This year, I have three kids working in retail. One is at a giant arts and crafts store chain, one is at a deli counter in a supermarket, and one is at a popular coffee shop.
One has had potato salad thrown at her. One has had her teeth insulted. And one just started his new job yesterday, so nothing bad happened yet, but his last job was at an old-fashioned candy shop, and you’d be amazed to see how spectacularly nasty people can be when they’re surrounded by jars of brightly colored sugar.
When my kids get home from work, they often dejected and bitter about the interactions they had with customers. These are decent, competent kids who really make an effort to do what is expected of them; but just because they’re behind a cash register or have an apron on, so many customers allow themselves to vent their spleen and call them names, insult their intelligence, blame them for things they can’t possibly control, or just treat them with disgust, rolling their eyes, sighing noisily, flapping their hands with disdain. I know it’s only going to get worse as it gets closer to Christmas. If Christmas shopping is a beast, they all work right in the heart of that beast.
Customers are stressed out and overwhelmed by all the shopping and planning that needs to get done (or at least, that they’ve convinced themselves needs to get done). I’ve been there! When lots of people are depending on you to fulfill their expectations, it’s hard to keep perspective.
But really. Everyone. When is it ever more important to keep your perspective? If you’re not going to treat strangers well when you’re preparing for the birth of Christ, then when are you going to treat strangers well? The day after Christmas? The day after that? Maybe on your death bed?
Let’s all make a resolve to get this right, this year. Lots of people working retail and service jobs just got hired, and are just learning the ropes right when it’s busiest and everyone is at their most demanding.
We have ten kids, ages eighteen to almost two. We buy . . . . a lot . . . .of gifts. Here’s a list of fifty that our kids tried and liked this past year. They’re mostly under $50, and are in order from cheapest to most expensive, so it’s a little book-heavy in the beginning.
I’d also like to apologize for the graphic.
Most of these items are from Amazon. I’m an Amazon Affiliate, and all of the Amazon links in this post have my code embedded, so I earn a small percentage of the sale price, which is how we buy more presents for ten kids next year, and on and on it goes.
“I’m meeting you halfway, you stupid hippies!” Possibly specific to the needs of my family. For the right person, it could be the best $4 you ever spent. When people ask how my kids deal with being one of the few Catholics in a giant public school, this sums it up pretty well.
This book came highly recommended by trusted friends for kids grade four and up, and it lived up to the hype. Original, exciting, and the author actually wrote it with care and wit, rather than just assembling a plot with the right keywords. Kids and I both enjoyed it. It’s part one of a series of four.
Another book my friends have been lauding forever. My first-grader just adores this series, which has ten books total. I admit I haven’t read it yet, but my daughter doesn’t put up with a lot of nonsense, so I respect her opinion.
This is the one of two items on this list that I haven’t actually bought yet, but it’s on my list — in this case, on my wish list. If someone gets it for me, I plan to grow ivy in it. Ivy will grow easily in water. I need green in the house to tide me over until spring!
This was a gift for the six-year-old, but everyone loves it, from the baby on up. Those orderly little drops, marching up and down the steps, hurrying or strolling, as you choose. Endlessly fascinating, miraculously never mixing. (There are any number of liquid motion toys to choose from. Great for babies, older kids who need calming down, or adults who need calming down. I once spotted a few of these toys in the waiting room at the washing machine repair shop, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t mind waiting.)
Matthew Alderman’s new offerings this year. Alderman’s style is so fresh and inviting, reminiscent of Trina Schart Hyman, who drew heavily on heraldry and illuminated manuscripts, nodded at the pre-raphaelites, and then opened the window to let some air in. Great stuff. Kids (and others) soak in knowledge as they color.
Corrie got this last Christmas, when she was teething hard, so it became known as the Corrie-o. The little ridges are perfect for sore gums. It’s bigger than a real Oreo, so not a choking hazard. Super cute, still a favorite after a year of gnawing.
How I adore this movie. It shows, without comment, everyday scenes from the lives of four babies, from just before they’re born until they’re learning how to stand. The families live in San Francisco, Tokyo, the Mongolian steppe, and Namibia, and their lives vary widely, but some things are always the same. Sweetness and a little melancholy, but mostly sweetness. I always feel restored after watching this short, gentle, agenda-free movie, and the kids love it.
