Tag Archives: kids toys

Let’s Try This Again…

Argh… after a few months of being super busy and letting the blog slide, I finally started writing again when BAM! Germs snuck up and slapped me down for the count…

It’s been a real pain, actually. This year has been a bad year for illness in general and we just moved to a new town, right next door to a daycare. Brontë just started Kindergarten and we’d all been passing some kind of cold back and forth to each other and the neighbors, every few weeks.

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The Mind-blowing Powers of Cute

So I didn’t think much of it when I was feeling crappy around the girls’ birthdays and I rallied because, well… because you’d jump on a grenade for your kid, so you definitely rally for your kid’s birthday party.

But I was feeling worse and worse as my date for a minor surgery approached. Again, I tried to rally because cancelling would be super inconvenient: John had saved up time off work, the neighbors were helping take Brontë to school, the girls had Spring Break lined up the next week…

And that’s when my temperature spiked to 104 degrees and I stopped being able to eat anything for days on end.

Even coffee. Coffee was the real insult because it added a killer caffeine-withdrawal headache to the whole mess, and though I tried to fake it and go in anyway, the anesthesiologist took one look at me and said we were gonna have to reschedule.

Sigh.

Well, turns out I had pneumonia and I’m glad it wasn’t anything worse (pneumonia is nasty but I’ll get over it). I’ve been on powerful antibiotics for the past couple of weeks and am starting to feel much better, though bummed that John burned his time off, that I’m going to take a couple more months off at the gym, that I’ll have to lean on neighbors and grandparents even more…

But if there’s any silver lining to this whole deal, it’s that John had to do my job for a couple of weeks. Fearing my reaction should I eventually come out of the fever to an exploded house, he attempted to not only keep the the kids alive, but keep the house reasonably neat.

And the weekly highlight of all that had to be watching him flip out about the kids dumping one more armload of toys on the living room floor while he was trying to vacuum it. He was just shaking his arms, like a crazed muppet, yelling “DO YOU NOT SEE THAT I AM VACUUMING THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW? PICK UP YOUR TOYS AND PUT YOUR SHOES IN THE DAMN SHOEBOX!”

Oh, it was SO gratifying to watch, I can’t even tell you.

Why? Because it’s normally ME waving my arms and yelling about shoes while he gives me the side eye, wondering when exactly I lost the plot. He didn’t understand why we needed the shoebox in the first place.

“It’s cluttering up the entryway,” he once said. “Do we really need that? [Sees my face] Okay, okay… sheesh. “

Fast-forward to last week, and suddenly he’s reorganizing the shoebox even harder and asking Bridget:

“WHERE are your shoes? WHY ARE THEY NOT IN THIS BOX RIGHT NOW?”

lifebuzz-bd8f4620110936872bcb0497400ffd36-limit_2000Because now he gets that when you’re wrangling wild kids out the door in a hurry, not-having-shoes creates an extra twenty minutes of shoe drama that means your kid may be late to Kindergarten and suddenly you’re the flake who probably day drinks. God help you if you’re supposed to pick up another kid for carpool. (Oh, and it’s tantrum time now because you’re putting out stress vibes… kids sense your energy, you know.)

He no longer thinks I’m insane for flipping out about people piling dirty dishes on the counter every day when the dishwasher is empty, because now he gets how crazy-making it is to clean up after grownups after spending your entire morning clearing out toddler detritus. Now he gets why I started piling his dirty socks and coffee cups in his closet after using my words kept failing to make my point.

Because taking care of little kids is a lot tougher than it looks. You never get promotions or positive performance reviews, and you basically have three options:

  1. Live in a toddler-exploded craphole, always stepping on Legos and rolling onto pointy Barbies when you’re trying to sleep,
  2. Spend your every waking moment picking crap up, or
  3. Run a tight ship.

It’s that last part that can kill your sense of humor if you’re not careful.

It’s not the daily maintenance stuff that really gets to you. Feeding your kids, bathing them, dressing them, guiding them, helping them learn… that stuff needs to be done and comes with the territory.

Nah, it’s the extra, made-up, pointless stuff like watching them spin around the dinner table, flinging 600 grains of rice onto a rug you’ve already vacuumed twice. It’s the covert sibling torture tactics, where they wind each other up just to watch the other get into trouble. It’s that phase where Brontë would tear long scraps of paper from library books and eat them because I don’t know kids are nuts that can’t taste good for the love of all that’s holy STOP EATING LIBRARY BOOKS THAT HAVE PROBABLY BEEN SMEARED BY EVERY SNOT-DRENCHED TODDLER FINGER IN THE COUNTY AND NOW WE HAVE TO PAY FOR IT…

Yeah, I got to sleep through that for the past two weeks, occasionally waking to watch my husband flail his arms around and shriek about finding one more My Little Pony stuffed into the couch.

