Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Americans Attention Spans

It is clear that Americans' attention spans are rapidly shrinking.

An example...here is how I 'read' the newspaper.
First, I read it online. I simply scan the headlines. Once in awhile, I click on the headline and read the first couple paragraphs of the article. I rarely complete an article, especially if it is more than one page. I do check the local and national news sources. Worse, on msnbc.com, I often will click on a video story so that I don't have to expend the energy to read.

I also double up on entertainment and information (e.g. The Daily Show, Chesley Lately, and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me). I do lay in bed each morning listening to NPR.

This trend is obvious in the decline in the blogosphere and the increasing popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging. Clearly, I don't blog as often as I used to (this due to several factors). I rarely get regular emails but I have lots of activity on Facebook (which I check several times per day). I, personally, haven't moved onto tweeting or texting but it will happen.

So, is this a negative trend? I don't know. I definitely feel more connected to friends and family through Facebook. I know what is happening in their daily lives and know when people have birthdays, babies, parties, tragedies. My parents aren't on Facebook so they miss out on cute things the kids do and photos since I don't blog about them anymore (hint, hint).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Birthday Season 2009

We made it through another birthday season at our house. Three child-selected dinners, three birthday parties, three chocolate cakes. Numerous trips to the toy store. Of course, everyone gets to pick their own cake. This years selections included:

Self-decorated chocolate cake with chocolate filling and frosting plus blue icing and gummy candies.

Chocolate cake with strawberry and chocolate filling, and decorated like a Clone Wars shield.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cake decorated like a ninja.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Little known fact about me...I love horror movies. But not the good ones...bad, horrible horror movies...nothing that could really happen or anything. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of all time so Zombieland was just calling to me.

Zombieland (rated R) is a hilarious comedy with some considerable gore. The story, not unlike any other zombie movie, is based on the idea that the world has been infected with a virus that has turned almost everyone into the undead. Fortunately for us, we follow 4 survivors, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin, each named after the town they are from. Along the way, we are educated about the rules of survival (not only is Eisenberg's verbal delivery of these rules hilarious, we are constantly given written reminders) and reminded what is important to live life.

All the performances are fantastic. Harrelson is particularly amazing (I highly recommend an Oscar nom, no kidding). The zombies are perfectly gross, hungry, and stupid (and I assume performed by the filmmakers friends...hey guys, come down and be a zombie with me!). There is also a cameo that, for me, was so unexpected and so super funny. The writing is good and the design is fun with some realism.

I will warn some of you that the zombies and their resulting deaths are gross and somewhat violent.

Overall, highly entertaining and a perfect 2hrs of escapism. It is also great on the big screen but I will definitely check out the DVD.

its been awhile...

I can't believe I haven't posted in so long...so for those three people who still read, I apologize. As with every new school year, it has been crazy busy. Everyday has been jam packed with activity. I am so happy when I find a couple hours during the week to nap or check up on tv.

So here is a short list of headlines from my household:

1. Kindergartner learns to read! Now read books to parents every night!
2. Seemingly Chronically Crabby Pre-teen is finally appreciative of parents after So You Think You Can Dance Tour.
3. Four-Year-Old finally finds his own friends and loves having playdates without big brother.
4. Parents Take Up Gambling (Bunko for Mom, Poker for Dad)
5. Big Birthday Bash brings Candy Fun to Kids and Adults Both!
6. New TV seasons rocks but has placed great strain on Mom's time.
7. High School Musical-Obsessed Four-Year-Old now only responds to being called "Troy."
8. New fitness class (Team Strength Extreme) is getting Mom in awesome shape--look at those arms! Everyone should try it!
9. New Loft Bed greatly increases pre-teen's floor space! More room for dirty clothes and make-up to step on! Bunk Beds for the Boys too...with a slide!
10. Six-Year-Old will hang, flip, scale on any thing! Develops circus-style show for all!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The best part of my day

The best part of my day is something I completely take for granted. It is something that sometimes I initially don't always want to do. I also assume that everyone participates in this activity but I know that isn't true.

The best part is reading books before bed.

My little ones still like me to read to them. We each pick out some books. I turn on some of my teacher-sense but I try to enjoy the closeness and undivided attention. They hang on every word. I have to cut my kids off after a few books and some nights they pile books up on their bed and read them until they fall asleep with the lights on.

My soon-to-be teenager and I read our own books before bedtime as well. Besides I love the fact that I have created the love of reading in her, I enjoy that we share books and talk about what we are reading. I love to take at least 15mins to clear my mind and settle into rest and relaxation for the night.

Sorry to sound cheesy, but the love of reading and sharing is such a gift.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


So August is apparently over...with vacation and school starting, I have yet to take a big breath (when will Sunday come?). Anyways.

Besides my own children beginning school (three kids, three schools), I have a brand new group of students in my classroom with a few returning three year olds. I just love teaching so much and meeting new families and children is fantastic. Playing around with kids is so much fun, although exhausting.

But my favorite part so far has been our Parent Orientation Night. We invite the parents out for a Parent-Only evening to play and learn about our program. Throughout the time, they get to play during choice time (including exploring shaving cream, blocks, ramps and balls, playdough, vinegar and oil, marble/ball painting, flaxseeds and water), move and shake a bit during group time, and learn a bit more about how to best praise and encourage their children. We did some business as well including classroom policies, etc. but the most important part was releasing their inner-child and seeing how our play-based philosophy really works.

My husband had a blast and I think he really needed the time to play. I also think all the parents realized how important play is to all of us, at any age.

So, although the past two weeks have been insanely busy and stressful, I am careful to take time out to play with each of my children (good for them and very good for me).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Political Conversation with the Kindergardener

Who is that big guy (the large Abe Lincoln on I57)?
Abe Lincoln, he was our president a long time ago.

Is he still our president?

No, he was president over 100 years ago.

Is he dead?


How did he die?

Someone shot him?


John Wilkes Booth.

Was he a bad guy?

Well, he shot someone.


He didn't like what the president was doing.


President Lincoln thought everyone in America should be treated the same (kind of).

So, Obama is the president now.


What does he do?

He does lots of things. He eats breakfast, he plays with his kids, he exercises, he sleeps, he goes to the bathroom, he takes care of everyone in America.



I don't exercise everyday...How does he take care of everyone?

He makes important decisions to help all of us.

How does he know what to decide?

He learns as much as he can and makes the decision he thinks is best. He has a lot of people around him to tell him what is going on.

But what if someone tells him a lie?

That is a good question. He has to ask the people he trusts.

What does that mean?

Trust means to believe that someone is going to tell you the truth and do things that help you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mental Fitness Friday

As for many families this time of year, stress can get a bit high when school begins...especially if one or both parents are educators.

Here are a couple ideas to keep stress under control:

*Find a schedule that works for the family for most days of the week. Get a calendar! This includes breakfast and bedtime for everyone. Keep some good breakfast options (e.g. hard boiled eggs, nuts, whole grain breads, oatmeal) in the house so you don't forget the most important meal of the day. Put yourself to bed at a reasonable time.

