Category Archives: gift ideas

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a 13-Year-Old Girl

Hi Swistle, I’m hoping you and/or your readers can help. My daughter turns 13 this month and I am at a TOTAL loss as to what to get her.

This is a hard age I feel like. My mom wanted to get her an iPhone and I told her NO. I’m trying to hold out as long as possible, because once you cross that line, there is no going back. Besides, Sophie is not really home alone (I pick her up from school every day and continue my work day at home), and she literally only has one friend and so…it’d be pointless. Not to mention that we have – let me count – SEVEN digital devices already in the home for TWO people.

Sophie doesn’t like to travel. Or Shop. Or do scary things. Or do adventurous things. Or have any desire to get her ears pierced. Or her nails done. We just moved in here in May, so she just redid her room. She’s not really into American Girl Dolls anymore; she doesn’t really play. I’m at a complete and total loss, and so is she as far as giving ideas. HELP??!!?

Let me know,

Much appreciation,

Farrell

 

I love cool coincidences, and this email came in THE DAY AFTER I CHOSE A GIFT FOR A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Also, I’ve been working on ideas for Christmas, because the three eldest kids are getting really hard to buy for, and one of those eldest kids is a girl of approximately this age. So I would love to collect some ideas.

Here is what I bought for someone else’s 13-year-old girl, on the advice of her friend Elizabeth:

(image from Amazon.com)

An OPI mini nailpolishes set. It was not a Hello Kitty one, but similar, with six different colors. I found it at Marshalls for $6 on a post-Christmas clearance last year and bought two, one for Elizabeth and one to set aside for a future birthday party she might attend, and finally the birthday party presented itself. This might not work for Sophie, since she’s not into having her nails done, but I list it anyway in case it might help with someone else’s 13-year-old girl.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paint-by-Sticker book. I am a little concerned about giving a potentially frustrating craft to someone entering the peak door-slamming years, but on the other hand it will happen at someone else’s house, so. Also, the easier ones are marked “for kids!,” which I suspect would be displeasing to a 13-year-old. I do recommend having someone TELL the 13-year-old girl that there are grown adult women who found the craft so hard they wanted to cry, because that seems to set expectations at the right level.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Would she like Thinking Putty? There are a ton of kinds to choose from: iridescent, heat-sensitive, magnetic, metallic. But I recommend this only for a Very Careful child. One of my children got some into one of his dresser drawers and onto one of the recliners, and this stuff is TERRIBLE with fabric.

 

Duct tape crafts are still pretty popular at my kids’ middle school. Can anyone recommend a particular book of duct tape crafts that their child used/liked? If so, I can add a link here later.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Does she like puzzles? Elizabeth has this Ravensburger Happy Animal Buddies one. For her, it’s difficult enough that she needs to work on it with a grown-up or else she gets discouraged—but puzzles are one of the things I like to do with her, so that’s okay. If she wants to do one on her own, she does a 100-piece one; I looked for the ones we have and like, but I’m not seeing them. We have a bunch of Crocodile Creek 100-piece puzzles, but I’m not seeing many of those at all; it looks like they’ve switched mostly to smaller numbers of pieces. Ravensburger is a brand we liked, and Mudpuppy, and Springbok. If I were buying her one now, I’d get her this Mudpuppy Forest Friends one.

 

Here are a few of the things I’m considering getting for Elizabeth for Christmas:

(image from Amazon.com)

Clip-in colored hair streaks. She keeps mentioning wanting a colored streak in her hair, but she’s indecisive, and the last time we had color put in her hair (teal ends) they washed out so quickly. This seems like a fun way to avoid those issues.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Pusheen plush. I think I’ve mentioned this one before. We still haven’t bought it for her, because it is my feeling that we have already reached Maximum Stuffed Animal.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf Rebelle gun and darts. Elizabeth and I are of one mind on this issue: (1) We are offended by this marketing. Oh, we’re girls so we have to be appealed to with PASTELS and PRETTY PATTERNS? We’re girls so “rebel” has to be spelled “rebelle,” because a word always means boys by default, and has to be changed if it’s going to refer to girls instead?? (2) Sheepishly, we both suddenly want this Nerf gun and these Nerf darts. (It is the same for me with “women’s” tool kits.)

