05/01/17 2:38pm

It’s finally spring! The flowers are blooming in the window boxes and the sidewalk cafe seats are being hosed down. When your umbrella isn’t flying down the street ready to impale someone on a broken spoke, you can actually enjoy the weather. Here are 10 ways to make the most of the month, including a few inspired ways to celebrate Mother’s Day.

This new neighborhood bookstore has a great children’s section, with secret nooks for reading, and knowledgeable staff full of recommendations. Photo: Books Are Magic

  1. GO: Support The Magic. There’s no better way to celebrate May Day than with a good book. Today, May 1st, Books Are Magic officially opens for business. Annaliese Griffin wrote about it in tour May Culture Essentials, but it’s so exciting, I’m including here too. We’ve been chomping at the bit, peering in their windows and stalking them on Instagram, so we know they will have an amazing kids section complete with tiny nooks to curl up with a good book. Also, on May 16th from 4-5pm, celebrate all things tacos with Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri and their new book Dragons Love Tacos 2. Books Are Magic, 225 Smith St, Cobble Hill 

    This play is Brooklyn Based suggested, Albert Einstein approved. Photo: Miller Theatre


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04/05/17 2:53pm

9781558614192-frontcover

As a clinical social worker who has led groups with and taught sex ed to Middle Schoolers for over 10 years, I’ve seen kids wrestle with feelings of badness or worry about their sexuality. My goal is always to normalize their feelings, provide support, and clarify misinformation.

So it was a joy to read Anastasia Higginbotham’s third book in her Ordinary, Terrible Things series, Tell Me About Sex, Grandma (it follows her similarly funny titles, Divorce is the Worst and Death is Stupid). Written and gorgeously illustrated with collages that Higginbotham makes from paper, fabric, and ribbons, her book observes a conversation between a child and the child’s grandmother that addresses sex, sexuality, boundaries and consent. The child’s gender has intentionally been left undefined, so as to encourage any child reading it to connect easily to the main character and to the material. Tell Me About Sex, Grandma is less of a ‘how are babies made’ manual and more about conveying the message that your body and sexuality are precious and special, and nobody ever has the right to make you do something sexually that you don’t want to.

I had the opportunity to ask Higginbotham some questions about her process and her goals with this book in advance of her book launch this Saturday, April 8th, from 4-6pm at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, where we’ll both be continuing the conversation.

How long does it take you to create these books?

Decades! Feels like each one took about 30 years since I’ve been trying to make sense of this stuff since childhood. Each book in the series represents a life’s work of trying to understand and accept things like my parents’ divorce, my grandparents’ funerals, the long-term effects of sexual abuse. Once I have a vision for a book and some of the words start to come, it takes about a year. Once I start illustrating, I make a gigantic, unbelievable mess. Every surface of my workspace is covered. There are piles and scraps everywhere. I am always still taking care of my children and working though and can’t really disappear for more than two or three days at a time, even while I have a great partner. But he works and makes art too. I’m still very much in life while I’m making a book. The time I get to be alone with it is luxurious.

What was the process like for this one in particular?

I was surprised sometimes while I was making it. On the page where the narrator says: “It is never okay for an adult to choose to have sex with a child—even if they love you and take care of you,” I was super adrenalized just printing the words. These were words I had already written and reviewed and revised plenty of times in the script. But when I was putting them onto the page for the actual book, my heart was beating really hard and my face got hot and it was hard to keep my hand steady. So much was behind it. Anger mostly, but also fear. Like, am I really going to say this in a children’s book? Are you allowed to say this in a children’s book? And then on the next page when Grandma lays down the law and says: “No sex unless everyone says they want to and no sex with kids, ever,” it was kind of hard to breathe when I wrote that. I felt like they were all in the room with me, all the kids who have been tricked and misused in this way, all the people who have been forced into sex, or sex was taken from them without their permission, and all the ones who this will still happen to. It’s like I was trying to hold them all, speak for them and assure them: I know who is to blame for this and I promise to hold them accountable and make them stop. I was trying to very calmly channel that energy through the pen. Neatly. And carefully. Without screaming.

