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Parenting
05/07/2010
IconOne Income Living in a Two Income World by Deborah Taylor-Hough I hear it all the time: "It must be nice making so much money you can be home with your kids. We could never afford to do that." Excuse me?! Our family of five lives on an income which could easily qualify for several low-income programs. We make so much money, huh? Where is it?! Now please don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. My husband and I have voluntarily, and quite happily, chosen this frugal lifestyle. But it's funny to hear the misconceptions others have about our finances. COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS The assumption seems to be, if you're home with your children full-time you must be rolling in piles of money. Common urban folk-lore unsettles us with the "fact" that it will cost over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to raise each child to adulthood. According to those figures, it would cost over half a million dollars to raise our three children! Gulp. . . .Maybe the numbers are accurate if I bought my children's clothing exclusively at up-scale specialty stores, sent "Buffy" and "Skip" to ultra-expensive private schools, and outfitted their rooms with the latest audio/visual equipment and top-of-the-line designer crib ensembles. REALITY But the reality in our neighborhood is drastically different. Nearly every family on our block has consciously made the choice, at least for a time, to make the necessary sacrifices so one can parent can be home with their young children. I hope you won't think we've all dropped out of life and taken up an existence of soap operas and bon-bons. Far from it. Many of the women have cottage industries or attend college. Some do consulting work to stay abreast of their professions. A neighbor stays home with her children, actively pursuing a writing career. But even with additional part-time incomes, the families on our street don't make the money that statistics claim we'll need to adequately raise our kids. But raise them successfully, we will! THE SECRETSo, what's the secret to "one income living in a two income world?" Actually, there are several easy tricks: Watch Your Purchases Watch your purchases, even small ones, carefully. If you're cautious with your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves. For one month, keep a detailed spending diary of all expenditures, even for newspapers and coffee. Seeing it all in black and white can be eye opening. Buying a latte' at the local espresso bar each morning can easily cost you $30-$40 per month. Most people spend at least $5 each weekday on food related items at work. (Lunch, pop, coffee, snacks, etc.). Bringing lunches, treats and drinks from home could save your family nearly $100 per month, or $1,200 per year! Groceries are one of the few fairly flexible expense categories in most families. Learn tricks for saving money by careful meal planning and using up leftovers. Investigate the concept of cooking for the freezer (i.e.: Frozen Assets). Learn to buy in bulk, and take advantage of lower prices by planning your menus around the grocery sales flyers in the newspaper. Little expenses add up quickly if they're done on a regular basis. When you find the areas in your life where the money is draining out, plug up the holes! Live Within Your Means Vow to live within your means. Easier said than done -- but it can be done! The first step is establishing a budget. If you have problems keeping to a written budget, try the envelope system. Figure out how much money you need each month for the different categories of expenses (food, clothing, gasoline, bus fare, etc.) and place that amount of cash in separately labeled envelopes. You will have a concrete visual aid to show you exactly how much money you have left to spend in each category. And you will see clearly that borrowing money from another envelope leaves less money in that other category. The envelope system is great for people who tend to think that as long as there is a positive balance in the checkbook, they can keep on writing checks. Get Out of Debt Get out of debt, and stay out. In 1996 alone, there were over one million personal bankruptcies filed in the United States. The majority of these were the result of poorly managed consumer debt. - Does your installment debt (not including mortgages) total more than 20 percent of your income? - Have you taken cash advances on one credit card to pay the monthly payments on other cards or credit accounts? - Are you at your credit limits? - Are you receiving letters, phone calls, or notices from collection agencies? - Do you have difficulty imagining your life without credit? If you answered "yes" to even one of these questions, consider seeking advice from a financial planner. You could be on the way to severe financial difficulties, or even bankruptcy. Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service for free financial advice and debt counseling. Call 1-800-388-CCCS for the office near you. Identify Priorities Identify personal priorities. No one can set your family's priorities for you. But if you don't take time to think them through, articulate them clearly and live them out, you'll find you have lived a life that is not a true reflection of your inner priorities. Clarify your personal definition of success and meaningfulness by writing out a brief mission statement for your life. Then evaluate every purchase and activity in light of your personal life mission. If having time for community involvement is an important priority, can you pare back the non-essential activities to allow room for volunteering and service? Watching evening television might be a relaxing pastime, but is it adding anything to your community's quality of life? If staying home with your children is a top priority, are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? It's not a crime to shop at thrift stores for your family's wardrobe essentials. And your children won't hate you if you don't take them to Hawaii every year (these are extreme examples, but I think you get the point). A Support Network Establish a support network of friends in similar financial circumstances. If money is tight, every decision can become a financial one. It helps to have friends who understand personally the difficulties you face, and can offer support for the choices you're making. Resources Tap into the many resources available for simple living. There are newsletters, books, web-sites, and even local study groups that can inspire you and offer practical ideas for living within your means. WHAT IT TAKES It doesn't take a salary the size of Bill Gates' to live on