Transmissions From Baby-Town: “This Chorus Of Mirth And Madness”

Christmas came and Christmas went, and in the wake of Santa Jesus we found the flotsam and jetsam of a child’s joy –what I’m saying is, our living room exploded and gave birth to a metric ass-ton of baby toys.

And now, over a week later, I’m left rocking back and forth. In the corner. Covered in a shellacking of dried saliva and carpet fibers, my fingers burned with battery acid as they tried desperately — and failed with equal desperation — to pluck AA batteries from their plastic cradles. My vision flits in and out. My muscles twitch with myoclonic spasms. I… hear things.

I hear the heretical hymns and blasphemous songs of a thousand insane toys.

I hear them when I wake.

I hear them when I sleep.

I no longer can distinguish between day and night, between up and down.

I have gone mad.

* * *

As it was the child’s first Christmas, that meant that everyone felt inclined to Go Big Or Go Home in terms of providing the tiny human with gifted amusement. That includes us, of course — we, too, procured for him a bounty of entertainment even though he’s got the attention span of an epileptic cricket and frankly is capable of achieving maximum delight from Tupperware containers, paper towels, or his own wriggling feet.

That said, buying toys for a new child is everybody’s right, and I’d dare not rob anyone of that pleasure.

The bounty included such plastic idols of childish wonder as:

Blocks; balls; some kind of baby-sized faux-laptop; Elmo; a talking puppy; an electronic plastic “book;” a learning station that features such disparate items as a phone and a book and a piano and, I dunno, an autopsy station or something; a thing that might be best described as a “musical lawnmower;” another set of blocks; rings; wibbly-wobbly bean-shaped things; and so forth.

This is all wonderful and we are of course thankful to have these things.

It’s just…

You need to understand:

These things all make noise.

They all make noise.


The blocks squeak! The balls rattle! The puppy barks and talks about his ear and his feet and his paw and tells the baby he loves him! The book sings songs and barks and meows and baa’s and bleeps and blorps! Everything is a cacophony of saxophones and ABCs and 123s and and bings and dings and ringing phones and chimes and rhymes and timing tones and next thing you know your ears are bleeding and you’ve developed this tic and you smell the stink of burning flowers before you fugue out and stab the mailman.

* * *

The toys, they are impatient.

And they reward impatience, reveling in it.

B-Dub, he likes to crawl around and lay resplendent amongst his booty, flailing his limbs so that his hand punches one toy and his leg kicks another and then he’ll flop up and over like a breaching whale and crash his head into another toy.  Each punch-kick-headbutt elicits a brand new sound. But the sounds will gladly interrupt other sounds — just as one is beginning to dig into a chorus of the ABCs or Hey Diddle Diddle, the baby hits another button and then another sound or song begins. And trust me, these things are All Buttons. Every little widget and hinge and plastic nubbin does something — every tiny insubstantial movement or event sets off a chain reaction of musical bedlam. If the baby just breathes near one of them it’s suddenly lighting up like a fucking rocket booster and singing some song about a happy froggy.

It sings the song of madness. Our house sounds like this:

Hey diddle diddle the cat and the —



A B C D E F —

Meow! Meow! Meow!

*guitar riff*

I Love You!

Mary had a little —

Ruff ruff!


Hey diddle —

Yellow foot!

*saxophone smooth jazz*

It’s learning time!

It’s learning —

It’s learn —

Ruff ruff!

And meanwhile it’s all lights and vibrations and suddenly I’m starting to stroke out and wonder, “Sweet Christ on a Crumbly Cracker, is this why kids have ADD?” Then I wipe the nosebleed and pass out.

* * *

If you leave the toys alone long enough, they get… angry.

They’re like the toys from Toy Story: they demand to be played with. Each toy addicted to play, fun-junkies who just can’t get enough, man. The toy phone will ring, tell you it has a call. The book will beg to be opened, beg to be played with, hungry for storytime. The puppy wants the baby to know: I love you, baby who I just met yesterday, baby who’s name I don’t know, baby who punches me and bites me and who later ignores me, I love you so much I’d kill for you.

