Archive for Activities

Mo Willems and a Seriously Silly Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum

Mo Willems has reached celebrity status in our house.

This is Mo.

Haven’t heard of him?  Rest assured your kids have.  Mo lives in Brooklyn.  He created Knuffle Bunny…and the Pigeon who wants to drive the bus…and Elephant and Piggie…  Yeah that Mo Willems.  He’s a genius.

Bean will even correct grown-ups who call him Mo Williams.  We had to have a conversation about correcting grown-ups after she pulled that one with the parent of a classmate.

So up in Amherst, Massachusetts (coincidentally where I went to college), there is a museum dedicated to the brilliant children’s book writer Eric Carle called the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  Once upon a time on this blog I made a video about Eric Carle.  Remember when I used to make videos with my very compliant baby?  Me too.

We visited this museum with family  when Bean was teeny, and we were blown away.  It is light and airy and inspiring and beautiful.  There are activities and displays and to quote my favorite book as a child… there’s infinite “scope for imagination.”  And right now, on display, there is a wonderful new exhibit all about Mo Willems called Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems.

According to the museum, the exhibition, curated by The Carle’s chief curator, Nick Clark, will show preliminary drawings that give viewers a glimpse of Willems’ process, as well as other finished illustrations that fully reveal his comedic genius and the influence of his early work as an animator for Sesame Street. Willems’ own work is accompanied by a selection of work from his private collection by the comic book artists and cartoonists who have inspired him most, including Charles M. Schulz, William Steig, and Saul Steinberg. Like the masters who came before him, Willems makes a powerful message look simple. “Writing, especially funny stuff, involves touching your own heart,” says Willems. “But to get there you have to rip open the rib cage and squeeze past the lungs. It can’t help but be messy, shocking, and painful.”

I have a friend who uses the Elephant and Piggie books as scripts for his Intro to Acting classes.  I think this says something rather profound about the books and about Mo Willems as a writer.  The stories are active.  They get at something essential about relationships–about conflict and action and reaction and resolution.  They open the rib cage, squeeze past the lungs, and touch the heart which is pretty much mandatory for actors.  And they are wonderfully open to dramatic interpretation.  My new reader is never more expressive vocally than when she is reading an Elephant and Piggie book aloud.

So in these dog days of summer, if you are looking for a fabulous adventure with your children, and you are within striking distance of Amherst, Massachusetts, by all means, GO!  Walk the campus of beautiful Amherst College and take in dinosaur bones at the Beneski Museum of Natural History.  Get a chocolate croissant at The Black Sheep.  Check out the Ko Theater Festival. Piggie out on a pizza from Antonio’s.  And of course, spend many hours at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  You’ll be so glad you did.

Seriously Silly is on view now through February 23, 2014.  Thank you to the Eric Carle Museum for sending us four passes to visit!  Hope we can use them very very soon!

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Monsters University Storybook Deluxe: An Education in Scary

When asked to review Monsters University Storybook Deluxe app, CW and I were thrilled.  We have many of the Disney Storybook Deluxe editions and love them!  CW has never watched “Monsters, Inc.” and with the upcoming release of “Monsters University,” he was thrilled to learn the “story behind the monsters.”

As a scare student, CW took his own photo with the iPad to create his student I.D. card!  Then, he was able to add funny “monster” features such as extra eyes, bat-like ears, and etc.  He loved hearing the story read to him and tapping the screen for animation and surprise monsters!


Just as Mike Wazowski once did, CW went through monster training, which includes avoiding “toxic obstacles” like books, kids’ toys, and lamps.  Once he clears all of the obstacles he must roar at the screen to gain extra points.  CW finds this part to be his favorite and enjoys making up new “scary” sounds!  We have not managed to clear the first level and unlock Sully as the player yet, but CW is already excited to try out the next monsters and their games.

Personally, I found this Storybook Deluxe to be a little less satisfying than some of the others but CW has not lost interest at all.  I felt like the game versions were all the same exact thing but in different locations.  Still, I love the book aspect of it, and I think once we clear Mike Wazowski’s level that we will get to some more interesting games.  On the other hand, CW doesn’t mind the repetition, and begs to play the game nearly every day.  So, for us it is a win!