Because he’s a trooper and I love him and he did a great job.

And now he puts his dirty coffee cups into the dishwasher.

 

 

 

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How To Solve Your Toddler Problems With Timers

A chicken may have just solved 95 % of the Toddler Problems in our house.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

You see, once we finally got past that stage where the kids were throwing hour-long tantrums about things like not wanting a glass of water then being enraged about not having one, most of our hassles involved three main issues:

Not Focusing on Any Activity for More than 30 Seconds

“Momma, I want to play with the crayons and coloring books!”

“Okay, but if I get them down, you need to play with them for a while.”

“Okay, I will!”

I heave the art boxes and crayons down from high shelves, open all the boxes, lay out coloring books, paper, and start separating crayons into piles for Brontë and Bridget.

And thirty seconds later, they both scream: “DONE!”

chimpNow, just picture that scenario happening again and again with Legos, scooters, blocks, tea sets or what-have-you, and you’ll get a rough picture of how I spend my day.  Since the children won’t entertain themselves for any length of time, it’s hard to do anything else without kids tripping over my feet throughout the process.

It’s draining, I worry about their lack of focus, and sometimes consider pushing them outside then locking the back door for an hour.

For their own good.

Leaving Toys All Over the House

To a non-parent, this probably doesn’t sound like a huge deal because toddlers are little.  How many toys could they have? How big of a mess could they possibly make?

Well, it’s staggering, folks.

People love to spoil kids on holiday and whenever the mood strikes them, so my kids are constantly getting toys from us and every grandparent, relative, friend and Happy Meal. They build up.

pikypieAnd, like miniature bag ladies, my girls are driven to carry as many toys as they can pack into their tiny fists every time they leave a room, or really, move in any direction for any reason, before dropping them to chase the next shiny object. Since they don’t sustain activities for more than a couple of minutes, toy bits quickly seep into nook and crevice of our house and yard.

I don’t know if it’s some secret toddler scheme to conquer every last inch of adult territory, but you’ll find yourself stepping on Legos everywhere you walk and crunching Barbie limbs anytime you sit.  Doll shoes and plastic animals fly out of my bedspread whenever I straighten it. As much as I try to weed them out, the toys just keep regenerating, like I’m using a sieve to dump water out of my capsizing rowboat.

But beyond the overwhelming mess, it’s also a waste of money. Toys keep getting lost, stepped on or eaten by the dog.

 

Not Cleaning Up After Themselves

Teaching kids to pick up after themselves would seem like the obvious solution, right?

Yeah, to me too. So, I’ve been working on that for the past two years and man, has it been a haul…

At first, they’d whine and shriek about needing me to help them, but would just goof off whenever I did.

So I stopped, making them do it themselves. This turned ten-minute jobs into two-hour grinds of them putting one Lego block in their mouth then slowly rolling across the floor to spit it into the box, whenever they weren’t angrily throwing it.

I would grit my teeth and sit through it, not wanting to reward them by relieving the pressure and hoping they’d eventually get bored of taking forever to pick things up because doing anything else would obviously be more fun.

lego.jpgAfter many months of this, we reached a point where they would actually pick things up, however slowly and begrudgingly. It took about 600 time-outs to get there, because rational explanations had no effect.

Then, when I was finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, our routine suddenly devolved into the Passive-Agressive Olympics.  Neither kid wanted to be the patsy who ended up doing most the work, so they’d both fold their arms and spout off long rants about refusing to pick up toys until the other one put in more effort.

At some point during the second year of this, I’d tried every angle I could think up that didn’t involve spanking the crap out of my kids (though I was beginning to understand why some parents do). I even tried the “I have cookie for the best cleaner!” method, which wasn’t nearly as effective (for me) as you would think.

Enter the Chicken

foghornleghorn
“I say I say I say… pick up your CRAP”

So last week, when I was complaining about all this to my daycare-running neighbor, she casually mentioned that she sometimes sets a timer during activities.

Hmm. Worth a try, right? I figured it probably wouldn’t work, since nothing else had, but it couldn’t hurt.

So later that afternoon, when the kids started bugging me for crayons, I decided to give it a shot. We have a kitchen timer, shaped like a chicken, that the kids are really fond of.

