January 29, 2010

How Pop-Culture Shaped My Life

I ran across a couple of articles recently that made me stop and consider how pop culture has influenced me throughout my life. What is popular at the time, what things I adopt into my own lifestyle and even what I wear or what hairstyles I chose? It certainly has produced interesting photo opportunities for my parents which have proven quite painful when seeing my so called “cute” bowl-cut haircut (mom insists it was the Dorothy Hamill style, I'm pretty certain it was an unfortunate accident involving a bowl and curling iron!) and striped dropped waist sweatshirt dress with off the shoulder styling’s and leg warmers - Think Flashdance clothing for kids!

Pop culture takes on a whole new shape though as I age. Things that have always been in my life are fading away to be referred to as relics; Antiques of the past to be hidden away for future generations to wonder “What were they thinking” only to be found later tucked into a museum for future generation of children to say “Ooh that looks cool”. I find myself wondering though, what things of today will be remembered as something interesting? What images will my children grimace at when glancing at dated adolescent photos of themselves?

I have mentioned many times that I plan on being the type of parent that encourages through leading by example. In the case of pop-culture though, I’m just crazy enough to exploit some things I feel less exuberant about by gently urging my children NOT to do certain things, of course through leading by example. You want green/purple/red hair; see how cool mom looks with it! Does wearing baggy pants look enticing? What does mom look like with a pair of droopy, poopy-looking pants on the ground? Want to have some nasty-lyric song blaring throughout the house? I’m going to learn all the words and sing them loudly while it’s playing… I am moderately certain that what once seemed like a good idea will quickly be dismissed as something the “older generations have adopted”, and hopefully dissuade my children from jumping on the band-wagon adopting these often weird oddball fads.

In saying that though, I am also need to remember that these fads really don't matter much in the long run. Will allowing my child to temporarily paint his hair alter the person I am teaching him to be? Will allowing my daughter to have one too many holes in her ears turn her evil? It comes down to choosing my battles I suppose and teaching things that are really important to me. It also comes down to helping my children understand that some things considered cool may not be the best idea later in their lifetime. Will it injure them? Maybe just their pride, and quite possibly only when they glance at themselves in 40-or-so years and think, “What WAS I thinking?”

For me it's about teaching “respect”, respect for everything in life and how my children can learn to live within that realm. I will encourage my children to walk their own path in life and to hopefully walk to the beat of their own drummer. If they encourage some pop-icon that they choose to follow for a time though, that’s probably fine, however I’m hoping they’ll see some of the foolishness for what it is and choose their own unique path - It may not be the popular one, but it certainly makes for an interesting journey!

January 25, 2010

Bounce-Around Friday Nights in Ann Arbor

When it comes to have a night out with my husband, the first hurdle we have to jump is the all-important babysitter... Typically my mom helps us out, but now that she, along with the in-laws winter down south this becomes problematic. Not because we can't FIND a sitter, but because sitters fees get expensive rather quickly, and that night out turns to fast food and possibly a movie. If other parents are like me though, I like to enjoy my movie-going experience with popcorn, a beverage and maybe a sweet even if I HAVE just eaten dinner!
What's a parent to do?

I just heard about the Kidz Night Out at Xtreme Bounce (82 Aprill Drive, Ann Arbor 48103) in Ann Arbor. Every Friday evening from 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., parents can drop children ages 6 and up for a night of bouncing and pizza for only $10! Not too shabby when a sitter would cost me at least $5/hour, now my dilemma is how to get my 4-year old to pass for a 6 year old so that we could drop both kids and run away for a few hours...

Do you have other solutions for kids while mom and dad get to go out? If so please feel free to pass along the ideas!

January 24, 2010

2nd Chance to Win A National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac

Thanks to all the readers who posted a comment on the Ann Arbor Mom Blog on our first National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac give-away in late December, Gary H. of Ann Arbor won. What is really great though, is that I have been given the opportunity to give away yet ANOTHER free almanac. I'm hoping by now Gary would have received his almanac and can chime in on what a great publication it is, the photos are fantastic and the articles are engaging for children and adults alike! My children really do enjoy flipping through the pages to look...