one income. But it does take careful planning, focused priorities and a non-negotiable commitment to stay out of debt. There are sacrifices involved, but if your heart's desire is to be home with your children, the rewards of staying true to your convictions will far out-weigh any losses you might experience. Our family faced these decisions nearly ten years ago. We followed our hearts, and we'll never regret it. I drive my used, rusty station wagon with pride. Laugh if you must, but we don't make monthly car payments and our yearly license fees and insurance premiums are minimal. Driving used cars is just one of the many choices we've made that allow me to be home each day with our young children. SACRIFICES? Am I making sacrifices? Maybe. But for me, the real sacrifice would be giving up the joys I share each day with my three kids. Laughing together. Growing and learning side by side. Being available to others in need. Those are joys that I can never recapture if I miss this opportunity now. Carpe diem. Seize the day. By making a few not-so-difficult financial decisions, we have been able to reach our dream of living on one income in a two income world. If you share that dream, I believe you can make it happen, as well. It can be difficult, but the benefits of making it work are beyond belief! ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer, wife and mother of three) is the editor of the Simple Times and Bright-Kids email newsletters. She's also the author of the bestselling book, Frozen Assets: how to cook for a day and eat for a month , Frozen Assets Lite Easy , Mix and Match Recipes , Curriculum Yellow Pages and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHome Theater Heist by Michael Kellam www.notjustbeans.com Have you ever thought that some particular purchase would save you money. I often hear people talk about how they can save money by purchasing something that will save them in other ways. A good example of this is a home theater system. Many of my movie buff friends, awed by snazzy displays in electronics stores have convinced themselves that there is no cost in this type of purchase. After all, it is difficult to find a first run movie theater that sells tickets for less than $6.50 each and many are substantially more. Surely, they reason, at say $8.00 per ticket, they would save money purchasing this system that attempts to approximate the theater experience. Is this really the case? One particular friend purchased his system in stages. First he purchased the large screen television for a cost of around $2000. Then he purchased a mid range stereo system including a DVD player for another $2000. For these prices, surely the stereo would include speakers, but says my friend, that is not the case. He spent another $1500 purchasing speakers and a sub woofer because he likes the bass. My friend was telling me how he got a great deal because he purchased several of the components at once. He asserted that he "saved" several hundred dollars on the equipment and that the entire system would pay for itself since he would no longer incur the cost of seeing theatrical releases. Considering his assertions, my curiosity got the best of my and I began crunching numbers. I added his equipment costs and figured that his system cost $5500.00. At $8.00 per movie, that means he would have to watch 688 films on his home theater before it would pay for itself. Not bad, you might think. He might see that many films in two years if he watched one every day. Of course, this assumes he is watching films that he would have seen in the theater but chose to view them on his home theater instead or else he wouldn't be saving money. My friend found that even with his home theater, he did not want to give up theatrical movies all together, so maybe it would take a little bit longer for the system to pay for itself. What my friend never figured into his numbers was that he was going to have to have DVD#146;s to watch on this new system. At the purchase price for DVD#146;s, suddenly it would be cheaper for him to watch a movie in the theater. His system could never pay for itself. My friend decided that he would instead rent the DVD#146;s from the local video store, where DVD#146;s rent for about $4.00 each. If all of the DVD#146;s he watches are rented, he only saves $4.00 over the price of watching the film in a theater. This means that we have to do the math all over again. Now for the system to pay for itself (dividing the $5500.00 system by the $4.00 savings), my friend would have to watch 1375 movies for the system to pay for itself. He would have to watch at least one movie every day for close to four years before the system pays for itself. Now my friend is serious about movies, but lets face it, one movie every day is a lot of movies. My friend never considered that after a couple of years, the technology would be so much better that he would want a new one. Sure his system was great, but look what they have now. Still, the system has not paid for itself so he must press on. He never considered that if he had simply paid the eight bucks to see a theater movie every day that he would be $3000 ahead at this point and not in hock for this stupid home theater. Heck he could have gone to the theater AND bought popcorn every day! What makes it worse is that my friend bought his system at one of those electronics stores with the 1 year same as cash. How can you beat that #150; no interest! What he didn't know was that if the balance isn't paid off by the end of the year, that the company charges all of the interest back to the date of the purchase as if it was never "same as cash". To add insult to injury, the credit company charges 29% interest on purchases. That means that in addition to the $5500.00 my friend paid, he also has to pay $1595 PER YEAR interest until it is paid off. If he only pays the minimum payment of $150 per month, it will take him 91 months (7 frac12; years) to pay off the system. The total cost of the system is then $13,647 including $8147 in interest. This means that including the $4.00 savings per movie, he will have to watch 3412 movies before the system pays for itself. That is a heck of a lot of movies. If my friend watched a movie every day, it would take him more than nine years for the system to pay for itself. In this case, my friend could have paid full price to watch movies every day at the theater for more than nine years. In fact, the system is not really paying for itself if my friend would not otherwise have actually paid the $8.00 every day for nine years to see that many films. It also does not take into consideration that most people see at least SOME movies in discount theaters. If my friend would