The Monsters University Storybook App is available on iTunes and is on sale today for $.99!  ROAR!

photo10 150x150 Mike the Knight is on a Mission and a GiveawayKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and little brother MD.

Babies Gotta Have It received this app for purposes of review.  As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and weren’t influenced by anyone.



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Mike the Knight is on a Mission and a Giveaway

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Come one, come all to the special appearance of Mike the Knight at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville, NY on June 23rd for a brand-new live performance!  He will appear in two FREE live interactive musical performances of Mike the Knight and the Mission for Hidden Treasure at noon and 2:30 pm!

Mike will be joined by his dragon, Squirt, and according to the official press release, they will be available for “meet and greets, photo opportunities, giveaways, and a preview of the first Mike the Knight toys from Fisher-Price!”  Young knights will have a chance to tell Mike what “knightly deeds” they have been doing and participate in a special knighting ceremony!  Guests are also encouraged to dress in knight and princess attire!!

We love the Mike the Knight books in our house, and cannot get enough of Squirt the dragon.  If you want to read more about our thoughts, click here.  If you live in the NYC area, I highly encourage you to take your knights and princesses to this amazing musical experience.  For more on the Broadway Mall, please visit here.  And if you can’t make it to Hicksville, don’t despair!  Mike the Knight will be making appearances in several locations around the US as part of his Mission for Hidden Treasure tour!  Just click here for more info!

 And that’s not all!!!  Babies Gotta Have It is hosting a giveaway of the brand new Mike the Knight DVD “Knight in Training” and The Mike the Knight Sword and Shield Dress Up Set pictured above!  Want to enter?  Just fill out the easy Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



photo10 150x150 Mike the Knight   A Great Book HeroKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and little brother MD.

Babies Gotta Have It received these books for purposes of review.  As always, all opinions are Kristin and her boys and weren’t influenced by anyone.  Babies Gotta Have It is an Amazon affiliate.

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Peg + Cat are Coming to PBS Kids

Peg + Cat New PBS Series for Preschoolers


I think a new PBS Kids series is kind of always a cause for celebration. But one that is produced by the Fred Rogers Company, stars a spunky little girl and her cat, and teaches early math skills through hilarious adventures? Maybe that’s cause for a Wednesday morning party!

Peg + Cat, coming in October 2013 to PBS Kids was co-created by folks who previously worked on “The Wonder Pets” and Broadway’s “Rent.” Not a bad pedigree! It introduces a new heroine for our little girls, Peg, and her sidekick Cat. The two pals embark upon crazy adventures to such locales as purple planets, Radio City Music Hall and even Romeo and Juliet’s 16th century Verona. Peg and Cat inevitably end up in a jam and have to use their smarts and some math skills to solve a challenge and save the day. The show will premiere with a one hour broadcast of two episodes on Monday October 7th, but you can already find Peg and Cat online. Play some games. Spend the summer getting to know them. This is one little gal who I think could become a very good friend.

This post originally appeared on!

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As Long as She Needs to Be Held

I remember very clearly the moment I read the email.  Two days after Bean’s birthday last August I was sitting on a bench at a playground in Riverside Park.   Bean was climbing and sliding.  I was most likely sipping some iced coffee drink or other.   The email’s subject read simply “Hello [Bean’s New School] Parent.”  What followed was a message to all the incoming kindergarten parents from a fellow family.  They wrote to share how excited they were for the start of the school year and also for us to meet their daughter Rafi.  Rafi, they said, has a rare genetic disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa that makes her skin extremely sensitive and fragile.  The slightest friction or even excessive heat can cause it to tear and blister.  As a result she has many “boo boos” which are covered with bandages both to protect them and to facilitate healing.  The letter was thoughtful and positive.  Rafi’s parents shared how aside from her EB, she is much like any other almost-Kindergartener.  She loves to play and to draw.  She has friends and has been to preschool.  She is funny…

And as I sat there on the bench, watching my brand new five year old leap and run, roll and twirl, my heart just kind of went out to these people I had never met.  Parenthood is hard enough…starting kindergarten and making friends and becoming part of a new community are all hard enough…without the added difficulty of having to send a message to all the parents at your child’s new school sharing with them her delicate medical condition.  And these two parents had done just that with such grace and such generosity that I was rather overwhelmed.

