Spoiling on a Dime

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Not too long ago, one of Ava’s little friends shared a secret with me, “My mommy says that Ava gets whatever she wants.”

Some parents may take offense to this, but it’s not exactly untrue.

Ava has a lot of stuff. She has a complete drum set, three guitars and a keyboard. She has enough Superheroes to end the war and she could hold a fairytale rodeo with the amount of unicorns she possesses. They come in a variety of sizes; the smallest one accommodates Batgirl whereas Ava can ride the largest (and most freakish) one. Not kidding. My favorite is her recently acquired Build-A-Bear unicorn. It wears a kimono, strap-on wings and pink, high-topped roller skates, which makes perfect sense in the Build-A-Bear world of infinite excess.

But it’s easy to spoil Ava with a herd of unicorns when I’m not shelling out hundreds of dollars to do it. That’s right, I buy stuffed animals second (third and sometimes fourth) hand at yard sales. My sister thinks it’s disgusting. I think it’s recycling.

“Aren’t you worried about bugs?” she asks.

Not so much. As a general rule, I buy the freshest fare, free of boogers and visible lice. There has been a time or two when Ava has latched on to a particularly well loved and deeply stained creature with matted hair (a sure sign of disease). In that instance I give the animal a Tide with Bleach bubble bath as soon as possible. But for the most part, I don’t consider a child’s stuffed animal to be a harbinger of pinkeye. Besides, there are bigger things to worry about in life, like classroom bullies and Sarah Palin. Furthermore, if you’ve every seen Ava’s lovey–a balding, spit-covered monkey named “Muh” who has been an active participant in every runny nose and stomach virus Ava has ever experienced–you wouldn’t worry about a handed-down unicorn.

Taking my child to yard sales also has its advantages. I have her ask the price of items, which usually gets us the best price. If not, I’ll make a big show out of it, saying to her, “Oh, that’s way too expensive,” which is her cue to produce the most forlorn, someone-just-shot-Bambi look. Sellers who catch on to our act retaliate by giving Ava things for free–you know, the crappy stuff that no one in their right mind would buy, like a Barbie with ballpoint pen tattoos and hair matted into a mohawk. Needless to say, we travel with hand sanitizer.

Ava has been at this so long she knows how to spot a deal.

“Mom! Pyrex!” Something I never thought I’d hear a 5-year old say. (Yes, I have a strange addiction to vintage Pyrex that rivals my daughter’s infatuation with all things Pegasus.)

Scouring yard sales has become a Saturday morning family tradition. But I’m starting to see the downside. For every $60 Build-A-Bear I get for $3 there are 20 free pen-faced Barbies. And in the name of recycling, my daughter is starting to acquire too much, which only means one thing: it’s time for a yard sale of our own.
 

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