Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby Blankets

These blankets from Purl Bee are a wonderful gift for the baby in your life. They offer a kit labeled super easy so it looks like fun especially with so many wonderful colors to chose from. check out Purl Bee for more information.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Summer Reminiscences with Mark Blackshear Part II

My mother has wanted to have a family picture taken for awhile.  So this summer photographer, Mark Blackshear granted her wish.  I decided that the park was a great place to take pictures of her and her great-grand children.  So we headed to the park on a beautiful day with four little people.  As soon as we passed the playground two little people (Jamal and Isaiah) disappeared.  When we finally found the right spot to take pictures one little person (Yonina) decided she would rather not.  It's was more fun to try and direct the photographer.  But one little person (Shakina) decided that she had gotten her hair done and was wearing her favorite dress so this was an important occasion and she was ready to have her picture taken with Nana.
Mark Blackshear

As I ran around the park begging, pleading and threatening, I began to wonder if this was really a good idea. But after serious negotiating, Mark was able to get some great shots for Mom.  She loved the pictures.

Mark Blackshear

The only problem was that two little people (Emmanuel and Joshua) were missing, we waited and waited but Manny had gotten sick on the way over.

Kenge Henry

Then last month, two new great grand babies (Angel and Mikka Rose) arrived. So now we have to plan the next photo adventure with eight little people.

To be continued...

Mark Blackshear was calm and able to work through the mishaps, maybe because he has a little one of his own and enjoys family projects. Visit his website at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where are the Toddlers?

I spend a lot of time taking my nephews and nieces on excursions around the city. Since there are now seven of them of various ages, we sometimes divide the excursions to make them age appropriate. I had great intentions of taking my youngest niece, Yonina on a stroller tour of a favorite museum. Mainly, to see what the programs are like for the younger set and also because she has been asking to go bye bye like her older siblings. Just when I made up my mind to take her, I re-read the description of the program "for ages 0-18 months." Oops! she is now two years old. No problem, I thought I will take her to the toddler program. I checked the program listing - no toddler programs. Some how I remember the museum sending a notice last year listing activities for all ages. Now except for the stroller event, programs are for children ages 4 and up. At first I was thinking this is not fair. After doing a little research I realized that a few institutions had dropped their toddler programs. For a second I was thinking this was a major injustice until I looked over at my niece who was lying out on the floor shouting No! No! (for no particular reason). Then I remembered that my little baby who used to be so sweet and agreeable is now asserting her independence. Her once remarkable vocabulary is filled with "No!" and "I walk." Actually, I think the thought unconsciously had passed my mind that Nina was getting a little bit unreasonable and we better take her on her special trip soon.

This made me start to wonder what happened to make the museums decide to suspend the toddler programs. I can just imagine the museum tour for the two year old. Think of all the passion and unbridled energy. I bet they rocked the place. It would have been funny to watch but only from a distance. What was I thinking? Taking out a two year old? I forgot about the milk and juice breaks, peanut butter sandwiches, the potty stops and the "I need a nap time."

Well, don't let me discourage you I am sure your baby wants to see that Picasso, Goya or maybe, just the chain barrier that separates them from the masterpieces. Trying to pull the barriers down is always great fun for two year olds.

Well, since I am a slow learner I will probably see you at the next museum excursion. I know Yonina really wants to get hold of that chain. I will be the one with the harried look on her face. Oh! that probably describes a few of us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Little Seed

Some of us might remember the TV show, Punky Brewster from the mid '80s. I always liked the colorful outfits Punky used to wear. Now Soleil Moon Frye who played Punky is all grown up and has come out with her own baby clothing line. Little Seed is an environmentally friendly boutique which you can guess is very colorful. http://shop.thelittleseed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Secret Lives of Princesses

Do you have a princess in your midst? Maybe, a wild, wonderful princess or a quiet, stoic princess? You may find someone you know in The Secret Lives of Princess by Philippe Lechermeier and illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer. I didn't know there were so many different types of princesses ...some zany, quirky and even wacky. The stories are a little different from the usual Cinderella tales and the illustrations are beautiful. This is a tongue in cheek look at the world of royals so it can be a lot of fun if you approach it with a sense of humor. Visit their website and have fun taking their quiz, playing the games and finding out more about the different princesses' personalities.

No Not Picture Books?

