Thursday, August 29, 2013

Relax Everybody, Back-to-School Teacher Gifts are Not a Thing

Do I need to buy back-to-school teacher gifts
Chalk this up to another negative aspect of social media, you start seeing trends where they don't exist. I'd caught wind of back-to-school teacher gifts in my Facebook stream last week. Days later in the midst of vetting bloggers for a client project I noticed even more bloggers mentioning such gifts--and offering suggestions and tutorials. No doubt my brain would have exploded if I'd checked the topic on Pinterest.

I turned to my peeps via the forum where I'd first caught whiff of this, Facebook, and asked them for opinions on back-to-school teacher gifts. Most of my friends were in my corner, with such gifts either being questioned or unheard of.

It's hard enough to pay for $100 or more per child for school supplies (plus an extra pair of gym shoes for PE!), $100- $500 per child in school fees (public school fees), but add on top of that another round of gift cards or adorable homemade gifts (that, no offense people, my teacher friends readily admit they could do without) and ouch.

{Related note: sticking to my theme of looking back on 8 years of blog archives, check out this post, C+ Gifts for Teachers from 2008.}

For all you know you child could be in for the worst. year. ever. Hopefully not, but as the parent of teens I will tell you that every child, even in a great school, suffers a low point somewhere along the way. A teacher gift at the beginning of the year is like tipping servers before a meal. What's the point? Are you expecting better service or something?

Speaking of which, a couple of my friends mentioned that these gifts could be seen as bribes. Before I got all cynical (years before Pinterest even existed, mind you) I had once considered such a gift and my husband talked me out of it because he thought it might look odd or somehow off-putting despite my good intentions.

I like when teachers have a Donor's Choose or Adopt a Classroom page. That makes it easy to give something that will have meaning to the teacher and students regardless of time of year. For example, if my son's first grade teacher had let me know prior to the spring teacher-parent conference that her classroom lacked a dictionary that contained my son's advanced vocabulary words, I would have happily provided one even without an "occasion." (Seriously, I was often in communication with her. Why did she never mention this to me?! That year was a low point. Sadly, one of many.)

Now that my personal peanut gallery has weighed in, I feel justified that I'm not breaking out the Sculpey. I have no intention of baking a batch of brownies while I'm already cranking the AC to keep our house cool. I will however give teachers a gift of sorts, the chance to spend hours each day with my children.

Clearly in 2013, back-to-school teacher gifts aren't a thing but then again, once upon a time, neither was Elf on a Shelf.

Note: in the hours between writing and publishing this piece, I came across this Elf on the Shelf horror

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Need Sleep (and chances are you do, too)

I recently attended a mom blogger event at Sleepy's, an East Coast mattress store chain that's making its mark in the Midwest. Bloggers were invited to bring their little ones and their large store in Glenview was the ultimate playground for these kids who bounced from mattress to mattress as the moms listened to sleep expert Nancy Rothstein. Or tried to over the din of excited screeches and squeals; seriously, this Sleepy's store was the ultimate playdate and made me yearn for the days my kids were so carefree. The kiddos did quiet down while someone read them Nancy's cute book, My Daddy Snores.

Nancy shared a lot of interesting sleep facts and tips. I already knew some of them, like how ridiculously developmentally unsuited teenage bodies are for early start high school schedules. (See this related post from when I was a Serta Ambassador) And that most of us don't get enough sleep. She said that nightlights should be red in order to be minimally disruptive to the brain during late-night trips to the bathroom and such.

I'm a pretty good sleeper. Better than most based on Nancy's quick surveys of the group.

Or I was until the puppy came along. Did I mention we adopted a puppy?

We did, in mid-July. He's cute and sweet, if occasionally mischievous, but he is ruining my sleep and in the short time since the Sleepy's event, it's been particularly bad. Or maybe I've been more aware of it. I'm tired, I'm crabby, my brain is foggy. (But, Kim, aren't you always like that?) I'm relying on coffee or naps to get me through the day.

