How to Angry Toy Purge Your Home

Lately, I have gotten Hulk Smashy a lot more frequently than I have in the past year or so and quite frankly, it’s because my house is a disaster. There are toys, with teeny tiny parts, all over the floor, in every room, and in every place.

I don’t even know how it happens.

I swear I constantly throw away toys and yet, WE KEEP GETTING MORE. And apparently, the only place to put them is ON THE FLOOR.

Just when I think I’m getting a grip on all our crap and stuff and have finally cleared out spaces in my house so it looks tidy and if not clean, at least neat, we have a birthday or a family visit or SOMETHING and BOOM! My house is exploding at the gills again.

Do houses have gills? That seems weird.

The front room looks like a craft store vomited a thousand bits of construction paper. (Boooooo on my kids being obsessed with cutting and gluing lately – I mean, ummmm… yay on creativity and non-screen time?)

Why do my children seem incapable of putting their crayons/markers/stickers/glue sticks/scissors in their rightful containers and instead, THROW THEM ON THE FLOOR?

WHY DOES GLOW WORM (4) CEASELESSLY TURN THEIR CHAIRS UPSIDE DOWN SO THEIR DANGEROUS CHAIR LEGS CAN BE HANDY SPIKES OF DEATH?

I have all these questions and no satisfactory answers.

I have tried culling and getting rid of markers and crayons and stickers but again, THEY MULTIPLY. Is there some type of asexual fission going on that I don’t know about?

And now, Glow Worm, bless his heart, is obsessed with all my expensive Taiwanese logic games and he takes them out and plays with them (not in their actual usage but I guess I should just be happy that someone is playing with them) but then he LEAVES THEM OUT SO ALL THEIR EXPENSIVE PIECES GO MISSING.

Ok, I get that he is four. And I do make them clean up after themselves. But quite frankly, we have too many toys. TOO MANY.

OMG SO MANY.

Clearly, the only solution is an Angry Toy Purge. In fact, the solution is multiple Angry Toy Purges.

And because I’m a giver and because I both hope that I am not alone but wouldn’t wish this verklempt on anyone, I have conjured up the instructions so that you, too, can have your very own Angry Toy Purge.

1) Become enraged at the thought of your home.

When the sight of your house in its current state makes you long for lighter fluid and a match because dealing with arson investigations, insurance, and possible prison time is preferable to being in your house right now, you have reached the point where an Angry Toy Purge is in your near future.

2) Emit an odd combination of strangled sputters of fury and unleashed bellows of cursing.

Indiscriminate throwing or kicking of toys is a bonus. Background weeping and cowering from your children is also possible.

3) Get several giant garbage bags. Start filling them.

One is for straight up throwing away shit. Because OF COURSE there are calcified fries in the DUPLOS box. Are there toys that are cracked and broken and missing pieces and cannot be salvaged?

Throw them away.

No, seriously. No one else wants that garbage either (and it is garbage).

You will be amazed at how with each damnable item you throw away, your shoulders will feel lighter and that clenchy feeling in your under parts (and not the happy clenchy feelings in your under parts) starts to lessen.

4) Give away all toys or books that make you angry.

I posted about this at length last year, but in short, any toy that makes you mad, GET RID OF IT.

I don’t care if your child weeps and gnashes their teeth. GET RID OF IT.

Okokokokok… perhaps don’t toss your kid’s favorite toy, but it really has to be an actual favorite. Like, there will be untold trauma and therapy bills in the future if you throw away their lovey.

Don’t throw away their lovey.

But, if your house is full of tertiary, quaternary, quinary, or even senary toys, PUT THEM IN THE DONATE BAG. (I am just super pleased to use quaternary in a sentence.)

GET THAT SHIT OUT OF YOUR LIFE. OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. OUT OF YOUR ZIP CODE.

Chances are, your kids may put up a brief protest because hey, they haven’t seen that toy in awhile. But after repeated cullings, your kids will wise up and gladly, nay, joyfully, throw their lesser liked toys in the sacrificial pyre as an offering to appease the Angry Toy Purge gods.

5) Give away (or sell) all toys, clothes, books your children have outgrown or no longer play with.

