Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What we're getting the kids for Christmas

I feel like there's a lot of interest in what people are getting their kids for Christmas -- or, at least, how much they're spending.

I've written before about how we use a special system that limits how much we get for the kids, and the types of items. We have stuck with it every single Christmas since D was six months old, and we love it:
  • Something You Want
  • Something You Need
  • Something To Play With
  • Something To Read
  • And a new pair of jammies for Christmas Eve

A lot of people do "Something to Wear" instead of "Something to Play With," but I sew the kids a lot of clothes year-round. They don't really need clothes for Christmas. Plus they're not as fun as toys!

When they're teenagers their "Want" and "Need" will likely be boring-ish, so I wanted to make sure there will always be a toy.

I tend to do most of my Christmas shopping before Halloween (sometimes ALL of it before Halloween) since I'm weird and I hate crowds. Shopping really early means (A) I can stop worrying about it and (B) I'm not going to the mall or pretty much ANY store when it's a zoo. 

So without further ado, here's what we're getting the kids this year:

Our six-year-old son:

Something You Want: Lego Superheroes Jokerland (bought on during a sale about a month ago. I paid $119 and it's regular $149.99) His best friend has it and D has been desperate for it!

Something You Need: We're either going to build a cool Lego shelf for his room or buy him a clock radio. Can't decide yet. 

Something To Play With: Lego City Demolition (, $29.86)
Something To Read: These two Berenstain Bears easy-readers. (I used to buy them one book each, and it's almost always a Berenstain Bear book, but it slipped into buying two because I couldn't help myself. We don't have many of these easy-reader ones yet, and we get him read aloud to us every night.)
The Berenstain Bears' Class Trip ($4.73)

The Berenstain Bears' Sleepover ($4.50)

And a new pair of jammies for Christmas Eve: Something I'll sew soon with winter-y flannel. 

We've spent $158 + tax so far on D, and just have the shelves (or clock radio) and jammies left to go.


Our four-year-old daughter ... 

Something You Want: Disney Princess Microphone & Amp from You can hook up an iPod so they can sing along to their favourite songs. She's going to FLIP over it. $44.99

Something You Need: This will be C's big gift. We're building her a pretty elaborate stage to go with the microphone. I'm thinking curtains, lights, the whole works -- but we'll see what actually gets done (i.e. where the heck is it going to fit?)

Something To Play With: Two dolls for her Barbie collection. She really likes the Chelsea dolls (also known as KELLY DOLLS from when I was a kid) and is obsessed with her "Elsia and Anya" dolls, made famous in those annoying YouTube videos about Elsa and Anna's daughters, so I think these little girls will be fast friends with Elsia and Anya.

Endless Hair Kingdom doll, except the one I ordered has purple hair ($12.49)
Petite Merida Princess doll ($16.99)

Something To Read: These two Berenstain Bear books. (I'm trying to collect all of the original Stan & Jan books, since the new ones have taken a, ahem, religious turn and aren't as good.)

The Berenstain Bears' New Neighbors ($5.97)

Berenstain Bears' Mad, Mad, Mad Toy Craze ($5.98)

And a new pair of jammies for Christmas Eve: A nightgown to match D's pyjamas, sewn with winter-y flannel. (I'll be making myself one, too.)

We've spent $86.42 + tax on C so far, and will be building the stage and sewing her the jammies. 


Stockings are pretty basic in our house. Everybody gets a toothbrush and toothpaste. The kids will get fun shampoo and/or bubble bath. C will get new hair clips or elastics, and they'll both get a pack of gum and a bit of candy or chocolate. 

While I was buying the other items online, I did order a little Lego Mixels to slip in D's stocking and a small pack of Shopkins to put in C's. 

Lego Mixels Hydro ($5.99)
Shopkins Season 4 two-pack ($3.99)


And now for the Santa gifts. 

We always tell the kids to ask Santa for ONE gift, and not an especially large one, because Santa has so many children to visit on Christmas Eve. 

Because they're *asking* for one gift and receiving it, I don't think it will cause issues down the road with a friend getting all of their gifts "from Santa." If that ever comes up, I'll explain that we choose to buy most of the kids' gifts (which they know) and we choose to have them ask Santa for one item. Still the same amount of gifts, just breaking up who gives them what, basically. 

D asked Santa Claus for a surprise Lego set, so I have a hunch Santa will be getting him this Lego City Airport Cargo Plane (, $29.86)
And C asked Santa simply for "Shopkins" of any kind, so I expect she'll wake up on Christmas morning to see a Shopkins Season 2 Mega Pack (, $19.99)
If we count the Santa gifts in our grand total, we've spent $187.86 on D, and $106.41, but keep in mind we'll have a lot of expenses with the DIY stage we're building here. We don't try to match their gift amounts too exactly, but essentially we'll be spending about $200 on each of them -- including Santa's gifts. 

