Monday, December 5, 2016

The Worst Toys of 2016

I could try telling you what to buy your kids, but I don't even usually know what I'm getting my own until roughly December 22, so instead, I return to the easier task of telling you what to run very far away from.

Behold, my annual list of the five toys that will wreck your life in various ways this Christmas. And since gold-statue season is just around the corner, I even assigned them their very own categories specific to the nature of hell they create.

The Most Over-Hyped Toy of the Year Award


Imagine you're willing to pay $55 for your child to watch the spawn of Satan hatch from a brightly coloured egg and you've got the toy at the centre of this year's must-have craze. Hatchimals continue the grand tradition of waiting in line for hours, vicious toy store aisle brawls and grossly overpaying on eBay – $200 is the average going rate – out of pure desperation, All for what ends up being essentially a glorified Furby with glowing eyes that was probably forged in the seventh circle of hell with Tickle Me Elmo.

The Foreclosure Award

American Girl dolls and accessories 

Each doll comes with a little bio, like Lea, a girl who "dives in to new adventures and explores what's in her heart," or Emerson, who loves the spotlight, original dance routines and drinking before noon. Really though, they should market little Kendall honestly - she loves drawing and inventing, and is the reason your parents can no longer afford to contribute to your college savings fund.

Most dolls in Canada are priced around $140 not including any of the never-ending accessories. Splurge on those and your kid's toy will be better dressed and equipped than you are. Forty-six dollars is more than I'm willing to spend on a Christmas dress for the child that shared my body for nine months, let alone one of her toys (if she had any interest in dolls). I legit laughed out loud at the idea of paying $200 for Maryellen's Refrigerator and Food Set when the life-size working one  in my kitchen that preserves ACTUAL FOOD FOR MY FAMILY is currently broken in places and patched up with packing tape.

The Kim,Kylie-and-Kendall Award

Red Planet Selfie Mic 

Disclaimer: I unashamedly own a selfie stick. Their reputation as being something only used by the self-obsessed isn't totally fair, as they come in handy while traveling and hiking in scenic locations when even my orangutan arms aren't long enough capture the landscape behind me.

That admission out of the way, Red Planet has taken this mostly-harmless trendy accessory and brought it to unexpected heights of obnoxiousness by adding a microphone. Now instead of honouring the selfie stick's original, pure purpose of fitting large groups of friends or the mountains into a shot, your kid can record their own music videos in preparation of their future audition for America's Next Forgettable Karaoke Star Unless You're Carrie Underwood Which Let's Be Honest You Probably Aren't.

First step, Selfie Mic, next step, an E! reality show with cameos from Kanye.

The I-Can't-Believe-I-Have-to-Explain-Why-This-is-a-Bad-Idea Award
Warcraft Doomhammer

Parent safety groups are apparently annoyed with the lack of warnings for potential injury on the toy's packaging.

Let me provide one for anyone who can't play out the possible scenarios for themselves: I've been on the receiving end of the kind of damage a four-year old is capable of when wielding a pencil crayon. If you voluntarily bring or allow something called a Doomhammer into your home and give it to a six-year old, you probably deserve that concussion.

The I-Did-Not-Think-This-Through Award
FurReal Friends Torch My Blazin' Dragon 

Don't let that sweet, seemingly harmless face fool you. The product description says the Blazin' Dragon responds with over 50 sound and motion combinations, which they may as well change to say it features 50 ways to annoy the shit out of you. Oh, and it breathes a flame-coloured mist.

If my kids want a fire-breathing creature on Christmas morning, they know they can ask me questions about PJ Masks before I've had my first cup of coffee. For free.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Worst Toys of 2015

I feel as though compiling this list is actually a public service and probably counts as a good deed as Christmas approaches. If it really a time of spreading joy and peace, then these toys are the anti-Christmas and will bring nothing but misery and suffering to all whose home they enter. You're welcome.

If you want to maintain relationships with those you hold dear or your sanity, stay far, far away from these this season.

