“D” is for “Daredevil” – An A-to-Z Blogging Challenge Post

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For the A-to-Z Challenge 2017 Iโ€™m writing all about myself. Every post will be some random fact or bit of information about me that you may or may not have already known. Maybe youโ€™ll learn something! Feel free to let me know! ^_^


No, I’m not talking about the comic-book character or any of the iterations thereof. I’m still talking about me, here. ๐Ÿ™‚

A lot of the people I know and love at this point in my life probably wouldn’t believe it since I’m such a lazy, cat-in-the-sun kind of person, but when I was a kid I was quite the daredevil. Nowadays I like to sit on the couch and write, curl up in bed and read or watch TV, and it’s a great bit of effort to even get me to go outside in the sun during the summer, but go back about 25 years and I was scaling everything in site and generally putting my limbs at risk on a daily basis.

Every kid thinks that they’re invincible – that’s just one of those things that the still-developing brain convinces itself of – but when I look back now I seriously cringe at some of the things that I used to do without even thinking about it. There were the common things, like climbing too-high trees or leaping from said too-tall trees into piles of not-so-soft snow. But there were also significantly more dangerous things, like doing flips and hanging upside-down from the monkey bars, or standing on one side of the see-saw and getting my friends to jump on the other side and launch me into the air. More than a few of the things I used to do make me genuinely wonder how I never killed myself, such as how I used to shimmy down the cliff face along the water near where I grew up and hop from slippery-wet stone to slippery-wet stone, looking for fossils.

The worst thing that I can think of, however, is climbing the barracks. Near where I grew up there are a number of abandoned stone war barracks that kids have always loved to explore. There’s one that lays underground, and you have to descend a pitch-black set of stairs to get into it, and there are several along the cliff that are like circular tunnels with little windows poking out to watch for approaching ships. But there’s one that is like a tower that was the most fun to explore because there were no ladders or stairs and the entire thing had to be traversed by climbing, boosting or pulling up your friends, and a fair bit of insanity.

This is the barracks in question:

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For scale, see that door on the front, to the far right of the picture? That door is about eight feet tall. Now see right above the door, on what would be the second level of the building, where that long window opening is? Okay, here’s the fun part… See the third and fourth levels that are the tower bit? Well there was no access to those, so as kids we used to get up there by climbing on the ledge of that second level window, getting our friends to give us a boost, and climbing up on that second-level roof, then into the third-level window. Similarly, we’d boost ourselves from the third level window onto that tiny, super-skinny ledge, and then shimmy up to the fourth-level window.

At the time it was great fun, and I can really remember it being this amazing adventure that I wouldn’t have given up for the world, but looking back now I gasp at my own stupidity. How incredibly easy it would have been to fall from any of those levels. How easily I could have broken my neck or worse.

And yet at the same time, I feel lame as hell just speaking like that, because I can still remember it beingย the best. I guess even a cat-in-the-sun adult like me still has a small sliver of daredevil hiding in the back of my mind somewhere.


Were you a daredevil as a kid? Did you do anything back then that you look back on now and cringe about? Please feel free to leave a comment!

On (Apparently) Being an Inspiration

So, part of having a YouTube channel (and a half-decent one at that, thank you very much) is that eventually you’ll probably have a few people asking for advice on their own channel, saying that they admire you, asking you to subscribe to them, and so on. Logistically, as this sort of thing ramps up you obviously can’t give everyone your full attention, but I do try my best to at least be diplomatic because these people help to keep my channel moving forward, and I like being a part of the community.

Well, the other day I got a comment on one of my Funko Pop hauls from a user called Funko Boy, and he was basically asking me to check out his channel because I had inspired him to do a channel like mine. Now, one of the hazards of YouTube is that you’ll occasionally get comments like this that are copy-and-paste jobs that the user posts in the comment section of dozens of different videos with the hopes that someone, anyone will actually check them out, but I just had a feeling that this one wasn’t one of those. And if I’m totally honest, even the most cynical part of me was a little bit struck by the word “inspired”. So I decided to check this guy’s channel out.

