When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Free as a Bird

I always love how easy it is to shift into summer gear once school and activities end for the boys.  All of the carefully orchestrated schedules we've known for the past ten months just end suddenly:  we have no more early mornings, no more lunches to pack in the evenings, no more homework or meetings or dropping people off here and picking them up there.  There is a noticeable change in everyone's mood at home; we do everything at a more leisurely pace, have more time to enjoy together, and laughter comes often and easily. This is definitely one of my very favourite times of the year.

Our first weekend of summer has been hot, sunny, and perfectly fun.  We've adopted full-time outdoor living, spending time in the pool and playing games in the backyard from morning until evening.  I went ahead and purchased a slackline kit after my sister-in-law Meg told me how much she and her family love the activity, and it has generated a huge amount of enthusiasm here so far!  We found a perfect spot to suspend the line between two shady trees in our yard, and Noah and Will have already spent many happy hours over the past two days balancing skillfully back and forth across it -- they think it's awesome. Matt and I have also tried it, and we agree; it's such a fun activity for everyone!

We've also made a tiny new friend since summer holidays began.  On Friday evening, Will was swinging quietly in the hammock chair, reading his new jumbo book of Archie comics, when he suddenly whisper-shouted to me that there was a little bird really close to his feet. I looked, and sure enough, a little grayish-brown bird was hopping right under his dangling toes, eating bugs.  Will carefully got up from the hammock to investigate the bird a little more closely, and surprisingly, the bird was not at all alarmed by Will's movements.  For almost half an hour afterwards, Will gently followed the little bird all around the yard, often coming close enough that he could have touched her, and the bird was not bothered by this at all -- she actually seemed to enjoy Will's company.  At first I was a little worried that the bird was young or injured and maybe physically unable to fly away, but she seemed perfectly healthy as she continued hopping around.  At one point she did fly over to the fence, and then she came back right close to Will again, as if she were specifically looking for her new buddy.  Will and I both marvelled at the strange but sweet friendliness of this wild little creature.

We have seen the bird in our yard every morning, afternoon, and evening since Will first discovered her on Friday.  She comes close to all of us, and when we walk off to somewhere else in the yard, we often find her following us so she can stay nearby.  When we crouch down low to the ground to talk to her (yes, we've started talking to her!), she hops right over to our faces and looks up at us with curiosity. This afternoon I was holding our bird book down low to the ground so that the boys and I could try to identify exactly what kind of bird she is, and the three of us cracked up when she hopped right over to the book as if to read it, and then flew at my hand and pecked at the diamond in my ring!  Our whole family is now completely fascinated by her.

We're pretty sure she's a young brown-headed cowbird, and the boys have discovered some really interesting details about her species online (including the fact that this little bird's mother, like all female cowbirds, did not build her own nest or raise her own young -- she laid her egg in the nest of another bird species and left that bird mother to feed and look out for her baby.)  It's amazing the lessons that can come at a time when you're least expecting to learn something....

We hope our new little "pet" will stay with us over these next glorious months of summer holidays, as we all savour the feeling of being as free as the birds.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pride and Joy

It was a long time ago that I watched each of my boys take his very first steps across our family room floor. The days of soft, chubby legs teetering above tiny feet amidst smiling and clapping and cheering are nothing more than sweet memories in my mind now.

But what I've learned in the years that have followed since those initial exciting wobbly adventures is that a childhood is full of efforts and beautiful firsts.  Our wonder and pride and happiness for our young loves keeps growing exponentially as each of their personal accomplishments is layered over the ones that came before.  It is a wonderful thing to see them discover what makes their own hearts soar, to watch them strive with passion to achieve their goals, to smile and clap and cheer them on as their feet seem to grow wings before our very eyes.

Cool hip hop pose.

Cool hip hop pose. 

Cool hip hop pose.

True Will pose. (He couldn't resist.)

