Pop culture potpourri

Yeah, I saw all your Facebook photo posts of your fabulous white beaches in Aruba and gorgeous views from the ski lift in Vermont. I was happy for you, really I was.

But one of the great things about staying home for the holiday break was a chance to catch up on all the TV, movies, and other crap I’ve meant to get to but never seem to have the time.

There’s an overwhelming amount of media to ingest, and much of pop culture popularity now is through word of mouth buzz, so thought I’d share some of the stuff I’m digging at the moment.

serial itunes logo on carpoolcandy.com

Serial    I can’t explain why listening to almost 12 hours of one woman talking about a 15-year-old murder case is fascinating but it is! We were driving to Boston for New Year’s and I plugged the podcast into the car stereo. My kids groaned as soon as the top 40 stopped, but within 20 minutes, all 5 of us were entranced.

by the way graphic on carpool candy.com

-- By the Way, In conversation    I’ve raved about actor/comedian Jeff Garlin’s podcast before but then it went silent while he was shooting The Goldbergs. But he’s back baby, and better than ever. It’s not an interview show, it’s literally just 2 people onstage before a lucky live audience– chatting about anything from pilates to bad movie endings. He gets the best guests, but I’ll listen to any episode–even unfamiliar names — because it’s always entertaining. Who loves Garlin most? Brady, who’s getting some nice long walks.

imitation game poster on carpoolcandy.com

–The Imitation Game   This movie is a fascinating piece of little known history, and an interesting character study of Alan Turing– an odd codebreaker who helped end World War II.  Wilson and I give it two thumbs up for a riveting story and excellent acting. I know ladies swoon for Benedict Cucumberpatch but I don’t quite get it. I preferred to admire the flawless skin and effortless style of Kiera Knightly. Without giving too much away, there’s also a powerful social/cultural statement about the lack of human rights at that time that resonates today.

boyhood poster on carpoolcandy.com

–Boyhood    There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this movie but I liked it and appreciated the creativity, foresight, and endurance required to make such an innovative film. As the mom of three boys, it was interesting to see their common behaviors and attitudes, but this boy’s parents’ divorce was central to the story and will likely speak volumes to single parents and blended families. The characters were appropriately gray– not all good or bad– and showed growth as they lived with the choices they made. It’s a quiet movie though. Half the time I was stressed while watching, expecting a big dramatic turn of events, but it never came. I’d like to see it again, knowing the outcome, and appreciating the pop culture references and details. It’s groundbreaking in film history, and significant in modern culture.

HBO Boardwalk Empire poster on carpoolcandy.com

–Boardwalk Empire    I don’t know many people who watched this HBO series that ended last fall, and that’s a crime. We finally finished the last season and put it in our top 10 best dramas of all time. Each episode– exec produced by Martin Scorsese– was like a mini movie. The cinematography, art direction, costumes, and attention to historic detail was flawless and the writing was brilliant. Every season had its own intensity, and featured mafia legends including Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein.  Season 3 with Bobby Cannavale as the psycho mobster Gyp Rosetti was one of the sickest characters I’ve ever seen on TV.  I’m telling you, watch it. Or I’ll break your legs.

NBC parenthood poster on carpoolcandy.com

–Parenthood     If you stuck with it through all six seasons as we have, it was well worth it. It’s been called “appointment crying” and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through an episode with a dry eye, because creator Jason Katims and his excellent writers know how to yank at those heartstrings like he’s playing a bass. It got a little soapy in the last couple seasons, but the characters are complicated, the acting is excellent (shoutout to Ray Ramano, who knew?) and the stories are often relatable. Episode 11 was especially great as they started to revisit the past and wrap up the series in a subtle but powerful way. I’m eager to see how they end it. Even if you gave up a few seasons ago, I’d recommend watching the last two episodes. But be sure to bring a hanky.

NBC parenthood poster on carpoolcandy.com

–Into the Woods soundtrack   This was my dad’s favorite Broadway show of all time and we saw it with Bernadette Peters back in the day, so I was thrilled to see it was coming to the big screen. I haven’t even seen the movie yet (soon!) but am loving the music. Sondheim is the most clever theatrical rapper there is. The lyrics are beautiful and poetic, and the bigger message about life in and out of the woods is timeless. (Cinderella: “How can you know who you are til you know what you want, which I don’t?)  As Eli told me– he’s my one kid who loves show tunes as much as I do–  the story is about what happens following “Happy ever after.”  Careful what you wish for!

