Mr. Rogers Is Pure In Heart

Every time a disaster strikes or our faith in the good in the world is tested – and it feels like it happens on a weekly basis now, doesn’t it? – the quote from Mister Rogers starts going around:

Like most pithy sayings, it’s popular because it’s true. After every single man-made or natural disaster,  follow-up stories include the first responders and private citizens rushing to help whomever they can, however they can.

I think there’s another reason we see this quote come up so often, though, and that’s because of who said it: Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was such a deceptively simple show that I’m not sure it could be made now. Fred Rogers, a nice man, comes home, puts on a warm cardigan that his mother made, slips on his sneakers and talks to children. It’s the last part that’s still revolutionary (as much as I love changing into my comfy clothes when I get home). Fred Rogers talks to children, as though they’re real people, because they are. Then he meets people doing their work and learns about the things they know how to do and are interested in. Then he plays pretend in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

These are the reasons we keep going back to Mister Rogers when times are tough. Fred Rogers talks to everyone as though they are important, listens to people and is interested in them, and believes in make-believe. Very few people in the media offer this to children, and barely any offer it to adults (our Blog Patron Saint, Amy Poehler, maybe – these figures exist, but they aren’t always easy to find). Let’s look at this a little closer, if only because it’s a positive thing to be discussing at a time full of negative things:

Fred Rogers Recognizes That Children (And People!) Are Important

Right now all episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood are streaming on Twitch. I have kept several episodes from the 1960s and 1970s on in the background as I’ve gone about my work this week, and it’s exactly as I remember from my early childhood in the 1980s and 1990s. Mister Rogers – I know we can call him Fred but he’s Mister Rogers forever to me – offers constant affirmations that his audience is exactly right just as they are. This is probably the genesis of the “everybody is special” movement that some folks like to complain about, but when you watch Mister Rogers you can’t help but realize that that’s exactly true. Every single person is different from every single other person, and that in itself is a wonderful thing.

Sometimes I feel like Mister Rogers was saying these things as much for the parents watching as the kids. Or, could he have seen into the future, the 30-year-olds live-streaming from their desks at work during a particularly dire news cycle.

Scratch that: sometimes he directly addresses the grown-ups, because I think he realizes that adults can feel just as uncertain of themselves as preschoolers:

Adapted for adults, the same message:

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

This affirmation that who you are and what you do matters to your community keeps us coming back to Mister Rogers. In sociology terms, he deals in spheres of influence. Maybe you can’t fix the big troubles in the world, but you can make your neighborhood a better place. Fred said it best:

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own–by treating our ‘neighbor’ at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Mister Rogers also realizes that big concepts, like language, aren’t too big for children. They’re actually just right, because children are learning about them for the first time:

With just a few words changed, it’s just the thing adults need to hear, too:

“What matters isn’t how a person’s inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life. What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of a war or the description of a sunrise–his numbers for the final count at Buchenwald or the specifics of a brand-new bridge.”

Mister Rogers Is Interested In The World Around Him

It’s not Mister Rogers, it’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In every episode, Mister Rogers would learn about different members of his community: artists and athletes and puppeteers, but also folks in those everyday jobs that fascinate children so much. Yo Yo Ma was a pretty cool guest, but so were teachers and trash collectors. We all lost our cool over a mail carrier every single episode (Mr. McFeely was fantastic, after all). This is the cynicism-free attitude I love to see and try to remember to display. We don’t know everything about everything, and sometimes the most fascinating thing in the world is just to understand what someone other than ourselves finds fascinating, or how a stranger fills their time. I don’t get many chances to visit crayon factories like Mister Rogers did, but I can still ask questions and listen to answers. “Everybody is special” isn’t a call to self-importance, it’s a call to remember how important every single person you meet is.

Mister Rogers Loves Make Believe

… and I do, too. As a child I’d spend hours in my backyard imagining I was growing a World War II victory garden or traveling the Oregon trail. My basement was a garden-level apartment I lived in all by myself. Once I was “too old” for make-believe I was in acting classes, where I found the other kids who hadn’t stopped pretending, either. But as Mister Rogers tells us, each person is different. I have never known a child who didn’t love make believe, but I have known a lot of children who need help with it. When I start pretending with some of my nieces and nephews, I see that spark of “I didn’t know I could see things that way!,” the same spark we adults get when a comedian frames a familiar concept in a new way. Some kids get a refrigerator box and instantly turn it into a bus, spaceship and, well, refrigerator box – but one they’re trapped inside on a mail truck on an expressway careening into the ocean. Other kids need an adult to hand them some markers and safety scissors and ask them what they think that box could be. That’s what Mister Rogers does.

In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the Neighborhood of Make-Believe provides a ready-made framework to pretend. There is King Friday, Henrietta Pussycat and my grouchy favorite, Lady Elaine. Children know that they’re all puppets and they know that a fun grown-up is making them come to life. This is infinitely better than puppets alone. Kids learn that we have the power to make scenarios and characters exist where nothing did before. Somebody versed in childhood development might tell you that this is teaching cause and effect or concrete versus abstract, but I think pretending is an end unto itself. For the kids and grownups who need a little push to pretend, Mister Rogers teaches us that make-believe is magical, fun, and available to us any time, anywhere.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Disasters that occur continents away are still hard to take, and that’s because of something Mister Rogers knew all along: we are all neighbors. While we all have Mister Rogers on the brain, let’s try to heed some of his lessons. Listen, look, and create. Let’s go make a snappy new day.

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What To Buy: A Baby You Know

Welcome to What To Buy, a semi-recurring holiday gift guide feature I’m doing since I’m looking all of this stuff up anyway. It feels like all year I think of gifts that would be perfect for people, only to panic and scramble for gifts once November and December roll around. This year, I’m sharing my thoughts for anyone else in the same boat. Julie Andrews always told us to start at the very beginning, so that’s what we’re going to do … with gifts for babies, who are the beginning of people.

Something you probably know about me: I know a lot of babies. I don’t actually have one, which is great. There are a lot of people that I like hanging out with but I wouldn’t particularly want to be roommates with them, and babies fall into that category. But I think they’re really fun once they get a personality on them, and they’re some of the easiest people to buy for because they’re happy with an empty box. For gift giving purposes, we’re calling babies anything from brand new to age two or so, when they start to fall into the kid category.

