A Personal Touch

People hate shopping for me. Evidently I’m “difficult to shop for” though I think that’s an unfair statement. I’m very easy to shop for, it’s just difficult to afford the gifts that I want. Two very different things.

From early on in our relationship, Melissa learned that I am no fun when it comes to gifts. I often know what my gifts are (yay superpower!) and, at least in her opinion, my gifts to her seem to have a bit of an edge. I win at gifts. Congratulations to me.

This gift giving issue came up recently when we had a friend come to town. That’s right! We had a real life visitor, and it was amazing. He’s a close friend of mine that I’ve known since my high school days, and it’s only fair that I bring up how much he hated me before he even met me. Me!! (ME!!) While it was far from an argument, we had opposing opinions on the validity of giving gift cards to people as presents.

His stance is basically that it’s not very personal. He’s one of those people who wants to not only give a gift that the person will enjoy, but shows a level of thought and personal insight. That’s pretty nice, but I’d argue that those are things that a gift card can accomplish with ease!

What could be more personal than a gift that by it’s very design is tailor-made for an individual person? Buying a gift card for someone means having the balls to admit that the person you are buying a gift for might have a better idea of what they want than you do. Buying a gift card means telling a person that you don’t want them to feel obliged to keep a book that they’ll never read. Plus! It gives people a reason to get an expensive item that they would otherwise avoid. Why? Because with the gift card it’s basically on sale. Come on ladies, that argument should appeal to you.

Thoughtful? Insightful? When it comes to buying a gift card you must balance what you are willing to pay with what desirable items within that store might cost. Something you have to think about. It must be a little treasure nibblet for a store that your gift recipient would actually want to go to. You can’t give a gift card to the local camping store to a person who hates camping, believe me, you’ll see that look of disappointment on their face and you’ll hate yourself for not remembering that incident with the snake when they were five. Something that requires insight to that person’s life. Yes, most cards have a dollar amount imprinted on the face of the card and the person gets to see exactly what you are willing to spend on them. Get over yourself, it’s not that big of a deal.

So please! Go out and get your friends and family a gift card when the need for a gift comes around. From restaurants to movie theaters to shoe stores…they really are better than you think.

If your giftee does not seem grateful, just send the card to me and I’ll start an open-ended post of things I buy with rejected gift cards. So they see what they are missing.

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Only Two?

I was asked a really interesting question via facebook the other day. What if you had to put only two things on a baby registry? Two things you just couldn’t see yourself living without after the baby was born.

As potential answers started to flood my head, I also became very bothered by the question. See, giving advice on these topics is something I find myself doing on a somewhat regular basis. So it was annoying that I found myself really struggling to provide only two answers. Not because I couldn’t think of two viable answers, but because…seriously…two? Perhaps I’m alone, but when I started to look around the house at the editions of things we brought out or was brought over for the mere addition of Bonus Baby during the week, well, there’s more than two things.

I guess it was obvious that the couple involved wasn’t looking to try and live with only two additional items in their house after the baby was born. I think they were going through the same things many of us go through when trying to prepare the house for a baby. What are the things that are really important? What are the things people tend to buy that could really be done away with? What do you really want to spend those dollars on?

On a short list? I’d absolutely want the following on a registry:

Car Seat and Stroller – Can you live without these items? Of course! You can be like me and almost never leave the house. You can maybe carry your children everywhere instead of letting them ride in style. Do you want to though? I’ll say this – I like the car seat/stroller combos, and I don’t care about the bells and whistles. I don’t care if it has seven cup holders for the adult. I never use the cup holders. Honestly. Melissa used to put her coffee in one of them and go shopping, and it would drive me crazy. Every week there was coffee dips all over the handles or dried up in the bottom. Don’t be fooled by the kind of tires on it or the appearance of “shocks,” strollers are not 4-wheel-drive, they are you-wheel-drive. Put these on a registry, but don’t pay $100 extra on the one that has a “storage space” on the top. Ours has one and we can’t fit two iPhones in it.

A Really Good Chair – I’ve talked a little about my “daddy chair” which is my now, almost 8 year old La-Z-Boy recliner. I mentioned that it turned into our breastfeeding/child rocking/child TV viewing station. Seriously, that chair has become the most important piece of furniture in the house, and it’s still my favorite place. Yes, we bought one of those rocking chairs with the rocking ottoman that Babies R Us tells you is a “must have item” and put it right in the nursery, but it hasn’t seen a quarter of the use of my chair. So if you don’t have one, find a chair that you are comfortable with for the long haul. Of course with a newborn you will find yourself running around all day, but you will also find yourself sitting a lot. Make sure you’ve given yourself a chair where that isn’t such a bad thing. Did you know that some of those chair recline AND swivel? God bless us all.