I have no idea if that's way less than most people are spending or way more, honestly. It's one of those things people don't seem to talk about! 

If I wasn't limiting myself to our five items + Santa gift, it would be sooooooo easy to go overboard and pick up lots of cute toys I know they'd love. This system keeps me reigned in, keeps their expectations manageable, and just works for us.

What do you think? Are we way off here?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The first haircut is the hardest

I hadn’t so much as trimmed as single hair on our daughter’s head. Ever.

Even when she had an unfortunate baby mullet, I left it alone. I nurtured it and brushed it and whispered for it to keep growing. I celebrated her first birthday by putting in the world’s tiniest sprouted pigtails — each no more than a couple of centimetres above her scalp.

I jokingly told people she’d be in her teens before we trimmed a single strand, and our daughter was totally on board. She loved when I rinsed the shampoo from her hair because it made it “long like Rapunzel.” She begged me to straighten it sometimes just to make it longer. Every little bit it grew felt like an accomplishment.

She loved her long hair until suddenly, at exactly four and a half years old, she didn’t. She wanted a haircut — a short haircut, preferably the length of her brother’s hair — and bangs. Immediately.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ...

Monday, October 24, 2016

DIY farmhouse coffee table

The thing about having a house with a finished basement and no garage is that there is no “someday” when it comes to furniture. It’s just “use it or lose it.” There is nowhere to store anything that is not an integral part of your decor.

So when it came to our living room coffee table, I had to either make it work or kick it (back) to the curb. Yes, this is the same coffee table I rescued from a curb one spring. I painted it white and my handy husband built two little benches that slide perfectly underneath.

It worked well for a long time, but then our living room underwent two dramatic adoptions: a puppy and a rug. Both new additions meant that our children (ages four and six) are no longer allowed to eat in the living room. (Partially because I don’t want the puppy to get sick from errant chocolate chips from their pancakes, but mostly because this rug was hella expensive and the idea of it being stained with chocolate makes me feel faint.)

(EDITED TO ADD: Ohhhhh, but look what happened to the dog anyway.)

The white-painted coffee table with its modern lines didn’t look right against the vintage-looking Turkish rug (which, by the way, is from Wayfair and I love it). The coffee table was suddenly a yucky cheap (well, free) eyesore and we weren’t even using the benches anymore.

We’ll likely sell the coffee table (and benches) at some point, but for now I wanted a temporary solution ...

Continue reading in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home ... 

And here's the original coffee table bench tutorial, if you liked it better the old way ...

Building benches for a coffee table

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When your dog eats a grape

I had a thoroughly unpleasant hour earlier this week when C dropped half a grape while she was eating her lunch.

Half a frigging grape! Shouldn't have been a big deal buttttt ...

Annabelle gobbled it up.

Darling Husband noticed her eating something and asked C what it was. I JUST SO HAPPENED to have warned him THAT MORNING that grapes are toxic to dogs, so he panicked and ran down to my office and then I panicked and there was much, much panicking.

I called the vet almost in tears. They said we could wait to see how she was (i.e. was she drinking a lot of water, struggling to pee, etc.) and get bloodwork done the next day. I asked if we should induce vomiting and GET THAT GRAPE OUT, and they came back a few minutes later with instructions on how to do that.

(All I could think about was the Ipecac scene from Anne of Green Gables, and it just took me almost two minutes to get the correct spelling via Google because I was so far off.)

I sent Darling Husband rushing down to the drugstore in a screamy fit of panic (I was wrongly blaming him because YOU WERE ON DUTY and it was not a good moment for me).

WARNING: Gross stuff ahead, if you're not a pet-owner. 

So, keeping in mind I'm not a vet (not even a vet Barbie), here's how we got our almost-four-month-old puppy to yak up half a grape, according to the vet's excellent instructions ...

  • I fed her a meal (wet food, so she'd eat it) and wouldn't be upchucking on an empty stomach
  • We filled an eyedropped with 5ml (one teaspoon) of 3% Hydrogen Pexoide, held her down, and squeezed it down her throat.
  • She coughed a little and it clearly did not taste good. Poor thing.
  • We immediately took her down to the grass and walked her around.
  • Within 1-2 minutes, she threw up a (sorry) foamy puddle that included the chunk of grape (fully intact) 
  • I plucked it from the puddle (ew) and whooped excitedly that it was out of her!
  • She then threw up a little bit twice more, and seemed to be feeling like herself shortly thereafter
The whole terrible experience was over in less than 30 minutes, from ingestion to regurgitation. I sank down to the kitchen floor afterwards and could barely move. It was like having an emergency with one of the kids! (OK, not QUITE to that extend but REALLY CLOSE.) 

And now, to look on the bright side, we have a bottle of this very effective stuff with instructions on how to use it. It's been labelled and will forever live in the bin of Annabelle's gear.

Also I informed the family we are no longer buying grapes. They were displeased but I don't care. NO MORE GRAPES!

The End