Christmas presents 2013

December 10, 2013

Here it is, my annual holiday gift round-up. As usual, no pictures — don’t want the kids peeking anything from across the room. This list isn’t quite complete. I’m a little bit using it to figure out what else I need. Though we are being real hammers this year about not getting too much. Our kids just don’t need anything else, truly. They circled a bunch of stuff in catalogs that they already own. Which I took as affirming that they like their own stuff already, but I’m not buying Zuzu a second broom. That’s just silly.

Henry, age 10:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s read and re-read The Hobbit and is ready for this, I think. I got him this nice edition (from my local indie bookstore).
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I’ll admit I haven’t read this (yet) but it has gotten great reviews from people I trust, and Henry loved Nielsen’s Goblin Wars trilogy.
  • Wildwood by Carson Meloy (another one I want to read, and that I think Henry will like)
  • Odin’s Ravens. This is a game. It’s out of print, so I got it on eBay.
  • King of Tokyo. Another game. Haven’t decided yet if I’m giving this to him, or to everyone.

Eli, age 7:

  • Journey by Aaron Becker. A beautiful, beautiful picture book. We got it out of the library, and Eli declared it “the best book I’ve ever seen.” And every time he looked at it, he’d talk about how amazing he thinks it is. So not only did I get this for him, I bought all the copies they had at the bookstore. Teachers are getting this one too. (I am also seriously tempted to get Eli one of the prints, too. Thinking.)
  • Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Haven’t decided yet whether this is for Eli or for everyone.
  • The kid wants a wooden toy boat. A lot. This is the one he wants, I might make a half-hearted attempt to find one that’s slightly larger.
  • Ok, so Eli wants a tank that shoots at things (like, really shoots) and also a sword (like he doesn’t already have enough swords).  I’m definitely not getting the tank, because I’d like everyone in the house to keep both of their eyeballs. My compromise to all this might be to get him a punching bag. I still have to look into this more, but he is a kid who likes big movement, and I think a big thing to punch at would be helpful.
  • Both boys are getting (together, I mean) this Lego Ewok village thing. They super duper asked for it. And I like getting Legos because they occupy the kids for so long, and also (mostly?) we have a dedicated place for them to go, already, in the house (a Lego bin).
  • Both boys are getting Fantasy: An Artist’s Realm by Ben Boos. Because it’s a little ridiculous how many times we’ve gotten it out of the library.

On that last point, I’ll pause here to say that, at this point, having four kids, I see toys they might want — fairy treehouses or doll houses, or play kitchens, or dolly strollers, and I know they would love them, but we just don’t have room. I feel conflicted about this. Like, is this it, forever? “Here are our established toy systems. We do not deviate from these systems. You can have Legos, toy food, blocks, or those little hard plastic Schleich animals. You may not choose any toy that is its own piece of furniture. Do you want a game? A book? You can have those. You want a cradle for your doll? Sorry, honey. We’ll have to get rid of your dresser to make that happen.”

Zuzu, age 5:

  • So last year we got her this Learning Resources School Set, and she has played with it every day since. If you have a kid who likes to play school, you need to get this. I wish I could give it to her all over again. Or something. At any rate, I got some teacher-y things at the dollar store. Some flash cards and a counting thing that I think is stickers you can put on the window?
  • The girl loves her shoes. And clothes. I don’t want to pigeon-hole her too much, but oh boy she loves shoes. She has a pair of cowboy boots she wears every day, but they’re getting small, and one day I was trying to get stuff done and showed her how to pin stuff onto Pinterest, and she made a whole board of shoes she wants.  She’s going to get these shimmery blue cowboy boots for Christmas. And also some clothes from the Gap that have sparkles on them. (And sunglasses for the rest of us, so we can look at her, with all this glitter.)
  • She’s had a bunch of dress-up tiaras in her five years, and they’ve all broken. I don’t really get too much into the princess stuff, but she does love a tiara every now and again, and is always heartbroken when they break. So Z and Ramona are both getting sturdier tiaras.
  • Zuzu really wants a window-washing kit. I don’t know whether to be horrified (like she’s so repulsed by my housekeeping that she’s going to take over the job) or thrilled (she’s going to take over the job!). Anyway. She’s cute.
  • She showed some interest in a potholder loom, and, honestly, when the boys started making some of those rainbow loom bracelet things, Zuzu turned out to be kind of an instant genius at it. She completely understood the whole weaving concept, while the rest of us were getting frustrated and inadvertently shooting rubber bands across the room.
  • Did you know that there’s a Hello Kitty graphic novel? A few of them! My pal Colby Sharp says they’re pretty good. Zuzu’s going to love them.