This is admittedly a little bit harder. After all, what if you’re not done having kids? Or what if you have kids in multiple age ranges?

Or what if your kids don’t play with these toys because you have too many other toys and they forgot about these toys?

By all means, don’t donate the high chair if you’re still using it. Or the bouncer. Or whatever it is that is useful and needful.

However, be honest.

I have about eleventy-million teething rings that not a single one of my four children played with. I am only just now, giving them away. I also have rattles, baby toys, crinkly toys, stacking toys, and who knows what else that somehow survived my previous Angry Toy Purges. I can only surmise that they are still here because we ran out of garbage bags the last few go-rounds or that they were buried somewhere and only recently unearthed.

I also felt guilty about purging toys my oldest played with all the time that my third child rarely played with because he leveled up to what the older kids were playing with and that my youngest child will NEVER get to play with because I am selling it as I type.

This doesn’t even include all our trains.Case in point, after years of debate, I am finally letting go of our train set. I have spent close to $900 over the first few years of Cookie Monster’s (~8) life collecting trains, tracks, and special pieces. I got most of them used and second hand so I can’t even fathom how much this would have cost if I got them new. (The $900 includes a ride-on train and train table, too.)

The only thing that pains me is that I’m selling them at a deep discount because my children ruin everything and have broken things and played HARD. Also, I want them to exit my house with great expediency.

Is it an end of an era? Yes? But truthfully, these train tracks have been sitting unused for at least 3-4 years. Wouldn’t it be better to free up the space and let other kids enjoy these toys? Haven’t we learned anything from Toy Story 3?

Again, be honest with yourself.

Are you actually going to sell this? If so, TAKE A PICTURE NOW AS YOU ARE PURGING AND LIST IT.

Otherwise, you are just delaying the inevitable and lying to yourself. Get it out of your house.

6) Include your children in the process.

First, to have them feel as if they have agency and choice in which toys will be among the soon departed. This way, you take into account their feelings (OMG WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS?) and spare the toys they love (and they’re ever so grateful so MILK THAT).

Plus, you might be surprised by the toys they are willing to forego.

This year, over the course of many purges, Gamera (6) and Glow Worm (4) told me they no longer wanted any princesses, dolls, dollhouses, or My Little Ponies. Gamera came to this conclusion earlier, but she allowed for Glow Worm to keep them because he wanted to play with the dolls. He has since moved on.

Second, I involve them because THEY MUST EXPERIENCE PAIN.

Yes, I am a petty, petty person.

I don’t know WHY I am such an asshole, just that I am. But whatever the reason, I want them to experience some loss and super minor suffering.

Granted, they are practically immune to the pain because we have so many toys that they really aren’t giving up anything precious to them.

So, you see. I have not only built up their resilience, but I have inured them to future hoarding. #parentinggoals

7) Remove these items from your house ASAP.

Throw your bags away. Take your bags to the thrift store. Put it on the curb for those curbside charities. Drop them off at your unsuspecting friends’ doorsteps. (NO! Don’t do this unless it would bring them joy. Otherwise, you’re just spreading the anger. Don’t do that!)

8) Somehow, magically accumulate more shit you don’t need until you explode once more. 

It’s inevitable. It makes me sad, but it’s true. I mean, I still have Christmas presents from at least 2-3 years ago that I still haven’t given my kids. This is in addition to the toys I already bought my kids for Christmas.

It’s a vicious cycle.

The only way to truly break it is to not buy any more things. But until I commit to that, Angry Toy Purge will have to do.

Now, go! Angry Toy Purge away and come back to post before/after pics and tell me all about it.

I Cut My Kids’ Screen Time and This is What Happened

Ok. I apologize for the click-baity title but honestly, I think we are all allowed one or two of these every year as a writer.

Anyway.

Look. We all know I’m a terribly mediocre parent.

Despite the fact that I homeschool my two older children, I really don’t do much with the kids and let them watch a LOT of iPad because that’s easier than actually dealing with them. It’s especially more convenient when I’m trying to put Sasquatch down for a nap and I don’t want the other three to run amok and be assholes and scream and interrupt me and come into the room and piss me off because FFS YOU KNOW THE BABY IS TRYING TO NAP —

Deep Breaths.