RHOBH poster on carpoolcandy.com

–Real Housewives of Beverly Hills    Sooo much better this season! They got rid of the two creepy weirdos from last year and scored the goofy, fun, candid Lisa Rinna and her pal, soap opera actress Eileen Davidson. The houses. parties, and shopping sprees are still outrageous, the hair and makeup completely over the top, and the cat fights extra scratchy. Sure, Yolanda is out of touch with reality, but somehow she’s still endearing and a good mom. Brandi is trashy and so clearly in need of therapy it’s like watching a tall white Cadillac Escalade with blinged out wheels crash in slow motion.  Great TV.

The Affair on carpoolcandy.com


–The Affair    A lot of fellow TV junkies are raving about this show but Wilson and I thought it was mediocre. The concept is compelling– a story of an affair of two married people, culminating in a murder mystery, told from his and her points of view. But some of the writing was lame and the way they bopped around the Hamptons and Brooklyn when they should have been hiding in hotel rooms was bonkers and unrealistic. Oh but did I mention Joshua Jackson is unbelievably hot?? I don’t care how good The Wire was, I can’t imagine a world where one would choose the overcompensating greasy curls and weak character of Dominic West over Jackson, the brooding cowboy. I will say that the last 3 episodes were great and hooked us in for next season.

Trivia Crack Game on carpoolcandy.com

–Trivia Crack     Jacob introduced me to this app on my phone and it’s an addictive diversion when on-line at Trader Joe’s or commuting home. You answer questions in several different categories in less than 30 seconds, and can play against friends. The questions aren’t that hard (yet) so it’s a nice little ego boost and feels like a better use of brain juice than say, scrolling Facebook.

Are any of these sucking up your time? What are your latest pop culture obsessions? Tell me in the comments.

Black leaders raise $2.1 million so kids can see ‘Selma’ for free

I was working on a piece this weekend that I have to share. It’s a great story to commemorate the Martin Luther King holiday,  and there’s still time to take advantage of an inspiring program called “Selma for Students,” in cities all across the country.

I’m working today, but Wilson is taking the kids to see ‘Selma,’ thanks to some amazing business leaders who had an idea “that had legs,” as one of them told me.

It’s rare that a good idea discussed over dinner with friends actually turns into something big, and raising more than two million bucks in less than 2 weeks because you believe in educating our youth is pretty special.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Here are the deets:

Many students across the country will mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year in a more meaningful way than just enjoying a day off from school.

That’s the goal of Paramount Pictures and scores of African-American business leaders who have sponsored free screenings for students in select cities of the new movie, ”Selma,” about King’s 1965 civil rights march.

 It all started at a dinner party on New Year’s Eve, when a group of prominent African-American executives were discussing the historical significance of  “Selma,” and how important it is for young people to see the story come alive on-screen. 

Soon dinner table chatter became a movement and within a week, 27 business executives created a fund to allow some 27,000 middle school and high school freshman students in New York City to see the film for free at participating theaters starting January 8. Seventh, 8th and 9th grade students were required to show a school ID or a report card to receive a free ticket.

”The reaction has been incredible,” Megan Colligan, President of Marketing and Distribution at Paramount– the film’s distributor– told FoxNews.com. “There’s something so special in not planning it, it really came from organic honest inspiration and then people were willing to dedicate themselves to doing something that’s never been done before. “

When the New York theaters sold out quickly in the first weekend, and the fund continued to grow as news of the program spread, the leaders expanded it to 75,000 tickets. Then Paramount and the executive sponsors began to think bigger.

By Sunday night (Jan 18,) the Selma For Students efforts had raised $2.1 million and distributed at least 285,000 free tickets in 24 cities– from Nashville to San Francisco.

