Monday, April 13, 2009

Toys that Annoy: Buy at your own Risk

Easter's just passed so I'm in that clean up mode where I embody the ServePro motto, "Like it never even happened" with a full vengeance. Various colors of plastic grass are strewn about--too much for the dustbuster and in too many places to lug around a full-size vac, compliments of my 4-year old twins.
But to take liberties with Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat" verse, "Oh, but that is not the worst, no that is not the worst of it!" The worst of it are the actual toys that were nestled in the plastic grass that various Easter bunnies (you know who you are) thought my darlings must have. Two deserve special note here: MoonSand and PixOs.

MoonSand and PixOs belong on a DNB (Do Not Buy) list. Unless you're invited to a birthday party at Chucky Cheese's (payback's a bitch), these toys have no place in your or anyone else's home.

Your first clue as to why-not-to-buy should be that they are both advertised on t.v.--on the "As Seen on TV" commercials. The ones where you get the toy plus the ginsu knives for only $19.95 and you can pay in 3 easy installments.

Assuming you missed that clue, MoonSand is sand that sticks together a'la PlayDoh, but if tapped, smushed, or crushed will disintegrate into its original sand form. It is fun to mold, but as "it never dries out" it also will always follow the dust-to-dust progression, never solidifying into something that will leave no mess. MoonSand also has a proclivity for getting stuck in carpets, cracks in hardwood floors, and marble floor tile. I've noticed that the more recent MoonSand ads now include various trays for little hands to create and house there works in--sounds like customer feedback in action to me. Unless you're absolutely going to keep MoonSand an outdoors event, do yourself a favor and steer clear of it! Definitely a MotherWouldn't.

Next up, PixOs. As with MoonSand, I'm all for creative play. At first, PixOs seem like a parent's dream: you stick little plastic-looking balls into a template grid, spray with water and the balls meld together to create little pictures. No iron or oven required! No supervision needed! Safe! Sane? No. See those little balls, which are the size of those little balls you get when you break apart Styrofoam, roll and bounce and fly all over the place. You'll step on them, waste countless hours picking them up by hand (the dustbuster does not always like them and if you try that route I guarantee crying and wailing that you're "taking away my PixOs!") and rue the day they entered your home. You'll find them everywhere except where you want them to be. Another MotherWouldn't.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

6 things you don't want to hear, and 6 things to ensure you don't hear them

It occurred to me that while everyone will tell you that the time to worry about a child is when he is quiet, this is not necessarily so with twins. Outside of something drastic, the time to worry with twins, particularly boys I think, is when they are WHISPERING. Yes, it's the little exchanges they share that you can barely hear--those are the ones that should raise an eyebrow, as rest assured, they are up to something.

But I also guarantee you that if you ask them what they're up to, you will get the pat response, "Nothing." So the best you can do is wait to hear gems like these to alert you to trouble. And lucky for you, I've already heard these gems and lived through them to know what's required so that YOU (hopefully!) don't have to hear them also! Here goes...

1) "It went down the hole Mommy!"
This phrase I've learned is directly associated to water, and to the drainage system for that water. It can be a bathtub, a sink, a hot tub, a pool, an outdoor shower--you get the point. It's amazing how expensive that little 3-pack of Carter's washcloths becomes when one of them has traversed the pipe leaving your bathtub. Solution? Without even giving it another thought, go out and buy drain catches in all shapes and sizes and install them. The key is to make them appear to be permanent fixtures to your little cherubs, but you ideally want to be able to remove them.

2) "The potty won't flush!"
I could've included this in #1 above, as yes, things seem to wind up down this hole, too. But the problem is that you really can't employ a drain catch here, can you? So this requires a different solution. And no, you will not be able to keep every possible item out of the "look! there it goes!" game that children (ok, my children) love to play with the toilet. But one simple thing you can do is purchase that "1,000 sheets lasts longer" & "safe for septics!" Scott's toilet paper. It's simple things like this that can save you some aggravation. Take it from one who has spent a few times digging wads of Charmin Ultra out of the porcelain funnel. Buy the Scott's. And lock the "grown-up" bathrooms where you do decide to keep the Charmin's.

