Stuff It Real Good

Stockings!

I love the tiny treasures that stockings hold, but it is a challenge to fill them each year.  I try to find a balance of fun stuff (that isn’t complete junk) and useful stuff (like socks and floss).  Here are a few things my kids will find in their stockings this year.  All of the links are to Amazon, but I didn’t buy all of my goodies there.  You should be able to find most of this stuff in a store near you.

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  1. Slinky!  These are endlessly entertaining to my kids. And I’m glad they’re cheap, because they inevitably get bent and/or tangled in about 27 minutes.
  2. Little Brown Bat stuffed animal – My three kids each get little stuffed animals peeking out of their stockings most years.  This year I went for the non-traditional: a bat, a llama and a raccoon.
  3. Body Doodlers – Nontoxic bath crayons made for doodling on skin.  My kids love any type of bath-time art, so I expect these will be a hit.  Fingers crossed they wash off as easily as they are supposed to!
  4. See Thru Music Box – This one plays Plum’s favorite, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and it is less than $5! Win!
  5.  Hexbug Nano Cat Toy – Because our cat Elsie needs a present or two, too.  These little Hexbugs skitter around the house like cockroaches. (I’ve actually never seen a cockroach, but I’m assuming they skitter similarly.)
  6. Flossers for Kids – Every stocking needs floss and socks.  It is the law.
  7. Edible Bubbles – We like to try to eat regular bubbles, so I’m guessing that ones that don’t taste like soap will be a big hit.  I also found some touchable bubbles that harden after you blow them, and can then be gently touched or stacked.  I’m kind of excited to try those myself!
  8. Cow Popper – Pistachio, my youngest, loves cows. And I imagine he will also love using these to shoot the balls at his sister.  I’m predicting that all of the balls will be lost by 12/27.
  9. Hair Paste – My 6-year-old loves looking stylish, and his hair IS pretty amazing.  So styling products have begun to appear in his stocking each year.
  10. Butterfly Hair Clips – We’re in the process of letting Plum’s hair grow back into a cute bob from a pixie.  She has specifically requested some “pretties” for her hair. Added bonus these are GOLDEN.

As for me, I’m hoping to get some scratch tickets, a whisk, post-it notes, and of course, FLOSS! Happy shopping!

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Books for Christmas

It is a Christmas tradition – the nieces and nephews each get a book from me for Christmas.  (Yes, they get a toy or two, as well.)  So what are we putting under the tree this year?  I tried to focus on stories that feature characters being brave, persevering, and learning gratitude.  And I tried to find some books that feature characters, locations and traditions that might be different from ours.  I have linked these images to Amazon so you can learn more about them, but – as always – I’d encourage you to support your local independent bookstore and buy there!  Here’s our list:

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar. By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field Ages 3-5

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar.
By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field
Ages 3-5

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco. By Evan Turk Ages 4-8

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco.
By Evan Turk
Ages 4-8

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson Ages 3-5

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. Features people of all shapes, colors and abilities!
By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Ages 3-5

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals. By Celina Kalluk Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Ages 2-3

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals.
By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Ages 2-3

A clever and lovely seek-and-find book By B.B. Cronin Ages 3-7

A clever and lovely (and detailed!) seek-and-find book
By B.B. Cronin
Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving. By Ashley Spires Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving.
By Ashley Spires
Ages 3-7

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells the readers what his life is really like. By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith Preschool - Grade 2

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells readers what his life is really like.
By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Ages 3-7

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland. By Rebecca Young Illustrated by Matt Ottley Ages 4-8

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland.
By Rebecca Young, Illustrated by Matt Ottley
Ages 4-8

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play. By David Litchfield Preschool - Grade 2

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play.
By David Litchfield
Ages 4-7

Happy shopping and reading!

Things I Love Thursdays – Baby Shower Edition

Baby Showers!  I’m nearing 40 so, alas, my baby shower attendance has dropped off a bit in the last few years. Sadness.  Hopefully I have a few left to attend.  Here is a list of a few of my favorite baby shower gifts to give (and get!).

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

This is one of my very favorite gifts to give.  They are made in the good ol’ U.S. of A and last forever.  Know baby’s name?  Add a monogram!  Or perhaps add just the last initial.  I have a large collection of these bags and use them for everything.  They have served as diaper bags, luggage, and grocery bags.  I use them daily.  My favorite is the large tote with long handles (to go over shoulders when arms are full of baby and baby things).  I do have a zippered version, which works well for travel.

