How much is too much? Kids and gifts

maggie2094November 26, 2005

When I was growing up we got one "big" gift for Christmas, pajamas of course, and lots of little things.I remember as a kid leafing through the Sear's wish book until it was dog eared and dreaming of all the wonderful things in it...and no I never got everything. The joy was in the anticipation.

So my niece's list (she is 13) goes like this: guitar with lessons, Ipod video and accessories, new pottery barn bedding, Dooney & Bourke bag and bracelet, Fantasy perfume and more AND she will get EVERYTHING on her list.

My sister can afford this....ahem...but, I feel like it is too much. (want to add my sister and I are really close and she's knows how I feel about this and I respect her to make her own choices for her children and we don't fight about it or anything - although sometimes I am sure she thinks I am cheap with my son since I buy all those gigantic plastic outdoor gyms and things at garage sales.) If you get everything - then (to me) it seems like nothing is really important or special.

I think of my son's 2 year b'day party where he just rifled through the packages never pausing to enjoy one thing - it was overwhelming. I put some of those gifts in the attic to take out on rainy days, and when I do he is so delighted and really enjoys every little toy (doesn't matter if it is $5 or $50).

It's just all so materialistic to me. Life is full of disappointments and I feel like if I can teach my son how to handle them I will be doing him a big service... and then when he does get something he really wants it will be that much more special. I am a little torn too - it's not like I don't want him to have everything (again he is young - not a teenager with a voice yet!).

Am I making sense? Do I sound like an old bitty? I was wondering how other people felt about this. Maggie

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If she gets everything she wants, what does she have to look foward to? For example: when she's 16 and ask for a BMW and receives one, what does she have to look foward to at 30? I don't think she will truly appreciate the gifts (or the car)'s more of a "I want, I want." I always asked my children what they wanted and then what they needed.

Even today when my 22yo DD says "I want" I ask her does she really need it? The answer is almost always no.

IMO, she's teaching the child to be materialistic and it will never stop. Enough will never be enough.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 9:44PM
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Our now 22yo DivaD1 taught us a good lesson (which we haven't always followed) when she was 3- just old enough to understand 'presents'. Although we had bought her several things, the first present she opened was a long-desired 'My Little Pony' and she burst into tears, clutching it to her little body and crying, "Thank you! Thank you!" as if we had given her the entire world.

DH and I looked at each other and realized that she didn't expect, nor need, anything else, and quietly shoved the other gifts behind the sofa. It was a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks for posting and jogging my memory, Maggie. I needed to remember this.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 11:17PM
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IMO, she's teaching the child to be materialistic and it will never stop. Enough will never be enough.

My son taught me that lesson when he was 6 years old. My wife and I had just separated, and it was already getting messy to the point that my mom and her mom had been appointed legal guardianship. That Christmas, everyone wanted to make it as special as we all could to soften the blow of mom and dad not being together any more. For him and his 4 year old sister, I'll bet I spent over 1200.00 on toys, and my sisters and mother doubled that, not to mention my ex's family. I'll never forget my son, after opening all the presents I'd brought over for him, looked at me and asked "Is that all???"

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 12:16AM
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Maggie, you're like me! I have never given my children everything they asked for. Your sister's daughter sounds like my best friend's child. She has EVERYTHING. There is nothing new that's on the market that this kid doesn't have. It makes me sick. She does not truly appreciate anything because it's all so easy. I sometimes feel sorry in advance for the poor guy who decides to marry this girl.

My children have reasonable requests, and many times I listen to them during the entire year talking about something they would really, really like to have for their birthday or Christmas. They have always cherished their presents because of the waiting and wondering. Many times I did not give everything on the list but would substitute something else that I thought would be was received graciously and loved.

We can teach our children so much, yet we miss the opportunity (some of us) by giving into this commercialised society and following other's examples.

Good for you Maggie. Continue what you're doing. You're not cheap, just extremely wise.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 1:47AM
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I was going to post a similar post to get ideas for what other families do.

I don't EVER buy my kids things throughout the year (aside from very basic necessities), so at Christmas, I really "do it up". If they want anything at all during the year, they have to save for it. Sometimes, they'll decide they don't need it, and will spend their money elsewhere. Very often, however, they'll actually save and save and buy themselves something really neat.

I guess I feel that at Christmas, it's different. I actually WANT to buy them things. The difference is, however, that they really don't ask for much. Making them save up for and earn the things they really want during the year seems to have taught them to separate the "wants" from the "needs". They know the value of a dollar, and they don't get greedy with us, as they know how much things cost. It's that time that I want to really bless them, and show them how proud I am, and really surprise them with something they hadn't even thought was possible.

I'm interested to see what others do....

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 8:31AM
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I was just shopping on line for gifts last night for our 4 grandkids, and thinking about this very topic. DH and I were talking about it yesterday too, and just like in other years the same question comes up..."They've got sooo many toys already, what do you give them, and how much do you give them?".

When I was little, I had no grandparents living, and the only other relatives that I would receive a gift from would be my Aunt and Uncle. Today, with people getting divorced and remarried, it's possible to recieve gifts from up to 6 sets of people, when you add up each parent and their new spouse, plus two sets of "grandparents" on either side. Addding to that, it's pretty common to give more than one gift to a child - I've been guilty of that on several occasions, especially at Christmas, when giving to more than one child, and trying to make sure that the same amount of money was spent on each. Many children get literally showered with presents on their birthdays or at Christmas.

I also have a very difficult time finding some sort of educational toy to give that expands the child's knowledge of science, art or general creativity. Forget Toys R Us...aside from erector sets, basic blocks and a few token things, educational toys just aren't their thing. Last year, I went there to ask where the educational toys were, and the section was so small I could have fit all of the toys in there in my pantry. Now I don't bother, and just shop on line.

This year, each grandchild will get one present. So far, I've purchased a junior weather station for my 8 yr. old grandson, a matching game for my 4 yr. old grandson, and am thinking of a crystal growing set for my 5 year old grandaughter. Our 4th grandchild is a newborn, we will get a little something from fisher price.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 9:10AM
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Sorry this is so long, but it is a subject close to my heart.

My ds is 10. Reno, I also don't buy him stuff during the year. I pay for reasonable entertainment costs, like the occasional movie, but I don't buy him cds or toys or video games or any of that. If he wants it, he earns money and saves for it. He even saved for and purchased his first bike.

Maggie, when my ds was 2 I had the same philosophy as you. But I found it was impossible to stem the tide of gifts from others. I would choose a few well-thought gifts for him, and then his grandparents (both sides) and his father would show up with mountains of plastic cr*p, most of which I didn't even have room for because at the time we were in a small apartment. It seemed that to them, it was a competition to see who could buy the largest plastic atrocity. A prime example is the 4x4x3ft. plastic hot wheels car wash. It really became obscene.

So I put my foot down. I told everyone in no uncertain terms that we would accept no gifts over 3 square feet without prior approval. And I emphasized that what ds really wanted was their time, not their gifts. Well, that didn't work. They all seemed determined to spend an outrageous amount of money on silly things. So I moved on to Plan B.

I now have my son make a list of what he wants. I make sure a few expensive but well-chosen items are included to eat up the budget, as it were. Then I post the list on's wish list section, and email it to his dad and grandparents. The overall amount of gifts, from everyone, still turns out to be less that what your niece is asking for (which does seem over the top). So, for example, this year it goes like this:

Only three gifts under the tree from me. A stereo receiver, dvd/cd changer, and an outrageously expensive Star Wars fx lightsaber ($100! For a glowing sword!). The total was just over $300. The stereo components are more of a family gift, as they will be in the playroom. And the lightsaber, well, he just begged for it and was willing to give up other gifts from me. His stocking will be stuffed with cool school supplies, a new electric toothbrush, and socks.

My parents are giving him the ipod nano with accessories, which will have a great wow! response because I told him it was too expensive so he stopped asking for it. His father is giving him two video games and a couple of other small things he wanted. His other grandparents are giving some computer games he wanted (yes, 10 yo boys are electronics freaks) and I will ask them to pay for a skiing program for him.

I think that the sum total of his list is fairly reasonable - - it is all stuff he will actually use. If he makes a request and I tell him "no", he doesn't give me a hard time. Heck, for years I made the list up for him because he didn't want enough things to satisfy all of the buyers.

