Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kimber vs the Koala ... and a Giveaway!

I got an email a while ago asking me if I was interested in getting free stuff to blog about. The brands involved would be Lamaze, Boon, John Deere, and more. Of course I said yes, because free stuff! Any niggling doubts about "maintaining the artistic integrity of this space"? Uh, what artistic integrity? I blog about leftovers and hating pandas. It's not like I'm pimping out anything Pulitzer-worthy. But then they wanted to see my blog stats ... and let's just say my blog is pretty "boutique" if you know what I mean (you, dear reader, are one of a very select few). So I sent my feeble pageview report, along with a rambling note about how my life's biggest regret is not taking a spin on my dad's riding lawn mower before he sold it when I was twelve (now I realize they are involved with the John Deere toy brand and cannot actually hook me up with an actual mower to review ...). Apparently they didn't care that my blog is a mere freckle on the ginger's face that is the internet, because they sent me these colorful little things to review.

May I present: "Shine-a-light, Freddie," and "Cuddle and Squeak Koalas" of the Play and Grow collection.

Really, though, I think Ruby should be the first one to weigh in.

Ruby, here's the keyboard.

Thanks, Mom. I'll take it from here. 

I like the Cuddle and Squeak Koalas the best. I told Mom to keep the tag on the book because I don't really get the whole soft book craze. Is it a toy? Is it a book? Does it go on the bookshelf? Or the toy bin? Personally, I don't think literature needs any added tactile element. I need to feel the story, not the crinkly pages. But that's just me. I'm letting Mom give it to someone else's baby.

I do like the koalas. They are soft and colorful (I'm crushing on the teal color scheme--primary colors are so overdone), and the mama koala even has a black and white pattern on her booty that really catches my contrast-attracted baby eyes.

First contact.

The mama koala (I guess her name is Cuddle, because she doesn't squeak. And big props to Lamaze for not calling her Kuddle--eww.) also has ears made of potato chip bags. This is where I want my crinkles. She also has a silk tummy pouch thingy where her baby, Squeak, can hang out.

Koalas are so cute. They're like the love children of Yoda and a Muppet.

Squeak, as you may guess, squeaks when I grip her in my adorably dimpled baby fist. She's also holding on to a eucalyptus leaf replica, made of a softish plastic--just right for chewing.

Incisors are coming in ... nom nom nom.

Unfortunately, I lost Squeak immediately after this picture was taken. Mom finally found her behind the couch a week later, along with the baby fingernail clippers. So now I get a manicure out of this, too. Score. Back to you, Mom.


A baby koala with her mama koala with a baby who hangs onto her mom like a koala. ....INCEPTION KOALA.

Thanks, Ruby. Now for my review of Cuddle and Squeak. Like Ruby said, Squeak was a victim of Graham's creative toy storage ideas, so this will be about Cuddle. At first I was a bit wary of the mother koala with her matronly eyes, and those arms sewn permanently into a demurely peaceful clasp at her tummy. I'm a perfect mother, she seemed to taunt. But you already lost your baby! I responded. She ignored me, and instead went about proving how superior she was to me.

First, she cleaned out my fridge.

Note the contrast-patterned derriere. Showoff. 

Despite her sewn-immobile arms (and lack of hands, if you get down to it), she managed to do that condescending thing where you pick something up with just two fingers, holding it as far away from your nose as possible, pinky up ... you know what I mean. What she asked is this? 

Liquefied cilantro, get a hold of yourself.

Then she moved on to the dishes, utilizing her silky, anatomically-incorrect tummy pouch to wield a toy koala-sized scrub brush.

"This mess is unseemly."

Next, she tackled my two-week backlog of laundry. She did give me a nod when she saw I use homemade laundry detergent.

I just reuse an old dispenser. Don't think I'm lying.
"Where did all the laundry go? Oh, I just washed, folded, collated, and put it away according to color and frequency of use. Except your favorite, grody old t-shirt. I cut that into scrap rags to use when I refinish that end table you've been neglecting to tackle for years. Hope you don't mind."

