MacPinto: Lingering Echoes

Can’t get the whole stroller thing out of my mind. I keep imagining how those moms must have felt, innocently opening up a stroller and next thing you know, wham! …on the way to the ER.  Then, then having the company say it was your fault mom…not ours! Well, I don’t buy it; but even so, what about the second through 11th child who lost fingertips because Maclaren failed to issue a recall?  Mom’s fault? I think not! The company knew these pint-sized pintos were harming kids; and like so many companies before, just dumped all info into risk/benefit calculations (risk outweighing silence at #12). Then, when it had to finally break down and issue a recall (because it was good for the company), the PR approach was to still insist on product safety and blame the very customers who line their pockets! Greedy and shameless.


ERROR CODE: Sleeping Hamster

Why, Yes Alice, I can speak.

Is there a moon wobble or something?   

        My computer is highly uncooperative. If it were a person, it would get coal in its stocking. Maybe its obstinacy has to do with its age: it is quite young. It rebels in waves, as if it knows exactly those times I need it the most. A little pull-back here, a minor refusal there; like every boyfriend I’ve ever had.  If I really need to get something done and dare to command compliance, it shouts at me with its deafening silence. No need to speak words when inaction works with great efficiency. I’m in a new wave of machine defiance and my every attempt to woo it back to proper functioning falls to deaf cogs.
    A few days ago, it took it upon itself to change my pointer. One night, all was as I expected, blissfully uneventful. The next morning’s boot brought me face to face with a new colorful little icon, mostly pink, and covered with fall leaves, commanding me to “Give Thanks.” That’s what the pointer said: “Give Thanks.” In pink. It was a little big as pointers go, and after a cursory (haha) attempt to figure out where it came from, I decided that giving thanks wasn’t such a bad thing and I let it stay. Until today. Today I decided that I can give thanks when and where I want to and that I no longer wanted my computer telling me what to do. So I went to the control panel and sent it on its way, back to from whence it came, replacing it with a boring default arrow that is better than the pink thing but not as good as what I had before.

   Okay…not that you’re on the edge of your seat or anything…but if you’ve made it this far, I might as well answer the question raised: why didn’t I just get my old cursor back if I liked it better than the boring arrow? BEcause my hissy-fit having machine (no, wait…that was me…) upped the ante and decided I was no longer permitted to use scroll down menus to choose anything. I could only click on “restore to defaults”. Sigh. It is true. And now that I’ve “restored”, I can no longer click! I can highlight and press “enter” on the keyboard and hope for the best; but I’m on crutches here, grasping about byte world, no longer the stealth(-ish) surfer. I feel like the cyber-cheese who stands alone.

    I hobbled my way to Microsoft help forum, hoping to chat with those in the know who, apparently, still loved their machines. It took a few tries to scroll and enter my way through registration. Then, I was at the very last step (after so, so many). All I needed to do was check the “I agree” box, and help would be mine. Except I couldn’t click. I tried to scroll, but there was nothing to scroll- you either agreed or you did not. I adamantly proclaimed to my monitor, “I agree! I agree!” But to no avail.  I highlighted and pressed enter. It laughed at my efforts, mocking my every attempt. I tried to back space thinking maybe if I got a running start…I waited awhile thinking maybe it would forget about me and I could sneak up from behind…but my bag O’ tricks was nothing like Felix’s and my efforts proved pure folly.

  Yes, I raged against my little machine. It paid me back. It dropped my smooth scroll. Now my hamster wheel moves my text in dizzying chunks, forcing me to keep sane by using the down scroll on the right side of the page (which, as an extremely spoiled scroller from way back, drives me insane nevertheless!)

   Sigh. Maybe I dropped too many cracker crumbs in its keyboard while lolling around on the web, an indignity to any proud piece of technology. Maybe I was taking its marvels for granted and needed to remember to Give Thanks. (Mmmm…I wish I had more crackers…) Somehow, this time, I do not think it will self correct. I just know in my heart I’m going to have to treat it to a shiny new mouse, give it a defrag and memory makeover, or whatever it is that is appealing to a fancy box of cogs and wheels. The hamster got tired. But know this: I am giving thanks that it still lets me type out a few words while it snoozes.