Aaaaand, I was caught a bit off-guard, because although it really shouldn’t have been an enormous surprise or anything, this brand new YouTuber turned out to be a kid. Now, it’s not that I’m foolish enough to think that kids don’t do YouTube; it’s just that most of the YouTubers I’ve met and become friends with through our channels are adults…in fact, most of them are probably several years older than me. But this new Tuber, the one who said I’d “inspired” him, was very young. I’m terrible at guessing ages, but I’m thinking probably 13, max. And even more surprising? He was totally genuine about the inspiration part. This was no copy-and-paste job, because this kid actually talked about me in his video, said hello, and thanked me for being a YouTuber who responds to comments on their videos.

I was a little gobsmacked, to be perfectly blunt! As a parent, I know that I’m an important role model for my kid, and when I see her copying things I do (funnily enough, usually pretending to film YouTube videos with her toys) it makes sense to me because I’m one of the two most important people in her life, the two people she absorbs everything from. But to have a kid (maybe not a little kid, but definitely still a kid) whose a total stranger tell me that I’m his inspiration, create a YouTube channel, and then mention me several times in his video just to drive the point home…that’s really pretty amazing, and I can’t help but feel a little touched by it. Not to mention, I gave Funko Boy some advice on his first video, and instead of getting defensive or making excuses – which a lot of grown ADULTS tend to do in reaction to advice – he immediately re-shot his video using my tips, and that just kinda made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I feel like I want to track down this kid’s parents and let them know that they’re raising him well. XD He has an excellent attitude and has shown me, at least, tons of respect, and that’s pretty awesome.

So, obviously this young fella has a journey ahead of him because there’s a lot to learn when it comes to becoming a popular YouTuber, but he’s definitely got the right attitude in being willing to ask for and accept advice, and I think it’s super-sweet that he’s using me as inspiration, so I just thought I’d share his video with you guys today. It’s obviously not TOP quality or anything, but he’s just starting out and he’s absolutely willing to learn, and I think that’s awesome, so I hope you guys will give him a few views to cheer him on. Cheers, buddy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pat on the Back

Today’s post comes courtesy of The Daily Post‘s “Pat on the Back” prompt, in which they asks us to Tell someone youโ€™re proud of just how proud you are.


 

My little girl.

Oh my goodness, how can I express just how proud I am of you?

My little girl: you’re one of the most amazing kids I’ve ever known. You may be clumsy as hell like mama and stubborn as a mule like daddy, but you’re also bright and brilliant and remarkably well-behaved for your age. You’re the youngest in your class (by quite a wide margin, actually), but you’re always on top of things, your classmates seem to adore you, and your teachers praise you. I could hardly be more proud.

You’ve got a memory unlike anything I’ve ever seen. How many 5-year-olds can remember the names of hundreds of comic book, TV, and movie characters, as well as about a hundred frikkin’ Shopkins, while also pretty much memorizing the entire script of dozens of episodes of shows and movies? Not to mention that you’re learning to read far quicker than I ever imagined you would, and you’re already doing basic math in your head, without use of fingers or toes at all.

You’re so well-balanced as well…sure, a lot of your favorite things are traditionally “girly” things, but the things you enjoy cross such a wide range of wonderful things. You love My Little Pony, but you love Ninja Turtles too. You adore wearing pretty dresses and fancy things, but you’re also a huge fan of gym, and running and climbing around outside. You enjoy reading, board games, Play Doh, Lego, dolls, action figures, coloring, and all other manner of fun stuff. You could play with pretty much any kid you ever meet because you’re wide open, willing to try pretty much anything.

We barely ever hear a peep out of you during long road trips, you’re happy as a lark to be dropped off with a babysitter if mama and daddy want to go out, and you’ll talk the ear off of pretty much anyone once you’ve had a moment to get used to them. You almost never give me trouble when it’s bedtime, you’re almost always well-behaved and pleasant at restaurants, and you always understand, “No, we can’t buy that today.”

You’re a joy and a gem.

Now, don’t go and get cocky because I’ve praised you so much. There will always be other kids who are awesome too…other kids who are smart, and adorable, and get along with everyone, and love a wide variety of things. You’re hardly the only one out there.