At any rate, you get the idea. My kids got upwards of 4-5 hours a day on the ipad, XBox, TV, phone, etc. I mean, you name it, THEY WERE ON IT.

And despite me not really noticing that my kids were more asshole-ish than usual (many of my friends have told me their kids become steadily assholier the more screen time they have), I’m sure all that screen time was not good for their brains or their eyes.

Ahhhh… Their eyes.

Here is the real reason why I cut back on their screen time.

Last year, Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.75) both had to get glasses and they have to wear them when on iPads or reading or doing homework. I was bummed but not surprised because GENETICS, but other than making them wear their glasses, I did not change their behavior.

Why?

BECAUSE I’M MEDIOCRE AS FUCK AS WELL AS LAZY, OK?

And even though I have an optometrist friend who REFUSES to let her kids have ANY screen time due to her legitimate fears of their vision going bad – I mean, she deals with BLIND PEOPLE (literally) for her JOB – I STILL did nothing.

Because WHY WOULD I CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR at much cost to my convenience?

Well, after we came back from Taiwan (where my kids were ALWAYS on the iPad) and we ran into some of our friends again, I found out that they had DRASTICALLY cut out almost ALL screen time and were down to thirty minutes a day.

I almost barfed at the forced interactions with my children this would enable.

But the reason they cut down the screen time so much was because their nine year old son’s vision jumped from -100 to -400 in less than a year. LESS THAN A YEAR.

In case you need this in layman’s terms, THAT IS REALLY BAD.

And this scared me.

I spent the better part of my childhood mostly blind, wearing huge coke bottle glasses, hating any sports participation due to fear of getting my face smashed in by a ball, dealing with sweat and glasses (the WORST), having no peripheral vision (making sports REALLY difficult), hating swimming because I couldn’t see, and hating the outside because of the glare from the sun.

Though I had LASIK 17 years ago (OMG, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO), I still have to wear glasses because I ruined my eyes again staring at computer screens and the iPhone in the dark. I mean, it’s nowhere NEAR as horrible (I was -925) but COME ON.

At any rate, I drastically cut down my kids’ screen time down to approximately 30 minutes on the iPad and then whatever TV I happen to watch (which isn’t very often).

Here’s what happened:

1) The kids rebelled. They’re still rebelling, a little bit.

Ok. The rebellion is a bit overstated. But they aren’t particularly happy about the restricted screen time – especially Glow Worm. Mostly because that is how I placated this child – with the iPad, his third parent. (I mean, YouTube taught him all his numbers, his letters, his colors, nursery rhymes and songs, and a ton of other things parents are actually supposed to teach their children.)

But I can deal with their grumbling because the longer I keep it up, the less they grumble. (And truthfully, I do give in to their grumbling a smidge – so that’s why I say APPROXIMATELY 30 minutes. What can I say? I’M WEAK.)

2) The kids are actually playing.

I mean, I know it’s super obvious. And I should have remembered that I have done this before. (Last year around this time, actually.)

But really! The children are actually playing. With our toys. With each other. With the baby.

And they’re funny. And fun.

I mean, they would occasionally play like this anyway, but it’s now for many hours every day now instead of every now and then.

For instance, the other day, the kids spent over an hour setting up several theaters of war between army men, dinosaurs, animals, and other toys. Then, Cookie Monster was busy fighting the battles. Gamera was selling concession stand snacks to the observers (Batman and Superman were watching from the doll house roof). Glow Worm was alternately playing waiter and grunt. Sasquatch was roaming the field randomly destroying things.

They have also played shockingly realistic live action MinecraftPlants vs. Zombies, and American Ninja Warrior. Sadly, it all involves beating the shit out of each other with their Minecraft foam swords and axes. And fists.

They are coloring and drawing and cutting and pasting stuff.

They’re playing with newly made play dough. (See? I can occasionally be fun.)

They have even brought out the board games to play with each other (and fight with each other).

