Produced by Gary Drevitch
THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO THE LIBRARY SINCE DEWEY'S DIGITS
The New York Public Library has expanded hours at its HQ and at many of its neighborhood branches, restoring some of its drastic post-9/11 cuts in service. What does this mean for you? It means that working moms and dads might now actually be able to see the inside of a library children's room, since many branches' children's room hours had been chopped to 12-5 on three or four weekdays plus, maybe, a few hours on Saturday. Manhattanites, find your new branch hours here. Now if they'd only open up their bathrooms for kids; our local library is one of those places where they'll look your squirming kid in the eye and tell them there's no bathroom, when you and they both know that the people who work there have a place to go.
THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO SCHOOL PLAYGROUNDS SINCE DEWEY'S SEE-SAW
The Trust for Public Land, aka City Spaces, has joined with the NYC Dept. of Ed. in a $25 million program to build playgrounds beside schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods, all of which will be open to the public each day after school. Which is good news. That's all.
TODAY ON OPRAH: WHY DO LITTLE SISTERS STAY IN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS?
Our guest for this very special broadcast is Tiny Girl from New York City. Her brother, Small Fellow, repeatedly violates her personal space to wrench toys and books from her hands. And yet, every single night, she goes to bed in the same room as him, and wakes up to welcome the new day with a hopeful smile and a bubbly, "Wake up, fellow!"
Oh, yeah, and at the end, everybody gets a car.
YOUR OPTIONS: A $90 TALKING KITCHEN TOY, OR PLAYING WITH FRIENDS
With the $90 MagiCook Kitchen from Little Tikes:
electronic chips in pretend foods are read by sensors in the stovetop, which respond with over 100 specific food and cooking phrases. Sensors can also tell whether more than one food at a time is placed on the stovetop or in the oven, and respond with phrases like “What a creative dish.” The kitchen also speaks three languages: English, French or Spanish, and includes a volume switch.Kids, let your imagination run wild. . . sorry, stroll within these constraints.
TELL THAT GRUMPY OLD MAN FROM "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" THAT YOUTH IS NOT ALWAYS "WASTED ON THE WRONG PEOPLE"
The publishers of Queens underground sensation Neighborhood Boy are our new favorite New York City elementary school kids. The Times profiled them in brief last week, but the Queens Tribune had already gone in-depth on the fellas weeks ago:
When asked about the cost of printing, Gabriel explained it was a major expense, but “Depending on who’s at the copy shop, there’s a nice girl – ”Did we mention we love these kids?
FD.COM IS NOT ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY. STILL, IF YOU'RE IN NEW YORK CITY, AND YOU DON'T TAKE YOUR KIDS TO THIS, IT'S VERY POSSIBLE YOU DON'T LOVE THEM.
We took Small and Tiny to the New York Botanical Garden's annual Holiday Train Show on Sunday. If there's a better family holiday destination in the city, well, we're listening. After a circuitous walk through the garden conservatory, where we visited cacti, mosses, orchids, and Venus fly-traps, we opened the nondescript door to the legitimately magical 6,000 square foot train space, and Small Fellow took off like a rocket, chasing around the two rooms, spotting all the trains and bridges he could and screaming for us to join him and "Come see!"
(For those not in the know, the deal is this: They make replicas of NYC landmarks, buildings, and bridges, entirely out of plant materials - bark, mushroom, berries, leaves, etc. - it's a little like the Rose Bowl parade's floats made of flowers, except not so crappy. A number of large toy trains circle the buildings, which are neither to scale, nor following the city's map - the Guggenheim is just two doors down from the Apollo Theater, for example - and that's the show. They've been doing it since 1991, and they add new buildings each year. This year, come marvel at the reimagined Brooklyn Bridge. The Guggenheim, for our money, is the architectural highlight of the show, with its spirals made of - what else? - fungi.)
As if the trains weren't enough, you follow them up with a stroll to the children's garden, where it's gingerbread season, and kids can learn about and then decorate and eat their own ginger cookies. The garden's gift shop is also one of the best.
All in all, a lovely day, unless you hate joy.
WE - DON'T - NEED - NO - EDUCATION! WE - DON'T - NEED - NO - THOUGHT - CONTROL! BUT A GOOD LITIGATOR WOULD DO NICELY, THANKS.
The 23 schoolkids who upended British society in 1979 by harmonizing, after a fashion, for Pink Floyd's "The Wall," are suing for their share of the royalties.
ALL SHE WANTED WAS TO DRINK HER COFFEE ON HER PATIO, WATCH HER KIDS PLAY, AND KEEP THEM OUT OF RACIALLY DIVERSE SCHOOLS. IS THAT SO WRONG?
