Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where's the remote??

Last night we spent over an hour searching for the cable remote. All the usual locations (seat cushions, behind the TV, in the fridge) turned up empty. We gave up searching for the night, planning to tear the house apart floor by floor until it turned up.

First thing this morning we asked Thing#1 if she knew the location of the remote. "Oh yeah, sure I do!" she yelled, and dashed downstairs.

It seems that she and Thing#2 were playing Dora The Explorer. They were saving the baby sloth from the well. She was Dora, Thing#2 was Boots, and the well was a pitcher in the dining room. and guess what played the role of baby sloth.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Children's toys, packaging, and other evils of society

I was about to write a posting about the cursed hell of opening children's toys, but have realized that the subject really has been talked to death. I mean, everyone who has a young child knows how frustrating it can be trying to get Dora and Boots freed from the wire and plastic prison that is their store package. If you don't know what I mean, here is a writer who has spelled it out in great detail. As he states in the article, "Today, dolls and action figures come bound like miniature Gullivers. It can take a parent 15 minutes or more to free them, and 15 minutes for every toy that follows. 'By the time you're done Christmas morning,' sighed industry analyst Chris Byrne, editor of the Toy Report, 'you're ready for a cocktail.'"

What really irks me, though, isn't so much the effort involved in freeing the poor Fisher Price Zebra from its shackles, it's the endless amounts of waste being generated by the packing of these toys, and frankly from the toy itself. Guaranteed most of this crap will end up in a landfill, to be found by aliens in the year 3006 who wondered why the creatures of this planet were overcome by a strange petroleum-based substance that existed in all sorts of pastel colors. A typical package holding a typical Dora or Disney toy is made of a combination of heavy (and heavily printed) corrugated board, glued together with often multiple layers of clear plastic to allow for the best display possible. a 6" x 8" toy will often come in a box that's over two feet wide. According to my Township's rules, none of that is recyclable. I've read that Germany has strict rules on packaging of products calling for all parts of the products to be recycled or at least disposed of according to published guidelines. I'm thinking they've got the right idea.

As I was looking for more information on this disease has consumed America, I came across this article. As the writer says, "The issues involved in junk toys are deeper than the layer of clutter on the playroom floor. These issues are as deep as the ocean, where thousands of yellow Lego toy life rafts drifted after three million toy pieces inadvertently spilled from a tanker in 1998. But more important than the occasional freak toy-pollution disaster are the routine environmental insults associated with the mass production of most toys."

Amen. The article is fantastic, and I agree with it almost 100%. Next year, our holiday will be different.

Happy New Year.

The holidays

I surely can't keep a blog about being a parent without something said about the holidays. So here it goes.

There's a big difference between age 5 and age 2 when it comes to gift-getting. A two-year-old is handed a gift, says, "A plezent? Fo me?", takes it, places it (still wrapped) on the floor, and goes back to playing with an empty paper towel tube. A five-year-old plans for weeks in advance regarding what she needs for a gift, how she will react, how she will inform all her preschool friends of her newly-obtained booty, how she will write thank-you notes to her parents, her grandparents, the president and the governor, and how she will redesign the layout of her bedroom (sorry, her princess castle) to make space for the new item. She will then check every hour on the hour before the holiday begins to make sure the wrapped gift is where she last spotted it, and to inform her family of exactly how she will undo each piece of tape holding the wrapping in place. She will then eat only the exact amount of her dinner allowable by household law such that she can quickly and efficiently be excused from the table in order to take the fullest advantage of the statement, "we'll open presents after dinner" that came from an authority figure. Upon opening the gift she will then proclaim the wonder of the item by charging through the house at just under the speed of sound, screaming and yelling unintelligible things that can only be assumed to be the five-year-old equivalent of, "hey, neat." Her father will then spend the next 45 minutes attempting to get the item out of it's packaging, slicing a finger off in the process. She will then play with the item for approximately eight minutes, break it, promptly forget about its existence, and steal her sister's paper towel tube.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton, the artistic wonder behind the Boynton Books, has a couple of amusing videos on her absolutely silly website. There's the Shortest Song Ever, along with Also Quacht Zarathustra. Speaking of which, Philadelphia Chickens fans will be happy to know that Boynton has a new book/CD combo out entitled "Dog Train".

By the way, the website has enormously useful information, such as a Q&A section by Ethel, the hippo in the picture above. From the site:

A reader from the Berkshire Hills of New England asks:

Q: Do you have a last name?

A: Yes, of course.

Q: What is it?

A: What is what?

Q: Your last name?

A: You're asking what my last name is?

Q: Yes.

A: "Yes" is not a question.

Q: Um. Yes?

A: A simple solution of warm water, baking soda, and vinegar will usually do the trick. If not, seek professional help. Meanwhile, I think I'll head out shopping for a pair of roguish yet sensible sling backs, size 9-1/2 or 10.