For me, the excitement of watching Noah and Will take their next brave steps forward as they chase their dreams is something that will never, ever grow old.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Shop Etsy: Beautiful Handmade and Vintage Items

If you've been around here for awhile, it will be no secret to you that I am a huge fan of Etsy, an online marketplace for beautiful, useful handmade and vintage items from around the world.  It's the first place I go to when I'm looking for special gifts for loved ones or something unique for myself or for our home (although I don't actually have to "go" anywhere to shop there!)  I love being able to find little treasures created by individual artisans who take great pride in their work, and it's always so exciting when the items I've ordered arrive in my mailbox and are even more lovely than they appeared in the descriptions and photos online.

You'll understand how delighted I was last week, then, when I was asked to join the Etsy Canada Brand Ambassador team and to encourage others to discover the Etsy experience.  You'll notice a new orange banner on the right-hand side of my blog; if you click on it at any time you'll be taken to the Etsy homepage where you can begin browsing for all kinds of wonderful things (and, as an Etsy Canada affiliate, I will receive a commission for every purchase made through the links on my site).

I spent some time browsing Etsy myself this weekend, and today I'm featuring some pretty things that caught my eye to give you an idea of the range of handmade and vintage items available there.  (Click on the highlighted text above any of the photos for more information about these products.)

If you're new to Etsy, then you're in for a real treat once you have a chance to take a look around!  If you're already an Etsy fan like I am, I'd love to hear about your fantastic finds in the comments section below. Thanks for considering making your future Etsy purchases through me!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Really Good Rocket Pops (a gluten-free, dairy-free frozen treat)

Tomorrow is the summer solstice, and even though there is still one more week of school left for the boys, I can sense them already shifting into holiday mode these past few days as all of their commitments have started winding down.  There have been after-school swims in the pool, evenings spent in the backyard soaking up the long-lasting sunshine while laughing and playing sports, and requests for frosty treats to help them cool off.

I love making my own freezer pops for our family to enjoy in the warmer weather, and it's become a fun project for me to come up with something new to try every year.  This summer's creation is inspired by a long-time favourite food among kids:  nut butter and banana and/or jam sandwiches.  I combined natural almond butter, almond milk, and bananas for one creamy frozen layer, and frozen cherries and berries with a bit of fruit juice for another.  Pouring these yummy mixtures, one on top of the other, into rocket-shaped molds results in a cheerful, no-sugar added freezer pop that kids (and grown-ups, too!) are sure to love.

I found the spaceship ice pop molds at Real Canadian Superstore (they're President's Choice brand, BPA-free, and super fun -- they even have a little astronaut molded into the stick!), but if you don't have President's Choice products near you, you can find a similar product made by Tovolo which is sold online on sites such as Amazon.

Really Good Rocket Pops

1 large frozen banana, broken into chunks
3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp natural smooth almond butter
3/4 cup frozen PC Organics Power Fruit Blend
2 tbsp Kiju pomegranate cherry juice

Place the frozen banana chunks, almond milk, and almond butter in the jar of a blender (a Magic Bullet works well) and blend until smooth and creamy.  Carefully spoon this mixture into the rocket molds, dividing it evenly between the four of them.  Tap the bases of the rocket molds on the counter a few times to help the banana mixture settle nicely into them.

Wash out the blender jar, then add the frozen fruit and juice to it.  Blend to create a smooth and frosty fruit puree. Spoon the blended fruit over top of the banana mixture to fill up the rocket molds.  (Leave about a half an inch of empty space at the top of each mold to allow room for the handle.)  Set the handles in place, and place the rocket molds in the freezer for several hours, or until the pops are completely frozen. Pull the frozen rocket pops from the molds to serve.  (Running the molds very briefly under warm water helps to release the pops more easily if they seem stuck.)

If you aren't able to find the Power Fruit Blend and/or the Kiju pomegranate cherry juice in stores near you, you can easily substitute any frozen berry/cherry blend and/or apple juice in this recipe.  Either way, the combination of fruit and nut butter makes a healthy and delightful summer treat!

