Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Teacher Gifts 2012

It is that time of year.  Again.  Ginger finished preschool last week, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried like a little girl - seriously, bawled - at the end-of-year music program.  Saying goodbye to her tiny two-year window of preschooldom was painful, a pain whose only alleviation was the giddy little thrill of putting together a year-end gift for her amazing teacher.

Teacher appreciation week was last month, and our class pooled contributions for a generous restaurant gift certificate for her and the school's music teacher, so our year-end gift was simple.  I'll just let you know now, this post holds no new ideas, just a rehashing of former ones I've posted - ain't broke, don't fix it.  It's just a good way for me to keep track of who we've given what, when.

And while I was on the teacher gift vein, I've ordered/bought/planned the ones for Hazel's teachers, too, even though she still has a few weeks.  Hazel has three teachers - a man and a woman that job share as her 1st grade teacher, and a wonderful grandmotherly full-time teacher's aide.  So here's what we're doing.

For Ginger's preschool teacher AND Hazel's woman teacher - a copy of Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, a personalized "Ex Libris" stamp, and two different colors of archival quality ink pads.  I ordered the stamps from Etsy - there are a lot of cool ones on there!  This one for Ginger's teacher:

And this one for Hazel's:
For Hazel's man teacher, you have to know he has two children under 2, and the poor man is a walking zombie of sleep deprivation, though he has still managed to teach my 7-year-old to read fluently this year so I'm not complaining.  It's just that every time I talk to him he asks, "How old is Poppy again?" followed by a recent anecdote of extreme parenting that he doesn't remember he already told me last time.  But he's always got a smile on his face, and Hazel adores him.  So, keeping the family orientation of his life in mind, I'm sticking with the no-failer - my favorite ice pops book (or maybe I'll try this one) and a set of star-shaped popsicle molds.  Take a load off this summer, Mr. B.

And for Hazel's teacher aide, who has put up with heaven-knows-what this year, I'm taking an idea from a comment on last year's post.  When we went strawberry-picking last Saturday at Homestead Farm, I stopped into their farm stand for a bag of buttermilk pancake mix and a jar of peach melba preserves.  I hope she can have some leisurely breakfasts this summer on us.

Finally, that picture at the top of this post?  It came attached to a funny - and practical - article I found about teacher gifts here.  It's nice to know I'm at least not on the wrong track.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gift Guide: What to Get the "Experienced" Mom

Many of my closest friends around here are expecting.  And this time, instead of the thrill of a first baby, it's their third, fourth or fifth.  And whether a traditional shower is held for her or not, I think each arrival is cause for celebration, and to me part of that means gifts.

So I've done some thinking.  What do you get such a Mom, someone who is well-versed and well-stocked, who has developmental toys for every age, the parenting books she knows and likes, clothes in every size for both genders, and receiving blankets coming out her ears?  There is still plenty, and you would be a very thoughtful friend to get her something she will actually need and use (read: not blankets.  Or stuffed animals.)  I nudged a few friends for ideas, and added them to my own.  And here I give you a pretty darn good resource list.

I don't care how many kids she has; she will need diapers (unless she's gone cloth - doesn't hurt to find out.)  You could get her any size from 1 to 4 and they will be much-appreciated and definitely used.  One friend told me she had a baby shower for her second that was just diapers - she said they didn't have to buy diapers for almost a year!  Amazing.  What a gift.

Other disposable-type things a new Mom always needs:

Along a similar vein to disposable, are things that she may already have, but it's nice (and sometimes necessary) to have new ones for the new kid.  This includes things like:
  • Baby washcloths
  • Board books (don't be afraid she'll already have the one you picked - if she does, it is probably all chewed up and falling apart and a new one is great; if she doesn't, bonus!)
  • Bibs
  • Pacifier clips
  • Baby spoons
  • Sippy cups
  • White onesies
  • Burp cloths

Two categories in one here, and these comprise more traditional baby gifts.  But since this Mom has so many of the necessities, it can be nice to get her a not-so-necessity, maybe something she's always wished for but could never justify buying.  But, it still has to be useful!  Just for example:
The baby item industry is always booming, and there is constant and endless innovation happening there.  Which means there are always new cool things coming out, and she may not have something that's come out in the last few years.  One time when I was pregnant with Poppy, in 2010, I spent a whole afternoon alone at Babies R Us, walking up and down every single aisle just to see what was new since Ginger had been born in 2007.  I found some of my favorite new stuff that way.  A few new-ish things she might not have, but that I think are clever and useful, are:

Is now a good time to address clothing?  Because here's what happened.  I recently attended a shower for a woman having her third girl in three years.  It was well-attended but I was so surprised that every gift but two that I remember was clothes.  It's true a third might like a thing or two of her own, but I am positive that family did not need that many new girl clothes.  The two gifts that weren't clothing were mine - a baby timer (with batteries) - and a gift containing home pedicure things for the mom.  Which I'll talk about in a minute. 

My feelings are: if she's having her first of a gender, clothes are a great way to go - of course she will need them!

If she's having a gender she already has clothes for, but you just must get clothes because they are so cute and fun (and I don't judge or blame you for that), elevateSkip Carter's and Target.  She will probably be shopping there herself. Get less for more and buy quality, somewhere she wouldn't normally shop, and get this kid something really nice.  Almost every mom I asked responded how nice it is to have at least some new, clean things for the baby.

FYI American Apparel is one of my favorite brands for soft, unadorned baby separates, especially for boys.  I love their karate pants and onesies.

And. One friend suggested getting a baby bathing suit, swim diapers, and sunscreen (hand me down swimsuits are always a little loose and pilly.)

Dude, you know what this mom needs most?  Some help.
  • Dinner - get her a gift card to a place that delivers (i.e., pizza, Thai), has easy pick-up (i.e. Panera, Chipotle, etc.), or a meal delivery service.  Some examples are Grandma's Chicken Soup, Let's Dish, and Send-a-Meal.  And of course you could always make them something yourself.  One of the best gifts ever was a woman I didn't know well emailed me a month after Poppy was born, when all the meal-bringing had stopped and I was drowning.  She told me she was bringing me dinner and gave me three dates to choose from.  It was no-fuss, no-frills, and I will remember her thoughtfulness forever.  Another best-ever gift was when a friend brought us dinner...and a huge shopping bag full of paper plates and plastic cups.  We ate off those for months, and it was the only way I could stay on top of the dishes.
  • Massage - I can't think of anything better than a prenatal massage.  Unless it's a post-partum massage.  You know some hospitals offer that service?  What a gift that would be, if you found out where she's delivering and arranged to gift her a massage while she's in the hospital.  That is a true friend.
  • Mommy Relief - If I ever have another baby, please oh please, someone get me a g/c for these guys!  I know they're local but I bet most areas have something similar.
  • Mani/ Pedi - Just a simple treat almost any woman would love.  But, get her a gift card to a salon.  In reference to the home-pedi gift mentioned above, um, what 7-9 month pregnant mom can paint her toenails and also breathe?  And what new mom has time or thoughts of painting her own nails?  But a salon outing, that is a treat.
  • Gift Cards - besides food, help, and nails, the experienced mom needs clothesFor herself.  Post-partum is a dark time for a woman's wardrobe, as she mysteriously morphs into whatever surprise shape and size she's going to be this time around, but she still has to wear something!  And you know her nursing bras are in a sad, sad state by the third or more child.  My best suggestion here is a mall gift card, so she can buy whatever, wherever. 

Consider pitching in with friends to get her one big nice thing.  Something like:
  • a rockin' rad double stroller (she probably has her eye on one)
  • a gift card (see above) to a:
    •  restaurant
    • store 
    • mall
    • website (my fav -
    • local photographer (for an infant photo shoot - so thoughtful!)
    • bookstore (especially Amazon, really)

OK, see?  All is not lost.  So what if she has a girl, two boys, and lots of baby gear?  There are still A TON of really thoughtful gifts you can give her, in any price range!  Hope this was helpful.  And in case you still need more, here are my own Top 5 favorite things to give new and repeat Moms (but step off if you are going to the same shower as me because I get dibs on giving these!)