Recently a New York Times article mentioned that the sales on picture books are down. The explanation they received from editors and educators was that parents are now pushing their children to move on to chapter books. The rational being that children are more advanced when reading without pictures. If this is true the pressure to excel is taking the joy out of learning. Picture books can be the first introduction to art for young people. They feed young children senses and spark their imagination. Children can make up their own story; they learn verbal and observational skills, and the joy of art and color. They can also learn to read and discover some amazing facts. I can’t imagine a childhood without picture books. Reading is important and so is art so why can’t we have both. Maybe, now we need to have a “Read A Picture Book Month” to remind parents to keep the fun in learning. Picture books are good for the soul.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Family Storytelling Month

Last month my godmother, Blanche Hodges passed away. She played an important part in my early years. You can read about her in my first post, Coney Island in February. She was a special person to me and a wonderful storyteller. When I heard that this month is "Family Storytelling Month," I decided to focus on storytelling and to dedicate the stories to her.

Happy Thanksgiving Day! and may everyone have wonderful family stories to share this holiday.

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The Story of the Amazing Mama Seal

The other day I sat mindlessly watching TV until a Discovery Channel program on seals caught my attention. The story centered around a mother seal and her new cub living in a colony of seals. As the cub grew the mother slowly introduced him to the water while I learned from the announcer that seals are not born knowing how to swim but must learn this skill. You could see the absolute joy of the baby as he hits the water but his mother was very cautious. The camera soon showed us why – lurking in the waves right off the beach was an Orca whale, one of their biggest predators. He hide in the waves waiting for an opportunity to swoop down. At one point the baby decided to go further out in the water and enjoy himself but his mother nudged him back. He, however, was very determined and tried to quickly maneuver around his mother’s rotund body. Watching the little seal move with his small and more agile body I thought he was going to win the battle but his mother was not giving up. Thankfully, she turned out to be faster and more determined than she appeared.

It was intense watching this life and death battle. At one point I thought, My! this cub is even more stubborn than our little people. In my family we have super animated children. They have all inherited very strong and determined personalities. So watching the fight that this mother seal put up hit a strong inner note with me. We are not alone even the animal kingdom has some uncooperative babies. The mother with all her awkwardness finally won the battle, with some force she toppled her little one on its’ back and he finally decided to head back to the sand with his mother.

Unfortunately, some mama seals were a little too lax with their parenting skills and allowed their cubs to wonder off alone to the shore. We watched the Orca scoop them up and disappear. By the time the mothers made it down to the shore there was nothing left of their progeny. They peered out into the ocean and I can only imagine what their thoughts were.

After writing my seal story, my friend Cheryl Hanna sent me another interesting story about seal mothers. Little did we know what great adoptive parents they turn out to be. Check out their story,

Laura Simms Master Storyteller

Storytelling is one of mankind's oldest living arts. Imagine our ancestors sitting around the camp fire talking about the successful hunt or the escape from being hunted or describing their dreams and the other adventures in their lives. Even though we have gone electronic just about everything we do still involves similar stories usually with heroes, villains, challenges and drama.

I never thought of storytelling as an art until I attended a storytelling conference and heard Laura Simms perform. She is definitely a gifted performer. Since then Laura has become a master storyteller performing traditional stories interwoven with personal narratives for adults and families throughout the world.

She has also offered master classes for those interested in developing the craft of storytelling. I remember once she had organized a trip to explore and hear the stories of Morocco. It sounded so exotic and fascinating to me, and was at the top of my wish list. Unfortunately, I was not able to go. Now she is offering The Storytelling Mentorship Program which is described as a storytelling journey. She will help individuals prepare and develop a "traditional" story of their choice. So now I have something else to add to my wish list. To find out more about her workshops and see her perform visit her website at

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rattle & Reel at Landmark Theatres

Finding it hard to get to the theater with the little one Landmark Theatres are offering a special program, Rattle & Reel in their New York and Washington, DC locations.

Rattle & Reel at The Sunshine Cinema -
143 East Houston Street on the Lower East Side, NYC (212) 330-8182 welcomes caregivers and their babies on Wednesdays for their special Rattle & Reel screenings. Adults pay normal admission prices but all babies are FREE! Tickets available at the box office only on the day of show. Screening Wednesday, September 29 at 11:00am: Waiting for "Superman". Screening Wednesday, October 6: TBA.

