9 Books & 2 Websites to Make Christmas Shopping a Snap (plus a few thoughts on life with a puppy)

It’s right around this time of year when the internet is flooded with hilarious posts detailing what not to buy.

Like this, for instance: The Power Nap Head Pillow.  Go ahead; click the link. Just consider yourself forewarned that whatever you’re drinking might come out of your nose.

I’m pretty sure that between Hammacher Schlemmer and the Delta Sky Mall, you can have all of your gag gifts covered.

Once you have that taken care of, you can settle down and focus on tracking down cool gifties for the littles. Legos are so three years ago. Same with Transformers (thank goodness).

Because we’ve been receiving holiday catalogs since mid-July, my boys and I have had ample time to cull through them and pull out the coolest things imaginable. And because I’m nice, I’m going to share some of this insider awesomeness with you.

1. The Grommet. A friend of mine actually shared this website with me. The site has all sorts of funky, unique items for all ages–none of which are vulgar or risqué or pointless like the above mentioned Power Nap Head Pillow. This is the Thinking Man’s Red Envelope.

2. Marbles, The Brain Store. Wowsers. Jack, Tucker and Theo went nuts on this catalog. It’s chock-full of science-y/math-y fabulousness. Don’t believe me? They have a game called Rock Me, Archimedes, which prompted Jack to give me a 2-minute bio of Archimedes himself (say what? I was a bit impressed, to say the least.). If you have builders or tinkerers or kiddos who love strategy games, grab a pad of paper and head to this website. [Here’s my insider’s tip, though: many of the items can be found for much less on Amazon. Poke around on the Marbles site and then double-check on Google to see if you can find it for a lower price.]

Speaking of Amazon…we do love us some books in this house.

3. Rosie Revere, Engineer.  If you’ve been on FaceBook in the past 48 hours, chances are you’ve seen the GoldieBlox commercial blasting out the Beastie Boys while 3 adorable yet brainy girls build a life-size Mousetrap contraption that would make any building fiend salivate. We have no girls in this house, but we do have a 5 year old obsessed with building things, so I’ve purchased this terrific book by Andrea Beaty which features a powerful young female protagonist who wants to be an engineer. It’s the follow-up to the equally as marvelous Iggy Peck, Architect. Trust me on these. Perfection in a children’s book. Amazon will tell you they are for the 4-8 year old sect, but my older ones still love to have Iggy Peck read aloud to them. I can’t wait to add Rosie’s lyrical story to the mix, and you’ll find yourself wishing you could be in Miss Lila Greer’s class, too.

4. Great books Tucker has read lately–> The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara, and Einstein the Class Hamster by Janet Tashjian. Nobel Prize winners these ain’t, but when you are a 7.5 year old dyslexic and you can’t leave home without one of these books, you know they are special.


I am a reader; hear me roar!

5. Not to be outdone, our 9 year old has discovered a few incredible reads lately, too–> Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass, The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders, and The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward. Jack loves puzzle mysteries–books that are filled with riddles or brain teasers or multi-layered problems to solve. All of the books listed above fit the bill. (Truth be told, I enjoyed reading parts of them, too.)


6. Ornaments. We get one new, special, dated ornament a year, typically from Lisa Leonard Designs. Her pewter ornaments are spectacular–heavy, shiny and laced onto a bright red ribbon–and it comes beautifully wrapped and with a velvet bag so it won’t get scratched up when you pack it away. These make perfect gifts for a baby’s first Christmas or for anyone on your list who loves personalized, extra-special gifts.

Have you uncovered any awesome new finds this season? Please pass them along!


Kirbinator Update.


This little brown dog is a piece of work. Today, she threw up a water bottle cap. I should thank her for saving us thousands of dollars by yacking it up herself instead of requiring a trip to the vet (I have no idea where she found the water bottle cap, by the way, and did not know she had ingested anything odd.). She barks at leaves and the wind and her reflection (still)–all activities which have earned her the nickname Mensa. She hates one particular hydrangea in our back yard and has made it her solitary goal in life to uproot it. She only goes after this one plant. All the other hydrangeas quiver in fear when she comes outside. And they should.


On the watch for malicious flowering plants.

Mensa enjoys watching television and going for rides in the car. Her main mode of transportation is jumping, often off all 4 feet like Buttermilk, the baby goat (by the way, this ridiculous video never gets old). Her main source of entertainment (other than hydrangea hunting) is shoe collecting. Kirby constantly has about 7 or 8 shoes stacked up by her bed. Thus far she hasn’t chewed them up–just hoarded them. Weirdo.

We can’t wait to see how she handles a Christmas tree.


Don’t let this mellow shot of me relaxing by the fire fool you; I am The Kirbinator!