A Couple Ways to save for next Christmas

This year, we didn’t have a whole lotta extra funds for gifts, and I thought I’d let you in on a secret – I got a couple of gifts for free this year.

How?

  Two apps. The first is the Walmart Savings Catcher. If you go to Walmart with any regularity, there’s no reason not to use this app. It is quite simple: You scan your receipt when you’re done shopping. If the app finds that a competitor has a cheaper price on pretty much anything on your receipt, it will credit you with the difference. Most of the time, it’s 50 cents on the whole bill, but every once in awhile, it’ll be a couple of bucks. And over a year, that adds up. You can redeem for a gift certificate whenever you’re ready, or use it towards your grocery bill or anything you buy in the store. Easy peasy.

The second is Shopkick. This one works in various stores, and will notify you when you are near a participating store if you let it. The stores I get credit for are mostly Walmart and Best Buy (because we do not have many of the others in our area), but there are many more stores for which you can get credit, so you should check it out. Again, you get “kicks” just for visiting the store sometimes, and if you have some time to kill, you can get kicks for scanning certain items. When you are ready (and have enough kicks to be eligible), you can redeem them for gift cards, movie tickets, gasoline… lots of different things! Some are a pretty good deal, others are not, but you’re getting something for doing something you would do anyway, so in my book, anything is a good deal. I actually got two gifts (one from restaurant.com for $100, and one from GameStop for $25) from this app this year, but I think I’ve been accumulating kicks for longer than I’ve been using the Walmart app.

In any case, I got three free gifts for zero dollars, and it helped a bunch. If you’re the type to plan ahead, check out these apps now, and you just might be able to save some cash next year. (I’m not affiliated with either of these apps, just glad I was able to save by using them.)

Is It Time to Let Go of Santa?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that The Boy turns 14 this week.  Still not quite sure how that is freakin’ possible, but apparently it’s true. And while he is asking for things like cell phones for his birthday and Christmas, he is still asking Santa.

This past weekend, we went to a Christmas Supper hosted by our local chapter of the Autism Society of America. It was pretty chaotic, and I’m not sure I could do that more than once a year, but a highlight of the evening for the kids was that there was a very real-looking Santa there to whom they could speak and with whom they could get pictures. He also handed out gifts to all of the kiddos.

Mr_Santa_Claus_(HS85-10-30308)When The Boy went up to retrieve his, he brought along his list (on his iPad) and proceeded to tell Santa about all of the other things he wanted in addition to the gift he was getting, and for which he was being prompted to say thank you. Very Real-Looking Santa didn’t look all that patient or impressed, which was cringe-inducing. And I started to think that maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to find a way to explain to The Boy that this little piece of fantasy isn’t quite true.

The reality is, he will be in high school next year, and he is already different enough. We have to fight for so much here, and even though he is accepted by his peers, it continues to be more like “tolerated” than “invited over to do fun things.” And while I want him to be comfortable in his own skin, I don’t want him to be sheltered just because he can. Because then, in some way, I’m using the autism to keep him little. He’s innocent enough on his own, I think, which is a whole ‘nother set of worries.

I’ll add it to the list of things we need to work on/approach after the holidays…

Demands, Airplanes, and Christmas

Text from the ex (summarized by me): Hey, you haven’t told me if I can get The Boy for a week after Christmas, and oh by the way, I can’t do Thanksgiving. And I want him to fly up because I can’t get off my sorry ass and drive.

I can’t tell you the last time the ex has spoken to his son on the phone. He hasn’t seen him since last Christmas.  He’s made one piddly child support payment in the last 60 days, but he is going to text me and all in one breath tell me he’s cancelling his next visitation but wants to put him on an airplane after Christmas and could I hurry up about getting back to him because he has to buy plane tickets.

How about you hurry up and pay child support?  How about you hurry up and call your son?  How about you —

Deep breath.

Only four more years. Putting him on a plane will never happen because it would take money and planning skills, neither of which he obviously has.

smh

Update: Since this was written, I texted him to ask what he had found out about airline assistance programs. He promised to call Sunday to talk about it. Never called.

stress by bottled_void

An Open Letter to the Ex

Our son is thirteen now. I wonder if you are shocked by how much he has grown every time you see him. The last time it had been over a year. This time, eight months. I know he’s grown because I have to buy him new pants for every band concert. The size 18’s from last spring were way too short last week so we bought some 29/30’s. I wonder if headlines with autism catch your eye, or if you’ve ever read anything about it. I wonder if you remember anything from the year and a half between the diagnosis and when you left. I wonder how you spend time with him when he’s with you – do you try to connect or do you just coexist? Feeling a little schadenfreude as I hope you experience some of the pubescent rage we have witnessed this fall. But not too much because I wonder if you could handle it, and know I’d rather not find out. In a few years we will have been divorced longer than we were married and the boy will have lived longer without you than with you. That should scare the bejesus out of you, but it doesn’t seem to even register on your radar. Shocking to realize his speech teacher at his school last year who saw him once a week spent more time with him than you have in the last year, and knows him infinitely more than you do.

