Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love You Forever - book

At a high school graduation I attended many years ago, I remember them reading Love You Forever, a children's book by Robert Munsch (LINK).

I remembered this being a truly sweet, touching story about the deep, abiding love a mother has for her children.  And on many levels, it is.

And on other levels, it's super-creepy and stalkery.  And I say this as a mom who loves to watch her perfect daughter sleep.  It got all weird about four pages in.

The rest of this is pretty much going to be a spoiler, so go ahead and stop reading if you don't want to have the book ruined.  But, I mean, it's something like 18 pages, so really you should have read it by now if you haven't.  Anyway.

It starts with a new mother rocking her baby while it sleeps, singing to the child.  So sweet, we can all relate.  I love it!

Next she does the same to her two-year-old, who she earlier equated living with to living in a zoo.  But whatevs, it's still very sweet and I get it.

The mother continues doing this when the boy is 9, when he's a teenager.  She creeps into his room on her hands and knees, then takes the sleeping child/sullen teen into her lap to rock to sleep.  The clock in the shot with the teenager shows she's doing this at, like, 1:30 a.m.   Which means she is either staying up late enough to do this with this express purpose in mind, or she's setting an alarm to do it.  Either way, that crap just got weird.

So, let's assume it stops after he moves out, right?  Oh, no.  She leaves her house in her car in the middle of the night WITH A LADDER STRAPPED TO THE TOP, and drives across town to his house.  She puts the ladder up to the window, crawls into his room like a cat burglar, and does this:

See how you can see the ladder back there in the window?  Yeah.  That's not creepy AT ALL.  I assume Granny McWhitehair then ninjas her way back down the 15-foot-ladder, puts it back on the roof of her car all by herself (totally plausible, by the way), and then drives home.  

I'm not going to finish spoiling the book, partially because it's very sweet and I'd feel guilty about it, and partially because it seems like a rude thing to totally spoil it.

But, anyway.  Go ahead and buy this book for your child and read it nightly if you want them to check under their bed for you when they're 40.  Your call.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen

When our daughter A turned one, she decided to celebrate her birthday (or shortly thereafter) by breaking her arm.  Hooray, right?  Here's the proof:

Censored to protect the innocent

We had some supplemental accident insurance that rhymes with Schnaflac, and they sent us a check.  Since neither my husband nor I had broken our arms, it only seemed fair to spend the money on A.  She was already huge into pretend play, and loved the pretend kitchen at our nanny/daycare provider's house, so we got a similar one.  We went with the Step2 LifeStyle Custom Kitchen (LINK).  Here's the photo from Step2:

That's pretty accurate to how it looks set up.  Most of it comes assembled, except that the stickers were not on there.  My husband applied these when my daughter and I were not home, which is probably good as I am certain he said a bunch of words she shouldn't have heard.  Maybe some I shouldn't hear.  

Once the stickers were on, though, it was awesome.  We've had it for almost two years now.  This is how much A liked it the first day we got it:

Yeah, I earned this.

And she loves it as much today.  She mostly hid things in the baskets and put pans in the oven and on top when she was little, but at 3 she now has entire tea parties and pot holders and everything she makes is "too hot" and we can never ever eat it.  She adores it, and getting extra dishes and stuff was a great decision.  I'm a huge fan of pretend play, and it makes me happy to see that this toy encourages that so much.

The quality is very good - durable hard plastic, but no sharp edges to hurt little hands.  The little pan and pot that come with it make noise when put on the "burner," and ours hasn't had the battery wear out yet.  The little phone that came with this one has gotten even more mileage than the kitchen itself, it fits right in her hoodie pockets.  The little plates, bowls, and cups that came with the kitchen fit perfectly in the little drying rack and the pretend sink, etc., and they've been used to hold many a snack at our house.  I liked the way this was constructed in comparison with some of the other brands - the wood ones are very cute, but this is so easy to clean and durable.

Value:  $120.  Toy kitchens aren't cheap, yo, but they are a long-term toy.  If I had to figure some dollar-to-hours played ratio, I'm guessing it would be a lot less than many of our cheaper toys.
Child entertainment level:  10/10.  This is the toy that is the old standby in our house.
Practicality:  9/10.  This is pretty small.  Probably 2.5 feet across or so, and less than a foot deep.  (This is off of eyeballing, not off of anything official.)  It's easy to tuck into a corner, and easy to wipe down.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor Set

Last Christmas, my mother wanted ideas on what to get A for her present.  My then-2.5-year-old had a fascination with the doctor that can only come from getting recurrent croup, so I suggested a doctor kit.

Mom scoured the internet, and found the Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor Set.  Clicky here:

Here's their visual, although I would indicate that the front of the carrying case looks just a little different:

I cannot begin to tell you how many hours of enjoyment this bad boy has caused.  My husband and I get to lie on the couch and be "sick."  A will put on her name tag and her pager, and will tell us there's an "emergency."  We then will fake-puke into the emesis basin, at which time she declares we're sick.  She then proceeds to use every single item in the kit on us at least once, including using the scissors and tong-things to cut away our clothing so she can do "surg-ry" with the scalpel.  (Some items are slightly misused, as she really likes to give us shots in our mouth.)

Here's a photo of A in action with her kit, sorry for the crappy quality of the photo but it's very hard to catch her in action:

I wish I were that flexible.

This gift was given this past Christmas, and she still plays with it on the regular at the end of July.  I can tell that it's a particularly good toy, because she will share it with absolutely none of her little friends when they come over to play.  So that's nice.

This toy has a very sturdy carrying case, and more little medical items than even I know how to use.  Batteries came installed on the few items that make noise (the pager and cell phone, the latter of which has been integrated into other games and activities), so I didn't have to get out opera glasses and the world's tiniest screwdriver to install anything.  My only complaint about the entire thing is that it took quite a while to open this because it was put together so securely, but that's not actually a complaint.