*Find time to exercise. Whether it be morning yoga before anyone knows your awake, a quick jog with the kids around the yard, or an evening fitness class....put it on the schedule and make time for it.

*Plan some meals ahead of time. Even make some and freeze them. That way, when the day has run crazy, you won't be tempted to run to the nearest fast food place (which will cost more in the wallet and the waist).

*Drink lots of water. Try not to reach for too many caffeinated beverages to keep you going throughout the day.

*Keep up with the laundry. That sounds impossible but if everyone has clean clothes in their drawers each morning, everyone can get dressed quickly and easily.

*Despite homework, laundry, dishes, and work, take time to play. Take at least half a day on the weekend to go out and play with the family.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cooper Cooks

My 3yo has been doing a lot of 'cooking' lately...as he says. He takes cookies and puts them in the freezer...then presenting "Frozen Cookies!" They are very good.

While watching Food Network, he explains his upcoming cooking show "Ty Freezes Things."

Ty is his name for anything other than himself (imaginary friend, bug, stuffed animal). And the basis of the show is about freezing things. So...good title.

I ask "what will you make?" He replies "I will freeze cookies." I ask "Will you make anything else?" He replies "Oh yes, I will freeze animal crackers, graham crackers, bread, and broccoli."

So watch out Next Food Network Star...make room for this new, fresh take on cuisine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Food Journal

Practicing what I preach, I am trying hard to eat through our freezers and pantry. I am not buying much outside the basics of milk, OJ, and produce. After having my daughter make a list of everything in there and post it on the fridge, each day must contain at least 1 item from the freezer and 1 from the pantry. If anyone has a some interesting filo dough recipes, let me know.

Here is what we've had thus far:
Burgers* with caprese salad and green beans*
Tofu stir fry with rice noodles+ and veggie spring rolls* and corn*
Lemon Bars (made with butter*)
Barbeque Beef*, baked beans+, potato/cheese/corn+ casserole, spinach salad bar
Banana Bread (made with butter* and bananas*)

*freezer items
+pantry items

Friday, August 14, 2009

Frugal Friday

In tune with last week's tip...try to only buy what you need (or at least what you went to the store for).

How many of us run into the grocery store for a gallon milk (strategically placed in the back) and come out with two bags full of cookies, ice cream, and chips?

So for those quick, pick-up trips to the store:
First, NEVER go to the grocery store hungry....EVER!

Secondly, make a list (at least in your head).

Third, pick up a basket, canvas bag, or grab a large box from the produce shelves. NO CART.

This will limit the items you pick up since you have to use your arm strength to carry them through the store...especially if milk, juice, or laundry detergent is on the list.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Frugal Friday

My tip this week is simple. Eat what you have.

Despite the fact, I feel the need to go grocery shopping each week, we actually have enough food in our house for more than a week.

Before you shop, take a serious look at your cabinets, pantry, and freezer.
First, clean out anything that is expired or past its prime. And although I hate to throw anything away, if there is no way will will ever eat it, toss it or donate to a food pantry.

*Pick 5 items out and plan 5 meals around them (1 for each weeknight).

*Limit your shopping to milk, bread, and fresh produce for two weeks.

*Eat your leftovers (or tranform them into a new meal).

*Make an omelet! Breakfast, lunch, or dinner....scramble three eggs and fold in any leftovers or ANYTHING in your freezer (shrimp, chicken, sausage, veggies).

*Spend a day cooking and freeze. We have a lot of items that we buy for a recipe and then never get to. Spend a weekend day cooking 3 full meals. Put 1 in the fridge and two in the freezer.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Breastfeeding Doll?

Here is an interesting new product. Watch the video.

I pretty much agree with the expert. What do you think?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Harry Potter Mania

There has been a lot of Harry Potter activity around here lately. Books being read. Movies being watched. Questions looked up on the internet. Museum exhibits visited.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (153min, PG)
I've seen it twice. Once on opening day and again today after rereading the book. It was even better the second time. Since it has been awhile since any new HP activity has been offered, I was very anxious about this film. Overall, it is wonderful. As I said before, a satisfying adaptation of the book and an exciting and interesting film.

The first 10mins are fabulous. The mood is perfectly set for the challenging times ahead of the magical and muggle communities in the story. A couple important events occur during this opening that only those who have read the book will pick up on (read the Daily Prophets carefully). Its dark and tense with a fabulous soundtrack.

Once we finally get to Hogwarts, there is a nice balance between adolescent struggles and silliness and progression the battle with Voldemort. In between many kissing scenes with the students and talk of love and disappointment, the audience learns a lot about Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort). For the most part, the love stories are resolved by the end of the film. However, the many important pieces of information and events are only a starter course for the final two films. The great Snape debate is intensified as well.

At first viewing I was a bit disappointed that so much was absent from the film however upon a second look, many things are begun that I can only assume with be expanded on in the next films. Again, these are things that those who have not read the book will probably miss. This is only an assumption that I hope is correct (since otherwise I will ultimately be disappointed).

Especially since I have recently watched the first film, the acting of the young actors has developed into something special. It is quite amazing that the cast has remained intact for so long, including the supporting and background students. Daniel Radcliffe is just fabulous. His facial expressions are perfect to portray his teenage strife and amusement. Jim Broadbent, as his predecessors, makes a very memorable Professor Slughorn. Tom Felton brought a much needed depth to the increasing dark Draco Malfoy. As always, I would have loved a bit more Neville and Luna (they are my favorite).

Overall, it is great and I recommend it to anyone over 12 (I am surprised it is only rated PG). It may be a bit scary for the young ones and deals with adolescent romance. It is fabulous on the big screen but I am sure I will watch it on the small one many times as well.

Harry Potter, the Exhibit (Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, $26 (the includes museum admission/on-site parking is $16))
This museum exhibit showcases props, models, costumes, and set pieces from the six HP films. As you walk through admiring moving paintings, textbooks, and potion ingredients there are many film clips to remind you that the items in front of you were actually in the film. The highlight for me, a costume designer's daughter, were the costumes. The details are amazing. The exhibit includes items for all the major characters (the tiny clothes Harry wore in #1), the Great Hall and the Yule Ball, Hagrid's hut, Dementors and Deatheaters, House Elves, and the Forbidden Forest....plus so much more.

If you are a huge Harry Potter fan, this exhibit is a must-see. We spent about 1 1/2 hrs there and got our money's worth. I recommend it for people over 12. I will warn you with little ones, the exhibit enters directly into a gift shop filled with fabulous (and expensive) HP merchandise.

I also recommend you use your money and see the rest of the museum. You could easily spend the entire day there.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm still here...

I can't believe its been so long since I actually published a blog post (meaning I have started many and never got back to them). This is past month has been nuts and busy but all good and once August hits, I'm done for. School will creep up on us so fast.

