of ice pops, go ahead and add your favorite summer perks to the list.

Best of: Summer Reading Kids’ Chapter Books

©nkzs/stock.xchng

What books will your kids read this summer?

How does that rhyme go again? “No more pencils, no more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

While we can’t speak for the #2′s or the educators, it’s safe to say that in both of our homes, the “no more books” part is not an issue. While summer reading is required by many school districts, even if it weren’t, you better believe we’d be making our kids spend some of their precious summer vacation in a cool, quiet spot, absorbed in something that doesn’t make noise or have flashing lights.

And while it’s likely the kids will bring home age-appropriate lists from their teachers with some great suggestions on what to read, here we humbly offer up some of our own choices. Feel free to add your own selections in the comments section below!

Amanda:

The “Ramona” series by Beverly Cleary: You cannot even begin to imagine my absolute delight when my 8-year-old daughter came home with the book “Ramona & Beezus” from the school library one day. (An even greater source of pride? She chose it on her own, long before the recent movie came out.) We read it together aloud, a page at a time. And while she was confused by some of the dated references, we found ourselves laughing out loud at many of Ramona’s misadventures. Unfortunately we didn’t get to finish the book — it was due back before we were done — but we fully intend to pick up where we left off.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donal J. Sobol: I’ve been a fan of mysteries since I was young and Leroy Brown was the main reason why (also, I might have had a little crush on him). These short stories follow the tween-aged detective as he solves crimes big and small, some presented to him by kids in the neighborhood, others by his father, the local police chief. The mysteries themselves are not only a fun read, but they encourage logical thinking. By the third or fourth one in, your child may even be able to figure out “whodunit?” without having to turn to the answers section at the end of the book.

Suzanne:

The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne: So maybe your summer plans don’t include any trips to far off exotic lands (at least this year). No worries. Give your child one of MPO’s chapter books and you will more than make up for it. These tall tales make history and geography about as easy to swallow as carrots and beets hidden in tomato sauce. My son and I started out reading these books together when he was in kindergarten. He then spent the following two summers bouncing his way through the series and surprising us by what he learned along the way, including obscure facts about Venetian Carnivals and camel rides through the Middle Eastern desert. My favorite: when my husband and I came back from New Orleans and L. knew more about the history of the blacksmith Lafitte than we did after actually being there.

Sports Novels by Matt Christopher: Does someone you know prefer a ball and a bat over the pages of a book? Then you might try throwing one of these chapter books their way while you are driving to batting practice. Author Matt Christopher didn’t earn the title of #1 sportswriter for kids for nothing. His books include fiction stories like The Kid Who Only Hit Homers and Nothin’ But Net, while his numerous biographies on famous athletes will make that book report a breeze once school starts again. These are the books I find my son reading and re-reading late at night with a light under the covers.

******************************************

What’s on your child’s summer reading list? What was on yours as a child?

Summer Camp Mommy and Daddy (No Sewn-In Nametags Required)

©kevinrohr/stock.xchng

We spend a lot of time in our backyard over the summer. But really, is that so bad? ©kevinrohr/stock.xchng

My two older kids are the perfect candidates for summer camp. Ages ten and eight, they are both athletic and social and love arts & crafts and campfires and s’mores and swimming and everything else that comes with riding a big bus to a spot in the woods where they spend a week or more with hundreds of their peers.

Too bad I’m not on board with it.

That’s not entirely true. I would love for my kids to go to camp, but honestly, a lot has to do with finances and a lot (A LOT) has to do with me missing them and being a crazy mother.

C. had the opportunity to go with the Boy Scouts for a week to a camp a few states away. It sounded like 10-year-old boy heaven: fishing, swimming, hiking, whittling (seriously), bunk beds and a host of other activities that you can only manage to do (get away with) when your mother isn’t within a 500 yard radius. My husband thought it was a great idea, me not so much.

Is it because I don’t want my son to be happy (as some may or may not have accused me of)? No, not at all. This is his first year of Boy Scouts (he just crossed over in March), he’s only been on one camping trip without us, he doesn’t always have the best track record when it comes to sleeping away from home and (most importantly I think) the boys aren’t allowed to call their parents. This isn’t just no cell phones policy, they can’t even jump on a pay phone for a quick check in. And I have a real problem with that. (But will save that rant for another time.)

Now obviously there are other options. Different sleepaway camps, day camps in our area — but like I said before, finances are definitely in play here. So instead, each child will get to choose one or two smaller camps — for my son it will most likely be a week-long daily baseball camp run by his Little League and a week-long, half-day cartooning camp at a local art studio and for my daughter it will also be a camp at the art studio and something else that she hasn’t decided yet.

The rest of the time off will resemble the summers of my own childhood — trips to the beach (and we are fortunate enough to live five minutes away from a free one so we are there quite often), picnics at the playground, a few spins at a local amusement park and on the hottest days, visiting places where the A/C is blasting — the library, the mall, the movies. Sometimes we will simply stay home and partake in reading, video game playing and bike riding. My husband starts his month-long vacation in July so there will definitely be a lot of family activities too with the five of us spending quality time together.

Celebrating the lazy days of summer — sleeping in, no set schedule, just letting go of everything.

Thank goodness they aren’t going to camp — I can’t wait!

Do your kids go to summer camp? Where? For how long?

After reading Suzanne’s post about the summer camp her kids go to, I may sign up for the program myself! Sorry kiddies!