I have mixed feelings about toy guns to begin with, but Henry is SO KEEN on them that I made some decisions I would completely understand if you came down on the other side of. I don’t think Elizabeth wants this toy enough for me to make that same decision—but on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of being like “yes for boys, no for girls,” even though that’s NOT what I’m saying. Also, I want an excuse to buy the pretty darts. Also, I already floated the idea with Henry and he’s very keen to help me choose WHICH of the Rebelle guns I should buy, and he has many opinions about what makes each one good/bad and knows all about which non-Rebelle Nerf gun each Rebelle Nerf gun is based on, and it appeals to me to call in his expertise on this. I don’t know. We’ll see when we get closer to Christmas.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Tiny Hats on Cats book. This I purchased within 30 seconds of learning of its existence. Then I told Paul NOT to get it from the library if he sees it there. Every year, EVERY year, I buy a new and interesting book for each child; and every year, EVERY year, Paul sees one or more of those books at the library in the week or two before Christmas and brings it home.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Rad Women Worldwide. This isn’t something she added to her wish list, but it’s something I’d like her to have.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

More nail polishes. We both like the OPI brand, and I can find them for about $4 each at Marshalls and TJMaxx, so I’m planning to buy some and put them aside. My favorite would be to buy her Christmas-y ones—but then she receives them too late to use them that year.

 

(image from childrensplace.com)

Footless sleeper. She is 5’4″ and getting perilously close to being too tall for these, but still fits into the biggest size.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

I’ve been thinking about a coloring book; she still has and uses these glitter pens (she has a set of warm and a set of cool). I’m not sure about this book in particular, but it’s the sort of thing I’m looking for; I’d love to get more recommendations. I’m also looking for recommendations for coloring implements. I use colored pencils but I’ve heard about…is it gel pens? Is that what people use for coloring books? If so, I’d like to get her a nice big set of those. The glitter pens are really fun but there are only ten colors, and they’re all glittery. I’ll come back and add some links here if some favorites emerge in the comments.

 

We’re also considering getting older-model Android phones for both twins. Paul handles this completely so I have no link. It’s gotten to the point where them NOT having phones is causing ME inconvenience and stress (they both do assorted after-school activities, and Elizabeth recently went to a sleepover and then I had a concern that could have been alleviated by a text but was not worth a phone call to the other girl’s mother), which was our deciding factor when considering phones for the older boys. So we could relieve a fair amount of our Christmas stress by getting them each one of those plus a Google Play card to buy apps and app-related merchandise.

The problem would be that we’ve set up a precedent for A Big 13-Year-Old Birthday Gift, and if we give them phones for Christmas we need to come up with something else for the birthdays. So maybe we should just hang on awhile longer.

********

That’s what I’ve got so far. She might want another outfit for her cat, but she hasn’t put any clothes on him in ages so that might be over. I am hoping some of you with children this age can give us more ideas.

Edited to add: People in the comments section are talking about what they wanted/got at that age, and that is such a fun idea. When I was around 13, I got a desk blotter set I really, really wanted (pink, with multicolored hearts, and pink paper, and a pink pen holder that held a pink pen); a pink backrest; pink Reebok sneakers; a pink electric blanket (what, do you think, was Young Swistle’s favorite color?); a boom box (BOOM BOX) that had TWO cassette players (CASSETTES) so you could record from one cassette to the other (MIX TAPES); a little starter make-up set geared toward adolescent girls; a jewelry box; a music box; a purse; pretty stationery; a 110 camera; Bloom County stuff (calendar, books, Opus plushes).

Big hits were ANYTHING chosen by my aunt, because she had a daughter four years older than me, so she gave me things that thrilled my early-teen soul: perfume, a thin gold bracelet, a hot-turquoise button-down shirt, a tapestry vest, a plastic double-strand pearl bead necklace—all stuff my older cousin was interested in and that I was a little too young for but recognized immediately as COOL TEENAGER STUFF.

Gift Ideas for 12-Year-Olds

The twins are turning twelve. I still haven’t figured out how to make it easier to find the gift-idea posts.

My parents are giving them both pogo sticks:

(image from Amazon.com)

The fun thing is that my parents gave Henry a pogo stick for his birthday last month, and the twins have been sneaking turns on it when he’s not around.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Qixels. I expect these to result in a brief period of frenzied play, followed by total lack of interest and little weird cubes scattered all over the house. But Edward pines for these every time he sees them at the store, so FINE.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Martha Stewart glitter markers, one box each of warm tones and cool tones. Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle gave her these for Christmas, and they’re GREAT, and she uses them all the time, and so some of the colors have run out of ink.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Circuit Maze. Edward saw this demonstrated by one of the YouTubers he follows. I think of anything by ThinkFun as a pretty good bet.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Paint by Sticker. Elizabeth wanted this, but now I’m worried I should have gotten her the one for kids. She can get a little door-slammy when frustrated. [Update: Thanks to Kate for mentioning that the non-kids one was a little door-slammy for grown-ups, too. I gave Elizabeth a kids one instead and it was JUST RIGHT. It might be too easy for a 12-year-old who was chiller about things going wrong.]

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Water balloon pump. We got this for Edward last year, too, but the balloon-tying part finally broke off, so we’re replacing it; he can use the broken one as a back-up water supply. I also got him a pack of something weird I found at Target: a clump of water balloons that attach all at once to the hose, and they self-seal—so you can fill a whole bunch very quickly.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

A dinosaur costume for Elizabeth’s cat.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

Hexbug remote-controlled fish. I made Edward look at all the “It broke in a week!” reviews with me, but he still wanted it, so he’s getting one.