Ben Hatke’s first installment in a new graphic novel series. It’s a reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk, and it’s wonderful. You care about the main character right away; Hatke is generous with understated details that tell you what you need to know about the world they live in; and I have no idea what is going to happen next. Some serious themes — serious money troubles, danger, a younger sister who is autistic, and a difficult friendship — but suitable for kids age 7 and up, if they’re not highly sensitive.
We loved The Pirates! Band of Misfits movie so much (made by the same folks who make the excellent Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep), and recently discovered that it was based on a series of books that are even odder and nuttier than the movie. These books do include some bawdy jokes and some violent details, but I feel that the most inapwo-pwo stuff goes over the little kids’ heads, and it’s just edgy enough to give the older kids a little thrill, without crossing any lines.
My fashion-minded ten-year old would wear this every day if we let her (which we do). Pair it with the TARDIS hat (which she does) and and maybe the TARDIS dress, and you have a themed ensemble. The scarf is a stretchy rayon, machine washable.
This toy distracts the baby from your actual smartphone for maybe ten minutes. Worth every second. I like B. Toys because they make sounds, but they are intentionally soft; and they have an off switch. This one has held up well, and doesn’t gobble batteries too badly. Also records your voice, so the older kids are always pranking each other.
The large wooden balls are linked with elastic, so you can wear it like a bracelet, or you can roll and twist them to make all kinds of lovely clusters of color. Each ball is painted a slightly different shade, it’s pleasantly heavy, and it makes a soft clacking sound. Fine, I bought it for myself, and sometimes I let the baby play with it. We’ve had good luck with this brand, Manhattan Toy.
Whenever my kids put Calico Critters on the list, I grumble and complain about how stupid and pointless and expensive they are; and then I start shopping, and then I go, “AWWWWWWW.” They really are adorable. These are very small toys, so not great for kids who lose stuff; but they are sturdy and sweet, and come in dozens of different species. We also have the pool and sandbox set.
I actually resisted buying this kit, because it seemed dumb (ALEX toys are hit or miss) but one kid desired it greatly. It turned out to be quite good. The headbands haven’t broken after a year of use, which is almost a miracle; and she had a surprising amount of fun making different combinations.
My current favorite read-aloud. This book has an unusual focus for a children’s book: a very old couple, so poor they have to share everything, including a chair, a blanket, and the one last potato in the garden — or so they think. A simple and hilarious story of unexplained magic, but so much to unpack about what you really need in life. The illustrations are understated but extraordinary.
My ten-year-old daughter worked to earn her very own ice cream and candy dress, but maybe you’d prefer beetles, constellations, or cute ghosties. More varieties, some of them truly bizarre, than you can shake a stick at. These dresses are on the short side for adults of average height, but work fine for shorter folks. They come with or without sleeves, and are made of a stretchy rayon material.
Oh, I lied, this is another thing I haven’t bought yet, but friends say it’s lovely. I’m a sucker for little worlds under a dome, and I love how this comes with a hanging hook. Friends say it’s brighter than you might expect. We recently redid the little girls’ room with two sets of bunk beds, so we may be investing in individual lighting for individual preferences.These come in three different colors, and you can get either the rabbit thing, or a plump little bird.
By far the nicest instructional ballet video I’ve ever seen. The music is pleasant, there are no bizarre mascots or intrusive animation, the teacher seems to actually like kids, and you will learn some true, basic ballet. We put a broomstick between two chair backs to make the required barre.
The premise is that, when night falls in the village, a werewolf comes out and kills someone; and everyone else has to figure out who the werewolf is and what to do about it. Everyone closes his eyes, and the leader instructs one person at a time to wake up, take a look at the card that reveals his role (werewolf, bodyguard, witch, villager, etc.), and then go back to sleep. There are several rounds of play, in which the players anonymously decide to kill, save, protect, or silence each other.
Quilling is making a comeback! A lovely, old-fashioned craft where you roll up thin strips of paper, loosely or tightly, then pinch them into various shapes. No end of possibilities here. You can make free-standing 3-D ornaments, glue the paper to eggs, make cards, or even jewelry. A very pleasant way to spend time. My nine-year-old needed a little help to get started, but she caught on fast.
With eight daughters, we’ve tried a number of jewelry boxes. A number. This one is by far the sturdiest, but it still looks delicate and dainty. The ballerina still pops up, the music still plays, the hinges still function, and the box is still a box. Pretty, silver-satin quilted design. Plays “Fur Elise.”
