Friday, December 31, 2010

A Half Year in Review

Well, as you may have noticed, I took a hiatus from blogging for the second half of the year. Other demands got in the way…Building a house and the Twilight series among them. (Thank goodness my boss has been so understanding.)

The theme for 2010 turned out to be 'maintaining' because that's all I managed to do - maintain food in the fridge, dinner on the table, clean laundry and really, little else. Oh, and I stopped the kids from killing each other on several occasions. It was a fallow year. Sometimes you just have to do nothing and accept that that is the best you can give under the circumstances.

We owner-built our house, which meant my husband Patrick served as the general contractor or go-to man. So while he contracted out the bulk of the work to the professionals, he had an amazing amount of behind the scenes stuff to do in order to keep everything ticking along. Which he did, a huge credit to him. But it was the equivalent of working a full-time job in addition to having to maintain a real full-time job.

Like many things in life (perhaps marriage and children among them), there are some things that you simply would not undertake if you realised beforehand the amount of work involved. I would put owner-building a house in that category, and it’s given me a new sensitivity to the plight of the single parent. Then came the actual move itself, in winter, with slick mud and rain and mess. (Because we built on what used to be farmland, there was not a tree or bush or - thanks to the tradesmen's trucks - not even a blade of grass to be found.) Everyone knows that every time you move, you unpack 90% of the stuff in two weeks and the last 10% takes two years. So I’ve been chipping away at that last ten percent, slowly, in the latter half of ‘10.

The upside is – aside from the lovely house – the features in it which I most appreciate, besides the obvious of the dishwasher. First, a laundry room. For me, this is the equivalent of the male’s shed, but I don't even have to leave the house. Imagine! A whole room dedicated to the endless pursuit of laundry! Beats crawling down to the creepy basement. And if you have any job to do, it helps having the right tools and space to do it in. May as well just chain me in there with my People magazines, Edward Cullen poster (sorry, George) and mini-fridge full of ‘mother’s helper’. (And no, I didn’t mention the spin cycle in that list, so get your minds out of the gutter.) Once I get a recliner in there, it’ll be the equivalent of a man cave. Good times.

My other favourite room in the house is – wait for it – my pantry. Lame, I know, but it’s not just the storage and accessibility I love. It’s got a door that closes and I can fit easily inside, which means it also doubles as a sound-proof booth. Ideal location for making phone calls, smoking cigarettes, reading old People magazines and perusing my Edward Cullen portfolio. Also, you’ll never go hungry in there.

So in a nutshell – and in lieu of those generic, but often horribly entertaining ‘letters’ that often find their way into our Christmas cards with highlights like ‘then after Uncle Bob had his emergency appendectomy in June…’ – here are some of the other highlights for the other Shaws for the second half of ‘10:

For the Firstborn: Kindergarten completed, with all of its schoolyard politics and shifting alliances. Can read (this somehow amazes me), but she’s disappointed she STILL hasn’t lost any teeth.
Lesson for mum: I’ve realised how early the bitchy-ness starts among girls. Fickle, yes, but some of the stories she’s told me, and all I can come back with is, ‘What?! You mean ALREADY?’ I’ve also worked out who the sluts will be in Year 10 - always a relief.

Middle Guy: Constant whinging has been replaced by endless questions. Although annoying in a different way, it is a vast improvement. Now, every conversation starts with ‘Can I ask you a question?’ even when there are no questions to be asked; for example:
Him: ‘Can I ask you a question?’
Me: ‘Yes’
Him: ‘I put my own shoes on’
Lesson for mum: Clearly, he is filing away all this information acquired in that lovely, uncluttered mind of his so he can remind me when he is a teenager of just how dumb I’ve become.

Third Child: Second half of the year has seen the emergence of diva-like demands, the likes of which had not been experienced in the Shaw household since ’08. Screaming, throwing, whinging and DEMANDS are all part of the daily show. C’mon down and see for yourself.
Lesson for mum: While I had been of the persuasion that every family gets their diva, I was completely unprepared for two. And this time, I’m too old to deal, depleted from the first one. All my fight’s gone. I'm trying him on fish oil (I would try a witch's potion if I thought it would help) so I'll let you know how that goes.