But you’re the only one who matters to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

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8-bit Teeth, Red-haired Heroes, and a Mother-Gamer’s Pride

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(Note: the idea for this post was given to me by Miss Alexandra from Man Crates. Thanks Alex!)

This is going to be one of the oldest-sounding things that I’ve ever said, but…kids today have no idea what it’s like to grow up alongside the progression of video games. My daughter, for instance, is five years old and for her entire life so far she’s always been around latest-gen games. She’s watched mommy and daddy fight extremely realistic monsters, listened to immaculately-voiced characters have deep, emotional conversations, and awed at light shows that could shame Hollywood. She even plays games of her own, leading Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars characters through amazingly designed worlds that you can change and mold to your liking.

But she’ll never know what it was like to first experience video game graphics jumping from 8 to 16 bits. She’ll never have the giddy joy of sneaking peaks at Nintendo Power magazines in the drug store in order to learn how to perform special moves. She’ll (likely) never experience the ups and downs of picking up a random game at the local rental place, having absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like because none of your immediate friends have played it and internet reviews don’t exist yet.

And that’s all fine, because I’m certain my daughter will have plenty of her own experiences that will go way over my head, but it still makes me almost sad because the things I’ve mentioned were enormous parts of my childhood.

I was born at the perfect time to really grow up with video games as a home entertainment. When I was just a couple of years old my parents were still at the right age to hear about the Atari 2600 home video game console and think that it would be a really neat thing to have in the house. We had our fair share of games, and all three of us played. My mom’s favorite was Mouse Trap, which was a PacMan clone using mice as the ghosts and a cat as PacMan. My dad would get super-frustrated with Pitfall because he just couldn’t ever seem to time his jumps properly. And me? Well, at the tender age of five-ish, my favorite game was the ridiculously-conceived Plaque Attack. It was a Space Invaders clone, but instead of attacking legions of aliens, fast food items such as burgers, fries, and soda would move toward waiting rows of teeth, and instead of the defender of the Earth, you played as a squirting tube of toothpaste.

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Tell me this isn’t one of the most ridiculous things you’ve ever seen.

Looking back at it now, that game seems outrageously silly, but when I was a kid I absolutely loved it and I would play it again today if I had it. I can fondly remember sitting on my parents’ bed with that little joystick controller, blasting globs of toothpaste at cakes and candies in order to protect my rows of 8-bit pearly whites. It was great, foolish fun. It wasn’t my whole life by any means, but it was definitely a welcome amusement to have at my disposal.

At some point – I don’t remember the exact age, but I think I may have been six or so – my parents picked up a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas and my horizons were broadened. I was introduced to Mario for the first time, and my cousins (who also had NES consoles) and I spent hours trying to hunt down that damn princess. There was also Duck Hunt, which was a crazy-amazing innovation with its fancy, neon-orange light gun. That was definitely one of my favorites in the early days, although I loathed the clay shooter side-game and would often resort to pressing my gun right up against the TV screen in order to hit the damn disks. I also got the biggest kick out of the Power Pad when my cousin first got his, although it didn’t take long for us to realize that you could just get down on the floor and use your hands to hit the buttons rather than dance around on it as Nintendo had intended.

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You’d think they’d have learned way back then that people don’t want to exercise while they’re gaming.

There’s no doubt that the Atari and the NES were enormous parts of my childhood, but at that age I wouldn’t have described myself as a “gamer”. The games were simply among my toys, and I didn’t spend any more time on them than I did on Play Doh, Legos, Barbie dolls, or, you know…playing outside.

That all changed when I was somewhere around eight- or nine-years-old and my parents got me a Super Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. It was a huge deal right off the bat because the 16-bit graphics looked outstanding compared to the previous games I’d played. It was hard to believe that such amazing graphics were even possible.

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Shown: The most realistic-damn thing I’d ever seen.

And I won’t say that I didn’t play the HELL out of Super Mario World (because I did), and I definitely had something of an obsession with a little thing called Uniracers, but if I’m totally honest with myself the game that I would say turned me into a gamer was Chrono Trigger. My best friend had come across it in one of the local rental places and told me that it was amazing, so I practically begged my father to go so we could see if it was in (in those days each shop was lucky to have one copy of each video game). I was in luck that day, and the bright red, spiky hair of the protagonist on the cover immediately appealed to me. It looked like an anime cartoon, which was also something I was getting into at the time, and that definitely cemented my resolution to rent it and get the heck home immediately.

