Right about now, you might be thinking that the title of this blog post reminds you of a song…except, wait a minute maybe not, it doesn’t totally sound right. The song is the Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline,” and the problem is that I have an incredible friend named Carolyn, and for many years now, I have felt she got gypped.
The song was written for Diamond’s wife at the time, Marsha, but he needed a three-syllable name to make the lyrics work, and that’s how Caroline was chosen.
No argument that Neil is a great musician, but in my eyes, he would be MUCH cooler if he had picked the name Carolyn instead. So to make up for it, she’s getting the next best thing, a Windlasse blog post in her honor. Ba-bam.
Sweet Carolyn recently texted me that they were celebrating her birthday in Hood River over a “toddler style dinner.” I didn’t ask, but I know how to translate..food fell to the floor, the noisemeter went up, parents had to take turns eating, and likely adult conversation was “choppy” at best. Perhaps all of it could be a symptom of this international epidemic I think we are seeing way too much of: cheesy coloring pages and cheap crayons.
Real-life snapshot from one of our favorite restaurants a couple of weeks ago.
It seems like it doesn’t matter whether you are two weeks old or twenty-two, almost every restaurant these days is serving you up a version of this old school, and in 2016 that makes about as much sense as using an abacus to balance your checkbook, or a rotary phone to call your mom. Don’t get me wrong, these items probably elicited a major thrill at some point in human evolution, say after the cavebaby uprising, when our ancestors said “no thank you” to more pre-dinner rocks and sticks.
The thing is…in this era, everyone we know is time-starved and pinching pennies. Eating out is a luxury that our generation appreciates and looks forward to, and in my humble opinion, it’s time someone pointed out that the kiddie cavetoys don’t pair well with the Chardonnay.
More importantly, the majority of cheap crayons get discarded after the dinner hour, whether they were used or not, and are making their way in to our landfills to the tune of 75,000 pounds of non-biodegradable waste annually. The situation is so dire, that several agencies have started up non-profit recycling programs to address the impact to our environment. You can read more about these efforts at the site nocrayonleftbehind.org. I’m asking the question, wouldn’t it just be easier not to push the crayons?
When I see them approaching the table I instantly feel stressed, because the mommy guilt is setting in. Of course, I want our children to grow up to be creative and grateful people, so I feel the pang of pressure to make sure they do the coloring, even if the page would put our dog to sleep, and the crayons are so bad that it shows up looking like white-out. “Color more I say, until we can see it… and make sure to look like you are having fun!” Allora.
Obviously, the alternative is to let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side and allow the kids to “vege out” on electronics. However, despite my concerns over the crayons that are being left behind, I am also a big fan of stepping out of the virtual world and in to reality. So today, I am taking our dining entertainment to a new level, and proposing the following take-along alternatives:
It doesn’t get better than this guys. Dot-To-Dots can be purchased with amounts of dots according to age range, they take concentration and some math skill, and they can double as a game between siblings with the help of a timer. Bonus – once complete, you can make use of those cheap crayons to color them in, which brings credibility to the parents.
2. Jacks and Straws
We have enjoyed this one a lot while eating out. Here are the instructions from Hasbro. Each time you drop the straws they land in a different formation, which helps to keep the game fresh. By design it is multiplayer, quiet, and takes just the right amount of time to finish. We love Monopoly too, but nothing kills a mood like having to pack up and go just after you’ve bought Boardwalk.
Image and product found here at Amazon.com
3. Micro Remote Control Cars
We used to have pens that had the micro cars in a case on top. I can’t find them available anymore, but these coke can minis that come with the cones look like great fun too, and it doesn’t require much space to navigate the table.
Product and image found here at FatBrainToys.com
4. Djeco Mini Grafic Colouring Pictures
These beautifully designed French colouring cards show patterns at the top of the page to help you finish your masterpiece, and the paper is a great weight. We found ours at a treasure of a toy shop down a passageway in Paris, France, but I spotted them again at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. It looks like they can also be ordered online from Bilboquet.
Image and Mini Grafic cards available here at Bilboquet.com
Of course, if you want to raise the dining experience all the way, you will have to transport this stuff in an appropriate bag, which I have scoped out for you here, via one of my favorite blogger sites CoralsandCognacs.
In closing on this topic, our kids may have just graduated from chucking chips across the table, but they do have brains, and we would like to provide opportunities for them to use ’em. Maybe it’s time to rethink the cheesy/cheap crayon movement, and opt for entertainment that is slightly more sophisticated? Excuse me for a second, I plan to noodle on that some more just as soon as I’m done coloring. 🙂
As my Aunt would say, Happy Friday, Y’all.
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