You turn the puppy off and he goes silent.

But even the slightest vibration returns him to life.

You sneeze two rooms away and the puppy’s back.

I love you, you hear.

The toy, talking to nobody.

It’s a trap, you think.

* * *

One rhyme:

“Ring around the rosie / The doggy chase the kitty / Husha, husha / We all fall down.”

What the fuck is that?

What happened to the pocket full of goddamn posies?

Rosie and Kitty don’t rhyme!

…or maybe they do.

Maybe I’ve just lost my mind.

*blubber whimper sob*

* * *



Ring around the rosie

Ding ding ding

Riiiiiing riiiiing

Open! Close!

Ruff Ruff

Ear! Blue ear!

Elmo sleepy.

Up! Down!






It’s learning time!

Ruff ruff!

* * *

All the while, as the chorus of mirth and madness plays on, the baby is hyper-crawling his way toward anything that’s not actually a toy. For all the bounty that exists, he’s happy trying to eat a ball of lint or head-butt the couch. Or, best of all, track down the actual dog, a dog who he perhaps loves more than anything in this world. I’m sure as my wife and I slowly descend into the caverns of lunacy, the boy will discover our drool-slick bodies supine on the floor and he will find great amusement in playing with our twitching fingers, our slackened jaws, our tightly-curled toesy-woesies.

And the toys will sing an electronic dirge to mark our mind-death.

40 responses to “Transmissions From Baby-Town: “This Chorus Of Mirth And Madness””

  1. I wheeze and sputter with laughter, sir. This is just the sort of twisted real-horror exaggeration that keeps me coming back time and time again. It’s very Penny Arcade in it’s imagery and apocalyptic oration.

  2. Baby toys scare me. I have a second cousin who is now toddler, and the amount of toys that spewed forth after she was born was frightening. And my father in law would totally get us the drum set.

  3. My relatives also wanted to give evil, noise-making, parent-torturing toys to my kids and I also didn’t try to ruin their fun.


    You’d be amazed how quickly the batteries in my sons’ noisy toys “died” after Christmas and their birthdays… and how light the toys were after I took the “dead” batteries out of them. Somehow I just didn’t get replacement batteries for them. And you’d also be amazed just how much the boys liked playing with them anyway and making up their own sound effects.

    Frankly, if the batteries hadn’t “died,” someone else might have. It was a good compromise… and the misguided relatives never knew.

  4. It seems there are 2 different types of toy givers:

    1) Those who give noisy toys to children because they really believe the child will like the noise it makes

    2) Those who give noisy toys to children because they know it will annoy the shit out of their parents

    Oh yeah. The first kind doesn’t really exist.

  5. Fantastic imagery, Chuck! That took me back in time … thanks. I’m still in recovery and my youngest is ten now. We have a rule in our house, nothing that makes noise shall enter. Unless of course you count video games…we still allow those.

  6. We have drums in the house because Rich is a drummer. It’s actually way less annoying than the psychotic voices they use in battery-operated toys.

    I agree on the removal and lack of replacement of dead batteries if you can get away with it. Also- as batteries die the voices slow down into demonic cadences.

    Satan’s School Bus ended up in a landfill after “accidentally” being left out in the rain, and no, I am not ashamed.

    • Yeah, drums aren’t so bad, I think — I played drums and loved ’em, and at least that’s a noise I understand.

      And it’s not even the electronic toys by themselves. It’s the electronic toys TOGETHER. Forming their mad electrobabble.

      — c.

  7. And then sometimes, as the batteries wear down, the toys go off by themselves at any time, but generally when it’s the middle of night and you’re dead asleep, and you wake to the sounds of that stupid creepy steering wheel singing the ABC’s somewhere in the house.

  8. I am 34 weeks pregnant, and my husband is already trying to prepare both sets of grandparents that noisy toys stay at their house.