So how can you win your own National Geographic Kids 2010 Almanac? It's simple, you'll need to visit the National Geographic Store and browse the kids area - After visiting the site, post a comment to my blog on either your favorite product or a product review if you HAVE any of the items on the site!

Several years ago, my son received the Fly and Discover Talking Globe. It's a great toy because it is a pretty basic starter globe that has several games a child can play, even my son who was three when he received it, enjoyed playing with the globe (In fact he STILL plays with it!). Flying by a joystick, kids "fly" around the world learning fun facts - He can choose Tricky Travels for a guided journey or select Creature Feature to find animals on every continent. He loves the music and sound effects of the sputtering flying airplane!!!

Hurry and respond by Valentine's Day - A winner will be chosen from all comments posted.

January 22, 2010

One Glove Wonder?

I must be the worst mom in the world tonight, or at least one that needs to re-examine disciplining her child and her own very bad reaction to a trivial problem - I actually yelled, very loudly and in a not-so-nice way, at my son for loosing a glove. A glove!

I should say though, that after my son’s break-down just last week over loosing one of his new Iron Man gloves, I thought he’d have learned a lesson. (Loosing a pair of gloves a week is getting expensive!) This entire school year I have been drilling home that his gloves and hat need to go into, and stay, in his backpack when they aren’t on his hands. So why this should even have been an issue. He’s old enough to know better. His crying and carrying on last week over this glover were terrible! I thought that telling him not to worry, since a single Iron Man glove would be of little interest to anyone, however since the lost and found box has yet to belch out the afore-mentioned single missing glove, I now have to wonder if there was another little boy missing HIS Iron Man glove… But I digress.

This post is about discipline, both mine and his. It’s also about teaching a child how to care for their own things and about handling the repercussions when they don’t.

I have been asking my son to keep everything in his backpack since the start of school. I have also told him that HE is responsible for his own backpack and lunch bag, however I may have set a bad example when the dog ate through both the backpack and the lunch bag when my son did not listen, and left his bag out where the dog could get at it. What did I do? Went right out and bought him a new backpack and lunch bag. I suppose I didn’t think about what message this would send my son, after all he needed both as the backpack and the lunch bag were beyond repair. But what does that say to a child? Don’t worry mom will just buy more, right? How would it have better been handled? He did pretty well too until the missing, well love glove incident of last week. Mostly though this is due to my constant reminder for him to be aware of his things.

Today as my son was emptying his backpack and yet again said the dreaded words, “Mom I lost a glove.” What makes this even worse is that it is actually 3 missing gloves since his (also new) Batman gloves were double-layered gloves that included two black full gloves with two fingerless gloves on top. I was going to suggest that from now on he would have to wear one Iron Man glove and the now single Batman glove, the problem is the remaining Batman glove is the fingerless one!

I told him that tomorrow he and his father would have to go out and buy two new pairs of gloves, with HIS money. I just can not discuss the gloves again. I still think I missed the mark though. My biggest concerns as a parent though are ‘why should missing one glove cause such an eruption of my emotions’ and more importantly, since it did, what will happen when my son truly does something “bad” and I get mad? I also need to consider him coming to me with his real issues; if I react so poorly won’t he choose to not come to me as a parent?

So here I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, and knowing fully well that I handle led the entire situation very poorly. I know I am not alone as there are at least 20 single gloves in the lost and found that would likely produce likewise unhappy parents, I just need to re-examine my own behavior over the missing glove incident tonight as well as how to handle my son’s need for new gloves.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I am currently reflecting upon some of the following questions:

- How do you teach your children to respect personal property?
- How do you teach a child the value of ‘things”?
- At what “age” should children be expected to be responsible for belongings?
- How do you discipline a child when something “necessary” is lost or damaged?