“There’s a common identity with this cause and this history and everyone wanted to touch it. It’s been an incredible outpouring of support,” one of the business leaders, Fred Terrell, told FoxNews.com. “It’s something I’ve never seen, it’s been so infectious, and it gives you a sense there’s a cohesive quality to the African-American business community. They want to be part of educating our youth and telling that story to young people,” Terrell, Vice Chairman at Credit Suisse, said.

Executives leading the “Selma” for Students charge hail from many companies representing finance, law, and media—including American Express, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, BET Networks, and Essence Magazine.

As school, church, and youth groups gobble up available tickets, organizations in many communities nationwide have coordinated campaigns to find more African-American business leaders to underwrite more free tickets to keep the movement going.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

“Selma” details the events surrounding Dr. King’s march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, which resulted in one of the most powerful victories in the civil rights movement–President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite brutal opposition, King and his non-violent supporters made history as they courageously fought for change.

It was an epic moment the program sponsors wanted today’s youth to understand. “It would be a shame for such a great a historical vehicle to be in the marketplace and not get the opportunity to have a community meeting around it. The story is as relevant today as it was in 1965,” Terrell said.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn more about my history,” Joshua Phillips, 12, a student at Forest Street Elementary School in Orange, New Jersey said at a recent “Selma” screening with his classmates.

Several institutions in New York City and other communities are supporting the project by hosting viewings and discussions. Participating students are encouraged to share their thoughts on the film and photos of their experience on social media, using the hash tag #SelmaForStudents.

“We don’t get out like this so much so it’s something different for the students to experience, seeing an educational movie while having fun at the same time,” said Amanda Sherwood, 13, of Orange, New Jersey.

Terrell and many of the business leaders involved were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming enthusiasm for the program and how rapidly it all came together. “The kids will know that there are African-Americans who cared about their education, who found a special connection between this movie and their own lives, and wanted to pay it forward,” he said.

“Selma” — directed by Ava DuVernay– stars David Oyelow as Dr. King, and includes actors Tom Wilkinson as President Johnson, Cuba Gooding Jr., rapper Common, and Oprah Winfrey. “Selma” won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and Best Picture. 

“The police officers beating the peaceful protestors had the biggest impact on me. People have to understand the struggle African-Americans had to go through to vote. We take it for granted,” said Antonio Green, 13, who saw the movie twice this week in South Orange, New Jersey.

The free “Selma” tickets are available for students, while supplies last, through the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, January 19.

Did you take advantage of this amazing offer? What did you think of the movie? Tell me in the comments.

I rubbed elbows with Jon Hamm at HBO’s Girls party

That’s right kids, I was partying with the stars last night. My entertainment producer-friend Alicia, invited me to be her plus 1 at HBO’s extravaganza celebrating the premiere of the fourth season of Girls. 

hbo girls season 4 premiere party ticket on carpoolcandy.com

HBO invited what seemed like nearly a thousand of its nearest and dearest to Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History to view the first two episodes of the new season and eat, drink and be merry with all the pretty people associated with the show.

Seriously, it was hard to find anyone even plain at the event, it was so jammed with long leggy models, wanna-be starlets, waifish “serious” actors and actresses, and many of their astoundingly attractive significant others.

There was a red carpet– complete with paparazzi and screaming fans desperate for a selfie with anyone recognizable–  although we missed that part and headed straight into the screening. Creator, writer, director, and actress Lena Dunham came out with writing-producing partner, Jenni Konner to intro the season, thank everyone for coming (you’re so welcome,) and subtly poke fun at the press.

Both episodes were great and made me laugh a lot. They reminded me a bit of the first season, with the opening scene of Hannah and her parents at dinner discussing her life choices and making some pointed, insulting remarks about how they chose to show their “love and support,” while she was figuring things out. Then she heads to the famous University of Iowa writers workshop, which is fodder for all new quirky characters and chances for Hannah to humiliate herself in her unique way.

hbo girls season 4 premiere party ticket on carpoolcandy.com

After the shows, we strolled through several displays of taxidermy and artifacts to get to the hopping party. There were many star sightings on the way: Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), Alysia Reiner (the evil warden) and Pablo Schreiber, (aka Porn-stache) from Orange is the New Black, Questlove and Steve Higgins from Fallon, John Oliver, a bunch of SNL-ers, including Cecily Strong and Jay Pharaoh, Rita Wilson, and many more faces you would know more than names.

