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Katy England Katy England
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Checking it twice

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I love the holidays. Yeah, I'm one of those people. Pretty much from the start of Halloween until we ring in the New Year, I'm enjoying the weird, giddy mood that infuses this time of year. Look, I agree with most people that the Christmas music needs to wait until after Thanksgiving but once December is here, it's no holds barred on my belting out carols in the car, at home, at work (sorry, boss!).

Shopping has become harder with the three kids - not so much doing the shopping but finding time for it. I tend to shop for the kids in dribs and drabs all year round, and then do shopping for everyone else in my life around this time of year. Lots of preplanning.

Christmas with triplets is a delicate balancing act. You want to get them presents, because giving kids presents and watching them love them is one of the most awesome things on the planet. There is a reason why grandparents spoil grandchildren because seeing them happy is pretty much emotional crack. The risk is that with the happiness comes the ugly side of gifts the grabbing, the yelling, the not-quite-understanding-sharing.

If you have a toddler, or will be buying gifts for someone who has one, there are ways to make yourself a rockstar. Here's some things to consider:

Washable artsupplies. Kids are creative and destructive. They love coloring books, crayons, paints and chalk. All of these things are cheap and replaceable. But if you want to be an awesome friend or a savvy parent, get the washable options. Washable crayons are the best thing that has happened to wax drawing implements since paper. That time I was making lunch and realized that one of the girls had expressed herself all the way through the dining room and halfway around the living room was a mild inconvenience instead of an enduring memento to creative toddlers everywhere. I don't know if all washable crayons are created equal. But now when I buy such things for friends with young children, it will say 'washable.' If nothing else it will save most parents from having to use two coats of primer when they go to redecorate.

Check for noise. Hey, that's a cool toy you got there. Are you planning on giving it to a young child? First, check to see if it makes noise. If not, you are a good friend and may go on your way. If it does make noise, you need to see a couple things. Is there a volume control? Is there an option to turn the noise off completely? Is there a battery pack? It is vitally important to be able to turn the noise off sometimes permanently. And yes, there are some toy manufacturers who make this insanely difficult.

Share an experience. Children have lots of stuff. They go through clothes at an alarming rate, they have toys and books and gadgets galore. Sometimes parents don't know what to do with all that stuff. I know I don't. So if you don't know what to get them, go for an experience. A pass to a state park, a fishing license, museum pass or a workshop event to learn arts and crafts. These are great gifts because they take up zero shelf space, but pack a lot of punch in terms of life experience.

Parents are people too. Everything becomes kid-centric around the holidays which is right and just. But if you are friends with a strung-out mom or dad, a small gift can go a long way to making them feel like part of the human race once more. We're not talking big spender, just a bottle of bubble bath or a coffee shop gift card.


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