7 Tips to Make You the BEST Baby Gift Giver Ever

I am by no means a parenting expert, but having recently been the recipient of not one, but TWO baby showers, having been to loads of them over the years, and having many friends who’ve recently had kids, I have plenty to say on the subject of gift giving for expecting parents. Here are my top 7 tips to make sure that your gift is the most-appreciated one at the party.

Stick to the Registry
Seriously, if I were limiting this blog post to a single piece of advice, this would be it. STICK TO THE REGISTRY. New parents spend a LOT of time and energy putting together their registries. Whether they’re working within a specific theme, trying to stay in line with a particular parenting style, or simply have a small house, expecting parents are usually only putting the most necessary items on their registries. These are the items they NEED or WANT most. For example, Ben and I have a very small house, so our registry really focused on multi-use items and the absolute bare necessities. Our registry even explicitly stated that our house was small and we didn’t want a lot of extraneous stuff. But we still got it. Of course a gift is ALWAYS appreciated, but it’s appreciated even more when it’s something useful and wanted. I know it can feel icky or impersonal to just pick something off a list, but trust me, this is the best way to give expecting parents a gift they will treasure.

Always Include a Gift Receipt
No matter how confident you are that the gift you’ve purchased is perfect in every way, do your pregnant friend a favor and include a gift receipt. You simply can’t account for things like receiving multiples of the same item, or a baby growing so fast he or she never gets to use the item. Including a gift receipt means that new parents will be able to exchange the unused item for something they really might need later.

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Put Down the Baby Blankets
For real. Unless blankets are something that the new parents have specifically registered for, or they are handmade items that have a lot of sentimental value, just save everybody a headache and DON’T BUY BABY BLANKETS. Ben and I registered for five muslin swaddle blankets, as we’d gotten lots of cotton and muslin blankets as hand-me-downs from my coworker already. Between the two showers that were thrown for us, we ended up with no less than a dozen blankets in addition to the ones we’d registered for and the ones we already had. This is simply too many. They don’t fit in our linen closet and are currently stacked in the baby’s crib for lack of anywhere to put them (and without gift receipts, we were unable to return them!). Keep in mind, most hospitals will send new parents home with a stack too. Baby blankets are an unnecessary purchase that will just end up taking up space and being donated.

StyleNovice Blog How Many Baby Blankets is Too Many Baby Blankets

Not my blankets, but I have at least this many…

Provide a Service Rather Than a “Thing”
This is a big one that I wish more people would consider. It’s downright easy to just run out to a baby store or buy something from Amazon. But providing a service for new parents is so, so valuable. Team up with a few friends to buy a newborn or maternity photo shoot. Engage a cleaning service to come out and clean up the family’s house before or after baby comes home (or offer to do it yourself!). Give a “gift certificate” for free babysitting or dog walking or offer to drop off nutritious meals. Ben’s aunt is a professional photographer, and her gift to us was a newborn portrait session. She lives in upstate NY and even said she would come to us. Now THAT is a thoughtful gift that isn’t taking up extra space in our house.

Remember the Parents
Yeah, sure, a baby shower is generally about welcoming the new baby and making sure that the parents have everything that they might need to care for baby after baby is born. But new parents are still people, and moms especially can feel like they lose a bit of themselves in the wake of a new baby joining the family. Give mom a spa day, or offer to babysit so the parents can spend some one-on-one time together after baby is born. Give a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or a couple of bottles of their favorite wine. My gift from my mother in law was a spa day and free babysitting, which meant the world to me. Remembering that parents are going through an incredibly emotional time and need some love too will be appreciated.

Avoid Buying Newborn-Sized Everything
While it seems like common sense to buy newborn clothes for a new baby, it’s important to remember that just like adults, new babies come in all shapes and sizes. Some babies are born way too big to ever fit newborn clothes, and preemies are swimming in them. It’s a really great idea to gift a variety of sizes so that the new parents have a depth and breadth of clothes before baby comes. Babies also grow incredibly fast, so having 10-12 newborn outfits and nothing else might mean that within a week or two, parents have to run out and buy new clothes because nothing fits. Also, consider the season along with the size. If a baby is born in the summer, they’re most likely not going to need a newborn-sized snowsuit.

