Why We Are Not A Theme Park Family

4.05.2018


First of all, ain't no one have time to stand in those lines.

At least The Smiths don't.

Serious question: for those of you that do have time to stand in line over an hour or more just to ride a 45-second mediocre clunker, how do you reconcile that with yourself? I ask with zero judgement, just honestly curious. I get it if I was at the theme park alone, and I had a good book to read and could read in peace and quiet without little humans screaming in my face and ears about having to wait so long in line, but with kids? I just honestly want to know how you do it. Do you do it because you love them? Hate yourself? Have a slight BDSM fetish? 

Look. No parent is ever happy in those lines. Look around next time. They are all scowling, yelling at their children, grabbing them by their shirt collars, stressed to the max, or almost to the very front of the line when their child says they have to go to the bathroom right then or else!

My kids just aren't wired to stand quietly in line for an hour with absolutely nothing to do. More so, neither are their parents.

Everyone honestly just looks a little bit miserable in what those declare "the happiest place on earth."

I've made no secret of the fact that I limit screen time firmly. No gaming devices in this house (besides our kid-friendly Amazon tablet that doesn't see the light of day M-F) and we will go weeks or months without any sort of screen time at all. Do I feel my kids are missing out?

Quite the opposite. I feel my kids are actually having a fulfilling childhood and are enjoying the outdoors, as they should. My boys have been very active in the remodel of our home and when my youngest turned 8 just this past month, his most favorite birthday gift was a loaded tool set. We got chickens about 6 months ago and it's the kids' responsibility to take care of them and clean up the poop. Yes, they bitch and moan about having to stay outside sometimes but if I could care less, I would. 

I just don't. *insert dgaf emoji here

This article says that children these days spend only half as much time playing outside as their parents did. Most of my childhood memories consist of late nights with my sisters in our tree, playing kick the bucket with my cousins and boating on the river until we went to sleep. I refuse, I just flat refuse to give in to the "modern way of parenting" and hand over my child a $700 device. HA.

So yes, we just got back from the dreaded Legoland in San Diego and we won't be making that mistake, or any like it, in the future. (Not even going to start on the subject that the prices to enter are insane — almost $500 for our family of 4 — and they charge a small child for a burger and then once you are in, almost everything "super fun and exciting" costs even more money. I've been played before when I realized Jonathan Taylor Thomas was not getting nor reading my love letters I sent him in the 90's and I refuse to be played like that again.)

It all comes down to time. Time is money, honey. And I prefer to spend my time, and my money, how I please. I couldn't help but feel like a cow getting herded into the gates...everyone schlupps along, blindly following the crowd. (Much like people and the flu shot but let's not even go there...for now.)

Needless to say, we went back to the beach.

Freedom, as I like to call it.

We had plans to visit SeaWorld the following day, however based on our farm animal experience, we went back to what felt like home.

My boys ran free, their hearts were full and their energy was exhausted.

We had dinner that night along the beach, and although my boys weren't making a scene or being unruly, I did have to constantly be on guard and you know, mother my children in order for the night to go smoothly. I noticed a table to my right with three young children...I hadn't heard a peep out of them for quite a while so I looked over and kid you not, every child was on their own cellphone, watching youtube or God knows what, but they were so entranced and glued to their screens that I couldn't get their attention with a snap of my finger if I wanted to.

And I was once again, grateful that Rob and I are on the same page when it comes to those harmful devices on our children.

Just say no to theme parks, crack machines and cow herding.

Yes to the beach.

Always yes to the beach.

When I Finally Realized That Less Is More

3.07.2018


Yes I know, my last post was all about how much I was frustrated with and hated on this current home remodel.

And now I'm here to tell you that it's the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I've always loved the theory of minimalism. I always knew that less was more "in theory" yet I kept accumulating stuff. I needed more clothes, more home furnishings, more high tech objects, more photo albums to hold my more photos and more cabinets to hold my more dishes and more drawers to hold my more stuffs.

Just stuff!

It was all. just. stuff.

When we started the remodel on the top floor, we ended up tearing out a storage closet. We were going to make it a big open space but soon realized part of the closet was a load-bearing wall and we would have to re-sheetrock a portion of it back in. Rob had put up a half wall and asked if I just wanted him to remake the storage closet back to it's original condition.

