Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

It snowed last night! Our first Real Snow of the season! Woo hoo! So I’m feeling chatty.

I suppose this is just a regular old Friday randomosity, dressed up in slightly different clothes.

Being a Parent Sometimes Means Forcing Your Kid to Go to School Crying

Hoo boy we had a rough start to the day. Poor Carla woke up on the WRONG side of the bed. And, oh, how I empathize. That feeling of dozens of little angry crabs, skittering all over your skin and clamping their tiny sharp claws into your brain, is so familiar to me, and I have dealt with it hundreds of times over the years and STILL don’t know how to get through it without snapping at my husband and/or feeling wounded by any tiny slight and/or wanting nothing more than to climb back into bed and start over. But for Carla, it’s still a new experience. She just doesn’t GET cranky, and so it’s been a long time since she’s felt this way and she hasn’t yet figured out how to cope.

I tried to be empathetic – validating her feelings, lots of hugs, keeping my own frustration in check (we left the house TWENTY MINUTES LATE) – but matter-of-fact. Being cranky happens, and it feels rotten, and nonetheless we all have to go on with life and do the things we have to do. I tried to suggest some strategies for getting past the yucky feelings. (I tried not to sigh too loudly when she rejected them all.) And then I dropped her off at school, even though she was tearful and upset, and I am hoping hoping hoping that her day only goes up from here.

Okay, despite my anxiety about being That Mom, I sent an email to her teacher just to check on her. (Not sure what I will DO, if her teacher says she is still crying… go get her? That seems like both the Wrong Lesson and the Right Thing to Do.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaner Arrives, Helpful or Ridiculous?

One of the reasons Carla was cranky (I think) is because I gave her a Hard Choice this morning. She was supposed to tidy her bedroom and her bathroom last night, in preparation for the housecleaner. I reminded her twice. I asked her whether she’d done it, and she said yes. But then, well after she was asleep for the night, I had to go into her bathroom for something and discovered that she had NOT tidied the bathroom. The opposite, in fact: sodden Barbies lying facedown on the bath mat, a full Barbie swimming pool in the tub, toy catalog on the counter, hair ties and rocks (yes, rocks) on the floor, pajamas wadded up in the corner. I know that some people who have housecleaners believe that the housecleaner can handle stuff like this. And I’m sure our very capable housecleaner could. But it is my view that time spent tidying – especially tidying away toys and things whose homes you may not be aware of – takes precious time away from the CLEANING. For me, the value of the housecleaning is in the scrubbing of the toilet and the scouring of the bathtub and the mopping of the floor. Some people in our house may disagree but I FIRMLY AGREE with myself on this point. So Carla’s bathroom door has been shut tight and the housecleaner has been instructed to stay out, and Carla will be getting some hands-on experience with what I mean by TIDYING vs CLEANING because she will be doing both.

Okay, so I also gave the microwave a quick swipe (there was a Ham Incident the other day, which I mostly took care of at the time, but exploded ham bits are surprisingly evasive) and wiped down the stove top (I haven’t even MADE anything on the stove lately, WHY was it so FILTHY?) before our housecleaner arrived because I don’t want her to think we are total pigs.

Stepping Out on Your True Love: Will It Rekindle the Fire, or Cause the Relationship to Implode?

The thing I REALLY wanted to discuss with you, before all the morning’s crankiness and associated anxieties derailed me, is that I have had a Startling Revelation. I think I am growing weary of my one true love: tea.

I hope you took that paragraph break to allow the magnitude of this revelation to sink in. Because it has taken me a few weeks to come around to this understanding. Historically, I LOVE tea. Double Bergamot Earl Grey has been my faithful and delicious companion every weekday since I discovered it, with splurge days on the weekends when I drink my fancy Uncle Grey imported from Canada. Before that, I drank regular Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I can’t remember exactly when I started drinking tea, but I know that it has at LEAST been for eight years (one of my fondest memories from Carla’s first year of life is that my husband made me tea every single morning and brought it to me while I pumped), and probably for several years before that.

But these past few weeks, I’ve had waning enthusiasm for my tea. It doesn’t taste quite as good, I find myself dragging when I need to prepare it, I end up gulping it down to get it over with instead of savoring it. It’s just not giving me the joy that a warm morning cuppa should give a person.

I don’t think I can switch to other teas. I don’t really like most teas – the fruity kinds, no thank you. Rooibos and Chai are okay on occasion but not every day. I like green tea, but it doesn’t have the same comfort factor that Earl Grey does. Matcha is wonderful, but it requires so much milk and frothing and so on to make it the way I like it.


Today, I asked my husband to make a little extra coffee and so I am drinking that. It is… not good. It is too bitter, even with two packets of Sweet’n Low and my normal glug of half-and-half. When I am not drinking it, the inside of my mouth tastes metallic and sour, and I’m sure my breath is a delight. I made sure to eat a high-protein breakfast before I drank it, but I still feel like it’s making me jittery and a little queasy. How do people drink this every day?

I used to drink coffee. When I was eight, my mom brought home these beautiful bowls from France and she would make me café-au-lait for breakfast. When I went to her office after school, I would help myself to coffee and powdered creamer and many, many packets of sugar in the break room. During my first summer job during college, I would live for the few minutes when I could step away from filing and pour scalding coffee into a paper cup and doctor it until it was creamy and sweet. At some point in my life, I was a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. So I have gone through multiple coffee drinking periods in the course of my life.

But I can’t say I ever really liked coffee. When I left it behind a decade or so ago, I intended never to return. Still, I don’t really want to get back into it, now. It would require too much sugar, for one thing. Too much half-and-half. Too much… amped-up quease. (I feel like the non-word “quease” evokes the feeling much better than the word-word “queasiness.”)

But what else IS there? I need a warm cup of something in the mornings! (PLEASE don’t say warm milk. Hork.)

Maybe I will drink coffee for a few days and then see if I have a newfound appreciation for tea. Or maybe I will find myself sucked into the coffee cult that has thoroughly brainwashed my husband and Lorelai Gilmore and so many others (maybe even you?).

Edited to add: It took me many hours to finish this post; distractions abound! So this is Future Me reporting back to you on today’s coffee sitch: I have still not finished my cup of coffee; my mug is still one-third full and the liquid is cold and my head feels powered by hummingbird wings and my stomach is a-sail on choppy seas. This is not a promising beginning.

A Strange and Unfamiliar Dilemma Arises!

This is not an actual problem.

We ordered our holiday cards on Sunday and they arrived ON WEDNESDAY. People, it is STILL NOVEMBER. This has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I am absolutely delighted. (We ordered through Mpix.com – it was a great experience, through and through. The cards look great, even if adding a photo to a card and printing it didn’t make the awkward way I am holding my arm in said photo look any less awkward.)

But now I am facing a quandary: when do I send the cards? Part of me wants to send them NOW, get them off my desk (my office has become Holiday Storage Central, and is full of boxes that I can’t bear myself to throw away and gifts for people), and perhaps achieve the ever-elusive status of being someone’s First Holiday Card of the Season. (Our First Holiday Card of the Season usually arrives from one of the few high school friends I continue to talk to as an adult. I am anticipating it any day now.)

