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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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

Every season has a reason.

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Change.

Constant and continuous. I can’t explain how I feel except to say there is constant change in our lives.

We decided that the existing home daycare was not working because the lady is done at 5 pm. No exceptions. So I returned to my maddening search to find another suitable environment for my two little girls. Found another home daycare but this one has an ECE who is strict and all about routine. Far cry from where they came from- namely an amazingly loving lady who allowed for their personality to emerge and for them to set the pace of when they sleep and when they play. So we are transitioning and set to start tomorrow.

We were supposed to hire a live-in nanny. With our work hours (after-school care), it made sense. We found one. She was great. We gave our three weeks’ notice to their daycare and the same day in the evening I was texted by the nanny… she received another opportunity.

Wasn’t meant to be I guess.

I have accepted a small short-term assignment with my old work. We own two businesses and on top of it all, I am itching to have another baby. WHAT? I know, right. Well, my thinking is, if you are on a ride for your life, might as well do what you have to do so you don’t regret doing it- get me?

I have not blogged in ages and I miss it. I will have to do this again because it helps me verbalize my thoughts. I am sure other families out there are equally busy and I know that I am grateful for every millisecond of my life. I think I just need to do one thing routinely so that it can counterbalance the constant shift in circumstance and endless need for decisions.

I will start to exercise. I already pray incessantly. I will do something different that is both calming and healthy. I will give my man a hug. Hold my children a little tighter. I will do all these things…

…right after my nap.

Until next time,

Smartignani

When did that happen?!

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There is nothing more painful or exhilarating than successfully potty training your child. You feel like you won an Oscar or climbed the highest mountain. The sense of achievement you felt the day you graduated or obtained your first real promotion is no comparison… as if you did this all on your own. Then the stark realization smacks you upside the head that this is what your parents must have felt like when you did something great growing up.

I don’t think I can be a prouder mommy than when my little toddler goes – “Mommy, I nee’ to Pee pee now”. We rush over to the toilet, we pull down the pants and then… the sweet sound of freedom- aaahhhh. No more pull-ups, stinky messes, nasty blow-outs or wet pants. Sooooooooo exciting!!

I look at my toddler and see the little preschooler emerging and ask – “When did that happen?!” – hence the title. But seriously, when did she start talking in complete sentences? When did she start empathizing with me (“Awww, mommy, you are so cute- are you hurt?”) When did she turn into this inquisitive, intelligent, insanely happy child?

These past few months have been challenging but fun. I have been busy trying to re-energize my business and manage my staff that I forgot to see the little changes in my big girl along the way. This morning she woke me up a little earlier and I spoke with her and played with her. She surprised me with how much she’d grown in the past three weeks. She knows which mitt goes where. She can put her boots on the right feet on her own. She understands that letters makes sounds. She know how to sing “A,B,C,D,E,F,G, next time sing, A,B,C,D,E,F,G” (and repeat) and she counted to 20!

I am in awe of how like her father she is becoming. It is really a good thing I love him so much because she reminds me so much of him. Her mannerisms, her thoughtful moments, her sweet affection and even her expressions. No surprise since she spends majority of her time with him instead of me.

I must confess that I am also tremendously enjoying my baby too. She shows me affection in her own way. She likes to be held at night and to sleep in my arms. Sure, it makes it tough for daddy to put her to bed when he is alone with her, but there is no stronger bond and no better feeling that having her fall almost instantly asleep when I carry her and rock her. She likes to hear me whisper to her and sometimes she just strokes me with her little, tiny fist. I feel especially blessed in those moments.

In the mornings, she is the happiest little baby I know. She just plays and rocks herself and flaps her little arms like wings. Her smiles and giggles are so contagious that she just subliminally compels me to pick her up so we can snuggle and play. Her demeanor is so different than her big sister. Her moods are so much milder and she is patient, calm and very stubborn!

I love them both 100% but differently. I can’t live without either of them and I am just so full of emotion when I see either of them hit a milestone or learn something new.

Between the one baby rolling and the other one peeing in the toilet, I feel like my heart can just burst with pride right now.

Until next time,

SMartignani

Multitasking Mommy

 

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So for those who know me, you know how busy I can be. I have varied interests and obligations and I thrive on being constantly and consistently booked. I don’t know why but that is what keeps me going (I sure don’t like that mommy in the image though… I wish!)

I am not complaining at all because I was blessed with so many gifts. This is one of those rare posts where I will side-step the sarcasm and defeat my natural inclination towards humour by counting my blessings.

To contextualize, two Octobers ago, I attended a wonderful feel-good session by an amazing guest speaker called Isabelle Fontaine and she told us an effective and unforgettable story about how she leveraged the feeling of gratitude to feel happy after a painful experience in her life.

 

So I am not taking this blog lightly (although my ulterior motive for this post is to explain why I haven’t posted for a long time, not an excuse- just an explanation).

Here are my blessings:

1) A God who is gracious, merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and compassion. And a Church that keeps me disciplined, deliberate in my faith and dedicated to the Lord (thank you SMSV).

2) A yummy hubby who loves me and spoils me. He cuddles me without asking and smiles my way when I need it most. How blessed I am with your love.

3) 2 beautiful daughters who appear to be surprisingly full of big personalities and vivacity.

4) My mom, dad, brother, sister, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and parents-in-law (and Mike- ha ha) who support me, trust me and apparently find me worthy of their love.

5) An amazing business called Oxford Learning Centre with amazing staff and equally incredible families.

6) My best friends who supported me through the years and continue to be the solid splash of shining stars in the night sky of my day-to-day shenanigans.

7) My colleagues at work who are strong, beautiful and courageous- inspiring me to always be more than just good enough.

8) An awesome job at the Government of Canada that awaits me when I return from Maternity Leave. (The maternity leave itself is a blessing because I get an entire year off… I know my neighbours south of the border get only 90 days. Can you imagine leaving your baby so soon. My heart goes out to you- move to Canada!)

9) Every moment and every breath that I get on earth to live my life, cuddle my loved ones and realize my dreams.

10) My Car. I love my car. Oh and  thank you Youtube for teaching me how to knit.

Honestly, I think that is my top 10 list so far. There is so much more but I have to say the things above and the people mentioned do keep me pretty busy!

Until next time (which hopefully will be sooner than this time),

SMartignani

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