Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Goals v. New Year's Resolutions

I think New Year's Goals are important. The week after Christmas can be a good time to sit back and reflect on life, what needs to change, what needs to be maintained, etc. I always make goals as opposed to resolutions; the more concrete and measurable, the more likely you will follow through! Here are some examples of the difference:

Resolution: Lose Weight
Goal: Lose 10 pounds

Resolution: Eat Healthier
Goal: Eat 3 servings of veggies/day; drink 8 glasses of water/day

Resolution: Get in shape
Goal: Walk three times a week; run 5K in February; etc.

Resolution: Manage finances better
Goal: Balance checkbook every month; stay within stated budget; make a budget by end of January; file taxes by end of February;....

Resolution: Be a better mom
Goal: Read to my kids 30 minutes a day; go outside every day; pray with my children before bed every night; ....

Resolution: Keep in touch better with friends
Goal: Send birthday card for all birthdays on calendar; call 1 long distance friend/week; etc.

Resolution: Be more spiritual
Goal: Read Bible 15 minutes/day; Pray 15 minutes/day; do one Bible study with friend or group at church

It might help to think of different categories before making your goals. Once you have your categories defined, think through your ultimate priorities for those categories. Then, make some measurable goals. Categories might include: finances, health/appearance, spiritual health, family, home/property maintenance, etc. (These categories are inspired in part by Kathy Peel's Busy Mom's Guide--our current featured resource).

Happy Goal-Setting!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wrapping Presents for Toddlers

Toddlers are still rather clumsy at opening the big gift-wrapped (taped and be-ribboned) boxes, so you might consider the following options:

Gift bags with lots of tissue paper; the sparklier and crinklier, the better--especially if a 1-year old will be opening it

Boxes where the lids come off and on easily; the Dollar Tree carries a nice little box set where 1 little box can fit inside the other. These provide endless sources of amusement for little folks who like to put things inside containers. A gift of socks becomes oh, so interesting and delightful when wrapped in one of these little boxes. The boxes are decorated, so you won't need to wrap it further.

Boxes gift-wrapped with minimal tape and a bow stuck on the outside instead of a ribbon wrapped around the gift.

For bigger gifts, just put a big bow on top of the item, unwrapped!

Another point to ponder: little folks often get overwhelmed with lots of presents, especially multiple toys/books. If you have a gift from a relative you will be seeing before Christmas, go ahead and let the child/children open the gift in the presence of that relative. Carrie and I used to get to open a present on Christmas Eve and/or one earlier in the month as well, especially if it was Christmas related (like fun socks).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What About Santa?

Someone made a comment about what we do about Santa. Well, Betsy hasn't really gotten to that point yet...her kids have been so young. With an almost 6 yr. old, we know about Santa. This is what we do, what you can do, and who Santa really is.

Santa originated from St. Nicholas, a real 17th century bishop from the Turkey area today. He responded to the idea of God's gift of love, and gave away money to the poor. BUT he would do it secretly so no one would know. When everyone finally found out, he reminded them that God is the source of all goodness. Some children still leave their shoes out the night before St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) in hope they will find treats in the morning left by a secret giver filled with the love of Jesus.

Hence Americans now have Santa. Santa is based off a good person, so there is not really harm in knowing who Santa is. How you approach it is up to you:

1. Betsy and I grew up believing in Santa, as do a lot of kids and we turned out ok :-). How you handle the let down is up to you.

2. My husband didn't want to lie to the kids, so how we have approached it is more of the Santas don't bring the presents, but they can help mamas and daddys know what to get for Christmas. We will get our picture taken with him and still read The Night Before Christmas. It is still fun, without the lie of him bringing presents. And they enjoy Santa as a good, fun person. We also explained to our oldest this year that there was a real Santa (St. Nick) years ago, which is why Santa is still around today. But it doesn't take away why we really celebrate Christmas. (Although I wish I could hone in on the good behavior thing :-)).

