Milk and Cookies Sun, 04 May 2014 01:44:23 +0000 en Life-improving products, part 4 Wed, 28 Aug 2013 19:33:38 +0000 swistle (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water other than a swimming pool, because I couldn’t imagine keeping track of them all at once in water that didn’t have walls and lifeguards. I’d be okay with the older two swimming around, but not the younger three: they still sometimes sink and thrash during their swimming lessons. Near the end of last summer I bought a life jacket to see if it would help the situation (I didn’t want to buy three and find out they weren’t any good), and it was one of the best purchases of my entire life. This summer I bought two more. We went to the lake, and the three little kids swam around to their hearts’ content, and I barely freaked out at all.

The sizing on this says 50-90 pounds, but notice that many of the reviewers strenuously object to that. The three little kids at my house are 6-8 years old and weigh in the 45-55 range, and these vests fit them just right with some room to grow (and fit Henry well last summer when he was 5)—but it’s hard to imagine the vests still fitting at 90 pounds.

Spinbrush Electric Toothbrushes (photo from These are inexpensive enough (about $7 on sale at Target) that I have one for each of the kids. A 2-pack of replacement heads goes on sale for about the same price as the toothbrush. There are several different types of these; I try to get ProClean rather than ProWhitening, but I think we’ve had some of each without me noticing a difference.

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm (photo from Burt’s Bees stuff appeals to me tremendously, but I once got a sampler pack of various things (lip balm, lotion, body wash) and disliked the strong/sharp scent of almost everything. These tinted lip balms are unscented (or nearly: I think there might be a tiny fruity tint to some of the colors, but my mom doesn’t taste anything), and I love them. I keep one in my pocket and use it like regular plain lip balm: the tint is enough to make a noticeable difference, but not enough that I need a mirror to make sure I stay in the lip lines. My three favorite shades for my coloring (light brown hair, fair-to-blushy-pink skin, hazel eyes) are Red Dahlia, Rose, and Sweet Violet. (Sweet Violet sounds like it would be purple, but it’s more of a pink.)

Squish Collapsible Colander (photo from My old colander was the metal mesh kind, and the children kept crushing it. Finally a child used it to sift some broken glass, so I needed a replacement. I was surprised at how expensive they were, and chose this one at least in part because of a resentful feeling that if I was going to spend that much money, there should be SOMETHING fun about it. I liked the colors a lot, but wasn’t sure if I’d like the squish-it-flat aspect. I do like it, as it turns out. I’m considering buying the next size up as well. (This green one is just right for a pound of pasta; the next size up is twice as big.)

Handheld Postal Scale (photo from Paul bought this for me as an impulsive little present, and now I keep it in a special box high up so it can NEVER GET LOST. It’s not that I can say I use it constantly, because how often do I need to see if an envelope needs one stamp or two stamps or three? But every time I do need it, I say to Paul, “I love my little letter scale”—because I DO. It would make a nice stocking stuffer.

Can Colander (photo from I bought this to squeeze-drain tuna, once they started making tuna lids too thin to do the job. But it can also be used to drain cans of fruit or vegetables. This is another good stocking stuffer.


Thank you for a happy five years here at Milk and Cookies. It’s been fun writing these shopping posts; I’ll still do them now and then at my regular Swistle blog.

Life-improving products, part 3 Wed, 21 Aug 2013 08:53:59 +0000 swistle (Continued from part 1 and part 2.)

CMS NeoPin Magents (photo from These are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: some people hate stuff on the fridge, and some people have non-magnetic fridges, and some people have kids little enough to eat magnets. But if you DO like having stuff on your fridge, AND your fridge cooperates with that, AND your kids are old enough to eat things from the inside of the fridge and not the outside, then these are GREAT: really strong, and also pretty. They claim to be able to hold 16 pages, and I wouldn’t be surprised: Paul recently used one to pin the remains of a pad of paper to the fridge. Because they’re kind of expensive for fridge magnets, they’d make a good gift for someone hard to buy for.

