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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New Year`s Resolutions

happy-new-year-2014-hd-wallpapers-1 Every year coming to a close is a reminder that we were ‘gifted’ with a new beginning. Many people have lost loved ones in 2014 and struggled through pain and personal battles that we cannot see or understand. In the same year, many others have reached the pinnacle of their careers, met their soul mates, married, became pregnant or birthed a child. Many children found a home whether with a foster family or through adoption. As for me… there are many challenges- some health related and some familial while others are professional. Any way you look at it, a year is a LONG time for things to happen and much of what we anticipate and fear can happen at any moment. So my post today is about gratitude and resilience.

Ever wondered how a person can go on after being struck by a horrible accident or injury? Ever wondered how people can smile through personal storms and battles? I have and I realized that resiliency is an inherent capacity to withstand all the bad and anticipate all the good.

I am suddenly aware of all the things and poeple in my life that are mortal and transient. Parents ail, children grow, jobs change, money is gained and lost, climates shift, friends grow farther away or closer together, circumstances evolve and my story is being written each and every day I breathe. My faith in God and His love does not fade nor weakens because in all of this I believe that there is a higher purpose for our lives and how we choose to live them.

I want to leave an impact, a legacy when I cease to exist. I always tell my husband that I would like to be “remembered well” when I die. But how does that happen exactly?

Here, I have compiled 10 new resolutions I will endeavour to accomplish in 2015. No matter what happens, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

A-Prayer-For-You1) I will pray more, praise more, worship more. I will realize the frailty of life and how in a blink of an eye it can all cease to be. I will recognize my mere existence on earth and treat it as a journey. I will be grateful for every breath given to me and every morning I wake up- I will be revitalized. I will ensure that my constancy is in the knowledge that nothing else is constant. I will fill my heart and soul with gratitude to the point of bursting so that all can see how amazing it is to be alive.

imagesCAWJ7Y372) I will love unconditionally. This task is challenging due to its magnitude. This one resolution is one of my life’s missions. In order to truly love others you must forfeit your own self-worth and the perceptions you constructed based on your years lived here on earth. You must release all prejudice and choose to see people for who they are not what they are trying to be. To love unconditionally means to sacrifice criticism for encouragement and deliberately blind yourself from context and circumstance. Nothing matters and nothing should affect your love for others. I aspire to have love as my new drug to which I will become hopelessly addicted- no boundaries, no limits, no reservations. Period.

family3) I will see my husband and children again. I will yell less and smile more. I will make an effort to enjoy cleaning up the mess my three-year-old makes instead of chastising her for it. I will let my infant feed her hair and roll in the play-doh if that is her heart’s desire. I will listen more to my husband’s whispered words at night before bed and take a special interest in how he says what he feels not only what he is saying. I will see my husband and children for the blessings they are to me and I will share with them the wonders of God. I will love them unconditionally.

Chrysanthemum4) I will see nature. I will make more of an effort to count the stars and appreciate the sunshine. I will build snowmen and sand castles. I will listen for the waves and the rustle in the trees. I will smell the flowers and curiously observe the bees gathering honey. I will enjoy the sensation of being outside, in the outdoors and truly take in what our world is providing us. Beautiful blessings of nature. I will enjoy the silence more and ‘Be Still’.

1451377_10153467659090224_180124569_n5) I will be a good example to others. Integrity, honesty, positivity and respect- all traits that I truly admire in others. I will be a beacon to those who are not willing or able to uphold values. I will speak out when there is wrongdoing and I will be courageous to stand up to peers, friends and my superiors when these basic human ethics are not demonstrated. I will keep in mind that I am far from perfect and exchange judgement for encouragement. I will give more to those in need and stop my car to help the person on the road whose car has stalled. I will stop and ask a stranger who is crying if they need anything from me. I will assist others when they feel alone. All the time. No exceptions.

