Adoption in Ontario

baby s right foot on person left palmOk. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I feel compelled to write about it now because honestly, I have been thinking about it most of my life. I would love to present the ever-controversial topic of adoption and dispel some myths surrounding this serious and life-long decision.

I know so many people say that adoption is not a good idea especially if you have your own children. They shift the dynamic of the home and forever change the members in the family. However, my counter argument to this is simply- children of any sort whether biological, fostered or adopted shift dynamics and change lives. That is what God intended when he created them so why would adopted children be any exception.

I will write this blog in terms of myths and try to dispel them as far as I know how. There will be some specific information that I will be unable to transmit because I am not a professed expert on the topic. Hence, I will abstain from providing any false information and I will try to be as factual as possible.


Myth #1: Adoption is expensive and too long of a process

This may be very true if you would like to adopt internationally or privately. However, in Ontario, “You don’t pay anything to adopt through the CAS. You may even be able to get financial help from the government if you adopt a child through CAS.” This is if you choose, “Public adoption [which] means adopting a child through the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).” In fact, the CAS website clearly states:

Adopting through a Children’s Aid Society is free. It generally takes approximately one year to go through the adoption process. This time period is necessary to find the right match for a child. When we meet with potential families, we are looking for a cultural match, but we also look at the personalities, interests and the needs of a child not just in the short-term, but for their whole life. The matching process is integral to people really understanding what child would fit with them the best.

The cost of adoption depends on a number of variables: the type of adoption you undertake, whether you work with an agency, the province you reside in and any associated travel costs.  It costs very little to adopt through the public child welfare system in Canada.

Range of Adoption Costs

Public (foster care): $0 – $3,000

Licensed Private Agency: $10,000 – $20,000

International: $20,000 – $30,000

Myth #2: Children that are up for adoption are ‘damaged’ or ‘hurt’ and will never recover

I will try to be as objective as possible in replying to this extremely judgmental and painful, albeit common, opinion. Truth is, yes, many of the young wards of CAS have been neglected or dismissed. Adoption.ca states “Loving foster families and ultimately, permanent adoptive families give these children the best chance at successful outcomes and bright futures.” No damage is irreversible. I have worked with children for close to three decades and they were from varying environments with a diverse spectrum of abilities and circumstances. I have even met and taught children who were adopted from Romania where they aren’t touched as infants except to be changed and they become so detached from the world. However, this little girl made it through after 8 years of love and she was thriving beautifully. If you won’t give up on a career or a pursuit of a dream no matter how long it takes, how could you give up on another human being who is little and in need of your love. Be prepared for the damage because no damage is too great for love to handle.

Furthermore, every child is unique. Some have health challenges, some have emotional challenges, some have cognitive challenges. With the right education and preparation, many families embrace the effort to meet the child’s needs. Families need to understand their limits also. Children available through the public system have thorough assessments and are often already receiving helpful services that will continue once they have been adopted.

Myth #3: My children will not be able to accept the adopted child

Here is what the experts say about this:

Whether your biological kid is getting an adoptive sibling or the other way around, you need to prepare the child for an addition to the family. “Talk to your child about how you want to grow your family: ‘I had siblings, and I want you to have them too,'” says Rita Taddonio, a licensed social worker and head clinician at Spence-Chapin, a private, not-for-profit adoption agency in New York. “Kids think everything is about them. You’re making it clear that this is not about your child, so he doesn’t think, ‘I’m not enough.’

“Involve your kid in the preparations by getting him to help decorate the new baby‘s room or pick out toys. If you’re adopting, let your kid attend a family meeting with the social worker and ask any questions he has. Give older kids a role, such as changing diapers or reading books to the new sibling. And make it clear to your child that he’ll still have one-on-one time with you — then plan for it, even if it’s only an hour a week in the beginning, Taddonio says.

Myth #4: Adoption isn’t common

Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians are touched by adoption.

Let this stat sink in.

Myth #5: The birth mother will reclaim the child after I adopt him/her or my child will grow up and seek his/her real family.
Although this is a common fear, it is rooted in your own reluctance to make a commitment. Truth is, once parental rights have been terminated, biological parents cannot regain custody of their children. Also, prior to placing her baby for adoption, a prospective birth mother has the right to change her mind at any time and have her baby returned to her. After the placement, there is a period of time where she can revoke her consent and have the baby returned to her. After that period expires, however, her parental rights to her child are terminated and eventually transferred to the adoptive parents, who will be responsible for raising him/her. The key to preventing a potential birth mother from undergoing a change of heart is to screen her carefully and to make sure she receives sufficient counselling so that she clearly understands her actions and her rights and responsibilities. Remember, too, that until she terminates her rights to her child, she’s not a birth mother. She’s a pregnant woman who’s considering adoption.

grayscale portrait of man woman and child holding hands

 

According to recent longitudinal studies that followed adopted children, searching for one’s birth parents was quite common in adoptions of the past, but not any more. In open adoption today, children — though curious as ever — have less of an interest in meeting their parents. That’s because there’s no burning mystery or dark secret to uncover; they feel secure with themselves and their environment. And in those instance where the do want speak to their birth parents, their adoptive parents will simply pick up the phone and dial the number for them.