Are you looking for more delicious freezer pop recipes?  You might enjoy these banana split freezer pops, frosty fudge pops, or frosty fruit pops, too!  Happy summer.  :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Learning (Giveaway! : Books for Middle Graders)

The countdown is on -- only two more weeks left of school before the kids can delight in the fun, sunshine, and freedom that summer holidays bring. Noah and Will are certainly eager for the break from homework and classroom routines over the coming months, but their minds remain busy and curious year-round, and they both need and look forward to different kinds of learning experiences over the summer.  I've found that it's easy to help them discover new and exciting things even when school is out, simply by making good use of the resources we have at home, in our community, and in the places we travel to as a family.  These are some of our favourite summer learning activities:

Games  In addition to the physically active outside games we like to play in our yard in the warmer months, our family loves challenging each other to board, card, and puzzle games that keep our minds thinking. Anything that involves strategy, playing with words, deciphering patterns, or racing to complete a mental task combines fun and learning opportunities for all of us.  Some of our best-loved games for playing around the summer patio table include Qwirkle, Bananagrams, Q-Bitz, Rubik's Race, and Apples to Apples.  We also enjoy doing crossword and sudoku puzzles, and trying to solve riddles and logic puzzles that we find in books together.

Writing/Journalling  Summers can be full of wonderful moments that make great family memories, and encouraging kids to preserve their favourites through writing is a great way to encourage the development of the language skills they learn in school.  I often take the boys shopping to choose their own cool notebooks and pens or pencils at the beginning of the summer, and we make sure to pack them whenever we're hitting the road for a longer journey.  Journalling can take many forms for kids depending on their ages, abilities, and interests:  a combination of drawings and words (comic book style appeals to many Middle Graders), longer prose, poetry, newspaper-type reporting, etc.  Being able to write about what they love or find exciting, in whatever way they choose, can encourage even reluctant writers to practise their developing skills.

Summer Camp Programs/Educational Attractions  Our family spends a good part of our summer at home, swimming and hanging out in the yard, but we do have a week or two each summer set aside for the boys to participate in summer camp programs based on their personal interests, where they can dive into learning that they wouldn't usually have access to in a regular school setting.  Their camp experiences often spark further individual exploration at home once the scheduled program is over.  Our family also makes a point of finding fascinating attractions to visit (museum exhibits, science centres, university open houses, special community events, etc.) both locally and in the places we travel to on summer vacation, so that we all might have a chance to learn something new.

Free Play/Experimenting  I believe giving kids unstructured free time to imagine, create, and figure things out is a very valuable way to encourage learning any time of year.  Noah and Will are fortunate to have lots of this during the summer months, and I find that's when they both come up with the most innovative, intriguing projects and pastimes for themselves.  I am always finding contraptions built around the house and yard (traps, ziplines, Lego worlds, mould growing in a water-filled pencil sharpener in someone's closet as a science experiment, etc.) in the summer months, and most of them have involved much thought and trial-and-error to assemble.  (July and August are when I have to most closely guard things like the microwave and the water cooler, for fear that the boys might dismantle them to build something else with the parts!)

Reading  The world of books is one both boys love to escape to, especially during the summer months when there are many free hours and a wonderfully comfortable hammock chair to sit in under the shade of one of our backyard trees.  We visit our public library regularly, and the boys fill their book bags with whatever type of reading material interests them at the time:  non-fiction books on various topics, graphic novels and comic books, fantasy novels, humour writing, etc.)  Kids grow intellectually through the simple act of reading for pleasure (and I like to set a good example for my boys by spending some quality time reading what I love over the summer, too!)

To help families encourage learning during the break from school, Simon & Schuster Canada is running a Summer Slide Prevention Campaign, featuring education tips from teachers and librarians, book recommendations, and activity sheets for kids.  They are also offering a super prize pack of eight of their best books for 7 to 12 year olds for one lucky Pocketfuls reader to win.

To enter this giveaway:

1. You must log in in the giveaway box below.

2.  Leave me a comment here telling me about your family's favourite fun way to
     encourage summer learning


     Head over to my Pocketfuls page on Facebook and "Like" it.

(If you do both parts of #2, you'll receive two entries for the giveaway.)

This giveaway will run from now until Monday, June 30th at 6:00pm EDT, and is open only to residents of Canada.  One winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter from all of the eligible entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and I wish all of your families a summer filled with fun discoveries!


June 30th update:  Congratulations Tracy B D!  You are the winner of the summer slide prevention book pack from Simon & Schuster Canada. :)   I'll be contacting you via email to set you up with your prize.  Thank you to all of you who entered and shared your great ideas for summer learning with me!

