What Women Want

{Wasn’t that a wonderfully atrocious movie? Or am I the only one who saw it? I don’t remember at what point Mel Gibson became unwatchable, but it was just around that time…}

Anyhoo, extra post this week!! This one is about gifting the ladies. Heck, this could be about gifting anybody, but around our house, ’tis the season for Mom. Er, me.

I have a tough time receiving gifts, mostly because a) I’m uncomfortable being the center of attention (yes, I’m an actress…why do you ask? ;-)) and b) I’m always concerned that I won’t like the thing, and I ALWAYS try to find the “isn’t that wonderful???” joy in gifts. I’m not picky, I’m just…um…exclusive about what I want to keep around my house. I can’t really put a percentage on what I don’t keep, but if I don’t really like it or if it doesn’t find use after a certain amount of time…out it goes. (Wow, I sound brutal. I’m really not!)

Since today’s my birthday (woohoo, I’m old! Like, the age my mom always told me to tell my teachers SHE was, old) and Mother’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d share a few items that you might not have thought of when perusing the shops for your lady friend/sister/mother/etc. These may not be every lady’s cup of tea, but they’re mine — the type of lady who’s into history, who doesn’t tend to let her bits and pieces hang out in public (ie dressing for “clubbing”…do the kids still call it that? “Clubbing”?), who’s equal parts simple yet highly particular.

My God. I’m my mother. And my grandmother.

– Speaking of “cup of tea”, tea. Definitely tea. If she’s into tea, hook her up with a basket of her faves. If she likes it loose (hee hee), hit up a quality store in the area and get her some nice supplies — like one of those ball thingies, a bag/box of loose, and a sweet little mug. (Check out Etsy for some Mom mugs that don’t suck. You know what I mean. ;-))

If she’s a coffee-drinker, get that same mug but hook her (I wrote that “hooker” the first time around…where am I today??) up with a gift card to her favorite cafe or, yes, even Dunkin Donuts if it’s more convenient for her. These things sound so simple, but they don’t take up a ton of space, they’re thoughtful, and she’ll USE them. That’s the main point here.

And, okay, okay. If she’s a wine drinker, a NICE (nice doesn’t always mean expensive) bottle of wine (and maybe the suggestion that you’ll cook or pick up dinner for the night)  

Sunglasses. Observe the style of glasses that your particular lady uses (that’s the important part; you don’t want to go getting aviators when she likes a John Lennon style) and get a pair as similar as you can find. These can be as cheap or expensive as you like, but buy them knowing that one can NEVER have enough pairs of sunglasses. I had a great pair at the end of fall last year and I have no idea where they ran to…so, I had to buy a new pair. (Kohl’s for around $8. Not too shabby.) Always great to have several, especially with kids around who mangle them and accident-prone folks who sit on them.

Flowers. This may sound traditional or cheesy or “duh, Meg”, but I tell you I’m always flattered by flowers. They add some joy to the house, tell you without having to TELL you that you’re loved, and they don’t clutter the joint up for too long (ahem). And if you’re like us and you have a slew of cats, you can either check out this site for some safe options (there are way too many non-safe ones to mention, and they’re unfortunately far too often the popular choices) or grab a potted plant or two for her to plant outside. (Hanging plants are cool, too.) Either way, flowers are a grand gesture of romanticism and even sweeter when you have your little one hand them over. *melt*

Something handmade. Speaking of little ones, what’s better than kiddie art?? This can be wicked simple: have your munchkin draw a picture (even the little kids can “make” something that turns out to be wickedly cool and abstract) on a sheet of computer paper. Then purchase a nice frame that’ll go with your house decor (can’t go wrong with a chic black or white one, but if she’s into traditional or rustic, buy a wood one). A beautiful frame really elevates the sketch into a work of art that she can hang anywhere in the house or at work, and the thought behind it will mean even more.

A magazine or bookmark. Okay, follow me here. I love reading. But, my time these days is either too full to do so or way too exhausted to follow a storyline (sad but true). So, if your lady is like me, check the magazine aisles at Barnes and Noble and grab a new one you think she might like. Put some thought into what her interests are, and I guarantee you there’s at least one magazine to suit those interests. By purchasing one, you’re seeing how she likes it; if she does, tell her you’ll get the full subscription. (If she doesn’t, at least you haven’t bought an entire wasteful subscription; offer to buy her one of her choosing, in this case.) And if she DOES have time to read, those funky bookmarks at B&N (or on Etsy) are wicked cool and way more fun to use than, say, a wayward receipt or (ahem) a few sheets of toilet paper. 

