Baby & Kid & Person Gifts – Part 7

Since quite a few people have asked me about baby / kid toys, I’m sharing some of the gifts that I like to give. This is Part 7 in a series.

Whelp, that’s it. After posting all of those themed gifts, I’m fresh out of ideas. So if anyone has any suggestions for a good en-masse sort of gift for four-year olds, please do send them my way!

Actually, I’m not totally out of ideas…

Book Gift Ideas

Hope these posts help you in your own gift-giving adventures, and saves you time (other than the meticulous assembly of multi-part art boxes and puff-paint application) when you’re trying to get gifts together for a lot of people in the same we-love-stickers-and-buckets-age-group.

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In the Middle

Devoted readers may recall that Chicago is at the center of the world / universe:

But visitors to St. John’s might know differently:

“The Newfoundland Centred World” (1977), as seen at Memorial University Queen Elizabeth II Library. (Hat tip to Dan Duda!)

There are plenty of Azimuthal equidistant projection maps centered on other cities, as well. (Some are digitized at the United States Library of Congress page.)

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Row, row, row your province

Normand Hudon, “Rowing Away Québec,” circa 1964, via the McCord Museum (M997.63.211).

Duggan, L’Avenir, Montmagny, Québec, 4 July 1947. Courtesy of The Rooms archives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.


The Hamilton Spectator, 26 July 1939, via the Begbie Society contest.

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Canada and U.S. Jumble Maps

Canada Post, 1967

“States United,” 2009

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Things to do / see / eat in Silicon Valley – with kids!

Some friends are moving to the area with their kiddo, so I thought I’d write them up a (far from exhaustive) list of places we’ve been, or places that we’ve yet to go but have been recommended to us. Plus, I’d like to entice more visitors out our way! This is a kid-oriented list, but will also suit those who like low-key hikes, bike rides, and farm experiences.

  • PARKS. This place has a mad public park game, with splash pads and sweet playground equipment in several places.
    1. Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale
    2. Baylands Park in Sunnyvale
    3. Rotary Playgarden in San Jose (has limited hours and is directly under a flight path, which can be great or terrible depending on how your kid feels about incredibly loud airplane noises)
    4. Lakewood Park in Sunnyvale
    5. Fairwood Park in Sunnyvale
    6. Fair Oaks (or, as the sign has it, Fairoaks) Park in Sunnyvale
    7. Ortega Park in Sunnyvale
    8. Braly Park in Sunnyvale
    9. Ellis Park in Sunnyvale (closed during school hours)
    10. San Miguel Park in Sunnyvale (also closed during school hours)
    11. Washington Park in Sunnyvale (swim lessons are offered here)
    12. Columbia Park in Sunnyvale (also offers swim lessons)
    13. Murphy Park in Sunnyvale
    14. Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto
    15. The Silicon Valley Toddler blog has reviews of several area parks and attractions, as well (h/t to EJH)
  • HIKES. If you like anything from flat to mountainous (or the foothills in between), you are in luck.
    1. The Rose Garden in San Jose (I’m calling this a hike, although it’s more of a stroll, because there’s no play structure and bikes aren’t allowed. But there are picnic tables and a fountain and a whole mess of roses.)
    2. Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
    3. Stanford Dish Hike
    4. Half Moon Bay (I’m classifying this as a hike because we just went and walked on the beach)
    5. Baylands Park (also listed as a park because it has play structures)
  • FARMS. I found the number of farms around here surprising. (I don’t know what I was expecting from Silicon Valley, but it wasn’t farms.)
    1. The best one we’ve been to is Emma Prusch Farm. You can ride a horse here! And pick up a farm box of produce, or hit up their farm stand. Plus there’s a huge field for events and a barn-shaped play structure.
    2. There’s also a farm at the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve where you can see animals.
    3. Sunnyvale Full Circle Farm is a good place to pick up a farm box and get attacked by angry chickens. I say this from an experience that I do not care to repeat.
  • BIKING. Cars are terrifying at every level of the biking experience, but there are some great trails you can use to avoid them, particularly the Guadalupe Trail.


    1. Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose
    2. Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo in Palo Alto
    3. La Petite Playhouse in Redwood City
    4. Great America in Santa Clara
    5. Safari Run in Sunnyvale
    6. The Duck Pond in San Jose
    7. Stay and Play in Sunnyvale
    8. The Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose
    9. The Exploratorium in San Francisco (free on pi day! March 14)
    10. The Tech Museum in San Jose (better for older kids)
  • CITIES. San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and towns up and down the peninsula have tons of farmer’s markets, libraries, and events well worth checking out.


