Perfect Presents for Your Peeps

Doing some last-minute holiday shopping and scratching your head over what to get for your loved ones? Or, worse, are you in total panic mode? Yikes! Chill it, OK? We’re here to light the way (kinda like Rudolph).

Perfect Presents for Mom

  • The mom who needs a break
    You can easily put together a spa-day-at-home gift pack by rounding up toiletry items at the dollar store. Simply toss soaps, sea salts, bath scrunchies and scented candles into a pretty basket!
  • A green-thumb mom
    Get an oblong planter and place a small bag of potting soil and some packets of seeds inside of it so Mom can grow her own herb garden on the windowsill. This is also great for moms who love to cook!

Perfect Presents for Dad

  • A sports-fanatic dad
    Official sports gear can be pricey, so why not take the fun, unofficial route? Whether he needs socks, sweats or whatever, use your dad’s favorite team as inspiration by sticking to a color scheme.
  • The cerebral dad
    Bookstores have huge markdowns on books they want to move. Hit up the clearance rack to pick out a good read for your dad.

Perfect Presents for Sibs

  • The “I’m bored” brother
    A great way to beat boredom? Board games! If your budget is super-tight, you can get old-school classics like Chinese checkers, backgammon or dominos for less than $10.
  • A style-conscious sister
    So you don’t have the dough to splurge on expensive designer duds? You can still hook sis up with some awesome accessories. Go for earrings, belts, scarves or headbands.

Perfect Presents for BFFs

  • Your sentimental besties
    Buy each of your closest friends a blank journal and write a personal message on the inside cover. Pick up some pretty pens, then use colorful ribbon to tie one to the front of each journal.
  • The casual acquaintances
    Hit the drugstore to stock up on inexpensive tubes of lip gloss. Attach holiday gift tags and pass them around to your group of gals.

Perfect Presents for a Boy

  • The laid-back boy
    Get him some incense and a nice holder -- something tough, such as carved wood. And be sure to go for more masculine scents, like spices and musks. Stay away from florals, OK?
  • The boy who plays guitar
    So what is it about a guitarist that makes girls crazy? We’re not sure, but if you’re lucky enough to have a BF who strums, guitar strings and picks are super-duper cheap -- and he’ll love ’em!

How to (Almost) Always Get Your Way

OK, we’re not talking about coercion, persuasion or -- yikes! -- temper tantrums. But if you want to get someone on your side in any given situation, there are some effective (and ethical!) tactics you can use to sway it your way. We’ve tidied it up into an art form, right here.

“I want my parents to let me stay out an hour later on the weekends. Is that so much to ask?”

The Art of Accepting as Is

Whether you’re looking for a later curfew, more allowance or fill-in-the-blank-here, the first step is to do ... nothing. Your parents know whatever privileges you’re after, right? If not, go ahead and ask. But once you’ve asked, do not bring it up again for at least 30 days. At that time, calmly ask again.

Repeat this pattern until they eventually agree. And the only reason they’re likely to go for it is because you didn’t hassle them. You demonstrated maturity, patience and acceptance of their decisions. Works like magic!

“This one girl in our group snubs me, and it makes me uneasy. I want her to be nice!”

The Art of Attitude Adjustment
First off, we know it’s tough, but never take anyone else’s attitude personally -- even if it comes off that way. You really don’t know what insecurities or other issues this girl might have, so approach the situation from a place of non-judgment.

Also, remember that no one can make you feel uncomfortable. This is tricky too, but how you react to anything is always your choice. Turn this around by adjusting your demeanor. Relax, and treat her the same as you would like her to act toward you. Start out by subtly smiling and nodding at her. As long as you’re sincere, the tension will gradually fall away.

“My teacher gave me a totally unfair grade, and I want it changed.”

The Art of A+ Appreciation
If you genuinely feel the grade is unfair, make arrangements to see your teacher after class. But instead of storming in and waving your paper in protest, approach him or her with an air of gratitude.

Being authentic -- not fake -- and thank your teacher for taking the time to chat with you. Then make your case. Rather than griping, “I spent hours working on this project,” talk about how much you learned and gained from the assignment. If the teacher refuses to alter your grade, ask about extra credit. Whatever the outcome, continue to be appreciative, and you can be sure next time Teach is teetering between giving you a C+ or a B-, she’ll lean toward the better grade!

Make Nice With Mom

When it comes to mothers and teen daughters, you can bet there are conflicts about hair, friends and messy bedrooms! How can two people who love each other (admit it!) disagree so much?

Until recently, Laura, 13, felt she could confide in her mom about anything -- boys, grades, her period, whatever. She loved just hanging out with her. But lately, Laura admits, being around her mom is…stressful. “My mom always asks questions, like a detective. I feel she doesn't trust me anymore. She’s always criticizing me!”

Laura's mom sees it differently: “My daughter used to run into the house after school to tell me about her day. Now, I have to prod to have a conversation, or I wouldn’t know anything. I ask about her life because I love her. It’s not criticism.”