Cash (or an Amazon Gift Card) is King
I know it seems crass to give cash, but honestly you couldn’t possibly give a better gift. Every baby and every family is different, and sometimes parents discover a few weeks or months in that the baby hates the bottles they registered for, or that the Rock ‘n’ Play everyone said was so magical isn’t working for them. Or, they just didn’t end up getting everything they registered for. Having some extra cash around can really help out for those unexpected expenses. It can also be used for things like ordering takeout when they just can’t face cooking, or paying a babysitter so they can have a date night. We received a cash gift from one set of friends and used it to buy a bunch of baby first aid and health care items that we hadn’t even thought to register for, like Baby Tylenol and a baby toothbrush. And we received a TON of Amazon gift cards, which we can use for things like diapers or more clothes as needed.

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BONUS TIP:
This one isn’t really about the gift itself, but how one delivers the gift: include your mailing address in the card. I know that 9 times out of 10 at showers these days, the host or hostess will have you write out a self-addressed envelope, but it doesn’t always work out that way. At my shower, my mom and sister forgot to put the envelopes out, so I didn’t have those handy self-addressed envelopes. Thankfully, our Amazon registry got most of the addresses. But for anyone who didn’t buy a gift off the registry, I had to track down a mailing address for them, which made the already annoying task of doing thank-you notes even more annoying. By including your address with your gift, you’re potentially saving parents a hassle.

So there you have it. My tips that are guaranteed to make you the most popular baby-gift-giver around.***

***I can’t actually guarantee this. But I’m pretty confident that the tips above will help you make your expecting friends very happy.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my tips? Anything to add?

 

Friday Free-For-All – 06/01/18

Friday Free-For-All

My coworkers threw me a Star Wars-themed baby shower! Once again, I’m simply blown away by their thoughtfulness, generosity, and creativity. Seriously. We received so many lovely gifts, and several Amazon giftcards that are sure to come in handy down the line as we figure out exactly what we need to keep our little one happy. While I’m obviously very excited to start my new role as stay at home mom, I will desperately miss my colleagues.

 

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We ordered a new pet fountain. You may remember several months ago, our kitty Rocket had a big health scare and spent four days in the kitty hospital. One of the number one recommendations was to get a pet fountain to encourage him to drink more water. At the time, one of my coworkers offered to let us borrow hers since her cat had recently passed away. Now that I’m about to leave work, though, my coworker has asked that we return the fountain. I went on Amazon and was thoroughly shocked by a) how many different options there are, and b) how EXPENSIVE they are. The version we had borrowed from my coworker retails for $85! Obviously, I wasn’t spending that. I got a slightly smaller ceramic version by the same company (for about half the price!), and I’m optimistic that it will suit our needs just fine. And the fact that it’s smaller will probably encourage me to clean it more often anyway.

I haven’t been to yoga in two weeks and I’m feeling it. I didn’t go last week because work was so crazy I had to stay late. Then this week, I had a vacation day on Tuesday and didn’t feel like driving into town just for class. But now I kind of regret not going, as my hip is complaining and my carpal tunnel has been really bad this week. My unlimited summer pass starts today, so I’m hoping to get to class more than once a week for the remainder of my pregnancy. Fingers crossed I actually get some time to myself after leaving work and before baby comes!

I got my hair cut last night. Unfortunately, she took quite a bit more off than I would have liked (we’re talking 3-4 inches total versus the 1-2 I was imagining), but thankfully it looks great, and does feel a lot healthier than it did before. It’s also funny that even though to me it looks DRASTICALLY different, not one single person at work has noticed so far.

We’re traveling this weekend. Ben’s great uncle Jipper passed away this winter, and his memorial service is tomorrow afternoon in Albany. We’re road-tripping down with my in-laws and splitting a hotel room, so the cost isn’t too crazy. And Albany is only about 2.5-3 hours from home just in case there is any early movement on the baby front. I’m a little bit nervous about traveling so close to my due date, but based on a conversation with my midwife, I really don’t think there’s anything to worry about at this point. This will likely be our last trip for the next little while, so I’m trying to focus on the positive of seeing extended family before the baby comes. We likely won’t make it to the family reunion because it’s scheduled for early July (aka right in the middle of potential baby time), so it will be good to get some family time in.

Are you hyper-sensitive about haircuts like me? 

Friday Free-For-All – 05/11/18

Friday Free-For-All

Our new couch finally arrived! We ordered this couch back in FEBRUARY, and it was just delivered on Monday. Boy, was it worth the wait. It just makes our house looks so much more grown up, and it is comfy AF. I foresee a lot of time spent on this couch this summer with our new Baby Girl. I have already claimed the chaise section as mine.