Presto PowerPop Microwave Popcorn Popper (photo from This is my favorite popcorn popper. It felt a little complicated at first (”Wait, this little paper thing goes first, and then the whole bowl fits into this little black thing, and…”) but now it’s simple and fast and we can make popcorn in the microwave without having to buy microwave popcorn.

Scanner (photo from I had no idea before I bought a scanner how much I would USE a scanner. I originally considered it a very silly purchase: I wanted it mostly to scan in Postcrossing postcards, which is fun but not exactly necessary. Since then, I’ve used that silly purchase SO MUCH, and it has saved me SO MUCH trouble. When our insurance sent me a letter denying a claim unless I could prove we had a referral, I could scan the referral and print out a copy and have it in an envelope within 5 minutes. When the school sent out an email saying, “Oh, by the way, we need a copy of his birth certificate before school starts in 2 days,” I scanned it and printed it out. When I realized the photo I wanted to show everyone was from before we had a digital camera (imagine: we used to BUY FILM), I could scan it in and post it to Facebook right then. When I emailed my mom about picking up Henry at camp, I could scan in a quick sketch of the tricky route and include it with the email. I love it.

Shout stain spray (photo from I’m linking to it on Amazon so I can use their photo, but no way do I pay nearly $10 a bottle for it: I get it at Target or at the grocery store for about $3. I haven’t researched stain sprays since my firstborn was an infant, so it could be that things have changed—but when I was comparison shopping back then, many stain treatments couldn’t be left on the clothes for long. The instructions would say, for example, that the garment should be washed after 10 minutes, and there would be a warning about not letting the product dry on the clothing. Shout stain spray, in contrast, could be spritzed on, and then you could toss the clothes in the laundry basket and not think about it anymore even though you weren’t doing laundry until Saturday, and I value that feature highly.

Life-improving products, part 2 Wed, 14 Aug 2013 07:56:18 +0000 swistle Continuing with last week’s theme of life-improving products:

Wahl Haircut Kit (photo from This was especially life-changing when the boys were younger: I could line up the four of them and save $60 in well under an hour. The first time I cut Toddler Rob’s hair was VERY SCARY, but I thought to myself, “If I make a mess of this, I can take him to the barber and have them fix it—or I can just shave it off and start over.”

Goody Small Claw Clips (photo from I buy these from Target in a pack that has 5 of each color. I use them for buns or for other twisty styles, and they have revolutionized how I do my hair. My only complaint is that they come in mixed-color packs, when I only like the tortoiseshell ones. I’ve been thinking I should set up a local swap club, because surely there are other women who like the black ones or clear ones best.

Taylor Quad Timer with Whiteboard (photo from Most of the time, we don’t need this. But when we DO need it, it’s GREAT. We’ll have one timer set for when it’s time to put the pizza dough ingredients in the bread machine, and another for when the grass ought to be dry enough for a kid to mow the lawn, and another for when we’d better remember to cycle the laundry or else someone isn’t going to have any pants for school tomorrow, and a fourth for when it’s time to leave for a dentist appointment.

White board (photo from I’d buy this locally to avoid shipping issues—or better yet, we got ours from Freecycle. If you have a busy schedule, I heartily recommend the Giant Whiteboard system of organization. I like how it’s flexible depending on what kind of system we need at the time: we can write a list for each person, or we can make one big list, or we can draw a two-week schedule because we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to manage things. Paul can use it to help with math homework, or I can use it to draw a map because I can’t remember the street names, or we can use it to leave notes for each other.

Lands’ End backpacks (photo from I like these because they last way longer than a backpack from Target or Walmart (though I’ll still shop there if I want a character backpack), but I can get them on sale for the same price or less. This particular one I’ve linked to is down to $15; there’ll be a better selection of the sale ones when it’s not Prime Backpack Season. And Lands’ End frequently has sales that combine percent-off and free shipping, so periodically I buy a stack of backpacks for less than $10 each—for my own kids, and/or to donate to a local charity that helps families with back-to-school stuff.