This must-read article offers some insight into how hard people will fight to get their children into the right school district. As the Times reports (and people wonder how families allow themselves to look so bad on reality shows?), the Kiefs bought a home in a Westchester County development believing they'd be able to attend a nearby public school built by the Rockefellers and featuring an Olympic-size pool. Instead, they were callously assigned to a perfectly good school in Tarrytown, NY, with a majority minority student body. (One can almost hear their daughter standing at the train platform beside her father, plaintively singing "Far From the Home I Love.") Mrs. Kief speculates at the close of this priceless artifact that if every suburban home buyer had to worry that he was not, in fact, in the school district he had chosen, "There'd be anarchy. There'd be rioting in the streets." Overturned Ford Explorers burning in front of City Hall, soccer fields laid waste . . . it's a nightmare vision undreamed of by the makers of "The Day After Tomorrow."
(Of course, we're not saying we wouldn't be outraged if the same thing happened to us. . .)
We've been trying out the "Junior" versions of everyone's favorite word games here, and we're delivering a thumbs-up for Scrabble Junior. The game's inspired innovation is its two-sided board: One side has blank squares (but no double word scores or letter values) for older kids to place their own self-spelled words on the board, but the other has a couple of dozen words printed right on it. Kids match letters to the words, spelling them as they go along. It's a great pre-reading game, it requires a bit of strategy, and since one only gets points by adding the final letter to a given word (words must be filled in in order), a child has a great chance of actually winning. Thumbs down, however, for Boggle Junior, a muddle of a non-game in which kids simply get a stack of cards with three- and four-letter words and eight letter cubes. They peek at each word's spelling, then find the right cubes to replicate, which is not entirely without value, we suppose, but for the same payoff, save a few dollars and just pick up "My First ABC Alphabet Card Game," a deck of simple spelling cards from Briarpatch.
FD.COM TAKES YOU BEHIND THE SCENES
We watched the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade join the route from our viewing station on a "balloon block." While Kermit, Clifford, and Big Bird impressed us with their girth and Spongebob electrified the crowd by sheer force of celebrity, for our money the most intriguing characters on the block were the three new Weeble "balloonicles," brand-new combination balloon-vehicles. When the announcer called for the Weebles to "Join the parade!" one Weeble had, while not fallen down, certainly sagged. The poor deflated fellow was pushed to the curb while the show went on and his Weeble brothers took their positions on Central Park West. But then, after several other balloons, bands, and floats moved into position the third Weeble miraculously picked himself up off the turf like Warren Beatty in the climactic scene of "Heaven Can Wait," raced past a New Orleans high school band and the giant Charlie Brown balloon (which it recklessly bumped, if you ask us) and joined its comrades just moments before they passed 77tht Street and the official start line of the parade. Needless to say, Small Fellow cheered this Comeback Weeble with great enthusiasm. And when the block was clear of corporate spokesballoons, we went inside to watch the rest of the parade on TV. Ah, holiday tradition . . .
NO, NEW YORK TIMES! WE TOLD YOU TO STOP SCOLDING US AND WE MEANT IT! NOW GO TO BED!
According to this week's Science Times, depending on which survey you ask, anywhere between 88 and 98 percent of parents yell at their children - at least once in the past year. "Not all children suffer as a result," the TIMES reports, and "researchers are trying to codify the definition of emotional abuse." But researchers have found that "a chronic pattern of psychological mistreatment" can decimate a child's self-esteem, while "yelling can also make parents feel worse." It "overpowers children, it makes them feel frustrated and angry," and -- OK, OK! We'll stop! No more yelling! You've made your point, New York Times! From now on, everyone can pee on the floor, throw their food off the table, and run ahead of us into the crosswalk - with impunity. Because Lord knows we don't want to, what was it? Oh yeah, we don't want to overpower their "sense of self." Thank you for showing us the error of our ways. It won't happen again.
AND YOU JUST KNOW THAT 90% OF THE WITHDRAWLS ARE FOR BOYS TRYING TO BUY INTO A TEXAS HOLD 'EM GAME IN THE BACK OF THE BAND ROOM
While you were busy campaigning for curriculum reform and teacher training, someone snuck ATMs into your kid's high school. Possibly the worst idea since our high school brought in a Mountain Dew machine back in 84, the ATMs seem to be a hit among the junior debit-card set, but critics correctly argue (surprisingly, not until the second-to-last paragraph) that, while the machines might bring some revenue into schools, they also "[detract] from the integrity and moral authority of the school and its ability to educate students." Hey, Principal Skinner, the ATM's out of money. Run down to the bank and get me some twenties!