 

How you communicate with your adopted child makes all the difference. In open adoption today, a child’s origins are never in doubt. From a very early age, s/he not only knows that the people who are raising him/her are his/her adoptive parents, but in many cases s/he will have a picture or letters from his/her birth parents. All the information is out in the open, should the child be interested in learning more about his/her origins.

Even if they are, encourage them to find their real families when they are older if they choose. They will never forget the love you had for them so it makes it ok. Actually, there is an entire database for them on CAS if they choose called “Finding Your Roots”

Myth #6: I am adopting because I can’t have any(more) children.

Adoption is not a cure for infertility. It’s a way to build a family and share your love with a child whose parents simply weren’t ready or able to become parents. While a child can perhaps soften the pain, disappointment and frustration stemming from infertility, s/he can’t make it disappear. Please don’t place your personal issues, health or otherwise, on the adopted child. You will find that this is too great a burden to bear on the child who has already been through so much. Please be emotionally willing and able to level set your expectations and know that this is a life-long commitment to a human life. There are support groups and networks of families that have adopted that can help you with this.

In essence,  not everything works out the way we’d like it to. Many people, for instance, want to start a family, but for medical reasons are unable to do so. Just because they suffer from infertility, however, doesn’t mean that they can’t — or shouldn’t — become parents. Which is why there’s adoption.

 Myth #7: I am single hence I cannot adopt.

False. A single parent can provide a loving stable home.  Increasing numbers of children live in single parent homes (as the number of two parent homes declines) and thrive beautifully, and increasingly, single parents successfully adopt all the time.

Myth #8: I cannot adopt my foster child.

False. You can and many do. However, if you are seeking a child to be his/her forever home, just skip the fostering and adopt. It will be more challenging if you foster a child, love them like your own then they get adopted and you suffer a great loss.

Myth #9: What should I think about before adopting a child or children?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I provide a child with a secure, nurturing and loving home?
  • Can I make a long-term commitment to a child?
  • Am I ready to take on the responsibilities of supporting and raising a child?
  • Am I willing to participate in a multi-step adoption process?
  • Am I ready to welcome a child into my family?

photography of baby holding the hand of person

If the answer is yes to all of the above questions, then you are ready to learn more about adoption in Ontario and your role as a potential adoptive parent.

Myth #10: People will judge me.

I will tell you this from my heart, people will judge NO MATTER WHAT YOU DECIDE TO DO. Opinions are just that- opinions. They are optional and you don’t have to listen to them. If this is a mission of the heart and you are adopting for the right reasons- mainly to give a child a much needed, loving and stable home and family. Then do it. Stop caring what others think. Do what is calling you.

Here are resources for adoption:

http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/adoption/thinking-of-adopting/index.aspx

https://stepstojustice.ca/steps/1-learn-about-different-types-adoption

http://adoption.ca/home

http://www.torontocas.ca/media/adoption-process

http://www.canadaadopts.com/adopting-in-canada/open-adoption/

http://adoptontario.ca/

I am ready to adopt- what do I need to do?

http://www.torontocas.ca/contact/interested_in_adopting

If you are still hesitating, please watch this:

 

If you can, and if God has written it on your heart, please adopt a child.

My husband and I were gifted with three beautiful children but we will still pray to adopt a child.

God bless you always.

Smartignani

 

 

Fever Watch = Seizure Watch

tim 2So my son is sick again. He is turning 3 in two weeks. He is prone to febrile seizures.

The last time he had an episode was hours before he turned 2 then he had mini-seizures in his sleep. Like two more times. Now he caught a virus from daycare which would normally set other children back 24 hours. Fever and vomiting. For him, having a seizure is a constant threat hanging low over his head. At least for me. His father is stronger than I am.

I am fighting my own demons.

I am constantly watching his monitor. Even at night. It’s a sick obsession. 

I have joined support groups on Facebook that are made up of parents who are struggling with febrile seizures attacking their babies. When I first joined, I read about the sad story of a 3-year-old who was taken from this life by a seizure. It was debilitating. The story and the mother and her advocacy and trying to understand was beyond hopeless. My anxiety increased when I read that story and I started researching even more. There is no known cure nor prevention of febrile seizures. It seems the medical community has just accepted it as a “common event” for children and they “will grow out of it by the age of 5 or 6”.

What?! I can’t sleep out of fear and incapacitating anxiety for 5 or 6 years????

As a mother of a baby who suffers from seizures, I have to confess, there is nothing worse than seeing it happen. The pronounced  shakes, the foaming at the little mouth, the whole-body stiffness, the exhaustion afterwards and he does not even know what is happening. I read other parent’s encounters on Facebook and I write them comments to support them but it’s not good enough. I went to therapy and I paint, knit and even write songs but it’s not therapeutic enough.

