Lucky husband, lucky wife

My husband and I exchanged Christmas presents tonight. It felt a little naughty to be opening gifts two full weeks early, in front of our kids, no less. But we were both pretty excited to give — and get.

I’d written about buying Craig’s present at a dollar store. Like a good husband, he’d read my column and inquired about it Friday evening at the mall. “So you spent $4 on my gift?” he asked. “Yep,” I said with a smile. I told him it was something he’d mentioned wanting, but wouldn’t give him any hints beyond that.

On Saturday, Little Owen found a little package under the tree, and started ripping the ribbon off. I grabbed it from him before he tore the paper. Since I hadn’t put that present under there, I figured Craig must have. As I looked at it, I noticed it didn’t have my name on it, but a sticker on the bottom did have a telling name: Riddle’s Jewelry.

Our mutual curiosity got the better of us and we agreed to open our gifts early (Note this was a couple weeks after we both agreed that our trip to Vegas would be our gift to each other this year). I gave him his present first.

Inside the gold paper-wrapped box were four 20-ounce wine glasses, purchased for $1 each at Dollar Tree. Craig and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and awhile back he said how he’d love to have some really big wine glasses, which are better suited for red wine. (Not to mention drinking more wine at one time, but, yeah, let’s go with oxidizing the wine).

One of our new big honkin’ wine glasses, at right. I photographed it with one of our current glasses at left to show the difference in size.

Then it was my turn. I tried to show restraint as I unwrapped the package. Inside a white lidded box was a shiny red-hued jewelry box. And inside that was a gorgeous white gold sapphire and diamond pendant.

Bling!

I was speechless. And frankly … confused. I thanked Craig sincerely, but really didn’t understand why he would buy me this extravagant gift. Who was this man and what had he done with my tightwad husband?

Craig asked me how much I thought he’d spent on the necklace. I said I didn’t know, and that it didn’t matter, but he could tell me if he wanted. Maybe he got it for 60 percent off …

Nothing, he said. He’d won it at as a door prize at a business networking event last week, and picked it up while we were at the mall Friday night.

Ahh, now this gift made sense!

Those who know my accountant husband will laugh. This guy is uncommonly lucky at winning things. A couple summers ago he won a Big Green Egg grill, a freezer and bundle of meat through a radio contest. Last year, he won an iPod Touch at a CPA event. A few years ago, at a Forum party, we won a patio fire pit, $100 spa gift certificate and a $25 restaurant gift card (I think it was all him, but we’d comingled our tickets so it’s tough to say).

I already knew he’d won a $25 restaurant gift card at the networking event. He told me he’d registered for a few more prizes, but (here’s the kicker) he was almost out of business cards when he went so wasn’t able to sign up for very many.

He knew he couldn’t wait until Christmas to tell me about the free $500 necklace. Just like I couldn’t wait for him to open his $4 set of wine glasses.

So I washed a couple ginormous glasses, popped open a bottle of Penny Sale wine, and we toasted our gifts and our frugal family.

I’m one lucky wife to have such a lucky husband.

Some assembly (and insanity) required

When Owen was born last summer, my thoughtful co-workers at The Forum pitched in to buy our family a new activity center to entertain the little one, as well as a baby monitor.

We hadn’t assembled the activity center, as Owen couldn’t use it until he was at least four months old and our Christmas tree occupied the living room for the month of December. Today I decided it was time to unbox this baby gift for my now 5-month-old son.

I was surprised how many pieces poured out of the box when I dumped it out. I dug to find the instruction manual, which like most manuals these days, seemed to lack actual instructions. Instead, there were pictures and arrows and letters and check marks and Xs with a few scattered verbs. This was my favorite illustration. From what I can gather, it is important to take the baby out of the activity center BEFORE tipping it on its side. Good to know …

Ummmmm, duh.

