Creative Christmas Challenge – MET!!!

Well, you blogosphere folks are pretty freakin’ awesome. I put $60 in the pot to see how far it could go, and next thing I know, Jillian wanted in on the action. And then Little Miss Moneybags jumped right in and matched my $60! Throw in some shopping guidance and on-the-ground (or, more accurately, in-the-stores) assistance by Dani and A. from Webhunting, and we put together a rockin’ Christmas for Maribel and her huge tribe. Amazon and eBay, couldn’t have done it without you either.

Here’s the loot (prices include tax and shipping) ….

$53 – 4 Reborn Berjusa/Berenguer vinyl baby dolls. Just the kit to make these dolls goes for $60, so bagging 4 gently-loved dolls for less than one kit is pretty freakin’ awesome. Bonus: it turns out one of them is exactly the doll that had been “kidnapped” by one of her kids’ friends. It’s really special to her because one of her daughters died and was revived as a newborn, and the hospital gave a pair of these dolls to her as a gift during the ensuing 2-month hospital ordeal – they were an anatomically correct boy and girl. The girl was stolen, and now she’s getting replaced. Also, I only ordered 3 dolls, but when I opened one of the boxes, there were two instead of one. Score! They’re going to Cheska, Gladys, Priscilla and Jacqueline.

$14.50 – 5 Bakugan balls for the price of 3, basically. Turns out the seller is in Hong Kong, which makes me think they were stolen straight off the factory assembly line, heh. They’re going to Ricky, who even my doorman remarked was exceptionally helpful towards his mother.

$28 – Insignia 7.0 MP digital camera for Maribel the Mom. Used, but in box and comes with the USB cord (most don’t). Photos have always meant a lot to the women in my family, to the point where my mom taught us that if the house was on fire and we could only save one thing, grab the photo albums because they can’t be replaced. Of course, that was the pre-digital era, but the sentiment lives on.

$0 (but really $25 – tab picked up by Jillian!) – Dora the Explorer Sleepy Dreams doll, a replacement for one that melted in a laundry accident. The doll was brand-new and cost $25. A friend on Long Island picked it up for me at her local Walmart – it wasn’t available online or within 30 miles of my mom in NJ or me in NYC. The doll is going to Kristi, who at the moment is glassy-eyed with fever (I saw her on Friday).

$0 – Disney blanket sleeper, size 3T Tigger design. So its true cost was $8 ($6 + tax + pro-rated shipping), but it came from my Amazon Swagbucks gift card balance. It’s for the baby, Alex. He’s also getting a Playskool whistle thing and Mr. Bubbles bubble bath that I picked up on clearance last year after Christmas.

$0 (but really $7.50 + postage) – Moon Sand Treasure Kingdom (direct from Jillian – shipping costs were probably hideous, blech, but still a great deal). This is going to all of them, since it’s this great crafty kit along the lines of Play-Doh but even better – it doesn’t dry out. I’m telling you, it makes me want to be a 5-year-old again, this stuff is cool! Anyway, there is one kid without an individual present on the list, so Francois’ name might be on the tag. He’s one of the two stepkids, not really sure if his mom (her sister) helps with Christmas at all.

$0 (but really $20 recycled) – 2 packs of 3 WWE Micro Aggression wrestler figures. They are 2″ caricatures of actual professional wrestlers and qualify as ugly-cute. I “paid” $15 of the price with 2 Disney sleepers that a friend put in on my order to take advantage of shipping cost limits – but it came from my Amazon Swagbucks gift card balance. The other $5 came from a Kellogg’s rebate I submitted using her address for cereal I paid a total of $5 for. Net cost to me is therefore $0. Fernando is on the receiving end of these.

$13 – clearanced clothing from Target. It was actually more than that, maybe double, but Dani very kindly did a money-making deal on Glade scented oil products with coupons I sent that earned back about $10 more than was spent in the form of gift cards. Most of the clothes were the right sizes for Stephanie, Priscilla and Fernando, with a few pieces for Kristi and Ricky. Cheska isn’t allowed to have new clothes because she is the Tazmanian Devil Child (that’s what her tantrums are like – bouncing off walls, damaging everything in her wake) and destroys her own clothes.

$0 – Glade plug-ins and refills from Jess VonWallenstein, one of my Twitter followers, who had a ton of these products that she’d gotten for free or better-than-free on drugstore deals and was ready to throw out. So glad she didn’t! When asked what she’d like for Christmas, Maribel mentioned the Glade Sense & Spray I’d given her in September – said she’d like to have a plug-in for every room in her house. So Jess, you granted that wish!

