Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers

8 Dec

Shopping for teenagers this holiday season and have no idea what to get them?

You are not alone, my friend. Shopping for teenagers can be tough. Things they really want are often too pricey. (I asked Chandler what he wanted for Christmas and he told me a car. Yeah, I’m not the only hilarious one in the family.) And things that are affordable often miss the mark. (Hint: no highscooler wants a polo shirt for Christmas even if it was on sale at Old Navy for only $5 and it will really bring out the color in their eyes.)

So what do you get them that will bring smiles to their faces that are actually genuine? Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a list below.

Gift Cards

gift cards

 

I know, I know. Gift cards are boring and  seem so impersonal. But wouldn’t you rather spend your money on something that will be appreciated and used? The trick is buying the right gift card. Marley loves Hot Topic, but I wouldn’t presume to know what I-can’t-believe-my-darling-daughter-likes-that-screamo-music-from-that-tatted-up-derelict-looking-band shirt she is craving this week. And forget about me buying her something cute at Forever 21. It turns out we have very different ideas of “cute.”

And Chandler loves the privilege of going off-campus at lunch with his friends, but doesn’t have a job so he has very little money (which means a lot of PBJ lunches). He would consider a gift card to Panda Express or In-n-Out a real treat. (Hint: any teenager would love a gift card to In-n-Out. Even my vegetarian friends love In-n-Out – they make a wicked grilled cheese.)

Many people shy away from gift cards because they might not have a lot of money to spend and think that on-sale Polo shirt will look impressive. But wouldn’t you rather give a $10 gift card to Starbucks or Chipotle that will actually be used instead of a shirt that will sit in a closet unworn? (And BTW – any kid that is ungrateful for a $10 gift card is unworthy of being on your holiday shopping list.)

 

Magazine Subscriptions

mad magazine

 

This is another gift where you have to know your audience, but a magazine subscription is something that is a little bit different, and if you get the right one will definitely be appreciated. Marley really wants a subscription to Alternative Press (or what the cool kids call AP). At $15 for a two-year subscription, I’m happy to oblige. And Chandler loves Mad Magazine. Yep, that’s right, it still exists. It’s a little pricier at $20 for one year (and only six issues a year), but still pretty affordable. If you know what the teen you’re shopping for is into -whether it’s cars, video games, comics, fashion or celebrity gossip- you can probably find a magazine they’ll enjoy. Need some suggestions?  Click here.

 

Movie tickets

movie night gift basket

 

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat since a movie ticket is kind of like a gift card, but if there’s one thing teenagers like to do it’s go to the movies. And movies are crazy expensive now. I remember when I was eighteen years old I worked at a movie theater and couldn’t believe the price went from $4.50 o $5.00! (Crazy, right?) Now, depending where you go movies cost between $12 and $20 per ticket. Yikes! I say head on over to Costco and buy two tickets to your local theater for $16. If you want to make a cute presentation add some Red Vines or Jr. Mints and make a little gift basket.

 

Home T

california_home_t-shirt_f_grande

If I give Chandler this shirt for Christmas maybe it will remind where is home really is when he goes away to college.

 

Now, I know I told you that kids don’t want clothes. Well, boy kids don’t want clothes. Girl kids probably do. But I think that a boy or a girl would definitely dig this shirt. There is a shirt for every state and they come in different styles. As an added bonus a donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is made with every purchase. This shirt would be especially great for a kid that is going to college out-of-state. You know, so you can remind them where their home really is (and that after four years they will definitely need to come back).

 

Books

You just rolled your eyes didn’t you? I don’t blame you, but I do stand by this 100%. The trick, like the magazines, is knowing something about the teen you’re shopping for. Got a nephew who is a computer nerd and totally owns it? How about the book Geek Wisdom ?

geek wisdom

Did your granddaughter just swoon over The Fault in our Stars (and who didn’t)? Try another wonderful work by John Green about precocious teens such as Looking for Alaska or An Abundance of Katherines.

abundance of katherines

 

Is your best friend’s daughter an ivy-league-bound over-achiever? How about something to make her lighten up and LOL for five minutes when she needs a break from AP Calculus? Chandler gave a book called F This Test to an over-achiever we know at a gift exchange party and she thought it was hilarious.

F This Test

Even over-achievers need to lighten-up and laugh for five minutes before getting back to work.

 

Trust me when I say that the right book can be a definite home run.

And if none of these gifts sound like they would be a good fit for the teens on your gift list, you can always buy them a car. I suggest one that looks like this:

hot-wheels

This will be in Chandler’s stocking for sure.