Oh, and Maggie, you did hit on something with your comment that your ds is "not a teenager with a voice yet." It is so easy to make a 2 year old happy on Christmas/Hannukah/whatever with a small budget, but adolescents and teens want things that are more expensive. And it is hard, for some strange reason, to only see a couple of (albeit, expensive) gifts wrapped under the tree. This is my year to get over that!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 9:41AM
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I missed Meskauskas' post. Here's a great educational toy for children 8 and over: Electronic Snap Circuits. You can buy them at They are the best electric set going, because instead of messing with wires you just snap the components into place. You can make hundreds of projects with it, from various alarms to a blinking light to a radio. DS has it, as does his best friend, and every kid who has come over to their houses has loved playing with it. He also uses it for school projects. Highly recommended!!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 9:45AM
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What great stories and wonderful words of wisdom too! Thank you.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 11:31AM
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I totally agree with the "too much" sentiment, for all the reasons already stated. I can't believe how much some parents spend on their kids - on totally unnecessary stuff - ie, a $200 handbag for a 13 year old??!!! If they get everything, they appreciate almost nothing.

Pecanpie, I LOVE the My Little Pony story!

And Paige - THANK YOU for the gift idea! I'm getting my nephew Snap Circuits :) His brother is getting This game :)
Kids love gross stuff, and an added bonus is that it will horrify my prissy SIL ;)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 11:58AM
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PecanPie, I too loved your My Little Pony story. What a great demonstration of giving a gift that touches a heart! Good for you and your DH for recognizing that she had gotten Xmas nirvana and there was no need to heap the extra presents on at the time. There don't seem to be too many parents who recognize that lesson. In some ways it seems to me that parents indulge their children to make up for something - I don't know what. You see families; the parents are extremely giving of their time, energy and interest, but you can just see it in the way that they over-indulge their kids that they are feeling like they need to compensate for something. I don't know why; somehow, I think parents more than the kids need the validation that they are perfectly good for their kids.

Paige, Wow! I wish *my* Christmas loot looks like what your 10 year old son is going to get!

Maggie, DH and I don't have kids so my story is about my own family's Christmas culture. When my sisters and I were quite young, my parents had an epiphany about Xmas gift giving as well and my mom started a new tradition. Every Christmas, we would collect up toys, clothes, gifts that we had not used much that year and we would take them to the nearest shelter or orphanage around. My mom would then have us give the gifts to the children ourselves. Mom would also make a ton of food to take to whereever we were going and distribute that as well. She figured that even if the food was simple, the simple change associated with eating someone else's cookng would be a bit of a treat. She was very particular that we gave the gifts to the children ourselves - it wasn't just going to be a "clean out your closets for the poor children" exercise which is a bit more of a remote experience. We gave the gifts to the kids ourselves because she felt that we needed to know the thrill and the dignity in giving something you cherish - even if its something that you may have regrets parting with - to someone else and seeing the delight in the person's/child's eyes at this unexpected gift.

On the ride back, she'd always ask us if we had any regrets giving something away. Because I was as stubborn as a mule, I'd say yes esp. if Mom and I had had a tiff on the way out about me parting with some item. But in my mind's eye, I can tell you that what I would see was this HUGE big smile of some kid or the other who was SOOOO thrilled to have gotten whatever they got. There was always some kid who managed to leave an impression.

It was quite an exercise; therapeutic and a hell of a learrning experience. When we started this, sis and I would pick out the broken toys or toys we didn't like. Well, the huge smile on the face of the child that we gave this doll with a game leg or a toy with a missing piece was so embarassing, that we'd be ashamed to be giving up this wretched thing and get such effusive thanks in return. Over the years, the toys and clothes we gave away got nicer and nicer, until we were actually saving up near christmas time for the brand new toys and sweaters that we would buy specifically for the children.

That's a lesson that has stayed with me all my life. I'm a minimalist to the core now and I don't wait till Xmas to donate. Through grad school, I would go to a shelter for Thanksgiving morning and help prepare. My specific interest has since turned to wildlife. Of all the things that my mother has done for me in 35 years, this one thing stands out head and shoulders above all else - this above all else is what my Mother has my immeasurable love, affection and admiration for.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 1:56PM
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Everyone has given such great advice! I totally agree that our young people have come to expect too much in the way of material stuff, it's sad and a major disservice to them. Maggie, don't ever doubt yourself.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 2:35PM
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it's sad and a major disservice to them.

as well as the season.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 3:28PM
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mindstorm, tell me about it. I don't even have an ipod, nor a stereo. Actually, the stereo is really for both of us, but I'm wrapping it up for him.

The thing is, I would prefer he not get all of this stuff, but I have no control over the fact that my parents and his other grandparents and his father are going to overindulge him. Believe me, I've tried to curtail it, even giving things away that they gave him. It just doesn't work - - he ends up thinking I'm the meanest person going, and so do they, and the holidays turn into a giant resent-fest. I think this solution - - signing him up for things he will actually use, rather than things they will just randomly select and heap on him - - is the best compromise.

That, and, like I said before, I buy him nothing the rest of the year!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 3:40PM
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Aw Paige! From the posts you've written, you're far from unthinking or unfeeling about your son. He's clearly very very much a part of your life. Just remember that kids are very very smart: my mother believes that kids are the world's best psychologists for they can figure out adults better than adults can figure out kids. ;-) He's just being a young man and testing his limits with you, so don't let that get to you or get you down. Too bad about his father or his grandparents not respecting the limits you want to set for your son. Yikes.

My commentary above was somewhat directed, but it was directed at various friends of ours, with kids. Very nice people and all great to be with when it was adults only; but it was always interesting watching them in more social settings when their kids were around as well. I'd often end up unobstrusively (hopefully) watching them with their kids because you could see that something unnerved them so much. They'd set a boundary, have a show-down, then move that boundary - it was quite a sociological exercise. Same thing listening to them talk about Christmas or Birthdays and their kids. We do have some other friends who also have kids but have no problems being both good to them and setting boundaries, too, both material as well as behavioural.

SOrry I got lost in my introspection there. The above commentary was not aimed at anyone here; it was very much spawned from interaction with a fairly large subset of our friends. Fortunately, just a subset since the others seem very normal.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 4:08PM
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weed, you are a genius! I have a 5YO nephew who will get Ned for Christmas- how perfect!

Loved your secondary reasoning about horrifying prissy SIL. hehehe

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 4:19PM
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Many of you have already given some good comments.
Here's another idea we do...
We have a 5-yo DS. Most of our friends do not have children or if they do, the kids are now grown. Our extended family is spread out around the country with no one in our area. So everyone seems to get Zeke presents. It's pretty insane (yes some of them are those horrible, huge, noisy, plastic things). So for Christmas, we usually only get him one major thing that he really, truly wants (last year it was a bicycle, this year we'll build an army "habitat"... hills, runway, bunkers, forests, all on a rollaway platform to fit under his bed), and a few fun stocking stuffers. He makes a wishlist which goes to family members if they ask. But we don't limit what friends and family buy for him. (Ok, we strongly encourage them to buy him a cool t-shirt or dinosaur pyjamas, or something a bit more useful.)

But we do take the time to spread out the opeining of those presents throughout the entire season (from about mid-Dec. when things from back east start arriving, until even early January). After Zeke has a chance to open and enjoy his presents (leisurely instead of a huge Christmas morning frenzy), we then (with his assistance), put away many of the presents in the attic. Then, throughout the year, when he's not feeling well, or the weather's bad, or he's feeling a bit blue, we go up to the attic, pick out a present, and voila, a new toy (and he has to put something else away in the attic that he hasn't been playing with for a while). Then as it gets toward the next fall, we go up in the attic to see what he's really outgrown, sort through the broken bits, and pack up things for giving away.

It's pretty amazing though, when he's not around tv (most of the time), his wishlist is pretty modest and well thought-out. Then when he comes home from a play-date where they've been watching cartoons, all of a sudden, his wishlist grows about tenfold. That's usually when I get on my soapbox about how commercials are really designed just to get us to think about all the junk that we think we want and really don't need. And would he really rather have .... (whatever the latest crap he saw on tv) or .... (the thing he's been talking about all year long). He usually ends up by saying "Oh yeah, mom, I see what you mean." Kids are pretty smart if you give them the opportunity to really process things.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 5:17PM
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Kids really are pretty smart. Two years ago, my older son, then 12, wanted a camera cell phone. They were very expensive at the time and there was, of course, no way I was going to get one for him. So he asked if he could use his own money to buy one. He'd been saving for years, and had more than the $250 or so it cost saved up -- so after a discussion about making big-money choices carefully, I agreed. I told him that it was his money and his decision, and that he was sure to learn something from the experience -- either that it's worth it to save up your money for something really cool that you really want, or that it's foolish to blow so much money on something silly. But either way, he'd learn. It's been two years, and he still loves his phone -- It was easily the coolest phone in his group of friends for a long, long time (important to a 7th grader), and he still takes good care of it and hasn't wanted a new one because it was the first expensive item he bought for himself. And he's still saving his money -- That's all he wants for gifts these days anyway.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 5:52PM
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Mindstorm, don't worry. I didn't respond because I was insulted - - it was probably my guilt forcing me to rationalize! And yes, Luke was testing me by calling me "mean" when I wouldn't let him keep everything, but it set up a dynamic that I wasn't pleased with, where Daddy got to be the good guy and mommy was the mean disciplinarian. It's a dynamic that has been pretty consistent, unfortunately, and I didn't like it playing out to the extreme every holiday.