So here is a summary of what we have been up to:
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Leading up to the July 15th premiere, books were read and movies were watched. I did not head to the theater at midnight but did catch a morning show the next day. In short, see it and on the big screen. It is satisfying for those who have read the book and easy to follow for those who have not (but I recommend seeing the previous movies first). I don't know what is in store for the last two films so I won't complain yet about any omissions.

2. Finally painted pre-teen's room
She picked the colors and she did most of the work. She picked a bright green with pink accents. It looks nice. She spent hours cleaning out all of her 'kid' stuff in order to transform it into a teenager's hang out. A few sleepovers later, I think she succeeded.

3. Twilight
The daughter is way into the series and her walls are covered in posters. She waivers between Team Edward and Team Jacob. I am happy to know that she does not like Bella and thinks she makes stupid decisions! I haven't decided whether or not to allow her to read Breaking Dawn.

4. So You Think You Can Dance
The talent this season is fabulous. No one really stands out because they are all so amazing. My week is planned around the show. And the Top 10 can coming to the Assembly Hall (affectionately referred to as the Ass around here) in October!

5. Playdates, Pools, and Parties...lots of days spend with friends and family

6. Camp Family
We shipped the kids up to Chicagoland for some time (ok, we actually drove them and hand delivered them to responsible adults). So each kids got some time with several different family members. Our oldest got to spend time away from the little brothers and pick some more grown up things to do. She went on a segway tour of downtown Chicago and saw a couple museums and shows. The boys got to play with new things and people and not have to clean up after themselves. And my hubby and I got some quiet time.

7. Adult Play Time (we only wish it was as seedy as that sounds)
So we had some time with no kids so we hung out in CU for awhile doing things we have wanted to do for awhile (eating out, shopping in Tuscola, sleeping). We headed up to Chicagoland and drove around and stopped whenever we saw something interesting (Lake Michigan, Bahai Temple, Chicago Botanical Gardens). We love to drive around and look at houses we will never be able to afford. We stayed in a hotel. Went to a museum without kids (Museum of Science and Industry and saw the Harry Potter exhibit). We had whole conversations and meals without interruption.

8. Reading
The daughter and I have read so many books this summer! And the boys have too but have also discovered the Xbox. I re-read part of Harry Potter and am still working through the Sookie Stackhouse series (and watching True Blood). I also picked up a couple random new mysteries at the library. I plan to catch up on the Percy Jackson series next...so I can fit in with the middle schoolers.

9. Family Dinner
Once the movie project was done we have tried hard to re-establish family meals. The daughter and the 5yo really love to cook so its been nice creating and eating meals together. The favorite recipe so far has been Ice Cream Mud Pie.

10. Work
I have been teaching so many fitness classes, my body will be so thankful to go back to being abused by preschoolers. But I have had a great time meeting new members and developing new classes. I really love exercise and sharing my love for it with others. Two more weeks before I switch back into school mode.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Frugal Friday

Especially after my last two posts involved spending money...and they involved movies....

I love going to the movies and so do my kids. But we all know, it is crazy expensive.

Here are some tips....
*Many local theaters offer free or reduced family movies. Check your local theaters for details.
(In CU, over the summer, both theaters offer $1 movies M-F mornings)

*Many theaters have reduced concessions on a slower weeknight...often Tues or Wed.
(In CU, the Bev has $1 night on Tues and the Savoy offers a bucket program and punch-card system)

*Many theaters offer a frequent movie-goer programs (e.g. see 10 movies, 11th is free)

*Always see movies before 6pm! Matinees are always cheaper and some theaters offer Twilight fares between 4-6pm.

*Try to eat before you go. (and sneak in a granola bar)

*Avoid movies in 3D...there are more expensive and usually don't offer kid's or reduced prices.

*Read reviews ahead of time and make sure you are making the most of your movie time. Even with movies I thought I really wanted to see, I make sure they are either really good or really fun. (So sorry, Mr. Depp Public Enemies will have to wait for DVD).

*Over the summer, check out your local park districts, pools, parks, libraries, community organizations for movies outside! They usually don't start until at least 830pm but they are almost always free.

*Read local blogs, online magazines, event sites, newspapers for movies being shown. The university shows lots of movies on campus for a couple bucks or free. This is also a great way to see some independent films and documentaries.

*Of course....check out DVD's from the library and have your own home movie night.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I really got swept UP

Movie Review: Up (PG, 96min)

First of all, my 3yo finally sat through an entire feature film in the theater! We did miss the short film before the movie since, despite repetitive inquiries, he decided he had to go to the bathroom then. Secondly, I LOVE Pixar films. They are, by far, my favorite family films over the past 15 years. Many of them top my overall favorite film list.

So, get your kids to go to the bathroom before the movie and get to your seats on time because the first 10mins of the film are so amazingly sweet, I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time. Additionally, grab a couple extra napkins at the concession stand because this is a tear-jerker (I heard audible sobbing in the theater (and not from me this time)).

I don't even know what to tell you about the story without ruining any of it for you....let's see. It follows a man's discovery into the next journey of his life, Carl Fredricksen. Along the way, we meet a scout named Russell who it trying to complete his Assisting the Elderly badge. We also come across a rare bird, later named Kevin, and a technologically-assisted talking dog, Doug. Overall, it is a story about moving on through your life when challenges arise whether it be getting older, learning new things, finding safety, or breaking free from the pack.

Of course, the animation is spectacular. The overall visual effect of the film was soothing to me. I absolutely loved the look of Mr. Fredricksen. I think he reminded me of my grandpa. The voice talents are perfect. And, again, there were moments that would break your heart, make you laugh, and get you to the end of your seat.

I highly recommend it to all ages. It was fantastic on the big screen but I am sure we will love it on DVD as well. I don't think I missed anything watching it in 2D but it is available (at a greater price in 3D in many theaters).

Fun for the Whole Family

If you are looking for something fun to do this Thurday, head over to your local Goodrich theater (in CU, Savoy 16) and experience Forever Plaid's 20th Anniversary. Complete with introduction by the actors and sing-a-long! Great for all ages!
For details, see here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The love the book

I recently told my daughter that I was not going to allow her to see the newest Harry Potter film until she read the book. So, she plowed through it. I waited patiently for her to finish to see what she thought. I won't ruin it for those of you who haven't read it but there are some major twists and turns in the book. "So, were you surprised by the ending?" "Are you sad about it?" (of course I sobbed while I read it the day it was released) "No." "No." What?! "Did you know what happened?" "Ya."

How awful! To ruin one of the most exciting book series by knowing the ending....I feel horrible for her. I so remember the excitement of getting my brand new copy of HP after waiting so long and secluding myself from the world until I turned the last page. And that excitement is not there for her.

