I was born in a small country town in NSW, Australia, as were my parents. Things there were run a certain way and everyone knew everyone else's business. In fact it was said that if you parted your hair on the wrong side everyone in town would know about it by the end of the day.

I still remember being a hormonal, ranting teenager shouting "I can't  wait until I turn 18 and finish school, so I can get the hell out of here!" Which, I did. It was much harder than I had ever anticipated, moving to Sydney on my own and starting a new life but that seems like a life time ago now. Since then, I have uprooted yet again (exactly 18 years after the first big move) and now live in Melbourne. (It makes me wonder where on earth I will be living at 54!)

Anyhoo, the point to all this is not where I have lived - or now live, but rather to give you an insight into where my family (and their ideas about things) come from.  Being the "get organised early" person that I am, I am well on my way with the Christmas present shopping and decided to get my littlest guy (who will be two and a half) a cubby house this year. He loves imaginary playing and interacting with things, so I thought the perfect thing for the cubby house would be a little kitchen set, so he can pretend to cook up a storm. Whilst mentioning this to my father on the phone the reply came "Well, I don't know about all that. Why don't you just get him a truck?!"

I had not even considered the thought that my idea of imaginary play for my child might somehow have an impact on my child's perceived future manly-"ness", but I kind of suspect it may have had more to do with my fathers. My father comes from the era where men were men, they didn't "do" quiche, salad and soup were not a meal and they didn't whip up a storm in the kitchen. Gay meant you were happy and there was to be no having with those homosexual types. I mean, we lived in a country town for crying out loud. There weren't any - right!? And if there were they weren't hanging out with my dad at the "local", or the cattle sales or where ever else manly men went, to be with other manly men (but not in a gay way).

My point is you can't make a child gay through pretend play and they can't "catch" gay by using their imaginations. When my eldest child (now nine) was smaller, he used to clop around in my high heels and wear whatever nail polish I happened to have out at the time (I might also add that my husband - open minded as he is, was still a little horrified by all this but my thinking is that high heels and nail polish at three are different to high heels and nail polish at thirteen - and if that's the case, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it). I even used to get my old Barbie dolls out for him to play with.... until he decapitated them all. Now at the ripe old age of 9 he has no interest in any of that - and is very "boy centric" as far as toys, interests and dressing goes. The point being I let him use his imagination and make up his own mind when he was ready for it.

I still have an eye out for just the right kitchen set for the cubby house, one with a little sink so he can do the washing up when he has finished his "masterchef" creations. I do although have a feeling that when Christmas does roll around, there may just be a present for him under the Christmas tree from his Grandfather, shaped suspiciously like a truck.



I just had a message posted on my Facebook wall - 19 weeks until Christmas. Yep, that's right you heard it here. It's seems you never have enough time to get everything done and yet Christmas keeps barrelling on down on us.

Any minute now we will be complaining about Christmas Decorations up in stores and seriously why shouldn't we? December is the month of Christmas, so that logically is the month that decorations should actually go up. You can't tell me that if you started putting up Christmas decorations at your place in the first week of September, you're friends wouldn't start regarding you as a little quirky (at the very least). 

The thing is, I understand the importance of being prepared. I am not one of those people who find's joy in racing around in the days just before Christmas madly trying to purchase gifts. I get in early and by early I mean January  (if I spot something special I think someone will like) and I put it away in my present cupboard. This cupboard also stores birthday presents, mothers and fathers days presents .... you get the idea. So, the thing is I get in early. I like early because I like to be prepared. What I don't like is having Christmas rammed down my throat when we should be celebrating other events, milestones and occasions in our lives. Not suffering from a false sense that the year is almost over again... come on, we still have more than a few months left in this one!

Funnily enough, the thing that got me started on this theme was not Christmas decorations and the lunacy of when they go up but rather what to buy the kids for Christmas. I know that this has not been apparent so far in this post before this moment but stay with me and it will become clear.

So what in 2012, do you buy for kids? I came across another post on Facebook the other day where a mother asked whether she should purchase an ipad for her 2 year old. My response was of course, are you kidding me? I haven't even been able to justify the expense of purchasing one for myself - why would I purchase something so expensive for someone who can't even put their own pants on by themselves? (Pull them off yes - but that's a story for another day). I know for a fact my 2 year old doesn't care what is left at the end of his bed, in fact he would be ecstatic with a box. (ahhh, the simplicity of life when you can get excited over a box).

Now, my 9 year old is a different story altogether. He wants what every other 9 year old wants, the "latest thing". This year it's an ipod touch, Bionicles and Skylanders (if you have never heard of Skylanders, you are obviously not hanging with any boys between 5 and 10 - otherwise you'd be drowning in them). Funnily enough, "old school" items are also having a resurgence, such as skateboards and Lego (which has been made over for the 21st Century - read: boxed up, given a theme and is ridiculously expensive).

Now obviously he's not getting everything on his list but how do you choose which is the most appropriate item? Should you make purchases based on how educational the gift is, how much fun it is or do you just get them what they want most (that week) - how do you make your choice?? 

I think at the end of the day, I am most motivated by things which come in one or two large pieces. I am sick of picking small pieces of crap up from yesterdays "must have" disgarded toys so that I can vacuum the carpet.  Which is why it always amuses (no, irritates) me when that ad for Kmart toys comes on and the mum gleefully exclaims over a $25 toy "wow, look at all the pieces!" - are you kidding me? She should be getting excited about it coming in one full piece because it will be less to pick up when the kids are over it and keep leaving it laying around the house!

In fact I find Christmas decorations going up early less annoying than all the toys which come with a multitude of optional pieces (yeah - tech decks, I'm talking about you!) but only just.

So, how about you? Are you an early Christmas shopper or do you save it all to the last moment? What do you look for in a gift for kids? What do your kids just have to have this year? Good luck, give it a month