But the other part of me is resisting this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am a firmly Wait Until After Thanksgiving holiday celebrant? Maybe because I don’t want to be first? Perhaps people will toss the card because it’s so early, or perhaps I am uncomfortable with the idea of MY awkwardly posed arm being on someone’s wall or mantel all alone for days or weeks? I don’t know. It seems too early!

Then again, Hanukkah is early this year, and begins the weekend after Thanksgiving. Part of the reason we send holiday cards instead of Christmas cards is because so many of our card recipients are Jewish. It would be nice for the holiday card to arrive DURING the holidays, rather than after them. (Although I doubt that any of our Jewish card recipients care all that much; Hanukkah isn’t really that big a deal, and they are likely inured to the tradition of getting “holiday” cards during Christmastime.)

All this to say: I am sort of leaning toward sending them out on December first. That puts them arriving solidly in December, and hopefully before Hanukkah ends.

You Can Bet I Filled Out the Customer Survey, and I Filled It Out GOOD

Yesterday saw me flitting about from store to store, running errands. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done something so carefree. I was looking for three specific things: 1. Candles for the menorah, which I did not find. 2. Ideas for a “giant crate filled with crafting supplies,” which was the top item on Carla’s letter to Santa. 3. A tiny, not-terribly-expensive salt and pepper shaker set that I can use when my parents are here; I did not find this, either. I did manage to spend a lot more money than my lack of success would imply.

Oh! Brief deviation from the topic, which I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet: I thought it was so fascinating to see how differently stores are handling the pandemic. Many stores had signs on their entrances, but I don’t think any of them were the same. “Masks required” said one, with a sentence below in smaller print citing CDC recommendations. “Masks recommended for unvaccinated individuals” said another. “Masks optional” said a third, which is similar to the second, but conveys a very different vibe.

One of the stores I visited was Target. I haven’t been in Target in a long while, partly because I haven’t needed anything from Target in a long time and partly because I love, with my whole heart, the option to order my items online and have someone deliver them to my car. CURBSIDE 4EVA.

It was sort of pleasant and nostalgic to wander around Target for awhile. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I could see with my own eyes that they were, in fact, completely out of Carla’s size in fleece-lined leggings. (I don’t know why I keep buying them, because holes sprout in the knees practically immediately.) (I do know why: they are cheap.)

I narrowly avoided buying any of the cute Christmassy appetizer plates they had for $3 apiece. I am beginning to think that was a mistake.

I was not able to resist the miniature office supplies set, which will make its way into Carla’s stocking.

image from target.com

But when I checked out, I reconnected with one of my biggest peeves about Target. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about it before. But my peeve has been so inflamed that I am going to complain about it again.

When you checkout, there is almost NO WAY to see whether you are being charged appropriately for each item. Long, long ago, so long ago that I am willing to admit it may be a figment of my wildest dreams, you could go up to the credit card reader, and it would show you what you were buying in real time, as the checker scanned your items. No more. Now, if you have even a small hope of glimpsing what the computer says you owe, you have to stand back at the conveyor belt – which makes it very awkward to fill your cart as the checker bags your items – and squint at the computer screen facing the checker. Facing the checker, not facing YOU. And the type is so small that you have very little hope of seeing the price of each item anyway. In larger type is the total of your purchase, but that requires instantaneous math, and I am not good at that in the best of times, less so when I am in public.

We all know that Target makes errors. It is OFTEN that an item will scan at a different price than is displayed on the shelf. And the placement of the computer makes it nearly impossible to know that this is happening.

Also, the only way to know the total you are about to pay is to listen carefully to the checker, who has to say it out loud to you. It does not even give a total on the card reader! This is madness!


I did get a customer survey in my email later that day, which I took great pleasure in filling out. Not that it will do a lick of good.

Suspected Shipping Snafu Turned Sweet Surprise!

A box from amazon arrived the other day, as is an all-too-frequent occurrence in these days leading up to the holidays. (I am trying to wean myself off of amazon, I AM, but it is difficult.)

The box was addressed to me; I was expecting some fleece-lined leggings I’d ordered for Carla, to replace her hole-y Target ones. So I opened it.

Inside was a smaller box, with a label that said “lidded casserole.”

This was something I had JUST THE DAY BEFORE put on a list of Christmas wishes that I had shared with my husband. My guess what that he had accidentally sent it to me because I am the intended recipient. So I sighed and put it back in the box, resolving to be So! Surprised! when it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day.

But when he came home, he swore he hadn’t ordered one for me.

Turns out it was a thank-you gift from his parents! When they were here, I’d mentioned that I was constantly on the lookout for a medium sized casserole dish… and my mother-in-law remembered and sent me TWO!

What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

That’s the note I’ll end on. Well, and this additional note, from Carla’s teacher, that she arrived to class her cheerful, happy self. PHEW.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, Internet!

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Nicole posted last week about her favorite life-changing purchases, and I have been inspired to copy her. Here are some of the LIFE-CHANGING purchases I have made in the past year. Some of them may be familiar, because I have recommended them to you here before. Because they are LIFE CHANGING. (For details on one of my most enduring life-changing purchases, click here.)

Hanging Detangling Comb for ShowerThese come in all different colors, but the little curling tail that allows you to hang it over the towel bar in your shower is essential. This has been a GAME CHANGER for me. I comb through my hair when I apply conditioner, and then again after I’ve rinsed and applied smoothing serum or curling serum or whatever other thing I want to put in my hair. Keeping my hair detangled seemed SO MUCH EASIER now that I have added this one little thing to my regimen.

Hair Towel: Technically, my sister-in-law purchased this for me, but still. It is a LIFE-CHANGING item. Again, I think you can find your one true hair towel; I don’t necessarily think that this specific one is the best. Just get you a hair towel, of any type. Well, as long as it has a button to hold it in place. Gone are the days of wrapping my hair in a bulky towel, only to have it collapse on me. Gone are the days of needing two towels, one for my hair and one for my body. I love this hair towel. LOVE. IT.



Blow Dryer Brush: This is a pricy one, and once again, I don’t know that this particular brand is The Exact One you should get; this is the exact one I have, and I like it plenty. (I got mine at Nordstrom.) But being in possession of a tool that allows me to brush and dry AND straighten my hair with one hand has been transformative. For one thing, I don’t have to deal with a hair dryer and then a straightener. But, even better and more life-changing, I can now read while I dry my hair! I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror while I brush my hair, I have a hand free to turn the pages or scroll or whatever. It’s amazing. I love it.

Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I have already recommended this to you, but I am here once again to say that you NEED this in your life. I have been especially grateful for it this summer, when its cooling effect is a breath of fresh air when I’ve been stuck in a hot and steamy bathroom trying to get ready. And it wakes up my expression without any makeup, which I am sure would either melt off or sink into my eye wrinkles or both. It is magical. 


Vince Camuto Underpants: I am pretty sure Linda at All & Sundry recommended these. And lo, they are wonderful. I only have the three pairs but I think I will buy more because I paw through my underwear drawer looking for these ones first every single day. They are so comfortable and yet cute and not a million dollars.

Running Belt: I love this stupid thing so much. I wear it under my shirt whenever I go out walking (not running as the name implies). It has little pockets where I can stow my keys and phone and, before I was vaccinated, a mask. It’s less bulky than a fanny pack. Nothing jiggles. And it’s totally hands free. Game. Changer.