Life-improving products, part 1 Tue, 06 Aug 2013 06:15:09 +0000 swistle My parents’ ultimate praise for a new item or system is “It has IMPROVED the QUALITY of our LIVES.” Since this has been a shopping/product blog, I thought I’d devote my final four posts here at Milk and Cookies to products that have improved the quality of our lives.

Wireless freezer alarm (photo from We bought a freestanding freezer around the time the twins were born. I kept coming downstairs to find the door slightly open, popsicles dripping from the top shelf to the bottom. This set of two alarms (it’s supposed to be one for the fridge and one for the freezer, but we have one in the upstairs freezer and one in the downstairs freezer) lets us know if the temperature is rising, BEFORE we lose the ten packages of meat bought on a good sale.

Taco rack (photo from When it was just Paul and me, it wasn’t a big deal to balance the shells on a tray in that interlocking way that keeps them from cooking themselves closed. Now that we heat more than an entire package of shells at a meal, this thing saves us a great deal of frustration. It took me a long time to buy it because it seems really overpriced—but it’s been well worth it. AND, the four pieces of metal come apart, so it hardly takes up any storage space at all (I slide ours under the boxes of crackers in the cupboard).

Speaking of tacos: taco holders (photo from These make tons of silly product claims (”Unlike OTHER taco racks, THESE can go ON YOUR PLATE!!”—yes, but that’s because the ones that can’t go on your plate are made for the OVEN), and they even have a 2-minute product video. But ignoring all that silliness, these are just perfect for what we need them for: holding up a taco on a plate. I still fill tacos for the younger children, so I particularly like these holders for dishing up. I put a row of holders on a plate, put the shells in, and load them up assembly-line-style.

Remote finder (photo from, remote finder, REMOTE FINDER. I only slightly apologize if you are tired of me mentioning it, because REMOTE FINDER. It comes with four sensors and we only needed sensors for two things (the remote and the MP3 player Paul takes in the car for his commute), but then when one of the sensors finally gave out (it was after the hundredth time a child dropped the remote onto the hardwood floor, landing RIGHT ON the sensor) we had another sensor all set to go. This product has seriously saved us from DAILY unpleasantness and frustration.

ThermoWorks probe thermometer (photo from My parents have been very into cooking shows such as America’s Test Kitchen, and Paul has recently been very keen on cooking too, so there have been a lot of cooking books and magazines and products around here lately. My parents gave Paul this thermometer for Christmas (my dad chose it based on reviews from Cook’s Illustrated and Meathead), and it has been SO SO GREAT. We even HAD a probe thermometer and a thermometer that could be left in the meat while it was cooking, but now we use ONLY this one. It’s easy to use (Paul, teaching me how to use it: “You turn it on. Then you stick it into the thing you want to know the temperature of. Then you take it out”), and has saved me from overcooking chicken and Paul from undercooking hamburgers. My dad notes that many of the complaints on are because the old version of the thermometer didn’t shut off automatically; the new version does. (Hm, I see the one I linked to when I wrote this has gone out of stock on Amazon. There’s this one, which looks like a newer version of the one I have.)


To be continued next week! Feel free to mention your own life-improving products as well!

Tips for Surviving the Work/Summer Combination Wed, 26 Jun 2013 07:48:54 +0000 swistle It’s too soon to call it, but I think summer is going to finish me off. Every day I think, “Here are the projects that need to be worked on today.” Every day, I fail: either I put in an insufficient amount of time, or I don’t get to any of them at all. I’m getting that “the water is rising” feeling.

This is WITH my usual techniques: signing up the most difficult child for day-camp; buying a few fun new things; breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

(Bananagrams ((photo from is the biggest hit so far. )

I think there’s a feeling that everyone (especially kids) DESERVES to have a 3-month vacation with tons of fun things every day: beaches! amusement parks! camping! And so it’s easy for parents to feel really bad that they’re not delivering on that—and maybe resentful, too, since they’re not getting it for themselves, either. But sometimes it doesn’t work out to spend a quarter of the year that way, and that’s okay too. School is out for the summer; work is still in session. And “Sleeping in, then playing outside as long as you want, then coming in and having lemonade, then reading comic books and playing video games all afternoon” IS a wonderful fun-fun-fun kind of summer, as is “Going to day-camp.”