Probably the most-used piece of furniture in our entire house. This lived in our living room for at least five months, and saved my sanity while Miss Insano clambered up and threw herself down hundreds and hundreds of times. Folds for storage.
This is the absolute last untested item on this list! We’ve bought many items from The Little Dress-Up Shop, and have always been completely delighted, so I’m confident that this sweet, poofy ballerina skirt with rosebuds will be well-received.
42.Portable Bluetooth speaker, about $37
Exactly what we needed. It works with my kid’s phones, and lets them blast music while slaving away in the dirty dish mines or cleaning up the yard after the last raccoon garbage party. Easy to use, and a good value for the price.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one sword. This one is long, shiny and seriously heavy. Not sharp, but you definitely could kill someone if you tried. Not meant for heavy fighting, but good for stage or costumes or just swaggering around with a big-ass sword.
Greatest inspiration I’ve had all year. We now have two sets (they come rated for different weights), and they are adjustable. First kid went from zero skill to wobbling across the floor in a few minutes, and now she can jump, run backwards, spin, and do all kinds of terrifying stunts. Good exercise, good for improving balance, and great for building confidence. Excelsior!
Yes, this is the second trampoline we’ve bought. We finally destroyed the mat of the first one, and after several unsuccesful attempts to replace it (we kept buying the wrong size, the wrong spring size, etc. etc.) we just threw in the towel and bought a new one, upgrading to fifteen feet. I know all about the horrible stories of mangled faces and splintered tibias, but we are still a trampoline family all the way.
Baby loves it. Kids love playing with the baby on it. It’s instant entertainment at birthday parties, with or without water balloons and a sprinkler or Easter dresses.
Grouchy or sullen teens discover that life is worth living after taking out their troubles on the trampoline. And it’s a perfect spot for stargazing or sunbathing or lying down while the kids run around you, blissfully under the illusion that you are playing with them.
You really need a trampoline. (And if you happen to have a spare trampoline frame, you can wrap some chicken wire around it and make a garden fence, or maybe a chicken coop.)
Okay! That’s it for this year. Happy shopping! Thanks again for using my link when you shop on Amazon.
Doing your back to school shopping online, maybe? Do me a big favor and usethislink.
It will take you to Amazon, and you’ll have the exact same shopping experience as you always do — only my code is craftily embedded in the link, and every time you buy something, I get a percentage. Easy for you, super super super helpful for us!
We are still in denial about school shopping, but there are a few items that caught my eye – things that will help ease the pain when we can’t put it off any longer.
25 Back-to-school Items Your Kid Can’t Geek Without
Message in a Bottle flash drive – about $6. An appealing mixture of old and new storage techniques. 6GB of storage corked away inside a little glass bottle. Perfect for kids who tend to drop things in the toilet a lot.
12 large beeswax crayons – about $7 Yarr, $7 for crayons. But what crayons. Silky, velvety, brilliant. Everyone should color with these at some point in their lives (and they come in a nice case).
Totoro messenger bag – about $10 Note that the model is a weensy weesny Asian model. For the typical causcasian American kiddo, this is more the size of a purse than a messenger bag! It’s not exactly sophisticated looking, but for the right kid, it’s the best ten bucks you’ll ever spend.
Little Alchemy – free Just a neat little game that you may actually want to play yourself, or at least it won’t make you feel horrible when your kids play it all the time. All you do is put stuff together to make more stuff, until you have all the stuff. It’s just difficult enough to be fun, and the breakthroughs are very satisfrying. I meant to type “satisfying,” of course, but they are also sometimes satisfrying.
Robot pencil sharpener – $13 Nicely made. You wind him up by sharpening your pencil (or by using the key), and his little head fills up with shavings. He can hold your pencil in his robot hands as he marches along, too. Sturdy construction; nice and small so you won’t feel the need to assert your human primacy.
