On Saturday, 07/07/07, the New 7 Wonders of the World were announced. The announcement got me thinking about other everyday “wonders” that I rely on, and am in constant appreciation of, as a mom. Those little things that have become so ingrained in my everyday routine, that I barely notice them anymore – but that would make my day so much more difficult if I didn’t have. These are the items that make my job as a mom… heck, I’ll just say it – Wonder-ful!
First let's take a look at the Newest 7 Wonders of the World. They were selected by a global poll, where 100 million votes were cast via the Internet and cell-phone text messages.
The *New* 7 Wonders of the World
The Great Wall of China
The largest man-made monument ever built, and visible from space. Yep, this one’s a keeper.
The remnants of the glittering capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV (9 B.C. to 40 A.D.), and the home of the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. I love that movie.
Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This breathtaking statue stands over 100 feet tall and is located at the peak of Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janerio. Although many travel to Brazil for Carnival, this is the reason I hope to go there someday.
Machu Picchu, Peru
This amazing settlement lies halfway up the Andes Plateau, deep in the Amazon jungle. It was probably abandoned by the Incas because of a smallpox outbreak, and after the Spanish defeated the Incan Empire the city remained 'lost' for over three centuries. It was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Matt Lauer was able to go there as part of his “Where in the World…” boondoggle. Lucky dog.
The Pyramid at Chichén Itzá, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Chichén Itzá served as the political and economic center of the Mayan civilization. And the pyramid of Kukulkan, built before 800 A.D and still standing today, is proof that Egypt didn't necessarily have the market cornered on the whole pyramid idea.
The Roman Colosseum (70 - 82 A.D.) Rome, Italy
This great amphitheater can be found in the center of Rome and is a testament to the engineering advancements of the Roman Empire. Its design concept still stands to this day, and virtually every modern sports stadium some 2,000 years later still bears the irresistible imprint of the Colosseum's design... the original Super Dome.
The Taj Mahal (1630 A.D.) Agra, India
This immense mausoleum was built on the orders of Shah Jahan, the fifth Muslim Mogul emperor, to honor the memory of his beloved late wife. Wow… he was the ultimate romantic.
And now, some wonderful things that are a little closer to home. Admittedly, they were selected a little less democratically...
The 7 Wonders of the Parenting World
The Diaper Genie
If you aren’t in the diaper-changing phase of life, then the wonderment of this particular item will be lost on you. But if you ARE, then there are few things out there that can improve your quality of life more than this little item.
I’ve experienced the diaper phase both with, and without, the Diaper Genie. And trust me, I highly recommend the “with”. When my daughter (who is now 13) was running around in diapers, we did not have one of these gems. Instead we relied on the old-fashioned diaper pail – a source of such a concentrated and vile stench, it could easily be used as a torture device in a pinch. Honestly, it was less offensive to let her stay in a stinky diaper than it was to face the fermented cloud of odor that would escape when you had to slip another diaper inside. (Don’t worry, we never actually let her stay in a stinky diaper… I’m just saying.) With the birth of our second child however, we were given a Diaper Genie as a gift – and the difference has made in our household air quality is profound.
Invented by John Hall in the mid-1990’s, the Diaper Genie is a diaper pail with a twist – literally. The neck of the Diaper Genie spins around, and twists the lining inside to seal off each diaper and its smell after you insert it inside. It’s a simple concept, but masterfully executed. You literally can’t smell the dirty diapers in the baby’s room, and even when you empty the thing the experience is quick, easy, and non-offensive.
Now I know, I KNOW the environmental impact of disposable diapers. I’m not pretending I don’t. And I promise, I am doing double-time on recycling, reusing, and avoiding unnecessary trips in my car to make up for this one blatantly environmentally unfriendly choice. The good news is, our youngest will be hitting the potty-training stage this summer, and there is no one more invested in putting the diaper years behind us than ME. But until then, I thank John Hall and his twisted vision for making this phase of child rearing more bearable.
The Sippy Cup
Kids love to exert their independence, yet rarely have the necessary motor skills to match their grandiose visions. Take for example, drinking out of a cup. Mom does it, Dad does it, big sister does it… everyone is doing it! Why then, wouldn’t the youngest member of the family with the chubby fingers want to give it a try? He does of course, but admittedly I am a little more reluctant as I am partial to the original color of our carpet and kitchen tile grout. But there’s nothing wrong with getting him warmed up for the job with a sippy cup.
The sippy cup is another of those wonderfully simple, but immeasurably valuable inventions. A cup that allows a child to take a sip when he needs a drink, but prevents the beverage from being spilled when the cup is tipped, dropped, or thrown (sadly, a common occurrence in our house). In most cases, a valve is inserted into the lid of the cup that creates a vacuum seal that allows a little one to suck some milk/juice/water out, but prevents it from dripping even when left sitting on its side or upside-down.