  • SHOPPING. There are lots of library books sales throughout the years, several consignment / swap opportunities (through parent groups, area Facebook parent groups, and also the twice-anual Outrageous Outgrowns), as well as some year-round consignment shops. My favorite is Kid-to-Kid in Santa Clara (small, but they go over your items for purchase very quickly and have pretty varied and changing items for sale). Other area thrift shops include Goodwill and Savers.


  • FOOD.
    1. I like Rokko in Sunnyvale for sushi and for not hating toddlers.
    2. There are lots of bubble tea places around. The one in downtown Sunnyvale also sells kochi ice cream, which is a huge hit with toddlers. (Next door to Rokko.)
    3. Ranch 99 in Mountain View has great dim sum.
    4. There are excellent burritos available from almost every (but sadly not every) street corner taco truck. We like the taqueria in Chavez Supermarket and Ruby’s in Sunnyvale.
    5. Hobbee’s has brunch and is very child friendly, going so far as to give kids free dinner on Wednesdays!

This list is partial and growing – I’ll add more as time and inclination allows. :-)

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Baby & Kid & Person Gifts – Part 6

Since quite a few people have asked me about baby / kid toys, I’m sharing some of the gifts that I like to give. This is Part 6 in a series.

SPOILER: If you have a soon-to-be-three-year-old and you want to be surprised at their birthday party, you shouldn’t read this post because this is what they’re getting. I don’t think too many three-year-olds read this blog, but in case they are, this goes triple for you, kiddo!

This gift might be better as a treat bag, but I sort of felt / feel rushed with now having more kids to look after, so I rather quickly put together a few things that I have liked having on hand for car rides and the like:

Apparently, the animal on the orange bag is an alpaca. I thought it was a sheep, because I’m a monster.

The theme was “I found these adorable animal bags at Daiso and I need to buy all of them and then give them to children.”

I added in some animal-themed stuff from, you guessed it, Oriental Trading:

  • googley eye animal stickers (what do you mean “goggly,” autocorrect?!)
  • spongey animal stickers
  • a box of crayons with animals on it
  • two pads of animal-themed paper
  • animal finger puppets
  • small pencil case (from etsy in a variety of colors, although I’m pretty sure those are not hand-made artisanal organic free range plastic zip pencil cases)
  • DIY animal face stickers

Originally, I was going to try to match all the animal-themed contents to the animal bag (so, panda stuff in the panda bag, etc.), but since I bought All The Things by the dozen, this proved difficult. Plus, I don’t think that 3-year-olds actually care as much about thematic continuity as I might. Extra plus, alpaca finger puppets aren’t readily available?! What a world.

These are all gifts we have gotten in the past (cute animal bag, fun stickers, travel-sized art supplies, puppets) that I found useful / not too monstrously huge / very use-up-able and highly portable. Also, this would likely be easy to mail (very light, easily shoved into a bubble mailer) unless you have a kid who hates driving to the post office in the car, in which case sorry everyone who expects mail from me, you are going to have to wait until the kid is like 5 to get a backlog of presents.

You could get animal stuff anywhere – the dollar store or any old Target-y box store. If I had been planning better, I would have purchased ALL of the “other cute stuff” (actual shopping category) while I was at Daiso, but alas and alack, I had not the foresight, and you can only order things in increments of a million from their online store (even I am not ready to go that far overboard).

Somehow, these gift posts have become some of my most popular, so watch this space for the transition to a momzlifestyle blog rather than an academic blog. Haha, just kidding? I will get back to my dissertation someday, probably. After leave!

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Baby & Kid & Person Gifts – Part 5

Since quite a few people have asked me about baby / kid toys, I’m sharing some of the gifts that I like to give. This is Part 5 in a series.

AKA Chocolate Pudding Dirt Pie Gift

I’ve mainly sent this as a gift in the mail (without the milk part), but I think this would also make a neat host gift or activity for an older kid.

I got some little buckets from the dollar store (I personalized these with paint pens, which is my classic go-to-move, but you could also use actual glasses or clear cups), a box of chocolate pudding mix, gummy worms, and small packages of Oreos (one per kid seemed like a safe distribution quantity in terms of not having to share, if not in terms of overdosing on sugar).

Then I printed out the following instructions, wrapped everything in green tissue paper, and sent it. (Hint: This would probably count as something “perishable” for USPS so… uh… just so you know.)


  • Crush up Oreos (put in Ziplock bag and smash with your hand or a rolling pin or another mashing device).
  • Make pudding by adding milk per the instructions on the box.
  • Add some whipped cream and some of your crushed cookies to the pudding (to taste).
  • Divide pudding into tiny buckets.
  • Add worms to the top.
  • Pour the remaining crushed cookies on top of the pudding and worms in the bucket!
  • Enjoy!