 

(image from Zazzle.com)

Zazzle has custom earrings now, so when they were having a 50%-off sale I made two pairs for Elizabeth. We have three cats, and one of them is her favorite, so I made one earring of each cat’s face, and then I used a different view of her favorite cat’s face for the fourth earring. I did the stud earrings because she doesn’t wear dangly ones yet and because they were cheaper, but the images are Very Small; if I were doing a pair for myself, I’d go with the larger, dangly ones.

Gift Ideas for 9-Year-Old and 11-Year-Old Boys

I may never find a good way of titling these posts. I want to make them easy to find so you don’t have to sort through two hundred posts all titled “Gift Ideas” to find a gift for one particular age group, but I DON’T want to imply that the gift ideas are, for example, “boy toys” and not for girls, or that they are “girl toys” and not for boys, or that something is right for ANY 11-year-old when some 11-year-olds might be too young or too old for it. WELL WHATEVER. This is a post about what my 9-year-old boy (Henry) and 11-year-old boy (Edward) want and/or what they are getting.

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook. I wonder what vast number of children are receiving this for the holidays this year? At our house, it’s going to Edward, but others of us will also be interested in perusing it. I hope this is the newest version; I notice with concern that it was published in summer of 2015. There may be a hotter, more-recent version that I am unaware of.

We’re also getting him a Google Play card so he can buy a whole bunch of Pokéballs on the old Android phone that no longer works as a phone so the kids play games on it.

Do you already have Munchkin? I HATE this game, but Paul and the kids LOVE it. The house is FULL of shouting and laughing when they’re playing it. Anyway, Henry loves it more than anyone and will pitifully play it against himself if no one else can play it right then, so his aunt and uncle are buying him Munchkin Apocalypse, a stand-alone game that can also serve as an expansion pack for the original:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Edward saw this “I may be nerdy but only periodically” shirt, and loves it with all of his little nerd heart:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

He also wants this SmartLab Toys programmable rover:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Henry loves toy weapons, camouflage gear, soldier/knight costumes, etc. This is a category I have zero interest in discussing the pros/cons/whys/why-nots of, except to say that it is going to blow his mind that I finally let him having something camo:

(image from Target.com)

It’s thermal underwear, but the kids wear them as pajamas. He can also wear them while firing the Nerf guns my parents are getting him:

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Modulus Blaster

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Rough Cut 2×4 Blaster

I am sorry to see those are both only available from third-party sellers, for considerably higher prices; I wonder if Target has them in stock? Or I would just search “Nerf gun” on Amazon and see what else pops up: they all look pretty much the same to me.

 

Henry wants this Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, but I don’t think we’re going to get it for him:

(image from Amazon.com)

I like to get each kid a book at Christmas, but $30 is more than I like to spend on the book gift, and our library has this one. On the other hand, he has way fewer ideas on his wish list than Edward does, and he likes to use the Monster Manual to come up with ideas for stories and games, so maybe that could count as one book gift + one toy gift.

Paul suggests getting him Coding Games in Scratch, but really Edward and Elizabeth are the ones who use Scratch. Maybe this would get Henry interested too.

(image from Amazon.com)

 

And of course if we did not already own it, I would be buying them my friend’s book, which is perfect for this age group:

(image from Amazon.com)

(There, that is like six mentions out of a total planned ten thousand, so we are getting there!)

 

Edward wants a remote-controlled helicopter:

(image from Amazon.com)

My parents bought these a few years ago for Rob and William, and they were a huge success. You have to go into it assuming a limited life span: they are more durable than they seem like they could be, but they do eventually break if you keep crashing them into things, and you will inevitably keep crashing them into things. I considered the amount of play we got out of them before they broke to be well worth the price.

 

Edward also wants this Circuit Maze game:

(image from Amazon.com)

We will probably get it for him. I think of ThinkFun as a near-guaranteed-success brand.

 

And now a list of the video games Edward wants. Rob has recently allowed his old 3DS to be used by younger siblings, and so Edward wants a bunch of 3DS games:

(image from Amazon.com)

Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Omega Ruby

(image from Amazon.com)

Pokémon Sun

(image from Amazon.com)

MarioKart 7

 

I am getting each boy the same radio alarm clock I got for Elizabeth, but theirs are black instead of white like hers:

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Ever since getting one of those Origami Yoda books from a free-book fair at school, Edward has been patiently folding paper, so I got him this Money Origami kit and I hope it’s good:

I did not spend $15 on it; I found it at Marshalls for something like $7.99.

