Please Stop Flipping Holiday Toys

The holidays are fast approaching which to some of us simply means breaking our low carb diet and an extra side of gravy, but for many of us it also means the start of the holiday retail season.

If you’re like me, the idea of spending three times the actual price on something just because it’s December makes you so angry you just refuse to do it. There’s a reason we don’t fly home to visit my parents or in-laws during the holidays. I know you can’t put a price tag on quality time….oh wait. Yes, you can. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s exactly $3290.65.

And the “Tickle Me Elmo” of the Christmas season that is impossible to find unless I’m willing to blow our entire holiday budget on it? Nope. No thanks. There are more important things than a furry talking creepy toy that my kids will play with for exactly two days, but will continue to haunt my nightmares until Easter.

I consider myself lucky that my children are two and four which means they still find pretty much everything under the Christmas tree to be magical. I know that my four year old will love the new Lego set I stashed away in the garage for her because she’s finally old enough to graduate from Duplos and build with “big kid” Legos. I’m fully confident that my two year old will be equally enthralled with her first Play-doh set hidden in my closet and will probably still sneak pieces in her mouth when I’m not looking. I’m also thankful that neither of them are old enough to read this.

My kids don’t even realize they can tell me what they want for Christmas yet and although they watch a lot of YouTube toy unveilings, they are fairly oblivious to what the “hot toys” are this year. However, I know this won’t last forever and I dread the day when I can no longer begin stock piling their favorite play things weeks and months in advance to avoid the holiday melee altogether. I’m dreading the day when my kids edit their holiday wish list three weeks before Christmas to include whatever the “Hatchimal” craze is that season and I have to explain to them why they won’t be getting that coveted toy under their Christmas tree this year.

As we all know these are the $50 toys on the cover of the Toys R Us and Target holiday catalog that go out of stock at every big box store in October. However, there will be several people in my Facebook mom groups who will have six of them and are selling them for $175 a piece.

If you’re one of the parents selling “rare” Fur-Hatch-Tickle-Finger-mals out of the back of your soccer van, you are part of the problem and I’m talking to you.

This may not seem like a big deal because you aren’t the only one doing it. You can probably justify yourself by simple economics of supply and demand. The stores can’t seem to keep enough in stock, so you are providing a service to other parents who didn’t make it in time to buy it at the store and are willing to pay extra money for all that hard work you did calling every Walmart in the tri-county area and buying all their stock before the rest of us finished our first cup of coffee.

The hole in this theory is that if people weren’t systematically buying out all the available stock and turning around and selling them at a 400% markup, there might actually be some of these toys available for the rest of us at the actual retail price intended for that toy.

And what about the children whose families cannot afford to pay four times the price of a toy just because it’s December? What once was already an expensive toy has suddenly become an impossible wish list item for many kids because someone figured out they could make an extra $700 if they bought twenty Fingerling Monkeys and sold them for $50 a piece. Have we all become so greedy that we have to finance the extra money we spend on our families during the holidays by profiting off the wish lists of children?

I get that money is tight around the holidays, but if you have all that time and effort to put into going store to store, buying up toys and selling them on Facebook and eBay, then you have time to pick up some holiday shifts at Target or Kohls. If you really need to keep the consumerism alive, buy up some of those hot holiday toys and donate them to a toy drive so kids whose families can’t afford to indulge their kids’ wish lists this year can benefit from your retail skills.

It may not pay for your holiday, but it might just make someone else’s.

8 Parenting Mistakes That Still Make Me Cringe (and Laugh)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that no matter how hard we try, there are some mistakes we will make as imperfect parents. The most we can hope for is that we will learn from them, they will be minor, and they will be humorous. You may even get to write about them one day and impart your newfound wisdom onto other parents in the form of unsolicited advice. Here are some of my favorite mistakes that I’ve made in my early days that I can now look back on as a more seasoned parent and find the humor, if not the life lessons in the process.

  1. Forgetting to Take Pictures.

It’s cliché to say, but time is a thief. When I look back at baby pictures of my children, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t take more pictures of them. I’ve taken thousands over the last four years, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m sure I would say that regardless of how many I had in fact taken. When my kids were all shiny and new, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to be present and in the moment for every second I held them, fed them, comforted and snuggled them because that first year goes by so quickly. But in truth, it was also mottled with sleepless nights and days without showering or any real time to myself. It’s difficult to cling to every precious moment when your child is a baby when you also just want to speed up time so they can pour themselves a bowl of cereal and wipe their own rear. That being said, I still wish I had taken more pictures and that I cherished that new baby smell just a little bit longer because now that those moments are gone, I really do miss them.