For me – aside from the many rich and wonderful life lessons that my children have bestowed upon me again this year (eye roll) – having for the first time in my adult life a mortgage, a garage door opener and a permanent address has brought a certain amount of peace and stability. (Ironically, everything I was afraid to acquire during my 20s somehow just snuck up on me.) Although it meant that all my wants had to be shelved (eg, working, writing, exercising with any sort of regularity, time away from parenting) it has been a productive year in other aspects. Lesson for mum: Sometimes it can’t be about you. A hard one to admit. So right now, I’m going to go do some laundry - wink, wink.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Having Your Ego Stroked

...By a five year old, just doesn't happen. For proof, here are some quotes from the past week:

'Your stomach looks like you have a baby in it!' (It doesn't)

'Your new fringe looks nice mum! And now you can't see all those crinkles on your forehead.' (I had often thought I would never botox because I couldn't bear to lose my Angry Eyes - an important weapon in the arsenal would gone. I have been reconsidering that decision in light of recent happenings.)

And (my personal favourite - bear with me, this one takes some setting up)

Eva: 'We had a another teacher at school today and she was young.'
Me: 'Was she nice?'
Eva: 'Oh yes, she played with us. But she had big big, nostrils. Even bigger and rounder than yours.' (I have no hope, since ears and noses - cruelly - never stop growing.)

Sigh...As if getting older isn't already a drag, I now have constant reminders from a source other than the mirror.

Your favourite big-nostriled, pregnant looking blogger with the newly hidden wrinkled forehead

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let's Get Clinical...Or Not

(Note: Apologies to my small but loyal following for whom I didn't do an April post. Life got in the way. Second, the information written below may be offensive to some. If so, too bad. You shouldn't have had kids.)

True story #1: We’re on the way to ballet a couple of weeks ago, with a friend’s daughter, who I’ll refer to as Cate. As yet, Cate doesn’t have any brothers. One of my boys (being a boy) made a ‘willy’ joke – since in the Shaw household, we’re well and truly mired in the era of ‘It ain’t funny unless it’s toilet humour.’ Then Cate asked, ‘What’s a willy?’

Before I could complete my simple-yet-effective answer of ‘It’s how boys do pee,’ Eva launched into ‘Well, it’s got these two sorta BALL things underneath, with a big long TUBE on top and that’s got a HOLE on the end and – OH! THAT’S where the wee comes out!’ (So full of information are five year olds.) Obviously my description was severely lacking. After registering this information for a second, Cate says, ‘Oh! You mean a doodle!’ Luckily, I was driving and no one cared about my muffled laughter.

Now every parenting book or article I’ve read advises against this – using slang terms to refer to private parts. Among the slurry of advice we’re given, we as parents (more pressure) are encouraged to use the proper names for body parts from Day One.

Recently I stumbled upon a parenting magazine with a glibly titled article called ‘Private Schooling’ which discussed the importance of using ‘proper’ names to refer to these certain body parts. (I should mention that this article was alongside ‘Life After Purees!’ – which is to say that it is obviously geared to new, first-time mums who logically have high, unrealistic expectations, and who are still swearing they will do everything by the book, will never let the kids eat in the car or watch t.v. until they’re five. Ha.)

I understand the main argument behind this is that it’s a way of keeping children safe. However, if your child came to you and – God forbid – said so-and-so tried to touch his willy, I think you’d get the picture. So would a court of law. (She mentions these legal ramifications in part of her article: but, really, if it’s gotten to that point, don’t you have bigger worries than making sure your child uses the correct anatomical names for a jury?) By this extension, does this mean that we need to have one universal word for underwear (as opposed to knickers, undies, pants, panties, jocks) in order to keep our children ‘safer’?

Let’s dissect the rest of this advice, shall we? As the article begins, the writer says, ‘An arm is an arm and a leg is a leg, just as a penis is a penis.’ But don’t we often use words such as tummy for stomach and pointy for the index finger, doggy for dog, and the like? Yet that’s not seen as misleading or confusing. She goes on: ‘For boys, use the word “penis” initially and then add “scrotum” and “testicles” as they discover these parts.’ At 37, I feel I can admit to you all that I don’t think I’ve once used these words in an appropriate context. Ever. Nor have I ever heard a man (unless they’re a doctor) refer to said parts by these words either. Usually, when the latter are being mentioned, it’s in the heat of the moment as in ‘OWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! That hockey puck just hit me straight in the balls!!!’

