Toys you should and should NOT buy for my kids…

Without sounding wholly ungrateful and extremely rude, I want to thank you for buying my children gifts. I do. I want to tell you that everytime you give something to make my little ones smile, even for a fleeting moment, that you have done something special for me. But please… if you want to buy my children something, remember the following- for my sake and the sake of all the parents out there with young children.

  1. If it tinkles, jingles, beeps, whistles, toots, squeaks, honks or hisses- please, I urge you from the bottom of my heart, do not buy it! The sounds it makes, initially, may seem bearable to you but those same sounds are repeatedly and incessantly going off in the house even when the children are not playing with the toy. You so much as step near the damn thing and it sets it off. We received one toy that would consistently bark whenever someone was near- and would unfailingly wake up the baby when he was younger. Needless to say, that toy met its maker well before it was due to.
  2. If it reinforces a gender bias in the extreme- avoid toys that are extreme in any way but especially those that may incorrectly depict femininity and masculinity.  I am not talking action figures and superheroes, those are cool and they give them a chance to imagine a plot. I am talking about Barbies, Monster High Dolls, and other unrealistic images of girls and women in the form of fake plastic. Let’s try and avoid teaching our young girls that you must have a tiny waist and be busty to be pretty. Instead, buy them dolls they can take care of like babies with cool accessories. That teaches them responsibility and it’s good for boys or girls. On that note, girls also like Lego, cars, trucks and train sets. It’s not just for boys, it is how you nurture your children.
  3. If it takes up a considerable amount of space- reconsider please. Parents are quickly running out of room to put their children’s toys away. We almost wish there was a way for our bigger toys to swallow our smaller toys so that there are less toys to clean up because realistically we are the ones cleaning up the toys and not them. Sorry, I ranted. Rant over.
  4. If it is made up of many smaller pieces– don’t. Just don’t. The girls received a toy that needed a day to be constructed with tunnels and slides then you roll beads everywhere to see them spin and twist through endless mazes. I wasn’t sure which was worse, the lengthy set up or the agonizing pain of accidentally stepping on one of those darn beads. Please, just don’t. I still have not forgiven my brother-in-law for buying the girls Nerf guns. I find those damn nerf bullets in every orifice of their playroom and my entire house!
  5. If it is cheaply made- then buy a $10 Toys’R’Us or equivalent gift card instead. Truth is, those dollar store toys are dangerous for young children. My 2-year-old was playing with a wand that someone bought him from the dollar store and it broke and the batteries fell out (small circular ones) and I saw him almost putting one of them in his mouth. Another time, my daughter was playing with a ball from the dollar store that had sparkles inside it then it burst suddenly and the smell of chemicals inside it was horrendous. Please don’t waste your money on cheap, easily broken, lead laden toys for the children. A gift card or a bottle of wine for mom and dad would be much more appreciated!
  6. If it is messy- think of whether you would want my child to play with it in your place. If you will worry that they would get it all over the floors or walls or end up staining your shirt or your bedding, then please do not buy it for our place. Someone bought my kids coloured bubbles once and the grass was stained purple for a week! Please, no markers, no paint, no playdough, no slime, no jelly, no sparkles!!!!!

I didn’t want to be a negative Nelly throughout the whole blog so here are some gifts you SHOULD consider purchasing…in my opinion, that every parent would not mind:

  1. Gift Card to Children’s Place or equivalent: Because our kids wear the hell out of their clothes and they are in perpetual need of new ones. Their sizes change daily so please don’t chance it and try to buy them something yourself.
  2. Books: Educational, quiet, colourful, and can be used over and over again. Best of all, they are quiet. Did I mention books were quiet? Shhhhhhh
  3. Hats, Mittens, Scarves, Gloves: I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative I am every time we are getting ready at the door that we have extra gloves, mitts, hats, scarves and ear muffs. We live in a cold place so we need a seemingly infinite supply of such things. Just saying.
  4. Gift Cards to McDonald’s or Dairy Queen or somewhere where there is ice-cream: and the gift card comes up again. When you give a family with young children a gift card to a restaurant or treat, you are gifting them with the precious gift of time with their children (I said gift way too many times) but know this- we appreciate it and it gets us out of hiding and into daylight where we will risk taking our little rebellious army and do something together for a change already!!
  5. A movie or tickets to a movie: Either works because it requires them to sit quietly and just watch something while I try to reconnect the million broken pieces of my life or clean my closet or dust between the stove and the counter. If you can take them to see a movie- even better!
  6. A subscription to a magazine or children’s club of like this or this or one of these. Chirp magazine or National Geographic for kids are the best! They are fun, educational and quiet. Ahem, best part of that last statement for a parent? Yes. The quiet part.