  1. Swim Diapers are NOT Absorbent.

That’s really all anyone needs to know. I remember thinking I was inventing new baby hacks when I decided to dress my nine month old in her swim diaper and swim suit on our way to the splash pad so I wouldn’t have to dress her in the heat once we got there and we could get right to the fun part of enjoying the park (and taking lots of pictures). What actually transpired was trying to figure out why my baby was sitting in a puddle of pee when we got to the park because she’d peed her swim diaper on the way and not only did I have to put her in a new diaper, but since I didn’t bring her a spare swim suit (why would I?) she had to enjoy the park clad only in a new swim diaper and flip flops. Her towel also had to double as a car seat cover on top of the one she soiled since I don’t travel with spare car seat covers either. What I now know is that swim diapers are only meant to keep poop out of the pool, but are comparable to swaddling your baby in off-brand paper towel in terms of absorbency. Luckily, it was a mistake I only made once.

  1. Never Filling out Baby Books or Growth Charts.

I believe I spent more time on Etsy, Amazon, and Zulilly shopping for my daughters’ baby book of firsts, monthly milestone stickers, and wall mounted growth charts than time I’ve spent filling any of them out combined. I keep telling myself that I can easily get a growth chart from my doctor’s office to mark up the one hanging on their wall and surely I can remember when my kids walked and their first words…at least enough to half way fill out a book for each of them…

It feels like that time in college when I had to write an essay on Moby Dick, but suffice it to say I may or may not have actually properly read the entire book so I was in fact writing the essay while speed reading the sections I missed and trying to piece together an essay that wouldn’t reflect that I hadn’t put in the proper amount of work at the beginning of the term. In my defense, it was 800 pages of about 5,000 pages of assigned reading I had that term and that first year of childhood is one year in eighteen years of their entire life, most of which is recorded on Facebook.

  1. Trying to force my kids to let me do their hair.

Neither of my kids will sit still long enough for me to do their hair in any thing more intricate than hair clips. Ponytails are out of the question, let alone French braids, layered ribbons, or unicorn rainbow glitter highlights (or whatever the basic toddlers are sporting these days). I’m lucky if the routine hair brushing I force both my kids to endure makes it to preschool drop off. After four years of begging my kids to let me style their hair, I’ve quit trying. When people make comments about their wild and crazy locks I insist it’s a reflection of their personality and that my children are basically feral. I’ve also found it helps if you put them in graphic tees that say “Messy Hair Don’t Care.” People tend to stop asking questions at that point.

  1. Forgetting picture day.

This is really only a problem because of #4. More time and effort goes into picture day than on any other school day combined including what my kids will wear and how much time, effort, and hair spackle (aka detangler) will be used at the start of the day. I usually try to schedule an appointment for my oldest to have her mane tamed the week prior to picture day to help minimize what I like to call “the towhead effect.” So when I forget picture day (which so far has only happened once), it involves turning my car upside down looking for hair clips, water bottles to wet hair with, and using my fingers like claws to somehow smooth out my daughter’s tresses all while cursing the fact that more breakfast and toothpaste ended up on her face and shirt than in her mouth. Even with all these well planned (and spontaneous) tools employed, I usually find myself wondering how the heck other parents are able to get their kids to school with all their hair in place, brushed, braided, and beribboned. I’m guessing their children spend less of their time wrapped up in blankets, rolling around on the ground, pretending to be a burrito.

  1. Swearing in front of my kids.

Please note this says swearing IN front of my kids and not swearing AT my kids. I reserve that for my internal monologues. I wish I could say that I never use bad language in front of my children, but that’s just not the case. I tend to drop F-bombs when I’m stuck in traffic (especially when I’m late and also have to pee), when I collide crotch first into the corner of the kitchen table, when I can’t find my phone or my keys, when I’ve venting on the phone to one of my other mom friends, and when I’m rage cleaning before company is coming over. Basically I only curse on the days that end in “y.” This really only becomes a problem when your kids inevitably end up picking up on your vernacular and yell out in frustration at their behavioral therapist, “These F-ing shoes!” (I can neither confirm nor deny this happened in real life and that she used her f-bomb contextually correct).

  1. Buying too many toys.

I’m going to be honest, my house looks like Toys R Us vomited in here. I tend to overdo holidays and birthdays but I don’t regret it. Yes, we could be focusing more on the “spirit” of the holiday and my kids participate in toy drives and giving back when an age appropriate opportunity presents itself, but I also selfishly enjoy watching my kids open presents and play with their toys. I don’t buy them toys to buy their affection. I do it for the same reason I should have taken more pictures and for the same reason I try to stop and play with my kids and to be present with them every day. Yes, these are material things, but one day I won’t be able to make their day any more just by surprising my kids with a brand new five pack of play-doh and taking an hour out of my day to enjoy it with them. And when you’re three there is nothing like the smell of a fresh can of play-doh. I fully understand that one day they will outgrow their childlike wonder along with their childhood play things and I want to make the most of both while I can.

