Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Favorite Pick for Christmas - Too Many Tamales

It's Christmas Eve and we will be reading some of our favorite Christmas stories. One favorite pick is Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto.  Maria is trying so hard to be grown up by helping to prepare Christmas dinner but what happens when she thinks she has lost her mother's treasured ring in a batch of tamales.  She and her cousins learn  lesson in telling the truth and the importance of family love. 

May you have warmth and love in this season, and enjoy creating new traditions with your children. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

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Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

Here is a wonderful project to share as a family during the holiday break. The Parent Teacher Association in Connecticut is collecting handmade snowflakes from children everywhere to help decorate the halls of the brand new school where the Sandy Hook elementary students will be returning after the holidays.

Families can brighten the day for Sandy Hook children by sending their snowflakes to :  Connecticut PTA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514 before January 12, 2013.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let Us Keep the Light Shinning In Sandy Hook

"The Light Shines In The Darkness and the Darkness Has Never Put It Out"

My prayers go out to all the families in Newton, Connecticut.  Words cannot express the pain, sorrow and the lost we are feeling as a community.  We may never have answers for  why this horrendous crime occurred but we can keep our candle lit. As a community there is much work to be done but for now we can be a beacon of light for our neighbors in Newton and support them in their time of mourning.

I like the idea that Karen Wolrond shared on her blog, Chookooloonks for reaching out to the families of Sandy Hook. Please share with others and let the light continue to shine:

"If anyone wants to mail sympathy cards or letters of support and solidarity to the school, the school address is: Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive, Sandy Hook, CT 06482. Please copy/paste/share, anywhere you prefer. Prayers and sending a card may seem something small, but at least, it's something we can do."

“I think this is a stellar idea.  It's also something that our kids might enjoy doing to help process their feelings about what they hear on the news.”

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sharing Gratitude

The Thankful Tree

Hurricane Sandy in the east and droughts in the west have made this Thanksgiving a special time to reflect on how important our community is.  Listening to the wonderful stories of  people and groups caring for each other after Sandy is a refreshing change from the usual nightly TV fare.  While watching neighbors helping neighbors, I realize that something really beautiful can come out of adversity. There are many lessons to be learned from this experience. I hope that our young people will realize the importance of building community and providing service for others.  I also hope that they will learn to honor the wisdom of the first Native Americans, and respect our natural environment.

Each Thanksgiving I try to provide a project that connects the children in the family with a deeper meaning of giving thanks.  This year I liked Daily Candy's Gratitude Jar and the Thankful tree by Simply Vintage Girl.  I liked both their ideas and I think we will probably extend them beyond the holidays.    Thanksgiving and Gratitude show be celebrated every day.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"The Carousel That Could" Symbolizes the Spirit of New York

One year after its’ installation Jane’s Carousel was becoming the landmark for children at the Bridge Park on the Brooklyn waterfront. Then Sandy sweep through bringing fear that the three million dollar installation would not weather the storm but, fortunately, this carousel has had a history of endurance. 

The carousel was built in 1922 to bring joy and delight to children at Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio. When a fire consumed the park in the 1970s,  the carousel was spared.  The historic carousel was then purchased by Jane Walenta and her husband who spent nearly three decades painstakingly restoring it and then installing it last year at the park. Now after withstanding the ravages of Sandy, the carousel has been nicknamed “The Little Carousel That Could,” symbolic of the resilience of New York.

John Seabrook in his article for The New Yorker explained the significance of the now symbolic image above:

“Few pictures of Hurricane Sandy captured both the enormity of the disaster and the unquenchable spirit buried deep in the city’s core better than the image of Jane’s Carousel, the glass-enclosed merry-go-round on the waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge, taken at the height of the storm.  The photo shows the dark water lapping at the horses’ hooves, with the eerie blacked-out lower-Manhattan skyline in the background, and the festive riderless ponies twinkling merrily in the bright yellow light. Originally posted on Instagram and picked up by CNN, the picture was seen all around the world; at one point that night it was at the top of Twitter’s trends.”