I wonder a lot, but it isn’t my place to know. That’s between you and him. The question I will never get an answer to is how. How do you live without him?

So I shake my head, sigh, give him to you for Christmas and cross my fingers. This never gets easier.

On-Again, Off-Again Dad

The ex has called a couple of times over the past month or so, after a couple of months of not calling. He said, “I get him for Christmas this year, right?” Ummm, ok. So after making use of your liberal visitation schedule for two weeks out of the last 104, you want to stake your claim? Sure. Yes, you actually are supposed to have him starting on Christmas Eve, as it is an odd year. “I’ll try to get some time off, then,” he said. Sure, I thought.  Like last Christmas.

He called once more, spoke to The Boy only for a little while, and that was the last we heard anything about Christmas.  The Boy’s birthday was Wednesday, and his mom had sent gifts, one from her, and one from his dad. Her card said they were looking forward to seeing him at Christmas.  But the ex didn’t even call his son on his birthday.

What?

My mom told me that recently, she and The Boy were at Walmart and he said he really hoped he’d get to see his dad at Christmas, because he hadn’t seen him since April.  Yes, it hurts him more than he’ll admit to me, and yes, he does keep track.

As The Man says, kids are only young once. He’s going to miss it completely.

Angry for The Boy and pity for the ex. And partly angry for me too, really, because I have my own life and family that will be affected by his inadequacy. But mostly angry for The Boy.

Get Used to Disappointment

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (the Princess Bride, which I have seen probably a kajillion times).  Not one of my favorite things my son has to go through.

Broken Reflection

Broken Reflection, Valerie Reneé

Because the ex couldn’t manage to see his son for Thanksgiving, I offered (at Grammy’s urging) to give him the week between Christmas and New Years for visitation.  I suggested he or they come down to the beach for a few days, even rent a house real cheap to see The Boy.

I hadn’t heard anything more about it (although Grammy had overheard the phrase “meet you somewhere” in a phone call between The Boy and the ex), so I texted him last night to see what was up.

I expected him to hem and haw a bit more, but he said straight out he couldn’t get any time off, and couldn’t do it.  Sorry.

I expect this every time, and yet every time I cannot fathom why.  I don’t know anyone (besides the ex) who is or would be completely comfortable not seeing his or her own child for eight months or longer, nor speak to him for a month or more at a time.  I cannot understand his excuses, knowing how much I would do to ensure I would see my child.

But he is not me.

The Boy seemed a bit upset and irritated when I broke the news this evening.  “Why?” he asked.

“Because he can’t get time off from work,” I said.

Why can’t he get time off from work?”

I paused.  Good question, kiddo.  “You can ask him,” I suggested.  “Want me to text him and have him call you?”

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

He’s getting as tired of this game as I am.

Being Auntie

Fabulous PITA is one of my best friends on the planet, and I get to work with her everyday.  Needless to say she is pissed I am moving.  Really pissed.  She and I are as close to sisters as we will ever get – we are both only children, and even though she is married, she plays a single mom most days because her hubby is a chef and works nights and weekends.  Her two little ones, Princess, age 6, and Sunshine, age 3 (almost 4), call me “Auntie”, and I love it.

Every kid needs a dollhouseToday, The Boy and I are headed to IKEA with Fabulous PITA, Princess, and Sunshine, but I have something else planned, too.  I have yet to give the little ones their Christmas presents, and I missed Princess’s birthday in January, too (I know, March is almost over, but Fabulous PITA and I are busy people!), so today I will come bearing gifts.

They both get a Calico Critters Townhouse that I bought for The Boy ages ago, because he wanted it, and I didn’t care that it was intended for girls.  He played with it for awhile, but never hard enough to damage it, and it has been in storage, waiting for the girls to be old enough.  I bought Princess a family of squirrels to go with the house for her birthday gift .  I also have a couple of other things to give them…

Baby AnnaPrincess is getting my porcelain tea set that I played with when I was her age (one of them – I collected them!).  And Sunshine will be getting my baby Anna that I adored when I was her age.  See, I still have this stuff, these cherished and beloved treasures from my childhood, and it’s time to let them go, I guess.  Amazingly enough, the ex didn’t throw them out (like he did a $600 money order, my entire work wardrobe, and my button collection from elementary school [including my Michael Jackson button!]), so I think they were meant to find a new loving home.