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I ran home with my rented treasure and popped it in the machine, practically vibrating to see what it was all about, why my friend had praised it so, and soon I was being treated to a Millennial Fair. I ran around with the red-headed hero (Crono), ringing bells on the strength game, guessing winners for the races, beating up a training robot, and dancing with people dressed as cavemen, and it was a blast. I totally understood what my friend had been talking about and I eagerly ran around that fair for about two hours, and which point I finally discovered that, yeah…there was actually a hell of a lot more to this game.

Yeah, it’s true, for a good two hours I honestly believed that the Millennial Fair opening of the game was the game. So when another character accidentally opened a time portal and disappeared into the past, prompting my red-haired hero to follow, I was flabbergasted. There was an adventure to play too! Oh, and what an adventure it was, full of time travel, a looming apocalypse, hidden magic, futuristic robots, and actual death…a character in a video game dying. I’d never seen the like before that.

I can’t even explain to you how many hours I sunk into that game. My best friend and I spent countless pocket change on renting it until my father finally decided that it was economically sound to just buy a copy, and that quadrupled my gameplay, easily. I was determined to find every hidden item, defeat every tiny side quest, and unlock each of the multiple endings (which was something else I’d never seen before). And remember, this was before you could just look everything up on the Internet. I had to actually search for all those items, and defeat the end boss dozens of times in hopes that I might have completed the right sequence of events to get a new ending.

One of the most heartbreaking moments of my childhood was when I came home from school one day and flipped on Chrono Trigger. I’d been sinking hours and hours into an overachieving attempt to raise all seven playable characters up to the highest level (100, which was depicted by two stars), and I was getting fairly close. I had two of the characters complete and the rest were in the 80’s and 90’s. But when I turned the game on, the screen didn’t load up with that oh-so-familiar title screen. Oh no…what I got was a black screen with a few angry-looking bits of digital lightning flashing across it. I immediately switched the SNES off and grabbed at the game to find that it hadn’t been seated properly. Someone had removed it and not pressed it all the way back down into the system. I pressed it down firmly now, and literally held my breath as I switched the system back on… But the damage had been done. The game had been erased. I had three blank save slots staring at me, mocking me, mocking the countless days I’d spent trying to raise those characters’ levels. I’m not proud. I seriously almost burst into tears.

As it turned out, my mother had removed the game in order to test a used game she and my father had recently picked up for me for Christmas: one Final Fantasy III (VI, in Japan), which just barely beats out Chrono Trigger as my favorite game of all time. I forgave her, because ohmygodFinalFantasyIII, but I still to this day lament the fact that I never got all seven characters to the maximum level. Later in life I even picked up the remastered Nintendo DS version of the game, but as an adult I’ve never had the time or inclination required to undertake so much level-grinding again.

Still, I definitely credit Chrono Trigger with truly turning me into a “gamer”. It was the game that awakened a desire to do everything, to see everything, to experience ever tiny detail that the programmers had hidden within. To this day, although I’ve enjoyed plenty of games since the SNES, all my favorite games are from that console: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, Breath of Fire II, Illusion of Gaia, Secret of Mana… You could say that I became a bit of an RPG-maniac.

These days I don’t have nearly as much time for games, and I tend to choose ones that can be completed much quicker than the 20+-hour sagas I played as a kid. But that’s okay because I hold the memory of first playing those games deep down among some of the most wonderful memories of my childhood. And in the meantime, I’m busy raising a new gamer to make memories with her favorite games. ๐Ÿ™‚

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An Eye-Twitching Good Time

Memoir Mondays

I heard it told once that a person hasn’t experienced agony until they’ve had to sit and wait for a toddler to do something by themselves. From the point-of-view of a non-parent or a parent of older kids who has forgotten what it’s like to have a toddler, that statement probably seems extremely melodramatic, but I’m convinced that it’s one of the great truths of life. There is just something so teeth-grittingly frustrating about standing and watching a toddler try to zip up her coat when you’ve been ready to go for five minutes, or sitting and squeezing your steering wheel while they fumble with their seat belt in the back of the car.

