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Scene, Sunday, September 9, 2007

Today’s column has been in the making for more than a year. I have just been too embarrassed to write about it.

Before Jimmy started seventh grade last year, I picked up a T-shirt for him on a sale rack that said, “Same shirt, different day.”

I took it home, gave it a pre-Jimmy wash and put it in his drawer.

Then Saturday came and his father got a glimpse of the shirt. Somehow, in the midst of shopping for back-to-school bargains, I hadn’t realized the “r” in “shirt” was noticeably faded when compared to the rest of the letters.

Ron spotted the difference right away, insisting Jimmy remove the shirt immediately.

“But Mama picked it out for me,” Jimmy protested.

After trying to explain to Ron what it’s like to take the boys shopping with me, we decided upon a compromise; Jimmy could wear the T-shirt whenever he was at home.

Since that day, it has become his all-time favorite T-shirt, and goes in his suitcase every time we travel. I’ve washed it and washed it, but the shirt refuses to wear out.

I should have started being more careful when shopping for the boys after that experience. But less than a week after I bought Jimmy’s shirt, I picked up a T-shirt for Tommy that never even made it out of his drawer.

The shirt looked so cute in the store when I held it up and saw a bunch of cheerleaders and the quote, “I love football.”

What I failed to notice is that one of the cheerleaders was not like the others. Her uniform would never pass the dress code at Tommy’s elementary school.

How had I done it again and so soon after the first goof-up?

I vowed to myself that I would be more careful in the future. Once the boys were back in school last year and no longer following me around the mall, complaining about how bored and hungry they were, it became easy to shop for bargains without buying R-rated clothes.

In fact, I managed to do so right up until the back-to-school sales of 2007. All three boys needed new jeans, so we headed out to hit the three different stores that sold the three different brands of jeans that fit them best.

By the time I waited in line to pay for Jimmy’s jeans in American Eagle Outfitters, all three boys were restless and ready to do something fun.

That’s when I spotted some cute boxer shorts with little owls on them in Tommy’s size. When the sales clerk saw me looking at them, she told me what a bargain I would get if I bought two pairs instead of one.

Tommy came up to me then to ask, “How much longer?” for the hundredth time.

I immediately got his mind off the wait by letting him pick out the second pair of boxers.

He held up a pair and said, “Look Mama, they have gorillas on them!”

The shorts were paid for and scattered among the new clothes on my bed before I realized there were words beside the gorillas…and something else, too.

“Keg Kong,” is written all over them, right next to little kegs of beer. Could I have bought anything more inappropriate for my soon-to-be sixth-grader?

Now that school has started again, I hope I won’t make any more careless shopping mistakes when looking for a bargain, at least not for a while.

Maybe Ron and the boys should buy me a shirt that says, “Same frazzled mom, different day.”

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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