I had to stop myself from linking to all the Peter Pauper journals. Dozens of gorgeous styles, and very reasonably priced for the quality, according to the reviews. Here are a couple that caught my eye:
Luffy T-shirt – about $15 For those kids who are – *sighhhhhhhhh* – really, really into One Piece, especially that one time when they were all in a ship, and Luffy was sitting on the figurehead, and he ate the gum gum fruit, and if you eat any kind of devil fruit, the price is that you can’t swim, and everyone was telling him he shouldn’t sit there because he might fall in the water, and he was like, “No, it’s my special seat, you can’t have it!” And then one time Luffy fell off into the water, and there are two other devil fruit users on his crew, and they’re the ones who jumped in to save him! Also there was one part where he was trying to get this guy who was a shipwright to join his crew, and this guy only wears a Speedo and a Hawaiian shirt, and he wanted to join, but he also wanted to stay where he was, so Luffy stole his Speedo and told him he couldn’t have it back unless he joined his crew, and it was the only one he had, and so he was running through the town to get his Speedo back, and . . . it was just great.
Super Mario earrings Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? – about $10 (Note: these are from China and will take forever to get to you unless you pay extra for fast shipping.)
Zelda ocarina and songsheet – about $8 You certainly won’t regret buying this for your kid so that you can hear those Zelda songs all the time even when they’re not playing video games; you certainly won’t. (There are a great number of Zelda ocarinas available on Amazon. This plastic one is the one my kid happens to have, and it’s fine. I started to plow through the reviews of the higher-quality ones, thinking I would find a better product, but I started to feel kind of sad about humanity.)
Terrifying owl backpack – $49 Whoa. If you are worried about your kid being a little bit frail and puny and maybe not ready for the wilds of the hallway, it might help to send ‘em out wearing one of these.
Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel series – about $9 each. I’m getting my kids to write a proper review, but in the meantime, I can’t say enough about these books, which are clearly a labor of love, written by a dad who really knows kids. So funny, weird, sweet, and exciting – and fairly back-to-schoolish, if you kid feels like she’s been catapulted out of her familiar world onto a strange planet on the first day of school.
This ring helps you transpose musical notes into different keys! It is a simple way to pick the number of steps or half steps you’d like to change for any musical sequence. Want to move a score up a major 2nd? Just turn the top band two position over. Works for any transposition you need. You can also use it for more complex variations such as descending 5ths root movements. One example is ii-V-I’s which are the basis for most jazz tunes.
Lovingly handmade bags and pouches in awesome fabrics from Door Number 9 on Etsy. A few samples of the pouches, wallets, and mini bags for sale:
My daughter has this one: the One Ring Tea Wallet. Gorgeous, one-of-a-kind.
One year, deep in the throes of some emotional complex about femininity, I wore dresses all summer. At the time, I had no car, and walked several miles a day. At the time, I also had (and still have) a rather meaty physique. That, plus heat and humidity, plus all the walking, equaled one of the most foul, painful chronic rashes I have ever seen or suffered. Just horrible.
But they are making such nice dresses these days! What to do? I was so pleased to discover that I’m not some kind of extra-damp freak of nature, and that lots of women have a hard time dealing with thigh chafing under those pretty skirts that everyone claims are so light and airy.
Here are a few solutions people have recommended. I haven’t bought anything yet, so I can’t personally vouch for any of these products, but they look promising. Note: these aren’t supposed to make you look skinnier — they’re just for cutting down on chafing.
Here’s the most minimal. It comes in lace, but I’m leaning toward the plain ones: Bandalettes – about $12-$16
Most reviewers say they don’t slip around. This looks like the lightest option, as long as that thigh spot is the only spot that gets chafed.
Lots of VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL WOMEN manage to chafe in other spots, too, though. For that situation,
These appeal to me mainly because the model looks like she only does sit ups when she damn well feels like it.
There are also dozens of variations made with more fabric — bloomer-style short pants, pettipants, divided slips, gaucho pants, etc. I, for one, am hoping to find something with as little material as possible, to preserve the impression that I’m just wearing underwear like a normal human being.
Whatcha got, chaferoos? Have you had any luck with any of these products, or with something else?
(You’ll note that most of these links are to Amazon products. That’s because I’m an Amazon Associate. If you arrive at Amazon by using one of my links, then I get a percentage of the price of whatever you buy — even if it’s not something I originally linked to. These bits and pieces add up tremendously, and help us keeping our big family afloat!
The “Be Bold” rosary bracelet from Apple and Azalea
Who else has an Etsy shop, or other online store for homemade goods? Leave a link and a short description in the comments.
Please note, in your comment or at least in your shop, the last day you can accept orders with guaranteed Christmas delivery! Many’s the time I’ve wanted to order something nice from some crafter, but I can’t tell if it will get here in time. Let your customers know!