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How Not To Annoy New Moms in Five Easy Steps

STEP 1: Don’t ask “How is the baby sleeping?” or any variation thereof.

They say there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. Guess what, my friend? This question (and any of its sub-varients, like “is he a good sleeper?” “is she sleeping through the night?” or the thinly-veiled-you-are-a-terrible-parents remarks like, “oh, my baby sleeps great!” “she woke up once last night, woe is me” “he is probably just having a short-term regression,” etc.) is very stupid, and asking it (or stating any variation of the sentiment) makes you a huge jerkface.

Babies don’t sleep. “Sleeping like a baby” means that you are getting bounced on a yoga ball while patted on the back and shushed and fed, usually all by the same individual, while a toddler lights the house on fire and / or runs into the street naked. Newborns eat every 1-4 hours. Someone is feeding them. If it’s not you, guess what, you don’t get to have opinions or inquiries about it. If the baby DOES sleep, you’ll hear about it in celebratory Facebook posts.

Don’t be a jerkface.

STEP 2: Make her a damn sandwich.

When my mom was visiting immediately postpartum, do you know what she did? She went to the store and bought a loaf of bread, some hummus, my favorite lunch meat (HAM), sliced cheese, and lettuce. Then she came to my house, put it all together, and handed me the sandwich on a plate with a side of apple slices and a glass of black cherry bubble water.

After she left, the one time I asked my Dear Husband to make me a sandwich, he put a piece of cheese between two pieces of hard-ass-crusty French bread, wrapped it in wax paper, and sent it to me via toddler. So, not only did I get it delivered with a bite taken out of the cheese, I had to unwrap it from crinkly wax paper (which woke up the baby), I could barely eat it because the crust was so hard, and I got crumbs all over the bed and floor.

Later, when he was going to the store, he said “Can I get you anything?” (You know, since I basically live my life pinned under a newborn while wearing pajamas for the third day in a row and covered in various forms of bodily fluids, all of which makes it challenging to leave the house for groceries.) I said, “Can you please get some sandwich fixings?” (Thinking maybe just a loaf of bread and ham – I didn’t need to get all greedy about the lettuce.) Then he said, like I didn’t just push our second kid out of my body after carrying it around for 9 months and puking my guts out sometimes and still managing to keep a toddler alive during that time, “I don’t like sandwiches.”

When they said “Never stop dating your wife,” I’m pretty sure they were talking about sandwiches.

Don’t be a jerkface. Make the damn sandwich.

STEP 3: Bring her a damn beverage.

If she is feeding or otherwise pinned under a sleeping / crying / whatevering baby, bring her a drink. Pour a glass of water, add some ice cubes (or not), smack a lid on it and straw in it and put it in her hand OR on a VERY nearby surface that she can access while pinned. Or bring her an iced coffee, prepared how she likes it, or iced tea, or an open can of something, or an open bottle of wine. Airplane serving size is easiest to balance with a baby.

Every time you take a leisurely, unimpeded visit to cabinet for a glass and then to the sink or fridge for a beverage for yourself, you had better be getting a second one for the stuck mom.

Don’t be a jerkface. Keep her hydrated.

STEP 4: Don’t ask “What do you want me to do?” or any variation thereof.

I already told you what to do. See Step 2 and Step 3 above. Did you already ply her with food and drink? Well then, change the baby’s diaper and hold the baby while she goes to the bathroom or sleeeeeeeeps. And I do mean HOLD THE BABY, don’t just plop the WIDE AWAKE baby in the bassinet WITH A POOPY DIAPER while you go take a nap. This means that she has to get the baby, change the baby, cheer the baby up after the traumatic experience of getting a diaper change, and now she’s forced to hold the baby in her lap while nursing and angrily writing blog posts with one hand about being a newborn’s mom. True story, real time facts, this is happening right now.

Perhaps the great KatyKatiKate put it best:

I’m not trying to be a hater, but you need to understand that she is one person doing literally everything, not just in her life, but in the kids’ lives, and probably much of what’s in your life, too.

And when you tap her on the shoulder and ask, “Hey, what can I do to help?”

This is what happens in Mom Brain: She suddenly sees another person who is her responsibility. Another board lights up. Another thing beeps.

Don’t be a jerkface. Take the initiative.

STEP 5: Complain out.

I’ll add more about the cis-hetero-priviledge in this post in a minute, after I finish burping a baby.


I know, I know, I used a lot of gendered terminology in this post, but it is pretty autobiographical, which is why. I think all these things apply no matter what your family configuration is, as long as there is someone around who can help / support you and wants to know how to do so better.