Ramona, age 3

Oh, poor fourth child, who is so happy to go along with everything. What will I get you?

  • Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. This is such a sweet story. Ramona loves this book, but we didn’t own it.
  • A dress with POCKETS. The girl loves pockets.
  • One of those study tiaras that Zuzu is getting.
  • Ramona’s favorite gift from last Christmas was a black lab doggie I got at Goodwill. He looks like this. Last weekend we were at a birthday party, and one of the birthday presents was a tiny version of that doggie, in a little bag. Ramona got uncharacteristically anxious; she started chewing on her thumb and looked extremely agitated. Basically — she was trying to hold it in and not run over and take that dog-in-a-bag because she wanted it so much.
  • Something else? She loves her doll stuff. Maybe a doll thing. Or more play food. She likes that a lot too. Or something else that one of you suggests?

Santa might be bringing everyone a Lego minifigure in their stockings. He’s also bringing them candy canes. And bookmarks. And the usual round-up of oranges and apples.

The kids all have also requested Lego sets to give from each other (not sure about that sentence syntax — they want to buy each other Lego sets).

That’s the round-up right now. I’ll post more in the comments if things change.

CATEGORIES: etsy, Henry, holidays, Ramona, Zuzu

Slow Christmas: Start Planning Now!

November 7, 2011

Hello all. This is your annual reminder post about having Slow Holidays. You can read the original post here; what it says, basically, is that you should give fewer gifts, make them more meaningful, and encourage everyone to open one gift and enjoy it for a while before going on to the next one.

As usual, I am feeling fairly overwhelmed by Stuff, and am thinking I’ll get each child three or four things (which still amounts to twelve new items coming in to my house — this may not seem like a lot, but when some of them are substantial toys, it can be a fair amount of square footage). I like my friend Ruth’s edict to give kids “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I may do some version of that. Henry and Eli have already made long, thoughtful lists. I’m looking forward to mining those for ideas.

My plan is to start making my list this week of what everyone’s getting (so I can also plan what to tell the grandparents what to get — in my family, they’d always rather have me tell them). Then buy the gifts and be done by the end of November, so I can enjoy making thousands of cookies in December.

One final note: Dave and I decided last year to (finally!) stop getting gifts for each other. We really don’t need anything. If we do, we buy it throughout the year. The elimination of spousal gifts was a huge relief for us. Just something to consider.


CATEGORIES: holidays

Zuzu’s new birthday toy

June 18, 2009

It’s really hard to figure out what to get your third child for her first birthday. She’s got everything she needs, and she’s not actually going to remember if she doesn’t get anything. But I felt guilty about that and decided I need to get her something. I finally decided that she needs a little walk-behind wagon of some sort. None of my kids have ever had one. I picked out the Haba Doll Pram, when my mom told me about the 1-2-3 Grow With Me from Magic Cabin. So that’s what we got.

I am in such awe of designers who can come up with stuff like this. It’s a little walk-behind toy, and then you can reconfigure it into a ride-on toy, and then it becomes a taller shopping cart thing. So this thing will last for years. Plus, it’s very cool looking. And most amazing of all was the fact that the whole thing came in a box less than an inch thick.

Zuzu loves it. When she saw it she started flapping her arms up and down she was so excited. She mostly loves putting things into it and then peeking in to see where they went. She also likes walking behind it on her knees.

I took a little video of her using it, which ended up being a fairly good representative sample of what it’s like to be Zuzu. Basically, that she is playing happily and then Eli comes running through and steals her toy.

Things to watch for in the video:

  • In the first few seconds, Zuzu’s little excited hand movement thing. It’s one of my favorite Zuzu traits; I hope I can manage to get a longer video of it one of these days.
  • Eli sticking his fingers in front of the camera.
  • The cuteness of Zuzu’s thigh chub plus a cloth diaper stuffed into leggings.
  • The ridiculousness of my notion that I have to be some invisible filmmaker, which results in me whispering fervently to Eli, as he’s declaring that he wants to take Zuzu’s toy away.


CATEGORIES: toys, Zuzu

Pop culture luddite

May 6, 2009

Is it wrong of me to encourage Henry when he gets facts about kid culture wrong? Today he was talking about how some of the kids in his class have Wepkin pets, and why don’t we have any Wepkin pets? (For the uninformed, he’s talking about Webkinz, which are these stuffed animals that have a whole online gaming component.) I didn’t correct him, because I don’t really want to buy any Webkinz, and also because I like the way Wepkin sounds like Rumpelstiltskin’s jolly cousin.

