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Laura Hillman – Voices of History so Important for Youth

The closing of the children’s bookstores that I ran for couple of years was emotionally devastating in many ways.  I loved the employees.  I loved the products that we sold.  I loved the community that supported us and shopped our stores.  I loved being part of the publishing community.  And I loved some of the very special opportunities it provided.

While we had some of my favorite kid authors come through the stores and too some of the local schools with me there is one event that really continues to stand out.  Continues to be a voice and an evening that I replay in my head during some of my lowest points.

Laura Hillman, author and holocaust survivor, lives locally.  Her book, “I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree” is a memoir recounting her years spent in Nazi concentration camps during her teens.  Needless to say, it is extremely moving.  In it she tells of the horrors of the camp, the nightmare she lived and different nightmares she witnessed.  She also talk about meeting who would later become her husband.  It has been several years since I read it and my memory mixes with the amazing experience I alluded to above.  That being that I was able to arrange to have her come to our store for a Mom’s book club night.  We had 40 women come for a catered dinner.  And Ms. Hillman spoke to us about her book.  About her life.  About love.  And about forgiveness.

Her voice seems somewhat quietly but her message is powerful.  That we as people, need to treat one another as people.  We need to love.

On Thursday afternoon she will be speaking that powerful message at the Bowers Museum as part of their Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I will be pulling 6 kids from their classes to come and listen to what I hope will be an important lesson on which they too continue to draw on those teenage days that can seem so dark.  Because it is a message of overcoming, forgiving, and having light in one’s life.

Books will be available for purchase and signing after Ms. Hillman is done speaking.  Doors open at 1:00 pm, talk scheduled from 1:30 – 2:30.  Cost $5 students, $8 adults


New Blog Up!

Quick update!  I have a new blog with OC FamilyOC Toy Tales.  In it, I will be reviewing toys and talking about where they can be purchased in Orange County, CA.  Lots to say – and I said in my first post!  So please check it out and leave a comment to be entered into this week’s contest to win the first giveaway.  Fun all the way around!

The Consumer has Spoken

Just posted on my new WordPress blog,  The blog is about how small businesses can use social media to get word out, build an audience and ultimately drive sales.  The post is about how grassroots consumers used Facebook and blogs to pretty much demand that Mattel produce a bald Barbie in support of pediatric cancer.  And how Mattel then used Facebook to announce their response.  A huge departure from the traditional press releases.  The Kidstuffilove angle of the story?  Can’t you see! – never before have consumers had such a voice.  Not only to drive sales of particular products but to drive the production itself.  Who doesn’t love that!?!

Changing Things Up


(above is the profile pic I took of myself with my iphone for OC Toy Tales)


Howdy, Friends!  It has been awhile.  Too long for sure.  Let me explain.

Over the last couple of months, I have been in conversation with OC Family about doing a toy review blog.  I am excited to say OC Toy Tales launch is imminent!  It just took longer to pull it all together than I thought it would.  So while I was working things out with OC Family, I considered letting this blog go.  However, something weird happened!  During my hiatus, this site got traction.  All of a sudden, I was a top find in several categories on Google search, and even though I wasn’t writing, I was being read.  So, kidstuffilove is staying put which is great, as I love it so.  What is the point of this post?  To say “Hi, Dear Reader”, “Thanks for reading!” and “More content is coming.  Good content.  Great kidstuff.  And links to the OC Family blog where I will have some great giveaways!”  Hang tight, I am almost there.


Who Doesn’t Love a Cuddle Up Storytime?


Sorry folks – it’s been busy out there on the road – but busy is a good thing.  And I do love how retailers have needed to stock up in January because Christmas finally hit in December.

There are so many new things in 2012 which I am excited to see at New York’s Toy Fair in a couple of weeks.  Until then, spending some weekend time cuddling with good books.  And if you have a little guy, Zoobies has come out with my favorite of the Storytime Pals – Llama Llama Red Pajama – perfect for a winter cuddle up and story.  (If you click the link to see them, it won’t show Llama Llama for a couple of more weeks when he is ready to ship) For those who don’t know the Llama Llama by Anne Dewdney, this is a super fun picture series that meets all of my criteria – fun read aloud for both child and parent, character with kick, and very charming illustrations.  Illustrations of the main character that actually translate well into a soft plush character that can serve as toy, a pillow, and unzips to reveal a sweet patchwork blanket.  For retailers, pairing this with some of the books from the series (also see Zoobie’s Olivia, Goodnight Moon Bunny, and Very Hungry Caterpillar to name a few) makes for a very strong gift area in your store.  For consumers, check with your favorite local gift store to see who is carrying it.  I know Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book will have them in towards the end of February!

Stay warm!


Always Looking for the Joy!

About six months ago, I wrote a post about loving to provide kids with the opportunity to make a difference through their own efforts.  The post featured my daughter’s participation in Relay for Life.  And it was at the Costa Mesa’s 2011 Relay for Life that we saw Jessica Joy Rees for the first time.  Jessica (Jessie) had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.  She was the same age as the girls I had with me.

Several months after that, my Facebook friend and one of the Costa Mesa Relay’s organizers, Robin, posted a link to Jessie’s own page where she was quickly gaining fans to help spread her message of NEGU – Never Ever Give Up.  As an advocate of kids making a difference, I fanned her page and was rewarded on a daily basis with updates about her condition, support she received from her friends and her family.  And about how with two brain tumors and chemo, this kid was out to make a difference in the 50,000+ lives of the pediatric cancer patients in this country.  She and her parents had started the NEGU Foundation (Never Ever Give Up) in an effort to raise money for Jessie’s Joy Jars.  These Joy Jars come with a NEGU t-shirt and can be filled with all sorts of goodies – things to do at the hospital.  Things that let these kids know that someone cares.