We need more research about this. We need to give parents better ways to cope with this. I was told in the Emergency Room by the doctor who finally got around to seeing my son, 5 hours after his seizure- that even Tylenol and Advil and controlling his temperature will not stop a seizure.

So what will?

I wanted to let you know that my son is sick. It’s not a visible illness and it’s not chronic and so many parents tell me to be thankful that it’s not leukemia or a disease that is terminal. Yes. I am grateful. Yes I realize that this may or may not kill him. I know that seizures, on the broad spectrum of what can go wrong are fairly and legitimately unconcerning but…

I STILL HATE THEM!

I hate them every time they occur. Every single second that my son’s body is out of his own control with his eyes rolled up. Every time that he is not “conscious”. I hate their powerful hold over him and over me. I hate how scared I am and how tired he looks afterwards. I hate the fact that he has to get them. I hate not knowing when and how he will get them. I hate not being told that they can be deadly. I simply hate it all.

Despite the fact that they may outgrow the seizures, we will never forget the misery, the worry and the pain of seeing our child this way. Febrile seizures are killing our insides a little bit at a time. There is numbness on the edges of my heart.

I still pray but inside me I am filled with rage and frustration.

I question why certain children get it. Why others don’t? There has to be some research done on precursors- a gene, a chromosome, a virus, a predisposition, something.

There has to be an answer. This is incredibly hard. I can’t explain nor describe the sickening feeling of dread and tight knots in my belly as I watch him on the monitor tonight. It’s like waiting, and knowing, that something really bad will happen.

It’s being ready with clothes on in case you need to go to hospital or call 911. It’s having a packed hospital bag hanging off your stairs banister near the door. It’s having more than 10 bottles of Children’s Tylenol and Advil and Motrin everywhere. It’s the constant, gnawing, persistent and ever-slow tapping on your nerves.  It’s the fervent prayer in the night as you sleep with one eye open while the other watches and counts every rise and fall of the chest. It’s my palm on his chest to check his heartbeat. My heartbeat. We are one and we are connected. I don’t know if I can do this.

If you are reading this and you know how it feels, please know you are not alone. It may be common but that doesn’t make it easier. It may be minor but that doesn’t make it any simpler for us to digest or comprehend. It may be transient or temporary but it is no less traumatizing.

I am left with PTSD as a result of his seizures. I am always anxious and scared to be away from him. I hate the fever/seizure watch with a passion.

I am but a former shadow of myself. I used to be brave and so strong. Now, I am fearful that I will lose one of the sweetest gifts God ever granted me.

Please keep me in your thoughts. And keep him in your thoughts as well.

 

 

 

 

Momming is Hard…

imagesCAWJ7Y37 But seriously…Momming is hard you guys. I really reflected on it the other day as I swiped up on my Facebook timeline and read all the concerns and questions of moms who really just want to do the best for their baby. It’s a whirlwind of confusion and queries.

I wake up randomly and ask questions like “Did all three of my kids get all the shots they needed?” or “Do we need a Pediatrician instead of a Family Doctor?” or “Why is my almost-three-year-old not potty trained- is it me or him?”

These questions haunt me and it stands to reason that I think many questions of vast varieties haunt every mom out there. So I wanted to address some common questions here with some answers that I think will add levity and humour to the situation:

  1. Am I being a good mom when I leave my kids and go out with my girlfriends? Yes. You need to leave them to miss them and they need to adjust to others responding to their needs. Daddy or grandparents or babysitter can help them just fine. Have your glass of whatever-it-is with you girls because you have earned it!
  2. Is it normal to feel this guilty when leaving my baby at daycare? Yes. What’s not normal is dropping baby off and running away yelling “Start the Car honey, the deed is done!” (Full Disclosure: No one ever does that at our childcare centre but it would be funny). Of course it is normal, oftentimes it is more distressing for the mother than the baby!
  3. Is it normal to look at pictures and videos of my children on a date with my partner? No. Stop that. It’s just so silly when people do this. I am kidding. It is normal but we really should stop doing that. We just left them at home like 10 minutes ago and we haven’t even ordered the appies!
  4. Is it normal to feel guilty going away on vacation while the grandparents watch the children? Yes it is normal. But you should feel guiltier leaving me behind!!! Just take me with you please? I pack easily- I am told I can be pretty compact! Don’t let your guilt override the relaxation you can have when you are away. Recharging your batteries is healthy for you and for your little ones. You’ve left them with people you trust, obviously, and made arrangements for their care. Enjoy your time away because you earned it! Reconnect with your partner or your inner self or your core or someone…you are on vacation so start vacating!
  5. Is it normal to ‘not’ like my kids sometimes? What?! No! You are horrible. What makes you say such a thing. Again, I am totally kidding. There are times where my partner and I want to sell our kids to the highest bidder! It is perfectly normal to intensely wish you could go back to childless days where a mini-version of yourself isn’t standing there with hands-on-hips virtually challenging you in the same tone, and using the same words, you use to manage their behaviour. It’s ok not to like your kids sometimes, it is not ok to not enjoy them at all. That could be signs of depression and that is too depressing to talk about here but we can address it. I struggled with it. Message me if you want to talk about this very serious issue.
  6. Is it normal to cry after your child’s birthday party? Yes. First of all, you’re exhausted because you just planned this red-carpet, TIFF-worthy, themed, magnificently-designed birthday party that Princess Kate would be jealous of. Well, that and your child is aging. There is nothing more bittersweet than having you baby grow up. I am always torn between wanting them to stay the exact same age and being excited to watch the little people then adults they become. I can’t tell you how nostalgic, sad, excited and fearful I feel on the birthdays of my children. I am a wreck. I love them so much, my heart aches. I cried like a baby when my middle child turned five two days ago. Why? I remembered bringing her home as a baby then I condemned myself for bringing home her baby brother 26 months later and not giving her enough attention when she was 2. Wow. Mommy guilt is real y’all!
  7. Is it normal to regret going on vacation with children? Yes. Simply put, we regret taking our children on every family vacation we take. Then we look at pictures with fondness. Apparently, it gets easier but it sucks when you’re in the moment. Either they get sick, or drive you bonkers with their behaviour. You are exhausted at 9 pm and end up falling sloppily asleep because they were so all-over-the-darn-place and that embarrassing shade of red on your cheeks was mistaken for too much sun or too much blush. Verdict: Take your kids on vacation but don’t expect to LOVE every moment. Just like home, there will be fun and there will be fury. It’s all good. Healthy mix. They should create a miniseries on TVO or something: The Fun and the Furious (Parents on vacation with kids).
  8. Is it normal to resent my partner for not being as anxious as me about their development? Yes. But stop it. Face their challenges as they happen not before they do. Then you waste time worrying about things that may not happen and when they do, your defenses are down and you are not strong enough to face them. If your partner seems more relaxed about things, it is to balance you out. It does not help anyone to have both sets of parents stressing over everything when it comes to the children. Make sure you take turns though because it can be pretty exhausting to be the comforter all the time. Our partners need the time to be anxious and worried and they need us to be chill and comforting.
  9. Is it normal to feel jealous when my baby wants my partner more than me? Ummm, the question is, what are you doing standing there watching? Dude, go take a shower or do your nails or wax them eyebrows!! Don’t stand there and nurse the emotions of jealousy? Instead, say something like, “Oh, looks like the baby needs YOU right now! I will give you some bonding time and space. You are an awesome parent. Love you!” And then run. Get your shoes on and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE or head to your room. Go for a walk, a stretch, a nap, a shower, a massage, shopping or even drinking. I don’t know. Whatever turns your crank. Just do it. But yes, it’s normal to be jealous. I wasn’t impressed when I did everything for the baby and they would cry or say “Daddy” as their first word. Now, after three little ones, not so much. I just shrug my shoulder and say “Meh, take’em” and find an alternative activity that brings me joy and peace.
  10. Is it normal to hear yourself be your mother? Yup. You read that correctly. Sometimes I am so keenly aware that my mother’s words, actions, mannerisms have completely invaded my body and mind and I suddenly become my mom. It may not necessarily be a bad thing for some people but for me, I always wanted to be less anxious, more free and less militant with my kids. I. Am. Not. Let’s put it this way, I hold their hands up and down the stairs until they are at least three years of age. I fed them pureed food much later than necessary to avoid choking. I still need to potty train my almost-three-year-old (can you tell this is a sensitive issue for me currently). The other day I caught myself saying, “Like it or not, you will do what I say because I am your mother and that is that!” – Whaaaaaaat?! That was not in any parenting book I ever read and definitely was not a recommended statement befitting of my relaxed-authoritative parenting style! The struggle is real y’all.

Ok. So what did we learn from all this everybody?

We are not perfect but we are perfect for our kids. Think about that. You are perfect for your child. Your child was created for you and you are everything your child needs. You are sufficient and magnificent with all your flaws and all your imperfections. You are perfectly imperfect and just what your child needs. With your love and patience, your crazy-mommy moments and your tender touch, your baby is blessed by you.

So stay fierce. Just be who you are. Everything you doubt doing is amazing. Your effort is clear to all of us and please just do what is right for your child. Don’t listen to others’ experience because no one else has your baby!

Peace and love y’all.

SMartignani

I may forget

Last night I woke up suddenly because I was scared. I was scared that time is passing so quickly and that my little babies are growing up too fast. I feared losing time with them and missing them as they are now. This fear sent me into a frenzy as I left the warmth of my bed to go check on my babies. My 6 year-old was sound asleep in her new room because she was “upgraded” from sharing a bunk bed with her sister to a “private suite”. She wanted privacy and she is only 6! I almost bawled when I saw my eldest and first-born curled up in her big bed with a stuffed penguin (whom she still thinks is an owl) held tightly in her embrace. I am not sure why but an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me because I still remembered bringing her home when she was a week old. All 4 lbs 11 oz. and fiesty with some screeching screams and beautiful features. She was perfection as I held her in the crook of my arms. Now she is contemplating big things like what she wants for Christmas and which chapter book she will need to borrow from the library next. She is correcting my French and saying things like “Mommy, I can do it by myself- I am a big girl now!” Oh be still my heart. Be still.

