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Rookie Mom

Thoughtful gifts last a lifetime

Published April 23, 2006

A week later I'm still perched on my soapbox ranting about how we should simplify kids' birthday parties. By making parties easier, we can focus more energy on making our children's gifts more special. I'm not saying spend more money, just give it a little more time and thought. Because a year, or even 10 years later, the party will be long forgotten but a great gift can have a permanent place in your child's room or memory. Here are a few ideas I've tried or heard about from other parents:

n A favorite book autographed by the author. If you want J.K. Rowling's signature, forget it unless you want to pay from hundreds to thousands of dollars for a single signed book. But many other popular books with the author's signature are available for $20 and higher.

When my younger daughter, then 6, asked me with wide eyes if an autographed book meant the author "actually, really, actually touched it and held it in her hands," I decided to try to get her a signed book. I found a used book Web site - - that lets you search for signed books. Prices vary, and you need to make sure it's signed by the author rather than the illustrator. For instance, a signed copy of Book the Twelfth in the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket costs $29 while signed copies of Magic Tree House books start around $7.

I got autographed copies of The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald and Clarice Bean Spells Trouble by Lauren Child for my girls. Each was around $20 including shipping. Of course, they would have loved an autographed copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Charlotte's Web even more, but that wasn't in the price range. Still, an autographed copy of any childhood book they connected with will be something children will treasure because of the literary significance and the fact that their parent went to extra trouble to procure it.

n A charm bracelet. My favorite material possession is my sterling silver charm bracelet. I have almost 30 charms, mostly from trips I've taken since childhood. Several of the charms were transferred from the bracelets my sister and I had when we were kids. I started my daughters' charm bracelets a few years ago. There's an artist palette on the bracelet of the daughter who dreams of being an artist and a unicorn on the bracelet of the daughter who dreams of unicorns. They also get to pick out a charm once or twice a year when we take a trip. You can get silver charms in the $20 range. The neatest charms, though, are antique charms that have moving parts. You can search endless Web sites for these, though they cost a little more.

n A personalized CD or music download collection. Even if your child is not yet a music aficionado, you can come up with a collection of a few songs that have special meaning. Find a song from a favorite movie or a song about a place you all went on last year's vacation. Try Sweet Caroline if your daughter is named Caroline or Brown Eyed Girl if she has brown eyes. You can also download various versions of "Happy Birthday" including one personalized to a certain name. Or if you want to share your music taste with your child, pick one of your favorite songs from each year since he was born.

n A custom made quilt . I know of a mother who asked about 20 women and girls who were longtime friends of her daughter to each make a quilt square for her when she turned 13.

Some sewed seashells to their square to symbolize summers at the beach while others drew artwork or wrote notes with fabric markers. This is such a meaningful gift, though the hard part is getting the quilt sewn once the squares are made.

n A photo album. An easier feat is asking close friends and family to send in a photo of a moment together over the years. Or a parent can make a photo album for a child from their own collection of pictures. It doesn't have to be an over-the-top scrapbook. Just do one page of two or three photos from each year so far.

Katherine Snow Smith's Rookie Mom column runs regularly in the south Pinellas editions of the Times. You can reach her by e-mail at or write Rookie Mom, St. Petersburg Times, PO Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

[Last modified April 23, 2006, 11:18:11]

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