Category Archives: toys

Toys, Games, and Activities I Loathe (A List!)

I recently accidentally deliberately let half a dozen containers of Play-Doh dry out on the kitchen table so I could throw them out. I know what you’re thinking. The Internet is chock full of instructions on how to revive dried Play-Doh. What you need to understand is that I don’t want to save it. I want it to die dry so I can get rid of it and never have to play with or clean it up again. I don’t appreciate the mess it leaves on every surface and floor in my house or the anxiety it causes when the colors get mixed together and, despite my children’s pleas, can’t be unmixed, which got me thinking about all of the toys, games, and activities my kids force upon me that make me wish I were prepping for a colonoscopy instead.

1. Play-Doh. (See above.)

2. Bubbles. Bubbles are perfectly fine…at someone else’s house. At my house, bubbles make fingers sticky, which make doorknobs, floors, windows, chairs, tables, and refrigerator handles sticky. Bubble machines, wands, and other poorly manufactured bubble instruments always break, and bubble fluid always spills because someone with clumsy little hands wants to do it “all by myself.”

3. Monopoly, including but not limited to, Cars 2 Monopoly, Monopoly Junior, and Star Wars Monopoly. These board games (as well as most others) almost always result in a child quitting and/or walking away with important game pieces and/or crying because he doesn’t win.

4. Any toy smaller than my thumb, including, but not limited to, Squinkies, Zinkies, Drifters, Trashies, Fighter Pods, and Bonkazonks. These teeny tiny toy terrors, which are meant to be collected, end up lost instead only to be found later inside a shoe, the washing machine, the DVD player, a backpack, the tooth brush holder, the trunk of the car, or all of the above. They are manufactured for one reason and one reason only: to drive Mamas crazy.

5. Elefun. This delightful preschool game challenges toddlers to use nets to catch as many colorful butterflies as they can that blow out of a friendly elephant trunk. It’s tons of fun for the whole family…[insert record scratch]…until it’s time for Mama – on her hands and knees – to collect the uncaught butterflies that are scattered all over the floor and put them back inside the elephant and start the merriment all over again. And again. And again. And again. Case closed.

6. Swings. Before I continue, I want to point out that I’m a good Mama. I am. I often say this (or write this) when I’m about to do or say (or write) something that might seem, well, un-motherly. Here goes. I don’t like pushing my kids on the swings. It was okay when they were babies, but by the time they were toddlers, putting them in the swing was less about enjoyment and more about confinement. (FYI: Saving a toddler’s life every 30-45 seconds in an obstacle course of dangerous playground equipment is exhausting.) Now, after six years of Mamahood, I’ve earned the right to sit on a bench while my children push each other on the swings (reason #249 that I birthed more than one child). Would you like me any less if I told you I had a “Don’t ask Mommy to push you on the swings or we go home” rule? Nevermind.

(I’m a good Mama…I’m a good Mama…I’m a good Mama…)

7. Lincoln Logs. Every time the Lincoln Logs come out, I’m instructed to build the log mcmansion featured in the building instructions. Adding more misery to an already dismal predicament, they want to help. By “help” I mean, hinder, thwart, and sabotage. When the Lincoln Logs come out, I answer phone calls from 800 numbers.

8. Video Games. I can’t help it. The mere thought of playing Lego Star Wars for the Xbox makes me want to fold laundry.

9. Paint. My dislike for paint is more about timing than anything else. My children almost always want need to do an art project at or before dawn, when I’m handling raw meat, while I’m chopping onions (and coincidentally already in tears), or I’m in the shower.

10. Puzzles. This one is complicated. I actually like puzzles and am happy to do them with my kids for several hours minutes. That is, until I discover a puzzle piece is missing. Then Obsessive Compulsive Mama takes over and I want to hurl the puzzle out the window because a missing puzzle piece is totally and completely unacceptable.

11. Powered riding toys. Every time one of my kids takes our battery-powered Lightning McQueen for a spin, we lose a sprinkler head.

