Wednesday, February 16, 2011

just call me ming ming, tasha, or uniqua

before tim went on a 13 day work trip back in december, he signed us up for a free trial of netflix. through his playstation 3, we only watch shows and videos on demand-we've never actually requested a movie in the mail. we had considered doing the free trial several times, but had avoided it because i was pretty certain we would enjoy having it and wouldn't want to give it up when the trial was over. but i didn't want to pay for the service either. well, it turns out that i was right-the free trial sucked us in and we are now subscribers.

as much as i would love for us to be a no television family, i just can't do it. ben is a very constant kid, always wanting me to do an activity or project or play a game with him. i try to engage him and keep him busy, while also trying to encourage (and sometimes force) him to have quiet time by himself, but it's just not enough. with all of the parenting/interaction falling on me most days because of tim's work schedule, i just need a break sometimes. and by sometimes, i mean several times a day. : (

before netflix, because we don't have cable, we only watched pbs and movies. i liked pbs because it was usually somewhat "educational" and because it didn't have commercials. the problem was that unless i caught a show right when it was starting, ben would be annoyed or would what to watch more than one show because he only caught a part of one. the other problem was that max was starting to develop opinions about what shows he liked and disliked (ben will watch pretty much anything the magical glowing box has to offer)and he seemed to dislike a lot of the pbs shows-especially the ones on in the late afternoon, when i need a break the most. the last thing i wanted was them arguing over the very thing that was supposed to give me a break when my sanity was at a tipping point.

(an old picture, but proof none the less of ben's total and unflinching attention to the tv.)

netflix to the rescue. i can pick when we start a show and we have a larger selection of shows to watch. i try to keep our viewing times at set times of the day, other wise the boys will whine and beg for shows all the time. ben would very happily watch tv all day. and sadly, when both ben and i where sick, we did. max will watch for about one show, but after that he'll find something else to do, watching on and off. it was very strange experiencing what life would be like if i let my kids have the tv on all day-very tempting and certainly a lot less work for me, but of course not what is best for any of us.

as we explored the new shows available to us, the backyardigans became a fast favorite of both myself and the boys. if you've never seen the show, as i hadn't, this is the wikipedia plot summary:

The show is an animated musical-adventure series aimed at children between the ages of 2 and 10.[4] In each episode, the show's five friends—Uniqua, Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha, and Austin—rely on their vivid imaginations to transform their backyard into completely different worlds, in which they go through many sorts of stories and adventures. The time-frame of the show can range from a few hours to more than one full day, but in reality, the story always ends just in time for one of them to invite the others for a snack. The imaginary story then reverts to the backyard, and the characters all rush to the house of the person who offered the snack and enter it. After a second, one or more characters open the door, quote the catchphrase specific to the episode and then close the door, ending the show. The episodes focus on music and dancing as much as they do on the stories, with each one featuring a different music genre (such as big band, reggae, Spaghetti Western, polka, Motown, and disco) and four new songs, usually with at least one rearrangement of a well-known or traditional song. For example, in the episode where Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone imagine they are secret agents and they are going under the laser beams of a door, they sing the "Laser Limbo Tango", which is sung to the tune of the popular Chubby Checker song, "Limbo Rock".

the songs are clever and catchy and the corresponding dances make me want to stand up and try to reenact them. i can't think of any kids shows that i actually enjoy watching, other than backyardigans. a bonus of this show is that it has really encouraged ben to use his imagination-something he really didn't do much of before. and i can't blame him-i'm totally NOT an imagination player. like, it's almost painful for me. but i'm trying to be better. the other morning we got the whole house picked up because we were pirates ( i was tasha, ben was pablo, and max was pablo two. we have to refer to each other accordingly, otherwise ben is quick to correct.) and we had to follow the treasure map from room to room searching for the treasure. (i did reward them with an m&m when we finished/found the treasure. and yes, my boys are so deprived that ONE m&m is a valid treat.)

another show that the boys really like, but i find totally annoying is wonder pets.

whenever we play an imagination game and ben dictates that we're the wonder pets characters, i always have to be ming ming, the duck with the speech impediment.

the only merit to the show is that i can sometimes get the boys to get in the car faster if i call it the "fly boat" and call them by name while singing the wonder pets song. (yes, i stoop to that level sometimes.)or when i need the boys to help me with something and sing the song "we're not too big and we're not too tough but if we work together we've got the right stuff!"

to add to the annoyance of the show, tim will often walk around the house (as does ben) quoting ming ming about how "sewius" any possible situation is. i try to skip over the wonder pets icon really fast when we're scrolling through, looking for a show to watch.

the boys also really like dora and diego, and while i find them annoying, i can ignore them much better than wonder pets.

so that's our life these days. pretty wild and exciting.

what do you do with your kiddos to keep them entertained when you need a break?


