Christmukkah 2016: Last-Minute Holiday Gift Ideas, Toddler/Tween Edition Making our older baby and baby adolescent smile since Holiday 2006!

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Christmukkah cheer.

Another holiday season is upon us! When you celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah like we do in my home, there is double the pressure to find the best gifts for the (lack of) money we have. Quadruple, if you multiply two holidays by two kids. And this year, both holidays fall at the exact same time. This phenomenon has definite pros, but also significant cons.

Pros: I have a bit more time to bargain hunt than when Hanukkah falls at the start of the month. That year when Hanukkah merged with Thanksgiving? Yeah, that was stressful.

Cons: That’s, like, a ton of stuff to seek out, purchase, and wrap by a certain date and time. Oh, and Mike and I are hosting Christmas dinner this year too, because apparently, we enjoy chaos. Pile it on, yo!

OK, it’s not at the level of pressure described in this song, but holiday time is still filled with pressure when you are a parent. Plus, its a Freddie Mercury-David Bowie duet, for Pete’s sake. That’s reason enough to throw this video into a post.

The First Rule of Christmukkah Club is….

In my case, you do talk about Christmukkah Club, in a blog post!

My two ladies.

I have two daughters: a 2-year old toddler and a 10-year old tween. Both have very specific likes and dislikes. Now I most definitely subscribe to the somewhat old-school theory of “I will buy you a gift, and like it or not, you will show gratitude in return” with my kids, yet I also try to buy holiday gifts that make the girls genuinely happy, rather than pretend-for-my-sake-happy. To date, I think I’ve been pretty successful in that realm. The girls ain’t that good of actors, so I’m pretty sure their excitement hasn’t been feigned up to this point.

Santa, You’re a Pain in My Arse

S2 talks about Santa constantly, yet when she meets him, she hates his guts. Ah, 2-year olds.

This holiday season is the first Christmukkah for S2 where she kinda-sorta understands what’s going on. Due to this, we are doing the whole Santa shebang that we were mercifully granted a reprieve from last year. You see, S10 had figured out the Santa ruse a few months prior to Christmas 2015 (she asked me, I told her the truth), and S2 was only 17 months old last December, so we had a Kringle-free holiday. Alas, this year, the Fatman is back for S2. Though now, I am ready for him.

S2 and S10 by our tree. That tree is now swarmed with gifts from Mom and Dad. Santa gifts come later!

However this time, with S2, Christmas gifts will be split between some gifts being from Santa and some gift coming from us. I had big issues with the fact that Mike and I put tons of effort and love into finding Christmas gifts for S10 for 8 GD years, yet some fat bearded dude ended up getting all the damn credit for her happiness. I won’t go through that again with S2. Halfsies, Mr. Kringle. That’s all the credit your big ol’ butt’s gonna get in this here house from this point forward. (Hanukkah gifts have always been from Mom and Dad, and will continue to be).

To Elf or Not To Elf, That is the Question

Advent calendar chocolate. The only 30 day holiday tradition I will agree to do. Because no effort is required.

In case you are wondering, my answer is no, we don’t do that Elf on a Shelf thing. S10 asked why last year, and I reminded her that we do two holidays, and that should be enough. Unless of course, she would like to give up either Christmas or Hanukkah in return for having an Elf on a Shelf. Surprise! She quickly and emphatically declined that suggestion. Smart girl.

Regarding the Shelf Elf, I know myself, and I just do not possess the patience for anything holiday-esque that is a month-long deal. Well, except the Advent calendar, and that’s just popping out a piece of chocolate each day. No one has to be reminded to do that, because as soon as S2 and I get home from work and school, the first words out of her mouth are, “I want my Christmas candy.” Easy peasy. Elf on a Shelf? I got enough crap I have to remember. Ain’t nobody here got time to remember to move an Elf every damn day.

So yeah, no creeptastic elf for us, though I am not judging those who do said Elf. So please don’t consider yourself judged. It’s not the case! And hell, you might think I’m the crazy one for celebrating two friggin holidays. And that’s ok! Different strokes for different folks, KWIM?

