Our annual charitable giving page

Time to get those charitable ducks in order, especially if you’re not going to be able to itemize under the new tax laws next year.

This year is probably a good one to do the Donor Advised Fund.  We’ve opted not to just because we want more flexibility right now with so much uncertainty, but your situation may be different!

Planned Parenthood : They need us more than ever before

RAINN :  help people impacted by sexual violence

CAIR :  Help Muslim victims of prejudice

Donors Choose (though, to be honest, I think the wobble chairs everyone in my [not poor] town wants are expensive and a waste of money– but there are a lot of teachers in lower income districts that want books and pencils and math supplies)  Note:  I am incapable of clicking on this without donating something.  I am such a soft touch for learning.  Ugh, #2 just sent me another link I had to fund.  Stahp!

WNDB:  We need diverse books!

ACLU :  One of the things standing in between us and fascism

EveryLibrary.org :  Helps political actions to fund public, school, and college libraries

EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) seems pretty relevant right now

Emily’s List:  Help pro-choice women Democrats get elected to office!

Previous posts:  2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, (we have a couple posts in 2012 on charity, but I’m not finding a holiday one), 2011, 2010

Grumpy Nation:  Link us up to your favorite charities!

Stuff we’ve really enjoyed having this year

(besides books, though KJ Charles rocks!)

I love this teapot I got for my Birthday last year.  It is so easy to use and to clean, and it makes the right amount of tea for when you want, you know, a pot instead of just a mug.

Although you should probably not gift this to anyone, this home laser hair removal thing  has been fantastic.  I barely need to pluck my chin anymore at all (with the exception of a few white hairs that laser won’t get) and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done even a touch-up with the laser.

I still really like my moleskin weekly planner, even though everyone else has switched to Google Calendar.

This Solo travel bag I got myself has been perfect for overnight travel without having to take a roller-bag.  For those who cannot part with the roller-bag, one of my colleagues swears by these packing cubes and will be getting them for almost everyone on her list this year.

This amazing lamp was everything I wanted and more!

DH loves this little pocket pen.  It is pretty clever.

Our in-laws love this ice cream scoop we got them, although it is not dishwasher safe.

#2 enjoys watching her DH play the latest Assassin’s Creed game.

Here’s a previous post on little things that just work.  I still get a lot of pleasure from using a high quality pencil sharpener.

What stuff has been “sparking joy” for you over the past year?

Thoughts on the children’s Xmas haul this year

  • Our brothers and sisters in law spent less on our kids this year than in previous years.  This is a good thing.  Maybe next year we’ll also spend less on them (we spent about $50/kid, mostly on books), but probably not because I love picking out and buying books.
  • We spent Christmas at the in-laws’ this year, which means we opened presents there.  MIL is going to end up spending a ton to send the presents home.  I don’t really know of any way to suggest just letting amazon send the bigger stuff directly to us so she doesn’t have to do that.  But also she probably likes watching everybody open gifts.  And presumably she doesn’t want cousins to feel like they’re being treated differently.  But there are so many gifts that I’m not sure anybody notices.
  • DC1 got a Nintendo DS.  And since DH had mentioned earlier that it was probably too expensive for hir to take to school given the number of times DC1 has lost hir cheap flip-phone (that thankfully nobody wants to steal, so it has been recovered each time thus far), DC1 also got a Kindle Fire.
  • The problem of DC2 getting the same gifts as hir slightly older same-gendered cousin is getting worse.  And we couldn’t just confiscate those gifts either (for the most part) because DC2 saw them at Christmas and MIL is planning on taking them out of the packaging before sending.  Putting on the wish list what DC2 was into in general terms didn’t help much.  Zie got some stuff related to that, but still got lots of stuff zie isn’t interested in that hir cousin likes.  Nor did it help to say explicitly on the amazon list that DC2 wants what DC1 gets (though my mom paid attention to that and got both of them rubix cubes!)  One of the items was so bad that I actually did take it to MIL and tell her we couldn’t accept it– it had crossed a line (I didn’t say it like that though, it was more like could you give this to hir cousin, we don’t really approve of this show).  I know it’s easier to keep things even across grandkids if she’s getting the same stuff for them, but maybe she could match hir up with the opposite-gendered kid who is about the same age instead of the older same-gendered kid?
  • So we’re still struggling with what to do about our in-laws bounty, particularly for DC2.  They still get DC1 really cool stuff even if they’re over-generous (mostly things that hir somewhat younger cousin already owns and loves).  They did get some of the things off the amazon list for the children, but in the end my mom ended up buying most of it just before Christmas.  And that stuff, along with the stuff we got hir, has gotten a lot more playtime out of it.  DC2 just really isn’t into the same things hir same-gender older cousin is into.
  • One thing that did happen that I’m embarrassed about… I was talking to BIL about presents, I can’t remember what about exactly, as we were going up the stairs, but I mentioned that DC2 seemed to get the same stuff as his kid, and he said, “that’s good because they like the same stuff” and I was all, “well, not really, DC2 is really into what DC1 is into.”  At which point we turned the corner and saw my MIL.  So, uh, maybe this will resolve itself?
  • Why can’t the cousin be as into Bubble Guppies (and other gender-neutral stuff) as DC2 is?
  • Sometimes getting the same gendered stuff for both cousins works… DH’s sister got them both a gendered-craft kit that they both loved and spent many hours working on.
  • DC1 may have gotten all the cousins addicted to Batman.