Also, no light-up pasties, please. You know who you are.
PLEASE NOTE! You are welcome to leave links and descriptions on Facebook, butplease also leave them in the comments of this post! Facebook comments are transitory, but comments here will be up for viewing indefinitely, and you will get many more views that way. Thanks!
My dear friend Theresa Barger makes elegant rosary bracelets and other jewelry.
She’s offering free shipping for my readers on orders of $10 or more through 12/20! (Free shipping orders are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas if you order by 12/17. For Christmas orders placed after the 17th, you may upgrade the shipping.) Use the coupon code ThanksSimcha (eeee! My first coupon code!) when you order.
Theresa also takes special orders, so if you have a specific color or stone in mind, let her know. If she has the materials on hand, she may be able to fill your special order in time for Christmas.
Here are just a few of the items Theresa is currently offering:
This bracelet has an old world, vintage look to it, with faceted, garnet-colored glass beads, and freshwater pearl nuggets for Our Father beads. There are matte gray seed beads separating the others, and the rosary begins with a black bead that has a cross stamped on it. This rosary has a full five decades.
It is strung on 2 1/4″ memory wire, which is comfortable and flexible, but retains its shape. It can be stretched to fit different size wrists.
I punch the picks out of various recycled items – shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, castoff school binders- and pair the color and texture with charms or beads that I have on hand. I think they are really fun and a perfect gift for a young (or young at heart) musician this year.
My favorite way to use up extra beads, however, is to make
I start with a strand of waxed linen, a material traditionally used for bookmaking. Leaving about 12″ in the middle to lay between the pages of your book, I bead the ends that hang over the edges. Some are fun and playful, some are classic and sophisticated. Some are even for men! Each bookmark is truly individual and built around the beads I have at the time. These are a great gift to have on hand for teachers or for thank-you or get well gifts.
Theresa also offers other handmade items and accessories at Apple and Azalea. Remember to use coupon code ThanksSimcha for free shipping! For guaranteed delivery by Christmas with the free shipping, you must order by the 17th. If you order after then, you may select an optional upgrade to priority mail, to ensure delivery before Christmas.
Theresa, here with three of her six kids, makes all her merchandise by hand in Webster, NH.
Tomorrow, I’ll post an open thread for sharing Etsy stores and other homemade merchandise.
We sure do buy a lot of presents around here. Today seems like a good time to talk about the ones that turned out to be good purchases — the ones our kids actually played with, and that didn’t fall apart right away, and that seemed worth the price.
All the links lead to products on Amazon. I’ve mentioned many a time, I get a small percentage of each sale made using one of the Amazon links on my page. These little bits of sales really add up, and help our family out tremendously!
We get a percentage of any sale made through Amazon, as long as you got to Amazon through using one of my links. So, for instance, if I say, “Hey, this nose pencil sharpener really turned my life around!” and you click on that link, you hate the nose pencil sharpener, you keep shopping, and you eventually order a diamond nose studinstead, I will get a percentage of the sale of the diamond nose stud. I will then use my Amazon credits to buy many more nose pencil sharpeners, because duh.
Here is our list, organized according to price, from “Stocking Stuffer” to “No Complaints Out Of You; We Got You Rotten Kids a Trampoline, Didn’t We?” No remarks about our little Doctor Who problem. The pediatrician says it’s within the normal range and does not technically qualify as a disorder yet.
Note: a few of the prices may have changed in the few days it took me to put this list together! Everything is more or less the same, though.
Dover Stained Glass Coloring Books $1.39 and up.
Oh, so nice, and available in every imaginable theme for boys and girls. I love hanging these up in the windows, especially when it gets dark and bleak outside. Tip: color on both sides of the page, to make the colors more brilliant.
Spock Ears $3.50
These Spock Ears are Spock Ears that go on your regular ears.
Strongbad decal $3.89
You will need this for your car window or laptop or locker door if you ever break your . . . clavicus . . . majoris.
Shake ‘n’ Go Racers $12.98
These go really fast — and they are powered by shaking, not batteries. The harder you shake them, the faster they zoom away when you put them down. Ingenious, tons of fun, and very durable.