 

Photo credits: gift cards, movie night gift basket, home t, Hot Wheels

My Perfect Week

5 Dec

During a perfect week I wash my hair on Sundays and Wednesdays so I only have to take the time to blow dry my hair once during the work week. Please don’t confuse this with I only shower on Sundays and Wednesdays. (I actually wouldn’t mind that, but my co-workers might.) That’s what shower caps are for. Yes, my hair is a disaster on Saturdays and spends all day in a frizzy mess of a ponytail. Or under a hat. But I’m a forty-nine year old suburbanite. We don’t go out most Saturday nights.

On a typical week something goes awry in my allowable-hair-dirtiness plan and I end up washing my hair twice during the work week making my hair look better, but also making me late(r than usual) to work.

On a perfect week I start my Sunday morning with a four mile run at 7:30 completed in forty-four minutes. (Hey, I just started running a year ago. And I’m old. And not racing anybody. So shut up about how slow I am!) Then I have coffee with my friends around a fire pit at Stonehaus. (Who yes, if you must know all finished before me. Even the ones who ran five miles.) I get up at five o’clock to write even on Sundays so I have plenty of time to pack some Greek yogurt (the delicious full-fat kind) and fruit or put some oatmeal and peanut butter in a thermos to take with me for breakfast after the run. (Yes, I take my own breakfast to a coffee house. Shhh! I’m on a budget!)

On a typical week I “sleep in” until six, waste time on Facebook, lose track of time and rush out the door at 7:26, with no time to make breakfast and making my friends wait in the cold for me to arrive so I can run behind them.

On a perfect week I clean my room on Sundays, do all my laundry, put it all away, and pick out my  outfits for the week including accessories.

lay-out-clothes-the-night-before-work

 

On a typical week I manage to do all my laundry, but don’f fold it until nine o’clock while we’re watching The Walking Dead, and put it in a laundry basket where it will remain (in the den) until Tuesday, okay Wednesday Friday. I kind of visualize in my head what I’ll wear that week (and still change 2-3 times each morning before putting the original outfit back on). My room remains a mess for another week.

During a perfect week I will go to Trader Joe’s and Costco on Sunday, plan my meals for the week, and not have to return to the store until the following Sunday.

On a typical week we will run out of milk on Tuesday morning. Wednesday night if I buy two. And that Tuesday or Wednesday milk-run will likely be the second time since my Sunday shopping trips that I have to run back to Trader Joe’s to pick up something I forgot. I will probably go a minimum of two more times until the following Sunday. (Sometimes those two times will happen on the same day.)

During a perfect week I will get my shopping done early so I have time to do some cooking for the week. I’ll cook some ground turkey and quinoa and roast some vegetables then chop them up small with my Pampered Chef food chopper and mix it all together. Then I’ll put the mixture into five containers, the turkey and quinoa weighed and measured for the appropriate protein to carb ratio (20g protein, 30g carbs), ready for grab-and-go lunches for the week. As I’m preparing my lunches I’ll also make a nice Sunday dinner, and put together some gringo enchiladas (only gringos use cream cheese and flour tortillas for enchiladas) or a meatloaf to pop into the oven one night during the week.

green-chile-enchiladas

Yes, I stole this photo from Pinterest. You can get the photo credit and recipe for these yummy enchiladas for gringos here.

On a typical week I don’t make it to the market until 4:00 when it’s overcrowded and they are out of at least one of the things I want the most. I get home much too late to make my turkey quinoa mash, but at least I managed to buy broccoli slaw and kale to mix together for salads that will be made in the morning instead of the night before, making me late(r) and  will surely get stuck in my teeth (which is awesome because I usually eat lunch at my desk). I also remember that gringo enchiladas are too fattening and that my kids hate meatloaf. (Even though, trust me, my meatloaf recipe, which is actually my Uncle John’s meatloaf recipe, is the bomb. I will have to post it one day.)

During a perfect week I will pop out of bed every morning at the first sound of my 5AM alarm, pour myself a cup of coffee that has already been brewed because it was set up the night before and I will write.

But y’all know I never have perfect weeks don’t you?

Christmas Came Early This Year

17 Nov

I was at another cross country meet early Saturday morning when my phone rang. It was my uncle asking what I was doing and what time I’d be home.

“That was weird,” I said to Dave after hanging up. “My Uncle John said he’s coming over this afternoon to bring us something.”

“What do you think it is?” he asked. My uncle lives about an hour away from us, so it had to be something that he really wanted to get rid of. Especially since we are going to his house for Thanksgiving in less than two weeks. (Ohmygod how is it possible that Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks?!)