Fabric Resistance Bands: When I first began my resistance band journey (LOL), I bought the elastic bands. They were inexpensive, which was good when I had no idea whether I’d even use them. Turns out I like the added resistance quite a lot, but the elastic is no bueno. It twists and bunches and slips and I spend more time adjusting the bands than I do resisting them. But the FABRIC bands do not bunch or slip! They stay in place and make my workouts much less stressful.

Ninja Blender: I know for sure I have talked up this blender before in this space. It was a pandemic purchase, made when my husband and I determined that our old wedding-gift blender was incapable of blending ice well enough to make daiquiris. While we are no longer making weekly mixed drinks, I make near-daily smoothies and this blender is AMAZING. Party because it is just All Business when it comes to blending things. And partly because it comes with a separate smoothie-making apparatus, with its own blade and its own cup, so you don’t have a whole huge blender to clean every day. (Or, when you are in the middle of a pandemic, you can make a blender full of daiquiris for yourself and your spouse and a smoothie size virgin daiquiri for your child without worrying about cross contamination!) The smoothie cups even come with their own lids, so you can remove the blade, pop on the lid, and drink from the blender cup without dirtying another glass! LIFE CHANGING. I use the smoothie maker, as I said, almost daily and I am grateful for it every time I use it.


Sparkling Watermelon Juice: This is a brand new life-changing item, as in I just learned about it last week! But this watermelon seltzer (Harry Styles voice) is SO DELICIOUS. And I cannot stand watermelon! I am guessing it would be excellent as part of a cocktail, but I have yet to experiment with it. Hie thee to your nearest Trader Joe’s and get some now. (Or apparently you can also order it via Amazon, but it is WAY less expensive in person at TJs.)

Phone Case with Card Holder: I have technically had this phone case since 2017, so it’s not a NEW purchase. But I did just order a new one (not the case’s fault; I am just a butteryfingered person who drops my phone constantly, and the case took one for the team. It did its job by protecting my phone, though.) so I feel like it counts. Anyway, this is A LIFE CHANGER TO END ALL LIFE CHANGERS. It completely ended my reliance on purses. I keep my ID and my credit card in the little sliding pocket, and then all I need to take anywhere is my phone! It fits snugly around the phone, so it’s not bulky at all. And it does keep the phone safe. If you tend to drop your phone a lot, the little sliding door will eventually give up, but who can fault it, really?

That’s a lot of life-changing for one year, no? What life-changing purchases have you made recently?

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One of my favorite categories of articles to read is the Gift Guide. I love Ultra Specific gift guides (gifts for dog lovers! gifts for vegetarians who also eat bacon! gifts for aunts!) and I love Big Broad Gift Guides alike. It’s so fun to see the latest trends in giving (and to see whether Hot Honey will be on the list YET AGAIN), they are a cheering distraction from all the dire news, and sometimes I actually find a gift or two for whom I know the PERFECT recipient! As usual, I have been collecting ideas for gifts ALL YEAR and have put some of them together into a brand new gift guide for your reading distraction.

Even though I bookmark possible gifts all year, I am terrible about a) putting them together in a post and b) actually buying them for their intended recipients. This year, my patented Gift Giving Anxiety is paired with a thick dollop of Shipping Times Are Uncertain and a hefty pour of This Year Needs to Be EXTRA Special, so I’m feeling a little panicked already. Have you already completed your holiday shopping? PLEASE SAY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS BARELY BEGUN.

Ahem. This is a post of diversion and joy! (Not overwhelm and panic.)

Without futher ado, here is a VERY random assortment of gifts (and many, many books!) I am considering for people on my list (or, you know, hoping to receive). As usual, this is not sponsored, but the Amazon products use affiliate links, through which I get a few cents if you make a purchase. Also, if you are expecting a gift from me this year, please be warned that there are SPOILERS AHEAD. (And check out the 2019 Gift Guide and the 2018 Gift Guide for other gift inspiration, even if the links may no longer be live.)

All photos are from the websites linked to in the gift descriptions.

Just Dance: This has been one of my favorite purchases of the pandemic. It’s available for the Nintendo Switch but I think you can also get a Playstation version. It’s a really fun way to move your body (I get SO sweaty and tired after a couple of songs) and bond with your kiddo, partner, or roommate. 

Man Crate Puzzle Box: My husband and I love to play puzzle-style computer games together, and this physical-world option sounds really fun and cool.

Fondue for Two: My in-laws have a tradition of fondue for Christmas Eve dinner. But I don’t know if they would go to all the trouble when it’s just the two of them. This little fondue set would be perfect! Also, it’s adorable.

George & Viv Hand and Foot Cream: Hand cream is one of my favorite things to get for Christmas, and I have been using it SO MUCH now that I am washing my hands and using hand sanitizer more obsessively than ever. This set comes with foot cream – which I also love – and looks so cute and festive.

Just Add Gin: Speaking of my in-laws, which we were, just a minute ago, I have married into a Gin Family. Which is great, because I, too, love gin. This collection of gin mixers would be perfect for several people on my list. Including myself. By the way, if you haven’t tried it yet, Mouth.com is a GREAT company for hard-to-shop-for people, and for people who prefer consumable gifts. I’ve ordered a couple of gift boxes from Mouth during the pandemic, and they have been excellent and fun. 

Bourbon Gift Set: Another fun gift for alcohol fans is a tasting collection of mini-bottles. It’s hard to find the right combination of not-too-expensive and enough-for-more-than-just-a-taste. This collection is a little on the pricy side, but it has good sized samples.

Club Bubbly Gift Membership: A champagne/prosessco/sparkling wine club? Yes please! If I were to request a splurge gift, this would be it. 

Bubbles and Rose Wine Club: Or there’s this slightly-less-extravagant – but still fun! – option.

Peanut Butter Fix: This collection of delicious treats would be perfect for my husband, whose favorite food is peanut butter. However, I just got him a Mouth gift box for his birthday, so perhaps I will save this one for Father’s Day.

The Nut Fix: And while we’re drooling over the gift boxes at Mouth, why not consider this package of artisanal nuts for the nut nut in your family? 

Work Gloves: If you have someone on your holiday list who works outside a lot, these gloves look perfect – tight fitting, warm, and durable. 

Fingerless Writing Gloves: An entirely different type of work gloves, from the TogetherDifferent Etsy store. These would be perfect for the hopeful writer you know… or pretty much anyone who’s hunched over a computer in a cold corner of the dining room trying to work from home.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: This was one of the best books I read all year. I still think about it. A beautifully written story about identity and the face we present to the world – and how that complicates how we see ourselves – this would make a great gift for the avid reader on your list.

Wedge Fund: It’s probably clear by now that I love to give edible presents. As far as food gifts go, this cheese-and-charcuterie sampler looks delicious. 

Offbeat Pickle Box: Or this collection of unusual pickled treats – peaches! beets! cauliflower! – would be really fun for the pickle-lover on your gift list.

Peanut Butter Sampler: I have already mentioned that my husband is a peanut butter NUT, and this sampler might be just the ticket for him this year. 

Crab Cakes: My parents love getting crab cakes from, of all places, our local grocery store when they visit. Since they won’t be visiting us for the holidays this year, they will have to wait a looooooong time to get some, so it might be fun to send them some delicious crab cakes as a gift. 