3) "My juice box is empty! Where'd it go?"
This seems innocent at first--"what? did he drink it?" you think. Then you see the long stream of drippy wetness on the table, and the floor, and... First off, try to give a child a "portable" beverage and think that he will sit properly at a table without moving--particularly when it's not a mealtime of any sort. And you could try to always use sippy cups. But unfortunately there comes a time when the convenience of juice boxes becomes appealing--and this usually occurs when your kids are at that "bridge" stage--i.e., too old for sippy's, not quite old enough to be toting around uncovered glasses. If you don't want to find that 100% no-sugar-added juice you searched all over for all over your floor, buy those Juice Pal juice box holders. They're inexpensive and indispensible. And they're available at places like One Step Ahead (

4) Whispering.
I mentioned this earlier. An easy solution? An intercom system that allows for monitoring. These don't have to be pricey, and in a house with a lot of steps, they really come in handy--even for their original purpose as an intercom. The intercom system I have has a little "lock" feature that allows continual monitoring. The beauty of it is that you can almost hear a pin drop with the thing. So when I hear comments like "look! it's a screwdriver!" I know that I have 3.8 seconds to get to wherever the sound originated from to ward off any damage or injury. The key here is to get an intercom system--not a baby monitor. The baby monitors tend to pick up too much interference--at least the ones I've used--they're great for babies, but you'll want hit the big leagues for your little leaguers.

5) "The remote is empty Mommy, look!"
This can apply to anything that requires batteries. But most things with batteries that kids get their hands on are things that you really don't mind if the batteries get lost. The remote controls you have, however, are another story. If you're like me, you have a remote for the following: televisions, stereo system, DVD player, VCR player (still have one of those), garage door opener, central air system, am I missing any? One little solution that seems like a no-brainer but is easily overlooked is...Velcro! Yes, do yourself a favor and find a nice spot--perhaps a centralized closet space--and throw some velcro strips on the wall. Place the "partner" piece of the velcro on the back of the remotes. Hang the remotes up. Yes, it requires some diligence to re-hang them up after use, but trust me, you won't lose a remote or find one without its batteries ever again!

6) "Look Mommy! A bind!"
One of my little guys is working on better enunciation of his "L"s. So at first glance, this is a bit unintelligible. But when you realize he means "blind", you begin to understand. And what you understand is that another slat of your blinds--usually vertical ones--is now down and there is not a prayer in you-know-what of it returning to its original state in front of your window. Solution? In addition to it being much safer to not have long blind and drapery cords around little children, it's also better to avoid them so you don't have to watch them become irreparably dismantled. TAKE THEM DOWN. Verticals, venetians, all of them. Put up anything else, but get rid of the blinds. If you don't, your little twosome will.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Easy Writer

I try my darndest to incorporate "educational fun" into whatever activities the kids might be doing. It doesn't always work out that way, but I try.

Here's something super-simple that'll keep kids occupied for hours on end while providing an opportunity for learning: chalkboard paint. I'm always surprised by how few people actually use the stuff--it's great! We had a door off our kitchen that was just awful--however, when painted with chalkboard paint (go Home Depot!) and accompanied by some dust-free chalk, it became a veritable magnet for the kids and our kitchen was transformed into "Schoolhouse Rock" (in a good way).

So now, no matter what I might be doing in the kitchen, I can usually count on my kids playing school or drawing holiday-themed decorations or simply scribbling away. It's also been great to help teach our kids Dutch, Spanish and some French--and we sometimes play "what's that sign?" to practice ASL. All in all, you can't beat it. If you can find even a 3' x 4' area or so, that's all it takes. And in close to 5 years, I've only touched the paint up once. Oh, and the chalk wipes off easily with a damp cloth. we go again!

Ok, this time it's not about holiday decorating. It's about your kids' rooms--when they get to that certain age and realize they can vocalize their feelings on how they'd like their rooms to look.
My daughter is at that age. Unfortunately for her, we moved into our house just prior to having the twins--so, of course, our focus was on the twins' nursery-to-be. I didn't go all out as I wasn't really sure anyway what to do for a room that would have not one, but two babies. But I did at least paint the room. A nice cheerful shade of blue--not pastel (too traditional baby)...not navy (too "wait-till-they're-7")--but a nice shade none the less. And it looked lovely--at least for the time being until the boys actually came and actually grew and actually became boys who were actually quite rambunctious and actually broke things. But I digress.

