Giving Kids A Lifelong Sport: Tennis Anyone?

My father taught my younger sister & I how to play tennis when we were eight or nine years old. We took lessons, practiced regularly and played on the school tennis teams. My father, who is now 73-years-old, is passionate about tennis and still plays 2-3 times per week. Despite his age and slight limp, he can get around a tennis court. Many of his opponents have learned the “you can’t judge a book by its cover” lesson on more than one occasion.

Growing up, we spent many hours on the tennis court together. At times, my mother would join us and we would play a few hilarious sets of doubles together. I use the term “hilarious” because my mother would play the net like a maniac, flying through the air awkwardly to return a lob or totally missing the ball and accidentally tossing the racket mid-swing. I’m sure onlookers thought we were crazy. I remember laughing so hard, I could barely swing the racket.

Today, after nearly 25 years, my father, sister & I still play tennis together. We don’t play often because she lives in a different state and I get busy being mom and doing mom things. When do play, it’s just like old times. We giggle when we successfully drop shot dad and I still run around my forehand because I prefer backhands. My sister mutters funny stuff under her breath when she crushes her forehand and we both blame the other one when a ball whizzes by us on the center line. “That was yours!?!”

We’re teaching my children how to play tennis, although they are still too young to fully understand the concept. It’s a chaotic scene – me, my husband and my father trying to convince two small kiddos to hold the racket steady and swing. They’d rather chase tennis balls, tug on the net, drag the racket on the ground or use it like a golf club. And that’s all just fine with me.

One day, we will all play doubles together. My kids will laugh at my silly antics at the net and I will marvel at the great shots they make. We’ll spend time on the court talking about nothing special, enjoying the physical activity, the smell of new tennis balls and relishing in the perfect cross-court winner.

Fisheye Camera Provides Instant Bloopers


Talk about something you would’ve loved as a kid! Get a load of this hilarious Fisheye Camera. Your kiddos can take goofy photos with ease, thanks to the special lens that actually makes distorted cool. When I was a kid, my sister and I would’ve spent hours laughing and giggling with this camera.

We had our own photo album of bloopers that we made with construction paper and tape. No Snapfih albums back then. We would pick the absolute worst photos from the pile and give them clever little titles. The infamous ‘Book of Mess Ups’ was a cherished household item. I remember one photo that was an extreme close-up of my sister, so she looked as white as a sheet. The title was about pilgrims and the Mayflower. Who knows, but as a kid it was HILARIOUS. Believe it or not, the book was lost and we have no idea where it is. I sure would love to see it again. I bet it’s still funny.

Anyway, the Fisheye Camera uses standard 35mm film, so you can develop the goofiness easily. Retails for $54 at Chasing Fireflies.

So Long Gingerbread Men, Hello Shiny Pawns

Remember the old school gingerbread men who seemed to fall down for no reason? Ah, memories. Just like every other game we played as children, Candy Land has been enhanced, polished and shined. The Candy Land Deluxe game comes with sculpted pawns featuring the classic Candy Land characters: King Kandy, Mr. Mint, Princess Frostine and Lolly.  Wait a minute, I didn’t even know the characters had names.  When did that happen? The names I remember are Orange Gingerbread Man, Red Gingerbread Man and so on.

I L-O-V-E-D playing Candy Land as a child. And this is how I remember it. (Looking at it now, it doesn’t seem as wild and crazy as it did back then.)  I think one of the main reasons we loved the game was because we were a bit candy-deprived as kids.

I cheered for joy passing the Ice Cream Floats and shed a few tears when I got stuck in Molasses Swamp. What was your favorite rest stop in Candy Land?

Sesame Street’s Bert Pinched My Sister

Sesame Street. Need I say more? The pioneer of all educational kid’s television shows. It debuted in 1969. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 77 million Americans watched the show as children. Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, Grover and Cookie Monster were the funny characters that we loved.

Thanks to Gund, your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters are interactive and cuddly, even on the inside. These colorful puppets remind us that Sesame Street is still a favorite, even in the days of iPod and Wii.

On a personal note, I’m not a huge fan of Sesame Street. I remember watching it as a kid, but not really loving it. I was more of an Electric Company kid. “Hey, you guys!”

However; my younger sister was a big fan of Sesame Street. On her 8th birthday she got the big Bert puppet. See photo. Yep, he only had four fingers. And there wasn’t anything cuddly about him. In fact, even as kids we thought he was creepy.

Anyway, Bert sat right beside my sister’s bed at night until he got a bit too handsy. My sister swears he pinched her on the butt. She says she woke up and he was floating above her (he didn’t have feet!) and he pinched her. In fact, if you asked her about it today – and she’s in her 30s – she’d still tell the same story. No, she’s not delusional or drunk. She’s just a normal adult with a funny story to tell about her creepy puppet. We laugh about it all of the time. It’s a family classic.

