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.