December 28, 2009

Family Friendly New Year's Eve Ideas

The end of this week brings a new decade and a New Year, so what is one to do? If you have children, you may be hanging at your own home or you may go to someone else's home, but what if you'd like to "do" something to celebrate? Here are a couple great family-friendly New Year's eve ideas. Also if you have any other great ideas in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, or Dexter, please add them to the comments at the end of this post, we're always looking for something great to do!!!

"Marathon Skate"

Begin the celebration early with skating at Ann Arbor's Vetran's Ice Arena (2150 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor). Skating runs from 1:10-5 p.m., and costs $6 (youths age 17 & under and seniors age 60 & over, $5) with a $1 discount for Ann Arbor residents. Skate rentals for $3 are also available if you don't have your own ice skates. For more information call 761-7240.

Family New Years Eve Bowling

Celebrate as a family first with an evening of pizza, pins and pop at Ann Arbor's Colonial Lanes (1950 S Industrial Hwy, Ann Arbor). Enjoy a good time together with unlimited Glow bowling, a Large one topping pizza, a pitcher of pop, party favors AND to get families in the spirit some boomin' music. All for just $49.95 per family of 4. (each additional person $8.00) Shoes are included for the youth. Make your reservations today - Pre-paid entries guarantee your spot. Knock down the old and roll in the new as a Family. Colonial Lanes offers 3 time slots for families at 12noon to 3:00pm, 3:30pm to 6:30pm, and 7:00pm to 10:00pm. For more information and to make a reservation call 665-4474.

24 Hours of Puppet Fun

The Dreamland Theatre in Ypsilanti (26 N. Washington, Ypsilanti) is hosting a 24 Hour Puppet Show for families. The Dreamland puppet troupe, Patrick Elkins and others (volunteers welcome) will be performing a live puppet show for 24 hours straight featuring a variety of Marionettes, shadow puppets, and rod puppets will be used to perform this epic production. The show funs from Noon December 31st through Noon January 1st. The only cost is a requested donation. For more information call 657-2337.

December 18, 2009

Life Lessons: Teaching A Child To Give

The first family had already shopped by the time we arrived, which bummed out Zach. He wanted to help. So Zach’s biggest job became taking the kids over to Penny the Pony for a ride – He seemed partially satisfied because I had tasked him with keeping the pennies before we arrived at the store. His doing that made things easier on everyone involved with the shopping. The children thanked and hugged us when they left and I told Zach how proud I was because he helped keep the children busy while we rang up their items.

Shopping with our second family was a more “active” challenge. There were 4 children to shop for, plus I brought both Zach and Gabby. I suppose I may have had a moment of insanity to think bringing both of my children to shop for 4 others was a good idea, however that insanity was quickly dismissed. Zach went off to help the oldest child, a 10 year old who happily accepted Zach’s shopping assistance. Apparently it was Zach’s job to tell the other boy “Awesome” every time the boy picked something out. The young man was very appreciative and was amazed at what he was able to buy. I was thankful though that the Meijer was mostly empty because I spent the next two hours chasing 4 children under the age of 7 around as the mother choose appropriate clothing - We definitely got the entire experience that night and I so hoped the kids understood what was happening. I certainly needed a hot bubble-bath and a glass of wine!

Our third and final family shopping for W
I have been struggling to find a way to teach my children to giving, helpful members of society – It seems all they do is say “I want”. It’s hard to blame them though with the stores, catalogs and television commercials are filled with things we “need” to have. Most of all thought I want them to learn to understand that there are many families that don’t have the blessings that we have been gifted with; we’re lucky to have friends and family that helped when things got tight. For my children, their lives and comforts have been mostly unchanged even when we were laid off.

I know it’s a big task, teaching these lessons. My children are still very young, but I was determined to find something to help teach them even if it’s in the most rudimentary way. I figured they needed to “experience” these lessons themselves, because often the best messages are learned through doing. In the past month or so, I was able to open these doors walk through them hand-in-hand with my children.

My first teaching opportunity was given as we were able to participate as “volunteer shoppers” for the Warm the Children Program. Actually we were able to assist three families with their shopping!

So how does participating in that program help teach my children empathy for those in need? Primarily because my children can spend time helping children their own age to purchase clothing items they may otherwise have to do without. Luckily all three of our families had children of similar ages!

The program covers $90 per child for the families to purchase coats, boots, hats, mittens, underwear, socks or other necessary clothing items for the winter. As volunteer shoppers, we meet each of the families at a local Meijer, possibly helping them pick out items. The shopper helps keep tabs on how much money is remaining and also assists with the check-out process and necessary paperwork. We really didn’t “do” a lot, but I knew that we’d be experiencing the joy these children feel, and I was hoping that my children, especially my oldest, would understand what we were doing for these families.

arm the Children was a much quieter experience. During the trip I asked Gabby if she knew what we were doing and she replied “Yup, we’re buying clothes for kids who don’t have money.” Check, she got it!

The second teaching opportunity arrived as I signed up to ring the bell for the Salvation Army. I didn’t expect the children to spend an entire two-hour block ringing with me, but thought if it wasn’t too cold maybe they would. The experience went mostly as expected, each child taking the opportunity to ring or sing. Gabby actually decided to recite “Either ring or sing” which I thought was pretty brilliant for a 3 ½ year-old!

We rang the bells outside our local Ypsilanti Township Kroger store twice. What I hadn’t anticipated though, was having my children running in and out of the automatic doors to climb onto the Pooh ride-on or gaze adoringly at the wall of gumballs, candy and trinkets. They so wanted money to ride on Pooh or to get something from the machines. I however did not have the change to give them, and even if I did, the money would have been used to illustrate my point by donating it into the kettle! The children certainly enjoyed putting money into the red kettle though, as passers by handed them the money to add –
Believe me they got many donations by being there ringing, after all who could resist two pink-cheeked cherubic faces ringing the bell for donations?

On our second night of ringing, the window washers appeared at Kroger. My immediate thought was “Great they are going to hate my two for adding gunk and grime back to the windows once they are finished.” I was surprised (and slightly annoyed) that my son asked them if he could “help” them. He was supposed to be ringing the bells, and I didn’t want him bugging those individuals working. At the same time he was offering to help someone else and for some odd reason they accepted his offer. The amazing thing happened as they “paid him” fifty-cents for helping clean the windows. I fully expected him to walk over to the gumball machines or to “feed” Pooh, instead he walked over to the red kettle and motioned that he was going to put his hard-earned money into it. I told him he didn’t have to and he replied that he “wanted to so that he could help someone else.”

At that moment I was the proudest mother around. You couldn’t have wiped the grin from my face if you tried!

Photo: Gabriella Mayrend ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, December 2009

Dance With the Family at the Pittsfield Grange

I am always looking for something fun and inexpensive to do with the family, so when I saw the upcoming family dancing event being held at the Pittsfield Grange I had to call and ask to get more details. "We like to have children ages 3-10 and their families join us for the dancing; Depending on the children present at the event we may call basic squares or even simple play-games appropriate for the younger children." said Joan Hellmann, one of the event organizers, "No matter your age it's a fun event!"

The Family Dance will be held this Sunday, December 20 from 2:00-4:00 pm at the Pittsfield Grange (3337 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, Ann Arbor MI). The cost is only $12 per family for the event and includes fresh baked cookies after the dancing. John Freeman, Ed Vincent, and David Park Williams call the dances with live music by David West and Donna Baird. Dancing will be followed by cocoa and Grange-baked cookies.

Joan wanted me to make sure and mention that families especially enjoy that "While we dance the wispy fragrance of fresh baked Grange molasses cookies wafts up from the basement."

