I'm going to be taboo and admit my gratitude for another material item, this one not even strictly necessary--my camera.
I have always enjoyed snapping photos and during college used to plaster my wall with shots of my friends and me. I eventually moved my party pics into photo albums and brought out my camera only on vacation. Then, my husband purchased an SLR for me as a gift one Christmas, and I was hooked. Still, I worked quite a lot and really didn't know what I was doing, so the SLR got heavy use during vacations and not much in between.
I think the advent of digital photography for the masses and the birth of my first child were a happy coincidence. We rushed out and purchased our first digital point-and-shoot before my son was born, providing me ample opportunity--without the cost of film--to take hundreds of photos of my infant drooling on himself each day. Frankly, it was a bit silly.
Along came baby number 2, and about a year later on another Christmas, my husband purchased a digital SLR for me. I still treated it like a fancy point-and-shoot, still took thousands of photos, but occasionally some were good. [Insert monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare analogy here.] Because the photos were almost exclusively of my children, I thought they all were priceless even if others might argue about the quality.
In January of this year, with both kids in school full day, I found a six-week RISD Continuing Education Intro to Photography course that met one weekday morning each week. There's no going back. It's like everything else--a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I now know what most of the digital camera controls do, and my results have improved dramatically. I even fancy myself a photographer now, if only an amateur hobbyist. This means that I tote my camera along most places I go, convince friends to sit for me while I practice portrait photography, and continue to take oodles of photos of my kids.
For the first time I can recall, I have a bona fide hobby. It provides me a creative outlet, allows me to document life with my growing kids, and provides an excuse to purchase all kinds of supplemental