I Lego my Heart in New York City

During my summer in NYC with baby and Husband, a summer that will forever be burned into my memories as the summer we came, saw, and conquered Manhattan, I came across "I LEGO N.Y.," by Christoph Niemann, at the children's section Borders by the Lincoln Center. I was tempted to buy it as a quirky souvenir of our time there, but instead, I ended up buying it for our friends who can actually, legitimately call themselves New Yorkers. If you like Legos, and even if you don't, I think you will find it quite clever.


Goodnight Gorilla Getting You Down?

I've got nothing against classics like Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla, Guess How Much I Love You, etc.  (okay, maybe I do, a little), but it only takes one reading for an adult with an adult-sized need for intellectual stimulation to get really, really bored. I'll do just about anything for my son though, so they stay in the rotation night after night. However, it occurred to me the other day that I have still have some control over the situation. Yes, I am the mom! He is the child! That means I get at least 16 more years, give or take a couple years, of pulling out the Mom Card (i.e., I get to permanently say Goodnight to the gorilla and moon as I shove them in the back of a drawer, and encourage my son to obsess about other, more stimulating titles). 

If you are looking for a way to read to your child but keep things fresh and stimulating for yourself at the same time, try Mary Ann Hoberman out for size, a well-loved and well-respected poet after a child's own heart, who also appeals to adults because of her command of the English language and ingenuity in twisting and turning it surprising, wacky, and inventive ways.  Everyone knows Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, but Hoberman, selected by the Poetry Foundation to be Children's Poet Laureate in 2008 for a two year term, also has an impressive bibliography spanning decades to entertain both you and your children for years to come. Check out the sampling below.  If your mouth doesn't have fun trying to get through each poem, then I've got nothing for you.

Mayfly, by Mary Ann Hoberman

Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
The day
The Mayfly
Both of those.
A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.

Fish, by Mary Ann Hoberman

Look at them flit
Tearing around
With a leap and a bound
But none of them making the tiniest


Music Appreciation on a Budget

Last year, my little family spent one hot, glorious summer in Manhattan. While my husband was at work, my son and I spent our days at the park with all the nannies and their charges, eye-shopping through bustling SoHo (where I probably only ever saw one other baby, and for good reason), and chasing down the best cheap eats that NYC had to offer me (picture me walking around Times Square, baby strapped to my chest, trying to maneuver through the aggressive throngs of tourists as I shoved forkfuls of Junior's devil food cheesecake down my throat, oh my goodness I can still taste that monster).

Anyway, one day, I met another mom with a daughter about my son's age, and she recommended a music class that her daughter had joined and loved.  Seeing as how my son loved music, it sounded like a great idea until I called the company and found out that they charged an arm and a leg for a measly 12 week session (45 minutes per class). It was Manhattan after all, and rent wasn't cheap. So I did the next best thing and checked out a free "sample class," and took mental notes. Yes, my son had a lot of fun at the free sample class and I would have loved to continue sending him, but again, I could have bought a used car for the price of the class so here's what I suggest instead for those of you who also haven't won the lottery yet, and need to tighten your belts in this flourishing economy:

1. Buy a couple CDs of children's music (or rent them at your local library)
:: If you are not familiar with children's music, or could use some more ideas, click here, or if you believe in the wisdom of crowds, then click here for some suggestions.

2. Purchase or make a handful of music-makers 
:: Here are some of my son's favorites:

Hohner 5 Piece Toddler Music Band

Hohner Kids Single 5" High Cage Bell, Assorted Colors

Hohner Kids Clearly Colorful Translucent Harmonica, Assorted Colors

Hohner Plastic Kazoo

3. Invite some of your children's friends over for a music playdate

4. Put out the music-makers and play the CDs

5. Encourage free-form dancing, bouncing, headbanging, shaking of musicmakers, and other forms of music-induced merriment. I recommend keeping the stage diving and mosh pitting to a minimum though.

6. For extra credit, learn the lyrics of the songs, make-up some hand motions (or find some on youtube), and teach them to the kids

7. And if you want to be out of this world awesome and can play an instrument, give the kids a live performance as you encourage them to sing and dance along.

Rinse and repeat as often as desired and voila, you just saved a few benjamins. Now go buy yourself something nice.


A Service for Busy Moms and Dads: Better Book Titles

From the blog Better Book Titles:
"This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through all the cryptic crap, and give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!"
I took the liberty of culling through the collection and pulling out the children's books that were "retitled."