Gift Ideas for a Tween Girl

Kristin H has asked if we can talk about gift ideas for pre-teen girls, and I have a pre-teen girl at my house, so I am very keen on getting ideas too. I will tell you what is on Elizabeth’s wish list:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Nail Stamper. Apparently it is used to stamp images onto fingernails. There were a ton of choices and I couldn’t find any that had really good reviews, so I asked Twitter and this is what the most people said to get. I’m also getting this one and this one, because she wants clear but the clear ones have worse reviews, but they’re cheap and I’m hoping to give her choices in case she has trouble with it.

With those she is getting these stamping plates…I think. And these stamping polishes…I think:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

MoYou Stamping Plates, Princess Collection

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

BMC Stamping Polishes, Brights

I feel really uncertain. I haven’t ordered them yet, so I’d love input such as “No, no, these polishes/plates are WAY BETTER!”

She also wanted Simply Peel, an extremely expensive item that looks like white glue; you put it around your fingernails so that any nail polish mistakes or deliberate overruns around the edges can be peeled off:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

My parents are getting that for her, and also some nail art pens:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

and some face/body glitter gel (it was a big thing at the middle school dance):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Elizabeth also requested clothing for her cat. Listen, I don’t know, but I will say that her cat is surprisingly willing to wear outfits, and in fact purrs and seems very cozy in his pink bunny suit. This time I got him a fleece-lined jacket thing. I got it at HomeGoods and it looks sort of like this, but a different color:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The one I found is made by The Humane Society, and it’s deep blue with cream fleece lining, and it’s meant for a small dog but I think it will fit the cat. And the lining is super soft and JUST LIKE his favorite blankie, so I think it will be a hit.

This next item may need some further explanation, even after you know Elizabeth is a girl who likes to dress her cat in clothes:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Music for Cats. Apparently some guy figured out that cats like certain sounds? And he put them on a CD? Also apparently it is not very pleasant for the human ear, so it is for when your cat is home but you are not. Elizabeth’s cat is a nervous cat, and she worries about him when she’s not home to reassure him, and if he enjoys this music I think she will find that pleasing and also funny.

Speaking of pleasing and funny, this plush Pusheen:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

There are cookie, cupcake, ice cream, and doughnut versions; Elizabeth and Edward both think the cookie is cutest. We already have the book (super cute/funny humor book for kids/teens/adults), but if you don’t, it would make a nice combination gift with the plushie.

I share most of my earrings with Elizabeth and I already have these, but if I didn’t and I didn’t, I might buy these ear-piercing studs for her, in silver or gold:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

She hasn’t asked for this but I’m planning to get it for her:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Taylor Swift Recorder Songbook. Our school system has the kids learn recorder in later elementary school, and she’s the only kid of ours who kept playing it.

She wants a Sony Dream Machine radio alarm clock like mine (which I love with feelings that border on maternal), but it’s been discontinued (I can still find it on Amazon, but for nearly $100, which is silly). This looks like the updated version, or at least it has the radio alarm and the adjustable brightness like mine does:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

If you are doing the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” jingle for gift-planning, here’s a book Elizabeth really liked:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

TTYL, by Lauren Myracle.

Or may I remind you of my friend’s excellent book recommended for grades 3-6?

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret. A girl and a boy team up to solve a mystery together, and there is a lot of adventure and a little magic, and there is a cute (not scary) mummy and a cute (and super-smart) pet bat, and I recommend it for alllllll your children and nieces and nephews and grandchildren. And I will CONTINUE to recommend it, so just settle in for the long haul on that one.

I have been thinking of getting her a diary, but I’m not sure about STYLE. It seems like it has to be the right style. Not too little-girlish, not too mommish. Maybe something like this:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Owl Forest Journal

Emergency Preparedness, Gift Ideas Edition! Rain Barrel, Gasoline Camp Stove and Lantern, Assorted Stocking Stuffers

If you are normally big on environmental stuff anyway and have (perhaps recently) added a side interest in emergency preparedness, may I suggest a rain barrel as your new love? It’s not as cheap as canned beans and clothesline, but the holidays are coming up!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Paul found me one on Freecycle.org, slightly broken on the top but still works, just doesn’t keep out the bugs as well as one might prefer. Already the thing is FULL of water. The water is not quite absolutely clear, but for washing or flushing it would be TOP-NOTCH. And we have a bottle of bleach and a bunch of old t-shirts in our emergency-preparedness supplies, for filtering and disinfecting the water if necessary.

Anyway, the rain barrel. In non-emergency situations, the water it collects is excellent for righteously watering things outside. The main downside: if you live in an area where the temperature gets below freezing, the rain barrel is useless during that time—and you MUST remember to empty it before the temperature drops, or else you get a giant rain-barrel-shaped ice cube sitting among the shards of a rain barrel, ask me how I know. This is non-ideal if some of the emergencies you like to prepare for are ICE STORMS and BLIZZARDS.