I was happy to learn that the event is held the third Sunday of every month, so if the holiday crunch has left you with little time this month, join in on the next Family Dance at the Grange on Sunday, January 17. For more information on the Family dance event, call (734) 769-1052.

December 16, 2009

National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac Give Away

Just in time for the holidays:

As a child my parents were always filling my brother's and my head with neat experiences - They had an ongoing subscription to the National Geographic which we especially loved. We used to gaze with wonderment at the glossy pages looking at all the wonderful far-away places and people. My brother and I would sit, heads together, on the raised fireplace hearth in front of a roaring fire and enjoy the experience together...
I now have to wonder if my parents had a hidden agenda... After all with two youngsters at home, the luxury of a few moments of silence in the household is rare, that's for sure.

I suppose maybe the promise of entertaining and educating my children, and mostly the thought of their silence excited me as I was asked to participate in a give-away program for (1) National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac! That's right, my readers have the opportunity to win their own FREE National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac. It's simple too, all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this blog post about your favorite National Geographic learning experience as a child (or as an adult) and one lucky reader will win! Try getting the kids involved as well.

For those of you who would prefer not to participate, or don't win, you can purchase your own National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac at the National geographic Kids website - You can also follow NGKids at Twitter.

A winner will be chosen from all comments posted on this blog no later than January 7, 2010.

NOTE: This writer does not guarantee silence from your children as a result of them gazing in wonderment at the National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac.

December 14, 2009

Babysitter Training This Saturday at The American Red Cross

When I was a young girl of babysitting age, there were two important things my mom helped me do:

1) Sign up for Babysitter Training through the Red Cross and
2) she helped me create a "Babysitting bag" full of craft supplies, and other goodies that I could take to each household!

I know that 'tis the season of craziness and the last thing most parents need right now is something NEW to do, however this Saturday December 19 at the American Red Cross of Washtenaw County (4624 Packard Road, Ann Arbor 48108) kids ages 11 and older can take the American Red Cross Babysitter Training.

This fun and exciting course, for ages 11 years and older, teaches budding entrepreneurs (aka excited babysitters) the importance of their unique job responsibilities in caring for someone else's children. Participants will learn how to act in an emergency, how to prevent accidents while babysitting, how to play with children of all ages, how to feed babies, and much, MUCH more.

The course runs for 6 hours and costs $50. Parents will also need to pack a lunch for their child. For more information visit the American Red Cross of Washtenaw County website or call the communications director at (734) 971-5300.

As for creating a babysitting "bag”, mom helped my Girl Scout troupe paint over-the-shoulder canvas bags. We then stuffed them with a binder that included family forms that we created to keep track of each family, kid’s names, parent’s information, what we charged them per hour, the kid’s preferences and any dates we would have in watching the kids. The binder also included information for emergency services - Although this is now mostly done through 911. Other items in our babysitting bag included coloring books and crayons, scissors and glue, construction paper and some simple craft projects for the kids. It was a way I could entertain the children of the families I sat for in a "new" way, and was often better received than what they already have at home!

Items that could be included in a babysitting bag:

  • Favorite books
  • Games Inexpensive craft
  • supplies
  • Stickers
  • Appointment book or calendar
  • Band-aids
  • A flashlight
  • Puppets
  • An inexpensive table cloth for crafting
  • Wet wipes

So get creative and help your child create their babysitting bag. What did you put into the bag for them? Did it work? How did babysitting training help them? Also, please let me know other thoughts on how you helped your child succeed as a budding babysitter! Who knows maybe I'll even have to contact you to hire your child, it will be MANY years before I am ready to train my children to watch someone else's child...

December 10, 2009

Create Your Own Wrapping Paper

This Saturday at the AADL Traverwood Branch (3333 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor MI), kids can create their very own special holiday wrapping paper! From 1:00-2:30 pm, colorful papers and supplies will be provided to create excellent gift tags and personalized ‘designer’ wrapping paper - Special stamps, paper and ribbons are only a few of the many items available for use.

Wrap It Up!
Saturday December 12, 1:00-2:30 pm
Ages: Grade 4 and up.
Location: AADL Traverwood Branch

For more information, please call the Ann Arbor District Library at 734 327-4200 or visit the AADL website.

December 9, 2009

Treasure Trail to Santa in Saline This Saturday

This Saturday, December 12, kids can follow the path to find Santa and hava a little Saturday holiday fun!

Starting at 10:00 am and running until 1:30 pm, kids can pick up their treasure map at Carol’s Hallmark in Saline to go on an excursion throughout the shops at Busch’s Shopping Center (565 E. Michigan Aveune, Saline MI) in a search for Santa. Activities that day include horse-drawn carriage rides, elves, clowns, entertainment and merchant favors for the kids!

December 7, 2009

Celebrate the Winter Solstice - Register TODAY!

This Saturday, December 12, come and celebrate the beginning of winter and change of seasons, and learn what “solstice” means and why winter begins here in December. Seasonal drop-in activities for kids begin at 1:00 pm and include making bird feeders from pine cones to take home or to leave at Matthaei for feeding the birds; stringing garlands of popcorn, cranberries, and other bird food.
Solstice Celebration
Matthaei Boanical Gardens - 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor MI
Ages: 6-12
Preregister by calling (734) 429-4494
Cost: 18 and over ($5); children 5-17 ($2)

December 4, 2009

This Weekend: Chelsea's 22nd Annual Hometown Holidays Celebration

Beginning today is Chelsea's 22nd Annual Hometown Holidays celebration - a fun-filled weekend celebration which marks the beginning of the holiday season for area residents and visitors alike. Ushering in the festivities will be a tree lighting ceremony and visits with Santa, plus lots of other family friendly activities and entertainment.

Chelsea will be decked out in all its holiday splendor to warm your hearts and your spirit. Browse the shops and attend the many special events planned to capture the spirit of the holiday season.

On Saturday evening, December 5, at 6:00 p.m., the town will be glowing with the spirit of the season with the Annual Holiday Light Parade. Gather with your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and family in enjoying the parade this year.

For a full itinerary of events be sure to check out the Hometown Holidays itinerary on the event website or for more information, contact the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce at (734) 475-1145.

December 1, 2009

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Bob the Builder

I wanted to bring this to the attention of my readers... Sounds like a fun new exhibit at the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum - Who wouldn't love little kids with tools!

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum invites aspiring builders and their families to connect with Bob the Builder(TM) and his Can-Do Crew as it plays host to the first-ever hands-on Bob the Builder – Project: Build It traveling museum exhibit. This 2,000 square-foot multimedia exhibit, inspired by HIT Entertainment’s top rated television series, Bob the Builder – Project: Build It, replicates elements from Bob the Builder’s world, inviting exploration, inspiring teamwork and bringing environmentally friendly building themes to life for children and families.

“Bringing Bob the Builder to regional families helps to inspire a fresh look at the world through hands-on fun with construction and eco-friendly building,” said Mel Drumm, executive director, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. “The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is pleased to bring an opportunity to learn and explore to life with Bob the Builder, a popular children’s character that can help children get excited about learning.”

The Bob the Builder – Project: Build It exhibit will invite families to spend time in Sunflower Valley with Bob the Builder, Wendy and the rest of the Can-Do Crew. Children can practice their own fixing with kid-smart activities that build up their Can-Do attitudes and encourage them to be an active part of Bob the Builder – Project: Build It. Families can also work together to install new parts to sinks in Bob the Builder’s mobile home and in his building workshop, and learn about water conservation, courtesy of exhibit presenter Delta Faucet. Children and their families can help Bob build the vehicle shelter and experiment with tools in Bob’s building workshop.