FWIW, I have friends like that who set false boundaries with their kids all the time. It makes it hard on everyone - - them, their kids, and everyone else and their kids who have to witness it.

spacific, I am so with you on the commercials thing. I also taught ds when he was very young about the reality of advertising. Now he isn't really affected by commercials at all - - he ignores them, or makes sarcastic comments about them. ;-)

And Sweeby, your ds does sound pretty smart. My ds has a camera phone too, but only because I got it free when I bought my new phone.

(And before everyone gets riled up about how kids shouldn't have cell phones - - my ds, 10, uses his only to call me. I work 60-80 hour weeks, and between 3 different babysitters and friends houses after school, it's the only reliable way for him to contact me regularly. And now that I see how convenient it is to keep in touch, I would get one for him even if I wasn't working.)

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 6:58PM
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mindstorm, what a lovely tribute to your mother. What a wise and caring woman!

Paige, please don't worry about being the 'disciplinarian meanie mom'- I guarantee your son will realize what's going on and thank you for it one way or another. My godson is in that situation- disciplinarian mom, indulgent dad (divorced) and no one in the world would've been surprised if the child had not turned out well. But he has- worked hard, gotten in fairly minimal amounts of the expected adolescent trouble, but learned from his experiences with his mom's guidance, and the kid is great.
His mom called me in tears this summer- he had called her from work out of the blue and thanked her for making sure he learned how to be a good person.

You're doing the right thing, Paige. Too bad there's no applause meter, but WE'RE clapping!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 7:50PM
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My husband's family has always considered holiday gift giving as a huge extrazaganza. It literally took hours for the gifts to get opened. The kids' stocking from my motherinlaw were PLASTIC GARBAGE BAG sized!

Of course we didn't have enough room for all the junk once the kids got it home. Most of it was never opened or used.

Finally when my kids got to be about 6 and 8 they BEGGED me to do something about it. I explained how there was NO changing grandma. But that if they wanted we could figure out something for our own family to do that was a little more meaningful.

So for that holiday and many to come, we donated to various wildlife and conservation groups in the kids' names. They LOVED that.

My own husband was disappointed if there wasn't a huge pile of things under the tree. Didn't matter what was in there, it just had to look like a huge pile.

Oh well.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 8:32PM
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I think that even if our kids are overgifted either from us or from relatives, it's also important to teach them the value of giving. Each kid buys a gift for each other and we also give to Toys for Tots, and this year, for the first time, we have adopted another family with 6 boys under the age of 4. Yes, you heard that right - 4 of them are quadruplets (age 2) and one 1 year old and one 4 year old. Parents are 22 and 23. We are having fun picking out gifts for this family and learning the value of giving.

My kids are not deprived in any sense of the word as far as possessions I'm embarrassed to admit, but I think that if you find a balance between giving and receiving and teaching your children the value of making someone else's holiday special besides their own, it's all worth it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 9:36PM
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This year is a very tight one for us financially, so it has really made me think before I buy. I have a tendency to buy too much for our daughter, now age twelve. I really get suckered in by *educational* toys, especially some of the games. But I have come to realize she uses so little of what I buy. So much of her time is taken up with homework, Scouts, music, or whatever.

I have a very unmaterialistic kid. Money she gets as gifts she squirrels away -- until I run to her to borrow it. We take care of her needs, and her *wants* are negligible. Several years she wanted one of those Razor scooters that were so popular. We discussed how she had no place to ride one nearby, and that we could make it to the school playground to ride probably only twice a month, and how it wouldn't be fun to ride without a friend. She ended up changing her mind about the scooter.

We try to give the gifts of time and attention, and stay out of suburban shopping malls where shopping can become a form of entertainment. Fortunately, her closest friends and their parents are not overly materialistic. One grandma has started to take her to the theater in lieu of (unused/unwanted) stuff -- so is giving memories and her love of the theater -- and seats to shows we never could afford!

This year, with so many people in need due to hurricanes, earthquake, tsunami as well as all the regular causes, the excesses of holiday self-indulgence feel obscene to me. As an American, I am still trying to separate from the equation that lots of love does not equal lots of stuff. It's funny, because my daughter figured that out long ago.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:01AM
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Just wanted to say thanks to Paige for the link to the Snap Circuits, and to Weed for the link to the Exploratorium Store - what a great site for educational and creative toys. I wish I had someone to give Ned to - he's hillarious!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 9:18AM
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I feel very fortunate to be able to give my kids the things they NEED during the year: clothes for a new season or back-to-school, school supplies, haircuts, etc. They also received allowances starting at about age 5: starting at one dollar/week, and adding a dollar every year on their birthday. Also, when they were 15 they both got jobs. Their allowances and salaries were to be used by them to pay for things they WANTED or thought they needed (but really didn't). They are also responsible for paying for the increase in car insurance on the family vehicles when they start driving; I find this makes them more careful drivers.

Having said all that, when Christmas rolls around my husband and I feel it's appropriate to buy them things they WANT (and not necessarily need). After all, it's time for gift-giving and gifts should sometimes be frivolous just because they bring a smile to someone's face. Haven't we all received some pretty jewelry or lovely cologne that we loved, but certainly didn't need? We set a dollar amount for our kids, and pretty much keep things balanced monetarily.

I do think it's a lot harder keeping the dollar amount down as kids get older. Let's face it, when they're toddlers they pretty much always like the big boxes better than any of the items that come in them. But by the time they are teens, the ipods, video games, brand-name sneakers/pocketbooks, etc. that are important to them cost a lot more! They don't get everything they want, but they do get some of the things with a few surprises thrown in.

I agree family traditions play a big part in what happens in your own home. My in-laws are always extravagant, my family is always practical, and we ourselves are somewhere in between.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 10:59AM
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I've read this thread with great interest. So often, kids think they really want or need something JUST BECAUSE all their friends have it, when truth be told, they could really care less about whatever the toy of the moment is !!
When DS was in First Grade, he had just about zero interest in video games, would MUCH rather be building something, cutting down trees, anything but being stuck in front of a video game. Long story short . . . . a friend of his had been playing with her mom's OLD Atari --(remember PacMan?
and Frogger????? ) Her friend got a new video game system, not sure what was the great thing going at that time --
so the mom asked if DS wanted the Atari for ten bucks --
He said sure, and I made him use his own money --
He was happy as could be with his little black and white Atari, and very proud that he bought it with his own money.
Fast forward to a field trip. A very spoiled little boy had just had a birthday, and proceeded to tell me that "all" he got was a Sony Playstation (or whatever it was,) and "only" six games. DS pipes up that he just got an Atari -- all proud and beaming about it. Talk about peer pressure and cruelty crashing down and ruining the moment !! Ridiculed doesn't even describe it !!! My heart, of course was breaking to see my son's face. When we got home, he packed away his beloved Atari, and said he wanted a Sony Playstation, Sega, or whatever the "best" at the time was. I knew that down-deep he didn't REALLY want one, but was absolutely caving into peer pressure. I told him that if he wanted one, he would have to use his own money. So, he did. Brought that thing home, played a few token games, had it here when friends came over, and then there was ridicule all over again, since DS didn't play all that often, he wasn't to the highest levels --

Oh my, such lessons learned along the road of life !!!
Lots of mini talks on this .. talks about being your own person, that not everyone likes the same thing, etc. --
Stand up for what you believe in -- hard stuff to learn when you're six !!!! Well, anyway, today I have a great 18 year old, who is very much his own person -- AND has built some incredible things along the way -- patio structures, furniture, yard structures, etc. I've spent lots of $$$$$$ on lumber, but feel it's so well worth it !!
When a lumber truck pulls up to our driveway with a delivery, the neighbors no longer assume that DH has ordered something !! Point of story, I guess, is that DS was able to follow his heart at an early age, and has known for a really long time the career path he would follow.
So, today's college applications are all geared towards colleges with Architecture/Construction Project management majors --

TV ads, and peer pressure can absolutely wreck havoc with our best intentions !! BUT . . . always a lesson to be learned !!

