Tag Archives: TV

Sibling revelry

Mabel had a tantrum over the little teddy bear beside the checkout in the supermarket that I wouldn’t buy for her. I was being wonderfully patient and gentle with all my “No’s” until finally I just had to wrestle her to the floor and pry it out of her hands. Perfect.

I’m reading Siblings Without Rivalry just now. I was trying to write up my notes to make a useful post for you lovely people (and for me to come back to, seeing as how it belongs to the library) but the children are thwarting me at every turn.

I tried to keep the TV turned off today when Dash came home from school, because TV time has been expanding exponentially lately and we need a moratorium. Pretty soon, he was complaining of boredom. I decided to use some of the techniques from the book:

“I know that you are a resourceful and smart person, Dash. You can think of something new to do.”
“How do you know I’m resourceful? Give me an example of a time when I was resourceful,” he countered.
What is this, a job interview? I don’t know. Probably some time when you got up to mischief and didn’t want me to know about it. Sheesh. I didn’t say any of that, but it was admittedly tricky enough to think of something. Evidently all the TV has been quashing his opportunities for resourcefulness.

I ignored him and Mabel some more.

Then there was some interval when they were both standing on the kitchen table, which hardly seemed safe, and the next time I looked into the room Mabel was throwing off all her clothes while Dash held her upside down by the legs.

I turned the TV on. Some days it’s the only thing that stands between us all and bodily harm.

New-obsessions week, day 4: My Little Pony

It’s not new, and it’s not mine, but it’s certainly an obsession. I’ve put a limit on the daily television watching for the summer, and the kids are currently using all their allotted minutes on episodes of My Little Pony.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic

The great thing is that it’s on YouTube, so they can watch it whenever suits us, like when I’m having a shower or trying to make dinner. The terrible thing is that they have to use my computer for that, so I can’t do anything useful or important like blogging or checking out Facebook while they are quietly and harmoniously occupied.

(Which is why the TV is on right now and Mabel is watching unsanctioned Daniel Tiger. After a good start last week, I am currently failing at TV restriction.)

But as TV for kids goes, I’m pro the Ponies. It’s not quite as educational as their other firm favourite, WildKratts, but it has a positive message – friendship really is magic, after all – and at least with ponies you don’t have to worry about negative body image issues. None of the ponies are fat or thin, and though some are pegasi* and some are unicorns and some are just regular ponies, there is no ponyism. They do have slightly differing American accents (now I’m wondering if they dub them with UK accents for transatlantic viewing) and the poshest one, of course, has an English(ish) accent. For a while I thought she was a villain, but she’s not. So that’s a strike against typecasting right there.

When I started watching (that is, listening, while I did something else) I was horrified by the saccharine twee-ness of it all: they have to search for the elements of harmony to bring peace to the kingdom; they each have a “cutie mark” that tells them their destiny and appears when they’re adolescent ponies, like a particularly informative first period, maybe. They warble sweet tunes about being there for your friends and showing up when needed and helping each other out. They learn valuable lessons about life and love and friendship.

Then I watched this episode and discovered it was essentially a takeoff of The Music Man, which just happens to be a much-favoured musical in this house. And gradually I came to see that the Ponies are pint-sized works of genius.

Which is just as well because now we are all stuck humming the words to “A True True Friend is a Friend in Deed” in the wee hours of the insomniac morning. At least, I think it’s not just me.

*Pegasuses. Pegasusi. Pegasusi. Pegasus ponies. They have wings, right?

Oscars and others

So many disjointed thoughts to impose some sort of order on, as I sit here having third breakfast which just happens to be the same as last night’s dessert minus the custard and plus some coffee. It’s got apples and oatmeal in it, so the cake part can be disregarded (but enjoyed, of course). Also, I went for a walk/run, so I’m allowed.

Mabel gatecrashed my weekend, basically. Friday night and Sunday night were supposed to be kid-free zones, and somehow they ended up including a certain four-year-old. This morning I dragged her kicking and screaming to school and left her there, where she stopped screaming as soon as I left the room. When I came back at pickup time I was told she’d thwacked her best friend in the face with a shovel. So that went well.

Last night I packed the children off to bed early and tuned the TV in to one of its rarely watched non-kid channels and spent a happy hour or two making snarky comments about the Oscars on Twitter and Facebook, and even paying attention to the show now and then between frantic typing. Just when they were FINALLY getting to the interesting awards, Mabel woke up and wanted to come down and see what we were watching. Getting her back to sleep made me miss the rest of the show, which was probably just as well since it was after 11pm and I had a raging headache, but it was still a bit of an anticlimax.

