The No Schlepping, No Shipping Gift Guide (With a Giveaway of Course)

We’ll be lighting the menorah on Wednesday night while leftover cranberry sauce still jiggles in the back of the fridge.  Even the procrastinators have an excuse this year (not like Christmas which is always the 25th, I mean come on it’s not like you didn’t see it coming!)  So for all of you who have been caught by surprise here is my no schlep, no ship gift guide when it’s gotta be there ASAP but you don’t want to get off your ASS to get it -or even pay for shipping.  Good for Xmas (and those sneaky birthdays too)

Many of my specific suggestions are NYC-centric but you can take the idea and Google away locally!

1 – Museum or Zoo Membership: I love NYC for the incredibly rich array of cultural institutions that enrich every borough.  But, no matter where you live chances are there’s a museum, zoo or other site that your loved ones would go to on a regular basis.  Membership is a fantastic way to give all year long, plus it’s tax deductible and takes up no room in the house!  Win-win all around.  And sometimes they throw in a T-Shirt too!

My faves: The American Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Conservation Society for 4 NYC zoos & aquarium

2- Theater Tickets – It’s not just a gift, it’s an outing.  Have a drama queen, a gleek or budding musical genuis in your midst? Have theater loving friends?  Take them to a show.  Many children’s theaters have subscription series so you can enjoy shows all year round.  Or make a special day of it and throw in dinner or lunch as well.

My faves: The New Victory Theater Subscription for kids and Roundabout Theater Subscription for adults

3 – Groceries – OK – that sounds weird right?  But who wouldn’t love their groceries covered at least once?  Takes a big bite out of the family budget so not having to worry about it for at least a week is a true gift.

My Fave: Fresh Direct – It’s not just groceries, it’s wine and prepared food too – delivered exactly when you want it to your door.

4- Design Your Own Sneakers – I almost didn’t put this in because it is my go to gift of the moment.  So, if you’re invited to the same parties as I am you are not allowed to give this – but if you don’t even know me you should jump on this!  Send a $75 e-gift certificate to the fashionista of your choice and they can go online to design their very own custom Converse sneaks from tongue to sole and everything in between.

Also Check OutNike for pricier but equally fab custom sneakers, especially for narrower feet.

5- Geek Out Your Tot – Kids love to hear the same books over and over and over again.  But parents, well sometimes reading The Night Before Christmas for the 1000th time can be a chore.  Fortunately you can let Meryl Streep do the reading for you.  Ruckus Media has created gorgeous storybook apps for the ipad and iphone like The Velveteen Rabbit and Tom Thumb that your child will pour over again and again – and you can read Us Weekly The New York Times in peace. (See the GIVEAWAY below!)

Also Check out: iKnowDogs – if your kid is a freaky dog lover like mine & iLive Animal World for animal loving little ones

6- Give for the Sake Of Giving – Find a charity and give in honor of someone.  Or better yet, let them decide and pick with you.  It’s a proactive easy way to embrace the meaning of the holidays.

My Faves: World Wildlife Fund – My girls love adopting an animal every year & Donors Choose – help schools, help kids.

7- Who Says School is Boring? – Have a friend or family member that’s dying to learn how to knit?  Or ice skate?  Or become the next Martha Stewart?  If you have an expertise you can share then offer up your services!  Or offer to pay for the class of their choice at a nearby gym, cooking school or community center.

My Faves: Institute of Culinary Education Recreational Cooking and Baking Classes & Rising Shutterbug private photography lessons for kids and adults to finally learn all the cool tricks your camera can do! (full disclosure – taught by my sister!)

Cranwell Resort

8-Leaving on a Jet Plane or a Car – Travel is something they never outgrow.  Give your miles or points to a family member or treat them to a trip (even to see you).  Or how about a weekend away for your grown kids with babysitting thrown in?  Just a thought.  hint, hint.

My Faves: Cranwell Resort & Spa in the Berkshires – a four season gorgeous escape with or without kids & Luxury Link so they can get away and get a great deal.

9 – Say OOHHMMM – This guide is all about no stress so why not give the least stressful gift around?  A SpaFinder gift certificate – emailed to their inbox of course.  They can pick a spa closest to them from 100s of choices.  And again, if you throw in some babysitting you eliminate half the stress before they walk out the door.

