How to make an awesome teacher gift

I was talking to a teacher friend and asked him what his favorite thing to receive from kids was. He said: “gift cards”. He went on to say that he loved sentimental gifts and everything else that was given as a token of appreciation as well, but that gift cards were practical and useful.

For years it was my automatic assumption that teachers wanted needed alcohol as their year end thank you gift, but last year I bought a bottle of wine for my daughter’s pregnant (she wasn’t showing-how was I to know?) teacher and that was the year I stopped buying booze.

Since the conversation with my friend I wanted to come up with the ultimate gift for my kids’ teachers. Considering what my friend said I decided to combine the two gift ideals: A sentimental gift with a gift card. Hey?! Not bad, right?!

The awesome teacher’s gift

Kids love their teachers. My kindergartener comes home raving about her “Madame” and all of the fun things they did during the day. It only makes sense that they would want to show their appreciation as much as you do (seriously, 28 kids for 7 hours a day??? Why am I not buying them alcohol, again???)!

This year the girls are going to make hand-painted mugs and I’m going to add a gift certificate to a local coffee shop.

How to make hand-painted mugs

  1. Take a minute to prepare yourself. Meditate. Have a big ol’ cup of coffee (or whatever). Get yourself ready to take on crafts with kids.
  2. Make sure the kids are in old clothes that you don’t care about. Going clothes shopping after this is the last thing you need.
  3. Get yourself some blank mugs and oil based Sharpie pens. This won’t work if you don’t use the oil based ones.***
  4. Let them decorate the mugs (get in on this, too, Mama!). Suggest they draw something that reminds them of their teacher, or something they learned about during the year.
  5. Once they’re finished, put them on a cookie sheet. handmade mugs
  6. Heat your oven to 250 degrees. Put the tray of mugs in the oven for 2 hours. Choose an activity to do while you wait.
  7. After two hours turn off the oven, but don’t take the mugs out yet. Allow them to cool down in the oven.
  8. Once cool, take the mugs out. Add a little note telling the teacher to handwash their fantastically wonderful new mug!
    best teacher ever

    Don’t mind the dust


9. Add a gift card, put it in a gift bag, and badabing badaboom! You’ve got yourself an awesome teacher’s gift!

***Those specific Sharpie pens are crazy expensive. If you don’t plan on using them ever again I suggest finding something else for the kids to make for their teachers. It really is the sentiment that counts when it comes from the kids. Something as simple as a homemade card would be thrilling to their teacher.


What do you get your kid’s teachers?

How to buy kid's clothes

Your guide to shopping for baby’s clothes

Shopping for baby’s clothes can be fun. Perusing the kid’s clothes section filled with cute little onesies that say “Mama’s little stinker” and tiny suspenders that serve no purpose other than strictly aesthetic gratification can be so emotionally satisfying.

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Yes, let me have them!

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*If cutesy isn’t your thing try holding up a pair of newborn pants and pretend you’re a giant.

There are many ways that shopping for baby’s clothes can be an enjoyable experience, but there’s only one way to ensure that it won’t be: bringing your older kids. They run through the aisles, hide in the racks, and before you know there’s a full-fledged tantrum that results in abandoning the store sans new kid’s clothes and eating tear seasoned yogurt in the food court instead.

If and when you do get the opportunity to acquire some new duds for your wee one without said wee one being present there’s a few things you’ll need to consider:

How to shop for your baby’s clothes


Unless you want to spend the majority of your children’s younger years taking care of their clothing, be frugal. Kids are hard on clothes. If they’re not having explosive diarrhea or smearing strawberries down their front, they’re crawling in the mud or giving their clothes new tattoos with permanent markers. It’s a lot easier to come to terms with the fact that a stain isn’t coming out if you paid as little as possible. Ideally, you want to check out consignment stores because it is great for your wallet and the planet!!! Sometimes, however, when you’re looking for a specific item you can find some awesome sales at retail shops.


Solid colors? No. Light colored pattern? No. White? HELL NO!!!!

The only thing for young children to wear is anything that doesn’t show anything.  If it has a “loud” pattern or any kind of pattern that already looks like mucous smears and chocolate ice creamed fingerprints is where it’s at.

Mom, this applies to you, as well.


Junior only appreciates/doesn’t care about those tiny suspenders that you insist he wears for so long. The older Junior gets, the less enthusiastic he’s going to be about the ensembles that his Mom has deemed “cool”. As the kids get older it’s important to allow them to make their own decisions regarding what they want to wear. This is the exception to the general idea of NOT taking your kids with you.