THIS IS WHY WE ALWAYS LET TINY GIRL HAVE A COOKIE AFTER DINNER
Anorexic girls are bonding online, making them that much harder to reach.
WE GOT THE REAL BACKSTAGE SCOOP: WHEN AN ANEMONE FROM SPONGEBOB'S POSSE DRENCHED DORA THE EXPLORER'S MANOLOS, CLIFFORD HAD TO STEP IN AND LAY THE SMACK DOWN
In a kind of "We Are the World" for the Noggin set, Spongebob, Barney, Clifford, Dora, Big Bird, and other children's stars have come together to make a music video promoting tolerance and diversity in classrooms. The video of the characters singing Sister Sledge's "We are Family" will be sent to 61,000 schools nationwide. Organizers say they expect the video to successfully distract children from their math and English lessons. On the bright side, studies show that a message of tolerance delivered through the medium of a pop song whose lyrics are only tangentially related to the subject should be expected to penetrate one-half of one percent of students.
What's the teaching point here? "Look, kids, how well Clifford and Barney get along, and they're so different." Duh! They're, like, the two friendliest characters on TV. It's like Canada getting along with Australia. It ain't news.
PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND
Colorado State University sophomore Samantha Spady, 19, drank herself to death near campus back in September. The tragedy was truly a shock to the system for the State U. community, which has responded with an outpouring of, well, booze.
In fact, a Fort Collins bar recently planned a Jell-O Wrestling night in Samantha’s honor, to raise money for a foundation to promote alcohol awareness – don’t get up, it gets better – and the evening would have included – wait for it – FREE SHOTS FOR WOMEN!
But, wouldn’t you know it, Samantha’s parents objected to the plan, and pressured the bar to cancel Wrestle-O, as the night was to be called.
Still on tap: Plans for a Wet T-Shirt contest to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
HEY, RUNNING AROUND THE LOBBY BEATS STANDING ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF A GYM THROWING RUBBER BALLS AT EACH OTHER'S HEADS
New York City teachers are staying up late thinking of ways to get some low-budget gym into our kids, even if it has to happen in hallways or lobbies. More power to them. Whatever they come up with is OK with us, unless it's this.
READY TO GIVE YOUR DEFINITION OF "GOOD NEWS" A REAL STRETCH?
Kids are drinking more milk - at Wendy's. (No, we have no idea why this Wall St. Journal article is posted on a real estate site, either.)
We have said goodbye to the pacifier. What finally convinced Small Fellow to give it up, you might ask. Was it our appeals to logic? No! Was it our attempts to shame him? No way! Was it yelling at him? Not even close! It was. . . his teeth!
As you may know, when a child puts a hole in a pacifier, through repeated chomping, the offending object must be discarded, as it becomes a health-and-safety hazard. Well, with his nearly four-year-old teeth, Fellow bit right through each of the last two pacifiers made available to him. And so we explained that since pacifiers are made for 18-month-old toddlers, whose teeth are much less strong than his, he'd keep biting through pacifiers and we'd have to keep throwing them away. Best to just stop now and avoid the risks of choking.
And so we have.
FREDDY ADU HE'S NOT (NO, WAIT, WE MEAN FREDDY ADU WE'RE NOT)
Played a vigorous game of one-on-one soccer in Central Park with Fellow Saturday morning and came away impressed by his instincts and disappointed in our hamstrings. He won the game, 22-18, and reminded us the rest of the weekend that "I won the game, and you lost the game." He repeatedly asked us, "Are you sad because you lost the game?" in a manner that has convinced us to go Great Santini on him next time we get him on the field.
IT'S LIKE THAT OLD JOKE ABOUT THE BLACK BOX: "EVERY TIME THERE'S A PLANE CRASH, YOU HEAR THAT THE ONLY THING THAT SURVIVES IS THE BLACK BOX. SO WHY DON'T THEY MAKE THE WHOLE PLANE OUT OF THE BLACK BOX?"
KATIE AND MATT, THIS JUST IN: A CORPORATE SPOKESBEAR DEMANDING A HUG DOES NOT A GREAT TOY MAKE
Here's our beef with all of these end-of-the-annus "Toys of the Year" lists, of which the "Today" show's appears to be among the lamest: We don't need them. The best toys for toddlers will remain blocks, puzzles, balls, crayons, Legos, and play farms, among others, for this and several years to come.