Maya the MermaidFor one of the kids on your holiday list. These dolls are adorable – and each doll purchased means a donation of 10 meals to hungry children all over the world.

Singin’ Smart Educational Songs: When Carla found so much joy learning the 50 Nifty United States song earlier this year, I went looking for other educational songs she might enjoy. This CD has songs about the branches of government, state capitals, bones of the body, and more. 

ChopChop Magazine: For families who like to cook together, this magazine seems perfect. Published by a non-profit organization that aims to help build nutritional curiosity, STEAM skills, and literacy by delivering content to families, teachers, doctors, and libraries. It would be fun to pair a subscription with an apron.  

Build-It-Yourself Woodworking Kit: Carla saw this in the Lakeshore Learning catalog and requested it for the holidays. I know she would LOVE it. 

Young Woodworker’s Project Kit: She also requested this, which allows kids to make three pre-designed projects.

Black Women Writers Card Collection: One of my favorite gifts to give (and receive) is beautiful greeting cards. This collection, featuring vivid illustrations and quotes from black women writers, would be a delight. 

Wooden Succulent Planter: This beautiful geometric planter – made of sustainably grown wood – would be perfect for the friend trying to spruce up their home office, or a family member with a green thumb. (Or not-so-green thumb – even I have been able to keep succulents alive!) Plus, with every product sold, Oakywood plants a tree.  

Historic Women Who Dared Wine Glasses: I love these stemless glasses – each one features tidbits about feminist icons like Sojourner Truth and Marie Curie. 

Ninja Blender: This is a splurge, but it’s totally worth it. My husband and I got really into making mixed drinks during the early months of the pandemic, and our decade-plus old blender wasn’t cutting it. So we bought a Ninja blender and it is AWESOME. I love the separate blender cups because you can make a single serving of a drink, or a smoothie, or salad dressing, or avocado crema, all without dirtying the entire blender. It sounds like an airplane taking off when it’s in action, but it can blend the bejeezus out of things. Highly recommend. 

Lavender Eye Pillow: If you know any teachers or any parents who have been overseeing remote learning this year, might I suggest a soothing eye pillow from LaSalleAve Soap Shop on Etsy? I can just imagine how calming it would be to lie down for five minutes with a warm, delicately scented weight over my eyes after dealing with Zoom lessons all day.

Sleep Spray: Or maybe some calming sleep spray to help a stressed-out friend or loved one get to sleep at night.

White Willow Bath Bombs: Speaking of self-care, these bath bombs sound amazing. If chamomile tea is a cure-all, then steeping your body in a chamomile bath must be even better, right?

Long-Distance Touch Bracelet: This gift makes me a little teary – it seems extra appropriate during pandemic times, when we get to see our long-distance friends and family members even less often than usual. They come in pairs, and when you touch yours, the one your giftee is wearing will light up and vibrate! What a nice way to remind your loved one you are thinking about them.

Amethyst Face Roller: I guess the ubiquity of jade face rollers on gift guides over the years has finally worn me down, and I want one. Except I want this amethyst version because it’s PURPLE.

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown: Carla and I read this book together over the summer and LOVED it. Plus, it’s a true story! You can go online and watch a video about the biblioburro, which made the book that much more fun and interesting. 

Animal Print Masks: Carla would love these reusable face masks from the LolaLovesIt Etsy shop – they come in beautiful animal prints and have adjustable ear loops, which I have found to be VERY important in face mask success. 

Sacagawea by Lise Erdrich: Growing up in the Western plains, I loved books about Native American life and legends – I hope to instill in Carla knowledge and appreciation of the original inhabitants of the Americas. One of my favorites was the story of Sacagawea, but the interpretations I read as a child were by white authors. This version’s author and illustrator are each Native American women.

Diapers: Maybe not a gift to wrap and put under the tree, but as you make your Target and Amazon orders, it might be easy to add a pack of diapers (or period supplies) to your cart and donate them to your local branch of the National Diaper Bank Network.

Vet Academy: This workbook uses arts and crafts, puzzles, and quizzes to show what life would be like as a veterinarian. Carla would LOVE this.

Moon Cycle Art Print: It’s very tricky to buy art for someone else unless you know them VERY well, but this moon cycle print from NonilyStudio is so beautiful, I imagine you know SOMEONE who would love it.

Let’s Stay Home Print: This appeals to my introvert heart. Plus, it’s VERY appropriate for 2020, especially as we are headed into a new peak of coronavirus cases.

Alpaca Blend Hand-Knitted Ornaments: These ornaments from Heifer International support South American artisans – and they are SO cute. 

State Pride Coasters: I’m always on the hunt for good coasters, and these are very attractive.

Beeswax Wrap: These reusable food wraps from TheTravelingBeeShop are SO lovely. You definitely have someone on your gift list who wants this starter pack.

Reusable “Paper” Towels: Is there anything more on the nose for 2020 than paper towel replacements? I think not. These cotton towels from CozySimpleLiving on Etsy are so pretty and eco-friendly AND will give anyone uneasily watching the newest paper-towel shortage a sense of much-needed relief. Or you could try a reusable roll from Ecozied – they are made from wood pulp (!!!) and the designs are adorable. 

Reusable Sponge Cloths: This is where I admit that I can’t stand sponges. Yuck. But I got a trio of reusable sponges a few years ago and LOVE them. Now that they are wearing out, I’ve been looking for new ones and these Swedish sponge cloths look perfect. I think you’d have to really know your recipient before buying these for someone, but I’m guessing I’m not the only person who would enjoy getting them as a gift.

Fudge Sampler: This gift would be perfect for someone hard to shop for. Or for a colleague, or your kids’ teachers, or someone else you want to spoil without going overboard or getting too personal. While I haven’t tried this specific item, I have had excellent experiences with Nuts.com offerings, so I think it’s a good bet.

Hand Soap: I don’t know about you, but I am ALWAYS on the hunt for soap these days and would be very pleased to get some as a gift. The packaging of this Hand in Hand soap is so cheery – plus, with every purchase, the company donates a bar of soap and a month of clean water to a child in need.

A Cozy Blanket: A blanket is an evergreen gift. The offerings at Beyond Buckskin are absolutely gorgeous – and all the products on the site are created by Native American artists.

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh: Speaking of evergreen gifts, a really good, fast-paced thriller is always welcome under my tree. This book was based on such an intriguing premise and I devoured every word.

Banneton and Little Crock: I have an enduring love for beautiful and/or odd serving dishes. This little bread and butter/jam set is ADORABLE. I can think of at least five people in my life who could use one of these under their tree. 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This has been on my to-read list since it came out earlier this year, and I finally ordered it as a treat for myself. 

Family Scavenger Hunt: This game looks like it would be great fun to play together – and a good excuse to get everyone up and moving. 

Family Feud Home Game: Despite the fact that I can never, ever spell “feud” correctly on the first try, I adore Family Feud and have managed to drag my family along with me. This looks like it would be a fun game to play together. 

Jeopardy Card Game, Junior Edition: In honor of the late, great Alex Trebek. My husband and I like to play Jeopardy on our Amazon Echo, but it’s a little too advanced/high speed for Carla to join in. This card game might allow her to finally experience the joy that is Jeopardy.

