Thursday, May 31, 2007

Something To Cheer For

Okay, in a totally non-Harper related note, I have to express my excitement that I am watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals on television right now. Even though the things these children go through to be national level spellers are a bit crazy, I feel really pleased that it is being televised (and not for the first time). I'm no prude, but many of the things on television these days really make me cringe. I'm not going to get all preachy here, but with all the wild and inappropriate things our celebrities (actors, athletes) tend to do, I am glad that a little attention is going to children who have worked so hard to learn to be excellent spellers.

I believe that this event was aired on ESPN before but putting it on network television is even better, making it accessible to so many more people. (It is difficult to watch them miss though, yikes!)

I also appreciate this event because of the fact that I am a horrible speller. Awful. Even with the spell-check on this blog, I'm sure I've made mistakes. I once mailed a letter home from summer camp that made my parents question whether I'd been paying any attention in school. I got A's on my spelling tests because I was disciplined enough to force myself to memorize 10-20 words a week for eight years in grade school (Thanks Mom!). And trust me, bouleuterion was never on the list!

So kudos to all the participants, even those that didn't make it to the final round. And if you want your kid to spell his/her way to our nation's capital? You'd better start studying now because words like punaise don't come easily to anyone.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rain, Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain

After the yard work on Saturday we were all a filthy mess. I tried to entertain Harper outside while Matt went in to shower. Then we were going to strip her down in the garage and Matt was going to put her straight in the bathtub. While we were waiting it started to rain. Hard. Since it was warm, and I knew she was about to get a bath anyway, I sat in the garage and watched as Harper played in the rain and the puddles all her little heart desired. The pictures speak for themselves:

Yard Work

Most people I know did at least one of the following three things during Memorial Day Weekend: yard work, travel, or grill. We managed to accomplish two of the three, not having traveled any further than Home Depot's garden center.

I may have mentioned before that we are not so great with the yard. Part of this is due to Matt's weekend basketball schedules, which don't leave a whole lot of time for yard work. It is also due to my aversion to worms, bugs, and other critters one often encounters during yard work. Also, we're not particularly good at it and we simply don't like it! Still we can't help feeling a little accomplished after all the work we did this weekend, which included planting lots of flowers and building a little brick wall at the front of the house where we'd had some bushes removed. I should have done before and after pictures. Maybe next year.

Little miss loves-being-outside was a happy "helper," especially Saturday, when we spent most of the day on yard-improvement.

She helped unload bricks from Daddy's car.

She, ahem, "prepared" the dirt for planting.

She watered some bushes, then Matt and I, with the hose.

And she provided what all new flowers need to grow, a good dose of bubbles.

Apparently bags of soil and mulch need bubbling, too.

I have to give Matt credit for spending many more hours out there than Harper and I did. After a while it just became too difficult to keep Harper's "helping" from getting in the way.

In a non-Harper, but yard-related, note:

How disturbing is this?!

(I kept coming across these in the dirt. They were some sort of nut/seed thing, I think, but I felt like I was digging up fossilized pig snouts.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What We Do

While sitting with Harper in the rocking chair before her nap yesterday she leaned her head to my chest and said, "I yuv you Mommy."

"I love you too," I whispered.

Then she said, "Actuyee, I don't yuv you, I yuv Daddy. I yuv Daddy very much. I don't yuv you very much."

"I still love you," I said. Because that's what mothers do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Keeping It Funny

Harper has really been cracking me up lately, which is good, as I am usually about ready to throttle her when she makes me laugh.

Here are a handful of funny moments from the last two days:

Thursday afternoon we noticed a rabbit in the back yard. By noticed I mean we went to the window to see what the heck was happening because Rebound was trying to dig right through the glass and barking as though we needed to let him out or risk the planet being overrun by alien invaders. It was a rabbit. Harper was very excited, but looked at Rebound after a moment, total disgust written all over her face, and said, "Rebound dat is not a swirl (squirrel) or a bird or a robin, it is a bunny eating dat piece of gween gwass all up." Like, duh, dog. Don't you know you are only supposed to bark and squirrels or birds or robins?

