Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birthday on a Budget: A Fun & Feasable Sleepover for an 11-year old Girl

 Last weekend, I threw a birthday party for my daughter who was 11. Sammi kept reminding me that I did nothing for her tenth birthday, so I owed her one! She wanted a sleepover and invited her 4 closest friends. I had a ballpark $100-$125 budget in mind for everything -- activities, food, gifts. This is how I made it happen.

The highlight of the evening was an inexpensive Find It/Make It scavenger hunt ($5), where I basically use what I already have in the house -- old magazines, things that are purple, something that begins with the letter "M," paper scraps, and so forth. Because I mix craft (make a 12 ring paper chain) and educational activities (a moderate level word search, making words from Scrabble Cheez-its, etc.) with basic scavenging, it takes a good long time and the girls LOVE it!!! It's fun and friendly competition and they never want it to end.

Kids love to go to restaurants, but I don't take them out for dinner because that can get expensive and cheap greasy crappy food places are a waste of money. So we ate at home; I served homemade mac-n-cheese plus salad bar ($13). I took them out later for frozen yogurt ($25) and then we went out for a very reasonable deli breakfast ($40). I feel like I got two fun outings for the price of a dinner.

We decorated flip flops. Each girl got a pair ($2 each, so $10) that they transformed with strips of fabric. I have plenty of colorful swatches around my house so I just cut them the night before. At first the girls were kind of unenthusiastic, but as they started tying more and more fabric on, their shoe loving personalities came out.

Spin art is an all time favorite, so I went to Michael's and used a 50% coupon to buy it ($10). It is normally $20.

And then they just like to hang out and talk and take pictures of themselves that they can post on Facebook.

I spent a bit more money on those extra reassurances such as snacks ($15), water balloons ($2), beads and elastic for bracelet making ($6), and an on-demand movie ($5)  Each girl left completely exhausted. And their mothers called to thank me and tell me what great fun they had.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Like most careers, a freelance writing gig has its highs and lows. One of the biggest highs is working with many different clients. One of the biggest lows is chasing paychecks from all those different clients. Besides, putting a wrench in the budget, it just feels crappy to not get paid for work done well and on time.

Thankfully, chasing down clients doesn't happen often. Usually I see payment within 30 days. Sometimes up to 60. Only once before, did it seem to take more than 3 months, but that company was reorganizing and I did believe that no one was in charge. And now there's this...

Hey, look at me! I look like I am begging for... um...maybe a paycheck I invoiced 120+ days ago. 
It was Day 107 when I started writing this post. And then I hesitated. Maybe it's not the right thing to do, plus I had that idealistic "oh, it'll probably come tomorrow" recording playing in my head.

On February 13th, approximately Day 120, I thought, "Hey it's been 4 months since I sent that invoice."  I've been waiting an entire season for a paycheck. In other terms, I have been waiting the time it takes a baby to start solid foods. I got pissed, and resurrected the post.

I tapped on a few keys, then hesitated again. I wrote to the woman who hired me. Mortified that I was still waiting to be paid, she told me that some checks went out on Friday, and that maybe mine was with that bunch. Our fingers were crossed.

Then came Valentine's Day -- a day of love and perhaps...a paycheck! The only exciting thing in my mailbox, however, was a tiny lizard which scared the shit out of me. When I spotted it stationed on the last envelope, nearly white and trying so hard not to be seen, I screeched and threw all the mail in the air. As I collected the letters off the grass, a really cute Wheaton came over to sniff me and say "hello." That was nice, but the absence of a check was not.

{Confession: I did not sign a contract with this company.}

The freelance gods are frowning upon me; I performed emergency proofreading duties in good faith. I know. I know -- a stupid move which actually sometimes makes me think this massive delay is somehow my fault. I hate that that thought actually crosses my mind.

A good friend tells me his sister did a job for the same company, and that they took forever to pay. "But they paid!" he says, attempting to assuage me. I know this is supposed to make me feel better.... kind of like the forgotten 50 you find in a pair of jeans you haven't worn in a very long time.

I don't want to sound like an ungrateful, whiny freelance writer -- and if you know me personally you know that I am so NOT a WFW, but in the event that I am coming off like one, I shall turn this negative situation into something positive!

Let's play...


 Just leave your answer in the comment section of this blog. If you are correct and the first one to be so (but you may not be a good friend to whom I may have already griped), you'll receive an autographed copy of a "The Colorful Counting Book," a short paperback kids book that I made a little too hastily on Lulu. But it's the thought that counts, right? And it is kind of cute. Oh, I am eager to see the names you come up with, and I do hope you'll play.

(o.k.-  I'm really sorry that the prize is not a cool purse, or a spa service or anything of greater value, but remember, I haven't been paid -- and actually it is kind of cool especially if you have a kid or know a kid that is at the age of learning colors and numbers.)

It is February 15th, and still no check. Maybe tomorrow or the next day or the next or the next or maybe the next.............