This Christmas Toys R Us Lets Your Fingers do the Shopping

Nov 21

The hand will be getting some extra exercise over the coming month of December as parents dip into their pockets or purses and open their wallets. ¬†But their legs might get a surprising rest.¬† That’s because Santa’s favourite workshop (read: Toys R Us) is offering customers the opportunity to shop right from their mobile devices.

 

That’s right.¬† Leave the wallet right where it is, Mom and Dad, and grab for the phone.¬† Just like browsing in front of the computer, customers can peruse the toy store’s offerings, select that talking doll or flashing baby toy, and buy it – from anywhere.¬† Got ten minutes between meetings?¬† Order the newest Star Wars Lego set.¬† Sitting alone in a caf?© waiting for the gals to show?¬† Take a minute to peruse the latest My Little Pony.¬† (Just when you thought hanging out at Starbucks couldn’t get more expensive!

For busy parents, this may relieve some of that pressure to prepare for the most hectic season of the year.¬† And for others, it’ll mean finding the time to finally bake that batch of gingerbread cookies they keep promising the kids.¬†

Be careful to count your pennies, though – it’s easy to forget how much one is spending when there’s no exchange at the cash register.¬† Perhaps the next holiday app will offer automatic budgetary restraints that set off alarm bells to eager fingers. ¬†But don’t expect a retail business to come up with that one any time soon.

 Photo by: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404
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Pack a Griddle for Your Holiday Road Trip

Dec 18

Ever since I was a child, family vacations have been synonymous with road trips.¬† ¬†Christmas often meant driving to Albany, New York through a fog of snow to share turkey with relatives – five of us kids jammed into the wood-trimmed station wagon with luggage roped to the roof.¬† During March Break, Florida beckoned – it being the closest to the tropics we could reach via the freeway.¬† And now, with three kids of my own and a limited travel budget, our minivan has picked up where the wood-trimmed wagon veered off.¬† In addition to our annual two-day drive to the Old South, we regularly ride along Canada’s roads for two to twelve hour stretches to reach more local destinations from Quebec City to Picton.¬†

As befits a family with budgetary restraints, our accommodations don’t exactly gleam of five-star quality.¬† We’ve grown accustomed to cramped sleeping arrangements, the odd phone call from the front desk warning us to keep the noise down, and the single toilet paper roll that runs out halfway through the night (we always pack extras.)¬† But the continental breakfast at the hotel buffet (bulk bin froot loops, dry muffins, weak coffee) has been a continuous disappointment – despite the fact that it’s free.¬†¬†

Grumbling to my mother about it one day, she looked at me with surprise and asked why we didn’t bring along our own griddle, “Your dad cooked eggs and bacon at every hotel we stayed in.¬† Remember?”¬†
 
I hadn’t actually, but was grateful that she had.¬† My husband and I agreed to give it a try on our next hotel stay – a last minute trip out east.¬† We booked the smallest hotel room we could squeeze into and were not concerned when we discovered this place did not offer so much as a free doughnut for breakfast.¬† We had a plan.¬† Without my usual week to pack, I had to forgo my thorough checklists and instead, hastily gathered our clothes, food, car activities, and beach toys with the hope that I wouldn’t forget anything.¬† Just to be sure, the griddle was packed first.¬†¬†
Shortly after our arrival at the hotel, we discovered we’d left one of our suitcases at home – our two youngest boys had nothing to wear but the clothes on their backs. ¬†Oops.¬† After a brief squabble over whom was to blame, we headed to the local Giant Tiger and the boys were outfitted for the trip (quick tip – a navy blue t-shirt stays “clean” for days.)¬† Thankfully, we seemed to have remembered everything else, including a dozen eggs for the griddle.¬† The next morning my husband rose early to prepare our feast.¬† I stayed cozy under the covers and waited for the sound of sizzling bacon and the invigorating aroma of freshly brewed coffee.¬† Instead, I heard his irritated voice on the phone complaining to reception about our broken coffee maker that was quickly followed by a disappointing announcement to me that I hadn’t packed the egg flipper.¬† Oops again.

When the new coffee maker arrived ten minutes later, I ripped apart the box and triumphantly waved a flap of cardboard in the air.  Our flipper.  I then made the best darn homemade breakfast ever eaten on an (economically priced) hotel bed Рeven if there was more pulp in my eggs than in my orange juice.

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Turn off the Carols to Get into Christmas Spirit

Nov 26

Those cheery, toe-tapping Christmas carols can sure put a swing in your step and¬†a lift¬†to¬†your spirit.¬† Crank up the volume of¬†Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and let the perky words dance from your lips… Had a very shiny no-o-ose…¬†¬†I mean, isn’t that the point of these tunes?¬† They are to remind of us of the joys of the season, or (dare I say it?) contemplate the¬†birth of¬†the world’s Saviour, Jesus Christ.¬†¬†At least, that was their raison d’etre before Happy Holidays¬†became the preferred Christmas greeting and¬†when Advent¬†was actually a four week period of prayer and meditation – not a¬†chocolate-filled December calendar with a picture of Spiderman¬†swinging across it.¬†