“I have no idea. I hope it’s a car,” I joked. “Or maybe he won Lotto and is splitting up the money.”

“I don’t think it’s either of those things,” Dave said bringing me quickly back to reality and popping the Italian-villa-vacation, new-car, new-floors, new-windows Lotto-dream thought bubble that was forming inside my head.

“Are you sure?” I joked again. I really had no idea what my uncle could be bringing us. Maybe some old Coke bottles he found at a yard sale for Chandler’s collection. Or perhaps he and my aunt got a new bed and were bringing us their old mattress. He always joked that he was going to give me a lump of coal for Christmas. Maybe it was a really big lump. I was certainly intrigued.

I called Marley to tell her to please vacuum the den and make sure the bathroom was at the very least not gross. We clean our house on Sundays so by Monday morning Saturday it’s full red alert FEMA disaster status. People dropping in on a Saturday (without giving me at least 24 hours notice) and seeing my dog-haired, dusty, two-teenagers-live-here-and-I-work-full-time mess of a house is enough to make me break out in hives.

When my uncle got to the house he had me look in the back of his truck. I could not believe my eyes. It was not a mattress or old Coke bottles or even a really big lump of coal. It was unbelievable. It was a box for a 60 inch flat screen smart TV.

“You got us a TV?! Where did you get this? Did it fall off a truck?”

He laughed. “This is the box for my new TV,” he said. “I read on your blog that you still have a box TV so I thought you might like my old one. It’s a few years old, but it’s a 50 inch flat screen.”

Uh, yeah. I was at his house about a month ago watching football on his “old TV.” Let’s just say that it’s more than just a little bit better than watching football on the twenty-year old twenty-six inch box we have sitting inside our antiquated TV cabinet.

He and Dave carried in the TV, we did a bit of furniture rearranging (and behind the furniture ohmygod-I-can’t-believe-how-much-dog-hair-there-is-back-here vacuuming) and set up the TV that brings the Ross family into the 21st century. Mostly.

We are a bit tech un-savvy (I know, shocker!) and had a little trouble getting the TV to display a picture (which it turns out is kind of important), but I figured out the problem shortly after my uncle had to go. (Hint: it helps to attach the cable box to the cable cord coming out of your wall as well as to the TV.)

I can’t tell you how blown away Dave, Chandler, Marley and I are at my uncle’s generosity. (Even though it’s painfully obvious he was just trying to find a clever way to be mentioned in my blog.)

Dave was in heaven watching the final NASCAR race of the season. Football is a lot more exciting to watch on our new flat screen. The Walking Dead is a lot gorier. According to Dave and Chandler we never need to go to the movie theater again. I think having a houseful of teenagers for a movie/video game night is in our near future. We might even host a Superbowl party next year.

Thank you Uncle John. I love you.

And to anyone reading this who’d like to be mentioned in my blog -and who wouldn’t?!- have I mentioned we drive a 2000 Honda Civic and a 2003 Mercury Mountaineer? (I’m just sayin’….)

Movie Review – Muffin Top: A Love Story

11 Nov

Last week I was given the privilege of screening the movie  Muffin Top: A Love Story. And let me tell you, it was a privilege because this movie is LOL funny. Like, for reals.

Muffin Top: A Love Story is an awkward, sweet, funny movie made for chicks, by chicks. That’s right, a movie about women actually made by women. (So weird, right?) It’s the story of Suzanne (writer, director, producer Cathryn Michon), a Women’s Studies Pop Culture professor who studies images of women in the media for a living, and yet is still insecure about her body due to the myth of female perfection in our airbrushed culture.

Check out the trailer:

 

 

The movie tells us what we all know, but still don’t believe – that we are all beautiful and must learn to love ourselves before we can be loved. (Oh, and that supermodels are genetic freaks). Best of all it delivers this message in a way that will have you snorting your wine out your nose with hysterical laughter. And will also have you (shockingly) fall madly in love with David Arquette. (Seriously, who knew?)

If you love the awkwardness of The Office or Veep or Curb Your Enthusiasm, you will love it.

If you’re a woman who’s ever looked in the mirror and hated what she sees, you will love it and absolutely need to see it. (And if you haven’t I simultaneously want to punch you and kiss you. But mostly punch you. Because, really? Never?! You might be a little conceited.)

Muffin Top: A Love Story is available On Demand here. So grab some girlfriends, a few bottles of wine and plenty of chocolate and enjoy the funniest girls’-night-in you’ve had in a long while.

Or click this link to see if Muffin Top is coming to a movie theater in your town as a red carpet event and make it a girls’-night-out. Select cities will have cast member attending. (Hello David!)