Bob the Builder – Project: Build It will be at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum from November 1 to February 28. Special opportunities to interact with Bob the Builder will occur throughout the duration of the exhibit. Please check the Museum’s website for dates of special appearances by Bob. Bob the Builder – Project: Build It is sponsored nationally by Delta Faucet.

November 30, 2009

Winter Wonderland at in the Conservatory at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens

I know I have mentioned the botanical gardens in several posts, however as a parent it's still an amazing thing to expose your children to when the weather is less than optimal outside. So why not plan your winter escape to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens conservatory (1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor) to see a beautiful winter interactive exhibit that takes visitors on a journey through the beauty of the winter season. Take your children along to answer questions like: Why do we have winter here in Michigan? What does the winter solstice mean? Why is winter so wild sometimes? And what’s happening weather-wise on the other side of the world?

By way of the conservatory visitors can travel to the southern hemisphere with a “passport to summer” for discovering all the plants of the world; take a winter hike to look for signs of animal life outdoors; and learn how snowflakes form — And even create your own snowflake to take home. During the exhibit, the conservatory will be transformed into a winter wonderland with a variety of white flowers and a tree decorated with pressed Queen’s Anne Lace and other natural ornaments. Many drop-in activities during the exhibit are also included with admission to conservatory.

The Wild Wonderful Winter exhibit: A Season’s Tale runs Thursday Dec. 3, 2009 through
Sun., Jan. 17, 2010. The exhibit is open Tuesdays and Thursday-Sunday 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Cost: Adults 18 and over: $5; children 5-17: $2; under 5 free.

For more information call(734)647-7600, email or visit the Wild Wonderful Winter UMGNA webpage.

November 27, 2009

Children Make Wool Felted Critters at The Library

I heard on the radio the other day that the holidays are about a celebration of excess... Whoa, wait a minute here, they're a celebration of EXCESS?! I don't think so, and I certainly hope I'm not teaching my children that. In fact as an attempt to scale things back again I have asked family to cut back what they are sending to the kids in the way of toys and have suggested that bonds or college savings be employed again this year. Everyone is simply getting too carried away with the only grandchildren in either family! It is with that though, that I have begun to re-evaluate my own spending habits and what I am teaching the children. So this year I've begun thinking of more meaningful gifts for my children to give, or receive...

I found this free event and thought it might be a way for my son to "make" a gift for his younger sister. Of course the kids could keep the project themselves, but I was trying to think ahead to the holidays. This Sunday at the AADL Pittsfield Branch (2359 Oak Valley Dr. between Scio Church and Ann Arbor-Saline Roads) from 1-3:00 p.m., youth from Kindergarten through 5th grade are invited to make a small, hand-held, wool bunny or bear from wool rovings - The process of making "felt" is actually fun, educational and very appropriate for this age too!

For more information, please call 734-327-4200.

November 23, 2009

Toy Safety Press Conference at Beaumonth Hospital, Royal Oak

Tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. at William Beaumonth Hospital the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) will host the 24TH Annual Trouble in Toyland report on dangerous holiday toys. PIRGIM will release its annual toy safety report, which has led to corrective action on more than 130 toys over the last two decades.

Participants at the event will demonstrate toy hazards and alert parents to hazards that are still on store shelves, such as toys with small parts, toys that are excessively loud, and toys containing toxic chemicals.

PIRGIM will also launch a new interactive tool, accessible via smart phone, that will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common toyhazards.

The event will be help at Beaumont Hospital (3601 W. Thirteen Mile Road - west of Woodward Avenue - Royal Oak) South Tower on the fifth floor in the Pediatric Garden. Complimentary parking will be available in the South Parking Deck.

The AnnArborMom site will also publish a follow-up to this event for parents unable to make it.

Children Can Create A Thanksgiving Centerpiece This Wednesday

If you are one of the many folk who likes to take a hostess gift to celebrations, and are starting to think, "Oh geeze, what should I do about Thanksgiving?" fear not - Let your pre-school through 5th grade child take care of things for you...

This Wednesday from 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library Pittsfield Branch (2359 Oak Valley Dr. between Scio Church Rd. and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.), children can make their very own Thanksgiving centerpeice (or napkin rings) to grace the Thanksgiving table. What hostess or parent, would not appreciate such a wonderful hand-crafted present?

The event is free to all participants, for more information call 734-327-4200.

November 22, 2009

Little House On The Prairie at the Fox Theatre - Get a $10 Discount

Growing up, one of my favorite stories was the "Little House On The Prairie" series. I fondly remember snuggling up with mom or dad to have a chapter of one of the books read aloud to my brother and I before bed - The television series was one we enjoyed together as well. Now the story is being brought to a new generation as Little House On the Prairie is being brought to stage.

Little House on The Prairie, a new musical based on the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder series of classic American books, will make its debut in Detroit at the Fox Theatre Dec. 1-5, 2009. Bring the whole family, and save with a special $10 per person discount* for the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday evening performances through Dec. 4. Just mention the password HOMELAND when purchasing tickets online, by phone or at the box office!

Little House on The Prairie is the uplifting story of an American family forging a new life amidst the might challenges, heartbreaks, joys and triumphs that face them in the newly-settled heartland. It is also the story of young Laura Ingalls, as she begins her life as a young woman, finding purpose, and finding love. Above all, it is the celebration of the pioneering spirit and the core values on which this country was founded, a spirit that still resonates today.

As a bonus to the Detroit area audience, Melissa Gilbert, who rose to fame as a child playing 'Laura' in the hugely successful NBC television series "Little House on the Prairie" during the 1970's, now continues her legacy 'on the prairie' by taking on the role of Ma!

*Discount is only available on certain price levels, and not valid on previously purchased tickets.

November 20, 2009

Youth With a Mission: Teaching My Children a Valuable Life Lesson

This week something amazing happened, granting me the opportunity to teach a life lesson to my children. Let me explain:

Last Sunday, three college-aged youth stopped by our church offering their services to anyone in the congregation needing “help”. Most of the congregation didn’t know what to ask for, in fact many members simply chatted with the three newcomers. In my brief talk with one of them however, I realized that they had slept in their car and had a jar of peanut butter to eat for the week – the mother in me immediately jumped forth as I invited them to dinner and someplace to stay the next night.

Several friends and family members worried that I had invited strangers into our home, however it just felt right. The three “kids” (as my son called them) were with the youth group Youth With A Mission in Dayton, Ohio and were planning a mission to India at the end of December to help – orphans, prostitutes, teens, families - Whomever they could. The reason for their visit here was in preparation for their trip; They were given a car with a full tank of gas and $20, half of which they had to give away. They were then told to go wherever they could within a 600 mile radius to “help” people and spread God’s word. I presume this is to prepare them for what they might experience in a different country with different cultures - This group of three luckily ended up in Belleville.

Tony, Sean and Becca showed up at our doorstep around 5:00 Monday night and immediately asked what they could “do” for me, to which I replied “Nothing”. I did give in and say they could help my son learn a song to which they readily agreed and grabbed a guitar from the car. For the next few hours they talked with played with my children, and then ate dinner with us all. I could tell though that they were expecting to “do” something, as Sean asked multiple times, so at dinner I told them why I didn’t need help; I told them that be being here I was able to teach a lesson to my children about helping others when you expect nothing in return. I wasn’t sure it would sink in for Zach, my son is certainly learning to be a gracious host and all, but I just didn’t know if he would get the entire concept. Someday possibly he would be able to reflect on it though...
The next morning, without any other projects lined up, I invited them to my mother’s house. She had just had knee surgery and needed her one garden cut down and the yard waste bagged. Mom had a breakfast feast of bagels and cream cheese, sausages and OJ set out for them too – I shouldn't have worried about them going hungry! They helped her and visited for a while, then went off to help at the next place – Actually I was able to send them to a friend who is in the process of opening a non-profit maternity house for pregnant women without housing. They happily accepted that project as well.