**I have not personally tried or reviewed these items because 1) blogging does not pay me anything and I wouldn't actually spend money on these even if I had it 2) I'm confident enough they are all terrible ideas that I can warn you about without any personal inspection of them. 

Star Wars Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber 

A couple years ago, I bought my kids matching plastic snow shovels which they promptly used to try to beat each other to death. This year I could actually buy them each a weapon that looks like a weapon, but that's really a mistake you only have to make once.


By now, you may have caught wind of the horror stories regarding several children who have become ensnared by these tiny balls of terror (which would have made a nice alternate and entirely more accurate name had Bunchems been taken). Once they catch hold of human hair, they latch on tighter than Kanye West to a grudge against anyone who is not Beyoncé..

The only thing better than shrieks of joy on Christmas morning are the screams of panic from young children whose greatest fears in life are a brush and a haircut.

Before these are driven out of the market, somebody please send a complimentary box to Donald Trump.


Toy companies are no longer even trying to disguise the fact that they are trying to sell us shit. And now they want me to spend actual money so my child can play with a replica of the very thing I spent six traumatic months cleaning off walls and doors for free while potty-training. I didn't think you could put a price tag on that kind of horrific experience, but apparently you can, and all it costs is $7.99.

Granted, this probably doesn't smell nearly as bad, but the idea itself reeks of absurdity.

Disney Frozen Sing-Along Elsa 

Just when it seemed the Frozen furor was dying down a bit and the strains of Do You Want To Build A Snowman began to fade into the icy abyss, Disney decided it could keep beating the dead reindeer for awhile longer.

Behold, the singing doll that duets with your child, just in case the 437th time of "Let It Go" belted out at maximum volume hadn't yet completely destroyed your spirit.

Pie Face! 

I imagine the pitch at the Hasbro meeting where this project was green-lighted went something like this:  "Hey, I know! We should create a game where the winner gets a handful of whipped cream or a wet sponge to the face! Parents are totally going to jump at the chance to relive the humiliation and trauma they endured for years of trying in vain to feed their babies and toddlers. Trust me, they are going to love this. Love. This."

Because adding a new element to the never-ending task of cleaning up after little people really is the gift that keeps on giving.

B. Meowsic Keyboard 

This instrument of torture has actually been around for years, but still easily remains the worst thing that ever showed up under our tree.

Nothing says "Please, dig out your own ears with a rusty melon baller" more than a keyboard that features the option to play every note as a cat's meow alternating with a pre-recorded child singing an off-key version of La Cucaracha.

The real magic comes by way of the attached microphone to amplify the sound and spread the joy throughout the house, no matter what room you try to escape too. Mere walls are no obstacle to this degree of evil.

I have spent many episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates day-dreaming of how I can adequately repay my little brother for bestowing this abomination upon us once he finally has children of his own. Ooh, I wonder if Yeezus could customize one that declares he's the biggest rock star on the planet with every note played and also interrupts them any time they start a lecture. Imma look into that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

About those personal avalanches (and my ability to milk a metaphor)

I really try to avoid Vaguebook-ing (the art of posting something ambiguous to invite questions and concern), but I should know by now that as a chronic over-sharer, posting a brief, unexplained snippet from my life might cause that reaction.

The post in question went up this morning:

What I was mostly trying to convey was that often times, I can outrun my demons for awhile (they're surprisingly slow bastards). Yet within a couple hours, I had a number of texts and messages checking in on me, wanting to make sure I was alright. I generally try to be open and authentic with my struggles, instead of just alluding to them. There's just less isolation when you're willing to share that. So I cringed at the thought that people might think I was seeking attention without offering details.

And then, when I'd had a minute to be reasonable, I had to tell those negative voices in my head to shut it and do something productive, like clean my floors (seriously, if they're going to hang around, they could at least make themselves useful. And my floors are disgusting).

Yes, last night was a bit rough. It wasn't the worst I've ever experienced, and yet it wasn't just one thing either. As anyone with anxiety can tell you, often one thing is usually dog-piled on by many other things. And then a couple more for good measure, just to make sure you know that you're getting all the things wrong, all the time. The briefest whisper of unsettledness can trigger an emotional avalanche that gains momentum at an alarming speed, so that one thing looks like one, big uncontrollable disaster.

