Birthday Smarty / by Susie Lubell

I've been meaning to tackle this important topic for several months now. Well, ever since March when exactly 5 years prior the Silicon Valley appears to have experienced an unprecedented baby boom and all 17, 246 kids born that month invited my son to their fifth birthday parties. That's how it felt anyway. Every weekend we had birthday parties on both days. OK I'm exaggerating a little but it seemed like I was constantly at Target buying some stupid toy du jour. More often than not these were boy parties so I went for a superhero or some lego set or walkie talkies. Then he was invited to his friend Aiden's party (girl Aiden as opposed to boy Aiden - his party is in October) so I got her a pair of dress up heels and a drill - what every woman needs. And even though we were invited to these parties a good 4-5 weeks in advance, I could never get it together in time to buy the presents beforehand so I got into the habit of Just In Time gift giving. We'd leave 15 minutes early for the party, stop at Target, we'd run in and I'd have to find something before my son started whining that he also wanted a toy and then I'd wrap the gift in the car. Yes, I keep wrapping paper, a scissors and tape in the car for this very purpose. The rush, while invigorating, was inhibiting my ability to choose respectable gifts.

Anyway the party season died down a little at the start of summer but August has launched us back into party mode. This last weekend we had two birthday's back to back and both were girls. So, feeling ambitious, I went to Target on the Thursday before the weekend but was disappointed to find the toy selection for older girls was limited to Barbies, Polly Pockets, Bratz and a host of other oddly proportioned big-headed plastic dolls whose body parts are interchangeable. What sick bastard came up with that idea? And the thing is, I know that's probably what these girls like. They all like that crap. Even the boys like that stuff. But I just couldn't bring myself to buy any more plastic garbage from Target. That's when I spotted the Back to School aisle. Providence! I went over there and for each girl I got a ruler, a pencil bag, a box of colored chalk, a box of colored pencils, a box of markers, a glue stick and a pair of scissors. Then I added one of the hard spiral notebooks that I sell with the Inner Toddler that most resembled each girl glued on the front. Presto! Two girls ready for kindergarten! I was very pleased with myself and was telling one of the preschool mom's and she told me she came to the same realization and has started giving kids movie tickets. And I thought, there's another fabulous idea! If you have any more great ideas for birthday gifts that don't involve interchangeable princess heads, send them my way. I'm stocking up.