3. Don't do Santa, and don't do what we do above. Just tell your kids that Santa is not real, just a lot of kids think he is. (But you may want to warn them before they break your neighbor's child's heart.) A lot of families don't do Santa, so it's not as big of deal any more. But it wouldn't hurt for them to know where Santa originated, because he was a good person trying to spread God's love.

4. Or come up with your own holiday meaning and tradition. Combine what you like, but throw out what you don't. There is no right or wrong (except keeping the real meaning of Christmas!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Corinthians 13 Christmas Version

Wish I got this earlier!

Author Unknown

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just
another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all
that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits
me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes,
attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata,
but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china
and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful
they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but
rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will

But giving the gift of love will endure.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things.

Love never fails.

Merry Christmas!

"And Peace to Men.."

Luke 2: 14

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, especially this time of year. In my husband's Bible study they all prayed for peace this coming week...all reiterating that with family all around, there is usually one family member who pushes everyone else's buttons. So I took a new look at this verse.

The angels proclaimed peace to men who have favor. My study notes say this is a deep peace, the peace of knowing the savior. And peace does not go to all men, just those with whom he has favor, i.e. not everyone knows the savior and can have true peace.

It also doesn't say that everything will go right. There are people out there who don't know true peace and can train wreck a good holiday. And just because you may have true peace doesn't mean a child won't get sick, you won't get in a wreck, or other tragic things might happen like the death of a family member.

BUT it does say we can have peace. That in the process, we can have a deep peace knowing the Savior is taking care of us and watching over us. That He knows what is best. I have even heard others say, and have experienced "the Peace that surpasses all understanding." He was born a baby so he could die for our sins and give us true everlasting peace.

So on this holiday season fast approaching, I leave you with this:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

Friday, December 19, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: 1 Samuel

My friend Sarah and I are studying 1st Samuel together this school year. I have to confess that it didn't sound all that exciting before we began. I stand corrected! The Old Testament is always relevant to our lives because it all points to Christ and shows us how God interacts with his people. 1st Samuel is no exception. It is worth a reread if you haven't read it in a while!

What has stood out to me in nearly every lesson are the following:
  1. God is holy (read his warnings and then fulfillment to Eli and sons as a start...)
  2. God is sovereign
  3. God ordains authority (Rom. 13 relates here)
  4. God's authorities on earth deserve our respect because he put them there (Rom. 13 again)
  5. God protects his people
  6. God is trustworthy
  7. It is God's place to seek vengeance on our behalf; He is the Judge
  8. God listens to the prayers of his people
  9. God sees the hearts of men, not the outside; he seeks men/women after his own heart
  10. Christ came to earth in an unassuming manner, just like David's own anointing from an unassuming beginning; Christ is, of course, in perfect communion with God the Father, but David does foreshadow Christ's kingly role and the seeking after God's heart that is perfectly exemplified in Christ.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making a List and Checking it Twice...or Three Times...or Four

Traveling over Christmas with little ones in tow? Hear are some tips to make pre-trip days go a bit smoother.


Life is very unpredictable with little ones in the house. You never know when someone will get sick and have to be run to the doctor or something will spill and necessitate another load of laundry or the Christmas presents will get unwrapped prematurely and need to be rewrapped or...

I make lists for everything leading up to a big trip. We'll be leaving Saturday and won't be coming home until the following Friday--7 days away from home--that's a lot of packing to do! So, I make lists for the following things/events (then I don't have to remember anything on my own):
  1. What to pack: clothing/toiletries
  2. What to pack: gifts and stuff
  3. What to do: (i.e. take dogs to vet, pack, clean out car, etc.)
  4. What to eat: don't want to have much perishable food left in the house, so I've made a menu of what our options are and what we need to eat up--it includes breakfast for dinner so we can use up our eggs!
  5. What to do for the house: lights on, thermostat down, hold mail, etc.
Then, I check off as many things 2 days before the trip as possible--again, you never know what's going to transpire on the day of. For instance, I've arranged for our lunch stop on Saturday, packed the kids' clothes, put in an order to h0ld our mail, done all the laundry, planned the menu, wrapped all the presents and grouped them in my room so they can't be touched, booked the dogs in the doggie hotel (actually, that was done before T'giving since our vet books up quickly), etc.