The excitement of newly released stories has been happening for centuries. Did people wait expectantly for William Shakespeare's newest play to be debuted? Did JRR Tolkien get letter after letter asking to leak out the destiny of Frodo? Did libraries have year-long waiting lists to see what chaos Ramona would get into next? Did kids huddle in their rooms without outside communication until they read the latest Box Car Children book? To some degree, I'm sure.

And if you wait long enough, people stop talking about the books and you can enjoy them untainted by media. By the time my 3yo is ready to read Harry Potter, the stories will be preserved once again.

What has changed is that information was disseminated so slowly before the past 10 years. Most people still have no idea what happens at the end of Hamlet. But now, all the great books and plays are quickly swept up into the movie business. The first thing that happens when a book becomes a sensation...the movie rights are sold. Very few read book reviews but lots of people read movie spoilers (I don't even know of book spoiler sites, although I'm sure they exist). And with the internet, one can quickly find out what happens in a story.

On the flip side, I LOVE watching movie and play versions of books. I often read books that I know are being made into movies. I guess my high school English and film teacher ingrained the Venn diagram on my brain.

My hope is that our new found need for quick and simple information does not ruin the amazing journey of reading a book. That people will understand the excitement and satisfaction does not mean finding out the plot in the final chapter but in the engrossment that grows with every page turned. One of the best feelings in life is having that strong desire for the book to continue even after it is over.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Fitness Friday

Personal training is a great way to learn how to exercise, push yourself, and focus your fitness. If you have the time and the money, go do it! Add it to your normal fitness routine (or use it as a jump start!).

However, there is another option. Many places are offering small group training. You train with a personal training with 3-5 other people with similar goals. It is fun and more economical. The Fitness Center in Champaign offers Pod Training for groups at about $15/session/person (which is half the individual rate).

Think about getting a couple friends together and working out together...motivating each other, laughing with each other, getting in shape together. If you are getting married, round up your bridesmaids or groomsmen! If you are in a weight-loss group, get together to work on your goals!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Things I have Found....

Things I have found in my house this past week:
*Scissors in the dryer

*All the legos in a bottle of apple juice

*A wolfman figurine in the Parmesan cheese

*A whole bottle of conditioner slicking the bathtub

*A cup of lightning bugs wrapped in plastic wrap

*Piles of grass on the carpet under the dining room table

*A lion in the butter dish

Things I am still looking for:
*Smart Card for the Dish Network receiver

*Most of the forks

*My bag of Dove Dark Chocolate Almond candies

*The curtain rods for the boys' windows

*A clean towel when I get out of the shower

Friday, June 26, 2009

Frugal Friday

Summertime can get pretty expensive. Just having the kids home all day can add up on the grocery bill. But I also feel like we go out more...to eat, to play, to travel.

So pick your activities wisely.

Our Top Three Free Summer Activities:
1. The Library!
In addition to the regular amazing offerings of the library (I mean you can just go there and read in the A/C) but most libraries have a great selection of additional activities over the summer. Not to mention, summer reading programs for all ages!

2. Park District Sponsored Concerts!
In CU, both districts offer a few EACH week at various locations and offering a wide variety of music. (see here for Champaign and Urbana listings).

3. The Outdoors!
Play in the yard, turn on the sprinkler (and run through it with your kids), walk to a park, explore a local forest preserve or woods. Sit outside and read, have dinner on the deck, go catch lightning bugs! With or without kids, these things are fun things.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

No Means No

Lately, I have gotten very frustrated by my children misunderstanding the word "No".

They will ask me for something (can I have a marshmallow for breakfast? can I stay up late and watch Clone Wars? I can put this book in the microwave? I get a facebook page?), I will clearly respond "No." They will ask again, repeatedly, and I will calmly answer "No" each time. An hour later, they will ask again.

I think "No" is a pretty clear message. Once in awhile I will give reasoning or an alternative to the request.

No means no.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Time...its here!

Sure, its really a couple days away but Mother Nature says it is summer people! This week it is H-O-T! Into the 90's and humid!

We are entering those days when I don't let my kids play outside too long at a time. When every time you step out of your air conditioned house you say "Whew, its hot out here!" When you sweat like a beast in your car that has been sitting in the sunniest spot in the parking lot while you try to roll the windows down as fast as possible. When a popsicle never tasted so good.

I like the idea of summer...fun in the sun, more free time, I love the pool. And I have just come to accept that fact that I sweat...a lot. But I also can't wait until October when the humidity finally dies down and you get to wear a sweater again.

And despite what is happening outside...this is also the time of year for layering your clothing. The movie theaters, libraries, and grocery stores become so cold you have to remember to bring a coat with you so you don't freeze. And if you don't have A/C, those are the places to hang out.

So stay cool out there and drink lots of water! Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Last Chance to be in a Movie, for now!

Film Extras for Leading Ladies Ballroom Competition

When: Saturday, June 20, 9am for most of the day.

Where: Franklin Middle School, 817 N. Harris, Champaign

What: Series of scenes at an amateur, Midwestern ballroom competition

Who: All ages (10 years old and older) and types. We will need at least 100 people for this scene to watch and mingle during the competition. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

What to Bring:

2-3 costume choices within these guidelines:

One scene takes place in early Fall, One scene takes place in early Spring

No Black, white, pinks, bright greens, t-shirts, jeans, logos or trademarks, large prints

Think special occasion or church. Men can wear suits, ties, tuxes, if desired.

Women should wear normal make-up.

Please bring something quiet to do while you are waiting throughout the day (reading material, crosswords). Do not bring ANYTHING that makes ANY noise. Cell phones must be turned off for the duration of filming. We will provide some food and drinks. You may bring your own as well. It will mostly likely be very hot that day, so please make sure to drink lots of water.

Leading Ladies is not responsible for any damaged or stolen property. Consider leaving valuables at home. You will not receive payment or housing for this position. You will receive screen credit.

Participation is subject to crew’s approval.

For more information, contact Jenna at (630)532-7672 or jenna@leadingladiesmovie.com

Let Love Lead


Monday, June 15, 2009

When Babies Attack

While reading an article on the long-term benefits of breastfeeding, I couldn't help but notice the 'related' article, When Babies Attack. It made my laugh because it was so true. I've gotten hurt often by my own children and students...rarely intentional, but painful nonetheless.

You know you are a good parent when your 2yo slams a Thomas the Tank Engine right into your temple so hard your eyes tear up...but you don't scream, or throw the train across the room....you take a deep breath and say "Wow, that really hurt, I'll be right back." You leave the room and head to the bathroom to silently yell and decide if the ER is necessary.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blog Shout Out

Dan at Musings of a Minor Mennonite wrote a post about the movie Leading Ladies and our families. Ha, ha...it made my day. Enjoy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fitness Friday

I know its been awhile...partly because I am teaching so many fitness classes!

To partly promote myself and to tell you about something I care deeply about....drumming.

Drumming is an amazing exercise for your body...but more so your brain and soul.