Kids Against Maturity: This game sounds pretty fun to play as a family, too. Maybe a bit too old yet for Carla though.

What Do You Meme?: Speaking of family games, my husband has been asking for this one, and it gets great reviews. 

Stet!: This game is on my gift list for a dear friend who happens to be a fellow grammar/usage snob and who gave me my beloved copy of Dreyer’s English

Dreyer’s English Day-to-Day Calendar: I just discovered this daily calendar and now it’s on my personal wish list.

Pranayama Wrap: Speaking of my personal wish list, I am definitely asking for this beautiful wrap. It has thumbholes!

Stack the Cats: This balancing gift from Etsy’s KnightingaleCrafts is so lovely, and I think any cat lover (maybe Carla?) would really enjoy playing with it. I feel like it would be the perfect desk fidget while listening to Zoom lectures or trying to edit a chapter. 

Londontown Holiday Mini Collection: I always ask for a holiday nail polish collection. This is the one I’m eyeing this year. 

Sunrise Alarm Clock: My whole family has a difficult time waking up in the dark winter months. I’ve heard great things about these clocks… maybe it’s time to buy one and try it out.

Bunch O Balloons: Listen, this may no longer be the right season for water balloon gifts, but these were SUCH a hit over the summer – and they sold out so frequently – that I think they would be a great Christmas option. Carla and her friends went through thousands of these during our infrequent backyard playdates. (My deepest apologies to the environment.)

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World: Carla and I studied Frida Kahlo together this summer, but I wasn’t in love with the books I was able to find at our library. A friend raves about Anholt’s books on artists, so I’ve got this book in my Amazon cart. 

Kids’ Croquet: This is billed as indoors/outdoors croquet, but we don’t have croquet-safe spaces inside. Perhaps it would be good for those living in warmer climates, though? Or something to keep in mind for next year?

Plush Octopus: There is no way I can justify buying Carla yet another stuffed animal. But SOME child needs this, desperately. It is SO CUTE.

One Leaf Rides the Wind: Carla and I also studied a little poetry together this summer, and she was super interested in formal poetry. This book looks like such a beautiful introduction to haiku. 

Beginner Sewing Machine: Carla’s big gift this year will be a sewing machine. She has been SO interested in sewing and designing outfits for her stuffed animals over the past seven or eight months that I think she would really make use out of a sewing machine. I got a ton of GREAT, very specific, VERY helpful advice from Swistle readers about what to get her, and it seems like a beginner option is not ideal (the commenters recommended something durable and high quality, because it will be both easier to use and more likely to LAST). So I have asked around and am considering this Real Sewing Machine. But… it’s so expensive, and the beginner version is much more affordable (especially if Carla decides she doesn’t like it). Decisions, decisions! Made even more complicated because I have NO IDEA how to sew or what you need to operate a sewing machine or what I’m doing.

Art Paper Center: This amazing giant roll of drawing paper would get a TON of use at our house. (When I was a kid, I would have gone wild for the create-a-story paper center as well.)

Stuffed Animals Sewing Kit: While I think Carla has moved beyond the simplicity of this kit (this child taught herself how to make button holes and sew buttons onto fabric), I think my niece would LOVE it. (She’s almost two years Carla’s junior.)

A Computer Called Katherine: A picture book about math and outer space? That centers a real-life Black, woman character? Yes, please. 

Rainbow Post-Its: I don’t think there’s any way I could justify spending $31 on sticky notes, but Carla would LOVE THESE SO MUCH. Honestly, so would I.  

Mini Kane Backpack: Still rainbow, but on the opposite end of the practicality spectrum: this adorable backpack. And with every bag purchased, this company supports American children and families in need – including by donating fully packed backpacks.

What Are You Going Through? by Sigrid Nunez: The author of one of my all-time favorite books (The Friend) has just come out with a new book. I MUST have this, and I am guessing your book-loving gift recipients need it, too.

The Searcher by Tana French: Speaking of new releases I really, really want for myself. I am a die-hard Tana French fan and want to read anything she writes. 

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear: Same thing goes for Caz Frear, whose protagonist Cat Kinsella is electric. This book isn’t out until December 1, but I’m hoping it will still arrive in time for the holidays.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline: I suppose if we must think about gifts for OTHERS, and not OURSELVES, I would strongly consider getting this book for my husband. He loved Ready Player One, after all.

Evening Star Coffee: Do you have a coffee lover on your gift list? My husband is a coffee superfan, and I feel like I’ve bought him every coffee toy on the planet. But I can always find him interesting coffee to try! I love that this company uses family farms and native communities to source, process, and produce their coffee. 

Coffee of the Month Club: This coffee-of-the-month club sounds doubly awesome – you can treat your favorite coffee lover’s caffeine habit PLUS support a team of firefighters and first responders with one gift!

Sarjesa Tea: Tea lovers like me are always looking for new brands to try. The tagline of this company is “real Canadian tea, supporting real Canadian women,” which sounds like a great reason to try their Earl Grey.

Larry’s Coffee: Or perhaps your coffee-loving giftee would like this variety pack from Larry’s, which is the overall winner in Leaf Score’s 2020 list of best sustainable coffee brands.  

Bread Bag: We’re all accomplished bread bakers now, right? (No.) These bread bags are very cute and would be good for homemade and store bought bread. Maybe paired with a loaf of YOUR homemade bread? Or some yeast and fancy flour? I mean, that would be the height of pandemic gifting, right there.

Olive Oil & Vinegar Dipping Set: If you want to encourage someone’s bread baking habit, give them something delicious to dip the bread in! This option from Williams Sonoma has specialty flavors of oil and vinegar plus little dishes in which to pour them.

Jams & Spreads: Or something delicious to spread on top of the bread. This Holiday Jam from Stonewall Kitchen would be very seasonally apropos. Personally, I love this American Spoon apple and onion jam. It pairs well with a slice of brie, and I hear you can slather it on bread, slap some gruyere on top, and make a rockin’ good grilled cheese. 

Bread Baker’s Apron: You will understand why I love the personalized apron from Peculiar People Design. (My name is never used as an example!) But I also love this Bread Is Pain option from Neurons Not Included. 

Baguette Baker: For the bread aficionado who has everything?

Silicone Pot Holder: You know I am all about practical gift giving. This OXO pot holder is nearly identical to my current favorite. And I could use another one…

Murder on the Red River by Marcie Rendon: As a mystery-novel junkie, I am always on the lookout for new authors. Especially those who have a bunch of mysteries I can devour. This award-winning novel is the first in the author’s Cash Blackbear series. Rendon is a citizen of the White Earth Nation and I love that her books center Native American characters.

Kitchen Cube: This all-in-one measuring device would be perfect for the person who loves kitchen gadgets. I am so intrigued! 

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell: I read two Lisa Jewell books this summer – Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs – and really enjoyed both. I like Jewell’s writing style a lot and both books were fun, twisty thrillers. I’m guessing her newest book will be excellent as well.

Black & Decker Handheld Vacuum: If you really want a romantic gift, this handheld vacuum is… not the right choice. But it IS the right choice for all your daily vacuuming needs. As I posted about a while back, this little powerhouse is a hard-working member of my family and I love it and appreciate it deeply.