January 18, 2010

Free Contest: Kids Win Money For College


Beginning January 18, Michigan children in grades K-6 can enter The Michigan Education Savings "Dream Out Loud Challenge". The contest allows students to write, draw or create a video that portrays the way that they will change the world after college - Your student could win $2500 toward their college tuition and $1000 for their school! To make it easier for children of all ages, prizes will be awarded to the winning entry in each grade category: Grades K–2, Grades 3–4, Grades 5–6.

Submissions must be postmarked or entered online by March 15, 2010. This contest is FREE to enter but could pay off big! For complete details on the MESP Dream Out Loud Challenge, visit the contest website.

This Week: Cool Events

I wanted to highlight a few fun, free events that I saw happening this week around town:

Wednesday, January 20
Snowball Blast!
3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Chelsea District Library

If your children love the winter, especially the snow join in on the celebration of snow at a fun-filled indoor winter party! Children will make crafts, do snow experiments, and even make an indoor snowman. Sign up quickly because space is limited, call 734-475-8732 or visit the Chelsea District library website.

Saturday, January 23
National Yoga Day - Kid's Yoga
9:00 - 9:45 a.m.
St. Joseph Mercy Women's Health Center, Ypsilanti

As part of National Yoga Day, kids ages 6-9 can sample a FREE yoga class. The interactive class encourages children to connect their minds and bodies with their breath. Movement through postures, stories and games, plus breathing techniques and relaxation are all part of their yoga experience. This class helps to increase strength, coordination, self-awareness and self-confidence. Most important, the children have fun being together and building community. Register in advance (As of writing there were spaces still available) by visiting the St. Joseph Mercy Website.

Saturday, January 23
Spiral Bracelet Beading
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Ypsilanti District Library, Whittaker Road Branch Community Meeting Room

Kids and teens can create a colorful beaded spiral bracelet and dangly earrings. Materials and instruction provided. To pre-register call 482-4110 ext. 1326.

January 14, 2010

This Weekend: Nature Walk in Ann Arbor

Call now to reserve your spot for this weekend's nature walk with Washtenaw County's free program "Animals in Winter – Nature Stories and a Hike". Children ages 4 to 7 can share stories inside, then head out to look for signs of animals around Ann Arbor's County Farm Park. Hot drinks provided at the conclusion of the program.

The Animals in Winter – Nature Stories and a Hike runs from 1:00 -2:30 p.m. and is free. Call 734-971-6337 ext 334 to register.

January 11, 2010

Upcoming parent informational meetings for incoming 9th graders

A good friend of mine was lamenting the other day about her daughter going to high school next year - Mainly she was concerned about the transition. I won't have these types of discussions any time soon, but I do understand the pressures of parenting, and the un-known of a child attending a new school. That's why parent or student/parent meetings as an introduction to the school are so important, and an event worth attending.

Attached are several parent informational meetings for area school districts that will be happening within the next few weeks:


Pioneer High School - 9th Grade Curriculum Night will be held in the Little Theater on Tuesday, January 12, 6:30 - 7:00 p.m.

Skyline High School - Curriculum night for incoming 9th graders will be held on Wednesday, January 13, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Huron High School - A School enrollment informational meeting for the Class of 2014 will be held in the Media Center on Thursday, January 14, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Community High School - Parent/Student information nights will be held from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. on Monday, January 11, Tuesday, January 19, Wednesday, February 3, and Thursday, February 11.

For more information on Ann Arbor high schools, check the Ann Arbor Public school website for the individual school websites.


Ypsilanti High School - Open House will be held on Tuesday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Lincoln Consolidated High School - 9th grade orientation meeting will be held in the high school auditorium on Thursday, February 11 at 7:00 p.m.

The parent/student informational meeting has yet to be scheduled for Willow Run Schools.

Saline High School - Class of 2014 Open House will be held in the SHS Auditorium Monday, February 8, at 7:00 p.m.
Photo courtesty of Flicky user alibubba

January 8, 2010

Free program: Martin Luther King Jr. symposium, a day of creativity, dialogue and entertainment

Many local schools will be closed on Monday January 18 in celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, so what's a parent to do? Luckily for children in K-12 grades there is a wonderful all-day program being offered at the University of Michigan.