On the way home from my moms though, is when the amazing happened. My son Zach said, “Mom I miss the kids? Will I see them again?” I told him that I didn’t know but said they were off helping people who needed help. “But mom, they didn’t help us.” Bing, bing, bing, he’d won the prize… “Well son, sometimes you help others even if you don’t get anything in return, you just help them because it is the right thing to do.” I couldn’t believe the opportunity had presented itself to discuss the events, with HIM opening the dialogue!

Moments like those are what being a mother is all about. Knowing that what I am teaching my children, often through example, is something they can hopefully understand and implement throughout their lives makes watching them grow and develop the most beautiful life experience for me!

photo 1: Tony Allen and Sean Powell watching a movie with Gabby & Zach
photo 2: Becca Heller helping Zach & Gabby with a project

Barnes and Noble host a fundraiser for the Ann Arbor Recreation and Education scholarship fund

This Sunday, November 22 from 11:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m. the Barnes & Nobel (3235 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor) is teaming up to host a fundaiser to raise funds for the Ann Arbor Recreation and Education scholarship fund. For all purchases made that day, a portion of the sales will be donated to the special fund providing Ann Arbor area youth who may not otherwise be able to afford a summer camp experience.

Last summer in Ann Arbor, Harry Potter Camp, Star Wars Camp and Writing Camp were in full effect with many local campers creating memories to last a lifetime. Some of these same excited campers will be attending the event, volunteering their day, to share the fruits of their camp experiences on stage for the enjoyment of the entire community.

The Star Wars kids will host a "Force Tournament" sharing popular songs with their all original Star Wars lyrics and Azkabanian Idol songs will also (Harry Potter, American Idol!) be performed. Excited young wizards will also be hosting a Spell Casting Tournament during the event. To bring the family-fun to a close, Writing Camp Authors will read their original/illustrated, “Award Winning” books and poem during a special “open mic” event.

Please bring your family to this special area event. As it is our aim to connect creative Ann Arbor young people to an aesthetic and appreciative audience, all of Ann Arbor is encouraged to come out and show their support for our young writers and performers and to the special kids who will benefit from the Rec. & Ed. Scholarship Fund!

November 16, 2009

Local Seminar: How to Encourage Gratitude in Our Children

I have been thinking a lot about teaching my children to be more gracious in their lives, and as they are 3 and 5 it's the perfect age. That's why an announcement of this seminar came at the perfect timing; I thought my readers might be interested.

Thanks Alot - How to Encourage Gratitude in Our Children
Thursday, November 19, 6:30-8:30pm
Pattengill Media Center, Ann Arbor

How big of a deal is gratitude? Gratitude is a critical component in raising children who will have a balanced perspective, handle disappointment, be less likely to have a depression or an entitlement complex, be more able to have meaningful relationships, have more respect for themselves and others, grow up to be more responsible adults, and be more likely to actually be happy! This workshop delves into this vital parenting topic and offers insight, stories and ideas on how to help your child become and stay grateful throughout their lives. That's a pretty big deal!

This class is for adults only, please do not bring children.

Annie Zirkel, Parenting Consultant & Author. 1 class. $25* for Ann Arbor residents/ $30* non-residents. The cost of the class also includes a copy of the $11.95 book:
You'll Thank Me Later: A Guide To Nurturing Gratitude In Our Children (And Why That Matters)

To register call (734) 994-2300 ext. 0 M-F 8am-5pm, e-mail the program at or click here to visit the Seminar's page on the Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation Registration page.

November 15, 2009

What To Do With The Kids When They're On School Break - High Velocity Sports

Next week is Thanksgiving break, and soon-thereafter the kids will be off for the holiday's. Some families will be looking for a place for their kids to go, and others may just want a few hours of quiet without restless kids whining and meandering through the household. But what's a parent to do???

I found this idea on-line and thought to pass it along. High Velocity Sports in Canton has "Fun Days" at their facility (46245 Michigan Ave., Canton, MI 48188)for kids ages 5 - 12 costing parents $5/hour. The days run from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Kids will play a multitude of sports including soccer, flag football, basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, kickball, and much more... Hot lunches are also available for purchase on site! it's an active kids dream for when they're not in school and all activities are done in a heated indoor arena when the snow may be blowing outside!

November - 3, 25, 27
December - 21-23, 28-30

January 18-29
February 15-19
March 9
April 2, 5-9
May 18

Soccer and Basketball Camps are also available Feb. 15-19 and Apr. 5-9 from 9 am-12 pm. The cost is $95/child. For more information on any of their programs, please call High Velocity Sports 734) HV-SPORT.

November 13, 2009

Kids Will Be Kids: They'll Repeat Everything

As a parent with little ears that now repeat EVERYTHING I say, I’m starting to think about my communication style, especially what I say and how I say it. OK it’s a dream of mine really, to actually THINK before I speak, has elluded me much of my life. I get so I excited, or fear I'll forget, that I just spit it out - It's like my thoughts simply bubbly over into and out of my mouth. Now however, I have really tried hard not to say the things I don’t want my children to repeat. Certain phrases, slang or catch-words are off-limits in our household, and I have certainly tried to stop my children from saying them after hearing their friends or other family member’s utterances of them. But that is really hard to do.

Yes my sweet little blue-eyes baby girl has been heard to blurt under her breath "Dammit!"

Apparently this is an parenthood epidemic even worse than catching the flu in a room filled with snot-nosed, sneezing and slurping first-graders. I know my friends all tell me it's true. Why just the other day one of my mom-friends was telling me of her experience with her son.

She told me that their dog had recently gotten fixed, and she was trying to get her son to say that their “dog had gotten neutered”. Apparently she expressed one too many times that the dog had gotten his balls chopped off. Although, who knows, maybe she said it just once. After all that’s all it takes!

At any rate, the boy came over to spend the evening with me and my son. As they were playing together, the young man said to me matter-of-factly, “You know my dog got neutered.”

“I know.” I said.

And this is where it gets tricky, as my son then chimed in, “What’s neutered?”

I could have said that’s when they remove the dog's testicles – Nah, that sounds too technical for 5-year-olds. Besides I really didn’t want to explain the term when I wasn’t sure what the other parent would think. So taking a moment to pause, and taking a huge breath, I told him, “That’s when the animal doctor, the veterinarian, makes it so the dog can’t have babies.” Simple. Honest. To the point. And hopefully something that was not likely to get into the great ‘where do babies come from’ debate… Except then I heard from our young guest:

“No that’s when they chop his balls off.”

There was a moment of silence in the room, followed by gales of laughter ringing in my ears, my own laughter, as two young boys stared at me like a crazed lunatic. I couldn’t help but wonder, what my children are repeating to someone else…

Raising children sure makes life interesting!

November 12, 2009

FREE tickets to see Bill Harley at The Ark

On Sunday, November 22 at 1:00 pm bring your family to The Ark (316 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI ) to catch a show performed by Bill Harley - This 2-time Grammy Award Winner, NPR commentator and acclaimed storyteller/musician, will perform a FREE family show!

Bill uses song and story to paint a vibrant picture of growing up, parenting and family life. Poignant and hilarious, his work spans the generation gap, reminds us of our common humanity and challenges us to be our very best selves. A prolific author and recording artist, Bill is also a regular commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and featured on PBS. He joined the National Storytelling Network's Circle of Excellence in 2001 and tours nationwide as an author and performing artist.

