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August 31, 2003

Cheerios: Scraping the Bottom of the Bowl

So here it is. I never thought this day would come. I am a devout capitalist about to go on an anti-capitalist rant. And all because of a bowl of cereal.

We were doing what capitalists do on a hot day, seeking refuge in the cooler climes of Pacific Centre Mall after a nice walk. Uncle Dave and I were left in charge of the babies, Ella and her little bud Ollie (who was spending the afternoon with us). Being men, and generally devoid of any creative ideas when wandering around a mall, Dave and I steered the kids toward the toy department at the Bay.

At first, we stood mesmerized by the entire alcove of pink Barbie stuff. Both Ollie and Ella were energized by the pink eye candy that literally filled the space from top to bottom shelf along three full walls. It was about that time that Ella started hopping up and down in her stroller seat, pushing herself against the restraints. She was chortling hysterically. Ollie was just staring--alternately--at Ella and then at the wall of pink, squealing quite ecstatically. We hadn't even ventured into the Barbie black, er, pinkhole and the kids were already going bananas.

But no, this isn't a rant about Barbie, Ken, the Dreamhouse, or all the other pink trappings of the doll's life. Taking on Barbie would be like trying to take on GI Joe. They are institutions. For better or worse, they are probably here to stay as staples of toydom.

We quickly moved out of the pink zone and headed deeper into toy territory. Past the racks of unsold Incredible Hulk action figures (which had probably been collecting dust since the movie tie-in lost 70% of its box office in the second week of release). Past the Toy Story figures. Past the Matchbox cars. Past the Sesame Street stuffies.

Then it happened. I noticed it from Ollie first because I was carrying him. His eyes were wide and his happy squeals had turned into something else--something more. He was actually so excited that he was now chirping. Like a budgie. Ella went nuts again as well, alternately chortling and blowing her signature raspberries. Both of the babes were spinning their heads back and forth between both sides of the aisle. They were going positively looney. Where were we in the toy department?

The cereal isle.

Yes, an entire aisle dedicated, stamped, emblazoned, and branded with, by, and about all things Cheerios. Cheerios books, Cheerios activities, and most prominent of all--big-headed Cheerios stuffies wearing brightly coloured tee-shirts emblazoned with the words "Cheerios Kids."

I couldn't believe it. Neither could Uncle Dave.

For some reason, this really ticked me off. And a day later I'm still thinking enough about it that I feel the need to write up a rant. I'm not naive. I know there are lots of toys with marketing tie-ins. You can't walk into a fast food restaurant without seeing toys behind the counter. And don't even get me started on the "Barkistas," stuffed dogs complete with Starbucks doghouses, available at a location near you.

Programming consumers and branding and marketing products is nothing new. Such business practices generate billions of dollars for the world economy, create millions of jobs, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and infuse billions more into social, medical, and environmental causes through corporate sponsorship and donations. Such practices also increase the divide between the world's rich and poor, feed off underpaid (or child) labour, starve the hungry, contribute to homelessness, and create social, medical, and environmental crises time and again.

That is capitalism. At its best. And at its worst. Its neither all good nor all bad. There's much more grey than black and white. But there are improvements to be made. And lines to be drawn.

I draw my line at the Cheerio. At what point do we say "enough is enough" in terms of kids being programmed by toys and corporate tie-ins? At what point does the average parent--the average consumer--begin to take offense at corporations taking advantage of kids? I don't want to see mini-shopping carts flying hard plastic flags that declare "Future Shopper." I found my line in the sand yesterday, and I plan to keep a much closer eye on it from now on.

I want to go back to a time when toys were simpler. When they weren't trying to make kids into lifelong consumers (although the more I reflect on this, the less convinced I am that there ever was such a time). Tomi and I still have the Tupperware puzzle ball (where kids put the pieces through the differently shaped holes). Yes, it's Tupperware, but it's a helluva lot less sinister than the cereal aisle. My other favorite toy--the Fisher Price stacking doughnuts--is another less potentially destructive distraction (although Tomi tells me Ella is basically sucking on estrogen when she puts the plastic rings in her mouth).

So there it is. Barbies, GI Joe, Bob the Builder, video games based on movies, movies based on video games based on the fairy tale, and stuffed buddies named after cereal.

I just want to go back to the days when a Cheerio was.......well, a Cheerio. Sigh.

Posted by go-Daddy-O at 11:50 PM in Rants, Rants, Rants | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2003

Alpha Omega 3-in-1

Last night we bought the oh-so convenient Alpha Omega car seat by Cosco (the less flashy version of the Eddie Bauer). In theory, it seems like the most economical solution for a family that plans to have two children within two years or so of each other. We'll see if this holds true for us. Some say that many children can outgrow the booster long before the specs say they should. We're hoping that, should this happen, number two will be ready for the upgrade.

