Gift Guide for Teachers, Nannies, & Coworkers

It can feel really hard to find the perfect gift for teachers, nannies, and coworkers, but it doesn’t have to be! In my experience, teachers, nannies, and coworkers are often the most appreciative among all gift recipients (despite all the viral articles claiming all teachers hate mugs). There are so many great gift ideas for this group, 10 of which I’ve rounded up below (price listed subject to change and hopefully drop during this week’s big holiday sales):

mug warmer

1/ Mug warmer ($24) – Teachers may have too many coffee mugs, but I bet most of them would appreciate a mug warmer. This is a wonderfully thoughtful and useful gift for any tea, coffee, or hot chocolate lover. Pair with a mug (if you dare – this one is my new favorite), a gift card to Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop, or any other tea/coffee/cocoa themed gift.


2/  Flowers – Flowers are almost always appreciated by almost everybody. They’re beautiful and thoughtful and don’t end up as clutter.

3/ Gift card to Walgreens or Michaels – This idea is definitely geared toward teachers, although my office sits above a Walgreens so it’d work for my coworkers too! Earlier this year our preschool director suggested Walgreens or Michaels gift cards as a way to give back to the school if your time/schedule did not permit hands-on volunteering. The teachers love to use the gift cards to print photos for the classroom or re-stock their arts and crafts supplies. When Big P handed his teacher a $20 Walgreens gift card earlier this year, I have never seen a smile so big or a person more appreciative of a small gift.


4/ A bottle of her favorite alcoholic beverage (and/or a 6-pack of Diet Coke) – My coworker celebrated her birthday yesterday and she received the most thoughtful presents: a bouquet of flowers, a 6-pack of Diet Coke (which is almost already gone ha), a bottle of Tanqueray gin, and a bottle of tonic to go with it. Clearly our coworkers have been paying attention to what she likes, and I can attest that she was very touched. Never underestimate the value of paying attention to what people like and gifting accordingly, even if the gift itself doesn’t seem expensive or special (I will pretty much love you for life if you bring me gummy bears). This tumbler is adorable, by the way, for any Diet Coke lovers.


5/ Rose water facial spray ($12) – A small beauty product can be a very thoughtful gift. This rose water spray has rave reviews and multiple uses. And it’s something I’d love to get as a gift myself, which is always a good sign.


6/ Spotify Premium or Netflix gift subscriptions – Gift subscriptions can be tricky because the last thing you want to do is purchase a subscription to a service the recipient doesn’t want or need. I would contend, however, that almost every single person enjoys music and movies/television (at least in some capacity). Teachers may be able to even utilize a Spotify or Netflix subscription in their classrooms. Bonus, you can buy them on Amazon!


7/ Cute beanie ($9) – I recently ran (well walked) a 5K and instead of a t-shirt the race gave out beanies. I’ve gotten so much more use out of that beanie than I would a race t-shirt, which got me to thinking that a beanie could be a great gift for teachers or nannies standing out on the playground or coworkers commuting into the office (or anyone really). This beanie is adorable and inexpensive too!

prime gift

8/ Amazon prime (starts at $33) – Every year we give our nanny an extra week’s pay as a Christmas present, but we also try to include a gift card to her favorite restaurant or some other small-ish but thoughtful gift. This year I’m giving her the gift of Amazon Prime, which let’s be honest is a really darn good gift. She already uses our Prime account to buy a few things (often for our own kids to whom she gives the BEST presents) and now she can do it freely without having to ask every time, plus she’ll get access to all the other Amazon Prime benefits including Prime Video.


9/ A really nice water bottle ($45) – Really nice water bottles are great gifts for almost anyone. Pair with a gift card or 6-pack of the recipient’s beverage of choice.

10/ A handwritten thank you note (free) – My kids are still pretty young, but I’ve already experienced the highs and lows of finding childcare and picking the right school. I am so, so, so unbelievably thankful for my son’s teachers and nanny. All the gifts in the world really couldn’t convey the level of my gratitude, so this year I plan to include a hand written note with each of our gifts.

Gift Guide: Two Year Olds

Two-year-olds are so much fun! They are still working on their fine motor skills, growing in their imagination and really starting to figure out their personal preferences. Lion recently turned three, so we’ve had an entire year of experience with his favorite toys at age two; Panda will be turning two in January. Between Lion and Panda, here are some of my favorite picks for a two-year-old.



1) Magnatiles – Lion has been playing with Magnatiles since before he was 18-months-old, but we definitely saw a huge improvement after he turned two. Panda pretty much only builds boxes and immediately smashes them, but this toy gets a lot of use from both kids.