In the meantime, one week earlier, we had emptied that storage closet completely, taking everything that was in it downstairs. I had sorted through the contents and ended up throwing away 40 percent of the stuffs and giving away the other 60 percent to donation. I realized I hadn't even seen or used almost all of it, and getting rid of it felt good. Freeing

So when Rob asked if I wanted him to put the closet back together, I thought, "what for? So we can put more stuff in it that we don't need, won't see, and won't use?" 

Instead, I looked at the space with fresh eyes. I saw what it could be — a Lego nook for my kids, an art station or a blank wall to showcase our family photos. Why build yet another storage closet to just...store stuff? What is the point of "storing stuff" anyway? It's behind closed doors, out of sight and therefore almost always, out of mind. Don't we want our material and physical possessions to be seen and used? I mean, we spend our hard earned money on these things, yet we stuff it back into dark musty corners of our many storage closets and forget about its existence for months, weeks, decades...forever.

It's like that saying, "out of sight, out of mind," except no, it doesn't work that way! We always know when our closets are full of crap. It's why we don't want to open them and procrastinate cleaning them out. It's why we just shove stuff in there and then close it real fast like before everything comes tumbling out, moving on to something else entirely so we can stop thinking about it. It's a drag and a major inconvenience and a complete bewilderment and it absolutely messes with our mental happiness and propensity. 

So we push it aside, let it collect dust and try to forget about it all together. 

So now I beg to ask the question...are we talking about our stuffs or our sanity? 

My answer to my husband was no, I would not prefer him to rebuild the storage closet. The space held so many possibilities and besides, we still had two storage closets left. In a home of just over 3000 square feet, two storage closets were more than enough. And when I go to clean and sort those out? I have a good feeling I could consolidate it down to one. One storage closet in our entire home. Some may think that sounds absurd, but why? Again, why do we need so much stuff that just sits in darkness and collects dust? It's the theory of having nice china in the home, that only gets used on sparse occasions.

I have never understood that thinking and never will. For one, we don't own any china because we have children and children break things. For two, I'm an adult and I break things. Yes I like having nice dishware but I couldn't imagine spending a good chunk of change on an apparatus I will only use for eating off of. I would much rather spend that chunk on vacations or manicures or insurance policies or toilet paper...you know, things that actually have use. Things where I can see exactly where my money is going, and knowing that is it going to good use. (Or, semi-good use. Manicures are definitely not necessities but at least I can look at my nicely polished fingers every day as opposed to adoring my expensive china on Thanksgiving and Britney Spear's birthday only.)

Speaking of closets, Rob and I were discussing starting the downstairs phase of remodeling and he had an idea and ran it by me — he wanted to blow out our already walk-in closets to make them even larger walk-in closets. 

Now listen. I've seen the Real Housewives and their massive extremely over-indulgent preposterous closets. And every single time I see the enormous, outrageous square feet of those closets, I legit want to puke. Seriously, putting aside all the jokes and snide comments that can (and should) be made, it makes me physically ill. Because every time I see all that excess, I can't help but take my mind to those in need. WHAT is the purpose of having a room that big (a room that in many, many circumstances, is the size of a great deal of peoples actual homes) and moreso, who can wear that many clothes? Who needs that many shoes? Why in all that is holy do you have so many handbags?!

And I ask sincerely.

Why.

Why? Is it filling a void, an insecurity, a need to prove something? I don't know. What I do know is that I personally do not need a bigger walk-in closet. The only purpose for a bigger closet is to fill it with more stuffs. More stuffs that I won't wear, don't need and most definitely won't make me a better person because of.

It's no secret that having a cluttered home makes for a cluttered mind. It literally has been proven that having a home in disarray physically and mentally affects a persons wellbeing. I know that for me personally, when my house is in chaos, it affects my entire mood. I have been known to just leave my house when it's at it's worst just to seek out open spaces. 

But why can't my home — my safe place, my sanctuary, my haven — be full of open spaces? During this remodel, I've found myself craving more space. And not just space for more stuff...more space for just space! More space for a clear mind and a clear body and a clear soul. More space for less clutter, less disorder, less stress.

More space for just

more space.

A less cluttered and chaotic home results in a less cluttered and chaotic mind.

Mind
Body
and Soul.

Forgoing that butt-ugly Louis Vuitton is worth the peace of mind, don't ya think?

Remodeling A Home Is For The Birds

2.19.2018


...and not for this one. 

I heard a lot of couples don't make it through moving, and on the same token, a lot don't make it through home remodels. 