Another good gift idea is this camp stove that runs on gasoline:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Keeping the cars pretty full of gas is a good “doesn’t cost any more than NOT doing it” emergency-preparedness idea anyway, and it’s even more satisfying if you think of your cars as giant expensive camp-stove-fuel storage devices. (Or you can get a gas can, I GUESS.) The stove comes with a filtering funnel, so don’t get tricked by Amazon suggesting that you may want to add that to your order. You could, however, add a couple bottles of liquid fuel, in case you’d like to start with a short-term solution that doesn’t involve trying to suck gasoline out of your car as the tornado swirls overhead.

There’s a gasoline-powered lantern, too:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

And here is a Paul-approved solar cell-phone charger, for when one of your wife’s biggest concerns about an emergency situation is that she will not be able to check on her Neko Atsume cats:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

 

Stocking stuffers!

Fire starter, for those of us who never learned to start one with two sticks and are not really clear on how to do it with a couple of pieces of metal?/stone?/whatever either:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

A nice bulk pack of inexpensive emergency blankets, inexplicably marketed “for men” (ladies, in a pinch I think we can still use them):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Can opener, because this is no time to be hacking with a screwdriver at a tin of fruit cocktail:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Waterproof matches:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rubber bands, which are the sort of thing that turn out to be useful in a thousand situations (these super-size ones are fun too):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hair elastics, because I am NOT getting caught in ANY situation without ample hair elastics (you may think I am kidding, but I for real added these to our emergency kit):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

This reflective nylon rope is in festive green! And look: you could use it as a wreath!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Water purification tablets, if you’re not so sure about the life choices of the bugs in the rain barrel:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Life Straw personal water filtering device:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

$20 is beyond what I like to spend on an individual item for a stocking, but this would FIT so nicely. It’s like one of those plastic candy-cane-shaped containers that come with Hershey Kisses or M&Ms inside! …Perhaps not quite as festive.

COLORFUL AND HAPPY AND FUN

Are you in the mood for something FUN and COLORFUL? So was I.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

My Betsey Johnson suitcase, purchased for this recent trip when I realized my suitcases were all too small. I did not pay the $200 it is listed for on Amazon; I bought it for $69.99 at TJ Maxx, plus I had a $10-off coupon. Of course after just ONE trip through the airport luggage system the white background is SCUFFED AS HECK. But whatever: I knew going in that that would happen, and I had/have made my peace with it. Elizabeth helped me pick it out, and we both felt it was Worth It.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

K. Bell Sneaker Socks. I take off my Converse sneakers, and I am still wearing Converse sneakers! …Sort of.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 7.23.17 PM

Eyelike Stickers: Colors. I DO like stickers. I really did buy these for no reason other than COLOR. They are sitting in my bill-paying pile, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I’ve stuck a few on bills.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Craft Tape Dispenser. There is approximately zero chance of me paying nearly FORTY DOLLARS for ten rolls of colored tape. But isn’t it pretty to look at? A++ marketing.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rainbow Curlie Spinner. I am ON BOARD with curlie spinners. I have this one in two sizes.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Parakeet Sticky Notes. In my cart since 2011. (I hardly USE sticky notes. If I had EXTRA-SPECIAL ones, I’d end up hoarding them.)

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Page-marking Post-It notes. I put these in high-school-kid Christmas stockings.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Natural Histories: Postcards of 60 Rare Book Illustrations. I ABSOLUTELY have enough postcards. I still bought these when they dipped under $11.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Happy Pencil Cases. I saw them; I bought them; I can’t really explain myself further.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

TeeHee Striped Crew Socks. My mom wanted socks for her birthday. She likes stripes. I got her these.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Felines in the Garden Puzzle. In addition to striped socks, my mom likes cats, and 300-piece puzzles. I got her this 300-piece cat puzzle for Mother’s Day.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

French Bull spreader knives. I really have no use for little spreader knives. But if I DID have a use for them, these are the ones I would buy.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Pop Beads. I had forgotten ALL ABOUT Pop Beads! I’m getting these for Elizabeth for Christmas.

 

(image from Target.com)

(image from Target.com)

French Bull Yoga Bag. On my wish list. I’m not using it for yoga, though.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Sharpie Assorted Markers. You BET I have a set of these. It bugged me that they didn’t put the purple in rainbow order, but WHATEVER, you can take them out of the package as soon as they arrive.

 

(image from USPS.com)

(image from USPS.com)

Forever Pet Stamps. I bought four books of them. Gotta pick JUST the right envelope for the snake stamps.

Two Travel Things that Made Our Trip Much Better: Less-Drowsy Dramamine; Trekking Poles

More travel stuff, this time two things that made our trip better.