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I bought myself a three-month unlimited yoga membership. We have truly amazing insurance, which has a program specifically for expecting mothers called “Better Beginnings.” Among the many benefits offered by this program, we get reimbursed up to $150 for pre-and post-natal fitness classes. Since the three-month pass was $175, this was a no-brainer. After reimbursement, it will only cost me $25. Now I can go to as many yoga classes as I want between now and August 8, and I can bring Baby Girl to post-natal classes with me! I’m planning to go as much as possible after I leave work and before she’s born. We’ll see how ambitious I am after she comes.

My birthday was Wednesday. I’m now 32 years old. Holy cow! I took the day off work and just puttered around the house. Did LOTS of baby laundry and putting away of shower gifts. Cleaned up a bit. Made some delicious chicken stock. Spent some time outside. Then Ben took me out to Burger Barn for dinner, and I had some Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core ice cream for dessert while watching GoT season 5 (it was one of my presents!) and lounging on our new couch. Not a bad way to start my 33rd trip around the sun 🙂

I foisted all of the leftover “baby” plates, cups, napkins and miscellany from my shower onto my office. They were originally going to do a surprise shower for me, but because I still have vacation days I need to use up, they let me know not to take vacation on May 30, *wink, wink* So I talked to the office manager and told her that she’d be doing me a favor by taking the stuff off my hands. It’s really a win-win-win situation; I get unwanted items out of my house, my office doesn’t have to spend extra money, and less items will end up in a landfill. Yay!

I am feeling like a super functional member of society because I have almost all of the thank you notes for shower gifts out the door. Normally I am TERRIBLE at this sort of thing, but I decided that come hell or high water, I was getting these cards out the door BEFORE Baby Girl arrives, because I knew that if I didn’t, it might never happen. I just have a couple more to finish up, but having the bulk of them done feels AMAZING.

Are you good about getting thank you notes out? 

 

32 Week Pregnancy Update

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Best friend Mandy at 36 weeks, me at 32 weeks

According to my Ovia Pregnancy app, Baby Girl is the size of an armadillo.

As you can see, I switched the “size” theme on my app from “Fruits and Vegetables” to “Weird But Cute Animals.” The fruits and vegetables were just getting strange and not very helpful. I mean, what the hell is a Pomelo, amiright? Anyway… Woah, Nelly! Eight(ish) weeks to go! Time is seriously flying right now.

Nothing new is going on in the realm of baby development. She’s still just gaining weight to get ready for birth. Her movements are definitely less sharp and more like rolls and stretches as she starts running out of room. It is still INCREDIBLY odd to feel a tiny being moving around inside me, but every little squirm is a lovely reassurance that all is well. I know I say this pretty much every week, but she’s moving a lot more these days, and it’s really cool.

A new, somewhat scary symptom I developed this week is numbness in some fingertips. I also wake up several times a night with one or both hands completely numb. I was pretty freaked out by this, but according to the midwives at my practice, this is yet another totally normal symptom that should go away after delivery. Fun fun! I’ve also had some really bad heartburn/indigestion a few times, which was not helped by Baby Girl kicking/pushing directly up into my sternum. Ouch!

When I came back from vacation, I found out that my work replacement has been hired, and she starts May 15. This has absolutely lit a fire under my butt to get cracking and really finish up any extraneous projects before she starts so we can just focus on training. I’ve got all my training documents ready to go, I just need to put together a binder and maybe some sort of schedule so that I make sure we touch on everything. As of this week, I only have six weeks left at work, which is totally surreal.

We had another regular, bi-weekly checkup with the midwives this week as well. Unfortunately, Ben couldn’t come because it was mid-morning, but he honestly didn’t miss much. A blood pressure check, a heartbeat check, a few questions, and I was back to work. The midwife on call was fairly certain that she’s head down, ready to go, which is a relief. Now I just hope she stays there!

My mom and one of my younger sisters also threw a baby shower for me on Saturday. As I said in last Friday’s post, I’m not really into the super girly, over-the-top shower thing, and they did a great job with making it special but not pukey. There were about 20 attendees representing friends and family, and we got LOTS of love. Now I need to sort and wash and put everything away. And do thank you notes. Ugh! And of course, I took pretty much zero pictures because I was just trying to spend time with everyone, but here are a few of the decorations before everyone arrived.