The E Street Cinema -
555 11th Street NW Washington, DC 20004(entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Street) (202) 452-7672 welcomes caregivers and their babies on Wednesday at 11:00am for a special Rattle & Reel screening. Adults pay normal admission prices but all babies are FREE! Tickets available at the box office only on the day of show. Screening Wednesday, October 6 at 11:00am: Waking Sleeping Beauty.

For more information visit . Check their other theaters throughout the country for similar offerings.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jimi Sounds like a Rainbow the Story of Young Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was a creative force who changed the Rock world in his short life. Author Gary Golio and illustrator Javaka Steptoe explore the life of the young boy who would become a musical phenomena. Discover how determination and creativity spurred his talent from an early age. You can get a copy of their book at Barnes and Noble, and Amazon or if you are in the area attend a book signing. The author and the illustrator will have the following book signing events around the New York area.

September 26th 12pm-2- at Atlantic Antic on Atlantic Blvd in Brooklyn at the Arbitron Inc. "Reading Corner"

Friday, October 8, 7:30 pm - Book signing & Launch Party with Gary Golio and Javaka Steptoe THE VILLAGE BOOKSTORE - 10 Washington Avenue, Pleasantville, NY, 914 769-8322

Saturday, October 9, 10:30 am - Book signing & Story Hour with Gary Golio and Javaka Steptoe GREENLIGHT BOOKSTORE - 686 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY, 718 246-0200

Saturday October 23, 12:00-2:00 pm - Book signing with Gary Golio and Javaka Steptoe - BOOKS OF WONDER - 18 W. 18th St., New York, NY, 212 989-3270

Ghouls and Gourds at Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Sunday, October 24th Noon-4pm, Book signing & Story Hour with Javaka Steptoe at Brooklyn Botanic Garden - 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Holistic Moms in Astoria

Holistic Moms of Astoria celebrated the end of summer with an ice cream social. Holistic Moms is an nation wide organization promoting a healthy lifestyle and green living. If you agree with Kermit the Frog that it is not easy being green, they can help you make healthier choices.
Holistic Moms provide knowlegable speakers and support for parents at their local meetings. The Astoria branch meet the second Wednesday of the month, check their website for more information Queens Holistic Moms. To find other local groups visit Holistic Moms.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oh La La - French for Moms-To-Be

Ever since I majored in anthropology in college, I have always been interested in seeing how people express their cultural roots. So this little tidbit on french cultural caught my interest.

Parents who want their youngsters to "Parler Francaise." head to the French Institute Alliance Française. The institute offers a variety of classes and programs for children in french. Now zealous moms can start the process of creating a little francophile before they are born. The Institute is now offering a series of classes for moms-to-be. They describe the classes as "Using multisensory techniques to kick start your petit chow's french through songs activities, and French food. Each meeting focuses on a unique cultural aspects of french child rearing and includes lullabies and relaxation time. So upon arrival new moms can talk to their newborn in french, fix french recipes and dress baby in the french way. Classes start September 29 at the French Institute Alliance Française - 22 East 60th Street, NYC . Visit or call 212 355 6100. Picture - Bastille Day at the French Institute Alliance Française photo © 2009 by Alexandra Brand, Mathilde Roussel-Giraudy, and Matthieu Raffard

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lion Brand Yarn

Pattern #90418

Pattern #90462

Pattern #80773

Pattern #90307

I have been carrying around my catalog from Lion Brand Yarn all summer but now that the weather is changing I am feeling an urge to start working on my project, a sweater for my niece Shakina. I love to see little children in hand knitted and crocheted outfits. It always seems so special and unique.

Lion Brand has so many wonderful patterns and colorful yarn that I can get carried away with projects. So I have decided to work on one thing at a time. Check out their website for inspiration

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scrumptious Toppers - Hats with Pizazz

I heard Debby Ware talk at a book signing for her book, Scrumptious Toppers at Lion Brand. The best way to describe her style is fun and whimsical. I overheard someone say they use her book to create hats for charity which they auction off. I thought that was a nice idea. Visit her site to see her wild and wonderful collection

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Movie Mania

Last year some of our favorite kid excursions have been to the local movie theater. With four kids that is not really a cheap date but fortunately our local theater gives us a few options. If you come to the first show, early afternoon show or on Tuesdays you can get discounted admission. They also offer some child friendly animation for a few dollars on Saturday. So on rainy days and sometimes when we just needed to get out and do something that becomes our option.