My ego shredded, I offered to let her adopt Graham and Ruby. They'd certainly fare better in her plush hands. Oh dear, she clucked, I'm not here to replace you! I'm here to inspire you to embrace the nurturing mother koala that is inside you! Be soft, cuddle your children a little closer, and get off your lazy, non-eye-catching duff and clean your house more often.

I accepted her counsel, and then watched an episode of The Mindy Project while she made tomato soup. A recipe from her bff Gabby over at designmom.com, she tells me.

When I found out she sourced her basil from Kroger, and not her own windowsill herb garden, I felt a little better.

So I got shown up by a plush koala. That's okay. I had been a little cocky in my mothering since Ruby did her first sign ("all done"--a beautiful double-handed princess wave, ahem).

In other, exciting news, today I get to give away Cuddle's second cousin (and preferred babysitter when she and her husband, Snuggle, go out), the adorable Toot Toot Toucan! His stripy beak squeaks, his ribbon tail is so on trend, and wouldn't the removable bead ring he's clutching make a killer bangle?

It's like Toucan Sam, but with no sugar guilt!

To enter the giveaway for Toot Toot, leave a comment about what chore you wish Cuddle would take over for you. Also, for additional entries, you may choose to provide my blog with free marketing by tweeting, Facebooking, instagramming, or whatevering this giveaway. The winner will be announced this Sunday ... my birthday! Good luck, and may this toucan's large, embroidered eye look upon you with favor.

P.S. Lamaze is also running a sweepstakes for the entire Play and Grow collection. Check it out below!

Lamaze Spring Smiles Sweepstakes
We're all smiles now that spring has sprung! Parents, does your baby have an adorable smile? Through Thursday (May 1), enter the Lamaze Spring Smiles Sweepstakes at http://a.pgtb.me/xdmhfS, and you'll have the chance to win a fabulous prize pack that includes brand new spring toys from Lamaze. Just upload a photo of your child with any Lamaze toy, tag it with #TOMY and #Lamaze, and ask your friends to vote for your photo.

Voting takes place today through Monday, May 5. The lucky parents who receive the most votes for their cute photo will receive more than $100 worth of adorable new Lamaze toys that include Play and Grow, a peekaboo book and an activity gym that grows with your baby! So...get out your Smartphones and share those baby smiles with the world! 

Lamaze toys make a perfect shower gift, since their products engage babies’ senses to spark creativity, introduce discovery and support healthy sensory development. You can learn more about Lamaze at http://tomy.com/lamaze 

Inline image 1



Monday, April 21, 2014

Things I've Stolen

-Halloween candy, from my sisters. Let's just call this "assisted sharing." I'm pretty sure you get extra credit for ignorant benevolence. Warning to my sisters: if you get mad about it now, you lose all eternal benefits. You may also consider it my efforts to help you avoid childhood obesity. Every calorie I ate was one you didn't have to! (also I may have read your diaries a few times ... although you both were horrible at writing regularly so the only significant thing I gleaned from those pages was enduring guilt)

-Sports bra, from the Centennial High School girls' locker room lost and found bin. I had have this weird complex about exercising in non-sports bras. I can't do. Hate it. I might die if I do it. One day in the locker room after school, while getting changed for soccer practice, I noticed I'd forgotten my sports bra. CRISIS. For some reason I thought theft would be better than just keeping my regular bra on. I skulked over to the lost and found bin, a treasure trove of sweat and lycra, hoping no one was watching me paw through its contents. I found a white, Champion-brand sports bra that looked like it would fit. Apparently wearing someone else's used gym bra wasn't as bad as getting my own underwire bra sweaty ... give me a break, my frontal lobe hadn't finished developing. I was just going to borrow it for that day, and it had probably been in there forever, I rationalized. Then I put it on. It was super comfy, my friends. You know how valuable that is in a bra. Naturally, I had to take it home after practice to wash it! Then I figured I may as well leave it in my locker in case I forgot my own again. Then the season ended and I took it home--its owner had forgotten it long ago, surely! No harm, no red card! Then I kept it for eight more years. Then I descended a guilt- and drug-fueled spiral into America's hellish underworld, a dark place ruled by slick-talking immigrant mobsters and the broken women who love them. Then I realized I still had the darn bra and felt guilty about the last eight years I've been living in mammarial sin. What do I do about it now? It is, believe it or not, still a comfy bra, even after motherhood has, ahem, shifted my size. It's like the bra of requirement. Should I burn it, on principle (thus channeling both my moral and feminist impulses)? Donate a new sports bra to a needy high school athlete? Tell me what to do.