He also has a 7:30 PM (tickets available for $15) show that same night that is appropriate for teenagers and older - sounds like something worth getting a babysitter for!!!

This 1:00 p.m. free show is sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library. For more information visit The Arks website or call 734-327-8301.

November 9, 2009

Going Shopping at Great Lakes Crossing?

I just saw an ad about the current holiday promotion running at Bass Pro Shops - Kids can go into Santa's Workshop and design a handmade holiday ornament for FREE! Starting November 8 at 3:00 pm through December 24, kids can visit Santa's Workshop for free games and activities, crafts and photos with Santa. Sounds like a nice way to take a break from shopping while at Great Lakes Shopping!

Bass Pro Shops
Great Lakes Crossing
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
Phone: 248-209-4200
As a child dad often gave my brother and I scraps of wood and refurbished nails for us to build some type of fun project - We especially liked using sawdust and wood glue in making a woodworking creation too. He didn't give us "toy" tools or nails either, he gave us the real thing! I suppose it's much less PC now to do so, however I very much enjoy watching my children learn some of the same skills I did as a child and have begun teaching them how to properly use tools for general household chores. Sometimes though, it is better to learn the basics from someone else, there is just something about "better listening skills" when a teacher is speaking vs. ones parent. So I thought to bring to your attention upcoming kids building clinics at Lowes and Home Depot.

Lowes Build and Grow Clinics

Saturday, November 14 - Nascar #48 Garage 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, November 21 - Snowman 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.

To sign up for these and any other upcoming Build and Grow clinics, visit the Lowes website, new projects are released monthly, scheduled on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.

Home Depot Free Kids Building Workshops

Saturday, December 5 - Wooden wagon 9:00 a.m. - noon

Home Depot also offers many ready-to-assemble "kits" the entire family can enjoy building. You can enjoy the workshops or purchase the kits at any local Home Depot stores.

November 5, 2009

Walk in the woods and watch the birds!

This fall, the kids and I have spent plenty of time walking in a local Ypsilanti Township wooded area. Maybe it's because they're both old enough to handle a good hike, maybe I just got inspired by the outdoors, the slow pace and fresh air were rejuvenating though and our time together in the woods, whether looking for birds, looking at the pond or hunting for fall mushrooms was wonderful. I really can't express enough what a great time we had!

We live in a great area too, there are many local parks and natural areas and better yet, there are plenty of organized hikes and walks for the family. It is supposed to be near 60-degrees this weekend, so why not check out the Bird Hike at the Hudson Mills Metro Park.

On Saturday, November 7 from 8:00 a.m - 9:00 a.m. bring your family, binoculars and a field guide to observe bird species seen in the park. Families will record the dates, locations, and trends of many bird species from year to year, exploring a variety of habitats throughout Hudson Mills.

There is a small fee of $2.00 per person in addition to the cost of entry into the Metropark. For more information and to register for the program call (734) 426-8211.

Disinfect to protect!

A few weeks ago I posted a fun at-home activity to help families teach proper hand washing to prevent illness. I also ran across another fun "retro-style" video from the American Chemistry Council and the Water Quality and Health Council (WQHC) on disinfection for prevention. it's called "The Secret Life of Bleach" and features one of Ann Arbor's own, Dr. Ursula Jakob, LSA Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan.

Did you know that the flu virus can live for hours - even days in some cases - on surfaces we touch all the time: counter tops, doorknobs, phone receivers, keyboards, desktop surfaces, remote controls, and more... Don't want to think about that really, I KNOW my munchkins were on my computer today, yet I'm unsure what ELSE they may have been up to... Research shows however, that cleaning these surfaces with products containing bleach is better in reducing viral infections, like the flu, than other antibacterial products!

So consider the one-two punch of proper hand-washing, immunization and cleaning hard surfaces with bleach - maybe your family can be one of the many lucky families to avoid major issues this winter! I want as few friends and family members getting ill, so I'll be sure to spread the word to let my voice be heard - Don't forget tp disinfect this season...

November 2, 2009

This week: Take your child to a local theatre performance!

As a trained freelance actress and singer, I know how important it is to include theatrical experiences to young children. It provides visual stimulation, and an experience unlike television and the internet because it gives kids a treat for their senses. From my perspective as a parent and as an entertainer, there is nothing like the evident joy on a child's face! I remember too well my mom taking me to performances as well - Annie was one of my first and favorites.
I think my children and the children of the past decade have been even luckier as theatre has seemed to come even further alive for the young audience. Our area and surrounding communities provide so much in the way of inexpensive quality children's theatre experiences, and this week several local children's products are running:
Beginning Thursday, November 5, check out three local venues for children's theatre productions:
The Wild Swan Theater presents "Hawk, I'm Your Brother" - November 5-7.
This award-winning local children's theater in Ann Arbor presents its adaptation of Byrd Baylor's children's book about a Native American boy who longs to fly like a hawk complete with live music by local singer-songwriter Joe Reilly. Performances are at 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. at the WCC Morris Lawrence Bldg., Towsley Auditorium, 4800 E. Huron River Dr.
Ticket prices: $12 (seniors age 60 & over), children $8; lap passes for children age 2 & under are $3 - Available in advance and at the door. For more information call 734-995-0530 or visit the Wild Swan Theatre website.
The Young People Theatre presents: "The Wizard of Oz" - November 5-8.

Lynn Lammers directs young local actors in Frank Gabrielson's musical adaptation of the classic L. Frank Baum's tale about Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City and back home to her family. Performances are at 7:00 p.m. at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 North University.

Ticket prices: $15 (students age 18 & under), and $10 (seniors age 65 and over) in advance at the Michigan Union Ticket Office, at, and at the door. For more information call 734-763-TKTS.

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Junior Theatre presents "The Little Prince" - November 5-8.

Claudia Wier directs young local actors in E.J. Westlake's adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's delightful tale of a jaded aviator stranded in the Sahara whose outlook on life is changed by a prince who visits our world from his own tiny planet. This production is appropriate for children age 4 & over. and is performed nightly at 7:30 p.m. at the WCC Liberal Arts Bldg. College Theatre, 4800 E. Huron River Dr.

Ticket prices: $5 in advance and at the door. For more information call 734-971-2228 or visit the The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Junior Theatre website.

October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Wishing all families around Ann Arbor a safe and Happy Halloween celebration - From my family to yours...

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

October 29, 2009

Free Indoor Play at Ypsilanti Community Center

It's a rainy or cold day and your toddler is running around like sugar-crazed, caffeine-pumped mega-monster. (Yes I know that NEVER happens!) What's a parent to do? If you are a lucky Ypsilanti Township resident, have no fear, there is a convenient and fun solution.

Weekdays from 9:30 - 11:30 am, October 12 through June 4, 2010, the township community center allows children (under the age of 4) to jump and romp their extra energies away at Tot Time. Tot Time fills their large space with balls, large building blocks, ride on/push toys and a Little Tykes basketball hoop for the most active child to enjoy (You can always tote your own toys too!)

This program is FREE, however parents must be in attendance and supervise their children. For more information, call the Ypsilanti Township Community Center at 734-544-3800, at or become a FAN of YTRD on Facebook.

October 28, 2009

Halloween Safety Tips

I found a read a very informatitive, helpful document from the City of Ann Arbor Police Services regarding Halloween that I would like to pass along. In general, trick-or-treating this year may take place in neighborhoods on Saturday, Oct. 31 between 5-8:00 p.m. we're lucky too, since this year, Halloween is on a weekend, so some families can start a little earlier than in past years!