In fact my favorite treat last year was catching the movie Up just before it left the theaters. I did not really know what to expect with this film but it turned out to be a nice surprise. Up was a movie for all ages. The kids loved it. I laughed and cried; and came back a second time with my mother who also enjoyed it. To top it off after the show we headed across the street to Eddies Sweet Shop, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor for milk shakes. This is what a movie theater experience should be about. I am glad this movie won the Academy award if you have not seen it you can now catch it on video or TV.

This spring, however, I was upset to hear that the movie theaters have decided to raise their prices. This seems like bad timing when we are also facing higher transportation and utility expenses. This is an industry that has been making record-breaking numbers in a time of recession. The popularity of 3D flicks like Avatar had sent a message that some people are willing to pay for a novel experience. So does that mean they should squeeze every little bit out of that phenomenon.

I hope they rethink their strategy now that the numbers for the summer have come in below par. The 3-D Explosion and family flicks are the only thing that kept the numbers from really sinking.

For many people who are just trying to survive these stressful times raising prices is just pushing them over the edge. I know for my family raising prices will make us more discriminating in what we go to see. Of course, there are some movies like Up that we will want to see but for now I told the kids we can have our own theater right in the house and just catch up with some of our favorite DVDs. The wonderful thing about young children is that they are very resourceful and can watch the same thing over and over. Now they are looking forward to making popcorn and milkshakes, and choosing their favorite videos.

On a high note I want to applaud the movie houses that offered children free afternoon flicks of some of their old favorites this summer.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Reminiscences I

Fortunately, I had a very nice summer so I have much to share. In June, I started by attending the Cultural Circle Conference for writers. The topic chosen for their annual conference was finding ways to nurture both our families and our creative impulse. Finding balance is the quest for most parents so it was refreshing to see that the panel did not have one solution but addressed their own needs and struggles while talking about their ways of finding that “me” time. Entrepreneur and author, Kiki Somerville said she needs structure and quiet time to work and develop her relationship with her son. On the other hand filmmaker, Camille Holder-Brown found that with a large family, she had to wing it most of the time and grasp opportunities as they came. Children’s book author, Jwajiku Korantema and artist, Aleathia Brown both felt adversity had helped them set their priorities.

I think nurturing our creativity should be an important part of our lives whether we are creating art, writing a book or raising our children. This workshop helped me re-examine my priorities and remind me that our family relationships are forever changing.

How do you manage your family and still nurture your talents? How many of us are conflicted?


One part of the conference included a poetry workshop. Everyone had to pick a word out of a jar and use this for inspiration in creating a haiku poem. Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines with a ratio of 5, 7, 5 syllables. I picked the word “patience” something I used to have plenty of. After years of waiting to follow my dream “patience” was not the word I wanted to pick. After much angst, I came up with this poem…

Patience’s shadow covers

The playground of life until

The sun’s ray appears

Even though this was a little painful, the workshop has whetted my curiosity and I am ready to try again. So I have been doing a little research on Haiku poetry. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme. I think this could be a great end of summer project for the older kids…writing summer poems. I think we won’t worry about the rules but will just have some fun.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our Little Fashionista

This past Christmas we brought my niece Shakina’s dress from Global Mamas. Global Mamas enhances the international marketplace with unique, high quality, handmade apparel, and at the same time provides sustainable livelihoods for women and girls in Africa. Their vision is for women in Africa to be economically independent. By purchasing Global Mamas’ products, you are offering Sustainable livelihoods to women in Africa. Beside all that the dress was well made and Shakina loves her dress. She wants to wear it every day.

Shakina at 2 years old is already a fashionista. She likes to mix and match outfits that she has pulled out of the hamper. She is particularly attracted to hats. And does she know how to wear them! My mother has nicknamed her “Mademoiselle Chapeau.” Everything and anything can be worn as a hat including her brother’s underwear. With her vivid imagination she manages to look quite stylish in her attire.

The other day my mother bought her a pink potty. She was very happy with it and promptly put it on her head. Now we can’t convince her to use her potty to make her poop. OOH! NO! she exclaims in disgust whenever the issue is broached. In her mind the pink potty belongs in her hat collections.

Global Mamas have a variety of outfits for young people check out their site at

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Milkman Cometh

Believe it or not I remember getting milk delivered to the house back in the early sixties. We lived in East New York on the border of Brooklyn and Queens where there was plenty of open space. Since I spent my first seven years growing up in Harlem when I arrived there I thought for sure we were in the country. The vast land provided a space of horse stables where riders could enjoy. Italian immigrant families had also doted the area with small houses where they grew olive and fruit trees, and the occasional chicken and goat. There was still a working farm nearby that delivered milk to our apartment in glass bottles. The cream would settle to the top so you would always have to shake it before drinking.

