I think we’re all trying to be more responsible with our money — and not just by spending less. We want our dollars to bring healing instead of hurt.
That’s why I love stores like A Second Thought in East Rochester. The proceeds from the thrift store go to support people with disabilities in Guatemala, people who might otherwise be forgotten in that culture. Even if you don’t live nearby, you can find the store on ebay and send donations to help with the mission trips.
The store recently gave me a $25 gift certificate to see what I could find on the shelves that I could weave into a story. At the time, I was preparing for 1,200-mile road trip with my husband and our three boys, so I focused on things to keep the boys entertained.
As a veteran of many, many 22-hour road trips, I’ve learned to think small — and to think in terms of what might melt in the van. (In the summer, think colored pencils instead of crayons and SweeTarts instead of chocolate.)
I usually let each boy bring a bag or backpack with toys and then I have “family items” that we rotate through once the boys start getting bored with what they packed.
On our most recent trip I kept family items corralled in a basket I had around the house and in this Swiss Miss container-turned-oh-so-enticing toy jar. (Brought to you by the magic of scrapbook paper and a glue stick.)
You’ll notice it holds things like three rings that light up, which I think cost $2 total at Michael’s; small wind up animals that were $1 each at Michael’s; card games; cowboy-themed foam stickers from Dollar Tree; colored pencils and write-on wipe-off markers to draw silly faces on 4×6 family photographs that I laminated.
We also emptied these tiny jars (eight for $1 at Dollar Tree) and brought them along to fill with pebbles or soil or anything else interesting. The tops have an opening just large enough for a jump ring or to slide a bit of thread through. The jars are about the size of a push pin.
I knew we were going to the Oklahoma Aquarium — and I knew they had a very tempting gift store — so I bought a small stuffed shark and a stuffed otter at A Second Thought thrift store for 50 cents each. I tossed them in the laundry and then hid them in the Swiss Miss container until we were on the way. The same sized stuffed animals would have cost me more than $10 each at the gift store.
Our 5-year-old is fascinated by animals, especially marine life, so I found an educational book with puzzles and stickers for $2 at Ollie’s and (because I’m a bit crazy) I tore the pages out, punched holes in them and added them to his animal binder that I made for him in April. I have scriptures about animals in there, a favorite hymn about God creating all things and coloring pages that correspond with the animals I know he will see.
I also bought a book from Ollie’s about the United States and created a binder for that, along with state stickers that my sister bought for me at Mardel (which is an amazing Christian bookstore based in Oklahoma). She also found these passports there. I took the passports to the post office and they stamped them with the date and location — making it a great keepsake.
We have a DVD player in our van, so I found some kid-friendly DVDs for $2 at A Second Thought, along with two still-in-the-wrapper puzzles, a Mickey Mouse sticker book and three books that my boys hadn’t read.
I had been looking for a tray for our 2-year-old but I didn’t want to pay full price for one made specifically for his car seat. When I saw this at A Second Thought for $4, I knew it was exactly what I needed. I planned to paint train tracks and scenery but time slipped away from me as we were getting ready for the trip. He didn’t seem to mind the duck, though.
Even though he was a little too young for it, we did have these great (free!) printables for the license plate game and car bingo. I laminated them and the rest of us used those write-on wipe-off markers to check off the states. (We are still searching for a license plate from Hawaii, by the way.)
For the youngest guy I did pull out my scraps of felt and make a train and some faces that he could design for himself.
In another effort to reuse, we took empty paper towel rolls and covered them with scrapbook paper. Add a little imagination and you have a special spy glass.
Toss in some Star Wars Mad Libs, fuzzy sticks (also known as pipe cleaners) a thrifted Columbia backpack for $4 from A Second Thought — what a bargain — and you have plenty of entertainment!
I even found the perfect way to capture all the memories, courtesy of a hardback book from A Second Thought. I liked that it had the word home in its title, so I had a friend drill holes, tear out the pages and add binder rings. Now, all I have to do is punch holes in our pictures and make a few notes.
May you have safe — and blessed — travels! Enjoy the journey!