On Monday January 18th from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the University of Michigan will be hosting it's 24th Annual MLK Symposium. Parents can drop off kids ages 5-18 for a day of age-appropriate stories, games, musical performances, and activities to commemorate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and its significance today. Kids age 4 and under may also attend, however they must be accompanied by an adult. A free lunch is provided to all participants.

The program takes place on the 1st and 2nd floors of Modern Languages Building (812 E. Washington, Ann Arbor). Pre-registration is strongly encouraged and can be done by visiting the program website. For more information call 734-764-0567.

The 24th Annual MLK Symposium is sponsored by the School of Education, School of Social Work & Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

January 4, 2010

Donate Your Time - It'll Make All The Difference to Someone

In the spirit of "giving" and "doing" with your family I'd like to highlight something that I am doing with my children - Especially my oldest. Sometime in October I signed us up for Disney's "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day." For those of you that may not have hear of this program, Disney is trying to inspire one million people to volunteer a day of service to a participating organizations within their communities. Once individuals (age 6 and older) complete their day of service, Disney will give each volunteer a free 1-day, 1-theme park ticket to the Disneyland® Resort or Walt Disney World® Resort to be used before December 15, 2010.

I don't know if we will have the opportunity or money to actually complete the trip, but I am sure going to try. I already have been trying to encourage my children to be more gracious and giving, so why not take this opportunity as well.

My son and I have already volunteered for an organization (Project Linus) that I thought he may be able to identify with, and look forward to giving our time in making a few blankets. Actually through the Disney site I actually a second organization (Charity Music) that I will be helping out as well - I won't be getting an additional ticket, however that really doesn't matter. It all comes back to giving back to the community where and when we can.

So take the time to make someone elses dream come true and volunteer locally - The mouse could use a leg up, and besindes, I'm betting that your family will forever remember the experience of making the difference together!

NOTE: What I found really great is that if you can not use your day at a Disney Park, you may donate THAT as well!

January 1, 2010

Flight of the Eagle: A Mom Wintering in Savannah and Her Daughter Handling the Experience

I am a member of the Sandwich generation – no that’s not a fancy way of saying I eat at Subway every day. Most of us know, being a member of the sandwich generation means I have young children and aging Baby Boomer Parents. (I like to now refer to myself as the “Big Mac” though.) In the past few years I have begun seeing the necessity in helping parents. To doctor appointments, surgeries and assisting them with many projects that require more assistance than if my parents were younger. I am seeing them slow down a little, which is an odd thing to experience. It’s not been a biggie though, taking care of things… This morning was a first for me, a first for the New Year, and a first for Mom – She decided to winter down south and is headed for Savannah for three months.

I’ll have to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect when she made the announcement several months ago. She has always said she wanted to winter there when my brother had kids, but THEY DON’T HAVE THEM YET! I felt a put out because my young children were not going to have their Nana here for birthday's, and she had made the commitment (asked to have that right really) to watch them 1 day each week. The reality is there aren’t kids in Savannah missing their Nana.

I was selfish about it too, because mom is one of my best friends and my back-up when I have client meetings. She’s also our primary baby-sitter for Michael’s and my “very occasional” date-night. We probably won’t have any dates in the next three-months, but then again we might not have had any regardless... I just felt though, that she should have waited another year until my brother had children. (As fate happens though, that would have been next year anyway!) And so this morning I had to say “good-bye” to mom and her two cats as they ventured to Savannah-land!

The journey to get there, has been harrowing even before the actual trip began. First mom said “I can’t put as many holiday decorations up since I am leaving and oh-by-the-way you need to come help take them all down”. Which really means mom’s hundreds of candles – maybe even thousands of candles – and 50-some-odd Christmas trees, were limited to one tree in every room (three in the basement family room), a dozen or so candles in every room and greenery hanging from only 50% of her home. My brother was luckily in town for the holiday, so I roped him and his wife into being assistant elves for un-decorating the main tree and part of the decorations on the main floor. The remainder of greenery and nick-knacks will be taken down at my leisure sometime before April 1 - As long as mom doesn’t know. So long as the neighbors don’t look in her windows and shake their heads in amazement of her everlasting holiday spirit, who cares right?