If you're prepared and nothing unusual happens the day before the trip, then you just have bonus time: read some Christmas books, go to a park if it's nice, make and decorate some sugar cookies for your host (the grandparents most likely), or just watch a fun Christmas movie. Your kids will look forward to trips if you aren't stressed out the day before and running around yelling at them.

Childishness v. Disobedience

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp is an outstanding book--Carrie's most recent post gave a great segment of it on communication with children.

Another reminder in that book that I've been mulling over with a friend of mine recently is the difference between childish behavior and defiant behavior. When children are young (i.e. toddler/preschooler), it's very important to discern whether or not your child is being childish (accidentally knocked the milk over when he reaches for his fork) v. defiant (knocking the milk over intentionally after you told him not to touch it). Sometimes it's a hard line to draw, but more often than not, I think we react to simple childishness in ways that are more appropriate for defiance/disobedience. The communication steps Carrie referred to in her post are great for this: would the time when your child knocks the milk over be a time for censure? (for defiance) for warning or instruction (for childish behavior)? for encouragement (accident and the child is upset)?

I've been thinking through my New Year's Goals (a whole post coming on why I make goals instead of resolutions!), and one of them is to slow down so I can really train my children well. Part of that slowing down means I will take the time to think through my children's behavior more instead of simply reacting the same way all the time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Communicating To Our Children

Well, I wish I could say I came up with this...but no. This is actually taken from a book, Shepherding a Child's Heart. A friend in a Bible study sent this to us and she keeps it posted around her house with big Stop signs to remind her before she acts out of hand:

Rich Biblical Forms of Communication

Encouragement Correction Rebuke Entreaty

Instruction Warning Teaching Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:14

Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak,

be patient with everyone”.


Encouragement:Children need communication designed to inspire and fill with hope & courage. Help them assess the reasons for disappointment; help them understand the promises of God. You can help them to find courage, hope and inspiration from God, who draws near to the brokenhearted and contrite.

Correction:Correction gives your children insight into what is wrong and what may be done to correct the problem. Correction helps your children to understand God’s standard and teaches them to assess their behavior against the standard.

Rebuke:A rebuke censures behavior. Sometimes a child must experience your sense of alarm, shock and dismay at what he has done or said. Followed by instruction, encouragement and prayer.

Entreaty:This communication is earnest & intense. It involves pleading, soliciting, urging and even begging. An earnest pleading for a child to act in wisdom & faith. It is reserved for use in cases of great import. Proverbs 23:26

Instruction:Instruction is the process of providing a lesson, a precept, or information that will help your children to understand their world. Children need a framework in which they can understand life. King Solomon’s proverbs are a rich source of information about life.

Warning:A warning is merciful speech. A warning faithfully alerts us to danger while there is still time to escape unharmed. An alert parent can enable his child both to escape danger and learn in the process. Warning preserves. The warning is an application of the sowing and reaping principle that we find operative throughout scripture.

Teaching:Teaching is the process of imparting knowledge. Teaching is causing someone to know something. Sometimes, teaching takes place before it is needed. It is often most powerfully done after a failure or problem.

Prayer: Our most penetrating insights into our children will often come as they pray. Hearing you pray will communicate your faith in God to your child

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12 Days of Christmas

This is a fun 12 days of Christmas version. Enjoy.

12 Days of Christmas Song

Interesting Nativity Facts:

Well, I have a major cold, still haven't sent out the Christmas cards, and got sprung with a surprise appraisal on a very messy house. So, I thought I would just jot down some fun Nativity facts that you may or may not know (since the brain isn't going to produce anything else of value!)

1. We don't know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. It never says in the Bible. However, if she WERE to ride on something, it probably was a donkey because they were cheaper.

2. The Bible also doesn't specifically mention that they stayed in a stable. But where else do you find a manger.

3. I wonder if the shepherds abandoned all their sheep when they went and saw Jesus, or left someone behind to watch them...poor fellow who got left if that's the case.

4. They do say a new star was in the sky that night, and that the wise men noticed. They were Magi, which means they would know astronomy (not astrology as some thought).