A Thing That Helps The Baby Sleep – Whatever that means – buy it. We have some very generous people in our lives, and when we were pregnant with William a flood of pricey items came rolling in by mail. So we had an electric rocker that played music and in theory would swing the baby to sleep. We had one of those smaller chairs that would vibrate, and play music, and in theory would soothe the baby to sleep. We had two mobiles, a sleeping wedge, and sleepy music CD’s that all promote a nice environment to lull the baby off to sleep. None of those things worked as well as….the car seat. Alton Brown has a rule with kitchen items. No single use items, he likes multi-taskers. I can get behind that in this case. The car seat keeps baby in a comfortable and safe place. It’s got that sort of confined space that babies view as soothing, as if they are being held. You can move them without waking them up. Heck it even has a handle! Regardless, find something that works so that you don’t feel compelled to confine yourself in holding the baby while he or she is sleeping.

Somewhere to Put Diapers – Regardless of your choice in cloth or disposable diapers, you need a place to put the dirty ones. A diaper genie, diaper elite, diaper pail, crap caddy, turd tacklebox, dookie domicile, you take your pick, but have one. You never realize how much those things help till a bag rips open, or the lid isn’t on right. Think poop smells bad? It even less fun smelling a week’s worth.

A Thing That Buys Other Things – Yep. Gift cards. In my most humble opinion, gift cards are one of the greatest gifts ever, and on a registry they can really be magic. Again, not to pick on anyone, but two things? Gift cards are the best way to grab all those items that either fall through the cracks, or you’ll never get enough of. Diapers, creams, shampoos, wipes, whatever it is – a gift card is there for you. Like that friend you don’t talk to, yet you call up one day because your car won’t start and you KNOW he’ll give you a ride to work even though it’s going to be awkward since you haven’t really talked in a year. Hug that gift card and know it’s a true friend.

Now, equally important in my opinion are the things you should not put on a registry:

Cloth Related Products (exception: diapers) – Clothes, blankets, burp cloths, things of that nature. Why? Because no matter what you do or what you tell people, these items will appear during your baby shower. People love to buy cute outfits, things they think will match your “nursery theme,” or items their kids have outgrown. You’ll hear things like, “You can never have too many burp cloths!” or, “Socks were only $1 for 5,000!” You’ll have friends who have been waiting patiently with boxes of clothing, stalking their friends for the one who seemed ready to have children. Melissa and I didn’t need to buy William any clothing until he was three, and even then we probably could have just asked around. You need these items, but putting a pack of washcloths on your registry invites everyone to buy them. It doesn’t matter that you specifically asked for one pack.

Wipes Warmer – By the time William actually came home from the hospital, we had acquired two wipes warmers. Makes enough sense I think. I like to think the boys prefer a warm, moist wipe gliding gently across their crap covered crevasse. In truth though, I think wipes dry out a little bit in the warmer. I’ve also noticed that within three seconds of being exposed to the air, they lose all their warmth. Not to mention that it’s another item you have to try and find a place to put the plug. A baby’s room only has so many outlets. We still use ours, but really it’s out of nothing more than habit. This really is one I’d be happy to be without.

Diaper Bag – I think people act differently toward their diaper bags. Some people, who tend to be women, use it as a purse or backpack. It’s a joint bag used by both baby and parent. It has everything from diapers and extra outfits to wallet and cell phone. Some people keep it minimal and only have the things needed to change the baby, perhaps an extra onesie in case of massive diaper blowout. The thing is, you don’t know how many hundred’s of pockets you need until you decide what kind of relationship you want with your diaper bag. Not to mention that in most hospitals, you’ll get two free ones from the two major formula companies. Rest assured those will certainly start you off right till you really figure out how many space you need…or don’t need. Remember those gift cards?

So yeah, I don’t know that I could pinpoint the two most important items needed on a registry. Lucky for me, I didn’t need to either. The list of things you need for a newborn, particularly as new parents can seem endless. True, places like Babies R Us will give you a “list” that you can check off as you make your registry. Those “must have” items. True, some of that is a ploy to get parents to spend additional money on things they don’t need. Seriously though, if you let a list tell you to spend your money on a crib, portable crib, bassinet, AND a Pack and Play…well you didn’t deserve to call it your money.

So let’s hear it, what’s your “Must have on a registry” items and the things you feel shouldn’t make the cut.

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Mother’s Day and the Very, Very, Very Low Bar

Ah, back in my uncomfortable office chair. The extremely fake leather on the arms of it have long since torn open to expose about as much padding as a high quality piece of paper might offer. It’s been many months now since I’ve written anything, which isn’t to say I haven’t often thought about it. So much has happened since my last offering and as I sit here wondering if that’s a bolt I feel under my butt or if I perhaps sat on a toy, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the idea of where to begin.