Cate and I went home that afternoon and I told her about the email I had received.  We watched the video put out by DebRA which explains EB in the Classroom in a clear and very child-friendly manner.  I explained to Cate that the top layer of our skin is attached to the under layer like grass on top of the earth.  But Rafi’s “grass” is missing the “roots” so she gets ouchies very easily.

Cate turned to me and said, “But how will she hold her babies?”

I shrugged helplessly and blinked back tears.

We are so lucky that Rafi is in Cate’s class.  We have gotten to know her and her family and Cate and Rafi are friends.  And I have become friends with two of the most wonderful parents you could ever hope to meet.  Brett and Jackie are generous and kind, they are engaged and active, and they are tireless and tenacious advocates for their daughter. And because they are so wonderful themselves, a community of people has formed around them–friends who they support day in and day out, and who in turn decided to reach out and try to help Rafi.  And so, last year, the First Annual Rafi’s Run was held to raise money to find a cure.

EB is an absolutely dreadful disease.  You can read all about it online, but suffice it to say that for Rafi’s condition there is currently no cure.  Every day Rafi comes to school wrapped from neck to feet in bandages.  Every night she undergoes a two hour bath time in which those bandages are painstakingly removed, her wounds are tended to, and her bandages are reapplied.  It is, I believe, excruciating.  Not only is Rafi’s skin involved–her inner organs are as well.  And her eyes.  And her esophagus.  And her teeth.  Her little feet are blistered and torn from the simple act of walking.  She has to wear her clothing inside out because seams cause blisters.  From what I can see, there is no end to the misery of this disorder.

And yet.  Rafi laughs.  She sings.  She makes jokes.  She reads she dances she writes poetry.  She comes to school rain or shine.  She eats black olives.  She loves magic shows and Elmo and “Monsters Inc.”  And when every other kindergartener went ice skating with their 4th grade buddies, she had the courage to talk to the entire middle school and answer questions about herself and her EB.  Rafi blows me away.

The Second Annual Rafi’s Run is taking place on March 10th here in Riverside Park.  10 am.  Enter at 103rd Street.  Rafi’s Run is a 5K Run/Walk to raise money to cure Rafi and all the kids with EB.  It is hard to hear Rafi’s story and not be moved to help.  And there are lots of ways to do so!

Come run with us!  Sign up at the Rafi’s Run website to fundraise and run. Or jog. Or walk.  Just be there.  Donate to a runner or team.  Might I suggest: Team Stetson!  We are so close to our fundraising goal and we’d sure love the help!  All donations go directly to the nonprofit DebRA to fund EB research and are fully tax-deductible.  And finally, spread EB Awareness.  EB is often referred to as the worst disease you’ve never heard of.  We can change that.  Like us on Facebook.  Follow us on Twitter.  And share the run with your friends and family.

How will Rafi hold her babies?

Let’s all fight to ensure the answer to that question is: Closely. Tirelessly. And as long as they need to be held.


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Apps fit for a Princess on Sale for Valentine’s Day

There’s a new princess on the block.  And her name is Sofia.  She gives her wicked stepsister a second chance, she rides horses with the boys, and she has Tim Gunn at her beck and call.  She’s Sofia the First.  And she’s got her own series on Disney Junior and, not suprisingly, her very own app.  Bean and I had a chance to try out the new Sophia the First app, as well as two other Disney princess apps.  And let me tell you, they offer a lot to twirl and dance about.

My personal favorite is Sofia.  The Sofia the First Story Theater app is completely charming.  The storybook mode is a whimsical version of the first Sofia movie, with delightful, simple animation, lovely voicing, and a clear telling of the story.  The interactive story theater mode allows your child to choose three characters from the story, a setting, and then to animate them like puppets and record her voice.  And then save her little shows.  It’s creative and adorable and I’m totally on board.

The Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast Storybook Deluxe Apps are also enjoyable and quite similar to the other Disney apps in the same series.  Each tells the story of the movie in multiple reading modes: read myself, read to me, and record my voice.  I have experimented with the record my voice version and it’s SO FUN! Your chance to be a book narrator!  And a lovely idea if you are traveling and want to leave your child with a bedtime story read by you.  These apps also include painting modes, puzzles and games as well as sing-along videos that are lots of fun.

And the best news is that both of these apps are on sale for $1.99 (down from $4.99) until Friday February 15th.  The Princess Dress Up: My Sticker Book, Princess and the Frog Read Along, and Princess Royal Party Disney apps are also on the same sale so be sure to give them a little look see as well.  All are designed for kids ages four and up.

Disney Storybook apps for your little princess on hearts day.  That’s something baby girls definitely gotta have.

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Thomas the Tank Engine Rolls into NYC with a Giveaway!

Anyone like Thomas the Tank Engine out there?  Thomas fans?  Anyone?

Here at Babies Gotta Have It we are big Thomas the Tank Engine fans.  Kristen and her boys have been to Thomas events, played with Thomas Apps,  and rode on the Risky Rails with a Thomas train set.

So if, say, there was a fabulous event in the huge mega Toys R’ Us in Times Square…where say you and your kids could meet Sir Topham Hatt, play with the newly launched Thomas Wooden Railway, and receive a fun giveaway…well you could count on all of us at Babies Gotta Have It to tell you, right?

Well, on Friday February 8th, at the huge mega Toys R’ Us in Times Square at 1 pm EST, there will indeed be such an event featuring all that and more!  The first 250 fans at the event will indeed win some super cool giveaways!  And your little train fanatic will even get to attend a story time with Sir Topham Hatt himself!

And how about a sneak peek at the newest Thomas Wooden Trains?  The new Thomas Wooden Railway line from Fisher-Price will debut at this event with tons of engines, destinations, and track sets in a line that will just keep growing in the future.  For more than 65 years, children have enjoyed the adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends on the Island of Sodor through stories and Thomas toys powered by children’s own imagination.  The Thomas story began when the Rev. W. Awdry created a fable about a cheeky blue engine named ‘Thomas’ on the fictional Island of Sodor and whittled a wooden train to entertain his young son.  The introduction of Thomas Wooden Railway is also a journey that takes Fisher-Price back to its roots—which started 83 years ago with wood toys.  In 1931, in East Aurora, New York, children’s book writer and illustrator Margaret Evans Price, wife of founder Irving Price, designed the first wooden Fisher-Price toys.

Great stories.  Wooden toys.  A magical event in one of the toy capitals of the world?  Yeah, that’s something babies definitely gotta have.

And, just for you Babies Gotta Have It readers, we have a special Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train set Giveaway!  One lucky winner will receive the Thomas 5-in-1 Up and Around Set by Fisher Price:  create up to 5 different layouts with this 20-piece playset which includes Thomas, 17 pieces of track, a bridge and a tunnel.   For kids ages three years and up.  Want to enter?  Use our super easy Rafflecopter entry form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We received the Thomas the Tank Engine set above for purposes of review. As always, all opinions are entirely my own and were in no way influenced by anyone. Babies Gotta Have It is an Amazon affiliate.

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Love to Home Swap!

Think you can’t afford to go abroad and take your family?  Think again.

For a few years we had an absolutely wonderful neighbor who lived above us in our building.  Suzanne is from Paris.  She is an actress, married to a Physicist and they have two beautiful children.  When they wanted to travel in the summer what did they do?  They signed up on a home exchange website…you know, like the one Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet used in the movie The Holiday…and they went.  And saved a ton of money.  And had so much more space to stay with their active family than they would have in a little hotel room.  I had never really considered a house swap before Suzanne brought it up.  I mean…it’s kind of weird right?  Someone you don’t know coming and staying in your home? I mean…weird.  Right?