Read more about The Carousel That Could.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sesame Street Hurricane Kit

Sesame Street Hurricane Kit offers children and parents an opportunity to discuss children's fears about Sandy and other disasters.  "Hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters can be difficult for young children who may not fully understand what's going on around them. These tips, activities, and videos can help them feel safe, cope with emotions, and understand that there is hope for the future." Check out their program at

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Monday, October 29, 2012

What is a Maker Faire? Part I

For a few years now I have been wondering, what is a Maker Faire?  This year I finally got my answer when I attended the World Maker Faire 2012 at the Hall of Science in Queens. Now after two days of whimsy and wonderment, I still don’t have a definition but I heard one participant describe it as a feast for nerds, engineers, designers and eccentrics. One little girl described it as magical. It was definitely fun as makers displayed their wares and inventions, some very useful and others well…very imaginative. It was a coming together of the creative community.

There were buildings made entirely of toothpicks at Toothpick World. Think of viewing a miniature city housed with the Taj Mahl, Empire State building, Notre Dame and many other major buildings from around the world all made of toothpicks.  Then there were-D projections that you watch through special glasses, light shows, robots and even a zombie detector.

To get a better idea of what the World Maker Faire is all about, I asked Maker Faire Producer, Louise Glasgow.  Listen to her response.

What is a Maker Faire? Part II "Every Child a Maker"

At the Maker Faire 2012, Ann Marie Thomas explains the potential for the Maker Faire in "Every Child a Maker".  Through the Maker Education Initiative,  teachers and parents can participate in Maker Faire.  They can engage children in creating fun projects and developing their imagination. Sounds like fun!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE LOOK: Elmo Talks Through His Style A to Z

Now that shopping for school is out of the way, it's time for some fun shopping!  Get some
tips on the latest fashion from Elmo or maybe just get a good laugh.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lily the Newest Member of Sesame Street Wants Everyone to Know about Hunger and Children

Watch Growing Hope Against Hunger - Preview on PBS. See more from pbs.
Finding ways to alleviate hunger and provide proper nutrition to young people has become a major issue in this country, particularly, since the economic downturn. Last October, Sesame Street introduced a character to address some of the issues of hunger through a child’s point of view. Lily, a new character whose family is having economic problems was introduced to children. Her character was an opportunity for young people to develop empathy toward those in need, and for those who are experiencing hunger to realize there is hope.  Months of research, interviews with parents and children and character development went into creating Lily.  Lily will not be a full time member of Sesame Street but will appear on the website to address issues. In the special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,”  shown last year Lily along with Elmo, and Brad and Kimberly Paisley discusses solutions like community projects and urban gardening.  Sesame Street is using their site to provide information for families on making it through stressful times.  Now families can meet Lily, and discuss their concerns.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New York City Transit Provides Artistic Expression for Children's Book Illustrators

New York City Transit seems an unlikely patron of the arts but for years they have supported various art and musical projects Think about all the musicians who perform underground and the art work and murals gracing the walls and tiles of the subway going as far back as the Great Depression.  

For their latest project, The Metropolitan Transit Authority's Arts for Transit program has commissioned children's book illustrators Sophie Blackall and R. Gregory Christie to each create a poster for the Big Apple's subway cars.  Each artist created his or her own story and vision to enhance the experience of New Yorkers’ underground experience. Now families can enjoy colorful banners with “rainbow-hued musicians, fish, and a cornucopia of straphangers” as they trek through The Big Apple.” Gregory Christie, the recipient of three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards is also a subway rider. “"I wanted to create something adults, kids and teens would be interested in looking at, but would be modern and striking in a gray under dwelling."
Sophie Blackball was inspired by the sketchbooks she has filled riding the subway over the years to create a poster that features 30 New Yorkers, including two Muslim students, a fisherman, a Hassidic man, and even her own children - with her son carrying a skateboard and sporting a blue helmet, and her daughter decked out in bright yellow tights. "This was one of my dream jobs, apart from a New Yorker cover."
Now everyone can enjoy their work as you travel underground in the city, and if inspired can buy a copy of the posters at