For The Baby Who Loves 90s Hip Hop And Has Dreams

I Wish I Was A Little Bit Taller or I Wish I Was A Baller shirt from tribeisalive

 

 

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This is my niece, Lulu. I’m obviously biased but I think she’s as cute as a bug  – and at 17 months, she’s also about as big as one. She probably does wish she was a little bit taller but you can’t blame an auntie for wanting her to stay this size forever. Also comes in I Wish I Was A Baller, and is available in onesies or – why not – adult sizes. Lu has a great Jump Up Jump Up And Get Down shirt from the same site, but it seems to be no longer in stock.  $23, tribeisalive.com

[Because you didn’t ask, my personal criteria for “clever” baby t-shirts and onesies: nothing that references the father’s fertility or the fact that babies poop and pee. Why are those so popular?]

For A Baby Who Is Cold

Knitted hat that makes them look like something other than a baby

Baby it’s cold outside … is NOT a song you should sing to a baby. Creepy song, that. But it’s also a fact of life this time of year. One of the great things about babies is you can make them wear ridiculous things and they don’t know, like the adorable hats from Melondipity. These cute knitted caps are also a good way to circumvent that whole issue of not being able to find cute boy or neutral baby clothes. $19.99, melondipity.com.

For A Baby Who Likes Taking Things Out Of Containers And Putting Things Back In Again

Autumn Acorn Color Sorting Bowls

Autumn Acorn Color Sorting Bowls //  Wooden Bowls & Acorns // Wooden Educational Toy // Montessori // Waldorf

I know that sounds like a really specific type of baby, but if you also know a lot of babies you know what I’m talking about. I try to avoid anything that is probably full of lead paint and parabens, and if I were shopping for a sort-crazy baby this year something like this wooden set is just what I would go with. And since adults are the ones stuck with baby stuff strewn about their house, the bonus is that wooden sets like this are a lot less loud and ugly looking. $29.00, Simple Gift Toys on Etsy.

For The Baby Who’s Working On That Walking Thing

Plan Toys Push Toy

PlanToys® Push Toy Storage Capacity

During that wobbly stage, toddlers are so much happier to walk when they’re pushing something. This van is adorable and leaves storage space for kids to take a stuffed animal or two along for the ride. It’s also non-babyish enough that I could see it getting worked into pretend play into the early childhood years. $60.99, target.com.

For The Baby With A Crafty Gift-Giver And A Blank Bedroom Wall

DIY Name Sign

Not at all sorry for bombarding you with my Lu. My sister-in-law made this for her own baby’s room, but it would be a great gift, too. Use scrapbook paper and mod-podge to cover wooden letters, available at most craft stores, and accent with flowers or balloons, also in the scrapbook section. It’s a thoughtful, fun gift that will ensure that the baby you know never forgets who they are (as soon as they learn how to read.) $10 – 30 for supplies, JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels.

 

For The Baby Who’s Growing Teeth In Its Mouth

Josephine Mouse

Chances are, the baby you know already has a Sophie the Giraffe – but do they have Sophie’s friend Josephine yet? A few parents have raised choking concerns about Sophie’s long neck, although looking at the toy and the babies I know, it just doesn’t seem possible. But if you’re concerned, you might like the mouse’s rounder shape. $16.10, Target.com.

For The Baby Who Still Has A Lot Of Growing To Do

Set Of 30 Milestone Baby Cards

Milestone cards

It can be hard to document all of a baby’s firsts. If you know parents who aren’t painstakingly writing every moment in a baby book, they probably still have time to bust out the camera phone when baby does something new. These milestone cards provide a space to put the date the baby hit those big milestones, like smiling and saying mama. Parents can just write the date on the card, prop the card up next to the baby, and snap a photo. Instant, easy baby book. $24.59 for a set of 30, NotOnTheHighStreet.com.

For The Baby Who’s Sleepy

Constellation projecting turtle light

 

 

The soft light from this projector will create a peaceful glow in the baby’s room … and make parents 50% less likely to stub their toes walking into a dark room in the middle of the night. Win-win. $34.95, hammacher.com.

For The Musical Baby

Baby Instruments

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Instruments aren’t just great for a baby’s burgeoning musical abilities, they also help teach cause and effect. Pro tip: go for the non-electric ones that are baby, rather than battery, powered. The parents will thank you. $19.93, thejunglestore.com.

For The Baby Who Likes A Good Story

Baby Lit books

Pride & Prejudice

I have bought these for so many babies, and they always get a great response. No baby is too young to get drawn into the Bingley v. Wickham v. Darcy debate. Other titles include Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Moby-Dick, and many more. If you’re a lit nerd trying to get your favorite babies on board – guilty! – these are just the ticket. $9.99, babylit.com.

 

Where Are They Now: Every Kid From Your Second Grade Class

My oldest nephews, who were born in February 2007, finished second grade this week. That is absolutely astonishing to me. It’s hard to grasp that people who didn’t exist until 2007 can walk and talk, let alone read chapter books and multiply two-digit numbers.

Looking at these big kids (up to my shoulders!), I’m reminded of the Up Series.  In the early ’60s, British filmmakers interviewed seven-year-olds from different backgrounds and social classes. The premise: “to get a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.” They were testing the Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” The filmmakers have followed up with the participants every seven years; they are now approaching 60 years old.

There are other Up series filmed throughout the world. The first installment of the American version was released in 1991, so when I watch it I’m seeing kids grow up in the same time I did. The really amazing thing is that in many cases, the child at seven does tell you a lot about the adult they’ll become.

So how about those kids we all seemed to have in our second grade classes? Do you think we can accurately predict where they are now? Maybe not – but it’s fun to try.

The Nose Picker

Also known as the Gross Kid. As a child, I lived in fear that I was the Gross Kid even though I was hygienic. And as an adult, I sometimes still feel like a grown-up version of the Gross Kid.

But you know who doesn’t feel like that? The actual grown-up version of the Gross Kid. Because the hallmark of the Nose Picker/ Gross Kid/ Smelly Kid was that they were utterly oblivious to their own filth. This kid has not become an appealing adult. He has become that guy at your office with the rumpled shirt who is always faintly smelly, or the sticky guy who you hope doesn’t chose the elliptical next to you. She’s that person whose apartment may be surface-clean, but the sink always has a layer of grime.

If the Nose Picker was an unappealing kid because his parents just didn’t care, though, not because the kid was oblivious, then he is probably very tidy and fastidious now.

