Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Woo Her with Insight: Gift Ideas for Geek Moms

Coming Soon: Mother's Day (May 13)

Geek moms can be pretty low key about recognition. However- this does not apply to Mother's Day. Your first words to your household geek momma should be "Happy Mother's Day!" (and they could quite fabulously be accompanied by breakfast in bed).

Geek dads, if your kids aren't old enough to express thanks, then the entire job falls to you. If they're older, then you may just play a supporting role.

For those moms who are more drawn to the hardware store than the jewelry store, a Leatherman Micra may fit the bill. I use mine every day for kid-oriented things and get the geek credibility for being a faster draw with the multi-tool than most men. There's also massive mom credibility for always having scissors and tweezers. The Micra even has a small blank panel which could be inscribed with a succinct phrase by most engravers.

Capturing the Moment:
Your kids won't be young long (even though some days feel like forever). Commemorate their size, expressions, and personalities.

Jim made me a very cool life poster collage using photos from Ranger's early infancy. Here's a good example of a finished life poster and instructions from its creator, Mike Matas on how to make one. He uses iPhoto software, but many graphics programs could be substituted (Jim used Gimp). Your technical concerns are getting the same DPI quality and size for each photo. The poster can be printed at most office supply stores or print shops for a reasonable cost. Check out frame sizes before you start if it will be framed and leave adequate margins.

Again, I am going to recommend commissioning a portrait from an artistic friend, a local artist, or my friend, the very talented Maggie. You will need to work fast to get this done by Mother's Day, but some artists may still have enough time.

Take some special photos of your kids. These can be great gifts for grandparents, too. For beautiful kid photos, steal ideas from Dutch of Photojojo has great general photo advice on how to make cool things like flip books. Their blog Photojojo Uncut offers more great photo tips and techniques- like how to make this incredibly tasty pinhole SPAMera.

Use your kid to create art:

For tiny babes, do not underestimate the sentimental power of a footprint/handprint captured on something useful. (Tip: you will need a second person to get a good infant footprint- and infant hands may take a team of experts. Practice on scrap paper a few times before making your final print.)

Plate kits from Makit or ceramics from a local paint-it-yourself pottery place allow you to commemorate your child's size in a functional, artistic memento. We have a great plate with Ranger's baby footprints and lyrics to one of the songs we sing him every night. It makes me smile to serve food from it. Choose colors that are similar to mom's favorite dishes. You can do the same type of hand/foot printing with a Makit kit (melamine rather than pottery) by using water soluble ink to get foot or handprints. Older kids can do cool custom art for mom.

Goody blog offered a cool suggestion for older kids. Get some large pre-stretched canvases and acrylic paint at an art or hobby store and let your kids make individual portraits of the family. Acrylic paint is pretty determined and affixes itself to fabric and hard surfaces, so choose a good location for cleanup and dress your children accordingly. One of Jim's broadcloth shirts got acrylic paint on it circa 1993 during a really amazing art school egg drop project, and the paint seems like it may outlive the shirt despite regular washing and wearing.

A good option for toddlers through elementary school is making plastercast handprints. The materials are cheap and easily obtained. My mom still has a set of these hanging on her wall from when my brother and I were youngsters. The heart shape may be too much for some moms, but you could always make any geometric shape. If you use a bowl or box to shape the plastercast, line it with plastic wrap (so you can lift it out later) or use a container that you can break and/or peel off if necessary. We pressed shells into the plaster and you write in the wet plaster with a straight object. This process actually, is enough fun that you might want to consider doing it on Mother's Day with mom. Just don't stick her with the clean-up or the task of keeping the kids from messing with them as they dry.

There are commercially available kits for 3-dimensional lifecasts of baby hands & feet but these disembodied appendages always give me the creeps. (Tip: lifecasting takes some time because the plaster has to set fully before it can be removed- I don't recommend it for infants who are awake or will wake easily.) Bellycasting may be the right gift for some pregnant moms, but it's definitely not for every mom. Ask yourself "Where will this hang later?" and "Will my wife want anyone to see it?" If you're not sure, throw out some test questions and she doesn't enthusiastically respond- DO NOT PROCEED; FIND ANOTHER GIFT IDEA. You don't want her to begin crying and say "I hate my pregnant body, you freak!" That's no good. Absolutely DO NOT try it while she sleeps.

Wherever a geek mom works, she probably would appreciate services. Most of the moms I know LOVE spa treatments: massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures. Jim can attest that I am completely miserable at the mere thought of a professional massage or spa visit. I don't like being touched by strangers and make-up is not my thing. I do however enjoy a fine, overpriced haircut and style every once in a while.

Is there any service or activity your geek lady has jettisoned due to the logistical problems since childbirth? Whatever it is, it might be a fine gift option for a gift. Plus, a gift like this means you have been paying attention (which is a gift in itself).