Today she pulled a triple whammy when we were getting ready for a nap.

First we were reading a story which mentions baby animals using the words calf, foal, and pup. This upsets Harper to no end and each time we read it she freaks out and explains they are in fact a cow, horse, and puppy, in a voice that suggests maybe she should just read it herself if we can't get it right. So we were on the cow page, and I was explaining (for the eleventy-bijillionth time) that calf is a word that means baby cow, when Harper said, "Oh baby cow is a name for a calf, dat's a surprise!"

A few minutes later, when we'd finished reading and she was sharpening her stalling claws, Harper just turned to me and said, "Congwatuashons Mommy! You win a pink ribbon." She pretended to pin the ribbon to my chest and then said, "And here is your big trophy." I never did figure out what I won them for, but hey, prizes are prizes.

Finally I climbed in bed with her to help settle her down. As she put her head next to mine on the pillow, she looked right in my face and said, "Tell me about yourself." Then I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants. Apparently Harper has been conducting job interviews in her spare time.

I leave you with this picture of Harper getting read to test a slide she'd made from her tunnel and the coffee table.

I suggested we let some of her stuffed animals test it first, which turned out to be a good idea.

You didn't really think I was going to let her slide down it, did you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Knock Three Times

Since we put the "big girl bed" in Harper's room we shut the door when we put her to bed. There is a childproofing device on her doorknob so she can't open it if we shut the door tight. That is really a safety measure, especially given how soundly Matt and I sleep. We wouldn't want Harper waking up in the middle of the night, heading for the kitchen, and using sharp knives and the stove in an attempt to make us a midnight snack of steak with roasted peppers. I wouldn't put it past her.

Anyway, Harper knows that if she knocks on her bedroom door someone will come see what she needs. We felt it was the least we could do, since we were basically putting her in lock down every afternoon and evening. For the most part Harper has not abused the door-knocking thing. Her most common reason for knocking is that she pooped and needs her diaper changed. A close second is that it is morning and she would like to be finished sleeping. But occasionally Harper has a difficult time settling down and knocks on the door just because she would like some company.

Tonight she knocked several times and each time I went in her room she wanted nothing more than to tell me something about the day we had just spent together. I must have had a pretty stern look on my face by my fourth trip to her room. When I opened the door and looked at her she said, "I'm sorry Kewsey, I'm sorry I got out of my bed again;" totally without being prompted. Why she was calling me Kelsey, I have no idea. Anyway she climbed back in, very contritely, and promised not to get up again.

I accepted her apology and said good night for the fifth, but not final, time.

The word of a two-year-old is not much good.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Looking for Zipp

I love pictures taken outside, especially places like Cox Arboretum, so please excuse the indulgence of including so many with this post; I can't help myself. I have noticed lately that Harper is significantly happier when she is outside. Even if she's just being pushed in the stroller, the child likes fresh air. Which is great, except that I actually do not love being outside. It's either cold, or hot, or buggy, or just dirty. . . In some ways I think the many years I spent at summer camp spoiled the out of doors for me. All those years of being generally uncomfortable in the name of summer fun and my tolerance for outdoor discomforts was all used up!

I don't mind being outside so much if there is a purpose for it, but I am not the type to garden for fun, for example. Also not high on my list, aimless wandering around our own yard, which Harper could do for very long periods of time. The point is, if we're going to be outside, I would like to be doing something (playing a game like cornhole perhaps?) or at least not be at home. Which is yet another reason I love the local parks system so much; Harper gets to be outdoors and I get to be outdoors and out of my yard. It's a win-win. Then you toss in a day like today, breezy, a little cool, fresh (unlike the intense humidity sure to find us soon) and being in the great outdoors is downright enjoyable.

We were at the arboretum today for about two hours, pretty much wandering aimlessly through the various trees, lawns, and ponds. We did run into a friend from our library story time which was a nice surprise. Harper and Charlie laughed at each other and ran around for a few minutes pretending to be airplanes and helicopters. Good times.