Link love Eve

There’s still a lot of horrible stuff in the news.  Donald Trump, apparently doesn’t celebrate the holidays.  Or rather, he celebrates them by increasing the probability of nuclear war.  But we have given up on sending each other links about such things this week.  Please do, however, click on the Activism tab, sign up for any one of the weekly newsletters or find an action group in your area, and if you can, talk with friends and family about what you can do and what they’re doing going forward.  Our combined actions will make a difference and every step we take has a positive probability of saving lives.  It can be scary and I know my DH is dreading bring up politics with his family because sometimes it is hard to do the right thing, but we all need to do the right thing as best we can.

Texas (illegally) kicks planned parenthood out of Medicaid

Treating people with respect

Delta

toxic, toxic masculinity in rural white men (whatta shock I know)

News organizations are so important.

nightmare fuel

in memoriam

bonus points for misunderestimate

Preschool is good for society?

higher priced majors => more financial aid => better representation of disadvantaged students

silkhenge

only if you move

Walking dresses

Accurate.

mouseover has a heartwarming story

stress and memory

escapetop five?

lightbulbs

academaze

Seems like making the last mortgage payoff might not be as easy as writing the final check.

I want this, preferably filled with cherries and marzipan.

Fibonacci poem!

should not exist

Just for a tiny bit of joy, here’s a repost of a favorite Christmas post.

 

 

Also, for your enjoyment, a soliloquy from earlier this week:

I want more presents
pressssssents
like the nuts.com order I bought for myself but it isn’t coming until Wednesday
we don’t have anybody picking up packages for us while we’re gone :(
so I am glad the nuts.com order is taking less time than usual
I feel like I have become an IM advertisement for nuts.come except they’re not paying me!
nuts.com, the only place I know you can get dried dragonfruit
nuts.com, now with free holiday tin!
nuts.com home of delicious indian snackfood
nuts.com, where you can try bizarre superfoods you’ve never heard of
also they have these fruit gummies that are made out of actual fruit, they’re really really good but also just as bad for you as regular gummies,  so DH wanted to get some, but I was like, DH, the first ingredient is sugar.  Like, they take actual strawberries and shoot them up with the stuff fruit gummies are made out of.  They’re like frankenberries or zombieberries something like that unnatural [ed: embalmed mummy berries?], yet what gummy fruit wishes it could be. Also not as pretty as fruit-snacks because there’s no artificial coloring.
nuts.com /en fin

When do you open presents?

When I was a kid, after much negotiation with our parents, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest of our presents on Christmas day.