Jessie’s amazing vision and her dedication inspired numerous people locally and worldwide.  Fans to her page span the globe.  Eva Longoria spent an afternoon with Jessie, filling Joy Jars.  Local news featured her story and linked to her page.  John Tesh signed on to do a benefit concert for NEGU at the St. Regis(later this month).  Momentum was building.  And Jessie and her dad challanged her Facebook fans to help build her fan base from the 20,000+ she has to 50,000+ this year – one person for every pediatric cancer patient.

Yesterday Jessie’s parents posted the very sad news that Jessie had lost her battle with cancer.  The outpouring on her page has been incredible.  And her fans honored her by reaching out and asking people to fan her page in hopes of helping her reach the goal she made.  The result?  By the time I went to bed last night, the goal had been met – over 30,000 people fanned her page in the last 24 hours.

And now the real work – turning those fans into workers, completing Jessie’s real task.  Putting 50,000 Joy Jars in 50,000 little hands.  Check out the site (it has been inundated in the last day, it might be hard getting on – bookmark it and come back!) and see how you can help.  Become a fan.  Buy a Joy Jar.  Become a corporate sponsor.  If you are a store, hold a Joy Jar day and work with the organization to fill jars at your store one day.   If you work with a group that wants community hours, have them contact NEGU to fill joy jars!  If you are a manufacturer and have closeout product, donate to the Joy Jars.  So many great ways to become involved and share the Joy.  Thank you, Jessie, for the world of difference you have made!  NEGU!

Valentine’s Day – only 46 Shopping Days Away

The nature of retail is to remind the consumer of the next major holiday that requires at least one or two purchases.  So far no gifts are exchanged on Martin Luther King Day, but I am sure it is being worked on.  In the meantime, the next giving holiday is Valentine’s Day.  As an adult, the day for lovers can bring strong feelings on many spectrums. From the lonely night at home, the husband who lacks imagination, and the restaurants that are overcrowded and overpriced serving mediocre food to the anticipation of first Valentine’s together, a nice piece of jewelry.  Best of all – maybe a great night IN.

I am nervous about saying this as I am sure it will only confirm your earlier suspicions that I am a dweeb, but here I go anyway (isn’t the purpose of the blog to help facilitate one to bare all secrets to complete strangers?).  I have been happily married for nearly two decades and courted for a number of years before that.  I have had romantic cards made for me, expensive dinners in fancy cities.  I have enjoyed champagne and chocolates.  (And some years I have crashed in front of the tv.)

But I have never anticipated the thrill of Valentine’s Day more than I did in elementary school.  The making of the special Valentine’s Day mailbox.  Doilies.  Glue.  Stickers. Red and pink crayons.  The classroom party with sugar cookies and icing.  The Valentine’s Day card from every person in the class.  Best part…the end of the day when the bell rang and I could race home and safely begin to sort through my cards.  Looking for signs of requited love from secret crushes, promises of BEST friends from my pals, and foiled covered chocolates from the kids whose moms had discovered another way to demonstrate their superiority (apologies if you are that mom – it is from envy that I speak.)

While the Valentine’s excitement for my kids has been a motivator – it is not always the motivator I need to stay on the ball and hit the stores before only “those Valentines” are left.  We have run the gamut.  We have had no choice but to buy Sponge Bob cards at 7:00 pm on Feb. 13th.  And we have doled out a small fortune (even with my Michael’s coupons) to purchase all sorts of decorative materials to make 50+ cards at home (two kids and I am NOT that craft mom!) We have bought double packs so we could sift out the ones that say awkward things that kids don’t want to say to other kids for fear of being shunned.  And if I am on the ball in a given year, we have bought foil covered chocolates to attach to the Valentine’s (what is up with the Necco hearts?  Nostalgia, yes.  Taste good? Never did!)

Imagine my excitement when I was the buyer for the children’s bookstores and I discovered not one – but two great lines that were designed with moms like me in mind.  Okay, I am not positive they were designed specifically with me in mind but I do know that they help mom’s like me shine.  And with a true Hollywood ending to this love story, I now rep not one – but both of these lines!  And I am telling you, they are the best Valentine card lines EVER!

For those who like the idea of having your kids make their own cards, Made by Hands Valentine’s Kit is for you!  It come complete with cards and all of the components your kids will need to make a classroom full of hand decorated cards.  Done.  All in one box.  Thank you very much!  The cards are adorable and other moms will definitely mutter things about how you set the bar too high – it is a win-win!

And for those who want something cute and not handmade looking – Peaceable Kingdom has the best line of Valentine Cards to which they added a second tier this year.  The first grouping has things like scratch and sniffs, and tattoos, all with cute graphics, not-ackward text, and sweet little envelopes to put each one in.

Their second tier is without envelopes and therefore retails at a lower price.

All awesome options for the moms who know how magical Valentine’s cards can be!  And why do I write this blog with 46 shopping days left until Valentine’s Day.  To gently nudge you so you don’t find yourself in line the night before with the Sponge Bob Valentine’s in your hand.  You’re welcome.

Made By Hands lists store locations on their website.  Check with the ASTRA site to find independent stores that may be carrying Peaceable Kingdom.