15 interesting celebs who drank the Sesame Street Kool-Aid

You say you’re in the mood to discuss great literature? Well, that’s just adorable, but as my Great Aunt Ida would say: “Go see where you gotta go.” I’m the mommy of a two-year-old. There will be no book reading, ever, to take place in this house. Ever again. Is that clear?

Now, I’m a firm believer in becoming as much of an expert in whatever experience just happens to be yours at the moment–vapid or otherwise. Since Sesame Street haunts my dreams, I thought I’d dig up a list of 15 of the coolest, most interesting celebs who took time out of their busy day to hang with muppets.

Lauren Bacall

The coolest woman ever in films not only appeared on an early episode of the show–where she read to children–she has been referenced several times since. Apparently, not one but two minor muppets reuse her infamous quote to Bogie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?”

Carol Burnett

One of the funniest comediennes in history was also the first celebrity guest to appear in a Sesame Street telecast. She shared air time with Kermit in 1969.

Buzz Aldrin

Who else could convince Cookie Monster that the moon is not made of cookies? Sadly, Cookie didn’t get to find this out until 2005. I believe he was 49 at the time.

Chuck Close

How can you not love that the contemporary artist chatted with Big Bird about art in 2001? Though wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to shoot the shit with Bert, a muppet who you can actually envision hanging a replica of Rembrandt?

Robert De Niro

In 2001, the legendary actor entertained Elmo by pretending to be everything from a dog to a head of lettuce (which only De Niro could pull off).

Elvis Costello

You can say he bastardized a great song — “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”–but at the end of the day, it is his song to bastardize.

Jake Gyllenhaal

It’s not at all surprising that the actor appeared on the show; what’s surprising is that millions of moms had to force themselves not to shout, “He’s so cute!”  while wiping oatmeal from their child’s chin.

Hugh Jackman

In 2009, Jackman and Elmo spoke with an Australian audience about bushfires. Which is important, I know. But he and Gyllenhaal are also important because they don’t so much make me mind having to watch Sesame Street. So much.


The rapper-turned-actor chats with Elmo about his love for rhymes on a 2007 episode.

Kim Cattrall

The Sex in the City star appeared on a 2008 episode, where she–no surprise here–demonstrated the meaning of the word “fabulous.”

Kofi Annan

If only all unruly toddlers could follow the former UN Secretary-General’s example on the show as he taught some pissed off muppets how to resolve a dispute.

Cyndi Lauper

The outrageously talented 80s star sang “Do the Twist” with the Twister Sisters on the Sesame Street video “Elmocize.”

Nina Simone

In 1972, the beautiful singer sat on a city stoop alongside some groovy looking kids in bell-bottoms and serenaded them with “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”

Stockard Channing

Rizzo + Jim Henson’s muppets = everything great in the world. But years before Grease, Channing made her TV debut on Sesame Street playing “The Number Painter” (1972).

Lisa Bonet (aka Denise Huxtable)

Hands down, the best dressed television character of the 1980s appeared on the show in 1986 beside Gonzo and her Cosby co-star, Tempestt Bledsoe.

Who are your favorite Sesame Street celebs? Oh, you’re too busy reading? Liar!


Discipline tips for wussy moms

According to this article published in Redbook, the average toddler hears the word “no” 400 times a day. If the average toddler spent more time with me, she/he would hear things like, “Let’s not do that” and “Don’t you want to do this instead of that?” Total wussy mom. I want a respectful, amazing child, but man do I have to work through my whole aversion to discipline.

I’m going to be a good American girl and blame this on my own mommy. Any toddler who spent as much time with my mother as my K does would hear 400 “no’s” in addition to all of the following:

* “Don’t fall down, gonna get a boo-boo!”

* “Be careful!”

* “Watch how you sit in that chair!”

* “Don’t run!”

* “You’re going to trip on the rug if you walk that fast.”

* “You’re going to get a splinter if you don’t put on your shoes.”