It's like having a baby in the house. And I think we're ready for the sleep training thing, but I'm not sure how to handle this without ruining a few nights of sleep for everyone in the house. The issue isn't so much that the puppy needs to pee at 2 AM, but that he wakes and is lonely, despite being in a crate next to my son's bed. I wind up going in and laying down on a pillow on the floor next to him to quiet him (great idea for an arthritic 45 y.o.-- not) and wake up an hour or so later stiff, sore and tired, not to mention resentful of my husband who stays in bed because after all, he's got The Important Job that Pays Most of Our Bills*.

Just like having a baby in the house. See?

I suspect having the pup sleep in someone's bed would put an easy end to this mess, but we don't want to head down that road. I don't recall if Nancy addressed sleeping with pets, but again, we don't want to go that route.

At any rate. Sleep: I need more of it. Sleepy's: they've got tons of mattress. Their Glenview location is the largest mattress store I've ever seen.

Technically, this is a sponsored post because the Sleepy's folks passed along a few goodies, including Nancy's book, a fleece blanket, a pillow and a gift card (no, not enough to cover a new mattress as some of you have already asked) and other sleep-friendly items. Thanks to the Sleepy's folks for letting me add a Bedtime Math book to the mix. I am the managing editor of the parent blog at that site.

*We've been married 20 years. When blinded by our mutual love and respect we have plenty of things to resent about each other at this point.

Typos? Did you read the part about how tired I am?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Dear Camp Director (An Actual Letter)

Yes, I actually sent this nearly two weeks into his time at sleepaway camp. Is it just me or do you feel this way too?

Dear Camp Staff,

I hope the camp is going well and that my son is doing well as no one as heard from him yet. I’m willing to assume he’s fine. I hear there are pictures of him online via Bunk1 (cute ones!), but the number of pictures is so overwhelming to me, that I haven’t been looking through them.

I’m guessing that there are parents who complain that they don’t see enough photos featuring their kids and so the camp is making an effort to please the parents by taking more, but this parent does not relish looking through more than 350 photos taken on a single day to find one or two of her child. Am I the only parent to express this opinion? (If so, perhaps I’m part of a silent majority.) I mean look at the numbers from Aleph session compared to the Bet session. Also, aren't the roaming photographers a reminder that their parents are watching? Do these photo interfere with the feel and spirit of camp?

Perhaps you can at least sort the photos by cabin or activity? Or maybe for an extra few bucks you can tag my child so I don’t have to skim through 386 pics from 7/31 trying to make out the back of his head? Not to mention the 600+ photos I missed on 7/25-7/27 while I was at a business conference.

As long as I’m asking for favors, can you please help me out and given me a sense of what size donation parents tend to make to the staff appreciation fund? I’m sure parents contribute a wide range with the East Coast families maybe tipping the scales. I’m not interested in keeping up with the Steins as much as I am wanting to say thanks for your hard work keeping my kid safe, happy and giving him the summer of his life (again, I’m willing to assume this; I haven’t seen a letter or anything but the cabin photo which was just okay). Is this a nice round $18? $25? $50? $100? Can you give me a range at least?


Updated to add: Camp director said the average donation is $50 for a 3-4 week sleepaway camp. I think that's per family, not per kid. And I suspect that's the average of families who decided to contribute because I know that not all do.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Maybe I'm a Swagwhore After All

Forget that last post about my swag habits (among other things). I do like swag. I'm just picky. As I was sorting through old papers I came across one of my all-time favorite pieces of swag. It's pictured on the right.

You see, a few years ago I had the privilege of speaking alongside the Speaker of the House, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, advocating for health care reform at the last Capitol Hill press conference before the congressional vote for "Obamacare." I was given a copy of the current draft of the legislation and when I had my moment alone with Speaker Pelosi for a quick meet and greet/photo op, I asked her to sign my copy.

This packet of papers is more than just a thing. The swag is rife with meaning and recalls not only an important time for me, but for my country as well. And what better way to indicate that blogging helped me find than to speak to a room packed with reporters and photographers on a matter of national importance?

I'm just a mom with a blog.

Oh, and if you're following along my series of look-back posts, also check out Don't Bother Mommy, She's Busy Reforming Health Care for America the title was a riff on an article about moms ignoring their kids whilst they blog.