The Bigger Better Deal*

The Stocking Stuffer Giveaway is alive and kicking! Enter here!

(It’s not a pony.)


I am such a tool. All month long I’ve seen commercial after commercial promoting this princess and that doll house and this ‘Lil Pony and that Easy Bake Oven and this pooping baby and that Scooby Doo Mystery Game. And each time I hear the kids scream in unison, “I want THAT!” I gently but firmly remind my girls that Christmas is for giving and not for getting, and to remember the true meaning of the season and that bigger is not better. I vowed to stay mostly away from princesses in particular, because my children are besmirched with glamour, to the point where Toots told me about a friend the other day, “She’s not pretty, mom, but I’m nice to her anyway.”

As if beauty were everything. Which it is NOT, unless you want more pay, more friends, and more people to stop if your car breaks down.


Truly though, this preoccupation with looks, things, and image completely irks me, and I want to discourage the tendency in my kids to value stuff over substance any way I can. So I constantly remind Toots and Booger of the boring adages I mentioned above, and also throw in a good old-fashioned “money can’t buy happiness” now and again, with an annoyingly crusty “money don’t grow on trees” cliche for good measure.


And despite all that, I flew in the face of my morals and parables and life lessons today when I urgently whispered to The Rock after an especially effective poofy princess ad that the kids didn’t have any “WOW!” presents. Immediately after the sparkles faded from our TV screen, I hopped on the ToysRUs website to compare the glitzy talking kitchens and terrifyingly lifesize Dora dolls to the mostly educational, arty, and brainy gifts we’d bought the kids.



(Except for the Bozo Punching Bag. THAT purchase is trump-less and without equal.)


I then marched The Rock downstairs and insisted that we look at each gift we’d bought, as if seeing them for the first time and through our kids’ eyes, while I loudly proclaimed, “Nope. Not WOW!”
Next came the list making, where I itemized each present, scrutinized them for wowability, and after concluding they had none, I guessed I could “trade up” some presents, you know, maybe return the blocks for the Desperate Housewife Barbie, or take the Little People Castle back and get the Sarah Lynn and Her Royal Dance ‘N Twirl Palace™ instead.


The Rock succeeded in talking me down, and we’re sticking with what we bought, mostly. (Sarah Lynn twirls! Also, it’s a Royal Dance Palace! So you just know there’s some fancy wowwy waltz stuff going on in there) I think I can stick to my guns and not march into the nearest toy store come December 24 in an effort to assuage my educational toy guilt. It’s just that I totally remember asking my mom and dad for a TV one year, and instead they gave me that Fisher Price plastic television that you turn with a knob while it plays Row, Row, Row the Boat ad nauseum, and I



was so pissed. My parents were the King and Queen of toy substitution. If I asked for that Barbie Penthouse with the elevator that you pulled with the string,



I instead got a poster with Barbie on it and a shoebox. I’m so completely not even kidding you. I was expected to make my own penthouse from the shoebox, which I did, but what the hell? Also, thinking back, I don’t think it was a shoebox, it was a little fancier, with a rose on a shiny green cover, but I do believe the box once held Courvoisier or maybe Disaronno, and once again I ask you, what the hell?

Someone please answer that for me, because no therapist has been able to.


I think much of my gift angst comes from not wanting my kids to years later say, “I always wanted that terrifying lifesize Dora doll, but my parents never got it for me.” Or the even worse, “Oh the Barbie Penthouse? My friend Dawn had it, and I was so jealous. I got a smelly shoe/or liquor box instead.”


Either way, later, my parents gave up the gig. But I was already out of the house by the time my youngest brother got every freaking thing he ever asked for, including the Sega Genesis game console WITH Sonic the Hedgehog, which they had to buy EXTRA, and was not even BUNDLED with the game for free.


What’s with that anyway? I also got underwear every year. And an orange in my stocking.

That’s right! It’s all coming back to me. Such disturbing, heartbreaking images of multi-purposed holiday citrus.



I’m so getting that Sarah Lynn waltzer thing.


*Some of this was exaggerated for my own amusement. My childhood Christmas presents didn’t totally suck. But the plastic TV/Courvoisier or maybe Disaronno shoebox part can totally be corroborated and independently verified.


22 Responses to “The Bigger Better Deal*”

  1. All I can say is wait a few years when all the “Wow!” presents cost $300 or more and then there’s only 1 box to wrap.

  2. stoneskin says:

    I would just buy them fruit for christmas, and maybe some carrots. That’ll teach them some valuable anti-materialistic lessons.

  3. Hen says:

    I’m showing my age…I too wanted the Barbie house with lift…instead I got a Sindy bungalow…it wasn’t the same!!

    I hate plastic toys…I’m really glad mine are past that stage…I’m with Jenn…mine want ipods and the like…getting them is another matter!

    Mine are having a lovely selection of prezzies, but not expensive, a pretty silver necklace each, and lots of books and craft things.

  4. feathermaye says:

    I’m guessing my parents found that middle ground because I had both the ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ wind-up television AND the Barbie Penthouse.

    Either that, or my parents were total tools, too. ;)

    Now I’m enjoying buying the most obnoxious toys that require $8 worth of batteries each for our granddaughter. To take home with her and remind her parents of the real meaning of Christmas, too. (Well, to keep Duracell in business, naturally!)

  5. I never got anything Wow! and look how I turned out?

    Get thee to the Toys-R-Us website immediately!