But you know why we think that way?  We’re Americans.  And we’re uptight.  We worry about our stuff breaking and stains on our sofas and what might go wrong more than other people around the world do.  And because of that, we may miss out on wonderful experiences. I really believe that.  I think the Europeans are way more loosey goosey…and possibly more adventurous than we are…and as a result, maybe they live more exciting lives than we do. They certainly pay less to travel!

Last summer when we were first thinking of a trip to France we looked at a few home exchange sites, but we never joined one.  Still feeling too uptight.  Still not sure. But we rented an apartment in Paris for so much less than we would have paid for a hotel.  We had tons more space which with a child is just so wonderful.  We saved money on food because we had a kitchen, stove and refrigerator.  And we had the experience of shopping for groceries in Paris!  I love a swanky hotel room as much as the next gal, but so much about that experience made me think that this is the way to go!  Especially with a family.  You Mamas know that little kids need room to spread out and run around and sprawl and nap.  And I just don’t know how you do that in a tiny European hotel room. But you can do that in even a modest European apartment.  And who says you have to limit your destinations to Europe?

So. When Love Home Swap approached me at the end of the summer to review their site…I signed up…sort of halfway.  I browsed through the amazing properties available to swap and pretty much thought “yeah no one is going to want to stay in our crummy apartment…”  And then people started inquiring.  And I thought, holy cow this might work!  I cleaned the apartment, waited for a bright sunny day, took some photos and said to myself, “you know, maybe this apartment isn’t so crummy after all.”  And sure enough, a lovely woman from Scotland who has a beautiful home in the country, wrote to us.  We exchanged several emails…and long story short I think we’re heading to the Scottish Countryside this summer.

Love Home Swap runs on a subscription basis.  You can get a fourteen day trial for $30.  But it costs nothing to browse and see the homes that are listed.  So how does a home swap work?  Create your profile.  Say a little bit about who you are, where you want to go and when, and what your home and neighborhood are like.  Upload pics of your home (or your vacation home or lakeside cabin) at its best.  Then wait for offers to come in.  Or go looking for homes that strike your fancy and reach out.  Once you join if you connect via Facebook, Love Home Swap will even show you homes that are owned by friends of Facebook friends.  So that whole creepy stranger staying in your apartment thing…is a little bit less.

So I think we’re gonna do it.  We’ll pack up the breakables and jump off a cliff. Because if you spend your whole life sitting around thinking about what might happen if…then it seems like you never actually do.  And this year I’m kinda all about the doing.

Oh and all the photos in this post?  Yeah they’re homes that are available for swaps on Love Home Swap.

A little adventure in the Scottish Highlands.  That’s something Mamas and Babies definitely gotta have.

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Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Take Apps to a New Level

At Babies Gotta Have It we think that a little screen time is a-ok in moderation.  Here, Kristin gives her review of the new Disney Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic apps!  Enjoy!

It may seem from my reviews here on Babies Gotta Have It that my son is on the iPad every five seconds!  But before you go questioning my parenting choices, you need to know that CW has an allotted amount of time on the iPad per day.  It is not a ton of time.  Usually it is the amount of time it takes me to put MD down for a nap.  I make sure that the educational apps are peppered in there, but I do not have to guide him too much.  He loves to do the interactive books, especially the Disney Storybook Deluxe versions of Cars, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo.


If you are new to the Storybook Deluxe versions, you are in luck!  There is a new version!  In preparation for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ newest 3-D animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph, Disney released two new apps — Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe and Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic.  Now, CW was a little scared of the Wreck-It Ralph story…we just skipped some of it and went to the games.  Later, I went back through and read along with the story – it includes cy-bugs that attack, which is what scared my four year old.  I would say you just have to know your child.  The app is rated for ages four and up by iTunes. My nephew was watching Star Wars and Transformers at this same age with no problems.  He would love this app.

 The app takes you through the story of Wreck-It Ralph, which may be a helpful tool prior to seeing the movie!  It is interactive, and your child can click on the page in various places.  But, CW’s favorite part occurs during the story when his face shows up in the screen (your camera captures him) in the video game with Ralph.  At this point in the story, Ralph is encountering the cy-bugs as part of a video game called “Hero’s Duty.”