What has been the best thing about writing and publishing Tell Me About Sex, Grandma?

I love being able to give this book to an adult and feel confident that it won’t hurt them; it may even help to heal them. I also love to think of a young child growing up with this book telling them over and over, as many times as they read it, that their sexuality is a treasure, that it’s theirs alone, theirs to discover, theirs to share if they choose. I’m casting a spell. That’s what I want for them so I’m saying: it is so. And there’s a good chance they will believe me and their families may affirm that as well and then the kid will grow up just knowing it. They’ll know it like they know their own name. Like, of course it’s mine! And if that happens, there’s a strong chance they will treasure it and find others who do too, and they’ll bring that reverence to everyone they meet. That’s thrilling to consider.

Is there a question you wish you were asked when being interviewed about the book?

I want to say why there’s a framed picture of Mary and the baby Jesus on the wall above Grandma’s head when the child bursts in with their question. I put Mary there so that the fear of God is in the room—any god and every god. I wanted religion there looming over the child’s question and I wanted us to not know by looking at Grandma’s face whether she will be on our side or not. Like, Oh no, she’s Catholic! Is she gonna say it’s evil? That we’re evil? That sex is only for marriage and procreation? That it’s only between a woman and a man? Since Grandma says the total opposite of that, Mary is there to give her blessing on the child’s sexuality too, as a goddess and as the mother of a god and as the one who Grandma prays to. Mary is definitely on our side.

04/05/17 9:52am
Is the Tilt Festival worth checking out? Oui! There's still a few events throughout April/ Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Is the Tilt Festival worth checking out? Oui! There are still a few events throughout April Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

If your family hasn’t yet checked out the second annual Tilt Kids Festival, presented by The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), there’s still time! This Saturday, April 8, celebrate storytelling (for free!) with Fanny de Chaille: The Teens Library, a living library where a teen will tell a story to your family one-on-one. On April 11-16, enjoy The Seven Fingers, a food themed circus from Montreal. Tickets are $45-$99. Plus, the Hervé Tullet exhibit (reviewed below) continues through April 22. My 7-year-old son and I have been having a bon temps with the international artists and events. If you still need convincing. here are the highlights, so far.

Hervé Tullet Kids Opening

The closest things kids have to celebrities are beloved book authors. That would explain why families turned out in spades for the opening of This Isn’t Trash, the first New York exhibition of work by Hervé Tullet, the wildly imaginative artist and children’s book author. Kids know and love Press Here, and this family-focused opening at The Invisible Dog Art Center on March 4 explored his signature style with colorfully painted, torn, taped, creased and reassembled sheets of paper that were hung from the ceiling. Kids were invited to wade through a box of scrap paper, and find their own torn paper for inspiration, which was my son’s favorite part. A never ending line of fans queued up to have the artist sign copies of their favorite book, while the author beamed merrily from his perch behind the table. The show is on display until April 22. (more…)

03/31/17 10:01am
It's springtime in Brooklyn, which means time to get out there and enjoy the warm-weather offerings. (Bring your umbrella!) Photo: @brooklynbotanic via Instagram

It’s springtime in Brooklyn, which means time to get out there and enjoy the warm-weather offerings. (Bring your umbrella!) Photo: @brooklynbotanic via Instagram

Although the weather may not be warm yet, the signs of spring are everywhere. The daffodils are planted in the window boxes, falling ice is dripping off the skyscrapers, and frozen rats are revealed in the melting snow. Pull out the rain boots and get ready to make a splash all month long with activities ranging from a remarkable miniature spectacle to the grandiose cherry blossom festival. (more…)

03/23/17 10:15am
37 Problems is a new bingeworthy web series that deals with fertility and ambivalence towards motherhood. And it's funny!

37 Problems is a new binge-worthy web series that deals with fertility and ambivalence towards motherhood. And it’s funny!