  1. Wanting to be done with xyz phase.

There is a season of each part of childhood that is just plain hard as a parent. Between cluster feeding, colic, four a.m. feedings, and diaper explosions parenting through those infant years is exhausting. And then of course comes the toddler years. There’s a reason why they call them the terrible two’s, threenagers, and horror-fours (ok, I made that one up). The toddler years come with their own brand of turmoil between temper tantrums, potty training, and getting them ready for kindergarten. But the truth is as many times as I’ve wanted to be done with “this” phase (this being whatever phase my kids were currently in), it would also mean that they would be one step closer to being grown up and I’m not ready for that yet either. As much as I would love to be out of the diapering phase of parenting, I’m not ready to say goodbye to little toddler feet and baby curls. As much as I loathe the fight several times a day, every single day to physically put two toddlers in car seats and physically buckle them in, I’m also not ready for the day when they ask to borrow my car yet either.

A lot of the mistakes I make as a parent make me both cringe and smile. They’re a reminder that although we all want to do the best by our children, we’re also all human and we’re not going to get everything right all the time. Let’s try not to be too hard on ourselves. Just remember the big things: correct your kids when they don’t use their F-bombs grammatically correct, make sure your lies are believable if you’re not going to fill out their baby books until they’re thirteen, and don’t put a swim diaper on them until they get in the pool.

Oh….and don’t forget to take the picture.

Dying on the Oregon Trail

Sometimes we have big plans over the weekend and sometimes our plans revolve around fixing all the appliances and vehicles that need tending and the only fun that happens is the fun we make for ourselves. I actually tend to look forward to these kinds of simple unplanned pleasures and ended up spending most of the weekend cleaning, cooking, and turning what should have been a quick stop at the grocery store for egg rolls and face wash into an hour long Target expedition that ended in LOL Surprise Dolls for the girls and a new game for Matt and I (and a lot of other mundane items that we desperately needed but I kept forgetting). Matt of course gave me the side eye when I traipsed into the house with multiple Target bags and the kids came running in chanting, “What did you get us?!”

Surprisingly, even our two year old who is just getting the hang of stringing sentences together started shrieking, “LOL BALLS!! LOL BALLS!!” Yikes, I had no idea these things had even infiltrated her semi-limited screen time, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Willow likes whatever Olive likes and Olive likes anything with a series or the words “customize” in a YouTube video.

I spent the rest of the time through dinner explaining and then reexplaining why they couldn’t have them until after dinner and reminding them that I needed to actually make dinner, and listening to a lot of screaming and whining that they didn’t want to eat what I was cooking (Orange chicken and sesame noodles) when I had in fact not even boiled water yet. After losing my temper multiple times and chasing them out of the kitchen (and secretly regretting the open concept plan of our home because there’s no door to slam behind them), I somehow managed to muster dinner and eat while ignoring the fact that they were refusing to eat what I spent ninety minutes making. It’s fine. I’m fine.

We did eventually finish dinner and opened the LOL Surprise Dolls. Matt and I had to actually open them because our kids’ fine motor skills haven’t exactly mastered shrink wrapping and this ended up being a very hands on activity. The kids thoroughly enjoyed them and of course Willow immediately lost one of the doll’s shoes and cried bitterly at the end of the night when we wouldn’t let her sleep with it. At the end of the day I understand why my kids like them, with each new layer of shrink wrapping comes a new accessory or stickers or some other “neat” surprise (in the mind of a four year old). I know I’m a jaded parent because in my eyes at the end of the unveiling all my kids were left with a four inch doll in a fancy romper and diaper that they got to feed with a hipster bottle. I kept staring at the damn thing thinking….why didn’t they just put the doll, full clothed with accessories in the middle of the ball and put one layer of shrink wrapping over it. This is the toy equivalent of a meeting that could have been an email.

Once we eventually had the house to ourselves and the kids were asleep, I broke out the new Oregon Trail card game and Matt and I relived our childhood dreams of roughing it in a rickety covered wagon and dying from preventable diseases. It was actually a very fun game that we fully plan to play on the regular and I may be planning to go back to Target after this post to purchase the Oregon Trail Hunting card game so I can kill buffalo in card game form (I don’t know why but this was my favorite part of the game when I was ten and I do zero hunting in real life). There’s nothing like killing 500 lb. of buffalo in three minutes but only taking enough meat to make beef jerky (at least in computer life, in real life that’s cruel and wasteful). Is this living the American Dream? Shrink wrap and beef jerky?