Truth is, you will wake up one day (maybe many years from now) and wish for a fab relationship with your mom. It helps to lay some groundwork now.

1. Make it a movie night Kick it on the couch with some popcorn and watch a flick with Mom! Movies are great equalizers because you don’t have to talk, yet there’s something intimate about it. Choose a light comedy -- nothing too heavy unless you want to end up in a too-deep convo.

2. Hit the mall Shopping is another good equalizer. Have fun trying on funky clothes together. Ask her opinion about a pair of jeans and help her update her style. You’ll be surprised at how much enjoyment you’ll get out of it -- not to mention those mad boots you’ve been wanting!

3. Say it in a card Having a hard time expressing your feelings? It’s often difficult to communicate face to face. Whether you have a gripe or just want to tell her you love her, write a note. Leave it on her pillow or in the car. She’ll get the message!

4. Help out Just like you, she goes through crazy times. Does she work all day and come home to a mess of chores? Lend a hand. No need to scrub floors, but a little effort goes a long way. Straighten your room, empty the dishwasher or do your laundry -- without being asked!

Summer Biz: Be the Best Baby Sitter on the Block!

Baby-sitting is one of the best summer jobs out there! But entertaining the kids can be a real drag when they’re bored and you can’t think of a thing to do. Try these fun activities -- and remember how cool it is to be a kid!

Kids’ Choice Awards
Wanna get on the kids’ good sides right away? Ask them to show you their fave toys, games and books … but do it like a red carpet–worthy awards ceremony! Have the kids announce their Best Activity That Involves a Paintbrush and Favorite Fairy Tale of All Time. It’s a fun way to find out what the kids are into and to seal the friendship.

Bag of Tricks
When your charges get tired of playing with their toys, whip something out of your own bag of goodies. Fill a cute tote with stuff from around your house, such as your brother’s old remote-controlled dinosaur or your My Little Pony collection.

Wear ’em Out!
Bring a few old pieces from Halloween costumes, like a plastic mask or feather boa, and play dress-up. Be sure to deck out all glitz-and-glam when conducting your fancy awards ceremony. (See our first idea above.)

Dance the Night Away
Put together a baby-sitting playlist on your iPod, and you and the kids can have a mini dance party! Just call it your secret weapon of mass fun-dom.

Which … Craft?
Break out the craft supplies! Here’s an idea: See how many alien characters the kids can make with various types of uncooked pasta, glitter and tacky glue. Just try to keep it on the less-messy end of the art spectrum by putting newspaper down on the work surface first and being sure to clean up afterward. (No one wants angry parents at the end of the night!)

Play With Your Food!
Continue the creativity into snack time! Turn gummy fruit bits into edible sculptures by molding them between your fingers (clean hands, please!). Record your creations on a digital camera for keeps.

Silly Story Time
Help out a kid who’s learning to read, and let her practice with you. Step it up a notch by having everyone make a funny voice for each character. Hit up the library before your baby-sitting gig, and show the kids that reading is fun!

Get Ready for School in No Time Flat

You’ve pretty much got your school routine down pat by now -- so why are you still feeling so rushed in the a.m.? Even if you can brush your teeth and get dressed with your eyes closed, you can use these tips. Here’s our get-ready map to nix the last-minute scramble:

The Night Before

  • Breakfast, check!
    Figure out your morning meal ahead of time and have everything you’ll need to prepare it handy. If you’re thinking cereal or oatmeal, grab the box out of the cupboard and place it on the kitchen counter alongside a bowl and spoon.
  • Lunch, check!
    Packing? Make sammies, grab juices and portion out snacks in the evening. Stick them in your lunch bag and stow it in the fridge for a fast grab in the morning. Need lunch money? Ask your mom and dad for it beforehand and tuck it into your book bag.
  • Outfit, check!
    Pick out your next-day school clothes before you hit the hay. Don’t forget to include outerwear, accessories and shoes. Neatly set them out or hang them up together for easy access. Even if you wear a school uniform, be sure you have matching socks and clean underwear.
  • Book bag, check!
    Finished your homework? Grab all your books, papers, binders and pencils and zip ’em up in your backpack. Need any signatures from your parents? Get it done now! And if you play an after-school sport, pack all your equipment in your duffel.
  • Shower, check!
    Get an extra 10 to 15 minutes of sleep by taking your shower at night.

The Morning Of

  •   Wash up, check!
    Brush your teeth and wash your face, being sure to keep your beauty routine simple. A great product that offers light coverage and moisturizes in one fast go is tinted moisturizer. Another time-saving pick? Cream blush, which can be applied to both cheeks and lips to give your face just a hint of color. If you wear mascara, just go with one coat on your lashes. Finish it all off with a swipe of lip gloss to your pucker, and you’re all set!
  • Hair, check!
    Stocking up on hair accessories like headbands, hair clips and scarves is a simple, fast and fab way to tame your mane in the morning. For more tips on hair how-tos, check out our sidebar below.