    Okay. Seriously? Even if you buy them EVERYTHING? SOMETHING will drive them to therapy anyway, so save money and stick with the brainy toys. Your parents stimulated your imagination and creativity and look at you now. I totally feel you on the whole glitzy, image-based, ego-building, soul-draining crap “they” market to our children.

    But an iPod or digital camera is educational, right?

  6. wendi says:

    Since we’re traveling this year, my boys are getting a few small toys and Target gift cards to be used the day after Christmas. That way I can’t be blamed for getting the wrong thing.

  7. Danielle says:

    I tried to avoid the princesses as well but they have snuck in and taken over slowly…slowly they plotted their coup and I hate to admit defeat here but they won.

  8. Green Girl says:

    I had that Barbie house with the elevator. I enjoyed it less than I imagined I would.
    Listen to the Rock. He speaks truth. My kids have no video games and spend hours with a wooden Brio train set. I believe they’ll be okay. But I know what you mean about “wow.”

  9. Blognut says:

    I agree with Cheri – our kids are all going to end up therapy either way. However, if YOU like to play with the WOW toys, then by all means necessary, you should get them. After all, you don’t want to deprive yourself of spending Christmas Eve drunk and assembling toys with thousands of tiny parts and stickers. (If you like this type of activity, I highly recommend the Playmobil Pirate Ship. It’s Satan’s own design.)

  10. I remember that television! I had one of those. I’d forgotten all about it until your post. How funny. Kudos to you for giving a little Wow this holiday.

  11. I usually only got one thing, but at least it was something I was dying for. I’m trying not to go crazy with the gift giving, especially since my daughter is being such a snot about gifts lately, but I’m having a really hard time reigning it in. We need a self help group for this type of thing.

  12. SDM – underwear? Sounds like a Hannukah present. But at least we had latkas too.

  13. Jamie says:

    So, I shouldn’t put undies and toothbrushes in my kids’ stockings?

    ‘Cause, it’s too late.

  14. So I wrapped all my kids’ presents the other weekend, and then hours later, I woke up in the middle of the night and in panic because I realized that the only thing under the tree for my oldest son is building toys – Legos. More Legos, and some K’nex. Oh, sure, he’ll get his Santa toy, and that will be some wow, but I also had to buy him gifts for my Dad and inlaws to give him, and I gave the ‘best’ stuff away for them to give him. So the next day I asked Tool Man if I should return something and replace the Legos with something else. He talked me down, too.

    I never got the Barbie Penthouse, either, and I asked for one every year until I was probably 19!

  15. Da Goddess says:

    Hey, I rarely got what I wanted for Christmas and had to envy my friends and all the Barbie kitsch. But in the long run, I’m sort of glad I didn’t get all that stuff because then I didn’t cry like they did when it eventually broke or was given away.

    As for gifts, your children are lucky you’re able to do for them what you can. All our kids are. And listen, if I had the money this year, I’d be looking for a “wow” gift for each of mine, too. Instead, I’m thanking God that we managed to get our names onto the Adopt-A-Family list so that they get anything at all.

    Just a little perspective. I’ve been where you are and I know. I’d be doing it again if I could.

  16. vodkamom says:

    wait, where’s the damn prompt???

  17. I’m really liking this blognut person. And not just because she agrees with me. Well, that’s the main reason. But I also like someone who buys the toys for her kid that she wants to play with and who puts the toys together on Christmas Eve under the influence.

    I was here to check for the prompt, which is why you’re getting another comment on the same post, because I never have multiple comments otherwise. Ooo, that sounded dirty. Having multiple comments. Heh. Anyway, do we get a homework pass on prompts ’cause it’s the holidays? Or don’t you get up at 4:30 AM on Tuesdays. Sheesh.

  18. Blognut says:

    Where’s the prompt? I’ve been looking forward to my first time on PrompTuesday. Yup, my first time. If I’m really good, maybe I can have multiple comments like Cheri!

  19. k, jumping on the blognut/cheri bandwagon here. kudos to you, deb for attempting to thrown down with the “christmas is for giving not getting” with the chilluns. me? heh, well my 5yr old buy just scan toys ‘r us catalogs every weekend saying, “i want this and this and OH YEAH this AND that!” because i’m a lazy mom, i just say, “WE’LL SEE!” and “Santa likes kids who blow their noses!”

    btw, lol @ the liquor box. that so sounds like something my dad would do… bring on the therapy!

  20. MommyTime says:

    Well, I love this post too. We’re all about the educational, puzzle, art supply, creative building toys here. Though I happen to have good intel that Santa is all about laser beam Buzz Lightyear this year. We reign in the numbers of toys pretty handily, but it is hard the more and more they ask for commercial character stuff. Still, it’s builds character not to get the Easy Bake Oven no matter how much you pine and pine and bitterly pine for it, right?! (sorry, 7 year old me just jumped in for a minute there…)

  21. Jessica Bern says:

    Suffice it to say, my mother is right there with your rents in the gift giving business. . It’s amazing how much this crap sticks with us isn’t it?

  22. Ferd says:

    Deb, you’re hilarious!
    I think your kids are so lucky to have you as a mom. You’ll teach them the “substance over stuff” thing, for sure. But there is definitely room in there for at least one WOW present at Christmas. Especially as they grow older, they’d rather open up one WOW present than ten so whats. When they are younger, like yours, I think a larger number of small presents satisfies their rip-and-tear Christmas morning hysteria.
    I think you should make the booze box and the orange thing a family tradition. That was so dumb it’s funny!

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