Halloween is Friday. Two days away. It is not a sneaky holiday like July 4th. The moment one turns the calendar to October, the long countdown begins. Preparations can be done at one’s leisure due to the generous notice regarding this fun harvest holiday.
Sadly, I have not spent any time debating costumes for the kids. I have not purchased a single bag of candy. I haven’t even picked out a pumpkin.
No, I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.
I am the world’s biggest procrastinator.
But Christmas shopping?
I am practically done.
I shop year-round for holiday gifts, taking full advantage of Kmart’s July clearance toys and every 30 percent off Kohl’s coupon (especially when they have $50 Nerf guns on sale for $18). With countless children to shop for, there can be no mucking about. Over the years, I have painstakingly learned the important guidelines, parameters, and rules of engagement less seasoned parents might not understand.
Today, I am here to help you.
First up, it is vital to pay careful consideration to the number of pieces a toy includes. Anything under 10 is fine. Over 10? You can pretty much bank on your child losing the most critical piece needed to play the game or hold the Millennium Falcon together. The more pieces, the greater the likelihood it will be a one-time use toy. In today’s economy, there simply can be no one-time use toys.
I do have a single exception to the 10-piece rule. Chess.
Because, really. It’s chess.
My next guideline is to select toys that parents enjoy themselves. Mini ping-pong and mini air hockey have been two of the greatest hits in our house (notice their adherence to the 10-piece rule). My kids’ happiness increases exponentially whenever their historically anti-game mom sits down to whoop their butts at a nostalgic game of her choosing. If you love the game, your kids will often love the game as well. DNA is a mighty thing.
My last bit of advice has less to do with children’s gifts and more to do with spousal communication. Several years ago, I asked my husband for a Dyson for Christmas. I had run through five vacuums in under three years. I was aggravated and wanted one of those fancy British ones the Prime Minister was selling on television (or rather, as I’d later learn, James Dyson).
Instead, my husband gifted me with some peculiar coffee maker that had pods and weird buttons. I realized then how clueless he was to my daily Dunkin’ Donuts’ addiction. I stared at him, confused, and asked where he had hidden my new vacuum.
“I thought you were kidding,” he stuttered, baffled that I had been serious.
Part of me was happy that my husband never diminishes my role as homemaker, and he considers gift-giving as something far less utilitarian than men of the 1950s. He thought my holiday treat should be one of luxury and not pragmatism.
But dude, I am still 60 percent 1950s housewife. I clean. I drive. I shop. I swear.
True, I don’t cook, but that’s why I bought Joe a new waffle maker for Christmas. I order mine extra crispy.
Since the great Dyson debacle, I have learned to be far more specific with my husband. That is, I now write notes which include a picture of the item, where it is on sale, and any applicable coupons. Then I give it to the kids and act surprised.
I am practically Meryl Streep.
So in the spirit of Halloween, spousal directives, coupons, and the under 10-piece rule, the Schaumburg service center of Dyson is currently offering 20 percent off vacuums through Nov. 2 to those who bring in old, decrepit non-suckers.
I have already printed this information out along with Google directions. The kids are helping by coloring some pictures, including one of the Prime Minister of England.
In the meantime, I have given much thought to Joe’s gift. After furiously saving Jewel stamps for weeks, I finally scored my hard-working husband his very own Cuisinart Christmas lasagna pan.
120 Jewel stamps. That was a lot of Pop Tarts and wine.
As I wait in excited anticipation of all the delicious lasagna Joe will be whipping up with his new pan and his mother’s recipe, I can’t help but think:
It truly is better to give than to receive.