Teacher Gifts: Avoiding Sugar Overload

The first year L was in daycare, we had a rough start to December that meant lots of holiday preparation ended up delayed, and then we were out of town the weekend before Christmas, spent all of Monday in the ER with a stubbornly clotted off central line, I had a crucial job interview on Tuesday followed by dinner guests (for whom we had had a lovely menu planned but instead ended up ordering pizza), and on Wednesday, just two days before Christmas and the last day of school before winter break, we went back to the OR to have a new line placed. We very nearly didn’t even have a Christmas tree that year, let alone finding time to purchase supplies for, make, and package up gifts for several teachers in the midst of all that. So the teacher gifts that I had intended to deliver pre-holiday break turned into New Year’s gifts instead, the homemade Christmas candy I had planned to include was more than two weeks old, and I decided to toss the stale chocolate and whip up some healthy treats.

“They’ll love it!” I thought to myself around 5 pm as I planned out a treat bag of pumpkin chia banana bread, all-natural energy bites, and homemade zucchini chips. After all, everyone is burnt out on sugar by the time January rolls around, and the last thing most of us need is another bag of sweets to immediately throw our resolutions off track.

By 9 pm I realized that zucchini chips take a heck of a lot longer to make than I had thought. Around 11 pm I became aware that we had no food-appropriate bags in the house, and just after midnight I finished assembling what I hoped everyone would perceive as carefully-planned hand-folded envelopes made of waxed paper (you poorly-prepared procrastinator crafty over-achiever, you!). At 7 am we realized zucchini chips are actually kind of weird the next day, and around 7:30 am Z made an emergency Starbucks run for a handful of gift cards as a sort of apology to stick in with a set of healthful edible gifts that I imagine mostly wound up in the trash.

Last year I was determined to do better. There are lots of ideas floating around out there on the interwebs; this list put together by a teacher has some great ideas, and there are always homemade go-tos like hot chocolate in a jar or this adorable snow day survival kit. But those are all peppered with sugar; and since I wanted to make sure L was included in putting together gifts for his teachers this time around, and because we have to carefully limit L’s sugar intake, I was once again tasked with finding a non-sugary gift. I also wanted to find something that would be appropriate for 3-year-old hands to help with, but that would actually look nice and ideally have some kind of usefulness. The thought certainly counts a great deal, but as the child of two teachers, I am well aware how appreciated it is to receive a gift that’s not just another addition to the box(es) of things you feel obligated to not throw away.

So I spent some time browsing and thinking, and came up with a list of non-sugary, homemade or some-assembly-required, preschooler-appropriate, likely-to-be-appreciated gifts. And since that criteria seems like it might not be so very specific to our family, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ideas:

A bundle of stovetop potpourri ingredients. Easy peasy for small hands to drop in a pretty bag, and it makes the whole house smell sooooo good (don’t forget to keep enough to make some for yourself!). Pair it with homemade Winter Warmers if you’re really feeling crafty.christmas-simmering-stove-top-potpourriPhoto credit: Mommypotamus

Homemade candlessugar scrubs, or whipped body butter. Ok, so there’s some sugar in this one – but it’s not for eating! Alternately, you could easily buy these things and have your kiddo help you package them up in a pretty little mini-spa bundle. 

coffee coziesA handmade coffee cozy paired with coffee beans, a gift card to a coffee shop, or an edible treat if you’re not trying to avoid sugar. A seasoned teacher likely already has plenty of mugs, so give them a coffee-centric gift that won’t add to that collection! I’m whipping out a few of these crocheted cozies (pictured at right) this year because I can make them pretty quickly while holding a sleeping baby, but there’s also a no-sew version that may be a little easier to get the kids involved in.

Savory edible treats. If you love gifting homemade edibles but want to cut the sugar a bit, here’s a list of ideas that are not zucchini chips.

Handmade ornaments. This is a tricky one. It can be hard for a 3- or 4-year-old to make something that looks nice (sorry, L’s art box!), and the teacher’s suggestions linked above actually lists ornaments as something to avoid. But my teacher mother suggested this as one of her favorite kinds of gifts, because she put up a small tree in her classroom each year and could continue honoring her students gifts in that way each year without having to actually bring them home. So this might be one to tread carefully on, and may vary based on how your child’s school approaches holiday decor. If it sounds like an idea you’re interested in, you might check out these button ornaments (pictured below), which we’re planning to try our hands at on Christmas Eve this year.

