Mama Madison: Introducing Thankful Thursdays

Tips for making the most of shopping, the seasonal necessity

It doesn't matter whether I'm stalking pointy-toed boots at a high-end boutique during Maxwell Street Days, haggling for spices at an open-air market or purchasing a mannequin with my son at a department store closeout sale. Anyone who knows me can testify to the fact that I am an engaged and masterful shopper.

I was raised in the mirrored, open dressing rooms of Loehmann's Back Room and almost cried when Filene's Basement declared Chapter 11 a few years back. For me, there is no greater high than when I get the chance to say "hello to a good buy."

At least for 51 weeks out of the year.

But if I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.

Cyber Monday isn't a whole lot better. Sure, clicking and dragging items into virtual shopping baskets doesn't run much of a risk of physical injury (carpal tunnel flare-ups notwithstanding). But to me, it seems pretty impersonal to be able to check everyone off your list in less than an hour from the privacy of your own couch or office. I guess I still think gift shopping should be somewhat of a sensory experience -- gazing at the holiday window displays lining State Street, the smell of the pretzel store at the mall. When it all comes in a cardboard box via UPS, part of the experience has been lost.

I do love the idea behind Small Business Saturday; there is little question that buying from independents does both the shopper and local economy good. But it's hard to achieve the serious Olympic level shopping I am capable of when still moving slowly from a tryptophan and pumpkin pie hangover.

Besides, this year I am trying to give less "stuff", anyway. What I really need is some sort of shopping event that could serve as a complement to Giving Tuesday, the movement that encourages charitable giving. And then it came to me. I will establish a series of "Thankful Thursdays." On every Thursday between Thanksgiving and Christmas I will challenge myself to buy gifts for my family that will not just make a difference in their lives, but also in the lives of others in Madison.

I'll start this Thursday by picking up a present for the kids that encourages reading and will live permanently in one of the city's hottest new buildings. I will dedicate a Book of Honor, in their honor, in support of the new Central Library. For a $250 gift, I can choose up to 40 characters that will be printed on the fore edge of a recycled book which will be installed in the children's section of the recently reopened library. I am thinking of going with "Turn Off the Xbox. Pick Up a Book. Love, Your Parents" for ours. Although I might need two books to say it.

And for stocking stuffers I can load up on some of the limited-edition black-and-silver library cards commemorating the new Central branch. They are available for a donation of $25 each.

For my mom, I'll go with a few $20 raffle tickets from Lily's Fund for Epilepsy Research. Not only will she have the chance to win the grand prize (a diamond) come the organization's late January luau fundraiser. But I'll also know I've helped support local researchers who are working toward finding a cure for the devastating neurologic disorder.

Thursday evenings can also be the perfect pre-weekend time to pore over the comprehensive United Way Volunteer Center's annual Holiday Wish List. It features dozens of area non-profits that are hosting seasonal toy and clothing drives.

And I certainly can't think of a better way to put my finely tuned shopping skills to use than in service of others.

Which is something I should be doing more regularly, and not just on Thursdays. But on many days. All year long.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Talking about race with Families for Justice

Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?

Mama Madison: Checking it twice

If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.

Mama Madison: Managing holiday lists

I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.

Girls on the Run of Dane County marks a decade of changing young lives

On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.

Mama Madison: Mom dates are hard

You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.

Mama Madison: No judgments with No Excuse Mom

If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.

Mama Madison: Introducing kids to your CSA box

At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).

Mama Madison: Changing tables, changing times

My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.

From museum to school with MMoCA

"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.

Mama Madison: Coping with toddlers in a Wisconsin winter

I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.

Mama Madison: Melissa Wardy pushes positive messages

I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.