Aria, The Kindness Hanukkah Elf

Now that’s a good-looking elf.

Actually, instead of the Shelf Elf, starting this year, S10 has elected to take ownership of including a “kindness elf” into our holiday traditions. I bought “Aria” from a mom I met in a mommy group when S10 was a baby. She had a bunch for sale at her awesome Etsy shop ( and S10 has decided to incorporate her into our Hanukkah traditions for S2’s benefit. How sweet is that?

How she works: Aria the Elf does NOT spy on children, she can be touched, and she gives no (tangible) gifts. Instead, her purpose is to bring joy into our home, as well as encourage S2 to do an extra special act of kindness for each of Hanukkah’s eight days. We are currently pushing the “kindness” angle, as S2 has had some hitting and yelling issues at preschool according to her teachers (and yes, I’m mortified, but I’m keeping that to myself in S2’s presence and focusing on why she feels the need to behave that way).

Due to the school issue, Mike, S10, and I are trying to eradicate S2’s penchant for loud, violent, todder-esque assertiveness, but with subtlety. Cause addressing the issue directly will cause S2 to do the opposite of what we want, and that’s…. because toddlers. Also, the three of us are trying to be both gentle and understanding while we work on her behavior, because we try to be a peaceful parenting-type family. Though I don’t always act peacefully, I ain’t gon’ lie. But it’s good to have goals, amirite?

Anyway, hopefully Aria the Elf can help S2 enjoy being kind as much as she enjoys… being naughty. Either way, I’m looking forward to starting a new sisterly holiday tradition this year!

Gift Ideas: Toddler Girl, Age (almost) 2.5

A sampling of S2’s holiday bounty this year.
  1. First off, Amazon Prime…. rocks. I held off joining for a few years, but I cannot express how valuable that free 2-day shipping thing is. As of today, December 18, you can still get gifts in time for Christmas and/or Hanukkah! And there is no stress if you place an order and then realize you forgot something. Just place another order. Shipping’s on them!
  2. Amazon’s wide selection of options was my first stop in holiday shopping for S2. Many of my holiday-gift ideas this year I learned about from Facebook, such as when my computer-programmer buddy (Hi, Mark!) posted a photo of a book he bought his son, called the ABCs of the Web. How awesome is that title? So I just typed that title into the search bar, and there it was! The author, John C. Vanden-Heuvel Sr, also wrote other books such as HTML for Babies, CSS for Babies, and so forth, which appeared in the “customers also viewed” section of the page. I like that recommendations are given for each item you look at, and I’ve ended up purchasing really cool items I wouldn’t know about otherwise because of that feature. Some of S2’s Amazon-purchased toys this year include a doctor kit, a code-a-pillar coding toy, a Mrs. Potato Head, a “My First Purse,” the game “Connect Four,” and I am certain that’s not all. Shockingly, the sheer quantity of gifts I purchased truly did not break the bank, either!
  3. SO excited to find this.

    I shopped on eBay well in advance of the holiday season, because when you win an eBay auction, you are buying from a person, rather than a company. Therefore, the shipping times are not set in stone. This year, on eBay, I decided to seek out Little People from the 1970s and 1980s for S2. This is because last summer, I took S2 to a playspace which had the old Little People Tudor house as well as the old-school cylindrical people with helmet hair and painted-on expressions from the 1970s. S2 loved playing with it all. So did I, actually, as I owned some of

    And this!

    that same stuff at her age. I actually hit the Little People jackpot, in that I found the original Sesame Street house with some of the original furniture, as well as a few Sesame Street characters- all for about $50 including shipping! I also found a set of old school Sesame Street Little People from the 1970s that included some long-retired characters. Roosevelt Franklin, for eff’s sake. There was even a Little People Mr. Hooper! He died in 1982, giving you an idea of how long it’s been since he graced my double-knob, 13 channel TV back in the day. Such an awesome toy score. For S2. Yeah, and also for me, I’ll admit.