Money, sex, sheetrock dust covering your entire home...something like a deep fried recipe for disaster.

 I GET IT NOW PEOPLE, I GET IT.

I was at my sister's house the other day, ignoring my responsibilities and procrastinating going home (because a torn apart home + an overworked husband does not a marriage make) when my husband called me and said he had fallen through the roof and thought he had broken his leg.

He then sent me this photo... 


I can just imagine myself sitting at my kitchen bar enjoying my breakfast and seeing Rob's leg come through the roof.

Oh hey Rob, what's up. Eggs?

Anyway. My point is, remodeling a home whilst living in one is crap. (My sister says I am a complete B for complaining so much. She likes to point out that I have nagged my husband for years to remodel our home and now that he's finally doing it, I can't seem to stop saying how much I hate the process. I fail to see her point.)

At any rate, see all that brown? That's the ultimate goal of our remodel. To remove/replace it all. Basically, we are building our dream home in the one we already live in. Which currently, our livable living space has dwindled down from 3000+SF to just under 350. The upstairs is stripped down to the nuts and bolts, so both kids, the dog, and the cat are sleeping in my room. The downstairs "play room/living room" is sitting empty waiting for new flooring to get in, so all the crap that was in there is now in the kitchen, which I have to squeeze through in order to make my kids bacon and eggs every morning before school.

There have been some setbacks along the way — a metal bar fell from the second floor onto my beloved piano perched below, and on a particularly windy day, the front door slammed into the newly sheet rocked and painted wall behind it, which left a big tennis ball sized hole, my husband fell through the roof, and because of all the construction noise, the cat apparently is forgoing her litter box and pissing all over the carpet.

So it's going great!

Why don't we just move? I've been asked. For one, if remodeling is this stressful, I can only imagine how disturbing full on moving would be. And two, we absolutely love where we live. The property and the view and our location is exactly what we want and where we want to be.

Even if it comes with black windows and rattlesnakes, notoriously.

I talked before about how Rob and the one which we don't talk about built this house together. Once him and I got married, there were only two options: either we move into an entirely different home, or we redo this one and make it our own. And 14 years ago, make it our own we did...we built on, extended the master suite and created a brand new living area as well as redoing the entire outside deck. 

And somewhere along the line, while making remodel selections, I decided on army green walls and brown shag carpet.

Seriously. Why tho.

Listen. Who in the world decides to paint their home dark green, and then on top of that, chooses muddled brown carpet for the majority of the living spaces?! This is not a rhetorical question. I want a serious answer. Who?!

*raises hand in shame.

We are in the process of choosing new carpet, new hardwoods, new paint, new cabinets, new lighting, new counters...top to bottom. Basically when it's all said and done, this home will look completely 100% different.

My tastes have changed so drastically since, so drastically, in fact, that it had me asking another question.

If someone's tastes can change so drastically in home preference, then why is it such a shocker when someone's tastes change in say, a spouse? I mean, divorce is more and more common, using that analogy, maybe it's easy to see why?

And then I had another thought. Rob and I aren't changing houses. We arent saying, "eh, screw it, burn it to the ground because we no longer like the green walls and brown carpet." No, we are keeping the same house, just improving it and making it better. Yes, our tastes have changed, but we are keeping the foundation of what we already have and making changes on it together. This is the home where we spent our first night as a married couple, the place where we brought our babies home from the hospital, the place where we laid with our dog as she took her last breath in our backyard...this home, the foundation that we have built together, holds so much love and history and soul...why throw it all away for some unsightly green walls and brown carpet?

The bare bones of our home is still study and worth saving. A new house won't fix our problems. And besides, a "new" house will eventually turn older and less exciting so what then, throw that one away and start over again with a "newer new" house? I think I would look back fondly on my original house and see how things weren't really so bad after all.

Just a little home remodel/marriage analogy I made there.

Anyway. It still sucks and I will still continue to complain. 

If you want to watch all the complaining, I'm documenting this process on my instagram stories username: ravenasmith.

K bye.




To Be Free

2.04.2018


When I was in San Diego last month, Rob and I were at the beach, sitting in the sand, looking at the water and relaxing. I noticed out of the corner of my eye a guy whom had climbed up onto the stone wall separating the boardwalk from the beach and watched him close his eyes, raise his head to the sky and put his arms out as if praising the sea.

He stood there for a while, longer than it would have been normally acceptable — eyes closed, head up, arms out — and I watched as people who walked by gave him a double-take, presumably wondering what in the world he was doing.