Sometimes the best gift of all is coming over and sitting on the ground with the children and playing with them or baking cookies with them. They just like to spend time with you. You are the best present of all.

This blog was not only intended for those of you who are seeking to buy toys for your friend’s kids. I am also going to give an honourable mention to a little tradition we call, Loot Bags.

One question- why? 

Why are we spending an inordinate amount of time and money on giving away toys and ‘stuff’ to children who were invited to give your child toys for their birthday? I think loot bags is a silly tradition because no one shops for expensive toys for loot bags. We almost always come home with tiny whistles, bubbles, markers/crayons, colouring books and some form of candy or sweets. Please stop this silly tradition. Our kids don’t need to be given something everytime they breathe. You already gave them great food, playtime, and cake. Let’s stop at the cake. Really. Parents- let’s revive something called “Being at the party is a reward all on its own”

So whether you are a “well-meaning” friend or another “mom of an army” like me or “super dad”- please remember that above all else, parents always look at three things to assess the value of a toy and its potential existential duration within the child’s grasp/memory:

1. Safety (watch out for small bits and pieces that can swallowed)

2. Usability (will it last and does it need to last)

3. Educational Value (is it making my child brighter or dumber)

And there you have it. I hope this helps any of you in determining what is a good gift for a child and what is not.

A good rule to remember is “Would I buy that for myself if I was kid and I could see/play/hear/use it everyday?”

Thank you and to all a Merry Christmas and an exceptional 2018!

From me and the Fam to you and yours.

Smartignani

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Puilt *Parent Guilt

1909559_5032225223_5452_nListen… both moms and dads suffer from guilt all the time when it comes to their kids. Sometimes it is a neurosis that far exceeds what is to be considered normal, wreaking havoc with the psychology of the brain and the dynamics of the family. Sometimes, the impact of puilt is so strong that it begins to fray at the edges of the natural internal joy granted through childbirth.

Slowly but surely, parents are so deeply entrenched in their feelings of remorse and regret that they often live a double-life filled with external demonstration of contentment warring with an internal battle of sadness, self-hate and isolation.

But I am not hear to bear the grim news that puilt is incurable, untreatable and often invisible when experienced by individuals- I am her to tell you that ALL THIS- all of it- NO QUALIFICATIONS, JUSTIFICATIONS, EXCEPTIONS, DEGREES or INTENSITY of puilt IS NORMAL.

Did you hear me? Yes. Normal. Your love for your kids makes you want to shake the heavens and crush the earth to give them what they need. Your inherent need to protect them drives you insane with doubt and thoughts (mixed with vivid imaginings in my case) of the various ways your children will be harmed. Every time I hear a story of a child being hit by a car, diagnosed with a chronic illness or abducted- I see my child’s face. Despite the sheer madness of it all- this is normal. You were made to love them beyond reason.

This sums up the “beyond reason” portion.

IMG_0879I know we have all asked ourselves at one point or another these questions: “Do I do enough?” “Are they happy?” “Am I working too much?” “Are they angry because I get angry?” “Are they yelling because I yell?” “Should I have spent more time in the car talking with them than on the phone?” “Am I horrible because they ate McDonald’s three days this week?” “Are my parenting skills destructive?” “Am I too protective?” “Are they developing abnormally because of me?” “Should I have exercised more so they can be healthier?” “Am I horrible if I don’t have technology? “Why are they so selfish- am I spoiling them?” “Did I eat too much when I was pregnant with her?” “Does he have seizures because I can’t stay up all night to watch him breathe?”

Puilt makes it evidently clear that we are responsible for these little lives that God made for us and we are forever filled with it.

But as I was in the ambulance with my toddler and puilt is ransacking my every pore and penetrating my every cell, the paramedic looked at me and said “I was in your house and I saw the crosses, I know you are religious.” I nodded hesitantly while secretly praying that this will not initiate a discourse on the theoretical epistemology of spirituality. Then he proceeded to say to me “When my baby had seizures, I was terrified and I am a paramedic. I get it. This is tough but your son is not yours.” Pause. Really awkward though because this was either a classic Star Wars confession of “Sylvia, I am his father” or an immense recognition of guilt “I switched our kids at birth” type of thing.

It was neither.

He looked at me and said, confidently, poignantly and almost sadly “God loans us these beautiful tiny beings so we can love and adore them but ultimately they are not ours, they are His.”

What?!

Let that sink in. The gravity of what he is saying. It angered me but in some strange way, it also brought me comfort.

God gives us our children with the full knowledge and complete expectation that we will mess it up somewhere along the way. He knows our limitations and our strengths, cause’ ahem, He created us. So why do we take it upon ourselves to believe or live our lives as if we are in control? How can we honestly say we could change anything or everything if we don’t have an ounce of control over their health (from a chronic illness perspective)?

