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

I WILL Be There When She Walks (and Other Milestone Myths I Perpetuated)

This post is brought to you by the new Huggies Little Movers Plus Diapers, available only at Costco.

If you are a parent, you’ve witnessed the wonder of a milestone – the first tiny crooked smile, the “mamamama” blurted out to everyone’s surprise, the very moment you realize the baby is not in the exact spot you left him one little minute ago. Oh, and the first steps. The first off-balance, awkward steps when everybody in the room is wide-eyed and ready to cry or squeal or both.

That moment, and all the emotion that went with it, exploded in our home recently. The baby girl who I once said was trying to ninja-kick her way out of my womb was ready to walk far sooner than I was prepared for her to be mobile.

There she was in the middle of the living room, wearing a floppy hairband and three bracelets and her Huggies Little Movers Plus Diaper, standing tall(ish) and (sort of) steady, with her eyes on her brother across the room. If she fell or took a break mid-way, I reasoned, her tiny bum would be cushioned by the best diapers we’ve found for softness (oh, that baby skin) and absorbency (it’s the one-two punch of protection), thankfully available at a great value at Costco. No matter how adorably camera-ready and geared up she was to amble across the room that day, she didn’t. Why? Because I wasn’t there. No mommy, no milestone.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Let’s rewind a bit.

Years and years ago, I was a nanny to a tiny girl with big, baby doll eyes. On one of the 12-hour days I spent with the baby, her mother beamed, “She took her first steps last night!” And I beamed back, “That’s so great!” What her mom didn’t know— and I was sure to keep to myself — is that the tiny girl had really taken her first steps two weeks earlier when nobody but me was watching.

I knew then that the privilege of that moment and celebration didn’t belong to me and should be saved up for her parents. And it worked! So when I had my son a decade later and I began to see signs he’d soon take his own first steps, I didn’t dare let him out of my sight. NO ONE, I swore, would witness that moment before me. And somehow that worked, too!

Another decade later, my own baby girl was teetering toward that milestone. This time? I told the nanny and her grandmother that she would be taking her first steps with her family. And if she toddled toward them when we were not around? Please keep it mum for mum.

Always a blur. Photo credit Jessica Ashley

Always a blur. Photo credit Jessica Ashley

The luck! It also worked. More or less. One day, my girl took a wobbly step. Then she took two. I wasn’t there, but my son squealed to tell me the big moment was going to come soon (wink, wink). A few days later, she toddled eight full steps right into her brother’s arms, and I got it all on video as proof that we were there, that we were witness to that one milestone.

If you’ve been there, cheering on those first steps, you know that one milestone skips quickly to the next, and soon your little one is running and screaming down the hall, climbing the bookshelves and leaping off of the slide, the couch, the countertops, any surface higher than her head. My daughter is doing many of those, sometimes faster than I keep up with my cheers and camera. Thank goodness her diapers are keeping up, with Double Grip Strips that move with her and keep her comfy during afternoons at the park, and a Trusted Leak Lock system that provides up to 12 hours of protection against leaks while she bounds toward the next milestone.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

I try to remind myself that those milestones aren’t really one-time things—  they are the beginning of many times and even more milestones. Like putting on her own socks or peeing in the potty, reading a board book aloud on her own, walking to school, going to (gulp) college.

But before we fast-forward that far, we can take in those moments (because we WILL be there — right, babysitter? right, grandma?), reassured that they build on themselves, that they are not goodbyes to babyhood but more hellos to bigger and greater adventures.

* This post originally appeared on alpha mom

Ready, Set, Road Trip: Preparing is a Labor (Day) of Love

Many thanks to Huggies for helping us tell this story.

Long weekends are lovely. But seeing Labor Day come up on the calendar is a reminder that summer is coming too quickly to a close. This Labor Day is our very first adventure with baby Grace, so we’re heading to my parents’ lake house in Middle of Nada, Indiana. There, cell phone reception is awful, cable channels are laughable, and none of that matters anyway because the sky will rise brilliant gold from an endless star-spotted black and the water will send shivers up the spine, we will see sunning turtles and marks from the beaver on the fallen tree.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

But first, the road trip

My son E and I have traveled tens of thousands of miles together across time zones. We’re not only practiced trip preparers, we actually love all the laundry and list-making that goes into traveling.

It begins with a list

I love a list handwritten in Sharpie with stars and arrows and my son’s silly doodles to remind us of everything we absolutely, positively cannot forget. Cell phone chargers. The woobies a certain kid cannot sleep without cuddling. The first-aid kit. Just enough cash. The white noise machine for the other little light sleeper. Sunscreen. AND DIAPERS. We can pinch hit if we forget jammies, but we must always have a supply of diapers. A Costco-size supply.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

When I travel, I stock up on the same premium diapers at an affordable price that I use every day —  new Huggies Little Movers Plus Diapers that are available only at Costco. That big box in the back of the car soothes any worries about running out of the baby necessities, and these ultra soft, extra-absorbent diapers with a Trusted Leak Lock system take care of my girl while I’m keeping my eye on the road. Plus, a pre-road trip Costco stop means we will also never run out of pita chips and black licorice, either.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

I also stock a grab-and-go pack of Huggies Little Movers Plus Diapers and Huggies Natural Care Plus Wipes  —available only at Costco–  which are thicker and more durable and made with Huggies simplest formula of 99% water. As most of us who’ve traveled with sweaty toddlers know, wipes are also great for gooey fingers and faces. This pack is my key to convenient public restroom stops and quick changes in the car (and makes a super-soft pillow for Grace’s precious head on plastic changing tables). My pack is made of cloth, but a zipper plastic bag works just fine, too.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Pack early and edit often

A friend with twins once told me that smart travel with kids begins by packing a week before the trip and taking two items out of the suitcase every day. I’m not that regimented, but I do laundry well in advance, pulling out anything there’s any chance we’ll need. The big heap of (what I think are) must-haves is always just the visual I need to really edit it down. I revisit the stacks regularly, refolding and organizing and pulling out anything questionable until there’s some breathing room in each bag.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Totes smart totes

For road trips, I divvy up everything into sturdy canvas tote bags. One for each of us, one for the beach, one for snacks, one to slide in the backseat with books and toys, one full of clean-up and emergency supplies I can access easily. It’s simpler than zipping and unzipping suitcases that are hard to haul in and out of the car. My diaper bag has a pocket that serves as my purse (one less bag!), so Grace and I are both set when we venture out.

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

Photo Credit: Jessica Ashley

There’s a lot we won’t be able to — or want to — control when we finally pull up to the lake house. There might be missed naps and mosquito bites, and there will definitely be messes and daily mayhem. Letting go of schedules and worries about what it should be is part of the fun of the holiday. But to get there, to that magical moment when Grandpa balances precariously in the paddle boat and the baby shrills to feel toes in the sand and E lands an amazing cannonball off the pier and I forget what day or time it is, I need to know that my kids are safe, healthy and have what they need. That’s why all the packing isn’t leading up to the big adventure, but preparation is the beginning of it for me. With each tucked-in swimsuit and, yes, even pack of diapers and wipes, I’m signaling my busy mama brain that all the good stuff is happening. It’s already in motion.

What will this first mama-two kids Labor Day road trip hold? We shall see! I hope we all delight in the moment, for a few fun firsts and that we feel the good kind of exhaustion. And for those moments, we will be completely prepared.

This post is sponsored by Huggies and originally appeared on alpha mom. All tips and opinions are my own.