Disclosure:  Simon & Schuster Canada provided my boys with some great books to read for my participation in their Summer Slide Prevention Campaign.  The ideas and opinions shared here are my own.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Worth Keeping In Your Pockets -- June 2014

I always find the month of June has a special feeling to it.   Despite the fact that the four of us are constantly moving from here to there to everywhere as we wrap up the last few weeks of school and organized activities, when we do take a few moments to catch our breath, we find glimpses of the glorious days of sunshine and freedom that are soon to be ours, and it makes me feel lighthearted and child-like again.

Today seemed like a good day to share some of the little things that have made me and my family happy in recent weeks, in an almost-summer edition of Worth Keeping In Your Pockets.

Backyard herb gardening:  I've been planting an herb garden on my back deck for as long as I can remember; it's a simple pleasure that lasts all summer long.  I use three planters that I keep right by the kitchen door, so that I can easily gather bits of whatever fresh, fragrant greens I need when I'm preparing meals.  Growing herbs is super easy and doesn't require much space. I simply fill the planters with a vegetable soil mix and nestle a variety of herb plants from a garden centre in a pleasing arrangement within them.  With regular watering, I have wonderful smelling and tasting herbs to use right through to the cool fall weather.  Some of my favourite plants to grow are basil (lots of basil!!), oregano, parsley, rosemary, lemon thyme, chives, and chocolate mint (perfect for garnishing desserts and cool drinks).

Skin care from Nova Scotia:  Always on the lookout for great natural skin-care products for my family, I discovered the Nova Scotia Fisherman line about a year ago and decided to choose some items for Matt to try.  (I thought this particular line seemed especially fitting for him because he lived in Nova Scotia during part of his childhood.)  The soaps, lotions, lip balms and scrubs all contain East Coast sea kelp, which is full of ingredients that enrich and protect the skin, and they quickly became some of Matt's favourite skin care products. We were happy to discover recently that Nova Scotia Fisherman products are now available in the Natural Health and Beauty section of Zehrs stores.  They'd make a nice Father's Day gift if you're still looking for ideas!

A super snack:  Did I mention how busy we've been around here?  This weekend alone we have Noah doing a triathlon in Elmira and competing at regionals in London for swimming, and Will performing in two year-end dance showcases for his boys' hip hop class.  I'm really looking forward to cheering both of them on over the next couple of days.  All of this running around makes for hungry kids, though, and I feel like I'm always packing snacks to go.  These quick little granola bites have come in handy recently. They're very easy to make (I adapted a recipe I found in the back of the July issue of Chatelaine magazine), kid-pleasing, and full of ingredients that provide lasting energy.  Simply process 1/2 cup of natural nut butter (I used almond), 1/4 cup of pitted Medjool dates, and 2 tbsp of pure maple syrup at high speed in a food processor, (stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed), then stir in 1 cup of certified pure rolled oats, 1/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut, 2 tbsp of chia seeds, 2 tbsp of raw cacao powder, and 2 tbsp of cacao nibs.  Roll the mixture into one-inch balls and chill for 15 minutes before serving.

"Toad"ally cute:  I have always loved toads.  (Is that weird?  Yes?  Oh well.)  I found one in our yard near the vegetable gardens a few weeks ago and I caught him in my hands for a few minutes so I could show him to the boys.  They were as taken with him as I was.  When I read somewhere a few days later that a single toad can eat several thousand insects (slugs, too!) in one season, I wanted to do what I could to encourage our little toad friend to come back and stick around for the summer.  I found this toad house at Lee Valley and Will and I had fun finding the perfect shady spot in our flower garden to place it in.  (It even has a back door so a toad can make a quick getaway if a predator tries to enter his house!) We hope the toads like their new home.

Striking silver rings:  As we were preparing to celebrate Noah's Confirmation last weekend, I wanted to find a special gift for him that would be a nice reminder of this time in his life.  I had my heart set on an engraved initial ring, but I wasn't having any luck finding something that wasn't too ornate or traditional-looking, as I knew Noah wouldn't really appreciate something like that.  I was very excited to finally find an Etsy seller who handcrafts striking silver initial rings, and Noah was very pleased with the modern design. The ring is simple but beautiful; I highly recommend this artisan's work.