Buttons on baby’s clothes are the worst thing on the entire planet :”Please, 8- month old, just lay down for 5 minutes while I fidget with this itsy button that’s size indicates that it was intended for your fingers to do it up rather than mine.”

Snaps follow in a close second because no matter where you start doing those suckers up they almost never match up. Zippers aren’t bad, but ideally, you want to find something that requires the least amount of work on your part, because, truly, you have better things to do (chocolate in the laundry room, anyone?).


Before you buy that expensive white, lace, button up dress check out this guide on how to shop for kid's clothes!

Shoe sizes amongst different brands are terribly inconsistent. A size “4” in brand A is a size “2” in brand B. Remember when you were a kid and you traced your foot and had to draw a running shoe on it? Get your kids to do that and then take that lovely little piece of art with you to the store to use as your own sizer. Trust me, this will eliminate the 2 hours you’re going to have to spend lugging your 3-year-old from store to store to try on runners that she hates because they don’t have a high heel on them.

When it comes to clothes, go big or go home. If the clothing fits a little big it’s better than a little snug: less complaining about being uncomfortable, and they’ll get to wear it for a while longer than if it fits them properly.


If it needs to be ironed, dry cleaned, or hand washed you do not want to buy your child this article of clothing. You’re going to want the one that’s made of rugged cotton duck, repels water and stains, and washes itself. Your baby’s clothes should take as minimal work as possible.


Remember the time when you and the kids were walking in the mall when “Uh Oh!!”- someone’s peed their pants? (You have to cross your legs before you sneeze). Don’t you wish you had brought an extra pair of pants? Kids have the same problems, and then some. The chances of your child needing to change their clothing at some point during every day are pretty high. Prepare yourself. Make sure you bring extra clothes with you wherever you go- for you and  the kiddos.

Age-appropriate kid’s clothes

There are some things that should be left for adults to wear rather than putting them on kids (except this shirt). Enjoy the “baby clothes” and don’t rush to get them looking like mini-adults. Dress your littles up as littles. Before you know it they’ll be borrowing your clothes (which, by the way, you should be taking as a compliment)!


Realistically, kids are naked 70% of the time. During that other 30% when they really need to be in more than their birthday suits this guide will keep kids and their parents happy.

how to avoid mom guilt

How to avoid Mom guilt

Mom guilt hits us no matter what we do.

Whether you co-slept or your baby was in a crib, it doesn’t matter.

You’re guilty.

Whether you stayed at home or went to work, it doesn’t matter.

You’re guilty.

Whether you fed them junk food or didn’t allow it, it doesn’t matter.

You’re guilty.

Regardless of how you taught them, disciplined them, or provided for them it doesn’t matter.

None of it matters.

You’re. Still. Guilty.

From the time you learn you are carrying life inside of you it becomes your number one priority to keep the most precious thing in the world safe.  Understanding that another being’s best interest is in your hands is a terrifyingly humbling feeling. Your children have an enormous amount of trust in your capabilities, and depend immensely on your ability to make practical, reasonable, and informed decisions on their behalf until they reach an age where they can make their own. With this in mind, you agonize over the daily decisions you have to make pertaining to what you think is best for your child, sometimes spending hours weighing options, doing research, and finally narrowly compromising with ourselves on a decision.

It’s a part of motherhood that many struggles with and it is entirely normal.  However, being aware of the normalcy doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Using a simple approach, such as a “R.E.L.A.X” strategy to help us cope with the heavy responsibility on your shoulders allows for the opportunity to overcome the daunting mom guilt and carry on as effective parents.

How to avoid Mom guilt

Regardless of how you taught them, disciplined them, or provided for them it doesn’t matter. None of it matters. You've sill got mom guilt.


Ask people you know and trust. Read books. Find online articles from well-known and dependable resources. Pull in information from a number of sources and really contemplate what you’ve learned. Does it feel right? Does it compliment your beliefs? Does it make you feel comfortable? If your newfound knowledge makes sense to you then it is time to make your decision. It’s a lot easier to come to a conclusion when you are confident that you’re educated. Once you’ve reached a decision, stick with it! You’ve done the research and you’ve weighed your options. Ultimately, you know your child best. Have solace in the fact that you’ve paired an informed decision with intuition; this equation usually has the best outcome.