Babies are not supposed to suck on your real car keys because of the toxins or something, but car key toys are usually made out of plastic, which is no fun for babies. So these are made out of safe metal (with flat edges, so they can’t cut their gums), they are heavy and they rattle, and the keychain has different buttons that make various car noises — but it’s muffled, so not terribly intrusive. (We like a lot of the toys from the B. company. They hold up well and are designed with actual kids in mind.)
Set of 20 Multicolored Sky Lanterns
Fine, we haven’t actually used these yet. BUT I CAN’T WAIT. Maybe if you have aTangled fan in the house, this would be an exciting present.
Groovy Girls dolls $10.00-$15.00
Smaller, soft, colorful dolls with cute hair and nice little outfits (the clothes don’t come off). Neither trashy nor simpering.
Sort of like free-form Scrabble, you race to build up a group of intersecting words, and whoever uses up their tiles first wins. You can vary the rules to make it a quick or a long game, and you can easily introduce handicaps so adults can play with younger kids. I never mind playing a round or two of this game.
Zoetrope Animation Toy
For the doodler of the house. Make a simple animated picture on a strip of paper, fit it inside the wheel, peek through the slots, and watch it move. A very old toy, simple and cool.
Totoro lunch bag
For the person in your house who really, really wants a Totoro lunch bag. This one is sturdy and made of soft, water-resistant fabric.
TARDIS pendant $14.98
Surprisingly heavy little piece of jewelry. A lot of the TARDIS pendants we looked at were half-TARDISes, which are only half as big on the inside. No fun at all.
LEGO Wii games around $15.00
We have Batman, Batman 2, LOTR, Star Wars Complete Sage and Clone Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, both Harry Potters, and I forget what else. Everyone agrees that Batman 2 is the best. Tons of fun, not too too loud, and they are filled with cute little weird jokes and sight gags. They involve fighting, but the people just fall apart into Lego pieces, so no gore.
All of our girls want wings, but nothing is more tragic than when the metal bends and the wings flop. These wings don’t have frames. Instead, they have shoulder straps and finger loops, so you can flap nicely with your arms outstretched. Durable and pretty. They come in purple, pink, and orange, and are responsible for melting the hearts of many a playground mom.
Wooden Pattern Blocks
The right kid will find these endlessly fascinating. There are many versions. This Melissa and Doug set comes with a sturdy wooden box and several patterns to try to reproduce, or you can build your own designs.
This stuff is awesome. You can squeeze it and shape it, or you can let it dribble out of your hands like . . . wet sand lace foam, or something. You can buy kits with molding toys, but cups and butter knives work fine.
Wooden Family Doll Set $18.21
Oh my gosh, these dolls don’t fall apart. Their arms and legs and heads don’t fall off, their hair doesn’t fall out, their clothes don’t unravel, and they don’t have creepy faces that make you want to hurl them across the room. Great size for doll houses, and they come in a nice little wooden box. They also have African American families, royal families, etc.
Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls $18.44
Wow, more Melissa and Doug! I guess I’m a fan. We had a kid who loved the idea of paper dolls, but found the little tabs endlessly frustrating. These made a nice compromise: you can mix and match the outfits, and they just stick on with magnets.
Schaeffer Calligraphy Set
So you say you’d love to let your kids have that magical, sensual experience of writing in pen and ink, but you’re not dumb enough to turn them loose with a bottle of ink? Here is a lovely set, with 3 pens, 3 nibs, and a bunch of pre-filled ink cartridges in various colors. Also includes an introductory calligraphy booklet.
Fairy Design Kit
Years and years later, the girls still love these. We had a friend who had the Barbie version of these — you remember! You lay the paper over it and rub over it, and the faces, bodies, and clothes magically appear. Then kids can color it in, add details, etc. Pretty fairy vignettes.
LED rope lights $19.99
Makes rooms awesome the LED way. 16 feet of awesomeness that doesn’t overheat if your wiener kids leave them on all night.
Curious George Tin Tea Set
$19.99 TIN TEA SETS. Why did we not think of this several daughters ago? You do need to dry them off so they don’t rust, but it’s so much better than endlessly gluing broken shards together.
14″ Bride, Ballerina, and Princess Dolls
Pleasant faces on these dolls, who are proportioned like little girls, and not like, you know, strippers. We got three of these last Christmas, and no limbs have fallen off, and the dresses have held up for a solid year without ripping, unravelling, or even going limp.
