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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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

…and she is now starting school!

100_0955Okay. So my little baby who started me on writing these blogs back in 2011 is now starting junior kindergarten! I can’t believe how time flew. I am terrified of her going to school.

She is not scared but then again, she has no idea how mean kids can be and how hard school can be. She wears glasses. She is too little. She has a slight lisp. She cries- A LOT.

She is a walking magnet for a bully!

I am not sure what I can do to overcome this senseless and paralyzing fear of her going to school. Other than set her up with a nanny cam to track everything that happens, everyday, at every minute while she is away from me. Wait- that is a fabulous idea!! No, but wait, where can I hide it without it being completely and utterly obvious?

I can’t believe I am even thinking it. Spying on my child. For her own good? OMG. I am one of those moms!!

Ok. Deep breath. It is going to be ok. She is going to be alright. I don’t need to worry. I am being paranoid. Overreacting. Absolutely and incredibly overprotective.

I need to let her go. Millions of parents do it every year around the globe. She went to Summer Camp with children up to grade 6. She was fine. Mind you, her daddy was there the entire time (it was at our business and he is the principal at the camp) but still… she was good. The older boys and girls loved her. She defended herself and even gave the teachers a piece of her mind when she needed to but what if…

No… no what ifs. I am sending her to school tomorrow with confidence. I taught her to be kind. I taught her to speak up when she is angry or hurt. I taught her to run and scream when a stranger (be it man or woman, boy or girl) ask her if she wants a candy bar or invite her into their cars.

I taught her to remain close to her teachers. Not to let anyone touch her in her private places. I told her to tell me if anything hurts and if anyone hurts her in anyway.

I think I taught her enough. I think she will remember everything I taught her- hopefully.

Tomorrow, I will muster my courage and surrender the single most treasured being in my life to an educator. Tomorrow, I will look into the teacher’s eyes and let her know that she will have the power over my soul. My eldest child who was my greatest achievement of 2011. My daughter who is my angel and her younger sister’s light.

Tomorrow is the beginning of 18 years of academic challenges and accomplishments. 18 years of learning and scholastic strides. 18 years of incarcerated and strategic environmental osmosis of information.

Tomorrow is her first day of school and I almost wish it took a little longer for tomorrow to come.

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