Good Idea: toddler open mics

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Previously, my kiddo went through a phase where he told kid-style jokes which he mostly learned from a library book about Fozzie Bear (whence he also learned to punctuate his jokes by saying “wokka wokka”) and popsicle sticks.

Currently, he has moved into a phase in which he makes up his own jokes.  For instance THIS.

So here is my idea: an open mic night for toddlers! (and their parents!)

I imagine it would happen on, say, a Sunday around 5PM – early enough for the kids (aka “the talent”) not to be melting down because its too close to bed time, but still late enough for the adults to enjoy a cocktail in a socially-acceptable way.  The venue could be pretty much anywhere, though it would be imperative that adults be allowed to bring in kid snacks.

The kids could go up and tell jokes and stories and do impressions.  I feel like it would be all kinds of good practice for them in terms of public speaking, being a good audience member, empathy, delayed gratification . . . And while non-parents would think it was a horror show (and they wouldn’t be wrong), parents would find it totally entertaining (and maybe a good way to make other parent-friends?).

This would NOT ever be an opportunity for scouts to come find child stars of the future.  It would be purely for the entertainment and gratification of kids and their parents.  And while I’m sure much of the time it would be a mess, I’m also sure that it would yield Andy Kaufman-worthy moments of avant garde comedy GENIUS!

What’s your best kid joke?  Post it in the comments!


Summer reading for Peanuts

July 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

vintage library read

My kiddo – who is 3.25 years old – has loved stories pretty much forever.  He loves to be read to and he loves to be told made-up stories.  I noticed a while ago that, if we were making up a story for him, he had a pretty high tolerance for a story much longer than the average picture book.

We dipped our toe in with The Invention of Hugo Cabret which alternates a few pages of plain text with many pages of text-free illustration.  Later, over the course of a couple of low-energy sick days, we plowed through Peter Pan.  So we continued.

Mixing longer books in with the picture books kept me from getting really sick of reading and re-reading the same five-minute story over and over again.  Longer stories have also been great as a way to enjoy some quiet time after a big day at camp or on the playground, and they keep us all entertained on longer car rides or the occasional flight. There’s also something nice about having more entertainment in a smaller, lighter volume given all the other stuff we’re inevitably schlepping around.

Early on, we had some hits and some misses.  The Wizard of Oz was great . . . except for that scary chapter where she sends her pack of wolves to attack Dorothy and friends (yikes!).  The Enormous Crocodile was a pretty big (if slightly intense) hit which got me excited for more Roald Dahl, but The Magic Finger which focuses on characters who hunt ducks introduced a slew of concepts we weren’t necessarily excited to discuss and Esio Trot was too much about spelling or romance (or both).  James and the Giant Peach seemed like it would be a good idea, ’till I started to read it and realized that James’ parents are killed by an escaped rhino in the first two pages.  Duh, mom.

But, with the help of the wonderful people at our favorite local book store, Bank Street Books, we’ve really hit our stride this Summer.  These books all hit the sweet spot of being a great story, but with mostly accessible vocabulary for a younger kiddo, a picture on every page or two, and content that doesn’t venture too far beyond their years.  And they’re fun to read as an adult.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  I’m a lifelong fan of Dahl, but most of his books are too edgy for our kiddo right now.  Not so Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which we borrowed from the library and read all the way through at least four or five times before returning it a couple of weeks later.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  This is a trilogy, although I happen to like the first book the best.  Each is about 70 pages long with a picture on every other page or so.  They are stories of a young, kindhearted and very independent little boy going on an adventure to find and rescue a captive baby dragon and the adventures that ensue.

Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo.  There are six books in the Mercy Watson series beginning with Mercy Watson to the Rescue, about the (mis)adventures of a toast-loving pig named Mercy, her owners Mr. & Mrs. Watson and their neighbors on Deckawoo Drive.  All the books are lushly illustrated in full color by Chris Van Dusen.  The books feel old-fashioned and wholesome though they are contemporary.  The characters are a bunch of delightful oddballs.

Bink & Gollie by Kate Di Camillo & Alison McGhee.  We discovered Bink & Gollie through the Mercy Watson books.  There are currently three books in this series about a pair of best friends who love roller-skating, pancakes and each other most of all.  These books feel a bit like the Elephant & Piggie books for the next age group up and they’re the shortest books on this list.

