Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pants and Presents

Yesterday after my swearing-in I finally picked up my clothes from the woman I found to alter them. I had dropped off 6 pairs of pants, 1 skirt, and 1 jacket- all the bottoms needed to be taken in at the hips and waist and the jacket had to be taken apart and reconstructed to fit my narrow waist and not-so-narrow swimmer's shoulders. I was very excited to suddenly have all of my wardrobe available for me to wear, getting ready in the morning was taking forever as I tried to find new ways to match my two pairs of pants and assorted tops.

Because of the work involved I was expecting to pay anywhere from $100-150 and maybe more depending on the cost of the jacket, and given that all of these items had originally been quite expensive (though of course, I bought them on sale) I considered that price well worth being able to actually wear them. And the grand total was: $27.50. When she told me that I waited for her to go on, assuming that was the cost of one item, maybe the jacket. When I realized that was it, I spent ten minutes convincing her to charge more. She had done excellent work and my "new" clothes fit perfectly; there were eight items in there, that's barely $3 per piece! I ended up paying her $40 and still feel guilty about it. I am all for a good deal, but it's different to shop the clearance rack at Marshalls versus a single older lady in a little house who cares for her elderly mother. I dropped off a few more items (I went through my winter clothes and discovered none of them fit either) and next time I'll probably up her bill again, maybe double it for Christmas. JP and I are saving everything we can to build back our decimated emergency fund and my very high loan payments start in January, but I'm pretty sure that extra $25 means more to her than me and I don't care if she insists the time it took to take in my pants is only worth $2.50.

And on the topic of holiday giving, I wanted to solicit advice on presents for the various support persons in your life. Like Landon's teacher at daycare- there are two teachers in his class (one who is specifically his) plus another one who is there in the late afternoon. I'm assuming we get something for all of them, but can the one for his special teacher (who he adores, quick story: the other day when I picked him up she told me they'd had a "lunch date" - Landon had decided to hold her hand the whole way through lunch. Oh, the cuteness.) be different and/or bigger? What are some ideas of things to give? Being very anti-clutter myself I hate just giving them some kitschy holiday thing to put on a shelf and I'd imagine they get a lot of cookies and such. There's also our cleaning woman. I broke down and hired one when I started working, she comes every two weeks and does the major cleaning and we touch up between visits. I miss being able to randomly go out to eat when we don't feel like cooking, but the increase in my free time at home is well worth the sacrifice in expendable income. Any thoughts? Just pay extra the visit before Christmas? If it were me that's really all I'd want. And that just leaves my secretary, but we have a pool so I don't have one specifically assigned to me. I'm assuming there will be some kind of organized gift giving among the attorneys who share the center.

I like getting all of this out of the way early so as to spare our bank accounts a huge blow in December. I already have my gifts for my parents, JP's family, and my sister (still looking for my brother). JP and I never spend much on each other as we'd rather just save the money or enjoy a dinner out- with both of us so busy, time together is immeasurably more valuable than anything we could put on the credit card. We're trying to decide what to get Landon- I think it will either be a train table or play kitchen. Both would be big, solid pieces I hope he and our future children will enjoy for a long time and would be a good addition to our downstairs play room.

So, thoughts? Gifts for the daycare teachers and maid? Favorite play kitchen or train table? I should warn you ahead of time I'm biased against brightly colored, noise-making plastic monstrosities. Sturdy Little Tikes-like plastic is fine, but I really hate toys that make a million electronic sounds, ours didn't growing up and we did just fine (better, in fact) making them up ourselves. Landon loves the very basic kitchen at his daycare and is obsessed with our dishwasher at home. But he also loves his trucks and trains and a nice wood play table (with storage for said trucks and trains) would be great to have. I can now see how well-meaning parents end up spoiling their children, I'm probably more excited about playing with the kitchen set and trains than he's going to be!