Oscar thoughts, randomly:

  • None of the dresses really stood out to me, but then I missed most of the red carpet. I liked Amy Adams’s feathers, Jennifer Aniston’s red, and Jennifer Garner’s violet, even if the ruffle did make my husband think of seaweed.
  • I prefer my men beardless, but George was still lovely. You can all keep Ben and Hugh and I’ll have George, thank you.
  • Adele’s hair looked good. I like the song but I wish she’d stop singing about “Skyfoal” and how it “crumbowls.” The husband was delighted with the Bond tribute but would have liked it to be a bit more in-depth. We may have to just view the whole ouvre again
  • I laughed at the boobs song. Sorry, world. On the other hand, if you’re so unsure of your content that you have to envelop it in a cloaking device of Shatner coming back from the future to tell you it’s not much good, maybe you should just get some better content. Or a host people are well-disposed to from the outset. (Hint: Neil Patrick Harris, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler.)

Other thoughts:

  • This is the third time I’ve tried to write a post, so this is what you’re getting.
  • I have Girl Scout cookies. The end.

Two Rapunzel dolls being held in front of a laptop showing Rapunzel from Tangled
Watching Tangled with the Rapunzels


Normally, I try not to blog about blogging. It tends to send me down a rabbit-hole of introspection, which is very fascinating to me, but not so much to you lot. Maybe. Every now and then, though, I suppose I can get away with breaking my rules.

See, earlier today I wrote a post about going back to work. At least, about how maybe once Mabel is back at school, and five mornings a week this year instead of just three, I might look for some freelancing. Except I took a good six paragraphs to say it. And then I thought, “This isn’t very interesting. Why am I writing this?”

So, why indeed? If my blog is just for me, it doesn’t have to be interesting to anyone else. This post, for instance, will also not be interesting to many other people. And sometimes I just need to write things out to explain them to myself, or to get to the meat of what I actually meant to say.

In which case, I should then delete the first six paragraphs and then publish the meat, but these days I don’t really have time to get there.

Which brings me to the quantity versus quality question. Right now, my fingers are clicking away as fast as they can because the children are upstairs with their father, who is overseeing the bath. Soon they’ll be back, and then it’ll be bedtime, and then I’ll have another little while before I’m distracted by someone watching Star Trek Enterprise beside me, or possibly something else I’m more interested in. (Though actually, Enterprise isn’t half bad. Sometimes I get sucked in.)

The way I see it, it’s easier for me to update my blog almost daily than rarely. Because almost daily is a habit, and rarely far too easily becomes never. And by writing through the dross we sometimes arrive at the good stuff. I don’t want you to have to read the dross, but maybe you don’t mind either. Not every post can be a great one, and anyway, sometimes my most popular posts are the ones I thought I just threw up against the wall to see if anything stuck. (The one about packing, for instance, has proved surprisingly well-frequented.)

As an editor, all this dross annoys me, but I’m not going to go back and cut swathes through my archives, because as a writer, each individual piece of dross is my baby. Not my perfect baby, but nevertheless, born of my fingers and brought to the light of screen by nobody but me and the nice people from Blogger.

So what do you think (before they get out of the bath)? Are you willing to put up with the dross to get the meat? Have you a higher dross tolerance than I thought? Would you prefer I posted less often with more focused, pared-down, edited content? And at the end of it all, do I care? Because after all, is this blog for me or for you?

You tell me.


You may remember that our TV broke when we came back from the beach. (Or you may not, because it was a post I wrote for the DCMoms. Go read it, if you like.) We stayed TV-free for a month, but it was never going to be forever: the new model arrived last week. This one is about an inch bigger than the old one – so still orders of magnitude smaller than the average television in this country – and made by a company whose name we’ve actually heard of this time, so we’re hoping it lasts more than a year before upping and dying on us.

The problem was that TV-free did not equate to screen-free for the children. What happened was that, to buy myself a few minutes’ peace, I’d have to let them watch something on my computer, either on YouTube or Netflix. Which meant that

(a) now I couldn’t do anything useful on my computer, like blogging or reading blogs or updating Facebook or trying in vain to get one up on the husband in our ongoing Words with Friends tournament, so I was reduced to sweeping the kitchen floor or washing up, which may have been all very nice for our home environment but was not the relaxing time I’d been hoping for;

and (b) instead of watching nice educational PBS channels wherein they enlarge their vocabulary and learn all about manatees and proboscis monkeys and the forces of inertia and the galaxy, the children were becoming hooked on X-Men and My Little Pony.

