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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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:
Marley is into screamo music. What’s sceamo music? I’d explain it to you, but I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with angst, wearing black clothes, having a heavy hand with the black eyeliner, and hating your parents on a semi-regular basis. And the lead singers scream instead of sing. (Hence the name screamo.)
So it’s the perfect music for teenagers. At least the angst-ridden moody ones.
Like my daughter.
Some of you may be scratching your heads as you remember me taking an excited Marley to see Miley Cyrus, Travie McCoy and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the KIIS Jingle Ball – definitely not scremo. Well, all I can say to that is sometimes when there’s no one around to witness it I listen to country music in the car. So I suppose it’s possible that she likes listening to guys with neck tats scream (rather than sing) just as much as she likes to listen to Miley auto-tunetwerk her way through a broken heart. What can I say – she’s a complicated girl.
Marley found out that Austin Carlile, the lead singer of the band Of Mice and Men, was doing an autograph signing to promote his Neff clothing line at Tilly’s in Pasadena. I said that I would take her because I remember what it’s like to idolize a rockstar. I used to be a bit of a fangirl myself. (My old friends are laughing hysterically right now saying to themselves, “A bit?!”)
Tilly’s was handing out wristbands at 8AM (for a 2PM autograph signing) so I told Marley’s friends to meet at our house at 7:30. (Goodbye Saturday morning kickboxing class.) We were on the road by 7:45 but I started to get a little nervous when an overturned big rig closed down four lanes of the 101 and added about 30 minutes to our trip. What if this was a bigger deal than I realized and we showed up to a strip mall full of 500 pink hair kids in sleeping bags who had been camping out for days, rivaling Black Friday Walmart shoppers willing to give up their Thanksgiving for the prize of a $200 flat screen TV, just for the chance to meet their scremo idol?
I enjoyed listening to the girls on the car ride over. They all thanked me profusely for giving up my Saturday and told me I was such a cool mom (Marley’s eyes rolled so far back into her head I think they completely spun around on that comment). They mostly talked about the bands they liked. All of them mentioned listening to Green Day first and moving on to screamo band from there. So the next time you get all weepy listening to Time of Your Life, just rememberthat Green Day is a gateway band. (Thanks a lot Billy Joe!)
We got to Tilly’s a few minutes before 9:00 and the line was long, but not too bad.
We ran in and I asked the girl if I needed a wristband. I didn’t want to take a wristband away from a kid, but I wanted to be able to go in and get photos of the girls.
“I don’t know. That depends on his people,” she answered.
If this was going to be the happiest 15 seconds of my daughter’s teenage existence I wanted to be there to witness it dammit! I gave up my kickboxing class Saturday for this. Sorry #401 – you should have gotten here earlier.
The girls set up camp on a couple of blankets and I wandered around the strip mall for a bit. I had intended to camp out in the Starbucks all day with my laptop and newBridget Jones book (new Bridget Jones – squee!), but the lure of Old Navy and Nordstrom Rack proved to be too strong. I eventually made it to Starbucks around 11:00 (truly the worst Starbucks ever, BTW) and was lucky enough to procure a spot with an outlet.
I was there about 30 minutes when Marley and one of her friends showed up to get some sugar drinks (guess who paid). They had drawn song lyrics all over their arms with Sharpie. One of the girls had taken a picture of their five hands and tweeted it. Austin Carlile retweeted it and it was then retweeted over 200 times. (OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod! Austin Carlile retweeted my tweet!) I don’t think the girls really needed the sugar.
At 12:30 I went to get the girls a pizza and myself a salad. They allowed me to sit on their blanket with them to eat. As we were finishing the line started to push forward. He was here! Or about to be here – I’m not sure which. We cleaned up the pizza box, Starbucks cups, and all the other trash that accumulates from sitting on a blanket for five hours while waiting to meet a rock god and waited.
Well, they waited. I went to Nordstrom Rack to use the restroom. (And maybe check out their boots.) I walked down the street to the little thrift store I saw on my pizza run. Closed at 3:00 (It was 3:20.) 3:00?Who closes their store at 3:00 on a Saturday?! I sat on the lip of the fountain and read Bridget Jones and chatted with other parents.
It turns out that despite the scary tattoos, Austin Carlile is a very inspirational guy who tells people to follow their dreams, that things will get better, and to love, not hate. (Teenage angst is mere putty in his hands.)
He was incredibly gracious and generous with his fans and would hug anyone who asked for a hug (they all asked for hugs), listened to what they had to say, and would sign more than one thing (any celebrity handler will tell you that to move things along it is imperative to only sign one thing).
His fans were in heaven. (His publicist? Not so much.)
I joined Marley and her friends when they reached close to the front of the line (at around 4:45!) and two incredibly beautiful girls came up to me. You know the type – the type who look like they are used to getting what they want with a few blinks of their extra-long eyelashes and a well-placed pout.
“Are you here to meet Austin or are you just a mom?”
Just mom, grrr! Was it my gray roots and desperate need (that shall never be fulfilled) of botox or my lack of black eyeliner and black clothing that gave me away?
“I’m a mom, why?”
“Well, I see you have a wristband and it’s not really fair to take one from a kid. I got my wristband from another mom and I was wondering if my friend could have yours so we can meet him.”
“My wristband won’t slip off. It’s on too tight.”
“Well, that’s okay. We could wait with you and you could tell them that my friend is your daughter and you want her to have your wristband.”
At first I felt bad for her. Like I said, I know what it’s like to be a fangirl. Then I remembered how long these kids in line had been waiting. “Really? What time did you get here?” I asked her.
