Saturday Open Thread: Worst Toys Edition

It’s the weekend, y’all!

Let’s talk toys. Bad toys, to be precise.

Have you heard about Crayola’s new Colored Bubbles? There are a LOT of moms out there who are wishing they never had.

The reviews on Amazon are hilarious. A sample of the captions: “Worst toy ever.” “AWFUL PRODUCT!” “DO NOT BUY! STAINS EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE!” And my favorite: “Can I give it zero stars?”

It seems these washable colored bubbles are… not so washable. This Wall Street Journal article on the brewing bubble brouhaha quotes one mother who said the bubbles stained her daughter’s blond hair green. Another mom said the bubbles popped in her garage and left what look like blood stains on the concrete.

So it’s obviously best to heed the warning printed on these “washable” bubbles:

“Do not use at weddings or indoors.”

Alrighty, then.

Despite the colorful controversy, these bubbles are selling like crazy, according to Crayola and Toys R’ Us. I love how something as simple as bubbles can make my kids batshit happy, but I’ll be keeping my distance from this invention.

What do you think? Will you give these a try despite the possible rainbow of ramifications? What are the worst toys, in your opinion, and why?

My vote goes to Polly Pocket. That little tramp has WAY too many tiny accessories for my taste. And I find them EVERYWHERE. And my daughter doesn’t quite have the manual dexterity to force all those little rubber pieces on her doll, so I end up doing it half the time.

Alas, Polly was a gift. A gift that keeps on giving AGGRAVATION. Heh.

What’s everyone up to this weekend? Chat away!


So, do you use “marital aides”?

Yeah, ladies I am going there! We sort of started taking about it in the open thread, but let’s get down to brass tacks, do you use them, do you like them, do you have any tips or hints or products you would like to share.

I will go first and get the REALLY embarrassing stuff out of the way. The other week I hurt my labia somehow or another, I mean I actually had a small cut or abrasion or something. So I took a week off from activity, put some neosporin on it, and tried to keep things, ahem, dry and airy and what not. When I decided to resume activity I was sure to use some lubricant because I sure as hell did not want any injury or aggravation. Here’s where it gets weird…

I got the most awful irritation in that area afterward! I was like, “WHAT IN THE HELL?” because frankly none of my activity had been that acrobatic or super prolonged; so what was going on? I did some research and come to find out the lubricant I was using contains glycerin and propylene glycol which are apparently sugars and can contribute to yeast infections. Yeah. The stuff I was using to make sure I wasn’t hurting myself was actually hurting me.

So I found three brands that do not contain glycerin, Pjur, Sliquid, and Slippery Stuff. Some even come in a paraben-free version, which frankly surprised me. I knew to look out for parabens in sunscreen but had not realized they were used in personal lubricants as well. I am sure there are others out there, but these were all major brands that seemed readily available.

So my next question about water based lube was why does it seem to get sticky after awhile? Turns out you can basically “rehydrate” the stuff with some water, pouring on more lube will actually make it worse. One place recommended keeping a little spray bottle next to the bed for just such an occasion and that made me laugh out loud. Aiming a spray bottle at someone’s genitals like you were disciplining a cat! I assumed a little saliva on the area would work as well? Anyhow!

My favorite (and only) toy up and died on me and I am now shopping for a new one. I’d had the other one for a number of years and we’d bonded. I may have had a small service for my old toy, buried it in the backyard, played Taps, quietly.

I saw that the Lelo line of personal massagers had introduced a new line calledLuxe. However I am not the type to spend href=”800 dollars on a personal massager, no matter if it is made out of 18K gold. For that price it better also vacuum the floor and make julienne fries. A more economical option might be the Lucid Dream vibe, but it is specifically for g-spot stimulation. I am not sure I know where my g-spot is or if I even have one. Frankly I have never found my A-F spots either, so maybe I am not meant for this toy. I fancy theHitachi Magic Wand as I have had friends basically testify about them. It is also the number one most popular vibrator in the Good Vibrations catalogue, so there’s that.

Also, my 2 year old is all of a sudden OBSESSED with my side table drawer, something my 8 year old still seems to have NO interest in, so where am I going to keep something new? Anyone got a good hiding spot for me?


Early holidy gift rec

We just spent Thanksgiving with my family, and part of the holiday was celebrating my nephew’s 8th birthday.   He got some nice things, and one game was a hit.  It’s Q-Bitz.  It’s mostly visual/spatial and it defintely did not benefit the adults over the kids.  My nephew ROCKED that game and had all the adults flustered!  You can play alone or with up to 4 people.


Toys that Cross Over Generations

Parents magazine ran a blurb on the birthdays of popular kids’ toys. For example, Dora the Explorer is 10 years old, the Rubik’s Cube is 30, Etch A Sketch is 50, Thomas the Tank Engine is 65 (!), Curious George is 70, Monopoly is 75, and Tinkertoys is 95(!!).

I put exclamation points by the toys my kids played that I had no idea were that old.