Still, so far my work is not getting done, even after dropping the feeling that every day should be packed with summer fun. One trick I’ve had success with lately is imagining if someone else came to me with the same problem I’m having—what would I suggest they try? I’ve made a list of ideas:

1. Set up a separate work area. Right now my computer is in the same room with the kids’ computer. With four children taking turns, someone else is nearly always in the room with me wanting to show me something in Minecraft or playing a distracting cat video. I could theoretically move my computer to another room. Cons: It would take a pretty significant amount of house-organizing work to make that move. Also, ideas that involve “Going to a different room than the children” have so far resulted in the children gradually all joining me in the new room. Also, then in the evenings when I theoretically LIKE us being in the same room, my computer would be separate from everyone else’s.

2. Set aside a designated work time. There’s no reason the children ALWAYS need access to their computer. I could set aside certain hours of the day when I close the door and they need to find something else to do. Cons: I’ve tried this kind of idea before, and what happens is they bicker and crash around and cause problems I have to keep dealing with, and it sends me directly to a blind rage because WHY can’t they handle themselves for FIVE MINUTES?? So this seems like a bad plan, and yet I think it’s worth trying if I go into it realizing I shouldn’t get my hopes too high.

3. Get up early to work. I get up at 5:15 now, but I could get up at, say, 3:00, and work while the house is still quiet. Cons: Two of the children seem to have internal sensors: if we are up, they get up. Also, if I get up 2 hours earlier, I’m going to need to go to bed 2 hours earlier—but already our bedtime is only half an hour after the last of the children’s bedtimes. I don’t want to go to bed while the kids are still up, and I don’t want to go to bed before Paul. This one’s out.

4. Acquire a portable computer. This might let me work in, say, the locked bathroom. Or I could work at the pool while the kids have swimming lessons. Cons: Acquiring a computer; I hate new things, and of course it’s an expense. Also, figuring out how to connect my regular computer to the portable computer, or else switching over entirely; I find that whole subject overwhelming. Also, there is such harsh criticism of parents working/texting rather than gazing adoringly at their otherwise-occupied children.


What would you add to the list? Have you found strategies that work for you?

Summer sleep-away camp supplies Wed, 19 Jun 2013 08:28:32 +0000 swistle I am in a TIZZ about Elizabeth going to Girl Scouts camp this summer. I’m GLAD she’s going, and I’m glad she WANTS to go, but it’s a week and this is the first time and ack.

I HAVE been having fun buying things, though. She’s supposed to bring old grubby clothes, but she went up a size this year so all her clothes are new. So I went to Goodwill and bought a bunch of things for $1-2 each: shorts, long pants, t-shirts, a sweatshirt. And Target had a bunch of t-shirts and leggings at 70% off, so I bought some of those, too.

Other fun purchases:

Each girl needs her own mess kit. The Girl Scouts shop has a mess kit with a logo on it (photo from for $25, but that felt a little high. I found the SAME mess kit without the logo (same brand, same color, same items even though the dunk bag isn’t in the picture) on Amazon for $15.84 (photo from

When I was little, my grandmother gave me a pad of fold-and-mail stationery (photo from, and I remember thinking it was a mind-blowing concept. This sort of thing rarely has the same impact for the next generation (”I remember when we got COLOR TELEVISION!!”), but I found a pad of it at Marshalls and got it for her for writing letters home. She does like it, though the wow factor is, as expected, not quite as wowish.

Everything has to be labeled with the child’s name. EVERYTHING. I usually use a regular Sharpie marker to label their coats and stuff for school, but I saw these special fabric Sharpies (photo from and I’m hoping the ink will bleed less.

She’s supposed to bring two water bottles. These (photo from are similar to the ones I bought: I went to Target and got the same $3.99 pink Embark 16-ounce kind she uses for school, with a flippy-straw, which aren’t in the online store.

Also at Target I bought her a pair of Champion water shoes (photo from for swimming, boating, and showers.

