The Very Best Kid Christmas Gift

I love to give kids books. I love to give adult books. I love to give books. Even if I never read them, or I pretend I will read them and gaze longingly if briefly at them as I pass by an untouched stack on my nightstand or patient row on my bookshelf. I will get to you, I think, and then I buy more books for other people who really will turn the pages before 2020.

It’s a standard gift, a parent favorite and practical choice by child-free friends and family who feel some responsibility to not contribute to the mountain of craplastic toys and $45 tiny, ironic tees made out of organic bamboo something that will fit a kid for approximately 7 minutes.

 Photo source:  Photodune

Photo source: Photodune

Books are such a go-to that we have five copies of Night-Night, Little Pookie, countless Goodnight Moons and Bad Kittys and Percy Jacksons floating around, and probably three full sets of Beverly Clearys and Judy Blumes between our four walls and the smaller four walls of our storage space. We have plenty of Sponge Bob and Star Wars books mom friends have gladly dumped off at our house in a big old donation sigh of relief to never have to read it again (and again and again, to the point of grating memorization).

Something to read is even a mandate for holiday giving from my mother. She was probably the last customer who ever stood in line at a Borders and has reluctantly but resolutely turned to Amazon to be sure every member of the family gets every book from their Christmas list each year. Is nary a book scribbled on your suggestions for Santa? Too damn bad, then you’re getting something with 832 five-star user reviews. And you will read it. Eventually.

So why keep giving books, particularly to kids? Because books create moments, nurture imagination, connect us to lives outside of our own, and best of all, inspire a thousand questions. And if I am willing to answer a bullet-spray of inquiries about Taylor Swift or autopsies or weird poop, then I am certainly happy to engage in a conversation about what a word means or what my favorite part is or what in the world a “pizza pie” or “horse meat dog food” is or why phones used to be “attached to the house” (those are for you, Beverly Cleary).

Last Christmas, Santa delivered 25 books to my son, all wrapped individually and hidden around the house to be unearthed from silly, rhyming scavenger clues. I bought sequels to books he loved, new releases from authors he’s loyal to, and took suggestions from mom friends and teachers on series their kids and students devoured. It was a delight to find just the right reads, to see him scurrying around in his jammies to find each of them, and even more, to watch (and listen to) him enjoy that gift all year long.

He’s at the end of that stack, even with reading many other books given and purchased and dug up from his own nightstand collection in between, and I’d love to repeat this fun and simple gift of words and characters and cuddle time and incessant questions.

While I am at it, researching and ordering and getting giddy to give my boy another big stack of wonder, maybe I should also re-gift all those unread books to myself. Perhaps that’s the best present I could give to me, too—time to travel, absorb, escape, imagine, ask. Possibly. As soon as I click to purchase a few more novels and how-tos and board books for my favorite kids.

P.S. Aside from all these books, I am totally, finally, for sure not going to crazy with kid Christmas gifts this year. I swear. Here’s how

This post originally appeared on alpha mom.

Is It Crazy To Give Camp Counselors Thank-you Gifts Like Teachers?

Once again, summer camp is over. For the third year, my son has spent a month singing, dancing, writing, drawing, acting, and visiting some of the city’s secret nooks and fabulous museums as a part of a theatre camp. And for the third year, I am weepy mess, bursting with pride as my boy blissfully wears a mustache and paper costume on stage and overwhelmingly grateful for the counselors who taught him kid parodies of Pat Benatar songs, who played drama games, and who really work to get kids with an affinity for goofing off in front of an audience.

 IMAGE SOURCE: THINKSTOCK

IMAGE SOURCE: THINKSTOCK

I love these counselors. They are funny and smart and create lead parts I imagine some equity actors would squeal to play. I try not to tear up when I thank them at the close of my son’s final performance, but I usually do. My kid skips off, begging to go for the full eight weeks next year and I’m clutching the show program, my flip-cam and a big wad of Kleenex.

I manage my gushing gratitude by writing thank-you notes. My grandmother appreciated it. My mother expects it. I believe in it. But this year, I’ve decided to show my thanks with Starbucks gift cards, too.

It might not seem controversial, spending some cash on an adult who inspires my kid and who probably waits tables or takes classes  in between their own auditions, but here’s why I paused before I made my purchase: I spend a lot of money on teacher gifts throughout the school year, as most parents do. The winter holidays and end-of-year and teacher-appreciation day presents add up. I am absolutely happy to show my thanks with a gift certificate, but let’s be honest: cha-ching, cha-ching. 

So when it comes to camp counselors, should parents dole out gift cards or is a card or a simple thank you enough?

Should we get a break from all that school-year spending during the summer months, or is it important to give an offering to great adults who work with kids all year long?

Is it important to work grateful-for-you gifts into the budget for camp? And can we afford NOT to say thanks this way?

This post originally appeared on Babble.com.

School supplies moms love most

Back-to-school supply shopping around here usually requires hundreds of dollars, secret strategy by my mom and my dad and me, three trips to six stores, cussing, a Costco membership and plenty of booze guzzling. But this years, the heavens opened and shined a light upon the third grade classrooms at my son’s elementary school and an enlightened teacher got his wings he asked only that parents pay $40 so that he could purchase all the supplies himself before school got started.

You know what that means, other than the teacher just added 20 bucks to his winter holiday Starbucks gift card? It means that I had plenty of time, energy, patience and cash to fill up a basket with my very own school supplies. I asked a bunch of moms to join me — not literally, as most of them were still crabby and frantic getting every single item off of their kids’ lists (sorry for gloating, parents) — and share their favorite school items to buy and keep all to themselves.

Juice-box sticky hands off, kids! Here are the supplies mamas love most.

Which one will be the big winner? And which of these will you add to your own backpack?

This post originally appeared on Babble.com