A new backyard sport:  Have you heard of slacklining before?  It involves walking across a long, narrow piece of flexible webbing that is fastened between two trees at a low height, and it's supposed to be great fun!  I've seen slacklining kits for sale recently at Mastermind Toys and I think it's something the boys would love to have strung up between the trees in our yard -- I'd really like to investigate it further this summer.  I probably shouldn't rave about this activity until we've tested it out (my worst-case scenario mind is picturing some sort of backyard circus disaster!), but it seems like a summer adventure worth sharing. If you've tried slacklining before and would like to tell me about your experience, I'd love to hear it!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  :)


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Sock Situation

We celebrated Noah's Confirmation this past Saturday, the sacrament in which Catholics are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and become spiritual adults, more deeply rooted in their faith and fully committed to bearing witness to Christ through their words and actions.  It was a beautiful day for our family, and a chance to reflect on just how much Noah has grown and what a wonderful young man he has become.

A special occasion such as this one requires everyone to dress up, of course, but this is not something that Noah is particularly fond of.  There was a fair bit of lamenting and eye-rolling from him, and grumbling directed towards whomever it was who decided that dress pants and a shirt and tie were appropriate attire for anything, as we attempted to find him an acceptable outfit for the event in the weeks preceding it.  After a series of online searches, three separate orders and deliveries and returns of pants, and various trying-on sessions, I was thrilled to have in my possession a pair of navy dress pants and a brown leather belt, a crisp white collared shirt, a navy and white striped tie, and a pair of brown leather dress shoes that all fit Noah properly, looked really nice on him, and that he was grudgingly willing to admit "weren't so bad after all".

In my excitement over this wardrobe success, I completely overlooked the fact that Noah would need some proper socks to wear with his dress shoes.  As I was ironing and laying out his clothes on Saturday morning, I took a look in his sock drawer and found only ankle-height gray sports socks, the kind Noah wears every day in his running shoes in warmer weather.  We did the thing that made sense at that point -- found a few pairs of dress socks from Matt's drawer that would fit and asked Noah to choose one of them. (This, of course, resulted in a whole other round of lamenting and eye-rolling and grumbling directed towards whomever it was who decided that one can't wear athletic socks with dress pants.)

In the end, we arrived at the church with Noah smiling and looking very mature and handsome in his outfit. The mass with the bishop was really special, and Matt and Will and I were glad to be there to celebrate this meaningful time in Noah's faith journey with him.

After mass and a celebratory dinner at a restaurant with Noah's sponsor (his Uncle Nick), we were chatting in the car together on the way home, and Noah brought up the sock situation.  Apparently he and his friends were talking about their clothes in the church basement while they waited, and many of the boys were also wearing their dad's dress socks.  I think that made both Noah and I feel good in a way.

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, Noah and his friends are now spiritual grown-ups. Indeed, they may no longer be children of the faith, but I think there's something sweet and boyish in the fact that these fine young men still need their dads for socks.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fantastic Fish Tacos (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Now that warm summer weather is here, fish tacos is one of our family's favourite simple dinners on a Friday evening. We like to pick up some fresh tilapia fillets, an assortment of colourful produce for fixin's, and a batch of warm, just-made corn tortillas from a couple of great local food places.  In almost no time at all, we have a healthy and delicious meal ready at home that makes everyone at the table happy. If you haven't tried fish tacos yet, I think you're going to love these!

Fish Tacos

For the fish:

(The recipe for the seasoning mixture is based on one from Canadian Living's The Barbecue Collection cookbook.)

4 fresh tilapia fillets
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
grapeseed oil

For the tacos:

12 gluten-free corn tortillas 

(If you live in the K-W area, the freshly made tortillas from taco farm are so good!  They're also made from non-GMO corn.)

pea shoots
diced avocado
diced red pepper
diced mango
minced red onion
chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges

Brush your grill grates with grapeseed oil, then preheat the grill to medium heat.
Mix together the paprika, sea salt, cumin, and pepper in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over both sides of each tilapia fillet, then brush the fillets with oil.
Place the fish on the grill.  Cook for five minutes on one side, with the barbecue lid closed, then carefully flip the fish fillets once and cook for seven minutes on the second side, or until the fish flakes easily.
Gently remove the cooked fish from the grill and place it on a serving dish.