Ironically, despite my annoyance with extreme dislike loathing of several categories of toys and games, my house is filled to the gills with them. Hmm.

For the record, I love being with my kids. Most of the time. This is starting to sound bad, isn’t it? Please tell me you hate some toys, too. (Please.)

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Filed under colonoscopy, games and toys, Guilty Mama, list, Obsessive Compulsive Mama, toys

The Gun At The Park

I’m at the park with my boys and a good friend’s son, Samwise.  Samwise is a code name, because privacy is always my first priority (for other people’s kids, anyway).  That, and wouldn’t be cool to have the name Samwise?  It’s a gorgeous Florida “winter” afternoon with a warm sun and a cool breeze, and the playground is filled to the gills with kids, moms, dads, babysitters, and even a few grandparents.  Dylan, Riley, and at least a dozen other children are chasing squirrels, and Samwise and I are sitting on a bench.  I’m on Facebook (surprise!) and Samwise is stuffing fists full of Quack’n Bites in his mouth when out of nowhere, Samwise says, “Hey, that guy has a gun.”

I immediately have three thoughts:

(1) Samwise is three years old.  He’s just as likely to say, “That guy has a gun,” as he is to say, “A unicorn ate my nose.”

(2) In the post-Newtown (Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech) world in which we live, it’s not wise to say something like this in a busy public place (in the same way it’s not a good idea to talk about bombs at the airport).

(3) F–k, is there a guy at the park with a gun?

I look up in a panic to find a young boy – about nine or 10 years old – with an assault rifle of the brightly colored, plastic, Nerf variety.  It’s a toy.

Ask my boys if I like toy guns, shoots, shooters, or whatever the heck you want to call them (Nerf calls them blasters), and they both know the answer.  No.  I can’t help it that occasionally we come home from the toy store with a Transformer or Star Wars character with an attachable – and thankfully, easily lost – weapon.  But actual guns?  Forget about it.  I can’t control a lot in this world, but I can control this.

The toy rifle at the park is as attractive to the kids (the boys, especially) as a candy-filled piñata.  Dylan keeps his distance.  (Good boy.)  Riley picks it up and examines it while the gun’s owner is on the swing, but when I ask him to put it down, he complies and says, “We don’t like shoots, right, Mommy?”  Right.  “Shoots hurt people.”  Right.  (Good boy.)

On an idyllic afternoon such as this, there are “common property” park toys everywhere, including sidewalk chalk, a football, a soccer ball, and a remote control monster truck.  Everyone plays with everything, and it occurs to me that I might be the only Mama who thinks the big gun is wildly inappropriate.  Fortunately, I’m wrong.  Soon, I hear a Mama say, “Isaac, put it down.  I don’t like that.”  And then another.  And another.

At one point, the young boy points his gun to no one in particular and pulls the trigger causing a “pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa” sound.  He does this two or three more times before stopping.  I cringe.

When the sun begins to set, we head home for dinner and a bath, but I can’t get the image or the sound of the gun at the park out of my head.  I think about Gabby Giffords, the children in Newtown, and the teachers who tried to protect them.  I think about wise Uncle Ben who tells Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I think about Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Smokey the Bear, and how it’s just as important to have a shift of values in our homes as it is in Washington, D.C.  I think about how my disdain for guns has thankfully rubbed off on my kids.  (If only my love of kale had the same effect!)  I think about how in one small park in one small town in one county in the state of Florida in the United States of America, I was one of many who were uncomfortable with the presence of a toy gun with semiautomatic sound effects.  I think about how beautiful it is to be a living, breathing cog in the wondrous phenomenon known as change.

Editor’s note:  It took 679 words for me to express my thoughts on guns.  At yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, it took Gabby Giffords just 71:

“Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

I don’t like guns.  It’s okay if you do, but I don’t.  If you want to learn about or engage in a movement to enact common-sense gun laws in our country, check out One Million Moms 4 Gun Control.  (Or don’t.  I won’t be upset.  Promise.)

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Filed under guns, making a difference, toys