The down side to outgrowing the infant carriers is, of course, that you may have to wake a sleeping angel to take them out of the car...not looking forward to this AT ALL. We value every sleeping moment these days!

Tomorrow we shall attempt installation. Stay tuned for results.

Posted by penny at 10:25 PM in Products We Love | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2003

Taking the streets

VANCOUVER CRITICAL MASS

03mar478


5:50 - Helmet, water, keys, bike, breastpads. We're good to go.
5:55 - Cars are everywhere along Davie, so we go down some back alleys and ride along sidewalks. I'm bleeding at the knee where my pedal scraped off a patch of skin.
6:00 - We arrive at the Vancouver Art Gallery and survey the crowd. This month's Martian theme has prompted critical mass regulars to don red shirts and pants. Alien antennae sparkle in the sun.
6:10 - Some rousing speeches, and then we're off. Here how it goes: we stick together as a group, and the "corkers" block traffic so that we can ride through intersections. The people in the front determine the route that we'll be taking. We head straight for the Granville St. bridge.
6:15 - Once in a while, a driver gives us a wave and a friendly honk - beep, beep. Other people lean on their horns. One person flips us the bird and yells "Get a job." That's original. I'd like to see him change this morning's rice, pea, and banana-filled diaper.
6:30 - Next up, the Burrand St. bridge. I'm feeling wonderful and free. Next to me, a smiling bearded man is riding a bike with a canoe attached to it.
7:00 - We all head to English Bay where some people decide to go for a naked swim.
7:20 - Half of the riders decide to stay at the beach and the other half tackle a hill that takes us up Davie. I'm gasping a bit, but I'm able to make it all the way to Granville without stopping. I definitely think that lugging around a 20 pound baby has increased my muscle mass.
7:35 - We're close to home, so we decide to leave the group and go our separate ways. In the distance, I hear the ringing of bicycle bells and the shout of a woman who dreams of fresher air and safer roads. "We're not blocking traffic - WE ARE TRAFFIC!"

********************************************

Critical Mass is a grassroots reclamation of public space, a bike ride, held on the last Friday of the month, every month.
Enjoy safety and comfort in the car-free space that we create by simply riding together. Bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, self-propelled couches and any other form of human-powered locomotion welcome!
Time: Meet 5 to 5:30, Leave at 6pm
Date: Last Friday of EVERY Month
Location: the Vancouver Art Gallery on the Georgia St side (by the fountain)

Photos: from the Critical Mass Vancouver website.

Posted by tomi at 11:17 PM in Social Activism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

Fear itself

My daughter will be seven months old tomorrow. And she is absolutely a baby without fear. I began thinking about this a few nights ago when our building's fire alarm went off at midnight. She was quite upset about being wrenched out of her sleep, but aside from that remained pretty much unfazed by the whole event. She saw it as an opportunity to be curious, not as a reason to panic.

There we were--Mom, Dad, and baby--standing on the sidewalk opposite our building, watching two fire trucks pull up with blaring sirens and strobing lights. Pitch dark and very chilly. Lots of strangers milling about, speculating on where and if there was a fire. I was holding my daughter in my arms and whispering into her ear, narrating the events for her in a soothing voice in order to keep her calm. But who was I kidding? She was loving it. Her breathing was perfectly normal against my chest, and she had one hand on my mouth and the other over my shoulder. She was just watching everything with beautiful sleepy eyes. Her neighbours, the funny-looking men in long coats and big hats, all the pretty lights. Happy as a clam. Chattering away in her curiousity with this new type of walk we were on.

She's not afraid of anything. Yet. The spider in her room. Didn't even notice. Large crowds? Not a problem. Other kids? Loves them. Dogs? Happy co-existence. The dark? All the better to sleep in.

Me? Now there's the real problem. This is our first child and even though I'm an uncle to ten awesome kids back in Hamilton, this experience--this level of complete responsibility--is very new to me. My fear is everywhere, and I try my best to hide it from her. "Nothing to fear but fear itself." What a big load of c$@%! That reassurance just doesn't apply to raising children in 2003. I worry about the idiot ahead of us changing three lanes without signalling. I worry about whether she's warm enough. Fed enough. Rested enough. Happy enough. I worry about the little things: the rashes, her occasional constipation, and whether she'll get into daycare. And I worry about the big things: illness, pedophiles, accidents, flying with her into New York City this fall.