Last night I was struck with a heavy urge to log in and write…something. Anything. Again, the momentary panic crept upon me. What do I say after a long absence? Surely my first post in months should be something profound. As I had done many times in the same situation, I shut down my computer and went upstairs to bed. I got into the covers, being careful not to wake up my beautiful wife. She was so peaceful. That’s when I noticed v-shaped sagging of our mattress again. I sat there thinking about our friends who have owned 2 different mattresses since we purchased this one. How could she fall asleep so easily on such a crappy mattress? The answer is pretty simple; it doesn’t take much to make her happy.

And I knew what I wanted to write about.

I had a small vision for this blog. Certainly nothing long term. I realize that the vast majority of people who have ever read a single word on this website are people who also have my phone number. What pressure am I under really? I’ve had probably two people question why they never see new updates from me, and one of them sleeps 1-3 feet away from me every night. Clearly there are few expectations of me as it pertains to blogging. If there’s any pressure, it’s minimal, and we are clearly dealing with the heavy scrutiny of the same woman whose current favorite food is pre-packaged cupcakes. It doesn’t take much to make her happy.

It’s a very, very, very low bar for me to live up to.

Which brings me to Mother’s Day. First, a heart-felt belated Mother’s Day to any who might be reading. I’ve had many motherly figures in my life, and I love all of them dearly. Still, it seems appropriate to say that the most important mother in my life right now is the mother to my children. So on a day that many people feel is meant to honor the mothers in this world, I’m short on ideas as to how to show my appreciation to her. Lucky for me, I live in this digital age where countless articles are written by countless people, all of whom claim to know, “The Top 10 Things She Wants for Mother’s Day!”

For anyone looking to be bombarded by anything from the stale (GET HER FLOWERS AND ALL THE CHOCOLATES!) to the uproar educing (TAKE THOSE LITTLE BRATS AWAY FROM THE GODDESS MOTHER!), these articles are probably very helpful. I, on the other hand, was at a loss. So much so that late Saturday evening, as Mother’s Day loomed on the horizon, I conceded that I had no plan at all, and asked my wife if there was anything she wanted. Her answer was perfectly simple, “Just a nice day with everyone.”

Nice…sure.

A simple request, but per our usual routine of chaos, I found it hard to deliver on something so, well, simple. Sleeping in turned into sleeping in…..ish. Breakfast in bed turned into family picnic time in bed, which turned into family TV time in bed. Still, the boys were on good behavior, and I was feeling quite pleased with myself. That feeling lasted till I had fed to boys lunch and put Carter in bed for his nap. That’s when my Saturday slapped me right in the face. In an effort to be completely available on Mother’s Day, I did a massive amount of work outside on Saturday. Somewhere in the 12 hour range. Turns out I was tired the next day. I tried my best, but with Carter asleep and William playing nicely with mommy, I fell asleep with what I’m sure was an, “I’m disappointed in myself” face. I fell asleep on the smallest portion of our sectional couch. My feet hanging off the edge, and covered by a blanket that would either cover my top half or bottom half. I chose bottom. I chose poorly.

Somewhere in my slumber, I realized that it was still Mother’s Day, and that I had in fact fallen asleep, I awoke quickly, trying to get a grasp on the situation and see if there was something I should be doing. That’s when I realized that my foot had become tangled in the blanket. I was stuck, and still too tired to remember that I could just reach back and undo my foot from the death grip the blanket had put on me. So instead, I laid there, face down, one foot flailing frantically in the air as if it was trying to swat away a fly. And from my wife, the laughter started, but perhaps something was funny on TV. My foot continued to do an impression of a dog with peanut butter on the roof of it’s mouth, and the laughing got noticeably loud. So I looked up at a very pleased mother of two, laughing uncontrollably at her husband. In a moment of weakness I might add.

I guess what I’m saying here is, I don’t always like those stupid article lists of overused, boring ideas that supposedly “every mother wants.” I like to get my wife flowers for no particular reason, and with her work schedule, she really tends to want more time with her kids, not an excuse to take them away. Lots of people are tired of holidays like Mother’s/Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day because we think of these days as a requirement for some sad offering to prove our love or loyalty. Of course, if all we do to recognize these days are run to Wal Mart the night before to get a bunch of painfully old flowers and the first card that doesn’t make us want to vomit, that’s all it will ever be.

Maybe you don’t have to play the “today’s a holiday game” to show someone special that you care. I will say that my wife had a good Mother’s Day, and maybe it was just luck that everything went well for us that day. Still, she had a nice day with everyone, and got to see me flail around like an idiot.

And a card.

Not too bad.

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