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Mamas, did you experience numbness in your fingers/hands during pregnancy?

Friday Free-For-All – 05/04/18

Friday Free-For-All

It’s my birthday month! Honestly, I’ve hardly thought about my birthday at all, seeing as we’re in the thick of baby preparations. I do think Ben and I will go out to dinner next week, but I’m not planning a party or celebration or anything. I’m debating taking the day off to help burn up a few remaining vacation days before I leave work, but we’ll see.

Baby shower this weekend! I’m very excited to see my mama and sisters and family and friends. Baby showers are not really my thing, but I know it’s part of the experience that I might regret not doing, so I’m glad it’s happening. I just made sure to let my mom and sister who are hosting know that cheesy games are NOT my idea of a good time. NOBODY wants to look at melted candy bars in a diaper and guess what kind of “poop” it is, amiright? I’m just hoping for a low-key event with good food and good company.

I need to get a haircut before baby arrives. Ever since getting my balayage freshened up in February, I’ve been noticing a TON of split ends. And not just little splits at the ends. Some of these hairs have split 2 or 3 inches up the strand! I always knew that lightening your hair wasn’t great for it, but I’m seeing the effects first-hand. While I trim the individual strands whenever I can, I need to make sure I get a good whole-head trim in before Baby Girl comes, because god only knows when I’ll have the time/energy again. I’ve also started using a leave-in cream on the ends of my hair to help prevent any more breakage. Hopefully it helps! If nothing else, it smells AMAZING!

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Do you trim your own split ends, or am I a weirdo?

Manic Monday – 06/02/14

Welcome to another edition of Manic Monday, where I recap the previous week, and lay out goals for the upcoming week.

Overall I feel really good about this week.  Now that my bike is back on the road, I’m incorporating a lot more cross-training without even really trying, and I did all of my scheduled runs, including an 8 mile long run in the summer-y heat.

Monday (Scheduled cross-training day)
We were still in MA for Memorial Day weekend, and this is the day I did my kick-butt track intervals, for a total of 3.2 miles.

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Tuesday (Scheduled run day)
Since I ran on Monday, I took Tuesday as a rest day, other than walking to and from work (~4 miles).

Wednesday (Scheduled cross-training day)
Ben and I got up early and did 3.2 miles before work, and I biked to and from work (~7.4 miles).

Thursday (Scheduled run day)
I decided to just bike to and from work (~7.4 miles).

Friday (Scheduled rest day)
We were house-sitting for Ben’s parents for the weekend.  Ben and I spent the evening hanging out and drinking a few beers while I prepped for my friend Aimee’s baby shower on Saturday.  We may or may not have had a German techno dance party in his parents’ kitchen…

Saturday (Scheduled long run)
I threw a baby shower for my friend Aimee.  The theme was orange and gray and foxes.  It was a nice, small gathering with good food and good people.  I felt really great about doing something nice for my friend.  I intended to run after the shower, but since I had nothing but soda and sangria to drink for about 5 hours, I decided it wasn’t a good idea.

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Sunday (Scheduled rest day)
After a delicious home-made omelet with mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers and onions, I headed into town to babysit my friend Emily’s daughter, Molly, while she and her hubby Scott did some home improvement projects.  It was a beautiful day, so Molly and I took a long walk along the bike path, and then hung out outside.  Unfortunately, I got a bit of a sunburn, and a huge spider bite on my back 😦

And then I went for an 8 miler in the sunny, summery heat.  I was supposed to do 10, but I wasn’t sure I was well hydrated or fueled enough for that (one glass of water and a handful of Cheeze-Its over the course of 5 hours doesn’t really do much).  It was about 77 degrees for the duration of my run, so I made sure to just take it slow.  I ran about a minute per mile slower than my usual long run pace, but I never felt dehydrated or nauseous at all, so I feel pretty good about it.  I’m trying to acclimate myself to running in warmer weather since there’s no predicting what the day of the half will be like.  In Vermont, it could be 50 and overcast, or 80, sunny and humid.

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Goals for this week:

  • Keep riding to and from work (weather permitting)
  • Exercise moderation while on vacation next week.  My family is headed to Cape Cod starting Friday, and it’s usually a week of excess.  I need to get in a long run on Saturday (hopefully double digits), and at least one other short run, in addition to some walking.  I’m hoping to enjoy myself while not going totally overboard on the food and booze.

How do you stay on track while on vacation?

Have you been to a baby shower recently?