Next came the “help me with all my necessary new gadgets”: the car-top carrier, the scary new GPS unit, a new laptop with attached webcam, and the all-important car pet-gate. Her two kitties needed roam the rear of her Escape which would hopefully limit them yowling like skinned cats being boiled in hot oil. It’ll help that she’s feeding them kitty-marijuana (a.k.a. high quality cat-nip.) so they get high, get the munchies and fall into blissful slumber… Considering she called me as she was just south of the boarder, with a kitty-chorus accompaniment in the background, I'm not sure that plan worked.

My husband and I set her up with all the gadgets, and made sure she was ready to go. God help me if she tries Skyping the kids and I on the twice-daily cycle she has mentioned – If that happens I will be ripping my router out of the wall and dumping the laptop in the backyard pond!

Then came time to pack her and send her off; for some reason within the past few days, mom has become insecure about her impending travel plans. She somehow felt that she made a huge mistake – It is more likely that she expected to see the kids and me in Savannah sometime during her stay. Thankfully she won’t be alone in Savannah though – She knows my sister-in-laws parents plus she has Andy and Lora AND the exciting prospect of a new baby later in the year. I assured her things would be fine, but she’s still had doubts and many bouts of tears this week. Yesterday when she said good-bye to the kids you would have thought she was moving to a part of the world to become a hermit living without means of communication. The tears came out like a leaky faucet, and almost as heavily as her over-packed cartop carrier that was parked inside her garage and needed to be un-packed in order to be backed out...

Mom's original plan for leaving this morning was for me to meet her at 9:00 a.m. to send her and the cats off. But as plans go, they changed - at 6:45 a.m. this morning.

Brrrrriiiinnng, brrrrriiiinnng, brrrrriiiinnng – I heard the sharp shrill cutting through the depths of slumber and my pleasant dreams. I madly dashed for the phone grabbing it before the noise woke the kids. Standing there in my bare feet on the cold tile floor, my knees shaking as my night-shirt swished against my legs from the scramble.

Hello.” I muster as quietly as I can hoping that I would not be receiving any unpleasant early morning news.

GOOD MORNING!!!” she all but shouts, “What are you doing?”

Ah “Sleeping.” I say, shivering from being ripped from beneath my warm, cozy cocoon.

Oh, I thought you were coming to say good-bye.” She cries. “You ARE coming aren’t you? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

I pause for a moment knowing fully well that there IS no option here - Nope NO options. “Yes I’m coming, I told you that. My alarm was set for 8:00 a.m.” I say softly, trying not to sound a bit defensive with my froggy morning voice.

Well I’ve been up for a while and thought maybe you would want to come now.”

Sighing and knowing fully well that this is now a request, I give in. I begin to peel back my eyelids to clear my head and need either a hot cup of coffee or a severe jolt with a cattle prod to get me moving. I agree to leave shortly and now need to decide if taking the kids, especially my son who ASKED to go, is worth it - Again there are no options here, so I set off to get ready.

My three year old, who I swear can not POSSIBLY be my child with her perky can-do morning attitude – yes she’s “one of them, the chipper morning types!” - can now be found squeezing her way into my bathroom where the lights are still off and I am running a comb through my short shaggy main. Mom may be getting me earlier than planned, but not with my complete make-up and hair fashionably done...

Next I hear a litany of “Momwhatchadoing, huh? Whereyagoing? Whyareyouup? Where’sdaddy? Momwhatchadoing, huh? Momwhatchadoing, huh? Momwhatchadoing, huh?” I’m fairly certain this went on for at LEAST 5 minutes with my daughter’s cherubic face grinning like the Cheshire Cat squeaking out the questions over, and over, and over but I managed to block most of it out - At 6:45 a.m. in the morning after a very late New Year's Eve, this is not even slightly cute! I THINK I may have simply asked her to shush, but I really can not be certain, maybe she just went away.

“Can I go too mam-ma?”

