A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important
Mon, 12/03/12 – 12:49 | Comments Off

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but …

Read the full story »

Picky eaters and allergy-safe cooking — the two aren’t necessarily unrelated.

Girl Gone Wonk

From policy to politics, this rant’s for you.


The day’s events in a family way — unless something else amuses me.

School days

From preschool to kindergarten — so far

Simple Gifts

Inexpensive homemade gifts, creative parties and low-cost projects, for Christmas and beyond. Many are easy enough for children to help.

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Articles tagged with: toys

The end of the toy era
Wednesday, 20 Jul, 2011 – 13:09 | Comments Off
The end of the toy era

I figured we were headed this way a year ago, when all Big Guy wanted for his birthday was “cool clothes.” Clothes? Didn’t that used to be the ultimate gifting insult?
Suspicion grew stronger at Christmas, …

Bring it on, Monopoly
Thursday, 3 Feb, 2011 – 12:38 | Comments Off
Bring it on, Monopoly

Boots rolled the dice and chuffed his tiny train along the Monopoly board, finishing on Reading Railroad. He beamed as he declined to buy it. “I’m going to save my money!” he smiled, waving two …

Easy Bake – biggest oxymoron ever
Tuesday, 28 Dec, 2010 – 11:54 | One Comment
Easy Bake – biggest oxymoron ever

Mommy I want Santa to bring me that, Boots said as an Easy Bake oven commercial aired.
I ignored him, because Boots wanted virtually everything he saw on TV or in an ad this year. But …

Heaven help me, we’ve entered the Hot Wheels era
Thursday, 8 Jul, 2010 – 10:13 | One Comment
Heaven help me, we’ve entered the Hot Wheels era

Just when I thought three tubs of tank engine track was as bad as it was going to get, along comes the next menace: Hot Wheels.
It’s not that we’ve never had Hot Wheels – the …

In search of a Christmas present that doesn’t exist
Monday, 30 Nov, 2009 – 14:20 | Comments Off
In search of a Christmas present that doesn’t exist

Damn you, Juan Pablo Montoya.
No, I’m not talking about that little hoo-ha at the end of the last race that led NASCAR officials to tell you to park it for two laps. That was as …

Bye-bye, Little People. Hello, Bakugan!
Friday, 13 Nov, 2009 – 14:45 | Comments Off
Bye-bye, Little People. Hello, Bakugan!

It serves me right for giving in to pleas for McDonald’s one chilly night. I should have learned long ago that little good stems from the Golden Arches – especially when it comes to Happy …

When life hands you people-sized bananas, plot revenge
Sunday, 13 Sep, 2009 – 9:31 | Comments Off
When life hands you people-sized bananas, plot revenge

September usually is a little early for me, but I’m getting a head start this year on holiday shopping.
It might take a while to find the appropriate present for someone who gives your kids 4-foot-tall …

A SWAT for letting the big company skate
Thursday, 27 Aug, 2009 – 22:18 | Comments Off
A SWAT for letting the big company skate

Remember the big toy recall of two summers ago,when everything from Thomas trains to Dora campers disappeared from retailers’ shelves as plaything after plaything was recalled for violating lead standards?
Remember Congress’ uncharacteristic haste in the …

Quaking before the toy box beast
Monday, 27 Jul, 2009 – 11:10 | Comments Off
Quaking before the toy box beast

I’ve pitched cake pans and ditched dolls. I’ve sent away clothes old enough to drink and purged enough paperwork to give me nightmares about the forests felled to create it..
I’ve cleared one closet of its …

Build-A-Bear: Expensive Barbies for boys
Wednesday, 22 Jul, 2009 – 13:44 | 2 Comments
Build-A-Bear: Expensive Barbies for boys

It’s fitting that Build-A-Bears entered our home the same time Barbie left.
Forced by our coming move – less than two weeks now! – to streamline, I callously hauled a crate of two dozen mint-condition Barbies …

I Spy With My Little Eye … an easy diversion
Friday, 27 Mar, 2009 – 13:19 | Comments Off
I Spy With My Little Eye … an easy diversion

I learned to be grateful for “I Spy” after it saved my life almost a year ago when a 20-minute drive home mutated into a three-hour road trip.
Big Guy was just learning to play at …

Our little Dora’s all grown up. Too bad
Tuesday, 10 Mar, 2009 – 12:46 | 2 Comments
Our little Dora’s all grown up. Too bad

She takes care of Boots, fights off Swiper, loves her abuela and can fend for herself quite nicely, thank you very much.
Ay, but just as dragons live forever but not so little boys, it seems …

Countdown to toy safety’s starting all over
Tuesday, 3 Feb, 2009 – 0:46 | 2 Comments
Countdown to toy safety’s starting all over