I might be wearing it in this picture ... don't look closely, perv!

-A gallon of milk, accidentally, from Kroger. I was shopping with my double stroller, and I forgot about the milk in the bottom basket. I got home and realized my Cheerios would be made with devil milk for the next week. Hopefully the dark creatures I've started seeing out of the corner of my eye disappear when I repay Kroger this week.

This is not how it happened. (Or when, if you notice my pre-baby hair and body.)

-Downton Abbey episodes, from the internet. I couldn't wait! I had to know how Lady Mary was recovering as a widow, I just had to! And what of Edith's lost lover? I couldn't wait another month like the rest of America to find out. Why should the Brits get to see it before me? Doesn't the 4th of July mean anything? But now I feel guilty. As an aspiring author I should be more sensitive to intellectual property. Maybe the best way to make it up is to go watch a bunch of commercials on PBS so they get the advertising revenue I cheated them out of.

I bet you they read each others' diaries.

-All the songs from mix CDs made by high school friends. There's something so charming about a set of songs curated by your best friends. There's the "Songs from my heart" mix by Roseanne*, and the best soundtrack mix ever, culled by my friend Guillermo* to help me through a breakup. And I can't forget that I have Enrique Iglesias' entire Insomniac album burned illegally in my itunes. (*names changed to protect the pirates.) I will delete them all this week, as this blog is my witness.

I bet he can't sleep because he stole some Milk Maid caramels from the bulk bin.

Really, I feel guilty about everything but the milk, because that was an honest mistake. What do you do about mistakes you simply can't make restitution for?

What have you stolen? Feel free to comment anonymously, unless you are an Asian robot trolling my blog.
 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stating the Obvi

I was folding laundry a few days ago when I came across one of Ruby's onesies. "Mommy loves me" was printed across the front in a velvety pink font.

DUH.

Zebra booty.

How is that any different than a onesie that says "I breathe air," or "I am a human baby"? Moms love their babies, people.

There are more subtle ways to communicate that you love your baby. Maybe a t-shirt with "This is free-trade organic hemp" screen-printed with sustainably harvested blueberry ink (only the softest fibres for little Pashmina). Or for the less environmentally inclined, how about something like, "I only watched one Daniel Tiger today, but it was while Mom was glassblowing a succulent terrarium to hang in my nursery." Inferred maternal love right there. Don't make it too easy for people to know you love your kid, and also never pass up an opportunity to mombrag.

Other obvious displays I feel uneasy about include broadcasting words like "EAT" decoratively in kitchens. (I dare you to not think the word "EAT" is weird after browsing that link.) EAT EAT EAT. Gah! On one hand, typography can be mathematically and organically beautiful ... but on the other hand, I imagine what a similar display would spell out in a bathroom. I think I'm going to be smugly clever and spell out "epsilon alpha tau" on my dining room walls. Or, if we're just dealing with imperatives, let's be a little more creative. I think "Oh my heck don't eat that cockroach, Ruby," "Slam that ice cream quick before your toddler wanders in," or maybe "Procrastinate" on the wall above my kitchen desk would be nice decor additions, in glitter-decoupaged, natch.

Here's something that should have been obvious ... that this picture might not be best for selling pioneer garb in the Deseret Book catalog.