Monday, March 19, 2012

Children Design HappyDolls for Tohoku

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the Japan Society provided children with the opportunity to design HappyDolls for Tohoku.  Over 50 children designed and created HappyDolls and messages to send to the children in Tohoku.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Lorax - A Movie with a Message

I always wonder why every sci-fi movie except for the Jetsons depicts the future as bleak and scary? Can’t humans create a world where peace and harmony with each other and the environment is possible? Maybe, we need a constant reminder that caring for our planet is important.  Movies like The Lorax provide that gentle reminder. Do we really want to wake up in a town like Thneedville where everything is colorful and plastic but fresh air is sold in bottles?

Everyone in Thneedville seems quite satisfied with their artificial world until one day, a young lady named Audrey decides she would love to see a real tree. Ted, her twelve-year-old admirer is not quite sure what a tree is but he is determined to grant her wish. Thus sets in motion this Dr. Seuss adventure where colorful gold fish sing, trees look like cotton candy and lots of cuddly creatures roam. Along the way we meet the Lorax, guardian of the trees, a misguided entrepreneur, corporate greed in the form of a financial wiz and a feisty grandmother.

Of course, there are lessons to learn in a Dr. Seuss sort of way with plenty of music and rhyme. Children will feel like they have jumped into a Dr. Seuss’ book, which comes alive in 3-D with all the color and characters of his special world. The Lorax will spark lots of questions and conversation so after the movie; the book, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss first written in 1971 is still available to continue the adventure.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin wins The Golden Globe

The Adventures of Tintin won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards last week. It was the first non-Pixar film to win the award.

At last year’s Comic Con, the large comic book festival in NYC, I was surprised to see a  booth devoted to Tintin. I had to check if this was the same Tintin that I knew. I was first introduced to Tintin in a French class.  He was a character created by Herge´, a Belgian comic book artist. We were required to practice our French by reading books including children's stories and easy readers. I was curious when I found the works of Herge´ in the college library. They were hard covered comic books recounting the adventures of a young fifteen-year-old reporter who can best be described as a young Indiana Jones.  Herge´’s stories were influenced by national geographic and the intrigues of World War I.  I enjoyed following Tintin’s adventures although I later found out some of the stories had included many of the racial stereotypes that were prevalent at that time. One book in particular, Tintin in the Congo has been deemed racist and controversial. In some countries it has been banned or labeled inappropriate for children. Herge´ later admitted there was a problem with his earlier works and with maturity he would have handled the stories differently.

Tintin was never popular in the US but in Europe he was well loved. In 1983, Steven Spielberg was introduced to Tintin and contacted Herge´ to obtain the film rights.

Flash forward almost thirty years and The Adventures of Tintin has finally hit the screen. This was a story that had been put on the back burner for so long that fans of Herge´ thought it would never be made but as Spielberg explains, the timing was right today with a new technology that makes the characters look almost real. Spielberg has woven several of Herge’s stories together to introduce Tintin to a new generation.  The Tintin, he has presented is sanitized without the racial stereotypes that marred some of the books. However, there are other parts of the story that have not been cleaned up like Captain Haddock, Tintin’s confidant who has a drinking problem. His condition is handled in a humorous way on screen and later he is able to vindicate himself.

The new version of The Adventures of Tintin is a story of intrigue and redemption.  Spielberg has tried to bring to the screen that part of Tintin that was loved for generations.  For young people who do not have any historical references Tintin is a brand new character that is both likeable and exciting. Everyone loves mystery, intrigue and swashbuckling adventure. New technology also makes the characters so life-like that it is amazing to watch.  But can Tintin be redeemed from the mistakes of his creator to become a modern day heroic figure?  Other characters have been able to rise above their flawed past but only time will tell.