Category Archives: General

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…

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

In Praise of Resale


   Ah, the ruffles and bows, the pleats and plaids, silks and woolens, fancy buttons and precious appliqués, vibrant colors in garments and inviting websites offering products donned in dynamic packaging that just makes a mom want to treat her kids to the best stuff out there! And why not? We indulge where we can and take a taste of the good life in honor of our beloveds. We feel happy and proud.


   I recently set myself to the mission of searching for marvelous kid finds on the web, looking for both apparel and gifts. And I found wonderful and creative merchandise. I spent my time looking at children’s boutiques, knowing the items would be more pricey, but that they should also offer the unique and particularly well constructed. I made my way through the return pages of various google searches toward this goal, and began to notice that what is “unique” is everywhere, and that just about everything is “upscale”. Items and stores are described with words like trendy and posh, high-end, exclusive, and are almost always boutique and designer. Animal prints are all the rage, (particularly zebra, in case you’re wondering), along with rocker wear and deep, rich color (preferably with layers and ruffles and a splash of tulle). Storefronts are gorgeous, with trendy color combinations of pinks and browns, pinks and greens, and turquoise with just about anything. Motifs are retro, vintage, or ultra modern fashionista, many making me crave a double scoop cone.


  shapes-333 I reflected back to my little web shop, Happy Penguin Kidswear, and for a second, wondered how we could compete. But just for a second. The truth is, we are not competing. Gone are the days where moms glance aside sheepishly when another pre-school mom compliments dear child’s sweater and asks where it was purchased. Today, we say with pride that it came from a resale shop! It is not a matter of a faltering economy, or of ‘going Green’, but of sound economic sense. A quality garment lasts longer than it will fit a growing child. A classic design is as fashionable today as yesterday, particularly if accented with a few choice accessories. I confess to you that I have skimmed, on an occasion or two, our inventory for my daughter’s closet, and have received the warmest compliments for these choices. And though I avoid the sales pitch to friendly women at the park, their happy comments make me glow, and I can then let them know about Happy Penguin Kidswear.




   A few additional reasons resale has become popular extend beyond exceptional pricing. shapes4442Resale is where moms find out of season items. One will not find that neutral, cream-colored, go-with-everything sweater in July by shopping retail.

   Resale is where moms find that enviable discontinued line from her favorite designer that has long since left the retail shelves. Going vintage means, by definition, going resale.

   Resale means taking home designer goods for the cost of a box-mart outfit; it means five pairs of pants instead of one; it means having your Little Ones looking like a million bucks, while you savor the satisfaction of the bargain.




   Baby girl has just turned four. We live at the park, the library, the zoo, pre-school. We shapes5551venture out to amusement parks and museums. We go out to eat and take local train rides for fun. We have yet to see a child in animal print or rocker wear, though those clothes are so very enticing. A pretty, everyday ruffle, or a couple of bows at her shoulders, and she is picture perfect, ready to go. And if I have ever doubted her style before locking the door behind me, I am certain of it by the time we arrive.



shapes661   We love children’s boutiques. We love the colors and the packaging. We love browsing the vibrant fields. We love how special we would feel on hitting the ‘add to cart’ button. There’s not a thing wrong with ‘upscale’, afterall, and we do our best to bring upscale down home to all. We all want our kids to be and look their best. Because we are moms and dads, and our kids certainly are the best. And I have not a thing bad to say about upscale children’s boutiques offering unique and beautiful items. We aim to emulate on some scale, and bring you the best for less.


   Buying Resale: Tips

 shapes-7772   –There are many resale sources for clothing, both for children and adults. These include on-line resale shops, thrift stores, eBay, and flea markets, among others.  On-line shops and ebay share the unfortunate reality of not having the ablity to touch and inspect garments prior to purchase. For both, verify an accommodating return policy in the event you are not happy with your purchase. For ebay, seek sellers with high positive feedback and generous terms.

