The Best Baby and Toddler Toys 2015 Are Actually Your Garbage

It’s that time of year, people; time to dump the meager contents of your wallets out at the nearest Target.

Your baby needs that brightly colored stuffed puppy with a dangle mirror and plastic chew ring attached at the ear, for her development. The mirror will teach your baby how to track images, crucial for future spy quests, and become attached emotionally to their own image, a natural precursor for your baby’s first selfie stick. The chew ring soothes aching gums, the byproduct of teething, and is made from organic, BPA-free, antibiotic and hormone free plastic that was melted down from the covers of Harvard graduate Physics textbooks (eco-friendly, 100% recycled). The puppy itself is handmade by The Coalition of Moms Better Than You For a Brighter Tomorrow, who want you to know that their children do not even know what a television is. Suggested retail is $249, but 5% of each sale goes directly to poor children in need of organic blueberries.

the patron saint of capitalism

the patron saint of capitalism

To save you the trouble of ruining your kids’ lives by buying the wrong thing, my team of highly trained bullshit analysts has tested all of this years hottest toys. Here are their findings:

1. Empty Water Bottle

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Empty water bottle is composed of several different types of plastic, and also occasionally paper. The label component contains several words, which will help familiarize your baby with language and the alphabet, essential for any budding linguist. The bottle’s ridged shape provides ample texture for tender mouths to explore. It’s small size makes it perfect for grasping, and will teach your future NBA star how to palm a basketball before their second birthday.

2. Deck of Cards in Empty Gelato Container

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This toy comes in two components, and must be assembled at home (this is an easy DIY- much less frustrating than 97% of all Pinterest projects, according to focus groups). Begin assembly by consuming an entire container of expensive gelato late at night in your sweatsuit, careful not to let any of it drip off your chin and onto the leaflet titled “Why You’re Doing it Wrong” that your pediatrician gave you. Wash empty container, fill with Deck of Cards, and screw on cap.

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The sound this toy makes when shaken will delight your child’s auditory pathways, giving them an early start on a lengthy and profitable career in music that you will micromanage. Prepare to weep tears of joy at their mesmerizing, critically acclaimed 2045 performance in the off- off- broadway hit, “Fuck You, Mom.”

3. Shoe That Doesn’t Fit Tied to Ribbon

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Shoe That Doesn’t Fit Tied to Ribbon was made by blind refugee orphans in a distant galaxy torn apart by apocalyptic hellfire. Proceeds from each purchase go towards donating gluten-free, 48-seed bread, California almonds, and syphilis-free water in Starbucks red cups to alien children in need of intergalactic school supplies. Don’t wait; call now.

4. Empty Box

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This delightful product is available in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Sign up on the company website to receive a monthly shipment of Empty Boxes via subscription, to keep your child entertained all year long.

Your child will learn about multiple shapes, materials, and textures. By holding this toy, they develop the neural pathways associated with the sensory phenomena of touch. Rotating this item in space displays a 3-dimensionality, which will trigger future dreams of an Ivy League degree in Engineering. Your child is destined to excel at model building, and may become a very famous architect.

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the crucial developmental phenomena of “play”

Give the gift of not ruining lives by getting the wrong thing this holiday season. Buying any unsuitable present could result in developmental delays, longterm substance abuse issues, type II diabetes, or hoarding.

Happy Holidays!

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What I Learned From Three Amazing Moms in Ten Very Long Days Across the USA

Last week, at 2:30 in the morning, I got up out of bed, packed a taxi up with an enormous suitcase, stroller, backpack, diaper bag, carseat, and a seven month old and left home for our first of five flights to four states in ten days.

Yes, I am fucking crazy.

I need a 10-year-long nap

I need a 10-year-long nap

I also now feel capable of doing basically anything, but not without the simultaneous experience of a month-long low-level panic attack and raging insomnia. I’ll accept the tradeoff, because even though I cried in the airport on the way to baggage claim after the last plane touched down through bad weather, I feel brave as hell.

There were a few reasons why I booked this trip four months ago, mainly to launch my very first business. I expected a crazy adventure, the excitement of sharing our new project with the world, the exhaustion, and the relief of home. I’m surprised, however, by the thing I keep thinking back on, the meatiest conclusion: I feel like I just returned from a corny but insightful Goldilocks-style pilgrimage to see how other mothers raise their babies, and how each of these styles fit into my own perception of motherhood.

Lu and I spent time with three other mothers on our trip. Here’s what we learned.

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Why I Quit and What Now

Gooey,

I’ve had to make some big decisions lately, and I want you to know why I made them. I made them for you, because everything I do is for you now.

I have a long history of mediocre jobs. I spent two years after college working at Urban Outfitters, which hopefully won’t exist anymore when you’re old enough to read this. (UO is a store that sells over-priced, hipster-lifestyle clothing that fall apart.) After that, I got a temp job at a financial company scanning microfiche, which eventually turned into a real job. In that real job I worked for a sociopathic tyrant, which was a wonderful learning experience, because I needed to learn how to be quiet, humble, and get through the day without complaining.