 1 - Itzbeen Baby Timer (you've heard me sing its praises before; I always include batteries)
2 - Patemm pad (one of the coolest baby things I own)
3 - Chew beads (my favorite "new" baby invention)
4 - Books (kid-approved favorite board and picture books are always the right gift, with the bonus aspect that siblings can enjoy them now, and baby, later)
5 - Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (this is usually a first-time Mom gift, but I lend mine to many "experienced" moms.  Most helpful information I've ever gotten regarding babies' first three months.)

AND.  If you STILL need ideas, I love perusing Cool Mom Picks baby shower gift guide, if nothing else, the ads are always so cute!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Three Black Ruffles

Every time Poppy wears this one ruffled-black-skirt-with-ruched-gray-leggings-attached that I bought for her before she was even born, I feel deeply tickled to have three daughters in an age when ruffles are a trend.  Especially.  When she runs.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day

Exactly once a year I voluntarily step in front of a camera and agree - even ask - to have my picture taken.  Despite all my self-conscious insecurities, I cannot resist an annual visual record of my motherhood.
 I had a good Mother's Day, did you?  It was wardrobe karma I was able to kinda sorta coordinate outfits with the girls.  Ed and the kids made me a super nice breakfast - vegetable omelet and fruit.  We have morning church, so a leisurely breakfast in bed or brunch was not possible, but I still got to sit down to eat, which is a Sunday treat in itself. 
 The homemade gifts and crafts were in plenty this year.  They came from school, preschool, church, and our own arts & crafts room.

 I especially love this acrostic from Hazel - in case you can't make it out:

Marvelous mother
Odor impossible (she explained I never smell bad - good news)
Tells childhood stories
Her hugs are so fine
Elevates me upstairs
Really like a red ruby

There were also store bought gifts, which honestly are not as important, but still appreciated by my commercial side.  A generous Williams Sonoma gift card from Ed hit the spot, and he and the kids also got me one of those robotic floor sweepers, can you believe it?  Ginger saw it on an infomercial and has been giving Ed the hard sell for a few months, so he humored her.  But between you and me, I am wary.  It had to charge overnight so we haven't tried it yet. 

At church they gave out baggies of Dove chocolates to the moms, a decent choice.  In my sister-in-law's ward, they gave out small jars of strawberry jam the young men (age 12-18) MADE for one of their weekly activities - I was impressed.  Ed is our ward's young men president, so I'm going to plant that bug for next year.  Also, the primary (the organization that teaches children 3-11) made CD's of the children singing several Mother's Day songs, and in between the songs are recordings of each child saying why they love their mom.  What a treasure, we all love it!

In the evening, we hosted my brother's family and my parents for dinner, dessert, and gifts.  I figure if I'm taking pictures, I'm taking pictures, so I had Ed take a pic of each girl with me and my mom; I'm going to print them and put them in the girls' journals. 

It's funny about having your picture taken - I always think how old I look, but then I have to realize I'll never be, or probably look, this young again, so later, when I'm really old, I may appreciate it.  I'm long-term thinking like that.

Throughout the day I received extra hugs and unsolicited expressions of love from the girls - they were really into the day!  Also boxes of ribbons and other impromptu handmade treasures showed up here and there.  I love being a mom.  It is truly the best. 

Hope you all had a good one, too.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spring Has Hatched

Did you want an update on our little bird family?  First, we were happy to see Mrs. Sparrow seamlessly adjust to her new location, and continue to tend her eggs.

The nest is now too high for me to look into easily, so I sort of stopped checking on it, figuring we would hear "cheep, cheeps" if the eggs hatched.  Because I know basically nothing about birds except what I've read in board books.  Ed has been peeking in occasionally, and the eggs have remained.  We're not even sure what kind of bird it is, much less when the eggs were laid, and definitely no idea about gestation/incubation periods, just that babies are born in the spring (board book.)  Last Sunday Ed peered in, and wondered if maybe they wouldn't hatch, since we send Mother bird flying away too often.  That saddened me.