For girls, the advice is even better: ‘“Vulva” is the correct term for the vaginal area [as] the vagina is located internally.’ Do they need to know that there is an internal area at age three? I understand the safety issue, but…well, see my above example. If so, then when do we introduce the clitoris and its primary function? (And while we’re on that subject, is it CLIT-oris or cli-TOR-is? No matter which way I say it, it sounds wrong. Perhaps that is a toe-MAY-to, toe-MAH-to argument.) All I could think of when this vulva bit was mentioned is the Seinfeld in which Jerry dates the girl whose name he forgets, but knows that her name rhymes with a female body part. ‘Mulva? Movary?’ George asks. Mitoris? Sounds like a Greek goddess. And what about the lowly bum? Is that to become buttocks? Glutes? Anus? Sphincter? More confusion.

I must again apply this same ‘principle’ to the fluids that come out of those said holes. Encrusted mucus to replace snot and boogie, or my personal favourite hybrid, snoog? Flatulence? Another word I’ve never used in its appropriate context. Does ‘Oh no Johnny! You’ve just peed on my handbag!’ now have to become ‘Oh no Johnny! You’ve just urinated on my handbag!’ What about cooing to your infant, ‘Did someone make some faeces in their nappy?!’ And the classic potty training books ‘Everybody Poops’ and ‘Once Upon a Potty’– should they be renamed ‘Everybody’s Anus Excretes’ and ‘Once Upon a Toilet’? Sorry, buy they just can’t muster the same bang.

True story #2: Another friend has the smartest child I have ever encountered. (Knew colours at 18 months, for a start, without any coaching.) One day I said to her, ‘Oh, hello Lilly,’ to which she replied ‘I have a vagina.’ ‘Yes, you do, you’re a girl,’ I said. It was funny and we all laughed and the discussion was over. But it came from Lilly, who clearly is the type of kid for whom the answer ‘It’s a hoo-hoo’ just wouldn’t suffice. Some kids are ready for that information at age two. But I don’t think most are. I have to admit that often when I hear a two-year old using clinical words, I cringe. I find it almost disconcerting, for lack of a better word.

And once again, I’m left unconvinced by the ‘expert’ advice as to the actual advantage of inflicting adult vocabulary into their worlds from the start. We complain about them growing up too fast. Why can’t we let their childhood extend into their terminology, even if it’s just for a little while? Let our kids be kids.

When more questions start, I’m prepared to answer. But for now, I’m sticking with what works. And it ain’t va-jay-jay…Oh, there I go again…

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Old-School Mum Betty Draper: Why We Love Her

(For Stacy)
I’ve recently become addicted to the TV show Mad Men. Nerdy, I know. In fact, I can almost hear you uttering ‘get a life’ under your breath right now. But when the summer TV doldrums hit, I went to the video store and innocently enough hired the first ‘Season One’ dvd and I was hooked. However, it wasn’t the antics of the Pee-Wee Herman Pete character, or Christina Hendrick’s admirable-even-if-you’re-a-woman cleavage or even the dashingly handsome Alpha male Don Draper that kept me hooked; it’s his long-suffering wife Betty. And I continued watching in the name of research and in hope of gaining some insight into parenting like its 1960. Here’s what I’ve learned, thanks to Betty Draper.

1. Sending the kids off to watch TV is okay. Wouldn’t it be good to have lived in the era when TV was the latest, greatest invention and there was not yet in existence a library full of research about the detrimental effects of too much time in front of it? There is more than one occasion when Betty orders the kids to ‘just go and watch the TV’. Ok, so her marriage was having some problems and maybe she just needed some ‘me’ time. But since this was pre-Sesame Street days, it means the kids were probably watching soaps. Therefore, we can stop feeling bad about letting our children watch TV shows that have been designed by a fleet of early education experts and actually make an effort to teach something. So there. Now go put on Dora and read your magazine.