I have deep regrets that she needs a raincoat RIGHT AFTER I sensibly turned down several cheap-raincoat opportunities: a $1.79 one at Goodwill, and several clearance ones at Target. I was thinking, “Yes, they’re cute and cheap, but she wears a raincoat, like, three times a year.” Then I was proud of myself for resisting unnecessary purchases. Then I got the camp packing list. I’m thinking of buying several of these $3.99 ponchos (photo from, OR I could get the $20.00 Lands’ End raincoat we’ve liked in the past, but then the camp will be like “Oh great, another parent buying BRAND-NEW, BRAND-NAME stuff to get trashed at CAMP!” UG, I wish I had the $1.79 one!

They need a flashlight. I’ve been looking for a reason to buy the Hello Kitty flashlight (photo from MERGING OF GOALS.

Shopping ideas for summer fun Wed, 12 Jun 2013 08:13:54 +0000 swistle Normally this time of year I’m buying a batch of Summer Survival Gear Treats. I like to buy a new CD for the driving back and forth to lessons and camp; a new outdoor toy or two; a new board game; some craft supplies; maybe a new video game.

This year, we seem to be all set. We’ve bought all the CDs, and/or the kids are too old for them now. (I’d like to get The Book of Mormon soundtrack because they’ve loved the few songs I’ve shown them on YouTube, but the lyrics to a lot of them are…not ones I want them singing absentmindedly next year in school.) We already own a Stomp Rocket and a plasma car and a hula hoop and some jump ropes and a scooter. We’ve got Skip-bo and Wits & Wagers and Scrambled States. Our video game shelf and craft bin overfloweth, and I just got a big bag of kid books from the library book sale.

I did buy one thing:

Webkinz Deluxe Membership (screen shot from, which gives access to a bunch of otherwise-locked games and merchandise and so forth on the Webkinz site. The tipping point for me was a sale: normally it’s $45 for a year’s membership, but June 10th-13th it’s on sale for $33.74. (If you want to get the 3-month one so it’s just a summer thing, it’s $11.24.) The year-long one comes with the ability to add other accounts for $5 each, so I got it for myself (*embarrassed cough*) and added the three kids who play Webkinz. It’s hard for me to explain how thrilling this has been for us, and in fact I find I’m reluctant to try to persuade you that this isn’t a very foolish thing to spend money on, and maybe we should just change the subject. But it was Very Exciting for four of us at my house, and the year-long subscription also comes with a free Webkinz pet (online version only, no plush version), a fawn I kept for myself. It also comes with a monthly batch of virtual money, so I am saving up for a Sun Fox. …Okay, NOW I’m too embarrassed to discuss it anymore. (SUN FOX FOR ME!)

I will warn you that the Ganz/Webkinz site made me nearly crazy with frustration. This was me for an hour: “Why! can’t! I find out! how to sign up for! THE DELUXE MEMBERSHIP YOU CONSTANTLY NAG US TO SIGN UP FOR!??” Every link I clicked just brought me to INFORMATION and PROMOTION, but no “Here’s where to make this dream a reality.” I tried about a million things before succeeding, but I think the key was that I had to create a Ganz account first (separate from my Webkinz account), and THEN sign up.

This year’s fun outdoor toy was provided by my parents, as a gift for Henry’s birthday: an Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow (photo from I added another 3-pack of arrows, for less arrow-chasing. This toy has been a hit with four of my five children (the boy ones), and now several of them want to take archery lessons.

For general and flexible entertainment, I recommend the National Geographic Ultimate Weird But True book (photo from Elizabeth tells me that what’s “Ultimate” about it is that it’s a combination of several smaller previous books. It has been handed around and around in our house, and brought on many car rides.

I might finally buy Bananagrams (photo from I played it at my brother and sister-in-law’s house and it was really fun. We tried playing it at home with regular Scrabble tiles, but it didn’t work as well; I wonder if the proportions of letters are different? I keep putting off buying it because it seems like it costs more than it should.

