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Happy Meals

Whether we decide to head for the golden arches, make a run for the border or have it our way depends not on the quality of said establishment's food, nor the cravings of the adults in the family. When deciding where to pick up our crap in a sack, it is all about the toy.
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Guest Post by Meagan Francis:

Every so often, on one of those weary evenings when cooking dinner has gotten bumped off the to-do list, our family ventures out for quality time, American-style: We pick up fast food.

But whether we decide to head for the golden arches, make a run for the border or have it our way depends not on the quality of said establishment's food, nor the cravings of the adults in the family. When deciding where to pick up our crap in a sack, it is all about the toy.

"Mom, McDonald's has Dog toys right now."

"Yeah, but you already collected the whole set!"

"Oh yeah. Let's try Burger King! They have 'Scooby Doo 2' toys!"

Whatever they choose, I know that soon my car will be covered with pieces of plastic, cardboard and little scraps of paper -- and, if I'm lucky, the toy might hold their attention for 15 minutes.

Sure, once in a while a kid's meal sack will contain something of value -- a bag of Lego pieces, maybe, or a Matchbox car -- but usually, the toys are completely pointless, sometimes bordering on bizarre.

We once got a plastic figurine of Jackie Chan, posed in a perpetual kick. Imagine how long it would take to exhaust all play possibilities for an action figure with his leg outstretched to the side at a 90-degree angle. For my kids, it took all of three minutes.

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Then there was the female human action hero inside the body of a purple plastic armadillo. I never did figure out that one.

What really freaks me out is that, like the Ebola virus, kid's meal toys seem nearly unstoppable. Sure, they break easily, but you can't get rid of them. I'm convinced they can reproduce. Like worms, if you cut them in two, they go on living.

If the kids rip off one of Scooby's plastic legs, long after I've thrown the body into the trash, that lone leg will continue to resurface -- in the Lego bin, taped to one of my children's "creations" or impaled in the bottom of my foot during a bathroom trip in the middle of the night.

And just how is it possible that every time I clean out the car, I see clones of toys that I just saw in the house?

Maybe the 1,056 random pieces of Happy Meal plastic bother me because they represent how much fast food we've eaten lately.

Each time I scour the boys' room for clutter, I set aside a bag destined for the trash. Each time, it's filled with parts of kid's meal toys -- plastic proof of my family's blatant consumerism.

Is it possible that many meals of French fries and nuggets have made their way through my children's digestive tracts?

I think from now on, I'll drive directly from the drive-thru to a do-it-yourself car wash and give the kids exactly 20 minutes to tire themselves of the toys. (Should be plenty of time). Then I'll throw them away, and for good measure, I'll vacuum the car. You know, in case they pollinated or something.

No foot trauma, less clutter and reduced guilt.

I'm lovin’ it.


Happy Happy

I'm going to confess something that might sound shocking coming from a writer who often takes as her subject the complex and sometimes dark experience of mothering young children . . .

From the Back Seat

KT Tunstall sings through my earbuds as I watch the desert roll by from the back seat of our station wagon....Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be...Her ‘20-something’ lyrics are most likely about discovering her own emerging identity, but they hit home for me right now as I realize this is where I want to be right now.

My Inner Mommy War, Part 1

When I was 32, three years into my blessedly peaceful second marriage, 16 months into the motherhood gig, five months pregnant with our second child, I sat on the floor of our New York apartment in stunned silence.

My Gold Medalist

This past Sunday will forever be etched in my daughter’s mind...a day that perfect childhood memories are made of. You see, for the first time ever, Rebecca, who is just learning how to figure skate, took home her very first gold medal at a mini competition at our local skating rink.

The Oblivious Factor

What is it these days with the Oblivious Factor? Whether we're driving, shopping or walking down the street, we are so wrapped up in something else other than looking to see if we're blocking someone's way or slowing down traffic, that we pretty much become a nuisance not only to others, but a hazard to ourselves.

Bonus Baby

Last night I did what I ordinarily do around eleven o’clock. I shut down my laptop computer and put it away, then closed the book I was reading and set it on the lamp stand next to the sofa. I brought my water glass and my wine glass into the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. While my husband went outside to smoke his last cigarette for the evening, I climbed the stairs and readied myself for bed.

The Transformation of Motherhood

The moments of our daily lives are the best therapist we could have if we pay attention. Motherhood provides an extraordinary opportunity because it triggers so many emotions that lay buried.


Lately, I've noticed an aspect of my parenting style that would probably elicit disapproval from child psychologists. While I'm almost always empathetic, usually firm and try very hard to be fair, I change my mind a lot.