My Fave: Bliss Spa – They warm the massage tables and put paraffin booties on your feet.  Heaven.

10 – When All Else Fails – The Amazon electronic gift card.  It’s not original or sexy but it does the trick.  One click and boom!  it’s in their inbox ready to be spent.  What could be better than a shopping spree on somebody else’s dime?

And now the GIVEAWAY!

You can win 5 Gorgeous Ruckus Media storybook apps for iphone/ipad?  These are truly gorgeous apps that fully capture the beauty of classic stories with talent like Robin Williams and Meryl Street reading the texts.  Your child will love them!  Just leave a comment below telling me what your “Go To” gift of the moment is and be entered to win!

Want an extra entry?  Follow me on Twitter and let me know you did here.

Contest ends December 8th.

Good luck!  And check out my other giveaway for Petz Nursery 2 for DS

We The People: America Rocks! TheatreWorks USA Free Summer Children’s Theater in NYC

On Sunday I took my girls to see We the People: America Rocks! TheatreWorks USA latest free summer production for kids.  The story: The Four Founding Fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin use rock ‘n roll to explain the American Democracy and how the government works.  In the vein of Schoolhouse Rock the show is full of witty lyrical songs that are filled with really good information and actual learning.  The cast is funny and energetic and also have great voices.  In order to make the show at kid level the main character is a 14 year old girl running for Student Council President.  She’s got to learn to take that job seriously and how all citizens can make a difference and be a part of the government.

I thought We the People: America Rocks!  was well done and certainly went all out to entertain and inform the kids.  But, my eight year old daughters found it difficult to follow completely.  If you’re going to see the show, and I do recommend it, you might want to have a discussion about the branches of government, definitely go over who those founding fathers were, and also touch on The Constitution and Bill of Rights.  You don’t have to give a full civics lesson, but a little background will go a long way.  We had a lot of these talks after the show as we tried to explain the details of what they were singing about in the show.  I’m a total civics and history geek so I love having these discussions, but I think they would’ve gotten more out of the show had they understood some basic workings of our government beforehand.  It’s not a show for kids 7 and under for sure.  They just won’t get it.

Here are the Free Ticket Details:

Tickets for WE THE PEOPLE: AMERICA ROCKS! are FREE and available on a first-come, first-served basis in-person at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Box Office (121 Christopher St.) starting at 9:30 a.m. weekdays and 1 p.m. Sundays. There is a limit of four (4) tickets per adult.

WE THE PEOPLE: AMERICA ROCKS! is a 60-minute, one-act musical, recommended for children ages eight (8) and up. The performance schedule is as follows:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday – 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Thursday – 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Sunday – 2 p.m.

* DON’T WANT TO WAIT IN LINE, BUT STILL WANT TO SEE THE SHOW?
If you want great reserved seats in the orchestra then make a donation to Free Summer Theatre! All donations are 100% tax-deductible and will go directly to offset program costs.For every $50 you donate, you are entitled to one reserved VIP seat for the performance of your choice. Limit 10 tickets per donor. No exchanges or refunds.  For more information, call 212-647-1100 ext. 126 or email development@twusa.org.

The Founding Fathers Rock Out

The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up – A Weekend Spent with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3

my daughter and her beloved monkey

My daughters finished 2nd grade and now at 8 years old they have declared themselves to be “tweens.”  I personally thought the whole tween thing was for ages 10-12, the real prepubescent years with middle school and all those horrors.  But no, Time Out Kids had an entire tween issue and right there on the cover it said ages 8-12 and if it’s in print, especially full color giant sized print, my daughters take it as gospel.  They will go to sleep away camp for one week this summer, for the first time.  Next year they will be in 3rd grade, starting standardized testing and being a part of the “upper” grades.  Whether I truly think of them as tweens or not doesn’t really matter, the sad truth is they are growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