They have spent an entire afternoon pushing Sasquatch around in a laundry basket up and down the upstairs hallway and then lifting him up like it’s a litter and calling him the king. (It is as cute as it sounds.)

They have also pushed him around in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (and at high speeds!) and included Sasquatch in all their shenanigans as they pretended to work in a drive-thru restaurant and judged each other’s cooking.

They are having the childhood I imagined them having.

3) They go to bed much easier.

I mean, I knew all about that blue light nonsense interfering with their sleep sensors or whatever, but I never really did much about it. I just assumed my kids were dicks at bedtime because kids are dicks at bedtimes.

NOPE.

They’re not perfect. But I’ll take this relatively painless bedtime over the hell on earth it used to be.

4) Taking care of Sasquatch is much easier because now, the kids aren’t on the iPad so they are playing with each other and with him.

He’s like their own live doll.

5) I keep forgetting (more like actively not doing) a lot of their homeschooling because they’re having such a good time playing with one another. I feel like a jerk interrupting.

6) They are speaking more Chinese to each other.

OMG THEY ARE SPEAKING MORE CHINESE TO EACH OTHER.

Totally an unexpected side benefit!!

Even though I told the kids they could only watch Chinese videos on the iPad, I know they didn’t always do so. (In fact, they rarely did so.) And I didn’t enforce the rule because I was lazy. So simply by cutting down the iPad to 30ish minutes a day drastically cut down their English exposure.

Don’t get me wrong. They still mostly play together in English. But I swear, they played with each other for at least an hour in Chinese the other day. Yes, yes. There was also English mixed in, but OMG THEY PLAYED TOGETHER IN CHINESE. AND I DID NOT HAVE TO MAKE THEM!

7) In addition, Cookie Monster has actually picked up BOOKS when he’s bored and VOLUNTARILY read Chinese books. (Don’t get too excited – he can only read Chinese. He can’t read English.)

8) But most importantly, I realized that the kids don’t really get bored. Oh, sure. They will ask for the iPad or TV or whatever, and for awhile, I felt guilty that they weren’t getting in their favorite games to get better. But then, I came to my senses.

I SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT NOT LETTING MY KIDS PLAY AS MUCH VIDEO GAMES.

So now, I’m over it. And though they keep asking for the screen, they also aren’t really suffering over not having it.

I don’t know why I am always so worried that they’re not going to have fun without an iPad in front of their faces. I know in my brain that it’s ridiculous to have this worry. But nevertheless, I do.

It’s dumb.

And I really hope that I can stick to my guns and not get lazy and forget all about how awesome they are when they’re not zombies (unless, of course, they’re pretending to be zombies).

Do you severely restrict your children’s screen time? How is that working for your family? Let me know in the comments.

 

Raising an Advocate

I remember in my high school civics class, our teacher said that in general, children start off with their parents’ political beliefs, become more liberal in college, and then finally, when they make more money and become parents themselves, circle back to conservative.

After all, once you have more money, you are less sanguine about ways to spend that money and once you have children, you are less permissive in your attitudes about sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll – or thus the thinking goes.

It’s the political circle of life.

I don’t know if that is still the case from 22 years ago (OMG HOW HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG?), but for me, that has certainly NOT been my experience.

I find that for most people, they react to having children in one of two ways:

1) Double down and because of fear, circle the wagons and retreat more and more into conservative values – be it on money, religion, sex, drugs, etc.

They worry that the world is going to hell in handbasket and that there is a cultural war going on against “traditional” values and they do all they can to make sure laws stay as conservative as possible.

2) Realize that they want a better future for their children and out of fear (usually because their kids are or might be one of the disenfranchised or oppressed people groups), become more and more liberal and inclusive in their values – be it on money, religion, sex, drugs, etc.

They worry that their children will be oppressed if they don’t happen to fit in the “traditional” boxes and do all they can to make sure laws become as inclusive as possible.

It is no surprise, dear reader, that you will find that I am in the latter group.

As soon as I had Cookie Monster, I began my journey to become ever more inclusive of all peoples.

I want to take credit and say it’s because I’m just that progressive of a person, but truthfully, it was a gradual eye-opening, and a lot of it was born of fear for my child and future children and not so much out of the belief of equality for all.