If you have an older child, it would be best to start with the Hero’s Duty Interactive Comic (rated for ages 9 and up).  It is mentioned in the Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe story, and is helpful to understand the whole story.  I chose not to allow CW to look at the comic, as there are weapons (used to kill the cy-bugs) and I do not want him to be exposed to that yet.  The comic (a prequel to the Wreck-It Ralph story) includes interactive comic pages with original artwork, and two reading modes.  At $1.99, it is great to have for older kids who want a little higher-level reading, or who really enjoy comics.


Although the Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe story did not capture CW’s rapt attention (mainly because he was a bit scared), the interactive game certainly did.  In the games, CW can customize his own candy go-kart and race the kart in “Sugar Rush!” As you can imagine, CW loves the designing and racing aspects of this game.  I particularly loved that multiple reading levels can read the story or children can choose word-by-word narration (with the original character voices from the movie).  Plus, the fact that the child will see himself appear on the screen at key points of the story throughout the app is completely enjoyable for kids!

At $6.99, I highly recommend that you try the app before seeing the movie.  Your kids will love Sugar Rush (the interactive game within the app), and meet all of the characters of Wreck-It Ralph so they won’t have to ask you a billion questions when you actually see the movie!

photo10 150x150 Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case: Protection from Our Hurricane Kristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and little brother MD.

Kristin and her boys received Wreck-It Ralph and Hero’s Duty Apps free for purposes of review.  As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and were not influenced by anyone.

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Last Minute Gift for Geek Moms

I’m a geek.

A huge, nerdy, bespectacled, geek.

And now, a Geek Mom. So how excited was I to receive a copy of “Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families?”

Heh. Snort. (Pushes glasses back on nose). Super excited.

Natania Barron, Kathy Ceceri, Corrina Lawson and Jenny Williams, the editors of the wildly popular GeekMom Blog have written an engaging, funny, practical and crazy geeky book for all of us out there who want to get our geek on with our kids.  If you didn’t know that “The Hobbit” opened last Friday, this may not be the book for you.  If you got advanced tickets, suffice it to say that this book boasts a section entitled “Throwing a Hobbit Feast.”  Under selecting the menu: “Three to five good cheeses…Enough boiled eggs for one person at least…Pickled things…Meaty things…Bread.”  Are you asking yourself, “what about second breakfast and elevenses” yet?

And from Corrina Lawson in her post Geek Mom: What the book means to me:”

“I’m incredibly proud of  the whole book, though I’m especially fond of my Teaching History Through Superheroes project. I love Natania Barron‘s advice on creating a steampunk costume by thrift store shopping, and Jenny Williams’ ode to Ada Lovelace and Kathy Ceceri’s cool project on creating sparks in the microwave. Yes, you can try this at home.”

By now you should be getting a really good indication if this book is for you, Mama.

But seriously, Geek Mom offers far more than a chance for Mama to simply get her nerd on.  It is full of projects and advice, home-science experiments and superheroes, games and tips.  And even if you’ve never cracked a Sci-Fi book or seen an episode of “Battlestar Gallactica”, if you’re a creative, clever, thought-ful parent, you’ll dig this book.

“Being geeky is all about exploring the world with endless curiosity.  Geek Mom is your invitation to introducing the same sense of wonder and imagination to the next generation.”

So.  If you’re looking for a last minute gift for that mom in your life who loves to get her geek on, and by that, the editors of this book mean that gal who when she gets involved in something, gets really involved in it…pick up a copy of Geek Mom.  Christmas is just a few days away, so here’s where you geeks may need to take a step back.  Sure you could probably get it really fast from our affiliate Amazon or even gift the kindle edition, but hey.  Why not put on a coat, grab a cup of coffee, and head down to your local bookstore and pick one up in real life.  While you’re at it, you can geek out over all of the other real live, hard copy books in front of you.  Sure your glasses might fog up when you come in from the cold.

But trust me.  It will be worth it.

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