All this talk about toys that have crossed over generations, and movies such as the Karate Kid and Toy Story 3, made me think of all the games I have passed onto my children just because I loved them as a kid.

For me, those games or toys include Barbie, who is only 51-years-old, by the way, the board game Sorry (76-years-old), and of course, Monopoly — which, by the way, has all these new game pieces like a battleship, canon and purse. Actually, I looked up when these pieces were introduced, and as it turns out, they are older pieces from World War II — I just didn’t have them in my game in the 1980s. Here is an interesting piece on the Monopoly pieces in The Straight Dope.

Other favorites are Hungry, Hungry Hippos (32-years-old), UNO (39), and Go Fish, for which its origins I could not find online.

What are some of your favorite childhood toys or games that you have passed onto your children?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

Oh, and how can I forget? We have our first MotherTalker election today! Our Hillary Glatt Kwiatek is running for Lehigh County Commissioner today. The polls in Pennsylvania close at 8 p.m.. -Elisa

What’s up?

This past weekend I was in Richmond, California for a party, a mere two blocks from where a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped. Stories like these keep me up at night so I try not to engross myself in the details. But I do appreciate Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon pointing out that blaming the victim in any way for this savage rape and beating is completely unacceptable.

Once again, Wal-Mart is leading a price war on toys, forcing other department stores to slash their prices even as they need the income this holiday season, according to MSN Money.

A friend recently sent me the link to this vegetarian recipe website. She said the meals are healthy, yummy and easy to make. I thought I would share!

Also, I am out of it. I didn’t realize until yesterday that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the California gubernatorial race to spend more time with his family. FWIW, I asked my political source here at home and he told me Newsom was “blown out of the water” in fundraising. Either way, I have not been following the race and am assuming my only choice is Jerry Brown? Do any of you California moms have any thoughts on the race?

In other political news: There are some major elections happening in the country today. First, there is the gay marriage vote in Maine. Here is a link at Daily Kos on how to volunteer your time to get out the vote. Also, the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections are happening. The polls in Virginia close at 7 p.m. and in New Jersey and Maine they close at 8 p.m.. I will put up an open thread tonight with the results.

A couple gynecologists at the Expecting Words blog set the record straight on five pregnancy myths.

If you haven’t received enough news about Kate and Jon Gosselin, the TODAY Show did this whole piece on how the public divorce is having an effect on Kate and the kids. What a train wreck.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


How To Get Kids To Clean Up

I think I am pretty good on keeping the kids on schedule. They eat at the same times every day, bathe at least every other day at 7:30 p.m., go to bed every day at 8 p.m..

Where I suck is cleanup. I hate, hate, hate picking up toys or even supervising cleanup. I let DH deal with it, although on days he is not home I simply deliver a stern lecture on cleanup and then create a passageway among the strewn toys. I refuse to get in a power struggle over messy rooms as I, too, hate picking up. Also, I figure the kids will outgrow this phase in 5 years, although I hear teenagers are much worse. How do you all deal with it? How do you get your kids to clean up?

A Parents magazine writer actually invented a “Pickup Fairy” to help her 3.5-year-old son pick up his toys in the evenings. Here is the cute article:

The Pickup Fairy is a sort of grouchy sprite who lives deep in the woods. Every night, she listens carefully to the world, and if she hears any small children saying things like, “I’m not picking up my toys” (or even worse, “You pick them up, Mommy!”), she telephones the mother of that child and asks if she can come over. If the mom says yes, she arrives with a big patchwork sack and takes all the toys to her house for a week. My thinking was that if he refused to pick up the toys, I would hide them for a week and then give them back.

Speaking of, my husband has been known on more than one occasion to blow a fuse at cleanup and dramatically throw away toys in the garbage. Perhaps I should suggest a phone call to the Pickup Fairy instead? LOL! More from the Parents story:

Liam was absolutely entranced when I told him about the Pickup Fairy. “What does she look like?” he asked. “Does she wear a dress?”

“Yes,” I said. “Every day but Tuesday. On Tuesdays she wears overalls.”

“Is she scary?” Liam wanted to know. He adores scary things.

“Yes,” I said.

“Does she like tights?” He also loves tights.

“She’s crazy for them!”

“What color are her teeth?”


“Oh. Maybe she doesn’t have a good toothbrush.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

I thought this was a cute story and very clever idea — especially for young children. But I have seen the bedrooms of some of my friends’ teenagers and I am even more worried. How do you get your child — regardless of age — to pick up?


Late-Night Liberty: Birthday Party Edition Part II

I had another Late-Night Liberty this week on international birthday parties. -Elisa

School has started up again which means the birthday party evites are arriving in my inbox. We will be attending a birthday party this weekend for a six-year-old girl. Any suggestions on what to give her?

I am definitely ditching the store-bought card for a handmade one by Ari. I want him to put in more thought in his gifts. I could have him pick something out at Target, but was wondering if a girl or boy could have too many — whatever the popular toy is at the time? What do your children usually give?

Of course, this is an open thread so talk about whatever you would like. Have a great weekend all!