Lots of good thoughts and good luck wishes to those of you who are still on the "toy track" !!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 11:50AM
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KCC, Your story's really, really cute. (My heart twisted a bit too when you described the rapid drop from pride to crushed.) But remove kids and add yourself (myself, oneself) and remove the toy du jour and add a suitable kitchen component brand and the same lessons must apply to us, no?

I just got done writing that service above self-indulgence was the lesson mom taught us, but your post made me realize that throughout this kitchen remodel, I've chafed under brandname burn, too. I love my Gagg hood because it is so quiet and so effective; but I'll tell you that when I "settled" on it, I was so psyched that I was getting a Gagg and that it had the shot-blasted finish. We got a Bosch oven - LOVE the oven as its done wonders even for *my* cooking (believe me, that *is* a miracle). BUT, I will say that I tried every trick in the book to see if I could work up to a Miele oven that would still get me the size and specs I wanted. We got IKEA cabinets There's a difference between spending for a good product and spending for a name brand. I think I need to reconnect with my own message above - this thread is so relevant not just for kid lessons, but for us lessons.

Thanks so much for putting forth a story that removed the scales from my own hypocracy. Just so you all don't think I'm completely shallow, may I just say that although our kitchen remodeling exercise may sound like it was an opportunity to scatter some namebrands around our house, it really was done to improve the layout and the ability to use the space. I just want to say that it does that magnificently. The biggest upgrade in our kitchen has been the layout.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:17PM
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From DH and I, our children receive exactly three gifts. Now, if we give a bike, the helmet counts with it. Or several like toys (such as for a Fisher-Price dollhouse, not just one room of plastic furniture, but perhaps three), or five Hot Wheels and a track set. Or a Game Boy and a game. Or a doll and two or three outfits to go with the doll. It just needs to be reasonable and fit into one box or gift bag. You might ask why only three. So did our children. It's because Jesus received only three presents at Christmas, the gifts from the wise men. I know that this sounds corny, but it really helps us restrain ourselves from overshopping. And it helps our children realize that Christmas isn't all about them. And almost always, one present is pajamas. I'm still debating about the guitars for my sons. I am doing collector quality doll house furniture for several of my girls. (We began building doll houses this summer. Just think! I have four little kitchens to design!) I'm thinking of an iPod for my oldest daughter, perhaps the shuffle since it's cheapest. A bike for my four year old. I want Christmas to be magical for all of my children, but this year more than ever I want to focus on Church and the celebrations, not the stuff. The electric snap set sounds awesome. I'm going to check that out. What my children, who are blessed with everything they need, want above everything else, is time with me, their mother.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:34PM
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Three gifts -- and a reason for it. That's a wonderful tradition. Last year, we did something similar -- One from Mom, one from Dad, and one from Santa. (There's also usually one from 'The Grinch' -- socks and underwear...)

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:59PM
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Cup I LOVE it. What a fantastic way to remind your children of the reason for the season. This is a tradition we just might embrace.

I am loving all of these responses. This is an extremely timely thread, since I have been pondering lately how to strike the balance. My two sons are 5 and 2, and this is the first year I've been really excited about giving them toys. Usually I am very conservative, but this year was not planning to be. Now I think I'm going to dial it back.

My boys rarely get anything "just because," though sometimes I do buy them toys for being extra good or helpful or for working hard to overcome a problem (in the case of my older son, who has had some developmental issues). They don't get an allowance yet so they can't really save up for anything. The big thing we do through the year is buy them books -- and we don't skimp on those, since we can afford it. We'll probably make better use of the library when they are older and start reading books once and then being done with them.

But I have been thinking a lot about how to keep the focus squarely on the message of the season, and not to allow them to get too involved in stuff. I know lots of people who are very focused in general on presents and I can't stand that. People who go on about what their kids want for their birthdays or what they've registered for or whatever. Sometimes I think I'm a little Scroogey. I'd rather go to church, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy all the Christmas fun without worrying about buying trinkets. But I do it because you kind of have to.

Mindstorm, I loved the story about your mom. It really, really hit home and will be assimilated into my plans when my kids get older. My 5 yo is just starting to understand that there are those less fortunate; I think actually meeting them and giving them gifts would really make a difference.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 1:13PM
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cup, I love the idea behind the 3 gifts.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 1:51PM
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Okay, dinner just got taken care of via my crockpot, so will allow myself "just ten minutes" to hang out on the computer -- This is a wonderful thread --
Cup, love the three gift idea -- !!
And, KitchenObsessed, love the idea of grandparents spending TIME with your kids -- doing a show or whatever.
How special those times will be for your kids !! When "things" are long gone, the memories will be forever !!
Sharon, had a thought on the allowance thing, and I certainly don't want to hijack this thread and go another way, but really fast, you said something about your kids not getting allowances yet. Maybe your 2 year old is too young, but here's what we did with our DS. I think he may have even been three when we started him on an allowance.
I read someplace about giving your child a dollar for each year they were -- a week, every two weeks, -- I think I gave him his allowance every week. The deal was that he had to save half of it -- right into his piggy bank it went, then every so often we'd go to the bank and put it in his savings account. The other half he could do whatever he wanted with it. So, when he was five, he got $5 a week, and so on, but $2.50 automatically went into his bank. It was a GREAT way for him to save money -- and actually motivated him to save gift money, etc. He could still have access to the savings acct. money (ex. when he bought the Playstation .. ), but he had to think a little longer about drawing money out of his savings account.
AND . . . . when the time came, he had money to buy his truck, and we matched what he put up. Because he was putting so much of his own money into his truck, he researched trucks for MONTHS -- making sure he'd get the best, most perfect truck for him. Anyway, didn't mean to digress -- and everyone, please forgive me for doing so !! I need to get going !! I'm itching to put up Christmas stuff, but my house is typical post-weekend !!
Scoop-out time !!
Oh, Mindstorm, thanks for your nice comments !! And, after reading your post, I went back and re-read mine, and by golly if what I'd talked about really didn't apply to anyone in the crazy land of kitchen remodel, too -- Could turn it into a grown-up post really fast !!! That being said, though, I don't regret for one minute, upgrading to my FisherPaykel dishdrawers !!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 3:14PM
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kitchenkrazy, you might be interested to know that Atari is now retro-chic! They've just released a 'new' version that looks almost exactly like the old one and with the old games, too, including Pong. Sort of a reaction against all the very high-tech, violent video games, I guess!

I love all the comments about gift-giving. It sounds like we have a similar philosophy to many of you. We have an interesting problem this time of year, b/c we celebrate Hanukah, which is 8 nights... Thank goodness we never have given a gift every night, so the kids don't expect that (though they might ask!), usually only the first two nights and the last night. But lighting the candles every night is fun for them, and we play dreidle (new dreidles are always one of the gifts), with raisins or pennies or M&M's. So, we try not to make it all about the gifts.

btw, my 7-yr-old DS has the Snap Circuits--loves it!
In all, they don't ask for anything unreasonable, and usually they only ask for one thing. And rather than have mega-gifts in addition from the grandparents, the "big" gifts the kids want often come from them. They are, thankfully, restrained about their gift-giving.

Anyway, with my kids, the other thing that went over big was a slime-making kit, and my 4-yr-old loves the bug soap kit (you actually make soap with a plastic bug suspended in the middle--try putting it in the powder room for guests--classic!). We do a lot of crafty type gifts like that. Usually we give one big gift (e.g., a bike or a game table) and a few smaller ones, depending on what it's 'time' for developmentally, and also if there's something special they want. My younger DS, thru sheer force of will (and a clever reward system...), stopped sucking his thumb over the summer almost completely (still does it to get to sleep), and I promised him a particular toy crane for his efforts. He's been waiting for 3 months, but he says he doesn't want it until Hanukah (I guess b/c he thinks of that as gift time).

Like many of you, I don't let my kids watch much TV, so they don't ask for a lot of stuff...and while our good friends' kids have every latest toy that beeps, barks and flashes, we try to avoid most of that. I've had a rule since they were v. little that I wanted a minimum of the toys that leave no room for creativity. My kids' faves are still the toys that are the most flexible, like: blocks, lincoln logs, legos, playmobil sets (w/people, cars & trucks, buildings), and arts and crafts supplies. And then there are books, a whole separate category for me! They always get books. (Funny, when I was a kid, my mom says I'd cry if no one gave me a book on my birthday, and that's still what I buy for myself when I'm feeling self-indulgent!)

So, this year it's the crane for one DS, and an indoor basketball game for the other, I think. I wish one of them would ask for a dog...