Cheesy coupons. While I know for a fact that my mom still has some of these leftover from when both my sister and I made some for her, I think I’d really appreciate a handmade (or computer-printed) stack of these coupons. You know what I’m talking about: “These coupon good for one night of washing dishes.” “This coupon good for one diaper change.” And so on. Think about what she really does a lot of around the house and what you and your kids could do. (Hadley couldn’t really do these, although he could “help.” This is more from Daddy in our case.) Right now a “This coupon good for one good, long hug” coupon isn’t really relevant (we do plenty of that all over the place at our house), but when Hadman’s a teenager, I’d probably kill for one of those. Ack. Don’t make me think about it!

A subscription to Ancestry.com. This is actually what I requested for my combination birthday/Mother’s Day. I had received a 6-month subscription for Christmas and I have absolutely LOVED digging into our family history — all the way back to the late 1400s, in some cases. Seeing that I’ll have a touch more time this summer to dig even more, I decided to ask for an “extension” when it runs out in June. It’s not cheap (hence asking for it for my birthday AND Mother’s Day), but I have to say it’s the best gift I think I’ve ever received. That good. 

So, what do you think? Would you want any of these things? What would you add to the list, ladies? (Notice I said ladies, ha.)   

Minimalist Mama

Similar to my zero-waste and French child rearing posts of yore, I’ve found a new inspiring (or frustrating, depending on how you look at it) concept in the cause of living simpler – the minimalist mom. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure it’s not something we’re going to adhere to, but stick with me here.

I saw this article on the Today Show’s website which, in essence, talks about a British family who, after the mum lost her job and got slammed with the holiday marketing blitz, vowed to strike out against consumerism by not spending ANYTHING on their son (and now daughter — yes, having a newborn and buying NOTHING for her). This is, of course, aside from any medical costs and food (although she doesn’t buy into the “food marketed specifically to kids” thing). And, after a year, they’re deeming it a success, and even continuing the project (with a monthly “get out of jail free” card).

After checking out the mom’s blog, I get it. The fact that her “rules” on the site go as such —

1) Mama don’t preach. This isn’t about telling anyone else what to do. If you’ve read my blog before, even a couple of times, it should be pretty obvious that I DON’T KNOW. I have no answers. Just a few jumbled ideas and a wobbly will to try to do the best thing I can for the kids. Most of the time. When humanly possible. On good days.
2) Liberation not deprivation. If it turns out that any of us (Johnny, Frida, my husband, me) are less happy, more stressed, less healthy, or just generally flourishing less (wilting?) due to cutting out spending in any area, we’ll reintroduce that thing. This isn’t about being stoic, or even doing without. It’s about blundering messily but happily towards a way of life that makes us happy and content.
3) Honesty is the best policy. I will be honest. I’ll always tell you what’s going on. No sneaking purchases past this blog. Hand on heart.

— is refreshing and lovely. She doesn’t seem to be doing this to jump on the “a year doing *fill in the blank* to get tons of press” bandwagon. She genuinely knows how toxic it can be (figuratively) to have to deal with the constant onslaught of C-R-A-P as parents (and children). I mean, just look at this video:

Adorbs! Doesn’t that just say it all?

Ahh. Stuff. That recurring theme of ye olde blog. I mean, just think of the influx (dare I say FLOOD) of toys (this isn’t including outfits) we received for Hadman’s birthday. Cuh-razy! (We’ve got a buttload more since Christmas, mind you. Le sigh.)

We’re of the mindset that if folks would just give ONE toy (and maybe one outfit, if they get “the itch”) for these special occasions, it’ll make everyone a lot more comfortable (my mother’s officially “scared” to get him ANY toys, and it’s not because of me…simply put, it makes me super sad) and help Hadley to realize that it’s more about showering him with love and kindness and appreciation and to let him know he has true worth. No one is allowed to “buy” his love, as far as I’m concerned, and we’re going to have plenty of family conversations with him about it as time goes by. Y’know, when he starts to understand things better.

