Take Hank Camping, Check.

I grew up camping — fresh-picked blackberries and cream, sodas chilling in the creek, bug bites so profuse that I looked infectious. I figured Hank would be a natural outdoorsman.

He was a champ for the five-hour drive, and happy enough through camp set up. I kneeled for a kiss when we’d finished pitching the tent. He took my face in his hands, cocked his little head, and said, “We can go home?”

I figured he’d come around once he’d spent some time in the dirt with all his older cousins, and he did. A little. Unfortunately, he grew increasingly upset when they took occasional bike rides and left him behind. His lip quivered, his eyes welled, “We can go home, pease? Pease?”

We cuddled him. He asked to go home. We tickled him. He suggested we play tickle in the car. We hung him upside down by his feet. He thought that might be more fun if we left and tried it someplace else. Someplace like our apartment. So we pulled out the big guns:

When we were done with the water fight, Hank looked around and gave an unhappy sigh. We scooped him up and took him to the river where he was content to throw rocks for a couple hours. Then his cousin caught a fish. Oh dear. Hank examined the fish, touched it, and said, “Now that fishy go swim again,” and pointed to the water. Uhhh. I distracted him from the concept of death by making high-pitched noises and unattractive goofy faces while we exited the scene, but when he realized we were no longer by the water?

“We go home now. Now. Nooooow. NOOOOOOOW!”

We muddled through the day, but soon it began to dawn on him that there was no way to go inside when it got dark. His face twisted into a mask of such extreme toddler frustration, I’m certain he would have cursed like a sailor in a tattoo parlor if he’d had any expletives at his disposal. Instead he cried for a while, and Bryan cuddled him to sleep in the tent.

The following day was much the same, with a slightly more dramatic bedtime scene. But Hank woke the second morning refreshed. Say! He had a great idea. How about we all get in the truck? From there we could go home! No? What are we doing now? Getting ready to go home, he hoped. Are we going there now? He would enjoy that.

After an hour or two of subtle coercion, Hank asked me to lift him into his car seat, and then simply refused to be moved. His forlorn toddler face said it all:

So instead of staying another day, we cut the kid a break and packed up the campsite. My sister assured me that this was a passing phase. Her kids didn’t like to camp at Hank’s age; toddlers like routine. Meanwhile, Hank perched in his car seat with a matchbox truck and his sippey cup for nearly two hours while we packed. I have never seen him display such patience with anything that wasn’t shaped like a TV.

So, I’m crossing “Take Hank Camping” off my Mighty Life List. Next I think we’ll all go out to sushi and then head to the Opera. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Ask Maggie: Nine Toddler Things I Can’t Live Without

Hi team. I’m having trouble keeping up with email, but I’ve been getting a lot questions from you guys that I feel bad ignoring. I figured I’d start answering some of them on Fridays, so this is the first one.

If you don’t care about toddler gear, here’s a video of a guy doing an entirely a cappella version of Thriller, using only his voice in place of all the instruments. It is rad. (Thanks, Kottke):

Awesome, right? I know! Now, on to the toddler question.

Hi Maggie,

I built my baby registry around your product recommendations on Mighty Girl. I have never regretted purchasing a single thing you recommended, and consider my registry, and the fact that none of my baby products went unused, to be one of my major parenting achievements. Is this weird?

…Please, please post your recommendations for toddler buys, esp. strollers.

Much appreciated,
Ainsley

Hi Ainsley,

Here you go.

1. The BOB Stroller

We have two strollers. A little umbrella one that I kind of hate, and the Bob, which is so good that I’d like to hold it close and whisper naughty things to it in the night.

It’s a little heavy when it’s folded, but the wheels are so big that I just drive it up and down our stairs while Hank walks, so I rarely have occasion to carry it any distance. You can also order an infant car seat adapter bar and make it your primary stroller from the beginning, but it’s kind of big for restaurants. Our Bob is excellent because it:

Moves like hot butter in a frying pan. (I could drive it with one finger.)

Is easy to fold and unfold.

Fits though airport security scanners.

Is crazy durable.

Can be driven easily on dirt and grass.

Is big enough that your kid won’t outgrow it instantly.

Serves as an outdoor bed.

Let me reiterate that last point. The Bob is so comfortable, that we can recline the seat fully and Hank will sleep in it. This means we can put him down for a nap or bedtime while we’re out on a walk and go for lunch dinner at an outdoor cafe (the stroller is kind of big for indoor dining). It doesn’t always work, but it works enough of the time that the stroller has paid for itself in saved babysitter fees. It also comes in a double stroller version if you have two kiddos.