    Love these mermaid tail blankets from Isabel at Kvara. Left is S2’s blanket, right is S10’s.
  4. My awesome mommy friend Isabel, owner of KvaraBaby, is no joke on the sewing machine. She creates baby carriers for kids, blankets, tool belts for kids, aprons for kids, and more. I saw an ad in my Facebook feed for mermaid tail blankets, and I thought that was just an outstanding idea. S10 can often be found buried in the covers of the couch, watching her YouTube DIY LOL OMG videos, and S2 looks up to her big sister, so I knew they’d both get good mileage out of mermaid blankets. However, I know better than to send money to a sketchy Facebook site, so I looked on Etsy to see what they had instead. Etsy sellers did have some beautiful blankets, but most were very pricey. I contacted Isabel, who said that she could do it, and gave me a more-than reasonable price quote as well. She also had the blankets ready for pick-up very, very quickly. (Note: she also ships, but to save dough we live close enough for pick-up).
    How. Cute. Is. That. Hat.

    The blankets are gorgeous! Plus, by purchasing from a local business, I am supporting my fellow momtrepreneurs! Isabel also made a felt fox-ear hat for S2, which came out beyond adorable. It was also fit to her specific head measurements!

  5. As a 13-year veteran elementary teacher, I have been a Scholastic books customer for quite a while. As a kid, I remember ordering Scholastic books through the newspaper-like flyer, and the excitement of when the order came and I received my brand-new books at school. I used to amass tons of Scholastic points as a classroom teacher, and back when money was tight I’d buy a bunch of S10’s holiday gifts with my Scholastic points. However now, as an AIS math teacher, I no longer do student book orders. S2’s preschool does, however, and they send the flyer that elementary teachers don’t usually get- the infant-toddler-preschool level books. Honestly, there are always great deals in the flyers, and I like that my order gives points to S2’s preschool, as her teacher told me she uses the points to buy items for the classroom. I’ve placed two orders this year already, and stashed them aside for the holidays. S2 loves books, which is a good thing, because she’s getting a bunch of them!

    Official Family Portrait with Santa, 2016.
  6. I keep my eyes open in my travels. I had to go to Kohl’s to find nice shoes for S2’s photo with Santa (the shoes looked great. The photo was pretty good, even if S2 doesn’t look thrilled). At Kohl’s, I walked past the item seen below and I just couldn’t resist. S2 loves technology, and can swipe and use the touchscreen on an iPhone like a boss (though she fails to understand that not everything is a touchscreen, currently). She also loves Paw Patrol, and, as stated earlier, she loves to read. Put that all together and what have you got for the low price of $30?
The Nick Jr. “Me Reader!” This looks awesome.

These “Me Readers” come with 8 books and an electronic reader. There are a few versions available such as Disney Jr., Marvel Comics, and Eric Carle. I have a feeling S2 is going to love this!

Gift Ideas: Tween Girl, Age (almost) 10.5

Too much stuff. For the love of all that is holy, this child has just too much stuff.
  1. Buying for S10, my tween daughter, has become much more difficult in recent years. She doesn’t really play with toys too much anymore, and I am learning that as a child’s age increases, so do the cost of gifts. Therefore, I forewarned S10 that although her baby sister is getting a larger quantity of gifts, S10’s gifts cost more overall than S2’s. She didn’t seem to take issue with that.
  2. I do ask S10 to text me a list of desires for gifts to help me and her grandparents out, as the grandparents know even less about what 2016 10-year old girls want than I do. I usually stick to the list, with a few extras, such as the mermaid tail blankets referenced above. Also, Grandmas often help out by buying a few of the more expensive items that would pretty much eat up S10’s entire holiday budget. This year, Grandma M is getting her the Proactiv facial cleansing system since S10 is now a skin-care fanatic (apparently 10 year old girls are somewhat vain and LOVE looking at themselves in the mirror, I am learning). Grandma B and Grandpa H are getting her Uggs and a FitBit, and hopefully not much else because those two items ain’t cheap. She also asked for an Apple Watch, but I drew the line there. I did tell her that it was a nice try though, and points with at hat-tip to her for having the cojones to ask for a $300 item. But…. no.