   Both of these sources will generally require that you pony up for return shipping; often this means that if you spent $10 for item and shipping, you will have to pay $3-5.00 for a return, and you will then be out that amount for the privilege of being disappointed in your purchase. Many people will not go to the trouble, thereby “rewarding” the seller for oversight should your item(s) be flawed without advance disclosure.

   Ebay purchases can add the further disadvantage of having to pay shipping costs for separate items, even though a flat rate could cover, and could have covered, all items purchased. If you have purchased a “lot”, sellers will typically demand a return of all items within the lot, including those you would like to keep. This cost of return can easily exceed the cost of the items you hoped to add to your wardrobe.

   There are many wonderful resale stores online. A similar dilemma is faced, however. With both resale shops and ebay purchases, it is wise to start out with a low cost purchase, allowing you as the buyer to assess the value of the goods and trustworthiness of the seller. Are the items in the condition you expected? Are there any undisclosed flaws? Is the garment clean and fresh? If you’ve had contact with anyone at the store, how did customer service stack up?

   Thrift stores and flea markets offer the advantage of prior inspection, but have their own drawbacks. Be mindful not to shop when hungry or tired, as you may miss fatal flaws in the garments selected. Many items are stained, have hidden holes or other defects that take a careful eye to witness. Take your items to a bright light, such as a large window on a sunny day to ferret out subtle stains. Ask about the return policy at thrifts lest you get home and find that a stray moth loved your new woolen as much as you did. Do not expect a bonanza, as these outlets take patience- 99% of the items will be ordinary, available new on sale for less, counterfeited (brand name; usually purses and specialty items), faded, or just plain the wrong size. One to three special items an afternoon is about what you can typically expect; though one really good deal may be worth your efforts!

   Yes, we love boutiques. But we love Resale more! We wish you happy hunting, happy shopping, and the best for your Little Ones!

Baby Stuff Inundation!

    All Those Must-Have Products…
What’s A New Mom To Do??
March 7, 2009


 After you have that first kidlet, and a couple of years after that, you are presented with so many ‘must haves’ and, being a good mom who wants the best for Little One, you buy far too many of them. Well, I did, anyway, sometimes feeling the fool. Items to make your baby more comfortable, safer, cleaner, smarter; your life easier, cleaner, stream-lined, systematic– all those gadgets and gizmos the nice, well-intentioned moms in the park told you that you really should have. (Hey, made their lives better, right?) Well, the ads in the parenting magazine you’ve been reading  (with all those utterly cute kids’ pics in) say they are ‘must haves’.  And then, the flip side: those products you need that simply don’t exist, so you compensate, jerry build, wondering how it is that babies have been born since the dawn of time and what you need does not even exist yet.  Are the must-haves worth it? Can the non-existent necessities be fashioned affordably by mom?
   I’m an ‘expert’ by mom-dom alone.  No studies over time here, no surveys, no specialized market analysis. But if being a product target in the real world isn’t scientific enough, what is?  I’ll start the maiden launch of the Fingerprint Files with a few:
Shopping Cart Covers:   Huh? Wow- sounded great to me, too!! But…huh? While Little Cookie was still in infanthood, I began my quest for a shopping cart gizmo. Got my mom in on the action. At a super hefty price tag, I grew discouraged- we were talking $50 plus here.  At that price, I expected functionality of purpose, ease of use, and it better be quality stitched and in a print I felt like showing off to any other moms I might run into while sifting through blinding arrays of soup labels.
   Not talking brands or makers here. But I finally found a gorgeous one, brightly colored, with safety straps, generous leg holes, lots of cushy drapy padded fabric…which brings me home to ‘huh’? Really, a baby in one arm, a mass of screaming colored material in the other, trying to align everything, getting baby in- then having to hunt mightily for the right way the straps were supposed to work…
   There are those who swear by these things. Power to them! Not me. I tossed the crumpled fabric in my cart and warned baby that she would have to work on her immune system, because that train wreck wasn’t on my already harried agenda. I still have it. Used less than once. Crumpled in the upper reaches of her closet. That was two years ago, and she is still alive and with us, and doesn’t get sick much.
   Fingerprint take: If you can do without: do without! If not, but the tag is on the steep side- take a piece of desireable fabric, cut a couple of leg holes, and drape it over the cart’s handle and baby seat. Same protection for about $4.  You can use the shopping cart seatbelt without having to juggle your child.  