The key is, it looked nice. My daughter, being no fool, immediately saw the contrast between the boys' room and her white-walled boudoir. This translated immediately into a cry for a yellow room. I'm pretty quick on my feet so I tried to explain to her that her room was not white, but "a whiter shade of pale" (with a nod to Procol Harum) and that she should appreciate the blissful dichotomy of its subtle yet overbearing nature. Alas she is no fool. She said, "Mom!" (which somehow became a two-syllable word) "it's WHITE! Can't you see?" It was not the first time I had no comeback for her.

Somehow fortune was on my side a mere few weeks after this discussion as I sauntered down an aisle at a "Dollar Store". I was searching for party decorations upon the advice of several other mothers and, as luck would have it, there in front of my eyes was a knock-off version of Wallies! In many design options! My mind started racing. Most options were "country"-style borders (not my taste at all) or the usual seashells, herbs, abc's in get the picture. But tucked in the middle of the display was a wonderful set of colorful gerberas and an alphabet set to match! Again, I note, this was in the DOLLAR STORE--so you know how much these self-stick, removable wall decals cost! I snatched them up (almost every last one of them), bought them all (sans any party crap), and raced home.

When my daughter returned home from school I surprised her and she was beside herself with glee. I helped her come up with words or phrases to spell out on her walls--like "reading spot" for where she keeps some of her books or "take a snooze" by her bed (see pics). And we randomly put the gerberas on the walls, too. She loved it.

The best part? I loved it. Simple. Cheap. No need to paint. A lot of happiness for basically zero effort. And if we move or paint or...? They peel right off.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Baby Alive Needs a Mommy Alive

So it's been a week of holiday festivities and frivolity and we've had a new addition to our family! For those of you who know me, no, you did not miss my pregnancy and no, we did not adopt another child. Rather, we've become the proud parents of a new...BABY ALIVE! I say "we" because once Santa brings your daughter a Baby Alive (BA), it does indeed take a village.

For those of you who are not familiar with this little tyke, she's reminiscent of that Sassy Susan doll of yore in size and coif. However, BA has eyes right out of some Japanese cartoon or comic--they just seem unnaturally large for what's supposed to be a natural-looking babe. I had to first get over that. Then, to my naivete, I had not kept up on all the BA hype enough to to absorb the fact that she...poops! Yes, she POOPS! Just like the original from the mid-70's. And I now know why my own mother never got me one. We're not talking about those dolls that "drink" water and then (oops!) "pee" it out neatly on the other end. We're talking poop: whatever color you feed her is whatever color (& consistency) you find on the other end.

And here's the "gotcha!" glitch for her real parents with real wallets: HER DIAPERS ARE NOT REUSABLE!!! Now, that is stated on the package--but not in anything larger than say, 12 pt type. So when you have your first trial run (no pun intended) you realize you cannot wash and re-wear. Then you realize Hasbro has only given you TWO diapers to start and BA has just sent one to a landfill. So you're hearing "Mommy! Let's feed her the peas now! Please! PLEASE!" while you're mentally processing the fact that after the peas, BA will have to starve for a while and your daughter will be despondent.

For a fleeting moment, I entertained the thought of making some washable diapers--complete with velcro tabs. I figured I'd already earned my Fed-Ex stripes from having boxes (& boxes!) of diapers shipped to my door for the twins and I was not about to repeat that, even if on a miniature scale. Fortunately for me, my daughter would rather curl up with a book or feed her starving Webkins brood--even if she only gets to do so for 30 minutes at a time. So the "Mom, can we buy Baby Alive more diapers?" whine only lasted for days 1 & 2 of her newly found motherhood. There is a higher power.

And so I feel guilty that BA is not getting enough love.