ONE: the new less-drowsy Dramamine.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

It’s not all THAT new, but this was the first time I’d tried it. Old Dramamine was dimenhydrinate, and that knocks me RIGHT OUT. Which is a conflicting thing, because if I’m sleeping, I don’t really need medicine to let me read in a car/plane/train. The newer Dramamine is meclizine HCI. I was suspicious of it, but tried it. I was able to read on the plane, and although I was drowsy a few times, that might be because we had to get up at 1:45 in the morning to get to our first flight. And I didn’t have that knocked-out/drugged feeling. This was only one test (well, two since I used it both directions of travel), but I was very pleased with the results. There is also a non-drowsy Dramamine, but the active ingredient is just ginger, and I’mma let someone else try that first, and even if you say it’s great I probably will not risk it. I still resent ginger for not helping with morning sickness.

 

TWO: walking sticks. Er, “trekking poles.”

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

My brother and sister-in-law brought these to our attention when they both used them on a hike. Then they bought a pair for my mom, and she loved them. The last time I visited my parents, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the physical adventures, so I wanted to try the trekking poles too, and my parents bought me a pair for my birthday. This trip was their first airing, and I think I probably said “I LOVE THESE WALKING STICKS”/”This is SO much easier/better with the walking sticks!” about a dozen times per day.

Here are my issues the sticks help so much with: easily-hurt knees, weak ankles, and in general not very good balance. Suddenly I was STABLE, and didn’t feel as if my ankles might suddenly give out with a particularly vigorous step-down, and I had help with steep inclines. Also, my mom has none of my same issues, but loves the way the sticks let her arms share a vigorous hike with her legs; I liked that aspect too.

The trekking poles adjust for different heights; they look a little weird in the photo I used here, because they’re in their collapsed state and there is a big bouquet of tags on each one. They’re easy to adjust—though I say that after having my mom do it for me the first time, and then using a Sharpie marker to mark where she put them, and then having my dad use some sort of tool to tighten them into place, so never mind, they are not really EASY to adjust, but they are adjustable, and not hard once you get the idea of how they work. Also, my mom showed me how to use the little loops, which is a counter-intuitive process: you put your hands UP through the loops (so that your hands are floating above the walking sticks), and then, with them all up in your wrist/palm area, grab the handles of the poles. You will have to use FAITH the first time you do this, because it seems WRONG. …Don’t get discouraged by this paragraph.

I highly recommend these poles/sticks for anyone who does a lot of outdoorsy stuff, and for anyone who does NOT usually do a lot of outdoorsy stuff but is about to be in a situation where they will participate in some. I’d say they took me from “not really enjoying the scenery because I was concentrating on not hurting myself / not falling off a mountain / not dying from unaccustomed exertion” to “partially enjoying the scenery and partially rejoicing in how great my walking sticks were.”

Gift Ideas for an 11-Year-Old Boy

I did Elizabeth’s gift post, so now it’s time for Edward’s. Edward wanted mostly things from the category of “A Teenaged Boy on YouTube Said It Was Awesome.” We started with a Kaos Tie-Not water-balloon pump:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The big selling point is that it helps you tie the balloons so you do not have to ask your poor mother to keep doing it. Because he had gone back and forth between the portability of the pump system and the no-refilling-needed of the hose system, I also got him the hose-attached version, so he could compare. Plus a 500-balloon refill pack. (The balloons claim to be biodegradable, but I don’t know what kind of timeline they mean. Like…in a “just go ahead and leave those scraps in the grass” kind of way? Or more like in a “if the world’s history is a clock, mankind has only been here for 2 minutes of the last 12 hours” kind of way?)

 

Next cool item from a YouTube video: water beads.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

These are pretty cool, but it’s funny to me that they’re also vase fillers. Teenaged boys and vase fillers do not seem like a natural pairing. Anyway, you put a SMALL NUMBER of these tiny hard plastic beads into a large bowl of water (or a vase), and they expand considerably and become all soft and squooshy. You can theoretically then let them dry out and watch them shrink back to tiny beads.

 

Next, a video game teenaged boys recorded themselves playing, and then posted those recordings on YouTube where my children for some reason enjoy watching them:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

New Super Mario Bros for the Wii.

 

I do not understand Pokemon; when a child wants something Pokemon, I write down EXACTLY what they tell me and then I see if the price is a price I am willing to pay. Edward wanted something called an ies Aurorus-EX Box Pokemon Card Game:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

 

I bought this impulsively when it was on sale at Target:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

ThinkFun Code Master game. ThinkFun is a brand I trust; the box design is supposed to bring Minecraft to mind and Edward loves Minecraft; and it’s about programming/logic and Edward likes programming/logic.

 

The Lincoln Penny Portrait kit was one of the things he wanted most, and my parents got it for him:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

They also gave him the eighteen rolls of pennies he would need to complete the poster. I bought even more rolls to have on hand in case the rolls don’t have the right proportions of dark/shiny pennies in them.

