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Sunday, September 18, 2005

an excersause in futility

my upstairs neighbor is very sweet. she is french and speaks at an ear-splintering audible-from-12-miles-away high french pitch ("BONJOUR, MEESTAIR NASS GAH! 'OW EEZ BEBE?!") and has a 16 month old adopted little mexican girl who is just about the most beautiful person i have ever seen. anyway, since french neighborlady has a daughter who is several months older than ours, every few weeks we find a big sack of shmancy european baby clothes, which, i must admit, totally kick american baby clothes' asses. we have the styliest hand-me-down baby in brooklyn. no joke.

the other day as i was coming home from a stroll with le bebe, i chanced upon french neighborlady ("O, LA PETITE! CA VA, MINOU?!"). she was just getting home with her nonfrench husband, her little girl and her 6-year-old tasmanian devilboy -- let us all pause right here and praise allah that the nice guys did not have a boy -- and she said DO YOU WAHNT OUR EXCERSAUCER? SHE EES TOO BEEG FOR EET NOW AND WE WILL JUST TROW EET AWAY EEF YOU DONWANT EET. so, figuring as she is french and stylie and she has given us french stylie babyclothes, i said "we would love to take the excersaucer off your hands. thank you."

and i went up to their apartment with them and i waited as her husband disappeared into the background only to reemerge with ... the most hideous chunk of plastic ever found in a Fisher Price factory-reject outlet. look at this (and please try not to sue me if you go blind):

sadly, those are the actual colors. i mean, i don't know whether to start with the medieval theme (turrets? a little plastic king and queen? a transparent evil court jester head, what the fuck?) or the seat, tastefully lined in a purple, orange, red, green, yellow and blue harlequin pattern. it looks like someone went to ye olde renaissance faire, drank too much mead and barfed up the leggos they had eaten for lunch. and it's HUGE. it easily takes up one-tenth of our apartment.

now this is a particularly egregious example, but it cements in my mind an awful, awful truth: baby toys are heinous. why, i ask you, are baby toys so heinous? our apartment, done in understated late-century IKEA, is gradually being overrun by bulky, chunky plastic crap, largely in bold primary colors. why? does it have to be this way? a hundred years ago, babies had beautiful, hand-crafted wood toys. now? we have offensively-colored mass-produced molded carcinogens. our apartment is small, otherwise we could keep all the heinous baby crap exiled to some remote corner of our place, but as it is, with barely 850 square feet to our name, we are losing the battle. there is no remote corner. just ask our cats, who live in terror of the day the baby realizes they exist.

and you know what's more depressing than slowly drowning in a sea of cheap plastic blue-and-white garbage? the baby, she just loves her excersaucer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I hear you. We also have a one bedroom apartment. Luckily, no french neighbor to donate an exersaucer, so we have no idea how much our daughter would love it if we had one.

I have a friend in the midwest who has kids and a whole house, and she asked me when we were getting an exersaucer. I told her never, and that if I brought one home it would probably harm my marriage. She said, "why? what do you mean?" I said nevermind.

so far our baby prefers abandoned plastic bottles, remote controls, and cell phones to her toys anyway. that's what I remind myself to justify denying her the exersaucer.

9/18/2005 11:14 AM  
Blogger c said...


You can find those beautiful handmade toys, though. And sometimes they don't cost a fortune.

We're lucky enough to have a GREAT toy store here that has wooden dollhouses, European toys, and not a lot of crappy plastic.

9/18/2005 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would be great to find designer colors in baby toys, or to be able to easily find beautiful quality toys that don't cost the mortgage. From what I've been told the primary colors are for the visual interest of the baby. I've just come to accept that my foyer will be the baby toy storage area and my home will not look lovely and organized again for a very long long time.

9/18/2005 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just knew your litle one was gonna love those colors! Seems like our boy's favorite toys are from the real world. I buy him a fancy new toy from Toysrus and he doesn't want to play with the toy, instead he loves the box. Ipod, Bose remote control, DVD player, etc., those are the favorite "toys". Thank God he's very gentle and doesn't break stuff.

9/18/2005 2:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well said. We surround our kids with these colors and then wonder why they need ritalin later on. Okay, that's a little harsh, but jeez. Can't they tone it down a little bit?

9/18/2005 3:11 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I'm only 1 month pregnant and I'm already trying to convince our families to NOT buy us anything that is made of plastic or features the image of any cartoon character (unless it's some cute, obscure, European thing. Yes, I'm a snob).

How does one prevent the influx of crap? I need to know!

9/18/2005 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have friends in VT with 2 kids, and no toys with plastic, characters, or noises. I watched the 5 year old amuse herself for AN HOUR by making a car out of a cardboard box. The baby plays with assorted sized tupperware - hey, isn't that plastic? Anyway, when they get bored, the actually go outside.

I, on the other hand, just broke open the plastic wrapping on the plastic Fisher Price little plastic workbench with lights & music. My baby happily gummed the plastic hammer. Then I realized where the bad smell was coming from - IT REEKS. This can't be safe and smell this bad.