Speak of the Devil- Maclaren

   Various models of Maclaren strollers were recalled in the U.S. on November 9 this year because of reports of amputated fingers of children.   What gets me is that the recall was engaged due to 12 reports of childrens’ fingertips being amputated, and several other reports of lacerations.  So, apparently, one report wasn’t enough to warrant recall; neither were two, nor three. Neither 11.  Rather, Twelve children losing fingertips was what it took for moms unwittingly pushing their beloved kidlets around in what self-proclaims to be one of the safest strollers available to be informed of the danger and offered a solution. The company acknowledges that moms might be expected to be angry (think?).  Really, you don’t say!

   I have been thinking about contacting the company to find out how the number 12 was decided to be so magical. Today, I came across Baby Bargain Books Blog, whose authors did in fact call the company for answers to parents’ questions. Apparently, the injured children –according to Denise and Alan Fields’ (blog authors) report of what Maclaren had to say– were injured due to their parent’s failure to follow instructions, allowing their kids to be nearby while opening or closing the strollers. (In other words, it’s the parents’ fault the company says, the human factor.  Hmmm…good thing these strollers weren’t designed for use by humans!)  Unfortunately, I still have no idea why it took 12 kids injured before protective hinge covers (let alone information/warnings) were made available.   I believe I will have to look into this.

How Can It Be? Keep Your Kids Safe

   I was surprised and troubled to read in a recent Consumer Reports piece that our Little Ones are still suffering injury and death from window blind cords. Hasn’t this problem been eliminated yet? We’ve been hearing about it for over a decade. Same with drawstrings on hoodies and other kids’ tops, yet these are still being recalled to this day. What gives?

   We may not be able to anticipate every danger out there, or even necessarily foresee how newly introduced products may pose hazards, but I’m talking about long-known dangers every parent and manufacturer of consumer goods should certainly be aware of. There has been ample press and numerous recalls over many years; it is preposterous that the particular dangers persist and children continue to fall victim.

   Little kids are creatures who will do something to off themselves 20 times a day. They think nothing of sticking a spoon handle in an outlet, playing with the radio straight out of the tub, swallowing a penny. They will giggle as they run out into the street in front of a speeding car, or drink down any liquid because it has a pretty bright color. If something is off limits, like the medicine cabinet, it is inborn in them to conquer exploration. Most moms will readily offer that much of their job as a mother is to keep their kids alive. It never ends; a necessary trait of motherhood is constant vigilance.

   So how do some moms overlook what should be on the short list of things to take care of when there’s a young child in the house? Who knows; no doubt there are many reasons…but none good enough. Let’s not finish reading this blog– let’s go right now and cut our window shade cords so they do not form a loop, but rather, two separate cords. Let’s install hooks next to the windows to wrap them up so our kids cannot reach them. No hooks? Meantime, how about wrapping them around the shades to they don’t dangle. Let’s do it now!

Here are a few other ideas to help keep your precious kids safe:

–check their clothes and remove all drawstrings from the necks, or sew them on each side so they cannot be pulled tight. (All Happy Penguin Kidswear items have been so altered prior to sale for your childrens’ safety.)

–Check toys for breaks that could be injurious or toxic. Compare Little One’s toy chest treasures against the childrens’ product recall list. You can start your search here.

–Do not trick yourself into thinking there is any valid excuse for not fencing in a swimming pool. Everyone knows the danger, yet kids continue to drown because of delay or neglect in protecting them from this very real horror.

–Insist on tucking your child in at night wearing flame resistant pajamas only, preferably snug-fitting. That little yellow tag some states permit audaciously announcing non-flame resistance is an insult to parental intelligence and an open show of contempt for your child’s welfare.

   I want to be humorous, I want to be light-hearted; but I cannot. Kids have been dying from these no-brainers for years. How can it be? Make sure your kids are safe.