Oh. Wait. I did buy one more thing:

Webkinz Trading Cards (photo from I thought these would be fun for those of us currently in the Webkinz craze. I gave three packs (the box contains thirty-six packs) to each of the twins for their birthdays, and I thought I’d save the rest for myself to pass out gradually on rainy days, and/or to bring to future birthday parties, or to include with future Webkinz-animal gifts. At the price I paid, it’s about 75 cents per pack, and each pack contains four trading cards, one card of stickers, and one card with a code on it that gets you a free surprise item on Webkinz. The twins really like theirs, and one of Elizabeth’s codes was for another Webkinz pet (online only—no plush version) and that was pretty exciting.

Unbored, by Elizabeth Foy Larsen (photo from I won a copy of this book in a Catherine Newman giveaway, and it’s been GREAT. I gave it to the kids for Christmas; then, when the fad for it had died back a bit, I hid it away to save it for summer. A+++++ would win again.

11 Gift ideas for Father’s Day Wed, 05 Jun 2013 08:27:51 +0000 swistle Last year I suggested we get together a list of what we’d resorted to for Father’s Day presents, so that THIS year we’d have more ideas to consider.

I continue to recommend the Click ‘n’ Dig Wireless Remote Finder (photo from We’ve had it a year, and Paul still says “Best. gift. ever.” about twice a week. One of the four sensor thingies broke after being dropped one (1) million times, but we still had a spare so we just replaced it. We keep the remote itself nailed to the wall so it can’t get lost. If we broke another of the little sensor thingies, I would buy another set without even thinking about it.

Last year, Alicia mentioned getting a travel coffee press/mug (photo from with fancy coffee, for good coffee at the office or on business trips.

Karen mentioned that she got a pack of men’s t-shirts and had each child design one. Then she went over their designs with Tulip fabric paint (photo from The dad can wear these as-is—or if the designs are truly, er, TRULY wonderful, he can wear them ONLY “protected by” his button-down shirts.

Amanda suggested a themed Tervis tumbler (photos from; golf, Star Wars, Batman, Superman, mustache, turtle, tool belt—and there are a million sport-team ones) filled with a favorite candy.

(The rest of the comments and ideas can be seen here.)

Or there’s Darth Tater (photo from

Or Lord of the Rings Pez dispensers (photo from

Perhaps his very own Webkinz (photo from, now that everyone else in the family has one?

An updated World’s-Best-Dad-concept t-shirt (photo from

Or a Dr. Who beach towel (photo from

Or a Minecraft wallet (photo from

Or Paul loves these things called Piperoids. I don’t know what they are. They’re like little models you build out of paper. There are a whole bunch of different ones (search “Piperoid” on Amazon); the picture above (from is called Smoke & Bill. I don’t even know.

End-of-year teacher gifts Wed, 01 May 2013 08:44:10 +0000 swistle We did end-of-year teacher gifts our first few years of having schoolkids, but now I don’t typically do them. I’m more likely to put all the teacher-gift eggs into the December-gift basket.

But I do sometimes do something for end-of-year, especially if there’s something significant about the particular year/class. For example, last year one of my children’s teachers was retiring, and she’d taught another of my children as well. I had copies of “first day of school” pictures printed from both kids’ first days in her class, and enclosed them with a thank-you letter and a Target gift card and a card wishing her a happy retirement. (Forty years teaching first graders. Can you imagine? No, don’t try.)

Mid-year, I think classroom items can be a nice thing to donate—but at the end of the year, I suspect teachers just want to PACK IT UP. No more pencils, no more books, no more children’s dirty looks! I aim instead for things I think they might be able to enjoy over the summer. A gift card to Panera, for a time of year they might be able to go to lunch. A gift card to a book store, for a little recreational reading. A gift card to the over-priced-but-delicious ice cream store. A gift card to a place that sells iced coffees (photo from, for keeping them cool in August when they’re reassembling their non-air-conditioned classrooms.