Value:  Well, it was free to us, so awesome!  It runs about $26 - this is on par with or a little above most other doctor kits available, but it has a lot more items than the average one does.  Pretty even here.
Child entertainment level:  10/10, I'd do higher if that were mathematically possible
Practicality:  10/10.  Very easy to store compactly and efficiently.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Regalo Extra Long HideAway Bedrail

In general it's not important to the context of this particular blog, but we do Attachment Parenting.  That's not to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa - you didn't babywear and breastfeed at the same time?  Get the hell off my blog!"  That's just to say that the fact that we have bedshared with our daughter since she was little is relevant to parts of my review of this item, but I don't think it precludes the opinions I have from being pertinent to people who do/did not co-sleep.

As I mentioned, my daughter sleeps in bed with one or both of us, and has since she was very small (we do it very safely, there is such a thing, no debates needed on either side of the issue).  At the time, our bed was in the middle of the room - this wasn't an issue when she was the immobile little lump that newborns and small babies are.  Once she began crawling, however, we needed something in place to make sure she didn't do a flying eagle off of the other side of the bed onto the floor.  

We started with Magic Bumpers (LINK) when she first started rolling.  These fit under the sheets, and basically she'd just roll up against them and then roll back.  It was great.  When the aforementioned crawling began, however, we needed something that went higher.  We got the Regalo Extra Long HideAway Bedrail (LINK from Amazon).  I think it comes in white or white.  Didn't see anything else.  Here is it in their advertisement, looks like it goes about a foot above the bed, right?

We have a mattress that requires the deep pocket sheets, however (and I believe this kid above is sleeping on a piece of newspaper covering some plywood).  The installation was very easy, just thread the straps through a metal L-shaped bar.  The L-shaped bar goes over the edge of the far side of the mattress, with the straps going between your box spring and your mattress.  The problem with ours was that it only came about five inches or so above our mattress.  So, with a crawling infant who sees short walls that can be scaled as a challenge rather than a deterrent, it wasn't practical - it just meant that she had five inches further to potentially fall if she vaulted herself over the side.  So, at that time, we ended up going back to the Magic Bumpers and moved our mattress against the wall.

Now that A is older, however, not everything is Pike's Peak.  We really just needed to find something again that would prevent her from rolling off of the bed at 3 a.m. so that we could put the bed back in the middle of the room, as I was ridiculously tired of trying to make the bed with it pushed against the wall.

We brought back out the Regalo, and it's awesome.  Here's a picture of A tonight sitting in bed playing Preschool Monkey Lunchbox with approximately 7000 animals and blankets (any of which would be missed instantly if it were removed):

We have a queen in this room, and it really only has about 8 to 10 inches from the headboard and footboard respectively, so the length is great.  It's tall enough that she isn't going to roll over it, but short enough that she can still throw Curious George over it if she's pissed and doesn't want to go to sleep.  I've tried it on the full bed in her room (and we're inching slowly toward her staying in it), and it goes about 18 inches from the foot of the bed, giving her enough room to crawl down and out safely.  I'll have no qualms about moving it in there when she makes the transition to Big Girl Bed.

So, I guess my review would be that I wouldn't likely recommend this for smaller children if you're using it for the purposes of co-sleeping, but it should be great for a child old enough to have a rational fear of falling.  

Value - Ran about $30.  That seems equal to what's on the market, particularly for extra long rails, although it still feels a little exorbitant to me.
Child entertainment level - Not really relevant, she's not playing parcheesi against it or anything.
Practicality - 9/10

Friday, July 26, 2013

Step 2 Safari Splash Water table

Before we begin, let me preface by saying I could not be a bigger fan of Step 2 products.  This is not to butt-kiss any Step 2 CEOs who may happen to stumble upon this blog while googling themselves or anything, it's true.  We have a Step 2 kitchen that is awesomesauce, and a bunch of other Step 2 stuff.

With that in mind, when we recently moved to our new house (that included the yard and patio area that our townhouse never did), we went out and purchased this almost immediately:

In case clicking links isn't your thing, here's a photo of it:

Anyway. so this was our almost-3-year-old for about the first two weeks we had it, she was elated and wouldn't step away from it:

This was particularly awesome while we were painting and she wanted to "help."  

After a few nights, however, I came out to find that the water looked something like this very loose, Microsoft Paint-created approximation.  The yellowish-brown is not to reflect the color of the pool itself, that's the scummy color the water had taken on:

The small black flecks are random crap that apparently grew or landed in there.  The big black flecks are the flies that all committed suicide collectively into this water table.  It was frigging nasty.

So, I did what any normal human would do - I bleached the shit out of it.  It took maybe eight bleach wipes to get that thing less than gross.  I thought maybe the fact that we'd had it at the edge of the patio near the open air meant that more stuff might fall into it and make it gross, so I refilled it and put it near the house totally under our canopy to lessen that.

Three nights later, it looked back like this:

What I didn't picture here, as it seemed a touch grisly, is that the adorable plastic animals that came with it had now developed something that looked akin to leprosy on them, so I also had to bleach them for quite a while.

We've debated bringing it inside our three-season porch, but I assume it will still get some sort of film, so then we've got the new problem of getting it back outside without spilling the water all over to clean it.   I don't really know if there's anything we could put in the water to keep it from getting filmy and nasty.

So, through no fault of Step 2, this was a wildly impractical purchase (beings as I have a full-time career and want to spend my time at home with my family, rather than obsessively de-grossing a water table).

Overall, my reviews would be:

Value - Good price overall, about $50 normally, got on sale for $30
Child entertainment level - 8/10
Practicality - 1/10