Henry has also gained a basic knowledge of Pokemon from the neighborhood posse, and he has taken this Pokemon framework and made up everything else to suit himself. So he draws his own Pokemon cards, and will sometimes venture into the yard as a Pokemon hunter and will return with a scrap of paper, or a bit of garbage, or, once, a dead bug, and say, “I found a Pokemon!” My knowledge of Pokemon is maybe 2 on a scale of 1 to 100, so maybe a lot of what he’s saying is true, but it sounds insane, and I’m pretty sure the whole point of Pokemon is to buy the cards, not to draw your own and collect dead bugs. However, I fully support self-made Pokemon cards and random garbage cleanup, so I don’t really say anything one way or the other.

He’s not going to be traumatized later on when the Other Kids realize he doesn’t know his Elmo from his elbow, is he?



Your Weekly Zuzu

April 23, 2009

This week, Zuzu laughs at a fire hat.



22 Hours in the Car? Piece of Cake!

February 24, 2009

So last week, while you were all reading up on a week’s worth (more or less) of book recommendations, the five of us at World of Julie were packed into the car and driving down to Maryland and back, to visit Dave’s parents. I have a lot to tell about it, and will probably spend the whole week posting about this and that. I have to say, the kids were complete angels the whole time. Shockingly. They were clearly just holding it in because Eli got a cold the second we got back, and Henry had a World Class Tantrum at a birthday party the next day. But that’s ok.

So first: the car trip. Dave had the brilliant idea two days before we left that we should get a GPS. On Anne’s recommendation, I ran out and got a Garmin Nuvi (we got the 255). Um, how exactly did we live without a GPS? Seriously. We are total map people, so it was totally enthralling to have this map with a little car that showed us where we were, and also told us where to eat and sleep, and what fun activities to do. I never ever would have found the secret special unmarked bagel place in New Jersey on the morning of Day Two without the GPS (really: it was an awesome bagel place, with no sign saying what it was, more or less in the middle of a corn field). Though I am sure we are some kind of special breed of people who manage to get lost even with the GPS. One problem was that Dave didn’t totally trust it. Another problem was when we pulled off in New Jersey to find a place to stay for the night, and I made the mistake of calling the hotel on the way, only to find out it was sold out. So then we were in Newark. What is it about Newark? How many times have I inexplicably found myself pulled off the Turnpike and lost in Newark (well, ok: twice). Listen to me: if you have to stop for food or gas or sleep, drive past Newark and go to the next town. Our GPS was so upset with us for being lost in Newark. It kept trying to get us to just turn around. At one point it actually said, “Turn down this alley!” Which led us to fantasize about the various GPS voices having a little more personality. Or better accents, like a New York accent, or cockney. And saying things like, “What is wrong with you people? I said to TURN AROUND!” One oddity was the fact that the British man voice, Stewart, told us street names, while the American woman voice, Samantha, did not. But we couldn’t really understand Stewart because his deep rumbly voice was sort of at the same frequency as the highway noise. But still. I am in love with the GPS.

I got a few Road Trip Surprises (that is, things to keep the boys occupied) to make the ride bearable. As well as a ridiculous amount of food. First, we went to the art supply store and stocked up on pads of paper, colored pencils, crayons, and stickers. Those seriously lasted us about 3 hours. Eli got trains and trucks, Henry got circus and dalmations. The next Road Trip Surprise I unleashed were two Discovery Channel View-masters. It turns out View-masters have evolved significantly since 1976. These had amazing pictures and sound. And a voice telling you facts about what you are looking at, which unfortunately was exactly the same as the GPS voice we were using, and let me tell you how alarming it is to think your GPS is suddenly saying, “Tyrannosaurus Rex means Tyrant Lizard.”

So the next hour or so the boys looked like this:

So I was able to save my final Road Trip Surprise for the trip back: travel Doodle Pros. We have a full-size one at home, so I wasn’t sure how much they’d care about the travel ones, but Henry especially spent a lot of spirited time with his.

The other car ride lifesaver was the fact that I went to the library beforehand and got as many books on tape as I could carry. The ones that totally saved us were Runaway Ralph (a whole chapter book!), John Henry, Big Bad Bruce, and Duffy and the Devil. The last two especially were listened to again and again, and I would recommend then as regular (i.e., non-audio) books, especially Duffy and the Devil. I also got Pete Seeger’s Abiyoyo (And Other Songs and Stories for Children) which we played for the final four hours of the trip. The kids are already huge huge huge Pete Seeger fans, but I’m definitely going to have to get this on CD for at home. There’s a song about sweeping, one of Eli’s favorite pasttimes, and one called “Sam the Whaler” which now has Henry singing lonesome and beautiful whaling songs all the livelong day.