Lesser-Mentioned Beverly Cleary Books: Carla and I are reading through the Ramona books again, and it’s obvious why they are so beloved. But Cleary has so many other stand-alone characters that I remember fondly from childhood. I just reread Ellen Tebbits this summer, and am now reading it again with Carla, and I think the main character would resonate with LOTS of kids. Emily’s Runaway Imagination is a fantastic book – I think about the pie crust chapter more often than seems strictly healthy. Mitch and Amy is a classic. Somehow, I don’t think I ever read Muggie Maggie, which is a serious oversight that MUST be corrected. 

Science in a Jar: If you know a child who likes science – and who has a parent who enjoys helping them with science as long as there’s not a lot of HOOPLA involved – this book is excellent. Carla received it as a gift last year, and it’s been an enduring favorite. It contains a wide variety of simple experiments and most of them require very little in terms of Extra Purchases. My favorite was when we bought white carnations and used some scientific principle I am forgetting to color them with food coloring. We also used jars filled with water to paint our nails, turned eggs into rubber using vinegar-filled jars, and this weekend Carla wants to make a cloud in a jar. Highly recommend.

Ask a Scientist: Carla is such a curious and inquisitive kid and she has SO many questions about SO many topics these days. I think this book would be excellent in both satisfying her curiosity and encouraging her to continue asking questions. 

Why? Over 1,111 Answers to Everything: This book might scratch a similar itch.

Bees: A Honeyed History: At one point this summer, Carla had a brief fascination with bees. This beautiful book has been in my Amazon cart ever since. 

Outdoor Explorer/Bug Catching Kit: Carla’s uncle got her something similar to this kit for her birthday and we have since spent MANY MANY HOURS outside looking for bugs. It was a very successful present, is what I’m saying. 

Beginner’s Science Lab: Carla requested this specifically and I am strongly thinking about it. 

Arts & Crafts Supply Center: This is another gift Carla specifically requested. The Kid Made Modern arts and crafts supply library, which she got as a gift last year, was HUGELY popular with her, so I know she’d love this version. But I don’t know if I can stand the thought of finding pom-poms and pipe cleaner fluff all over my house for another year. Maybe YOU or someone you know can.

Alma and How She Got Her Name: Carla and I read this together over the summer and LOVED it. It’s such a beautiful story about family pride and cultural traditions and reading it sparked some lovely conversations about how we decided on Carla’s name.

Play Money: I think this might be just a titch too young for Carla now, but it might be perfect for my niece. 

Rubik’s Cube: I broke Carla’s 3×3 puzzle cube a few days ago, so I think she needs a new, bigger one. 

Wireless Headphones: Speaking of broken, SOMEONE broke Carla’s headphones. And since we have remote learning in our future, we need a new pair. 

Mozart Music Cube: If you have a baby/young toddler on your gift list, please get this for them. Carla had an earlier version of this music/instrument combination toy when she was a baby and she LOVED it. 

Bamboo 7-Piece Nesting Bowls: This set of beautiful bowls would be an excellent gift for the cook in your life.

Mini Silicone Spoons: Speaking of fun colors, this set of mini spoons would be fun and practical! (I bought two mini silicone spoons from Joann Fabric last year and they have been one of my favorite and most-used kitchen purchases.) (Joann doesn’t seem to carry them anymore, hence the Amazon link.)

Striped Mixing Bowls: I couldn’t resist adding these bowls to my own wish list. They are so pretty!

Rainbow Whisks: I have also found that having more than one whisk – and a small one, at that – is very useful to have around the house. These rainbow whisks are super cute, to boot!

Gumball Machine: Carla made a recent offhand remark about wanting a gumball machine, and I remember getting one when I was a kid and loving it. This would be so fun for kids of so many ages.

Blankie 3-Pack: This would be a perfect gift for a new baby. I mean, no one can predict which lovie is going to become The Beloved. But if you give THREE of the exact same blankie-with-doggy-head, then your recipient can breathe a little easier in case one of them gets lost or pooped on or accidentally set on fire. 

Happy Blankie: Here’s where I make my annual plug for a Happy Blankie for the baby/child in your life. The company donates a blanket to a child in need with every purchase, which is awesome. Plus, the blankies are amazing: cool and satiny on one side, soft and plush on the other, in a variety of adorable shapes and colors. My daughter has the pig version, and it is her One True Lovey and I am pretty sure she will sleep with it for the rest of her life. 

Garmin Vivofit Jr. Watch: It seems like every sevenish-year-old I know has this watch. And I understand why – it’s awesome. Carla got one for her birthday and it helps her understand time better. It has little pre-set timers she can operate, which means that she brushes her teeth for the right amount of time and can go swing for thirty minutes without me having to bother her and can tell without me hovering when we need to get out the door for school. It monitors her physical activity and gives her rewards (in the form of a little video game and watch skins) if she has 60 or more active minutes. AND, best of all, we can assign her chores that she can mark complete on her watch and use to earn points toward… whatever we want. It’s an excellent multi-use watch and I have a friend whose eleven-year-old loves his as well. 

I Am Enough: Carla’s class read this book at school this year – and did a whole study on respect and self confidence, which I loved. Carla came home and asked if we could get it from the library, which we did. I love the lyrical beauty of the words as well as the message. It’s a book that would be a good addition to anyone’s home collection.

The Wonder of Birds: National parks have had a hard time during this pandemic year, so buying something from your favorite park’s gift shop (and maybe pairing it with a donation in your gift recipient’s name?) is a great way to support these national treasures. This book – about the miraculous aviary world – sounds absolutely fascinating. 

Aspen Leaf Ornament: This ornament is so pretty – and I think it’s so cool that it’s an actual aspen leaf, preserved in rose gold.

Glacier Map Socks: These socks would make a great gift for so many people.

Yellowstone Puzzle: Have we had a long enough break from the early pandemic puzzle craze to need a new one yet? I think so.

Book Club Puzzle: Speaking of puzzles, my husband would LOVE this one. It’s 1,000 pieces. It looks hard but not TOO hard. And it features books! 

Adventurist Backpack: Or perhaps an adult in your life needs a new backpack? I think a lot of us have spent more time exploring the outdoors now that indoor activities aren’t advisable, and this backpack would be EXCELLENT to take on a hike or a picnic. The design is so sleek it reminds me more of a handbag than a backpack. Plus, with each backpack sold, the company donates 25 meals to families in need across the U.S.

Pajamas with Feet: Listen. The concept of pants with feet does not appeal to me. I need my feet CLEAR. If I could help it, I would never wear socks. But my husband NEEDS these. He is due for a new pair of flannel pajama bottoms. And he can’t stand to have cold feet. So this seems PERFECT. (Plus, if your feet get hot, there is an option to fold up the footies.) Way to go, random Instagram ads! You know my heart yet again! 

Pair of Thieves Underwear: I have it on good authority that these boxer briefs are very soft and comfortable.

Fancy Socks: This is far more than I prefer to spend on socks, but my husband LOVES socks with unusual patterns, and these are VERY attractive. 

Steel Owl: I have been seeing ads all year, claiming that I would like these birds, and in fact I DO, and have several people for whom I think they would make excellent gifts. 

