Alright folks, if you have been hanging around this blog for a while, then you might recognize this post. I wrote the first incarnation of it a couple of years ago, back when I was still teaching, but I figured it was time for a refresher. And while I am no longer teaching, my husband and most of my friends still are, so this is a PSA for them!
First, the things teachers do want:
Gift Cards: Most school districts have rules about teachers accepting cash, so a gift card is the next best thing. Teachers love gift cards, and this is hands down the best gift to receive from students. Some gift cards that are always a hit with teachers: Starbucks, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and of course, BevMo. True story, my husband had a student who brought him a bottle of wine for Christmas. That kid (and his mom) was a hero. However, I’m sure many schools have rules against that kind of thing, so maybe just go with the BevMo gift card to be safe.
Food: This is most of what my husband brings home, and I ain’t complaining. Baked goods, boxes of candy, if it’s edible, it’s usually a good gift. For the most part, any yummy goodies delivered to teachers will be eaten by them (and the lucky people who live with them), but even if they themselves don’t want to partake, they can pass the goods along to friends and family.
Something Personal: I feel like there should be a big ole asterisk next to this one because it should be used sparingly. When I was teaching theater, I had a more personal relationship with my students than when I was teaching English simply because I spent way more time with them. They knew me as a person (as did many of their parents), not just as a teacher. Many of them got me awesome personal gifts over the years (mostly Disney related) and I still have all of them. Some of my favorites are a Walt Disney quote necklace, Disney ornaments, and a baby blue stuffed Mickey Mouse for Squirt. If you are going to venture into the something personal category for a teacher, make sure it is thoughtful and from the heart.
And now for the hard part, the things teachers really don’t want. Yes, I know, it’s the thought that counts, but the thought should be about the receiver, not the giver, and I’m just trying to save you a little money, and save teachers the guilt they feel when they toss student presents in the trash.
Lotions/body washes/anything to be used in the bathroom: This seemed like kind of a go-to gift when I was teaching. For the most part, I don’t mind these gifts, but it got to the point when I had so many that I started re-gifting them. I can only use so much lotion in one year. I also got to the point (when I was making more money) where I could afford to buy the lotions and scents I wanted on my own, and so the holiday gift sets became a total waste. Also, just a reminder that some people have sensitivities to scents, or to beauty products, so a lot of the Bath and Body Works combos are given away or trashed.
Anything you saw on Pinterest: Oh Pinterest, you have done so much good for the world, and yet caused so much pain. Teachers DO NOT want any craft made from crayons, pencils, or any other school supplies. Teachers do not need monogrammed signs shaped out of rulers. Teachers do not want homemade body scrub in a Mason jar. Teachers do not need Christmas ornaments made out of popsicle sticks. By the time you buy all of those craft supplies, you could have just gotten them something they actually want. The only acceptable thing to craft from Pinterest is a cute gift card holder (see above). Seriously, back away from the Pinterest.
Anything that includes a framed picture of your child: Chances are, that’s the child your teacher might want to forget. #sorrynotsorry
Alrighty folks, there you have it, the blunt, honest truth. Please, please, please save yourselves and your kids’ teachers a lot of trouble this year and go for the gift card. Teachers work hard, and they deserve the very best for the holidays. Give them what they want!
This is a sponsored post. I was compensated in the form of a free product, discount, or monetary payment in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own.
If you’ve been a regular tuner-inner to my blog and its many reincarnations over the years, this post might seem familiar. In the past I have written posts on how to have fun at Disneyland without kids and while pregnant. Now that Squirt is three and a regular at the parks, I have learned some valuable info on how to have a fun day with a toddler in tow. Most of the time when Squirt and I visit Disneyland, we are there for just a couple of hours (which I highly recommend if you are a local and can swing it), but we recently had the opportunity to spend a whole day at the parks as a family and even as a park reg, I learned some tricks to help make your day with a little one much more enjoyable for all involved.
Start your day off right. Our first stop upon arriving at Disneyland was to the Main Street Starbucks. Matt and I both needed some caffeine to prep us for our day, and Squirt needed something filling with lots of protein since he would be expending a considerable amount of energy throughout the day.