And for the record, I love my baby. This is a blog. You are on the internet.
 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Feel Intellectually Posh When Surrounded by Poo

Sometimes I feel like my life lacks depth that doesn't have anything to do with how far a berry is lodged in my toddler's nose. Eating Kroger-bought naan is probably the most cultural experience I get in a typical week, and I haven't read any heavy literature since I abandoned The Brothers Karamazov after making it barely halfway through. I understand I am kind of just in that season of life where I can identify with songs from Daniel Tiger more than I can with an aria by Mozart, but sometimes I look back on my college days and pine for evenings at the International Cinema, weekends enjoying BYU theatre (ooo fancy spelling!), and afternoons lounging in my regular chair at the Wilk, a copy of The Oresteia propped open in my hands. Contrast this with my morning today, spent cleaning poop off the legs and hands of both my children (don't ask).

My children care that I feed them at semi-regular intervals, not that I graduated with honors (ok, so nobody else cares about that, either ... but I did! I graduated with University Honors!!)


I'm not ready to completely abandon any intellectual sophistication I acquired in the past, so I've devised a few methods for keeping up cultural morale:

-Listen to music with lyrics in a foreign language. This always makes me feel posh and like I'm living in a new and exciting place, even if I'm just listening while stuck in traffic in my minivan. You can even be really dorky like me and try to sing along with made up words. Your kids won't judge. My favorite Pandora stations right now are Carla Bruni (Italian model turned musician turned former first lady of France) and Rodrigo y Gabriela (This is acoustic, so you can't belt out your feelings with it, but it is great flamenco guitar that makes an excellent soundtrack that livens up even your most boring chores. Doing the dishes was never so sexy.). Any stations/musicians you listen to when you are feeling too much like a bowl of vanilla ice cream from the suburbs?


-Eat weird food. It doesn't have to be prohibitively weird, but I think trying foods that scare you a little bit is fun and it makes you feel smart and fancy. Again, I'm not saying you need to go eat balut, but try eating some type of meat/animal you never saw on your dinner table growing up. You'll feel sophisticated as you ladle mussel curry onto your toddler's plate, check the cook on your bison roast, or Instagram your spring squab with persimmon compote. Frozen pizza never made me feel like Gwyneth Paltrow.

-Watch a foreign film/black and white film. Also, you have to call it a "film." Just try saying it: "Honey, do you want to watch a film tonight?" Your brain just got bigger. Pair your film with an artisan soda float for maximum enjoyment. (Cheat hint: UK films count as foreign! This means Pride & Prejudice, The King's Speech, and yes, even Hot Fuzz).

Watching foreign films will make you as posh as my top hat!

-Read a book from this list. If you need to, just read a few lines a day so you can namedrop that you're "in the middle of Leviathan" without lying. I've been doing that with The Brothers Karamazov for over a year. But really, these books will do more than look great on the arm of your couch when your sophisticated friends come over to share the sea urchin roe you sourced from the excellent fishmonger you met at the midtown screening of Citizen Kane (don't forget a strategically placed bookmark!). These are great books that will make you think, expose you to new ideas, and help you feel like an adult whose literary prowess extends beyond Little Critter.

-Make friends interesting. Don't I mean "make interesting friends"? No. What I mean is that pretty much everyone you meet has some awesome, intelligent hobby or passion that they would love to talk about and share with you if you are willing to stop talking about sleep schedules for thirty seconds. I know how important it is to collab with other parents about kid issues, but I find that my friendships really flourish and provide intellectual nourishment when I dig a little deeper, beyond the obvious, easy talk about babies and weather. Small talk is fun, but it is small! Ask your friends what they do when their kids are asleep or when they get off work. Then ask them what they love about doing that. Talk about what books you're reading, what projects you're working on, and what you're planning for the future. I am consistently amazed at how interesting people are.

If you want to upgrade your brain from a minivan to a Tesla, even if just for a little while, try one of these methods out. Or do you have some of your own cultural coping mechanisms? Please share.