2. Don’t fret over the kids’ nutrition. From what I’ve gathered from my close watching, Betty seems to dish up mostly meat and three veg with some convenient food mixed in: fluffernutter on Wonderbread, mac and cheese. Fretting over what our kids will and won’t eat has become an overly-inflated concern of the worried well. How many times have you been at the playground and overheard some yummy mummy yabbering away on her iPhone something along the lines of ‘I just can’t get Ethan to eat soy burgers OR brussel sprouts. I’m so worried I called my nutritionist today…’? Or ‘I can’t bear to even think of letting Jayden/Brayden/Hayden have anything with red food colouring/xanthum gum/preservative 21 until he’s at least seventeen.’ Well ladies, according to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, here are the daily nutritional requirements for a toddler: 2 cups of milk or its equivalent in cheese, yoghurt or (LOVE this one!) ice cream; 2 oz. of protein (meat or egg) or iron-fortified cereal; 1 oz of orange juice or fresh fruit; 1 multi-vitamin, to cover for uneaten veggies. One ounce! Rest easy, mamas. Here’s my three-prong nutritional advice, and I think Betty would agree: worry if your kid’s in Haiti right now. Make them eat everything they should first – and I mean make ‘em. Don’t let them eat too much processed stuff. The end.

3. Her house is not overrun by toys. There are no toys visible in the Draper household. I did see Don building a cubby house and drinking 87 beers in one episode and this was the era when it was still considered safe to let your kids play outside mostly unsupervised. But the only toy I’ve seen on the show is Bobby’s robot, which Don later throws against the wall and breaks. People just didn’t have as much stuff back in 1960 and that includes toys – and you know what? They didn’t miss it. This should be a reminder to all of us that just because stuff is cheap doesn’t mean we need to fill our houses up with it. Pass up that bargain next time.

4. Teaching your children their way around a drinks cart is okay.
Betty knows the secret to successful entertaining is keeping everyone liquored up. While you’re busy with kitchen duties, mother’s helper can be mixing the drinks. After all, nothing is more fun when you’re eight than a pressurised bottle of soda water. (Is it any wonder that as a society, our interest in food has risen now that we can’t drink as much? We used to get too drunk before the food was served to care what it tasted like – but now we need our tower of fig and gorgonzola lasagne with a burnt ashtray reduction. Although this was a golden era of ignorance and denial, there is a lot to be said for a good stiff Manhattan to whet the appetite – and dull the tastebuds. Betty knows the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, especially when it’s gin-soaked.) The point is, as Betty knows, it’s okay to have your kids be a part of the entertaining duties, only now with trays of canapes instead of Old-Fashioneds. It gives them a sense of responsibility and makes them feel a part of the action. One caveat – just make sure they know when it’s time to go to bed: an overly precocious child is never a substitute for good adult conversation.

5. Uses line ‘Wait till your father gets home!’ Ok, so I don’t use this one. This is a little old-school even for me. My justice is swift, a la the hand. But it shows that Betty and Don are a united front. Even if they fight about how they discipline the children, which they do in one episode, at least the kids think both their parents are playing on the same team. Very important, since most kids work out the old ‘divide and conquer’ approach sometime during their second year of life.

6. Allow yourself some ‘me’ time.
Wine with dinner. Riding lessons. Lunch with the ladies. Ok, so once again, Betty has the advantage because she was just on the tail end of the era when (white) people still employed domestics to help them. (Try springing this one on your man the next time complains about how good the Don Drapers of the world had it back then. Make sure to add that he doesn’t have the same smouldering good looks either.) Make some time for yourself, even if it means you have to lock yourself in the toilet to read your People magazine once a week. This is a hard one for a lot of us, but we need it. Husbands, are you listening? Our pedicures are not frivolous and indulgent, they are necessary in order to prevent us from killing either you or your offspring. Now do you get it? Me Time is the secret to Betty looking so fresh - that, and the 37 relaxing cigarettes she sucks down each day.

7. Look nice for your man. Even though in Betty’s case he’s a cheating bastard, she still loves him. But that's another discussion. Most importantly, look nice for yourself. We can’t all do this everyday. But you will feel like you’re doing a more worthwhile job this way – and being a mother is a more important job than that of any CEO considering your product is another human being. I’m not suggesting combing through second hand shops for Doris Day dresses and aprons, but make a little effort. Yes, you can stay in your sweatpants all day because no one sees you. But don’t. As Jerry Seinfeld once had to remind George, sweatpants say to the world that you have given up on life. Now go put some lipstick on.