1463376_10153501465515224_1660866369_n6) I will see silver lining. Everyone struggles. Bad things happen to good people. You can’t avoid some sicknesses, accidents, tragedies or pains. How I choose to react to bad things is what matters. I will choose to be more positive and see the silver lining. I will work on my patience and endurance. I will attempt to see the big picture and appreciate that everything happening is part of a bigger plan that will make me stronger, more powerful and more resilient. I will selectively ‘like’ and read the updates and stories that inspire me on the various social media sites where we are constantly bombarded. I will stop over-analyzing, over-calculating and overthinking everything. I will just be in the moment and smile at what’s to come.

comparison_wise7) I will stop comparing myself to others. There is nothing more time-consuming and fruitless that spending time comparing yourself to others. There are a multitude of individuals who inhabit our planet and they are all at varying degrees of wealth, fitness, love, success and so on. Constant reminders on Facebook and Twitter of what we don’t have does not help in my pursuit of personal fulfillment. I will no longer envy or betray the blessings I have been given in exchange for petty concern and frivolous anger. I will be inspiring to others without boasting my blessings. I will congratulate more, empathize more and bless more. I will demote my base feelings of jealousy and elevate my humanity. I will appreciate by praise those who give of themselves, those who serve and those who are living their lives with humility and impact. Instead of wanting to be as wealthy or as successful as others, I will only seek to be the best I can be without comparison or compromise. (Thank you fellow wordpress blogger tom.basson for your article on this and the photo: http://tombasson.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/why-comparing-is-stupid-and-how-to-stop/)

laughing8) I will laugh. Not just the giggle or fake laugh that we demonstrate when our superiors say something funny… laughing as in my belly hurting. I will locate the people who I can share laughter with and just put that on the menu. I will play more board games that would make me laugh and I will read more auto-correct fails. I will find new ways each day to share a laugh with my children or husband because at the end of the journey, you remember the stories that end with “we laughed and laughed until our bellies ached…”

10645270_10154814270765224_4395918206427828164_n9) I will be present…in the present. Nothing is more frightful than the inability to recall memories. Memories only become so because you remember the present. People who are struck with amnesia are afraid and lost because they can’t remember who they are or who the people they loved are either. So being present in the present is a blessing and a gift. We cannot move forward into the future without knowing where we are right now. The past is the past and it’s a great lesson in history. Now is amazing because we can still re-write history. We can make a change effective immediately. We can give of ourselves now. I want to stop looking at the future because I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I want to live now, laugh now and love now. I will put away my phone at home and when my daughter says “Mommy, look, see?” – I will not reply with “Eh, hmmmm, ok dear, that’s great” – no, I will ask questions and be sincere and say “Wow… what is that? Can you explain it to me? Do you like it? Well done. You are so smart!”

1909559_5032225223_5452_n10) I will make time for quiet reflection. Life is busy. Incredibly, unforgivingly, incessantly busy. I have learned that peaceful moments where I can contemplate, reflect and reassess can afford me the ability to make sound decisions and impeccable choices. I can regret less because I have given matters clear thought before proceeding. I am the most impulsive person you would ever know… so this resolution will be very tough for me. I will need to implement it though if I have any hope of making the other 9 come true.

Happy New Year to all of you. May 2015 bring you wholesome joy, endless blessings and a year of wondrous discovery and limitless hope.

Until Next Time,

Smartignani

Merry Christmas

ImageHard to believe that this was us last Christmas. Now she is 17 months old and getting taller, louder and more temperamental by the day. I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for reading my blog and I also wish you a Merry Christmas.

