My daughter is seven years old. She's amazing in so many ways. Born with a genetic anomaly (Chromosome Deletion Disorder) she's developmentally delayed. By all accounts she should have Autism and be socially distant. This is what doctors have told us. Of all the documented cases of others who also have her section of Chromosome 3 missing, virtually every one is affected that way.
What does any of this have to do with parties? It relates, I swear.
I love to entertain — sometimes I get all fancy, but more often I just like to have friends over to hang out, eat, play games, catch up. My kids know that when I start setting the table and bringing out the serving bowls, that people will be coming over at some point.
My son enjoys having guests over. My daughter REALLY enjoys it. Not only is she not anti-social as we were warned to expect, she's the exact opposite. Avery is one of the most friendly, outgoing party girls you'll ever meet. We call her "Good Time Avery." If there's any fun to be had, she'll sniff it out and join in. If not, she'll make her own fun.
Parties, sleep-overs, playdates, guests for dinner, going out on the town... these experiences make her heart sing.
Recently we joined a gregarious group of Yummy Mummies for dinner and a show. We saw Ross Petty's The Little Mermaid and it was spectacular. If you're looking for some quality family entertainment in Toronto this holiday season, this is it.
Before the show we all met up for dinner. My daughter left me in her dust the second we walked into the restaurant. She ditched me to mix and mingle with the other families. Interacting with people—being social, this is her happy place.
So the other day when she started moving around the dining room chairs and emptying the cupboard of plastic cups and plates, I let her have at it. "I having a party mum." she told me.
The child is obsessed with parties. She's begged and pleaded to host another birthday party. I'm all for it but her birthday isn't for another nine months. I suggested she host a Holiday Party in the meantime. We made a list of a few friends to invite and talked about decorating cookies and doing a few simple crafts. How hard could this be with four or five kids?
The next day a note from one of Avery's classmates came home. "Dear Avery and Avery's mum. I am so excited about the party. I am a vegetarian, so can we please have cheese pizza? See you at the party!"
It seems my darling daughter invited her entire class. Fine. Go big or go home I suppose. The party is this weekend. I'll be sure to post pictures of the... aftermath.
Do you have a little party animal on your hands?
Ever considered second-hand holiday shopping? I’m not kidding. If you've been thinking about clearing out your crawlspace, now is the time. Bicycles, gaming systems in good working order, and baby gear items in good condition are in high demand this time of year.
If you can sell a few items at a fair price, you can put that money toward other important holiday expenses — like rum and eggnog.
I’ve used Craigslist in the past, but I prefer Kijiji. They both operate in pretty much the same way. Kijiji (pronounced "ka-gee-gee") is owned and operated by eBay. Like Craigslist, it uses the classified ad format of buying and selling items locally. It's FREE to post your ad, there’s no tax and no shipping costs and it's “green.” It really is a Christmas miracle when you find that Wii Gaming system that retails for $250 but since the seller has moved on to Xbox they’re practically giving it away and throwing in all their games, too.
I know my way around the Kijiji network, so here are a few tips to share. Consider this my FREE gift to you.
Include photos. People want to see your goods—so to speak. Make sure photos are clear and show the item from several angles.
Set and post a price. The whole “Or best offer” thing is awkward. Expect that buyers will offer less, so decide ahead of time how low you’re willing to go.
Search your item in other Kijiji ads, on Craiglist and eBay. Factor in the age and condition of the item and what it sold for originally. Use this information to price your item reasonably.
Don’t post any personal information in your add—your name, phone number, or home address.
If you have an email signature attached to your email, remove it when corresponding with potential buyers (I forgot last time and lost sleep over it). Better yet, use your “junk” email address—the generic one you use for entering contests, etc.
Be honest and specific. If the item has a scratch or is missing an accessory, state this in the ad.
Keeps ads short, include all relevant information and spell-check before posting.
Include something like, “If this item is still posted, it is still available. When it is sold, I will remove the ad immediately.” This will lessen the annoying, “Is this item still available?” messages you may receive.