  1. Mary, when my kids were little, for my sanity, we had to watch tv, pbs was a good one for us at the time and we also had several videos that worked for similar reasons, Noah wanted me to read to him nonstop or talk to him all day long...becoming tv free gets easier when you have much older children who can help out. We still occasionally watch a few episodes online of both the backyardigans, dora, diego, and wonder pets, for emergencies;)...or get redbox videos for car trips. I love the music on the backyardigans too!! LOL! Keeping your sanity as a Mother trumps any ideals that we have.

  2. What a timely blog post! We've been checking out dvd's from westlink all through January and February. Shaun the Sheep is a fave, and the Koala Brothers is quite pleasant. I was impressed with Maya and Miguel because it's a cartoon with a brother and sister that actually love each other and don't argue and sass their parents. But the find of the year is Mighty Machines. It's a Canadian series, but the library has tons of them, and they aren't popular in the US, so they are never checked out. They are all about bulldozers, trains, etc. The boys LOVE them. We'll hear them playing with Legos, singing the Mighty Machines theme song-IN UNISON! They already know more about proper names for machinery than I ever will.

    Enjoyed your post very much, ming ming. A great glimpse into your daily grind.

  3. I am so with you Mary! Maybe we need to get our boys together sometime? Then they could just drive each other bonkers. We don't get PBS, so we have a pretty extensive video collection. My dad recorded Ira a bunch of "How it's Made" off of the Science channel - it's 30 min. episodes that tell about how everything from hotel door locks to colored pencils are made. Maybe they have it on Netflix?

  4. i like the wonderpets and diego! i sing to my boys, "how do brothers work? teamwork!" the boys have picked up several spanish phrases from diego. tv doesn't kill a child- if it did they wouldn't come back from visits to a certain person in their life, alive. better to indulge in a little tv time and have a sane mommy:)

  5. What do my kids do when I need to get something done? Watch TV! I am over my guilt about allowing them to watch TV... I simply can't do without it! And until someone tells me that my kid is having learning problems, I have simply choose not to get worked up about it anymore! We watch it all... PBS, Nick Jr, Disney AND movies! Maybe one day, we will try to go in the "no TV" direction, but for right now, it's my lifesaver :) Keep on watchin!

  6. I read this post the day it was put up, but I was either nursing Amelia or holding a dejected Claire at the time and couldn't type the comment I had in mind at the time, and it's long gone by now. We received your lovely Valentine today, so that's what reminded me about this post. Before I get to that I wanted to inform you that your family picture is lovely and now resides on our refrigerator with Gus' picture in the magnetic US Census frame Matt won from the contest on Joel's blog. Gotta do something to set those boys with the Arnold genes apart from the "regular" folks. Keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak ;D Oh, and Melanie has been going around talking about her friend Ben, so he made quite the impression at the wedding. Gus may have to settle for one of my other girls. Ok, enough of that.

    I must say that my girls both LOVE the Wonderpets and I have my in-laws to thank for that one since they were the ones that originally showed it to them. Then to feed their enjoyment even further Grams and Gramps gave them each a Wonderpets video in their stockings at Christmas and Katie found a musical toy flyboat for Claire for her birthday. Oh joy. Both girls sing the theme song throughout the day and Matt has adapted it to various goings-on in our daily lives to amuse the girls. Katie even sent me an email today of a song she made up to the Wonderpets tune to motivate her kids during state testing. So yeah, major WP overload going on here. I've never seen Backyardigans, but I may have to try it out to decrease the frequency of WP in our video rotation (twice a week is more than enough for me!)