Needless to say, Bert lived in a box for the rest of his days in our home. Poor guy, he never really had a chance. So what kind of funny, yet odd, childhood memories do you have about your toys?

One Day My Babies Will Be Men

Earlier this week I had lunch with a dear friend, who happens to be 20 years older than I am. She has a son who is 22-years-old. (My boys are 4-years-old and 1-year-old.) She is completely beside herself because her son wants to drop out of college with one year left to go. Her son is dating a girl that might not be right for him and he’s working as a waiter and……

My mind wandered. Holy crap! I can’t even imagine a life without diapers. How in the world will I manage as a mom of two GROWN MEN? (Heart rate increasing. Stress surging through body.) They will have to look both ways before crossing the street without me there to remind them. They will have to decipher when it’s okay to speak to a stranger and when it’s not. They will have to learn how to take care of themselves and make sure they don’t walk around reeking of BO. They will have to figure out how to date women and live with a broken heart. (Feeling dizzy. Scanning room for wine or chocolate.)

I’m not ready! Which begs the question, will I ever be ready? My stress revolves around who needs a snack, who took a nap, who needs bigger pajamas and who hasn’t pooped yet today. It’s baby stuff in a baby life.

Adult stuff in an adult life seems way too scary to handle. I’m stressed out with babies. Will I simply go insane as they get older? Should I just plan on committing myself to a padded room when they turn 17? I like to think of myself as a cool mom who freaks out when necessary, but never resorts to micro-parenting. Will I most certainly lose my cool and become that overbearing worried mom that my boys will roll their eyes at when I try to “have a moment” with them? Or beg for a hug. Wow, begging for affection. Will my world of constant little hugs, baby tooth smiles, mouse noses, and “I wuv you, mommy” come crashing down?

Never mind. I’m pretty sure I know the answer. Tell MommyQ what you think.

Toy Nostalgia: Fashion Plates and Barbie’s Corvette

Last week while working on a gift guide, I came across a blog post about toys from the ’80s. One of them brought back a flood of wonderful memories – Fashion Plates! I loved those things as much as my Barbies. My trip down memory lane ended with a blog post on Shine!Yahoo about – you guessed it – fashion plates and Barbies. I received so many hilarious comments from readers, including one from a Shine staff member, that I just had to repost it on MommyQ. Enjoy!

As a 30-something mother of two little boys, I don’t get to play with dolls very often. When I visit my neighbor who has two little girls under the age of five, I walk into a pink fantasy land of glittery, girlie wonders. Barbies, princesses, baby dolls, My Pretty Ponies, Polly Pockets – it’s awesome! Were I 20 years younger, you could never make me leave that house.

As a little girl, I loved two things. Fashion Plates and Barbies. My younger sister and I played with Fashion Plates all of the time. In fact, we named each ‘plate’ girl head and then renamed her when we switched her outfit. We had about 30 fictitious names committed to memory. When we got bored rubbing the girls onto paper, we started writing books. There were plots, personalities, do-gooders, evil characters, etc. We spent hours and hours coloring them and laughing at their silliness. I’m pretty sure my mom still has pages upon pages of our creations stored in a dusty forgotten box somewhere. Boy, would I love to see those again!

My other childhood obsession was Barbie Dolls. My sister and I each had about 15-20 Barbies and two small suitcases full of outfits, coats, dresses, gowns and teeny tiny shoes. To save time, we referred to single pieces of clothing as “clo” – pretty innovative, huh? I probably played with Barbie Dolls until I was 13 or 14 years old. That’s how simple my life used to be. My main concern was whether ‘Kim’ could wear her ruffled yellow dress with her matching yellow shoes. The vacuum cleaner was not a friend to Barbie’s shoes.

We had winking Barbies, posing Barbies that came with a camera, Malibu Barbies, fake Barbies, Ken Dolls, fake Ken Dolls, the Barbie dog that was really really fluffy… the list goes on and on. We named each one and gave them a story and their own special personality. ‘Sue’ was my sister’s most prized Barbie and ‘Kim’ was mine. ‘Julie’ was the most hated Barbie, ‘April’ was the ditz and ‘Star’ was the unlucky stunt Barbie that got stuck in trees on more than one occasion.

We had the townhouse and the yellow corvette, jeep and the horse trailer. Ah, those were the days. We certainly had lots of Barbie stuff, but we usually bought it ourselves with our birthday money. Aside from the toys, what I remember most is the laughter. The completely spontaneous genuine 100% heartfelt goofy loud laughter. My sister and I had some of the greatest times ever playing upstairs in a room covered with Barbie paraphernalia.

When I think about my boys, both of whom celebrated birthdays recently, I hope and pray they have wonderful memories of their childhood too. As grown men with children of their own, I wish for certain toys to spark a flood of delicious memories. Because in a crazy complicated world, great childhood memories may be the best gift of all.

What sparks your best childhood memories?