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Donate to a community organization that supports children. Donating on someone’s behalf can be a bit risky when it comes to gift-giving, but a teacher is almost sure to love a gift in his or her honor to a non-profit that supports local schools or promotes school readiness. To get the kids involved, have them make a card or draw a picture explaining the donation – and this will give them a chance to better understand charitable giving as well.

Or, you know, you can always pick up a few Starbucks cards. I have it on good authority that teachers love coffee, and also that it takes quite a bit of caffeine to keep up with my little monster!

What are your go-to teacher gifts? Teachers, what are your favorite things to receive?  Leave a comment below to help me add to this list!

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And then there were four

I had thought that I would do a lot of blogging on my maternity leave, but G will be 8 weeks old on Saturday and here I am just now getting around to writing something new.

Part of that is a symptom of simply learning to manage life with two children, especially during the flurry of the holiday season; we are doing well, and L is an amazing big brother and really is adjusting beautifully, but our days are full, our hands are full, and we are exhausted. Instead of blogging, I have been chugging coffee, doing an endless stream of laundry, supermomming out on our daily advent activities, and mitigating that by accidentally washing the baby’s hair with dish soap, getting chocolate stains on her onesies, and literally falling asleep while reading aloud to L in the mid-afternoon.

But the other part of it is that I think I’m not exactly sure what to say. By the time I started blogging about our experience with L, we were nearly three years removed from the start of our journey. I had had weeks and months and years to process what we have experienced; countless hours spent pumping or sitting around a hospital room or holding a sleeping child to think through how I felt about it and what I had to say about it. But having a healthy baby after having a sick one is a brand new experience, and I’m not sure I can offer any profound takeaways just yet.

Much of this is strange and new; since L was 4.5 months old before he left the hospital, we have never really taken care of a newborn before. G has been an incredibly easy baby so far, aside from being an extraordinarily accomplished spitter-upper (we are no strangers to vomiting, but I had NO idea that this kind of volume could come from a healthy baby!), and I am slowly getting used to the fact that it really can be this easy.

I wasn’t sure how I would react to having a second child after L, but most of our days are ordinary, without time to stop and think and reflect on each small thing as it happens. I do think in some ways the weight of all we lost with L, of all the things we didn’t get to experience with him, has taken on new significance, because before I only knew what I imagined life with a newborn should have been like, but now I actually know, and in some ways that makes it painful all over again.

But the Big Feelings tend to lurk below the surface, fragmented, and popping up raw and overwhelming only occasionally. The first time I saw Z lift G from the warmer where she had been taken for a boost of oxygen just moments after birth, the total absence of tubes and wires was physically jarring to me in a way that’s hard to describe; and I did not sleep a wink that night as I tried to wrap my head around how you’re supposed to know your baby is still alive without the constant soft beep of monitors reassuring you that her heart is beating, that she is in fact still breathing. It seemed almost irresponsible to leave her tiny, brand new body lying there so unattached to anything that could register the first sign of a problem. Even now, nearly 2 months later, I am still occasionally surprised to not feel a G-tube under her sleeper, and I still can’t shake a sudden jolt of panic as I remind myself again that it’s really, actually fine to get her chest wet at bathtime.

I had expected some anxiety, but it has manifested in ways I did not expect. For example, for so long when L was a baby his poops were SO frequent and SO loose and made his skin SO raw, and were such an ever-present reminder that his gut wasn’t functioning the way it should, and also I guess I didn’t realize how frequently a healthy newborn would poop, so for the first several days I had an unexpected moment of dismay every time I realized G was pooping again. In the same vein, she seems to be healthy and gaining and growing beautifully, but I still cannot see the really quite impressive volume of spit-up that spews forth on a regular basis without feeling compelled to find a way to fix this problem, because so much of L’s babyhood was spent cleaning up vomit, evaluating all the variables and trying to fix it. And – and this one is not exactly new or unexpected, as it’s kind of been my operating mode for awhile now – the better things go for us, the more I imagine some heinous thing lurking just around the corner, and the more fearful I am that we will pay for this streak of good luck with something truly horrendous just over the horizon.

On the whole though, I can say this: I was not okay when Luke was born, and I was not okay for a very long time after that, but I have healed a great deal mentally and emotionally since then. I would not have taken on a second pregnancy without truly believing that I was in a much better place, because I know the extent to which many women struggle in the first few weeks and months postpartum even with healthy babies; but the last eight weeks have in many ways been healing for me, and for us as a family, more so than I had even dared to hope.

I find myself still yet trying to wrap this up with a neat and tidy takeaway, so I’m going to stop now, because our story as a family of four is just beginning to unfold, and leave you simply with a picture of my heart:

View More: http://jamieschuesslerphotography.pass.us/newborn-thompson

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