17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I love Christmas. I love Christmas in the CITY! I do not get stressed about cards, gift-giving, post office lines, scheduling, attending or throwing parties, performing. I truly love it all. This year I am especially excited because my kids are at an age where they are TOTALLY into it. I love love love this time of year.
However,there is one thing that I hate, despise, get the shivers about....and that is GRAB BAG GIFTS.

My first memory of the grab bag gift was when I was in about 3rd grade. My gifted program class (project arrow it was called where I lived) assigned a grab bag to us. I only mention the gifted part because I associate my hatred for that damned gifted program with the damned grab bag. Because we were smart we didn't do the traditional grab bag....we did that annoying one where you grab a gift, unwrap it, and you can keep it or pick someone else's or whatever those stupid rules were. At the time it seemed much trickier than that, but anyway....I ended up with my own present! I almost cried. Maybe if it had been a good present I wouldn't have...but it was a BOOK! It was, A Little Princess! Boring! Book! Lots of Words! (I didn't read than like I do now.) I don't know why my Mom sent it with me...probably because it was just lying around...or maybe she thought the gifted kids would enjoy a reading challenge....who knows?!

Ever since then I have hated it, but hopefully my reasons are a bit more justified then being bitter about taking home my own stupid dumb lame book gift.

I recently hosted Pukey's kindergarten class for our Holiday Party, and without being consulted, the room moms ordered us to participate in a grab bag gift for the children, with a money limit of $10- I was pretty upset that they assigned this to MY party, but I did not say anything because they had already told everyone, and I didn't want to mess up what the room moms had been planning.

When the blessed grab bag gift event finally happened at MY party, the results were typical and stupid grab bag results:

1. We were short like 4 or 5 presents! Seriously, who doesn't fess up in this situation? Or, quietly take their child aside and explain that mommy forgot the grab bag gift and make some promise to avoid a meltdown or whatever. And how ridiculous is it that a mom actually brought 4 extra with her (because she KNEW this would happen! ha!)?

2. I arbitrarily decided that the children would choose from the grab basket (in our case) in reverse alphabetical order. No one seemed to care about this. And that's just a stupid way to receive a gift.

3. At least half of the kids were dissappointed in their gift, if not more. The only person who was truly ecstatic about their gift was Pukey, and guess why? The smarty pants picked her OWN present!!!!! I was secretly proud of her because I hate the grab bag, and she figured out how to win at grab bag.

I stared at that pile of kids and those pile of (to-be-honset) ho-hum gifts and all I saw was dollar signs: $200- was just wasted on a stupid dumb lame grab bag. $200- that could have:

~Sent 8 Care Packages to troops in Iraq

~Send 20 girls to school in Afghanistan

~Donate to the Humane Society and get the class a subscription to All Animals magazine to share!

~Buy 20 or 30 books to send to flood victims in Washington or New Orleans.

~Sponsor a team running in the Avon Breast Cancer Run.

~Take a field trip to the NYC Post Office and pick some letters for Santa and fulfill some wishes.

The list goes on. SO, I plan on expressing these sentiments, in slightly more mature, hopefully less harmful and more hopeful language, on our parent group site....for next year!


  • very smart!

    For Max's preschool class, the teachers ask us to adopt a local family instead of giving teacher gifts, and then the kids bring a wrapped "classroom" gift (a toy, book, game, or supply for the classroom) that they open at the holiday party. It's a much more satisfying gifting experience, at least for me!
    posted by Blogger marian at 12/10/2007 05:40:00 PM  

  • This is off topic, but I've enjoyed reading this blog, especially the NYC comments. My dad is from NY, and I'm looking to "get back to my roots" next year and bring my DW to wonderful NYC!
    I've been checking craigslist and have decided that I am basically priced out of everywhere but Queens. Would you mind explaining the ward boundaries (and opinions) of Queens? I'm thinking Sunnyside, Woodside, or Jackson Heights (I can afford about $1400 - so I think I am probably priced out of astoria, also).

    I would appreciate any thoughts on nabes, wards, etc. I will be working in midtown (and the commute is a consideration)

    posted by Blogger Erik at 12/10/2007 05:54:00 PM  

  • erik, nice threadjack! I am happy to help you with this, please contact me directly:
    kristy at kristyglass.com

    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/10/2007 06:11:00 PM  

  • I hate that game too! It drives me nuts when we have to play that and I'll bring a nice gift and someone else brings something that is totally lame that no one would want.

    That was smart thinking on you dd's part!
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 12/10/2007 06:29:00 PM  

  • Not a huge fan of grab bags either.

    In second-grade my father took me to purchase a grab bag gift because my mother was sick. He helped me choose something that he thought was appropriate, a multicolored stack of notepaper in a floral box.