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 5:47PM
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This is OT, but this thread got me thinking about all the teacher gifts I have coming up--7 of them. Maybe I should start a new thread, but I'm curious what others do (eg, home baked goodies, aromatherapy lotions, or gift cards??); I've tried each of those, and I'm never sure which is most (or least) appreciated.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 5:50PM
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I'm late to this discussion - so much good stuff! You guys are excellent parents. I always learn so much from this forum.

We had this problem, too. We tried hard to impress on everyone that our children did not need tons of gifts nor did dh and I want them to *get* tons of gifts, but it fell on deaf ears. We begged our relatives to limit it to 1-2 gifts (per family to each child). DH came up with an idea that has worked really well. He told everyone that all gifts beyond the limit would be taken to charity, unopened. We would randomly choose the keepers, not knowing, of course, what was in them. There was immediate compliance. Most of our family was ok to begin with, but there seemed to be this drive with the grandparents...

I think we often over-gift for noble reasons (pleasure in giving nice things, wanting the kids to have better than we, etc), but that still doesn't make it ok, IMO. And all too often, there are darker dynamics at work, like power struggles and compensation issues. When my older 2 were little and I was a single parent, I put a lot of pressure on myself because of guilt. Even now I have to really fight to quash my own materialistic tendencies and am only partially successful. One ugly memory from my single-parent days was the time my ex called to see what I was giving the kids so he "wouldn't duplicate it." He went out and bought every single thing I'd gotten them so that when they went to his house Christmas Eve and opened their gifts, it would be too late for me to exchange anything. I had to improvise something about Santa wanting them to feel at home at both houses so he made sure they had the toys that were familiar to them or some such hogwash. That's an example of the darker dynamics.

I like to give my kids things throughout the year and I want them to each have a time to feel special, so it might just be a trip to the store with mom or dad without the other kids along. I don't want to save it all up for Christmas; in fact, Christmas is kind of played down on the receiving end so that we can emphasize the giving aspect and the "good will" thing. We genuinely adore the season but celebrate it with food (waaaaaay too much of that, but that's another fight!), family & friends, old movies, music, decorating, and giving to/helping others. The gifts on Christmas are almost anti-climactic.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 10:32PM
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seeking, I can imagine how steamed you must have been at your ex, and how sad you were for your kids for being made part of their father's efforts to hurt you. Why do people do things like this?

and toomuch, I usually give all of the teachers 3x3" scented candles with a simple candle holder. You can buy both the candles and the holders in sets of 6 or 8 at Target. If there is one teacher I think has gone above and beyond, I'll throw in a gift certificate.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 11:06PM
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It's been a while, but I can remember a few items that were well received as teacher gifts.

Amaryllis bulbs! You can get them on sale for a buck or two each. The teachers generally planted them and grew them right in the classroom.

Geodes! or Fossils! Just because Rocks Rule!

There used to be a nifty gift shop in town where everything was made out of wood. So, puzzle boxes. Wooden puzzle stamp dispensers. Any manner of nifty little desktop items made from wood. African thumb pianos.

Oh hey, does anyone remember that group/movement from a while back called S.C.R.O.O.G.E. ??

It was something like the Society to Curb the Ridiculousness Of Ostentatious Gift Giving.

This year I've told my coworkers that much as I love them, I will not be participating in the office gift exchanges. I'm going to make a donation in their honor to the non-profit my older daughter works for. If that makes me a Scrooge, oh well.

Please forgive me a little OT side trip? A lot of people are probably not aware that many non-profits that deal with aiding people in the throes of grinding year in year out lifelong poverty are in serious trouble. Many of the donations that normally keep them afloat have been diverted to aid the victims of Katrina. Yes, the victims of Katrina need help. But please if it is at all in your power, don't forget your usual charitable donations.

Returning to topic now and thank you for indulging me.

Sometimes a child has their heart set on one particular item.

What was the one thing you SWORE to your parents that (if they gave it to you) you would never ask them for anything else again?

For me it was an etch a sketch!!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 12:10AM
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Re: teachers' gifts- I make an enormous pot of Beautiful Soup and package it in freezable containers for the kids' teachers. I try to be aware of those with families and distribute accordingly.

This year the youngest is at a school where teacher gifts are discouraged, so I will just make a couple of pound cakes and take them to the teachers' lounge.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 9:46AM
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demicent, I wanted a pair of candy-apple red shoes one year when I was about 8. Totally impractical, totally beautiful. They were $10 and that was way out of our budget. One day shortly before Christmas my dad took me to the shoe store and bought them for me. It's a cherished memory and even though I'm sure my parents had to sacrifice something in order for me to have those shoes, I'll remember it always with love and gratitude. If I had always gotten everything I wanted, I'd have no recollection of those shoes and no appreciation for the things I received. It's also the main reason I try to do something for each individual child from time to time rather than making sure they always get something "equal" at the same time. Everyone wants a chance to feel special sometimes.

As far as teacher gifts, anything is appreciated, especially those things given from the heart. Teachers tend to get a lot of soaps, candles, body & bath things. Some alternatives that are good would be movie certificates (you can buy a coupon book with coupons that work like money toward a movie or concession), book store gift certificates, and anything handmade. I used to sit down every year with the kids (who are now grown) and we'd sew up drawer sachets. Very easy and quick but well liked! Kids can make an ornament (I like crocheted snowflakes) or, my favorite, a spiced "bean bag" that you heat in the microwave and tuck around you when it's cold. For this item, you just need some rather loose weave muslin (I buy flour sack dish towels from the dollar store, which yield 2 bean bags each), wheat purchased in bulk from the grocery store, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. Cut dish towel in half, fold longwise, sew up the side and bottom, put in about 4 cups of wheat combined with chopped cloves and cinnamon (keep smelling it until you're happy with the amount). I also add ginger and nutmeg (powdered) sometimes. You can use powdered spices but the whole cloves and cinnamon sticks chopped last longer and are less likely to sift out of the muslin. After filling, sew up the top. You then need to make a flannel cover for it in the same way you made the flour sack tube, but leave the top open so it works like a pillow case for the bean bag. When heated for 3 minutes in the microwave, it smells delicious and has a warm, moist heat that is delightful on a cold day. I use mine all the time. The flannel case can be removed and washed but the bean bag part isn't washable, of course.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 11:12AM
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Seeking, Love the red shoe story !!! One of those touch-the-heart forever gifts !! It made me think of a few really extra special gifts I've received that are just so near and dear to me. One year I was saving $$ to spend the summer in Hawaii -- going to summer school there. (One class is what I got it down to, by the way !!! ) ANYWAY,
I got a Christmas stocking from my dad that was filled with walnuts, and I thought it was kind of a different thing to give me especially since I didn't like walnuts. Later in the morning, my dad asked if I'd crack him a walnut --
so I did, and there was money inside the shell !! My dad had painstakingly opened up all these walnuts along the line, scooped out the meat, filled each walnut with green money, then glued each walnut back together. It must have taken him HOURS !!!!!!!! Impossible to tell the nut had ever been cracked !! To this day, every time I crack a walnut, I think of my dad. And I might add, I've NEVER been able to crack a walnut without breaking the whole darn thing !!!!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 1:31PM
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KCC -- I've given some thought to your allowance idea. Thank you so much! I think you right that it might be time for my older one. Have not yet sat down with DH to strategize, but I like your line of thinking. I had always thought of 6 as being the magic age and he'll be 6 in Feb. It is something we'll address after the holidays I think.

I love all these ideas and discussions. It is so interesting to see not just what people are doing now, but what memories are the ones that last. Big hugs to all!

Teacher gifts: We do the restaurant gift card for my older son's teachers (ie "have a drink on us! You've earned it!") and Target cards for my other son's preschool teachers. Both were a hit last year, but may not be practical ideas for everyone. I think any teacher would be delighted with a $20 or $25 Target gift card, but that's probably not feasible for many people with bigger families or more teachers.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 2:19PM
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Thanks for all the teacher gift ideas! I remember being completely cowed the year one of my kids was in a new preschool. I brought in fresh baked stuff, and I saw other moms arriving with shopping bags from Swarovski crystal. We left that school real quick!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 3:11PM
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I was room parent for YEARS, and through the years, tried all kinds of things -- DS went to a small private school, -- great bunch of parents to work with, so it was easy to do what we as room parents set out to do --
Towards the later years when the kids weren't so involved in "what to get the teacher", we took up a collection from everyone and bought a larger gift card to places like Crate and Barrel --- Barnes and Noble -- We kind of tailored the gift card to things we knew the teachers liked -- The teachers LOVED getting them -- Made it easy for the parents, and alleviated all the apple mugs, pencil holders, note paper, Christmas ornaments, etc. etc. that seem to make their way into each and every teachers life !!!
Not to say that those aren't special gifts, . . . but after years of teaching . . . . !!!