Hit up the best little kid rides first. We stayed in Disneyland for the first half of our day, where we went on it’s a small world and Jungle Cruise, which are Squirt’s two favorite rides at that park. Both are great for little ones as there is so much to see, and even on a crowded day, the lines aren’t too unbearable.
Have a plan ahead of time for the “big” rides. Squirt is super tall for his age, and we discovered when we got to Disneyland that morning that he had reached the height minimum for Star Tours, which was both Matt’s and my favorite ride when we were kids (and still is Matt’s). Having reached 40 inches (and not even three at the time!), Squirt would have been able to go on many of the bigger thrill rides in the park, but we decided to just stick to Star Tours since he is already familiar with the characters. I was a little worried about all the bumping around, but he handled it well, just said “whoa” over and over. I think the important thing to remember when it comes time to try out the big kid rides for the first time is to make a decision based on each individual ride. Just because your kiddo can ride the ride, doesn’t mean he’s ready. We will hold off on Big Thunder and Space Mountain in particular until Squirt is a little older.
Enjoy some in park entertainment. There are tons of smaller groups who perform throughout the parks continually over the course of the day. These are a great way to take a few minutes and sit or stand and take a breather or have a snack. We love watching the Disneyland Band in particular since we know a couple of the musicians, but all of the live bands are fun and entertaining to watch, and a great way to catch a little break.
Take an afternoon break. Taking a break from the excitement of the parks is a must when spending a day at Disneyland with a toddler. We prefer to go back to our hotel room when we are staying on site or nearby, but you can just as easily take a break in Downtown Disney, or at some of the quieter spots in the parks (I’m a fan of Hungry Bear at Disneyland and Animation Academy at DCA). Spend some time chilling out in the shade, have a snack, and (hopefully) give your little one time for a nap. Squirt doesn’t nap anymore so on our most recent trip, we spent some time relaxing at our hotel pool. A little down time is a major necessity for both the kiddos and the parents to make it through the day.
Try to park hop just once. Going back and forth between the two parks is exhausting as an adult, so it is definitely a lot to ask of a toddler. We try to do one park in the morning, then take our hotel break, and then return to the second park in the afternoon/evening. While at DCA, we love to do Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid, and Luigi’s. Limiting yourself to one park at a time will help cut down on the overwhelming nature of park hopping.
End the night on a sweet note. We called it a day before parades and fireworks because Squirt was fading fast, but to make sure we ended our trip on a high note we stopped for some ice cream on our way out of DCA. If you decide to leave before all the nighttime experiences (which I actually recommend with a toddler), try to have one final fun or exciting event to close out your trip.
A full day at Disneyland and DCA can be exhausting for anyone, but it can be especially draining for a toddler. A tired toddler means serious meltdowns, so make sure to take lots of breaks and try not to do too much at once. It is definitely possible to have a great day at Disneyland with your toddler, as long as you are prepared and patient!
A couple of months ago, Matt and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe we have been married for five years already, time has flown by! We have been very lucky to experience a lot of wonderful things over the last five years, but as with every marriage, we have had some hurdles to overcome. I have definitely learned a lot during the course of our marriage, and some of the things I have learned are not necessarily in line with “normal” marriage advice. And because I like to go against the grain, I’m going to share what I have learned about marriage in the last five years.
The first year of marriage ain’t that hard. Why do people always talk about how hard the first year of marriage is? For us, it wasn’t in the slightest. Now we (like most couples these days) had been living together for two years by the time we got married, and that definitely played a role in the ease of the transition (though I didn’t really find the first year of living together to be that challenging either); our first year was a lot of newly wedded bliss. I happened to see one of my former couples at another couple’s wedding last week and I asked him how married life was. His response: “Nothing has really changed, so it’s great!” Obviously something has changed–they’re married–but for couples who are already living together and have a committed relationship, nothing about getting married affects day to day life. Now there could be some life circumstances in the first year of marriage that make it more challenging–having a kid, losing a job, moving, etc.–but really the first year on its own is awesome.
Sometimes it’s okay to go to bed angry. The number one piece of advice people give newlyweds is “don’t go to bed angry”, and it’s not always great advice. I am an emotional person, and there are times I get irrationally irritated about something so ridiculously small that even I can’t believe it. If I find myself super annoyed with Matt, I try to sleep on the problem and see how I feel about it in the morning. Nine times out of ten, I can’t even remember what had me upset in the first place. And the one time out of ten I actually have a real issue, I have a clearer head after a good night’s sleep and can articulate my feelings much better.
