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Have wish lists gone over the top?

I'm not sure when the Christmas wish list tradition started to rub me the wrong way, but it was somewhere in between seeing my oldest daughter's super-efficient list, complete with downloaded images and hyperlinks, and my youngest daughter's written plea for a human-sized hamster ball.

Typed and emailed to grandmas and aunts, my tweens' wish lists, all totaled, almost exceed our monthly mortgage. And they haven't even discovered the online wish lists at websites like and Toys R Us, where computer-savvy children are reportedly creating their own Christmas registries.

Is this just an opportunity for fun, wishful thinking? Or is it an obnoxious exercise in excess?

As a kid, I couldn't wait for the Sears Wish Book to show up so I could circle everything I wanted and complete my letter to Santa. I'm sure some of my requests were over-the-top, but I never expected to receive all of them – and I don't think they could compare to this generation's desires. A Black Friday survey by Nielsen of American children ages 6-12 found that an iPad topped most lists, followed by an iPod Touch. In the United Kingdom, a Duracell poll found that the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad top kids' lists. (Has Steve Jobs stolen Christmas?!)

About the time I started to feel uneasy about my daughters' wish lists, a friend of mine called to complain that her nephews and nieces had started emailing her their wish lists, unsolicited. It wasn't so much what they asked for, but how they asked – in an off-putting emailed demand that verged on obnoxious.

I don't remember sending my wish list as a child to anyone other than Santa. My grandparents and aunts and uncles probably talked to my mother for tips, but they also knew me well enough to figure out what they thought I'd like. And, frankly, I think they probably derived more pleasure out of that rather than filling some online order off an emailed list. It's the season when it's better to give than receive, right?

The other night, I asked my youngest daughter whether she expected to actually receive the things on her list. She giggled and rolled her eyes. "No, of course not."

I'm glad some things about Christmas haven't changed. Do you think the Human Hamster Ball people take returns?