As if this weren’t already weighing on my mind we spent a weekend taking in two great shows that hammered in the nostalgic, heart wrenching reality of childhood’s inevitable demise.  On Saturday night we went to the Papermill Playhouse’s production of Peter Pan and on Sunday watched Disney’s Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D.    Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan – the boy who refused to grow up and gave up a chance at a real family and real love as a result.  Like all good stories Peter Pan changes as the reader ages.  When I was in 4th grade I played Peter Pan in a school performance.  On the most basic level the musical is wonderful, full of witty and rich songs, colorful characters and perfectly drawn characters.  But when you’re a child the sad character at the end is really Wendy who got old and is now a boring old mom who watches her daughter fly away for an amazing adventure in Neverland.  Seeing the play as an adult I just felt bad for Peter at the mercy of his petulant, immature ego and constantly looking for new lost boys to follow him and new little girls to play mother to his pretend father.  (The other thing that was glaringly apparent seeing the play as an adult is that both Peter and Captain Hook are perhaps two of the biggest narcissists that ever walked the stage.  But that’s a an examination about manhood vs. boyhood that deserves its own post, or Master’s thesis!)

I watched my daughters intently during Peter Pan.  They were completely entranced.  The flying of course is always spectacular and as I said the execution of the show from cast, to choreography to direction was flawless.  But at the end both of my daughters couldn’t understand why Peter would go back to Neverland rather than stay with the Darlings and have a real family.  To them Neverland didn’t seem like a fantasy come true – it seemed like a place with kids who needed someone to take care of them.  I never thought of it that way, after all the entire conceit of Neverland is that never growing old is the ultimate wish, but it’s more of a wish of an adult looking back than of a child looking forward.

Toy Story 3 was another matter.  While the mother’s quiet dismay at sending her son Andy off to college plays in at the every end of the film it is Andy himself who has to make the brutally conscious choice to give up the symbol of his childhood, Woody the cowboy, and leave childhood behind for real.  While of course I cried like every adult I’ve spoken to who saw Toy Story 3, my daughters cried even more.  Now, one of my daughters always cries at movies when they get the least bit sad or sentimental and always has.  It’s one of the reasons she hated going to the movies.  She does not like having her emotions manipulated.  But, she gave into it this time and just sort of went with it instead of being scared by it.  For my daughters the thought of giving up their beloved stuffed Monkey or blanket was horrifying.  They could not fathom how Andy could give up his most prized toy friend to another child.  And because the movie was so beautifully done you could see that Andy couldn’t quite deal with this decision either.  It’s one thing to make that inevitable march towards adulthood because that is where the thread of time is pulling you, and another thing entirely to make a wide-awake decision to abandon a cherished part of your younger self.

As a mom I am constantly torn between wanting my daughters to mature and take on more responsibility – pour your own cereal and milk into a bowl for god’s sake! – and then wanting it all to slow down and be thankful that they still want to crawl into our bed in the morning and cuddle.  They also seem to be struggling with wanting to remain in that fuzzy babyish realm of childhood and move forward into the adolescent world of making their own decisions, keeping secrets and taking on new responsibilities.   Spending a weekend with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3 made it abundantly clear to them and me that while growing up cannot be avoided it’s not something any of us need to rush.  And yes, my daughter already told me her stuffed monkey will be going to college with her.  I don’t doubt it.

Going Behind the Gold Curtain at the Metropolitan Opera House (and a chance to win tickets to Hansel and Gretel!)

This past Tuesday my two daughters and I went to the Metropolitan Opera House Tree Lighting and then on a special backstage tour of the theater.  Growing up in New York City some of my most vivid and cherished memories of New York theater are linked to that incredibly beautiful theater.  I still remember the first time I sat in the velvet chairs and watched the mammoth sparkling chandeliers rise up to the ceiling stories above as the lights dimmed and the music began.  This was the first time my daughters had been inside the opera house being only seven and not yet ready to sit through and appreciate a full-length production of ballet, and certainly not opera.

Imagine your first time inside such an impressively huge and gorgeous theater as a sort of insider.  We were led into the main orchestra seating where we heard about the history of the theater and watched the crew as they readied the stage for that night’s opera, Le Nozze di Figaro.  I think the girls were more impressed by the size and scope of the sets seeing them in the bare light and with wings clearly visible than they would be with the usual trickery of stage lighting.  We then went on to the actual workshops where the sets are constructed, touched up, painted and broken down.  The girls got such a kick out of seeing the burned witch remains from Hansel and Gretel missing a toe and in need of repair as well as the giant chefs’ heads that needed spiffing up.  From there we walked on to the actual stage.  Now, here is where the full-fledged theater geek in me wanted to shake my daughters and try and get them to understand that they were standing on the very stage that Pavarotti had sung on, that Cynthia Gregory had danced on.  But really they just thought the slanting floors of the sets and the fact that the paintbrushes were attached to poles to touch up the top of the sets were really cool.  Me however?  I was seriously elated and awestruck.