Pet Vet Center
Strikes the right balance between adorable and interesting, for kids who really want to play vet, not just play puppy. The stuffed puppy has articulated joints and is posable and durable. Lots of nice details, like the X-rays and the velcro bandage, and the storage case works well.
Jedi Fleece Bathrobe
If you saw my ten-year-old son in this, you would die. You would just die.
Gromit Microwaveable Plush
I KNOW, this is a really expensive stuffed animal! But Wallace and Gromit toys are hard to find. This one, you can put in the microwave and it heats up and smells like lavender or something, I dunno. She likes it.
Dragon Sword $32.95
Only to be purchased by people who want to be the best parents ever. It’s not terribly sharp, but it’s not a toy, either — more of a stage or cosplay prop. Reasonably heavy and sturdy, satisfyingly long and bright, with nice details on the dragon. The chain broke pretty quickly, but we just bought some jewelry fasteners and put it back together.
Doctor Who 11-piece Micro Action Figure Set $33.00
As advertised. The first eleven Doctors in the palm of your sweaty little hand. A handy gift for people whose birthday is coming up right after Christmas, so you can set them up to expect one more Doctor . . .
You use the brush to paint elegant shapes with water, and it slowly evaporates. Soothing and pleasant, comes with a little easel and water pot. This also comes in a mini version for cheaper.
Make Clay Charms Book and Kit
Such a hit! You can follow the directions (which were clearly tested by actual people, whew) to make the various charms pictured, or you can make up your own stuff. My daughter loves making and baking little figurines, earrings, and pendants for herself and for gifts.
Doctor Who David Tenant Dress
This really barely qualifies as a dress and not a costume, and doesn’t have much structure; but on the other hand, SHE LOVES IT. And it looks great on her.
I shuddered at the price, but when you have four little girls sleeping in one room, and some of them can’t sleep with the light on and some of them can’t sleep with the light off, this is a godsend. It projects your choice of three colors of stars onto the ceiling, and it turns off automatically after the kid has a chance to fall asleep. Much beloved. This also calmed the whole family down during a recent power outage.
Rody Inflatable Ride-On Horse
Pricey but very, very durable, and cute as heck. Easier to get on and off of than hopper balls. Some of the older kids even watch TV while sitting on them, which may or may not be an endorsement. Anyway, the one we have (in lime green) has stayed inflated for years, no kidding.
Steel Toe Combat Boots
Really tough, and just as attractive as Doc Martens, in my mompinion. We looked at a lot (A LOT) of boots, even buying and returning more than one pair, before we found these, which are the best and sturdiest ones we’ve ever seen, for a really good price. My teenage daughter is really happy with hers, and they have held up well.
Tribot Remote Control Robot
Listing this here even though I would not recommend paying the list price of $285 for it! If you can find it on Ebay or somewhere, though, snap it up. Durable, funny, easy to use, surprising, and entertaining. It is quite a noisy toy, and fairly obnoxious, but somehow endearing, and it has tons and tons of features. Its eyebrows wiggle up and down.
Again, not sure if I would pay full price for this — unless maybe a grandparent gave me a gift card and said to buy a group gift for a bunch of little kids. We got ours super cheap when a store was going out of business, and we’ve been using it steadily for something like ten years. It has survived many winters of being forgotten in the yard under several feet of snow, and never stops being fun for little guys.
pictured: Generation 5 (discontinued, but still available)
(price varies) Our kids have refurbished iPod Nanos, which we found after some hunting (they sell used and refurbished items on Amazon, don’t forget; or you could check eBay, etc.) They can play music, they can watch videos, they cannot go online. Bingo.
with net and ladder, $279.99
IT’S SO GOOD. YOU SHOULD HAVE A TRAMPOLINE. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A TRAMPOLINE. We actually have a slightly different brand, but this one looks similar. We (shh) don’t have a net, and we used a stepladder for a ladder, so ours was closer to $200. Wonderful, wonderful purchase. Every single last person likes being on it. It lifts your mood. It wears you out. It’s funny and makes your hair stand on end. And you can lie down on it and look at the stars without bugs getting in your hair. Get the biggest one you can afford.
Seven Reasons Why Being Fat May Be the Right Choice For You . . . Today!
1. You are so comfortable for the kids to snuzzle up with, especially in the winter. AsMighty Mighty pointed out in the comments box of this post, kids always think bigger is better; and being nice and soft, with no bunchy muscles or anything, makes it even nicer. Not only for the kids, either.