  1. HI. I've been reading for a while but I figured I would chime in on the daycare gift because I just did that.

    I have a few friends who are teachers that I asked about this. Anyway I got my sons two primary teachers a $10.00 gift card to Starbucks. Then I picked up a bag of Lindt Truffles (or any other good chocolate) and split it between the two teachers. I went to michaels craft store and got a couple of the decorative boxes that look like chinease take out boxes but in pinks and blues with a fun theme. I put in some crinkle paper and then the gift card, and candy. I topped it off with a Salt City votive (because they smell the most and best). Finally I wrote a very nice card to each teacher telling them why I appreciated them and one particular great thing they do for my son, aka one teacher was great at rubbing his back at naptime.

    Anyway both teachers thanked me profusely for the items. One really appreciated the starbucks card and one was so thankful for the candles. both were so thankful for the candies.

    just a suggestion

  2. I am not sure how you feel about this, because I know some people view cash (or the equivalent) as a tacky present, but I think cash, especially gift cards, are very appreciated around the holidays, especially in a tough economy. As the previous commenter said, I think there are ways to show that you put more thought into the gift than merely swiping your credit card.

    AND I can't believe what a good deal you got on the alterations! That was sweet of you to pay more, and I think for her and your cleaning lady, giving them extra cash is perfectly acceptable and appropriate for the holidays!

  3. You are so kind to overpay your seamstress! I once bought a beautiful cake for Charlie's Christening and it obviously took her hours to make and decorate and she only charged me $20. I would have paid $40 and maybe I should have. I love misguided mommy's idea for daycare teacher presents! I may have to borrow it.

  4. I didn't read the other comments so don't know if this has already been said, but, as a former teacher, I would stray from your typical "teacher gifts" (candels, random ornament, figurine, picture frame, etc). It is all cute, but we have a cabinet where we put it all because we get so much of it. My last year of teaching, parents started giving gift cards and it was AWESOME. A $5 gift card to Starbucks made me feel like I had hit the jackpot. Just think about the teachers and what you think they enjoy and go for the gift card. Even though it would be cute to put a Starbucks card in a mug, I promise they have 15 of those too that have dorky teacher slogans on them. :-)

  5. Often times, there is a money collection taken for the teachers by a parent who purchases a substantial gift card...$5 each for 20 kids is a nice amount.

    For the housecleaner, I give the amount of one housecleaning as the gift. If you have 2 cleaners, you could consider giving them 1/2 each.

    That is unless you get a great deal on housecleaning like the alterations! Wow! What a steal that was! And she was capable too!

  6. Fortunately, my son's nursery school just requests no gifts for teacher and instead asks that we give gift certs so they can buy things for the school. Before, I knew of that, I had planned on getting the teacher a gift cert to Border's.

    I tip each cleaning gal about 20 each and that is about half the cleaning price. I am probably undertipping??

    Train table? Oh my, we lucked out and got one at Goodwill for $25 and we have gotten SO much use out of it. I recommend this: Get a train table and a "no name" train set. The train table itself can always be used for a multitude of other things if Landon ended up not being into trains. He might be a Car Boy and not a Train Boy, so why invest in Thomas until you know? Target and Costco have great options for train table sets.

    The kitchen choice is a tough one - I am getting one for our kids, but as a combined gift because they will both play with it.

    Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong with a train table and a no-name basic train set. If Landon ends up really being into trains, you could invest in some nicer trains for his birthday. I have to admit, **I** have had so much fun with it. Gulp.

  7. Okay, not to overtake your comments. But. I have found that my son really enjoys the toys that he pushes himself - he a few electric trains, but plays far more with the basic set that he pushes himself. He also does not give a rat's butt if the train is Thomas, Brio or something from the dollar section at Target. If it has wheels, a magnet for connection and fits his track, that is all he needs. This is why I recommend getting a good train table with storage (ours doesn't have it) that can be used for other things as well.

    FWIW, my daughter loves the train and train table, too!

  8. I think the gift card thing is the way to go with the teachers. If you are crafty, you could make your own card and explain the purpose of the gift card (coffee because I know you could use all the energy possible int he morning taking care of the kids or candy because Landon things you are sweet, etc.). Then package it in something more than just a plain card or basic holder (maybe a starbucks mug or a cute tin for candy)...

    And it is typical to tip the cleaners, etc at Christmas. I would look up online how much is standard these days.