Escape the media

Take a look on your social media feed. What do you see? Probably plenty of headlines stating the latest and “best” research contradicting everything you’ve ever done as a mother. There’s a lot of information floating around on that worldwide web. We live in a society that is so hard on parents and seems to constantly perpetuate Mom guilt. There is no pleasing anyone, and everyone is an expert. Some of it is legitimate and worth considering, but a lot of it comes from unreliable sources masked as reputable. Narrow down what you’re subjected to. You can control the media that you see. Take the time to customize it and ensure you’re not being inundated with material that isn’t going to benefit you. Take everything with a grain of salt and don’t allow yourself to be put into a frenzy with information that may or may not be accurate. A simple “unfollow” can turn unnecessary hogwash from anxiety provoking to “out of sight, out of mind”.

Let yourself off the hook

It truly takes a village to raise your child. You’re not the only person impacting the outcome of the day to day care of your child. Moms tend to put so much pressure on themselves that they often forget that they are only a part of how a child is being brought up. Everything a child does, everywhere they go, everyone they see all impact the way that child thinks and behaves. They have teachers, extended family, coaches, daycare providers, community program facilitators, etc. that they see daily. All of these people your child comes in contact with will make an impression on the person they become. Understand that you aren’t your child’s only source of influence, especially when you see behaviour from them that you don’t necessarily understand.

Allow yourself to make mistakes

Parenting is an incredibly difficult job. An individual manual that came with your child would make raising them a lot easier, but seems how that doesn’t exist, heed that as a reminder: there’s no way to do this perfectly. Acknowledge to your child if you feel you’ve done something you need to apologize for. It will make you feel better and they will appreciate seeing you as a human being. Your child will build a reasonable understanding of self-awareness when they make their own mistakes. They will be able to take the necessary steps to redeem themselves in an appropriate and mature manner. You grow and learn from the mistakes you make. Your child will grow and learn from your mistakes, as well.


You’re only raising a child to be a productive member of society that has strong morals, high ethics, that is responsible, hardworking, and compassionate while being healthy, well-educated, and independent. It’s no big deal, right?

Ya, right…

The importance of your job as a parent is significant. Aside from all the required duties (providing food, shelter, and love) there’s everything else you put on yourself as well. Give yourself a minute to recharge. You’re going to struggle if you pour from an empty cup. The best thing you can do for your child is to take care of YOU. Whether you exercise, meditate, take a bath, read a book, or whatever it is that makes you relax, you need to take the time to ensure that happens for YOU. Take a literal breath. If you can’t fit in the self-care that you require immediately take a moment to take a few deep breaths. Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. The more taken care of you are, the more you can take care of your child in an effective, positive manner. Do you know what else? Your child needs to see that, too. They need to realize that parents require love, care, and attention so they can grow up understanding that loving yourself is just as important as loving others.

It’s impossible to not feel any Mom guilt about anything. However, the looming feeling that your choices weren’t the “right” ones or that you could have done something better are indicative of one thing: You’re doing a good job. No. You’re doing a great job. Let yourself know that. Focus on the things that you undoubtedly know you have done “right” and let go of any thoughts that contradict that.

Your children truly don’t stay little for long. I know you’ve heard that a million times, but it’s true. There are so many other distractions in daily life such as bills that need to be paid, careers, housework, preparing food, and the list goes on. These tasks take us away from enjoying the moments of parenting that really are exciting and powerful. Don’t let guilt become a part of that list of distractions that consume your already limited time.

Take a minute, R.E.L.A.X., and enjoy raising your children.

Being minimalistic is fun when you have coffee

THIS is the reason why you should not mix coffee and minimalism

Minimalism is a popular subject these days. People are seeing the benefit to not having “stuff” weighing them down: having a cleaner house, less time spent organizing possessions, a sense of freedom, and even alleviated symptoms of depression (ya, there’s science behind that- Google it!)

It is incredibly easy to acquire and accumulate “stuff”, especially when you have kids.  You know those lists of “THINGS YOU MUST HAVE FOR YOUR BABY OR YOU PROBABLY WON’T BE A GOOD PARENT!!”? I followed those things for a while. Guess what? Our house became bombarded with stuff that we absolutely did not need!!

What’s a mama to do??

I was web surfing (is that what the young people call it still?) on my phone while my kids were playing on the playground one day and I stumbled upon this website explaining minimalism and how to do it. I’ve heard so much about the benefits of minimalism that I thought perhaps I should give this stuff a try. I could definitely afford to give up some of my cleaning time and put it into better things…like much needed “me” time. I signed up for her free course and got ready for some life changin’!