If you read this regularly you know that I mostly get a big kick out of Harper's verbal skills and enjoy hearing her two-year-old take on the world. Today just about every other sentence out of her mouth was, "Where's Zipp?" Zipp is a trained dog that runs around the arboretum property and apparently serves as part of their goose control plan, which is actually sort of cool. Zipp is friendly and harmless, but is a strictly no-touch dog as far as I'm concerned. He wanders freely in and out of the mucky pond water and also rolls in goose leavings. Ew! But Harper loves Zipp. She's a dog-lover in general. She also likes to categorize dogs by color or size. She only has two size categories, big and "yittool." Rebound is "yittool." Other dogs we know, Zipp, Atticus, Shadow, and Clifford (oh, yes, she does not discriminate against imaginary cartoon creatures and happily categorizes them, too) are big.

Today, though we walked the main paths on the arboretum grounds, twice, we saw no sign of Zipp. As we headed back toward the parking lot I thought we could step into the information building and ask about him, just in case he was tied around back or something and Harper could get a peek. The lovely volunteer at the desk explained that Zipp had been very tired and was taken inside for a nap. She should have stopped there, but added that he would probably be back out soon. Sadly for me, Harper understood what that meant. Since I had no good reason to leave in a hurry, we went back out to the grounds and waited for Zipp.

While we waited Harper discovered these neat, spherical flowers.

She thought they were giant dandelions and tried to blow the petals into the wind. It didn't work.

Harper sat by the water to watch for turtles, and also to wait for Zipp.

He finally did appear, and promptly trotted off toward the opposite end of the arboretum. Of course Harper insisted we follow him and I was happy to let her run along. . . hoping for an actual nap today. We hurried to the other end of the arboretum, watched Zipp run around the pond a few times, saw a snake (shudder) and finally headed home. Harper did, indeed, take a nap -- for two hours!

(Are you still reading? Are you scratching your head and wondering if I'd ever heard that blog posts were supposed to be short?)

I'll wrap things up here after mentioning one more thing. On Thursday, Harper turned two-and-a-half. According to the one of the parent newsletters in my email, that makes Harper a preschooler instead of a toddler. And here I am, still pinching myself to remember that she's not a baby anymore! The last few months have simply flown by and I'm sure the next few will be the same. Before we know it, we'll be wishing her a happy third birthday. How is that possible?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Scene: I walk in after returning from class and Harper comes to say good night to me.

Harper: (Noticing my necklace, which has a tree on it.) What are those?

Me: Tree branches.

Harper: Can I cyime (climb) them?


Scene: I follow Matt and Harper down the hall as he takes her to her room for bed. Harper employs the most irresistible stall tactic ever.

Harper: Mommy! Come here and kiss Daddy.


Scene: I am sitting at the computer when I hear a thud followed by loud screeching. I run to Harper's room to find she had emptied her laundry basket, turned it upside down, stood on it in an attempt to reach something on her dresser, and fallen down. I determine she fell on her back, but did not incur any lasting injuries.

Me: I don't want you to stand on laundry baskets any more. It isn't safe.

Harper: But I can stand on my stool!

Me: Yes, your stool is for standing on.

Harper: No standing on the yandree baskets. Only standing on stools.

Me: Thanks for the recap.

Harper: Your wewcome.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our Little Gymnast

Well we bit the bullet and signed Harper up for gymnastics. It would seem like a toddler gymnastics class is not that big a decision, however, at this particular gym signing up includes a once a year registration fee, class fees every month, and two weeks prior notice to discontinue classes. It seemed like much more of a commitment than the four and five week classes we've taken at the local rec center. We did a trial class last October and weren't totally sold on the idea, but Harper's recent lack of enthusiasm in gross motor areas made it look a bit more appealing.