Do what works for you, not what works for others. Matt and I have been living together for over seven years, have owned two houses together, and have a child, and yet, we still have completely separate bank accounts. We have a system that works for us, and even though it is not conventional, it (I think) has helped our marriage. Even though we still consult each other before big purchases, we each have the freedom to spend our own money as we see fit. We each contribute to the family finances in a way that we feel is fair. This is an issue that is specific to us, but this is a general piece of advice. Don’t feel like you have to do everything the way you are “supposed” to. There is no set plan for how a marriage has to work, so do whatever is going to work for you and your partner.
Communication is key. All right, so this is a pretty common tip, and it’s one I fully believe in. You can’t expect to have a successful relationship if you don’t talk to each other. Not just about things that are upsetting you, or things that may be problems in the marriage, but about the good stuff too. It’s important to talk to each other about your daily lives. Even if it’s just the mundane, everyday details, sitting down and having a conversation is a way to connect with your partner and share with each other.
Make time for each other. It’s sooooo essential to take time out of the sometimes overwhelming tasks of life to spend quality time with each other. Go on a date, stay home and watch a movie, do whatever you both like to do. Carving out that alone time keeps your connection fresh, and it also helps keep the lines of communication open (which we already know is important!)
Having kids will change things. I guess this one is kind of a duh, but it’s also two sided. Matt and I have never been the type to bicker, but it in the first three months of Squirt’s life, we snapped and snipped at each other constantly. We were sleep deprived, exhausted beyond belief, and overwhelmed by all that comes along with having a baby. And we often took that out on each other. Once Squirt started sleeping better, the snipping and snapping went back to normal (as in, extremely rare), but there is still from time to time some resentment when it comes to childcare responsibilities. Now I have to be clear about this: Matt is an extremely involved father. He is an awesome dad and he takes on a lot of tasks that I know other dads do not, and I am so grateful for that. But since I am home with Squirt every day, sometimes I feel like I am doing more than my share (I’m not, it just sometimes feels that way), so some resentment can build. I will say, there has been less and less of the resentment as Squirt has gotten older.
On the flip side, there have been few things in my life that bring me as much joy as watching Matt and Squirt together. Seeing them play and roughhouse and read together, makes me happier than anything on the planet. I have loved Matt since very early on in our relationship (three weeks in, to be exact), but I have never loved him as much as I do in those moments. If we had decided not to have kids (which we thought about), I would have obviously still loved Matt, but there is something much deeper about our connection now that we share a child.
Supporting each other is key. Matt and I are both creative people, and we both ended up in the teaching field because we wanted the stability of a career and the freedom to still express ourselves. The education field has turned out to be much different than we thought, which is one of the main reasons I decided to leave teaching, stay home with Squirt and build my wedding planning business. I could have never made that leap without Matt’s support, both emotionally and financially. He now has different financial burdens he has to deal with, but he has supported me 100% the entire time. There is a decent chance that Matt will leave teaching eventually to pursue his creative aspirations, and then it will be my turn to show him that support.
Taking time for yourselves is just as important as spending time together. I firmly believe that having a life independent of Matt’s helps make our marriage stronger. We each have our own friends, and our own hobbies that we devote time to outside of our couplehood. This does so much for us on so many levels. It makes us appreciate the time we do spend together and it makes us fulfilled as individuals.
And perhaps my most controversial lesson: Marriage shouldn’t be hard work. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say “Marriage takes a lot of hard work”–and each time I have thought, “Really?” Our marriage takes effort. We have to find time to spend together and find ways to connect and communicate while we both work and raise a child. But I would never describe my marriage as hard work. To me, effort is something much different than work. I have been in relationships in the past that did feel like work. Meaning, I was constantly putting in effort and feeling like I was not getting anything back in return (to be fair, I’m 99% sure my former partners would say the same thing about me). I have never felt like that with Matt, when we were dating or since we have been married. Will there be times in our marriage that it does feel like work? Who knows. I’m sure there are things that could happen that would make it feel like work. But for me, after five years, I would say it’s not hard work for me to have a successful relationship with my husband.