 

He also wanted Trapdoor Checkers, but the price was too high at the time I was shopping, so I’m saving the idea for later:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

 

And also I found this game that is like a combination of his interest in checkers and his interest in coins:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

American Coin Treasures Lincoln Coin Checkers set. But $30 seemed too high for a gift that was a total guess, so I put it in my Amazon cart so I’d remember to ask him about it near Christmas time.

Gift Ideas for an 11-Year-Old Girl

The twins had their 11th birthdays recently, so I am going to do twin posts on their gifts. I’ll start with Elizabeth’s.

Probably her top favorite gift was from my parents: a snail aquarium set-up, which she’d wanted ever since she brought home a snail in a 2-liter-bottle-based terrarium from school:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The sharp-eyed among you will be observing that this is not a snail aquarium but is in fact a betta fish aquarium. This is what the Surprisingly Knowledgeable About Snails clerk at the pet store recommended to me when I did preliminary research on this idea, since there is not really any such thing as a snail aquarium, since there is an almost imperceptible demand for snails as pets. My parents also included a certificate saying she could choose a bag of aquarium pebbles, some decorative thingies, and two more snail friends for her snail.

 

Her second favorite gift was probably this pink bunny suit for her cat:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The cat is about 11 pounds so I ordered a large, but I think extra-large would have been even better. One funny thing is that after initially resisting (i.e., refusing to move, so that he looked and felt even more like a living stuffed animal), the cat turned out to LIKE the suit. He seems to find it comforting.

Edited to add: OKAY FINE, here are pictures of her cat in the suit!

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.16.08 AM
I realize he does not seem to be Radiating Joy in this photo, but cats almost always look crabby in photos, and this particular cat doesn’t really want anyone except Elizabeth to come within 10 feet.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.17.07 AM
Here he is having dinner in his bunny suit.

 

Elizabeth is crazy about Digibirds right now, and they are cute but annoying: they sing together, and they tilt their heads back and forth adorably, and they make sweet realistic chirping sounds—but they cue each other to sing by emitting an annoying series of electronic tones. Well, she loves them, so I bought her a set of two more birds and a cute perch:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

 

At her school they have optional activities they can sign up for at recess: playing guitar, doing watercolors, doing crossword puzzles, playing basketball, having a book club, etc. She signed up for sopranino recorder and really liked it, so we got her one of her own:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

It’s tiny and adorable: about as much smaller than the soprano recorder as the soprano is smaller than the alto.

Her last present is a little odd. Quite awhile ago, like last fall, I was looking on the West Elm website and we saw a WALRUS tray and a WALRUS pillow and she flipped for them. I ordered them both, and then neither of them arrived, and then eventually I saw a refund on my credit card for the pillow, and then the tray showed up, and then my credit card was re-charged for the pillow, and then a refund was again issued, and that happened FOUR TIMES until I finally contacted the company and they said “Oops, sorry, the pillow is no longer available and there was apparently a glitch”—and then literally MONTHS AND MONTHS LATER, like about SIX months later, the pillow showed up. It was bizarre. Meanwhile Christmas had come and gone and I hadn’t given her the tray because it suddenly seemed like a weird gift for a child, especially without its companion pillow.

ANYWAY. I gave her the tray AND the pillow for her birthday. Neither one is available any more, but here is a picture of the tray, and the pillow has the same picture on it:

(image from westelm.com)

(image from westelm.com)

I also bought a plate hanger (like this kind of thing) for the tray so she can hang it on her wall, since she is not yet at the age to serve canapes to friends.

 

Edited to add: It occurred to me that since this is a list of IDEAS rather than just a report of what a particular girl got for her particular birthday, I can extend this post to include things we considered getting her.

One thing she really wanted was a fancy manicure. She’s been watching videos on YouTube about nail art. But…she is 11, and her nail polish still gets chipped after five minutes. And I had no idea how much such a thing would cost, but “a lot more than she thinks it will” seemed likely, so we didn’t go with this.

We were planning instead to buy her a bunch of nail stuff: nail stencils, nail stickers, nail sponges, the nail goop that gets painted around the nail so that mistakes peel right off—but you’ll notice I’m not even linking to examples, because I got overwhelmed by options and couldn’t figure out what was right. I’d find a stencil set that looked pretty okay—and it would be A DOLLAR PER NAIL to use the stupid things. And all the stencils and stickers looked like they were for long grown-woman nails, not tiny little girl nails. Plus, about a week before her birthday, against parental advice (because it is a poor idea to buy things for oneself so close to one’s birthday), Elizabeth used her own money to buy a $5 Lisa Frank kit that seemed way more perfect than anything I’d been looking at:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

It has child-sized stickers, and a dotting tool that has proved hugely successful.

