Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beta Moms Have Good Ideas, No Follow Through

Hi. My name is Jessi and I am a Beta Mom. That is to say, I am NOT an Alpha mom. I look at alpha moms with some wonder, in fact. You do what?!? I say. No red dye in the entire house, hm. Well, that's great. You make a homemade breakfast every morning before school? Seriously? We're not talking frozen waffles or instant oatmeal, huh? Really. You and your kid handmake Valentines every year for every kid in the class? Out of found objects and recycled craft supplies? Lovely.

I am the mom who goes to the grocery on the way to the school picnic, buys potato salad from the deli, dumps in a bowl and smooths press and seal around the top in the car. I am the mom who had to buy the freakin' bowl at the grocery store because I forgot to bring one. I'm the mom who makes slice and bake cookies for her kid's party at school. I'm the mom whose kid is always amazed when we don't have to go to the store on the way to the birthday party to buy a present. I am that mom.

And it's not that I want to be, it's just that I am. I am not bothered enough by these shortcomings to desire to change. Except for that last one. You see, I am a font of great ideas about birthday parties and gifts. But, I never seem to do them. It's a disease.

I used to horde these ideas like mental gold, but I have come to the conclusion that I will always be buying plastic crap from the local big box retailer on my way to every party. So, why shouldn't I share my fabulous ideas with you, my blog reading public. So, here you have them, from my fingers to your eyes:

Jessi's 5 Best Kid's Birthday Tips and Tricks:

1. The Gift Closet - This isn't a totally original thought. But, lots of time, when I am cruising through aforementioned big box retailer, I cruise the clearance section. There, I try to pick up good deals for boys and girls approximately the same age as my little one. Clothes are fine as long as you stick to easy to fit things like hoodies and sweaters. Hair bows and kid approved make-up (blue nail polish anyone?) are great. This is also a great way to get a toy nicer than you could normally afford to give. Also, during those insane back to school sales, I think people (not me obviously, because I = beta mom) should stock up on packs of markers, crayons, glue sticks, safety scissors, pencil cases, notebooks, etc. It may sound crazy, but add a coloring book or some craft supplies and you have an excellent present that kids and parents both will appreciate. Then, just keep this stuff on hand and use with wild abandon when you get those invitations.

2. Easy Wrapper - Along with having presents on hand, it's good to be able to wrap said presents. I do succeed in almost always having a nice generic birthday paper on hand. I don't like prints that are too boyish or girly because I don't want to have two, but I don't really like the all primary-all the time look either, so when I find something I like, I scoop it up. I also try (but fail) to keep an assortment of solid colored gift bags and solid colored tissue on hand. (Note - the bags sized for bottles of wine are perfect for Barbies.) This is a great opportunity for reusable gift bags (fabric, felt, etc.) too. Solids seem chintzy in the store, but with the right color combo, they can have a boutiquey look, you just have to work what you got. Which brings me to number

3. Ribbons and Bows X's and O's - A couple of years ago, Brynna got a birthday present in a nice solid pink bag with bright green paper and the handles were tied together with a black and white polka dot grosgrain ribbon. It was the most precious thing I had ever seen. I was disappointed afterward, though, to discover the ribbon was very short - about 3 inches and I couldn't do anything with it. What I like to do (but almost never do) is use real ribbon (satin and grosgrain) and cut long enough pieces to be used as hair bows. Alternately, when I do boy's presents, I think shoelaces are really cute ties. A pack of kid's shoelaces is about the same as a stickable bow, but has a use outside the party, too. In fact, I kinda hate bows. I try to always use things like hair bows, ribbons, string, silk flowers on a pin back, etc. For Christmas this year, I used wedding tulle on a spool and I thought it looked pretty darn nice and I could throw the presents in the trunk without worrying about them getting squashed.

4. Cards Drool, Books Rule - My daughter's school does Scholastic books. We did Weekly Reader when I was a kid. In any case, we get these fliers from school and we order books. A portion of what we spend goes back to the class to buy classroom materials and we get great books on the cheap. It's a win-win. A few months ago, I went to buy a birthday card and choked when I saw that most of the ones for kids were $3 at a minimum. Ouch. The Scholastic fliers each feature a $1 book and this genius idea was born. I try to keep a stock of $1 books on hand and use them as gift cards. Sure, the kids are sometimes confused, but just write your cardy stuff (To: AngelPants From: Brynna on her 6th Birthday) on the inside of the book and stick it where you would normally stick the card. You supported the school, saved $2, kid got a book instead of a stupid card and you've reduced the insane amounts of birthday waste by a smidge. Now your win-win is a win-win-win-win! I'm all about this one. I usually forget to order the books, but I've done it a couple of times and I think it's always been a hit.

5. Step Away from the Toy Department - Think outside the box. I don't know about you, but when I have to run and get a last minute gift, I gravitate right to Pink Plastic Mecca. This results in fail. Plastic is expensive and it's what everyone else gets. Try the book section, arts and crafts, DVD's, electronics, and clothes first. What's seasonal at that moment in clothing is almost always on sale. Most big box stores have sections devoted to discounted books, movies and games. Art supplies are easy to group together for big impact and little cost. Another fun place to try is the seasonal section. My favorite spring birthday hit is a little flower pot, some seeds, and a couple of accoutrement's (things to stick in the pot, watering can, gardening gloves, trowel, whatever catches your fancy.) Around Christmas, you can usually find some cute craft kits in the seasonal stuff and in summer, there's usually great beach/water fun things to be had.

Well, that's all I've got for now. Share your ideas. What's your favorite thing to get for kids? Do you have a go-to deal? Cute way to wrap something? Ever figured out how to wrap a ball, 'cause I got nothin' for that?


Orlandel Creations said...

One year for Christmas I found personal CD players, with age-appropriate Cd's included (5-7 year olds) for the great price of $9.99! They were a hit and I was cool - until the next Christmas.....

I also like to put baby gifts in a bag and use burp cloths, receiving blankets and/or bibs instead of tissue paper.

Jessi said...

Wow you can't beat that. And I love the idea of using burp cloths or blankets instead of tissue. I tried to wrap a present in a receiving blanket once and it was a hot mess, but the tissue paper idea is much more user-friendly.

Suze said...

I'm the boring one who almost always chooses books for kids' gifts. I know it's not as exciting to a kid as a plastic toy, but it's sometimes hard to guess what a child will actually like to play with, and I just think you can't go wrong with a good story. I like your art supplies idea, too.

I always have grand plans to make gifts (I have an awesome knitted toys book), but there's this pesky issue of TIME so my best intentions are often just that - intentions and nothing more.

ShellSpann said...

I'm that mom too. I don't really see them as shortcomings though. I just like to fly by the seat of my pants. :)

Jessi said...

Suze - Nothing wrong with books!! I do a lot of books, too. My problem is that I gravitate toward the classics and then I worry that they'll already have it.

Shell - I probably wouldn't think of it as a shortcoming if I didn't have such big intentions.

Cindy S. said...

Some great ideas! When I'm pressed for time or have no clue what to get for a child's party, I usually go with a Barnes & Noble gift card. That way they can go shopping and pick whatever book they want :)

Jessi said...

Cindy - Gift cards are always a good choice. Thanks for reminding us. And with so many stores doing gift cards for other stores now, it's really easy to do.