Jumbled Thoughts About Toys



   Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and my fondest desires were simple enough to be satisfied with a pack of bubble gum or a clean new box of vibrant color markers, toys themselves were also simpler. We might also say the same of the times generally, though I think that would be a nostalgic fib. America’s beloved JFK hit the exit ramp early, and, for a time, baby John John, stoic and cute, stepped into his father’s shoes as our nation’s favorite (little) man.

   Toy makers have traveled the decades along with the rest of us and have done an excellent job of incorporating science and technology into our children’s play lives; as to the latter, at least so far as technology is measured by extensive use without over-careful attention to creativity. Maybe that criticism is a bit harsh; after all, though we may look at a wide sea of available toys and judge most as rather silly and useless, most things fall on a bell curve, and our kid’s toys are no exception.

    I am heartened to find, a near half century later, that my favorite childhood toys still exist today; diehards of pleasurable pastimes, imaginative and certainly, by today’s standards, simple—some might say, primitive. But never boring, their endurance a testament to their constant appeal. Here falls, for our youngest ones, the clackety-clack pull along animals fashioned of wood and string; Rockwellian painted jack in the boxes, where the child giggles endlessly with delight just by turning a tiny wooden knob, listening to a funky telltale tune, being surprised (somehow, every time), when a plastic or wooden creature covered in a fabric base springs from it’s hiding place; the pop-corn push toy, with the brightly colored balls that dance and pop under a clear plastic dome- and nothing else (no lights, no whistles, no robotic voice telling our children how smart and special they are). For older kids, we find the hard molded dinosaurs and wildlife figures, with which an entire world can be created and acted out; the classic etch-a-sketch, which even a parent will pick up for a minute or two while tidying up kidlet’s room. For girls, Barbie still exists (and, though I digress, allow me to note that the witch never ages!), and this doll easily creates hours of imaginative play. (Why every Barbie in my house is always naked I cannot explain, nor do I think I want to…)

   Technology has invaded some toy concepts like a contagion, equating to a desperate attempt to appear hip and cool and ‘educational’ on the toyshop shelf. What they are in reality is useless and, kindly put, most annoying to mom and dad. Little sing-song or robotic voices making utterly insipid declarations to your child, and you just cannot help but wonder what phrases appeared on the ‘rejection list’ of things the voices might say. I would kill to be in that board meeting!

JONES:  No, Keith, the doll shouldn’t say, “I love you mommy”. It’s so very, well…boring! Kids are sophisticated, they expect more today! (Love being so outdated, don’cha know!)

SMITH: Yes, you’re right! Let’s incorporate edge for our little sophisticates! Let us have spunk and use edgy language!

JONES: Now you’re talking! And ‘edgy’ means ‘Me’! We must use ME language. Know what I mean? ME language. It is crystal clear and makes perfect sense. Alternatively, we can pull something straight out of our …EAR to have her say!

SMITH: You’re the boss, so yes I do know what you mean! It is clear. Right again Dan. The doll should say “I want a BabyTech-TechSavy computer”!

ME:  Gentlemen, you clearly have no children and no parents. May you be fated for eternity to play with your own creations.


tink    My toy maligning is spurred by a toy phone I bought for my daughter today. She saw it on the shelf and it was one of those ‘had to have its’. At $3.99, I promised her the phone if she could get through the shopping trip behaving under my definition of ‘good’. She did; I did. She fell asleep with it still in her hand. An hour ago, I heard it drop to the floor, knowing she was ‘out’ for good. Only then did I take a better look at it. It’s from Disney, and sports a clever likeness of Tinkerbell on the front –clever, I say, because Tink’s expression is somehow both bashful and alluring at the same time—a look I’ve tried to master for twenty plus years with far less success. I like that it plays a weird chip version of Beethoven’s Ninth, but only because that’s my favorite symphony- and while at best it’s mere chance, at worst, its just another lame commercial overuse of something beautiful. Still, we got to talk about Beethoven, so it meets with tentative approval based on parental prejudice. But with all its buttons, it only says two things, and how they finally decided on these two phrases I just cannot imagine (hangovers notwithstanding). Ready? Here you go:  “Sparkle power” (how uplifting…) and, way worse: “Always winging it (push button again) put your wings on and fly.” What the…??