2) Mop and broom set – Whenever we clean the house, the kids always want to help sweep or vacuum. We’ve been wanting to get them child sized brooms for quite some time and added these to their wishlist.

3) Blaze and the Monster Machines – Lion and Panda adore Blaze and the Monster Machines. While Panda doesn’t usually have the attention span for TV shows or movies, he will happily sit through an episode of Blaze and he loves reading books with Blaze in it. We have a bunch of the diecast monster trucks and they are well-loved.

4) Trampoline – We put this on the kids’ Christmas wish list last year, but didn’t get it. We’re putting it on again, though, and if we did end up with it this year, that would be even better since both kids would be able to use it. I think it’s a great way for kids to be able to burn off a little extra energy indoors, especially in the midst of winter when it may be too cold to venture out for too long.

5) Tegu Blocks – We have a very small number of Tegu blocks — just the eight pack travel case. And yet, on a recent trip, Lion and Panda had a blast on the two hour plane ride with four blocks each. They’re much easier for a (less than) two-year-old to connect than other magnetic blocks, but still lots of fun for a three-year-old.

6) Standing easel – Panda loves art and when we visited a children’s museum, he got the most enjoyment out of painting at an easel. At their old daycare, Lion was frequently using the standing easel when I picked him up, so this would be a great gift for both of them.

7) Hot Wheels cars – Both of our kids love all things that go and race cars seem to be everywhere in our home. While our boys love the Pixar Cars characters, the Hot Wheels packages provide great deals.

8) Balls – Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs, you name the ball and our kids love them. We buy foam balls that the kids can use indoors and they’re another toy that make their way out of their bins every day.

9) Duplos – Whenever we went to the library, Lion and Panda made a beeline for the Duplos so we purchased some this summer. They love stacking and playing with the Duplos, with a particular fondness for trains, cars, and other Duplos with wheels.

10) Thomas minis – Lion became obsessed with Thomas minis from the moment we gave him his first one at around age 2.5. He loved the idea that Thomas and his friends were “dressed up” in costumes.

11) Tee ball set – We recently took a long weekend trip with the little guys and their grandparents who were visiting out of town. Since we were staying on a farm (we live in a condo and don’t have a backyard), Mr. Dolphin picked up a tee ball set for them to play with. They were in heaven and both kids enjoyed trying to hit the ball off the tee.

12) Silky crayons – By chance, Panda and I stumbled across a children’s art studio where he got to try out some silky crayons, which are a cross between crayons and pastels. He LOVED them and I picked up a set for him for Christmas. They’re easy for young toddlers to use and you can dip your finger (or a brush) into water to help blend colors together once you draw on the paper for added fun.

13) Stickers – I can’t tell you how much our children love stickers. They have kept our kids quiet and entertained on many a long car ride, during church and during a graduation ceremony.

23 Unique Gift Ideas for 6 Year Old Girls

Olive’s 6th birthday just passed in October and I shared a a gift guide for 6-year-old girls back then. She’s pretty easy to please when it comes to gifts since her love for stuffed animals and mini toys haven’t waned over the past couple of years. But I scoped out stores like Etsy, Magic Cabin, Hearthsong, Anthropologie, and Uncommon Goods to put together this guide of unique toys for the 6-year-old in your life!

little patient

Little Patient Doll – A fun way to teach kids about the organs, and a great addition to our homeschool classroom.


Sun and Moon Plush – We talk about the sun and moon a lot here since a full moon is a big deal when you live on the beach. Mr. Bee’s nickname for Olive is also “moon” since Charlie is the “son.” I think they would love this set.


unicorn horn – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The unicorn craze that is. Anthropologie also has some very pretty, more embellished unicorn headbands.


Unicorn Cereal Bowl – A handmade bowl for my cereal loving girl. There’s also a matching mug that would be perfect for holiday hot chocolate (this is a more affordable option).


Personalized superhero cape and mask – The success of Wonder Woman showed the world that superheroes are not only for boys.


Cat Collective Toddler Quilt – We recently rescued a litter of 6 kittens and kept two, and Olive is absolutely OBSESSED with them. She would adore this cat quilt, though Anthropologie carries so many other beautiful prints!


Fuzzy Fox Body Pillow – A body sized plush to cuddle with every night.


Unicorn Glow in the Dark 100 piece Puzzle – Olive is really into puzzles these days and this combines two of her favorite things — unicorns and glow in the dark!


Mood necklace – Olive loves my mood ring but she’s likely to lose a ring, so she’d love a mood necklace.