We also don’t buy into (ha! Get it?) the “toy of the season” mentality. There’s nothing he “has” to have. Not the latest Elmo thingamabobber. Not everything-Sesame-Street-because-he-likes-Sesame-Street. (Although the Easter Bunny has mentioned wanting to bring one SS-themed toy. Darn him.) Lord knows munchkin HAS more than enough already. If you took the sheer number of toys, he’s reached his life quota. Seriously, that many. And he’s not 2 yet.

Stop the insanity! (Remember that? From the ’90s? Er…’80s, maybe? Susan Powter?)

The items that we get him tend to be creative or pretend toys that will hopefully stick around for years and years of use. Other toys that he has make him feel overwhelmed and bored SO. QUICKLY. Can you imagine? Having two huge containers of toys, literally overflowing, and feeling bored? I can imagine it. Because I see it. (Heck, when I look at all of his toys, I think, “Um, yeah. I’m going cross-eyed. Too much.”) It makes complete sense.

We want him to have an imagination…and to use it. To play WITH him using OUR imaginations; inside, outside, with pots and pans and bowls and spoons, with sheets and boxes and recycled egg cartons. What greater gift is there than that? My best childhood memories are of just these things.
And there’s also SO much to be said for “free play.” You know, going to a park or running around your backyard like a giggling fool or digging in the dirt or…well, you know.
So, let’s meander back to the topic at hand. Could we go a year without buying ANYTHING child-oriented?

It definitely got the ol’ brain juices flowing. I buy him Annie’s bunnies (but I eat them, too, and they’re not necessarily kid-centric…just cutesy), but I also buy the whole milk yogurt that’s perfectly portioned for toddlers (I swore I’d never do it, but saving 5-7 minutes in the morning? Psht.) I don’t buy a lot of clothes or toys for him (family hooks us up on this front, mostly), but we have failed at cloth diapering. (Sad to even admit that.) So, purchasing dipes ‘n wipes is a big one on the list.

Clearly, we couldn’t fully go without getting him ANYthing…plus, I’m too spineless/lazy/imperfect/flip-floppy to do one of those “for a year” challenge thingies. Hey, at least I’m honest. *wink, wink*

However, there’s a lot that I (or we, if you find it appealing) can learn from this experiment. I haven’t utilized Freecycle much…er…at all. Ever. And I should. Same goes for Craigslist. So much of what she says is true, though. There’s definitely a stigma that they have to be playing with the “right things” or wearing the “cutest” stuff. I find myself by nature anti-licensed character clothing. (I think it’s because I didn’t have much as a kid and realized I didn’t really like it; exceptions are the ONE Punky Brewster t-shirt and a TMNT shirt {Michelangelo FTW!} that I owned, and maybe a hand-me-down Betty Boop sleep shirt.) I also find myself turning away those gifts because I don’t want those obnoxious cartoon faces to inundate our own animated munchkin’s face, y’know?

That’s a tug-of-war right there. If it’s willingly given, do you just accept (I actually know for a fact that doing that tends to open Pandora’s box, causing us to receive even MORE stuff) graciously (which, believe me, we ARE truly grateful!) or do we pick and choose what we allow through our doors to better control what he (and we) are subjected to? Like…he’s never seen a full-length Disney movie. (He knows Mickey and the rest from short films and watching his playhouse at Grandma’s.) So…should he have shirts and pj’s with a million images of Lightning McQueen all over them? Then there’s the slipppery slope that we simply MUST own that movie (and a million others). Again, I only owned a handful of Disney flicks, and they were ones we already knew that (as a family) we loved watching over and over again. Not 50. Not 20. A handful.

And I turned out just fine. 😉

Obviously, my head’s still wrapping itself around this concept. I highly doubt we could do a full-blown challenge (even a month’s worth…? Maybe? Maybe not.) like this, but it definitely is good to help consider our needs vs. our wants vs. society’s perceived “you need to want”s.

Whatchya think?

Perfect Party

FINALLY! Yes, I’m finally going to chat about the Hadman’s first birthday party. It was almost a month away, so you’d think it was about time, right? You’re invited…to the recap! Here we go.

The day was perfect. Seriously. There were no major glitches (and only a couple of minor ones). The rain, all but for a gentle mist, even stayed at bay. Lucky, lucky, lucky. The only thing, after the fact, that saddens me is that I didn’t get pictures of the decor (well, a couple)…or food (nada)…or activities (zilch). I know folks took some pictures of other stuff, but I should have taken a bunch of the decorations (y’know, the ones that took me hours of nap times to craft) and all that before folks arrived. Here’s what we’ve got….