As an adult, I don’t have to wait.  I open them as they come.  In fact, I used this amazing three tier rack which was this year’s Christmas present to me from my MIL to hold rolls, cornbread, and zucchini bread at Thanksgiving this year because she does her Christmas shopping early.  Similarly, I told DH I wanted a better reading lamp situation and he got me this amazing floor lamp that does everything I wanted and doesn’t even require a hole in the wall or a headboard for the bed (my favorite part:  the way the light switch lights up when I fumble for it in the dark).  I have been appreciating it for weeks now.  I have also been enjoying downloading my shiny new kindle book presents as they come– I will read them through our holiday travel.

#2 is different– she likes surprises and opens everything on Christmas morning.  I know this because she always thanks me via IM on Christmas.  (See also:  her birthday.)

Of course, what one does as an adult doesn’t necessarily translate into what one forces on one’s children.  Part of the magic of being an adult is that you no longer have to do what your parents tell you to do, but before then you mostly have to.  So that means since the kids have gotten old enough to understand Christmas, we’ve generally been saving their Christmas presents for them to open on Christmas morning.  Given our in-laws’ generosity, this can get overwhelming.

This year we’ve got complicated travel plans.  On the 23rd, we’re taking the kids to the city where they will stay at my sister’s with my parents.  Then we will join them on the 24th.  Then on the 25th, we’re getting on a plane to visit DH’s family.  I asked my mom if she wanted to see the kids open their presents from her (she’s already sent them via the magic of Amazon) or if we should open them before heading into the city.  She said whatever was easiest, noting that we shouldn’t have to drive presents all over the place or leave them at my sister’s.  So we’ll be doing some of the unwrapping on the 23rd.  DC1 will be able to pick out which new books to take with hir while traveling, something that will make life easier for everyone.  Then there will be more presents on the 25th since my in-laws have decided to ship the kids’ presents to their place rather than ours (which itself brings the logistical hassle of getting stuff back home).

This past Saturday I let DC1 open the present from my mom that I knew was a Rubix Cube because zie had gotten so good at the computer version that I thought maybe it was time for a real one.  Zie has been spending every non-chore moment this weekend messing up and solving and messing up and solving again.  (In fact, it’s likely that the ~$10 Rubix cube would crowd out time spent on the ~$250 handheld Nintendo thing that my MIL is getting hir if zie opened them the same day!)

On the one hand, I feel like spreading things out allows each gift to be appreciated and to give me maximal pleasure.  On the other hand, it does take away a little bit of the magic of Christmas.  But we do always do the stockings (full of candy!) on Christmas even if some of the other presents get pushed earlier.  And maybe the magic of Christmas should be less about gifts and more about family, I dunno.

And of course, poor DC1 gets showered with even more presents just a few days later given hir holiday birthday.  This year we’re traveling on hir birthday so we’ll probably celebrate with cake the day before with the in-laws and maybe with my sister on the day.  We’ll see.  We will leave hir birthday presents from us* and from my parents to be unwrapped when we conclude our travels.

*My sister claims this violin tuner is really a gift to ourselves…she’s not wrong.

When do you open gifts– as soon as you get them, or do you wait until the celebrated event (be it a religious holiday or your birthday)?  Has it changed as you’ve gotten older?  If applicable, do you enforce the same rules on your children? 

What are we getting people for Christmas?

It’s that time of year again…

For my sister I got a lipstick-sized USB battery and universal USB cable.  I’ve gotten these (but different brands) at two conferences and they are just so incredibly useful.  I don’t know why they don’t come as a combined set on amazon, but after some poking around I was able to pick out a cable that looks decent, although it has a couple more connectors than she probably actually needs.  The smaller sets of connectors got worse quality reviews with the iphone connector stopping working.  Also per her request, I got her the Hamilton cd.  DC1 made a glass sushi plate at camp this summer for her as well, and I assume DC2 will give her some art.  DC2 has been doing a lot of art lately.

We got my mom a kindle last year so this year I sent her the brothers sinister  box set, a steal at $10.  Even though there’s very little murder mystery in it, I think everybody enjoys the series.  Except the first novella (A governess affair) which, sadly, isn’t as good as the rest of the series.  And a $75 gift certificate to the regional bookstore chain in her area.