But for once, this actually isn't about me. These piles are not a new or foreign thing.

No, this is a shout out to the rescue crew, the ones who know where to look for you, and who grab their shovels and start digging to help you find air. A good friend pointed out that most people probably just assumed my post was referring to a rough night with my kids or something else rather inconsequential. That's probably a good thing. If everyone suddenly rushed to my doorstep with pickaxes in-hand, it might alarm the children (yet probably wouldn't actually surprise the neighbours that much We are most definitely that house on the block).

But others called my name, reached out, grabbed my hand and pulled, just in case I was stuck and couldn't get out on my own (and do so time and time again).

I am really fortunate to have these people and this friends, is exactly why you need yours too. That doesn't mean you have to find them by broadcasting every emotion, feeling and observation on the internet (unless you also really want unrelated email pitches, like the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blog about quality 925 silver products. And who wouldn't?). It does, however, mean allowing vulnerability and openness with a trusted few who know to check in if they have the slightest sense you might be buried.

Find these people and be there for each other when the snow starts to fly down the hill. Jump into the debris with them and dig with your hands if the situation requires it. No special tools necessary, just the ability to show up when they hear the distinct sound of the mountain rumbling.

Also, try to make at least one friend who won't cringe at your floors if they do break down your door.

Friday, July 10, 2015

McDonald's won't just make your kids fat, it'll make them curse like sailors too

Because McDonald's hasn't offended enough people by introducing our children to the pleasurable and intoxicating world of trans fats and super-sized portions, now it seems they're using minions - a fitting and brilliant choice, if you think about it - to teach them the f-word as well.

At least that's what my Facebook feed tells me has the internet's underwear in a collective knot this week. Kim Kardashian must be on vacation.

And everyone knows, when an angry mob hiding behind millions of computer screens gets pissed off, giant chains are brought to their knees. Or at least temporarily inconvenienced for a few days with a drive-thru line-up of three cars, instead of 10. The same mob forgives and forgets easily as soon as the backseat of the min-van crew is hungry and whining.

The best part of the Despicable Me franchise, starring in their own movie released today, have supposedly been programmed to corrupt the nation's youth (sorry Bieber, looks like you're out) to curse, courtesy of a $4 Happy Meal.

The small plastic toys that currently come with a cheeseburger and fries are said to be uttering an unholy "WTF" as part of their limited vocabulary, whenever delighted children whack them down on a table. As someone who has gotten used to being roughed up by her kids, I'd say the toys are just mirroring real life and painting a realistic picture of parenthood, but whatever.

Look McDonald's, if anyone gets to be judged for my kids going on a profanity-laced tirade in Sunday School, it's going to be me and the guy who cut me off on the highway last week. STEP OFF MY TURF.

My kids each got one of the toys earlier this week before they were recalled and since the story broke, I've been entertained by them far more than anyone else in our house.This is what happens when network television is mostly on reruns for the summer. That said, it's easily the best $8 we've spent this year.

Because my kids haven't yet rocked the playground with a newly-acquired string of expletives, I decided to ask them what they hear.

Atrocious, isn't it? I was actually mildly disappointed that they didn't provide me with a new bandwagon to jump on. It's like I can only count on the Play-Doh emporium to turn my offspring into profligate heathens. Thanks for nothing McDonald's.

Photo courtesy of a friend who didn't want her name associated with it


* Google "play-doh penis" at your own risk. You've been warned.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Angels have landed and they want you to feel great about yourself this season

I'm just messing with you. The success of Victoria's Secret lies in their ability to make the average woman part with an obscene amount of money for the sole purpose of looking nothing like Adriana Lima in a bra.

This is my favourite time of year, as the predictable signs of the season begin to appear: the Advent candles set up at church, the parking lot of my local Walmart suddenly resembling e an episode of Game of Thrones, and the bombardment of photos of the VS Angels prepping for the annual fashion show on the celebrity sites I frequent.