What does this mean to me? Dinner time can be more about the food and conversation, and less about spilled drinks. When we go on the road, even the littlest can have a drink in the car without worry. When I’m on the way out the door, I can literally throw a drink in my bag for the youngest. And on those select opportunities when we do get to eat out at a restaurant, I can bring a spill-proof drink with us instead of relying on the restaurant to be prepared for our son, “The Drencher”. When the time does come for him to transition to a regular cup, we can just remove the valve, and he can experience all of the joys and wonders of gravity and fluid flow while still having a lid in place to keep things from getting too out of control.
We’ve used all brands and models of sippy cups in our house. We finally found the ONE though, when our first son was about a year old. This thing has been dropped, knocked, thrown, and run through the dishwasher hundreds of times. But it still works perfectly. In fact our youngest son is still using the exact same cup his big brother used, because it’s that good. It’s a little worse for wear, chewed on and scratched up a bit. But I will probably keep it forever as a token from these toddler years.
I honestly don’t know how parents survived before the Internet. I mean really, there isn’t day that goes by that I don’t use it at least a dozen times as a mom. Forget about all the time it saves me from driving around all day trying to find things. The number of tools and services that I’ve found and used through my Internet connection counts in the hundreds, and I discover something new every day.
- Don’t know what to make for dinner? Allrecipes.com
- Trying to find an age appropriate activity for your kids? Parents.com
- Eight month’s pregnant and don’t feel like Christmas shopping? Amazon.com
- Have a newborn, and don’t feel like going out grocery shopping? Safeway.com
- Want to know if tomorrow is a good day to go to the park? Weather.com
- Worried about the strange rash on your son’s arm? WebMD.com (and then call your doctor, please!)
My daughter’s middle school now makes her grades available online, so many times I know how she did on her math test even before she does. And I can communicate with her teachers via email if I have any questions or concerns. In fact, email is one of my favorite tools as a mom. Rarely is it a “good time” when the phone rings. There is always something that I’m right in the middle of, and cordless or not, many times I just can’t get to the phone when it rings. But when it is a good time, I can check email. This is how I stay in contact with most my friends and family. After the kids go to bed, and it’s way too late for a phone call, I can still communicate with everyone. In addition, I can send family pictures to the grandparents as often as they would like. Which brings us to my next Parenting Wonder…
The Digital Camera
Really, I can hardly remember what it was like to snap a roll of film, wait for two days, and hope that I got some good shots of the kids to put in the baby book. I don’t think there is a group of people that have been more thrilled by a technology than parents were by the introduction of the digital camera. Born out of technology used for spy satellites, the modern-day digital camera is a parent’s dream come true. We no longer miss those adorable “photo ops” because we’re out of film… and if the resulting photos aren’t as adorable as we would like, we just hit the delete button and try again. In fact, that’s what I like best about the digital camera age. I can take several shots of something, instead of snapping one and hoping it turns out because I don’t want to waste film.
I hate to say it, but I have many more pictures of my two sons’ early days than I have of my daughter… simply because my daughter was born in the P.D.E. (pre-digital era). With my daughter, it was all about the set up of the shot, the hopeful click of the camera, and then the waiting game until the pictures were developed. With the boys, the camera is out there all the time, and I can go from taking a picture to printing it out in five minutes or less. And although I was never very good at keeping up with all the entries in the baby books, I love the new online albums that you can create and share with friends and family… over the Internet, of course.
I will admit, I kind of miss that anticipation that I would experience when I would pick up a recently developed pack of pictures, and enjoy that first flip through of all of the photos and memories they contained. But at the same time, there were invariably a good percentage of the pictures that weren’t great, and then what do you do with them? I just couldn’t bring myself to throw out pictures of family, even if everyone’s eyes were heavy-lidded or closed during the shot. But it also brought about the birth of another family treasure – the family photo box. This is where all the pictures go that weren’t “great”, or that weren’t framed or put in photo albums or mailed to family. But it’s also like a little time machine… because every time I pull this box out, I’m transported back to the times and events captured in all of the pictures it contains. Sifting through the pictures is like meeting up with old friends, and it’s a wonderful little escape that always leaves me smiling and suddenly needing to pick up the phone and call my family after I’ve put the photos safely away again.
The family photo box is something that has existed in every home for the past several decades, but may soon become extinct with widespread use of digital cameras. So I guess there is always a price to be paid for progress. But at the same time, now I have this really fun photo-album screen saver on my computer that automatically flips through all the photos on my hard drive and displays them on the screen for me… yeah, I like that too.
