Playing with Tobo Tracks (Giveaway)

I’m not a huge fan of playing with cars, but I do love me some tracks. We played with Brio all the time as kids, and when Connor started getting into it my siblings and I were in there just as much as he was.

Connor, of course, has gravitated to Lego, though the Brio still occasionally makes an appearance, especially now that Ethan has discovered it. I think he might be my train buddy.

We’ve got another set of tracks he likes as well – a Tobo Track.

tobo-track3

I won this set on my friend Samantha’s blog just before Christmas and there are so many things about it I think are really cool:

  • Made from wood; designed in Canada and made in the US.
  • Comes with a small wooden car but designed to be used with Matchbox cars, Brio trains, and so on.
  • Any edge connects to any other edge, but you can use the numbers to practice matching, addition, or any other educational game you can think of.
  • Tracks can be put together in all kinds of configurations.

Give me some tracks to build and play on and I can play cars quite happily. Especially if I get to play with my little buddy while he makes a “vroom, vroom” sound.

tobo-track2

The other thing I really like about this toy is that the makers actively solicit feedback. I got an email from Tomas, Tobo Toys founder and designer, to let me know when to expect it, and then he followed up after I received it to ask what my kids think. He honestly cares what people think and wants to know how to make this toy even better. I like the toy, but ultimately it was his approach to customers that made me want to share this with you.

tobo-track1

So who wants to give it a go? I’ve got one Tobo Track set to give away. (And if you want to buy a Tobo Track, they’re on sale until March 31.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Update: If you want a Tobo Track of your own, Tobo Toys is offering a 15% discount for readers of this blog using the code FARR15TOBO.

 

A Window Into Apathy

“I found myself losing interest in almost everything. I didn’t want to do any of the things I had previously wanted to do, and I didn’t know why. The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends I would think, ”What a lot of people that is to have to call back.” Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.”

dark clouds over hay fields

The TED talk by Andrew Solomon about depression that’s quoted above has been open in the browser on my phone for ages. Weeks. Months, maybe. I wanted to watch it but hadn’t yet, so it stayed hidden away, only occasionally glimpsed when I clicked on another link and saw the window whiz by as I opened a new one.

And then last night I was putting Connor to bed, and as he wiggled and settled and drifted toward sleep I was scrolling through the open windows on my phone trying to clear them out. (Because there are so many things sitting on my chest as obligations, and open windows on the browser on my phone felt like yet another series of things I really should get back to, which is ridiculous, so I decided it was time for those windows to go away.) I scrolled through each window one last time and thought, no, I’m not going to make those quinoa cakes and I really don’t care what 29 awesome things I don’t know about Google and I’m sure those stock photos that don’t suck are great but I don’t really need more stock photo sources and I closed each window in turn.

And then I got to the window for this TED talk.

lightning-strike

You know how sometimes something ends up in front of your face and then later you look back and wonder at the timing? It gets pushed in front of you through some kind of cyber-magic and you finally pay attention to it and suddenly all sorts of things make sense. That’s what happened with that TED talk. I somehow—not deliberately—ended up on the transcript page and as Connor wiggled and settled and drifted to sleep I started reading.

In January I wrote about how I was missing inspiration and some of you said, “That’s okay” and “Some periods of your life are just like that” and “A different path is not a bad thing,” and I thought no. And I even said it—I said This is not how I wish to live—but what I didn’t say at the time was Something feels wrong. Something is wrong. I just let it float around in the back of my awareness and I thought about words like apathy and how I don’t remember ever feeling so strongly that I just don’t give a shit and for more than three months now I’ve wondered what it’s all about.

But last night a window appeared in front of me and I didn’t close it. Instead of closing that window I opened it, and now I can actually see through to the other side. I’m not sure what’s over on this side—because I do feel like I’m on the right side now—and I don’t know exactly what to do about it, but at least now it has a label. At least now I’m no longer confused about what’s happening. I went from thinking I’m slipping and not really understanding why because it felt different than in the past to knowing that, in fact, I slipped.

Now, as well, I know that apathy is a symptom of depression. And as wrong as it feels, the knowing of it feels much more right.

Waiting for Perfection

Thanks to Grammarly for sponsoring this post. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it also checks your grammar, and no one wants to be the person everyone thinks about when they post bad-grammar memes on Facebook.

I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Largely because of time—I’ll put 75% of the blame there—but also because the topics swirl around in my head and I wait for them to position themselves just so before committing to putting words to my thoughts. I only want to write if it’s meaningful. I only want to write if I get it right.

atwood-on-writing-perfection

There’s no such thing as perfection. I know that. And there’s especially no such thing as perfection in writing. Words are living, breathing things and a piece of writing is never truly done. It’s just finished, and the writer has to release those words to the world and let them continue to live on through readers. As you peruse the words and unravel their meaning, the words breathe. As you comment, continue to ponder, or share, the words’ breath, their very being, carries on.

Often, when I really have something to say, I will think and write and revise and think some more. I will edit and re-write and let the words lead me to making sense of my world. And when I finally let them go, I wait for the answer to one question: Did I get it right?