Yesterday, they both ran up to me to impart some exciting information about how Princess Celestia and Fluttershy had to get their cutie marks or the bad pony would … and my brain threw up all over the nice clean cerebral coretex so I didn’t hear the rest, but I think it’s time we weaned them off this blargh. (Yes, the six-year-old boy is totally enthralled by the ponies. I think it’s nice, really, because all the Avengers and Spider-Man and X-men cartoons are perhaps a little old for him and people do get blown up or thrown around the place from time to time, but I hope he has the sense to keep this quiet when he gets to First Grade next week. At least around the other macho men of the class.)

So now we have a TV again, but the children are slow to remember their old loves. It’s good, really, for now, because letting them use the computer did mean I was paying attention to exactly how much they were watching – the temptation to just leave them where they were happy didn’t last for more than two episodes of whatever it was, at most. So the TV isn’t being turned on as a matter of course just yet, and since school starts next week for Dash, TV time will (mostly) stay restricted.

Which means that on balance it was a good thing not to have a television for half the summer, even if it did mean I never saw the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not as if I’d have caught Katie Taylor’s winning boxing bouts on NBC anyway.

Peppa Pig

As is always the way, the kids watched a mite too much television while we were away. Staying in other people’s houses with few toys, getting over jetlag, being ignored while adults talk, refusing to get dressed – such things lend themselves to every trip having its own signature movie or TV program by the time we’re done.

Last summer, it was Megamind and Monsters V. Aliens, two movies we had access to that got played over and over. This time, I think it’s the entire Nickelodeon Jr UK cartoon ouvre, complete with fascinating ads for wonderful toys and highly efficient cleaning products. Every five seconds – it seemed – a wail would emanate from the sitting room: “Mummy! Can I have the HotWheels Double Dare Snare?” “Mummy! Can I have the baby that pees?” or, in unison, “Mummy, can we have Oogly booglies?” (Whatever.) The fact that the answer was always a resounding and instant “No” didn’t deter either of them in the least.

Mabel had a running list going of all the things she wants for her birthday and Christmas: the baby that goes to sleep, and the baby that pees, and the mermaid dolls that change colour, and the Lalaloopsy doll, and several more that I’ve happily forgotten now. Dash was so mesmerized by marketing that he demanded we buy Fairy Platinum for the dishwasher (and was delighted to find we were already using it).

On our journey home, Mabel had a huge crazy fit of the screaming no’s just as we went through immigration. They do US immigration in Dublin for transatlantic flights, so I couldn’t even blame the journey – it was only noon and our oddysey had barely started. It’s going to be a long day, I thought to myself, as I gritted my teeth and presented my fingerprints to the scanning machine. Luckily for everyone on the plane, she regrouped and was fine for the long flight, and even made it intact to the short hop at the end, though it was way past Irish bedtime by then. I fished some stickers out of her backpack and she busied herself for quite a while with a strip of sticky paper while we waited for takeoff. She would stick it on the wall beside her and pull it off again, saying “Sparkling! Look, Mummy, now it sparkles!”

For a few minutes I was afraid she was going all Edward-and-Bella on me, but then I listened to some more of her monologue. “You stick it on, and you pull it off, and now it’s all clean and sparkling! See how it shines?”
“Mabel,” I asked, “Have you been watching the Pledge ads again?”
Then she continued: “Command stickers. They stick and then they come off cleanly.” R-r-r-r-rip.

Friday dinner: Cook like it’s BBC 2

The children are being cowboys, complete with authentic cowboy accents. I don’t know where they learned how cowboys talk, except perhaps from Woody and Jessie on Toy Story. “Ah’m a cowboah,” says Dash. “Yowdee!”

On the plus side, they’re mostly dressed, Mabel is wearing underpants, and both are safely entertaining themselves (ish), so I have no complaints.

Never mind that. Am returning, as promised, with Friday’s dinner. I should probably reiterate what I said the last time I did this: I’m not pretending to be a great cook, or trying to steal any thunder from the illustrious foodie bloggers, or telling you what you should feed your family. I just think it’s interesting to see what other people eat for dinner, especially when they’re not trying to impress. So I propose to document what we have for dinner for seven nights, whatever it turns out to be. I admit that doing this does tend to influence me to plan a little more than usual – which is no bad thing – but I won’t do anything special or out-of-the-ordinary just for the sake of blogging it.

The meals serve two adults unless otherwise stated. My children are barbarians who don’t eat food.