I got the art supplies, slapped down the chicken, and told them:

“Okay, here are the rules:

  1. I’m setting this chicken timer for 30 minutes. You have to color for the entire time.
  2. You have to color at the art table, because that’s where we color. So, no getting up and leaving the table.
  3. When the chicken timer is up, you clean up the art supplies.”

And then I backed away to watch.

They…

SAT AT THE ART TABLE COLORING FOR THIRTY MINUTES.

They did NOT leave the table

When the timer went off, they started shouting, “CLEAN UP TIME!” and scrambled to pick up all their toys, without stopping once, then slapped the lids back on the boxes.

WHOA…

Was it a fluke? I tried again with Legos, this time for forty minutes, during which they couldn’t leave the Lego area (which happens to be the living room).

And it WORKED!

They played with Legos for a full FORTY minutes before scrambling to pick them all up without whining about it once.

chickentimer
“I’m the most effective authority in this house”

I went on to use this method a few times a day for an entire week, and it worked every time.

I got so much done. I even had space to knock out lower-priority projects, like reorganizing cabinets (which doesn’t sound that exciting but nevertheless marks the moment when adult order returned to our house).

I’m still not sure why this particular combination was effective, since I’d tried every element of it before (apart from the chicken timer), but it was miraculous. Something about timer + play-area limits + cleaning up when the timer goes off = MAGIC.

And I had to share it, in case it helps other struggling parents.

 

 

 

 

 

Sly Like a Fox: How An Alpha Dad Conquered the World of Fairy Farts

I really don’t think we give dads enough credit for parenting prowess.

dadOf course I’m talking generalities here, but just look at all those comedy films about inept fathers tragically left to watch the kids… all by themselves. The poor fools always end up fumbling the job, pouring waffle batter into the toaster oven while an ominous mountain of bubbles creep out of the laundry room.

And I’ll admit to occasionally gritting my teeth when catching my husband John swinging our kids around by their ankles. Watch her HEAD, I silently scream while every muscle in my body clenches. Do you have ANY IDEA how long it took me to MAKE THAT?

Except the kids are in hysterics and he hasn’t brained them once. Children are full of all these weird qualities, like boundless energy and endless optimism, and probably need to be occasionally swung around the room at breakneck speed. Maybe dads are just reckless enough to make it happen.

But a questionable regard for safety isn’t the only great thing dads bring to the table, they can also cut straight through all the Attachment Parenting BS with truly impressive Alpha displays.

legofootFor example, now that our kids are almost 3 and 5, I’ve decided it’s high time they start cleaning up after themselves. I’m tired of exploding Legos and My Little Ponies covering every inch of our house.

However, this has been a painful, months-long struggle, each victory measured in inches like the battles of WWI. Between consistent instruction, patient explanations and occasional timeouts, I’ve managed to move the kids from screaming “NO!” while running in sideways floor circles, to spending an hour logrolling across the carpet to spit single Legos back into their boxes, to finally cleaning up their messes after only being reminded several times.

And then this weekend, I watched John using the oddest approach to enlist our kids into cleaning the house…

It went like this:

John grabs our 4-year-old daughter Brontë, handing her a garbage bag then taking her outside to point out all the pink dog-bed fluff-balls that our lunatic dog had been shredding across the yard

John: Alright kid, your job is PICKING UP ALL OF THESE FAIRY FARTS!

Brontë: But I don’t… I’m scared to…

John: YOU’RE PART OF THIS FAMILY AND OUR FAMILY ISN’T SCARED OF ANYTHING. ESPECIALLY FAIRY FARTS.

Brontë: Well, I don’t wanna…

John: Quit being such a PRINCESS, because being a princess only makes MORE FAIRIES COME FART IN OUR YARD.

Brontë: I’ve got…

John: LESS TALK, MORE FAIRY FARTS.

And what do you know, but it worked. She started laughing uncontrollably while gathering pink fluff-balls.

So there’s something to be said for unconventional dad methods. Our house is now completely fairy-fart free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Toys Are Creepy

I can see your soul
“I can see your soul”

Having kids is a wonderful thing, but it’s exhausting. Also, the grass is green and the sky is blue.

The power drain of childcare, though, is hard to fully appreciate until you’ve done it yourself.  Sitcoms aren’t a good substitute.

Beyond the physical demands, constantly being alert mentally wears you down. You are always having to make sure no one jumps off the second story or crams something into an electric socket.

And the questions… so many questions. I used to hear about parents getting frustrated by kids asking questions to which they didn’t know the answer, but never understood their grief until now.