So I got a little nostalgic when I heard that the Manhattan Milk Company delivers milk to their customers in Manhattan and plan on expanding their business to Brooklyn and Queens. It’s amazing to watch as old ideas become new again. Maybe I should also tell you back then that a local bakery delivered bread and cakes and if you were very sick the doctor came to your house.

Here is their info or visit

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ezra Jack Keats Awards

This Wednesday I attended one of my favorite events the Ezra Jack Keats Awards held at the main branch of the Public Library at Fifth Ave. These awards are given annually to an outstanding new writer and illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) and are presented jointly by the New York Public Library and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. Ezra Jack Keats was a visionary who created multicultural characters ahead of his time like his classic book, A Snowy Day. He created The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation before he died in 1983. Now his long time friend Martin Pope and his wife, Lillie Pope and daughter Deborah Pope conti
nue to support his vision with special literary projects. Visit

Since I have not been to The Library at Fifth Ave and 42nd, St. in quite a few years I forgot how elegant it is. You know the one with the landmark lions guarding the entrance. The building is being renovated and the Smith Court Auditorium is beautiful. The Children Center is open to visitors. So if you get a chance do visit one of New York’s treasuries -

The stories of the new authors are always special and inspiring. The New Writer Award was given to Tonya Cherie Hegamin for her book Most Loved in All the World. Tonya has this to say about her writing, “… for me, writing has been like falling in love - you're in it, you're out of it, and after a while, when you finally commit to it, you settle into a comfortable pattern that is solid and true.” Despite the tinge of sadness in her story, Most Loved in All the World she feels that the seed of hope pervades her story, “I wanted to write about the lengths mothers will go to for the sake of giving their children a better life. The mother in this long poem is a field slave on a big plantation by day, but at night she is a secret agent for the Underground Railroad. Mama makes a very special gift for her daughter so that even if they can't be together, her child will always remember how much she is loved.” Visit her website

The New Illustrator Award went to Taeeun Yoo for her work on Only a Witch Can Fly. Taeeun was born in Korea and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts Illustration. The Foundation describes her work as exquisite. Check out her work at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Coney Island in February

My niece Shakina and nephew Joshua keep asking me if they can go to the beach as soon as the sun shines through the window in the morning. They are sure it’s a good day for the beach when the sun is shinning so brightly. Try explaining to a two and four year old that this is not beach weather. They just think I am being unreasonable. Luckily, they have great imaginations and set up their own beach party in the hall with blankets, crackers and their favorite dolls and stuffed animals. Their antics remind me of my own experience finding out that a beach day in February is not a good thing.

We were living in Cypress Hills in Brooklyn when my godmother who lived across from us came over with some great news. She had a car for the weekend and after she finished some errands we could go anywhere we wanted in the city. She told my godsister and I the choice was ours. After some discussion my god sister who was also my best friend confided in me that she really had her heart set on going to Coney Island. We rarely had the use of a car and without a car Coney Island was a long trip. So Coney Island it was!

Of course, when we told my godmother our decision I could tell she was not happy. I know she probably gave us a hundred reasons why Coney Island in February was not the best decision but we were not listening. Neither did we listen to weather report – cold air arriving from Alaska. Coney Island! Coney Island! we shouted. She tried to persuade us to change our mind but we were not budging. Coney Island! Coney Island!

So on a cold blistery day in February we headed out to Coney Island. By time we got there it was dark and over cast. To our surprise everything was closed and locked down. Coney Island was deserted. We asked my godmother to drive us around a couple times checking for any signs of life as we peered through the frosted windows. There were no bumper cars, carousel or cyclone.
Finally she had enough, parked the car and said everyone out. “You wanted to go to Coney Island so here we are.” She directed us to the boardwalk for a nice cold walk in February. It was eerie walking on the empty boardwalk with the wind whipping across the sand and the ocean. We huddled together as we walked wondering what went wrong with our plan. When she thought we had enough of our winter excursion she led us over to the one beacon of light in the dark, Nathans. The only place opened all year long.

As we enjoyed our franks and french fries in the car we had a good laugh and realized this was an experience we wouldn’t forget too soon.