The Dinosaur Kid

How about that one child who knew everything about dinosaurs (or fighter jets, or bugs, etc)? Chances are this kid is the expert in some super-specific field, but has left the dino t-shirts behind. But if you go see Jurassic World with a former Dinosaur Kid this summer, be prepared for a tirade on the inaccurate skin folds of the velociraptors, because once you amass that much knowledge about a subject it doesn’t go away, it just gets locked up for a while.

That One Kid Who Showed Up Halfway Through The Year

Remember how one kid would show up halfway through the year, introduced by the principal, and then they’d be gone at the start of the next school year? That kid made friends fast – in part because everyone was so taken with the novelty of an unfamiliar kid, and in part because if you switched schools a lot, you sort of had to know how to make friends quickly. So it would come as no surprise that That One Kid Who Showed Up Halfway Through The Year is now a person who instantly gets involved in a new workplace or neighborhood.

The Kid With The Healthy Lunches

Well, they’re probably thin, but good God, at what cost?

Actually, I take that back. The kid with the aggressively healthy lunches raided his friends’ Dunkaroos and Pop Tart Bites every time he went over to to play – I should know, my friend had the good junk food and I did the same. By high school, they probably developed a Claudia Kishi complex and snuck unhealthy snacks. This kid is now an adult who buys lunch from a vending machine at work.

The Kid With The Good Lunches

You know how some children were destined to a life of Lunchables and Handi-Snacks when your lot in life was bologna sandwiches and lukewarm yogurt? Those Good Lunch Kids had 20 minutes of joy in the middle of every school day. I like to think they still create happiness with little things, like as adults they have a living room with one really unexpected piece of art, or they’ll wear a normal weekend outfit with a punchy pair of shoes.

Or, childhood Type II diabetes. One of those.

The Kid With The Statement Piece

It always seemed cool when a child had one thing they always had with them. Think Harriet the Spy with the tomato sandwiches. Or the boy with the purple socks, also from Harriet The Spy. Or Punky Brewster’s mismatched shoes, or Blossom’s hats. By now, this person has outgrown their statement piece. The boy who always wore suspenders is not still wearing suspenders. But they still like to get noticed right away, so look for a gregarious personality or some chunky jewelry. In second grade, the kid with the statement piece knew his own mind, so now they’re adults who have to have their house, car and workspace just the way they want it.

These are the people who have customized license plates.

Dress Girl

I went to Catholic school, where every girl was Dress Girl. However, I still knew some of those girls who even in their free time insisted on wearing dresses. All dresses, only dresses, every day. Sometimes it was a religious thing but usually it was just a preference. Dress girl is not someone who works in fashion. Dress girl just chilled out at some point and realized that pants are useful for things like exercising, or windy days. But she’s mostly just someone who wears a lot of dresses, still. Sorry.

That Kid With A Ton Of Siblings


Your eyes don’t deceive you, that’s Jamal Lyon and Jess Merriweather in the best show nobody seems to remember.

If the Kid With A Ton Of Siblings was the oldest – or one of the oldest – in their giant family, there’s an excellent chance that this person is now an Adult With No Children, enjoying the blissful sounds of silence and sharing their wardrobe with nobody. In the immortal words of Kevin McAllister, when these kids grow up and get married, they’re living alone.

The Two Kids Who Look Alike But ARE NOT SIBLINGS

They never talked to each other again. But one has a spouse who looks like them. When they have kids, nobody can say “he looks just like his dad” or “that’s his mom’s nose!” Instead it’s like “yeah… that’s the only face those two faces could have created.”

Any other ginger kids out there? Then you know the very real struggle of being asked if you’re twins if there’s another random ginger in the class.

The “Half Hour Of PBS” Kid

Often a crossover with the Healthy Lunch Kid, remember that one kid who was allowed a single half-hour of public television once a week? Yeah, she spent a lot of time playing outdoors, developing an imagination, and getting acquainted with her local library, but she never knew what the heck was going on on TGIF. And like the Healthy Lunch Kid, this child binged on SNICK and Tiny Toons as soon as a play date began.

This could have gone one of two ways. Either this kid is now a TV blogger, or she’s one of those people who manages to drop the fact that she doesn’t own a TV into every conversation, relevant or not.

He Had A Rat Tail

He doesn’t, now.

The Kid God Forgot To Color In

Me, ’90s, skiing cow sweater, you’re welcome internet.

Oh, bless. That kid with pasty skin and pink-rimmed eyes is now an adult with slightly less pasty skin. For some reason, this child eventually ended up allergic to everything, as well. The quote from Community comes to mind – it’s like God spilled a person. The pasty child is now a grownup who doesn’t leave home without sunscreen, Zyrtec, eye drops, an inhaler, and maybe an epipen. And tissues, because for some reason frequent nosebleeds go along with this whole setup.

And yes, this kid is me. Now excuse me as I fish my flonase out of my purse.

The Girl Who Knows Everything

Nobody in the world knows more than a seven-year-old girl. Especially THIS seven-year-old girl. Unfortunately, knowing everything is not the best way to ingratiate yourself with your peers.

The Girl Who Knows Everything probably forgot that she knows everything for a few years there – junior high or high school – but her Hermione Granger tendencies won out and now she’s in an upper-level position in the Ministry of Magic got a pretty good job.

The Kid Who Wants Everyone To think He’s Rich


God bless typecasting. I feel like our child-selves should have been friends.

What’s more insufferable than a rich kid? A kid who wants everyone to KNOW that he’s a rich kid. This is the girl who told everyone that she got her Halloween costume from the deluxe tier, or the boy who referred to his pool as an “olympic-sized swimming pool.” I’m not saying that this kid is rich now, but they probably have a subprime mortgage on a flashy McMansion and lease a nice car that’s beyond their means to own.

Dream “Take Your Child To Work Day” Scenarios

Did any of you participate in Take Your Child To Work Day as a kid? The correct answer is “no” – because when we were kids, it was still called “Take Your Daughter To Work Day.” It was part of that earnest early ’90s Murphy Brown feminism that sort of aggressively told  girls “you can be anything! You can do anything! Someday maybe you’ll own a briefcase!” I mean, it was started by the Ms. Foundation and Gloria Steinem. But even when Take Your Daughter To Work Day began in 1993, kids were way ahead of that mentality — it was mostly the product of adults who had grown up in the 1950s when there weren’t so many options. I remember being mostly confused by the holiday, like I already knew I could have a job, but everyone making such a fuss about it made me realize that somewhere somebody was saying I couldn’t? Nice try though, Gloria. It was a weird time and my main priorities were Rugrats and Dunkaroos, to be honest. Apparently my parents were confused too, because I never attended. To be fair, my mother taught in my school, so every day was Take Your Daughter To Work Day.