CATEGORIES: Parenting, toys

Marble Run

January 9, 2009

So far the most-played-with toy from Christmas has been the HABA Marble Run. Henry has literally wanted a marble run for his entire life. For years, whenever we go into a store that had one, he’d play for it for the entire time, and would have to be dragged away. If we ever got a toy catalog that had a marble run, he’d get a pen and very carefully circle the picture. I kept fretting about the marbles being choking hazards but finally decided to get over myself (I mean, we’ve never put up child gates or blocked off the toxic-cleaning-supplies cabinet, what was I worrying about marbles for?) and get him the marble run.

If your kid is at all into blocks or trains, this will be a winner in your house too. We got the small building set (which has plenty, really) and the impulse track (for added flavor). The boys can literally spend hours building and rebuilding marble runs (with Zuzu intently watching, as you can see above), and it is riduculously satisfying to set the marbles going from the top and have them roll and knock and drop to exactly where you want them to go. I also like that there are a ton of add-ons we can buy for this, which make for good presents later (as we’ve seen with all the train track parts we’ve added on over the years). I’d rather get a small add-on part than some whole new toy thing, usually (less clutter). I will also say that the marble runs don’t always work, but then it’s also ridiculously satisfying to redo little parts of them until they do work (which I’m sure is teaching some principle of physics or geometry or something).



Handmade Toys in Jeopardy

December 10, 2008

Hey everyone! Check out this information from Cool Mom Picks. New laws, which are being enacted for reasonable reasons, are going to go into effect in about two months, which will make toys safer for kids, but, at the same time, will also make it extremely difficult (pretty much impossible) for artists and crafters who handmake toys, accessories, and clothes for kids to stay in business. Ok, this is a bit of a jumbly sentence but oh my goodness can you imagine what Etsy would be without all those awesome people making kid stuff? Half of the Christmas presents I got for the boys would not exist. Go to the Cool Mom Picks link and follow their directions to contact your congresspersons. I just did it and it was easy. I added this bit to the sample letter: “So many of the toys and clothing I buy for my three young children are handmade, and many are handmade by local Mainers. Everything in my heart tells me that it’s good to support these local businesses and that providing my kids with these unique items supports our home’s philosophy (be imaginative! be supportive!).”

(Thanks to Design Mom for posting about this, which is where I read about it first. And, on another note, check out her sure-to-be-awesome 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway coming up on Friday.) (There will also maybe be a first World of Julie Giveaway coming up if I can get myself together.)


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Christmas is upon us, with all of its plastic and cheer.

November 9, 2008

Last Christmas, Dave and I had one of those dumb “The Atlantic Ocean is better!” “No, the Pacific Ocean is!” fights, wherein he said it was stupid to buy toys at the fancy little local toy shop downtown, and we should just go to Toys R Us. I finally conceded to going there with him, knowing full well the experience would prove I was right. Sure enough, within minutes Dave was essentially hyperventilating and holding up some insane toy (a fluffy kitty with a CD player in its belly? a robot that plays disco?) and wondering aloud at the direction of this country’s youth. We bought a few Hot Wheels for Eli and some of those Schleich animals for Henry (he has dozens of them — they would totally be his desert island toy), and got out of there as quickly as we could. (And yes, he admitted I was right. It doesn’t happen very often, so I made an official document verifying the event and had it notarized.) (more…)


CATEGORIES: housekeeping
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The Pumpkin Fairy brought me poop.

October 27, 2008

Yesterday Dave left at noon to go to Ohio for four days (he’s going there because he wants to vote in a swing state) (kidding). When he leaves town it’s usually the best idea for the rest of us to get out of the house so we don’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves being all Daveless. (I can generally manage just fine when he has to travel, but I honestly have no idea how single parents do it every single day.)

We went to the Children’s Museum, where the boys romped, and we got to see the Children’s Theater of Maine put on Pecos Bill, which was adorable. When we walked out of the play, Eli turned to me and asked, “When are we going to the play?” We often joke that he’s like some visitor from another country who hasn’t caught on to all the ins and outs of our culture (sometimes he’ll walk up to us and say, “So…what is going on here? What are we doing?” in the same way you’d say it if you were visiting Italy (more…)


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