super easy, no-candy valentines that will make your slacker butt look like a pinterest parent

I get that Boomers are like, OMG Millennial Parents And Their Special Snowflake Children. They see our birthday parties and class Valentines and think we’re a bunch of overachievers. And while I’ll cop to going a little overboard on birthday parties, my Valentine game only looks like it took me a ton of time. Our school has never let us bring candy or food items, and frankly, with food allergies what they are, I don’t really want to risk it. The good news is, party favors plus free printables that other overachieving parents make available online equals class Valentine’s win. I’ve made it even easier for you by rounding up some awesome options (if you can’t see the images in your RSS reader, click through to see embedded pins):

Every kid loves bubbles. Cute Valentine bubbles available via Target. You can get 16 for $3. Cheaper than a bag of candy.

I used this idea for Claire last year. Play Doh party pack available at Target for $6.

Mustaches are fun! Target even has Valentine mustaches, because of course they do. 16 for $3.

My kids love tiny things. They carry around purses full of them. Zoo animals via Amazon.

Also in the tiny things category: bugs! Bugs via Amazon.

Turns out bouncy balls look like planets. 12 bouncy balls for $3 at Target. Here’s an alternative bouncy ball printable.

I know my girls would love these heart glasses. 16 for $3 at Target.

Glow sticks are always fun. You can get 100 for under $9 on Amazon, with Prime shipping.

If your kid loves dinos, these are perfect. You can get 72 for $8 on Amazon Prime.

And if you hate the other parents in your kid’s class, give the kids kazoos. Almost as bad as giving a kid a whistle. 12 for $5 at Target.

And something for the teachers (I cleared these with my teacher sister):

We’re big Eos lip balm fans in our house. Plus they’re easy to find when blindly reaching into your purse. Or use any lip balm of your choice.

Just add hand soap or sanitizer.

Works with pretty much any Burt’s Bees product.

Just add nail polish.

Did you know you can gift Redbox gift codes via their website?

Always a crowd pleaser. Just make sure the card has enough on it for at least a grande drink.

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my valentine tradition

let's get it onValentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share what has become one of my favorite traditions. In need of both art for my bedroom wall and occasional cards for my husband, a few years ago, I started buying him fun handmade cards that, after exchanged and read, can be framed and hung up on our wall. Sometimes I make the cards/art myself, other times I buy from Etsy, but over time, many of these cards have become part of a gallery wall in our bedroom. One in particular that says “Let’s Get it On (I’ll just brush my teeth)” (by Linocut Boy, no longer available) hangs in our bathroom– I thought it was a funny joke on long-married romance. I like that these little pieces of our love story get to hang around and add beauty and sweetness to our days long after the holiday that necessitated their purchase.

In case you, too, are interested in frame-worthy Valentines, I decided to round up a few here. If you click each image, you will be taken to the card’s listing on Etsy, and each shop name is also a handy link to the shop itself.

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my valentine

Mush alert. But hey, there’s more maternity pics ahoy, so…

photo by Christen Byrd.

Happy Valentine’s Day, to everybody, but most especially to My Favorite. We don’t tend to do a lot for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we go out for a nice dinner, sometimes I buy him his favorites, Hot Tamales and Reese’s Pieces, sometimes I bake something elaborate, and sometimes he sends me flowers. But my favorite part is always a handwritten expression of love inside a card, and that’s what we always do. I put on my red fuzzy robe this morning, and, slightly hungover from Tylenol PM, limped out to my recliner to find a card from My Favorite, who had to go to work at an ungodly hour this morning. It made me smile just like he always does.

I have no grand theories or pronouncements on love. I have no relationship advice to give. I met the love of my life when I was 18 years old, and I don’t just love him, I like him a LOT. He’s my favorite person to hang out with. There is literally nothing about my life that isn’t better for him being in it. Being with him makes me insanely, ridiculously happy. And even though this pregnancy thing is hard, and even though the twins thing is often largely terrifying, the only way I know how to face anything is with him holding my hand. So I’m going to keep on holding on.

Photo by Christen Byrd.

*If you like the photos, hire Christen Byrd to take some of you!

the worst valentine’s gifts ever

This story is sorta like “The Gift of the Magi” if those characters had been sorta jerkish instead of altruistic and self-sacrificing.

Some time before our first Valentine’s Day together (at which point we’d been dating like 8 months), I was hanging out at Jon’s house watching TV when a Hallmark commercial came on. It was advertising whatever their cute plush Valentine stuffed animal was that year. I think I said something like, “Why would a dude EVER get an adult woman a stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day?” Jon’s face fell a little and he said, “You better be careful what you say!”

A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, Jon presented me with the gift he’d already bought *before* we saw that ad: a stuffed animal that looked like a chocolate lab puppy. He reminded me what I’d said, and of course I felt like a jerk. The truth is, I thought the stuffed dog was adorable. I named him Jack, I spritzed him with Jon’s cologne, and I slept with him every night because he smelled like Jon, who at the time was going to school 100 miles from where I was going to school. I still have him and sometimes sleep with him when Jon’s working the night shift.

Maybe a year after that, a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I noticed that Jon’s wallet was totally falling apart, so I bought him a new one. A few days before V-Day, we were walking through the mall when we passed a special Valentine’s Day wallet display. Jon said something about how wallets are intensely personal and how they get better with age as they conform to the perfect fit for a man’s pocket. My face fell a little.

On Valentine’s Day, a few days later, I presented him with the already purchased wallet and reminded him of what he’d said. I bet he felt a little like a jerk. But the thing is, he liked the wallet. Years later, he’s still carrying it.