The mediocre and mundane years of our lives, of which I’ve had quite a few, teach us how to push ourselves towards better things, and they teach us how to be grateful.

In 2011, three and a half years before you were born, I decided to change my life. I won’t get into details here, but I left most of what I knew behind. I exchanged uncomfortable familiarity for scary, new things. I quit the job I didn’t like that paid a decent salary and went back to school to study science. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made me feel smart and gave me some of the confidence back that I’d lost. (This is one of the reasons I think it’s so important for girls to study math and science- it’s empowering). After an intensive summer chemistry course, your Dad and I got married at a little restaurant we loved in our neighborhood.

When I finished my science courses, I got a job at a prestigious cancer center working on clinical trials. This was the best job I’ve ever had. I worked with smart, challenging people (mostly women) running difficult trials for a patient population desperately in need of life-saving treatment. I went to work everyday with a purpose. I was a part of something much bigger and more important than myself.

I just quit that job, to stay home with you. I want to tell you why.

You are three months and four days old today. Five days ago you learned how to grab the toy elephant dangling overhead in your activity gym. Two weeks ago you learned how to splash in the water of your bath for the first time. You are learning how to explore the world around you, how to hold things with your hands, what happens when you hit the water hard with your palm. It’s incredible to witness. I also want to be next to you when you ask for the first time why grass is green instead of purple, or why rain falls down instead of up.

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Your Dad and I were lucky enough to be able to squirrel away some money so we’d have it after you were born. This won’t last forever (or a year), so I’ve had to think about how I can stay with you, and still contribute financially. This is real-world stuff that a lot of people don’t talk to their kids about, but I think they should.

It’s always been my dream to be able to make things for a living. When I see cool things online or in stores I think, how can I make that? I like figuring out how things work, and then reimagining them. But having a job like this, where you make whatever you want, seems impossibly difficult. Only very lucky people (who are more talented than me) have the privilege of making a living from their passions, right?

I’ve realized that I don’t want to teach you that.

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You know what I think is scary? Putting yourself out there. Writing deeply personal things on the internet and caring about it. Waiting to see how people will respond, or if anyone will read your work. It’s scary to make things, and then think anyone would ever value them, give you money so they can have them. It’s scary to start a business, knowing that it could completely flop, and you’ll look sort of silly and quixotic for ever thinking you could earn a living that way.

But Lucy, you’ve inspired me to be brave. You’re teaching me that life is too short and too full of magic to not spend every spare minute I have, every nap of yours, creating cool things. I’m learning how to weave, sew, paint, and build stuff with my hands. I want you to grow up knowing that work is a big deal, it’s important to know how to work, but it’s also important to do the things that you love that sometimes no one else will value, things that might fail. I have always been scared of taking risks, and I’ve never valued myself the way I hope you will. I want to change that in me, so you can grow up with that kind of mom.

So, I’m taking off on a new adventure. I’ll be part of a little company where I get to create things while you’re sleeping. Maybe it will be wonderful, and I can earn a little money to buy you sweet potatoes and bananas and whatever else you’ll be eating soon. Maybe when you’re older I can teach you how to make clothes for your dolls or science fair volcanoes (I’ll do that regardless). Or maybe in a year or two I’ll go back to my job in cancer research, and devote myself to that instead. They’re all noble pursuits.

Don’t be scared to do scary things. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself or your work out there and falling flat on your face (you’ll do it over and over again whether you mean to or not). Devote yourself to people you love. Ask for the things you want and then run after them, head first. Accept criticism, but don’t internalize it. Keep trying to build the life you want, even though what you want will keep changing. Do what makes you happy, and be grateful for it.

Love,

Mom

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How To: Embroider a Celebrity Portrait

Is this cheating? Because I basically already wrote this post when I shared how to create Australopithecus fan art for your unborn. The only real difference is that today I stitched a moody portrait of Tom Waits instead of an extinct genus of hominid.

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Here’s how to make your own:

1. Draw a picture of whoever you want to stitch:

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2. Tape the drawing onto your material. I usually stitch on felt, but any fabric will do.

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3. Prick an inky pen through the lines of the drawing, to create dots on the felt (which you’ll later connect with embroidery floss).

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4. Remove the drawing. Thread your weird big needle with embroidery floss (here’s a cool video on how to do that).One strand of embroidery floss is composed of six little threads. I separate one long piece into two long pieces with three threads each, because the thread gets doubled-over and you don’t want it to be too thick.

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5. Start stitching. You’re basically just connecting the dots.

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You’ll need to tie off your thread when it gets low and re-up your needle a few times to get everything sewn.

6. That’s it! Add some freehand text if you want, like this quote which I don’t think is actually accurate? Close enough.

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7. Frame your masterpiece and reward yourself with two pieces of sourdough toast with butter and strawberry jam, like I did.

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I made this little guy for my favorite person’s husband, who is graduating from business school tomorrow (his favorite musician is Tom Waits). Is there any gift nicer than a janky, homemade craft? I don’t think so.

If you’re not up to making one of your own, I’ll stitch your favorite celebrity, frame it, and mail it to you for two twenty dollar bills. Email me at eringoosecamp at gmail and we’ll talk.