Before I sign off, I asked Matt what he had learned about having a successful marriage to see if I could incorporate some of his ideas into this post. His tips for a solid marriage: “Don’t be a dick, do nice things for each other, be cool about stuff, and have lots of sex.” I needed 1500 words for my tips, and he needed 20. So there you have it.
What are your tips for a happy marriage, or what have you learned about relationships? Share your lessons!
This is NOT a sponsored post. I just love sharing awesome products and services with my readers!
Okay. Confession time. I am a terrible mother when it comes to recording memories and those magical “first” moments. My mom often says “Make sure you write that down in Squirt’s baby book” and I smile and nod. I don’t even have a baby book for Squirt. Seriously. Never went out to buy one, never even looked for one on Amazon. I know myself and I know I would never actually use it, so why waste the money. I know that I will remember the important details without a book to remind me, but I do feel like a pretty crappy mom when I think about all those lost little memories. Scratch that. I USED TO feel like a crappy mom. And then I discovered the beauty of Chatbooks. Chatbooks is an app for your phone that allows you to collect all of your Instagram photos in an actual real life printed book. I don’t have to write down Squirt’s reaction to his first taste of rice cereal because I (duh) photographed it and shared it on Insta. And now that moment will live on forever in my Chatbook. So all of the big moments–first steps, holidays, new experiences–are compiled all together with all of the everyday moments and I barely have to lift a finger.
Okay, so let’s walk through this so you can see just how easy it is. This is the home screen when I log onto my Chatbooks app. I have titled my book series The Three Bees, so this is automatically printed on all of my books. Each volume holds 60 photos, and you can check in on the progress of your book at any time.
When you click on the cover of the book in progress, you can scroll through all the photos that will be included in the volume. Your Instagram captions are automatically uploaded with your photos. This is great because it allows you to not only have the picture, but also whatever description you have already created. The date and the geotag location (if you used one) are also included on each page.
If you click on an individual photo, you can edit the caption (say if you wanted to get rid of the hashtags). You can also exclude a photo from your book if you don’t want it printed.
One of the best things about Chatbooks is that you can have more than one Instagram account linked to your book. Since the main purpose of the books for me is to record memories of Squirt, I also have my mom’s account and Matt’s account linked so that any photos they share of him are also included.
Once you have amassed 60 photos in your book volume, you have three days to edit and make changes if you want to. Your book is then printed and shipped to you and your account is charged. Softcover books are $8 per book and hardcover are $13. I typically fill one book every two months, so for $50 a year I have all my photos and memories printed and bound. You can’t beat that. The quality of the books is also really high. The covers are sturdy (and I have only gotten the softcover) and the printing beautiful.
These are some of our actual books so you can see what they look like in a real life setting. I am always so excited to receive a new book.
So I might be really crappy at writing down memories and special moments, but given that we capture everything on social media these days, I still have a full collection of all the important life moments. Really, for you moms out there, it is the best $8 you can spend. You literally have to do nothing other than share your photos on Instagram (which you are likely doing anyway) and check your mail. No arranging photos, no printing photos, no recording the dates of every picture. It is all done for you, and it is done beautifully.
I also want to add that the one time I had an issue with a delivery (it got caught in the middle of our two addresses when we moved), I sent customer service an email and they shipped me a new copy of my missing book within two days. That kind of customer service is becoming an endangered species. If you are a lazy/busy/not crafty/unorganized mom (and I’m gonna bet at least two of those adjectives apply to most of us!) Chatbooks can make your life so much easier. Seriously y’all. Check it out for yourselves. And you’re welcome ;o)
If you are anything like me as a parent, you are always on the hunt for family friendly, cheap activities that get you out of the house and trying something new. Every once in a while one of those activities falls into my lap and I wonder how I never knew about it before. That happened last month when a mom in my local Facebook group posted about Odd Nights at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles (right across from the zoo). I have been living in LA proper for over six years (and have been in the LA area my whole life) and had never heard of Odd Nights before, but even if I had, the name probably would have thrown me off a little. Luckily, said awesome LA mom included some basic info about the event in her post and it sounded fun, so Hubs and I packed up Squirt and headed out.