We got a couple of cocktails and took a loop around the balcony, where there were tables set up for guests to get free manicures, hand massages and make up applications.

hbo girls season 4 premiere party on carpoolcandy.com

Alicia and I got hand massages and free Bliss products!

Then we made our way downstairs and pushed through the sea of people. It was a gorgeous party– the food, flowers, lighting– but not over the top or glitzy. Very New York. Very Girls.

As we made our way around the room, we noticed certain tables were reserved for every star of the show.  So we might have lingered longer around Zosia Mamet’s table, where exec producer Jenni Konner was standing in a hot red strapless jumpsuit, yapping with Lorraine Bracco.

I so wanted to approach her and tell her she has my dream job. I thought she might enjoy hearing she’s inspiring to other writers and TV fans. But Alicia advised me against it. So instead I just stood near her trying to overhear her conversation for a few moments, in hopes of gleaning some life advice that would set me on a path to writing riches.

That’s the thing about going to parties like this. We didn’t know anyone there enough to chat with them, so we just wandered around looking for famous faces and acting like it was all completely normal.

We walked past Allison Williams’ table and I got a little flutter when I saw my newsman Brian Willliams there supporting his daughter. I would have loved to tell him we watch him every night and my kids say “Goodnight Brian” to the TV at the end of every newscast, but I would have sounded like a nerdy super fan, so I just kept walking.

Williams looked amazing. All the stars of the show were glammed up and lovely up close. We stood about 20 feet from each of them at different points in the evening, and each was striking, with glowy skin– particularly Jemima Kirke. I guess it helps that they’re all still so damn young.

Here’s a photo of all four stars mugging on the red carpet.

We had heard Jon Hamm was there but didn’t see him until we were almost leaving. I was strategically leaning against a table in Lena’s area when she walked in with her boyfriend, fun singer Jack Antonoff.

hbo girls season 4 premiere party on carpoolcandy.com

That’s Lena talking to Adam Driver & girlfriend. Her bf Jack is behind her on the right.

There was a little buzz, and then the gobs of minions jammed at the bar parted like the Red Sea as Hamm walked towards her table. He had to pass me to get through and for about five minutes he stood talking to someone behind me and we were back to back (elbow to elbow) in a cramped area.

Alicia and I just kept talking about work and TV shows, like it was no biggy. The proximity was actually rather anticlimactic. (Although I admired the snug fit of his jacket which hugged him in all the right places.) Shortly after, we decided to go.

As we were exiting the building, Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley– who is extremely hot up close– smiled as he held the door open for his stunning girlfriend, and then for us. It was a great way to end the night.

hbo girls season 4 premiere party swag on carpoolcandy.com

I almost forgot about the swag bag! It was heavy with Girlsy goods, including:

I love wine tote bag (totes cute) 
Wade and belle not too tights (will definitely wear these)
Sunglasses (typical giveaway crap but good for kids)
Argyle Happy socks (classic Hannah wear)
Post shaving/waxing lotion for girls  (probably will never use)
Base coat/top coat nail polish in sparkly bag (very useful!)
Bliss anti-aging mask (fancy!)
Dark chocolate covered caramel (ate one on train home)
Flowered le sportsac (retro chic)
Loreal redlip gloss  (not my color)
Tinted moisturizer/Sunscreen  (will try it)
Eyebrow oil (didn’t even know that was a thing, much less how to use it!)

For photos of boldface names (and some randoms I didn’t know) plus party decorations, check out Vogue’s slideshow here.

FYI, HBO announced at the party it has picked up Girls for a fifth season, before the fourth has even started. Who knows who I’ll rub up against next year?!

Feminism gains momentum in 2014

Malala feminism moments of 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

I’m a feminist and you are too. The definition of a feminist is someone who believes that men and women should have equal rights.

Who can’t get on board with that?

There was probably a time in my youth when I didn’t identify as a feminist because the media, our culture, and mostly men put the term in a box. Feminists looked a certain way or were  portrayed as angry bitches.

We’re not bitches, but we are angry. And we should be.