If you've got some children's books that you'd like to retitle, I'd love to hear it (or non children's books for that matter!)


Violence Prevention: Baby Toupees and Pacifiers

Let's be honest. Newborns aren't really all that entertaining. Sure, you could spend hours gazing into their shut eyes and marvel at how sweet their poop smells, but apart from that, there isn't much more. I kid, I kid. Sure, I admit I spent much of those sleep-deprived days admiring my baby and wondering how the most. adorable. baby. in. the. whole. wide. world. could have come out of me. Me! My baby!  But let's be honest. There were also days when I thought calling Child Protective Services would be a good idea because I was on the brink of violence. The days when I hadn't slept a wink for 24 hours straight, when my baby refused to take those naps that all the baby books promised he would, and when he wouldn't stop screaming bloody murder every single time I tried to put him down to rest my throbbing arms and back.

On days like that, I could have really used a good laugh or two. Where or where were these pacifiers and toupees when I needed them??

Pacifiers can be found here.
Baby toupees can be found here.


Valentine's Day Card Kit

As much as I loathe the commercialization of holidays, and as much as Valentine's Day is one of the worst offenders, I actually do appreciate V-day. Of course, it was the source of some bitterness and angst back in my twenties when I was unintentionally single and all my friends were either dating or married. But now that I'm happily wed and V-day no longer represents salt on an open wound, I can actually see it for what it is--simply an excuse to express your love to your beloveds, handy for those who don't have the cajones (or wherewithal) to express it otherwise. It doesn't have to be directed to a lover obviously. Supermarket aisles stocked with mass-produced Vday cards and candy targeting toddlers prove that point.

Anyway, my sister had a bunch of gorgeous cardstock, ribbons, and notions in her formidable collection of craft supplies (in a Vday-approved color palette no less), so she carefully selected an assortment and created these pretty Valentine's Day Card Kits.  I put some in the shop, so if your kid(s) would like to create handmade cards for his/her loved ones this year, this kit would pretty much take care of that (and you could even make some for your loved ones as well while they are at it!).

A closer look at some of the goodies in the kit

Sample Card #1

Sample Card #2
Sample Card #3

Of course, the sky is the limit when creating cards from the kit. Use your imagination. The samples above were created by my sister (very quickly, I might add) but I thought I would post them just in case they might help provide some inspiration. Even if you don't use this kit, I highly recommend making your Vday card(s) (in other words, don't give Hallmark your money!). Pretty or not, handmade gifts/cards speak volumes about the love of the giver.

Music to My Ears: Thank You Elizabeth Mitchell

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes
Deep appreciation (you could even say passion) for music runs in my family. However, so does pragmatism, so instead of professional musicians, we are mostly a motley crew of frustrated accountants, attorneys, and engineers. And the one or two brave souls who actually did pursue music as a means of paying the bills are unemployed and living out of their parents' home, but at least they aren't frustrated. Not in the same way anyway.

I also really love music, but I never had any ambitions to pursue it professionally. I was always just happy to appreciate it second-hand, blasting Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, tears streaming down my face (music often has that effect on me), or singing along--unfortunately off-key--to my angsty female vocalist flavor of the month. However, my husband has no appreciation for music whatsoever. I don't understand that. Isn't a love for music innate? Isn't it a biological imperative that marks you as a member of the human race?

Needless to say, I was overjoyed when my son showed signs of music appreciation at an early age  and I immediately introduced him to my man Rachmaninoff. Unfortunately Rach didn't do it for him, but the tinny, electronic, grating sounds of his battery-operated baby toys did (damn you Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes!).  I was desperate to find a happy medium, so imagine my gratitude when a friend introduced me to Elizabeth Mitchell. Life's been good since. Both my son and I love all her CDs. Her voice is soothing, and her song selections are extremely thoughtful and spot-on in my opinion. She mines treasures from all over the world, and many of her songs have whimsical lyrics and catchy melodies that will get stuck in your head all day, but in a good way. Heck, I'd play her CDs even if my son wasn't around. It beats tinny renditions of Camptown Races and lullaby versions of Kanye West' "Golddigger" (yes, it really exists)

She has four CDs now and I would highly recommend any of them. They preserved my sanity during a six-hour road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco the other week. Whenever my son started to bemoan the fact that he was restrained, we'd pop in one of her CDs and call it a truce.

Sunny Day

You Are My Sunshine
You Are My Flower