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Nightlights

I always get an inexpensive pack of nightlights for new moms and dads.  These are really helpful when you are groggily nursing at 4am, and they are usually an afterthought.  Middle of the night diaper changes are jarring enough, low light makes it a little easier.

Nightlights

 

Books

Now that my littlest is in size 3T (sniff!) I am certainly drawn towards those adorable tiny clothes.  But new parents get lots of clothes at showers, so I usually try to give them something else – books.  Also, I am a nerd.  I pretty much think books are the coolest.  I usually try to give a small collection of the titles that were kid tested and kid approved at my house.  So many are available inexpensively on Amazon.  And many come in a variety of formats – board books for younger children, hard cover for keepsakes, and soft cover for when they are a little older.

Engine

 

Zoo

 

words

 

jack

 

bear

 

Clothes

Yes, I know I said I tend to avoid giving clothes, but I love these Hanna Andersson sleepers so much I sometimes just have to gift them.  They are a bit pricey, but the quality is always excellent, and the cotton really is the softest.  We own a lot of Hanna Andersson at my house and not one piece has ever worn out – even items that have been handed down three times.  So pick up one of these adorable sleepers in a gender neutral pattern, and know that it will last through kid after kid after kid and wash after wash after wash.  I like the footed ones for babies, and the footless ones for toddlers.

Sleeper 1

 

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After the shower…

Anything personalized makes a great new baby gift.  Sweet gifts include personalized blankets, birthday blocks, and framed birth info (check Etsy for tons of choices).  And of course, gift certificates to local restaurants are great, too.  With a new baby, sometimes take out is a life saver!

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

 

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

 

As always, no affiliate links.  I have linked these items for your convenience. 

 

That was for me.

That extra episode of Octonauts I let you watch?

That was for you, because you’ve been helpful, patient and kind this week.

But that was also for me, because I needed 23 minutes to pack bags for tomorrow, load the dishwasher, feed the cat, and breathe, for just a second.

 

That third lullaby I sang tonight?

That was for you, because you love our rare quiet time together, my third child.

But that was also for me, because you are growing too fast, because the glider will move out of your bedroom too soon, and because your warm hand on my cheek and full face smile as I sing won’t last forever, it won’t even last the year.

 

That dance party in the kitchen?

That was for you, because you’ve been cooped up too long in this winter house and need to wiggle and giggle and move.

But that was also for me, because your shimmies, and beautifully un-self-conscious twists, hip shakes and jumps are so lovely, so silly, and so free, and someday you’ll worry more about how you look as you dance, and who is watching.

 

That late bedtime?

That was for you, so I can ease you into this time change.

But that was also for me, as you sat, gently combing my hair and we pretended to color and style, because someday soon, you’ll both be too busy to bother playing hairdresser with your mom, even if she lets you stay up late.

 

My babies, my marvelous little people, thank you for the gifts you give me every day.

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Things I Love Thursdays

I’m not sure how, but somehow along the way this regular feature changed from things I LIKE to things I LOVE.  I probably should have stuck with “like,” since I’m a Yankee and we don’t like to over-emote in public.

I’ve been Christmas shopping (duh) and of course have found some lovely fun things that I want to buy for myself.  Maybe I’ll get a few things, wrap them up and put them under the tree.  That’ll confuse ’em!

An Outing for Foxes by Natalie Groves (available at www.minted.com) I’m always drawn to whimsical depictions of anthropomorphised animals. I know that is weird. It may be the result of a childhood full of Beatrix Potter, Frog and Toad and Tasha Tudor, but I’m not sure.  

Look! Foxes riding a bicycle built for two!

Look! Foxes wearing clothes and riding a bicycle built for two!

 

Lorann Oils Lip Balm Making Kit.  My inner 12-year-old is totally pumped about this kit. And even though my 36-year-old self doesn’t wear much lip balm, I still think this is totally cool.  I found this kit (and the photo) at Williams-Sonoma.  You can buy it for more (but why would you?) at Staples and for less at LorAnn Oils and Flavors

Crafty, useful AND scented? Yes, please!

Crafty, useful AND scented? Yes, please!