On Friday the cupboard was mostly bare, and I was thinking we’d probably default to carbonara, but I feel bad about that because it’s esentially a plate of pasta (delicious, delicious pasta, probably with lots of broccoli and a bit of ham in it the way I do it). Then I discovered a head of cauliflower in the fridge, two sad little potatoes, and a couple of pork chops in the freezer. Exhibit A:

It started to look like an episode of Ready Steady Cook, wherin two expert chefs were paired with two members of the public to create a delicious meal from random ingredients from a supermarket bag. Actually, I learned a lot from that show. Ah, Ainsley. Though for this to be more realistic, you’d need to add a jar of anchovy paste and a mango, probably, and some Cockney bloke saying “Well, I had no idear what it was, so I fought it would be interestink.”

Anyway. I tossed the cauliflower with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, and roasted it. I boiled the potatoes and mashed them, and although it looked pathetic, they ended up being just the right amount for two people who never do anything good with leftover mash.

And I fried the chops with some steak seasoning and my trusty meat thermometer to tell me when they were done.

Not the most gourmet of meals, but a little more balanced than carbonara (maybe? depends how much broccoli I might have had, I suppose) and not bad for an off-the-cuff dinner.

Cliff Hanger

I know you’re all dying for a potty-training update. It’s the most suspenseful narrative since, um, that time Angel was trapped in a box under the sea for a whole summer. For instance.

Our efforts go something like this:

Me: “When you’re three, there will be no more pullups. Then you’ll wear underpants all the time.”
Mabel: “No, when I’m six, I’ll wear underpants.” 

Mabel, this morning, from the other side of the room where she has barricaded herself behind a fence made of two small chairs, a baby stroller, a large toy car and some items of dollhouse furniture: “I’m just sitting here not doing a poo.”

Mabel, just now, as she tripped lightly past me to wash her plastic horsie in the bathroom (she enjoys washing all her toys, frequently, wetly, using up all the soap): “Don’t smell me, I’m not pooey.”

So you can see how well that’s going. She’ll be three in a week. We’re going away that weekend, but once we come back, will I stick to my guns, or will my carpet forever regret it?

MTV generation

Never mind school; my children learn everything they know from television.

Dash impressed the zoo employee at the cheetahs’ area last week no end by knowing not only why the cheetah needed such a big nose (to breathe in lots of oxygen to run fast) and such big teeth (to eat meat) but also what sort of meat it ate (antelope). This is directly related to the fact that the episode of his favourite show – Wild Kratts –  that he’d watched the previous day was the one about the cheetahs.

One of the other parents from Mabel’s school told me that she had brought her violin in to play something for the children when she was co-opping last week. When she took out the bow, she asked the children if anyone knew what it was. Mabel piped up:
“I know! It’s a violin thingy!”
The mother was impressed.
“That’ll be because we took the music and art class last year, and the teacher had a little violin that the children could try out,” I told her, proud of my little Rimsky-Corsikoff.
On the way home, I asked Mabel how she had remembered the violin. Was it from music and art?
“No, it was from Little Einsteins.”

Of course it was.

Summertime blues

We are at that point in the summer where I swear that next year I will be signing Monkey up for summer camp, come hell or high water.

Which I probably will, because he’ll be well able for it at that point. And because if I have any sense at all I’ll look back on this and remember that no, the fact that I have one at home anyway doesn’t mean I may as well have both of them. It may be more fun for them, but it comes down to a lot more headaches for me, and who’s in charge here anyway? (Don’t answer that.)

Monkey has not got any better at entertaining himself. Levels of “What can I do now?” are reaching epic proportions, and B and I have been badgered to make every conceivable item out of cardboard, from a Monkey-and-Mabel-sized, fully functioning Batmobile (with added flying power) to a gas mask (currently under construction). He’s also going through a very irritating attention-seeking phase where he bugs me every time I try to talk to another adult and jumps all over Mabel and me every time I sit down with her for some mumeet. (Hmm. That last isn’t so much a phase.) The TV-time amnesty that began when we came back from our trip has been gradually winding back down to the limits that were in place before we left, but for the sake of my sanity we’re not all the way there yet.

On the bright side, though: we had a babysitter last night! I went, in the company of my husband, of all people, to the cinema (the cinnamon-man, as Mabel calls it) and saw the last Harry Potter movie (great, but intensely grim with little opportunity for light relief). The babysitter arrived at 7.00 – she’s only 13, but the kids like her exactly because she’s not in that grown-up space in their given designations – and Monkey, by choice, was already in bed, stories read and on the way to sleep. Mabel stayed up till we came home, as there was no point trying to get her to sleep. She watched a DVD and demanded a waffle and presumably entertained the babysitter the entire time, and so long as there are no tears I don’t care how long she stays awake.

So that’s a long-overdue first. I think that was B’s birthday treat (his birthday was in April March) so we still have mine to go. When’s the next must-see blockbuster coming out?