  9. teachers love starbucks cards. when i was a barista, they'd come in all excited with their stack of cards. and they'd go crazy.

    i also hear they love target cards, itunes cards, any type of card that gives them the freedom to choose something freely. :)

  10. I agree with everyone and just want to add that gift cards don't have to be impersonal. You can present them in a way that shows you put thought into it, as your first commenter suggested. Plus, giving a gift card is really telling the person that you want them to spoil themselves a little bit, you know? And who doesn't love to do that?

    I'd recommend gift cards for bookstores, Target, iTunes, or coffee.

    And I have to put in my vote for a play kitchen. I spent HOURS on my play kitchen growing up, and all the kids I have babysat for love theirs, too. I'd look around for a sturdy wooden version. (I'm with you on the the-less-lights-and-noises-the-better thing.) A quick google search (because I'm not a parent and don't know from experience) led me to KidKraft, which seems to have a variety of wooden kitchen playsets, AND wooden train tables with storage.

    I didn't check out prices, but it might be a company to look into. Just a thought. :)

  11. Excellent ideas everyone. And for the record I don't think gift cards are impersonal, that's exactly what I was thinking of doing- after all, I can't imagine a better gift than getting to shop for free :) My mom is a teacher and I know she loves them.

    I suppose now I'm just wondering if it's okay to get something a little bigger for his main teacher. There are two in the class, each assigned to four of the eight kids, so while he certainly knows teacher #2 it is his main teacher who gets his food ready, looks after him, and writes his daily report. As I wrote in the post, he loves her.

    And to Anon, there is a train table at Kidkraft I'm kind in love with - simple, sturdy, generic, and can be used as all sorts of things. I know we'll also end up buying both the table and the kitchen at some point (I want just a few big, fun, multi-use items in the play room rather than tons of little sets and toys), so I'm really just trying to decide which to buy first. We'll get the other for his 2nd birthday in July or next Christmas.

  12. I have no suggestions on gifts, but I do want the name and number of your seamstress. I'm more than happy to give good people more business!

  13. I agree with most - gift card, along with some small personal touch is definitely the way to go. If his teachers are women and you think they would like it, a gc for a pedicure and a small gc for Starbucks would be fun, and add a little note telling her to grab a comforting beverage and relax with a pedicure since she deserves some pampering after a long day on her feet! Oh and yes, I think you can do a slightly bigger gift for his main teacher.

    As for train tables and kitchens, I have to say, I was very tempted to buy this toy BBQ grill set for Henry over the summer, so he could "grill" just like daddy:
    Ok, now I just realized they don't currently have it for sale, must be a summer thing.

    One last suggestion - I hate giant plastic toys (I once wrote a whole post about the "giant plastic uglies") and I thought I'd let you know, you might check IKEA. They actually have lots of very cool, colorful, sturdy wooden toys. Good luck!

  14. Target has a GREAT wooden play kitchen in a very nice blue finish. I have it for my daughter and it is perfect. No garish plastic, noises, or tackiness. And very reasonably priced, too!

  15. Just commenting to say I agree with the gift cards - I'm in Dallas, and we've always done giftcards. Given the economy, I'd choose larger stores that don't seem like they'll go under soon though :)

    We've also done inequal amounts for the teachers - AFAIK, the teachers don't discuss the amts with each other, and if you package the gifts similarly, it should be fine.

    My kids went to a montessori, so we also gave small gift amts (usualy starbucks) to the music teacher, Spanish teacher, front desk person and the director.

    Cleaners: I give them the amount of one cleaning the week before the holidays (divided between whoever shows up that day for cleaning)



  16. I give gift cards to daycare teachers ($25 to Barnes& Noble last year). I also wrote each woman a note thanking her, with specific things that she's done to help my sons and make my life easier as well. As for cleaner: I give the cleaning lady an extra week's payment as a Christmas bonus (I usually do this - just put double the amount in her regular envelope - early in December so that she can use the extra for Christmas shopping for her kids.)