Respond to the first reply to your ad. Set up a date and time for pick up. Then confirm the price. For example, “The price is $45 cash and you’ll be picking it up on Tuesday at 4pm, correct?” Then edit your ad title with the letters PPU. This lets people know that the item is “Pending Pick Up.”
Respond to any other interested buyers with something like, “Thanks for your interest in the Thigh Master. It is currently sold, pending pick up. If the buyer doesn’t show up, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Remove the ad as soon as the item is absolutely sold.
Safety is important. If you’re uncomfortable giving out your home address, ask to meet at a public place—the mall for example. Do not let buyers into your home. The garage with the door open to the street is a meeting place option. Make sure your spouse or a friend is there with you at pick up.
Check frequently—lots of new ads go up hourly so keep looking. You have to be fast to snap up the good deals.
Purchases are made in cash so hit the ATM on your way to pick up your item and bring exact change.
If you don’t like the item once you see it in person, you have every right to walk away. Politely.
Do not go into a seller’s home. Do your dealings outside. Bring a buddy with you.
Use your generic email addresses for correspondence.
Some might consider secondhand Christmas gifts tacky. I disagree. It's not like you're going to buy your dad a moth-eaten Christmas sweater or give your son a set of Encyclopedia Britannica circa 1978. There are some perfect finds out there—something just right for you at a price that can't be beat. That vintage album that you know your husband would love or that sweet wooden dollhouse that some little girl loved but has outgrown? They're out there waiting for you. I found a guinea pig cage with all the accessories, food, etc. for a fraction of the price I would have paid at the store. This was part of my son's early Christmas gift. I also found a brand new wetsuit for my daughter who freezes in the swimming pool. The seller had ordered the wrong size and couldn't return it so they sold it on Kijiji for peanuts.
Always follow proper Kijiji etiquette and keep safety in mind, and you too can have yourself a Kijiji little Christmas and a Craigslist New Year!
How much does a babysitter cost anyway? I have honestly have no idea. I've yet to leave my kids in the care of anyone other than family. I know, don't get too close or I might nick you with my helicopter parent blades.
With the holidays upon us we have parties to attend and our parents, who actually have lives of their own, can't be expected to always drop everything for us. I know this because I've asked them to. Repeatedly. There will come a time, soon I expect, when they'll band together to try to suffocate me with my bubble wrap. So, I'm taking baby steps toward a babysitter...
I babysat as a teen. I loved it — except when friends thought it would be hilarious to prank call me or rap lightly on the window while wearing masks. Being a young sitter during the "Have you checked the children...?" years had its challenges.
Then there was the year I looked after the Walton's brood of four. They weren't really named Walton. I called them that because they didn't have television or any snacks containing sugar. They also had an stupid number of pets. Cats, dogs, fish, a bird and too many hamsters to count — less the one hamster who had escaped at some point and fell suddenly from the chimney, landing in a puff of ashes at my feet while I sat in silence staring at the blank wall where a TV should have been. It scared me half to death. And the Walton kids, despite their sugarless existence were hyper as hell. The youngest one tried to bite me. I should've asked for danger pay.
Presumably rates have gone up since my $4.50 per hour plus as many carob chip cookies as I could eat.
Care.com has just introduced a Babysitter Pay Calculator — a FREE online tool designed to help families identify the average cost of a nanny/babysitter in their area based on their postal code. Average babysitter hourly rates are similar across the country; however, they can differ in every neighborhood by as much as 16 per cent.
This is pretty handy. Not only can you ballpark what you'll be shelling out to go out, you can also search for available sitters in your neighbourhood.
Bonus Babysitter Bedtime Story: While vacationing with my family in California in 1976, my parents hired a sitter from the hotel's Babysitting Service. No word of a lie, Norman Bates' mother showed up to look after us. She smelled of moth balls soaked in patchouli, she had no bottom teeth and her horn rimmed glasses had a lens in only one frame. My brother and I still joke about it. Needless to say, my parents didn't get out on their own that night.