    Wouldn't you know, the meanest girl in the class chose it and complained loudly about the "stupid stack of paper." I was heartbroken for my father that she didn't appreciate his gift choice and offered to trade her for it. My parent's asked why I came home with my own gift and I lied and told them that it was just the way it worked out (part of the rules were that you weren't supposed to get your own gift). It was my little secret for years as I used all those little colored pieces of paper. It wasn't until recently that I realized that my father wouldn't have been bothered that someone didn't like the gift. All that time I thought I was protecting his tender feelings...
    posted by Blogger lainakay at 12/11/2007 06:27:00 AM  

  • i don't mind it when the rules are more of a white elephant than real gifts. I think white elephants (bringing junk) is fun because one man's junk is another's treasure so it's fun to see what people actually want when you just dug it out of your junk drawer or storage! Having it actually cost money though or be supposed "real gifts" is lame. ten bucks in kindergarten? that's crazy!
    posted by Blogger Liz&Meg at 12/11/2007 08:00:00 AM  

  • I agree to stopping this silly grab bag idea! My six-year old daughter's dance team does the grab bag thing every year and it's sad when we buy a nice gift and she ends up with a cheap one she doesn't like. Maybe some moms think it's fun for the kids, but there usually ends up being more problems than results, from my experience. I think drawing names or your ideas of true gift GIVING are much more successful and meaningful! Ten dollar or less toys almost ALWAYS get thrown away or lost within a few months. It would be nice if the holiday parties could create something a little more meaningful, creative, and long-lasting for the children.
    posted by Blogger LJ at 12/11/2007 08:44:00 AM  

  • Maybe it depends on the age of your kids???? And type of gift. We do this every year for the YW/YM combined Xmas party and they have so much fun. But they are older and can be more responsible for bringing their own present. And the presents are always stuff they already have or have spent very little money on. And it's usually funny stuff or candy. But I agree, why do you have to have gifts for an entire classroom. Aren't parents already doing enough spending during the holidays? And for some even $10 (on top of all the other things they're shopping for) can be a lot. I think it's better to keep school things as simple as possible. I like what marian's school does.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 12/11/2007 09:14:00 AM  

  • lainakay....SO sweet

    liz&meg: I also like white elephant, and I don't mind Secret Santa as much either...as long as one person is giving to a specific other person....

    lj-the cost. The same classroom moms suggested that each family donate $50 to the class gift so that the teacher would end up with a $700- American Express giftcard. I thought that was a little much as well.

    beth-I remember in YW/YM each of us being given $1.00 and taken to a strip mall to purchase a gift for another...that was fun. A lot of people went home with pet goldfish that night!
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/11/2007 09:52:00 AM  

  • "it's sad when we buy a nice gift and she ends up with a cheap one she doesn't like"

    This pretty much sums up why it is that everyone hates the grab bag gift exchanges. But, really??? I mean, isn't Christmas supposed to be more about giving then getting? I love these types of gift exchanges, but that's because I always thought the whole idea was to bring the best gift - you know, the one that everyone fights over - rather than to get the best gift. I'm much more disappointed when my gift doesn't get exchanged, than I am when I come home with something I didn't want.

    No, kids don't always understand the idea that giving can be fun, but this particular activity seems like an opportunity to teach them, no? And all for only $10. Seems like a pretty good investment to me.

    Sorry, just can't jump on this particular cynical bandwagon. I'll wait for the next one.
    posted by Blogger Todd at 12/11/2007 09:57:00 AM  

  • I think grab bag (or white elephant) gift exchanges are hard for kids to understand, but I have to agree with Todd - it doesn't have to be a worthless activity devoid of any meaning. It's a great teaching moment - it's not about what we get, it's about what we give (but then again, I come from a long line of grab bag/white elephant gift exchange professionals).

    Your other ideas are obviously also great too (and Marian's ideas are awesome as well), but they could also be used as reasons to not buy more than one pair of shoes, a $10 lipstick or reasons to not spend money on a holiday party at all--not just as reasons to forgo a grab bag exchange (but if all the kids end up sad at the end of the night - and there is no fun or meaning in the activity, obviously plans for next year need to be reconsidered). And thinking that a child needs to come home from every party with some sort of gift, is not necessary at all.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 12/11/2007 10:38:00 AM  

  • Todd, I have to disagree that this is a "cynical bandwagon". It is just an OPINION that some of us mothers have because we have been through this whole grab bag experience many times. From our personal experiences, it hasn't worked out and has brought frustration to parents and children.

    I think Kage and others have brought up some good ideas here about other options to teach children to give from the heart. This is so we may try to teach our children that Christmas IS about giving more than receiving- the whole point of this entire post. A $10 gift trade and exchange is probably not going to teach them that. No matter how much we like to think our children are unselfish and won't care about what gift they get and WILL care more about what they give, it's probably not going to happen. Kids are kids and are not mature enough quite understand this concept. It's a wonderful thing to teach them, but it takes time as they are developmentally in a self-centered world.
    posted by Blogger LJ at 12/11/2007 12:22:00 PM  

  • Oh, Kage knows I'm mostly giving her a hard time. Right, Kage? Kage . . .uh, Kage . . . Hello?
    posted by Blogger Todd at 12/11/2007 01:55:00 PM  

  • oh todd. todd? how I miss you....todd....
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/11/2007 04:41:00 PM  

  • I love the book "A Little Princess"... (if that makes you feel any better!!)
    posted by Blogger erin at 12/12/2007 06:17:00 PM  

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