* “Brrrr…it’s cold, where’s your hat? Did mommy forget to put you in an undershirt?” (It’s 60 degrees outside)

I feel I have to pepper each of these rants with the obligatory–Holy crap, my mother is saving my life by watching K while I work. Which is true. She is.

But our parenting styles differ greatly and I’m trying to find painless ways to recommend to her that she not fill K’s head with morbid ideas about the countless dangers pervasive in our universe. Do I really want K to grow up and, like me, imagine she has 8 forms of cancer on the basis that “something around her waist area” hurts?

I heard the word “no” regularly as a child. Every answer to every question was “no.” Do I think it screwed me up? Probably not. Do I think it’s odd when parents refuse to ever say “no,” as if it’s a dirty, shameful word? Yes, a little. Regardless, I would much rather maintain a positive home environment, and I am wondering lately if it would be enough to subtly model some of these Redbook suggestions in the hopes that my mother will catch on? Or do I have to have an uncomfortable talk with her–the mere thought of which makes me want to slap myself because (as I mentioned before) she is saving my life by watching K..?

I will paraphrase Redbook’s suggestions on how to discipline children without saying “no:”

1. Instead of saying “no, you can’t so this,” explain why the action shouldn’t be done (example: “We only eat dessert after dinner so that we don’t fill up.”) By the way, do you love my wussy way of saying “we” instead of “you?” It’s a teaching trick I use to make my 8th graders think I am on their side…

2. When your child misbehaves, explain your feelings to him/her. (Example: “It hurts mommy’s feelings when you purposely rip up her term paper. Mommy is going to grad school to make your life better–if it were up to her she’d be drawing in a whopping $4 an hour to write professionally. Don’t make mommy feel bad.”)

3. Provide choices. If your child is doing something you don’t like–such as dragging a blue crayon across a white wall, as K did last night–offer him/her the option of either sitting at the table with her crayons, or–I’m thinking, I’m thinking, what could be more fun than coloring a wall?–I’ll get back to you on that one.

4. Show, don’t tell. Here’s one suggestion that makes sense to me. Instead of saying, “Don’t kick mommy in the tummy when she’s changing you,” take her little hands and pat them gently against your tummy. Show him/her what you want instead of shouting about what you don’t want.

5. Develop a mean voice and look. My husband is the master at this. I’m still working on not laughing every time K does something ridiculous.

Overall, I have some issues with numbers 1 and 2, like 3 and 4, and can’t master #5.

Feel free to send your wussy mom discipline tips my way!


You walk into your caretaker’s house. Your baby is standing on a toy, pushing on a window screen. What now?

Caveat: the caretaker in question is K’s stepfather, who watches my 22-month-old along with my amazing mother-in-law. A-ha, you say to yourself, you are more screwed than I thought.

I love him to death. He’s a caring and humorous Irish man who puts me at ease whenever I worry that K is going to die. Which, when she was an infant, was every half hour. In the last few months, however, his health has been in decline. He falls often and has had to visit several doctors, including a neurologist. Despite the chaos around them, he and my MIL have insisted they can still care for K a few days a week. We’ve been more than happy to oblige because K adores her “ma-ma” and “pop-pop.” And because daycare costs more than my mortgage.

The other afternoon, however, my husband walked into their home and found K standing on her little toy kitchen, which had been positioned against a window, and pushing on the window screen–which does not feature a window guard. Grandpa was sitting a few feet away on the couch, not stepping in to stop this from happening. Needless to say, my husband freaked out and snatched K up. I think he is still shaken over the incident.

We’ve been lucky enough to avoid the incredible expense of daycare up until this point (did I mention the expense of daycare?) I realize we are embarrassingly fortunate. Aside from the cost, of course, we felt and still feel like K benefits more from spending so much time around caring grandparents than caretakers who aren’t truly invested in her well-being. But my husband and I waited until our early 30s to have a baby, which means our parents are well into their 60s. This isn’t old. But there are times when my mom forgets she has told me something–and then forgets again. My father sometimes struggles to hold K–a big girl at 30 pounds–for longer than a few minutes. And I already outlined some of the issues my step father-in-law deals with.

