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I have tried to cultivate my zen about toys, or more specifically, missing pieces. I keep muttering, "I don’t care if the alphabet magnets are missing the letters K, S and T." or "Mrs. Beasley hasn’t lifted a finger since she’s been here. Why should I care if her arm has gone missing?" But the reality is, I really do. Not being able to find things drives me bonkers. So, I search.

During this incessant hunting (sometimes a nightly occurrence), Greg is often either entertained or frustrated. "What are you looking for?," he’ll ask. Sometimes I can’t even admit it because I know it sounds silly. "Just a few bits and bobs," I reply, embarrassed to truthfully admit, "The number 7 from the counting puzzle." Instead, I turn the house upside-down searching for it while he smiles at me, enjoying a glass of wine, with a look of bewilderment.

I wish that I could be more relaxed like him in this regard. Maybe it’s a birth order issue. (I’m the oldest. He’s second born.) Maybe it’s learned. My mom, also first born, is one of the only people that I know who is more neurotic than I am about these things. If I told her I couldn’t find the number 7, she’d be concerned and would come over to help me look for it. (I’m joking. But only a little.)

When I’m not busy looking for things, I’m trying to make them look nice. But as a member of the Homosexualis North Americanus species, I can imagine that I am not alone. I suspect that other members of my tribe are afflicted by the same disease - the need for both order and visual appeal. Our daughter’s pocketbook collection is sorted by style and season. Fruit and vegetable toys are kept in wicker baskets mimicking the farmers’ market. Sterilite tubs are traded for banana leaf baskets for storage. Not because they’re practical, but they make the playroom look more Crate and Barrel than Cracker Barrel. If we’re going to parent, we may as well make our own imprint on the institution. Right?

My challenge now is integrating and managing the deluge of Christmas toys. And as Elly gets older, the number of parts increases. This year, as she opened gift after gift, I took both a deep breath and another sip of champagne. Oh, how lovely! A cash register with $700 in assorted bills and coins and enough groceries to fill Costco. Oh and look, a doll with 25 custom parts. Now all we need is Daddy’s paper bag to stop me from hyperventilating.

There are two likely scenarios that will occur. One, I will become conditioned to the loss of parts and will achieve the Zen state for which I long (unlikely). Or, I will continue to be neurotic and also inflict my child with the same neurosis (most likely). Sorry, Elly! At least we can joke about it as I do with my mom.

So, as we usher in 2012, I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m going to play more and worry less. Here are some new games that I predict we’ll be playing during the New Year:

Spelling for Illiterates - who needs all of the letters in the alphabet? Just read anything from anyone under 30.

Coloring without Yellow - it’s a weak color anyway.

Castle Foreclosure - Since the princess is missing, we can pretend the bank took her castle and make it a modern day lesson.

And my favorite, Topless Barbies - and with a rack like that, who needs a top?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look through that basket just one more time...

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