have seen a film in a discount theater, he would actually be spending more for each movie he chose to view on his home theater. What I have not mentioned here is that my friend works a job that pays him $20,000 per year. If he pays cash for the system (NOT using a credit card), he will have had to work over three months for no other reason but to pay for his home theater. If he uses a credit card, he will have had to work for more than 8 months to pay for the system. Now, I don't know about you, but if I could take 3-8 months off of work and still live at the same standard of living, I would rather do that than go to a job and work more for someone else so I can "save" money purchasing a home theater that might not pay even for itself for nine years. I am not saying that home theaters are bad. I am simply saying that you should consider carefully the cost of something before you purchase it. I personally would not purchase such a system when I can see a film in glorious Technicolor on the big screen as it was meant to be seen (in 2.35:1 wide screen of course). If you feel that it is worth it to you to spend the money on such a system (for instance, if you are permanently confined to bed), it is your prerogative to spend it on whatever you wish to spend (keeping in mind that you must want it more than that other thing you can't afford after you have bought it). So go enjoy the movie! And say "Hi" to the ticket taker for me! Michael helps his wife Tawra run the website www.notjustbeans.com . They paid off 20K in debt in 5 years on an income of 22K a year. Tawra's frugal cookbook Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites . has over 540 recipes and 400 tips. For more tips and recipes visit their website at www.notjustbeans.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconKids and Clutter: Pink Bunnies Copyright 2002 Deborah Taylor-HoughUsed with permission. All rights reserved.Adapted from "A Simple Choice: A practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity" (Champion Press, 2000) While talking with one of my daughters, we discussed the need for decluttering her bedroom. Over the years, she'd collected quite an array of toys, books, decorative objects, and miscellaneous odds and ends. Because she tends to bond emotionally with anything that enters her room, convincing her to willingly clear out the excess "stuff" had always been quite an ordeal. I've learned over the years, the more clutter and excess stuff I carry with me, the more disorganized and scattered my life feels. As my daughter and I looked around her room I asked, "When you look at the piles of papers and toys in your room, do you feel overwhelmed by it all -- not even sure where to start when you need to clean your room?" She agreed that was just how she felt. Many of the items I saw in her room were things she never used or played with anymore. But I could also see she had special items that really held meaning to her and she used regularly. I suddenly had an idea. I picked up her two all-time favorite toys (the ones that were "real" in the Velveteen Rabbit sense of the word), held them up to her, and asked, "Big Bird and Fluffy are your special toys, right? They're your comforting friends, your buddies you sleep with each night. They've seen you through surgeries and scary times. You'll probably want to keep them forever, won't you?" She smiled and nodded as she realized I knew how much her favorite stuffed animals meant to her. Then I grabbed two pink bunnies from under her bed that she never played with anymore. They were nothing special to her, just a couple of plain old pink bunnies. "Now, look carefully at these pink bunnies," I said. "Do you want to lug them around with you for the rest of your life? They're nice bunnies. They're even cute bunnies. But are they 'special' bunnies?" She laughed at the idea of hauling those pink bunnies around with her forever, and agreed they weren't anything she played with or even thought much about. As we looked around, she realized her room was full of other "Pink Bunnies" -- those items that just took up space, cluttering her closet, dresser and floor. I suggested she make two piles of things in her room. The "Pink Bunny" pile and the "Big Bird and Fluffy" pile. If something wasn't a favorite item and used regularly, it belonged in the "Pink Bunny" pile. Items that brought joy, had particular meaning, and were used frequently would go into the "Big Bird and Fluffy" pile. Suddenly it became easy to sort her toys, and even also lots of fun! I'd hold up a toy and ask, "What's this one?"She'd laugh and shout, "It's a 'Pink Bunny'!" And then happily toss it into the pile of toys destined for the yard sale box in the garage. As we sorted, we discovered the Pink Bunnies outnumbered the special toys by about three to one. After we finished going through her toys, my daughter had a nice manageable pile of only her very favorite toys. Not only did it reduce the clutter in her room, but it also brought her a great sense of accomplishment. She finally was able to sort through everything and let go of the things she didn't use anymore. When I decided to try the same general idea with my son several months later, the whole "Pink Bunnies" scenario didn't apply. No abandoned stuffed animals hiding under his bed. He mainly had an overabundance of fast-food kid meal toys, small cars, and building block sets. So, what could I use for the Pink Bunny pile in his life? I knew there had to be a similar idea that could inspire him to start happily tossing out the unused clutter. I thought about it for a couple of hours ... and then had a brainstorm! For my son, the two decluttering piles became "Dirt" and "Diamonds." He really enjoyed sorting his toys into those categories, and before I knew it, we were down to just his favorite cars, toys, games, and building blocks. "Dirt" worked like a dream! So, on a more personal note, how many Pink Bunnies do you have in your house and life? Whether it's in a child's room, or one of your own closests, maybe it's time to sort through any accumulated clutter and find out. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: --Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer and mother of three) is the author of Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat for a month , and A Simple Choice: A practical guide for saving your time, money, and sanity. She also edits the Bright-Kids email newsletter. To subscribe, email: join-bright-kids@ds.xc.org Visit Debi online at: http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/ Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconMake Cleaning A Game by Penny E. Stone www.championpress.com My house was so cluttered and messy! I had been suffering with extreme lower back pain and bending over to pick up anything off the floor was out of the question. I was under a doctor's care and in physical therapy for the condition. I had a good excuse for a messy house, but it still grated on my nerves. Finally I decided I could let it go no longer. As I looked around, I came to the conclusion a mess this bad was going to take me at least three days to clean up; not to mention the amount of time I'd be "out of commission" as a result. And it was a given that the kids didn't want to do the work either. What's a mother to do at times like this? Then the idea hit me....why not make a game of it? I called my three kids together, ages 10, 5 and 2. This is what I told them. "We're going to play a game! I'm going to turn on the CD player with some real lively music. You're all going to draw a slip of paper out of a hat and you can ONLY DO that ONE THING for ONLY as long as ONE SONG lasts. When the song ends, you HAVE TO STOP!" I picked up a pad of post-it notes and walked through the house, jotting down one chore per piece of notepaper. I folded each slip and put it in my son's plastic fireman hat. The chores included, "Pick up all pop cans, empty, and put in recycling bag." "Pull everything out from under the couch." "Pick up all books and put them on the bookshelf." "Take all dirty dishes to the kitchen." You get the idea. My two-year-old even got in on the game. To ensure she could find chores suited to her age and ability, I marked the easiest one's with her initial on the outside of the paper. The two older kids knew if they drew a slip with a "K" on it that it went back in the hat. Only Kiersten could draw those. When the song ended, they all had to stop doing what they were doing. We ended up drawing chores and working during every-other-song. If the chore was not completed, the post-it note went back into the hat. If it did get completed, we discarded it. After playing this game for almost two hours, I inserted a slip marked with an "X" in the hat. Whoever drew that slip HAD TO SIT AND REST for the entire song while everyone else worked. (My son wanted to dance to the music instead of resting!) But no one was allowed to keep the "X" slip for two consecutive times. To my amazement, my house was totally cleaned in just under four hours. And my kids loved doing it! My five year old even said, "Can we play that game again, Mom?" I think this tactic for cleaning house worked because it kept my kids focused on only one chore at a time and they worked for short durations of time. The next time your house gets really messy, why not make cleaning it a game? Your kids will love it and I guarantee you'll love the results! I know I did! Penny Stone has written several books for Champion Press. Crazy About Crockpots: 101 Easy Inexpensive Dinners for less than .75cent; a Serving is a collection of original, down-home cooked crockpot dinners that can be prepared for under a dollar per serving. "As an entrepreneur myself, there have been times when it's been 'feast or famine' for my family." Penny's other books are 365 Quick, Easy Inexpensive Dinner Menus , a collection of family favorite recipes (almost 1,000 in all!), kitchen tips and wisdom, food-related trivia, and lots of kid-friendly activities and The Taste of Culture series. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconResolution Checkup By Cheryl Gochnauer About six months ago, we were toasting the New Year and making resolutions. How are you doing on those plans you made? Are you well on your way tobecoming that thinner, smarter, more socially aware and family-focusedperson? Or did your plans fade by February and dissolve completely by May? If so, don't worry; you've still got plenty of time to regroup and reachyour goals before 2003 arrives. And if you're right on track, now is agreat time to celebrate your successes! IN THE WORKPLACE. Re-evaluate where you're going in your career,whetheryou're working as a full-time stay-at-home mom, working outside the home, orpursuing a homebased business. Still giving 110 percent? Or has yourdedication slipped to 80 percent or lower? Has your determination to avoidoffice politics or neighborhood gossip slackened, as you find yourselfengaged in those same old gripe sessions? Renew your commitment, or start steps to move to a position where you'llthrive. Take classes to sharpen your professional edge. Scope out your career landscape, re-aiming for passes through workplacemountains. If you're an at-home parent, revisit your reasons for being there and tryto recapture the joy you originally felt about coming home.As you zero in on your chosen career, "remember that you work to live, notlive to work," says Dr. Robert Ramsey, a Minneapolis personnel managementexpert. "Be sure you have time for family, friends, church, community andyourself, as well as for work. You'll be a better, happier person for it." ON THE HOMEFRONT. If you're not spending quality time with your kids, stopeverything and make a date with them now. As resolutions go, this oneshould rank at the top, priority-wise. Speaking of dates, what are you and your spouse doing this Friday night?Renew your resolve to strengthen your commitment to your mate, too.Regarding the family budget, remember that promise to slip a little bit ofeach paycheck into savings? If you haven't managed to set any aside, callPayroll and arrange for an automatic deduction. You're less likely to missit if you never see it. MIND AND BODY. Internet usage has exploded in the past couple of years. Soif you said you'd become more knowledgeable about your world this year, justlog on. Go to your favorite search engine, and plug in a subject you'd love to knowmore about. To access your local library, visit their webpage and enter yourcard number. Under "InfoTrack," you'll discover a rich bank of freemagazine and newspaper articles literally at your fingertips. Ask yourlibrarian for the site address. If you promised to lose 20 pounds by December 31 and you've yet to shed any,trim your goal to a more manageable 10 pounds and go for it. Things you cando today: Watch the fat. Stop when you're full. Resolve to love your body, whether you're at your goal or still inprocess.Resolutions of every kind are easier to keep when we make them forourselves. If you haven't kept up with guilt-induced pledges, good for you.Leave those bogus checkpoints behind.Instead, focus in on those changes YOU desire, and revive your resolutionstoday. (Comments? Email Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit her website at www.homebodies.org . Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com) More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Movie Reporter: Seabiscuit Spy Kids 3D: Game Over Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life By Philip Boatwright www.moviereporter.com SEABISCUIT : Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy. Universal/Dreamworks Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment. Drama. WD-Gary Ross. Based on the best-selling book, the film tells the story of three men #150; a jockey (Maguire), a trainer (Cooper) and a businessman (Bridges) #150; and the down-and-out racehorse that took Depression-era America by surprise. A triumphant account of a roughhewn, undersized horse that became one of the world#146;s most renowned celebrities and arguably the greatest champion of all time. I have never had an interest in gambling. I#146;ve never even been to Las Vegas. So seeing a movie about horse racing isn#146;t going to tempt me to go to the track. But I want to be sensitive to those who struggle with the addiction of gambling. No movie is worth being tempted toward self-destruction. Got a problem with gambling? Then don#146;t go to this film. That said, #147;Seabiscuit#148; is not about financial betting. While wagering is central to horse racing in the real world, it is not a focal point to this film. It#146;s about surviving, overcoming, honor, caring, faith and the kinship between man and beast. God#146;s name is profaned 11 times in this movie. #147;Well, Phil, you#146;re always saying we shouldn#146;t support a film with profanity.#148; No, what I say is, let#146;s not get to the point where we accept the misuse of His name. There is a difference. If this generation accepts profanity in entertainment, will not the next generation be more inclined to include such language in their everyday use? I cringe every time I hear a profane utterance. But this film isn#146;t about blaspheming God. It#146;s about people from different walks of life searching to find their place. And in one scene, the Jeff Bridges character and his wife are in church. What#146;s more, they have brought the trainer and jockey with them. While those two men seem unfamiliar with a church service, the film sends a positive message that the businessman is a man of faith and has invited these other men into the house of God. It#146;s a quick scene. I#146;m not even sure why it#146;s there. But I simply said, #147;Wow.#148; Not many films acknowledge God to be a part of a main character#146;s life. This film does. A small horse, barely 15 hands and considered less than an underdog, Seabiscuit caught the imagination of 40 million Americans who tuned in to the Seabiscuit-War Admiral race as the two thoroughbreds went nose to nose for a full half-mile. I wish I was capable of describing the power of cinematographer John Schwartzman#146;s work (#147;The Rookie,#148; #147;Pearl Harbor#148;). But great art, including the art of photography, touches portions of the soul where words can#146;t reach. It must be experienced to be best appreciated. A word must be said about the film#146;s color. Sumptuous. Great painters work magic with color. Color brings light, shading, depth to a work of art. The same is true when used properly in movies. (Have you seen #147;The Adventures of Robin Hood#148; on DVD?) The dialogue is sharp, witty, and often insightful. The story never becomes saccharine, but serves to exemplify the strength of the human spirit. And then there are the performances. Each of the leads has proven himself to be a journeyman actor. They take a role and transform an often one-dimensional character into a fleshed out, fascinating human being. What#146;s more, they make it look effortless. Here we are transfixed, because these actors are telling us something not just about their characters but about us, as well. There is a scene where jockey Maguire needs to borrow a few dollars from businessman Bridges. Keep in mind that this was a time in our nation#146;s history when asking for money said a great deal about your personality and self-esteem. He asks for $10, a tidy amount for that period. It#146;s a difficult request. The businessman, who in some ways has become a father figure to the horseman, puts a twenty in the younger man#146;s hand. Maguire doesn#146;t tear up. That would have been too easy. No, he goes deeper. The emotion we see is palpable, causing us to tear up. It is a brief scene, a telling scene, it is a remarkable scene. Reportedly Chris Cooper once again had to fight for a role, this time for the part of the trainer. When will the industry learn to give him any role he wants? For he#146;s as good as they get. And Bridges as the real-life Charles Howard should once again receive Oscar attention. These and other people in the film reveal character. They stand for something, relaying emphatic messages concerning honor and respect for God#146;s creations. The film is almost epic in its scope, portraying the hopes and struggles of America before, during and after the Great Depression. Author/historian David McCullough, the narrator of Ken Burn#146;s award-winning documentary #147;The Civil War#148; also serves to give poignant perceptions of America at its best. Not just a horseracing movie, #147;Seabiscuit#148; is a perceptive tale of three men who find a sort of redemption. The second installment of #147;Lara Croft: Tomb Raider#148; opens the same day as #147;Seabiscuit#148; and #147;Terminator 3#148; is still going strong at the box office. But if you are looking for a film that energizes, engrosses and thoroughly entertains, this one is the real thoroughbred. PG-13 (11 profanities, 13 obscenities, and 8 milder expletives; occasional smoking, which is done not to promote the habit, but merely to depict it as a part of most Americans#146; lives at that time; occasional drinking; one scene shows some jockeys celebrating at a bordello; it is implied that the Maguire character has sex with one of the prostitutes, but nothing is seen; there is some violence that includes a couple of brutal boxing matches, but again, the scenes are handled with taste and don#146;t become gory; a tragic accident off screen results in the death of a child #150; yes, this is difficult, but it serves to show the character of the father and why he later becomes a father figure to others; a horse-racing accident causes a rider to badly injure his leg, but he later triumphs over the setback). Vid. Alt. If you do not wish to support this film due to the content, try my video alternatives: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, The Red Pony, National Velvet, The Story of Seabiscuit, Misty, My Friend Flicka, Wild Hearts Can#146;t Be Broken. SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER : Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Ricardo Montalban, Steve Buscemi, Sylvester