What  Congress and the White House did in August, two Consumer Product Safety commissions undid Friday when they agreed to wait a year to enforce testing standards for lead and phthalates in children’s products.
Part of …

Budding boy rockers and moms who try to tolerate them
Tuesday, 13 Jan, 2009 – 13:27 | Comments Off
Budding boy rockers and moms who try to tolerate them

If I hear “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” one more time, I’m going to shoot the computer.
Now, I’m as big a Benatar fan as any gal who shaved her sideburns in the 80s, and …

Elmo refuses to go down without a fight
Monday, 29 Dec, 2008 – 13:08 | One Comment
Elmo refuses to go down without a fight

As annoying companions go, it could have been much worse than Elmo. It could have been Barney, whose “need adenoid surgery” voice drove me nuts long before I had kids.
As obnoxious toys go, it couldn’t …

Christmas with a touch of crass
Monday, 1 Dec, 2008 – 23:07 | 2 Comments
Christmas with a touch of crass

It’s grotesquely commercial and no doubt considered a sacrilege in some denominations. I’m just religious enough to fear a lightening strike each year when I bring it out of the garage.
It’s also the first Christmas …

Santa still will come, but he won’t bring as much
Monday, 20 Oct, 2008 – 11:30 | 4 Comments
Santa still will come, but he won’t bring as much

Funny how finances increasingly are forcing me to be the kind of parent I’d planned on being.
I never intended to fall into a fast-food habit — that’s Dad’s job. Yet, there I was, driving through …

‘Learning laptop’ doesn’t teach the guys much
Monday, 29 Sep, 2008 – 10:14 | Comments Off
‘Learning laptop’ doesn’t teach the guys much

Little Guy enjoys a rare quiet moment with the latest electronic nuisance.
America’s Least Wanted
The suspect: Vtech Learning Laptop
Description: Orange enough to be nauseate to a University of Kentucky basketball fan.
Offense: General uselessness and inciting riots. …

9to5to9: Someone — anyone — PLEASE stop the toy torture
Tuesday, 19 Aug, 2008 – 4:37 | Comments Off


Perhaps it was the Play-Doh I bought my brother’s girls or the pull-along xylophone that was too cute to resist for my oldest nephew’s first Christmas. Or maybe I was simply a wretched person in a past life who must pay in this one.

Whatever the reason — it could be there is no reason and I’m due to hit the lottery soon to make up for this — I seem to be cursed with excessively bad karma when it comes to annoying toys of late.

It’s not that I’m unwilling to take the hit if a toy has redeeming qualities — if the guys can learn from it or if it stretches their imaginations I’ll let it live, though I will confess to jettisoning the highly educational Ready Freddie Learning Robot

A year later, there’s hope we’ll finally get the lead out of toys
Friday, 15 Aug, 2008 – 3:47 | Comments Off

I suppose 14 months isn’t an excessive gestation period for a law, especially when you consider that except for bills that bail out big businesses, it can take dog years for Congress to act.

Still, it seems like centuries ago that parents were aghast and children were distraught as the Grinch Who Stole Summer snatched 45 million toys off shelves due to lead contamination.

Everything from backpacks to trains to Little People were recalled, leaving folks befuddled that this was happening in the 21st Century. I thought experts had established long ago that lead exposure is bad for children.

A few far right wing nuts, though, saw conspiracy:

“”Are you falling for this BS about children’s toys and the dangers of?”" the lunatic fringe asked at a site where I used to blog. “”This is nothing but an all out attempt by the unions

It’s beginning to look a lot like panic
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 21:35 | Comments Off

Based purely on anecdotal evidence – and a sprinkling of wishful thinking – I’m seeing a pretty good Christmas coming.

Or, at least a more affordable one. At least until New Year’s Eve, when I’ll have to explain why I’m confiscating toys Santa just delivered. “Well, it’s like this guys: The elves screwed up and used paint that could poison you. Santa’s sent them to timeout, so they can think about how to be nicer elves.”

In the past two weeks, I’ve:

* Read not one, but two, email blitzes from Fisher-Price. This followed on the heels of the free DVD in the mail.

The first offered free shipping for $50 orders. I was mightily tempted, but mighty glad I resisted, when the Go Diego Go! Animal Rescue Boat

A grump’s take on Happy Meals
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:46 | Comments Off

My credentials as a grump are impeccable. I graduated magna cum surly, celebrating with a fine dinner of crab and whine.

But I’m going to reach the peak of petulance with this statement: I hate Happy Meals.

Buying a Happy Meal is like shelling out $3 and change for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, stabled together in one cheery box. If you even get a box – half the McDonald’s we go to bag it these days.