As I started going through stuff and selling it online or at consignment stores (and making some good money) I realized that this purging thing may not be half bad. I’ve always liked stuff, but I was starting to like no stuff even better!

Minimalism in the kitchen

I was going through the kitchen, deliberating on the things that I actually really used and needed. Ok, well, actually, I didn’t use much after all…other than the phone…to call the pizza man. Anyway, I looked at the counter, saw my espresso machine, and had a totally bizarre thought: “What if I gave up coffee? I could free myself from my intense dependency on liquid life while clearing up some room on the counter!”.

Thus, began my personal coffee cessation program. For the weeks following I gradually decreased the amount of caffeinated coffee I was drinking, substituting it with *gasp* decaf. After 3 weeks of weaning the day finally came for me to go full decaf.

It was the worst day of my life. How do people who don’t drink coffee live like that?!

coffee and minimalism

I was so exhausted that I couldn’t move. My kids thought they had finally defeated me for good when I told them they could have cake for breakfast as long as they got it themselves. I caved pretty quickly after that, drank some fully caffeinated coffee, apologized to my beautiful espresso machine, and even gave her a vinegar rinse to try and make amends.

After that, I continued to purge the things I didn’t feel we needed in our lives anymore. My kids didn’t need 16 shirts each, we didn’t need the spare iron that I wouldn’t use anyway, and I finally acknowledged that I won’t ever get over my fear of pressure canning and don’t need the massive canner filling up our shelves.

Now that I’ve gone through the entire house I feel organized, liberated, and most importantly, caffeinated.

Want to try your hand at gentle minimalism? Download your FREE guide created by someone who will NEVER convince you to get rid of your coffee machine!


What’s the one thing you will never get rid of?

chill out mom, relax

5 simple ways for Moms to chill out

This whole Mom thing is stressful.

Wake the kids, feed the kids, get pants and shoes on the kids (this is no mean feat, people), chauffer the kids, entertain the kids, feed the kids, clean up after the kids, feed the kids, educate the kids, feed the kids, groom the kids, feed the kids, say goodnight to the kids.

Did I mention you also have to feed the kids??

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with raising children. Add never-ending housework in the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a cataclysmic disaster if Mom doesn’t get necessary relief and a chance to chill out!

Now, before you go saying there isn’t time (I’m a Mom, too, y’all…I know exactly what you’re thinking) really consider the importance of you getting some time to relax for a minute. Do you know what happens to a volcano when it builds pressure? It erupts. If only Mt. Vesuvius (you) had only taken a few minutes to herself she may not have taken it out on poor Pompeii (your kids and that person you live with) quite as she did.

In all seriousness, though, it’s totally dire that you take some time for YOU! I get it’s not always easy to find someone to watch the kids so you can have some alone time, but it’s still entirely possible to do even if you can’t get rid of the loved ones for a bit. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a few suggestions for you to kick your feet back and chill:

Put on a movie.

Nope, not for you. For the kids. They’ll be happy, entertained, and safe for approximately 90 minutes. This creates some time for you to have a nice bath or peruse your Facebook feed. Oh, and don’t even think about feeling guilty about it. That report you just read about the detrimental effects of television on children? Ya, they said that’s negated when the t.v. is being utilized for the purpose of Mom’s sanity!

Get outside.

Take the kids to the playground or to the backyard. Everyone’s souls will be grateful for the fresh air. Grab a coffee. Bring your book (don’t look at your phone in case Sanctimommy is lurking behind the swirly slide-only old-fashioned paperbacks are acceptable when you’re not entirely focused on your children). There will inevitable be a big kid at the park that you can sick your little kids on. All will be fine, Mama.

Yoga and meditation.

YouTube is a great resource for kid’s yoga. Our favorite is “Cosmic kids”. It’s fun for kids and it’s actually pretty fun for adults, too. Taking the time to gently move your body will relax you. Even if you’re doing it to the story about a kangaroo in a hot air balloon. I promise.

Taking a few minutes to meditate will prove beneficial to your health and mental state even though you only need a few minutes to do it. Lock yourself in the bathroom, tell the kid’s you’re pooping, put some headphones in, and exhale away your stress.

Move your body.