Is it ever fair to expect our aging parents to double as caretakers? Even if they insist?


An introvert mom raising an extravert baby

Two weeks after her first birthday, I decided it was time K made friends. I registered us for a mommy and baby music class in Brooklyn – a carpeted sanctuary rife with sitars, tom-tom drums, and silk scarves used for impromptu Latin dancing. Then I went home and proceeded to plot ways I could extort a refund from the nice bearded man at the music studio.

I believe in the idea of mommy and baby music. But here’s the issue: the thought of sitting in a diner sharing coffee with strange moms after class – moms who probably have strong beliefs about breastfeeding – made me antsy. I have few close acquaintances, am a dismal small-talker, and haven’t made a new friend in 15 years – the definition of an introvert, according to Myers-Briggs. We are that misunderstood segment of society that retreats mentally, prefers intimate occasions to big soirees, renders group brainstorms at work impossible, and chooses writing about why we don’t want friends over sitting in a diner making them.

But my K is different. K is not a girl who is staying home on a Friday night to wash her hair.

The evidence that my husband was a Vegas showboy in some past life hits us at every milestone. The day she started walking, she led me straight into groups of people we didn’t know on the street. On car trips, my husband and I turn on the iPod and K begins fake coughing, persisting until we’re forced to concede that a person who fears the shower drain has manipulated us into speaking.

And then there’s the shtick.

Enter her room after a long nap and she’s leaning on the front rail of her crib like she just ordered an espresso at Café Rienzi. She smiles, lets you inch closer, and then – wham! – bodyslams herself down on the mattress, keeping her head plastered to the sheet long enough to give you a heart attack. In her world, exploration is superior to PDA. Kiss her and she’ll gaze off like she’s in a perfume advertisement. It’s like raising the love child of Jack Tripper and Brigitte Bardot.

Despite my reservations, I take K to our music class. All of the children, save the redhead who has already been scolded for smearing her chocolate donut on a drum, are curled up on their mothers’ laps. A four-year-old – four! – is napping with her head on her mother’s thighs. Bearded man straps an acoustic guitar around his neck and leads us in the welcome song.

And K is off. Bless his heart, bearded man has perfected a look that says: it’s developmentally appropriate that your daughter is dashing from the window to the radiator, the whole time shrieking, “What’s that? What’s that?” K pauses in front of Leah, an 11-month-old with a Page Boy haircut and the plump, spooky face of a Bisque doll, and decides they are going to be friends. To prove this, she reaches out and tries to remove Leah’s eyeballs. Just to ensure there is no ambiguity over her intentions, she pulls a tambourine out of Leah’s hand, laughs like they are having the grandest time, then drops her and charges over to the sleeping four-year-old to shake her arm out of its socket. It would be easy to cast K as a hellion if she weren’t so into people for artless reasons – they have pleasant voices that she wants to hear or because she is burning to meet a child so unorthodox she can sleep through impromptu Latin dance.

In high school and college I felt I could only have control over my own destiny when there was no chance of interference from others. I had my little routines – make a pot of coffee, write a bit, take the subway alone to Prince Street, mull around Housing Works, go back home, sew an appliqué on a T-shirt, go to sleep. I never felt anxious in a quiet room. But there were also times when I kicked myself for missing an event that two friends now shared forever between them. There were days I sat by myself at Alt Coffee and wondered what the person next to me was reading, but wouldn’t have known how to start a conversation that didn’t sound wooden.

I consider the possibility that K may never experience the hollow feeling that sometimes goes hand in hand with craving solitude, and I feel relieved. I imagine her strolling up to a group of strangers after an art exhibit and offering her critique without being asked to do so. With each new car ride demand or attempt to detach another child’s fingers from her hand, my husband and I struggle to find the appropriate reaction that will assure K that we don’t want to change her. We’re even softening on the idea that it might not be bad to join a group once in awhile.