I teach a cardio-drumming fitness class, Drums Alive. For grown ups, we use large balance balls and step risers to create a drum. Add some drum sticks and you have a fabulous drum set! I combine basic drumming techniques, dance, and fitness into a great workout. I use very easy choreography and outstanding music for all over the world to create a group hour of fun (and fitness)! And yes, you will sweat!

For the kiddos, I use five-gallon buckets turned upside-down and dowel rods. We also have different sizes of other Tupperware containers. We turn on music (which is always playing in my classroom) and let them feel the beat. Although I might give some direction once in awhile, often the kids take it upon themselves to arrange the drums in groups or a circle and experiment hitting the drum in different ways.

So besides the obvious physical benefits of drumming....drumming is fantastic for your brain. It increases pathways between the left and right side, improves coordination, rhythm, reduces stress, releases endorphins. Additionally, drumming is an amazing social activity. I have kids who rarely participate in 'group time' always head over once someone brings out the drums to join the circle. And there is nothing like feeling silly all together with a group of adults!

Come to a class....head to a drum circle (check your local entertainment papers)...pull out the pots and pans and wooden spoons.....pound on the table...have fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I think I've done things right when...

Since we were out (after storytime at the library), we decided should just go to the grocery store. I know we need some things but I have no list and two little boys with me. Let's go!

So I forget to buy milk and toilet paper but....

The boys picked out a lot more items than I usually allow (usually they get 2 items (1 free choice, 1 mom-approved). Here are the 'treats' my kids picked out today:
*garlic and herb crackers
*chocolate doughnuts
*berry yogurt smoothies
*trix yogurts
*Kix cereal
*Munster cheese

There is nothing better than having a kid yell: I want to hold my tofu!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Soundtrack of my life

I love music and my favorite albums to listen to are soundtracks from movies or musicals....especially in the car where you can belt it all out and no one, except your children, have to suffer through it. My favorite time to listen is on long rides, like I took this weekend.

As a kid, we had 3 choices...Cats, The Big Chill, and Footloose. That was it, so naturally, I can sing every song word for word.

Since then I have expanded my repertoire. Here are my top favorites, in no particular order:
Boogie Nights (both albums)
Moulin Rouge (both albums)
Slumdog Millionaire
Avenue Q (not with the kids in the car)
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Chicago (the musical)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Reality Bites
Forrest Gump
Shrek (all three)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Make sure to cut your grass..its really important

This was my response to a notice I received in the mail today from the always lovely City of Champaign.

I am writing to complain about a violation we have apparently committed. We received a notice today about MC 22-302.1(b)(6). So, basically I have the city telling us our grass in our backyard is too long.

There are many reasons I think this is absolutely ridiculous but I understand that there must be city codes to make sure we are all safe, clean, and most of all, attractive.

But please consider that since it is Spring and we have had increased amounts of rain, keeping the grass maintained is a chore for all households. Also, consider that my husband and I both work two jobs to support our family of five and are currently without a lawnmower. In the past three weeks that we have be unable to attend to our lawn, we have not had the time or financial resources to even purchase a new mower, let alone, mow the grass twice a week (which is our neighbors' preference).

In our lives right now, maintaining our lawn to our neighbors' desires and keeping it 'attractive' for the city is not a top priority for our family. We are more concerned about paying our mortgage, buying groceries, and trying to find some quality time to spend together. Additionally, our family makes a point to contribute to the community in many ways. The paramedic arriving at a car accident, that's my husband. That teacher guiding your child through life, that's me. The kid raising money for community organizations, that's my daughter. The kids picking up garbage on their way to the park, those are my sons. But apparently, we are also the ones with a yard out-of-view from the street that is too long for the city's liking.

We will try our hardest to meet the deadline specified in the notice. However, before handing out fines and filing liens on our property, consider the bigger picture of life, family, and community.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Be a movie extra NOW!

Head over to the Rialto Theater, Champaign TODAY and/or tomorrow to be a movie extra!

We are filming a fabulous series of dance scenes with Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance! Swing dancing, club dancing, standing at the bar...come on out and have some fun!

We would love people there all day (12pm-12am) but if you can only make it from 6pm-12am, that is perfect!

It is really fun and an amazing process to see! Get a sitter and have a free date night or evening with the girls! Bring your friends!

See here for more details on what to wear.
The Rialto is located at 123 W. Church, inside the Robeson Building, across from the Art Theater.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Movie Shoot!

I have been out of blog world because I am helping produce a film that is shooting in CU this month and next.

Leading Ladies is a movie about an overbearing ballroom stage mother and her two daughters must re-define their roles in life and on the dance floor. There is dancing and romance, laughter and tears.

It was written by local theater director Jennifer Bechtel and former-UofI Dance professor Erika Randall. We have so many valuable people working with us including So You Think You Can Dance's Melanie LaPatin and Benji Schwimmer as well as other dancers from the show, fantastic director of photography Pete Biagi, and many locals (and not locals) on crew.

The community has been very welcoming of our production team...thank you!

If you would like to get involved, check out the website www.leadingladiesmovie.com

If you want to be an extra, check out the extras section.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This Party is Out of Control!

The Chicago Tribune had an article about children's birthday parties today. The title of the article is Birthday Bashes for Less. So I thought that finally someone is writing about the ridiculousness of children's birthday parties (or adults for that matter). But no...the basic idea was that parents are starting to have their elaborate birthday parties on weekdays. This, I guess, is cheaper because some locations offer reduced rates for weekday parties.

So, I suppose I have to be the someone who writes about the ridiculousness of children's birthday parties (or adults for that matter).

I have this thing about birthday parties. In general, I don't do them for my kids. Since my kids' birthdays are all within 6 weeks of each other, we host a single family party for all three once a year that is very simple and casual. Shockingly, we host it at our house. I don't really understand the trend of going somewhere (like Chuck E Cheese, Little Gym, etc) and having to have specific activities, etc. for kids. We just don't need Party Leaders in our lives.
I work with kids, I have kids, I was a kid. You really don't need to give them anything to do. Put a group of children of similar age together and they will run and play and fight and it will be fantastic! We had birthday parties all the time as kids, and we just had people over and my mom got us food and maybe a video (and the VCR rented from the video store).

As for a friend party, I think my daughter has had two over the past 12 years. Every few years, she has a 'big' party with 8-10 friends...again at our house, simple (they love chips and ice cream). We didn't have parties at all until she was in grade school. Most often, she invites a friend or two over to do something special, like go to the movies, out to lunch, or have a sleepover.

My favorite is the First Birthday Party. I suppose marking the child's first year of life is important but let's face it...the party is for the parents and grandparents. The child will have absolutely no memory of this event except for photos (yes, I think that 'eating cake photo' is adorable). What I don't understand is why people have these huge parties, renting out halls, catering food, etc.? Its a lot of work, energy, and lots of money. The event should be intimate.