In Matt and Katie's defense, we'll concede that the "Love to Walk Baby Pooh" sure looks amusing (for about 20 minutes) and we have no reason to dispute claims that the Radio Flyer Retro Rocket makes "realistic rocket sounds" (you'll be opening the rocket up to cut the wires that make those sounds within a week). As for the rest of the list, the toys seem just like the toys you have now, except with more bells and whistles. (The great thing about writing on toys is that when you say "bells and whistles," it's not a cliche; the items simply contain more features that produce the sounds of bells and whistles. . .)
ON NEWSSTANDS NOW
FD has an item in the December issue of Parents (not available online) featuring tips for dads watching football with their preschoolers and facing the inevitable question, "Why are those men hurting each other?" We advise explaining that tackling is part of the game, that the players wear pads to avoid getting hurt, that if they play too rough their team will be "punished" with a penalty, and that if Terrell Owens celebrates a touchdown on OUR field by signing the ball with a Sharpie, you better believe he deserves the clotheslining he's gonna get.
IF THE KETTLER IS THE PORSCHE OF TRICYCLES, LET US INTRODUCE YOU TO THE ROLLS
The Journal last week offered this feature on the Kettler, the German-made tricycle that offers parents the chance to spend several times the average price for the category. We've never understood why anyone would spend their money on a Kettler trike when the Schwinn Tiger, which will actually help your kid learn how to ride a bike - and, with its detachable training wheels, will become his first bike - is on the market for $100.
But if you do happen to have $1500 burning a hole in your pocket, get yourself to morgancycle.com. The company was offering free test runs of its finely-crafted roadster in Central Park a few weeks ago and Small Fellow was so inspired by his ride that he . . . ran home to grab his Schwinn and take it for a spin.
We don't know too much about the diseases that run in our family - though we're pretty sure our mother has all of 'em. The sound advice here, to discuss your family history around the family Thanksgiving table and make a record of it, could save your kids lives one day. And while it might sound a bit morbid, just consider the conversation you'd be having otherwise. ("No, Mom, it's a BLOG. It's just something I do on the computer and then it goes onto the Internet. Sure, anyone can find it. They can just enter my name in Google. No, that SHOULDN'T be a crime. I WANT people to find it. Ah, screw it - what killed your mother?")
"DOGS ARE THE NEW CHILDREN." THAT'S RIGHT. BECAUSE JUST LIKE DOGS, WHEN CHILDREN BREAK THEIR LEGS, THEIR PEDIATRICIANS CALL THEIR OWNERS AND ASK IF THEY'D RATHER SHELL OUT $500 OR HAVE THEM PUT TO SLEEP. SAME THING.
OK, here's our confession: FD is not a pet person. So you can understand our lack of enthusiasm over the impending arrival of New York Dog at our local magazine stand.
"Dogs are the new children, so we've created a parenting magazine," said John Ryan, the publisher of the bimonthly full-color magazine, which premiered in October. "We deal with diet, health, therapy, fashion — even obituaries."
Whatever, John. Dogs are the new children and New York Dog will soon be your old magazine.
Dateline goes undercover to find health violations in America's school cafeterias. And, wouldn't you know it, everywhere they look, they find serious health issues - but apparently no sick kids. The link is to an overlong article, but fortunately Dateline delivers the money line right up top:
Chris Hansen :"You know, kids aren't falling over sick every day in America's schools. Is this really that big of a problem?"
Prof. Jennifer Berg: "Now, people say that all the time. But that's-- that's Russian roulette with kids' health and their lives."
In my remake of "Deer Hunter," Chris Walken will sit behind a plate of six chicken patty sandwiches. Which one wasn't cooked to the prescribed temperature, becoming a petri dish for bacterial growth? I've got a $%^&* game for you. . .
WOW. GROWING UP, THE ONLY STICKERS ON OUR TEXTBOOKS SAID "AEROSMITH"
A suburban Atlanta school system adds stickers to textbooks reminding kids that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." Local students respond, "Listen, just tell us if this is going to be on the test."
PLEASE, WON'T YOU TAKE JUST A MOMENT TO WRITE A CHECK TO HELP ERADICATE MICHIGAN J. FROG SYNDROME. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS.
Small Fellow and Tiny Girl had rare simultaneous attacks of dreaded Michigan J. Frog Syndrome the other day. Our friends from Chicago had come all the way to the East Coast to see the little ones live up to their reputations as promising singers, dancers, and raconteurs. Instead, like Warner Brothers' famous frog, they simply rolled around on the floor, occasionally producing a grunt or a giggle. And, wouldn't you know it, as soon as our company left, the kids played a game of championship Scrabble, produced a new translation of "Gilgamesh," and staged a flawless reading of Dylan Thomas' "Under Milkwood."