The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne.  This is a fun series because it involves time travel and magic.  The first book in the series – Dinosaurs Before Dark – was an instant favorite.  A word of caution, though, as other books in the series dip in and out of being little-kiddo appropriate.  A book set during the Civil War, for example, (which I never should have agreed to read, so that’s on me) prompted a discussion of war in general, and an explanation of slavery – it was just a lot for a 3 year old.  So these are recommended but not without some parental vetting.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  Because the first book is about kids who are alone in the world, fending for themselves, we skipped it and went right on to Book Two: Surprise Island which is delightful old-fashioned.  Four siblings are allowed a summer largely to themselves on their wealthy grandfather’s private island where they gather and prepare their own food, craft their own museum, and discover American Indian artifacts.  These books are probably the biggest wild-card of the group and, like the Magic Treehouse books, should probably be vetted on an individual basis for appropriateness, but the kiddo and I are well into the Woodshed Mystery (#7) and having a great time with it.

What are you reading with the kiddos in your life this summer?  Leave a comment!

I scream, you scream, we all . . . ARTs-cream!!

May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment


This past weekend, my husband, the kiddo and I explored a cool public art exhibit that’s going in in Central Park right now.  Presented in conjunction with Creative Time, the exhibit is called Drifting in Daylight (all the info if you click on that link).  It’s based in the northern parts of Central Park and it happens Friday and Saturday afternoons through June 20th.

We had a great time visiting Spencer Finch‘s ice cream truck and watching a brass sextet perform on a boat on the Harlem Meer.  The former was fully delightful and delicious while the latter was lovely to behold and surprisingly moving.

Days later, my son asked his babysitter “Do you know Spencer Finch?  He has an art thing.  You should go.  There’s ice cream!  You have to wait in line.  You should go.”  That and the fact that he wanted to stay for three performances by the sextet make me fairly confident that he liked it too.  Recommended for families.

We’d started the day with a visit to the Natural History Museum, so by the time we made it up to the Meer, the boy was exhausted and it was time to head home to walk the dog, but we hope to go back to see the rest of the pieces which include visual art as well as dance and performance pieces.

Have you seen this exhibit?  What did you think?

Mom Rant

May 7, 2015 § 1 Comment

This is totally not me or my child.  I found this photo on the internet and just thought it seemed perfect.  Thanks, internet.

This is totally not me or my child. I found this photo on the internet and just thought it seemed perfect. Thanks, internet.

Pardon my French, but things around here might accurately be described as a Shitstorm of late.  Look, I’m not complaining.  I mean, privately, sure, but that’s not what this is.  Really, I’m just trying to convey to you some context.  The context is this: there’s been a lot going on and none of it has been going smoothly.  I could go into details but . . . why don’t you just trust me on this one?  Great.

Okay.  So, that’s the context.

Here’s what happened:  I was at the playground with the kiddo after school.  It has become a thing, now that the weather is nicer that, after school, many of the kids in his class head to this one playground.  So we were there, and the caretaker of one of his classmates struck up a conversation with me that went something like this:

Her: So do you have a nanny too?

Me: No. We have some babysitting – there are two ladies who come, between them, three afternoons a week for a few hours – otherwise it’s me.

Her: Oh, that’s nice.  It’s important to have some “you” time.

Me: (beat) It’s nice to get anything done.

Her: (necessarily walking away to continue caring for her charge) Yeah!

I know she didn’t mean anything in particular.  She’s a young woman with no children of her own.  I’m not mad at her.  But (here comes the rant . . .) I am mad at this prevailing idea of “me” time for moms:

  1. If I were working at a regular 9-5 salaried job, no one would call it “me” time.  But, the reason we have any regular babysitting is so that I can do what I consider my work: writing, producing, and cultivating my acting career.
  2. “Me” time makes it sound like I’m off at the spa.  Good lord, I WISH I was off at the spa.  Nope.  Just doggedly pursuing my dreams.
  3. “Me” time, just in its verbiage, sounds selfish.  Maybe I think that having my son spend time with some carefully-curated caregivers (instead of spending just about all day, every day with me) is a good parenting choice.  Additionally, maybe I think modeling self-respect, work ethic, and passion for my career is also a good parenting move.  (Hint: I do.  I do think those things.)
  4. I try pretty hard to give my kid my full attention when we’re together.  Sure, I drag him to the grocery store and the post office, but those are things we can fruitfully do together.  Still, there are things that need to be done – chores, if you will – that involve a telephone or a computer.  As much as possible, I choose to do these things when I’m not taking care of my child, because I don’t want to ignore him.  So I save them for – you guessed it – my “me” time.  (Ahhh, nothing like kicking back and calling customer service . . .)
  5. You know what?  Sometimes I do go get a pedicure or go shopping or go to the gym, but if I didn’t, I would frighten strangers on the street so, I’m not sure those things are fully optional.  You know what else?  I don’t deserve to walk around feeling crappy about myself (no one does), and some basic maintenance is part of that.