Today was our first class. Like I plan to do on any future first days of school, I made Harper show off her new outfit in the front yard before we headed into the relative unknown. Since our trial class the gymnastics club had moved to a new and larger facility so it did feel like starting from scratch, not to mention the fact that Harper is seven months older.

She was pretty excited to put on her "yeeatawd" and head to the gym.

The class was. . .okay. Her specific class is geared toward 18- to 40-month-old children. After a little warm up stretching the "instructors" basically walk through the "stations" the children are supposed to work through and then set the kids free. At this level the parents participate in class, and by participate I mean walk around with their toddlers and try to remember the 389 things the instructors just said to do. It is a bit of a free-for-all, made tolerable by the fact that there aren't terribly many children in each class. Despite the very specific instructions, the whole is experience is maybe a little less structured than I'd like. Two women came in together for a trial class (I think) with two girls around Harper's age. They literally sat and chatted while the two girls sort of did whatever they wanted. Except they couldn't do some of the things requiring parental help, since their parents were too busy having a social meeting. Seriously, one of the girls tried to ask her mom for help with something and the mom dismissively said, "Go ahead, just be careful," when the child was actually asking for her mom's assistance. That miffed me a bit and I sort of hope they aren't in our class on a weekly basis.

There were lots of skills Harper didn't even want to try. For example, she was in no way interested in any activity which involved attempting to hang from a bar of any sort. She was, however a fan of the trampoline(s) and the pit of squishy foam squares. There was also a little playhouse/tunnel/slide combo that she was digging. I actually put a limit on the slide, giving her three turns and then telling her she had to try something else because we can actually slide at the park for free. She did eventually concede to trying out a very low balance beam as well. I will take it as a good sign that she was angry with me when class was over and I had to practically drag her from the room. And that she was still exhibiting this level of enthusiasm after class:

I briefly asked the instructor if kids tended to warm up to the unfamiliar equipment, wanting to know if I should anticipate several weeks of trying to get Harper to do things she is not willing to participate in/on. The instructor assured me that children generally do get used to the environment and widen their comfort zones. Good. There were a handful of children in our class who had clearly been coming for some time and climbed around on everything like little monkeys. We are thinking we'll stick with this through the summer and reevaluate come September, when the yearly registration comes due. Until then, you can look forward to weekly gymnastics updates. You have to admit, Harper is darn cute in that leotard and pig tails!


Tonight, after I'd put Harper in bed, I heard her crying and walked into her room to investigate. She was perched on the edge of her bed and had lifted her curtain to look outside. When I asked what she was crying about her story went something like this:

"I was watching the byack (black) goggie (doggie) and the man came and took the goggie inside my neighbor's house. He shut the garage so no one will come in his house. And I wanted to watch the goggie some more. . . " and then broke back into her sad little sobbing.

It's a tough life.

Monday, May 14, 2007

In Awe

Now that we're beyond the age of placing milestone stickers on a baby-themed calendar, I find that I don't step back often enough to marvel at all the things Harper has learned to do. To be honest, at this the endearing age of two, I more often find myself irritated by the new ways she has learned to cause trouble and talk back, which is not so much in the spirit of celebrating her development.

So here are a few recent accomplishments:

1) Harper can jump and get both feet off the floor! This achievement has been a long time coming. I was concerned enough about her lack of gravity defying power that I asked about it at her two-year-old well visit with our pediatrician, six months ago. (The doctor was not worried.)

2) Harper can independently play with her Mrs. Potato Head. Now I know that this isn't on anyone's child development checklist, but here's the thing. . . When she got the toy in November, a mere six months ago, she couldn't even put the pieces in the holes on her own. Either she couldn't line them up, or she put them in so gently that they just fell out.

Not only can she put the pieces in now, she actually puts them in the correct places. This awareness of "where things go" was totally absent six months ago. And while correct placement of body parts does not indicate a lot of creativity, she wouldn't let me throw out the empty tissue box in that picture for weeks because it was her "cave." In other words, I'm not particularly worried about her creativity/imagination.

