Well, anyway. Happy New Year!
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I don't think we go too too overboard with the Christmas gifts. At least I hope we don't--there's the tendency to lament the perceived extravagance and overindulgence of the modern secular Christmas celebration, but I think this self-imposed guilt can sometimes be a little much and tend to taint our enjoyment of the holiday as much as anything else. I remember one year in particular the kids were unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning (this was pre-Nina, so just the boys, but I think the stuff they got that year was, like, some puzzles, books, stuffed animals, a kiddie microscope for Cal) and Joe was kind of making a face and saying how disgusting it all was, I guess meaning the display of excess and the consumerism and whatnot. At which point I said SHUT YOUR MOUTH because there's a difference between appreciating what you have and your ability to give your kids nice (if not entirely extravagant) things; and beating yourself up with bleeding-heart guilt because there there are those among us with much less. My point being that the two things can co-exist. You can choose to not hate yourself for being able to have a nice Christmas, and you also can donate your money and time to a worthwhile cause to help make someone else's holiday better. Anyway, it's Christmas, just let the kids enjoy themselves, it's not like they're getting video game consoles or a sportscar in the driveway or anything like that. A few Legos and some crap from the dollar bin at Target never made anyone a Bond super-villain. (Unless they used the Legos and Target dreck to build an excruciatingly slow crotch-slicing laser, in which case--yes, fewer gifts.)
That said, the reason that it was difficult to choose gifts for Nina in particular is because she's the youngest of three children and we already have a lot of toys. Cal and Mack were easy--some books, a mess of new Legos, some superhero crap, and we were golden. But Nina--what could Nina possibly want for Christmas? She's turning 18 months at the end of the week, and to be honest, she already has all the toys for this and the next three developmental stages. Wooden blocks? Check, Cal's Christmas gift four years ago. Little ride on tricycle? Check, Cal's first birthday present, inherited by Mack until he outgrew it--a little dirty but still in great shape. Plastic animals and people? Check, Mack has amassed a mighty collection. Thomas trains, wooden and plastic train tracks, a hogshead of die cast cars? Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck.
The only thing we didn't have, really, was girly stuff.
And I mean girly stuff as in really girly stuff, like Malibu Barbie's Dream McMansion and the like. In my effort to make sure the boys don't grow us as 'roid-raged meatheads, we had a lot of girl-ish things already, even before Nina was born, and certainly most of our toys are to my mind at least gender-neutral. Mack in particular has a self-avowed fondness for pink stuffed animals so we have our share of those, and while the boys never really got very interested in the baby doll already we've had lying around since time immemorial, they also don't think it's weird to have one around.
Sidebar: a conversation with Mack last week. (We were making bracelets for his friends--have you seen these little rubber band bracelet kits they have now? Apparently they are all the rage, at least if I am to interpret the ceiling-to-floor wall of bagged rubber bands at Target correctly, but what you really need to know is that they look like those rubber bands that people wear on their braces, and if you drop the bag they will fly out EVERYWHERE.) Anyway, the conversation:
So what colors do you want to chose for your friend Charlie?
Uh...yellow, pink, blue, purple.
OK, so we'll do that as the pattern? Yellow-pink-blue-purple. Start picking out the rubber bands.
Why does some people say I can't like pink?
What people say that?
Girls. They say that boys can't have pink.
Well, that's silly. They're just colors. Everyone can like any color. Like me, I'm a girl, and I like blue. And green. And yellow. They're just colors. They're for everyone.
Do you like pink on your bracelet?
Well I think it looks good on you! You choose what colors you want! Even Dad wears pink sometimes, and no one's going to tell Dad that he can't wear pink because he's a boy.
MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
So anyway, my point is I try to be mindful about such things. To be honest Nina really hasn't expressed any preference at all about liking "boy toys" or "girl toys," (or even knowing the difference between boys and girls) and will happily play with anything, particularly if it's something that Mack has a particular attachment to so as to get the maximum possible reaction. But I'd like to think that if she enters a super-girly phase (the Disney Princesses and such) that I would go with the flow on that too, and not have too much of the opposite reaction, insisting that she only play with dinosaurs and Cal's old Black and Decker toy tool kit to make a big old feminist point about it. Whatever, she'll figure out what she likes, and I'll go with the flow. But either way, I don't want to push anything on her.
Anyway, to sum, for Christmas we got her some puppets, clothes for her baby (boy and girl clothes), some toy foods with a shopping cart, and a water/sand table that we'll hopefully move outside once the weather warms up--though until then we'll play with it here, which makes it easy to fill and clean up but also somewhat defeats the purpose of having a free-standing water table, because why not just take a bath already?
Her favorite gift, by the way, has been the puppets, so I recommend them in particular. I am also glad that I decided to go for the animal puppets instead of the people puppets, because while I love the idea of having the multiethnic people puppets for the kids to play with, the temptation to quote the Franklin scenes from "Arrested Development" would likely have been too great.
Well, onward and upward. Our New Year's Eve plans involve sparkling cider, snacks from Trader Joe's, and a "Simpsons" marathon courtesy of our increasingly outdated DVD collection. (But please note: we only have the box sets for seasons 2 through 7 because why bother with anything else?) Cal in particular has requested the B-Sharps episode, specifically citing the scene where George Harrison points Homer towards the platter of brownies at that party. "Well, what a nice fella." Kid's got good taste.
See you next year! (She said cleverly.)