We’re inching closer, but we’re still far from equal, and far from being respected and revered they way we deserve.

Take some time over this holiday break to read through some of the 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014. The idea of men and women sharing equal rights shouldn’t be revolutionary, it should be a given. All the moments on the list are getting us closer to that.

Emma Waston feminism moments of 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Actress Emma Watson’s address to the United Nations inspired me, actress Ellen Page outing herself during a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference made me cry, and Aziz Ansari’s take on feminism on the Letterman show cracked me up.

Most of the list is filled with pop culture moments in TV, music, and movies, politics, and sports that may make you see feminism in a new light.

Emma Waston feminism moments of 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a woman or love and appreciate one. We’re changing the way our culture thinks, we’re feeling empowered, using those powers for good, and  affecting change.

Someday soon we may even get paid as much as men for doing the same job. We may get a lady in the White House.

A girl can dream, right?

Are you a proud feminist? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Christmas New York style

Our clan kept up our annual Christmas traditions– cruising the 5th Avenue windows, gaping at the Rockefeller Tree, indulging in Christmas Eve sushi, and watching the Knicks at the Garden– to ring in the holiday.

5th Avenue holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Tiffany’s on corner of 57th and 5th

Thought I’d share my pics. It’ll be just like you were there, without all the rain, crowds, and pain of losing (the Knicks got schooled by the Wizards 91-102.)

Sure, it was drizzling and the Midtown streets were packed with tourists walking too slowly, but I didn’t care. I love seeing how the visionaries at the big department stores create art in a small space.

Bergdorf Goodman is always my favorite. This year the theme was the arts so each window represented a different artistic discipline.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

This was the literature window…..Every image framed here is a tapestry, needle pointed, or stitched by hand. All the objects were made of fabric so the texture adds a dimension to the intense red colors. Amazing!

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Architecture had a blue vibe.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

That’s Eli’s silhouette against the original neon representing theater arts. He’s my go-to guy for window gazing. My other two find it a snore so I left them in the car with Wilson.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Each window tableau is an individual expression, thought out and styled with precision and purpose. Eli noticed that the giant objects here mimicked what was in the painting.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

I loved the glittery jumpsuit in the music window– reminded me of Cher.

Tiffany holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Next we moved onto Tiffany’s. The rings in the window are real giant diamonds. The box behind the gentleman’s back moved back and forth in anticipation.

Tiffany holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Eli and I liked how they incorporated the real Tiffany jewels into New York scenes. He wanted to buy me the ring and said it probably only cost “like a thousand dollars.” I wish!

Fendi holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Fendi kept it simple and meaningful with neon words spelling peace in various languages.

Saks holiday windows 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

There’s my trusty admirer in front of the Saks windows. We loved their whimsical take on fairy tales, with a New York twist. Each window started with “Once upon a time in New York……”  and ended with a funny modern line.

This is Cinderella who was willing to entertain the prince who brought her a pair of designer shoes. Rumpelstiltskin was the meanest spin teacher in all the land, and Sleeping Beauty was having trouble keeping up in the city that never sleeps.

Saks holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Here Snow White is worried about getting a poison apple on the street.

Rockefeller Tree on carpoolcandy.com

This was as close to the Rockefeller tree as we got this year. Close enough!

Christmas sushi on carpoolcandy.com

New York sushi = yum.

Knicks at MSG on carpoolcandy.com

Carmelo Anthony taking a free throw

The boys were excited to see the Knicks, but were less than pleased with their performance. I like seeing the celebrities and the dancers.

Knicks at MSG on carpoolcandy.com

Hope your holiday was merry and bright!






I hate gift cards, and other holiday complaints

On the subject of gift giving, I’ve been as ornery as the Abominable Snowman this month. As you may have guessed from my last three posts—holiday gift guides for men, women, and kids—I love shopping for presents. I like thinking about the person’s passions and choosing a gift that not only says, “I appreciate you,” but also “ I get you.”

It’s not always easy to do, especially when you have a lot of people on your list. But when I think of holidays, I remember– from toddler to teen years– my parents making the holidays chock full of special surprises. As I wrote last year, I celebrated both Christmas and Hannukah growing up.