And all I could think was, I feel you man, I feel you.

I'm a believer. In God, first and foremost, and in the wonderment of God's most magnificent creation, the paradise.

The Paradise: glittering water, shimmering sand and salty air.

A lot of people say they feel at home by the water, and maybe they do, I'm definitely not here to discount that. They know how they feel, and maybe it is a heart wrenching, gut tugging, spirit soaring experience.

But for me...

it's so much more than that.

I stop living one life — and I start living another — the second I step onto the beach. It literally transforms me and I can feel it to the very depths of my bones. More so, I feel it in my soul.

My husband and I were with a couple friend of ours and we were having dinner at a beach-side restaurant. I ate my food, delicious it was, and looked out at the ocean through the open air building. We had a few more drinks, some really good conversation and yet I felt the ocean calling me.

It sounds cheesy, I'm the first to admit. What, the ocean "called you?" On the phone? Internally? Spiritually? Yeah ok.

And yet, that's just exactly what it did.

I'm willing to admit some hard truths in my life. Such as... bras were created by the devil, common core math isn't actually so terrible, beauty fades and more wrinkles will arrive. But one hard truth that keeps pulling at the recesses of my heart is that my soul is not whole unless I am standing on The Paradise. The truth is, my soul wears half of a best friend necklace — you know the one, where a jagged line separates the words "best" and friend?" — and the ocean wears the other half.

My core being is jagged until I reach the sand.

Every time I think about it, I can physically put myself on that beach, waves lapping at my feet, soul literally soaring. It's a feeling I get when I think about delivering my firstborn in the hospital room, or the day I jumped out of a plane, or the moment I was almost positive that a 6'4" bouncer mama in Vegas named CoCo was going to kick my ass if I made just one.more.move.

Life changers, you know the ones.

It's why as a family, we always choose the place where the palm trees grow as our vacation destination. Sure, I could visit other landmarks such as the museums of Europe or the streets of Denmark...but life is short, and when you know what makes you happy, you tend to stray the way of that happiness.

Again, life is short, and the heart knows what it wants.

And my heart will always want to be with its other jagged half.

And together, we are free.

Things I Don't Understand As An Adult

1.10.2018


 friends on boats...something I definitely understand as an adult

- Couples that sleep in Queen size beds together. Do you like each other like, a lot a lot? Or rather, do you hate each other? Because I can see no other explanation for a couple who dedicated their lives to be together forever to want to be that close in proximity during that sweet, sweet, dreaming period. It's bizarre. It makes no sense. You're weird and I hope you don't get divorced in the next five years but friend things are not looking good for you.

And if you sleep in a Full? He is definitely cheating on you with your sister.

- HGTV's show House Hunters. Did you know they are total liars!? I only discovered this recently, but every couple who appears on House Hunters has already chosen their home before they sign on to "look at different properties." As in, a couple can only be chosen to be on House Hunters if they are already in escrow for their home. Which might be ok, because entertainment is entertainment and I'm not naive to how TV is all #fakenews, but these people take it to a whole new level! Once the couples have seen all their "prospective homes," they then sit and "deliberate" on which one they will choose. They say things like, "this was a really hard decision" and "we thought long and hard before we came to this conclusion" and I want to be all "b*tch you lie! " How someone can go on TV and flat out fabricate like that in front of millions, I will never quite understand. I did not have sexual relations with that woman I only had one, officer Yes they're real

- Alcohol, or rather, the relationship with alcohol as we get older. Sure, when we are young, dumb and underage and ask some ninny to buy us a Mad Dog 20/20 from the Quikmart, we can feel on top of the world and like we can conquer anything. But what happens when we turn into, like, actual adults? The other day, someone mentioned to me my alcohol intake and commented on how well I seem to be doing in spite of it. Thanks? Regardless, it's hard for me to tell at times if booze if my friend or foe. Obvs, that time in high school when I ended up face down, bottoms up in the middle of a dairy with a fan as a pillow and a girl named Coco threatening to kick my ass proves without a shadow of a doubt that tequila is most definitely a foe, but then there was that time in Vegas where I was front and center in some cage on a rotating dance floor with everyone from Alaska to Jersey City cheering me on where the booze was without a doubt my friend. Color me confused.

-British people.