    I know no battle plan survives the enemy intact, so I am sure some noisy toys will make it’s way into the house. Or it would be our luck that the baby falls in love with one of them and wants to take it home with him. Then I think we can employ the battery death method. That’s pure brilliance right there.

    In the meantime Chuck, I hope your sanity stays relatively intact. If not, at least it might help your writing? H.P. Lovecraft was nuts, after all. 😉

  9. For his second birthday I got my nephew a fire engine that revved, hooted a siren and clanged a bell.

    With a hand crank.

    This was to get my brother back for all of the crap I took as a kid from him.

    It was more satisfying than the time I shot him.

  10. You realize there’s a next step after this part, right? I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you. The next step after this is when B-Dub will realize that every toy you get him can also be used as a *hammer.*

    For the record, my nephew was absolutely awesome looking when he was swinging the little bubble bopper device over his head like a sledgehammer and roaring. Then he smashed it down on the table and left a sizable dent.

  11. It is my understanding that there is an old Chinese parable: “To the man who hates his neighbour, let him give his neighbour’s child a drum.”

    So clearly, this is a declaration of war. You can retaliate in Future Spawnings.

    I have already arranged a ride on the neuter-scooter for myself in a few weeks so as to hold the tactical highground on this one… At least for a while.

  12. The first time my children ever heard me curse, was because of a talking toy. The trick by the way is making sure you remove the batteries BEFORE you give them to the kids. Take this advice now, because at two the toys get louder and more sentient.

    My aunt gave my kids a talking wooden puzzle one year. Every time you took an animal shape out or put it back in, it would say that animal’s sound. The cow would moo, the sheep would baa, and the hamster made this really creepy evil noise. It turned out it worked through light sensitivity. So if you left the puzzle unmade at the end of the day, then came through the living room in the middle of the night and turned the lights on, you were assaulted by the cries of barnyard animals. We would actually ask each other before we went to bed, “Did you finish the farm puzzle?” “No, I couldn’t find the horse.” “Crap, I’ll look under the couch, you just the heat vent again.” That puzzle mysteriously vanished one day. I can’t imagine what could have happened to it…

    Also, my kids had the “learning station that features such disparate items as a phone and a book and a piano and, I dunno, an autopsy station or something.” My husband recognized it from your description and almost shot coffee out his nose.

  13. You illustrate a slobber-soaked path to lunacy so beautifully 😉 While I do wish you a fast recovery, I’m quite preoccupied with my own little song right now: I don’t have children. Yay! I don’t have children. Yay!

  14. I haven’t laughed this hard at a blog post in a while. Well done. You could definitely be the Dr. Spock of our century, only you would be hilarious and actually useful.

  15. My sister’s and I use to have a competition – who could give the others’ child the most noisy obnoxious toy. My sister took top honors the year she gave my daughter the quacking squeaking duck family. I still have nightmares.

  16. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! The insanity of parenting a child from birth to 25 or 30 would drive me out of my mind. I see child-burdened friends sleep-walking through life, and I feel a little bit sorry for them — only a little bit, mind you, because they had a choice and they made it. Now they’re too exhausted to even complain about lack of sleep, sex, energy, money, time…

    Glad I made the right choice for me!

    Jerry Steinberg
    Founding Non-Father Emeritus of NO KIDDING!
    The international social club for childless and childfree couples and singles;

  17. It’s like… It’s like you’re in my head, man… You’d think after child #1, we’d be prepared for it. But no. Child #2 was 10 months old at Christmas, and we’re once again surrounded by buzzing, singing, bleeping, manically happy songs and noises.

    And what is it with almost every toy randomly declaring its undying love? Creepy…

    Although the creepiest toy Child #1 had was a little electronic toy piano. In the middle of the night, while we were all sleeping, it would start playing a distorted version of Mary Had a Little Lamb. Even when it was turned off.