So I wonder sometimes about when the healthy fears of parents may turn into a paranoia that will rub off on a growing child. How much caution is too much? One of my greatest fears is that she'll grow up and--when she looks back--remember a childhood that would have been happier if her dad hadn't been such a stick in the mud. I want her to be happy, but I want her to be safe. I know I just have to relax more, but that has never been very easy for me. I'm her guardian, not her guard. My wife is much better at this than I am, and I'm learning from her.

I just want to make sure that, for as long as possible, when my daughter sees fire trucks in the middle of the night--all she sees is the pretty lights. There's time enough for everything else.

Posted by go-Daddy-O at 08:52 AM in Reflections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 27, 2003

Coastal cleanup

Kudos to Crystal Decisions (my employer) for encouraging its employees to take part in activities that have a positive impact on the environment. These activities include recycling old cell phones and home computers, learning about worm composting, and taking part in a safe biking workshop. Employess are also encouraged to get involved in the 10th Annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. This event is something that all of us could volunteer for:

A day at the beach can make a world of difference! Join in with the 10th Annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) - the world's largest volunteer effort to clean up our marine environment. Last year the GCSC cleaned up 239 sites in over 50 communities across Canada, and collected more than 165,000 pieces of debris. What was the top item collected you ask? Cigarette filters.

But, this event is more than just about collecting trash... There are many reasons to participate:

Save the lives of marine wildlife by removing harmful debris.
Help make oceans and waterways safe for swimming, fishing and drinking .
Share a special day with family, friends and co-workers.
Contribute to marine research with the data you collect.
Raise pollution awareness.
Volunteering with your family also means quality family time, and helps develop environmental stewardship habits in children.


Register: Register Now! Bring your friends and family.
Also of interest: International Coastal Cleanup.

Posted by tomi at 11:33 PM in Social Activism | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

Udderly Brilliant

"A cow does not know how much milk it has until the milkman starts working on it. Then it looks round in surprise and sees the pail full to the brim. In the same way a writer has no idea how much he has to say till his pen draws it out of him. Thoughts will then appear on the paper that he is amazed to find that he possessed. “How brilliant!” he says to himself. “I had no idea I was so intelligent.” But the reader may not be so impressed."

Gerald Branan (1894–1987), British author. Thoughts in a Dry Season, Cambridge University Press (1978).

Columbia World of Quotes

http://www.bartleby.com

Posted by penny at 10:18 AM in Questions and Quotations_ | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

PNE - Fair for Kids?

I made a trip to the PNE this past weekend with my sisters. We wonder: "What has happened to the "family" atmosphere of the local Fair?!" Although, there were many parents there with their young and sometimes newborn children, we were shocked at how much the Fair atmosphere has changed in the past 15 years. The Cowichan Exhibition was small but was geared toward families and all that a youngster could dream of just before returning to school. Crazy games...stomach churning rides...stinky animals and of course tongue-staining, sticky cotton candy. AND, our parents could afford to take the whole family. Sure the PNE offers discount tickets off site, but good luck finding a Shoppers Drug Mart that actually has any on hand. Not to mention, the traffic jams on Hastings and surrounding streets, the absolute fortune for parking and the outrageous cost for EVERYTHING. $3 for a bottle of water - our bad for not taking our own! The permanent haze of cigarette smoke and stench of I don't know what made me nauseous - how do parents take young children and babies at 11 o'clock at night and believe that they are showing them a "good time"? Leave the PNE for the teens and 20 somethings, barely clothed and chain smoking while standing in line for a $7 - 2 minute ride.

Posted by penny at 04:49 PM in Rants, Rants, Rants | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

Breast is best

Here's an interesting article from the Guardian on the subject of breast-feeding during medieval times. I pulled it from the archives of http://www.mirabilis.ca

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Wolds find proves medieval babies stayed healthy for longer on mother's milk

Some food for thought: "Women in the medieval period had the advantage of living in a culture that was particularly supportive of breastfeeding and where experienced breastfeeders could offer help to the new mother. Sadly, that's very different from now."

Posted by tomi at 11:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Everything is better on the North Shore

Last night we took Ella to visit friends on the North Shore. They've just bought a fabulous new home near Grouse Mountain--above the snow line. Breathtaking, although it was a bit chilly breast-feeding the babe. So the debate continues. Do we want to buy a house? In the suburbs? Everything does seem to be better on the North Shore...but who can afford it?!

west north vancouver british columbia bc canada north shore tourism nature photographs

Posted by tomi at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 23, 2003

Pumping

So it begins...

Posted by tomi at 11:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack