I'm too practical.
There is very little frill or froof about me and it dribbles down into my gift giving in-ability. You see, I've never had a lot of money, you know, so I can just go buy "things" because I know someone would enjoy it. I've pretty much always had to be a penny pincher (and let's make it clear right now that I'm not complaining, cause I think even if I had lots of money, I'd still be pretty tight with it) so I've always had to choose my gifts carefully.
I have a problem with buying something cheap just because I need to give something. I have tons of friends who take their kids to the dollar store and let them pick out whatever they want in order to be able to provide a gift for their sibling or their mom or dad, but I don't want or need anything that costs $1 and/or will break within a few hours of my owning it. I understand the thinking on that one though, so I don't disagree with the concept, but in that scenario, I would have much rather a homemade card with a love not written in it than a $1 picture frame that I will probably never use, but that is just me. Write me a sweet note and put a $1 in the card and I'll go refill my QT mug with some diet pepsi:)
I'm embarrassed to say that most of the time I don't even acknowledge someone's birthday, marriage, baby birth, etc. because I can't find just the right gift to give. I have a serious problem. And, I know that I would be so much happier if I just had a stash of gift cards on hand for such occasions. I hate it when I do that.
We don't agree around here about the use of technology. Ben is a techno geek (and I mean that with all the love in my heart) and while there isn't anything wrong with that, he is more willing to give my kids technology type toys as a gift. I, on the other hand, can appreciate technology, but not crazy about how it affects a human's ability to relate to people socially, but that is a different blog post altogether. I think they are expensive and very easily broken when put into the hands of someone who doesn't have the maturity to take good care of them.
I also believe that my children already have everything they need and most of the things they want. I loathe the assumption that just because it is a traditional gift giving holiday, I must purchase a gift for them. Having said that, I do enjoy the faces of my children on Christmas morning or their birthday when I am able to break down and get that one thing that I knew they truly wanted with the knowledge that they will be able to take care of that gift.
When it comes to buying gifts for my children, I generally turn to my husband, who seems to know better what they want than I do. I usually leave it up to him to decide what they get for their birthday because I would come up with things like a metal garbage can for one kid's room because the little one in there doesn't seem to be big enough to hold all the garbage created inside, or hangars for the girls who never seems to have enough because all their clean clothes are always on the floor or in the laundry basket. My favorite gift I ever gave was a fancy broom because my neighbor's had broken just before her birthday and she kept borrowing ours. One year, someone gave me a year supply of a really great hair gel. Best. Gift. Ever.
I have several basic criteria when choosing gifts for children: I like toys to be educational, but not boring, inexpensive but not cheap, and if I can, something they need but yet something they want. I also love toys that serve a purpose, memory games (memory), tangrams and magnets (math, spacial order, imagination), board/card games (spend time with family, colors, numbers, math), outdoor toys like bikes and cars to ride on (imagination, exercise, outdoor play), and of course, athletic equipment (exercise, family time, outdoor play). Books. I can't say enough about books, but I know that in my family, there are only a few who appreciate receiving a book as a gift and she and I are kindred spirits.
I hate buying clothes for my kids because I can rarely even come close to getting them something they want and they usually have so much, they don't need anymore. Sizing is always a problem because they grow so quickly too. I hate doing returns more than I hate shopping. But the practical side of me was the happiest this Christmas season when I came home with 7 packages of socks and 7 packages of underwear because my kids needed them so desperately. Yes, I wrapped them up and gave them to them for Christmas too.
Mostly my rant comes just because the Christmas season has just passed and it is hear breaking to watch the lack of celebrating the true reason for Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. My most favorite gift this year came in the form of an envelope with some money inside. Each one of my siblings received one from our parents. Inside, the letter explained beautifully,
"Emerson said, "Rings and Jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of yourself." We celebrate Christmas because Heavenly Father, in his perfection "gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This Christmas we must ponder what portion of God's gifts we are willing to receive, enjoy, and share.
Enclosed you will find a small amount of money. It is our Christmas wish that each of you will meet with your families and discuss how you can use this money in the service of others. Have every member help in the project and do it as a family.
We would then, like each of you, especially you grandkids, to write a short paragraph telling us what you did and how you felt about it."
I'm going to have to list this in my top 5 gifts ever received list. It had thought put into it, it wasn't something I was going to have to return or exchange (or put directly into the donate pile), and I always need to find ways to serve and this has kept me thinking since then about what we can do with our gift to bless someone else. In return, my parents will get to hear from their children and grandchildren about how they went about serving others. That will be a gift to them in return. This gift shows the true spirit of gift giving.
Now, to finally pick that special service project...