My mom would hand us the Halloween or Thanksgiving edition of the Oriental Trading Company catalog and ask us to circle the toys that we wanted for Christmas. She learned early on that if she waited for the Christmas edition to come out, we wouldn't get our toys until April and she would have to buy us emergency-replacement toys from K-Mart to keep us from leveraging the injustice whenever we wanted a puppy.
I spent hours studying the Oriental Trading Company catalog's glossy pages, trying to figure out how to obtain the most toys possible. My mind raced with the possibilities: "If my mom has one hundred dollars and I am willing to overlook the fact that my toys will probably be an assortment of random objects with monstrously deformed faces painted onto them, I can get... let's see... ONE THOUSAND TOYS!!!"
The situation became slightly more complicated when I reached the plush toy section of the catalog and noticed that I could get twelve zoo-animal puppets for twenty dollars. I wanted the zoo animals. I really did. But for the same price, I could get almost ten times as many "assorted toys." This was a weighty decision for a nine-year-old.
On Christmas morning, I would feel so self-satisfied, knowing that I had maximized the number of presents I would get to unwrap. I remember watching my sister unwrap the two or three expensive items that she selected from Oriental Trading Company and thinking "She's so stupid. I'm going to get at least two-hundred times as many toys as her..."
Three days later, my sister would be playing contentedly with her super-deluxe farm animal play-set and I would be eyeing her with jealously, having run out of ideas for how to have fun with two hundred plastic banana-whistles.