In conclusion: we parents are an exhausted and sensitive lot.  We artists (among others, to be sure) are likewise sensitive about the ways in which our efforts and output are casually and systemically devalued (separate rant).  Almost everyone has more going on that meets the eye.  There is no doubt that I have stepped in it a zillion times the way this babysitter did with me, and will a zillion more.  Nevertheless, the more Shitstorms I survive the more I try to speak with sensitivity and support for my fellow humans; I think this is a sort of sensitivity that can help us breed empathy within ourselves.

Also: Your whole life is “me” time, young lady!


</mom rant>

Calico Easter Eggs

April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

For Christmas, Santa brought my son a doll house.  It was the only thing he wanted.


The doll house was very popular right around Christmas, then it had a long-ish break with intermitent play, but lately it’s been getting a lot more attention again.  These days, though, my son is NOT into having the doll house in any kind of order.  In fact, he used the word “ransacked” to describe how it looked which was accurate.  Why he wants his poor Koala family to live like that is beyond me, but it prompted me go get a little bin to put the tiny accessories in so they don’t get vaccummed up during this disarray phase.  And looking at all of the delightful little doll house things, reminded me of this amazing Easter Egg the makers hid in the newspapers that came with the living room furniture.

There are two newspapers.  Sunday, April 1 and Monday, April 2.  Here they are:



I mean, come on.  He discovered a treasure!  But then: he was so disappointed because “Treasure was just a broken box!”  I find this endlessly hilarious.  And I want to thank whoever behind the scenes at Epoch or Tomy designed these amazing tiny newspapers.

You Say It’s Your Birthday (Part Two)

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

And so, having failed to lie to my son about his birthday for my convenience, we threw a birthday party.  A Lorax birthday party.  A birthday party that found me looking into the gaping maw of the beast called Toddler-Birthday-Party-In-The-Age-Of-Pinterest.

Look at this madness!

Look at this madness!

First, let me be clear: I did NOT want to throw a party.  However, as the youngest in his class, my son had already attended a number of his classmates’ parties and let us know in no uncertain terms that he saw a party as an important part of his birthday celebration.  Drat.  I set about trying to conceive a party that was as festive as possible while being as minimal as possible.  I was . . . semi-successful in those goals . . .

When I was growing up, I was only allowed to have a birthday party every other year.  On the in-between years, my parents took me, and sometimes a friend, to the theater in NYC.  It was a good system.  As I approached throwing my child’s first real birthday party (the all-adults first birthday party not really counting in my book), I tried to think of a similar sort of guiding principal and decided that perhaps the first several parties would all be tied to a favorite book.  So wholesome!

And so we arrived at The Lorax birthday party.

So, getting down to brass tacks, these were the elements of the party:

  • Decorations
  • A cake
  • Activities/Entertainment
  • Food/Snacks

Here we go.

Decorations.  Because the party had a Lorax theme, for decorations we scanned some key images from the book and then used the rasterbator to blow them up and print them out.  Then we used loops of blue painters tape on the back to stick them on the walls without damaging our home.

One of the pictures coming together . . .

One of the pictures coming together . . .

IMG_4517_2 IMG_4515 IMG_4518 IMG_4520_2

The rasterbator is great and the pictures on the walls definitely seemed to be fun for the kids, but the whole process: scanning, rasterbating, printing, assembling and then cutting out was EPIC.  We spent – by far – the most time on this aspect of the party.  If I wanted to do this again, I’d either a) choose just one or two images and make them bigger so they could be more of a focal point OR b) start putting these together a month before instead of the week before.

The Cake.  This is where I wobbled.  Where everything almost came crashing down.  I think it is purely luck that the cake came out as well as it did, which is to say, a generous B-.  It was delicious but maybe the night before the party is not the best time to establish if your theoretial plan for creating truffula trees from mini cupcakes, straws and icing is in any way a functional plan.  It was, but barely.

I made a base cake which was just a white cake with cream cheese icing that I dyed green so it would look like grass.  Then I made a batch of these chocolate cupcakes, but I made them mini.  Then I made a bunch of swiss meringue buttercream because my Martha Stewart cupcake book indicated that this was the best frosting for the job.  Then I just hoped for the best.