Late-Night Liberty: Keepsake Edition

The other day a friend got teary-eyed when she described saving her children’s old clothes. I forget what sparked the conversation. Perhaps she saw my two-year-old donning her brother’s old clothes.

But she isn’t the first nostalgic mom to tell me that — and I felt a tad guilty. Mommy confession of the day: I am desperate to de-clutter my house. I have been giving away all the kids’ clothes, furniture and toys as soon as they outgrow them. To my friend’s surprise, it took me a while to come up with items I have actually saved to pass onto my children when they are older.

There are my husband’s booties, which were made by his great-grandmother. I have saved some of Ari’s artwork — although I am terrible about updating the portfolio — and have kept the kids’ birthday cards, congratulatory notes when they were born and pictures. After the historic presidential election last year, I held onto every magazine with Barack Obama’s mug to pass onto them. I do plan to keep their books as it is an amazing collection of Spanish-language children’s books, which I collected from traveling in the United States and Spain, Argentina and El Salvador. But I can’t think of a single toy or article of clothing I felt compelled to save.

My husband said I am simply not “sentimental,” although he quickly added “it isn’t bad or anything.” Hmm. What do you think? Are there baby items you have saved? What keepsakes should I hold onto?


Federal toy and product safety database delayed

Several weeks back I wrote about how this easy-to-use database  over at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration where you can check if your peanut butter is salmonella free.But if a parent wants to find out if that Thomas and Friends wooden railway the kid has been hankering for is free of lead paint or  easy-to-swallow parts, you won’t have much luck over at the Consumer Product Safety Commission–yet. The agency is over  two months late with a required report to Congress on plans to build a new searchable database for its website that will contain information on reports of hazardous toys and other products. With this new database in place, parents should be able to quickly discover whether any other parent out there–or health professional, or child care center operator–has reported a safety problem with a toy, long before there is an official recall.

Last summer, largely in response to public uproar following the recall of millions of lead-contaminated popular toys imported from China–Big Birds and Elmos and Thomas the Tank Engines among them–Congress approved theConsumer Product Safety Improvement Act. As part of that law, the agency was required to produce, within 180 days, or by February 10, a detailed plan to Congress for the new database. Once the report is submitted, the agency then has 18 months to make it available to the public.

Yet February 10 came and went without the agency submitting the plan, with the agency claiming it had not received the funding to work on it. With the passage of the 2009 appropriations bill, Jacquie Elder, deputy executive director  staff now says the money is in and that staff are “beginning our work on developing the plan for the database.” As the law is written, every day in delay for the submission of the database plan to Congress also translates into a day of delay before the database is required to be made available to the public.

Nancy Nord, the acting chairman of the commission and a Bush appointee, was notoriously hostile to the idea of the database when it was originally debated on Congress. At a May 2008 speech before the National Retail Federation, she reportedly told attendees to fight the database provision. Nord had testified earlierthat the database requirement would be too costly. In March, Sen. Dick Durbin sent Nord a blistering letter, saying  “Recent comments you have made in the press…show your continued resistance to modernizing your agency and addressing the genuine public concern over unsafe products.” Nord has come under fire in the past for taking trips on the dime of the industries she regulates. The CPSC is also hamstrung because one of three commissioner slots has been vacant for some three years.

The new database is required to go beyond information currently available to consumers by requiring disclosure of any reports of harm that are submitted by consumers; local, state, or federal government; health care providers; child service providers; and public safety groups. You’ll be able to find out the types of injuries that have occurred, where they occurred, and other  information typically now available only through a formal Freedom of Information Act request. Manufacturers will be identified, which ought to make it possible to mash that information up with lobbying and campaign finance information.

However, there’s no explicit language  in the law requiring that the raw data underlying the database be made available to the public in a format such as XML or a text file. Offering the data in this format would make it easy for programmers to mash it up with other information, enhancing its reach. Imagine, for example,  maps showing where product injuries are occuring. Or an application that helps you check out toy safety on your cell phone. Every day the CPSC runs late on getting this data out to the public is a day when that information could have helped prevent new injuries.

[crossposted from Sunlight Foundation]


President Bush Bans Lead in Toys

Are you ready for this? I am about to pay a compliment to our president.

President Bush just signed into law a ban on lead and another dangerous chemical called phthalates in toys and children’s products, according to the Associated Press.

The ban, which is the toughest in the world, would double the budget of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to $136 million by 2014. It would also give the agency new authority to oversee testing procedures by toy manufacturers and to punish violators of the law.

The prices for toys may go up as a result of the new legislation, but as of now shares for toy makers are actually up, according to AP.

The new law prohibits lead, beyond minute levels, in products for children 12 or younger. Lead paint was a major factor in the recall of 45 million toys and children’s items last year, many from China.

Both houses of Congress approved the bill by overwhelming margins two weeks ago.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are about 28,000 deaths each year linked to unsafe products, including toys, in the United States. More than 33 million people were injured last year by consumer products.

The bill also bans a chemical called phthalates that is widely used to make plastic products softer and more flexible.

Thank you, Congress. And thank you, Mr. President.