But there is no right. There is only right now. Whatever I write, whether I publish it or not, is my reality in the moment. It’s part of how my world evolves. The words I use and the paragraphs that form don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be right by anyone’s judgment. Not even by mine. Those words are merely part of the picture.

I know this, and something someone shared recently (that originally inspired this post but that I can no longer find) has reminded me of it once again.

I don’t have to finish writing. I just have to start.

The Red Button

We were in a hotel at the end of last summer and, as most kids do, Connor wanted to push the elevator button. As we approached, he saw the red emergency button and simultaneously went to push it and asked what it was for. My husband told him what it was for and said, “When you see a red button, don’t push it.”

I was surprised Connor didn’t push the button anyway. If I had offered the explanation and told him not to touch the red button, we very likely would have been explaining to hotel management that there was no emergency, terribly sorry and thank you, it’s just our five-year-old’s tendency to push buttons his mother asks him not to.

Most of the buttons he pushes are mine. I’m not really sure how to describe our relationship without making you think it’s typical of life with a five-year-old boy. Which is not to say that your challenges with your five-year-old boy (or whatever) aren’t difficult too, but this, to me, has often felt different.

I think all parents think they suck at some point. For a blessed few, maybe it’s just a one-time feeling on a particularly bad day. A lot of parents probably have that feeling at 7:23 on a Saturday morning when they’d rather be sleeping and instead are dealing with kids who have been up for over an hour and are bored or restless or just plain loud. And some parents probably have the I-suck-at-parenting thought on an almost-daily basis.

I am all of those parents, but this situation with Connor isn’t the Saturday-morning variety. I’m not entirely sure I suck at being a parent. Most days, I just think I suck at being Connor’s mom.

Way back when he was still a nursing baby, he used to slap me across the face. He got me good some days and it eventually led to a very abrupt ceasing of breastfeeding. I lasted a long time, through the slapping and the biting and the scratching. By the time he was 16 months old I had cut nursing down to once a day before bed, and then one day I stopped. Cold turkey, baby. I’d had enough and I decided in a moment of anger and frustration that I’d wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Connor didn’t seem to notice, just like he still doesn’t seem to notice when I try to take a stand on things I’m not willing to tolerate.

He doesn’t seem to notice when I withdraw after he’s smacked me on the back first thing in the morning or dug his fingernails into my arm while we’re watching TV. He doesn’t notice when I ask him not to do something nor does he notice when I say DON’T DO THAT! He doesn’t even notice when I take Lego away. He’s not like this with Rich or with my mom or at school. It’s all part of his belief that Mommy is no fun and she’s not my friend. And before you start with the platitudes, let me tell you this: It’s not something I’m imagining. And another piece of evidence surfaced a few months ago.

I walked into our bedroom one afternoon to get something and realized Connor was in our bathroom. He was talking to himself and before I left the room again I heard it: “I don’t like my mom, but I do like my dad.”

broken bridge over water

The extent of this problem—because it’s most definitely a problem and not just a parenting challenge or a phase—has become abundantly clear, again, in the last few days. It doesn’t matter if I try to play with him or suggest outings or let him have an extra show on Netflix. It doesn’t matter if all I’m trying to do is prevent him from injuring himself, or me, or his little brother. This is how it is: He pushes, I push back, we collide.

It’s time to do something about it. Past time, actually, but who wants to put yourself out there and say, Hi, I think I might be the worst mother in the world because I can’t deal with my own child. Other parents seem to manage fine with only the occasional raised voice or extra glass of wine after a challenging day – WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!

I sure don’t want to do that.

But I also don’t want to live with this constant frustration and my parents’ phone number on speed dial for those days when I just can’t deal with him for another second. I’m worried that if I don’t do something about it we (he? I?) will have an ongoing, perhaps increasing, problem.

I’m not sure where to look, but it’s time to find a cover for that red button.

Valentines for 5-Year-Olds

valentines

“Great job writing your friends’ names, buddy. Whose do you want to do next?”

“I want to do mine.”

“Well, let’s pick one for someone in your class and then you can have the ones that are left over.”

He does two or three more, and the conversation repeats.

“Should we do Jackson’s?”

“I want to do mine.”

“…Okay, but you don’t normally give a valentine to yourself. We do have to do one for everyone in your class.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’m your mother and I’m smart.” He looks unconvinced. “I’ve done valentines before. Who’s next?”

“I’m going to do mine.”

“All right, fine. Do one for yourself and then we’ll keep going on the list.”

He does one for himself.

To: Connor

From: Connor

Momentarily satisfied, he writes a few more classmates’ names, and then we move from the cards with the gel things to the ones with the button things. “You’re wild!” says the card with the monkey picture.

“I want one of these too,” he says, and addresses another one to himself.

To: Connor

From: Connor

I don’t even argue this time. It occurs to me that one of us doesn’t get it, and I’m not sure it’s me.

iPPP button

 

Join Greta from Gfunkified and I for #iPPP (iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. 

This is actually my last week co-hosting #iPPP before handing it over to another lovely co-host. Thanks to the #iPPP community for sharing your photos and letting me share mine, and a special thanks to Greta for having me along for the ride over the last few months.