Still, I couldn’t help but be jealous of my classmates who got to cut school and tag along with their parents for the day. Well, I was jealous of SOME of them. If your parents had cool jobs, you’d come to school the next day with tales of amazing experiments and adventures and free swag that you got. And then some kids just sat in an office playing Gameboy. Here are some Take Your Daughter To Work Day scenarios that would have blown my mind as a kiddo – or Take Your Child To Work Day, or Take Your Daughter Or Son To Work Day, however you roll. Did any of you go to work with your parents, or are you taking your kids now? And was it fun, or just another day at the office?

Veterinarian Or Zookeeper

Oh hell yes. This is it. What kid wouldn’t love getting to hang out with cats and dogs all day and using cool medical equipment? It’s like if your parent were a doctor, but even better because there aren’t all those pesky humans. Also, zookeeper. Or really any zoo employee. Why do I think most zoos put on amazing Take Your Child To Work Days? And can you imagine getting to go behind the scenes to see how they take care of the animals? Man. I wish my parents were zookeepers.

News Anchor

All I know is this. I worked my tiny butt off in children’s acting classes and poured my heart and soul into three-times-a-week rehearsals — and those kiddos whose parents worked at the news channel got to fast-track their way to T.V. every year. This still happens. Sometimes they even deliver inconsequential reports in tiny, adorable suits. I imagine that behind the scenes, one has a child-sized slate or a miniature boom mic. If you are a news anchor, or otherwise involved in television production, and you don’t take your child to work today, I really have no words for you.

Grocery Store

All right, I know people who don’t live near Wegmans grocery stores are really bored of people talking up how great Wegmans is. But our hometown is the base of Wegmans and it was practically the only city that had them when we were growing up. It was – and still is – one of the biggest local employers. And as such, there were always a few kids in your class who had a parent who worked there, and let me tell you, they put on a mean Take Your Daughter To Work Day. There were bakery tours, and cooking demos, and tiny chefs hats, and aprons, and stepstools. Fortunately, if your parents worked elsewhere they put on a mean fourth grade field trip.

Fashion Designer

Nobody’s parent is really a fashion designer – for real, comment if your parent is a fashion designer – but remember in The Parent Trap when Hallie goes to that shoot with her mom and gets to help style it and somehow appears in it as well? It was such a fun montage but for some lucky kid out there, it isn’t just a montage – it’s real life.

Florist

Basically, any job where there’s a hands-on activity would be the greatest. Working at a flower shop would be like a day-long art project. There would probably be flowers that didn’t make the cut that you’d be allowed to play with, and I bet there’s even a good chance you’d get to use the cash register. Allergy kids need not apply.

The White House

A backstage tour of the White House! Possibly meeting the President or First Lady or, heck, even Bo! Visiting the seat of American democracy! Okay, so no surprise here: I was one of those kids who really, really wanted to be the president when I grew up. My family went to Washington, D.C. when I was seven, and I was wide-eyed when I got to visit Congress, see the Declaration of Independence close-up, and stand next to the Lincoln Memorial. Nerd. But a whole day at the White House? I couldn’t have even dreamed it. Lucky kids – now you can go there for Take Your Child To Work Day even if your parents don’t work there!

Even better – the White House has asked other employers to do the same, opening their doors to kids in the community who can’t shadow a parent … or whose parents have boring jobs, maybe. Imagine your dream job as a fifth-grader, then imagine if your school worked to get you to spend a day living it. So amazing!

Firefighter

There’s a reason firefighter is one of the top jobs little kids say they want when they grow up. It’s cool. There’s danger, and uniforms, and trucks, and sometimes dogs. Obviously you’d have to keep children away from, well, fire, but a day learning about their community heroes would be really great for a lot of kids.

DJ

Judging by this picture’s popularity online, a lot of adults and kids would love to spend a day stepping into a D.J.’s shoes. Personally, heavy club beats and sweaty crowds sound like no fun, and what can I say, I usually like being the only Molly in the room … but mixing beats would be so much more interesting than beating those hollow wood sticks against each other in music class.

Paper Company

No? Oh well.

Let’s Make Easter Bonnets The New Christmas Sweater

Easter may be the “most important” Christian religious holiday, but it’s no Christmas. Sure, we have some Easter traditions – egg hunts, making children sit on top of a man dressed like a rabbit (and also making a man wear a rabbit suit made of low-pile carpeting), dipping hard-boiled eggs in vinegar-laced food coloring – but as a season of festive joy and anticipation, Christmas clearly wins. Not only do we have fewer Easter traditions, they’re also all geared towards children. And arguably furries.

NOPE.

There’s kind of a reason for this. The Christmas story is fairly cute and approachable – it involves a baby, barnyard animals and a magical star. Easter is sort of unpleasant in comparison, and it takes a bit more work to get kids to understand it. For instance, last Easter my nephew Henry announced “Zurg died on the cross.” If you didn’t know: Zurg is the bad guy from Toy Story. I asked who put Zurg there, because I’m not responsible for this kid; I just get to “yes, and” him. “Jesus did,” he answered. Huh. Yeah, I sort of understand why we’re just like “Don’t worry about the whole Easter thing, just go sit on this man-rabbit and eat some candy.”

He died so we may live.

 

A few weeks ago, Henry – now four years old – started asking weird questions again. First: “What’s an orphan?” and then “Well, how would I get my mommy one?” Aunts of the world: just keep “yes, and” -ing that shit. It all started to come together a few days later, when he asked me “Aunt Molly, what’s an Easter bon?” That’s when I realized that (1) he was asking about an Easter bonnet, and (2) these questions were coming from the lyrics to Peter Cottontail, which means, rather reassuringly, (3) It was an orchid for your mommy; and my nephew is not trying to procure a parentless child for his mother. Phew.

Luckily, I didn’t have to try to explain what an Easter bonnet was – that was less a job for Aunt Molly and more a job for Aunt Google Image Search. And holy cow, guys! I thought they were just dumb hats that old ladies wear to church, or little girls’ straw hats with itchy elastic straps under the chin. But no, there is a whole world of wacky Easter Bonnets out there.