Stallone. Dimension Films. Family action/adventure. WD-Robert Rodriguez. An evil toy maker (Syl Stallone) is out to takeover the minds of the world#146;s children through his brain-controlling three-dimensional video game. Young Juni and Carmen discover the villainous plot and set out to defeat the evil genius. This movie uses the very latest digital technology to weave 3-D images directly into the Spy Kids' trademark espionage action, inviting audiences of all ages to become part of the larger-than-life excitement on the screen #150; because we all know, it wouldn#146;t be a movie without digital effects. Disappointing. The 3-D special effect gives it a grimy, unnecessary and often obtrusive look, the interplay between brother and sister that made the first two installments lots of fun is missing as we don#146;t see much of Alexa Vega until the final third of the film, the acting by young Daryl Sabara who is the focal character in this sequel is dismal, most of the pop-culture references will be lost on the intended audience, and Sylvester Stallone as comic relief isn#146;t. The muddled plot, mostly taking place within a video game, lacks energy or focus. Once again a special effects-laden film gives evidence that an involving story and good acting are essential. Unfortunately for the audience, this time out writer/director Robert Rodriquez gets so caught up in the technical magic of special effects that he pays little heed to that truth. That said, less discriminating adolescents may enjoy the film. To be fair, there is a lot going on to keep them involved. And the film does include positive messages about family relations, what#146;s truly important in life #150; not winning or losing but how you play the game #150; and a philosophy seldom promoted in action adventure movies #150; the fact that revenge is not the answer. PG (I caught no objectionable language and although there are several putdowns common among youngsters, there is a positive element concerning working together for the common good; there is a great deal of comic book action and violence, but nothing really graphic; still its always best for an adult to attend with very young ones just in case they begin to take the dramatic events, such as the possibility of dying if you don#146;t win the game, too seriously). Videos - Spy Kids 1 2. LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER - THE CRADLE OF LIFE : Angelina Jolie. Paramount. Action/adventure. W-Dean Georgaris. D-Jan De Bont. Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (#147;Girl, Interrupted#148;) reprises her role as Lara Croft, taken from the celebrated video game about a wealthy adventurer who could teach James Bond or Indiana Jones a thing or two about survival. This time out, the intrepid tomb raider travels through exotic places such as Hong Kong, Kenya, Greece and over the Great Wall of China in search of an infamous site known as #147;The Cradle of Life,#148; where life supposedly began. An evil mastermind is seeking Pandora#146;s Box, said to house the most unspeakable evil ever known. It rests at this location and Lara must get there before he does, or he will unleash a disastrous horror that will devastate the world as we know it. It starts out fun, but there are tedious moments where the pacing lags and the story becomes convoluted. Jolie again plays the part with a sullen distaff personality that lacks much emotion or humor (what humor she displays is very cynical). And when we finally arrive at the mysterious and spooky Cradle of Life, suddenly the film#146;s tone becomes somewhat creepy. When a man falls into oil-like ooze that surrounds Pandora#146;s Box, he begins to disintegrate down to his skeleton, then finally screams as he submerges below the black substance. The scene could give younger members of the audience nightmares. Although the lead, a cross between Modesty Blaise and Wonder Woman, lives on her terms alone, she is motivated to do the right thing, in this case saving mankind from a nutcase determined to repopulate the world with perfect people once he#146;s done away with the rest of us. Adolescent males who enjoy seeing a buffed-up woman kicking the tails of bad guys and shooting twin hybrid 45s will likely find this actioneer satisfying. There is a lot of stylized action, including blowups, shoot-#145;em-ups and beat-#145;em-ups #150; all sharply choreographed. But it didn#146;t do much for me. I#146;m not sure I like the lead character, nor do I like the inference in one scene that biblical teaching is untrue. PG-13 (One or two obscenities and four expletives, but I didn#146;t catch any misuse of God#146;s name; one sexual scene as Lara entices a man only to trap him #150; the scene is brief and does not contain nudity or anything explicit; while discussing the location of the Cradle of Life, Lara explains that this location where life supposedly began is not the #147;Sunday school version,#148; implying her disbelief in the Bible; the film gets its rating for the violence, which is often cartoonish, but like a video game, is nearly incessant; ancient temples fall down and break, men #150; mostly bad guys #150; are beaten, shot and blown up continuously; one scene features tree-like statues surrounding the Cradle of Life that suddenly spring to life, becoming quick-moving monsters that devour the intruding infidels; this scene becomes quite scary and is far too much for little ones, taking on a creepy, demonic feel). Vid. Alt. The Phantom. Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Treat Williams. Paramount. Kids Action Adventure. A well-made, tongue-in-cheek salute to the Saturday serials of the #145;30s and #145;40s, based on the comic strip about a purple-costumed hero of the jungle fighting the forces of evil. Aided by his wolf, Devil, and his white horse, Hero, he seeks justice for the good guys and destruction for all evil doers. Lots of laughs for adults and much imagination-inciting adventure for the little ones. But beware, it's jam-packed with derring-do and violence. PG (2 or 3 mild obscenities; one use of the expression, "for God's sake", but no other profanity; lots of cliff-hanging action; some brutal violence, but more cartoonish than most action films of late; the villain refers to "the forces of darkness" and states that God is dead; one scene featuring scantily clad women, but no nudity or sexual situations). DEFINITIONS Crudity - A word or action lacking in culture, tact Expletive - A mild obscenity or needless expression Obscenity - Objectionable or repugnant to acceptable standards of decency or morality; indecent; pornographic Profanity - Irreverence toward God Blasphemy - To speak contemptuously of God Adult subject matter - Situations or subjects unsuitable for or difficult to comprehend by children For further information, visit www.moviereporter.com . "Know Before You Go" reg;Philip Boatwright, Editor Film/Video Reviews from a Family Perspective, Email: moviereporter@sbcglobal.net . Published by C. C. Publications, 835 Northstar Ct., Tonganoxie, KS 66086. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconA Penny For My Thoughts By Cheryl Gochnauer "That woman can pinch a penny 'til it bleeds!" It's true -- I've learned a lot about stretching our family's finances sinceI decided to become a stay-at-home mom. I seldom shop without coupons, or buy something that's not on sale. Sunday papers only get purchased if they contain enough usable coupons topay for them. Eyeing everything from sale flyers to adjustable interest rates, my internalprice-checker/comparison shopper is constantly on auto-pilot, ready tosnatch the best deal on anything we need. I'm trying to teach my girls a healthy respect for money, too. Notice Isaid "respect", not "love". The love of money can be just as destructivefor people who don't have much as for those who are swimming in it. My husband, Terry, and I recently started giving the kids an allowance.Instead of a fixed amount, we decided to give them a percentage of Terry'sweekly paycheck. Half their allowance is saved, 10% goes to charity, andthe rest is theirs to spend as they like. I'm sorry we waited so long to let them handle money. Karen and Carrie lovepassing wadded dollar bills to the cashier or clinking coins in the offeringplate. Plus, the experience of earning a paycheck is teaching the girlsresponsibility, while freeing me up from some housework. Maybe they'lllearn to use towels more than once after folding the mountain they createeach week! I read a great idea in a local parenting newsletter. Chores are written onscraps of paper and placed in a container. Every day, the child takes threeslips from the container and performs two of the designated tasks. He'sallowed to put one slip back. To earn an extra dime or so, he can do thethird chore, if he desires. Great! This gives the child some control, but still gets jobs done. I likeit. I think I'll go make up some slips right now. Let's see...setting thetable...vacuuming their room...changing the oil -- wait, that'sTerry...sweeping the kitchen... This could be a pretty good deal for me. Why didn't I think of this sooner?With the new shared chore schedule, there'll be more time to do fun stuff,like: Going to the movies (discount matinees); Teeing off at the local miniature golf course (2 for 1 coupons); Visiting the zoo (on Tuesdays, when it's only a dollar); and Jaunting to the ice cream shop. (Dutch treat, of course. Hey, they get anallowance!) (Cheryl Gochnauer's brand-new " Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting,Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day More " is out. Catch it at yourfavorite bookstore, in Dr. Laura's Reading Corner or order an autographed copy for $13.99 fromcheryl@homebodies.org. Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com) More >>

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05/07/2010
IconI Think I Can...I Think I Can...I Think I Can... By Patti Chadwick patti@parentsandteens.com www.parentsandteens.com Remember the story about the little train that took the risk and tried tomake it up that HUGE hill? It was daunting, but it kept telling itself,"I think I can...I think I can...I think I can..." - and it found outthat it could! We had a similar experience, but this time it involved my daughter, Jeni, riding IN a train! According to my 16-year-old daughter, life is an adventure. This past weekend we moved into new territory and she had herself a grand old time being an independent woman. My daughter has always loved going to Delta Lake, her favorite Christian camp ( www.deltalake.com - incase you are interested!). Since the 4th grade it has been the highlight of her summer. This year she was old enough to apply for a job there - and she got the position. She will be attending her own camp plus working two weeks as a counselor. She also had to attend 4 day orientation over the Memorial Day weekend. "How nice for her," you may be saying. But did I mention that this camp was about three hours from our home? You can do the math - 12 hours of driving over Memorial Day weekend, plus another 36 hours of driving during the summer. While my young lady was thrilled about the plans for her summer - Mom wasn't quite as ecstatic. The thought of driving for 12 hours for four weeks of my summer was not very appealing, yet I did want her to have this experience. So what's a mamma to do? I started thinking - "How can I get her there WITHOUT me driving her?" I checked bus schedules...no luck.I asked around to see if anyone else was going to swap rides with...no luck. Then I thought of the train. Sure enough - there was a train station about an hour from here that went right to Rome, NY (where Delta Lake is located). The price was reasonable and the camp director said they'd be glad to pick her up. I thought it was a great idea, but I was a bit worried. Sweetie has never traveled alone before. Was she ready? I asked her about how she'd feel about taking the train and she thought it would be a splendid adventure. So we went on the Internet, bought the tickets, and waited for the Memorial Day weekend. As the time for her departure neared, darling daughter got a little nervous. She'd be ALL alone on the train for three hours. What if the people on the train were "creepy"? What if the camp forgot to pick her up? Valid questions. I tried to prepare her the best I could. I gave her my cell phone so she could call me if she wanted...or the camp...or 911! I sent her with extra money incase she missed her train and had to buy a new ticket or needed to take a cab. We tried to think of everything. The day finally came. Jeni was excited, but a bit overwhelmed by her sudden independence. As we sat waiting for the train to arrive she made an amazing statement to me. Now you need to know that this is the same girl who has reminded me since the day of her sixteenth birthday of how she is now ALMOST seventeen! She said to me, "Mom, I can't believe you are letting me do this. I'm ONLY 16 you know!" I had to laugh. I hugged her and told her I knew she'd be fine. I'd never let her go if I didn't think she could handle it. That seemed to give her some confidence. If I thought she could handle it, well, she COULD handle it. The train pulled into the station and she boarded. I was hoping she'd get a window seat so I could wave good-bye. My eyes scanned the windows looking for her, but they were tinted and I couldn't see in too well. Right as the trained pulled away I spotted her. There was my oh, so grown-up daughter waving frantically and blowing her mamma a kiss. Priceless. Just in case you are wondering, the trip was a success. The camp picked her up and dropped her off on time and I was there waiting for her when the train pulled into the station. My daughter got on thatfirst train a nervous teenager, but she walked off that homebound train a confident young woman. I love this stage of parenting. Yes, it can be scary, but in order togrow you sometimes have to step outside your comfort zone. And we need to teach our kids that too. You know, I think my daughter is right, lifeIS an adventure. I'm so glad to be a part of hers. Patti Chadwick is a SAHM of three teenagers. Visit herwebisites at www.parentandteens.com and www.historyswomen.