Halloween is the children's night for tricks and treats … ghosts and goblins … haunts and horrors. Unfortunately, some of the horrors are all too real. Every year, on Halloween, many children suffer from auto accidents, fire injuries, falls, cuts, bruises or poisoned treats. Be aware and be informed so your children can have a safe, enjoyable Halloween. Supervise your children's evening, and stay in neighborhoods that are well-lit and familiar. Here are more precautions to help keep your Halloween happy.

• Children become careless from excitement and may run into the road - Watch your children closely!
• Dusk is the time of poorest visibility for drivers - Try to Trick or Treat while it is still
• Choose a costume that is easy to walk in, easy to see out of and can be seen by car drivers.
• If the Trick or Treating lasts into the night, wear a light colored costume.
• Use reflective tape on the costume for additional visibility.

• Loose costumes, oversized bags or unsafe shoes can cause falls or accidents.
• Masks reduce vision.
• Sharp or pointed toy weapons are unsafe.
• If wearing a mask, choose one that is cool, comfortable and easy to see out of. Take off the mask before crossing the street. Better yet, wear make-up instead of a mask.

• Billowing costumes are dangerous around an open flame.
• Flowing false-hair wigs are unsafe around candles.
• Wigs and costumes should be of non-flammable materials.
• Use a flashlight. It makes children more visible and lights their way.

• It's sad, but true, that some people wish to cause harm. Treats must be checked for potential poisoning or unsafe objects.
• Unpackaged items such as popcorn or small candies should be DISCARDED.
• Candy with loose or torn wrappings should be DISCARDED.
• If you should discover anything wrong with the "TREATS" brought home, report it to law enforcement so that other parents may be warned and the people responsible caught.

Wishing all of my readers a safe and Happy Halloween!!!

Baby Einstein DVD Exchange/Refund Program

A friend of mine brought this to my attention, and although it's not an "activity" for families, it is a great rebate or upgrade for anyone wanting to return any baby Einstein DVD's purchased between June 5, 2004 and September 4, 2009.

In essence, if you are not satisfied with the Baby Einstein DVD you purchased you may, for a limited time beginning on September 4, 2009 and ending on March 4, 2010, exchange it for one of the following:

One (1) Baby Einstein Book of your choice
One (1) Baby Einstein music CD of your choice - Or -
One (1) coupon for 25% off the purchase of one Little Einsteins™ product. Redeemable with promotion code only at

OR you may return it, and we will refund the current retail value of the DVD ($15.99).

What it boils down to is that you can get a refund on up to 4 Baby Einstein DVDs - $64 total – per household if you return them. To request your DVD exchange or refund, check out the program specifics at the following link. I will admit, my son LOVED the first two (earlier) Baby Einstein DVD's we had, however the later ones I purchased were not as enjoyable to him and thus hardly used... This is a GREAT deal and yes parents it IS legit!

October 27, 2009

Trick-Or-Treat & Crafts Too!

Hey all you Ann Arbor families, I have a new FREE alert for you. On Saturday, October 31st from 10 a.m.-Noon take your children to any local Michael's craft stores for a Halloween celebration.

Pick up your FREE trick or treat pail, plus enjoy a FREE coloring activity, FREE Crayola pencil topper demo with Crayola Model Magic Fusion and Make-it Take It Halloween frame. Children also will receive a FREE ballon and candy. Remember, these events are available while supplies last, so attend the Halloween Event early!

Michael's - 3655 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor MI 48104

Michael's - 41904 Ford Rd., Canton MI 48187

October 26, 2009

This Week: Halloween Events in Ann Arbor

There are MANY great events happening this Halloween weekend in Ann Arbor... Hope to see you all out and about!

Halloween Party & Movie
Friday, Oct. 30, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Senior Center
Cost: $5 - Pre-registration by Oct. 28.

Children of the Earth Club
Saturday, Oct. 31, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the Leslie Science and Nature Center (1831 Traver Road, 734.997.1553).
Enjoy Nature songs, environmentally-themed games and home action plans that will be led by singer and environmental educator Joe Reilly.
Cost: $8 per person; adult not required for kids to participate.
Ages: Second graders and up.

Halloween Skate
Saturday, Oct 31, 1 – 2:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park Ice Arena (2150 Jackson Road, 734.794.6235).
Skate to the spooky sounds of Halloween. Best costume prizes awarded.
Cost: (General Admission Prices)
Residents:Adults - $5, Youth/Senior - $4
Non-residents:Adults -$6, Youth/Senior - $5
Skate Rental - $3
Ages: Appropriate for all ages.

Community-wide Halloween events - Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti & Saline

There are plenty of fun, safe, and FREE family Halloween celebrations in communities throughout Washtenaw County, specifically in communities surrounding Ann Arbor. Highlighted are three local Halloween celebrations in downtown Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline.

Friday, October 30th:

Downtown Ann Arbor Treat Parade - 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sponsored by the Main Street Area Association, the Ann Arbor Treat Parade allows costumed children and their parents to stroll downtown Ann Arbor and pick up treats from businesses that display holiday balloons. The event takes place in businesses along Main, Liberty, Fourth, and Washington street areas. For more information call 734-668-7112.

Ypsilanti Halloween Festival - 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Children from around the Ann Arbor region are invited to enjoy games, prizes, contests and of course, free candy at the annual Ypsilanti Halloween Festival. This year, families have an opportunity to give as well, by bringing canned goods to the downtown Ypsilanti District Library to donate to SOS. The event takes place in the Ypsilanti District Library Park at North and South Washington Streets in downtown Ypsilanti - Michigan Avenue will not be closed this year, instead the Ypsilanti Volunteer Service Corps will be on hand to help supervised children cross Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti website.
While you’re enjoying the Downtown Ypsilanti Halloween Festival, stop into the YDL downtown library and listen to a slightly scary storytime at 4:30 p.m.!

Saturday, October 31st:

City of Saline Halloween Boo Bash - 1:00-3:00 p.m.
The streets of Downtown Saline will be crowded with witches, power rangers, princesses and fireman at the local Halloween street party, the Halloween Boo Bash in downtown Saline. It is an old fashion family celebration with tricks and treats, games, and music. The event takes place in downtown Saline in Parking Lot #1 behind the Saline Chamber of Commerce.

October 22, 2009

Great Halloween Happenings Throughout the Area! has collected quite the list of great local Halloween Events for kids and adults of all ages - Beginning this weekend through October 31. Be sure to check out the Halloween Guide!

October 17, 2009

FREE Halloween Party at the Museum of Natural History

Our first Halloween in Ann Arbor, we discovered a fun (and FREE) family Halloween party at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. It was a CRAZY event that was packed with families, however it was free.

My son especially loved the cute crafts available on each floor of the museum. He also enjoyed the live animals that were visiting and he especially loved the dinosaurs!

Family Halloween Party
Exhibit Museum of Natural History - 1109 Geddes Ave., Ann Arbor
Sunday, October 25, 12:00-5:00 p.m.

Have a Halloween that's fun, safe -- and educational as well! Discover special stations and displays full of hands-on activities. Many favorite stations will be back, along with new stations, and live animals! Come in costume (not required, but recommended) and don’t forget to bring a goodie bag — as treats will be handed out throughout the exhibits! The party is suitable for all ages, and is FREE! No reservations or tickets are necessary.

For more information, visit the event details page on the Exhibit Museum of Natural History website.

October 15, 2009

Be Out There With The National Wildlife Federation

I received this cool idea yesterday in my e-mail in-box that I thought I would share. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is launching their Be Out There campaign, a national movement to return to the nation’s children what they don’t even know they’ve lost - The great outdoors!