I used to teach high school, and was cheerleader advisor --
Bless those girls' hearts !! Long-stemmed red roses !!
GREAT idea !!!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 4:35PM
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toomuch, I guarantee those teachers knew which gifts were from the heart, and which were from the wallet!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 5:26PM
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Totally agree with pecanpie!! At my level, I never got too many gifts, but anything I got was appreciated and anything that was a sincere acknowledgement was treasured.

Love the idea of a class gift card, Chris! In some districts, it's very difficult for parents to come up with extra anything and I would hate for any children to feel left out when it came to giving something to the teacher. That would be my only hesitation about taking up a collection. In one sense it takes the pressure off, though, since no one is required to donate and no one but the collector would know who gave and who didn't.

Honestly, a homemade card is just wonderful. You know, it's really all about passing along warm thoughts and a bit of holiday cheer.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 6:27PM
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I just saw a very thought provoking ad on TV, it was for the Salvation Army. Kids were being asked what they wanted for Christmas. Interspersed with all the kids who wanted the latest toy or electronic device, were the kids who wanted "Daddy to stop calling me a little slut" and "Mommy to stop drinking." It was very poignant.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 7:26AM
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Still reading all the responses but here's my 2 cents (sorry if I'm repeating what's been said above).

First of all, I'm Jewish so no Christmas, and when I was growing up, Hanukkah hadn't quite made it to the level of Christmas commercially as it has now, plus my parents weren't loaded (and we had NO other relatives in the US, just my immediate family) so I remember getting one small gift the first night of Hanukkah (think: small doll). And that was when I was little! When I got older, no gift.

But listen I NEVER missed it, no complaints here. The point of what I'm saying is that when I had kids, based on my own upbringing, I didn't feel comfortable showering them with gifts at Hanukkah or Birthdays. Just didn't seem like the right thing to do.

So, when my kids were little and my mother was living, I told her to give them a check and a small inexpensive gift. They were too young to know the difference, and I put the check in their college accounts -- a much better use of my mother's money! As my kids grew, my mother continued to give the check and my kids were ok with that. At a certain age, I let them keep some of that money to spend and the rest went into their savings. It helped them understand to spend a little save a little, AND since they were making the decision on what to use the money for, they were a lot more thoughtful about what they bought.

I think parents who give their kids everything they want are doing them a disservice. Life just isn't like that and sooner or later you have to find out that you don't always get everything you want. The later in life you find that out, the harder it is to deal with. Meanwhile the child becomes spoiled and when they don't get their way, they don't know how to handle it.

That's just not how I'd want my kids to grow up.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:20AM
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What is "Beuatiful Soup?" Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:29AM
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.... "Beautiful Soup!"

Anyway, Pecan, it sounds like a wonderful recipe. Would it be easy to post here or should I just google on it?

And just my two cents, when my children were younger, we gave them 25 per year of age instead of a dollar. We found that when loaded with cash in their precious, greedy little hands, the pressure was on to shop. Now, we don't give allowances and my teenagers work in the church nursery for spending money.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:36AM
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Seeking, with the the gift cards it absolutely worked out perfectly for those who were a little more financially strapped. Kind of leveled out the whole gift giving thing.
There were a couple of kids who were never able to give anything, but they got to sign the card anyway. It was only the room parents who knew how much was contributed by each person. We usually set a suggested amount, but it wasn't required. Some people gave more, some less, some none. It took away the awkwardness for the child who wasn't able to give a gift, but sat through the gift opening by the teacher, and felt so left out to not have a gift from him/her.

And just because it was a private school did not mean that everyone was in a comfortable financial position. Some families sacrificed everything for their children to be able to go there. The absolutely wonderful thing about the school was the fantastic parent involvement -- THAT was the gift above all else.

I was thinking about what I'd writtten about "alleviating all the apple mugs, etc." -- and I sure didn't mean for that to come across the wrong way -- I was just thinking of a dear friend of mine who has taught Kinder. for over 30 years -- But then, on the other hand, to picture that little kindergartener in the store lovingly picking out a mug . . . . Oh my, I hope I haven't offended anyone . . .

Gifts from the heart are definitely a treasure --
a hand-written note, a drawing -- These are the things that are priceless.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:45AM
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Cup, in some Lewis Carroll story, I believe, a mock turtle sings about "Beautiful soup, beautiful soup. Soup of the evening, beautiful soup.' As I remember, he's singing about his own demise (to make mock turtle soup). Somebody correct me if I'm hallucinating here- Lewis Carroll tends to affect me that way...

Anyhow, I read my kids the story and they wanted me to make 'Beautiful Soup'. I am not into turtle anything, so I just made this beef barley soup and that's what I called it.

Would you mind, Maggie, if I post the recipe on your thread?


1 cheap roast
2 T instant beef bouillon
1 T plus 1 t. salt
scant 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
3/4 t. marjoram
3/4 t. thyme
3 bay leaves
3 large cans diced tomatoes
1/2 c. diced onion
9 stalks celery, diced
6-7 carrots, diced
1 1/2 c. quick cooking barley
15 c. water

Sear roast on all sides in a little oil in large dutch oven, add 3 c. of the water and braise in 250 degree oven all night, or most of the day. Skim fat from broth, shred roast and return to broth. Add salt and spices, simmer covered an hour, add remaining ingredients and remaining 12 c. water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered about 30 minutes.

This makes about 8 quarts. Better the next day, freezes well.

Serve with a wedge of lemon- squeeze into each serving just before eating.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:11AM
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Love beautiful soup, pecan! What a great idea!! And love Lewis Carroll, although the book (Complete Works) always frightened me as a child and I wouldn't look at it :) I did like the Disney version ok, LOL.

KCC, that makes perfect sense. I didn't mean to sound like I was upset with your post - it's very, very true and I think your idea is great. I was trying to say that it's the act of giving that is cherished but it didn't come out very well.

Here is a list of ideas for what to give a teacher that came in my email this morning.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:41AM
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Seeking, great teacher gift ideas ! And no, I didn't think you were upset with my post, and what you said about cherished gifts came out perfectly well !! It was just me making a bumble out of "apple gifts" !!!

Anyway, if I can throw in a couple of more ideas, and then I'm done for the day because this house is absolutely screaming for some attention --
I certainly don't want to divert this thread in another direction, but these things have kind of been touched on so here goes . . . . Re: teachers always spending their own money for classrooms and always needing things . . how true this is !! Here's something I started in DS's school years ago when I was PTG President. It started out as raising money for a new school playground. Besides other fundraisers, I started Penny Wednesday -- every Wednesday I stood outside the school with a large jug, and kids would drop in their pennies, and/or other coins. Amazing how this all added up !!! The money went towards the new playground, and all the kids felt like they had some really active part in getting that new playground !! The little ones didn't have a clue that the pennies they put in didn't actually totally pay for that slide !!! When the playground was a done deal, we kept up this tradition of Penny Wednesday for a few years. During the holidays, this would be added to the Salvation Army families our school adopted.
When 9-11 happened, the money went to that. It was always the cutest thing when the little ones would come up to the jug with their little twisted baggie of pennies and ceremoniously drop them in one by one . . . OR when the little ones would take an already wrapped penny roll and proceed to rip open the roll to dump in the pennies one by one !!! Cringed on this one, as we all know how long it takes to roll coins !!!!!!! Sometimes, the coins would go to the classrooms themselves. We always said what the money would go for before collecting it. It was such a really painless way to raise money -- everyone always has loose change !! And it was a wonderful way for the teachers to get things they wanted for their classrooms.

And on the subject of soup -- Pecan, that sounds SO GOOD !! What a really special idea to do for teachers, not to mention what a yummy thing to make for the family !!!
When DS was in Kindergarten, the teacher had just finished reading the book Stone Soup -- all about sharing, a great book. She carried that into the class -- had the kids bring things to share in the soup -- Wonderful idea --
showed the kids that all working together made a great soup!! A couple of years later, we took this idea for the Thanksgiving feast for the school. It'd always been tradition to have a turkey dinner, which was prepared by the college that was on the grounds. More often than not, a lot of this food was not eaten by the kids. We decided to make it a real festival of sharing -- Each kid brought a can of soup to add to this HUGE soup pot -- The soup looked kind of disgusting, actually, but was really good !! Some years it got a little salty, since some of the soups ARE really salty, but we threw in some raw potatoes, and this soaked up the salt. It was a great Harvest feast !! Had the soup, bread, fruit, and desserts !! A real meal of sharing !!

And on that note, I'm off to pay a bit of attention to my house !