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconManaging The Costs Of Moving By Cheryl Gochnauer I am a habitual coupon-cutter. That means I apply the same penny-pinchingprinciples no matter what I've got my eye on, whether it is marked $10 or$100,000. My family is in the process of moving into a new home. This is undeniablythe biggest big-ticket item we've ever purchased, but my guidelines remainthe same: Get the best deal on everything from the mortgage to the welcomemat. Here are some suggestions on managing the costs of moving. TRY FSBO. By reading up on the subject and working closely with our titlecompany, Terry and I went the "for sale by owner" route and saved severalthousand dollars in commission fees. At the same time, we worked with anexcellent buyer's agent to find our new home (a no-cost convenience for us -sellers pay her fee). Even if you decide to list with a realtor, try tonegotiate a lower percentage. For instance, you might agree to do themarketing (running ads, showing your house, getting a contract) and pay therealtor half commission to handle the ensuing paperwork and closing. BUY SMART. Is that fixer-upper really a good deal? Maybe. But figure ineverything you'll have to do to make it "perfect" (including your time). Also, take a hard look at the neighborhood. Are homes still appreciating invalue? Remember that you'll be selling this house yourself someday. Choosewisely, and your house will make money for you. Choose poorly, and you'lltake a financial bath. If you're buying new, try to get in on the first phase of a development. Asthe second and third phases are built, your home will automatically go up invalue. That's because building costs continue to rise, making it impossiblefor builders to recreate your home for the same price. This is an excellentway to build fast equity. MORTGAGES. Contact several mortgage companies, comparing interest rates andclosing costs. When you find your best deal, call your favorite lender andask them to match or beat it. FURNISHINGS. I spotted my dream refrigerator in the clearance aisle, but ithad a small dent in the side. The price was right, but before I settled forthe dent (even if it wouldn't show once it was installed), I wrote down themodel number and approached a competitor. Sure enough, they agreed to matchthe clearance price. I got the frig I wanted, brand-new and in the box forthe same price as the damaged one. I am a big believer in supporting mom-and-pop businesses whenever possible. So I shopped for several pieces of furniture at discount centers, againnoting model numbers and prices. Then I gave my hometown furniture storethe chance to match their prices. They did, plus threw in free delivery(which saved me another $150). MOVERS. Packing requires you to go through your house and examine everysingle item. Is there a spot for it in the new place? Now is the time toget rid of the dead weight. Toss the junk. Have a garage sale. Give tocharities. Don't pay to move stuff you never use. Rent a trailer and ask friends to help you load. If you use professionalmovers, call around for the best hourly deal. On moving day, make sure you've got everything boxed up and ready to go, so you aren't paying movers towatch you pack. Moving is expensive, no doubt. But hold onto your frugal mindset as youmake your way through the process, and you may be surprised at how much youcan save. (Comments? Contact Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit her website at www.homebodies.org where you can purchase an autographed copy of her new "Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day Much More." Copyright 2002 Homebodies.Org, LLC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.) More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSimple Family Field Trip Ideas Copyright 2002 Deborah Taylor-Hough Used with permission. All right reserved. http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/ Family field trips are a simple, fun, and fairly inexpensiveeducational enrichment activity you can enjoy regularlywith your children. Here are some quick ideas to getyou started: Many manufacturing plants offer free tours to families orsmall groups, and any free samples given out make greatsouvenirs when on vacation. Call ahead to find out abouttour availability. Field trips to local attractions such as zoos or aquariumscan be expensive, but purchasing an annual family passpays for itself in just a couple trips. Knowing you can comeback again and again, frees your family to thoroughly enjoythemselves without feeling the need to hurry and see every-thing in one day to get your money's worth out of theadmission price. Return to the same site whenever youwant a family outing, and then buy a pass to a differenteducational attraction next year. If your family enjoys attending live performances, checkfor free concerts, plays and other cultural events in localparks during the summer months. You can also contact college or community performancegroups (drama, ballet, orchestra, etc.) to see if they'llallow you to watch them rehearse for free. Many local theater groups need volunteer ushers fortheir live performances. Volunteering in this manner is anexcellent way for the older members of your family to gainfree admission to a wide variety of cultural events, plus itprovides a useful service to the local arts community. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: --Deborah Taylor-Hough is a full-time mother of three, free-lance writer, and author of the bestselling book, "FrozenAssets: How to cook for a day and eat for a month." Available In The Dr. Laura Reading Corner Shealso edits the Bright-Kids email newsletter. To subscribeto this free resource for fun and easy educational ideasfor the bright kids in your life, join-bright-kids@ds.xc.org Visit Debi online at: http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/ More >>

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