Discovering the Joys of Summer Camp

What's your version of summer camp for the kids -- at home or away? ©icekitty37/stock.xchng

My kids tell me summer camp is fun. And from my perspective in the parking lot dropping them off every morning, I would have to agree.

To be absolutely truthful, I’m actually a little jealous of them. OK, a lot jealous.

I never had that type of camp experience. When I was growing up — at least in my town and in my circle of friends — camp was a foreign concept. We had backyards, we had moms who stayed home, we had neighborhood friends. Fill up the collapsible above-ground pool with some cold water from the hose and we were set.

And on really hot days, my mother took me and my brother and sister to the library to cool off.  After scooping up anything Beverly Cleary and a few architectural magazines, we’d go home where I would claim my spot on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, right where the air conditioning wall unit blew a stream of nice cool air under the bed, to pore over floor plans for an hour or two.  I know — now I’m making you jealous, right?

But as far as the child in me was concerned, this was the epitome of a fun summer.

I remember literally turning up my nose at the thought of spending a whole summer in camp when I heard about other kids (in far-away regions) who left their parents to spend weeks on end living in a mosquitoe-y cabin and swimming in a murky lake somewhere.

Fast forward to 2009. I get out of my car a few days after L.’s last day of first grade. There’s a Top 40 soundtrack blaring from overhead speakers and Spiderman standing on top of a school bus filled with day campers. The pools are glistening in the morning sunlight, the smells of breakfast waft through the air, and the rock wall and sky trail have caught my son’s eye.

Boy, do I want to be him.

In a few weeks, we’ll be back in the same spot as he starts his third summer at this same day camp. He can’t wait to see his camp friends and be eligible for the baseball tournament this year. He is proud of the fact that he graduated to the big pool and can start diving instruction. This from the kid who had every excuse in the book to not swim when I brought him to swimming lessons in the year before he started camp.

Camp has given him a leg up on me in tennis (although my skill level isn’t that hard to match). By the end of last summer, I might have mistaken him for a California native on the beach volleyball court. He has full access to batting cages, go-karts, in-line skating ramps and a dek hockey court. You name it, they do it. Did I mention cooking class, puppet shows, nature walks and woodworking?

And as if his stories at the end of the day weren’t convincing enough, I get to see the fun for myself in the hundreds of pictures posted by the camp in an online photo gallery every day. And I couldn’t be happier for him. Because although his days are structured, maybe even more than when he’s in school, there’s nothing about camp that he doesn’t like.

Except when it ends. The last day, somewhere around the third week in August when the counselors all have to get ready to go back to college, is tough. The kids cry. The boys too.

(Me? Well I’m secretly celebrating, because most of the time, that’s the start of my vacation week from work.) But I try to entice him with all the fun things mom has planned for his two weeks of freedom before school starts up again. Picking berries at the farm. A trip to the water park. A quiet weekend in the city at the museums. A road trip down the shore.

But I can still count the hours until the first “I’m bored.” At which point I always suggest the library and a cold hose.

Do your kids go to summer camp? Did you?

Looks like Amanda and I might be going to camp together. But that means the kids are staying home.

Best of: Ways to Spend an Income Tax Refund

©djshaw/stock.xchng

You did the math and as it turns out, you're getting an income tax refund! Now how to spend it... ©djshaw/stock.xchng

According to the IRS, the average tax refund for 2011 is $2,985. If you are one of the lucky nearly 65 million Americans to receive one, you’ve got some planning (and maybe some spending) to do. And while saving your income tax refund is a prudent, smart option, the reality is some, if not all of the money that many folks receive in April gets spent.

Here are our favorite ways to pass the buck:

Amanda:

Vacation: When we get to spend our tax refund on a family trip, I’m definitely in (and going to) a happy place. And since that’s what we’re doing this year, I’m ecstatic. This time around we are taking the kids on a surprise trip to Disney World, but in the past our April bonus has funded a jaunt to Colorado and a cruise to Canada. When I was younger my parents used to use their tax refund to pay for our family vacations and it’s a tradition I’m happy to continue.

House repairs/improvements: When we have to spend money on the house, I’m not so much with the happy as I mentioned above. Yes, investing in our home is a good idea. When it’s necessary — a clogged pipe, a filled cesspool, torn aluminum siding — I’m glad that we have the money in our account, not thrilled we have to spend it on something so useful.

First birthday party: Last year our youngest son turned one and we wanted to celebrate. Big time. So we did, inviting 75 friends and family members to a bash held at a beach club over Memorial Day weekend. Tons of food, live music, toys and games for all the kids. Was it extravagant? Yup. Will he remember it? Nope. Was it one of my best days ever? For sure. It was six hours of pure fun and I know our family will never forget it.

Suzanne:

Fun Home Improvements: While Amanda talks about the run-of-the-mill home improvements which sometimes need doing, we like to throw our extra funds into more visible and enjoyable home projects. Like buying furniture and new carpeting for our family room, which is what we did this year. Gone are the fifteen-year-old couches. Bye-bye big TV that takes up half the room. And hello cushy rugs without blue marker. If the refunds were as big as they used to be, maybe we could plan on doing the kitchen next year, but we might have to find a larger pot of gold for that endeavor.

Summer Camp: We kind of have no choice on this one, as it also doubles as day care during the summer. Considering what it costs to send my son to his day camp, it certainly qualifies as a luxury in my mind since it wouldn’t otherwise fit into our annual budget.  Besides, if I don’t get to lounge by the pool and play tennis every day, somebody should.

Are you getting a income tax refund? How will you spend it?