Yours oh-so-truly,
Ethel T. Lethe
Senior Administrative Assistant

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Nutcracking with my daughter

Last night I went on a date with eleven women.

Okay, perhaps that's not quite right. More accurately, my wife got sick and, instead of her taking my 5-year-old to see The Nutcracker with several of her fellow mom friends, she sent me.

This was both my first experience seeing The Nutcracker and my first experience on a mom's night out. But since I had been away all week on a biz trip, I was game for some quality time with my daughter. Natalie told me that I should dress handsome, and she would dress fancy. We met everyone for dinner downtown first, then went to the theatre early for a backstage tour and an opportunity to see the dancers preparing for the show. As I watched six 5-year-old girls ogling at the wonder of professional ballet dancers scurrying around, getting their makeup and costumes ready, I saw those visions of my daughter's next Home Depot toy workbench and mountain bike being quickly replaced by a those of a pair of ballet slippers and a purple tutu. Sigh.

At the end of the tour, Natalie was asked what her favorite part of the tour was. Her answer: "going to the bathroom."

On a side note, the Benedum Theatre, the venue for the show, is a fantastic place. built in the 30's, it was meticulously restored after being beaten down by rock band performances in the 80's (the entire lobby was painted black at one time), it's known as one of the top 3 theatres for ballet in the country, according to the tour guide.

Later, as we sat in the lobby and waited for the show, one of the moms struck up a conversation with several of the girls about the holidays. Natalie pointed out she was Jewish and celebated Jewish holidays. When asked which ones were her favorites, she said, "Rosh Hashannah, Purim, and Holloween."

Both Natalie and I enjoyed the show quite a bit, but agreed that the second act (do they call them acts in ballet?) was way too long, and needed to end sooner. While I told her to sit quietly and watch the show every time she said, "another dance??? When's it going to end???" I have so say that I silently agreed with her.

Natalie's only experience with The Nutcracker before this was the Barbie version on DVD (can't say I joined her for that one). About halfway through the show, she leaned over to me and said, "wow, how do they do that???"

"Do what?" I asked. "Jump so high in the air?"

"No, dance for this long without talking!"

Monday, December 05, 2005

Those Holiday photos

I remember buying our first digital camera, a few months before our first child was born. The technology was new then, and we were excited by the huge collection of beautiful portraits were were going to gather over the years without having to worry about film, developing, or stacks of envelopes full of rarely-viewed pictures.

Throughout life with one kid, our goal was being met. We found lots of opportunities to snap a candid here and there, and often came up with great creative poses, beautiful smiles, and shots that would make any grandparent vaklempt.

Then squirt #2 came a long, and all bets were off.

The term "herding cats" comes to mind when trying to get a toddler and a preschooler to synch up for a good photo. we have hundreds of shots where one kid looks perfect while the other has her finger up her nose, is looking at a bright and shiny object behind her, is crying, is walking out of the picture, has her eyes closed, or is attempting to beat the other one up. And we have thousands more where both kids look like complete bozos. I truly believe that professional child photographers who can get a good portrait of two kids together are truly and artfully skilled, and also possess unnatural powers of hypnotism and mind control.

Last night we made one desperate attempt to get a decent pic for our holiday photo card. You know, those cards that all parents are obligated to send out to relatives and to other families with kids, because a)no one is allowed to have an exposed surface on their refridgerator during the holidays and b)if we don't send them out we will be shunned by our peers for the rest of time. I cleaned all the toys off the fireplace hearth and pointed every lamp in the room in the right direction to set the mood. Hilary dressed both kids in their matching cloud jammies after a long session of showering and primping. 97 shots later, we have one picture that is almost good enough to use. Between my 5-year-old and her inability to sit still, and my 2-year-old's complete disdain for authority, we were very lucky to get both of them in the same frame for half the pics, never mind both smiling. Add to that the constant requests by Natalie to take a turn behind the camera, and the repeated demands from Jessica for teddy grahams, and you can start to understand Scrooge's point of view.

So consider this blog entry your holiday card. Print it out and paste it to your fridge. Then, find two separate pics of my kids on our photo web site, cut print them, cut their heads out and tape them to this printout. Merry friggin' Xmas.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

2005 T.O.Y Awards

As quoted from Patrick Douglas Crispen's "The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace", a weekly email of all things internet:

"Each year Family Fun magazine holds a Toy of the Year (T.O.Y.)competition. This year, the magazine's writers collected 520 brand new toys from 170 different manufacturers, dropped the toys in front of 130 elementary school kids in Kennebunk, Maine, and then seriously reconsidered their career choices. [As a wise man once said, "And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!"]"

Check out this year's winners here.

Franlkly, I've never heard of any of the items except the Darth Vader voice changer. Gee, surprisingly, no Disney stuff. Go figure. I would have thought that the Disney Karaoke boom box, which plays these cheap-ass plastic CD's and gives the Little Mermaid a voice like an old lady named Doris who works at the DMV, would have made the list. Maybe there is hope my kids will get past that after all.