I stored the truffula trees in the refrigerator ’till right before the party when i stuck them in the cake along with some chocolate Teddy Grahams which were, of course, frisking barbaloots.

As you can see: neither something to be especially proud of, nor a subject of personal shame.  THIS, friends, is how you know I’m NOT one of those crazy Pinterest moms.  (Those moms would never stand for this . . .).  Bonus: the kids really enjoyed eating the truffula trees (kinda like cake pops).

IMG_4508_2 IMG_4509_2 IMG_4510 IMG_4511_2

Activites/Entertainment.  We had three elements that lent themselves to “open play” and two parent-led elements.

For “open play” we made a Whisper-ma-phone out of some tubing and funnels from the hardware store.  It worked remarkably well – you really could just whisper in one end and hear at the other.  Kiddos were curious about it but had trouble coordinating one person talking and the other listening and switching.  My son really enjoyed playing with it in the days before the party and I suspect it will be one of those toys that we pull out every so often and really enjoy.


Because I stumbled onto the idea on some other mom’s blog (go ahead and google “lorax party mom blog.” I dare you.) and suddenly felt like what we had planned wasn’t “enough,” we also made a magnetic fishing game where you fish the poor Humming Fish out of the polluted water and into fresh water.  Fishing poles were a dowel with a string and some magnets on the end; fish were Humming Fish I printed onto orange card stock, cut out, and furnished with a paperclip to attract the magnet.  My husband fashioned dirty and clean water out of cardboard and blue paper (and I can’t believe I don’t have a picture of this!)  This one was slow to catch on, but I think most of the kids spent some time being pretty fascinated by it.

I also just printed out some coloring sheets from the internet (google something like “lorax printable coloring sheet”) which was so easy and such a good idea.

Once everyone had arrived and had played for a while, we all gathered together and read The Lorax and then we made seed necklaces which are cool to make and not too difficult for kids this age, especially with a bunch of parents around to help.

Because I failed to photograph OUR seed necklaces, here's a picture of a similar one that I found on the internet! (Thanks, internet!)

Because I failed to photograph OUR seed necklaces, here’s a picture of a similar one that I found on the internet! (Thanks, internet!)

Food/Snacks.  This was a total afterthought.  As I was anxiously mulling over the merits of brunchy food vs. lunchy food, my husband said “we could just do pizza like everyone else.” Eureka!  I married a genius!

I got a bag of clementines, some raspberries and strawberries, some apples which I sliced (and tossed with lemon juice), goldfish and those chocolate teddy grahams ans we were all set.  Everyone was happy with fruit, pizza and cake!

What are my takeaways?

  • We did a good thing by limiting the number of kids.  We invited seven; five made it and the party felt big and full.  It was a perfect number for such young kiddos.
  • I wish I’d started making the decorations earlier.
  • I could have done less and the party would’ve been just as good, so I will aim to underachieve more next year.

Oh! And what did the kids take away in their goody bags?

  • Tiny flower pots (so cheap at Michael’s)
  • A cellophane bag of dirt for the flower pot. (I had the dirt; bags from Michael’s)
  • A packet of seeds to plant. (Amazon)
  • One of these tools (I bought sets and broke them up for the bags) (Amazon)
  • Some Dr. Seuss stickers and erasers. (Michael’s)


Do you have a party-throwing philosophy?  Personal guidelines or rules-of-thumb?  Share them in the comments!

You Say It’s Your Birthday (Part One)

March 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

When a blog post concerns the birthday of a three-year-old, there should only be one part.  This was my first mistake.


Very early on the morning of my brother’s third birthday, I was awoken by a sound that went:

thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump (long pause) “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

This, of course was the sound of sleepy three-year-old Ian wandering out of his room and, disoriented, falling all the way down the front stairs of our house, breaking his leg.

What a terrible thing to have happen on your birthday!  Except he didn’t know it was his birthday and no one was going to tell him.  As far as he was concerned, his birthday was that upcoming weekend on the exact same day as his birthday party.  (If you’re wondering, the party went on as planned with my hobbling around in a full-leg cast.)

I remembered all of this as I was icing the first of the two birthday cakes I will have made by the end of the week because I wasn’t smart enough just to tell my kid that the day of his birthday party is his actual birthday.  So we celebrated his real birthday at school and at home yesterday and, on Saturday, we’ll do it all again.

So much cake.  Not to mention that the poor kiddo was, apparently, kind of confused and wanted to know last night where all the kids were?!  Sorry, peanut.

Next week, I’ll let you know how the party went and (what other wisdom I may have gleaned in the process of throwing it) . . .

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