My second favorite is Adult Parties at Bars. I just don't understand this idea at all. I really don't like being invited to a party and then asked to pay $30 just to go, especially because it would take me days to drink $30 worth of Sprite. I went to a party at my friends house once, and we were asked to pay for dinner. I feel like if you want to have a party, you should pay for it.

And don't get me started on party favors.

I think celebrating special moment is extremely important. But I think we should focus on the actual celebration not the event. My mom always tell us our Birth Story on our birthday. We always write down our favorite moments of the past year on New Year's Eve. We often prepare a small show about the honored person. I am banned from diapers and dishes on Mother's Day.

Because, overall, it is not about a party with lots of food, favors, activities, and decorations. Its about the amazing person and that doesn't take any money to say "I Love You!"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fitness Friday

I do a lot of yoga and pilates-type work with my preschoolers. Its really nice to learn to move and strengthen their bodies and it can really calm them down.

Pretending is the best way to do it. There are some ideas.

Have them lay on their back and tuck their knees in to become a BALL.
Then stretch their arms and legs out long like a BANANA.
Alternate between BALL and BANANA.
Lay on their bellies...reach their arms and legs out raising them off the floor like SUPERMAN.
Make sure to grab for STARS along the flight.
Roll over alternating BANANA and SUPERMAN.
Lay all the way down and reach their heads up like a SNAKE.
Coming up on their toes, roll into a standing BALL.
Pretend to grow up into a TREE....stretch out into BRANCHES....and shake their LEAVES.
Make a letter T with their arms.
Have the T fall from side to side.

I often make a game of saying different 'images' and having them hit each one.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cut it out!

If you are a facebook friend or have seen me lately, you will know that I chopped off a foot of my hair and donated it to Locks of Love. I do this about every other year when I get to the point where I can't find the time to get my hair cut regularly. Well, since then everyone in my house wants a haircut.

The boys usually get a trim every 8 weeks of so. Every time, my older son, with beautiful blond locks, wants to use the electric clippers (which I use to buzz his little brothers head). And each time, he decides at the last minute to keep it long. But today was different. I went over the decision several times and he was sure he wanted to do it this time. He wanted his hair like his friend at school (who is African American and has very short hair...I tried to tell him it won't look like that but will look like his brother). He was sure, I checked. So there I go...I was almost in tears, his hair is so beautiful.

But it was done. He goes in the bathroom to check it out and starts screaming. He says he hates it and wants it long ago...can I put the hair back on. Sorry Charlie, there is nothing I can do. Well this lasts for about an hour. At one point he refused to leave the house until his hair grew back.

By the end of the night, he now loves it and he even wrote a new song about hair ("You Never Get a Haircut When You're Sick").

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New favorite quote

"Its a process, not an event."
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S. on The Daily Show

Of course he wasn't talking about child development but he should have been. That is exactly right. Kids don't suddenly stand up and walk, become potty trained, have conversations, read a book....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Morning Talk

My 3yo often crawls into bed with me sometime between 3-6am...so I often wake up to a sweet kiss from him. Today, as he cuddled with me and I tried to pretend this wasn't time to wake up, he asks...."Mom, what don't you have milk in your boobs anymore?"

So after explaining that there is only milk when there is a baby to drink it, he agreed that he didn't need the milk anymore. Then he explained to me that he doesn't have milk in his boobs anymore because Ty (his imaginary friend) isn't a baby anymore.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Computer

I've been spending the past two weeks getting to know my new best friend, my new laptop. I am still learning how to use it and understand how much my husband made my life easier with our old computer.

Our former computer (shhh...we haven't told him yet that he's been replaced) hasn't been feeling well. Over the past five years, it has served us well as we pretended to keep up with technology. First of all, it was a laptop. And eventually, we got wireless internet. We got a digital camera and put most of our cd collection on iTunes. I used it for my fitness job for almost every class I teach (using my iPod). But over the past year, we had to replace somethings and the past couple months, he just got tired and only work when he wanted to. Although, I respect that in many ways...I have become terribly dependent on my little buddy. And he needs to go to work when I say.

This allowed me see the world outside the computer screen. I really stopped using my computer that much. It was great. I read books! I listened to music! I played with my kids!

So enter my new guy. I'm sure you want to know what kind it is....I don't know, my husband picked it out after lots of research. Wow, have things changed in 5 years! This one is so light and small. My favorite part is the finger print reader to open certain files! I feel so CIA. But I apparently have a slow learning curve when it comes to technology...so I still need to learn how to do things and download programs that I thought were magically on all computers.

But this, in addition to great madness in other projects in my life (more on that later)....I have spent far too much time on the computer. I even take him to bed and fall asleep watching TV online! I have had to make myself turn it off and do other things...but I sure do love this new baby!

Saturday, May 02, 2009


All I have to say today is wash your hands....please. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Han Solo Got Freezed

Here is my 3yo's summary of Star Wars "Level 5" (aka Empire Stikes Back).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Self-fulfilling Check Out

My mom is morally against the self-check out lanes in many stores now because she feels it is taking a job away from a real person. Yea, yea, that may be true (although there is always someone there monitoring). But I LOVE them!

I think it taps into my childhood love of playing grocery store. Beep....beep...I really love scanning the items. Even more, growing up with a UPS father, I love bagging the groceries. I love the control too and not having to chat with the checker when I'm in a hurry (I usually like chatting with the checkers, especially the ones I've come to know over the years).

Besides drive-thru coffee and pay-at-the-pump gas stations, this is one of the best inventions of the past 5 years.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Frugal Friday: Clothing

There are some super cute kids' clothes out there...there are also some very expensive kids' clothes out there. I fully understand that you want your children to look 'acceptable' while going out in society but there is no reason to pay a lot of money for it. I find it very challenging to pay a lot of money (more than $25) for a single item of clothing for anyone in the house. Adult-sized jeans are about the only thing I will pay money for.

There are a couple reasons I refuse to pay a lot of money for children's clothing.
1. They only wear each item for up to 6 months before it is too small.
2. They trash their clothing (and should) while playing, painting, eating,potty training, etc.
3. There are so many resources of inexpensive and free clothing.

Where to get clothes.
Cheap option...Target, Walmart, Meijer, and Old Navy are good sources for reasonably priced new clothing. The quality is good enough to last handing down to multiple children and the styles are current.

Cheaper option....Goodwill and Salvation Army resale stores are good sources. It takes a bit more time to sort through to find the best quality but the prices are unbeatable. Consignment shops are a good option if you want higher quality or high-style clothes. You may also be able to trade your own used clothing. Garage sales (this is the season) or One-week Boutique-type community sales are great but are hit-or-miss.

Cheapest (Free) option...find someone in your inner-circle with kids on either side age-wise of your own. Then hand the clothes around. It never hurts to ask someone you know if they have any clothes their kids have grown out of. Also, obviously, if you have multiple children, invest in some storage bins and save everything. This also helps me justifying buying clothes since I know it will get at least two kids worth. Lastly, check your local Freecycle group.