Mom dancing. It’s sole purpose isn’t to embarrass your children! Getting your body moving will shake off that extra energy you have pent up inside. Exercise is a top way to relieve stress. It’s science. Unfortunately, getting out for a run or a non-toddler paced hike isn’t always feasible. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want you to do: Put on some 90’s pop (don’t deny it-we all do it), crank up the volume, pump up the jam. You oughta know what dance moves are the best, so do those, and then do those baby, one more time! This is how we do it; don’t be a genie in a bottle-let it all out while the kids either join you or weep in the corner. I want it that way, Mama! Get your booty on the floor tonight!

Do what you want.

Want to go to church? Go! Want to do some fishing? Go! Want to buy some new Mom jeans? GO!!!

Take your kids with you to do the things YOU want to do. You do a lot for them. Like, a lot, a lot. It’s good for them to do things that don’t involve colorful play structures and “Old MacDonald” playing in the background and isn’t completely revolved around them. Ok, so bringing your kids may not be the most relaxing thing ever but you’ll still be doing something for you. It’ll be good for you AND the kids (plus, your butt will look amazing in a new pair of denims)!


Mama, you gottttttttttttttta do this. From one volcano Mama to another, you’ll be grateful you take time to avoid an eruption!

social services, called, what i said, thank you

What I said to the man who called social services on me

I was 7 months pregnant and I just worked a 10 hour day at my preschool practicum (that means I paid money to work for 10 hours with 30 children). I got home, exhausted, to find a card from Social Services in the door with a note for “Samantha Palmer-please call”.

A million thoughts ran through my mind. I truly couldn’t think of anything I had done to cause a visit from social services. Sure, I’ve yelled at my kids, or threatened to take away all their toys, or sent them to their room, but nothing that most other mom’s wouldn’t do. Still, I panicked.

I called the number on the back only to discover the office was now closed for the weekend. Nope. That wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t be able to sit and stew for 48 more hours. I called the emergency line -this was an emergency-I was going to go insane if I didn’t know what was going on.

Finally, some answers.

ME: “Hi, I got this card from you guys asking to call. I’m wondering why?”

DISPATCHER: “Were you at Safeway on Friday night with your daughter? There was a man there who said he saw you both and noticed some bruising on the small of her back when she bent over. He said that the interaction between the two of you didn’t indicate there was any abuse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else in the family couldn’t be hurting the child or yourself.”

ME: “Bruising?!? Oh! You mean the Mongolian Spots??”

Mongolian Spots are caused when pigment doesn’t make it to the top layer of skin while the baby is forming. It’s common in bi-racial children and very much resembles bruising. It goes away with time, but as small children it’s quite obvious.

This lil’ lady has Mongolian spots shown, and also on her shoulders, upper arms, lower back where the diaper covers, and all over her bum.


Fortunately, in this case, I had those Mongolian spots documented at her birth. I was able to tell the dispatcher the exact location of the “bruises”, which was verified by our doctor, and the investigation was ended.

As I thought about that night at the grocery store I started to realize which man exactly had reported me. He was a nice man with a son. He sparked up conversation a few times throughout the store. We chatted in the lineup. He walked me to my car (where he took down my license plate to call in). I just thought he was a nice guy.

As fate would have it, my partner and I were in the same grocery store the following week. We were waiting in the lineup to pay when who should walk up and stand right behind me? The man I figured had reported me. I started to shake. My body went cold.

I knew I had to confront him.

We paid for the groceries. I sent my partner to the car to put them away, and I waited outside for the man.

ME: “Hi. I think you may have reported me to social services last week.”

MAN: “Ummm.. Uhhhh..Ya, I did, but you see, I…”

ME: “Thank you.”

MAN: “You’re welcome?”

I explained the situation to him and could see the relief on his face. He told me he thought I was a good Mom, but he couldn’t take the chance that maybe someone else was abusing her, and maybe I was in trouble, as well.

There are ever-ending stories circulating the news of families being accused of terrible things and their lives being turned upset down because of calls to social services. I don’t think these accusations should be taken lightly, and any reports must be made with great delibertaion.   Considering the circumstances in our story, however, I truly believe the man was doing what he could to keep my daughter out of harm’s way. The “bruising” on her back indicated that she could be potentially in danger, and for him this was the only way he could keep her safe.

We need more people like him in the world: people who are willing to advocate on a child’s behalf and have their safety as a main priority and who are willing to work together with families to grow happy and healthy families.

It truly takes a village to raise a child.