I know I have MANY fond memories of camping, hiking and just playing outside in the fort behind my parents garage - Heck, for many of us, childhood memories are synonymous with outdoor moments like climbing trees, skipping stones, or cloud gazing. But today’s kids spend twice as much time indoors as their parents and grandparents did, missing out on the simple pleasures and lasting mental and physical health benefits of daily outdoor time.

Studies show children who spend time in nature are healthier, happier, and become better stewards of the environment.

That's why the NWF has teamed up with the movie Where The Wild Things Are to formally launch Be Out There. Where The Wild Things Are is based on a favorite children's book - The movie is a collaborative effort between innovative director Spike Jonze and celebrated author Maurice Sendak that tells the story of a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to the island of the Wild Things.

Celebrate with NWF and organize your own Wild Rumpus Day - download the Where The Wild Things Are Kids' Activity Guide. Get together, head outside and try a few activities like flying a kite, playing tag, riding a bike, walking through one of the many local Ann Arbor parks or building a fort on the patio - The only key is, to remember to have tons of family outdoor fun!

October 14, 2009

Register Now for Ypsilanti Township Parks & Recreation Programs

My friends at the Ypsilanti Township Parks & Recreation department wanted to let everyone know that registration is now open for the Winter/Spring 2010 Recreation Guide. Stop into the building, sign-up through the mail or even sign up online!

There are some great programs and classes for children and teens including
basketball, floor hockey, dodge ball, golf, soccer, baseball and t-ball, many art programs, open play times and many other fun winter and spring activities for Ypsilanti Township residents and supporters from surrounding communities.

October 9, 2009

Git Along Little Doggies - Michigan Fall Festival & Wild West Show

I found this neat activity idea online today. Although it would cost a family of four $40 for the event, and it would be a 45-minute drive for Ann Arbor area families, it is unique enough to give a shout out!

On Saturday October 17 stop by and enjoy the Fall Festival Wild West Adventure Northfork Outback Horse and Adventure Camps in Webberville. The event runs all day from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and features fun family events including a craft show, petting zoo, pony rides, covered wagon rides, 1800's old west town, and fun western events including a shoot-out, ropin' ridin', hootin' n hollerin'!

Everything’s included for $10.00 per person including unlimited pony rides and petting zoo (not including food!) Reservations are recommended call 517-881-9142 or visit the Northfork Outback website.

I'll tell you I am intrigued by the event, and am thinking of checking it out with the family!

Their website also highlights Fall Wagon Train rides on October 10 & 17, 2009. Step back in time for a realistic adventure with a one hour wagon train ride in a real COVERED WAGON! For the cowgirls and cowboys, you may also ride a horse and for the younger or shy folks they can go in the horse drawn wagon. Upon returning enjoy grub at the chuck wagon.

Check the website for more information on the wagon rides, departure times and the cost for horsebackriding.

Childrens Book Signing at Found on Saturday October 10

Join author Philip Christian Stead in the signing of his book "Creamed Tuna Fish & Peas on Toast" tomorrow October 10, 2009 from 3:00-6:00 p.m. at FOUND (407 North Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor - 2nd floor). What an amazing find this children's book is for FOUND! It is entirely typeset using vintage toy printing sets AND the backgrounds are filled with bits and pieces of old letters and advertising and postage stamps. The books author, will debut Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast at the shop in Kerrytown.
Families are all invited to FOUND for an Author Event with Philip Christian Stead on Saturday, October 10th from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Books will be available for $16.50 and he'll sign them on the spot - He's also bringing in the original collage artwork and the printing sets that he used for the lettering. What a fun opportunity to meet the author and learn about his unique techniques!

Refreshments will also be served at the book signing, however FOUND has promise it won't be anything fishy.

Columbus Day "Dog Days" Party at The Borders Arborland

On Monday October 12 (Columbus Day), readers young and old a-like can join in a party celebrating the hotly anticipated release of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” by New York Times bestselling author Jeff Kinney at the Arborland Borders. The ultra-popular series, which also includes “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw,” features the snarky and hilarious journal entries of character, middle-schooler and middle child Greg Heffley.
The party officially kicks off at 4:00 p.m. with a special welcome message from author Jeff Kinney. Kids can delight in talking about their favorite characters and scenes in all of the Wimpy Kid books—and weigh in on what they would like to see happen in the upcoming “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” feature film. In addition the celebration includes an opportunity for ardent fans to participate in adrenaline-pumping trivia, to create their own cartoon books and event participate in a Greg "look-a-like" contest.

Besides the book, kids can also purchase a Diary of a Wimpy Kid t-shirt that they can customize with a favorite saying or quote using the washable ink pen that comes along with the shirt. This cool customizable shirt can only be found at Borders, Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores; It retails for $5.99 with book purchase or $9.99 individually, while supplies last.
As an additional bonus to fans, October 12-16, Borders Group will give away 20 free signed copies of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" via Twitter. Each day Borders Group will tweet four store locations where one lucky reader will be able to claim the book at that location by approaching a cashier and uttering the password: "cheese touch." The first person to say the password will receive a free signed copy of the book - Follow for clues.

October 5, 2009

Free Thursday Night Flu Prevention Seminar in Ann Arbor

After spending the past few days in bed with a nasty bug of one kind or another, I have begun to re-think this winter's strategy on fighting germs in my home. My kids are in school now, and are bringing germs home on a weekly basis, and the fear of seasonal flu as well as the H1N1 virus is lurking in the news everywhere - What's a family to do?

This Thursday, October 8 at 6:00 p.m., the Children's Orchard resale shop (Colonnade Shopping Center on West Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor) will be hosting a free parental educational seminar presented by a local University of Michigan pediatrician discussing the H1N1 Virus.

“We’re seeing growing concern among moms who shop at our store about the H1N1 Virus and its potential impact on their children and families,” said Taylor Bond, CEO of Children’s Orchard. “The goal of this event is to ease parents’ worries by educating them about the proper procedures in preventing and treating this virus.”

The presentation will be led by Pediatrician Dr. Jill Noble, a practicing physician for the University of Michigan Health System as well as Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases. She will answer parents’ questions about H1N1, including:

• How is the H1N1 virus different from the regular flu?
• How do I know if I have H1N1?
• What should I do if I think someone in my family has H1N1?
• If I do not have insurance, where can I get treatment?
• Should I have my children vaccinated?
• Should I get vaccinated?

Parents who are interested in attending the event are asked to RSVP by emailing Children’s Orchard at, calling (734) 995-8889 or stopping by in-person.

October 3, 2009

Antique Truck Show in Ypsilanti

There will be trucks of every kind rolling into Riverside Park (5 E. Cross Street) tomorrow for the annual Antique Truck Show - It's a great addition to the area's already famous antique car shows & events. Unique antique and classic trucks will be displayed by the American Truck Historical Society.
Bring your family, kids of all ages enjoy looking at cool old trucks!

October 2, 2009

Free Resource for Parents With Preschoolers Learning to Read

I found a great resource the other day - a free and fun story-based learning tool available for preschoolers to help them with their language development. The Social Language Story Maddie Gets Ready for Bed” was created especially for young children learning language, including those who have language problems.

It's a free, web-based story can be read on-line or printed and used as a readable coloring book. It is being offered through the University of Michigan’s University Center for the Development of Language and Literacy.

Make sure to check back with the site often, as new story's will be released in the series!

September 28, 2009

Events: Making Halloween Mobile

When we think of October, most of us think of cider and donuts, colorful fall leaves, hayrides and Halloween. I think of candy, kids, scary stories, activities and modes of transportation…

“Wait, what did you say," you ask, “Modes of transportation?”