  Okay. Here’s a message I want to send to my college bound, will no doubt  be a professional child: WING IT! Not only ‘wing it’, but ‘ALWAYS wing it’! I hate this phone. I dislike it more for that out of the ascot statement than her obnoxious little “alphabet computer” with its insanely rude admonition when it is too long ignored: “(Aaahemmm!) Ex-cuuuuzzze ME” (I kid you not! That’s what it had the sheer audacity  to say!- There’s enough rudeness in real life, now we have to take it from our toys?!! You want to see crazy? Catch yourself talking back to your child’s toy: “No! Excuse ME!”…) Dear, where’s that popcorn push thing??

    I have ended up with several versions of baby computers, those to teach alphabet & letters, numbers, math games etc etc- Forget it. Kidlet is bored and a masters degree is required to figure out all its…specialness. A real computer is far easier and, after letting the three-year-old loose on it, she has not only figured things out pretty well, but she has taught me shortcuts and tricks a few times. It incites a ‘wow’ none of the sorry ersatz versions could ever hope to muster. Okay- she also locked me out once- but at least the thing didn’t berate me as I was trying to get back in.

 alphabet-pal   The old stand-bys will always be my favorites. She loves them and I am thrilled to have another shot. There are new toys, too, which are so wonderful, so playful and creative, I wonder how life would have been to have had them in my childhood arsenal.  For wee ones, the Leap Frog Alphabet Pal is great, and would make a terrific and affordable gift for any baby shower. Pull it on its string to be regaled with the alphabet song. Let it rest comfortably, and choose between modes: colors, letters, letter sounds, songs. It has a modest light feature, but that’s just a tiny flair.  For slightly older to very older kids, my favorite is the Eye Clops by Jakks Pacific, which retails at major toy stores for about $40.00: a state of the art tool to show your child, up close and huge, the world of tiny things right on your tv. We look at fabrics, bugs, hair, skin, and anything that comes to mind. Magnify a fiber by 200 times and it seems a mad forest that one cannot help but be intrigued with, young or old(er).  Think of it as a baby version of an electron eye-clopsmicroscope.

    Soon little one will tire of her Tinkerbell phone. And little does she know, I’ll be watching. And waiting. And first chance I get, when all is clear, I will swoop down and scoop it up like a hungry pterodactyl and she’ll forget all about the sage advice that if you can’t take the time to do it right, you can ‘always wing it’.  Sigh.

  Shop well, shop smart, and, please, know that $4 is too much to pay for some very bad advice…

Hiccups- The Under-rated Torture!

   Okay- I digress from the usual fare.  I have to.  I have the hiccups.  Also known as hicoughs, depending on your dictionary, but who cares? Point being, they are highly disruptive, most vexing, annoying, and downright insulting if you ask me. I don’t get them often, but when I do, I feel subliminally tortured, a cosmic whisper of ‘Hex on me!’, a condition I will obsess over until resolved in my quiet, static favor. Ugg- there’s another!

   I’ve always hated these uppity-up intrusions, fearing some of life’s greatest pleasures that cast a potential shadow of suffering: gobs of crusty french bread, a smooth sling back of butter smooth beer,  an otherwise exhilarating lap in crystal clear waters. And I can’t muffle them either, like the sweet silent ‘mups’ barely registering on the radar from girls with names like Tiffany or Michelle.  I’m a bellower, I’m a Roxanne, I’m a Gertrude hiccuper! Nothing dainty, and it just cannot be helped! So, it must be cured, and fast!

   Now, forget the scaring thing. Really, anyway, how scary is that old 1-2-3 Boo! anyway?  So I offer these suggestions, which I always try, in descending order, and almost always find relief along the way:

1- A MILLION BUCKS:  Try it: If you can tell me the precise moment before the next eruption, I’ll give you a million bucks.