 

Another thing she wanted was a wooden xylophone. She has a metal one (this one—it’s more than a toy, but less than a million dollars) and uses it a lot. But I looked into it, and they were all either too expensive or they were basically toys. This is the only one that was a possibility:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

But it was nearly a hundred dollars (and, annoyingly, about $80 when I first looked at it and up to nearly $100 the very next day), so it would not fit in the gift budget unless I did one of the things I sometimes do, where for example I only charge the gift budget $13 for an $18 t-shirt since the child’s wardrobe is increasing by a t-shirt I would have bought for $5. Or, I mean, once Rob asked for an ALGEBRA WORKBOOK for his birthday, and that is the sort of thing I would ABSOLUTELY just buy for a child, so I didn’t count it toward his birthday budget at all.

I called in my musical brother to assist, and he evaluated the situation more thoroughly than I was willing to, and concluded that the trouble with wooden xylophones is that they were either inexpensive toys or HUGELY EXPENSIVE GLOCKENSPIELS. I decided that since Elizabeth is going to middle school next year, she can try out the school’s H.E.G. and see what she thinks.

 

Lastly, we considered glow-in-the-dark stars:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

We have a place in town where people can drop off stuff they don’t want and other people can take anything they want for free, and she’d recently obtained from there a small pack of glow-in-the-dark stars. She really, really liked them and wanted more—but I felt they were most likely a passing interest, and also she already had some, and also I am already dreading what they’ll do to the walls/ceiling when we peel them off.

Parental Neglect; Gift Ideas for a 9-Year-Old Boy

I heard on the radio that people are taking time out of their busy lives to circulate a petition saying that the mother whose child got into the gorilla cage should be prosecuted for child neglect. Man. I don’t think this is a precedent we want to set. I’m picturing a lonnnnnnnng line of parents, all of us with our ankles joined by chains to the parents in front and behind us, our children sent to foster homes where they will be just as “neglected” because NO HUMAN PERSON CAN HAVE THEIR HANDS AND EYES ON ALL OF THEIR CHILDREN EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND HIS POOR NEGLECTED BABY JESUS.

A terrible thing happened with terrible results, and now this poor mom is in a nightmare—in addition, of course, to the nightmare of forever reliving that moment when she saw her child IN THE CAGE WITH THE GORILLA. As if a public stoning (if they can find anyone, ANYONE AT ALL who is qualified to throw the first stone) will change even one single thing about the terrible thing that happened. I wonder if there is a “I am so sorry this is all happening to you right now, and there but for the luck of the draw would be EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US” petition?

 

Today is my youngest child’s birthday, and he is 9, so if you are one of the people I first met when I was pregnant with Henry, that’s a pretty convenient way to measure the length of our friendship. Don’t tell Henry, but this is what he’s getting:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Precision Target Set. This is from my parents.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

7Seventoys Elite Tactical Vest Kit. Also from my parents. Incidentally, if you are considering purchasing, it is worth noting that it does not come with the accessories shown. They say so in the description, but you could be forgiven for thinking that what was in the picture was what came with something called a “kit.” Instead it is the vest plus a skull mask. (I quietly disposed of the skull mask. Ick.)

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

He wanted a “BIG set of colored pencils, like A HUNDRED AND TWENTY!!” I found such a set, but the reviews fell into two categories: (1) Ravingly wonderful and not a verified purchase, and (2) “Awful and broken and hard to use” and a verified purchase. So! Instead I got him the 24-pack of Prismacolor colored pencils in the cheaper student version so he can try them out (the listing currently says it’s a 10-pack of markers, but no, it is a 24-pack of pencils as shown), plus the 50-pack of Crayola colored pencils, plus a colored-pencil sharpener, plus a pencil box for him to theoretically keep the pencils in instead of losing them all over the house (I chose that particular box because a reviewer said it had room for over 200 pencils in it, but it’s a fairly ordinary pencil box).

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Cuddlekins walrus. This is the snuggliest, softest, nicest stuffed walrus ever. This is the FOURTH time I have bought it, and the second for Henry. I originally bought him one when he was maybe three or four, and we have lost that one; then Elizabeth wanted one, and then Edward wanted one, and then I gave up on finding the original one and Henry will get a new one for his birthday. Also, they sell this same stuffed walrus at aquarium gift shops for about twice the price.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Gumballs. Not these very ones—I found fancier ones in a jar at HomeGoods. About two Christmases ago, I needed one more gift for Henry and couldn’t think of ANYTHING, so out of desperation I bought him a jar of gumballs—and it was like his favorite gift of all time and he still mentions it. So we’re going to milk that idea forever.

 

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Undertale t-shirt. This is my least favorite thing that we bought him, but will probably tie with the gumballs for his favorite gift. Are you familiar with this dumb game? It’s called Undertale. The derp-clown on this t-shirt is apparently called Papyrus. The shirt is overpriced. I don’t like anything about this except that Henry will like it.