That’s when it all came together. We need a fun, stupid Easter activity for grown-ups. Something to get you in the holiday spirit, something that looks entirely ridiculous when you look at it just a month later. Something like EASTER BONNETS. Hear me out for a second. Chances are, you’ve attended an Ugly Holiday Sweater party in the past few years. Holidays make adults want to act like goofy kids again, and ugly sweaters help you do just that. There’s no real Easter equivalent unless you’re a seven-year-old girl or one of those church ladies who wears an Aretha hat. Unless- unless! – we start decorating bonnets in a party atmosphere. There are so many possibilities – just look:

Now, most of these pictures are from the UK, which makes me think that our UK readers are reading this saying “yeah, Easter bonnets. Easter eggs. Everybody knows this.” But no! They really aren’t as big a thing in the U.S., except in the Easter Parade, and I don’t know anybody who has actually gone to that. Oh, also our Easter Eggs are actual EGGS here, not the giant chocolate affairs you can buy overseas. We’re really struggling with the whole Easter thing in the States. So I say next year, we all throw Ugly Easter Bonnet parties, and everyone gussies up their fanciest bonnet. Whoever makes the tackiest one wins! Then we can all go celebrate Jesus’s victory over Emperor Zurg – the real reason for the season.

The Laughter Of Children: Things I Made Fun Of As A Child

Allison Williams respectfully requests that when you watch Peter Pan tonight, you let your inner child do the live-tweeting. Here’s her message:

If you’re going to watch this the same way that you watch a TV show that you hate, but you hate-watch it with all your friends so that you can drink wine and tweet at each other about how it’s bad, you need to just go ahead and take those lenses out of your glasses and put in the lenses that you had when you were six.

I will watch Peter Pan with the lenses I had when I was six –but at six, my lenses weren’t rose-colored. They were joke glasses. It sounds like six-year-old Allison Williams was more Cabbage Patch Kid, while I was more Garbage Pail. She wore an argyle skirt and a tidy headband and non-ironically giggled at Punch and Judy shows in her Connecticut home; I was a freckle-faced urban Catholic schooler ripping Barney a new one. I wasn’t cynical, I just thought that everything was, in some way, funny.

Just call me Surly Temple.

To see how our present selves deal with Peter Pan, look for our live tweets (our handle is @cookiessangria), and laterblog (a live blog posted the next day!). For a window into my past, here are some things I made fun of as a young child:

  • Barney, which is normal. What’s not normal is writing a short play at age nine in which Barney is a tyrant lording over the overly-peppy children in the cast. I have a vivid memory of performing in my fourth grade classroom, scrawling a plummeting ratings chart on the board and shouting “We need Nielson families!”
  • There were two girls named Allison in my Irish Dance class and one of them had prominent buck teeth. In my mind, I called her Buckingham Alice. I didn’t even feel like I was making fun of her, though I knew better than to say it out loud. I was mostly delighted by how punny that was. I was almost disappointed that nobody ever realized that I was a shrimpy kid whose last name rhymed with “shorty” and first name nearly rhymed with “small-y”.
  • The swaying chorus of hopeful children in a local United Way commercial.
  • Donald Trump suffered a few financial losses in the early 90s. Right after that, on a family trip to New York, my seven-year-old brother announced “hey, there’s Donald Trump!” every time he saw a homeless person. This wasn’t me, but it was my next sibling up and I think it explains how I got this way.
  • Kidz Bop. But you know what? Now I’m in my late 20s and my Kidz Bop impression is on point, so no regrets.
  • I hate-watched a Christian children’s show, Colby’s Clubhouse, every week. It was a musical program about a group of kids who go to an abandoned playhouse to learn about Jesus from an oversized, anthropomorphic computer. Whenever a kid chirped a stupid line like “Jesus will always care for me!” I’d mimic their tone and say something like “My parents are forcing me to do this!” or “This dancing computer is my only friend!”
  • You may have had an annual family reading of The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. I had an annual sarcastic reading of Santa And The Christ Child, a book about Santa meeting a child Jesus. Jesus takes Santa back in time to witness his birth. But not the actual birth part, which is gross. We shouted out logical inconsistencies in the story. Because if Jesus is like 8 years old, why is the celebration of Christmas even a thing?
  • Another example of how I got like this: my brothers’ childhood nickname for me was Limsy. It was an acronym. It stood for Little Ignorant Molly, So Young. And they made it up when they were, I believe, 7 and 9 years of age.
  • Oh. And they changed the Moto Photo jingle (Little people, growing up so fast/ Moto Photo makes the memories last!) to Little Molly, growing up so slow/ Moto Photo makes the memories grow! Again, they were in primary school.
  • Talk Girl, the children’s tape recorder toy that was exactly the same as Talk Boy, but pink.
  • The elderly. And folk music. In one fell swoop, with the multiple-verse song a friend and I wrote entitled Old Lady. You had to sing it in a wavery, Natalie Merchant-y timbre. Sample verse:

Old Lady, bones are all dry

She’s got osteoperosis

And she’s gonna die

  • My peers’ open, undignified obsession with Hanson and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I preferred to crush on them secretly, like an ADULT.
  • The self-consciously multicultural names from elementary school textbooks. Every word problem was about Keiko, Carmen and Timmy trying to measure the perimeter of Aphrodite’s backyard. Like, it’s okay if sometimes just Julio and Maria have to figure out how many cupcakes to make for the bake sale, or if it’s only Vijay and Krishna determining when their trains will cross paths; you don’t have to throw in Sally and Bobby for me to understand it.
  • Phat Boyz, the “urban fashions” and convenience store at the corner near my school. My friend and I rewrote the then-ubiquitous Old Navy Performance Fleece jingle to advertise Phat Boyz, where you could buy attire for all your street battles. [I grew up next to and across from drug houses in a neighborhood called the “Fatal Crescent;” I wasn’t some suburban kid making fun of the “ghetto.”]
  • Myself, mostly.

The Weird Aunt’s Guide To Car Trip Games

It’s my belief that every child should have that one weird aunt. You know, the one who will illustrate the kids’ stories about LeBron James, buy ill-advised potentially dangerous Christmas gifts, and laugh at the kids’ butt jokes. This is important, because it teaches kids that silliness doesn’t stop when you become an adult.  [Parents don’t get to be quite as silly because they’re the ones who have to make sure the children don’t get lost, injure themselves or make butt jokes.]