- Hotel gyms. I mentioned this on my Facebook page the other day and got all sorts of weird responses from people who actually work out while on vacation. Come again? Exercise? On vacation? I don't get it. When I scroll through potential online hotel photos, I want to see the beach, the pool, the bar...anything but the gym! It's called a vacation for a reason. The last thing I'm going to use my precious time doing while on a hard-earned tropical paradise is spending it in a sweaty, stinky gym. Yeah yeah, "working out is a lifestyle" as someone once said, but so is "sippin' cocktails, poppin' bottles and wearing see-through Amazon suits on the beach like dem models", am I right or am I right?!

Psshh.

- Snapchat and Instagram/facebook live. I admit, it took me a while to understand this. And by understand this, I mean understand what a cavalier, pretentious, smug, ego-inducing, vain thing it is to do. In other words, bizarre. I'm all for online blogging and facebook and instagram and using up all my precious time on all those other useless social media channels, but to actually take your phone, turn the camera to selfie mode, and record yourself talking or eating or grocery shopping or whatever the hell else it is you do...how important do you think you are?! And again, I did it for a hot second, back before I finally turned into an adult. But I have since deleted my Snapchat app and have yet to do one Facebook live. Whenever I'm browsing through instagram and I see the notification up top that so-and-so has started a live video, I quickly dismiss the notification with a little, "woop! Someone is feeling the need for social validation right about now." If you do this on the reg, good for you and I hope you get what you need out of it, just know that you are your own biggest fan.

- Other moms whose homes don't have major gouging divets in their drywalls. If I come over for a playdate and don't see Hot Wheel imprints in your hardwood floors, we can't be friends, because I don't understand your utter lack of parenting.

- Cat ears. Grow up you pussy.

Sh*t My Kid Says

12.11.2017


::Talking to Gunner about the movie Zootopia and the theme of not letting anyone ever tell you that you can't do something::

me: so whenever someone says you can't do something, don't listen to them.

gunner: ok, so when you tell me I can't do something, I just won't listen to you.

me: no, that's different. nice try smartass. 

*******

::After the boys got a haircut::

me: you boys look sharp!

gunner: what does that mean?

me: it means you look flyyyyyyy.

gunner: I don't understand anything you are saying.

me: I mean damn boy you be lookin' foine! 

gunner: what is wrong with you.

******* 

gunner: can I take my pocket knife to school?

me: no son, that is criminal.

gunner: what does criminal mean?

me: it means slow drivers, open mouth eaters, loud theater talkers, redheads. 

gunner: what are redheads?

me: criminals.

*******

::As Rob and I were sitting together at the dinner table::

gunner: can we go open that package the UPS guy brought earlier?

me: {gives him my evil wide eye look that says he's in trouble}

gunner: what? you told me not to tell dad how many times he comes during the week and I didn't.

me: thanks for doing me a solid there.

rob: your mom told you not to tell me what?

me: rob stop it. inappropriate.

*******

::we got chicks and are hoping for fresh eggs soon::

gunner: how do we know if the eggs they poop out are eating eggs or their babies?

me: um, I think we know by how many spots they have on them? like if a ladybug has odd number spots, it's a girl and if they have even number spots, it's a boy. or like how I once heard that you can tell if a bee is a boy or girl by how many stripes they have, or kinda like how you can tell if a llama is pregnant by how many lady lumps she has? That's how you can tell.

gunner: I'm asking dad.

*******

And a few past conversations that I'm including here in the "hall of fame" of sh*t my kids say because it's been a while, and I like halls of fame. And I like to think I live there. With my crown and endless supply of Tito's.

me: I'm a homebody.

gunner: what does that mean?

me: it means I would rather be at home most of the time rather than any place else.

gunner: I'm a homebody too. I'm definitely not a schoolbody.

*******

colt: mommy, I'm a kitty.

me: awww. I love kitties.

colt: mom, kitty wants a cookie.

me: son, mommy wants a Ferrari.

*******

::When I was in a pinch to get Gunner dressed and out the door as we were way late for school::

gunner: I hate this shirt! this is a girl shirt.

me: no it's not, it's a unisex shirt.

gunner: what is a unisex shirt?

me: it means it's appropriate for both girls and boys.

gunner: but it has a princess on it.

me: that's not a princess. it's just a really pretty boy who grew his hair out long.

gunner: he has boobs.

*******

colt: werkjdsf lfdv lzdfkgjubfdgh dkjebzx

me: what?

colt: oisdfb wiu fkjhsdbwe vkjzsd

me: what??

gunner: he said he wants some juice and a waffle.

me: oh. ok. thanks.


