The one about shoes


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Image from

So, yesterday I took my preschooler shoe shopping.
It would have been easier to climb a wall of razor blades. Naked. In a blizzard.
Whatever made me think I could place a 3-year-old girl around shelves lined with pink, purple, glitter and licensed characters beckoning from every box and expect her to pick out something conservative?

What made me think she’d pull one box at a time from the shelves? What made me think we could do this in 15 minutes?

Is it asking too much to find presentable, reasonable, dyed in a hue occurring in nature, spare of any licensed characters and flashing lights footwear?
If you’re willing to shell out some bucks, then it’s possible. If you’re looking for bargains, it’s going to be painful — razor blade painful.

Let’s point out right now that I don’t own a “Born to Shop” T-shirt. I like to get in and get out when it comes to shopping, particularly when it involves people with short fuses, small bladders and Dora the Explorer obsessions.


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As I struggled to pull the neon purple, blue, pink and red disco shoes off Girl from the East’s  feet, I looked lovingly at the display of baby shoes. So cute and sweet. One pair had little cupcake appliques. Another, a simple Mary Jane with a bright red button. But these designs don’t carry over to the toddler side of the aisle.

Want to know why? The baby shoes are sweet and attractive because the mothers, fathers and grandparents are selecting them. The toddler shoes suck because the manufacturers know that the kids with this size feet are aware and making choices.

They are old enough to manipulate and be manipulated with licensed characters. Put Dora or SpongeBob on the shoe and the kids will scream for them until their parents’ ears bleed. They’ll make life so miserable that buying $12 Hannah Montana Croc rip-offs will seem like a day at the spa.

These down- and-dirty marketing tactics reduce parents to our own most desperate measures. Here are my three favorites:

There’s the bait and switch: Allow the shoe to be tried on. Then, when it’s safely off the foot, distract the child’s attention and pitch the shoes into the next aisle. When you arrive at the checkout line, declare the shoes as lost, having fallen out of the cart never to be found again.  Ever wonder why you see ugly shoes tucked into bread displays? 
Next is the  inventory shortage: This is where you say: “Sorry, honey. They don’t have it in your size.” I am using the tactic as long as I can because she’s learning those numbers at a fast clip.
Finally, there is the delayed gratification: With this strategy, you bank on short-term memory failure.  “We’ll get it another time,” you promise,  knowing you’ll either win this one or live to deeply regret your words.

Your parents pulled one of these on you, didn’t they?

Heck, I’m still waiting for my first car.

Mr. Spock, where are you?

When I tangle with my toddler, I can always seek refuge in Dr. Benjamin Spock’s sage advice.

That Doc Spock rocks! He knows his stuff. I’ve been referring to the same dog-eared volume of “Baby and Child Care” on my nightstand since the early ’90s, when I faced the uncertain future of life with newborn Girl from the West. Although this well-read book addresses the issues of adolescence in a general manner, even the late-physician admitted much of it is up to the parents’ discretion.

I have a library of books on baby care, early childhood matters and illness. There is another slew of tomes on adoption-related matters. But nothing is worth its weight in advice on the wrangling of teens. Why is this?
Teens have a special radar I call PBS — parental bullshit sensor –that kicks in whenever adults approach them with newfangled, warm-fuzzy techniques of communication. This I know being a child of the ’70s, when such methods were thrown around like rice at a wedding. None of it stuck. All those so-called “mod” adults who wanted to sit around on woven rugs and have “rap sessions” with us teens really just made us want to gag. We didn’t want to hear any of their hippie nonsense.

The closest thing to an effective tool may have been those “Scared Straight” assemblies in high school. You know, the one where the ex-con, former herion addict stands before an auditorium full of bored adolescents telling sordid tales of collapsed veins, hepatitis and jail time. It scared me, a little. I don’t know about its overall success rate.

I’ve decided there’s only one way to go. What we need here is Mr. Spock.

You don’t mess with this guy. He is half Vulcan. He has pointed ears and inquisitive eyebrows.  He is all about business and logic. There is no warm. There is no fuzzy. You will not find yourself rappin’ with this guy on a hemp rug. Try to a finagle your way out of taking the trash out with this guy. It’s not going to fly. If you push him too far — you face a mind meld or worse, the Vulcan Nerve Pinch.

This is what I need to learn. I’m looking through our city’s continuing education brochures, the local enrichment catalogs. So far, I’m not finding these classes offered. Is it more of an underground thing? Do I need to know a code word? Is there an unmarked door down a dark alley I have to knock on three times to gain access to this world? If anyone knows, send me an e-mail. I’m desperate for a solution.

In the meantime, beam me up.

Recall rage

When I’m looking to do a little house cleaning, I don’t grab a broom or a dust cloth like most people do, I log on to the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site. It is filled with wonderful news on how I have wasted hundreds of dollars over the years on my children, how much of what I own is utter garbage and probably highly hazardous.

Cases in point:

I pitched a bag full of toys and a lawn chair last summer, all of which were gifts to baby girl and all of which turned up on the CPSC Web site as containing toxic levels of lead.

I had to toss a couple baby shower gifts given to me by friends and family when one-by-one they showed up on recall lists for having high lead levels or dangerous small parts and pieces.

Today, I learn I have to dismantle baby girl’s “lifetime bed.” Lifetime my ass — did they mean lifetime of a gnat? The bed has been recalled because the slats have been known to crack in half, posing a strangulation and entrapment hazard.

In order to participate in the recall, I have to take apart the bed, detach certain key pieces, including the part of the bed that contains the manufacturer’s label, and stuff it all into a postage-paid envelope.

But wait, there’s more! We then get to figure out where baby girl is going to sleep, since what’s left of her bed will be in a million pieces on the floor — while we patiently await the special delivery of a VOUCHER. No, not the delivery of a new bed. A VOUCHER. A crappy piece of paper.

Did I mention my child will not have a place to sleep? Since the store that sold us this deathtrap of a bed is 25 miles away, we’ll have to pump about $250 worth of gas into our car and drive this voucher to the next county.

Did I mention that there’s no guarantee they’ll have a similar style or color bed to match the rest of the furniture? Did I mention that I’ll have to arrange to have the thing delivered –again? That we’ll have to assemble a whole bed –again?

Clearly whoever put together this recall ‘remedy” does not or never has dealt with toddlers and their various sleep issues. It took us a good year to get Girl from the East to sleep in her bed, stay in her bed and like it. Now we will have to find some alternative sleeping arrangement.

I guess the source of my rage is simple. I did the best I could to put together what I thought at the time was a nice bedroom for our child. I acted in good faith that a product that seemed solid on the sales floor would live up to expectations.

So much of what we bought or were given by others has proved to be less-than-acceptable. I know, there are fine products out there if you’re willing to shell out roughly the cost of a year of college tuition. It’s a shame affordable and quality can no longer be used in the same sentence when describing many products on our store shelves.