Once again (still and always?) I've been inspired by our friends at Dubious Quality.
This links you to an early Christmas shopping list for kids, and I've decided to plagiarize the whole idea. Now, I can't even approach Bill in his role as arbiter of all things cool and neat and interesting, so I'm just going to share some items that are marginally cool, somewhat neat and perhaps a little bit interesting for your ostensible reading and gift-giving pleasure.
Okay, first up:
The Monkey Board
Bambina is a rock star on this toy. It's active, it's fun (even for parents who want to see how well they can balance, surf or generally support themselves with their core muscles), and it's inexpensive and easy to assemble.
Thank you Uncle N and Aunt S for this gift that keeps on giving.
I have found myself getting equally engrossed as the Bambina in building something. It really encourages imagination as well as spatial skills, as evidenced by Bambina's construction of "a swing set," "a building with a restaurant on the top floor that spins," "the Buddhist tower we climbed when I was a baby in China," and "a dog." I pretty much just sit back and watch in amazement at the cool things these wedgits turn into the hands of an imaginative kid.
Sounds like a too-small gift, but it's awesome. It's nontoxic, rubs off easily, and is responsible for upwards of 100 hours of time passed enjoyably with the Bambina. Definitely buy three packages at a time because kids have no sense of "Whoa! That's too much!" on the page, so you'll go through it pretty quickly. And you'll end up with some great art projects and wonderful homemade cards for people.
Be prepared to spend a decent amount of time trying to figure out how to make a crane while your kid immediately folds it randomly and says "it's a penguin!" The right package will have tons of paper colors and "origami for morons" instructions. It's a great rainy day gig or not-napping-but-really-ought-to afternoon where you just need a quiet activity that keeps kids engrossed. Throw in the book by Grace Lin, Lissy's Friends, about a girl who makes origami friends when she's the new kid in school, and it'll be a complete gift.
Dan Zanes and Friends CDs and DVD
I avoided DZ for a long time because his photo creeped me out. Until I was forced to listen to him when Bambina clicked on his photo on the Disney website. Who knew?! His songs are awesome, many of them traditional or folk tunes from the US and abroad, and they are 100% NOT annoying if they get stuck in your head. Bambina has decided she is now Barbara Brousal, the DZ and Friends guitarist, so we have to put her hair in pigtails and wear colorful clothes and sing the Barbara songs all day. Sometimes I think I've had enough of it all and then I remember that it's "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "Strike the Bell" rather than The Wiggles' "Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car," and I feel total peace.
American Girl dolls
Bambina LOVES her Bitty Baby from American Girls. She picked it herself from the baby photos, which represent a good array of ethnic and racial features. Bambina immediately picked the baby with the medium brown skin, barely looking at the others. My only warning is that the older dolls seem to be less diverse. Lots of the standard light skin/brown hair; light skin/black hair, dark skin/curly hair, etc. Also, in both the Bitty Baby and AG girl collections, South Asian people seem not to be represented. For example, from the BB collection the only non-caucasian choices were light skin/almond eyes, medium skin/round eyes, and dark skin/round eyes. Bambina has brown skin and almond eyes, a choice not available either in BB or AG selections (or seemingly anywhere else, as if the entire continent of Asia south of, say, Shanghai doesn't exist). I know I sound like a total fat-headedly liberal nitpicker, but when you are aiming for diversity and your whole deal is to sell "dolls that look like you!", you ought not to omit the features of millions of people on the planet. That said, militant midget that I am, the doll has brought Bambina a lot of joy. I can tell having brown dolls with dark hair as well as white dolls with blond hair really matters to her, and it therefore matters to me. And beyond all the subconscious messages of ethnic self-acceptance and beauty, I love American Girls dolls because the clothes and shoes are waaay cute too.
A Kite. Any kite.