I silently slip out of her room and unlock the door to the second bedroom that holds two more precious pieces of my heart. The middle daughter, filled with affection and sunshine is sleeping in the top bunk and her wild, curly hair has invaded almost the entire pillow. You can barely see her cherubic face as she nestles deeper into her covers. She senses my presence as I longingly stare at her only seeing the baby that stopped breathing three times and almost slipped from my grasp. At that moment, I was just so grateful and thankful that she survived the ordeals faced only at 8 hours old! She is now a spirited little 4 year-old who knows exactly what to do and say to get what she wants. Her sense of humour is outrageous and her thirst for life is out of this world. She is so emotionally in-tuned to her environment and she can sense tension, joy, worry, fear and sadness miles away. She is the only one of the three that melts into my arms and whispers “It’s ok mommy, I love you all day long all the way to heaven and back.” Her sweet voice and demeanour make me so sentimental because I feel like I lost out on some of her babyhood and toddler-hood because I had my third and last baby. He took the attention away from her and I regret not knowing where I spent my time. I don’t even remember her as a toddler because she was so quiet and content.

Then I quietly kneel next to my youngest. At two years of age, he is the prince of my universe. The light at the end of every day and the reason my entire existence becomes wholly meaningful. My son is a ball of energy with intensity much too high for a toddler. He is intelligent, persistent yet obedient. Naturally curious with an incredible fervor for life. To say I adore him is an immense understatement. I hang on to his every word, smile, breath and action. I nuzzle, cuddle, snuggle, tickle, sniff and kiss him every opportunity I get. I make him laugh then I hear him say “Shtop-Shtop mommeee. My face. My body.”

Be still my heart. Be still. When did he make the distinction between us? We were one soul attached at the hip. He used to cry when I would release him and now he is his own entity? He is ordering me to stop kissing him?

I can’t tell you how much I pray that he stays young. That he just stops growing. That time can just stand still. I love all three so much, it hurts. It literally…hurts.

Today when I asked my eldest to hold my hand when we were crossing the parking lot, I felt her tiny palm slip into mine and I almost cried. I realized that her palm won’t stay so tiny one day and that she will be out with friends and away from me. I almost crumbled right there on the spot. How can I just let my heart wander out there in the world without me? How will she survive without my watchful gaze or gentle redirection? (sometimes not so gentle). How will my baby girl just be making decisions that can impact her life and mine?

Be still my heart.

I want to warn you now if you are expecting, nothing hurts more than watching them grow up.

The labour pains, the c-sections, the sicknesses, the NICU, the worry, the guilt, the lack of sleep, the excruciating anxiety of whether you are doing this mothering thing right or not- NOTHING is more painful than blinking only to see your baby a 6-year-old!

I pray that they remain healthy. I pray that I can savour each stage of their lives in turn with as much passion and focus as I have allocated to my career, my marriage and my faith.

I hope that they know when they are grown that I never wanted them to grow- not because I am selfish but because I am much too afraid of letting go.

Thank you for listening. God bless.

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

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

Changing Diapers…it’s a poopy job!

baby-1295614_960_720It just feels like all I do is change poopy diapers these days. Between the 11-months-old and the 3-year-old who is refusing to potty train, I have poop coming out of an orifice every two hours during the day. Nothing fazes me now. I get poop on my fingers- oh well, we can just wash that off.  My baby is literally a poop-machine. He doesn’t eat ONE MEAL without creating a poop-filled diaper. It’s like he’s hollow and it goes right through him- I swear it.

At noon-ish, I went upstairs to check on my 3-year-old (because I don’t trust her at all) and she had pooped in her pull-up and smooshed it so good in her pants that it rose above the outline of the pull-up. There was toxic, disgusting waste on the carpet and her clothes. I cleaned everything up but I swear, the kid is way too big to be crapping in her pants!

My 5-year-old just finished doing her business and whilst turning around so I can help clean it up well before she goes to bed, her backside wiped cleanly against the front of my jeans.  Splleeeaaacchhh….eeewwwww…. yuk. Ok. I continued on like it was just another small mishap but C’MON people- don’t tell me it isn’t disgusting!!

All I am saying and that is all I will say, there is way too much poop to go around here and I am just so tired of cleaning it up. I think I will be only so glad when I can off-load the kids on the child care staff and say “They are all yours now- along with their considerable commitment to excretion, enjoy!”

Ok. that’s it. I just wanted to vent.

Thanks for listening. I am now going to continue my pooparific day!