3) Harper is learning to do things for herself and take initiative, which is a trait we all hope our children develop. Even when it is messy. The other morning I was occupied (i.e. in the bathroom) when Harper asked me for some more graham crackers. I told her she could have some when I was finished and apparently she decided she'd rather not wait.

When I saw the bowl of crackers she had helped herself to she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I got too many cwackers, don't I?"

Which brings me to my last accomplishment:

4) The things Harper can say! If you don't count the times when she is shouting, "I can't want to!!!" it is a lot of fun to hear what comes out of Harper's mouth. I delight both in her thoughts and in her ability to form sentences. Quite often the child talks in paragraphs. (Her pronunciation often leaves something to be desired, but it's kind of cute and I know she'll out grow it sooner or later.)

Tonight we were sitting at dinner while Harper gave a running commentary about the traffic she was watching through the window next to our booth. A convertible, with its top down, pulled up to the stop light and Harper exclaimed, "Yook (look) that car is bwoken!"


Motherhood is waiting twenty extra minutes to leave the park because your daughter can't stop picking "flowers". . .

And then being handed a beautiful bouquet of weeds.

Here's hoping everyone had a lovely Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Capital Day

Once upon a time a college friend, Cindy, introduced me to her high school friend, Emily. Emily was funny and kind and had excellent taste in music. After I moved back to this area Emily and I even attended a couple of concerts together. Then, as tends to happen with people you don't know very well and don't live especially near, we lost touch. Then Cindy told me that Emily had a baby and voila! we had a reason to reconnect. Having children brings people together in ways both surprising and wonderful.

Emily's daughter Katy is just approaching her first birthday. About two weeks ago I found some swim diapers that Harper had outgrown and it struck me that Katy could probably use them this summer. It was a perfect excuse to call Emily and suggest we plan the get together we've been pondering over email for months. Fortunately we were greeted this morning by a day both beautiful for driving and for playing in the park.

Harper was excited to meet our new friends and wasted no time in exploring most of the house as well as all of Katy's toys. We have packed up most of our "baby" toys and it was funny how fascinating all of those similar items became when they belonged to someone else!

It was such fun to see Emily and Katy, especially after following their adventures on Emily's blog. Katy was funny and friendly, especially if I was holding something she wanted! The girls about about 18 months apart in age, which seems like it shouldn't be that much, but wow! I can't believe how much I've forgotten about what Harper was like at a year old. So many of the daily details escape me now, like cutting all her food into itty bitty pieces, and the fact that she couldn't speak! It is truly amazing how fast they grow and learn. From barely walking and talking to jumping up on this piece of equipment and crying out, "I'm bayanceen (balancing)!"

All in a year and a half.

(For the record, I was completely unaware that Harper even knew the word balancing.)

I loved watching Harper and Katy together; it really helped me imagine adding another kiddo to our mix sooner or later.

It also made me realize how big Harper is getting! Holy cow! I picked Katy up and it was like lifting a balloon, she was so light.

Harper is most definitely not a baby anymore. I know this. Still, it catches me by surprise every now and then.

Look out world, here she comes!

Thanks, Emily and Katy, for such a fun day.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Miss Independent

This morning I was trying to do some work on the computer while Harper was playing in her kitchen. I like her kitchen play very much because it is noisy and I can always tell where she is and, more or less, what she is doing. Then it got quiet.

"Harper, what are you doing?" I called.

Her response?


If you are the mom of a toddler, that "no," translates into time to get off your duff and go see what is happening. Immediately.

I found Harper in the hallway with a hidden object in her hands, which she was kind of crouching over, turning her back so I couldn't see. The mystery object. . .

A banana! I laughed and told her it wasn't a problem for her to have a banana, but she needs to ask me first (Only two years old, remember?); there are very few circumstances under which I would say no to a banana. I also asked her to come and sit with me while she ate it, to avoid mushed banana in mystery locations throughout the house.

So I continued on the computer and Harper nibbled at her banana, when I started thinking, "I know she can peel a banana that I open for her, but how did she get it started?"