We read a lot of Grace Lin books (which you should also check out), our latest favorite being "Kite Flying." After reading it, Bambina insisted that we build a family kite. So, being the thumbless wonder that I am, I bought one and convinced her that "building a kite" could also encompass activities like "opening the package" and "tying the string to the little fabric hoop." The real story of the kite however, the one that gets it included on this list, is the day we actually flew it at a local park. Baby Daddy was holding the string and Bambina and I were holding the kite as we started running. No go. Bambina declared strongly that I should "stop pulling me!" while running. Okay. Baby Daddy, why don't we switch? The Girl and I will hold the string and YOU run with the kite. No go. I was still "pulling" her, not to mention realizing that I had no idea how to keep a kite up if indeed it did manage to get aloft. Okay. Baby Daddy, what are our options here? I can't run fast enough for the kite while holding her without doing myself some damage, nor can I run slow enough for the girl without completely failing at kite-flying. We need to fly this kite for this child on this day or we both know we ain't coming back out here till spring and that's not an option. So, rockstar daddy that he is, he just instinctively picked up the girl and the string, started running down the field like his Olympic career depended on it, and yelled, "Go! Now!" I shambled along trying to keep up, finally managing to launch it at the right moment, and off the kite went into the sky! I damn near cried, I tell you. I started screaming, "Woo Hoo!" Bambina started screaming, "Yay!" while gleefully laughing, and we couldn't stop jumping up and down even when the kite finally landed. So yeah, it was a ten dollar kite on a sort-of windy day. But it was also one of those days that, even when my kid is 45, I'll still remember the sound of her laugh, the wonder of seeing the dragon kite in the sky just as she'd imagined it, the physical and psychological freedom of running wild in a big field with no mask, no gloves and no worries, and being reminded that any man who can make his two girls that happy in one moment is a very special man indeed.
Now, with all the kid stuff out of the way, a couple of things for the grownups:
GabbyBaby These baby onesies and shirts have fabulous sayings on them such as, "please don't ask my mom rude questions thank you xoxo" and "please be nice to my parents they don't get a lot of sleep." Totally subversive in a totally cute way.
Of all the things in my life that have changed since my transplant the one that has brought the most drama-of-the-nondangerous-but-irritating-nonetheless kind has been my skin. My skin has been in freefall since chemo with no end to the peeling, drying and redness in sight. Just as I was telling myself that lots of people walk around with their faces covered in vaseline 24/7 with correlating greasy hair, Sweet D inquired whether I might be interested in checking out SukiColor cosmetics. Well, cosmetics, not yet. But SukiPure skin care? Hell, yeah! The situation with my skin is that it simply can't handle any kind of chemical whatsoever. Aveeno irritates it. Cetaphil irritates it. Even the vaseline and aquaphor weren't really fixing it; they were just kind of protecting it from any further onslaught. It turns out that all of those products have preservatives or are (duh) petroleum-derived. All irritating to extremely sensitive skin. As late as last week I tried a new Aveeno cream and woke up with my face bright red and perhaps twice the size of normal. Look for me as the villain in the next Fantastic Four movie... Anyway. Short story long: I tried the SukiPure facial lotion (which, I swear, has nothing in it that is not organic and completely pronounceable) and my skin actually feels good. The dryness is still there but it's not hurting and not making me want to scratch my skin off, and at any rate I assume it will take longer than two days to rid myself of a 4-month skin condition. So if you have any kind of skin sensitivity or are worried about putting lotion on your kids that contains known carcinogens (in "safe" amounts of course) as preservatives, absolutely get yourself to SukiPure. And if you'd like some lipstick that doesn't cause you to eat 100 pounds of parabens over a lifetime, check out SukiColor.
And speaking of eating, if you'd like to bake the coolest cupcake ever, head on over to Williams-Sonoma to get the Giant Cupcake Cake Pan. I'm not a baker, but making a Giant Cupcake might just convince me to give it a try.
Okay, so that should keep you busy for one Monday morning...