Not sure if I would've let Santa bless us with this little cherub had I been eyes-wide-open on all her needs. But then I also would not have had the harrowing life-flashing-before-me experience of hearing my daughter say, "Mommy! This means you're a grandmother!!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A New Column: DAIS NAID (said: "DAY-IS NAY-ID")

Or in other words, Do As I Say, Not As I Do. This is where I get to share moments of sheer stupidity (bad word, Mommy!) with you. It's where I get to impart some little tidbits that I have become wiser about simply by life experience...those moments when you just go ahead and act in your "mom" role, without really thinking things through first.

Here's today's tidbit:

You may, in one of your "I am woman, hear me roar" moments as a mom of multiples, feel that you can conquer the supermarket with a tandem stroller. And, yes, you most certainly can--IF you only need milk (which of course you need) and bread. I, however, thought I could pull off a small shopping list with twins and tandem stroller in tow.

Results: YES! Those strollers--particularly the front-to-back type vs. the side-by-side kind--DO provide quite a bit of grocery-loading room in the bottom storage compartment. BUT--here's the rub--once you check out and the once-dispersed products are neatly bagged, they take on a new "cube". And what do you know? They no longer fit--AT ALL--in your lovely tandem stroller.

If you are shopping in the southern region of the country, this will most likely not be a huge issue, as many supermarkets there have staff that will gladly assist you to your car. And, as it is de rigeur there, no one will be the wiser and you will be spared the embarrassment. Not so in the Northeast. In many instances you will have to either seek out help, or UNBAG your items so you can then rearrange them back in the under-baby storage compartment.

Better to try this shopping method at Costco or some other bulk-shopping place. Though, of course then you'll only be able to purchase one or two items anyway as no more will fit. Best idea: hire a babysitter, take the van, and get a real shopping cart!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Books that won't Bore! (Volume I)

While I love the classics (think Dr. Seuss) for kids and am a firm believer in reading, reading, reading to your kids, I have to admit to the read a page, skip a few paragraphs, turn the page (or two) method of reading, which of course only works until your child can a) actually notice sight words in the text or b) knows the story plot line and/or cadence by heart.

But over the years, family and friends and a few lost trips to Barnes & Noble have provided me with some great keep-a-Mom's-interest reads. A few of which I'll note here:

1. Tidy Heidi. By John Patience. A really cute story about a pig who's overly concerned with primping, then learns how to get down 'n dirty. Many thanks to Helen for that one!

2. The Todd Parr books. Simple, quick reads with colorful, graphic illustrations with some really wonderful messages (e.g., "it's ok to be different").

3. Mary Had a Little Jam. By Bruce Lansky. Classic nursery rhymes with a new twist. Even though toddlers won't necessarily get the play on words, they'll still laugh at these versions!

4. Once Upon a Time, the End. By Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt. Think classic fairy tales if Cliff Notes got their hands on them. It's the super condensed but still on point version of your favorites--each story fits on one, single page.

5. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You. By Mary Ann Hoberman. This series has won awards and made the NY Times Bestseller list. And it falls into the category of "why didn't someone think of this sooner?!" For when your child is learning to read for him/herself. Your-turn/my-turn paragraphs in alternating colors cue you and your child into who-reads-when. Engages both of you big-time and it's definitely a lot of fun all-around!

That's it for now--but these are definitely worth a look. More to come in Volume II...

The Next Generation of Dry-Erase...

Here's something someone should have thought of long ago!

If you're a parent of a child over the age of 2 or 3, you then most likely know the benefit of products such as write-on/wipe-off mats or the ubiquitous Color Wonder series from Crayola (

Now, however, we can welcome products by the Board Dudes to this realm of "thank the dear, sweet Lord someone came up with this" ideas. Check out for their complete line.

But there's also a simpler route: visit your local Staples store. It was there that I found some of their great (and educational!) dry-erase mats for learning cursive writing, doing ABC's, doodling, playing hangman.... They also have some great high-school- and college-kid things (for lockers, etc.): foam boards, message boards, locks, organizers...

For the rest of us, they have weekly organizers, cork boards, magnetic boards--all worth a look. One of my faves is their Seagrass bulletin board--for when you're tired of looking at cork!