But please, do yourself a favor and do see it. You’ll be so happy you did. And remember, supermodels are genetic freaks! you’re beautiful.

 

Running (Away) as Fast as He Can

3 Nov

I woke up two Saturdays ago to a 4:30 alarm. Chandler had to be on the bus at 5AM for a cross country meet and asked the night before if I’d make him breakfast-to-go so he could sleep until 4:45. I made him a fried egg sandwich (making sure to poke the yolk and fry it hard so it wouldn’t make a mess) and a protein shake and drove him to the bus. I made some much-needed coffee, putzed around a bit, walked the dog, ate breakfast and Dave and I were out the door by 6:30 (okay, we always run late – 6:45). We drove through downtown Los Angeles just as the sun was rising. Watching the sun peek over the mountains and reflect on the high rises was breathtaking. I would have taken a picture, but I was driving. Plus my windows were filthy. It probably wouldn’t have turned out anyway.

We got to the meet, found our team in the maze of pop-ups, and wished Chandler luck just before he was called to line up for his race. He was running the JV National race with 16 schools and 111 runners competing. This was JV so I was hoping for a strong finish from Chandler, but it was an elite race, so I wasn’t sure how he’d do.Dave and I and my friend Debby (a mother of one of the other runners) found what we hoped was a good vantage point to watch the beginning of the race.

If you’ve never seen a cross country race they are both fun and difficult to watch. It’s a three mile course so you can never really see all -or sometimes even much- of the race and have to criss-cross and run ahead of the runners to different parts of the course. How much of the race you see depends on the sight lines of the course and how much you’re willing to run around. We saw the race start and then headed over to the one-mile mark. When the runners passed us they were still all close together and Chandler was in the middle of the pack.

Mt. Sac JV National Race

This is one of the more difficult courses to see a lot of the race, especially if you want to see the finish because it’s such a large event and it’s difficult to navigate all the people. Debby and I decided to head right to the finish line so we wouldn’t miss the boys crossing. Dave decided to head down a little before the finish because they come out of a narrow chute and when you stand at the finish line that is literally all you can see.

As we were nearing the 15 minute mark we knew the boys would start crossing in the next minute or so and heard an announcement.

“Did he just say a runner from Agoura is in front?” Debby asked me.

It did sound like he said that, but it couldn’t be. Our school is a Division III school and we were running in a Division I & II race against bigger and better schools. The odds of one of our boys winning was slim.

“It sounded like it, but he must have said Great Oak,” I said. They’re the school that’s ranked #1 in California.

And then I heard my friend Marisa, who was standing across from us at the other side of the finish line yell, “Chandler, Chandler!”

And I screamed, “Whooooooooooo!” as I saw my son come up the chute and cross the finish line first.

I was in shock. These are schools we never run against, so I really didn’t know how Chandler would finish. Plus, he started off the season injured and this was his first race where he was back to feeling 100%. I know that he’s been disappointed this season not being able to run varsity, but there was no room for disappointment when he crossed that finish line with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. As proud as I was of him (and trust me I was), I was even happier for him.

Mt. Sac finish line

I always love to see Chandler race, but I’m especially trying to hold onto these proud moments this year. If I could, I’d squeeze them tightly in my hands and never let go. He is so anxious for college, it seems he already has one foot out the door. A year from now Chandler will be far away, running in college at races that I won’t be able to watch.

I knew this time would come faster than I wanted it to, but not nearly as fast as it has.

Even faster, than my fast, fast son.

Welcome to This Wonderful World

21 Oct

On Saturday morning I woke up at about 6:45, which was equal parts much too early and much too late. I walked the dog, came home and woke up Marley who surprisingly got up without the usual teenage grumble and we were out the door by 8:25 headed to my mom’s house. I was meeting my brother there, who was going to fix the ignition coil on my car and Marley and my mom were going to watch the Great Gatsby for the thousandth time because apparently you can never get enough Leonardo DiCaprio. (I don’t quite know how to break it to Marley that he’s pushing 40.)

I had planned on coercing my mom to do a Costco run with me (we were out of everything – surely she had to be out of everything too). I also had to pick up a few things at Target, maybe Bed Bath & Beyond. Then I’d head home and cheat on my hairdresser (again) with some long overdue root maintenance before meeting my girlfriends for a 6:00 dinner and then a concert at The Canyon Club.

But when I got to my mother’s my brother wasn’t there. I was slightly annoyed because I had rushed and was late (the story of my life) and had forgotten my Costco list and now wished I’d turned around to get it.

“Where’s Richard?” I asked my mom as I walked in.