No one is forcing me to watch, but it's like a train wreck, if train wrecks wore a 36DD, had a 25-inch waist and Gigi Hadid's face. For good measure, the company always ensures  the show includes the participation a model who's given birth in the past four months to make those of us who are a few years postpartum feel especially shamefaced.

**Note to the models who claim the weight just fell off by breastfeeding: The millions of  women who have also given birth are not stupid. I breastfed two babies. Nursing means babies are nourished by milk your body produces. They are not tiny little liposuction machines that suck fat exclusively from your midsection to reveal defined abs underneath, unless a liposuction machine also pukes in your hair.
Without a doubt, my absolute favourite part of the annual broadcast is the cautionary message at the end of each commercial break, claiming that watching Candice Swanepoel parade around in a g-string may be harmful to my child. I propose this year they finally add the following:

Warning: The following broadcast may be detrimental to the emotional and mental well-being of any woman who has had children and/or likes ice cream. Self-loathing may occur. Husband/partner discretion is strongly advised.

The one truth I've gained from years of watching the show is that everyone would look and feel better if they had a wind machine follow them around while waiting in line at Starbucks or picking up their kids from school. Every time I visit Costco, I take a minute and stand at the entrance of the big dairy refrigerator, which produces roughly the same effect except I get some weird looks, and other shoppers rarely cheer me on or ask me about my workout regimen. It's insulting, really.

I have never been able to determine if the target audience of this show is actually women who are filled with regret for the Halloween candy rejects and bottle of wine they inhale while watching, or men who want to pretend their girlfriends or wives could really look like Alessandra Ambrosio in a push-up.

From the preview photos, it seems the show will include a pants-less ski bunny, which is totally how I'm secretly dressed when I'm parked in the school pick-up line. I might finally relate to a Victoria's Secret angel when one walks the runway in an inside-out t-shirt, fighting a much smaller angel for the last sip of flat Coke Zero. If it's my girlfriends and I you want to attract Victoria's Secret and CBS, I suggest a cage match featuring Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid battling for a brownie and a mojito. We would turn out in spades to see that.

But until they decide to listen to the viewers, here's a drinking game to get you through the broadcast (please sip slowly - I don't want hate tweets if you pass out before the first commercial break).

One swig per:
* Scant Santa outfit
* Each behind-the-scenes shot, trying to convince you the Angels eat real food like the rest of us
* Fur-trimmed bra or thong. Bonus sip if think to yourself, "I would totally wear that under my leggings."
* Kiss blown to the audience/camera.

One shot for:
* Any pair of wings that would fit through a standard door frame
* Any costumes interpreting the American Flag. An extra one if you can actually hear George Washington turn in his grave.

One full drink if you make it through the entire show without googling or pinning any type of new core workout or cleanse.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I kind of hope Arachnophobia happens so I'm right

We moved into a new house a few weeks ago which you would already know if I wasn't fulfilling my promise to randomly abandon the blog for weeks or months at a time. But if I didn't do this, you wouldn't be able to trust my word, so really, you're welcome.

Two days after we moved in, I located my dressers containing my bras so I could finally go meet the neighbours with no shame (or at least slightly less shame than if I'd gone over commando). I still haven't located one of my daughter's school projects that was lost in the transition, which I'm sure will be the day she pinpoints in future therapy sessions, as the day she just stopped trying.

As part of what I'm sure is some comeuppance for the missing project. last night as I unpacked pantry items, I found what I'm fairly confident was a maybe-dead spider with eggs in my container of spices. There's a very small chance it was a bizarre looking flake of thyme, if thyme has lots of little legs and is surrounded by white fluff. I'm not one to take chances.

Mr. T refused to react with the urgency the situation required, despite an oral contract that he handles all non-human creatures, alive or dead, found in our home (in exchange, I handle most matters that require a phone call such as booking appointments, quotes, etc). He's usually pretty good at dealing with them, including the time we discovered a massive cane spider the size of his hand lurking on the wall above our bed in Hawaii.