Safety/Walking Harnesses: Moms of twins, move on- this isn’t for you. All others, I am ashamed to say that my wild child earned her right to be harnessed, and that  I, as her mother, earned my right not to deal with all those straps and buckles after purchase, before first use. Okay, maybe I’m strap and buckle challenged, but I would rather write another college thesis than to have to figure that thing out! Maybe I just picked up the wrong one, but I ask you–why would I ever try another after that particular misery of motherhood failure?
   Same price alternative (and only a few nasty glares)- one of those marvelous, self-retracting dog leashes. For the strap impaired, it works just as well.  After giving up on the physics and mechanics and nano-mega- uber technology of the harness, I was thrilled to simply pull back a simple lever with my thumb, insert through belt loop, and have my child within any distance I desired!
   If you are anything like me, the glaring stares don’t touch you, as you know you are simply being protective of beloved kidlet. But there are drawbacks.  I was at my wit’s end at a large chain drugstore as Little One ran through the aisles, pulling things off shelves, thinking it all very funny, and I could get little done. So I dragged her lovingly to the pet section and grabbed one of these wonderful leashes and attached. And she was delighted, and I was delighted. Until she got on all fours and started to bark. Then only she was delighted. After a couple of weeks of demanding she be leashed for each and every minor outing (um…like getting the morning paper from the driveway), she then refused to be leashed for anything, insisting she was not a dog, afterall.
 Wipe Warmers: Just before Little One was born, the most adamant advice I received was that I absolutely must make sure I had a ‘wipe warmer’.  It was like a mantra- ‘Need a warmer, need a warmer…’ I waddled my fat self to Target for a wipe warmer and read every word on every box to make sure to get the right one. Not sure which I bought, but I do know the box was very specific in dutifully letting me know that there would be no dastardly drying out of wipes, no browning, no burning.
   That wipe warmer was another piece of…well, let’s just say, good thing I had wipes on hand. As dry and brown as they may have been. And they were. Wipes aren’t cheap–at $7-$9 a family pack. My week of warmed wipes cost quite a bit more. And I started wondering–why is a warmer needed anyway, even if it DID work as promised? Wipes will be the temperature of the room, afterall, with a slight cooling based on alcohol content. Live next to Santa? I’m willing to bet you have heat. If not, then you’ll be spending on something more urgent than a little box that makes your wipes prematurely browned. 


dpr-b-gone1In-Nursery Diaper Disposal Doo-Dads:  Laugh outloud, I think all new moms either buy these or get them as gifts at showers from generous friends who are childless. Okay, I’ll admit to the purchase with high hopes of convenience. And, though I can’t name a brand because it’s been a while, it was great. It was spectacular! For the first few weeks, when all was “calm” on the olefactory front.  I did have a bit of a problem with my particular purchase, because I was alone trying to put the hard plastic pieces together in the final hours of pregnancy, utterly unable to force the pieces into place without fearing contractions, but that isn’t my biggest gripe.
   Biggest gripe:  Very short ‘shelf life’, so to speak. Really, what’s the ‘shelf life’ on a used diaper? Exactly. The reality is, no plastic bin is going to save your husband from having to empty the trash. Constantly. It’s a given. My opinion, just take the trash out from day one, because no matter how often you clean your diaper genorama, or try to cheat mother nature, in a short few weeks, you’ll be taking the trash out daily (hourly) anyway. Skip the doodad, spend the difference on that cushy monogrammed blankie that will be cherished and, no doubt,  loved forever.
   So much for the nay-sayer in me at the moment. Next time, a few ‘must haves’ that are really Must Haves.
Love to you and your Little Ones!








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