Emily McDowell‘s, clever, cheeky stuff.  I’m not sure why I don’t own a bunch of her stuff already! (All photos are from emilymcdowell.com.)

Typically, I'm pretty chipper in the morning.  But 2 of my 3 children are VERY early risers so this mug hits home. Photo is from emilymcdowell.com, click on it to be linked there.

Typically, I’m pretty chipper in the morning. But 2 of my 3 children are VERY early risers so this mug hits home. 

As long as my husband and I don't text each other from opposite sides of the bed, we're normal, right??

As long as my husband and I don’t text each other from opposite sides of the bed, we’re normal, right??

I'm probably not cheeky enough to carry this tote, but it cracks me up.

I’m probably not cheeky enough to carry this tote, but it cracks me up.

 

As always, no affiliate links here.  I just think this stuff is great. 

Things I Love Thursdays

The latest installment!  Holiday shopping is upon us, so here are some ideas for great gifts for kids.  As usual, I don’t get any sort of kickback for recommending this stuff.  I just like it. 

Micro Kickboard Mini Micro Classic Scooter – This scooter is awesome for the 3-5 set (my children started using it at 2).  The double wheels in the front makes it easy to balance and steer.  It is lightweight, active and fun.  Speaking of Christmas gifts, my 4.5 year old is probably ready for the next size up (the Maxi Micro). 

Mini Kick Scooter by Micro Kickboard. Image from microkickboard.com.

Mini Kick Scooter by Micro Kickboard. Image from microkickboard.com.

 

Elemenosqueeze Blocks by B. All of my children play with these. They are fun as blocks, but they’re so much more.  They are colorful and chewable.  They are squeezable – and my kids love the little whoosh of air squirted on their faces and hair. They are the complete alphabet with great graphics on each side. Young children can stack and balance them more easily than other blocks because they aren’t slippery. AND they aren’t dangerous – since they aren’t hard, they can be thrown and stepped on without pain (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Lego). Bonus? They come in a carrying case. 

Images from Amazon.

Elemenosqueeze Blocks by B. Image from Amazon.

 

Edison the Petite Lamp by Fatboy – This is a bit of a strange recommendation for a child-friendly “toy”, but hear me out.  I love this little lamp.  We received this as a gift and I was a bit confused about why until I got it home.  This little LED lamp is molded out of plastic, so there are no light bulbs to mess with.  It has three different brightness levels. It is rechargeable and each charge lasts for 6-8 hours (or more, in our experience).  It has replaced nightlights in our house.  Our children can take it to bed to read a book, and we don’t have to worry about burns, or broken glass or plastic.  It is definitely splurgy, but is well-designed and so very useful. The little switch tag is rubber and can break off, so be sure to use it with kids who won’t try to eat small rubber things. 

fatboy

Edison the Petit by Fatboy. Image from Amazon.

My Kingdom for a Gift Receipt!

There are some kid gifts that parents love, some they loathe, and some that they have love/hate relationships with.  These include:

LOVE: Gift certificates. The end.

LOVE/HATE: Blocks, Legos or other items with lots of small pieces.  Great toys.  Kids love them.  They are great for imagination, fine motor skills, so many things.  But there are always. pieces. everywhere.  And toddlers especially think one of the best things about blocks is dumping them on the floor (and in the case of Mr. Pickle Pumpkin, yelling “CRAAAAASH!”).  I am forever picking up blocks. And damn, those suckers hurt when you step on them by accident.

LOATHE: Make-up kits.  As a little girl, I would have loved to get one of these.  Now that I know parents of little girls (and have my own little girl!) I can see why this is a street-walker, wall-scrubbing, disaster in the making.

LOVE/HATE: Bathrobes for newborns. Granted, they are ridiculously cute.  But they are entirely impractical.  Newborns don’t want to lounge around in bathrobes, like mini-Hefners.  They want to be cozy and comfy.  And as a parent, my first priority is not putting my newly-cleaned, sweet-smelling bambino in a bathrobe.  My priority is to get that bambino in a diaper before he/she is no longer clean or sweet smelling.

LOATHE: Gum-ball machines. My sugar-sensitive sister got one of these when she was 8.  We still talk about it, 20+ years later.  If you’re thinking of getting a gum-ball machine for the children in your life, print out directions for “gum removal: hair,” “gum removal: upholstery” and “gum removal: carpeting” and include them in the package.