The most difficult person to shop for in our family is about to celebrate his birthday this week.

The boys and I have given up on trying to find suitable gifts for Ron and instead buy ourselves stuff, and then wrap it up for him to open.

It sounds weird, I know, but years of watching Christmas, Father’s Day and birthday gifts collect dust have taught us to at least spend money on something he can watch us enjoy.

Last year, Ron made it easy for us and asked for a Wii for his birthday, something the boys had been begging for. Within days, he was begging them to connect the game system to the TV downstairs, so he wouldn’t have to hear it in our living room.

The obvious choice of gift for my fishing-obsessed husband would seem to be lures. But I learned years ago that he is picky, picky, picky when it comes to anything connected to his favorite hobby.

I spent plenty of time and money trying to locate the "right" kind of lure, but always managed to fail. Now, I just stay away from sporting goods stores and the fishing section of Wal-Mart.

It’s much easier and more fun to enlist the help of the boys and hit the mall for some gag gifts that we can put to good use.

For example, the comfy T-shirt Tommy gave his daddy for Father’s Day just happened to fit me perfectly. And the Wii game Jimmy picked out was one he had been wanting for a long time.

"What happened to the bass fishing game?" Ron asked as he tore away the wrapping.

"Oh, they were out of it, so I got this one instead," Jimmy replied, innocently. Funny — I couldn’t recall Jimmy mentioning a fishing game to the sales clerk.

While the boys were downstairs playing the new game, Ron peacefully watched sports all afternoon on the big TV, something that never occurs when all four Zich men are gathered in one room.

About eight years ago, I actually managed to surprise Ron with a gift he adored. We had just moved to Cherry Point, N.C., and were renting a house with a big yard, so I decided to get him a riding lawn mower.

I bought a brand-name, orange mower that was bigger than my first car. My hubby was delighted and able to use it for almost two years.

That’s how long it took the Marine Corps to send us to California, where our yard was the size of a postage stamp.

The mower ended up at my parents’ house, perhaps making up for all the weird Father’s Day and birthday gifts I’ve given my daddy over the years.

He is second most difficult person in my family to shop for. Maybe it’s just a "man thing."

Due to the timing of Ron’s birthday, there are usually fireworks stands around town. Every time we pass one, Jimmy is going to try to con me into buying some explosives to celebrate both the birth of his father and our nation’s independence.

It’s not going to be a quiet week around our home.

Perhaps the best gift I can give my hubby is to gather up the boys and head down south to visit my parents. Then he could fish and watch ESPN all he wants.

But I know he would start to miss us eventually, especially if we took Glory. So we’ll probably stick around, showering him with unique gifts and more than the usual amount of noise.

The noise, chaos and occasional fireworks are, after all, what makes Life on the Home Front so much fun.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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