Get A Grip: The best toys can't be bought

I am reasonably certain that, between doting grandparents, relatives, friends and parents, Sophie received every toy known to modern man for her first birthday and Christmas.

The little redhead now has talking books, singing bears, and a dancing, lounge singer reindeer, among other things.

A musical chair sits next to the couch and a colorful Sophie-sized activity table tempts from the corner.

Our family room is a veritable toy nirvana.

On Christmas morning she mostly watched as her presents were opened for her.

Then she'd grab her goods with a chubby little hand, taste her toy and then drop it and go for the real prize – the wrapping paper.

She apparently did not appreciate all the money and technology dedicated to stimulating her developing mind.

The safety tests and focus groups that approved these myriad toys had no impact on my little one.

Nope, she went for the paper and played with it for hours.

She scrunched it up to hear it crinkle and ripped it apart for the fun of destruction and waved it about like a baby independence flag proclaiming freedom from the tyranny of Disney and Hasbro.

Of course, once she realized that most all of her new toys made cool noises, her interest did increase.

This was after the delivery and installation of a truckload of batteries.

So now her toys sit in the family room.

She likes to bang things around, "dance" and play music.

But her radar is out for stray envelopes and paper which, she feels, really make the best toys.

And despite spending a lot of money on colorful, noisy toys that light up and talk, I kind of have to agree with her.

Because, while I never wanted for toys growing up, my favorites were mud and boxes.

One summer I spent countless happy days in the backyard fashioning sculptures from mud.

I made mud hamburgers and hot dogs, a mud heart and an apple.

After my masterpieces were formed and dried in the sun, I spent countless more days painting them.

These priceless gifts I then bestowed upon neighbors and relatives.

I loved it and the recipients of these treasures were all gracious enough to feign appreciation for a hunk of painted mud.

Then there was the refrigerator box my brother and I dragged into the basement one winter.

First it was a racecar, then a sailboat and finally a fort.

We cut holes in it and painted it.

We didn't need molded plastic and coordinating stickers for our car, boat and fort to be real.

We just needed a healthy dose of imagination.

After a few months, the poor box eventually collapsed under the weight of our exuberant playing.

Luckily it lasted until spring and we quickly forgot the box as outdoor play demanded our full attention.

And so, while I'm sure we'll continue to regale Sophie with the latest and greatest offerings from the toy industry, I'm also going to let her play in the mud and with old boxes, if she's so inclined.

As for me, my favorite Christmas present was the Christmas Eve hike I took with the husband and baby.

It wasn't a very long or strenuous affair, but we were outside in the fresh air, enjoying the winter desert.

It reminded me of the natural bounty of Northern Arizona that we so often sit amongst and ignore.

The air was crisp, the mountain vistas clear and the desert alive with activity.

We were so inspired by our Christmas Eve sojourn that we ventured even farther afield last weekend on a New Year's Eve hike in Sedona.

This time we hiked through woods along a tributary of Oak Creek.

The red rock canyon walls sloped into the creek coated with ice and dripping with icicles.

Despite the ice, the air was cool and comfortable as we hiked a short way into the woods, past a secret garden ruins and several other friendly hikers.

On the drive home we were observed from the roadside by a huge bald eagle.

The big bird was just watching the traffic go by from his perch above a small cattle pond.

And so, even though I had not planned to make a New Year's resolution, I think I'll relent and resolve to spend more time getting to know this harsh yet beautiful place and less time in front of my television.