 

Another crazy year!

crazy-829178_960_720So Christmas 2016 is around the corner and I am just guffawing at how quickly time is melting away. I am constantly looking at my “babies” (and I am using that term loosely since they are now 3 and 5) and wondering “What the heck happened?”

There is no end to my disbelief that time could possibly move that fast. It needs to SLOW DOWN. Seriously.

My baby, who I feel I just had and brought home yesterday is almost one year old! What?! I’m so saddened yet secretly relieved that he made it this far with his two crazy older sisters jabbing, kicking, poking and kissing the heck out of him!

This year was like so many before it, CRAZY! Is it me or do things get more insane each year you get older?

Let’s see, this year alone I sold my business, almost lost my mom, raised thousands of dollars to save my mom, helped two close friends through some tough times, reconnected with family that I didn’t know before, survived three grueling months of sickness that was passed back and forth between the members of my family, contracted some form of illness that gives me constant and intense bone pain throughout my entire body and I got rammed in the back of my SUV with all my kids in the car. And it is only the beginning of October- OY VEY!

I am grateful and so thankful to God that nothing really bad happened this year. Even though I keep waiting for something really bad to happen- there is, sadly, an ever-present sense of foreboding and doom that resides deep within my soul. I have to intentionally wake up each morning and suppress it like a dormant demon that is inflaming me and trying to steal my joy.

Talking about joy- I have more joy in my life than I can wish for. My children and husband, my family and friends. My brother and sister. My in-laws and nieces and nephews. I am so blessed with such amazing and lovely people in my life that I seldom fear the demons within. But there is one remaining phase in my life, I neither wish to face nor desire to imagine… leaving my children to return to work.

It is very difficult for me to acknowledge this but some days, like all other moms, I have a deep and seated desire to wake up, put make-up on and leave the house to go to a place where I can make money and talk to other adults about stuff other than poopy diapers, dirty dishes and the endless nagging of a threenager. Then almost immediately afterwards, I am plagued with intense guilt combined with profound sadness. I feel like I am giving up on my babies who are growing up too fast (hence the initial part of this post) and I am abandoning them in favour of adult conversation and income stability. I loathe the decision to return to work and I envy the ladies who can afford to stay home with their children but I know in my heart that I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mommy. I really don’t like house chores and I am quite tired of my kids by the time noon hits. If I am being very truthful, I look forward to missing them a bit – is that awful to admit?

We were looking at the childcare options available to us and we decided to go with a nanny. With three children (2 full-time and 1 part-time) this was our only option. The nanny will apparently help keep the house tidy and clean as well as  take care of my children. We interviewed many people and met many nice ladies in the process. We perfected our questions and made a decision. I will not jinx it yet because it is not confirmed but I do hope she accepts our offer.

I am not sure why I even wrote this post. I just needed to let it be known that I am going back to work and maybe seek validation from other moms who were in my shoes?

If you are that mommy- talk to me and tell me I am not insane and heartless because of my sporadic and intermittent fluctuations of wanting to play grown-up after my maternity leave is up some days and my intensely deep and mourning-like days of loss and pain for the future of my children without me for 9 hours a day.

Talk to me!

SMartignani

 

Judgement and Consequence

I wanted to write this for a while but I don’t think I have enough hours in the day. With three active children under the age of 5, I am like a feather caught in a whirlwind torpedo of activities: potty training, teething, tantrums, tucking in, tickling, travelling and tumultuous transformations.  But I am still holding it together… I think.

I am sure oKasketaldi_haurra_001ther parents can see the wild look in my eyes because I haven’t slept in 6 years or the suspicious glances flicked at me because each of my children including the baby have a bump or scratch (all self-inflicted, I assure you). I am positive that other moms are looking at the way my 5-year-old crosses her arms and stomps and yells “NO! Mommy- I don’t want that!” and thinking that she is spoiled and lacking in discipline. Or shaking their heads when my almost 3-year-old decides to pick her nose and eat it (gross, right?) because we don’t correct her (which we do every time) and that she will forever be a perpetual proboscis picker.

Here is the thing… I don’t really care about what others are thinking or feeling or perceiving or believing. My world is centred on my children whom I know intimately since the moment of their first wail into the world.

I was at the mall the other day and in the little play area and I saw a mother struggling with her toddler while trying to jiggle her baby on her shoulder. She was getting so frustrated and her cheeks were flushed and her baby was getting quite stirred (literally and figuratively) because she was over-jiggling. The two moms next to me were talking about this particular poor soul and saying the following:

Lady 1: “Oh my, that little girl is NOT happy!”

Lady 2: “Mom needs to get a handle on her before X (her own toddler) sees that behaviour and starts to copy it!”

Lady 1: “Some people just don’t know how to control their kids! It’s because she decided to have a baby, the little girl is probably needing attention”

Lady 2: “Exactly! This is why I am spacing mine apart. Exactly for that reason”

At this point, I had enough. I huffed really audibly as I stood up and I spared them one sneer and a quick “You are far from perfect yourselves ladies!” and then I confidently and quickly approached the mom of the melting down toddler and shaken baby and softly said:

“It’s ok, mine do the same thing. My 2-year-old is in there playing happily, for now, can I offer you a hand? I have a baby too but he is sound asleep, would you like me to carry your little angel while you deal with your baby girl?”