That being said, I also know that having hummus-laced sandwiches is a delight not shared by everyone. I was briefly in a parenting group on Facebook, and a lady in a situation that sounded similar to my own at first glance posted about being pregnant with a breastfeeding two year old who refuses to sleep. The responses were more illuminating:

  • Put her in the car to get her to go to sleep. – Poster does not have a car or access to one.
  • Wean her. – Poster has to ride a bike an hour each way to the grocery store while pregnant with a two year old in winter and can only carry back limited groceries in a backpack. Weaning is actually the least parsimonious option available to her.
  • Have Daddy take a turn at night. – Poster is parenting solo.
  • Read [whatever specific book title about sleep training]. – Poster is a two hour bike ride from the library and doesn’t have money for books.
  • Have a neighbor / friend / family member help out. – Poster is living in isolated rural community that she recently moved to with no help available.
  • Get the two year old tired out with more outside time than TV time. – Poster can’t afford suitable winter clothing for the two year old.

So, obviously, “give her a damn sandwich” relies on there being someone available to pay for an acquire groceries, make the sandwich, and give it to me. I realize that this is a fantastic privilege, even if I am complaining about the quality of the sandwich. It’s meant as a tongue-in-cheek list of ideas to keep your spouse / partner / co-parent from wanting to scream at you in the early days of parenthood. Later days, you’re on your own.

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Baby & Kid & Person Gifts – Part 4

Since quite a few people have asked me about baby / kid toys, I’m sharing some of the gifts that I like to give. This is Part 4 in a series.


For second December-fests, I am giving out the book The Rainbow Fish, which has an AMAZING Goodreads review calling it a “communist allegory” (great for kids!), along with an adorable fish soap.








There are DIY instructions for said fish-in-a-bag soap all over Pinter-whatever, but I don’t hate myself, so I am just buying them pre-made from Etsy. (All of the instructions include the phrase “be patient,” and I know that I cannot, so I am just going to avoid the entire glycerin-soaked mess and save myself a world of trouble by paying someone else for it.)


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Baby & Kid & Person Gifts – Part 3

Since quite a few people have asked me about baby / kid toys, I’m sharing some of the gifts that I like to give. This is Part 3 in a series.

For second birthdays, I assembled some craft boxes with the following contents:

  • toilet paper rolls (optional, but I feel like you never have one when you need one for a craft)
  • pipe cleaners in assorted colors
  • a paint dish (not paint, though. At first, I thought I would buy small bottles to pour tempera paint into, and then I asked myself, “Self, what are you doing with your life?!” and did not do that)
  • two paint brushes (I got a colorful bulk pack of the big grippy kind that you see in childcare facilities)
  • a personalized apron (I bought these in a pack of a dozen and then used puff paint to put names on the aprons. I take back what I said before on the buckets… But really could have done this with paint pens, too, and it probably would have taken up less real estate while drying.)
  • kid scissors (they allegedly only cut paper – we’ll see. Apparently Crayola stopped making them, but there are similar types of products available. The ones I got came in a pack of three for different cuts, but I just separated them out because I don’t feel like 2-year-olds necessarily need multiples of scissors.)
  • two packs of Play-Dough (this came in a party pack, which I separated out, in anticipation of this maybe being a travel pack or something for emergency use by other parents)
  • crayons (the larger jumbo ones for younger kids and the regular size ones for older kids) (I got these in a 200-pack for classroom use and then just separated them out)
  • washable! markers (also in a classroom pack of 200, except my box had 201, or else I can’t count and someone didn’t get a yellow marker in their box)
  • a glue stick (when one 2-year-old opened the box and immediately pulled the cap off to use this as lip gloss, I realized that maybe it wasn’t the best choice, but since I already wrapped all of these for the year of birthdays, I’ll just have to live with regrets and they’ll just have to deal with sticky lips)
  • I put everything in a really nice small Sterilite flip-top container (you can personalize this using letter stickers – which might be particularly helpful if you give this gift to siblings simultaneously)

One advantage of this gift is that it’s light and it fits into a box (which is also part of the gift), so it’s great for shipping if you know people far away. It was a big hit as a December-fest gift, too. For some slightly older kids, I included a bunch of holiday stickers, googly eyes, and blank greeting cards (aka envelopes and folded card stock) so they could write thank-you cards (or just make art) after dinner and other festivities had concluded.

It also seems like it would be highly portable for longer trips, although I haven’t attempted to bring scissors on an airplane. Glue might also pose a problem. And Play-Dough would likely be messy… Well, anyhow, you do you.


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