Of course you can sweetie. Just please be quiet for mommy.” I say as I hear my husband, who is still snuggled securely beneath the sheets, breathe an overly large sigh of relief.

We spend the next few minutes getting ready, and then wake my son. Zach is less than pleased to hear about Nana’s early morning call as he asked me “Why can’t she wait for us to come later?” He wouldn't understand the demands made when one gets “older” though, so I don't bother answering…

We arrive at mom’s home shortly after 7:30 in time to stuff the cats into the back of the car, listen to last minute instructions and to give many goodbye hugs and kisses. There was only a brief moment of mistiness in my eyes, which I’m certain mom wanted to see, that I quickly pulled back. I will not cry – Not now anyway. This trip south is what mom wants and needs, it’s about her independence and the freedom for her to make these types of choices.

Being the Big Mac that I am, I know I will likely see this happening more and more in the next few years - More doctors’ appointments, more projects and more winters in Savannah. Mom deserves these precious freedoms to enjoy now, and I will not keep her from them. I will always be there to pick her up, kiss her skinned knees, set her up and send her off, always taking care of things during the in-between. And I will be there to laugh hysterically as my brother gets to “enjoy” some of these things I enjoy – So farewell mom, you are somewhere in Virginia right now (I know because you have already called several times to tell me of your progress) enjoy all that Savannah has to offer. To my brother and his wife, the Eagle is in flight - You’ll have two days of peace before she lands, enjoy taking over the “Big Mac” title for a few months…

Note to Mom: Yes I really will come in the next week or so to clean and put things away, REALLY! I'm just poking fun at you right now.

Note to friends of the “chief”: No mom’s were injured during the writing of this piece, rest assured I will be the good daughter – as always!

Free Kid's Creative Activities - January 2010

Here are a couple of great (Free) January activities for kids and families in Ann Arbor area locations that I thought to pass along. Why not consider taking your child when the snow is a-blowin' and the temperatures drop! Get out and get creative...

Upcoming Kid's Workshops at the Home Depot

The Home Depot Kid's Workshops are free "How-To" workshops geared for kids ages 5-12. They run the first Saturday of the month at all Home Depot stores from 9:00 a.m. - noon.
  • Saturday January 2, 2010 kid's can build their own calendar.

Ann Arbor area Home Depot stores include:

Ann Arbor Home Depot (3300 Carpenter Rd, Ypsilanti 48197 / 734-975-1029)
South Canton Home Depot (45900 Michigan Ave, Canton 48188 / 734-495-9414)

Upcoming Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics:

Every other Saturday from 10:00-11:00 a.m. kids can join in the fun of their own building clinic where they learn the basics of building and using tools as well as how to follow instructions. The projects are fun and easy to complete!

  • Saturday January 9, 2010 kids can build their own coin bank to watch their savings grow. It's a new year and a great time to teach children about how to save their money, so why not save your own money with this free kids clinic at your local Lowe's Store?

  • Saturday January 23, 2010 build a Tic Tac Toe Game. You can't beat a classic, bring your child to Lowe's and they can build their very own Tic Tac Toe Game!

Participating Ann Arbor area Lowe's stores include:

Lowe's of Ann Arbor (3900 Carpenter Road, Ypsilanti 48197 / 734-477-5980)
Lowe's of Scio Township (5900 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor 48103 / 734-302-2400)

Make sure to sign your child up for the Free Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics!

Upcoming "Make and Take" Project Events at Michael's Crafts

Michael's Crafts periodically offers "Make and Take" days in their store, projects are often free or very reasonably priced, cute and easy to make. In January two events are being promoted.

  • January 23, 2010 they are featuring a "Yarn Event". Kids can make their own fuzzy friend pencil topper and sugar and cream straw weaving wrist band. This event runs from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
  • January 30, 2010 The Knack kis sponsoring a "Paint A Frame" event. Purchase a $1 unfinished wood frame that the kids can paint for free in the store. This event runs from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Participating Ann Arbor area Michael's stores include:

Ann Arbor Michael's (3655 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor / 734-975-6774)