I walked into the kitchen and found this:

Apparently the banana started to peel itself as Harper was taking it from the bowl. So there you go!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Trick Post!

I uploaded the pictures on this post before heading out of town last weekend and then never got around to writing anything. Since I began (with the photos) May 4, the post may get shuffled into past ones and lost so that no one reads it. If you see this one, maybe leave a comment? I'm approaching it as a blog experiment I suppose.

May 1, Harper, Nana, and I headed south to Cincinnati to visit Nana Jones. We enjoyed lunch, did some damage at the Carter's store (which I was thrilled to find!), and then got to see Nana Jones' room.

Here are Nana Jones and Harper looking out the window for birds:

They also enjoyed a lively conversation with a few dogs:

Our Cincinnati trip also included a stop at Big Lots, where Harper procured this lovely watering can. Then we sprinkled the new hostas out front.

And yes, I know our yard is a mess. We're working on it!

Running with the Big Kids

About half an hour north of our house is a church with a large indoor playland. Think McDonald's but without the fast food. For five hours every weekday afternoon it is open to the general public. (There is also a preschool at this church; can you imagine going to a preschool with a giant indoor playland?) Worth the half an hour drive? Absolutely. I am always on the lookout for free entertainment and being indoors is just a bonus, although I'm sure it is much more crowded on rainy days than on the beautiful sunny day we visited.

So we're at this big beautiful playground with twisty slides and tunnels and places to climb, all of it thoughtfully enclosed to prevent plummeting children. Perfect, right?

As it turns out, beneath Harper's spirited personality, she is incredibly physically timid. She wanted nothing to do with most of the climbing and sliding and tunnels. Rather, she spent nearly the entire time we were there going up and down this little green slide.

After a while, the playground was overrun by some very fast, very loud, BIG KIDS. All Harper could do was just stand back and watch as they ran by.

So she was intimidated by the slides, tunnels, climbing, and big kids and I still think she'd be excited to go back. Maybe next time she will even venture up the purple steps which lead to the more exciting parts of the equipment. If not, we'll have to sign her up for gymnastics!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Teacher Gifts

Welcome to another public service provided by Midwest Mom! Inspired again by Swistle, I am about to write an entire post about gifts for teachers. Feel free to jump ship now if you are not interested in this topic. I will also say up front that there will not even be any pictures of Harper in this post. Harper stories/photos will return in the next post, I promise.

Having been a classroom teacher for four years, and having many teacher-friends, I feel highly qualified to address this topic. In my short career I have received gifts ranging in value from $2 to $100 (no kidding, totally unnecessary, but fun!). The value of the gift really isn't important, but here are some helpful (I hope) guidelines for end-of-the-year (or holiday) gifting for teachers:

1) Step away from the apples. Seriously. The possible exception to this would be in the case of a new teacher who has yet to be showered in apple-themed nonsense. Unless the teacher is a self-proclaimed apple enthusiast, it really isn't necessary.

2) Consumable is good. Teachers, like most of us, already have a lot of stuff. You might want to steer clear of anything that will take up shelf-space. Again, unless you know the teacher's decor and tastes really well, avoid anything non-consumable that needs to be displayed in the teacher's home.

3) Gift cards are easy, available in any amount, and can be purchased from a variety of stores. Especially at book stores, coffee shops, ice cream, and video stores, a little can go a long way. $5 is a movie-rental or a really nice cup of coffee, even most of a paperback! If you can/want to spend a little more try the mall, restaurant, movie theater, or store like Target or Kohls. A local spa gift certificate might be nice too, but that's not everyone's cup of tea. Want your money to go back into the classroom? Send a gift certificate to a teacher-supply store. You might not realize it, but there's probably one near you.

