Your toughest gift to buy this year – Father and Father-In-Law…12 Days of Shopping, Day 4

Personally, I think men are really hard to buy for and by the amount of visits this post got last year, I am not alone. My default gifts – scarves, gloves, or a nice sweater – just don’t work if your recipient lives in Florida most of the year. So I have to get creative. Luckily I had a brainstorm session with Pragmatic Mom. What did we come up with? Well, there is the ever-popular sports themed gifts. Golf, tennis, any sport that your father or father-in-law might love. If they like the same sport, and you can get away with it, give them the same gift. Guys don’t usually talk about, well anything, so you are pretty safe that they won’t compare gifts – I can’t promise that this will work for your mother and mother-in-law.

capability mom loves target and this digital photo frame For instance, my dad is a gadget guy and my husband’s dad is not, but both would love a digital photo frame (especially one pre-loaded with images of adorable grandchildren). If you want to make it more personal, have siblings also send tech-y grandpa CDs of pictures, jpegs or even a flash drive. He can set it up, no problem. Or pre-load it with pics for someone who doesn’t care for that activity, then re-package the frame an you are good to go.

Also, if he is a techie, great gifts to support his tech…iPad cases are everywhere, phone covers and accessories (a huge blinding wall of them over at the Apple Store, Marshall’s has some in the really well-stocked and long checkout aisle where they get you to make impulse purchases now.

There is always a tie – really? Did I just write that? Yes, not just any ties but a Hermes tie or a Ermenegildo Zegna tie. If you need to make a very nice impression then this is the way to go. Big bucks – $180 for Hermes and about $175 for Zegna (although I am a bargain shopper and have seen the Zegna for less). Filene’s Basement is going out of business (so sad – I love that store and have great stories about it – I guess that is for another time) and they still have lots of great stuff – I was there yesterday.

Books! You know I am a bit of a book freak – what, you didn’t notice, really? – I head to my local independent bookstores; Newtonville Books or New England Mobile Book Fair but I do have to admit that the nearby Barnes & Noble does do a great job of suggesting books as well, and, yes, I do shop at Amazon, too. Love that super saver shipping. Go to the Best Sellers List in the NY Times for popular, NPR for funkier offerings and

capability mom finds ny giants gear on lineFor a sports enthusiasts – especially of one particular team – it is easy – there are tons of shirts, hats, and paraphernalia – go to the team website or your local sporting goods store (especially nice if you don’t support the same team, you look gracious and maybe a little heroic). For the sporty guys, just go for nicer stuff than he would buy for himself. For a golfer – go to Titleist and order personalized golf balls (with their name or nickname). For your tennis player, get tennis balls, some court time (with you? not me, this is a gift, not a punishment) at a place they don’t usually play. Runners are a cinch – new UnderArmour long sleeve shirt – about $50-60 or some running gloves, always welcome in New England.

Architect or Engineer types? Don’t overlook building kits like this from Frank Lloyd Wright and Lego – not cheap – about $100 at Target.capability mom finds great gifts for engineers or architects at targetIs your dad or father-in-law into building or fixing stuff? Easy! Head on over to Home Depot, Sears or Lowe’s and grab a gift card (too easy?) a Craftsman tool kit or if you really want a big gift – go for this rolling cart.

Don’t forget the experience gift – a pair of tickets to a game or event – whether it is theatre, sports or concert. Maybe you will even get invited to go along.

Does he love the Red Sox? Boats? Architecture? Nature? Check out this site for gorgeous photographs stretched on canvas – Sharon Schindler Photography.

Now, this brings us to the Mothers and Mothers-in-law, be sure to make the gifts of equal value! Obviously, you know them best – but here are some thoughts that Pragmatic Mom– ever the diplomat – put together.

The 12 Days of Shopping

Dec 1: Make Your Own Gifts GRANOLA, Amazing Granola from Nigella Lawson versus Amazing Granola Bars from The Barefoot Contessa

Dec 2: Kids Make Gifts CRAFT (ModPodge versus Clove Fruit)

Dec 3: Personalized Gifts (Fancy Address Stampers versus Pretty Papers Giveaway)

Dec 4: Father-in-Law/Dad and Mother-in-Law/Mom

Dec 5: Tutors/Teachers

Dec 6: High Tech/Low Tech

Dec 7: Hostess/Doing Good and Getting Something

Dec 8: Sanitation Engineers, Mail Carriers, Hairdresser, Delivery People, Babysitter, Cleaning People, Dog Walker/Dog Trainer, etc. (a.k.a. who else did I forget?)

Dec 9: Husband, Me (Our Own Wacko List); Capability:Mom Husband/Wife

Dec 10: Dog/Cat

Dec 11: Quick Gifts from Whole Foods versus Gourmet Food Store

Dec 12: ’Cause I Am So Together, Last Minute Home Made Gifts: Cookies & Personalized Holiday Tags

My Secret Math Brain

It is true, I have one. Despite years of vowing that I hated math and couldn’t do it, I do have a math brain that I find I can access at will. During my children’s early – read formative – years (which are now long since past or so I told myself so I could go back to not being good at math), I pretended that I was good at math to provide a strong example so they would not end up hating math (it is always the mom’s fault, you know).