“What’s the problem?” I thought, “Just turn it into an opportunity to find information! Say ‘let’s find out’ and take your kids to the internet to look up, I don’t know, the depth of the Amazon. Everything is on Wikipedia now.”

But there are no resources available for many of these questions. The other day, for example, my daughter asked me why I never put rocket ship stickers on my boobies.

She was completely serious. She loves stickers, thinks rocket ships are cool, and thinks boobies make the perfect place to stick some. Why wouldn’t I avail myself of that opportunity?

How do you answer something like that? it’s a legitimate question though, apparently, because everyone who heard about it also wanted to know.

So after a long day of hyper vigilance and baffling queries, I tend to take some “me” time late at night.  Being a natural insomniac, I not only keep going well into the tiny hours of the morning, but also enjoy the solitude. There is no one but me and my mystery novel, or my writing. I sip a soothing cup of tea while one of my kitties sidles up to me in the dim light as I work quietly to fill a small corner of the internet with floating ideas.

The house is calm and dark. It’s the Magic Hour. The world is silent… until it isn’t.

The other night, I was lost in a creative trance when I heard a faint voice in the background. I stopped to listen. Was it the kids?

The voice spoke again. An adult voice. My ears sharpened their focus.

“Hello?”

A wave of goosebumps tickled my forearms. Did I just imagine that?

“Hello?”

Felt my heart slapping my chest. What the hell is that? Is someone at the door? It’s coming from the front door. I’m wearing yoga pants, so I could run, but is there anything I could use as  weapon? Why is someone talking through the windows at 2 in the morning?

I swear I just heard a quiet ringing. “Hello?”

A woman’s voice. Not unfriendly, but possibly deranged. I’m going to go wake up my husband…

Soundlessly leaving the living room to creep up the stairs, I suddenly saw it: the children’s toy telephone. You press a button and it rings and says “Hello?”

I felt much better. Kind of.

With children’s toys, there is a very fine line between adorable and horror flick. The girl’s toy telephone keeps ringing and talking, but no one is touching it. It’s totally creeping me out. All I need is a clown picture on the wall with a soft music box soundtrack and I’ll be running straight out of the house.

Maybe a little doll that says “Mamma” while staring me dead in the eyes…

Who thought this was a good idea?
Who thought this was a good idea?

Scrape together all the monsters you want, but it can’t beat a carousel slowly revolving to slightly off-key music. I’ve been afraid of children’s toys since I was an actual child. I still remember jumping in horror, during my toddler years, to a small demonic box with a deranged clown inside it.

My parents would chase me with this brightly-colored cube, slowly turning its satanic handle until the angry clown would explode from inside it, his arms stretched wide in a clear attempt to snatch me into his twisted parallel dimension. Foreboding, uneven, music signaled the imminent attack.

Toddler imaginations being what they are, I think my parents were actually trying to show me that a Jack-in-the-Box can’t hurt me. They were probably sitting quietly while turning the handle and reassuring me that it’s just a doll with a jumping spring, but in my tortured mind, they were menacing me with an insane sorcerer clown, bent on imprisoning me in his twisted lair.

(To this day, I’m not fond of Jack-in-the-Box commercials. Sure, he looks like a clown executive, but you know he’s not right in the head. Just look at his deranged posse of Harley Quinns, eating sandwiches so inappropriately.)

Locating the source of whispered Hello’s, however, was reassuring. I remembered something about appliances beeping and making noise when the batteries are low. At least that’s what fire-detectors do. Not sure how that happens, but the kids’ telephone must be running low on juice. Mystery solved. Whew.

I yanked the batteries out of the phone, crept back into the living room, and sat down on the couch. I picked up my laptop, with a relieved sigh, and resumed writing in the middle of the night. Everything was quiet.

Until it wasn’t.

I heard a note. A sound.

Another note. A gentle chime.

I shivered.

*Bing*

Creepy-ass cat
Creepy-ass cat

My heart started pounding. I clutched a lap blanket around me tightly, as though it would make me ghost-proof, and stomped back into the front room. Frodo, my small black cat, was tapping his paw on a toy piano. He looked at me, and perhaps sensing the psychic tension, bolted from the room.

Was he trying to evolve? Had he watched the children manipulate these buttons all day and wanted to try out basic machinery after everyone went to bed? Or was he playing a trick on me, somehow aware of human fears about animated children’s toys in the middle of the night?

I felt a little bad for interfering with his cat experiments. but he really scared the crap out of me. Maybe next time he should rig up a kitty clown picture or drag some dolls around the room.