Bad blogger. Horrible blogger, actually. *slaps wrist* I made three different sizes of poufs totaling about 12 altogether, in various sizes…several strings of pendants…a sign for the front yard. Here were a few “before” shots from home…

But, I digress. It wasn’t a day about me. It was totally a day about the Hadman. And it was awesome!

The celebration was at my mother’s house (thanks, Mom! Not that I’m sure you’re reading…?) since she has the most useable space for such a shindig. My sister was sweet enough to come out the night before to help with decorating and setup, and man was there food. Like, at least twice what we actually needed. Yeah, ’twas nuts…and a blast.

We had some awesome family and friends come to celebrate, which made the day so fun and special. To give us some more space (with some shade), we erected a screen house/tent in the lawn for extra people to sit under, in addition to the carport area that my parents use as a nice, private patio.

So, folks arrived around 1pm and we directed them towards the food. (Not sure how many times I said, “There’s food! Please eat, or it’s going home with you!!” It didn’t. It went home with us. Full disclosure: I just found a half-eaten pizza at the bottom of the piles on my dining room table. There was mold, people.) The funny thing was that they lingered quite a bit before finally digging in. I don’t know if it was because of our set-up or what, but we ended up grabbing the snacky stuff and throwing them in bowls, and plating up a variety of the pizza, and putting them at the tables. Somehow, it worked.

That said, a quick shout-out to our buddies. The few pictures we did get make it look like we had, seriously, 8 people there. We didn’t. It was upwards of 25, give or take. Just lots of playing and in-and-out of the house and playing in the yard going on.

I can’t remember the order, but after awhile of eating and bringing the birthday boy around to see folks, we did cake. I think. Yeah, cake then presents. Here’s a little snippet of what it was like. Our often very serious, cautious, (over-thinking) boy was pretty…dainty. Hee hee.

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First. Sugar. Ever. I also shared a cupcake or two with him in the days following. Oh, and I did use a variation of this recipe. I tasted it. ‘Twas good, but not “birthday cake-like” (spongey) as we might hope. But, it got the job done, and he liked it.

While the root beer floats were being served (somehow, I even had time to taste one), we got the gift-opening underway. Holy crap, we lucked out. It is, however, where I got this post (and subsequent “shopping trips” from our ottoman in months to come). Love it!

As far as the nitty gritty, here was our menu:


Except my “H” cookies were as hard as a rock. And seeing “sandwiches” sitting all innocent and tiny like that makes me laugh. For real. I ordered bread. I stocked up, then stocked up again on piles of roast beef, turkey and the makings of an “Italian mixed sub” sort of thing. (Time to vote: What the heck do YOU put on a mixed sub?? The girl behind the counter and I were racking our brains, and a woman nearby who mentioned bologna lost all of our respect. Seriously, bologna??) Yeah. Add on homemade horseradish sauce (in addition to the usual condiments) and a variety of cheeses AND lettuces (arugula, anyone? Spinach?), and I spent hours planning and assembling those puppies. They were epic.

There was a bit of fun to be had, too, like…

We also printed off some facts about July 13th (it’s a holiday now, y’know) for the tables, and put party hats around for folks to wear. (And those that didn’t get worn did double-duty as decor.)

A few interesting facts: Hadley shares his special day with Julius Caesar, Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, and Cameron Crowe. Some pretty strong men, oof! Also, it’s the day that JFK was nominated by the Democratic party, the day of the Live Aid rock festival, the day of a big power-outage in NYC (in 1977) that wreaked havoc, and (my favorite) the day the “Hollywoodland” sign was dedicated. So cool!

Anyhoo, after the cake and gifting, we shoved everyone into the living room for a viewing of the sweet, tearjerker video that Dave made. I may or may not be able to persuade him to share it on his blog. 😉 There were laughs. There were tears (many, many tears). There was gratuitous thievery of popular songs (ones that we had sung or heard a lot before he was born, except for “Beautiful Boy”, but since our wedding song was “Real Love”, we had to include it). No harm meant. 🙂

After the movie viewing, folks were free to leave (sounds like jail) or to hang out. The birthday boy got a nap followed by a ton of backyard playing with the cousins, while we got to chat with folks more casually (and clean up…and clean up…and clean up). All in all, it was a very “Hadley” day: fun, yummy, silly, a bit scheduled (it kind of had to be to avoid meltdowns) yet casual and laid-back.