So what does this mean for us in regards to puilt?

I don’t know- maybe it means that we need to relax a bit and know that the Maker will take care of His creation. Maybe you should only feel puilt about what you can control? Maybe we should…wait for it…surrender our children to the will of God.

This means we try our best. We love and cuddle, treat and snuggle, feed and discipline, clean and pray for them but at the end of the day- we are just taking care of them for God. We are grooming them for Heaven. We are teaching them values and ethics that they can utilize to become the best versions of themselves possible.

We are trainers working with a most beautiful creation.

So how am I dealing with the seizures and the puilt and the anger and resentment? I am getting through it day by day. I don’t feel guilty about feeling puilt because I know that the One who made me knows me so I have nothing to feel ashamed about.

Whether you are a mom and dad, adoptive or foster parent, single parent or blended family- remember this- the One who made you knew you before He decided if you should, could, would have a child. Whether it is natural, adopted or fostered- love them like they are the Almighty’s and let Him take care of them.

Blessings,

Smartignani

Hey parents- you’re doing great!

Everyone that sees me running around or behind the three kids asks me – “How do you do it? You’ve got it together?”

The img_6724truth is, I don’t have it together. My house is full of laundry baskets of clean and folded clothes that need to be put away into drawers, my car needs a deep-cleaning and shampooing to remove the year-old milk stains from the time it exploded in the car and my Master’s Degree is on hold while I try and establish a business with my partner, work full-time and still be a good wife, daughter, mom, sister and friend.

My life is in shambles really, but I looked around the room tonight after I made Leek soup (yes I did and from scratch too) and all the kids were playing and laughing with one another. My middle daughter is chasing my youngest son who is almost two (oh my, time does fly) and she is just declaring, on repeat, “I love you Tintin, I love you so much”. She gets that from me. She is trying to kiss him and he is gleefully running away from her, with one hand in his pocket cause’ that’s how he rolls! 

Then my eldest grabs a random book off her shelf and comes over to sit on the floor inviting both younger siblings to plant themselves in front of her. She proceeds to read them a Dr. Seuss book about Feet- upside down, no less. She is a smart cookie.

20140321_093018I looked over at my husband who is washing dishes with a satisfied smirk on his face (or he could’ve been excited at the prospect of leaving our madhouse to go to Karate which he loves) and I thought “Yup, we are doing ok!”

The thing is, we are so hard on ourselves as parents. We always want to do more, say more, be more, snuggle more, encourage more and just play more. Sometimes, we are so critical of ourselves that we don’t stop to enjoy the fruit of our labour. Just think, your kids are healthy, they’re fed, they’re clean and they’re loved. Nothing matters more to them. Whether you live in a home, a condo, a farm or a one-bedroom apartment, you’re working so hard to keep a roof over their head. Your love and perseverance is undeniable and it shows.

It shows in their swagger. It shows in their smiles. It shows every time 20140919_080605they go to school and speak about their hero – YOU. It shows in the sparkle of their eyes and when they fold their hands to pray for you and your health and your continued love for them.

You are their world. You are enough. You are their everything. You are more valuable than anything God gave them. Your approval, your amazement, your wisdom, your words of praise, your deeds of kindness, your humour, your cuddles and snuggles and everything you do is enough. It is all they need.

You got this. I got this. We got this.

Now if only my house, my laundry and my car would be satisfied with my love… not likely.

 

 

 

Random mommy moments…

Source: Random mommy moments…

Random mommy moments…

This is a short compilation of recent mommy moments that I feel the need to share with the world.

  1. My three year old still thinks that hairplanes depart from the hairport. Image result for hairplane
  2. My 19 months old son will randomly go up to dogs anywhere and start bopping up and down – dancing to an imaginary song in his head. Dogs usually love that.
  3. I spelled out to my husband, very quickly, that a friend is trying to get p-r-e-g-n-a-n-t and my 5 year old immediately asked – “Who is trying to get pregnant mommy?”
  4. My three year old came up to me and said “Mommy, I love you as much as pickles” then walked away. She doesn’t like pickles that much. Image result for emojis unamused
  5. My husband did the laundry which was awesome. My toddler wore my underwear on his head when someone rang the door and he came running up. Not awesome.
  6. My five year old exclaimed loudly, in public, “Mommy why is that man screwing around?” as she pointed to a gentlemen who was fixing a chair with a screwdriver.
  7. My toddler is frustrated that the TV is not touch screen. He can’t swipe anything. So frustrating for him. There are tiny fingerprints literally ALL OVER our TV screen.
  8. My 3 year old likes to watch TB and often tells people in random places “I love my TB.”  As people noticeably and justifiably back away.
  9. My 5 year old broke down today because it was so hot and said- “I am dehydrated mommy- are you trying to kill me? Hydrate me please, that is all I ask!”
  10. A magician at a small party asked the kids, what do you breathe out into the balloon- all the kids shouted “air” but my 5 year old declared “Carbon Dioxide!”
  11. My toddler keeps running away from imaginary people who are trying to tickle him. He then chases same and says “Tickle, tickle, tickle” I think he sees the unseen.Image result for emojis
  12. My 3 year old will sit down for breakfast and have a bowl of cereal then a bowl of oatmeal and then desperately ask “Do we have any more Eggos?”
  13. My 5 year old blamed mommy when she got in trouble at school, stating and I quote “My mommy made me this way. This is how I was born.”
  14. My toddler physically removes and carries really heavy items out of the pantry then cries because he doesn’t know how to put them down.
  15. When asked who she loves more, mommy or daddy, my 5 year old daughter proudly and confidently asserts “God”.