    The DWTS Live gift presentation
  3. This year, I bought S10 two “experience” gifts. I love experience gifts, personally. First off, no clutter! 10-year old girls are hoarders as you can see from the photo above, and I don’t want to add too much to that. So instead, I went on-line and bought two tickets to Dancing With the Stars, Live! which is coming to a local venue in early 2017. The tickets only cost $117, and I get to go too! Since they are e-tickets, I printed out the receipt, blackened out the price, placed it in an envelope, decorated the envelope with our favorite DWTS couples, and wrapped it in Hanukkah paper for night 1. She is very intrigued by the skinny gift wrapped in Hanukkah paper with her name on it. She is going to be thrilled when she finds out what it is!

    The Carole King Musical and Spotify 2-in-1 gift presentation!
  4. S10’s other “experience” gift happened by coincidence. I saw on Facebook (yes, Facebook has helped me a LOT this holiday season) that at the time that I was browsing, something called “Kids Night on Broadway” was happening at that very instant. On February 28, 2017, kids age 18 and under were invited to see a participating Broadway show for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult. That night, there were also supposed to be a bunch of family-friendly restaurant deals, special offers, events and activities in the area as well. Though the sale had only started 90 minutes earlier, all shows were already close to selling out tickets. Somehow, by sheer luck, I nabbed two 12th-row seats to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that were, like, the only two decent seats left that were next to one another. $156 total! That’s a steal for Broadway tickets. I wrapped this gift similarly to the DWTS, except that I upgraded my Spotify subscription to a family plan and set up an account for her. I created a playlist of songs by Carole King since S10 isn’t familiar with her music, I saved the album of music from the Broadway show, and I also made her a playlist of 70’s music that I know she enjoys. All she has to do is download the app, enter her username and password, and she is good to go, for only an extra $5 a month. Mike can have his own account, too (and eventually, S2)!
  5. Since some of S10’s favorite pastimes include admiring herself in
    Some of S10s holiday bounty.

    the mirror, doing her hair, and doing her makeup (in the house only), I went with that this year. I found on Amazon this neat hair styler that curls, straightens, and does some other fun things. I also bought her some nice lip glosses and her own makeup kit at Walmart, which will hopefully keep her out of mine! And of course, I got her a brand new, stand alone, magnifying mirror so that she could admire herself as often as she would like in her room (as opposed to in my bathroom when I am trying to get ready for work). She also asked for a“peppermint bag,” which after clearing up WTF that was I actually found on Amazon as well!

    Its starting to look a lot like Christmas…. literally everywhere.
  6. Finally, I ordered S10 some books (she also loves to read). I also ordered her some phone accessories like new headphones, a headphone case, and a charging cord. I bought her acrylic pants, 6 canvases, and a brush set for bargain prices at Walmart. Also, at Walmart, I came across a bin of $4 DVDs, and found that there were some gems in there! I bought her “Dirty Dancing” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” two movies I thought she would like. Also two movies that *I* would like to watch with her, especially since parental guidance is “suggested.” She also is getting the DVD “Aquamarine” from Amazon, which she asked for. Really, the only gift she didn’t get that was on her list other than the Apple Watch is an easel. Though after all that I have bought, I feel that Mike and I have been quite generous enough at this point. We are also kinda out of money, however S10 and S2 are definitely poised to have quite the Merry Christmukkah!
    Happy Hanukkah!
    Merry Christmas!







Thanks for reading! Until next time!



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  1. Fantastic ideas for gifts! I especially love giving ‘experience’ gifts. I’ve taken nieces to plays, we’ve done trips to the ice cream shop with our boys, and even surprised them with a Disney vacation.


  2. Wow a Disney vacation! That’s awesome. S2 is a bit young yet but I hope to be able to give her just that in about 2 years. Age 4 is when S10 went though my mom took her bc we couldn’t afford to. Hopefully 8 years after that I will be able to! And S10 will be 12 so she’ll still have fun there too.
    Ice cream is definitely a good one. I think my youngest likes candy and sweets more than toys to be honest!


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