  18. Oh gods you’ve made me relive the horror of Scoop, the possessed front loader.

    It talked. Whenever. All the time. In the middle of the night. He was “ready to go.” There was no explanation possible other than demonic.


  19. Chuck, I found your blog off the CoppyBlogger best blogs for writers list and I’m so glad I did. I laughed non stop as I read this post. Actually, I’m sitting in the doctors office waiting for them to tell me when my son will finally be born. Thanks for writing. Now I’ll be prepared for next Christmas.

  20. Yet, I miss all that noisy crap, now that my wee-ist bairn is buried in 850,000 Legos and only occasionally emerges for a toke on the 3DS.

    Okay. I don’t really miss it. But I do remember it fondly. Thanks for the happy mind-trip.

    A toy we still quote: A plastic phone that we all swear said, “Vile baby! Vile baby!” in Chucky’s voice.

  21. Baby’s First Christmas–clearly the inspiration for the First Valium.

    We usually tucked half the toys away and brought a “new” toy out one at a time throughout the year. Christmas was good for several months of fresh fun.

    Next year will be even better, Chuck!

  22. My kids got their share of loud toys but one of the worst gifts was an analog watch given to my 4 year old. She walked up to me EVERY 5 MINUTES FOR THE NEXT 3 DAYS asking “what time is it?” sticking her watch in my face. When my patience ran out I yelled “Why do you need to know? Do you have some place to go???”

    The only good thing about it was that I felt no guilt when I gave that gift giver’s child the nice, loud electronic xylophone the next year. 🙂

  23. I refuse to give my nephews anything that makes noise because my brother and sister-in-law are barely keeping their heads above the sea of crappy, noisy plastic toys that fills their house. I buy wood and I buy silent. And what do you know…they have dozens of toys at their disposal, and my nephews’ favorites are the wooden train and the wooden helicopter, neither of which make any noise at all.

  24. Wait until he starts to take them apart and stumble barefoot through a darkened house in the middle of the night. All you want is a drink of water. My daughter got married a few months ago. I’m biding my time.

  25. …and then you get kids like me, who were happy with stuffed animals and Barbie dolls that they could provide voices for. Meaning, talk to themselves/their toys incessantly at all hours of the day and night, bossing them around, inventing dramas for them, tearing apart their teddie bears and tying their Barbie dolls to the tool table by the circular saw. I am firmly convinced that by providing toys which I had to make up stories for, my parents both a. created a sadist and b. contributed to my development as a writer. XD A melodramatic, sadistic writer.

  26. As someone with two under-twos, I can relate. Beautifully written. … For any given definition of “beautiful” that includes the word “terrifyingly accurate.”

  27. Hilarious, but you already knew that. Just be glad nobody gave him a toy I inadvertently bought for an unknown little girl, then, feeling sorry in advance for her parents, kept myself and bought her something silent and cuddly. This doll not only raises and lowers a little blanket and says, “PEEK a boo!” but has about a dozen assorted phrases (“Where AM I? Oh, HERE I am!”) that spout out of its mouth every time you walk past it or turn a light on. It was hell getting it out of the store because every movement of the shopping cart sent the damn thing into a paroxyism of squeaks and squeels. I was the hit of the long line at the checkout, I can tell you. I hid it in a closet, where it would scream at you when you opened the door, which was a lot of fun in the middle of the night. Its battery finally ran out and right now it’s quiet. Happy after the holidays to you and the child and the wife and the dog and the…

  28. Ah, I can still hear with aching, skull bleeding clarify the Learning Puppy that I just HAD to have for my oldests first Christmas.

    There is a reason we have the Goodwill and other charities. He will NEVER KNOW they’re gone and neither will the family members who sent them but you will have your sanity back along with a nice deduction to the IRS.

    Because my favorite line from the Grinch is “the noise, the noise the noise. the one thing he could not stand was all the noise, noise, noise.”
    Maybe the Grinch was on to something. Maybe this is why they make noise cancelling headphones.

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