Of course, sometimes you’ll snap and yank the zipper up yourself, or leap out of the car to slam their belt in place before the scream escapes your throat, but you can’t just be doing that all the time. This is a growing child, after all, and they have to learn, or else one day you’re going to find that you’ve raised a pathetic little ball of jelly that refuses to do anything for him- or herself.

But sometimes it’s so hard.

I don’t consider myself to be a control freak by a long shot, but there’s something about watching a kid fumble with a toy that makes me twitch like you wouldn’t believe. It’s such a foolish thing to let yourself get worked up over, but when I watch my daughter struggle to fit two tiny Lego pieces together or push the Play Doh mold hard enough to actually create the intended shape, it makes my eye attempt to escape its socket. And the one that gets me the worst? That’s definitely when we’re playing a board game that involves a spinner and she consistently hits it in such a way that it doesn’t spin so much as shudder half an inch to one side. I can’t even describe the way that makes my teeth ache. Of course, never are all these things made more evident to myelf as right after Christmas when there are a whole bunch of new toys to obsess over. As of the writing of this post I’ve spent half the day playing with both Lego blocks and Play Doh sets, and my psyche barely withstood it.

But then, on the other hand, there’s absolutely something amazing to be said for just curling up on the floor with your kid and building multi-colored castles (with no doors or windows) and molding squishy-looking neon-colored cupcakes. Every single moment of the experience may not be relaxing, and there will definitely be a few instances that make you want to crack your head on the hardwood, but it’s quality time that a lot of people, unfortunately, don’t bother to experience with their children. Plus, if you can put away that parental mentality for a little while and train yourself to ignore those teeth-gritting moments, you can actually have a bit of childish fun yourself, free from the boring, hard-working world of the adult.

So I’ll keep doing it. I’ll keep closing my eyes or looking away when my daughter drops that Lego piece for the eighteenth time, and I’ll wait patiently with bated breath while it takes her ten minutes to pick all the little bits of Play Doh “frosting” out of the icing mold, because if you can just look past the agonizing moments all of the other moments are pure gold. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything, even if my eye twitches right out of my head.

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Also, I don’t think I know any other 5-year-old who would have managed to keep the colors in neat piles like that. ๐Ÿ˜›

Mommy Confessions

I love reading stories about parenting adventures because they make you smile about the kinds of things that, in your own life, would make you want to pull your hair out or hide under a bed for eternity. My friend and former classmate, Katie, understands this perfectly and shares the joy/horror of motherhood regularly on her mommy blog, She Didn’t Come With Instructions. Recently she wrote this post full of “mommy confessions” meant to give hope and a chuckle to those ladies out there who are beating themselves up trying to be the picture-perfect mom. Katie’s confessions made me laugh, cry, and nod enthusiastically, so today I thought I’d share some of my own mommy confessions.

"Confession" #1: This is what true love looks like.
“Confession” #1: This is what true love looks like.

When we first put the little missy in her own room at night (around 6-7 months) I used to rock her to sleep first while singing to her. Why is this a confession? Because I would sing the love songs from Disney movies.

At around 8-9 months we hit a period during which she would neither go to sleep nor stay to sleep, and we were pretty much at our wits end. Somehow we discovered that by sitting my portable DVD player outside her crib and playing “Baby Mozart” on it, she would lull herself to sleep, and I didn’t give two rat’s tails what anyone said about how babies shouldn’t watch TV because the solution meant daddy and I actually got to have more that an hour’s sleep at a time.

At four, my daughter still goes to bed with a TV show on, and I still don’t give two rat’s tails what anyone has to say about that because it settles her, keeps her in her room, let’s daddy and I get our sleep, and trust me, she gets plenty sleep of her own.

When I was home with my daughter during the first few months of her life, I would often lull her to sleep on my chest, and then use the fact that she was sleeping on me as an excuse to not move for hours (while watching Netflix, of course).

I have, on occasion, given my daughter crackers and cheese 2-3 times in a single day because I just couldn’t be bothered arguing with her. She never gets constipated, so I guess it’s all good in the end.