5. There weren't just 3 wise men. Actually the Bible doesn't state how many there were. It was just plural, meaning more than one. They brought 3 different types of gifts which is where the 3 comes from. (Interesting...those are some of the same spices used for burials of kings I think. And they used to use them around the Tabernacle for sacrifices and to annoint the Tabernacle.)

6. The wise men probably came when Jesus was closer to 2 years old.

7. I wonder if Mary walked to Bethlehem and that's what put her into labor?...could have been part of God's plan.

8. "Santa" didn't appear until the 19th century. Which means he wouldn't be found kneeling at the manger. (Sorry for whoever likes those decorations.)

9. The day Jesus was born does not start the "A.D." (Anno Domini) System of dating. He was probably born between 7 and 2 B.C. But it is the basis for which A.D. was started...(maybe the Magi helped with that? Hhhmmmm....)

10. This is NOT necessarily the day that Jesus was born. It was just the day set aside for it, probably corresponding with a Roman festival or Winter Solstace.

Merry Christmas...Go ahead and make a birthday cake if you would like :-).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Advent Book

If you are looking for a great family tradition, this is a fabulous book. My parents gave us this several years ago, and the kids fight to open the doors. Each day you open a door that tells the story of the birth of Jesus. I found it on Amazon.

Wednesday Equals Wash Day

So, when you move all your laundry needs to one day, as I have done, your house undergoes an interesting makeover on the Big Day. I decided to let the kids enjoy the myriad baskets of laundry since it would all be clean and out of reach by the end of the day. Anyone else's house ever look like this?

Wednesday Equals Wash Day

So, when you move all your laundry needs to one day, as I have done, your house undergoes an interesting makeover on the Big Day. I decided to let the kids enjoy the myriad baskets of laundry since it would all be clean and out of reach by the end of the day. Anyone else's house ever look like this?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free Advent Coloring Pages

These are pages that your child can color, one for each day in December. They have scripture on the bottom of each one telling the Christmas story. This is a fabulous site with lots of free printables, craft ideas, etc. I have used it a ton.

DLTK's Advent Coloring Pages

Monday, December 8, 2008

Present Blunders

Ok, this is totally to make you all laugh and feel a little better about yourself. I'm not even that old! (I had Betsy practically in tears...). So, last week was tiring and rough, especially Tuesday, when I told my darling (HAH!) 5 yr old to stay in his room till Daddy got home. So my hubby let me escape and go finish painting a teacup for my niece's birthday (that was in October!). Well...almost done and the lady says "why don't you date the bottom." Sure says frazzled brain. Well, it was for this past October (2008) and her birthday is in the 20's. What I put was 10 (got that right)-18-2009. Don't ask....just laugh till you cry. I don't even know the brain malfunction to come up with that. I'm not dating things any more!! (I messed up the twins date on their cups too....)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Season of Advent

This past week I have found myself in a state of tiredness (left from Thanksgiving, cold, etc.) and a little stressed over the Christmas presents not gotten, and realized I am doing the very thing I swore I wouldn't do this year.

Last year was a very different Christmas season for our family. The weeks proceeding were filled with chaos, stuff, stress, etc. Then Christmas Eve, into the wee morning hours of Christmas day, my husband and I sat in a hospital room hearing the news that our baby boy had died at 16 weeks into the pregnancy. On what should have been a joyous holiday, we were in a state of shock. However, as we spent hours in the hospital with all the procedures, I was so struck with the fact that this is WHY Christ came to earth. To rid us of all the pain, suffering and sin we have to deal with. I had never experienced Christ's birth in such a real way before. And had never slowed down as much as I was forced to then to really think.

The Advent season is usually the 4 weeks preceding Christmas, or the day we celebrate Christ's birth. Wikipedia defines it as: "the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus." It's the excitement of children, counting down the days. It's the realization that we are a blessed people with a loving God, who cares so much.