Odd Nights is a once a month event (during summer and fall months) held in the lawn area of the Autry Museum. Parking is free, admission is $2.00 for adults (cash only), and kids under 12 are free. It’s basically a big outdoor festival of sorts, with lots of different fun offerings for both kids and adults. When you first enter, you find a row of outdoor booths with local artisans and crafters selling all kinds of goods. We saw everything from jewelry and clothing to home goods. There was lots of cute stuff for sale, and everyone there is a local small business, which makes it even better when you buy something.
There is a small bar set up near the entrance as well, which we obviously hit up as soon as we walked in.
Over on the lawn, there was a live band who played a couple of sets throughout the night. As it got more crowded, there was some dancing happening.
There were quite a few inflatables set up, in addition to a rock wall for older kids. You do have to purchase tickets to enjoy the attractions, but there was a good variety of things to try. We had to steer clear of the Cars inflatable as Squirt is obsessed with Mater and Lightning McQueen.
Parked all around the lawn area are all kinds of food trucks. Seriously, I have never seen so many different food trucks parked in one location before. They had any kind of food you could possibly want and we had a really hard time figuring out what we were going to eat. In the middle of the lawn, people set up blankets and picnic.
We finally selected the LA Wing Co. truck for our dinner, and we were not disappointed. I had a buffalo chicken sandwich, Matt got sliders and buffalo fries (that were amazing) and Squirt had chicken tenders. Everything was delicious.
After strolling around through the craft booths (with wine!) and eating our dinner, we let Squirt run around for a while. There was a bus parked in the middle of the lawn that kids could paint on (what an amazing idea). Squirt had no interest in painting, but he did want to sit at the wheel of the bus and “drive” so he was entertained by that for a good half hour. Overall, Odd Nights at the Autry proved to be a good little excursion for all three of us. Mom got to shop, Dad got to drink, and Squirt got to drive a bus, so everybody wins! There are two more Odd Nights scheduled for this year, Friday September 16 and Friday October 21. Both start at 6:00 pm. If you are in the LA area and are looking for something fun and inexpensive to entertain the fam, you should definitely check it out!
As you probably know, I am one of those super special unicorns that was legitimately born and raised in the Los Angeles area. That means that I am a diehard LA Dodgers fan (as all LA people should be, hint hint Husband!). I have been going to Dodger games for as long as I can remember, and there was a stretch of my childhood when my mom’s boss had season tickets and we went a couple of times a month. Before we had a kid (in other words, when we had extra income) we had a small group of friends who bought Dodger mini plans and went to about twenty games a season. We have been going much less since Squirt came along (though he went to his first games last year), but we are definitely looking forward to taking him to baseball games throughout his childhood. Since I have such a strong connection to Dodger Stadium, and to baseball in general (it is on our couple bucket list to visit all of the MLB stadiums, so far we have been to ten!) I thought I would share some tips with you.
Dodger Stadium is one of the oldest in the country, which means it is steeped in history, but also lacking some modern amenities you can find at other stadiums. A recent renovation brought about some of the original 1960’s flair (which thanks to Mad Men became popular again) and the stadium itself is clean and beautiful. The views from the stadium seats are gorgeous, especially at sunset. While I have enjoyed visiting the other ballparks we have been to so far, Dodger Stadium is one of my favorites (though I might be a bit biased). Here are some things you should know before you go to a Dodger game:
Parking: One of the major downfalls of Dodger Stadium (and LA in general) is the lack of public transportation options. Unless you are prepared to hike at least a mile, you need to plan on parking at the stadium. There are buses that travel to the park, but your life is going to be easier if you drive yourself. If you do drive, make sure you go online and prepay for parking, as you will save about $10 on the cost of parking if you do. This also means you need to get there early. I typically try to arrive at least 45 minutes before game time to leave plenty of time to park and walk in.
Food: Dodger Stadium has some of the best food that I have eaten at a ballpark. My personal favorites are the Extreme Loaded Dogs, which have several different options for toppings. This one is the Doyer Dog, which has chili, nacho cheese, pico de gallo, and jalapenos on it…
And this is the LA Bacon Wrapped Dog, which is a hot dog wrapped in bacon with onions, mayo and mustard on top.