“Um, I don’t know a couple of hours ago.”
“A couple of hours ago? Well, my girls have been here for eight hours. And you want to hop in line with us, in front of the 100 people behind us who have also been here for eight hours? I may have ‘taken a wristband from a kid,’ but it still would have been long gone by the time you got here. You should have come earlier like everybody else.”
She slumped her shoulders and walked away.
“Was I wrong?” I asked a wristbandless dad next to me whose girls were in line right in front of mine? Maybe I was an asshole for taking a wristband from a kid.
“No way,” he told me. “Those girls didn’t earn it.”
At 5:00 the girls got in. Marley was over the moon. Austin chatted with her for about 30 seconds and then gave her a 10 second hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was shaking when she walked away.
“What did you say to each other when he was hugging you?” I asked her.
“I’ll never tell anyone. That’s just for me,” she said.
Good for her. I hope she never does tell anyone. I hope she keeps just for her for forever.
All of my girls, like the girls I saw coming out before them, were crying – the anticipation and excitement and emotion of meeting Austin Carlile overwhelming them.
“Let’s go home, Mom. I’m so tired,” Marley said to me after they all went through.
All of the girls looked wrecked. Happy, but wrecked.
I sent out a tweet with a picture of the girls that said: “Next in line. Totally worth the 8 hour wait to see @austincarlile He’s so gracious to his fans. Happy girls.” Austin Carlile retweeted it Saturday night. (OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod! Austin Carlile retweeted my tweet!) It got 20 retweets and 220 favorites. I have about 40 new teenage followers. I’m sure they’ll be unfollowing me immediately upon discovering that I’m just a mom and not a fangirl.
But when Marley’s friends thanked me again and told me I was a cool mom on the ride home Marley didn’t roll her eyes. Now that’s worth giving up a Saturday for.
I am always looking for activities in LA with my kids. Because having a 16-year-old and 12-year-old is great for help around the house and yard work. (Well, they don’t think that’s so great.) But when you are looking for a fun family activity in Los Angeles that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Not so great.
Oh how I miss the days when I could throw a few PBJ’s and some sand toys in the car, drive to a local park, sit my butt down in a beach chair, open up my book, tell them to “go play” and call it a successful afternoon. Throw in a couple of Big Sticks from the ice cream truck and I’m Mother-of-the-Year.
Those days are long gone. I suppose I could take them to the park and play Frisbee or football with them. But I can’t imagine it (or rather me) lasting very long.
Of course there are fun and inexpensive things we can do. We can always go to the beach. (Yes, often even in the winter. Sorry east coasters!) But this time of year it’s too cold to go in the water, so they get bored quickly.
And there are hundreds of hiking trails within a reasonable distance (and dozens mere minutes away), but Marley hates to hike and I tire of her nonstop commentary about how “hiking sucks.”
Over the winter break when I was really scrambling for things to do with the kids (yeah, this blog is long overdue) my mom stumbled upon a Groupon for the Battleship Iowa in San Pedro. So the four of us, along with my mom, step-dad and 9-year-old nephew made plans for a Los Angeles day trip.
The Battleship Iowa, built in 1940, is one of the largest battleships ever and is now retired and turned into a museum. How big is it? Pretty big.
The Iowa was an important part of the Navy fleet for five decades. It even ferried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Casablanca during World War II. It also served in the Korean War and was recommissioned to serve in the Persian Gulf in the 1980’s. The battleship has been permanently retired and is now a museum.
You take a self-guided tour through the museum, but there are plenty of guides throughout the ship -most of them veterans- to answer questions and tell you facts about the battleship.
The most impressive thing about the battleship is definitely the 16 inch guns…
The Iowa was cool enough to keep Chandler-the-history-buff interested and there were enough places to climb and explore to keep Marley entertained. (It probably helped that she got to “be in charge” of my nephew Garrett.)
Side note: If there is going to be a Ross Family outing you can pretty much guarantee a picnic lunch will be involved. It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating out (I do) or that I’m particularly healthy (I’m not), I just don’t enjoy paying for a meal out. (I’m not cheap, just frugal poor.) And since there were seven of us on this day, and the weather was gorgeous, we decided a salami on rye with some Fritos (see not so healthy) and orange slices at a beautiful park beat a $40+ fast food or $80+ sit down meal.
The bell and pavilion were donated in 1976 to the people of Los Angeles by the people of the Republic of Korea. The park is lovely and has an amazing ocean view. There was even a playset for Garrett to play. (And Marley to boss him around.)
Most people would head home after spending a few hours on a battleship and then picnicking for an hour or so. But most people are not the Ross family!
I like to look in funky thrift stores and Chandler likes to poke around antique stores. We did a search for antique stores on my mom’s iPhone, but the places we found were no longer there. I did find a really cool thrift store (I like to look for clothes) but everyone quickly lost patience with me so we didn’t spend nearly enough time there.
After that we drove to Wayfarers Chapel in Palos Verdes. It was designed by Lloyd Wright (the son of Frank Lloyd Wright) and is truly stunning.
It’s a big wedding destination and a bit of a tourist trap, but I think it’s peaceful and very lovely. We met a couple who were in town from Wisconsin for the Rose Bowl game (I told you this blog was overdue) who had gotten married in the church 25 years ago. It was so sweet to hear them reminisce.
After touring the church it was almost 4:00. Everyone was tired and ready to go home. We kept a 16-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old entertained (on a budget) and deemed the day a success. What a great idea by my mom. I think she just stole my title of “Mother of the Year.”
At this posting the Groupon for the Battleship Iowa is still available. To check it out click here.