Black Friday and Our New Friend Jeanne

Black Friday. To me, it sounds positively foreboding. In fact, the mere words coupled with the ghastly images that flash on my television each year cause the exact opposite of the intended effect. Thanks to countless newsreels, I am not that mommy foaming at the mouth to wake at an un-Godly hour and trek to the nearest toy store/mall/department store for a good deal. To me, the possibility of a stampede doesn’t sound like a good time. I have no desire to duke it out with someones grandma over something called a Zhu-Zhu pet or Squinky. Nope. Crowds are most definitely not my thing.

I’m come to realize that for me, Black Friday is different kind of freebie day. Our Black Friday was spent lounging in our jammies and watching cartoons. We ate pumpkin pie and french toast for breakfast and we played games. Joe helped me explore the boxes holding our Christmas decorations. He discovered the ornaments that he made in preschool and kindergarten and marveled at how long ago he made them. To him, preschool was eons ago…an entirely different existence than that of a worldly first grader.

We listened to Kate squeal with delight and clap her tiny hands at each thing we hung. She ran laps around the house pointing and dancing in place with the thrill of discovering Santa Claus or giant red bulbs. They weren’t there when she was tucked into bed for her afternoon nap. She woke up to magic and discovered Santa, who I assume remains a complete stranger, but enchants her anyway. It was a good day.

The best part about this Black Friday was my ability to take a giant chunk of my shopping list from the comfort of my kitchen island, with the convenience of my laptop, a steaming cup o’ Joe and the beauty of my early winter view. Which, by the way, was freshly dusted with our first snow. I calmly, quietly and with great thought searched for and purchased a whole bunch of toys sure to bring smiles on Christmas morning. I told the kids that I was e-mailing with Santa. He was just ‘checking in’ on their behavior and most coveted toys. They’re still young enough that they don’t question the ridiculous nature of my tale. In this day and age, it only makes sense that Santa would communicate by e-mail, no?

A few years ago, when Gwen was just four months old and celebrating her first Christmas, I had no idea what gift would be appropriate. I balked at the naysayers who said, “She’s a baby, she doesn’t need anything”. Clearly, the magic of Christmas was lost on those poor souls. Santa Claus would never overlook a child simply because she was a baby!

Thus began my quest for a simple, perfect toy that she might keep with her forever. The toy that she would sleep with and who would accompany her on first day of preschool. The toy that would wipe away her tears and store them inside of it’s warm, soft body forever. The toy that would earn that ‘forever’ place of honor on her bed and feel the loveliest of hugs. Somehow, my search led me to Sylvain. Sylvain is from France but when we met over the Internet, she was living in San Francisco in a toy store called Zebra Hall. She was on sale and she was just precious. She was renamed Bun-Bun when Gwen began talking and she has fulfilled all of my grand expectations. She is Gwen’s most prized possession. Bun-Bun has been a good friend.

Sylvain, er…Bun Bun, comes from La Grande Famille by Moulin Roty and she has quite a few equally irresistible family members. They appear to be a pretty tight-knit group who spend a great deal of time traveling in cool, retro vehicles. Good for them!

Last Christmas, Kate had not yet reached one year. Again, at a complete loss for a special and meaningful toy for our littlest girl, I went off in search of another special friend. My standards were the same as those I applied in my search for Bun-Bun. I searched all over the United States for La Grande Famille. Alas, Zebra Hall had closed it’s website and it seemed that La Famille elected to remain on the other side of the pond. Or perhaps they were just living off the grid.

Thankfully, our British friends are happy to ship overseas because when I finally located La Grande Famille, Nini Mouse and her baby were begging to make the trip abroad. She arrived unscathed and happily accepted her assignment of loving the baby. The toughest part of her existence has passed for Nini. She survived the drippy bottles and the sad possibility that she might not be “the one”. Last month, Kate renamed Nini. She now goes by “Moo Moo”. She’s the one that must be in the crib each night. She’s the one who makes Kate giggle when she dances. She’s just Moo Moo. Like Bun-Bun, Moo Moo is made of the softest velour and she is elegant in her simplicity. She can be washed. She happily shares a bedroom with Bun Bun and my girls.

Kate won’t be two until February and frankly, we have enough plastic, mass-produced toys for her to explore. Oh, I’m sure she’ll get a few goodies from that corporate giant that I so despise entering, but today I searched for La Grande Famille. Happily, I located them right back here in the states. With so many animals to choose from and at such terrific prices, I hemmed and hawed for a good 20 minutes. Finally with a little help (decisiveness) from Joe and Gwen, I decided that Jeanne should be Kate’s newest friend. Jeanne will be here next week. Can’t wait for Kate to meet her on Christmas morning.

Now, about her birthday…the chicken, the mole, the cat, the dog, the frog, the hedgehog…which to get?