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How I Spent $10.99 on Mother's Day

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Note: I wrote this after Mother's Day last year, 2013. With Mother's Day 2014 quickly approaching, I figured now would be a good time to share it with my friends at HuffPost Parents. Enjoy!

My first thought was minivan. Stevie and I made the mistake of going in to test-drive a Honda Odyssey "for fun" a few weeks ago, and ever since, every time we see one driving down the road, she gives me this adorable "I want a Slurpee" flirty-faux-frown. The problem is, she doesn't want a Slurpee. She wants a $20,000 minivan. So for about 10 minutes on Friday, when it dawned on me that I had yet to get my wife a Mother's Day present, I tried to do mental math gymnastics until the numbers added up to "minivan." Unfortunately, the numbers kept coming up foreclosure. So I moved on.

Digital SLR Camera!! Stevie has been coveting this one camera ever since we couldn't afford it at Christmas. I would get her the camera! Camera payments would be much less, and for a much shorter period of time than minivan payments. Surely I could devise a way to surprise my wife on Sunday morning with her dream camera. I closed my eyes, air-typed some numbers with my fingers waggling in front of me as if I were counting invisible floating numbers, and... nope. Nothing. Not if we wanted to be able to afford daycare next month. No big spending. No payments.

I guess I should explain something. Stevie does not need, want or expect big gifts. For her birthday she asked for a pedicure. So I knew that no matter what I did, she was going to be happy. Also, I should explain, we make financial decisions together. I'm not the boss. I'm the co-boss. Both of us have veto power.

But here's the thing. She is a fan-f*cking-tastic mom. And I don't come to that word lightly. She is the bee's-f*cking-knees. She is every complimentary adjective you can possibly hyphenate with the F word in the middle, and more. She deserves all the minivans. She deserves a minivan filled with digital SLR cameras. Hell, she deserves a minivan built out of disassembled digital SLR cameras with digital SLR cameras installed inside the dashboard, trunk, door handles, and inside other digital SLR cameras. Where's Xzibit when you need him! Pimp my wife's ride!

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So no minivan, no digital SLR, no minivan-digital-SLR hybrid that talks and fights crime (I just added that last part). But I still wanted a huge gesture to show her how much I loved her, and how much I love how much she loves our kids. I knew she loved crafts, so I decided to go to the craft store and buy a whole bunch of craft stuff. I would buy four or five different projects and we could spend the whole day cutting out paper and gluing it on other things, and there would be paint and markers and taffeta and gingham and hodgepodge and cross-stitching and it took me about 45 minutes of pathetically wandering around Hobby Lobby to realize that I don't know what any of those words mean, let alone what aisle they're in. And then I looked down and saw this.

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Not even the kid on the box can hide his disdain for this gift! He may be smiling, but his eyes say "WTF did you buy me this rock for?"

Fine. Whatever. I didn't even look at the price. I just grabbed it, walked defeated to the front of the store, and let the checkout girl with the neck tattoo and what appeared to be an infected lip piercing ring it up.

"Mother's Day?" she said.

"Yep," I replied.

"She'll love this." She said in a voice that may or may not have been intentionally sarcastic. I'm pretty sure that when you have a lip piercing, everything comes out sarcastic.

"Yeah, I was going to get her a lip piercing, but I was afraid it would get infected," I wish I would have said as I grabbed my bag and walked for the door.

That night I felt bummed. I kept thinking that I should have gotten the damn minivan! Now all I had to give her was what turned out to be a $10.99 bag of concrete in a colorful box. At least I could make her bacon and eggs for breakfast in bed. I went and opened the refrigerator door. Shit. Out of bacon. Out of eggs. My wife was getting a $10 bag of concrete and Fruit Loops for Mother's Day. My wife is not a bag of concrete and Fruit Loops mom. SHE IS A CRIME FIGHTING CAMERA MINIVAN HYBRID MOM!!!!

But here's the thing. Not having a grand monetary gesture to show my love and appreciation for Stevie's ninja mom skills led to this: I woke up early with my daughter, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, living room, basement, toy room, kids' room, vacuumed, dusted, and packed a picnic lunch. When Stevie and our son woke up, I got the kids dressed, loaded the car and took everyone to the park. Stevie and I spent the whole afternoon walking and talking and chasing our kids around the playground. And we did it all for free. When I gave Stevie her $10 bag of concrete, she smiled ear to ear and told me she loved it.

That night, after the kids were in bed, Stevie was lying with her head in my lap and looked up and told me that she had had her best Mother's Day since becoming a mom, and I had to agree. So had I.

I guess the lesson I take from this is a pretty common, if not cliché, one: It's not about the money. But that's the strange part; it has never been about the money with Stevie and me, and yet I have to constantly relearn this lesson. It's not so much the needing to buy and have nice things that makes me want to get a minivan we can't afford. It's that I want the size and grandeur of my gift to reflect the magnificence of what she has given me. And that is silly. Instead of emptying our bank account to show my love, we spent the entire day awash in the life Stevie's love has built for us. I don't know why I didn't think of that first, but I'm glad things worked out the way they did -- because now, hopefully, I won't forget.

Anyway, thanks, Stevie, for being such a great mother to our children, and an equally wonderful wife to me. We make a damn good team. With you I know that all things are possible. We move mountains -- with or without a minivan.

An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad. You can also find him trying to be funny on Facebook.

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