I understand that “Happy Holidays” is a more politically correct statement but I believe that Christmas is a Christian holiday and we are celebrating the birth of a very important little person who grew up and died for our sin. We do not wish our Jewish friends “Happy Holidays” when its Hanukkah and we certainly don’t wish our Muslim friends “Happy Holidays” when it is their Eid el-Fitr. It is what it is. I know that in the States, they have decided to literally cross out the word Christ from Christmas (Xmas) in order to ensure the consistent growth of mass consumerism and optimize capitalistic gain from the sales of the most inane and unnecessary objects for gifts from “Santa”. However, even Santa is based on the life of St. Nicholas who is in fact a Christian saint that decided to bring needy and poor children gifts on Christmas Eve. So when we decide to celebrate a Christian holiday we should give it the respect and honour we give other religious feasts.

I am not offended when my neighbour wishes me a Happy Hanukkah because he has a right to celebrate his feasts and I have the privilege of honouring that by wishing him a Happy Hanukkah in turn. It does not mean my instantaneous and irreversible conversion to Judaism, it just means that I respect the reason for his celebration and respect his values. All I ask, as a Christian on Christmas, is the same respect.

I know for a fact that a lot of my colleagues who are not Christian still celebrate Christmas for its festive and loving underlying message. I also know so many who celebrate it properly. How you ask? Great question.

Christmas is not about how much we receive under the tree, it is about how much positive change we can bring around to the world we live in and for those who need all the help they can get. The true spirit of Christmas demands a “giving” of oneself to service and to charity. So instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money on gifts that will be discarded within the months, save a little through the year and buy a cow or a goat for a family in need (http://www.oxfamunwrapped.ca/) or sponsor a child in need (http://www.worldvision.ca/Pages/welcome.aspx) or save children from the heinous acts of sexual slavery and trafficking (http://www.traffickingproject.org/p/mission.html). If none of these options appeal to you, then maybe you can search the closest women’s shelter or food bank and volunteer there for Christmas Eve. They are always looking for people to come and serve the lonely, homeless, hopelessly addicted, mentally ill and abused men, women and teens who are strewn on the streets of your very city.

True Christmas is about the joy you receive by gifting your time and love to others. It is truly a time to raise your children to believe that it is not what we receive but what we give that matters. So I encourage you to buy one cool gift that they always wanted but get them to shop and choose a gift for a child in need. Get them to come with you and hand it out themselves so they can experience the true joy of giving, the true joy of Christmas.

Before I end this blog, there is one thing I would like us all to pray for whether we believe in God or not- Sandy Hook Elementary School parents. I am compiling these blog posts and one day my baby girl will read them (hopefully) and become aware of these events as they occurred. There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more horrendous than burying a child but burying a child who has been shot multiple times by a sick man with an assault rifle is a fate I do not wish on my worst enemy. The murdered was a mentally ill man who ‘lost’ it and shot 20 children. Twenty angels found their way to heaven that day and all I can think about are the parents. Since this blog is dedicated to parenting, I wish to say one thing- END THE ERA OF GUNS and ESTABLISH A WORLDWIDE BAN ON GUNS. Even when soldiers used knives and muskets, there were fewer fatalities among our troops. Everyone out there shooting or being shot is a son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister. When will it end? Let’s end it now!

 If you are doing nothing about it- do something. Personally, in reaction to this incident, I tweeted the president almost 50 times so far. I try for 10 tweets a day. It’s really not that much but it is something. I can’t count the amount of times that I shed tears as a result of this horrible travesty and all the other times that children (innocent, guileless and completely undeserving victims) are shot or abused. Funny enough, the day of this mass catastrophe, a friend told me that something similar happened in China but the perpetrator was using a knife instead of a gun- there was only one fatality and everyone else survived the madness.

I am sorry to end my blog on such a sombre note but my blogs reflect my feelings and I tell you what, this year my feelings of dread for my daughter growing up in such a cold, hurt, ill world that has decided to trade its soul for wealth and trade in its humanism for consumerism makes me wake up in cold sweats.

Let’s change that. It starts with me. It starts with you.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
Mother Teresa

Thank you and God bless you and your family this season and every day. May you always be granted health, wealth and wisdom.

SMartignani

 

 

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