“He’s at the hospital,” she answered.

And a smile spread across my face.

My little brother was about to become a grandfather.

“Did she have him?” I asked.

“Not yet,” my mom told me.

“Can we go to the hospital, Mom?” Marley asked me.

It was very considerate of my niece to have her baby on a Saturday so we could all be there. I was hoping for a speedy labor (for her comfort of course and not because I was rudely and selfishly thinking of my month-long plans with some girlfriends that I rarely get to see). She was only at four centimeters so we took our time and made eggs for breakfast; lingered a bit. I helped my mom clean up and made a new Costco list.

We headed over to the hospital a little after ten. My niece was doing great and we plopped down next to her boyfriend, my brother, his girlfriend. and my younger niece ready to meet the newest member of our family. At 11:30 Ashley was only at five centimeters and everyone was hungry so my mom and I decided to go to Costco and pick up a couple pizzas while we were there. My list was long, but we barreled through Costco knowing that the baby wouldn’t be coming for hours, but still nervous that we’d miss it if we took too long. We dropped the groceries off at my house, dumping them on the kitchen table and into the fridge (we’d worry about separating them later), gave Dave a couple slices of pizza and rushed back to the hospital. My older niece had joined the group and the pizzas (now warmish rather than hot) were devoured.

At 2:20, Ashley was moving steadily, but slowly. I took a risk and headed home to get ready for my night out, stopping for hair mascara along the way, taking my cheating on my hairdresser to a new low. At 3:40 my mom texted me 9 1/2 maybe 20 minutes. 30 minutes.

I unplugged my flat iron and flew out the door.  On my way I texted back. I made it to the hospital in 20 minutes flat.

He still wasn’t quite ready to come out yet. Wombs are warm and cozy places. The nurse came back in the room to check her at 5:00. “The baby’s coming,” she said as she went to call the doctor. Ashley’s boyfriend and her two sisters stayed with her. And even though she left our earth way too soon, I know the girls’ mother was there too. Marley sat on the floor outside the room. The rest of us headed to the waiting area down the hall.

A little while later Marley texted me The baby is out and we rushed back down the hall.

“How do you know the baby is out?” I asked as the door was still shut. “Did someone come out?”

“No, I can hear him crying,” she said and we all pressed our ears to the door.

At 5:37 PM I became a great-aunt. He was 7 pounds 7 ounces and perfect. Mama and baby were both doing fine.

newborn

Welcome to the world little man!

 

We congratulated the proud parents and took turns holding our new little treasure. We called and texted family far away. We Instagrammed. We Facebooked. We were in awe and in love with our new little family member.

About an hour later I drove my mom home and left Marley there. I’d missed dinner with my friends, but still had time to meet them at the club. As I was driving home to change I thought about Ashley and her new little family. She is so young – just one year out of high school, two weeks away from nineteen. Yeah, her life’s going to be hard. Motherhood is so damn hard.

But also so very wonderful. Quite possibly the most wonderful thing in the world. They are surrounded by love. They’ll be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

Women are Better Writers than Men (Obviously)

13 Oct

I love to read. And I love to write. (Actually I hate to write, but somehow feel compelled to torture myself by writing anyway. I’m quirky like that.) You’d think with all the reading and writing I do (which truth be told is not nearly as much as I’d like of either), my grammar would rock. But it doesn’t. It stinks.

If only there was a place that would do a grammar check for me. You know, sort of like an online English teacher at my beck and call whenever I needed her to make sure my formatting and sentence structure and punctuation were correct. Wait a minute, there is. And it’s called Grammarly. Yep, it’s as if your English teacher followed you home to remind you when to properly use lay or lie and was or were. (But this one won’t make you write a five paragraph expository essay on the theme of The Great Gatsby.)

Recently the fine people over at Grammarly took a poll of over 3,000 people to determine once and for all who are better writers – women or men. And it turns out that the ladies are the winners on this one. Hey, I like to read both male and female authors, but who am I to argue when over 3,000 people say girls are better than boys? Check out the results on the infographic below:

men-vs-women-writers-infograficmen-v-women-writers-infographic

women-vs-men-writers-infographic

women-v-men-writers-infographic

men-vs-women-writers-infographic-last

So you see – whenever people read what I write and think I take way too much time blathering on (and on and on) with my ridiculously long sentences what they need to realize is I’m writing descriptively. I’m developing my plot. And my characters. I’m being better.

Disclaimer: In exchange for writing this post Grammarly.com is donating $50 to Reading is Fundamental in my name. But please be assured that the belief that women are superior is not only held by me, but by 59% of the 3,000+ people polled above.
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