8. She knows how to deliver a good bitch slap. Seriously, how many times have we wanted to do this to someone, someone who insulted your abilities as a mother? In other words, someone who no doubt deserved it with a capital ‘D’. Having the looks and class of Grace Kelly means she didn’t even come over all ‘Springer.’ What more can I say? Betty Draper, Old-School Mum, we love you!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Great Black Hole of Kindergarten

Although my brain still says Groundhog Day and Black History Month, here in the southern hemisphere February means back to school time. And this year, we hit the big time: big school. Full. Day. Kindergarten. And can I just say ‘WOOOOOOO-HOOOOOO!’? I no longer have three at home. I made it. I survived.

Let me tell you, it has been no small feat having full-time responsibility for a diva, as any of Naomi Cambell’s handlers will gladly confirm. Eva was and continues to be the most work of my three children. This had been something I thought would subside as she aged and matured (read = ‘mellowed’); but this is not to be. This past year in the run up to school has been a lot about my acceptance of who she is – I was reluctant to realise that some of the traits she has I cannot punish, beat or time-out out of her. She is her own woman already. So the give and take continues.

The first day of school was a day that seemed to forever loom large and far away and I was as keenly aware of it as a man on death row is of his doomsday. However, unlike that man on death row, my counting down was in no way melancholy, or full of sorrow, regret, or any of those other therapy-inducing emotions. Oh no. Mine was pure excited anticipation, as was hers. I was ready and more importantly, so was she.

I remember my own first day of kindergarten. I had no nerves and was excited. When I got there and I saw kids screaming, clutching mom’s legs, my antennae went up: what did they know that I didn’t? Why the tears? And for Eva and I, it wasn’t nearly as emotional as it is for some. In the lead up and even on the actual day, I kept waiting to feel wistful or have that ‘It’s the end of an era’ feeling wash over me. But it didn’t. In fact it was so easy that I almost started to feel a little guilty that I wasn’t sad or it wasn’t more difficult for one of us to let go. But all I felt was relief – and no one had prepared me for that.

Now, three weeks in, I realise that I also wasn’t prepared for how shut out I am from her secret school life – and maybe that’s why I didn’t know to be sad. Without going all cheeseball Hallmark card, it really is the first letting go milestone. And as I’ve quickly discovered, I also cannot be there to solve every problem, fight every battle, supply every answer.

With preschool, although I wasn’t there, I would come at the end of the day and have a look in the giant book the teachers had pieced together during the day: ‘Today we discussed fairies. We drew pictures of fairy homes. Sally asked, “What do fairies like to eat?”’ etc. Plenty of material there. I had inroads. I had discussion starters.

Now? Well, now I got nothin’. All that’s in my arsenal of questions is ‘How was school today?’ You can guess the answer to that one. My other question is, ‘What did you do in school today?’ Here are some actual discussions (or not) about the goings-on from our first few weeks.

Day One

Me: How was it?! Was it fun?
Eva: It was the best day EVER!
(We have nowhere to go but down…)

Day Two

Me: How was it?! Was it fun? How’s your teacher?
Eva: She’s nice. Her name is MRS. Lawlor. Mum, mum, you CAN’T just call her ‘LAWLOR’, okay?!? It’s MRS. LAWLOR.
Me: Yes, because I often make a habit of calling people solely by their last names. A hangover from my years as an Army staff sergeant. Thanks for bringing that to my attention before I embarrassed myself. How did I ever get on in life without your sage instruction?

Day Three
Me: How was your day?
Ted: We had a doughnut!
Me: Oh for God's sake! It’s not a pony we’re talking about. (Note to self – do not mention any ‘fun’ activities from our secret life.)

Day Five

Me: So…How was it? What did you do today?
Eva: I played with the Play-dough.
Me: For six hours?
Eva: No…and the tea set!
Me: And what about the other 5 hours and 22 minutes of the day?

