Christmas prep is in full swing here at the Blake house, and just like the Berenstain Bears, we’re dealing with a family-wide case of the Galloping Greedy Gimmies. Yes, we Blakes know that Christmas shouldn’t be about stuff. Yes, we grown-up Blakes try to control how many presents end up under the tree. Yes, we know we should think of giving — even better, of giving of our time or of creative homemade gifts — more than we think of receiving.
It’s just that everywhere we look this time of year we see shiny things. And we feel as though our lives would be infinitely better if we had those shiny things in our own home.
Now, you’d expect a case or two of the Galloping Greedy Gimmies from the kids around here. But I might be just as bad as they are! I’m definitely exhibiting symptoms, and I think I’m ready to diagnose my cause of illness:
I blame commercials and catalogs.
We might be quasi-hermits out here in the country, but we do have television. And we do get mail. So: every single day our eyes are presented with the latest, greatest smart-winter-wear the Duluth Trading catalog has to offer… or we visually feast on the awesome toys advertised on the Disney Channel as we watch Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas. Next thing you know, we’re all filled with raging desires for things and stuff and plunder!
My kids have their own desires. Spurned of commercial-watching, their ongoing, constantly-changing lists of wants include things like this:
a civil war costume for Asher, and…
… a Minnie Mouse dress-up doll for Emi.
(Thankfully Baby Marsielle is too little this year to catch the fever.)
Now. These inconsequential things my kids want are not problematic in and of themselves. The trouble is that these simple items are only single toys in a giant toy store in which my kids think they want at least one of EVERYTHING, and the No. 1 item on their respective lists just depends on the day. (And inevitably, just as soon as you think you’re smart and have obtained The One Thing The Child Wants Most In The Whole Wide Word, the wish-list scrambles order and the thing you bought is no longer No. 1 on the list. Surprise!)
Confession: I only add to the problem with my fondness for catalog shopping. We receive via the good ol’ USPS catalogs from several companies that promise to sell “smart” toys for future geniuses, and I am totally sucked in. Add to the situation my OCD tendencies of thoroughness, and we have this: once I start looking at a catalog, I have to look at the whole thing. Every page. Every item. I circle all the things that interest me. Then I go back through and narrow my selection. Then I sometimes stash the catalog in a drawer and forget about it. But more often than not (because I put in all that work, after all) I go ahead and make an order.
The obvious solution is to throw away catalogs as soon as they come in the mail. And I am usually strong enough to do just that. But sometimes, you know… because I am a hard-working mom and darn it! because I deserve a little treat… sometimes I just want to indulge in a few pleasurable moments. I want to sit down with something delicious to drink and spend a little time gazing upon glossy photographs of all the plunder that’s available for sale and dream of the ways in which I could give said items as Christmas gifts… and I might consider buying a little reward for myself, too.
It’s a simple pleasure from my childhood. I mean, I’ve been looking at Christmas catalogs since I was a little girl! Back then my selection was narrowed to JC Penney and not much more. But these days! We receive LL Bean, Land’s End, Duluth Trading, Hearth Song, Magic Cabin, Christianbook.com, National Ropers Supply, Chasing Fireflies, and so many more catalogs.
Santa, I was a pretty good girl this year. I threw a lot of them away. But one day a Christianbook catalog sucked me in and there was no looking back. I sat down and highlighted the heck out of that catalog! (Is it a little shameful that a “Christian” company is totally exploiting the material side of Christmas? Maybe. But they have such good stuff!) In the end I made a sizable order from them, even though I’m trying to be very stern with myself about NOT overbuying for Christmas this year. I have to say, though (patting myself on the back here), that I did exhibit some amount of self-control and didn’t buy everything that looked good to me. Below you’ll see the kinds of gifts I didn’t buy this year, even though I wanted to buy them all, because we don’t really need any of it. Still, I want you to know… my heart is yearning for much of this junk. Sniffle.
Like this Fisher Price Music Box Record Player I found in the Christianbook catalog. I remember record players like this from when I was a little girl! What a cleverly retro gift idea! And even though they don’t know that it exists and probably wouldn’t be all that thrilled if they found it under the tree on Christmas morning, I still want my kids to have one!
And Fashion Plates! I had some hand-me-down Fashion Plates when I was little and, though the set wasn’t complete, I thought they were pretty cool. Do you think 3-year-old Emi is too young to enjoy them properly?
Oh, the list of things I want my kids to have is long. For instance, I want to “transform [my] child’s bedroom ceiling into the nighttime sky” with this Star Planetarium. Just think of the Blake children lying in their beds memorizing constellations as they drifted off to sleep!
How about a Live Butterfly Garden? Can you imagine all the quality togetherness our family could share as we “watched a caterpillar transition into a butterfly”?
This Capitol Kids! Christmas CD. Because we really, truly need another Christmas CD. (You believe me, right?)
And (squeal!) the Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter. How. Cute. Is this? Wouldn’t Baby Marsielle absolutely love it? (Or do you think all the little pieces would get scattered throughout the house and never be in the same place ever again?)
What. About. “The Big Dig Shovel”? Oh! I’ve always wanted Asher to have one of these. It’s only $44.99! Sooooooo superior to digging in the sandbox with regular old hands!
And this Army Strong t-shirt. I mean, he needs another t-shirt like he needs a hole in the head… but do you think he’d like it?
This Band in a Box! If we’re going to be making noise at home, we might as well be developing lifelong musical skills, right? I envision us parading through the house shaking out rhythmic sounds and evolving embryonic dance beats. Am I right? Or am I right?
Okay. Last one, I promise. Yes, the kids each already have a piggy bank… but I think this Giving Bank is genius! And I see it’s on sale for $11.99 today only! We’ll take three!
Sheesh. I’m starting to think I might be the bigger problem here. Yes, my kids want things… but even more than that, there are so many things I want them to have. All the gifts shown here, in and of themselves, are not bad. It’s just that, in this day and age, there’s too much all the time. And I am a sucker for the blinking bright lights of materialism just as much as the next mom is. Probably more so. (I worry that this is a character weakness of mine.)
I often find myself at a crossroads where I have to choose: do I buy for my kids the things they have expressed interest in? You know, do I make their Christmas morning dreams come true with cheap plastic nonsense from China (hello, imaginary readers from China!)? OR do I buy for them the things I want them to have? You know, good quality smart wooden toys that will last a lifetime and which they will someday pass down to their own kids? (Yeah, right.) Or, speaking of quality, maybe this fabulous book set (below) entitled “My First Little House Books.” Just $64.99 for 13 titles! I bet the artwork in the pages is absolutely stunning. I bet the stories represent all the old-fashioned goodness I want my kids to exhibit. Yes, they’ll be able to read the full and unabridged Little House books themselves here in a few years… but in the meantime shouldn’t we get a head start with these beauties?
Oops. Sorry. I told you I was done with all that sort of gibberish. Control yourself, Tam! But I can’t help it! It’s so shiny!
Thankfully our household budget puts a little bit of a control on my Christmas buying. I don’t know what I’d do if I thought I had an unlimited Christmas budget. No doubt something ridiculous. So at the end of the day my goal, as ever, is to stay within the budget. Not just because of finances but because we truly do not need much. Period. So most of the beautiful prizes shown in this post will never be purchased (by us at least). And we will be fine — maybe better off — without all of it.
Still, a mom can dream… right?
© Tami Blake
PS: We’re canceling Dish Network (for real this time) and next year I vow to throw away every single catalog that shows up in the mailbox. Do you think the removal of temptation will change our approach to Christmas? Watch for a follow-up… coming December 2017!