What does it even mean to “have it all?” 37 Problems, which describes itself as “a raunchy new series about fertility and growing up” explores that well worn question with welcome hilarity and a considerable edge.  

A 37-year-old screenwriter (played by creator and director Lisa Ebersole) has Sundance dreams and wants to borrow $10,000 from her mother to finish her project. Her mom gives her the money, but wants her to use it to freeze her eggs instead. Panic and hijinks ensue, with a cast of eccentric characters like an elderly ex, her father’s ghost, a charming yet slightly sleazy fertility doctor and a kooky editor who lives in a garage with his daughter. Ambivalence toward parenthood permeates throughout.

In an extremely crowded webosphere, Ebersole is an emerging talent worth getting to know. While she’s already an award-winning playwright and filmmaker, 37 Problems is her first web series, and it’s been selected for the Austin Film Festival, Brooklyn Web Fest, and the Hollyweb Festival. 

You can binge watch the entire NSFW series on 37 Problems and on Vimeo. In the meantime, Ebersole took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about Lena Dunham, fertility and Obamacare for us.

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03/01/17 3:00pm

Spring is in the air…but so are the snowstorms. If the weather has you completely confused on how to spend your time with the kids (or just plain confused), you’re not alone. Here are a few suggestions for either enjoying the balmy weather by going out, or holing up inside your house during the deep freeze. Climate change is real, and my only advice is to dress your family in layers and get ready to change plans on a dime.

IF MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LAMB, GO OUTSIDE:

This art opening for children's book author Hervé Tullet's new work is just for kids. Photo: TILT Kids Festival

This art opening for children’s book author Hervé Tullet’s new work is just for kids. Photo: TILT Kids Festival

GO: Bonjour March! Even if you can’t book tickets to Paris for your kids’ spring break, you can soak up some French culture at the 2017 TILT Kids Festival from March 4 through April 16. This second annual festival is put on by  The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) and includes art exhibits, performances and interactive events. (Last year included this memorable kid-friendly art show.) Many of these are totally FREE. Highlights include: a children’s art opening of famed author Hervé Tullet at The Invisible Dog Gallery featuring hundreds of pieces with some as tall as eight feet tall. (Saturday March 4 4-6pm FREE) Also of note, a Philosophy For Kids Class led by author, philosopher, and New York Times columnist Simon Critchley at the Brooklyn Library. (Sunday March 19 FREE) Or get your groove on with Stéréokids, presented by French DJ Pedro Winter (aka Busy P), known for his work with Daft Punk and founder of the Ed Banger record label. (Saturday March 25, 2-5pm FREE.) Some of these events require an RSVP, so check the website for further details. (more…)

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02/21/17 10:33am
Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Photo: Brooklyn Scouts

Let me introduce you to the 5th Brooklyn Scouts, where their motto is “traditional scouting for everyone.”

Don’t be fooled by the word “traditional.” Part of the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA), an all-inclusive scouting organization that has been in existence worldwide since 1907, the 5th Brooklyn Scouts is not the gender-segregated experience that you remember from being a Cub Scout or a Brownie, and does not have the same history of discrimination against gay and transgender children and leaders. (Last month, The Boy Scouts of America finally announced that they would allow transgender boys to join.)

Just as importantly, Brooklyn Scouts seamlessly blends the joys of forest school, the community service of a social justice club, and outdoors-focused field trips, all for $180 for the entire year. Children spend a lot of time outside, and learn real skills.