The relief that washed over the mother was indescribable. She hesitated for about one second then she gave me her baby. I stood there making googly eyes at the baby and she calmed down and started to give me the sweetest smiles. I was singing her silly songs and dancing with her while her mom was dealing with her sister. The lady told her 2-year-old that she will get some Skittles if she just calms down and tells her what is wrong using her big girl words (we do the same). The toddler stood up and in between bouts of tears and noisy, wet sobs proclaimed, “I pooh”. Profound declaration but adequate explanation of her crappy disposition (pun intended).

Mom told her that it will be ok and that she will change her. Toddler hugged her and looked up and me. I smiled and I handed the baby back to mommy informing her that she will have to change two poopy diapers and that I know exactly what that is like too. She took the baby and the toddler and went to the family washroom. I walked back to the main benches where judgy lady 1 & 2 are sitting and I wedge myself right next to them. My daughter is standing aside as one of their sons shoves another child off the climbing thingy. Lady 2 who was afraid of the toddler’s behaviour affecting her angelic son turns to her friends and says “He is so assertive- isn’t that cute?”

Wow. Perceptions.

I turn to her and gently respond:

“That is not being assertive, that is called being aggressive. Assertive is standing up for yourself and giving your opinion but what he is doing is pushing and shoving other children out of his way. That is being aggressive. So is judging a mom who is in the middle of a toddler meltdown. You should really stop and look at your house made of glass before you start throwing rocks!”

Yup. That happened. True story. I did say all that.

I expected a fight. I expected cursing. I even expected her to punch me in the face.

Instead, I got a teary and ashamed lady who quietly said “You are right. He is a little terror and I don’t know what to do with him? What should I do? He is our only child and I am having a terrible time bearing another child. I am scared that he will be the only child and that he will become a bully. I was bullied in school by a boy. I don’t want my son to be that way.”

Ah, what? What just happened? This, I did not expect.

I proceeded to spend the next hour with this lady and her friend who felt equally ashamed and mom of toddler and baby at the special play place at the mall. After the apologies and the brief discussion about how we should be kind to one another and stop the judging because we ALL need help, we started discussing strategies and parenting tricks that worked for each of us.

My toddler and the baby got tired and hungry and wanted to leave but I certainly did not. We agreed to meet again soon and we even exchanged contact information. We went from being four strangers waiting on their kids to play to four friends who joined the same Mommy Facebook Group.

It was super cool and I even got to hold the little ray of sunshine baby girl again while the lady I helped held my baby boy. All around awesomeness.

Moral of the story:

STOP judging other moms. Get off your butt and help. You are not perfect. Your children are far from perfect as well. The only perfection is founded in our humanity. So like Ellen DeGeneres says “Be kind to one another”.

Love,

SMartignani

Random mommy stuff…

20160512_100159Some days I feel really accomplished and others…not so much. I have really enjoyed this maternity leave particularly because it is my last. It also helps that I sold my businesses so I am free to enjoy motherhood to the fullest extent.

Of course, there was that stint of anxiety and bout of despair when my mom was dying in the ICU (she recovered thank God) and since then, without fail, one of my three kids has been vitally ill on any given day. But overall, I am doing more enjoying than fretting and that is an accomplishment.

My life has drastically evolved since the third child. Ok, who am I kidding? It has been revolutionized. I feel like chaos can really be a way of life now. I sit back sometimes and I just laugh at the absurdity of everything. For example, last week on a Saturday, my eldest accidentally head-butted the baby which caused a stream of tears and a very angry cry while my toddler ran face-first into the wall and ended up with a bloody nose – all at the same time. This all happened in the blink of an eye. Everyone was crying. I was laughing hysterically, like an evil scientist who openly relishes the sound of children’s cries. Sometimes to ensure your sanity- you just have to laugh at it all. Everyone was fine and with some tissue paper for the bloody nose, a few cuddles and tickles for the head-butt injury and a gentle “It’s ok honey, it was an accident” – everyone was fine.

I wanted to take a minute and just say this… am I the only one who feels like I am back in high-school and trying to fit in when I go pick up my daughter from kindergarten? Parents can be really clique-ish- no? I was waiting outside today and I looked over to find two moms talking quietly. I waved and said “Hello” and it was an audible “Hello” not one of these mousey, shy “Hellos” – know what I mean? Anyway, one mom just gave me this contrived smile and the other ignored me altogether. Wow. Maybe I’m just not cool enough to talk to them. Maybe they are hating my new hairdo. Maybe I offended them with my strong and confident “Hello”… I don’t know. All I know is, I have a choice not to get too obsessed in wanting to be accepted because at my age- I don’t care what others think of me. I know that makes me sound awful but truly- if you are going to judge me and not even get to know me then it’s your loss- not mine. Because I honestly think I’m a pretty awesome person! There. Take that. On to more important things…

I am on a mission to shed the pounds I gained in my three pregnancies. I gained quite a few pounds so it’s taking a while. I’m close to starving all the time but I am too scared to stop because the doctor almost guaranteed Diabetes if I don’t shed the weight. I find it easier to remain on course when I think about my kids. I want to be there for their graduations, weddings, and maybe even for their own kids. I don’t want to be the old, fat mom who looks 20 years older than she really is. What will the clique-ish Lululemon moms at the school think of me and my fat “hellos” then- huh?