*******

side note: how do you know if the eggs they poop out are eggs you fry up and make into a bacon sandwich or if they are fluffy feathery babies? I legit am confused. I can make the best vodka soda from scratch but honestly don't know how to answer this question for my 9 year old.

Why I Don't Do Elf On The Shelf For My Kids

12.07.2017

creepy little cretin


Because I don't f*#king want to.

Next.

Being a mom is hard.

I feel like that statement I just wrote was the most sanctimonious, contemptuous thing I've ever written in the whole wide world.

And yet I refuse to take it back.

Or rather, let me clarify: people who create stupid ass shit like Elf on The Shelf make being a mom hard.

And I'm not even refraining from this elf business because it's just one.more.thing. moms get guilted into doing (which it is) but because I'm taking a stand and saying enough is enough! How is this still a thing anyway? Don't "the latest and greatest" eventually die and go away just to be replaced by something else just as late and great? Why hasn't this elf succumbed to the realities of show business like Lite Brite, Bop It and the pocket rocket? Why is he still here? Legit question, and I demand an answer.

But this post so isn't about Elf on a shelf. Like I said, I don't do it because I don't bloody want to. No explanation needed, and none will be given. (To my children at least.)

kid: mooooooom, why don't we get to do elf on a shelf? All my friends do.
me: all your friends also eat their vegetables.
kid: no they don't. my friend Jimmy from class only eats ding-dongs and pizza pockets, he told me.
me: Jimmy is dumb, and so are elves on shelves.

Case closed!

Look. My kids want everrryyyytthhiinnnggg. There is literally nothing they see on TV commercials that they don't "want." Obviously, they don't get everything they want, and why should they? I do enough godforsaken stuff around this house for them and it wasn't too long ago that I was wiping their butts. Do they get love, food, affection and a stringent bedtime? Of course. Do they get playStations, elves on shelves and iphones? Of course not. I know I've become a ceaseless, dead horse beater on the subject, but shucks people, us moms deserve a smidge of sanity also!

Which makes me beg the question...why do you who do elf on the shelf, do it? I'm not judging by any means (that's a lie, I totally am. I am, I can't help it. why why why??) but what payoff do you get? You have to get some kind of clincher to keep doing it. And to name it. And to position it in certain positions so your child won't wake up broken-hearted. And to not accidentally throw it away.

I feel like such a winner mother that I didn't fall into this faddish trap. I am so much better than ya'll.

My kid wanted a fidget spinner once. I wrote an entire post about why he would never, and I mean never, get one.

He now has five fidget spinners.

I basically know nothing and have no legitimate advice.

bye.


The Holiday Anti-Gift Guide

12.04.2017

This year, let's give Santa a break, shall we? I think he deserves it.

Because STUFF.

So.
Much.
Stuff.

Did you know that this year was the most successful Black Friday in the history of ever? Not sure the actual number, but it's in the multi-billions. Did you also know that this year, charitable giving was down from last years numbers?

Huh.

Funny how that works.

Look. I'm not against stuff in general. I have stuff, too much of it, and it's always a constant struggle with me to stop buying all the useless, meaningless stuff. And for the most part, 80% of it really, truly, honestly is useless, meaningless stuff. The older I get, the more aware I am about my consumption of stuff. And if we're being honest, it makes me sick.

I won't link to the photos of starving children in third world countries, but I'm sure you've seen the photos I'm talking about. The ones where emaciated, skeletal, literally starving children are reaching out for a clean glass of water. And here in America, obesity is one of the leading causes of death.

In other countries, starvation is a leading cause of death. And here in America, eating too much is a leading cause of death. Let that sink in.

And yet, people cuss at, run over, stampede past, shove, hit, kick and literally kill other humans for a discounted TV on Black Friday.

It's repulsive.

I've fallen prey to this scheme in the past. I remember many Christmases feeling anxious, stressed and financially strapped from all the gifts (stuff) I "had" to buy. I distinctly remember the weight I felt from thinking about everyone I had to buy for, making sure it was a good enough gift and like what if she is buying something for me and I don't buy something for her, how embarrassing would that be! But why? Why should Christmas be a time where things like stress and apprehension are incorporated? In true literally meaning, Christmas was created and was always intended to be anything but stress and apprehension.

Yet go online and google "Black Friday" and tell me how in the world you can look at those photos and not feel anything but stress and apprehension.