However, being the weird aunt isn’t so fun when you’re in a car with kids (unless they’re the kids who have those portable DVD players or you’re an adult with a portable DVD player). In fact, I believe car rides with kids are the primary form of transportation between Dante’s circles of hell.

Between driving my local nephews around and being wedged between carseats in my parents’ van for out-of-town trips, I’ve finally got it somewhat worked out: if I’m the one driving, it’s better to run the show than it is to leave the kids to their own devices — unless the devices are electronic, then have at it kiddos! Here are a few of the weird games we do that don’t entirely suck. You could probably use these with adults, as well. Hey, sometimes we all get a little fussy in the car.

Old-School Rapping

Imagination.

 

Reality.

So maybe a lady in a shirtdress and two little boys aren’t the most authentic rap trio, but it helps pass the time if you’re with kids who are old enough to know what rhyming is. There’s a few ways to do it – have them give you one line then you come up with the rhyme to follow it, or maybe decide on a topic then just roll with it. We are big fans of the old-school classics: spelling things (the trick is to add the words “to the” between the letters, guys), making others repeat things (when I say ___ you say ___!), and commanding people to put their hands in the air.

Whatever, it’s better than the license plate game.

The Rhyming Game

Similar to the above, but makes no pretense of being music. They give you a silly sentence, you rhyme it, and you go back and forth creating a story or poem.

The Question Game

This one is such a hit with little guys! Everything you say has to be a question, and the first person to make a statement instead of a question loses.

Okay. I’ll admit it. I have taught them most of the parts of the drinking game Kings. I might be the worst person ever.

Gently mocking annoying drivers

Is it hard to keep from swearing at bad drivers when you have kids in the car? Oh, no no no. You just have to gently mock them instead. Actually, this is what I do when I’m driving by myself too. You pick the type of voice that goes with their car and have at it.

Dumb, Slow voice: Hi, I’m Bob. I have a truck. This is my truck. It can go in any lane! It can go in every lane. Go, truck! Go!

Heavy vocal fry: I’m soo busy. Ohmygod. Ew. Stop siiiiigns? Are for poor people. Gross.

Silly Voice Contest

… which brings us to the silly voice contest. Everybody picks a different silly voice and a persona to go with it, and sticks with it until somebody breaks. It’s not really a “contest” because seriously, everybody wins here. Or loses, depending on your tolerance for bits that go on way to long.

World’s Worst Trifle

When you’ve run out of drinking games to teach to children, start using Friends episodes instead. I know you all remember the beef trifle, and this is a game along those lines. Everyone adds a different layer to create the world’s worst combination of flavors and textures imaginable. I suppose you could make this some sort of educational memory game by going in alphabetical order and repeating all the other layers before adding a new one but I’m obviously not trying to make things too classy here.

Songs In The Style Of…

Whatever’s on the radio, you have to sing it in the style of somebody else. Iggy Azalea in the style of Kidz Bop? One Direction in the style of Blues Traveler? Miley Cyrus in the style of a 1920s lady at a speakeasy? Actually, my nieces and nephews don’t do this, but they do have to listen to me do it – and to be honest, those are all things I sang by myself on the way to work this week alone. Sometimes the adult should get to have fun too.

 

LeBron’s Fro-Yo Motorcycle Caper

Welcome to Cookies + Sangria Story Studio, where we bring you illustrated tales for the whole family internet people!

Our first installment is brought to you by our youngest collaborator ever – my seven-year-old nephew. This weekend we decided to write a story. He gave me a main character (LeBron James at age 21), supporting figures (a family that in no way resembles LeBron James’s actual family) and a charming little problem.

Some disclaimers: this LeBron James bears no resemblance to the actual LeBron James. For one, the real LeBron went right from high school to the NBA. For another, LeBron’s mom is not the frumpy lady that I drew. To my knowledge, LeBron James never studied art or worked at a fro-yo shop. I’m also not sure if he has siblings.

The plot and characters are my nephew’s, and the words and illustrations are mine. I took out all of the filthy parts. That’s not a joke. I wish it were. Kids these days are ridiculous. Enjoy!

 

 

LeBron James was a great basketball player, a good person, and a spectacular artist. He was 21 years old, and when he wasn’t playing on his college basketball team he was working very hard studying art, learning how to make pictures that look exactly like what they’re supposed to be. You’d look at his pictures and say “Oh no, there’s a shark!” But it was just a picture of a shark. LeBron was very talented.

LeBron lived next door to his parents, which was mostly pretty great. He got to see his little brother, Phil, all of the time. His sister, Christine, visited a lot too – but she was a player on the Denver Nuggets, so she was away a lot. LeBron’s parents had a big washing machine where LeBron could wash his very long pants, and a big dryer that almost never shrank them.
Living next door to his parents wasn’t always fun for LeBron. More than anything – except maybe for winning the NCAA championship, signing with a professional team, or painting a seriously realistic picture – LeBron wanted to ride a motorcycle. LeBron’s parents were NOT big fans of that idea, and he knew it. All he could do was hope maybe, just maybe, they’d change their minds.
LeBron wanted to ride a motorcycle so badly that he got a job at the frozen yogurt shop around the corner. He worked there every day when he wasn’t playing basketball, going to class, or making a lot of art. After a few months he finally had enough money. He went to the motorcycle store and bought the shiniest silver, blue and red motorcycle that his yogurt-shop money could buy. He was so proud.
LeBron’s pride didn’t last long. He rode to his house – past his parents’ front porch – and into his driveway. He didn’t have his keys in the front door before his parents were at his house. They were not happy.
“LeBron, you could get hurt! I never want to see you riding that motorcycle again!,” his mom said.

And for a long time, they didn’t see him riding it again. Is it because he quit riding motorcycles? Well… not exactly. Late that night, LeBron fired up his motorcycle as quietly as he could. You can actually start a motorcycle pretty quietly, believe it or not. People who have motorcycles just like to be loud sometimes. It makes them feel important. LeBron drove the motorcycle around the corner to the yogurt shop where he worked and parked it in the parking lot.
Over the next few weeks, LeBron’s parents kept seeing him walk past their house and toward the yogurt shop. “Are you working today, LeBron?” they’d ask. Sometimes he’d say yes. Other times, he’d say “No, just going to get some fro-yo.”
“Holy cow,” LeBron’s dad said, “you sure do eat a lot of frozen yogurt.”
“What can I say. I just really like frozen yogurt,” LeBron answered.
Day after day, LeBron’s parents would see him walk past their house and around the corner to the yogurt shop. “That LeBron really loves frozen yogurt,” his mom would say, shaking her head.
Of course, LeBron wasn’t eating frozen yogurt at all. He was getting his motorcycle and going for super-secret motorcycle rides. Okay, sometimes he’d end the trip with a dish of strawberry-raspberry twirl with gummy worms. He was only human, after all.
One sunny summery day, LeBron’s parents’ air conditioner broke. “The only thing that could make me feel better, other than going swimming in a cool lake or moving to upper Canada or time-traveling to winter, is a nice cool dish of frozen yogurt. Besides, I want to see what LeBron’s always going on about,” LeBron’s mom said.
LeBron’s mom and dad had seen their son stroll off towards the yogurt shop just a few minutes before. He was whistling a happy tune and looked like he didn’t have a care in all the world. Imagine Mr. and Mrs. James’s surprise when they got to the yogurt shop and LeBron wasn’t there! They filled up their dishes with yogurt and sat in front of the shop’s window – right under the ice-cold air conditioning vent.
They saw someone zip past the store on a motorcycle. “Was that LeBron?” they wondered. It sure did look like him.
When they went home that day, they asked LeBron’s brother Phil if he had seen LeBron riding his motorcycle. “I think I did,” replied Phil.
When LeBron’s sister Christine came for a visit, they asked her too. “Oh, I definitely saw him riding on his motorcycle. Is he not supposed to do that anymore? I haven’t visited in a while,” Christine said while twirling a basketball on one finger.
The next night at dinner, LeBron’s parents told him that he was in big trouble. “That motorcycle is dangerous, and if you get hurt you can’t play basketball anymore! How about this. You stop riding the motorcycle for one year, until you’re done with college. Then, if you haven’t taken that motorcycle out in a whole year, you can start riding it again – after graduation.”
LeBron thought about it. He knew he could not get hurt when his school was counting on him to win games. And he knew that he would have trouble painting pictures that look exactly like what they’re supposed to be if he injured his hand. The motorcycle would have to wait. So, for a whole year, LeBron didn’t take his motorcycle out.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t ride it … exactly.

 

That’s all, folks! Hope to see you back here for another weird illustrated story real soon!

 

 

Best of C+S 2013: The Only Child Club

It’s December 26, and many of you have just celebrated Christmas with all of your siblings. Or maybe – like Traci – you’re an only child. Don’t let the non-onlies get you down — there are some serious life lessons to glean from the only child life.

——-

Life Lessons From an Only Child

(originally posted March 29)

Being an only child has taught me a lot of things throughout my life, mostly that there a lot of assumptions people make if they know you’re an only child. But I’m here to break the stereotypes and tell you the truth about being the only kid in the family. I would like to reiterate that I’m not speaking on behalf of the Only Children of America coalition (not a real thing), but I’d say this is pretty accurate.

1) We’re very independent

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. Or brothers, whatever. In sixth grade, I had dance lessons that started at 4pm, which was before my parents got out of work. So on the days I had dance, I would take the bus home, be by myself for about an hour or so, then my friend’s mom would pick me up and we’d go to class. I mean I was 11 years old, but at the same time, there was no one else around to make sure I wasn’t like, lighting anything on fire. But I was given the responsibility of having keys to the house, knowing how to turn off the alarm system, make food if need be. If something went wrong, I had to figure it out and fix it myself. If anything, this is what has stuck with me the most. I’ve never really relied on anyone to do anything for me, because I know I can (usually) do it myself.

2) We’re okay with being alone

Ok, that sentence isn’t supposed to be read with the same kind of depression you read it with. But along the same notion of being independent, so does time in solitary (again, not meant to be weird and prison-y). After my parents trusted me with being at home by myself, it wasn’t necessary for them to have anyone look after me. So if they went out, I was by myself in the house. I would like to add that I didn’t really have friends or family members that lived nearby, so again, I was just used to being alone. Without a sibling, I was used to doing stuff by myself, which is still true to this day, mainly because it’s all I know. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I hate being around people. I mean for the most part that’s true because I hate people (my years working retail is to thank for that complex). But I mean only children usually tend to gravitate towards extended family or in my case, my friends, to hang out with all the time. So just as much as we like being alone, we like being around people. But we also need our personal space at the same time. Yeah, we’re crazy.

3) We can do weird shit

My friend Caitlin and I call this the ‘Only Child Syndrome’, because we end up doing random weird things that we don’t realize we’re A) doing in the first place or B) is even weird at all. I don’t even really know how to explain this besides doing like odd little movements or noises or giving strange looks… No one was around to call us out on being weird, so that explains why we’re still weird now. I also tend to talk to myself a lot – like out loud. I assume kids with siblings would usually have a brother or sister to at least be around when you’re saying something, and it’s not as weird as talking outloud and knowing no one ever hears you.

4) We don’t actually like being only children

Okay, I may be speaking for myself here, but I honestly don’t really like being an only child. Like I said, I didn’t have any family members – cousins, etc. living near me growing up. They were/are all in the Philippines, and some here in LA. But what’s weird is that my dad is one of 9 kids. I have a bunch of cousins and second cousins, some of whom I don’t even know. But they all grew up together and I was the American kid. When we go back to the Philippines, I always feel like the odd man out, not only because of the language barrier and cultural differences, but because they all have the advantage of hanging out with each other, while I had my parents and me, myself and I. I’m just saying it would have been much easier to have a sibling when going back to the Phil. Also, I could never blame anything I did wrong on a sibling, or bitch about my parents to someone who would really understand.

5) We’re not all spoiled

So this is obviously the most common only child stereotype. All my friends who are only children are not spoiled by any means. Well, in the sense that they don’t want everything in the world and expect their parents to buy it for them. Many people believe that we’re naturally born brats who expect to be doted on all the time, but that’s far from the case. In fact, I know some people like that who do have siblings, and it’s embarrassing. But like, I’ve never expected my parents to get me everything I’ve ever wanted. I will say that they have done the thing where if I’ll mention my DVD player is broken, they’ll call me back 2 days later and say we found a blu-ray player, and bought it for you, you can pick it up at Best Buy sort of thing (that’s a true story). We don’t act spoiled, but once in a while, we’ll get spoiled.

