The alternative gift guide (for some specific types of 7-and-unders)

1. For the siblings who want to play a game together but can’t sit still (or there’s a toddler in the mix): Chameleon Crunch Game

The object: to throw bugs into the chameleon’s mouth, which opens and closes at random. For added action, the chameleon moves around a bit (and says a couple of phrases). Both my kids (ages 5 and 22 months) love playing this. They had fun playing this with their 3-year-old cousin, too.


2. For the on-trend kid: Furby

It’s ba-ack! And it’s one of the hot toys of the season, no less.


3. For the anal-retentive Legoist: Lego Sort & Store

Shake, shake, shake, and your Legos get sorted by size into different trays. Now if you could just hack a Roomba to pick them up off the floor first….


4. For the DIY diva: Fancy Nancy Sticky Mosaics Fancy Tiaras

The tiaras turn out pretty snazzy! Warning: You and other family members will be expected to wear the creations.


5. For the kid who just can’t wait to take driver’s ed: Drive Time Street Signs

For the driveway, or, in our case, for the kitchen. Whichever.


6. For the budding magician: My First Magic Set (with DVD Instructions)

We got this for Nica’s birthday, along with a hat and cape. She now performs full magic shows in front of audiences (she’s very picky about which audiences, though—she got it like that). The included DVD doesn’t quite jibe with the items in the set, but Archie and Nica figured it out. Archie is her “lovely assistant” during her performances.


7. For the kid who has everything except maybe a street named after him: Personalized sign à la Sesame Street

Adorable! Great for a luxe birthday party or for room décor.


8. For the Barbie lover who’s interested in her culture and maybe other people’s too: Dolls of the World (pictured, Princess of South Africa Barbie)

We got Nica the Princess of the Korean Court Barbie, because she’s getting more curious about her ethnicity and feeling some Korean pride these days.

9. For the kid who likes to touch gross stuff in the name of science: Scientific Explorer’s Sci-fi Slime Science Kit

This is so in Ham’s future.


10. For the baby with jokester parents: Buff Baby: Dumbbell Rattle

I totally would’ve gotten this for Ham when he was an infant. Because he was enormous, and it would’ve been hilarious. Damn!


11. For the music lover who loves to build stuff, too: Quercetti Saxoflute

This is a cool toy the kids’ aunt and uncle got for them. Both Ham and Nica enjoyed making different wind instruments. I did not enjoy washing out the saliva afterward. But, you know, that’s just me.


12. For the kid who can’t decide which (s)he loves more, Angry Birds or Star Wars: Angry Birds Star Wars Fighter Pods AT AT Attack


Angry Birds Star Wars 5″ Plush

This is on the list because, come on! This is bizarre! Yet strangely cute.

Santa, according to my daughter

Nica just turned 5, and so far we haven’t made a big deal out of the whole Santa thing. Last year, we had one gift by the fireplace that was “from Santa,” but she didn’t seem to care. I figured that by now she must have some concept of who Santa is and what he does for a living. I thought I should ask her about him, so that we can gauge how much Santa-ness we need to inject into this year’s Christmas.

Me: Do you know who Santa is?
Nica: Yes.
Me: Who is he?
Nica: He’s the Christmas guy. You know, with the beard and red clothes.
Me: What does he do?
Nica: (exasperated) He’s a wizard!
Me: Wizard?
Nica: Yes, lightning comes out of his hands, and that’s how he makes presents.
Me: Wow!
Nica: But he doesn’t change his mind.



Children’s books I do not enjoy reading

“Can you read this to me, Mommy?”
“Sure, honey.” (But inside, I am filled with dread and would derive more pleasure reading the instructions that come with Tampax.)


1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

When I was a kid, I thought this book was the stuff of genius. It taps into some kind of primal foodie fantasy in the kiddie subconscious. As an adult, I still find the art to be amazing, but reading it feels so tedious now, for some reason.

2. Any Little Miss or Mr. Men books


What kid doesn’t love these? The art is so bold and colorful and likeable. But the writing? Good golly. If Roger Hargreaves was one of his characters, he might’ve been Mr. First Draft.


3. “More More More,” Said the Baby


Actually, I don’t dislike this book, but Archie’s hatred for it is so immense, I had to include it on the list. He can’t really explain why he detests it so much. It just makes him very angry. He says the exact same thing about yoga.


4. Madeline in London

The first Madeline book is darling. Why does this one suck so much?


5. Someday

I was given this book twice, by two of my closest friends. It opens with a woman who has just given birth to her baby girl. The book takes us through the mother’s visions of her daughter’s future: her infancy, the ups and downs of childhood, adolescence, adulthood. She imagines her daughter growing up, moving out of the house, finding her own way in the world, becoming a mother herself. And she knows that someday her daughter will grow old too, and that she will remember her mother. To both of my sweet friends who gave this to me to commemorate my having my daughter I say, WHAT THE HELL MAN, ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME WITH SADNESS AND CRYING? WHY YOU JACK ME UP LIKE THAT? LOOK AT MY EYES, THEY ARE SWOLLEN FROM BAWLING. I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO HURT ME?