4) Candles, lotion, scented soaps, etc. are not a bad idea. If you are going to go that route I suggest getting them from a decent place (do you want the seven piece cherry-scented "spa" set on clearance for $4.50?) and possibly include a gift receipt. I know someone who loves vanilla anything - lotion, candles, etc. Vanilla seems like a mild enough scent, right? But to me too much vanilla makes me feel like a cookie factory threw up nearby. I'm not trying to offend the vanilla-lovers, I'm just saying that scent is a pretty personal thing. I always loved receiving gifts from Bath and Body Works because I use their stuff and because you can take any unused product back and exchange it like it's a gift certificate. I have never had trouble exchanging items their store.

5) I always thought notepads (of the non-apple variety!) and note cards were good gifts, especially for elementary school teachers. I went through both like crazy sending notes home, to other teachers, writing thank-yous etc. If you don't get school-themed ones then the teacher can use them at home as well. You can also have your kids decorate note cards by folding unlined, 5x7 index cards in half, and buying similarly-sized envelopes from an office store. Have your child decorate the front of each card, pair each with an envelope, and tie a ribbon around a set of eight or ten.

6) Beware of baked goods. I know homemade goodies seem like a good idea; thoughtful and lots of work can go into them. Having said that, I know several people who will not eat food that came out of kitchens they are unfamiliar with. Or people are just picky eaters. Baking for your teachers might not be a good use of your time. About half the teachers I knew happily ate goodies brought in by the kids; the other half gave them away or threw them away. (Go ahead, gasp in horror.) I'm just saying, do you want to put the time in if someone's not going to eat it? Now if you've given your teacher baked goods in the past and they have come back to you raving about your cookies/cake/brownies/bread/pie and asking for your recipe? You may commence baking.

7) Gifts the the whole class worked together on can be nice if you have an uber-parent to do all the organizing. It can either be one big item that the kids helped personalized (a friend of mine received a rocking chair from her class one year, decorated with the kids' thumb prints), or a collection of letters or a drawing from each child, bound together in a little scrapbook. I think these kinds of gifts do require a little better knowledge of the teacher though. . .

8) Classroom supplies can also be a tricky area. If you know that the teacher has been buying items with personal money, then go for it. However, depending on your school, a lot of that might be provided already and not actually be coming from the teacher. Stickers or stamps are nice little gifts for most elementary classrooms.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Teacher gifts? Don't we pay them?" Well I will not go into that debate here, but the truth is you don't have to give teachers gifts at the end of the year. You also don't have to tip the person who cuts your hair. It's a personal decision. Each school culture is a little different this way, and if you aren't sure (and you care) about what is typically done, ask another parent.

An end-of-the-year gift is just a way to let your child's teacher know you appreciate the fact that she (or he) spent a huge part of each day caring for your child, worrying about your child, and generally working her butt off to provide twenty or more kids with a safe and successful educational experience!

Having said that, a genuine thank you from you, your child, or both of you is just as nice as any other gift. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for a job well-done. If you appreciate the things your child's teacher has done throughout the year, just tell her. It's nice if you tell her principal, too. I have saved all the thoughtful notes I've received from parents and children. When I was still teaching it was great to have a box of them to pull out when I was having a bad day.

Some of the best teacher gifts I received were:

-A huge outdoor pot that all the children in a class had put their hand prints on, full of geraniums ready to be planted, and a gift-certificate to a local garden center. (That was from an entire class.)

-A giant popcorn bowl filled with packages of microwave popcorn and a gift card to a video store.

-Gift cards!

-A really sturdy canvas tote bag with the children's hand prints and names on it; I received that from the second graders I did my student teaching with and I've been using it for nearly eight years.

-Notes from kids or parents who thanked me for specific things I'd done throughout the year.

I've received many nice gifts over the years, but those are sticking out in my mind right now.

Another quick note, if you do give a gift card to a book store or someplace like Target, it would be easy for the teacher to spend it entirely on items for school. If you intend for her to make more personal use of it, don't be afraid to tell her. I once received an embarrassingly generous gift card to a local book store and I used 75% of it for classroom books because I felt funny spending it all on myself.

There you have it, Midwest Mom's guide to teacher gift-giving! You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.