Oh - our friends donate any plastic gifts. Harsh, but effective.

9/18/2005 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's the "educational" toy theory. The first time I went mobile shopping, I picked out a delicate pastel model that was easy on the eyes. Then I researched baby toys (I just now realized how ridiculous that is) and I ended up buying the Symphony in Motion mobile by Tiny Love. The really scary thing is now I actually gravitate toward the brightly colored stuff; because it is suppose to be better for my baby it looks more attractive to me now. I realized this when my sister mentioned how ugly the mobile is with its polka-dotted animals and black-and-white spirals and I defended the mobile and said it was cute.

9/18/2005 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As ugly as it may be, you will be singing its praises. I guarantee it, as does my son:

9/19/2005 12:28 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/19/2005 8:15 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

I'm pretty sure there would have been a stretch of 4 or 5 months where I would not have had a shower were it not for that hideous piece of plastic.
And VB- when you live in the city, just letting them go outside alone is not really an option. Unless your idea of folksy non-plastic toys also extends broken glass and the mentally ill. Then, I say, let 'em run.

9/19/2005 8:17 AM  
Blogger momma of 2 said...

Both of our kids LOVED the exersaucer, and very rarely could we get away with taking them out of it. When we finally gave it away - Baby Girl cried, and she had been able to fit in it for at least 3 months by that point, and we lived in a small two bedroom house - so we didn't have a lot of room for one either!

9/19/2005 8:23 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

When bebe starts crawling you will LOVE the exersaucer, and all other ugly plastic things that keep your bebe in one place, a place where she can't EAT all your beautiful, non-colorful, non-plastic things. I promise. I've been there.

9/19/2005 12:26 PM  
Blogger BIYF said...

I've always found that the blinding light of FREE outshines any primary color disco explosion. The wife, that's a different story. IT MUST ALL MATCH.

9/19/2005 2:09 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Apparently babies don't see in full colour until they're 4 months: this could explain a lot. Oh and by the way, all the trendiest French babies are wearing Osh Kosh this season.

9/19/2005 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mine wouldn't go near those fisher price things. he just wanted power tools--anything made of wood and metal with blades or sharp pointy things and electrical cords that were good for teething on.

he was scared of stuff like the exersaucer. he'd get kind of a whoa! what the hell is that?! look on his face and start screaming. but a circular saw--hey.

9/19/2005 4:57 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Exersaucer = crack. Okay, not really -- and I know others have said a similar thing. Our daughter had one with a plastic duck encased in a water filled bubble. And a star that played "twinkle twinkle" endlessly. When she bounced in it, no other sound could be heard. But! We got to eat and shower, so in that regard it rocked. We are trying not to buy/ask for other plastic toys now. The 'saucer will be gone soon enough, but we have a similar sized abode, so I feel your pain.

9/19/2005 8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We inherited one as well. Take it from one who knows. Before long, YOU and Mrs. Nice guy will LOVE the exersaucer! Put La Bebe in it and voila!!..entertainment, a break for the Nice Guys, and if you're really lucky.... she'll fall asleep in it! Yes, a nap! Congratulations are definately in order!! Cheers, Lizzie

9/19/2005 10:05 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Hey man, take it from a guy with a 15 month old, you will end up loving that piece of hideous crap. How else could I ever have watched Star Trek TNG in semi-peace? ;)

9/19/2005 10:30 PM  
Blogger Tess said...

We have a 16-month-old who still uses his exersaucer, even though he has technically outgrown it. He asks to be in it to eat his morning snack. It's the only way I get dishes down.


P.S. Our poor cats live in constant fear. Ben loves to sneak up on them and grab their collars.

9/20/2005 1:36 PM  
Blogger b said...

I must admit this - here and now - and, yes, it pains me to have to do it. But, Buddha has pressed me into this little corner of the web for a reason - I believe it is to dump another small chunk of karma from my sordid life.

I paid almost $60 for one of those, but, it wasn't even blue, it was green.

I have secretly harbored the fear that any child exposed to such a thing is at an increased risk to grow up and experiment with dangerous psychotropic chemicals - if only to recapture some semblance of comfort from, and / or recreate a feeling akin to the strange memories remnant from such experiences as were had in that flamboyant little subset of her infant universe.

It is a mercy that children are resilient; they adapt to the worst in fashion and pattern, and come through seemingly unscarred by the love in gawdy packages with which we shower them - I believe that it actually helps them to know how much frilly affection they have endured by our hands, later, when the therapy sessions begin.


9/20/2005 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I've read this post I can't get the image of Martin Short in Father of the Bride out of my head. I just keep hearing him say "exersaucer". Funny stuff as always.

Thanks, Jaime

9/21/2005 3:11 PM  
Blogger justdawn said...

We had that same hideous hunk of plastic carcinogen...and my kidlets LOVED it:)

9/23/2005 1:46 AM  

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