  17. Sorry just came back to say, IKEA has lovely kid-sized kistch equipment, if you decide to go with the kitchen.


  18. I think that it's okay to differentiate between his teachers' gifts. Certainly, to give one teacher a much greater gift may not be appropriate but a subtle yet notable addition would be fine. I assume the teachers realize their different roles as well.

  19. I was going to leave my feminist plug for the kitchen, but it looks like you're going to eventually get both anyway.

    Random note: We just got PF's copy of the UC alumni magazine, featuring a picture and the Landon! That was so strange and funny to see in my living room!

  20. Can I ship this lady my pants? It would still be cheaper than having it done locally! I wish I had the problem where my pants were too big though! I generally have the opposite problem.

  21. Gift cards to favorite place (if you know them) for the teachers.

    For the maid - I usually tip a whole cleaning. When it was her and another, I split it in half as a Thank you.

    I saw a great kitchen set the other day. Let me see if I still have it book marked.

    And I need your alteraction lady's info! I have some pieces that I need touched up and just dont have the heart to pay millions more.

  22. I agree that it's okay to give teachers in-equal amounts. Last year my brother told me that at their son's daycare, any gifts were split among all the teachers..which is kind of a crock, especially if you or your child has a favorite.

    Also, I think you should add a play house to your Landon gift ideas. The one we have in our basement has a little kitchen in it - it's a bigger Little Tykes model, but my sister picked it up at a garage sale for $50. There's something about being able to go in and out of the door that intrigues them. It's like an indoor clubhouse.

  23. Definitely gift cards for the teachers.

    For the Christmas present, what about something from IKEA or something Swedish generally? They make excellent wooden, sturdy, simple but nice items. A lot of my friends had wooden towers in their kitchens that allow toddlers to play and to also cook with you:

  24. I've been wondering this too - want to get something sort of big for his daycare provider, and I was thinking cash for the cleaning lady. For the daycare person I am stealing your idea of getting her some toys for the kids, but I also want to get her something for herself. I don't think she's a Starbucks person or a spa lady... but those are good suggestions.

    Also, when I was a kid my parents always left beer for the garbagemen and $20 for the postman, so I was thinking of doing something similar, but do people still do that?

  25. My husband is a teacher and he gets all kinds of gifts (both big and small) for Christmas, and loves most of them. He's not once been given a sit-on-the-shelf trinket or coffee mug (thank God). Our favorites have been gift cards to Starbucks (even $5 means he gets to treat himself to something nice and warm) and a fleece blanket in the school colors (but decidely, green is a very acceptable blanket color). Restaurant gift cards are especially wonderful, and the best ones can be used at more than one place. For the maid, I would say extra money (maybe 1.5x or 2x the regular?) and a very nice thank you card would be very much appreciated.

  26. Gift cards are the best gifts for teachers ... Barnes N Noble, Starbucks, Target ... those are always appreciated.

    You got a steal on those alterations!! Mine always cost an arm and a leg, but the quality is SO WORTH IT that I don't blink. (Of course, now that I am completely broke and poor -- high student loans myself -- I don't tailor anything anymore. V. sad.)

  27. LL...sorry to leave so many comments but I love this gift giving conundrum time!

    Grass...The garbage men are NEVER to be forgotten! The first year we started to tip them began an enduring relationship with them taking every darn thing we put out on the curb. They would pick up our trash...say a broken down bike or really big, dead flower pots in the cardboard but they would leave similar items left by our neighbors with a notice about proper recycling or needing a $5 sticker, etc.

    Definitely tip the trash and recycle collectors! They do hard work and it may help you out in the long run.

    I think there's a rule about tipping postal delivery people more than $5 or $10 or they have to declare it?....any advice there?

  28. Umm, I'm so driving to Austing to use this alterations lady! It costs me that much for one pair of pants here!

  29. Argh, I never know what to get Mrs. Daycare either. A gift card seems inappropriate for her, for various reasons, but that's probably what I'll end up doing.

    I love the idea of a fancy dinner out instead of Christmas present for each other. I will have to propose that to JW (who I'm sure will love it too, because he is NOT an occasion person)!

  30. I'm like you, i would feel so giulty for paying less than a service is worth. I think extra pay for your cleaning lady is good. For the others- what about gift certificates for coffee or something not too expensive?

    my mom always made a special holiday bread and i passed them out to all my teachers.