Dodger Stadium also has a lot of diverse food options, including pretty tasty Brooklyn style pizza and Mexican food. My other favorite treat is fro yo in a mini Dodger helmet. Not only is the fro yo a great treat, but the helmet is the perfect souvenir. I have a mini helmet from all of the stadiums we have been to so far and I love them. The other tip to keep in mind when it comes to food is that you can (and should) bring in your own bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. Just make sure they are in plastic bottles and stay sealed until you enter the park. You can also bring in snacks (like peanuts) and even entrees if you are so inclined (we have brought in Subway or other sandwiches in the past).
Bring the Kids: Dodger Stadium is a great place for families. On the Reserve level, there is a kids play space where they can run around and get some energy out. There are also lots of family restrooms all around the ballpark, which are super helpful as both parents can take the kids into the bathroom if needed. Also, make sure you visit Guest Services to pick up a first timers certificate for your kid’s first baseball game (or first time at Dodger Stadium).
Friday Night Fireworks: If you can swing it, go to a Dodger game on a Friday night. Every Friday night (weather permitting), there are fireworks after the game. You can see the fireworks great from most seats in the stadium, but you are also allowed to go down on the field after the game if you want to watch from there. In addition to being a great view, it is also really cool to be down on the field so I would definitely recommend watching from the field at least once.
If you are in LA during baseball season, I would highly recommend checking out a Dodger game. There is so much history at Dodger Stadium, and it is certainly a Los Angeles landmark. If you are a fan of another stadium, leave me some tips so I know the scoop when I check that stadium off my list!
As I’m sure you have realized, summer is upon us. In the past, summer meant a lot of sleeping until noon, day drinking, and doing all kinds of cool shit that you just can’t do during the school year. Now summer means finding activities to keep Squirt happy and occupied, preferably with air conditioning. (You know what I just realized? My whole life is now like summer! No school ever again!) Lucky for us, we live in one of the most entertaining cities on the planet, and despite the fact that I have lived here my whole life, there are tons of LA things I have never done. So I put together a bucket list of items for us to do this summer. Most of them will involve Squirt, but some will be just for Mom and Dad, because sanity is important y’all. Some of these things I have done before, but a lot of them will be new experiences (some it’s been so long it might as well be new). I’m sure I will be blogging about most, if not all of them, so stay tuned to see how they go!
Attend a comedy show: There’s about a billion comedy clubs in LA, and while I have seen improv shows, I have never seen stand up, so that’s what I would aim for.
Take Squirt to a Dodger game: He did make it to two last year, but he is much more aware now so I think he would have more fun. Also, I must do everything in my power to make sure he doesn’t turn out to be a stinky Giants fan like his dad.
Go to the LA Zoo: I haven’t been in forever, and Squirt has never been, so that should be a fun first time experience.
Go see Shakespeare in the Park: The Independent Shakespeare Co. does some really stellar Shakespeare productions at one of the coolest parks around, can’t wait to see what they do this summer.
Go to a concert in the park at Descanso Gardens: We love Descanso during the day, so I’m sure their evening concerts will be great!
Read four new books: This one actually seems daunting, to be honest.
Have a picnic at the Griffith Observatory: Some of the best views in LA!
Go to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl: We did just see The Little Mermaid there, but I would also like to attend a concert that is part of the Bowl season.
Try three new restaurants: In LA that should be easy, but I don’t like change, so we’ll see how it goes.
Eat lunch at the LA Farmer’s Market: Eating is involved, so it must be a good one.
Go shopping at the Melrose Trading Post: I’m not sure how I haven’t already done this, but this one will be new for me.
Go to the Last Bookstore: Again, not sure how I have not been to this place, but I’m looking forward to it!
Take Squirt to the LA Children’s Museum: This one was a fave of mine as a kid, but I haven’t been in years.
Take a walk along the Venice Boardwalk: The site of my first tattoo….we’ll leave it at that.
Go wine tasting in Malibu: No explanation needed.
Rent a paddleboat at Echo Park Lake: I’ll leave the actual paddling to Matt, obvs.
Boom. Summer planned! Let’s see how many of these bad boys we can check off the list! If you live in LA, or are visiting this summer, feel free to print out the checklist and join me on my quest!