There’s grease, a juice box way bigger than I would normally serve the guys, excessive calories and clutter-inducing crap. The first three don’t bother me much – the guys have Happy Meals maybe a couple times a month, three if life is really crazy. In between, I shove as much

It’s gonna be a cornhusk Christmas
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:35 | Comments Off

It’s not even Halloween, but I know exactly what the guys will get for Christmas: corn-husk dolls and sock monkeys. That’s assuming I can find good-old American-made buttons for the monkeys. And non-genetically modified husks for the dolls.

It’s getting that ridiculous.I’ve always had a healthy dose of recall paranoia, dutifully registering major baby gear and steeling myself for the wave of nausea sure to come if some company announced a major flaw in something important, such as a car seat.

Never in my wildest nightmares, though, did I imagine the toy tsunami that’s slammed ashore again and again since early summer.Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site:

The tidal wave began in June, when 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine toys were recalled

Big Guy’s money lesson, Mommy’s migraine
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:34 | Comments Off

Week 4 into the Grand Allowance Experiment, and I now understand why so many parents choose extremes.

I could have picked Dictator Mommy and just barked, “No! You can’t have it.” I could have picked Push-Over Mommy and said, “Of course, my sweet. I’ll buy whatever you want.”

Instead, stupid me went for the middle ground, the land of learning to make good decisions about money.

 The decision has turned every shopping trip into an exhausting trudge.

I hate it when my masochistic side takes over.

Week 1: 

We hit the summer clearance sales at Kohl’s, where the toy department is next to toddler clothing. Smart store designer.

Big Guy, financially flush with the week’s $5 and late-arriving birthday cash, locks on a Dora the Explorer Travel and Care Pony Trailer. He’s

No more toys. And I (mostly) mean it
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 20:15 | Comments Off

I wavered as I gazed into his pleading amber eyes. So young – he was just born in April. So soft, his fur supple beneath my fingers.

Then I snapped to and realized what I had to do. I tossed him into the garbage bag with his littermate, tied it shut and tossed it out the door.

This year’s Easter bunnies were history. So were last year’s, and Big Guy’s duck from the year before that. They joined a safari’s worth of critters – a gorilla, chickens, elephants and some neon green puffy thing of indeterminate genus.

We’re down to less than a dozen plush playmates, and if you think that sounds like a lot, you should see the pile that just got sent to the stuffed animal shelter. Four remained because they’re cute and expensive – Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Mickey Mouse. The rest will go in due time, and they will not be replaced.

I have declared a toycott.

Thomas here!
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:52 | Comments Off

Little Guy had a brief dalliance with Lighting McQueen. He trifled with Woody, from “Toy Story,” but eventually wanted to be just friends.

He’s moved on to his first full-blown obsession.

It’s Thomas the Tank Engine. And it’s making me understand why my sister – the one with four kids — hates Barney.

First word out of Little Guy’s mouth in the morning – “Thomas.” First words out of his mouth when we get home – “watch Thomas.” Last word out of his mouth before bed – “read Thomas.” At least he’s still excited about reading. I worried about that a few weeks ago, when I started letting him openly watch TV.

He has a toy Thomas that can’t be more than a few yards away at any point in time. Technically, it’s not his toy, but Big doesn’t mess with Little Guy on this issue. Sometimes, Little Guy will sit “reading” his Thomas book with the engine tucked under the other arm.

A toy that had to go
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 19:28 | Comments Off

I killed a toy tonight, just for the pure pleasure of seeing it die.

It wasn’t my first toyicide, but it’s the first I won’t be able to get out of on an insanity plea.

I don’t advocate senseless violence against toys. As a character witness, I’ll call the drums that two (former) friends bought Big Guy for Christmas. I tolerate the drums, because they have some redeeming value, no matter how high they push my Tylenol tab.

Not so Ready Freddie, a “learning robot” with a chirpy voice, maniacal plastic grin, touchpad belly and cell phone.

“Hi! I’m Ready Freddy! Do you want to (pause as toy brain processes) tie my shoe?”

No, but I would love to tear you limb from plastic limb.

He came to our home a hand-me-down from a parent no doubt eager to rid herself of the problem but lacking the guts to put Freddie out of my misery. His vile nature was quickly apparent.

A really useful recall
Sunday, 1 Jun, 2008 – 17:00 | Comments Off

Originally published June 13, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled 1.5 million Thomas & Friends toys, imported and distributed by the RC2 Corporation, because paint on the toys contains lead that can be toxic if ingested. No injuries have been reported.

The recall includes wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set parts sold from January 2005 through June 2007.

More information is available at the Consumer Product