Example of conversations in the early years:

Darling blonde daughter : “Mom, what is 400 plus 200?”

Me, while making dinner and answering the phone and chasing after the younger darling blonde daughter: “Umm…600?”

This goes on for 10 minutes, degree of difficulty remains the same.

Darling blonde girl: “Dad, you can’t stump Mom!”

Dad, grinning, “Nope, Mom is a whiz!” (we quietly snort laugh).

This was all good until the Peter Principle was reached and I couldn’t help with the math easily while making dinner, answering the telephone and chasing other darling blonde child. I am a strong believer in empowering girls to be anything they want to be – hopefully more Marie Curie than Kim Kardashian, just saying – and that girls do well having strong role models but if you are not strong in math, you have not relegated your daughters to a life of mathlessness. You don’t have to love calculus to encourage math strength. Also every child should be encouraged in Math and Science or History and Literature or Latin or anything they are interested in pursuing. Soapbox, much?  If you think they will not be good at math, guess what? They won’t be good in math. So don’t project your math fears, channel them. Okay. The preaching portion of the program is over…ish.

Personally, I do not walk around planning math lessons (some mommies do – really, I know some) but I do take advantage of them when they happen.

Lesson 1: You put an analog clock in the playroom and get a Judy Clock, too. What is a Judy Clock? [amazon-product image=”51SuxgYgSsL._SL160_.jpg” type=”image”]B0007KK0EE[/amazon-product]You talk about the time, you let them play with the Judy clock to match the time and progress to showing the time on the hand-held clock. Some day they may own a wrist watch and it may not be digital.

Lesson 2: In the grocery store, you measure fruits and vegetables on the scale and look at the price per pound and – voila – you have a math problem. Sure, it takes hours to shop this way so either make sure you have time (no rushing these math moments) or limit (yes, please limit the number of math problems you allow your children to do) each child to only one or two estimations. My mom used to add up everything in the grocery cart as she shopped – to keep track cost-wise but also I believe to exercise brain power – ours and hers. Have your kids do this, too. It’s fun to see who is closest to the actual total. Really it is. Try throwing in a budget lesson, too.

Lesson 3: Build with Legos, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs (remember those?). Play with modeling clay, puzzles, board games, toys that come apart, writing and drawing materials, paint (all types – relax – there are tons of washable products). [amazon-product image=”51JG3GaCiaL._SL160_.jpg” type=”image”]B00004TFRN[/amazon-product]

Lesson 4: Do origami. Here is a link to the New Art Center that has a class for children in Origami. From the course description: Students will learn about visualization, spatial reasoning, and geometric modeling, and finish class with beautifully made art pieces.

Other resources: I found this great site Brain Cake – it is fun and engaging and a terrific resource. A bit from the BrainCake website: Brain Cake -capability momThe Girls, Math & Science Partnership’s mission is to engage, educate, and embrace girls as architects of change. Working with girls age 11 – 17 and their parents, teachers, and mentors, we draw organizations, stakeholders, and communities together in an effort to ensure that girls succeed in math and science. Welcome to the Girls, Math & Science Partnership, a program of Carnegie Science Center.

And, me? How am I accessing my math brain? Well, it happened like this – I was asked an algebra question (the homework is getting tougher) and figured it out by going through a tutorial on TenMarks. Yes, I did. Hey, I’ve watched tutorials on HTML and sat through webinars (I know) on other fun topics…what makes you think I won’t sit through one on Systems of Equations and Inequalities?  So anyway, there is a free trial that you can customize by grade and topic (yes, for the free trial they let you do this). Very helpful and I used it to solve the algebra problem in question. I have to say that the site is well-organized, the program is thorough and there are hints and do-over worksheets  (gotta love do-overs!) if you need them. But most helpful to me was the step-by-step video that walks you through the problem. I know, right? Great.  I have to say that I was not sure we could go without a math tutor this year – both Middle School and High School math? Yikes. Knock wood – so far so good.

Here are some links to some well-researched articles. You are welcome.

From NPR Girls’ Math Skills Equal To Boys’, Study Finds by Nell Greenfieldboyce

From ARS Technica Female teachers transmit math anxiety to female students by Casey Johnston

From The New York Times Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause … By WINNIE HU

Proving you are a good parent – from New York Times – Motherlode

If you haven’t found Motherlode (the New York Times) do read it now…you may cry. The writing is beautiful and the topic is emotionally moving…Just go read it now. Lisa Belkin can write.


Happy Summer! Here are a few of my favorite fixes

I really like to read so, in addition to the daily paper (The Boston Globe) that gets delivered to my door (yes, an actual paper – my grandfather worked for a newspaper and I have always loved newsprint. Will this generation grow up not knowing how fun it is to transfer the funnies onto Silly Putty? Note to self – get some silly putty today), I get Slate Morning Edition in my inbox – it gets me the news and I like to start the day with a glance (or more) at their great articles.  I also get The New York Times daily and I like Daily Candy for more light-hearted information – I learned how to do my hair in my recent style here. I know, right? I read all of this stuff  and my take-away is my hair…grin.

All about the surface today. Are you the type of person who has to rearrange your house periodically? Well, changing themes on a wordpress blog (they are free unless you upgrade) and so I have been playing with new themes. Here is the new favorite.

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