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 11:24AM
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Pecan - you silly girl - it is not "my" thread. I love the idea of beautiful soup! Sounds good! I like your recipe ... 1 cheap roast - lol - my kind of soup.

Toomuch and Lowspark - I meant to include Hanukkah in my orginal thread too! I am just never sure how to spell (Ch or H ??).

I wanted to say too that my niece is a really sweet kid - she is no Varuka Salt (not yet anyway!). Some of you had said how it comes from the parents - and it definately is the case with my sister. I don't think my niece woke up one day saying I have to have Pottery Barn bedding - when what she really wants is polka-dot sheets.

I have a marketing background and absolutely hate it when I feel like something is being "shoved" down my throat - like you must have a LV bag this year or whatever it is. I refuse to be a sheep in the herd. But, I do know it is very different with kids when they are trying to fit in. KCC - your story about the Atari just broke my heart! Kids can be so cruel!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 11:27AM
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i'm lucky(?) i have 4 boys less than 2 years apart age difference (18,17,17,17) so we usually buy one large gift they all can use, like a new video set up and such. then they can each get a game to go with the new system and other smaller items they can share. along with a few personal items, wrestling for scott, manatees for steve, science fiction for chris and ozzy osborne for andy. it's funny, i'll ask one of the boys what they want santa to bring them for christmas and it's 'WE' would like, not "I" would like. maybe they think they have a better chance in receiving what they want if they stick together. if relatives ask, i say gas cards and fast food gift certificates (cars and food)
as far as teacher gifts go, my mom treasured everything she received from her students. i do notice though, toward beginning of august, alot of teachers have yard sales before the school year starts. you can tell by all the 'teacher gifty' things they have for sale, purfumes,mugs, pins/jewelry, ornaments, mug warmers, what ever was catchy that past christmas season with 'teacher' on it.
i like to give nice gloves, 'emergency' fast food gift certificates or something for the classroom.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 12:23PM
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I'm so proud that our DD's Xmas lists are only a few lines each. They wrote long letters to Santa asking him how he and the elves were doing and if he'd *really* prefer carrots and apples to cookies this year. They did both ask Santa for an Ipod, but even they admitted that was unlikely. They decided on their own last year that Santa should focus his attention and gifts on children whose parents and family couldn't buy them toys.
We don't buy many toys or gadgets during the year. DH buys movies and they get lots of books, otherwise once every couple of months they get a small (under $10) treat for good grades or general acts of kindness. We spend more on toys for other people's kids via B-day gifts, than our own.
The only exceptions are birthdays and Christmas. On those days we indulge them. Not overindulge mind you, but it is a special day and they're so excited and grateful about each and every box that it's giving ourselves a wonderful gift as well. This year they'll get a few oufits, boots, American Girl Dolls for the big gift, and 2 or 3 other smaller gifts. The grandparents have learned to clear gifts with us first.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:15PM
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I've really been enjoying this thread!

I am the youngest of 5 children and there is a 13 year age difference between the third and fourth siblings. While my parents were raising the first three kids, they struggled to put food on the table and Christmas was very lean.(my father worked 2 jobs and went to night school)

By the time I came along and was 4 or 5, my father had started his own business and was already quite successful. As a result, my parents showered me with material things, especially for birthdays and Christmas. My mother continued to buy everything she could for me up until she died two years ago. When my boys were little she showered them with gifts as well. I finally told her to please limit her gifts to them to just one or two special things and to buy savings bonds for them. She had no problem following my wishes,but she could never really stop buying/giving ME things. Although she showed her love for me in many other ways, she ultimately felt she needed to prove it with material goods. If she saw I liked a particular something she would buy the biggest/most expensive one she could find. I now find myself with an abundance of "stuff" that I don't know what to do with. There are a lot of conflicting emotions about what to do with so many items that were given to me by someone I loved more than anyone on earth. Most of it is now in storage-I figure I can deal with it later. In my case the overindulging didn't lead to my being spoiled, but it definitely proved that more is not better and that too much stuff becomes just too much stuff.

All of this leads me to how I handle gift giving with my own children. I am always careful not to buy them everything they want just because I can.

My almost 16 year old mostly asks for books and record albums. His big items this year are a fountain pen and a Wickipedia t-shirt. He'll get everything because his requests are simple.
My 13 year old asks for only a few things, most of them electronics. He'll get one or two things from his list and I'll also buy books, a few shirts, etc.
My 7 year old daughter asks for everything she sees on TV or that her friends have. I sit her down and we talk about each item and why or why not it would be a good toy for her to have. In the end she cuts her list in half and she ends up with about 1/3 of the revised list plus books, etc. I've asked all relatives to either buy a savings bond or give them a check for their savings. We enjoy the holidays in so many ways...with food, music, good friends and family, so the gifts we receive are not the focus.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 7:17PM
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Chris, I can't believe I forgot to reply to your walnut stocking post!!! That is one of the most incredible labors of love...what a fantastic thing for you dad to have done for you. No wonder it's a cherished memory!!

Momcat, you have 3 17-year-old boys??? Whew - hats off to you, my dear!!!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 9:59PM
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Teacher gifts: Always handmade so we think of them as we prepare them. Since *teachers* can include after care, music, coaches, etc. this becomes a mass production project. This year, it will be low fat biscotti again, maybe including the recipe. Another year, DD dipped pretzels in chocolate. The year I was very sick and weak, we made a billion fancy cookies that somehow never got passed out to the teachers and kids but were stuck in the school freezer. Another year, we bought bargain latte mugs and divided up cake mix and included a recipe for a microwave cup cake.

In June, I will encourage DD to write a note of appreciation to each of her teachers and coaches because I think it will be more meaningful to both sides and takes up less landfill than do-dads.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 12:08AM
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I'm reading all of these responses and each one of us are guilty of one or the other. Someone told me something "they never heard of a kid going bad with less "only more". That stuck with me throughout the upbringing of my children and the 4 turned out fine. No one should get everything they want, life is not about material things and the enjoyment usually lasts for only a week. People remember how you make them feel not what you buy them. So finding time for the kids and buying them a few nice things and at least one special thing is enough. Also they should think of someone that might need something and give to them. When the kids were little a few of us mothers chipped in and bought a few gifts for one family's kids and gave it to them anonomously. Those kids had a great Christmas too.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 7:23AM
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What a great thread.

Our problem is, that DH and I get JUST as excited and kiddish about Christmas as our five year old does. Suddenly, I believe in Santa and all is right with the world. We go nuts over the tree and the snow (this year) and the holiday lights. After two Christmases in Cairo, where the tree and other traditional things left MUCH to be desired, we're really enjoying all the trappings this year. We know it's not ABOUT the trappings of course, but we do enjoy them so much. I guess DH and I just never grew up.

Unfortunately, this has a tendency to translate into spoiling each other with WAY too many gifts, and often elaborate gifts at that (remember last year's Jura Capresso for DH??) This had not been a problem till recently because a) DH and I are adults, and are grateful for what we have, we take little for granted, and b) DS was really to little to have a sense of entitlement yet.

But THIS year, OMG. What a difference. We are seeing tendencies in our son that we do not like one little bit and we realize that we and our families (specifically the grandparents) are entirely to blame. He is starting to show signs of EXPECTING things. Not good. I don't like it one little bit. I've never had a moment's time for people with a sense of entitlement and I certainly will not tolerate it in my son.

We've always, since he was little, reminded him of people with less than he has (how could we not, living in Egypt). He's always been good about Toys for Tots and Christmas fundraisers we would have at home (not this year, 'since we're gutted). We make a big deal about him putting his "circle money" (coins) into the Salvation Army bucket, and he buys his own gifts for the Toys for Tots children. When we do walks for charity, he comes along.

Nice, but not enough. His grandparents see him a few times a year. Several in fact, which most GP's nowadays would consider ALOT. But, since our son is the only grandchild that doesn't live less than an hour away, when the inlaws DO see him, they spoil him rotten! Toys, donuts, ANYTHING he wants to do, all day long. He's a little tyrant by the time they leave and it takes us a week to get our sweet little boy back. Then there's my father, who has always believed you express love through STUFF. God bless him, he can't help it, he means well. I was spoiled rotten. I would have given up all my toys for more hugs, but he sort of just doesn't get that. He's a love, he just expresses it differently. Soooooo, he sends TEN toys for Christmas. ugh.