Then yesterday my sister and nephew were visiting and they asked about the nest.  I told them what Ed had said, so Thompson wanted to take a peek.  He raised his 6' frame up on tippies, and said, "Uh, they've hatched."  What?!  Flurry, flurry, what do I do?  "Yeah, there's a bunch of fuzzy babies in there."  Omygosh, where's my step stool?  Where's my camera?

 There they are!  I couldn't believe it.  Even though that's how nature works.  But I'm not used to being this close.  And I love it. 

When Ed came home I was so excited to tell him, and he said, "Oh, yeah, I saw the mother feeding them the other day."  Thanks.  Because we communicate like that. 

Anyway, this morning we saw them feeding, so I interrupted just for a few more pictures, then closed the door and left them to it. 

Mr. Sparrow seems to be back on the scene, and both parents were working hard to get the hatchlings fed, only flying only to the nearest branch when I came out; I could feel the heat of their glare.

We have a field guide, but based on descriptions of several small eastern birds, we're still not sure exactly what we have.  Poppy likes birds, so my parents gave her this bird feeder for Christmas.  It sits outside our dining window, so she can see it from her high chair.  Word travels fast when it's filled up, and we have quite the aviary mob descend, to the point that Ginger gets scared by the storm of flapping when we leave the house.  So when it runs out, we let it stay empty for awhile.  But, inspired by our new little family, I filled it up today; maybe the Mr. & Mrs. can get a little something for themselves.  Call it date night.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Art Tuesday: Kinetic Art

A few weeks ago, Ginger, Poppy, and I were stranded.  We'd brought the van in for some repairs, and it was going to take several hours longer than expected.  I had a backpack of activities neither of them wanted to do, no stroller, and the unpleasant discovery that the gumball machine the girls have come to associate with getting the car fixed was no longer in the waiting area.  We were in a part of town I didn't know well, but it was a beautiful spring day, so I whipped out the mighty iPhone and searched for anything interesting within walking distance. 

Turned out there was a library just two blocks away, so we meandered over and spent the better part of a morning lounging on beanbags, playing with puzzles, and reading lots and lots of books.  Poppy's not picky.  If she can reach it, and pull it off the shelf, it's her new favorite, and she insists on me reading it aloud while she goes to pick another. 

One that she brought me was Alexander Calder and His Magical Mobiles.  I love mobiles, and Calder has a huge one at the National Gallery, as well as a room of other smaller mobiles and sculptures.  So while the mechanics labored away, chuckling at how much they were going to charge me, and the girls built and demolished towers of foam blocks, I got a quick primer on the artist behind the balance, and I knew what I wanted to do for our next Art Tuesday.
Rouge Triomphant, 1959-1963

Of course, when I went back to my library, they didn't have the same book, not in the entire Arlington system.  Grrr.  But, just to show some examples of his work, I did check out The Essential Alexander Calder and Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy.

We started the afternoon discussing what a sculpture is, and how it is made.  Then we talked about moving sculptures, then hanging sculptures, or mobiles. 
Cone d'ebene, 1933
I showed a few examples and we briefly discussed the concept of balance, and how it is achieved.  Then we broke out the supplies - markers, glue, paper, beads, feathers, googly eyes, string, and of course coat hangers - and each child set to work with the charge to make at least two creations to hang and balance.

You never know how Art Tuesday is going to go.  Paint, markers, and glue are often big hits, but sometimes the projects are too hard, or too easy, too narrowly defined, or too broad.  Plus each child's interest level is a moving target from month to month.  So you never know.  We just try things and see what happens.

I'm happy to report that our Kinetic Art afternoon was a booming success.  Attention spans reached record lengths, and creativity flowed like the rivers of beads that spilled onto the floor and scattered in all directions.  Everyone got to make something that was unique to them.  And I finally found something good about my totally weird entry light fixture: it's perfect for hanging mobiles.

*And speaking of mobiles, if you grown-ups are feelin' crafty, here are some clever ones you can make for your next party, or...whatever!
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