Until very recently I was still wearing some of my maternity shirts and sweaters (I only stopped wearing the sweaters because the zippers broke on both of them).

Sometimes, when I was home alone with the baby while my husband was at work, she would start crying and I would have no idea why. While entirely normal, this would spike my blood pressure and stress hormones (hey, I was getting next to zero sleep) and more often than not I would end up curling up in the armchair and crying with her.

In the past four and a half years I think I have taken at least five hundred pictures of my daughter sleeping. The most recent one was about three weeks ago.

We try to encourage our daughter to help out with the chores, and I definitely think that it’s super-important to do so, but sometimes when she comes running out to the kitchen to help me with supper I get a little nervous twitch because I was planning to whip through the recipe super-fast so I could move on to other stuff.

My husband and I are raising our daughter to be an ultra-nerd. We teach her the names of comic book and video game characters the way other parents would teach their kid new words.

My daughter watches tons of stuff that would make some parents raise their eyebrows. At 3 years old she watched all three Alien movies with my husband, and we’d all often watch Futurama together. These days she has quite a liking for Godzilla and Gamera. For the record, she has had about three nightmares in her life, and none of them had anything to do with what she’d watched the night before.

I often sneak candy behind my daughter’s back. Doubly so after just explaining to her that she can’t have cookies for breakfast.

Addendum: Mommy sometimes has cookies for breakfast.

When I first returned to work at the paper mill (when she was around 7 months old) I still wanted her to be having breast milk, so I had to pump. Pumping didn’t work well for me, so I had to do it every couple of hours in order to get anything at all, which meant I regularly had to sneak off, lock myself in the women’s locker room, and strap up. The industrial noise just outside the door probably did nothing for my nerves in these moments.

I was so relieved when I finally decided to stop pumping because it meant I didn’t have to worry about having an alcoholic drink whenever I wanted anymore.

The first couple of times I left missy with someone I was a nervous wreck because, despite having raised some pretty awesome kids of their own, I somehow felt that my parents and the inlaws were in no way capable of taking care of my daughter.

I still enjoy singing Disney songs to my daughter. So does she. We just do it in the car when daddy’s not around.

I’ve lost, like, 2 lbs since I gave birth. At my current rate of loss I should be back to my original weight in approximately 47 years.

I want my daughter to be an outdoorsy kid; I just don’t want to be outdoors with her all of the time. I’m a vampire. Sue me.

I have absolutely no shame about letting my daughter see me changing or getting in and out of the shower. My husband thinks it’s weird, but my mother was the same way with me so it seems totally normal to me.

I have gotten through entire conversations with my daughter by nodding and saying, “Mmm-hmm” whilst concentrating on something else and not hearing a single word she’s said.

I often find myself thinking that my husband is definitely the better parent, and though I know I’m a great mom, it still makes me feel small and insecure.

There is nothing in this world more wonderfully satisfying and comfortable to me than when my daughter and I snuggle up to watch a show or movie together and she lays her head on my chest and wraps her arms around me. I would do that exact thing every single night of my life if I could.


So there you go; some more confession-like than others, but a hearty list of mommy confessions none-the-less. Did any of them make you chuckle? Commiserate? Shed a tear? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share some parental confessions of your own!

The Little Things in Life

No one who knows my husband and I personally would dare disagree with the statement that we go a little insane at Christmas. We’re not crazy people with endless disposable income – it’s just that we don’t spend a lot of money throughout the year. Our hobbies are cheap ones (he mostly just plays video games, and I’m happy to write on my slowly-dying laptop), and we make a point of trying not to buy our daughter things regularly because we don’t want her to be one of those kids who thinks she can have anything she likes every time we go to the mall.

But at Christmas? Oh, we totally lose our minds at Christmas. It was bad enough when it was just the two of us buying each other geeky collectibles by the truckload, but the past few years we’ve had a kid to deal with as well and the resulting Christmas-tree explosion is a completely ridiculous testament to our mental states.

And I won’t say that the daughter doesn’t enjoy it, because what kid wouldn’t enjoy a mound of presents to open all at once? However, as usual, our adorable little mini-me shows us that quantity is not necessarily the be all and end all.