So this year, we realized that we need to tone things down on the gifts, and we have. We really have. But I have to tell you it was not easy. Clearly, I inherited some of my Dad's Love them with Stuff mentality, and DH just gets carried away. There is no way my son could get everything on his list, Bill Gates couldn't get him everything on his list. But this year, there won't be 20 gifts under the tree for him, I don't care if I have to stash some of the GP's gifts in the attic for future years. They'll just have to understand. My son's spirit is just too important. I want him to understand that it's not all about him (no matter how much I believe it's all about ME ;) and that he is very fortunate and blessed to be where he is. On the other hand, I want him to be happy.

It's funny how we unconciously repeat what our parents did. It's also wonderful how, if we just think about things (and discuss them with friends) we realize there are better ways.

Happy Holidays everyone!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 8:49AM
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Ivette, I can SO relate. I posted somewhere above this that DS is only getting three gifts under the tree. As we get closer, this gets harder and harder to stick to. I keep thinking we'll be done with Christmas gifts in 10 minutes! When they're little, the things they want cost less and so there's a small pile that keeps them busy for a long time. Not this year. And suddenly, I find myself thinking, "Well, I can just get him a couple more things, small things that he really needs anyway."

So I came back here for support! Someone take away my credit card.

True to form, he just came up with something that he really really really wants, which wasn't on his list, and he knows I'm finished shopping. So he's pushing hard. I told him to start shoveling! (Snow, of which we have lots, and I have a bad back.) He'll have to earn the money for this one.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 10:35AM
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Paige - you got alot of snow in CT? I hope you and DS get to stay home today! On the south shore of LI we just ended up with freezing rain. I am so disappointed - I had put the "snap circuits" that you recommended in my Amazon cart and when I went back to order a few days ago they are sold out! Waaaaa. I really wanted to get them for my 11 year old newphew and Dh is an electrician so the perfect gift from their uncle. I saw it on a couple other websites but since I have to ship to FL I wanted something from a store they could return to...shucks. So - what is it that your son wants to add to the list? I need ideas for this nephew....because they are in FL don't know what video games they have or don't.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:52AM
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Hmmm, Maggie, 11 y.o. boy . . .

You know, you might also try the electronic set linked below, which is made by the same company but is more advanced. It's on DS' list this year.

And yes, we're getting slammed with snow. There's about 8 inches out there and it's still coming down. I have a neighbor who has just made my "favorite new neighbor" list because he came by and plowed my sidewalk and the bottom half of my driveway with his snowblower. Being a single woman in snow country without a snow blower is no fun! Thank goodness ds is 10 now - - I told him he's almost as big as me and has a stronger back, so he can shovel with me now!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 12:10PM
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Maggie 2094,
For the Snap Circuits - check to see if they have any Learning Express Toy stores? They have them on their web site and in the stores. Bought a set this past week in MA and they had plenty of each model.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 12:20PM
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Hey Maggie, I just checked and Target has them. You can order and ship online and they could return locally.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 12:33PM
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Kitchen Obsessed:

Can you describe the way you make Biscotti? It is hard to do? Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:49PM
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Chispa and Paige - A big thanks!!! I think I can order from either place....$10 bucks more that Amazon but I only have myself to blame!!! I did just notice on the learning express description it said 10-12 this is good for an 11 year old right??? OR should I get the other one you linked Paige which is more advanced????

Holiday cookies or a bottle of cheer for that nice neighbor!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:59PM
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HAAAA ... so I am trying decide between the two sets and feel so relieved about it (esp. since I had already ran the idea by my sil and she thought he would love it) ... until I go to add moon shoes (for his 8 year old brother and sil requested this for him) seems like moon shoes are not in stock anywhere!!! arghhh...maybe back to gift certificates for both ...(it so much easier when they are 2!!! - but then they can't shovel at 2!-lol!!)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:25PM
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Maggie, why not get the advanced one for the 11 y.o. and the other one for the 8 y.o.?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 7:30PM
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I was thinking that Paige but the little one doesn't sit still well (to put it mildly), sooo not sure if that is the gift for him - oh heck I'm going to do it!! What am I waiting for anyway?

Apologies for taking this thread off topic on my quest! Hugs and thanks all!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 11:07PM
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cupofkindness: For biscotti: I start with the recipe I received when I took Alice Medrich's class a number of years ago, plus her "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts" book. I bought or made sure I had all the ingredients. Then, I try to glue myself to a chair and coach my 12 yo daughter thru the process w/o doing anything myself. That is the hardest part; I guess I am a control freak who wants everything perfect.

I don't know if this is the case for all biscotti, but the cookie dough is rather sticky. You form several ropes (well, to me they are long rectangles) the length of the cookie sheet and about three inches wide. You bake it until springy, let it cool for 10 minutes, then slice it on an angle so it looks like biscotti, only not quite as huge as the commercial kind. Then, you bake it again to dry it out. It becomes tender after aging a few days.

Biscotti is definitely not hard to make. In her first batch, DD's batter was too wet and I didn't notice, so it spread a bit too much so the biscotti is very thin. It tastes fine. Thinking the second batch was also too wet (maybe the way she measured the flour?), DD added a teaspoon or two of additional flour at the end. It was remarkable how much stiffer it became.

Coaching is so-o-o much harder and takes so-o-o much longer than having DD working along side me! I want DD to take ownership of this gift to her teachers and friends, and was proud that she chose goodie bags with a snowflake rather than Christmas motif, as she remembered that not all of her teachers observe Christmas. I am also hoping she will learn how to bake, including pre-planning and following recipes precisely.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 5:28PM
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Paige and Ivette: I know what you mean!!! I have to admit now that I have been SO guilty of over-buying this year, but most was given immediately *grin* so will not technically count as one of the Christmas presents. I just couldn't stop myself from buying each girl a Christmas doll - the dolls have boots AND a pair of ice skates. What really makes me feel bad is that they only cost $10 and they have so much detail - porcelain dolls with hair ribbons and hats and velvet dresses and capes etc. I feel guilty supporting the exploitation of the poor Chinese workers who put them together, yet I still bought them. I seem to have gotten the girls a lot of pre-Christmas things this year, along with a bunch of decorations for the house, hot buttered rum glasses, punch bowl set, and food/drink (we had a party last weekend). I don't think I can afford to put much under the tree now!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 8:20PM
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I don't know how I missed this thread. I had a similar one in the conversations section of Cooking. Ended up getting my oldest son, 7, the basic and Deluxe snap circuits, and since Christmas, that's all he's been working on, besides a very cool paper airplane making guide book. We really tried to limit what we spent on the kids this year, and I found it easier to do online shopping rather than spontaneous shopping to keep track of the dollars spent.

Happy New Year to you all! I actually found this thread b/c I hadn't seen any posts by Seeking for a while and was getting concerned...


    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 2:04PM
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I very much enjoyed reading this thread today. Wish I'd seen it several years ago when I had such angst about the teacher gifts. I really did worry about it too much, but I must say it's wonderful to have that chore, (not that I didn't appreciate all the teachers did!) removed from my plate. Ok, my first bill has come in and it's not pretty. Did all my shopping just before Christmas, unfortunately, so it's not spread out--ugh! My kids are all older teens now, don't ask for much and keep telling me to "cut down". I'm trying, but it's still too easy to get sucked up in the whirlwind; I do try to stick to the practial however. I'm always conflicted about the materialism of our society, and have always emphasized the the most important (religious) aspect of Christmas, but by golly, it's still fun to watch the kids open gifts.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 8:23PM
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I only got to read about half the posts, but I did just want to add one thing about spending too much around the holidays...

We have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 1.5 year old son. A few weeks before Christmas, my DD sat on Santa's lap and told him that she wanted "the pony on TV that you can sit on and feed carrots." We finally figured out what she meant--she must have seen a commercial for "Butterscotch the Pony"--this pretty big stuffed horse that's advertised all over the place. We're suckers for our firstborn little girl (and just proud that she actually sat on Santa's lap and talked to him...not so last year!), so we look up Butterscotch the Pony...$300!! For a stuffed horse!

NO WAY!! You could get a real pony for $300! I went into school the next day and told a colleague in my department about this ridiculous cost of a big stuffed pony (and the fact that it SOLD OUT at most places!). She just stared at me. She said that that's nothing...she usually spends over $1500 on EACH CHILD at Christmas--and her boys are 5 and 3. What could they possibly need or want to add up to 3K??

Needless to say, Butterscotch did not make an appearance under our tree...but we did get a bunch of other toys and fun things for our kids...and you know what my DD loved the most? An Ariel pillow that her Uncle gave her and a $10 Cinderella dress that Grandma got her. No mention of the missing pony (we did get her a neat pony/horse & rider set, which made us feel better...$17...not $300!)

Sometimes Christmas can be really overwhelming, we definitely do lose sight of the real reason for the holiday, and it's sometimes better with less!!!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 3:16PM
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