Final tip...reconsider buying special occasion clothing. Even at a Christmas party, my kids will spill juice, crawl on the floor, and wet their pants. Instead go with 'nicer' play clothes (jeans and a non-stained t-shirt). Kids look cute all the time...they don't need velvet and lace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

17 Again!

My daughter has been asking to see the newest edition to Zac Efron's filmography for weeks and weeks...so we finally made it over to the theater.

17 Again (PG-13, 102mins)

The plot is a basic story of a man whose life is hanging on by a thread but, with the help of some magic, gets one more chance to set things on the right course. Without giving too much away, this story gives its man a chance to go back to being 17 years old when he originally made his life-changing decisions. The unique twists to this over-done plotline (Dickens' wrote the original in 1843) make the movie enjoyable and provide lots of laughs.

What surprised me most was that Zac Efron didn't break into song or a choreographed dance number (there is some 'spontaneous' dancing). And he used more than one facial expression. Oh my gosh....maybe he can really act?! He did a great job of pretending to be a 30-something that looks like a teenager. I think he actually added in some Chandlerisms to connect his character to his older self played by Matthew Perry. No Troy Bolton here. And he is hot...let's face it. Overall, he did great and carried the movie well.

The supporting cast was great as well...especially Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, and Melora Hardin. Uncle Ned's house is amazing dressed with every 30-40yo man's inner teenage dreams (what happens to nerds that leave high school and make a lot of money....). Apparently the writers and designers think more than pre-teens will see this movie.

Overall, this 30-something and her pre-teen daughter had a very enjoyable movie-going experience. I would definitely recommend it for renting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday from my hubby


On April 19th of 1775, the Revolutionary War began, which we thankfully survived
On April 19th of 1961, America's Bay of Pigs invasion was completely undone
On April 19th of 1943, a whack scientist took the first trip on LSD
On April 19th of 1971, the US sentenced to death Mr. Charlie Manson
On April 19th of 1936, the Palestinians continued one of the world's greatest conflicts
On April 19th of 1995, Olka City got bombed; domestic terrorism arrived
On April 19th of 1993, people in Waco got killed because Koresh was crazy
On April 19th of 1809, the army of Austria attacked and was defeated by the forces of the Duchy of Warsaw in the Battle of Raszyn

But all those tragedies they just don't matter
cause something else happened that makes all the bad things scatter
cause April 19th in 1978 was the birthday yes the birthday of Jenna the Great

Oh Jenna, Jenna, Jenna the Great
she's my one true love, my life-long soul mate
she's the one who raises my basal metabolic rate
she sneaks into my heart like I was Watergate
our love's gettin' higher faster than the unemployment rate
je t'aime mon amour, yo i needn't translate
because Jenna's so smart she'll win any debate
she loves me back even though i'm overweight
and I've got a big head, makin it hard to procreate
and perhaps I should one more time restate
that I've got it pretty good (it's not up for debate)
because of one person in my life named Jenna the Great

Oh Jenna, Jenna, Jenna the Great
Yo Jenna, Jenna, Jenna the Great
Yes Jenna, Jenna, Jenna the Great

Sure there may be others who share the same bday as she
like James Franco, Kate Hudson, and Tim Curry
Jayne Mansfield, Eliot Ness, and Dudley Moore
but there ain't no one like Jenna to raise our esprit de corps

Ain't no other mom can be a mom quite like she
attacking us with lovin' like an africanized honey bee
she's seeking out the hugs like Mike Singletary
in family management she's already got her PhD
and that one woman we all love; that's my Jenna Marie

Oh Jenna, Jenna, Jenna Marie
Yo Jenna, Jenna, Jenna Marie
Yes Jenna, Jenna, Jenna Marie

there only one woman for me and happy birthday to she
that's my Jenna, Jenna, Jenna Marie

Word to our mother.

*this was performed live at the Concert for Jenna / The Jenna Spectacular! along with the rest of my nutty family.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fitness Friday!

Post inspired by my preschool classes discussion of exercise....

Ideas to get kids moving!
*Dance, dance, and dance some more!
*Run a marathon (we put down a starting line with some tape and a finish line with 2 chairs and some crepe paper).
*Stretch (we pretent to be seeds growing into trees and plants).
*Animal parade (call out animals and ask kids to move like the animal)
*Walk or march
*Jump...on the floor, off the steps, off the furniture
*The playground (this is a great place for grown ups to exercise too!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cool Trick Treatment

A few months ago, we received our 5yo's hearing test results...it wasn't good. After a few more tests and ruling out infection, we finally got in to the audiologist and ENT today. Surprisingly, he has mild to moderate bilateral hearing loss. Basically, he has fluid that just sits there and doesn't drain well. It is amazing he didn't suffer from frequent ear infections.

I was really shocked. As a child development professional, I didn't see any developmental signs of hearing loss...none. If anything, I would say he was oversensitive to noise (like me). I feel terrible that I missed it (although I don't think his development has suffered from this). He has thrown me before when his sensory issues and tantrumming last year.

Anyways. The first attempt at treatment is the Otovent (in layman's terms, a nose balloon). Yes, he has to blow up a balloon with his nose 3 times a day! It makes perfect sense when you think about it. My son really thought they were joking until he saw the nurse do it. So we will work on this super cool trick. He's excited.

*I was validated as a professional as I listened to the dr describe the development of the Eustachian tubes...I have explained this to many parents and I happy to know that I was providing a very accurate explanation.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My new favorite thing...

What is better than a Scottish Salsa group? For a Latin dancing Irish girl....nothing!

Salsa Celtica is a great music group featuring Latin rhythms including cumbia (my favorite), salsa, and cha cha. Bagpipes and fiddles too! Check them out!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

More summer options

The Little Gym in Savoy offers lots of programs and some summer camps for children ages 3-12yo. (there are other locations nation-wide)

I have no personal experience with this company but I know many children who enjoy going there. I have also heard it is a bit pricey as well.

If you have an opinion, please leave a comment.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monsters vs Aliens

Our drive-in experience brought us Monsters vs. Aliens (Rated G, 94min)

This Dreamworks movie is a delightful movie with something for everyone. The animation is pretty standard but the story is great. For my daughter and me, we watched a woman come into her own and realize how fabulous she is. The boys in the car loved the action scenes and variety of aliens and monsters. Overall, we follow a group of previously government-hidden monsters as they save the US from an alien invasion.

The writing is clever, very funny. The kids laughed, and the adults laughed harder. The voice talent was great ... the cast is jammed with current stars. Stephen Colbert's president is hilarious! And Rainn Wilson is the perfect evil alien leader.

It is offered in 3D, of course, but this was great without it. I would recommend it for all ages (although my 3yo got a little scared when the alien robot first invaded). If you don't do theaters with the kids, definitely rent or library it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Drive-In Movie!