“Why yes, thanks for asking!”

This Halloween enjoy family friendly events from train rides to a trick or treat journey down the Huron River - For Mummy's, Daddy's and on-the-go families these make for the perfect ghoulishly good time!

The City of Ann Arbor has come up with another fun family event. On Sunday, October 25 your family can experience the Huron River in a whole new way by trick-or-treating by canoe or kayak! Come to the Argo Canoe Livery between noon and 4 p.m. to enjoy the splendor of the Huron River in all its fall beauty while stopping along the way to collect candy and drink swamp muck given out by costumed characters on the banks of the river. The fee is $22 per boat with no pre-registration required. For details call 734.662.9319.

Not far from Ann Arbor are two trains offering family Halloween experiences - The Pumpkin Express in Blissfield and the Hobo Halloween Train in Walled Lake.

On October 24, hop on-board the rails of the Pumpkin Express with donuts, Halloween candy, apple cider and seasonal activities on board. What a unique and fun way for young families to celebrate the Halloween season, and is a perfect outing for grandparents and grandkids, too. This seasonal special train runs once yearly, so don’t miss the fun, call (888) 467-2451 for information or visit the Blissfield Railroad website.

Rail Entertainment USA offers 25th Annual Hobo Halloween Trains. Children of all ages should wear a favorite costume for great Halloween family fun with the “Wacky Witch Revue” on a one hour “Hobo Halloween Express Train”. See the “Dead Man’s Diner” and “Haunted Railcar” along with fall colors and the graceful elegance of Woodpecker Lake. Dine on traditional snacks along with season favorites including “Frankenstein Franks”, “Spider Cider”, “Caramel Apples” and “Deadly Donuts”. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is provided to guests holding confirmed reservations. Halloween Trains run various weekend days throughout October, for more information, call Rail Entertainment USA at (248) 960-9440 or visit the Rail Entertainment website.

Photo: Wachy Witch Revue courtesy of Theatre Arts Productions.

September 25, 2009

Several Fall Celebrations This Weekend

I ran across a couple of events for this weekend, to be specific they are all celebrations of autumn and the end-of-summer harvest season. They all appear to be fun family events and very inexpensive or free.

Webster Fall Festival and Pig Roast

On Saturday September 26, the Webster United Church, in conjunction with the Webster Township Historical Society will be having a fall festival that includes a luncheon, an auction, country store, antique cars, kids pony rides, hayrides, a horseshoe contest, crafts and so much more - All of this for FREE.

The event the swings into the evening with a pig roast from 5:00-7:00 pm with additional children’s activities, crafts and live music. Cost for the pig roast only: Adults $9, children $5.

The Webster United Church is located at 5484 Webster Church Road in Dexter. For more information visit the Webster Fall Festival event website or call 734-426-5115.

Harvest Time in Saline

Another fun Saturday event can be found at the Rentschler Farm in Saline (1265 Michigan Avenue, Saline). From 11:00 am – 4:00 pm families will be able to enjoy guided tours of the farmhouse and barns and many exhibit areas with turn of the century interpreters. There will also be a kid’s petting farm, a merry-go-round, and many more fun activities.

If you’d like to see how turn of the century Saline harvested their fall crops, be sure to stop by!

Cost is a $1 donation for adults, and is free for children. For more information check out the Saline Rentschler Farm webpage or call 734-944-0442.

Clinton Fall Festival

Enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive along US-12, 11 miles past Saline, and you’ll run into the annual Clinton Fall Festival. Stop by anytime from Friday through Sunday and you will find over 200 juried artists and crafters in Clinton, food, plenty of entertainment, Ann Arbor Hands On Museum activities, a softball tournament, lost arts a silent auction and a motorcycle show. There will be plenty to do for the entire family so be sure to check out the entire list of scheduled events! Most events are free too...

For more information visit the Clinton Fall Festival website or call 517-456-7396.
Clinton and Webster Fall Festival photos courtesy of the independant festival websites. Rentschler Farm photo by bgivens.

September 24, 2009

The Search for Ann Arbor's Pirate Bounty!

Ahoy Matey's! Ever wanted to venture into forbidden waters with treasure map in hand on an elusive treasure hunt? It's time to set sail for October's annual Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt.

The Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt takes participating “Pirates” on a voyage through Ann Arbor’s stormy and wild seas to the unique local shops and restaurants that make Ann Arbor a must-experience ‘Port of Call’. The goal of the hunt, which began in 2008, is to draw an audience to downtown Ann Arbor, into locally owned shops and restaurants. Last year, pirates and pirate teams of all sizes took part in this fun month-long event. There were families, co-workers and adult groups that all ‘took up arms' and heaved the Jolly Roger to follow the trail around town in hopes of being the lucky pirate team.

Beginning October 1 and running the entire month, pirates with treasure maps in hand will be guided to participating shops, restaurants and galleries in search of the treasure – A solution to a clue. Once located, the pirates must "capture" the clue on film. After capturing all of the solutions, they must submit their photo proof and treasure map for a chance to win the bounty - a chest filled with items that have been collected from the participating Ann Arbor shops. The treasure hunt is a FREE family friendly event open to everyone interested in pillaging to win lavish pirate loot!

The Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt was created as a fun local event offered to families and individuals in the area looking for an autumn adventure. Last year over 20 shops, galleries, and restaurants participated.

Ye been chosen to venture on the high seas of Ann Arbor this October. So strap on ye sea legs, set sail and give yourself the chance to win a treasure chest filled with lavish pirate loot. The Annual Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt runs from October 1-31st. For additional information, or to learn how you can participate in the hunt, visit the Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt website, or contact Samantha Nielsen Misiak at 734-657-4940. You can also find the Ann Arbor Treasure Hunt on Facebook!

September 23, 2009

Fun Activities to Fight Off Childhood Illnesses

This is more of a "Do-it-at-home" family activity, but it's a message worth repeating. The website I mention is helpful to families with young children.

It's two weeks into the school year and already my son has to stay home from school because of illness. I kept hearing about neighbors and friends whose children have became ill this past week, and let's face it, as parents that is the worst part of the school-year. Bringing germs home to spread among the family is no fun. This year it seems to be an even greater fear for families, with the threat of H1N1 lurking everywhere. So what do we do?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that proper handwashing is the most simple thing a family can do in the prevention of infection and illness. That's great, perfect really. My son has received countless fliers on doing this, and even the health insurance company is spending their money printing helpful hand-washing fliers. As parents though, this really doesn't help me. Yes I can teach my children to sneeze into their sleeve, use a tissue, and wash their hands - But how can I make it FUN for them? Being "fun" is sometimes the greatest motivator for children. So where can I go for help?

This is really a trick question for me, because I have already found an excellent resource in The NSF Scrub Club!

Each year, more than 164 million school days are lost due to illness, which could be greatly reduced with proper handwashing. That’s why Ann Arbor based NSF International created the Scrub Club® - to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing and ultimately improve the health of children and reduce school sick days.

The program is the first of its kind designed for children 3 to 8 years of age - This fun, interactive and educational website teaches children the proper way to wash their hands. The site consists of Webisodes, interactive games, music, many educational downloadable activities for kids, educational materials for teachers and program information for parents. My son loves the Scrub Club theme song and has even begun singing along!

So be sure to visit the Scrub Club® website with your preschool aged and young children - Everyone will benefit from the fun and informative learning experience through the website interaction. Don't forget to pass along the word to your children's elementary school teachers, as there are some great classroom resources as well inclucing the 6 Steps To Proper handwashing Poster.

Artwork compliments of NSF International