The Brooklyn chapter speaks openly about their challenge to diversify in their Park Slope enclave, which is a focus for their organization this year, as well as a historical value of the organization. “Scouting has even transcended and risen above racial divisions and prejudices in the movement’s past,” says scoutmaster Jillian Tate. “Our founder, Lord Robert Baden Powell, refused to allow racial segregation in scouting until his death in 1941–even in countries like South Africa and India where the ruling colonists attempted to create all-white organizations.” (more…)

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02/03/17 10:56am
This book dispenses common sense money advice for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

This book dispenses common sense money advice (like “don’t raid their piggy banks!”) for parents to pass along to their kids. Photo: Simon & Schuster

Last year when I was complaining about the cost of getting my car towed, my young son said, “Don’t worry! I can pay for it. I’ve got a cash register full of money!” I quizzically watched as he pulled out his Learning Resources toy register hidden under a pile of stuffed animals and old Lego pieces. Although we bought that toy for him in hopes of teaching him about the value of money and learning about interest through imaginary play, he had actually just assumed this was real money collecting dust in his bedroom. Epic fail.

Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), a new book by Beth Kobliner (author of New York Times Bestseller Get A Financial Life) is here to hold parents hands as they wade into uncharted conversations about cash with their kids. Beyond just receiving early entry to Stern Business School, financial talks can prevent spoiled behavior, build charitable leanings and set kids up for secure futures. Kobliner divides the book into chapters ranging from “Insurance”, “Giving Back” and “Saving for College” and further divides her chapters into age ranges. Talking to your preschooler about investing will look different than with your teenager, but from the start you can build some pretty strong scaffolding for the importance of financial security. (more…)

02/01/17 11:46am

February is historically the month of love. So, even if there are government acts to stand against, executive orders to roar about, racists to take down, and protests to march your weary legs in, make time this month for self-care. Hug your little ones close and remember to find time for art and humanity. Look for the heroes. Join a community of activists. Reach for tolerance. And whenever you need to, escape for a while into a museum or film to recharge your heart. Remember, love will always trump hate.

Show kids that making a statement doesn't have to be done on paper. 1) Charles Eisenmann (1855–1927). Nora Hildebrandt, ca. 1880. Albumen photograph mounted on cardboard. Collection of Adam Woodward. 2) Samuel O’Reilly (1854–1909). Eagle and shield, ca. 1875–1905. Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Lift Trucks Project

Show kids that making a statement doesn’t have to be done on paper.
1) Charles Eisenmann (1855–1927). Nora Hildebrandt, ca. 1880. Albumen photograph mounted on cardboard. Collection of Adam Woodward. 2) Samuel O’Reilly (1854–1909). Eagle and shield, ca. 1875–1905. Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Lift Trucks Project

GO: If your kids are already interested in getting some tats (or at least interested in looking at yours), let them find out more at Tattooed New York at the New York Historical Society. Highlights of the exhibit will include Thomas Edison’s electric pen and early tattoo machine, sideshow banners and lots of modern and historical tattoo art. This isn’t an interactive exhibit geared toward children, but you can easily find parts that your kids will enjoy. Bring a pocketful of temporary tattoos for your kids to choose from sothey can get in on the fun (in a less permanent way). Feb. 2 through April 29 Tattooed New York- NY Historical Society  170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), Tuesday-Thursday, Saturday – 10am-6pm, Friday – 10am-8pm, Sunday – 11am-5pm, Monday – CLOSED; adults: $20, students: $12, kids (5-13 years old) $6, kids 4 and under: free. (more…)

01/30/17 11:05am
Kira Smith, Pete Sinjin (center) and friends leading families in their election response sing-along and find raiser, "Rise Up And Sing!”

Kira Smith, Pete Sinjin (center) and friends leading families in their election response sing-along and fundraiser, “Rise Up And Sing!” Photo: Hootenanny Art House

The Women’s March felt like a ray of hope in an otherwise dark start to 2017. But as this past week has proven, we had no idea how dark it could get, or how nimble we would need to be to protest this administration’s unAmerican edicts. For parents, it will never be easy, on weekends filled with birthday parties and basketball games, to join an impromptu rally. But Hootenanny Art House in Park Slope is making it possible to for families to be politically active at times they can plan for–Monday afternoons and evenings, starting today. Their Monday Activist Coffee Hour from 3:30 to 4:30pm, and BYOB Activist Happy Hour from 6 to 7pm will provide a kid-friendly space and guidance to make calls, write letters and take action together. (more…)