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That little critter in her arms right there is a stuffed Rocket Raccoon. My daughter asked Santa (several times and through several different methods and mediums) for a Rocket Raccoon for Christmas this year, and so when she woke up on Christmas morning this little critter was sitting, unwrapped, at the front of the present pile with a little pink bow on his head. And you know what? She’s hardly let go of him since then.

I’m not saying that she ignored her other presents. Hell no. She loves the superhero action figures that she got, has been rocking out on the Barbie guitar that great-nana gave her, and I’m pretty sure she’d play Disney Infinity all day until bedtime if we allowed her… But this little Rocket Raccoon toy – this little stuffed dude who doesn’t do anything other than be hugged with a grumpy look on his face – has barely left her sight for the past week. She’s been sleeping with him cuddled into her arms every night, and he didn’t leave her hand the entire day when we went out shopping for Boxing Week sales. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that someone had super-glued him to her hand.

And you know what? There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Kids (and adults) these days are surrounded by technology, thousands of channels, hundreds of thousands of options, everything bigger and better and flashier and more expensive. And yet a kid’s favorite toy can still be a little plush that does absolutely nothing. It doesn’t play games, it doesn’t talk, it doesn’t move at all. And yet it’s exciting to her to be able to take him to the grocery store and buckle him in to the seat in the cart next to her. That’s pretty amazing, and something we should all probably think about emulating. Because toys (whether they be actual toys, appliances, electronics, or whatever else) don’t have to be the biggest, brightest, noisiest model with the most possible options to still be fun and enjoyable and make a person happy.

What were your favorite toys as a kid? Were they the simple ones or the complex ones? What about as an adult? Do you have to upgrade to the newest cellphone the second it comes out? Or are you the kind of person who is happy to snuggle up and enjoy an old movie favorite? Do you enjoy the simple things in life, or are you all about the complexity? Please share!

Gift Ideas for Christmas 2014: Toys Part 3

Do we have time for one more post about awesome toys? I think we do! So let’s get right down to it:

Play Doh Big Barrel

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It’s confession time again: I have a love-hate relationship with Play Doh. I love how fun and creative it can be to play with, but I hate how messy it can be when you’re trying to clean up afterward. All those little play-sets that squeeze and squish the doh have all these little crevices that it’s impossible to dig the remnants out of, but you have to because otherwise it dries in there and the thing becomes useless. That’s why I like sets like the “Big Barrel” because it comes with stuff that is much easier to clean. For $22 you get the “Fun Factory tool”, 2 rails (which you attach to the tool to make different shapes), safety scissors, a roller, a plastic knife, 10 cookie-cutters, 2 “pressers” (stamps, basically), and 2 cans of doh. Add in a couple of extra cans of doh (or make some homemade stuff) and watch a kid have a blast.

Playskool Show Cam

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There are a bunch of different kid cameras out there to choose from, and honestly the only reason that I picked this particular one for this post is because it was the first one that popped up when I looked on Toys R Us. But the point is that this is an awesome idea for a gift, so browse the options! Most of the ones I’ve seen are almost identical. This particular one takes both snapshots and video, and it has a build-in projector to show off your tike’s captures on any flat surface. It can store up to 1000 photos, and it is easy for little hands to grasp and use. I think they’re adorable because what kid doesn’t love doing things the way a grown-up does them? Plus you never know…they might just capture some awesome memories! At upwards of $70 it’s not a cheap gift, but it would definitely be a fun one!

Lego “Creative Bucket”

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I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, I challenge you to find a kid who doesn’t have a blast playing with Lego. They’re one of those rare toys that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and their play can be customized to each kid based on their own personal likes and creativity level. In that way Lego is kind of the perfect toy. Now, granted, Lego sets can be pretty expensive, mainly because the sets are usually licenced things like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Halo, and Batman, but you don’t have to get the specialized kits for Lego to be a blast. One of the coolest Christmas presents my parents ever bought me was just a big bucket of loose Lego, and unless you’ve raised a technology-dependent couch potato (*cough*silentjudgement*cough*) I honestly believe most kids would still enjoy this gift. So my final Christmas toy suggestion? The Lego Creative Bucket, which is literally just a big bucket of 607 Lego pieces for $40. Oh, and by the way, when gifting Lego to your child, remember these wise words from Lego themselves:

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What do you think of my toy gift suggestions? Do you have any suggestions of your own? What were your favorite gifts to get as a child? Please share!