Isn’t that the way most of us who are not affected by certain types of discrimination begin caring about people who are not like us? When we are all of a sudden, personally affected by a discriminatory law/system/situation? (This is akin to celebrities or people caring only about a disease after it affects them personally. Not a knock – because that is the human condition. Just an observation.)

The thought of my children being treated poorly, mocked, harassed, bullied, whatever because of their sexual identity, their preferences, their abilities or disabilities, their ethnicities, their anything – THAT ENRAGED ME.

This fear and rage at the possibility of my children being mistreated then turned into rage and fear for my friends and then for ALL people.

I evolved.

I admit. Right about the time I had Cookie Monster, I found out that one of my dear, dear college friends was bisexual (which wasn’t really that much of a surprise and I wasn’t really phased about it because hey, I’m progressive like that) as well as polyamorous.

And it’s not that I judged him for being polyamorous, but I judged.

I thought he was going through a mid-life crisis. Promiscuous. Behaving dangerously. Justifying non-commitment.

Which, hey. It’s his life. He should be able to live it however he wanted. I got that and knew that. But still. A hidden part of me (and to be honest, I’m sure it was obvious to him how I felt but he was too kind and merciful to point it out to me) was like, “This is weird and inappropriate and keep it to yourself already.”

And then, a high school acquaintance on Facebook began to share more and more about her life in a poly relationship. She is bisexual and has two husbands and several children and has been very open about her life in her blog (now no longer there for likely, family protection reasons).

She shared how she has been affected and treated and all her family’s suffering and pain as well as their love for each other and just like that – I cared about the poly community (her family in particular), and my mindset was changed.

All because of her bravery and willingness to be vulnerable.

I find her amazing. My heart aches for her. She and her family are so deserving of love and acceptance and the chance to be left alone and just be without commentary. They deserve affirmation of their love and the beautiful family they have created.

And truthfully, I know I was swayed because of their “monogamy” and family values oriented lifestyle.

But you know what?

Even if she was a promiscuous person and her family was “broken,” they deserve to live and love as they choose (or not choose, as this is the case).

And thus, through relationships with people, through reading anti-racism blogs – through reading LOTS of blogs actually – I found myself caring more and more about all types of people. (Even farmers through another friend of mine – which is weird because I never knew about the issues farmers and agricultural people encountered until I read her posts on Facebook and on her blog.)

Look at me blathering all over the place today.

I’m not sure I have a main point or lots of tiny points all pointing toward a bigger point in their pointiness, but this is just to say that all this liberalness, all this gradual awakening and anti-racism and inclusive parenting – that is a direct result out of fear.

I fear giving my children a world wherein who they are, at their very core, is not accepted and not allowed to thrive and live and be.

I fear that to this day, even though I would love my child and accept them if they happen to be LGBTQ, I secretly hope they aren’t because life will be SO HARD for them if they are and I worry that my mother, who is super conservative, may reject them or try to “convert” them to “straightness” and then I will have to cut off my mother, too.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have these fears. I don’t want to be a person who has these fears.

And I certainly do not want these things for my children.

I want my children to be be shameless – in the sense that they are nothing to be ashamed of – regardless of who they are.

And thus, I have become ever more and more liberal. More radical. More everything.

I am grateful for friends who are further along the advocacy road so I can model myself after them and join my voice with theirs.

I am grateful for these same friends (Hi, Mamademics!) creating curriculum celebrating black history as well as creating Raising an Advocate series for me to join and Facebook Stalk and over-post in. (Can you tell that I lifted the name of this post from her series? It’s because she is awesome and her series is awesome and I REALLY WANT YOU ALL TO JOIN.)

I am grateful that I am homeschooling and can thus apply these things that I am learning so that my children can be brainwashed into advocates themselves. (I bought the first twelve months of Black History is American History and am looking forward to teaching it to my kids.)

Won’t you join me in this journey of self-discovery and dismantling what we have accepted for so long (and often, obliviously)?

Let’s create the world in which ALL our children are loved and accepted no matter who they are.