I probably haven't told that story here yet. It's like a horrifying little bonus for you.

When we were on vacation in Kona a couple years ago, we woke up one morning and were quietly talking in bed before the kids woke up, when suddenly Mr. T jumped out of bed like he'd been shot. He pointed at the wall above me head, where there was a spider the size of his hand.

I was obviously not going to google an image of a cane spider, so here's my daughter, doing her best impression of one lurking on a wall

Watching us. Waiting.

We panicked as quietly as possible. He grabbed a broom from the hall closet and told me to get ready with the patio door as he was going to sweep it off the wall and out the door. It was a well-thought out plan. We just hadn't accounted for the spider falling onto the handle of the broom and immediately running up the handle toward Mr. T's hand. He freaked out and threw the broom out the door as hard as he could, except the spider fell off the handle onto the floor. So now we had a spider and no broom. Mr. T grabbed the dustpan and used it to scoop up the spider, throw it and the dustpan onto the patio and slam the door. Neither of us was going out to retrive the broom or the dustpan so we left it out there for the cleaning staff to find.

When we recounted the story to one of the front desk staff later, as I inquired about whether we could hire a permanent staff member to guard and sweep our condo for the rest of our stay (which he seemed to think was a joke), he informed us it was a harmless cane spider and they "just like to chase people a bit." So it's harmless, but a vindictive little son of a bitch. That made me sleep much better.

The point is, I book yearly check-ups, Mr. T eradicates spiders. That's the deal and it's been working just fine for us for almost 10 years now.

Except last night, he did not jump to my rescue and treat it with the urgency the situation required. He simply told me to "just flush it."

Look, I saw Arachnophobia** against my better judgement when I was a teenager. I don't remember the exact plot, but I'm pretty sure it all started with a husband's vague dismissal. I'm also pretty sure that the spiders were like one of those t-shirts that comes in a little cube and grows to a full-size shirt when you put it in water, so flushing it seemed like a really bad idea.

You know what else is probably all gooey inside? Spiders.

I did it anyway, because I had nowhere else to put a maybe-dead maybe-spider. It didn't go down with the first flush and then I'm pretty sure I saw it flailing and moving, which indicates an alarming level of tenacity for a drowning spider I wasn't even initially sure was alive. Then I washed out the container and any lingering eggs containing maybe-babies with dish soap. I also rinsed a container of Kraft Calorie-Wise Ranch right afterward for added reassurance because the internet is always telling me that kind of chemical crap will kill me, so I was hoping the same applies to insects. Or maybe soybean oil is what will cause those eggs to multiply in our drain and come for us in our sleep.

At any rate, this post is insurance if that happens, because if I'm dead or carried off into the night (I also saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), I don't know if the spider colony will have Wi-Fi and I won't be able to say "I told you so." So please, make that's printed on my headstone when Mr. T and I are buried next to each other.

The eternal reminder that sometimes you should really just LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE.

**Don't even google arachnophobia to make sure it's spelled correctly. There's a mistake you'll only make once.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How my daughter taught me the F-word

Please don’t send me hate mail. I’m not talking about the first f-word that popped into your head, though in all fairness, a lot of people find this one just as offensive.

This all started with a sleeper. “Just one little sleeper,” is, I believe, what it was referred to by many on social media.

One little sleeper, proudly declaring “I Only Date Heroes.” One little sleeper, to be worn by thousands of baby girls across North America. One little sleeper I spotted in my weekly Target flyer yesterday afternoon. I had already seen the photos of it online, but there it was, right in front of me, in my home, in my local Target, just five minutes away. The boy version, for the record, declared ”Future Man of Steel.”

In all fairness, it’s probably a piece I would have bought for my baby girl five years ago, without giving it much thought and barely registering the message.

But now my girl is preparing to celebrate her fifth birthday next week. She is wickedly funny, inherently kind, full of far more energy than my morning triple Americano can compensate for and a fast runner who will one day easily coast past me on a race course (dare I dream).