Gift Ideas for Christmas 2014: Toys Part 2

Looking for some more gift ideas for the little ones? Let’s see what Tracey’s got in her pack today:

Frozen Color-Changing-Dress Dolls

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You’d probably stamp a huge “DUH” on my face if I started talking about how Frozen toys are big this year, so I’ll spare you that blurb. But I will tell you that amongst the available merchandise (and my god, is there a lot of it), a couple of my favorites are the Anna and Elsa dolls with color-changing dresses. One of the reasons I like them is because, unlike most of the other thousand doll options, these dolls have Anna and Elsa in their “coronation day” party dresses instead of the trademark outfits that they end up in by mid-movie. In other words, they’re actually a little different from all the other options. The other reason I like them is because their appeal is a kind of classic, old school one: you put water in the little wand accessory and “paint” the dresses to magically change their color and design. It’s simple, it’s not messy, and your kid can enjoy it over and over again. Hey, if you’re going to spend upwards of $30 on some random Barbie doll anyway, why not spend it on one of these dolls and make your little Frozen fan’s day?

Fisher Price Doctor Kit


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Now here is a classic toy…literally, I’m pretty sure this toy has been around for at least 30 years, probably more. A couple of my cousins had this kit as children, and except for a few minor changes (that were probably related to safety standards), it’s the same now as it was then. It still includes the little hand-pump blood pressure cuff, the same band-aid “braclet”, the same ear-checker-thingy (seriously, what the hell is that thing called?), and it’s all made of the same sturdy plastic that is nearly impossible to break. And seriously, what kid doesn’t enjoy checking heartbeats, giving needles, and wrapping up boo-boos? Kids love pretending to make parents, siblings, and grandparents feel better, so why not give them the tools they need with this affordable $20 kit?

Disney Infinity

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Okay, let’s get into something a little more, shall we say, substantial? Fair warning: with tons of figures and play pieces to collect, this is the kind of gift that you can easily find yourself spending more and more money on as time goes by. That said, if you’ve got a video game player who also happens to be a fan of Disney shows and movies, this is a pretty damn neat gift. The “starter packs” for the game come with a base on which you place your collectible figures in order to download them into the world of the game. The world and options available to you expand as you purchase your favorite character figures and the available “play pieces” (which unlock new words), meaning that you could theoretically keep playing this game for ages. The 2.0 version of the game also recently came out, giving us lots of new characters to choose between, and the 1.0 characters still work as well, making for an even bigger world (although be warned, the 1.0 play pieces don’t work with 2.0). Just a few of the available character figures are all of the movie-version Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Black Widow), the Ultimate Spiderman characters (Spiderman, Nova, White Tiger, Power Man, Iron Fist, and Nick Fury), a couple of Disney princesses (Anna, Elsa, Rapunzel, and Merida), the Guardians of the Galaxy (Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax), and a ton of random characters like Stitch, Vanellope and Wreck-it Ralph, Donald Duck, Jack Sparrow, and many others. If you’ve got someone on your gift-giving list who is a gamer, a collector, and a Disney fan, this gift could easily be a triple-whammy.

Still not done shopping for your little ones? Come back on Thursday for my last batch of suggestions!

Big Things in Small Packages

Here’s a confession: I love presents. That may sound a little selfish, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. I love getting presents, yes, but I love giving presents just as much. Since I was first old enough to go out to the store with my own money and buy my parents little tokens of my affection, I’ve loved the feeling of seeing someone open a gift that I picked out for them. It’s half of the reason that I love Christmas so much, and to me it’s just as fun as opening my own presents.

But not all presents are the kind that you wrap up in pretty paper and stick a bow to. Four years ago today my husband and I received a very special early Christmas present, which, incidentally, was also kind of a present from us to our families. My little princess has grown a lot since that day, but she’s still the best present in the world to me, and she’s made Christmas an infinitely more wonderful holiday in our household.

Happy Birthday, baby girl! And thanks for being my Christmas present again this year! โค

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