2. Fashionwise, it’s a great time to be fat. You have sartorial choices like never before. Fifteen years ago, I remember our terrifyingly brilliant, consummately cultivated, frequently profound, secretly magnanimous, and very, very fat philosophy professor grumbling that, when he went shopping, he had a choice between a gigantic red polo shirt, or a gigantic red polo shirt with Tweety Bird embroidered on it. This is a man who, when he had a fever, once stood at the podium and taught an entire phenomenology class in German without realizing it. (He’s not German.) And everyone was too intimidated to say anything about it; we just took our notes, and liked it.
Oh, anyway, the point is that, nowadays, there are a lot more good clothes for fat people. So now, smart, fat people don’t have to wear Tweety Bird, unless they want to.
3. So many American are so much fatter than you. If you’re feeling bad, just go the mall — you’ll feel like a slender reed in no time, because you’ll be in the minority of shoppers who don’t actually require the double door to get in. Even when you’ve grown beyond bunchy, sailed past stout, and landed firmly in the land of lard, you will find that the hangers with your size on it are no longer the last one on the rack — there’s a whole new alphabet back there! This is the age of the L-cup! Boston just got a special ambulance for the obese! And look at you — you don’t even need an ambulance yet! Have another Ring Ding — you can take it, slim.
4. You get to discover that your husband is really, really in love with you, or else he’s a fantastic and indefatigable actor. Just think, if I were still the proportions I was when he met me (36-24-38, just two inches away from being zoned as a brick house!), I would always wonder if he was sticking around all these years because of me, or my measurements. Now that I’ve added the equivalent of a six-year-old child to my frame, I know it must be true love.
5. I am so easy to buy presents for. Look at the label of the item in question: does it say either “nutrition information” or “XXL?” If so, then it’s perfect for me.
6. If I see a cookie, I can just go, “Hey, I’m gonna eat that,” and then I do. Simple!
7. I’d like to add more, but I’m all out of breath from typing. Check out the other 7 Quick Takes at Jen Fulwiler’s Conversion Diary. See you on Monday, you skinny jerks.
I was standing there, rummaging through the turkeys. For some reason, I was convinced that it was really important to find a 21-pound turkey instead of the 2o-pound one I already had. As I rummaged, a guy on the other side of the freezer started chatting.
We talked about this and that — how many guests we were having, what kind of stuffing we like, and so on. We discussed various methods for thawing a frozen turkey. I said, “Ha ha, I just bring mine to bed with me!” and then thought, Hm, that was kind of a weird thing to say. Oh, well. Then we talked about different styles of cranberry sauce, how far our guests would travel, and about a pig roast the guy had one time in Wisconsin.
Finally we found our turkeys, and I said, “Well, have a nice Thanksgiving!” He answered, “You too! Hope you get that turkey defrosted in time!” And I answered, “Oh, I’ll just bring mine to bed with me.”
And then I left, even though I still had more shopping to do. Because I knew that if I ran into him again, I’d once again tell him that I was going to bring my turkey to bed with me.
Which I’m not. Why do I say these things? What is it about supermarkets that makes people reveal too much about themselves?
Here’s a sad little window I looked into one night in the frozen foods aisle of the Walmart Supercenter. A middle-aged man stuffed into a snowsuit, like an enormous toddler, was muttering in a sulky monotone, “I wish they had the Stouffer’s. They used to have the Stouffers. Right there, that’s where they had the Stouffer’s. This isn’t Stouffer’s. The Stouffer’s is really better, so why don’t they have the Stouffer’s? I wishthey had the Stouffer’s.”
And the woman wasn’t saying anything, in her eyes was written: “K.I.L.L.”
Another time, in another aisle of the same godforsaken Walmart, I saw another couple. The young man, bored to the point of semi-bonelessness, draped himself over the cart while his monolithic girlfriend surveyed the shelves of cereal.
“Well, do you like Cheerios?” she asked.
“Myehh,” he said.
“Well, how about Wheaties? Do you like Wheaties?” she asked.
“Mmmrr,” he replied.
“Well,” she went on, “Well how about, do you like, like, Honey Bunches of Oats and Shit?”
I swear, that’s what she said. Doesn’t that sound delicious? I see a happy future for that couple. As long as someone else makes breakfast.