And total, utter disgust.

We changed up a rule in our family a few years back. No gift giving of any kind to adults. I have a large family, and in the past, I would buy gifts for my mom, dad, sister, other sister, cousins, friends, etc. I was buying something just to buy something. And I was buying it because I knew they were buying me something. When in all honestly, neither them, nor I, needed anything. I know here is where some might say, "but I love giving and getting for everyone I know, and if it makes me happy and I can afford it, why not?" Fair. I would just hope that if you can afford to buy your second aunt Susie a scarf with miniature dogs on it that she will wear maybe once, you are matching that with a gift for a child in need who will remember getting a present at Christmas for the rest of their lives.

And I'm not talking about the kids here. Like I said earlier, my family has decided to forgo adult gift giving, since all of us need absolutely nothing. But when it comes to kids, I understand the novelty of gifts. Although I will admit I have drastically and I mean drastically cut down on how many gifts my kids get for Christmas, I get that it is part of the magic of Christmas for children. The tree, the lights, the gifts underneath...I get it. I was a kid once, and I get it. I am being much more mindful of what they do get, however, because when I asked my kids the other day, "what was your favorite gift that you got last year?" neither one of them could remember. And that to me just isn't ok.

Speaking of  kids and gifts: this next part might offend quite a few, and frankly, I don't care. Because let me tell you what offends me.

Every Christmas season, I scroll through my social media feeds and see photo after photo of Christmas trees with copious (and I mean OVERFLOWING) amounts of presents underneath with various captions such as, "kid's gifts are ready for them! They will be so excited!" or "my kids are so spoiled!" or "I am so happy to give all this to my kids for Christmas!"

And I get it, you are excited and proud to show off that your precious offspring get ten! presents! each! I get it. You are showing off. You might not know it, and you might honestly not even realize that you are doing it...but it is in such poor taste and so crass that I have no idea how it isn't inherently obvious what you are portraying.

You know what I see when I come across those posts? I see the kid who scrolls down and sees your post. I see his face fall, because why doesn't he have that many presents under the tree? Why don't his parents love him enough to buy him so much stuff. I see the middle schooler who has always lived a down-and-out life, and I see her wondering why she doesn't have a single gift under the non-existent tree. I see the high schooler who has been bounced around home to home, never even owning a personal piece of property, yet he sees the lavishness your precious four year old gets just for being born.

I see the single mother who scrolls down and sees your post. A mother who works three jobs to take care of her children, who worked so many extra hours and lost precious time with her children just so they would have one single gift under the tree. I see that mother looking at your post, and feeling so discouraged that she isn't enough and can't provide enough.

I get that the people who post these kinds of posts probably aren't doing so with the intent to make poor children and exhausted single mothers feel bad. I obviously get that. But I then have to chalk it up to ignorance, because it's so flamboyant and braggadocious and yes, offensive. Buy your children everything under the sun that they want, if you must, but please be mindful of posting such opulence and how it comes across to others less fortunate.

Ok. That said! Let's progress on to the main part of this post...The Holiday Anti-Gift Guide!

Looking for ideas of what to give/do this holiday season that helps others and will make your heart full? You have come to the right place!

• Give. Obviously, this is a given. Just give. To local homeless shelters, food banks, Angel Trees, pregnancy centers, toy drives, your down-and-out neighbor next door, anyone or any charity that needs help. Giving without expecting anything in return is an incredible feeling.

• Be considerate. We all know the rush of the holidays can make people a bit frazzled. Hold open doors for others, leave a generous tip for your waiter, don't honk angrily when you get cut off in traffic, be patient if someone in line in front of you is taking a bit too long for your liking. The holidays have a way of bringing out the worst in people, and by relaxing and being mindful of our own attitude, maybe we can help someone else see that the true meaning of Christmas is love and kindness. A random act of kindness will never be in vain.

• Buy books for strangers. Books can change lives. (ain't that the truth. via this post)

• Get your kids involved. Take your kids with you to pick up trash and litter. Take them with you to a soup kitchen and have them participate in helping out. Take them to an animal shelter and let them snuggle on and hug on the animals there. Have them send holiday cards to soldiers. It is our job as parents to make sure our children know full well that this world does not owe them anything, and they will get what they put in.

• Love. Yeah, it may seem sweeping and all-encompassing, but...isn't it though? Shouldn't it be?

Merry Christmas friends.