The idea of watching movies outside is fabulous. But, when you have kids, waiting until sundown can be a bit of a risk. Over the summer, there are several outdoor movie experiences all around us. However, the Harvest Moon Drive-In Theatre in Gibson City is open NOW, and the movies begin around 7:30-7:45pm (which is still late for the little ones but not so bad for the fun).

Harvest Moon is a super-cute place and a fun family experience. It would also make a great date spot. Although it's technically about 45-50 minutes from C-U (my husband got us there in about 30 going too speedily), it's worth the drive at least once! The movies (two different films each weekend) begin at sundown or whenever the owner is ready. The grounds open one hour before the movie. While you wait, you can bring your own picnic dinner, get a pizza or burger dinner, play soccer, fly a kite, read a book ... whatever you want. There is a very old carousel for the kids to ride while they wait as well.

We decided to park our minivan backwards, open the trunk, put the seat down, and cuddle up in the back. Two of the kids put out seats on the grass and watched until it got too cold. Our family piled up on each other with blankets, some Cheerios snack mix and buttery popcorn, and enjoyed. It is a bit chilly still but I was fine with my coat and some blankets.

There is an intermission with vintage snack bar commercials and all. The kids played some more soccer (I read People magazine). With the variable start time and intermission, we didn't finish the experience until 10pm. But the kids LOVED it, and I did enjoy the family time. The kids fell asleep on the way home, and my husband and I actually got to talk to each other in the car.

The cost is only $6/person, and kids 5 and under are free (so it is much cheaper than heading to the movie theater). The admission is cash-only (there's an ATM at the gas station down the street), but the concession stand takes plastic. Upon admission, you will receive your tickets and a bag for garbage (which you later can toss out your window at a target into the trash).

Its a fun experience. Check it out!

(For a lovely jaunt through the country, take Mattis north out of Champaign, which goes all the way to 136 near Fisher. Go west on 136 past Fisher, then head north on Route 47. You can't miss the theatre on the left side of the road just as you enter Gibson City.)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bathroom Benchmarks

Everyone talks about when their children are potty trained...meaning when they pee or poop in the toilet. (Being surrounded by dozens of potty training children daily...'my child is potty trained' has various (and often incorrect) meanings).

But what about these points:
When can your child use a public bathroom stall alone? And lock the door?
When can you child go to a public restroom without you (e.g. you are at dinner and your child needs to go...when do you send them in alone)?
When can your son use the urinal?
When should boys stop going in the Women's Room with Mom or girls to the Men's Room with Dad?

These are the benchmarks that signify you are winning the war on the washroom.

Friday, April 03, 2009

More summer programs

To be comprehensive...
Here is a link to programs offered through U of I. Each program is separate and some offer some kind of financial assistance and some don't (GEMS is a fabulous free program but begins in April and I read that the CU Symphony offers scholarships to ISYM).

I can't believe I forgot about College for Kids at Parkland College. They offer a variety of classes in many topics. I think they are a bit hit or miss depending on the instructor (I wasn't too impressed by the cooking class my daughter took last year). They offer some financial assistance to those families who qualify for free/reduced lunch programs but you have to ask.

Bottom line: if you need financial assistance to participate, ASK...you never know.

If you have more ideas about programming or activities in CU, let us know.

Frugal Friday

I've had people asking so here is the answer....what to do with my kids over the summer and how do I pay for it?

First of all...I am home all summer so if you are a working family, my suggestions might not be valid. I apologize.

Many programs have financial assistance available in the forms of scholarships. For summer camps, Child Care Resource subsidy can be used.
Contact the appropriate offices early to find out about funding.

To Camp or not to Camp...that is the question.
Both Champaign and Urbana park districts as well as the YMCA offer a variety of summer day camps with half-day preschool camps as well. I have sent my kids to some and worked in some. Obviously, it depends greatly on what you are looking for and what the staff brings to the camp (typically the camps are staffed with high school and college students). Honestly, I was not impressed with the Champaign preschool camps. I felt they were very crafty with product-driven artwork. My easy-going daughter enjoyed herself enough but it doesn't fit my younger ones personalities. I liked Urbana's nature camps more since the kids were walking in the woods, learning about animals, etc. At the time, I knew the camp staff well (they were teachers) but staffing changes each summer. I recommend CU Special Recreation Camps for kids with and without disabilities. They are inclusive programs with staff that typically has more experience with development.

Prairie Farms offers many programs both free and reasonably fee-based that sound fabulous but my kids have not been interested in them, so I don't have an opinion on them.

Unfortunately, since the programs only run in the summer, you can't really check them out in advance. Overall, I find the programs to be too expensive for the quality (if you are looking for a good learning environment...if you are looking for childcare, its a good deal). But each summer is different, and the programming and staff may be fantastic this summer.

Swimming Lessons
If your child does not like water or is fearful of it and you would like them to like it...I recommend the swim programs for the young ones through the park districts. They play games and get them used to the water with fun and developmentally-appropriate activities.

If you want your child to be a young Michael Phelps (minus the drug habits), swim lessons for young children are a waste, in my opinion. Of course, it will vary from instructor to instructor (high school and college-age life guards) but I don't feel like the kids learn a lot about strokes and kicks. Swimming is actually very natural and most people can figure it out on their own. Now that my daughter is older, 12, I would recommend learning how to really swim (e.g. freestyle, breaststroke).

Indian Acres also offers swim lessons and programming I believe, but I don't know much about it besides it is expensive.
Pool Passes
If you plan to head to the pool on a regular basis of any kind (e.g. 10 or more times over the 3 months), get a pool pass (and before May 22nd). In Champaign, kids 3 and under are free. This is our major investment each summer. A pool pass allows you to go anytime and stay for any amount of time you want (If I pay $24 for a visit to the pool, we are staying for awhile but if I used a pass, if the 3yo throws a tantrum or the 5yo throws up after 10mins, we can go and I don't feel like I wasted money).

Children's Theater
Our community offers several theatrical opportunities. I highly recommend the Urbana Youth Theater Program which is doing The Sound of Music this summer. The program does take place in the evenings but the schedule varies upon their role. There is no fee for the program but there is a script fee and often a costume fee. My daughter loves this program. There is a program for 6-9yos and 9-18yos.

Champaign offers a few programs as well but as camps that run during the day and come with substantial fees. This year they are doing The Jungle Book and High School Musical
So What to Do?
Instead of camps, etc., we do sports (which I have had very good experiences with) or water programs that only run a couple weeks.
We go to the library for storytime every week and make several visits in between.
We go to the gym that has a playroom and outside play space.
We go to the park.
We set up playdates.
We go to Prairie Farms.
We go to the beach.
We head out to community festivals, concerts, farmer's markets.

Overall, if you are looking for some kind of childcare or drop-off program for your kids, camps are ok. If you just want your kids to do something outside the house, the community offers a lot of options and many that our free. Summer is a great time to find free activities because they are everywhere....check your local newspapers and blogs for information!