  31. Hi R,
    Just wanted to let you know that you have received a blog award from me!
    Stop by and see what it's about.

  32. Gift cards or supplies for the classroom gets my vote. As for kitchens, I just bought on for my 3 yr old son. I didn't want anything fancy, but with our second on the way I figured it would get more use. I found one at Walmart on line for $45. It is by no means the super cool kind, but it works for him. It took a while to put it together, but I feel I got what I paid for. He got a train table for his second birthday and it was from Babies R Us. Its their brand, Imaginarium. It fits some Thomas and Brio trains as well. It has a 2 drawers for storage and he still plays with it almost every day.

  33. Someone voiced a concern about postal workers and tipping. The deal is that they are federal employees so they have to abide by the rules of cash gifts. They're not supposed to accept more a $20 gift at one time and no more than $50 per year. And technically it shouldn't be cash. Frankly though, I know people give cash all the time.

  34. What a phenomenal deal on the alternations! She is really selling herself short. I had a lot of clothes altered before I started my first year....only I had to have mine taken out. LOL. It really is like getting new clothes!

    I would definitely do gifts for the teachers and the maid. I'd get the main teacher something more substantial than the others. For the less substantial teachers, perhaps Starbuck's gift cards ~ no more than about $10-20. For the main teacher, I'd still do a gift card. Maybe a mani and/or pedi at a local nail salon or spa. Since she takes care of others all day, I would treat her to something special where someone can take care of her. I'd do the same for the maid if you think she'd use it, otherwise just pay her a little holiday bonus. Last Christmas we paid our maid an additional $50 after the pre-Christmas cleaning.

  35. Gift cards are nice, but I'm always hesitant because of the whole, "you can see what I spent" deal. AND I TEACH. I've had a few parents give me books for my classroom, with a nice greeting in it that says, "To --- Merry Christmas! Love, (kid)." It's great, because I have to absorb the cost of books myself, and I love looking through them and seeing the names of former kids.

    I give my cleaning lady a whole extra pay around the holidays. We also tip our mailman ($10).

    For Landon, I wonder if he would like one of those car rugs that he can play with on the floor? He may be a little young for that, but kids like them.

    Good luck!

  36. limalms@att.net9/6/09, 12:43 PM

    I think this is highly regional (who you tipe and who you don't.)

    For teachers(I have several in the family:) NO APPLES. NO "FAVORITE TEACHER" anything. If you give a nice picture frame, do NOT inlude your child's picture in it! THE TEACHER has nice photos too! Gift cards are great but I understand the "I don't want them to know what I spent" thing. We love books store gift cards, Starbucks, etc.

    A gift that can be passed along is a gift too: for example, you give a teacher a nicely wrapped (perhaps cellophane or another method that keeps the contents visible) jar of fudge sauce. She is frantic because she doesn't have time to pick up a hostess gift for her husband's office party that evening. You are the hero, and you will get a grateful thank you!

    People (men) seem to love a plate of baked goods, especially if they have nobody to cook for them.

    Brace yourself as Landon progresses at school: between staff at both our offices, 2 kids' teachers, two kids' before and after-school day care, coaches, Cub Scout leaders....our worst year I needed 70 "token" gifts.

    For Landon, I will tell you that the best gifts my boys ever received were good wooden trains, hot wheels and a carpet to run it all on, and a Little Tykes combo "treehouse" and ladder which they used from ages 1 to 6 (1 to 11 for the older one!) It became a water slide into the plastic poolwhen they got big.) We think those gifts are well worth the expense. Of course, every train car and every hot wheels c If Tomy trains are still around, that train "goes by itself" and my son (at 2.5 yrs.) asked for it consistently for FOUR MONTHS. So he got it. Works with Lego (don't fight it) and is the same scale of the wooden trains.

    Of course, every hot wheel and train accessory gets wrapped up when you only have one child!

    We have freecycle here; if they are in Austin, post a "wanted" for the train table.

    This is garbled; hope you can make sense of it!

    Lisa M.