These days we don’t give each other gifts at all. It works out better that way.

share the love

Preface: I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love Hallmark Valentine’s Day, where you have to buy schmoopy cards and DeBeers Diamonds and Victoria’s Secret lingerie and 1-800-Flowers red roses by the dozen with a box of Godiva chocolates to boot. What I love is red and pink (two of my favorite colors), construction paper garlands, hearts of all sorts, and general proclamations of affection. Sure, you can do all of this all the other days of the year, and you should, but it’s extra fun in February. In fact, I jumped the gun and rocked a pink sweater, a heart necklace, and red lipstick yesterday. All month, you’ll catch me looking like a living Valentine.

It’s been a while since I did an Etsy roundup, and I thought Valentine’s Day was the appropriate time–might as well put to good use the hours I spend finding beauties on Etsy and adding them to my ever-growing favorites list.

Now, I’m usually of the opinion that the best Valentine is a handmade one. The best Valentine Jon ever gave me, he made of markers and glitter. It was a Simpson’s joke and featured a train and said “I Choo Choo Choose You.” (Get a replica here.) Another time, he decorated a card with a poem from one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson. If you’ve got a Valentine, I highly recommend you go the handmade card route.

But if you don’t want to make a card yourself, buy one handmade by someone else! I took the liberty of making you a cool Valentine card shopping guide. Some of these cards are so cool, you could give your sweetheart a frame to go along with it, and he or she could hang it on the wall and enjoy it long after Valentine’s Day. (Click any image to be taken to the seller’s Etsy shop.)

OK, so this one's not frameable, but if you have a ninja wannabe in your life, this card from seller Cookie Bits is a sure hit.

This photo Valentine from seller NomadicNotebook is frame-able for sure.

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on hating valentine’s day

You could print this out and give it to someone special!

One of the best things I ever wrote was a column in my high school paper about hating Valentine’s Day.  Fueled by all the angst of being 17 and never having had a boyfriend, I was downright inspired.  If I may say so myself, the imagery was excellent.  I may have mentioned that every January, pink and red displays pop up like pimples in stores, and stuffed animals “hang like convicts” over cash registers, begging shoppers to “Be Mine.”  I painted a scene of a smoky room in which a conspiracy was born, hashed out between the DeBeers diamond people, the greeting card industry, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, and an international flower-growers cartel, Valentine’s Day was born.  I railed against a manufactured holiday, I exclaimed that love should be celebrated every day of the year, I complained that people without partners feel left out.  That piece won me an award from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association.  It was all true.

And yet, a year later I met my true love, and a year after that, I had my first ever Valentine who wasn’t my dad.  And now? Now I kinda like Valentine’s day.  I like homemade cards with heartfelt inscriptions.  One year Jon gave me a glittered drawing of a train that said “I Choo Choo Choose You,” just like the card Lisa received on The Simpsons.  For our first Valentine’s in Charleston, he drew me a picture of Rainbow Row and thanked me for coming here with him.  I like thoughtful gifts, the smaller and sillier the better.  One year, Jon gave me a packet of zinnia seeds, knowing they were my favorite flowers, but unable to find any live ones in stores.  That packet of seeds made me happier than any bouquet could have, and I planted them, and grew many, many bouquets.  I also like excuses to go out to a rare fancy dinner (one of our favorite places here in Charleston is FIG, you should try it).  And really, beyond that, I try to avoid the manufactured-ness of corporate Valentine’s Day.  I want a homemade card, a thoughtful gift, if at all, and maybe a nice dinner, if at all.  I want to wear red and act schmoopy and call my husband my Valentine.  I don’t need any kisses that begin with Kay, thank you very much.

So what about my angsty self who used to rail against Hallmark Holidays? I wish I could tell 17 year old me to stop flipping out.  Valentine’s Day wasn’t really for me, then.  And that’s fine.  But it’s not like my bitterness about the holiday ever helped me land a Valentine of my own.  And it’s not like I was really that unhappy– I’m pretty sure I went and saw a chick flick with my best gal pals, and we laughed our heads off. There’s more than one kind of love worth celebrating on V-Day. This Wednesday I’ll be repeating the chick flick with the chicks tradition and seeing Valentine’s Day with my girlfriends at Cinebarre.

In fact, there are lots of fun things to do if you’ve got no Valentine to call your own.  Here in Charleston, you could see the Vagina Monologues at the College of Charleston, check out the Mellow Mushroom’s F-Cupid party, or go to the Valentine Sock Hop, get dolled up like a pinup and dance to some rockabilly with the Lowcountry High Rollers roller derby team (I secretly wish I could go to this event, but I’m pretty sure it’s not up my Valentine’s alley, and there will be burlesque dancers performing, so, not for us).  As for me and my Valentine, I made him a card and a little surprise, and we’ll probably be staying in.  Downtown restaurants will probably be insane since the big Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is in town, and I’m not in the mood to fight the camo-clad masses for a table.

Updated to Add: Check out this post on Redesigning Valentine’s Day. I agree with this part, to an extent:

Goal No. 1: Clarify expectations

Sorry single people, this day is not for you. Father’s Day isn’t for mothers and Mother’s Day isn’t for fathers… you have Spring Break, what else do you want?

Applies only to romantic love between two people, so if you want to celebrate friendship you will need to find another day.

Responsibility for displays of affection falls on both parties. Men screw up enough throughout the year to put the weight of a holiday on their shoulders.

On January 1st discuss with your partner whether you will celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sign a piece of paper if needed.