Don’t get me wrong.¬† I love Christmas.¬† But by the time December arrives, those wonderful carols have been rolling around in my head like an old orange in the refrigerator drawer that no one bothers to eat.¬† They are played so continuously that¬†they’ve grown stale and tasteless by December 25th.¬† Not to mention, in the effort to provide variety, shoppers are forced to hear every horrible rendition recorded of every song that pertains to a snowy time of year (please… lose the Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey duets!)¬† On top of this, parents must scurry to toy stores and electronics shops to buy the dream¬†items on their children’s lists – thank goodness Santa graciously provides one of them (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)¬† Is it any wonder, then, that so many of us find December the busiest time of year, and perhaps even the most stressful?¬†

Which brings us back to the basics of the Season … prayer and meditation.¬† Church leaders try to preach over the kaching-kaching of cash registers and woo us away from long line-ups and busy parking lots with calls to shun the materialism of Christmas.¬† Few can argue their point.¬† However, unless they’re willing to hang out on Christmas morning and wipe the tears off your children’s cheeks when you tell them that “this year, Mommy and Daddy decided to shun materialism”, the shopping malls will be a favoured destination.¬†

A simple way to break from the broken record of Christmas carols and ease the mind numbing effects of dollar, barbie, and action figures is to listen to classical music.¬† Seriously.¬† There are no annoying lyrics to interrupt your thought processes, no mispronouncing of words in songs.¬† And, although one could just listen to the usual Top 40,¬†tapping¬†your toe to¬†”Womanizer, womanizer, you’re a womanizer…” isn’t exactly conducive to finding your Christmas spirit, either.¬† It’s easier than reciting a litany of prayers, and certainly less effort than sitting cross-legged¬†and repeating a mantra for twenty-five minutes.¬† Just close your eyes, relax, and appreciate the genius of the world’s greatest composers.¬† And then, when December 25th hits, throw in a Christmas CD and sing your heart out!

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony¬†

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkTKb79RbOI

photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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Elmo For Christmas? Again?

Sep 18

Expect to see a new surge in Elmo-buying parents this Christmas season as Fisher-Price¬†¬†begins¬†the advertising campaign¬†for its latest version of the furry little red guy.¬† This time, he’s talking, singing, grooving and telling knee-slapping jokes and looks more life-like than ever – as life-like as a Sesame Street puppet can get, anyways.¬†¬†He is¬†Live Elmo, and judging by the growing buzz around this new toy,¬†you can bet he‚Äôll be sitting mute under thousands of trees this year, waiting for pyjama-clad youngsters to rip off the red wrap and turn him ‚Äòon.‚Äô¬† Carols sung by the piano and Uncle Marty‚Äôs holiday joke routine will¬†be pushed aside as¬†Elmo takes the spotlight (at least until¬†his high-pitched¬†voice grates a few too¬†many nerves.)¬†

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVUPTTkIBVI

Live Elmo is available in stores on October 14; however,¬†customers are encouraged to pre-order their gifts (so as not to disappoint the wee ones come Christmas time.)¬† Fisher-Price.com has limited online purchases to a maximum of six Elmo‚Äôs per order, and warns buyers that they will not receive their order¬†until December 4th due to the backlog of pre-orders.¬† Canadian customers can pre-order the toy through Toysrus.ca for $64.99 to have it shipped by October 14, or pick one¬†up at the store (they’ll also be available at Wal-mart.)¬†

 

While a number of parents will not think twice about racing to the closest store before Halloween to purchase their child’s Christmas joy, other more sensible-minded folks may be wondering, why should I buy¬†this furry, red, singing, dancing,¬†friendly monster¬†for my child?¬† Well, just in case¬†Mattel’s commercials do not convince you of the merits of this year’s Live Elmo, I’ve compiled a list of reasons to help sway you toward the right purchasing decision this Christmas:

  1. Once your little angel learns (via television commercials) that she or he can have her very own personal Elmo, you’ll be compelled – no, thrilled! – to fulfill her Christmas wish.
  2. Elmo can sing 2 songs, play 2 games, recite 2 stories and tell 5 jokes.  When was the last time you offered such variety to your child in one sitting?
  3. You can let Mr. Funny entertain your child so you can steal some valuable time for yourself (you know you want it!)
  4. There are few more heart-warming moments than the one when your child unwraps a gift and learns with wide-eyed joy that she’s received the best-selling electronic toy of the season… Thanks Santa!
  5. Come on… admit it!  You think he’s cute, too.
  6. If the batteries haven’t died by the 500th time you’ve heard him tell the “flying” joke, you can pull them out yourself.¬†¬†But no matter how sick of Elmo you are, do not tell your preschooler with hand-wringing glee that Live Elmo is now Dead Elmo.
  7. You’ve always wanted to cut back on your child’s TV-watching habits.  Now you can!  Tell your child that Elmo’s World is off-air because he’s here in the house.  Then have her play with Live Elmo for a quarter an hour, or half-hour, or three-quarters of an hour.
  8. Sure, it’s a little creepy to have a toy with such life-like qualities, but that didn’t stop your mommy from buying you a Cabbage Patch Kid, did it?
  9. When the teacher asks if your child is being read to regularly, you can look her in the eyes and silently nod your head.
  10. Who are you kidding?  There is no such thing as a sensible-minded parent during Christmas.  Just try to remember what you bought for your kids last Christmas.  And now think about your credit card statements that followed.

 

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