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Advice Column for Wacky Mothers & Others

December 11th, 2005

more, more, more…

Dear Wacky Mommy:

This has been a rotten year for me financially. Is there a tactful way to tell friends and family, “Don’t expect anything too great, I’m broke”? I don’t want to be a Scrooge.


Too Poor to Pay Attention


Presents are never mandatory. No explanations are necessary. So if it’s a light Christmas for the kids, extended family, friends, garbage haulers, et al — they’ll deal. This is what’s scary: Poor mouth. You know “poor mouth”? That’s when parents scare their kids by saying, “We’re broke. We are! We have no money. They might foreclose on the house/take the car/take you kids and keep you as indentured servants,” etc. (My Wacky Grandpa, God rest his soul, used to do this to my ma and her siblings when they were kids. She’d ask for lunch money, and he’d slowly pull one dollar out of his wallet, hesitate before giving it to her, tell her, “This is my last dollar,” and finally hand it over. Naw, this didn’t do a number on her or anything. Fwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…)

Poor mouth is never OK, cuz it makes kids hyperventilate and develop nervous tics. And nobody needs to know your business, you know? Well, if you have some friends who are loaded and wouldn’t mind sharing, then it’s fine to drop hints.

My family grew up with not a whole lotta cash, but I never sweated it cuz my ma read that book “Mama’s Bank Account” about twenty times. My ma’s famous words were always, “It’s not in the budget.” I knew that our friends went to Disneyland, had Barbie Dream Houses, ate out a lot and all that but I felt rich, see? Cuz my mom loved me and my sister and love, mama, is what Christmas and the holiday season is all about. For Christmas she always gave us the same things: A Lifesavers Christmas Book, bath cubes, a book or two, socks or a scarf or something snuggly like that, and a check for a few bucks. Oh! And a tiny Whitman’s Sampler.

It made me feel loved. Love, love, love. Now she gets us fancy stuff — bigger, better books, CDs, fatter gift certificates — and my sister and I? We’re living for those little Whitman’s Samplers. Every year I’m all, “Bath cubes! I want my fancy floral bath cubes, Mom!” when I open up the aromatherapy candle or fancy bath set with lotion, bubblebath and a loofah. And plus, with the grandkids, good God. My kids are beyond spoiled. They need No More Toys. Their rooms — it’s like Toys R Us exploded in there. It’s too much.

I bake a lot around the holidays and share with neighbors and friends. (This gets expensive sometimes, in the name of “It’s homemade and didn’t cost a lot!” Ha.) One of Wacky Girl’s classmates gave all the kids in the class “Snowman Soup” last year. They picked up a boxful of cute Christmas mugs they got at Goodwill, and did up little bags of cocoa mix, with miniature marshmallows, tiny chocolate chips, and a candy cane to stir it with. They attached a little poem with a ribbon, that explained how much water to add. It was, like, one of the coolest gifts we’ve ever received. The teacher got jewelry from the same classmate. From Dollar Tree. Perfect! I (heart) Dollar Tree.

I saved a recipe from one of the parenting mags (I’ve already misplaced it, obsessive-compulsive clippings freak that I am). It was rice mix, which I thought was a nice change from the Chocolate Crinkles, Mexican Wedding Cakes and frosted sugar cookies I always dole out. It was white rice, dried mushrooms and herbs, done up in a canning jar, tied with a bow. You know, you include the little directions and XOXO and you’re good. I’m sure you can search online and find a bunch of ideas like this. Oh, and Wacky Neighbor? Last year did up jars of cocoa mix with candy cane bits mixed in. I had peppermint mochas for a month and was sooooooo happy.

A simple card with a note scribbled inside is enough for anyone. (Other than your kids, of course, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out for them. Even if it’s just candy and a note with an IOU for a day out on the town, complete with econo-hour movie and pizza. I am big on “coupon books” with promises of One Free Whatever.)

Wacky Daddy and I don’t swap presents with any of the in-laws anymore — turns out I was the only one who was into it. We were broke one year, well, several years running, so we called everyone in October and asked, “Mind if we don’t swap gifts this year?” You have never heard such whoops of joy in your life. I was thinking, “Dang, I just meant for this year, not always!” But I guess they all really hated the whole thing. Or they’re just cheap-asses, cuz they can afford it! And we can now, too, but whatever. So we send each other cards and pix of the kids and that’s about it.

Best wishes for much prosperity in the following year. The Year of the Dog starts January 29, 2006. Arooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!


Wacky Mommy

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