Montessori Wood Pencil Holder – A beautiful way to organize our tons of color pencils.


Wood Peg Doll Family – I’ve wanted to get one of these for ages and I like that this set is simple and affordable. There are so many different styles available including ones you can personalize with your family’s faces. I loved this Gruffalo one!


Mandala – This is pricey (on sale here) but since we live in nature and the kids are always collecting things like seashells, I think it would be put to great use! It teaches art, symmetry, math and much more!


Padded Bow and Arrow Set – Olive’s gross motor skills have always been delayed, and I really want to encourage her to play with toys like these that will increase her strength and gross motor skills.

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Solar Print Kit – Something so simple is just so cool. Art and science all in one.

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Hugglepod – We have two of these and the kids adore them.

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Paint Your Own Nutcracker – My kids are all about arts and crafts and they would love this activity!

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Woodland Friends Tea Set – My kids played with their tin tea set all the time. Many pieces are now dented, and I’d love to upgrade to a cute set like this.


Little Feminist Playing Cards – This deck of cards features beautiful illustrations of famous women in history. I would love to share the stories of all these strong, smart women with my little girl.

little people big dreams

Little People Big Dreams Book Series – This series of books targeted to children ages 5-8 features beautiful illustrations and inspiring stories of famous women who made history. There are already 10 books in the series with plans for more!


How to Find Flower Fairies – This is the first book in a series of three with intricate 3D cutots, flaps and more for your kid to explore. My daughter would absolutely adore this!


Doctor Who Mr. Men – The Doctors: Time and Space Collection – The Little Miss/Mr. Men series is one of Olive’s favorites. We already purchased one of the books in this series of 8 books, and Olive has asked for more so I would love this entire set.


Flipbook Kit – Olive loves to make little books of her own. This flipbook is sure to be a blast.


Family Dinner Box of Questions – We’ve done highs and lows of our day for years at the dinner table. I love that this mixes up what we talk about each day instead of just asking each other what we did that day.

Gift Guide for 7 Year Old Boys

Since Drake is my oldest, it’s always interesting to see what toys are out there for the older kids. These are some of the ones that perked my interest when I was searching out things to get Drake this year.


1) Seedling Design Your Own Marble Maze – Drake has been getting more into Minecraft recently and my friend told me about this Seedling toy that I thought was somewhat similar. It apparently allows you to create your own maze world and then step into it and move through it. It sounded pretty neat and when a nearby toy store was going out of business over the summer I managed to snag it at a great price. I’m hoping Drake likes it as I think it sounds pretty cool!

2) Ninjago Legos – Drake hasn’t really moved into Legos much like a lot of the boys in his class have. In the fall we ended up going to a party at the movies where we saw Ninjago and he really liked the movie. I was hoping that this would be the stepping stone for him in getting more into Legos.

3) Adventure Kit – Drake loves exploring and playing in our yard. He always wants to borrow our flashlights or binoculars so when I saw this set I thought it was perfect for him.

4) Glow in the Dark Terrarium – Drake made a terrarium this summer with his church class, but sadly it didn’t make it and we had to throw it away. I have been meaning to try again with him. This one look pretty neat and he can keep in his room to look at too.

5) 3D Puzzle – Fiona and Juliet both love puzzles, Drake not as much, but these 3D ones look kinda cool. I got him one of the White House for Christmas since he is very into Presidents. Maybe that will be a nice fun afternoon activity for him to make and display in his room.

6) Light Board – I’ve wanted to DIY a lightboard for Drake for a while, and I still might, but this lap size one might be a good start to see how he enjoys it. Right now he is really into making maps.

7) Tinker Crate – We are huge fans of Kiwi and Koala crates. We’ve never tried out Tinker Crate,but as Drake gets older the projects might be more suited for his age and interest. It’s also fun for kids to get things in the mail so it’s an added bonus to spread out the holiday excitement.

8) Art Set – We go through markers, crayons, and paper like water in the house. Sadly because Fiona is not so great about remembering to close markers or be gentler with crayons, many of them get damaged or ruined this time of the. This time of year it’s nice to get a restock. I got this art set on a Lightening deal over the summer and have been saving it for Christmas.

9) Clue Jr -I’m trying to move to more board games with all my kids. Clue was a favorite of mine as a kid.

10) Crystal Growing – We love science in this house and these look like a fun experiment to try on a rainy afternoon.


