Looking for the Perfect Gift

I needed to go out for a few things today and ended up, of all places, at Wally-World (for the unenlightened, that’s Wal-Mart around these parts). You can imagine what a nightmare that was on a Saturday afternoon. But I can’t complain, I had a very successful trip (though I didn’t find what I had originally been looking for, I managed to find a lot of other things) and the clerks were most efficient.

I was so delighted with my purchases for the boys’ school gift exchange this year. Every year I’m set with the quest of finding that perfect little something for $5-7 that will not humiliate my sons. This is no easy task. Generally, the five pack of hot wheels cars has sufficed, but when I suggested this to my ten year old this year, his lip curled scornfully. There is always the obligatory pack of Pokémon cards, but even this suggestion was pooh-poohed. Today, in the belly of the beast, I stumbled on the perfect gift exchange gift. Mommy’s take this down: It’s called the Yadda Yadda Yadda. Yes, you heard me right. This ingenious little device allows the lucky owner to record his voice, play it back, and then distort it hilariously. It was just under $7. I got the last two on Wal-Mart’s shelves. When I got them home, I had to hide them from the boys to keep them from running the batteries down. They absolutely loved them! Jeffrey even asked if he could have one in his stocking for Christmas. Brilliant! Hours of entertainment, for under $7. Score one for mom!

I returned home after a few hours, to find a large windmill-like structure emerging from my backyard flower garden. Sitting atop the fence post, it looked like some sort of earth bound propeller; struggling against the confines of gravity. My father-in-law had been by to work his magic. Apparently, little boys who love strange little electronic recording devices also love large metal windmills. We, too, have a weather station on a wooden post around the side of the house, courtesy of Papa. This was a Christmas present for the boys a couple of years ago. It’s really pretty neat, except it never has accurately been able to give us the weather. But it works great as an outdoor thermometer.

My in-laws are the greatest. There is nothing they will not do for their grandkids. It truly blesses me to watch my boys grow up with such a close relationship with their grandparents. Every year at Christmas, Jeff and I struggle to find the gift that will best show these two dear people how much they mean to us. With my brother and sister-in-law, we begin to plot early in the season. We search the farthest regions of the shopping realm. We rack our brains for imaginative, useful items that aren’t too complicated to understand. Over the years we have purchased the latest electronic gadgets, expensive jewelry, exciting weekend getaways, and all the Andy Griffith DVD box sets available. It isn’t easy to find the perfect gift for the couple who have everything!

But when I look back, the gifts that meant the most to them weren’t the gifts that were the most expensive, or the latest trendy gadget. They were the ones that touched their hearts. One year, we got together with Jeff’s brother and his family and had a portrait taken. The only reason Ada took that picture down was because another grandchild has been added to the mix since then, and she didn’t want to be unfair to him by having a picture of everyone but him. Then there was the book Jeff got his mom. It was a book of letters that famous historical men had written to their mothers. He included a letter from him, to her. She told me that it made her cry. And last year, Jeffy painted his Grammy a beautiful bright red poinsettia with his acrylics. I believe it was her favorite gift.

I know, of course, that Christmas is not about the gift-giving. This, perhaps, it the most secular of all the traditions of the holiday. Our society has grown so materialistic, that gift-giving can quickly lose its joy. Still, it is so fun! When one finds that perfect gift…ahh, the joy of watching the receiver!

I’ll never forget what my old supervisor told me one Christmas. He had given me a gift certificate for $100 to an upscale department store in our area. I was shocked. I cannot accept this, I told him, eyes widened in disbelief. Laura, says he, one time a year I get to make a gesture to demonstrate how much I appreciate you. Let me do it. Okay, I said.

My mother, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, tells me that we need to make such gestures all year long, not just one or two days a year. She is right, of course. But we don’t do that, do we? As weak humans, we need some kind of tangible reminder. I cannot tell you how many times this year I have said to my husband, “Let’s do something nice for your mom and dad; to show them how thankful we are for all they do for us.” Sure, he says. But do we ever? No. Life trudges on, and we are busy, and I hate to shop, and we despise eating out. So we say thank you, over and over. I know that is all my in-laws need, but at least one time a year, I get a chance to make a gesture to demonstrate how much I appreciate all that they do for us. Sigh. I don’t want to blow it.

How about you? Do you have someone special on your shopping list that you never can seem to find a gift special enough for? Or do you have some great ideas for me to get for my in-laws? Send me a comment and clue me in! There are only 9 shopping days left!

I am still searching for that special thing. Maybe it will be to do a better job on a day to day basis of expressing my gratitude. That would be a good thing, right? Tell me what you think.

Thanks again for listening, Dear Ones! I love you!


  1. says

    I’m always looking to personalize gifts… my sister-in-law came across a company that makes garden bricks. For a gift for the Grandparents, she ordered 1 brick for each of her girls. They had the child’s name, birth date and a flower etched into them. Slowly they have added all of the grandkids to the collection and my parents use them in their front yard garden area right by the walkway to “brag” on all the grandkids! http://www.fundraisersltd.net/

    My struggle is always with my hubby. He is soooooo hard to buy for and with only a short time left, I still at am a loss for an idea for this year! :o( He always says he doesn’t need anything and he’s very sincere. Just wish I could come up with something personal but he’s not much the sapp type either… I have no idea…

  2. says

    That is such a great idea, Shanda! I’ve seen those stepping stone kits…that might be a good alternative. My in-laws are both passionate gardeners, so that might be just the thing.
    I know what you mean about the husband. Jeff and I have been married for 14 years, so we are very comfortable with each other. You and your hubby are young, so this might not work for you…yet! Last year we decided to not buy for one another. I must admit, I felt a little sad about it at first, but this year, I really appreciate it! I noticed that I am less stressed this year, even though I only have one less person to shop for. I realized it was because his gifts are the only gifts that I have sole responsibility for. All of our other shopping we share. It makes such a difference when you have someone to share the gifting with. Because we are more of a team now, I’ve found it so fun to head out into the masses with him! We have agreed that on Christmas morning (Van inspired me to do this) we will grant each other one Christmas wish. I think I know what I will ask for, but I am still mulling it over. Some of the favorite gifts I have gotten him in the past, however, are these: I bought him a study Bible a couple years ago. Since he is a new Christian, this was really special. One year, I had the boys fingerpaint a sign that said “We (heart)U, dad!” They held it up and I took a picture and framed it for him. It’s still one of his favorites. Since your little one is so tiny, you could hold the sign and give him a picture of both of you! I also always try to get him a book–even if it is a picture book. Jeff is a big music fan, so there is always a CD he is interested in, or a dvd of a muscial performance. What are some of your husband’s hobbies?
    I’ll try to think of any other ideas i can come up with!
    It’s always so good to hear from you! I tried to read your blog, but I need to be invited. I would love to read your thoughts!
    Blessings to you and Happy Holidays!

  3. says

    Laura – Each time I hear from you and visit your blog I feel so connected. We have a lot in common – but then I think we realized that this summer when we met at She Speaks. On the note of gifts- how about tickets to a musical or theatrical event? We are taking all the family 14 of us!! to a basketball game. The range of receipients is the family patriarch and his wife – my in-laws (mid eighties), their 4 children, two spouses, and varied grandchildren. I am running out to the “W” to pick up some Yadda Yadda’s!
    BTW – how close to Snowshoe are you? My son and several buddies are driving up to ski for a few days. Help me pray for safe travels and skiing.
    Have a wonderful week!

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