Day Nine
Me: So…what did you do today? Did you do any of your letters?
Eva: No. I don’t know. We just did some numbers, OKAY? (In that perfected, 15-year-old, ‘I’m just telling you this to shut you up’ tone of voice)

Day Twelve
Me: So, how was your day?!
Eva: [Exasperated] I don’t want to talk about it. (With the snippy disappointment in her voice to indicate that she was actually talking about blowing her call-back audition for the starring role in the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical)

I’m stonewalled. And fascinated. How do they actually teach them to read or add or anything else for that matter? And, for the sake of pure curiosity, how does one even manage to keep 27 five-year olds entertained for six whole hours? It’s all shrouded in mystery.

When my kids were all babies together and I was bleary-eyed with cracked nipples, there were always those completely insensitive but well-intentioned older ladies (who had clearly romanced their early years) who would say things like, ‘Don’t wish it away – these are the best years of your life!’ Three kids shitting in nappies who fight and bite, va-jayjay farts during my weekly yoga and preparing three dinners a night and this is the best I have to look forward to in my life? This would usually make me want to reach for my sharpened dagger and commit hara-kiri on the spot: this is as good as it’s ever going to get? People said that about high school too. And while I enjoyed high school, I wouldn’t say it’s ‘the best’ and I don’t want to go back. (Except maybe to be the-cool-chic-in-a-John-Hughes-film sorta way.)

And now, for all my anticipation – poof – it’s gone. For 30 hours a week she is someone else’s responsibility entirely. When you consider that there are 164 hours in a week, roughly half of which are spent asleep when you’re five, our time together has nearly been cut in half. And five has been a magic age. I feel like I just got her nice and it’s time to send her off into the world – a preview for the teen years, no doubt. So maybe when my next one goes off, I will be sad. I’ll let you know in two years, but in the meantime, I have go and set my countdown clock…

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tis the Season for Toy Recalls...

I got an email about the disastrous MacLaren stroller recall recently from one of those ‘helpful’ parenting websites. (For those of you who didn’t hear, there had been twelve – count ‘em TWELVE reports of fingertip amputations by infants who had gotten their fingers caught in the closing hinges. Why twelve before a recall?) The email also included a question something along the lines of ‘Which other safety recalled toys do YOU have in your home?’ or something equally alarmist. In the name of research I couldn’t resist having a look.

The list was rather boring. Which, in an odd way was disappointing. I’m not saying that I derive any sort of pleasure out of other people’s injuries – well, other than in the ‘Funniest Home Videos’ sort of way. But there is a certain amount of entertainment value in the seeing what went wrong.

Most of the things on the list were due to manufacturing and design flaws, eg, loose buttons or parts, cords, lead paint, parts that broke off too easily and the like. Nowadays toys are mostly recalled due to faulty manufacturing, not faulty ideas.

Let’s travel back in time to the 70s, when in the weeks following Christmas, toy recalls were in the top headlines on the nightly news as the post-holiday carnage was recounted:
Good Evening, I’m Kent Kennerson and here are today’s top stories. Reports of injuries from Mattel’s top selling ‘Knife-Fighter Street Warrior’ kit have been reported in the post-Christmas fallout…’

I can remember sitting catatonic, waiting for the newsreader to finish the report, imagining some little boy being mauled by his own Rockem Sockem robots who finally turned their anger on their puppet master. I would be catatonic with impending disappointment waiting to hear someone had been injured by the Barbie camper-van. I imagined chaining myself to mine, should it have found itself on the dreaded recall list. No way would I have parted with that, and Ken would’ve backed me up.

I began to wonder if it was just nostalgia, or if toys were more dangerous back in our day: and not because of a few dangling cords, but because Larry in Marketing convinced his team that the ‘Johnny Junior Electrician Explorer Kit’ was destined to become the top-seller of the season. Reminiscent of the SNL skit, ‘Bag O’Glass’, there seemed to be more of an element of danger involved in some toys - lawn jarts are just one example. And let’s just admit it: if fun and danger didn’t go together, they’d be no bungee jumping or roller coasters.