Our tradition—which started when we were young and believed in Santa—was to wake up Christmas morning with most of our gifts displayed, unwrapped around that delicious-smelling, glittering Spruce tree.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

That year I got a Shaun Cassidy album and poster, a dollhouse, and a Snoopy bank.

We’d squeal in delight as we rushed from one gift to another as our exhausted parents (up all night putting together toys and drinking eggnog) smiled with satisfaction.

I’ll never forget the dollhouse my parents decorated and rehabbed (as if it was for sale)– with individually glued parquet floors, accessories (including lamps with shades made of toothpaste covers,) and electricity.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

Christmas 1977


As we got older, the wonder didn’t stop. One year, after begging for my own phone line for months, my parents told me unequivocally no…and then wrapped up a box filled with business cards that read “Brooke E. Schon/Kid” with a phone number. When I dialed the number, I heard a phone ringing behind the couch and ran to it like it was a long-lost lover.

That was the gift precedent sent in my house: imaginative, personal, and full of surprise.

Modern holidays for my kids are a far cry from those days of yore. We’re raising our kids Jewish so we celebrate Hannukah, which creates pressure to spread the wonder out over eight nights.

Ninety percent of the items on my kids’ wish lists were gift cards—for Nike.com, local restaurants, and sports stores—which are about as thrilling as reindeer poop.

I usually ignore most of the lists and try to come up with things I think they’ll like. I keep notes in my phone every time they say they want something during the year, and I dig around on the internet for original ideas that will appeal.

But the lists are the word of God, as far as the grandparents are concerned.

They are all lovely, caring, generous people, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to buying gifts, they seem singularly obsessed with getting the kids EXACTLY what they want.

I’m not sure what the fear is here. Are they worried what will happen if the kids are disappointed? Perhaps it’s fear they’ll be dropped from the boys’ texting favorites list or shut out completely?!

As a result, they email and call me mercilessly until they nail down a gift they KNOW the kids will like. When I offer off-list suggestions, (or write a gift guide for kids!) they can’t quite commit.

This year, after I didn’t answer my mother’s inquiries quickly enough, she starting texting Jacob directly about what size NFL jersey she should get for each boy. He actually asked his brothers for details and sizes, so he blew the surprise for them too.

When I called her on it, she felt badly but I’m not positive she won’t do it again!

“Remember the time I got them that air hockey table you suggested that was stuck in the basement corner and they only played with it a few times?” she asked accusingly. (a. not true, they played with it plenty b. where else would it go but a corner in the basement?! c. at least it was a fun idea they were not expecting!)

Where’s the whimsy? Where’s the mystery and joy of the holiday?

Hannukah present on carpoolcandy.com

Our front hall bench houses all the presents during Hannukah week. The boys shake the boxes and manhandle the gift bags, wondering aloud if this is the video game Uncle Jon said he was getting, or the jersey Nan promised to buy. It’s not whether they’ll get these things, but which box they are in.


Many of the relatives settled on gift cards. Gift cards are not fun to wrap or open, and most get spent and forgotten instantly. They turn the delight of giving into a business transaction.

I refuse to grant Jacob the gift cards on his list at the bagel and Chinese places in town. Two Taylor ham and egg sandwiches and sesame chicken just don’t scream stocking stuffer to me.

I know it’s difficult to come up with fresh ideas as the kids get older but there are other options. What about experiences? Time in the batting cages, tickets to a basketball game, or go-cart racing? Google “gifts for kids who like animals,” and get a bunch of options.

It’s a risk to guess at what the kids might like, I get that. But when the risk pays off, it’s sweet.


eli pillow

I found a plush battery-powered pillow for Eli on Amazon that lights up and changes colors. It was random and inexpensive, but soft and fun in the dark when he has trouble falling asleep. He loved it.

I’ll get down from my soap box now, and hope I don’t sound ungrateful for relatives who want to spend money to make my kids happy at this time of year.

I’d just love my kids to look back on their childhood holidays with nostalgia– as I do–  and look forward to every year, knowing it will be filled with unexpected bounty.

Are your holidays full of surprises? Tell me in the comments!