We like to have everyone assemble their own tacos once we sit down together, by placing some of the fish in warm corn tortillas, and then adding favourite toppings from the pea shoots, avocado, red pepper, mango, red onion, and cilantro that are ready in small serving bowls in the centre of the table.  Squeezing some fresh lime juice over everything before eating the tacos is the perfect finishing touch.

Fish tacos are such an easy-to-prepare and tasty, fresh meal that I'm sure it will be on our family's dinner menu often this summer. If you're already a fan of fish tacos like we are, what are your favourite toppings to use?  

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Smart Gifts for Teachers

June has arrived (June, already!!) and the next several weeks will be filled with fun activities as another year of school and extra-curriculars winds down.  Amidst the hustle and bustle of practices, meets, performances, and special events, the boys and I have been thinking of how to show our appreciation for the dedicated teachers who have cared about Noah and Will, encouraged them, and helped them to grow in wonderful ways since last September.

Together we've decided on some thoughtful little gifts to give to them, chosen from a collection of ideas we've gathered over the years.  The suggestions you'll find below have become some of our favourite ways to say "thank you", as we've seen the boys' teachers put these kinds of items to very good use.  Perhaps if you're looking for an idea, one of these gifts will be just right for the special teachers in your own family's life. (Click on the coloured text links to be taken to the websites where you can purchase these items.)

Personalized Stationery/Tote Bags:  A teacher's working life is filled with paper of all kinds, and a gift of personalized stationery adds a nice touch to all of the notes and details she or he needs to write down over the course of the school year.  Vistaprint offers sticky notes, notepads, pens, labels, and more in a variety of designs that can be personalized with a teacher's name.  Have your children each choose a design and colour scheme that they think their teacher will love (and you can also give the gift of a matching personalized tote bag for carrying all of those papers around!)

Charitable Gifts:  We've often thought it appropriate to show our gratitude for our children's educational experiences by giving a gift of learning to children elsewhere in the world.  Through organizations such as Free The Children and unicef, we've been able to purchase gifts of school supplies for use in communities where education opportunities and literacy are scarce.  After purchasing a chosen item from one of the charities' websites, simply print out a card describing the gift and your child's teacher will have the pleasure of knowing he or she has touched even more young lives.

LunchBots Containers: Packing a lunch to take to school is part of the daily routine for many teachers, and today's schools are often quite conscientious about environmentally friendly food packaging.  A gift of a durable and stylish LunchBots container is very practical in that it can be used by the teacher for years to come.  Include a homemade treat inside if you like (maybe your child can help prepare it) and tie the container up with a ribbon for giving.

Key Fobs:  Colourful, practical, and unique, these personalized key fobs are the perfect thing for holding all of a teacher's school keys.  The bright designs will help make keys easy to spot and difficult to get mixed up with other teachers' sets in the staff room.  (There are a variety of different patterns and colours to choose from on this Etsy shop's page.)

Book Store Gift Cards:  We love giving Chapters gift cards to teachers because they can use them in whatever way they choose, whether it be books for their classroom, books about education for professional development, or books for their own pleasure reading over the summer break.  I think most teachers would agree that one can never have too many books!

Silver Apple Necklaces:  Here is a sweet spin on "an apple for the teacher".  This dainty sterling silver apple necklace (and other designs available on Etsy) are a pretty gift for a teacher who keeps the children in her care close to her heart.  The two young women teachers to whom we gave necklaces similar to the one pictured below really loved them.

Probably one of the most appreciated teacher gifts of all is a heartfelt note from your child that shares what he or she really enjoyed about school this past year.  (I still have the kind notes written to me by my former students from years ago -- their words of thanks were very meaningful to me.)

I hope all of the teachers, students, and families out there enjoy these last few busy weeks of school as we all look forward to summer holidays.  :)