Posts in September, 2010

Puma Mongolian Shoe BBQ

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I took a few days off of work this week and was able to enjoy a perfect afternoon at The Rosewood Sand Hill sipping pink sparkly drinks, and devouring yummy flatbread, french fries and caramel corn with my girlfriends. I am already looking forward to our next girls outing. But I have to tell you about the big surprise under the table….Srinija’s new shoes! How cute are these Puma’s?! I love the silver, the double shoelaces, everything… Here is the scoop – she actually won them at a fundraising event for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. I need a pair of my own!  Luckily, we can create and order our own custom shoes online at Puma Mongolian Shoe BBQ. Basically you get to be a shoe designer for the day and create your very own custom Pumas. I think these will be the best Christmas present for all of those people on your list you have such a hard time shopping for. Order soon…it takes about 5-7 weeks for delivery.


Super Siblings

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

This week’s installment from Susan is all about siblings – enjoy!

I’m an only child, so the whole brothers-and-sisters thing has always been a mystery to me. But now that I have two children, I’ve gotten a crash course in what it means to be a sibling. From hitting to hugging, every day is a tsunami of emotion.

To me, few author/illustrators have captured the ups and downs of sibling-hood as well as Mercer Mayer. Mayer is most well-known for his “Little Critter” series, which began in 1975 and now spans over two hundred books. Little Critter is a round little animal with spiky fur that needs a good combing, just like my own kids’ hair. He could be a hamster, he could be a guinea pig, who knows? Even Mayer won’t say.

Mayer doesn’t see the sibling relationship through rose-colored glasses. He knows that kids fight, resent each other, and sometimes want nothing more than to just get away. He even recognizes that kids may say one thing and do another. The disconnect between the words on Mayer’s pages and his illustrations can be hilarious. Little Critter announces, confidently, that he’ll share with his brother, but the picture shows them tussling over a baseball bat at Christmas. And although Little Critter claims he won’t mind if his brother finds all the Easter eggs, his frown says otherwise.

At the end of his books, however, Mayer shows that even children recognize the power of the sibling bond.

The New Baby, by Mercer Mayer. When Little Critter learns he’s going to have a new sister, he gets out all his toys to share. But the baby isn’t interested in books or jokes. Plus, she smells funny and cries a lot. Luckily, Little Critter’s mom shows him all the things he CAN do with a new baby, like cuddling and tickling. Humor might help reconcile an older sibling to a new arrival, such as watching Little Critter holding his nose as his sister waves and smiles on her way to the changing table.

Just Me and My Little Brother, by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter describes all the things he and his little brother will do together, from riding bikes to watching scary movies. But on the last page, Little Critter points to his brother – still a baby – and admits he may have to wait a little while for their adventures. The book is a good way to help older kids envision a fun future with a baby who may not seem so exciting in the present.

Me Too!, by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter is frustrated because he always has to include his little sister. Her constant cries of “Me too!” mean that Little Critter loses his paper airplane, carries her the whole time on a hike, and gives up half his cake. But just when he becomes overwhelmed, his sister gets a candy cane, and Little Critter discovers that “Me too!” means sharing can work both ways.

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald, illustrated by Mercer Mayer. I’ve been rereading this series ever since second grade. Set in Utah at the end of the 19th century, the books follow the adventures of two children, John and his older brother Tom. Tom, “The Great Brain,” is a swindler extraordinaire. He steals money from everyone in town, even John, via elaborate and entertaining schemes. But John also sees that Tom can still be a good person and loving brother. Mercer’s illustrations bring the life of children during that era beautifully to life, as Tom and John fish at a watering hole or saddle up horses for a ride to town.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

Race to Nowhere Screenings

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Today was the first day of preschool for my son. He loves it and didn’t want to leave. As a three year old I think I can genuinely say that I just want him to be happy and enjoy going to school. I want him to laugh and play with his friends and come home smiling every day. I already have close friends who have hired ‘toddler coaches’ and others who take their kids to pre-reading tutors so they can get a leg up before kindergarten. There are also the moms who are shuttling their children to two different preschools so their kids can get exposure to different teaching styles and ways of learning. Other kids are already signed up for golf and tennis. I am already beginning to feel the pressure – am I doing enough? When will the chaos and competition begin? Or has it begun already…

I live in Silicon Valley and everyone around us has a graduate degree of some sort and they are working for some of the most innovative companies in the world. Everyone wants their kids to do well and get in to the best schools, but at what cost?

Race to Nowhere, a film by Vicki Abeles, is screening in Los Angeles and New York for one week starting September 10th. There will be additional screenings around the country later this year. Now may be the perfect time for parents to go check out the film and think about their children’s lives as they embark on a new school year. Personally, I think I will opt for the swing set over flash cards this fall…

September Shoe Drive

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The Sweet Peas & Stilettos September Shoe Drive Benefitting My New Red Shoes is up and running. I am partnering with a number of local companies to collect new shoes, shoelaces and Old Navy gift cards for homeless children living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please check out our Shoe Drive webpage to find all of the details. You can even donate online. Please join us in helping these very deserving children.