My eldest daughter is taking oral laxatives behind my back. I swear the kid never shuts up. I love it but I hate it at the same time. She’s so interesting and everything she says is adorable but when I’m trying to actually get her moving, it’s next to impossible. She is not a multi-tasker. She was gifted with the gift of gab. I can’t believe how much she talks. And here I was wondering if her language skills will develop because she wasn’t really speaking by the age of 2.5. Really? I shouldn’t have worried. I am hoping my middle daughter will NOT learn to speak until she’s 5. That way, I won’t have competing trance-talking going on. It’s too funny. I can tune her out and she will just keep on talking and yakking. Then she will stop sometimes and ask “Right Mama?” but I have to be careful. What am I agreeing to? So I say “Which part is right?” See? Sneaky, smart, strategic momma is at play here. I mentally pat myself on the back when she replies by reiterating the last phrase that needed confirmation. I’m in the clear. I  will either agree or correct her thoughts and then the droning will begin again. Sometimes, I drift away in my mind about my to-do list or a recent commercial I saw or how I need to cut the baby’s toenails because he is quite literally growing them out like some gross racoon paws and then I suddenly hear her say something like… “And then I’m like CRAP DUDE, why are you being such a donut and he says because you are short like a hobbit and I’m like I don’t even know what a hobbit is and then I walk away but my shorts are dirty because of the grass on my butt. Butt is a funny word. Did you know another word for butt is ash. Today I heard this big kid call his brother an ash-hole. That’s funny- right momma?”

Me: “No Sweetheart, Ash is not a nice word and it’s not funny. That boy should not talk to his brother like that. God wants us to be kind to one another and not call each other names”.

Her: “So how come daddy calls me a Hoggler and my sister a Donut and my baby brother Stinky?”

Me: “Daddy is just joking with you and none of those names are rude.”

Her: “Ok. Any way so today in school I….”

And on and on and on and on and on. Phew, close one. Note to self- talk to the hubby. Tell him the story- and laugh about it later!

My middle kid is temperamental, defiant and intelligent. Every trait she picked up from me. I’m not ashamed to admit the truth. She looks like me, she yells like me and most of all, she’s got this low, manly laugh like me! When I was younger, I would answer the phone and my voice was so deep, people would think they are talking to my dad. So it’s either my poppa sounds like a woman or I had the deep, vibrato voice of a man. Until now, when I wake up and try to talk, I sound like my husband. It’s ok, I’ve come to terms with this quirky attribute. Let’s leave it there. Maybe that’s why the moms at her school won’t talk to me? I must be confusing them with my manly, confident “Hello”. Oh well…

The baby is the best. He’s like a good book, I can’t put him down. Lately, my favourite thing to do in the entire world (which is hyperbolic at best since it’s not but let’s go with it) is making him giggle. Is there a better sound in this universe than a baby’s heart-felt giggle? If you say yes, then you are heartless or need to go get yourself a baby and make him giggle. Don’t hate- appreciate. Besides, I have to blow on his belly and tickle his feet then motorboat his neck in order to get the full-on giggle that can be heard down the street. It’s so much work, I end up sweating and only catching glimpses of his enormous, blissful, drooling open mouth and eyes that sparkle with laughter as well. The thing is, when you tickle a baby, you have to do it quickly and consecutively.They have such short attention spans that they will literally forget you were playing with them and just move on from said activity. Then you are left saying things like “Hello” and having them not respond to you… ahem ahem…like some people!!

Finally, I would like to state my horror at how sick the world is today. I’m not going to dig too deep or go into many details but suffice it to say, I’m afraid for my children’s futures. Pedophiles, mass shootings, addictions, mental unhealth, impoverished moralities, victimized abusers, and an endless cycle of evil begetting evil. I’m sure that such things existed since the beginning of time but everyday I wake up and there is another stark reminder that our world is sick. I am sure that everything bad is known much quicker because of social media and sometimes, one  just can not turn it off. I often wonder why people post all those negative things on their wall. Why not use your power to influence the friends on your list with positivism. We need more love – people. More acceptance and forgiveness. We need to set an example to our children. We need to show kindness and openness. We all bleed red. We all need to be accepted.

Except me and those moms. I’m over it. Really. Done and done.

Good night and God bless. And like Ellen always says- “Be kind to one another”.

Smartignani

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