In light of advent, I have quit school (we home school) for the season, and will be spending time with my boys. Last Christmas, I would have gladly said "come quickly Lord." But I have two little ones who need to also want the same. So we may not buy or make a gift for everyone we know, or run ragged to every event. But we will enjoy what we will do, and hopefully they will catch the true Christmas spirit-the season of Advent, and understand why we celebrate. My hope is that amidst the chaos, you will too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Busy Day in the Life Of...

Today was an exceptionally busy day--the actual schedule didn't have much on it, but when you factor in the three small children.... All you moms out there can show this to someone who thinks you don't do anything all day. There's also an interesting news article being circulated on this same topic and my friend Alicia posted it on her blog. I certainly have many days where we are "just" at home and the workload feels very different. But this is a good example of any day where I might have an errand scheduled.

Actual scheduled items: 3-year old check up at the doctor at 10:30 a.m.; Christmas party at 6:30 p.m. No biggie, right? Read on... (Times are approximate)

  • 7:00: I wake up, shower, get dressed, etc.
  • 7:30: Get kids up, dress boys (the Dynamic Duo henceforth)
  • 8:00: Help get hubby out the door, give kids milk and dry cereal to tide them over, let dogs out,....
  • 8:30: Feed kids: scrambled eggs, toast, clementines; check email while kids are eating; call Alondra (my friend who was planning to keep the boys in addition to her own 4 children during the Elf's 3-year-old check up); put diaper bag and sippy cups in car
  • 9:00: Herd kids upstairs and deposit in boys' room; quickly wrap hats and mittens as early Christmas gift from "Mimi" (one of their grandmothers); give presents out and take pictures for aforementioned, absent grandmother; try hats on and boys' are too small; add hats to bag of Target returns/exchanges
  • 9:15: Bathe the Elf
  • 9:45: Start the car (it was 25 degrees outside...); change Dynamic Duo's diapers; bundle kids up; answer phone; herd them downstairs (which means I make two trips, carrying a boy each time); grab Target bag and purse; herd kids to car (again, 2 trips)
  • 10:00: Leave; run by neighbor's who just called and drop off Christmas goodies (pecans and almonds)
  • 10:15: Arrive at Alondra's; unload kids, diaper bag, sippy cups; give final instructions (yes, the Dynamic Duo can eat anything you want to give them for lunch)
  • 10:30: Arrive at doctor's right on time--truly amazing! I even managed to have her Christmas gift with us--more pecans--but forgot the Elf's urine sample; thankfully she actually could pee in the cup this time! (please, those of you who know me, no comments on peeing in the cup issues! :) )
  • 11:30: Leave doctor's and head for Target; returns and exchanges at Target (including new hats for the Dynamic Duo)
  • 12:00: Get gas at Kroger (so cheap today!)
  • 12:15: Chick-Fil-A drive thru for lunch for the Elf and me; 3 milkshakes to split between 6 kids and two adults--thank you gift for Alondra!
  • 12:30: Arrive back at Alondra's; divvy up milkshakes and slurp them down (inhale chicken sandwich)
  • 1:00: Pack kids back up in car; thank Alondra; drive home singing and making funny noises to keep the Dynamic Duo awake
  • 1:30: Unload kids; herd them upstairs; change diapers; try on new hats and take more pictures; put Dynamic Duo down for naps
  • 2:00: Upload pictures and send to absent grandmother; check email; put on White Christmas for the Elf
  • 2:15: Start something for kids' early dinner; Wrap white elephant present; gather Christmas party stuff (white elephant present, appetizer stuff, Christmas gift for hostess/friend, sheets and pac-n-play)
  • 2:45: Chat with friend on phone while picking up stuff around the house
  • 3:00: Another neighbor stops by to return a borrowed tablecloth and leaves with her gift of pecans (almost done passing those out!)
  • 3:15: Pin and hem fleece blanket for the Elf's Christmas present
  • 4:00: Wake Dynamic Duo up; change clothes/diapers; herd downstairs
  • 4:15: Early dinner! Load car up with all the miscellaneous stuff needed for evening party (including snuggly sleep aids!); Call friend and ask to borrow pac-n-play for evening
  • 5:00: Load kids up into car (after bundling up in fleeces and new hats); Have frantic phone conversation with equally frantic fellow mom/friend
  • 5:15: Leave (actually it was closer to 5:30--the time I said I would arrive at the friend's house I was borrowing the pac-n-play from)
  • 6:00: Arrive at friend's house and pick up pac-n-play
  • 6:30: Arrive at friend's house who was throwing party; Begin unloading food, kids, gear
  • 7:00: Set up pac-n-plays while hubby (who met me at the party) watches kids; set out food; get snacks for kids; decide boys are tired and begin bedtime process for them
  • 7:30: Dynamic Duo is quiet in their respective pac-n-plays and the Elf is watching a movie with the same kids the boys played with earlier in the day! The Dynamic Duo made a few peeps throughout the evening, but in general we got to relax and have a good time with friends
  • 9:30: Kids' movie is over and we begin to pack everyone/everything up
  • 10:15: (yes, it took 45 minutes to gather sleeping toddlers, dismantle pac-n-plays, load up car!) We left the party; Kids were all asleep in minutes.
  • 11:00: Arrive home and begin unloading--3 trips up our stairs, once for each kid (usually hubby helps with this, but he stayed at the party--he'll have kid duty tomorrow morning when I head to a ladies' brunch all by my lonesome!). Take off kids' jeans and put on softer sweats, but leave them in their same shirts/sweaters for sleeping!
  • 11:30: Write this because it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
  • 11:45: Head to bed (oh... should feed the dogs I guess)
What do I do on the days we are at home? Laundry day might include 6 loads of laundry; a trip to Kroger for weekly groceries on "Errand Day" takes 2+hours counting loading/unloading time--that does not count putting the groceries up once we get home; a trip to the gym for a 1/2 hour workout takes 1 1/2 hours; story time; playing outside; feeding kids;.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Top Five Consumable Gifts