Schitt’s Creek Dish Towel: You know I can’t resist a fun dish towel. You also definitely know someone who would appreciate one that says Love That Journey For Me.

Cat Dish Towel: As far as dish towels go, this is the one I am coveting for myself this year.

Friends Trivial Pursuit: I have a dear friend whose all-time favorite TV show is Friends. This would be perfect for her.

I’ll Be There for You: And I can make it a themed gift and add this really great book, which I read and enjoyed at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Disney Princess Collection: Carla had a Big Accomplishment this summer and earned this collection of Disney princesses as a gift. After you get past removing them from the very secure packaging, it is an excellent group of dolls. There are ELEVEN of them, first of all, which is awesome. They are roughly the size of Barbies (though they can’t share Barbie clothing) and there are a LOT of them, which is awesome. My only (mild) complaints are 1) Moana, who admittedly has a different body type, is nonetheless disproportional compared to the other dolls, which annoys me and 2) WHERE IS MERIDA? I guess she doesn’t really count as a Disney princess, but she’s my favorite. And 3) Why isn’t Belle in her signature yellow dress? Anyway, if you are looking for a knock-their-socks-off gift for a kid who still enjoys princesses/playing with dolls, this should do the trick. It’s pricey, I know – but you can get a pack of seven princesses from Target for much less. (But you do get fewer dolls.)

Aerogarden: Carla already had a kids’ version of this at-home gardening system, and I got a bigger one for Mother’s Day, and I LOVE THEM. Fresh herbs all the time – or lettuce! Or tomatoes, which we haven’t tried! It is very easy to operate, sustain, and clean, and it’s fun to do with kids or by yourself and it’s wonderfully cheering to have something green growing even in the winter months. 

Leapfrog Magic Adventures Globe: This is on my neice’s holiday wish list, and frankly it looks awesome.

LEGO Brick Box: Even though we got Carla a medium-sized bin of LEGO for her birthday, we also got her a LARGE bin of LEGO for the holidays. A) It was on sale at Costco and B) she plays with LEGO ALL the time and will definitely love and use additional bricks.

Jurassic World T-Rex: What kid wouldn’t love a dinosaur for the holidays? Carla and her grandparents got to visit a dinosaur exhibit at the zoo a few months ago, and Carla LOVED IT. So they sent her this T-Rex as a holiday surprise. 

Photo by Jana T. on Pexels.com

Digital Orchestra Subscription: If you have a music lover in your life, consider buying them a subscription to their favorite performing arts organization’s digital concerts… Or making a donation in their name. This year, performing arts organizations all across the country are suffering. These are most often non-profit organizations that rely on a combination of ticket sales and donations to cover their costs. With greatly reduced ticket sales, and with new challenges to face (like how to pivot to digital programming, and how to keep their artists safe), the pandemic is hitting orchestras, dance companies, and operas really hard. There are so many worthy causes to support – especially this year – and I know that when you have limited funds to give, choosing between an orchestra and a food bank seems like a no brainer. But as you are purchasing presents for people this year, consider whether supporting an arts organization might fit into your gift giving plans. 

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

Gifts of charity: Obviously, we all know how to make charitable donations if we so choose, and there are so many wonderful organizations that are doing great work in our country and around the world. It’s a personal thing, when and how much and where to donate. Besides gifts of cash, which are always needed, I think we are all aware that giving food and supplies to our local food bank, buying books from our favorite independent bookstore, or purchasing gift certificates to our favorite local restaurants are great ways to combine gift-giving and philanthropic support. I wanted to share two new-to-me options in case you are looking for a way to give something that feels more tangible/personal than money. Carla and I usually shop for a child in need by grabbing a child’s wish off of an angel tree in a local business. Obviously, we’re not really going into local businesses these days, so I looked for an alternative and discovered that WalMart and the Salvation Army are offering an online Angel Tree program through which you can buy gifts for kids in need and WalMart will ship them directly to the Salvation Army of your choice. This removes the element of walking through the aisles of Target and picking out toys for a specific child, and it eliminates the need for wrapping the gifts, both of which I enjoy sharing with Carla, but obviously doing it all online is a much safer option this year. I also recently learned about Choose Love, which allows you to buy things like food, blankets, and winter clothing for refugees arriving in Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. 

That’s all I’ve got, Internet! I hope you find something for everyone on your list! And of course I would love to hear what YOU are already planning to buy/receive for the holidays.

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I think the first half of the post title implies that I am eagerly awaiting the end of summer, but that’s a little… simplistic, I guess. Yes, I will be glad to have my regular schedule back. Yes, I will be dee-freaking-lighted that I won’t have any more camp laundry to do. But I am also trying to relish these last few weeks, primarily because I will miss all this extra time I’ve had with Carla, and secondarily because I am a little anxious about how the upcoming year will go.

In any event, I am reflecting on our First Summer of Camp and also looking ahead to Pre-K.

First, an update on camp. Turns out I had but the one Camp Fret (well, that I posted about, at least) and the rest of it all went pretty well.

We enrolled Carla in four separate camps, for a total of eight weeks. And I think it all turned out fairly well despite the fact that I had NO IDEA I needed to enroll her in camp in FEBRUARY and that I had to start researching/planning in January. That is RIDICULOUS. Nonetheless, I will know better for next year.

The first camp was the best camp. It took place entirely outdoors, in the woods.


Please ignore the wildfire in the background.

Carla ADORED it. She came home filthy and exhausted and absolutely joyful every single day. She was overflowing with details about what she saw and learned each day, and was bursting with news of whatever creature she had seen or held or been peed on by. There were many snakes. She learned about poison ivy and black capped chickadees and baby toads. She learned how to rappel down a ravine via a rope tied to a tree and how to make sculptures out of mud and how to cook a potato in a campfire. She had her face “painted” with mud. She played in the rain. She napped under a canopy of trees. I cannot overstate how wonderful it was. I hope it is offered again next year, and for a longer time. I will enroll her in a heartbeat.

I also cannot overstate how horrific the laundry situation was. The campers were outside literally all day, every day, rain or shine. When the sun was out, they played in a creek. So she was wet and muddy at all times. How can I convey just how muddy she was? Let’s see. I had to disrobe her in the garage before bringing her into the house. I had to carry her into her bathroom and immediately deposit her in the bathtub. I had to hose her down with the shower to de-mudify her before filling up the bath. She even had dirt and mud UNDERNEATH her underpants and dirt sprinkled into every inch of her hairline.

She wore Keens (with socks) and jeans and t-shirts, and I had to wash the Keens each night and set them out to dry because they were so concreted with mud as to be unwearable. I washed out each individual item of clothing under a running faucet and then plopped it into a washing machine full of Oxi and water. I let everything soak all week and then did a load on the weekend. And nothing ever got clean again.

Listen, I am no stranger to stain fighting! I am a wizard with Oxi-clean. But man alive, the camp laundry was a worthy foe and to this day her camp shirts and many MANY pairs of socks still bear the grim reminder that I did not always win.

The first camp turned out to be the most communicative, another reason I love it so very much. We got an email each morning from the head counselor, telling us what the plan was for the day and what the weather would be like and offering suggestions about clothing to bring. The head counselor also operated a camp website, and each day posted photos and a list of discoveries and activities undertaken throughout the day.