The Cool Aunt’s Guide To Holiday Toy Shopping

Whether you’re a real aunt, an honorary aunt, a godmother, or a lady who for some reason buys gifts for children who aren’t her own, you understand the desire to be the cool aunt.  Now, I’ve never been the cool anything, but I am my nephews’ and niece*’s youngest, most childless aunt – so I do know a thing or two.

Of course, this guide isn’t just for cool aunts — it’s also for fun uncles, awesome parents, great grandparents, and good great-grandparents. These gifts are sure to cement your cool relative status.  Best of all, most of these items are kid-powered, and there’s not a licensed character in sight! That should help cement your cool status with the kids’ parents, too.

[Click on the pictures to go to a place that sells the gift, but be aware that most of these are available from multiple vendors, so you may want to hit up Google to do some price comparisons.]

Buddy Bounce Ball

This fits ages 6 and up… which I assume includes adults? Because I kind of want this. I also know that this would have devolved into an instrument of sibling torture when I was a kid but you know… not my kids, not my problem. Warning: reviews are only so-so, I just think it looks cool.

Spiro Bouncer

If you have a family with at least two tots, this looks like a great bet – and a good way to get kids moving when they’re stuck inside. Check out the Spiro Hop for bigger kids.

Wonder Loom

I’m not sure what the deal is with this but kids are kind of obsessed with it lately? Also, it seems less horrible than a lot of toys out there. For a throwback toy that uses a similar skill set, why not get them one of those potholder sets with those fabric loops? My 6-year-old nephew got one a few months back and he loves it.

illuStory

This is so perfect for the creative kiddo in your life. They can write and illustrate their own books, then they get a hardcover copy of it. Kids can make their book on paper or online, and there are even instructions and story web planners, in case the child is one of those people for whom story webs actually work, I guess?

Puppets and Puppet Theater

This gift encourages creative play, plus is just really cool. There are tons of different setups out there, so search around. I love that this is a gift you could buy for a preschooler, but they could still play with it when they’re in fourth grade.

Crafty Auntie: They sell fabric puppet theaters that hang from a tension rod in a door frame, which is really useful if space is at a premium. If you have solid DIY capabilities, you could definitely make one of those yourself!

Your Favorite Children’s Book (On CD, optional)

I could do a whole post on children’s literature (heck, I could do a whole blog on children’s literature), but a safe bet is often to get a kid whatever book was your absolute favorite at their age. If there’s a long car trip in their future (like, maybe to visit you?), you could consider getting a book on CD, or whatever the modern version of that probably is.

Zip Line

Sure, in a lot of climates your  favorite kiddo would have to wait a few months to use this, but in my estimation, your very own zip line is the very definition of “worth the wait.”

I’m sure there are specs for the kind of space you need to put this in, and you’ll want to have it installed by somebody who you trust with the well-being of your niece or nephew’s spinal cord.

Band Set

However annoying this gift may sound to the kids’ parents, it’s a lot less annoying than an electronic toy that has a bunch of beeps and plays the same song over and over. I love music sets for toddlers and preschoolers, because they get a kick out of them while developing some pretty important skills, like how to keep rhythm during a song so they’re not that one guy at a concert who can’t clap in time.

Crafty Auntie: A lot of these instruments are sold at the dollar store, believe it or not. The quality is questionable, but I know 3-year-olds to ruin even the best-made toys, so really every gift is a crap shoot. You could round up a bunch of these yourself and present it in a nice basket or a plastic carrying case with a handle.

Foam Bungee Jumper

This is like a more balance-friendly version of a pogo stick. I’m all for getting gifts that allow kids to be active inside, since many kids will be inside for the next 4 months or so. This foam jumper supports up to 250 pounds, so maybe you’ll get to take a turn on it, too!

A Super-Special Aunt-Kid Outing

You know the kid, so you make the call. Maybe there’s a good children’s theater nearby, or a science museum, or a professional sports team. This can make a more memorable gift than a toy that they’ll break or lose.

Fort Kit

Didn’t you love making forts in the living room when you were a kid? Now you can share the magic! I suggest searching on etsy if you want to buy one. There are some really cute options out there!

Crafty Auntie: The photo above links to a sewing tutorial. It’s not too complex, but you can make it even simpler. Buy a drawstring bag or backpack, and include a few sheets, clothespins, and clothes line inside. It’s sure to be a hit!

Archery Set

I’m usually not one to buy weapons for small children, but Katniss Everdeen makes it look so FUN! Obviously, scale the level of intensity to the child’s age. I love this one for little kids – it’s super safe and it seems to have something to do with math? Which is nice.

Black Apple Doll

There’s a reason that dolls have been a classic gift since the first person realized that you could make a tiny effigy of a person, give it to a  child, and somehow not be creepy. I love these Black Apple dolls. You can buy them on etsy, but they are SO easy to make.

Crafty Auntie: Click the photo to go to the templates – although, you can probably just freehand. A big plus is that you can make the dolls look however you want. My niece is Puerto Rican, and I try to hold off on the little blonde girl dolls as much as possible (until they make a Leslie Knope or Tami Taylor doll). I made a few of these for little Miss M. a couple years ago, and they were so cute that I wanted to keep a little effigy for myself.

Rory’s Story Cubes

Great for kids or adults! Roll the cubes, and tell a story joining all nine pictures. It’s a “non-competitive” game but I’m sure you can find a way to make somebody the winner if you’re not a “non-competitive” family.

Mustaches and Tattoos

Hand to God: fake mustaches and temporary tats are a hit with children. If your little angel is more of a little Hell’s Angel, give this gift a try.

Roominate

THIS IS SO COOL. Kids can build and design their own miniature rooms, including furniture. I loved my dollhouse as a kid, but mostly for the interior design aspect. Those little people were like an upwardly-mobile suburban couple, always renovating their kitchen or redecorating their living room. Roominate just cuts to the chase and goes straight to the building and decorating, although of course some little dolls could live in here when it’s done.

A Puppy!

No OH MY GOSH do not actually give a puppy as a gift. Don’t do this. It’s not a good idea. But seriously… look at these freakin’ puppies, though.

* In the interest of full disclosure, I have five (soon six!) nephews and one niece. I know. Just call me Aunt Molly Weasley. But I still think I’m qualified to talk about girl gifts because I … you know, was one and stuff. The kiddos range in age from almost 3 to almost 7.