I can’t be prouder and they can’t be more beautiful in my eyes. Thank you Lord for blessing them. Please share your moments if you like!

Smartignani

Bedtime Wars!

Source: Bedtime Wars!

Bedtime Wars!

Image result for pillow fight childrenSome of our battles are quite epic! Please tell me I am not alone. My preschooler and my kindergartner share a room and a bunk bed and THEY NEVER WANT TO SLEEP!

We have a routine. We change into our pjs, we brush our teeth, we pray in our beds, most nights I read a story, we snuggle and huggle and cuddle and huddle. I rub their back, I play with their hair, I sing songs and I plead, beg, bribe, reward, remind, count-down, count-up, cry, tickle and threaten but NOTHING WORKS!

These kids just won’t sleep. They refuse to succumb to any strategy I have used thus far. The only thing I can think of is splitting them up which will suck for us because we will lose our extra guest room which I use when family comes over. The other reason I don’t want to split them up is because that would mean one of them sharing the bathroom with my toddler who is not a heavy sleeper which means one toilet flush or one song and he is AWAKE! I cannot have that!

I am beaming with pride during the day. They are good, wholesome, beautiful young ladies. They share, they care and they dress themselves. They tidy up when asked to and we operate within a very strict sticker reward system that sees them closer to their goal of going to a fun “place” once they achieve a certain number of stickers. Positive behaviour is rewarded and negative behaviour is also acknowledged through the loss of stickers. It’s an ongoing delicate balance of telling one daughter “You get 2 stickers for listening right away” and telling her sister that “Whining is not acceptable, you will lose one sticker now”.

I feel like we made progress everywhere in their behaviour. Despite my eldest’s incessant arguing (it is part of her curious nature to be inquisitive even though sometimes it feels like she is questioning my authority- it is usually unintentional). The middle child is cautious and every so sensitive, so I feel like we made great gains in making her more confident to experience the world and know that she will always have our love and support. However, together and after the bewitching hour of 7:15 pm, they become tiny hellions that are more boisterous than a small crowd of protesters in front of city hall. I have tried installing a monitor to yell at them through it but it did nothing but make me irate with the sheer amount of shushing and threatening I had to do while they action ideas, which I can hear,  that are just no no no no no good!

I read forums about this so I decided to stop listening in and I took away the monitor. I decided to just let them play but all I kept hearing downstairs from their room is banging, thumping, stomping and screaming. They would often wake up their baby brother which would send me into a small dark rage and result in them losing the ability to attend events, visits or even go out in public! My husband kept telling me to stop incentivizing them with what we will be doing next that would be fun and I listened even though that was the only thing that worked with them! If we had a wedding, or party or fun event coming up, I would say “Remember, if you listen and go to sleep tonight, we can go to…and have lots of fun”. It worked beautifully but this did not sit well with my husband so he implemented the strike system.

Strike one, they lose their books and flashlight (yes, they each have 3 or 4 books to read in their bed). Strike two, we close the curtains (we keep them open for daylight and until they sleep) then last strike, we turn off their star nightlight since they do not like the dark- that is absolutely the worst one.

It is working except, if I give a strike then it affects both girls and the eldest usually says “But mommy, why are you punishing me? I’m listening!” And she is right. I don’t know if this is a foolproof system, certainly my 5 year-old is no fool!

So I really don’t know what to do or whether to actually do anything at all. I am blogging about it to see if I am the only one in the mamaverse who is struggling with this. My goodness, some days, I just hate bed time. If I wasn’t sure that they need at least 13 hours of sleep, I wouldn’t have even bothered putting them to sleep at all! And even though I start bedtime at 7:15 pm most nights, they are not usually asleep until 9 or 9:30 pm- crazy right?

There is something wrong with these children. Don’t mince words. Just tell me- WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE CHILDREN?

Image result for tired momLOL.

Smartignani

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