The second camp was fine. I’m not particularly clear on what the campers did all day, aside from coloring print-outs of Disney scenes. The main benefit was that Carla got to go swimming three days a week, which she loved. She seemed to enjoy it well enough, but she wasn’t vibrating with excitement at the end of each day, nor did she bubble over with talk about what she’d done and learned and seen. It struck me as a summer daycare, which is fine, I suppose; maybe that’s the POINT of camp.

The third camp started out disastrously. It was held at the same location as Camp 2, so I kind of assumed it would be similar. We got one email about it, the week before it began. The email gave specifics about the duration of the camp and what the drop-off/pick-up procedure would be. That was IT.

When I picked up Carla the first day, she told me I needed to bring her a snack every day. And I said, no, we’re going home to eat lunch. And then it became clear that she meant I needed to send a snack with her, to camp. And I asked, did the other kids have a snack this morning? And she burst into tears and said that yes, they all brought a snack from home and she was the only one who didn’t have one.

I mean, my heart is obviously broken. This is no doubt going to be one of those things she brings up with hurt eyes for The Rest of Our Lives. And I feel TERRIBLE. But I didn’t know! Camp 1 specifically told us to pack two snacks and a water bottle for the kids each day. Camp 2 said nothing about snacks, but sent out a weekly lunch menu, and also provided a water bottle that we would take home and refill and send with her each day. Camp 3 SAID NOTHING. So. Major Mom Fail. (And let’s spread the blame a bit: Major Camp Communication Fail.) Also, it seemed like Camp 3 involved a lot of watching Tumble Leaf and The Lion King. So I’m not planning on doing THAT ONE again next year. Whatever. Live and learn.

The jury is still out on Camp 4, but rest assured I WILL be packing snacks and I will fill you in on any disastrous outcomes.

As camp winds down, I am thinking ahead to Pre-K. I am fretting over whether I did enough with Carla academically this summer (unlikely) and wringing my hands over whether her teachers will be a good fit for her.

And, in the category of Frivolous Considerations, I have been scouring the internet for The Perfect First Day of School Dress.

Carla loves to wear dresses. I think she’d wear a dress every day if she could. But she has a very specific idea of what A Good Dress is, and so do I, and they tend not to overlap.

I will spare you another home-made Venn diagram.

Her requirements, insofar as I understand them, include:

  • Twirly
  • Very twirly
  • Like, so twirly

My requirements include:

  • Not expensive, because she will outgrow it in a year, and also she is hard on clothing
  • Really. I’m thinking the $15 range would be ideal.
  • Not overly frou-frou, because it WILL get dirty (see above point re: hard on clothing) and frou-frou is hard to clean
  • Not ridiculous, which is, of course, a completely subjective thing
  • Not sleeveless, because I want her to be able to wear it all year long

Further complicating things is that her school doesn’t allow kids’ clothing to feature a) denim, b) characters, logos, or single images, or c) words.

So this Gap Kids dress, which looks appropriately twirly (although it features easily-rippable tulle), is out because it says GAP on it.

And this similar dress is out because it has a heart on it. (I know.) (A pattern of hearts would be okay, though.) (I don’t really get it, either.)

Anyway, I have perused many websites, searching for The Dress. Old Navy, Gap Kids, Target, Amazon, Zulily, Gymboree. Even Hanna Anderson, which I love but which I usually deem too expensive (usually, not always). I have found some possibilities, but nothing that exactly 100% fits the bill.

Shall we take a look together?

This dress from Gap Kids is pretty adorable. But I don’t know if it will be twirly enough for Carla’s taste.

Ooooh I LOVE this dress. Seems like it would have some good twirl, no? Although… $32 is WAY outside my $15 budget. And now that I am giving it a Good Hard Look, it seems like maybe it would be less twirly than… hangy. Maybe what I really want is this exact dress in MY size. For $32. Get right on that, Gap. Thanks.

Carters has… some cute options. But nothing that falls within that narrow slice of Perfectly Twirly and Meets Mom’s Requirements Too.

This is the Lands End dress Carla wore last year. I love it SO MUCH and would happily buy it for her again – maybe in the navy-with-birds pattern – but the original no longer meets the Twirl Standard. (Unfortunate, for a dress NAMED “The Twirl Dress.”) And it’s $39. AND we no longer have a Sears nearby, so I can’t take advantage of the free returns.

Gymboree is usually my go-to for cheap twirls, but I’m not finding many candidates this year. Perhaps this one? But let’s be honest, I don’t really like it. I’m not anti-pink, per se. But this is SO pink. And the unicorns are SO gold. Meh.

Oooh! Hanna Andersson is having a back-to-school sale this weekend! I could totally do $19 for a First Day of School dress!

Hmmm. Okay, they have a very limited number of on-sale dresses available in Carla’s size. And the ones that are available seem… potentially not as twirly as they need to be. This one is cute… but is it First Day of School cute? More important, is it First Day of School twirly?

This one looks more reliably twirly… but I’m not in love with it. As far as plain-top-with-fancy-tulle-skirt dresses go, I like the Gymboree option FAR better. Especially because this one is $39.

Now, I DO like this one! It looks pretty twirly. And it also comes in a lovely purple, which is Carla’s favorite color. Which is important only because it’s buy-one-get-one-half-off, so I’d obviously have to buy two. (OBVIOUSLY.) That’s still about $23 per dress, but that’s reasonable. Maybe. My only complaint, really, is that it’s so simple.

Janie and Jack is having a 20% off sale on dresses! But… nope. The one I like best is STILL $79, with the discount. I cannot justify spending $79 on a dress that will likely end up covered in paint.

Nordstrom has a lot of choices, but very few under $30 and none that seem like they’d have the proper Twirl Level.

This Old Navy dress has potential, although I just can’t tell how well it will fill the Twirl Criterion. Sixteen bucks, though. That’s not too shabby. Although… do the sleeves read more “I’ve outgrown this dress and my mom hasn’t noticed” than “three-quarter-length on purpose”?

This Laura Ashley dress from Dillard’s is so adorable it almost hurts. Plus, it’s only $20. But… it’s much too summery. I don’t see myself flipping through Carla’s closet and choosing this one to pair with leggings and boots this fall. And it looks like it would be ruined in about five seconds, and that I would mourn its ruin. Dillard’s has a TON of really cute dressy dresses. Almost makes me wish that we had some weddings to attend so I’d have an excuse to buy one.

Oooh this dress from Amazon is pretty cute. And it’s under $10! The only thing that might be problematic is the ribbon (which ties in the back). Carla is notorious for removing belts and ribbons immediately. Also, it’s hard to tell whether it would have the appropriate Twirl Factor.

This one seems like it would meet Carla’s twirl requirement… and it’s only $11… but I think the tulle would last a day or two at most. And it has a belt. And I’m not sure if it really says I Am A Serious Academic (you know, as all Pre-K students’ clothing should). Actually, in my very subjective opinion, it veers pretty near to “ridiculous” territory.

LOOK WHAT I FOUND. This may not be right for The First Day of School, but no matter! I am adding this to my Amazon cart right now! How can I not? CATS. On a DRESS. Carla is going to FREAK OUT.

Well. So I haven’t found The Perfect Dress. Good thing it is so enjoyable to SEARCH. If you see anything that fits the bill, let me know!


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