My father we are getting a fancy black cherry balsamic vinegar.

FIL:  $75 gift certificate to Cabela’s as per usual.  I suspect DH gets his joy of the shopping process from his dad.

MIL:  A picture frame engraved with the names of all six(!) grandchildren.  The last time she had professional group pictures done, there were only 4, though the fifth was on the way.  We will be getting a full family photo done when we visit this year.

BIL1:  DH picked out a video game to play, Titanfall 2, and picked it up at a holiday sale for $35.

SIL1:  SIL1 thankfully populates her amazon wishlist on a regular basis.  She seems to want to become a fiction writer, so I’m torn with getting her books about writing from her list vs. novels from her list.  Usually she’s got a bunch of novels on the list that I’ve already read and enjoyed so it’s easy to get her more, but this time around she seems to have gone heavy on Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs, so it’s not as tempting.  I’m tempted by this adorable electric tea kettle.  But I’m going to wait to see what other people buy and if she adds anything I find more interesting as the season progresses (update:  She added the first Incryptid novel!  So I got that and also Rat Queens Volume 1).

Since Tegu blocks were so popular with our kids last year, we’re getting a set for the cousins.  We’ll also be getting some A-Z mysteries for the older child and the princess cookbook for the younger (it has surprisingly good recipes).

SIL2 and BIL2:  They make the least amount of money of DH’s siblings and they just bought a house.  We’re guessing that the lack of amazon wishlist updating is a hint that they’d be happy with money.  (Even if they just spend the amount of the check on obligatory gift giving to us.)  We did send them a house-warming check after they bought the house just as we did when BIL1 and SIL1 bought their first house, because there’s always unanticipated expenses right after purchasing and got a nice thank you card back.

The IL2’s kids are a little more difficult.  I like getting them books, but there isn’t anything right now that my own DC2 is really into which is how we usually decide what to send their oldest (who is just a little younger).  Maybe some easy readers like Hot Dog and Cat Traps and Too many dogs.  These Tug the Pup books are pretty good for early readers too.  For the younger child it’s a bit more difficult because we already gave them a lot of board books with the first child and we can’t quite remember what.  So I think we already gave a bunch of Sandra Boyntons and Dear Zoo and Where is baby’s belly button.  I’ll have to think harder on this.  I wonder if we gave them chicka chicka boom boom

Despite DH’s relative getting a new job right away, we will probably send him a check, but for $50 instead of, say, $500 [update:  DH says $100].

Target gift-cards for all the daycare ladies at daycare, probably $20/each.  And I think a gift card for $50 to half-price books for the school.  Even if we’re retrenching otherwise, it’s still important to be generous to others.

What are you getting for people this year?

Do you do seasonal decorations?

As Halloween approaches, I’ve noticed decorations going up on people’s lawns in town and in folks’ pictures online.  (Georgia Dunn’s insta shows her Halloween decorations in the background.)

That got me thinking about seasonal decorations and wondering if I’m the only person who doesn’t bother.  (Remembering to get/find the kids’ costumes and candy for giving out is about all I can handle for Halloween.)  Apparently I’m not because #2 doesn’t either.

#1:  Just Christmas.  Most years we get a rosemary tree and decorate it, unless we’re traveling over Christmas, in which case we have a felt tree that DH and DC1 made.  And the kids have stockings.  Usually all of this happens a few days before Christmas after I’ve gotten my final exams graded and entered and school has ended for the year.

#2:  Just Christmas.  We have some seasonal towels but they’re just red and green so we use them normally. We have stockings and some random tchotchkes people have given us.

#1: Oh yeah, we have towels and a bunch of random Christmas tchotchkes people have given us too. There was a time when DH’s relatives would give us Christmas decorations for Christmas. We also have Christmas theme hand towels and if we have ppl over for Thanksgiving we have fall themed table runners, courtesy of DH’s grandma.

#2: There was a time when people gave us holiday stuff, but much of it has gone to goodwill. We don’t have that kind of room anymore.

#1: If we moved we would probably do that.  Our stuff hangs out in a cupboard.

Do you do seasonal decorations?  Did you do them growing up?