She also loves superheroes. Not the glammed up girl version either, but rather their original bright, primary colours. It started before she turned three. My husband would occasionally watch the classic 1967 version of Spiderman, and she would sit with him, mesmerized. Her love for Spiderman has known no bounds since. He was always her favourite, until she caught sight of a photo of the Avengers a few months ago and asked who “the green guy” was.

When I interviewed her on her first day of kindergarten for the scrapbook that I’ll never actually put together, one of the questions I asked was what she wanted to be when she grows up.

“The Hulk,” was her swift, immediate reply.

My daughter always wants to crush the bad guys. As she grows, I hope she finds more productive ways to do it than going on anger-fuelled rampages and destroying millions of dollars in property. But the point is, at just five years old, she thinks she can be a hero. I’ve never told her any differently, and why would I?

Just one little sleeper sends the opposite message. You aren’t the hero, but maybe you can grow up to be his arm candy.**

”It’s harmless and cute,” were some of the other comments I received when I posted a photo from the flyer on my personal Facebook page yesterday.

A few years ago, I would have agreed and defended my right to buy something like that. However, in the past few years, I’ve watched how my daughter transforms herself into her favourite superheroes (The Hulk is my favourite – a weapon of mass destruction with anger management issues. There’s a stretch for a preschooler).

I would never, ever have considered calling myself a feminist until recently. Emma Watson nailed it when she asserted in her now-famous U.N. speech that “feminism has become an unpopular word.” I always assumed that to be one, I had to be extreme in my views. And I’ll be perfectly honest, and tell you that I’m a newbie to this. I haven’t done a lot of reading or research and I can’t speak eloquently on the topic. I have a lot to learn and consider.

Here's what I do know. Right now, my daughter wants to save the world, and with her drive, determination and fire, I absolutely believe she can. But this message that she will
always be on the sidelines of heroism is one that obviously starts as soon as she’s born – retailers like Target have made sure of that. And it's just not not okay.

The obstacles to her becoming the hero she dreams of will follow her through her teen years into adulthood, where others will attempt to thwart her efforts by paying her less money for the work she does, possibly passing her over for promotions, because, gasp, what if she decides she wants a baby one day? Not because she lacks tenacity or dedication, but because she happened to be born with two X-chromosomes.

I’m aware that some will dismiss this as an overblown reaction to something so insignificant. Let me tell you what this is not: a rant about girly things existing like princesses and fairies and sparkly nail polish, nor is it offense at the hero logo on a pink background on these onesies. I love pink and will probably be buried in the colour. Had the wording been any different - ”Born to save the world” or even blank- this would be a non-issue.

But let me make this clear: It is not just one little sleeper. It is tons of these harmless little declarations – countless occurrences appearing on t-shirts, cups, purses and other random propaganda- coming together to form one big, persistent message. This message will help shape my daughters view of being a woman as she gets older and it tells all girls exactly what society expects of them before they can even walk, or you know, hold up their own head.

It’s not simply a matter of just buying the boy version of the clothes for a girl either. I don’t want to always have to cross over to the boys’ section of a store to find something that tells my daughter she can be a hero too. But that's not really the point. I'm not simply upset because I want a hero logo on a pretty pink shirt (if that's all I was after, there are many places I could go to find it). It's that this message shouldn't be accepted and defended - let alone, printed on an infant's clothing.

I want my daughter to grow up with the message that she can be anything or do anything that makes her happy, no matter what body parts she happened to be born with. We can, and should, expect more of our girls and we can let them know from a young age that if they want to don big green gloves and go on a rampage for justice - even in a pink tutu - they absolutely can have that dream, instead of automatically assuming they should watch the action unfold from a safe distance rather than being in the thick of it themselves.

**Note: If it happens organically and my daughter falls in love with Batman and he treats her well and as his equal, I’m okay with that. In fact, I think he’d make a great son in law and maybe occasionally, he'd let me use the Batcave to finally get the peace and quiet I’ve been seeking for years. I just hope being his significant other won’t be her most notable identifier.