Now on to something more low-tech. This next little item is the Number One toy in our house. It’s simple, easy to take on the road, and is entertaining for all ages. It’s a set of stacking cups: 12 brightly colored cups that nest inside each other, and then when flipped over stack on top of one another to make a tall tower.
These little things are an engineering wonder. The set that we have is volumetrically to scale. That means that if we fill the “number 1” and the “number 2” cups up with water, they will exactly fill up the “number 3” cup if we pour the contents of both into it. If you fill up the “number 4” cup and the “number 5” cup, if poured out they will exactly fill up the “number 9” cup. You get the picture. The kids haven’t necessarily picked up on this, but this feature mightily impresses their father and me. Also, when you stack them, the rims of the cups are designed to fit snugly together when you stack them in their proper order. If you skip a cup, they don’t rest together well… so this helps the younger ones to figure out what order they go in even before they can recognize the numbers on the cups.
We bring these with us everywhere. When nested together they are compact enough to be thrown in my bag, and they are great entertainment in a waiting room or at the airport… anywhere you need to occupy little ones for heaven knows how long. And it’s not just the youngest ones in our family that use them. We took them to the beach with us last year and all of us used them to help build a family sand castle. Our pre-teen daughter uses them any time she needs to trace different sized circles, and this is always the toy she grabs when we ask her to “entertain the boys”. She stacks them up… and they knock them down. Over and over and over again. They also have a raised outline of different creatures on the bottom of each cup (from a butterfly on the smallest cup to a whale on the biggest cup) that can be used to make imprints if you press them into clay or playdough.
No, I don’t sell these cups, and I don’t get paid to advertise them. But they are my number one suggestion as a gift for new babies or 1-year olds. We bought these for my daughter when she was less than a year old, and this same set is being used and played with in our house today. Sometimes the simplest toys are the very best!
Shopping Carts for Kids
Life changes profoundly when you go from having no children, to suddenly being a parent and having a new baby in the house. The first year is a steep learning curve for parents and babies alike. But it isn’t until you have more than one child, that you realize how easy you had it with just one.
With just one, especially when they’re small, you just tote them along with you in their little baby carrier. They go where you go, and they don’t think to complain about it much. But when there are two or more, even though they are small – you are officially outnumbered. You attention is split in more directions, your energy is drained faster, and what was once a simple outing can suddenly become infinitely more complex.
Let’s take grocery shopping for example. When you have one child, if they are still in the baby stage you can set their baby carrier right on the grocery cart and babble away to them while you go about your shopping. As they get bigger, you can let them sit in the child seat section of the cart and babble away to them while you go about your shopping. But if you suddenly have a second child with you, the options become much less convenient. You can put the smaller one in the child seat section of the cart, but what do you do with the other one? Your choices are:
- Sit them in the main section of the cart with the groceries (a bad idea, especially if you are planning to purchase eggs).
- Let them sit on the rack underneath the basket (an uncomfortable seat for even the littlest kid, and only really an option if you plan to be shopping for 5 minutes or less).
- Let them hang off the side or front of the basket (dangerous if you have a run-in with another cart, and short-lived once the child realizes he can step down and take off any moment he wishes to).
Thankfully, some kind soul came up with a real solution, and the next item on my list: shopping carts designed for kids. Most of them are designed to look like trucks, and the “cab” of the truck is in front of the actual basket part of the cart. Kids can open the door, and sit down in the "cab", and each seat even comes with its own steering wheel. The little truckers then have a front row seat to the entire shopping experience, and they are kept safely away from the precious grocery cargo in the back of the truck.
Granted, my two boys still want to mess with one another’s steering wheel, but even that little squabble is minor and is yet another thing that keeps them occupied while I get my shopping done. Trust me, my choice of grocery stores when I have the kids in tow are no longer about who has the best prices or freshest produce… it’s about who has "THE CART". Grocers of America, take note.
The Cardboard Box
The last item on my list is in many ways the best of all. It’s available to children in all areas, and across all financial demographics. It exercises the imagination, and is as much fun to play with alone as it is with other kids. It’s the least expensive toy ever, and many times is delivered to your door without even having to ask for it. That’s right, it’s the magical cardboard box.
I know it’s cliché, but kids do really love the boxes that things come in as much as the items themselves. My mother-in-law sent a Thomas the Train ride-on toy to our youngest for Christmas, and both boys are still playing with the box it came in as often as (if not more than) the actual train. It’s been a boat, a rocket ship, a fort, a cave, a car… all without me having to purchase a single expansion pack. And when it’s time for clean up, we just fold it up and slip it away.
Despite all of the technical advances that have come our way, this is an item that will never go out of style. It’s classic, it’s timeless… and absolutely Wonder-ful.