Lots of moms are not into material things, so an outing or ongoing experiences (like an organizational membership) can be great gifts. I love an annual zoo membership, and it only takes a small space in my wallet. For only slightly more than flowers, you can offer a year's worth of opportunities and experiences for the whole family.

You can also offer moms an escape from the kids for a while (this is great for infant and toddler moms who are getting exhausted). While Mother's Day isn't a great day to be away from the kids, offering her other times she can have some time alone or in the company of other grown ups can be a remarkably perceptive gift. Maybe she's been wanting to bowl, go back to book club, drive in the demolition derby, or just sneak off to a coffee shop where she can surf the Internet without interruption. Maybe she'd love to have a night out with friends or go to the movies.

If your household runs like ours (with lots of shared duties), this might not be a big deal, but it's still a nice gesture.

Jim suggests that arranging dinner reservations or an outing for a mom and her friends (sans kids) soon after Mother's Day could be a great and welcome surprise. This will require some legwork to set a time and location, but it would probably be greatly appreciated.

Tools for Quality Time:
Asha of Parent Hacks recommends activities that mom and kids can enjoy together like science kits or tactile toys for babies and toddlers. Good time with the kids is always appreciated.

Sometimes it's hard to entertain infants and toddlers every day. As I can't convince Ranger that it's entertaining to watch me on the laptop without touching the laptop himself, I'd been trying to find activities we both enjoy.

I really like ideas from the book Toddler Play by Wendy S. Masi (for Gymboree). She's also written Baby Play which looks good too.

Face Hercules' Challenge: Take on Odious Tasks:
If you're a dad to the diaper wearing set, and you really want to impress your wife- get yourself a Diaper Valet and put it to regular use.
[Side note] It's always a great gift to those you love and live with to tackle one of the odious projects everyone hates and works at avoiding. At our house this is organizing the office, fixing the garage door, and taking the recycling to the recycling center, but your house probably has its own notoriously avoided tasks. Do one, and make everyone's day!

A Tall, Cool Beverage and A Good Book:
For a mom desiring mom lit, I strongly recommend Christine Mellor's very funny Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide To Happy Parenting. It's (by far) my favorite parenting book.

A geek fiction favorite is Sharon McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun (a fun mystery set at a sci-fi convention).

Geek Gear:
Well, she wouldn't really be a geek if she didn't have the crow-like predisposition for carrying shiny things home. For your geek mama, there may be a piece of electronica just calling her name. You know her better than we do, but don't go too quotidian and don't venture too far into 1.0 territory if she doesn't have time for debugging. If it's still reasonably beta and may have persistent failures, the gift could be more frustrating than fulfilling. We had this problem once with an early multi-gig hard drive mp3 player by Archos (it was the size of a fat paperback book and weighed a few pounds; it took me months to get one that worked right- they were full of fatal bugs).

What kinds of geek mom gifts are you dreaming of?

Heifer, the gift that keeps on giving.


Anonymous said...

This geek momma has visions of an Iphone dancing through her head but would also be happy with a plain old day of rest.

Anonymous said...

As with most occasions that involve a man buying a woman a gift, remember to buy something she wants -- not something you want. And always check with Mom before buying a gift for her that is meant for the whole family. Not that I don't love laminate flooring, but it really wasn't a great Mother's Day gift (especially as it wasn't accompanied by a nice card or breakfast in bed).

Josh said...

I second lalalola - the Mrs. is a geek, but geeky gifts are always suspect because I'm an even bigger geek. So, I balance. For example, at Christmas-time I balanced the cordless phone with perfume and the fancy vacuum (oh no you didn't...) with jewelery.

STL Mom said...

I LOVE my multitool. I probably use it every day. Best gift ever (maybe 2nd best, after the laptop!)

adrienne said...

I'm with lolalola too- it really is a good idea to check ahead about gifts for the whole family- and those gifts are so MUCH BETTER when accompanied by something personal (per Roostabunny) whether it be a card, a multitool, perfume, a kite, or something delectable that represents your geek's interests.

And, yes, Roostabunny, geek gifts are slightly suspect around here as well... You don't want her to think (a) you forgot and this is what you bought for yourself the last time you went shopping or (b) you are merely passing off as a gift something you secretly hope to keep for yourself.

STL MOM: My laptop is also one of my favorite gifts ever (though it might be a big gift for Mother's Day). For a moms with young children, it offers enough mobility to be able to supervise and care for the kids while working online. I can hardly give Ranger a fruit cup in our carpeted office, but I can type in the kitchen while he VERY SLOWLY eats lunch. That's actually when I wrote most of this gift guide.

Anonymous said...

I think you can soften the blow of a geek gift anytime, with some flowers. Works with me!

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Aryan said...
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