You’ll notice I’m going pretty heavy on gift cards. I do enjoy buying more personal gifts usually, but it feels to me as if for the parent-teacher relationship, a gift card is more likely to genuinely please. Part of this is my particular school system: we live in a very teacher-gifty area, and on the last day of school there are HEAPS of gifts—and when I see a group of 5 to 7 plants together, it really brings home to me that now the teacher has to DO SOMETHING with them, and that if she gets 5 to 7 plants every year she may run out of things to do with them. In a less gifty district, a plant would be a lovely idea and the teacher would put it on her desk or on the kitchen counter and enjoy it.

And I love the idea of luxury items for teacher gifts: beautiful expensive soaps and lotions (photo from But then I think about how few of the scents I like when I go out soap-sniffing. So that leads me back to a gift card, so they can choose the ones THEY like. But if it would be particularly fun to give her, say, the relaxation/stress-relief aromatherapy set I love so much, I might still do it and just figure she can re-gift it or give it to a friend, relative, or other teacher if she doesn’t.

I love to bake, and I love sweets, so I’m often drawn to the Treats idea. When I go with that, I try to find something that will KEEP: as with the plants, anything multiplied times the 5 to 7 other people who had that idea is going to be a challenge to manage. A plate of cookies among 5-7 plates of cookies might not get eaten in time (if I want to increase their odds, I’ll put them in a freezer bag with a note about how well they freeze), but a bag of Lindt truffles (photo from or a gift card to the Lindt store will keep awhile.

Some parents will bring in something highly specific to their individual child—something that would make a good gift to themselves for Mother’s/Father’s Day, like an ornament featuring their child’s photo, or a calendar with photos of their child on every page. I do like this kind of idea if it’s done as a class: it would be adorable (but a LOT of coordination work for someone) to do a small photo album with a photo of each child, and a little note written by the child on the facing page. Or one of my kids’ classes somehow got an extra copy of that year’s class photo and put it in a frame with one of those autographable mats (photo from; each child signed it, and it was very sweet.

The letter of appreciation is nice any time, but is particularly nice at the end of the year: there’s more material to work with; and it seems even better to be saying the whole YEAR was satisfactory than that a part of it was; and when report cards have already been issued, even the frettiest of fretters won’t feel like the teacher might think they’re trying to kiss up to get better grades. One of my favorite end-of-year letter ideas is to have the child list every single thing they can think of that they liked about the year. At first the list seems a little less than thrilling for the classroom teacher (”Snack! Recess! Art class!”), but continued nagging/prodding of the child can result in a list that’s long enough to give a surprisingly interesting overview of the year (”The leprechaun trap! Making bird feeders! Doing the birthday wall! The morning-sun song! The take-home teddy! Learning the hand-clap game!”). A parent thinking ahead could jot things down through the year to remind the child of later; a parent scrambling at the last minute could try looking through the calendar for field trips, “wear green” reminders, “bring graham crackers and gingerbread house candy” reminders, etc.

Do you do end-of-year teacher gifts? And if so, what do you like to bring?

Signs of spring Wed, 24 Apr 2013 06:36:11 +0000 swistle Spring is such sweet, sweet relief. No more slushy boots, no more icy roads.

I’ve put away my nice warm boots and I’m back in Converse (photo from So is the teenaged assistant at the kids’ karate class, which worries me: do Converse bridge the generations, or is one of us off our mark?

I like the Burt’s Bees tinted lip balms: I keep one in my pocket and use it like regular chapstick, but I like the little bit of color. When I bought the Sweet Violet (photo from, I’d expected a purpley color for fall—but it’s more of a lilac-pink, perfect for spring.

Target has a line of Method soaps done in Orla Kiely patterns. Orla Kiely patterns make me crazy with love; I wish I felt the same about Method soaps. But when the soap is used up, the dispenser can be refilled with different soap!

Sally Hansen nail polish in Lacey Lilac (photo from I’m linking to Amazon because I’m using their photo, but I bought mine at Target. I love this color. It’s definitely spring-like, but it’s subtle: I’d wear it to work.

SEED TIME! I have some marigold seeds started indoors, and Paul has been getting the ground set up for planting sunflower seeds soon.


Are you seeing signs of spring?