Archive for October, 2009

The Disney Co. has put us all in a check-mate situation by offering refunds for its Baby Einstein videos.


If only I had watched Baby Einstein videos

It’s typical Disney brilliance, to be honest. They’ll hardly shell out a penny. (I’ll explain shortly.)

See, the orginal inventor of these videos, came up with them because she was a classical music fan, and upon birthing a child, wanted to find a way to enjoy classical music with her offspring. Apparently lacking a CD player, boombox, record player or even a simple radio within reach of an NPR signal, Julie Clark came up with a video.

She eventually sold out to Disney for a figure too high for a writer who grew up without Baby Einstein videos to comprehend. She even, because she had to license the name, made the real Einstein — the dead one — rich. But the problem was that marketing materials sort of suggested that if your kid watched these videos, your kid would be a baby Einstein, or at least smarter than the average nuclear engineer.

So they’re offering refunds, but here’s why they won’t pay out much.

Let’s say you’re a really, really smart parent (say a pediatrician, even): You might’ve figured from the get-go that having your one-year-old staring at flashing images on a video screen isn’t going to make  him or her smarter. You didn’t buy any.

Let’s say you’re just average smart: You might’ve bought a few Baby Einsteins, looked at the tiny figures moving by, and figured it out. Next time a garage sale rolled around, they were gone.

Now, let’s say you’re a few bricks…let’s say your elevator doesn’t…let’s just say you blame the world because they didn’t have Baby Einstein videos when you were growing up and you had to get one of those Sally Struthers degrees?

You might think Baby Einstein videos were the greatest parenting invention since the truly brilliant Diaper Genie. And you ain’t sending those videos back to Disney — even if they do refund you whatever $15.99 times four is.

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Inside, the Black Piano

A shot of "Inside the Black Piano"

A shot of "Inside the Black Piano"

A couple of months ago, some friends who were moving to Germany for a while offered to let us babysit their shiny, black, grand piano. I didn’t really care to have an extra piano, but Wife really wanted it, so after she asked the fourth time I figured it was my last chance to say “Yes” before I just came home one day and found it here.


Well, it’s super nice, so Wife made some clear rules about — as the girls have come to call it — The Black Piano. No drinks, no crayons, no scooters, Frisbees, Hulu hoops, Nintendo Wii playing, no Twister, no dogs off leashes, no feeding the seagulls or skateboarding. There might’ve been two or three other restrictions.

So, The Black Piano has become somewhat of a metaphor for general uptightness.

We rented a really nicely restored beach house last month. We went in, and made sure to let the girls know that they had to treat the place with respect, don’t come inside and drag sand all over, no having sailboat races with seashells in the toilets, stuff like that.

Fontaine looks at Wife and says, “This is like we’re living in The Black Piano.”

(a literal view of “Inside the Black Piano” shown above.)

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See that picture? Feel bad about saying this since I just snagged it off Google Images, but a glass of milk spilled milk on hardwood floordropped onto a hardwood floor doesn’t look the least bit like that. Trust me, I just saw such a thing an hour or so ago.

The scene: Wife’s working. I’ve managed to put together a scrumptious meal of homemade mac and cheese and edamame. Rosebud refuses such (so would have I at two), I give her some yogurt and she eats. Then she takes her spoon, flicks yogurt on the floor, tosses down the spoon and her bowl, sending yogurt everywhere. She then reaches over, grabs Elizabeth’s half full glass of milk and….? That’s right fans, holds it there for half a second, looks me dead in the eye, and SPIKES THAT SUCKER on the hardwood floor. Milk went everywhere, like the bad guy’s brains in a gangster movie.

Everywhere. The milk and glass fragments, I’d estimate, covered about a 14-foot swath.

O.K., so I suppose you are done with dinner, eh, sweetheart?, is something that I did not say.

I think I looked kind of whooped. I just moved everybody away from the debris field and went to get half a roll of paper towels and the dust pan, to start with. I must’ve looked beat, because Fontaine felt sorry for me and helped out.

This spillage, being the coup the grace of dining room spillages today, merely capped an earlier glass of ginger ale and ice that had landed in the same spot two hours previous.

Good news for Wife is: She’ll arrive home to a freshly mopped kitchen and dining room. Or as Fontaine wrote her in a note: …At dinner Rosebud threw everything on the floor and broke a glass. Anyway, sleep well.

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img_Oct_09_2009_57_01I got home and they were outside. Fontaine pushed through the front door ahead of me.
“Wow, I’m glad this day is over,” she said. “Now, I can finally take this thing off.”
She pulled her right arm toward her and ducked out of the arm sling. She’d had the day off school, and for some reason decided it would be cool to appear to have a broken arm. So she took the canopy fabric off a baby doll stroller and used it for an arm sling.
Earlier that day, Wife had apparently attempted the old reverse psychology trick, like when Grandpa Walton caught Jim Bob smoking a cigarette and made him smoke a whole pack until he got sick. Wife told Fontaine that if she found the arm sling to be so desirable, perhaps she should wear it for her entire day off school.
Fontaine, sharing the stubborn redhead trait with Wife (yeah, this isn’t good, but Wife never reads the site anyway), decided to do just that. So for a full kid work shift, Fontaine kept it on. Fumbled through lunch, rode her scooter one-handed, discovered she couldn’t climb trees past the first limb. Lord knows how the whole bathroom use thing went down.
“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “We went to two playgrounds, and I couldn’t even do the monkey bars.”
She had, by her own account, a pretty lousy day off from school. All from a self-inflicted fake injury.
Lesson learned? Doubtful. Maybe Wife should have made her wear the sling – and use her one good arm to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes.

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I read this in The Washington Post the other day, about pregnant moms strapping things to their bellies to img_Oct_01_2009_04_53play sounds to start educating kids before they are born. My only thought was: I’m surprised all of us from previous deprived generations aren’t dumber than dirt.
Here are a couple of key passages, and I’ve taken the liberty to extend these thoughts/quotes to their obvious conclusion. Just to make the meaning a little more lucid. (My kids don’t know that word yet, because we didn’t play a books-on-tape Thesaurus to them before they were born.)
“With such names as Lullabelly, Bellysonic and FirstSounds, they offer up everything from soothing tones to foreign languages as they promise anxious parents a better, calmer baby.”
Other programs include Trigonometry, Calculus, String Theory and Arabic.
“With that in mind, makers of prenatal learning devices think that the period between 18 and 40 weeks is an opportunity to give soon-to-be-born babies a head start. (The BabyPlus slogan? “Your womb . . . the perfect classroom.”)”
For your emerging MENSA member, these sounds approximate those of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Wah-WAHWAHWAH.
“They’re much more ready for ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ than they would be,” Logan says.
And a child who is un-prepared for “Twinkle Twinkle” is a terrible thing to waste.
“I teach middle school in Montgomery County, and they focus from kindergarten on up how to get into college. I’ll take any step to get ahead of the game to help her learn basic fundamentals, to succeed and be the best she can be.”
Few know it, but during the admission interview at Harvard, they ask the candidate to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Candidates unable to do so are sentenced to community college.
I might add just one thing to this profound movement: Why stop there? Why not, soon as that baby pops out, put an iPod on her?
Life’s too short, and these days, there are far too few opportunities to be pelted with information.

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