The Boy also gave up some of his stuffed animals to the cause, which went surprisingly well.

The little ones don’t know yet that we’re moving, and I’m hoping that these little tokens will remind them of us when we’re 900 miles away.  Even though I was an aunt for awhile, there will be nothing that replaces being “Auntie” to these two cuties.  I know I’ll miss all three of them a immensely.

Crafty Gift Review

I know I shared some of the crafty gifts I was giving for Christmas this past year, but I couldn’t share them all because some of my loved ones actually read my blog!  And I realized today that I can share them now (now, that it’s February…)

This is a tote bag I picked up from Hobby Lobby for $3.  I also used sprayable fabric paint, and contact paper for the stencil (which I downloaded from Martha Stewart).  I traced the stencil onto clear contact paper with a sharpie, and then cut it out, and applied it to the front of the bag. I was able to use the stencil twice (I made two bags), although I did have a few small tears that I had to pay special attention to with the second bag.  Once the stencil was applied, I used the spray-paint, also found at Hobby Lobby, and let it sit.  When dry, I peeled back the stencil, leaving this:

cherry branch tote bag

I also made some large prints like these, but made it much easier on myself by using large poster frames (which were 70% off at Michael’s) rather than trying to use spray adhesive or mod podge to attach them to MDF or foam core board.  Then when they inevitably fade, I can replace them with new ones.  The three prints altogether cost me about $3 at Staples.  I think the three frames together came to about $20 at Michael’s:

large engineering prints

Finally, in the picture above, you can also see my little silhouette project, which was way easier than it looked and brought tears to my mom’s eyes.  I used this tutorial (although getting The Boy to be still enough to get a sideways shot of his head was easier said than done – I managed to get one while he was asleep), and here is a larger shot of the outcome:

silhouette

We had a fine, crafty Christmas, and my pocketbook is thanking me for it!

Snow Day – The Boy = Toy Purge!

Today was a snow day for me, and not for The Boy. (Picture me grinning and laughing maniacally, and rubbing my hands together with glee.)  Time to tackle The Boy’s room.

The Boy is a collector, and as I’ve said before, like lots of kids with autism, just won’t give anything up.  Not for the poor kids with no toys, not for money, not for anything!  “Mine, mine, all mine!” he must be chanting in his brain.  But like the old lesson with the petri dish from school, if everything continues to grow, you run out of space.

Enter Christmas and a December birthday.  And two sets of parents (and grandparents).  Toy explosion.  And then he dumped those damned fusion beads everywhere.. TWICE!!  I was ready to tear my hair out, and his worst fear (and my biggest fantasy) was that I would come in and vacuum them all up.  (Do not, whatever you do, allow those beastly little things in your house.  They will find their way to every nook and cranny and will defy you when you attempt to pick them up.  They also hurt when you step on them in bare feet.  They are the bane of my existence.)

I got the call this morning, and The Boy did not, so I packed him off to school, and came back to hop into bed and dream about tackling his room.  That lasted less than an hour – I was so excited to get crackin’!

My strategy is to hide out-of-favor toys for a period in the basement.  This ensures that the one thing I think he will never ever remember that has now gone underground can be found again when he says, “Hey!  Where did that green squishy worm thing go?”  If nothing gets asked for after a certain period, it all gets donated or freecycled.  There is a closet-full now.  Some are destined for the center program for severe special needs in our district.  Others will be put in a box randomly for “porch pick-up” by families who are willing to take a “grab bag”.  Some of these things are brand new, still in the wrappers, too, but I don’t care.

Finally, the boy is getting old enough where he likes videos and clothes and money as gifts, and not the toys.  It’s just the will to hang on that prevents us from getting to where we need to be.  Most of the time, I am honest and upfront with The Boy because I want to model behavior I’d like to see in him.  But when you are dealing with a hoarder/toy addict, sometimes you have to take drastic measures.

I left some for him to sort through and put away later tonight.

But you better believe I hoisted that vacuum in there with a certain amount of satisfaction, and sucked a bunch of those babies up – looked like the old fisher price corn popper.  It’s almost as fun as putting piles of paper through a shredder.

fp corn popper