$3 – Candy and cute containers to put it in. I got all of it for nearly free, so that $2 is mostly the tax. Grr, tax. 3 bags of different Hershey’s Kisses, a bag of Butterfinger Bells, and then a ton of CVS candy that came individually wrapped within the bag – bubble gum, laffy taffy, caramels. Oh, and some clearanced Russell Stover chocolate marshmallow Santas at Walgreens last week.

$0 (but actual cost of $23) – A 12-pair pack of ankle sports socks for little girls, paid for with my Amazon Swagbucks gift card balance ($5). I babysat Ricky, Alex and Kristi last weekend and the baby’s socks were fine, Ricky had no socks (and it was hideously cold out), and Kristi was wearing 1 black and 1 white crumbly boy’s sweat socks with no elasticity left. I ordered these after my mom called to let me know she’d picked up 10 pairs of socks ($18) for the boys and the older girls at Kohl’s and Target.

Total cost of Christmas:  $195
Total paid with free money: $33
Total cash cost to me:  $52
Cash cost to blog readers + my mom:  $110
(+ about $18 in shipping)

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On a Christmas sidenote with regards to this family… because of the extreme bitter winds and temps last weekend, I agreed to watch 3 of her 4 youngest (NOT the Tazmanian Devil) because they were ill-equipped for the cold and she had to go out to some unfamiliar neighborhood in Queens to pick up donated clothes for the baby. Thanks to weekend subway maintenance and rerouting, a trip that should have taken no more than 2 hours took over 5 hours. I was miserable – the kids are normal, active kids, but my apartment is a studio and not at all childsafe. But my vinyl Thai mat became their tumble area, I threw a sheet over the massage table to make a fort, and damned if they didn’t wolf down my bananas as soon as my back was turned (I didn’t mind, I just thought it was funny). Anyway, after nearly 5 hours of dealing with bad public transit and walking to someone’s home that was a mile from the subway stop, Maribel decided to take a taxi for the first time in her welfare life – and didn’t know what she was dealing with. Now, don’t click away – this story has a happy ending!

She hired a gypsy cab, thinking it was a non-yellow taxi car service (which can be cheaper). For those who don’t know, a gypsy cab is just a guy with a car who trolls the neighborhoods outside of Manhattan where you can’t get a regular cab looking for someone willing to pay for a ride. I went to college in the Bronx, I only took one once, with a friend who used them all the time, but then never again. You are basically getting in the car with a strange man. In the Bronx. Anyway, as soon as she had the kids out of the car and paid him, he tore out of there – taking with him the clothes she’d busted her skinny butt getting on a bitter day, all the chicken and eggs and other food I’d given her, and worst of all, the baby’s stroller. It was a really good stroller that I think she had recently bought second-hand on craigslist. It goes for about $200 new and $50-80 used. She was heartbroken. She and her son, Ricky, chased the minivan down the street and even a few of her neighbors joined in after she took a header (yeah, running with a 25-lb baby on her hip was not smart) – but the foul excuse for a human being ran the light and got away. She reported him to the police, but didn’t have a license plate number, and none was visible on my building’s security tapes.

Now for the happy ending… Two days later, I found the same make of stroller (an Inglesina Zippy) that she’d had stolen on craigslist, being given away by a woman on the upper eastside for free. Free! And the owner threw in one of Maribel’s Christmas requests that I hadn’t fulfilled: a snuggly, fur-lined sleeping bag-like thing to keep the toddler warm in the stroller (blankets always move around and get caught in the wheels). I picked it up because I knew it would go to whoever could get there first and I was a 20-min subway ride away, so for the cost of two subway trips and some Krazy Glue (my fault – I broke off the lap bar trying to clean it, lost my balance), Maribel ended up with better than she had lost. Except maybe for that broken lap bar. What can I say, I’m not used to being this chubby, so I weebled right over while simultaneously scrubbing and squatting. Yeah, really should do something about this weeble thing. But I’ll save resolutions for another post.

4 Responses

  1. What a day! You really know how to stretch a dollar and yay for the happy ending!

  2. Fantastic haul! I wish I’d gotten in on the challenge. Tell you what, though, if you see anything that’s Amazon Prime eligible, let me know and I’ll put the order through for you. I’ve got a guest membership for a while!

  3. yay a new post! and glad there was a happy ending. but what a sad story still. sounds like an excellent christmas or whatever it is they celebrate!

  4. I love you MMK! you are just a hoot and a good hearted person (which is on short supply in the world these days).

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