2- SALVATION (Again) BY MOTHER MARY: Grab a drink, any drink. Take a fast tiny sip. Say “Mother”. Take another fast tiny sip. Say “Mary”. Another like sip. Say “Full”…get the idea? “Mother Mary Full of Grace”…with a fast tiny sip between each word. Not supposed to get beyond the word ‘grace’ without cure, so if you don’t know what’s next, you’re okay.

3- BITTERS AND LIME: Horrible taste, excellent cure. Pour the bitters over the slice of lime and say “Yummy!” (But, really, who has bitters sitting around on the condiment shelf…)

4- RUBBER BAND GLASS: Pour a glass of water. Put a tissue or napkin over the top. Make it taut with a rubber band over the rim. Sip through the tissue. (Listen, I don’t make it up, I’m just reporting.) This method actually worked for me once.

Hmmm- apparently, writing is yet another cure, as my hiccups are gone now.  Ahhhh…All is again right with the world. When I started this post, I was belting them out every few seconds like a real muscular Gretchen.  For now, you may call me Lee. 

There you go.

Here Comes The Sun– And It’s All Right!

  If you subscribe to conventional wisdom, then sandwiched between a morning shower and putting on your makeup, you slather on a generous glob of sunscreen. And if you do, then you know how getting a bit in the eye can test your religious resolve. And while you’ll certainly survive it, it’s far more painful to watch your little one endure that same obnoxious event of routine living. (Here’s a tip, by the way: next time this happens, fold a tissue in half and place the folded end just above your bottom lash line at a 45 degree angle, then close your fngrprt-sunscrneye. The tissue will absorb the moisture, and eliminate the irritant at the same time.)


   For little faces, I love Coppertone Sport Stick. It is applied directly from the tube (kind of like a lip balm), so it never touches fingers that may rub an eye before a good handwashing. It is sweatproof and waterproof, so swimming lessons will not be interrupted with painful cries caused by migrating stinging goo. There is no apparent fragrance, and, according to the label, it is non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and PABA free. It comes in SPF 30 factor, blocking both UVA and UVB rays.


neutroxxx   For exposed limbs and tummies, I go with either  Aveeno Active Naturals Continuous Protection SPF 45 (The adult version; I avoid the child’s version based on it’s reported use of nano-ingredients); or Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 70. The latter is my avnous2221favorite for personal use, as it does not interfere at all with normal application of make-up and, if anything, mixes beautifully with water based foundation for a flawless, glassy look. (Note: I faced a long time ago that there is no such thing as a flawless, glassy look from a bottle or tube; so, ‘flawless’ is a widely relative term in this instance! I can say, without exaggeration, that it actually applies and looks better than foundation alone.)


   Nano-ingredients, or fullerenes, (the stuff I don’t want in my purchased stuff, though I kind of like the cosmetic effect of) wedges foot in door on a topic of growing controversy. I am relatively sure any boycott of fullerene inclusion in popular cosmetic products is akin to trying to save a sinking boat with a teaspoon, particularly when there is no current labeling disclosure requirement. But, the way I see it, ‘every little bit’. (I may recycle my glass bottles and jars, but I still opt for paper or plastic at the grocery. I’m not a hypocrite, just half hanging from that sailing ship instead of firmly planted on the deck.)


   I’m no chemist, and not the best resource on nanotechnology. (I’m just glad I ever heard of it; we all need more stuff to worry about everyday, afterall!) Still, I’m happy to offer a couple of recent articles that are refreshingly easy and quick to read as an introduction:

Read a Friends of the Earth, March, 2009 article to get a snapshot of background information on the use of nanoparticles in sunscreen and cosmetics.  You might also find interest in this April, 2009 Rodale News article, which features a link to Skin Deep, specifically targeting the purported safety of various sunscreen brands. You can check yours there. (We offer this link as a point of interest; we do not know whether the information provided at either site on nanotechnology or sunscreen safety and chemistry is accurate.)


Meantime, happy sunning, happy swimming, and stay safe! 1