So again in the name of research I consulted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for a stroll down memory lane. Here are extracts of actual press releases from recalled toys:

1977: "Tumble Stones, Model #1901 Rock Polisher" and "Deluxe Double Barrel, Tumble Stones, Model #1902 Rock Polisher,” manufactured by RAPCO, Division of Martin Yale Industries, Chicago, Illinois, fail to comply with Federal regulations for electrically-operated toys and are banned from sale.
Although no injuries associated with these rock polishers have been reported, both fail to provide protection from moving parts; contain live parts which are accessible; have electric power cords which are not adequately secured to the unit; and the cords are shorter than the minimum required length of 5 feet.

A rock polisher for a toy? I suppose in order to make it fun there had to be some element of danger – in this case, the risk of electrocuting one’s self or the chance of jamming one’s fingers in the high speed moving belts. My cousins had one of these from the Sears catalogue. As I type this with nine fingers, I’m happy to report that it was the source of many good times.

1980 – “Fun Fountain” toys. The toy consists of a clown hat and head which attaches onto the end of a garden hose so that the hat rises in the air when water flows through the clown's head. Children may be inclined to peer into the water outlet and the stream of water could cause serious eye injuries, especially in communities with high water pressure.CPSC so far has been informed of two consumer complaints since June, 1979, involving a six-year-old boy and a seven-year- old boy who suffered eye injuries when struck at close distance by water emitted from the "Fun Fountain" toys.

Remember this one? Never went near the thing due to my fear of clowns. Scandal could’ve been avoided with a disclaimer on box and some complementary ‘kooky-klown’ eyepatches.

1979 - Toy Telephone recall. The sets include two battery-operated toy telephones connected by means of a detachable cord. The two-prong plugs at each end of the cord so closely resemble genuine electrical plugs that children may try to force them into household sockets, thereby receiving severe shocks or burns.
While Montgomery Ward has received no consumer complaints of injuries from the cords, CPSC staff reports that an 8-year-old girl was burned earlier this year when she forced a plug from a similar phone set (which was distributed by another company) into a wall electrical outlet.

This girl was eight - EIGHT! Way past the usual danger stage. I'm thinking a little Darwinism doesn't go astray from time to time. All of a sudden Hasbro’s ‘Li’l Elves Cobbler Kit’ (complete with tacks, hammer and toxic-fume glue) isn’t looking quite so dangerous as this little menacing telephone number.

1985 – “Official Chopper 9”. Approximately 30,000 "Official Chopper 9's" were sold between July of 1984 and January 1985 in Hawaii only. The firm and the Commission are aware of four eye and face laceration incidents in which the rotor blades either flew off the toy, striking the user or bystander, or the entire helicopter descended rapidly, striking the person in the face. The incidents happened in October 1984, and Whimports voluntarily stopped sales of the toy in January 1985.

‘Voluntarily’ stopped sales? Bless. This really was the good old days since clearly no one was suing. Note that even if the blades didn’t fly off the toy, you still weren’t safe: ‘…or the entire helicopter descended rapidly, striking the person in the face.’ Funny how they just slipped in that information. But there’s nothing like unpredictability to add to the danger element.

Things were perhaps more 'dangerous' then. We didn’t stay in car seats till we got our licenses, there were no woodchip-covered playgrounds, and the only people who wore helmets were the kids with special needs (and referring to them as retarded wasn’t in any way mean-spirited). Everything has become so…sanitised. Parent’s fears are manipulated to hysteric proportions – I’ll save my rant on the child-proofing industry for another time. It's worth noting that of all the reports I trawled through very few of them contained reports of any really serious or long-term injuries.

Ok, we may be sparing our children from a few scraped knees and elbows, but it makes me wonder if all this sanitization is coming at a price. In making all the decisions for them, we crippling the growth of one of the most important attributes for any adult to possess: common sense.

On that note, I’m going to ask my 5 year old to bake me a cake with the light bulb in the mini-bake oven. And I’m just going to warn her it gets hot.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Graveyard of Old Bibs

Anyone have any clever uses for old bibs? (I feel obliged to mention that I am in no way crafty.) I don't use them that often anymore, and have roughly 122. I'm thinking of sewing them together into a quilt. I should have it completed before I'm 60.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Dog

I would consider getting a dog simply for having someone to suck up the crumbs after every meal. Although our in-house ants do a wonderful job, it takes all day.

Seriously, who carpets under a kitchen table?