Link Roundup – December 6, 2017

My Christmas shopping is completely done! It’s easy because I only buy presents for the kids, and what we can buy here is limited. They’re each getting three small toys, sharing a star projector nightlight, and then their stockings will be filled with little toys, bubbles, play doh and snacks. Since there is no one big present, we’ll just leave everything unwrapped and say it’s all from Santa. I have a feeling this might be the last year that Charlie believes anyway!


These are some interesting parenting links from around the web this week!


Maybe American Students Are Bad at Standardized Tests Because They Don’t Try Very Hard via Wall Street Journal

School Voucher Programs Should Be Clear About Disability Rights, Report Says via NPR Ed


How Doctors Fail Women Who Don’t Want Children via New York Times

When to Start Finger Foods? Probably Sooner Than You Think via Parents

If your toddler’s acting up, science says his gut bacteria might be to blame via Motherly

Beware the baby bust via The Week


“I’m Pregnant.” Why Your Boss’s Reaction May Matter More Than You Think. via Slate

The Jobs You’re Most Likely to Inherit From Your Mother and Father via New York Times


6 Things Boys Learn By Age 5 That Perpetuate Rape Culture via Romper

‘Grinch Bots’ Attempt To Steal Christmas By Driving Up Toy Prices via NPR

What do parents really get from maintaining the Santa myth? via Babycenter

Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And It’s Killing Us. via Huffington Post

Can I Be a Screen-Free Parent Without Being Horrible About It? via Slate

Why too many toys could be hindering your toddler via New York Post

Your 2-Year-Old Is Full of Potential. Here’s How to Develop It. via Slate

Women Are Supposed to Give Until They Die via Lenny

How the CEO of a firm that manages billions teaches his kids about money via CNBC

New research finds that kids aged 4-6 perform better during boring tasks when dressed as Batman via We Forum

Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting? via New York Times

17 Gifts of Experience Ideas

Our kids have way too much stuff. Mr. Dolphin and I have way too much stuff. That’s why this year, we are asking our families, “No Gifts, Please.” We know that our four sets of grandparents are unlikely to abide by that and want to get our kids gifts, including tangible things like toys, books and clothes, but we are really trying to discourage the mountains of gifts that have come in past years. While the kids really need nothing, we think that gifts of experience would be preferable. Here are some ideas for gifts of experience, mostly geared for kids:

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Panda hiding out in the National Building Museum’s Hive installation.

Museum membership – We’re lucky in that most museums in our area are free, but I know that’s not true in many cities. Plus, there are some fun museums geared more for children that do have a cost and it would be great to have an annual membership, particularly in the cold winter months or ridiculously humid summer months.

Zoo membership – The zoo near us is free (as are all the Smithsonian museums), but in most cities there is an admission fee. An annual pass would undoubtedly be a fun gift for many families.

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Having a “ball” in the ball pit at My Gym!

My Gym – We’ve been to a few open houses and birthday parties at My Gym and the kids always have a blast. Alternatively, some sort of gymnastics class would be fun for kids of almost any age.

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On being a “good enough” mom

It has been 2 years since I wrote this post, and 3 since the death of my mom. There is something about the anniversary of life changing events that brings about reflection. I have tried, each year, to carve out time for myself to really stop and consider how all of this has changed me. And today, I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you, whom I have shared so much of my parenting journey with thus far. I am posting again anonymously, though many of you will probably know who I am if you have followed Hellobee for a while.

Time is strange…my mom’s sudden death seems simultaneously like it happened yesterday and a million years ago. My life has changed in so many ways since then; my daughter was not yet born, and my son was practically a baby himself. Now we are leaving the toddler years behind, and my oldest will be starting Kindergarten next fall. We have been through chronic health challenges, a million ear infections, surgeries, and a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder and possibly other things as well with my son. I have gone back to work, tried again to stay at home, and went back to work again. We built a new home, moved to a new town, and have gone through the process of becoming a licensed foster family. And through all of that, it is so hard to believe that there is this big gaping hole that will forever exist in the memories of my children where their grandmother should be. My mom constantly talked about how fun my son would be when he was 3 (that was her favorite age when my brother and I were kids) and as that year came and went for my son and my daughter approaches that precious age herself, it is another reminder of what our family has lost. Sometimes my son will see a picture of his grandma, and will ask who she is, because he was too young when she died to have any lasting memories of her. It catches me by surprise every time.

And while the death of my mom is tragic, equally tragic for me is the loss of ever getting to have a supportive loving parent. It wasn’t really until I was in therapy that I gained the courage to look at my past and mourn the loss of the childhood I should have had, and of the family life that I should have had, but didn’t. My mom loved me the best way she knew how, but that came with serious limitations. My mom’s best was not always enough.

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