Pizza Party

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I have asked Amy Nichols of Celebrate Life by Amy Nichols Special Events to keep me posted as she comes up with creative birthday party ideas. Her latest is a pizza party – a great idea that can work for kids of all ages (and for moms who don’t want to spend a fortune). Here are a few of the highlights.

1) Every birthday party starts with a great invitation. Amy found some really cute pizza theme invites at TomKat Studio.

2) Buy some plain aprons at Michael’s that the kids can decorate.

3) Let the children make their own pizzas with lots of yummy toppings.

4) Make a delicious fruit pizza pie instead of a birthday cake.

5) For party favors, everyone can take home a delicious pizza slice cookie. These cute cookies (see photo) are from little laura’s sweets.

For all of the details and a lot more cute pictures – check out Amy Nichols Special Events blog.

Cupcake Costumes & More

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I love cupcakes and I love costumes so of course this adorable cupcake costume would have to be my number one choice for a kid’s Halloween costume. Pottery Barn Kids makes such a cute cupcake costume – I just wish I had a little girl to put in it. Somehow I don’t think my son has any interest… Pottery Barn Kids also has this adorable puffy cupcake costume for babies too.


I’ve got a who bunch of great costume resources for you – whether you are shopping for Halloween or the dress up box. From ladybugs and disco dudes to airplanes and Buzz Lightyear, and so many more…

And if you just love cupcakes? Here is a whole page full of cute cupcake products.

Not-So-Scary Fairy Tales

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Kick off your long weekend with some not-so-scary fairy tales from Susan…

I love reading fairy tales to my children. But, honestly, it’s difficult to find traditional stories that aren’t violent, disturbing, or even just plain bizarre.

According to psychologists (and those super-trendy Darwinist literary theorists), the frightening elements in fairy tales are actually useful — they can teach children how to protect themselves from the harsher aspects of life. Don’t talk to strangers, or a wolf will eat you. Don’t be lazy, or a wolf will blow down your house. Basically, watch out for wolves.

The stories can also help children explore their deepest fears and realize they can survive terrible events. Many classic fairy tales, for example, show orphaned or unloved children who triumph in the end, such as Snow White and Cinderella.

I agree that my kids listen to stories much more attentively than they listen to me. I even wish there were more fairy tales warning about contemporary dangers, such as The Two Little Children Who Crossed the Street without Looking or The Boy Who Ate Only Pasta. But some of the familiar fairy tales are just too much, especially for younger children.

That’s why I suggest the following books. They successfully tread the fine line between the complexity of the original tales and the blandness of some movie versions, so kids will get the basics of the stories without the nightmares.

Fairy Tales Re-told and Re-imagined

Red Riding Hood, retold and illustrated by James Marshall. This retelling glosses over the more violent parts of the tale and instead offers original flashes of humor. Yes, Granny and Red Riding Hood get eaten. After they’re rescued, however, Granny complains that it was too dark to read inside the wolf. Red Riding Hood shows she’s learned her lesson by refusing to talk to another charming stranger at the end of the story – a nattily-dressed crocodile. The text is concise and simple enough for even younger children, but Marshall slyly slips in a few longer words, too, such as “considerate” and “custard.”

The Three Snow Bears, by Jan Brett. In this retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a little Inuit girl loses her sled dogs and takes shelter in the house of a polar bear family. Jan Brett is a remarkable illustrator, with a lovely and unusual technique of providing illustrations in the margins to show what’s happening offstage to other characters. This book is a beautiful way to introduce kids to a different climate and culture, while still giving them a familiar story.

Mr Wolf’s Pancakes, by Jan Fearnley. When none of his neighbors will help him make pancakes, a wolf learns how to read a cookbook, shop, and cook – all by himself. The book offers a nice lesson in self-reliance, but with a twist – at the end of the story, the mean, greedy neighbors get eaten. The neighbors are characters from well-known fairytales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, so this would probably work best for an older child who already knows the traditional stories. Older children also won’t be disturbed by the wolf eating the other characters.

A First Book of Fairy Tales, retold by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Julie Downing. The book manages to condense some pretty complicated stories into manageable tales for slightly older children. Hoffman doesn’t alter the difficult parts, such as the unhappy ending of The Little Mermaid or the blinding of the prince in Rapunzel, but these events are quickly passed over to dwell more on the wonder of the magical elements. It’s a good introduction that preserves the traditional quality of fairy tales from Cinderella to Rumpelstiltskin. Even the Snow Queen actually makes sense!

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.