With that sort of direction, and less-than-stellar handywoman skills, here’s a rough breakdown of the next 45 minutes of my morning:

  • Set Owen in Bumbo chair next to assembly project.
  • Find round center piece and attempt to separate Parts C/P. Press where arrow shows to press. Press again. Press again. Wonder why pressing isn’t doing anything.
  • Finally separate Parts C and P as instructed. Attempt to locate nondescript Part D.
  • Find piece. Attempt to locate screws.
  • Find screws. Hand Owen a toy. Misplace screws.
  • Re-find screws. Try to figure out which screws I’m supposed to use.
  • Realize screws are labeled. Hand Owen the toy he dropped.
  • Misplace screws again.
  • Find screws and attach Part D to Part C with M3.5 screws.
  • Hand Owen toy. Find legs (Part E). Misplace screws again.
  • Find M4 screws and washers. Attempt to attach legs. Curse at screws and washers for not cooperating.
  • Finish attaching legs. Hand Owen toy. Attach six rubber bases (Part F) to bottom of legs as if putting Tupperware lids on the wrong-sized containers.
  • Turn activity center over.
  • Locate Part H. Try to figure out which part is Part I.
  • Connect Parts H and I as pictured.
  • Realize picture illustrates how NOT to connect parts.
  • Re-connect parts like in other picture.
  • Hand Owen toy.
  • Misplace screws. Dig through pile of emptied plastic bags. Find screws.
  • Attach Part J to Part G over Part H/I with M3.5 screws. Wonder if screws are tight enough.
  • Attach platform to activity center.
  • Hand Owen toy.
  • Try to locate screws. Again.
  • Crawl under activity center to attach Part L to top of Part C with two M3.5 screws.
  • Drop screw on my face.
  • Drop other screw on my face.
  • Locate screws. Struggle with screws. Know screws aren’t tight enough but move on.
  • Push Part M into Part C until clicks. Marvel that “click” is “clic” in Spanish and French.
  • Push Part N into Part C. Clic.
  • Attempt to push Part O into Part C. Push harder. And harder. Command it to ”clic” in best French accent.
  • Use brute American force.
  • Click.
  • Celebrate. Realize I still have to assemble seat. Curse.
  • Snap six plastic circle things to seat. Slide on seat cover.
  • Realize seat cover is inside-out. Take off seat cover and reverse. Pull seat cover onto seat as if squeezing 1-year-old into a 3-6 month onesie.
  • Attach seat to activity center. Clic.
  • Set Owen in seat.
  • Take picture.
  • Realize need to put batteries in Part D.
  • Curse.

Thankfully, the activity center is now fully assembled and ready to be enjoyed. And I can put my screwdriver away until the next toy needs to be assembled, hopefully with more eloquent instructions, less cursing and still this much smiling.

Already active in his newly assembled activity center.

‘Cheetos and Barbies’

All Eve wants for Christmas is Cheetos and Barbies. At least that’s been her most consistent answer whenever anybody asks her what presents she would like this year.

When she says Cheetos, she actually is referring to Gerber Lil’ Crunchies (in mild cheddar flavor), a toddler snack her friend Joren shared with her this summer. Barbies, of course, are the quintessential little girl gift, though technically aren’t for children under age 3.

I honestly think my 2-year-old would be thrilled if only a canister of cheese puffs and a single doll were under the tree this year. This makes me wonder why I’ve been agonizing over the stash of gifts in the guest bedroom closet, wondering if it’s enough.

I drug it all out last night: the Abby Cadabby slippers (a Black Friday find), the Cinderella outfit and costume jewelry (Halloween clearance), a Tinkerbell bouncy ball (like the ones she plays with at our gym’s daycare), an Elmo book/puzzle (snagged from a B&N clearance shelf this June), bubble bath, Sesame Street undies and colorful barrettes (for her stocking), and a canister of Lil’ Crunchies. (We’ll let someone else get her the Barbies.)

I think my hang-up is that I haven’t gotten her one ”big gift.” For her first Christmas, we got her a play shopping cart set. For her second, she got a Little People schoolhouse from us. I wonder if I shouldn’t get her this fancy Jessie doll from Toy Story 3 or maybe the bike I’d picked up at a Black Friday sale and planned to give her for her March birthday. There are so many options for gifts in the store ads, my head kind of spins at all the things I think she’d like.

But when you’re 2, price tags don’t matter. Just Barbies and Cheetos.