The Brody Bunch – Hot Wheels

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Just $1 each. My kids’ little fingers played with each one.  And, it was time to pass them on.

Hot Wheels, Driving Out of My House, But Not My Heart

Five Hot Wheels suitcases filled with 48 – 96 cars each, remained unplayed with for many years and stored in a basement closet. The chore of reclaiming valuable real estate space back in closets is long overdue. I am horrible at this task. With all of the kitchen gadgets, school art projects from long ago, future snow day activities, boxes of stuff family members thought they could store in my house, etc, the Hot Wheels were randomly chosen for the clutter purge.

More than a decade ago, when our son was three or four, I remember asking the pediatrician if our first born child was safely able to play with Hot Wheels.  The wheels are little parts, a toddler issue. Yes, pediatrician signed off on Hot Wheels! This was so exciting! I remember my son standing in the red Target shopping cart and spending a lot of time picking out the most special Hot Wheels from the display racks. He had a meticulous process. We often repeated this outing. The Tooth Fairy brought Hot Wheels. Grandparents bought Hot Wheels. Everyone was into this. Hot Wheels were gifted as first day back to school presents. Packs of Hot Wheels were given as birthday and Hanukkah gifts. We accumulated a large collection.

I remember buying a carpet with road designs at the Home Depot and spending hours playing with my oldest son and his Hot Wheels. My son learned math with Hot Wheels: “If a Hot Wheel cost $1, we need 25 thousand Hot Wheels if we want to buy a real car.” We bought plastic orange race tracks and made courses around the living room. Imagination triumphed and we stayed away from electronics for a very long time. Hot Wheels went with us in the car. Hot Wheels were played with in bed. Hot Wheels were stuck in between the couch pillows. Hot Wheels went with us to restaurants. And, I don’t know when, but the Hot Wheels were relegated to the storage closet.

Recently, I ran into a friend and her two boys, ages 4 and 8, in a retail store.  I whispered to her, “do your boys like Hot Wheels?” Yes, indeed! I found happiness discovering that these boys would give new life to our old treasures. Yet, I hoped that we had a secret stash somewhere in my sons’ room.

Days later, my daughters and I put the Hot Wheels in the car. When we arrived at the Hot Wheels’ new home, I randomly dumped the stuffed suitcases of cars into my trunk. I wanted to see them one more time.  My daughter said, “Oh, you should not have done that! Please don’t cry.”  I had flashbacks of memories from a lifetime ago.

I found a Lightning McQueen car (not Hot Wheels but my son’s first movie) and put that car in my pocket.  I found a silver Mercedes which resembled my Mom’s old silver Mercedes. I put that in my pocket, too. I found two different taxis which reminded me of how much my son loved taxi cabs in New York City.  So, I put two taxi Hot Wheels in my pocket.  My daughter told me that it was time to put the hundreds of cars back in the recyclable bag or else the cars would end up coming back home, and we didn’t want that. She was right. I would have kept the Hot Wheels until my sons were married. They don’t want the cars now, they won’t want the cars later.

So, with dust bunnies and some loose hair strands, I parted with the Hot Wheels. The boys were good with this plan. I am proud of my first son who is starting high school next week and his younger brother who is starting middle school, they simply outgrew the Hot Wheels.  May the boys who received these cars enjoy them at least as half as much as I did. It was the best dollar at a time that I ever spent.

Brody Bunch – And School Supplies

School Supply Shopping and No New Markers, Lauren

Back to school supply shopping is one of my favorite hunting and gathering expeditions of the year.   I am a marketer’s dream. I start stockpiling supplies as soon as the major box retailers put out their big displays.  With four kids we accumulate a surplus of supplies on sale that from year to year and we have an abundance of color pencils, markers and unused construction paper.  For the first time, we are no longer getting first dibs on cute pencil pouches, the kids don’t care.  I announced to my kids in the aisle, “We have enough magic markers from last year, no new markers this year.” An exacerbated mother also shopping for school supplies addressed her daughter, “Hear that Lauren? You too have enough markers from last year, no we are not buying new markers.”  Lauren rolled her eyes at me. (Sorry, Lauren).  … For all of the Moms of Laurens out there, I feel that these popular retailers should be granted a liquor license during school supply season. 

Buying Required Embroidered Uniforms Became an Experience, A Destination

This year, as the parent of a freshman high school student, we are required to purchase school approved embroidered uniforms.  This article is not about the merits of school uniforms versus street clothes, but I go on record that I am opposed to uniforms for a host of reasons, but that is for another blog.

So, I marked my calendar for a specific date that I would take my growing son for his high school uniforms.  He was not looking forward to this. I was trying to maximize both capturing a rare moment when he wasn’t rapidly growing combined with the store having a large selection in their inventory.  I am good at logistics. 

We went to Herman’s Discount School Uniforms in Baltimore City.  Herman’s is the recommended retailer.  I have never seen a store like this before.  I was like a deer in headlights but guided by an expert staff. Each Baltimore school has a large section displaying their unique logo items. Rival schools are not in the same aisles.  Parents, grandparents and alum, whether buying uniforms or not, had a lot of school pride throughout the store.  The store owners are parents of a student at our high school, so the sample uniform and spirit wear on display in the store entry represents our school. My previous pencil pouch interest transcended into the high school swag.  I tried on winter hats, in 95 degrees weather.  I was pulling T shirts over my head.  I negotiated if I needed the matching scarf with the school pride gloves, everything has the school logo. My son wanted to get in and out. 

I mixed and mingled with the staff and the customers.  It was an outing. My son just wanted a jogger jacket and the new custom polo shirts.  We bought all of it. But while we negotiating on shirt sizing – he wanted clothes that fit, but like a seasoned mother without coupons, I was trying to buy items that will last for all four years of high school, that’s the financial planner in me.  

I turned around and in addition to school uniforms, store inventory included: helium balloons, rugs, socks, toilet seat covers, curtains, baby needs, candy, batteries, and anything that you would find in a party store to a neighborhood hardware store and school uniforms.

Touring the Marvels of Herman’s

I was in awe. The owner took me on a tour.  It was enlightening. We went upstairs and there were computers, spools of threads and sewing machines, embroidering all of the various Baltimore City schools’ gear.  Hours are spent embroidering to keep up with the demand. I inquired about the store’s community charitable involvement, and the owner, while quite generous, was most humble. I felt great about spending my money here.

My son, somewhat mortified by my enthusiasm and excitement, in combination with teenage attitude, was waiting by the exit for me to leave while at the same time I was hoping to be hired for the holiday rush.  

Farewell Magic Markers, Hello School Spirit Wear

So, this year, Lauren and I didn’t pick out new markers. I made new acquaintances in the uniform store. And, while Halloween is just weeks after the start of the school year, another big retailer extravaganza, I am happy that my daughter offered to be a Trash Bag as her costume.  The money I save on her costume will be spent on new spirit wear at the uniform store.  Farewell to new markers and hello to pom pom hats donning City Forever.