Sometimes a backstage tour can leave you feeling like the mystery has gone out of what you loved.  Too many warts revealed or illusions shattered.  Usually things don’t measure up in real life.  The opposite was true after our tour of the Met.  I have a brand new appreciation for the scope and magnitude of the artistry and hard labor that go into mounting each production and my daughters were so enthralled by the end (maybe due to my relentless cheerleading and prodding) that they have now decided they want to go to the new production of Hansel and Gretel and attend their first opera.

And,  A GIVEAWAY!

IF you would like a chance to see this special holiday production of Hansel and Gretel, sung in English, at the Met leave a comment below.  I have two orchestra seats to give away for 8:00pm on Monday, December 14th!  The winner will be picked by Saturday December 12th.

For more information on the opera click here!

This is an original beccarama.com post.

Not Really Rosie

Rosie This past weekend I took my daughters to the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Really Rosie.  It was one of those moments you look forward to as a mother, when you get to take your kids to something that you loved as a kid and watch them fall in love with it too.  They’d listened to the CD of Really Rosie hundreds of times, one of my daughters had been studying Maurice Sendak’s  “Chicken Soup with Rice” poems at school and even cooked up a pot at a big chicken soup celebration.  So, when I saw this rare revival advertised in New York Magazine I jumped at the chance.  Well, it didn’t go as well as I had planned.

First of all poor Rosie seemed to be the victim of gentrification.  See, Rosie is a little girl with a huge personality, chutzpah, delusions of grandeur and above all a mop of dark, unruly hair which exemplifies her eccentric, Flatbush, Brooklyn Jewish self.  Think of a young Bette Midler.  However, this Rosie had straight blond hair and was about as Flatbush as Paris Hilton.   And then to make matters worse she wasn’t dressed like she threw on her mother’s, or better yet, grandmother’s fancy-schmancy clothes, she looked more like Cyndi Lauper in the 80s – purposefully mismatched and a little kooky, but certainly not charmingly fabulous.

So, there we were in our pseudo Rosie experience and the music began and of course Carole King never fails, so my girls are engrossed and I get over the shiksa Rosie.  But, then the music stops and out comes the dialog.  Now, I love Maurice Sendak.  I appreciate the scary brilliance of Where the Wild Things Are.  But, the book of Really Rosie is one long nasty back and forth between bratty kids.  Of course kids today call each other “stupid.”  They can be as mean and cruel as ever, but there was something so old school about seeing these actors portray kids as nothing but whiny and petulant.  There was a lot of talk about killing and hating each other.  Needless to say my daughters wanted to leave at that point.  After all, they can see real kids acting this way every day at school where they can walk away from them.  They don’t need to sit in a theater for the privilege.  But, we stayed because thankfully the music began again.

And, suddenly the true charm of Really Rosie became clear. This is a story about a bunch of kids with no real toys, no TV, no Disney-made costumes, no Target play shoes.  The thrill of being a kid is turning an old garbage bag into a cape, using a good old-fashioned broom stick as a microphone, and creating a spotlight from an old flashlight.  The show is about the real, spontaneous, organic imagination that every child possesses but today we feel the need to supply.  These kids were left on their own to play, fight and create. It was messy, disorganized and perfect.  The very opposite of all of the craft driven, parent-directed play-dates my daughters seem to have.

When we went home that night I dragged out my pile of sad bridesmaid dresses, dusted off old high heels and junky costume jewelry.  I will not be replacing my daughters too-small “Belle” costume, or purchasing another set of plastic high heels.  It’s not a huge deal, I know.  But, I can’t help but think the world could use more authentic Really Rosies, and fewer Disney Princesses. While I know I can’t entirely rid their world of pre-made “play” and manufactured fun, Rosie reminded me of why its important to try.  So, even though Really Rosie wasn’t exactly the musical I had remembered, the message of unbridled girlhood imagination still rang true.  As Rosie would say, “Belieeeeeeeve meeeeee.”

Original post to New York City Moms Blog.