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February 14, 2009

A sweet lesson from a 5-year-old

The kitchen table was covered with pink and red construction paper, white doilies, markers, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, stickers and an assortment of stars and hearts from the closet where I stash scrapbooking supplies and abandoned craft projects.

We were on Valentine No. 7, and I was running out of patience and tricks.

Fortunately, I'd anticipated this and had not waited until the last minute to start the project. I was, however, beginning to question the wisdom of catering to the whim of a kindergartner.

Having been through this once before, my first instinct had been to take the easier path.

"What kind of valentines should we buy for your class?" I asked. "Maybe they have some with princesses on them!" "No," she said firmly. "A valentine is when you cut out paper in the shape of a heart. Then you color on it, and put stickers on and glue things on to make it pretty."

Even as I inwardly groaned, I admit I was also pleased to see my 5-year-old insisting on the old-fashioned tradition of homemade cards, crafted with love and care and creativity, rather than shelling out more money to the Disney Corp.

Apparently, she's not the only one choosing homemade over store-bought this year. In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, I read several articles predicting a not-so-sweet holiday for retailers.

According to a survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation, consumers planned to spend an average of $102.50 on Valentine's Day gifts this year, down from $122.98 per person last year.

Yes, even with people tightening their budgets, total Valentine's Day spending was expected to reach $14.7 billion. Now, as much as I want the local jewelers and florists and restaurants to succeed, I have to wonder: Have we lost our minds?

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