2. Playtex Coolster Tumblers

One thing I wish I’d done from the beginning was buy a bunch of the same sippy cups, so the parts could be interchangeable. I love these BPA-free toddler cups, because they’re like travel coffee mugs, but with a restricted flow valve inside. They’re great for teaching kids how to use a cup. I just ordered a bunch of them in the same color, so I can just use whatever lid I come across. Also, you can order new lids and valves without replacing the whole cup.

3. Water Shoes instead of Sneakers

If you get a cute pair of water shoes, they often look a lot cooler than designer kids sneakers, and they’re way, way cheaper. Easier to pull on, they don’t get all gross when they get wet, and they last a little longer because they’re stretchy. Bonus, they’re comfortable without socks if laundry day comes a little late that week.

4. Phil and Ted’s Me Too Chair and the Handysitt Child Chair

We’ve never owned a high chair. The Phil and Ted’s was small enough to throw in the stroller basket and take out with us to dinner where we could easily attach it to a table ledge. When he outgrew that, we bought a Handysitt, which sits on a dining room chair most of the time. We throw in the car for dinner at a friend’s house, and it also stows easily if you’re having company and it’s not mealtime. Bonus, no tantrums about not getting to sit in a grownup chair.

5. iPhone

Bless you, iPhone video. So ludicrously useful for preempting tantrums, we call it the neglect-a-tron. Download a few of the kid’s favorite videos, and the most exhausted toddler can be dissuaded from throwing himself on the floor at the DMV. These stands are pretty great too.

6. Apple Slicer

It’s gonna come up.

7. Circle Wooden Train Set

If you have a little boy, this set is likely to be a hit.

8. Hanna Andersson Floppy Sun Hat

I don’t own one of these yet, so this is risky, but I’ve been searching high and low for a decent sunhat with a chin strap, and I just placed an order for one of these on the recommendation of mom-of-three Margaret Stewart. She says, “My kids wore these for years. I handed the same hats down through three kids and they were still in good enough shape to give away to another family after 8+ years of use!” Good enough for me.

Margaret also recommends this for the beach. It’s the cutest mullet hat I’ve seen, and yet it remains a mullet hat. I can’t do it.

9. Flashlight with Click Button

If you’d like to finish a novel start to finish? Hand the kid a flashlight for the first time. Enjoy.

That’s it. What can’t you live without? Tell us. Do!

And if you want to ask me a question about whatever, send it to maggie at mighty girl dot com.

Mighty Life List: Watch Hank eat his first ice cream cone.

Lots of parents aren’t particularly concerned about stuff on their kids’ faces. This is because you can wipe a child’s face, leave the room to throw out the tissue, and return to find them covered with snot and dog hair. You’re standing there thinking, “We don’t even own a dog.” Well, that’s beside the point. The point is that keeping your kid’s face clean is like pushing a boulder uphill. Except the boulder has teeth, and can scream.

When I was child free, I’d laugh nervously when people passed me their baby food-covered kids. Then I’d lunge for the nearest napkin before the baby could slime my sweater. I always figured I’d grow out of that when I had my own kids, but instead I just chase Hank around with baby wipes all day. The result is a remarkably fastidious kid who would prefer not to touch anything that might leave a residue. He has a very conflicted relationship with bananas.

For some reason, I didn’t ponder this much when we took him out for his first ice cream cone. It was the first warm day we’ve had since he’s been old enough to hold his own cone, and I could barely wait. I’d somehow failed to remember that the kid who loves to play in mud and sand, and splash in puddles had to be taught that all those things were cool. We weren’t going to rush at him screaming, “Noooooooooo!” and then whisk off all his clothing to go soak it in the bathtub. Mud all over your shirt? Yes. Smoothie and dog hair all over your shirt? No. These are complex distinctions.

So we convinced Hank to hold his cone the way we convince him to do anything scary. Outright bribery. As you may recall, Hank will only be bribed with chocolate. Perhaps you think this is a no-brainer, because ice cream conveniently comes in chocolate form. Perhaps you have forgotten that ice cream remains on one’s face, long after one has requested that it be removed?

And apparently ice cream drips?

And this chocolate is cold? Which is unexpected when we’re talking about chocolate. And why aren’t you holding it, as any idiot can see that your manual dexterity far exceeds that of a toddler?

Why are you making him do this? It is disgusting. Are you not aware that he has teeth and can scream?

Eventually, through our laughter, we convinced him that ice cream on a cone would not grab his ankles when he walked by the bed, or secret away his security blanket while he was distracted by ice tongs. So Hank warmed to the idea of holding it himself.

He took about two bites and then thrust it at me, “You hold it?” Fair enough. He pointed at my napkin and held his hands out questioningly. So I obliged.

Then he ran back and forth on the sidewalk screeching happily while we finished our cones.

It was a good day.