Consumable gifts include anything that the recipient can consume. Food and drink pop into mind immediately, but this category also includes art supplies, gift certificates, classes, magazine subscriptions, etc. Why are consumable gifts fun to give/receive? They are often something the recipient really enjoys and is constantly in need of (think: an avid scrapbooker will always appreciate more fun paper and stickers; a golf aficionado will enjoy taking a class or two to brush up on his skills); they show some thoughtfulness on the giver's part; they don't clutter up the house!

Here are the top five consumable gifts my husband and I have given/received:

  1. Classes: These are so much fun to receive. We've taken cooking classes and woodworking classes and given cooking classes and golf lessons. Photography classes, art classes, stained glass classes, cake decorating classes, the sky's the limit! Check out local hobby shops, cooking stores, and the internet. We've found that $40 is a good ball park number for most of these.
  2. Food and drink: Whether homemade, from a gourmet store, or simply a well put together basket of goodies, food and drink are always appropriate. Give a nice gift of Omaha steaks, put together your own scone mix and include a jar of lemon curd, buy a nice bottle of wine, make up some spice mixes, make your own jelly, .... the options are endless! This might be especially nice if you know someone on a restricted diet (gluten free, for instance). Hunt down something delicious that is on their allowed diet!
  3. Hobby Supplies: Consumable supplies are anything the recipient uses up. Batteries, film (does anyone still use film?), art supplies, scrapbooking supplies, cake decorating supplies, model train supplies--even "boring" items like tape, glue, and carpentry pencils come in handy for those people on your list who are in their "shops" all the time!
  4. Magazine Subscriptions: Does a child in your family love animals? Does someone love to cook? What about woodworking? Is your mother a gardener? There are endless magazines devoted to micro-specialties. If someone you know is interested in a particular area, a magazine subscription in that field might be the perfect gift.
  5. Stationary: It's easy to buy nice, blank cards from an invitation store and "monogram" them using your home computer. You can also buy handmade cards from someone you know who stamps or embellishes cards. Even a big variety box of birthday cards would be a welcome gift to a shut-in who enjoys sending people birthday greetings. Individual cards get very expensive. You might consider including some stamps or writing the return address or some other small favor if you are giving these to someone who could benefit from that assistance.