Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Parking Wars

Although I am strangely fascinated by A&E's reality show Parking Wars....I'm talking about the downtown Champaign parking situation.

So imagine this...a city works hard to revitalize its downtown area...and successfully so...its clean, there are several fabulous restaurants, bars, and cafes....some cute shops...two movie theaters...the summer is great with lots of music, festivals, etc. We also have some great companies that have taken downtown as their home. So, people flock to downtown but there is a minor parking issue. You may have to park and walk a few blocks. The solution is to build a parking structure! Problem solved...oh wait, how do we pay for this? Raise the parking fees (meters, pay periods, and tickets). Yay...problem solved....oh no! economy takes a major dive. People don't want to pay that much for parking...so they stop coming to downtown...which makes the local economy even worse.

So now, the local businesses are losing money....and no one is paying for the parking structure that isn't SO needed anymore since people aren't flocking downtown. So now what?

The city is proposing a change in the pay periods (e.g. reducing meter hours). A meeting will take place Tuesday at 7pm (see NG article).

Here's where really looking at the big picture is really important.

On a side note...I love downtown Champaign (and I don't mind walking there or parking on a side street and walking a bit)...but I do think there needs to be a family-orientated (and reasonably priced) restaurant there. The bars are great! The coffee shops are delightful! The restaurants are amazing! But everything is fancy-smacy and expensive or a bar. (Mary Ann's is the exception but....).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Champaign Magnet School Survey

The Champaign School District is seeking input about possible magnet schools in the community. If you would like to add your input, take this survey. Even if you don't have a child in the district, this plan will impact the community, so let them know what you think!

"This survey will provide information to the Magnet School Planning Committee. Magnet schools have been used across the nation to provide interest-based programming to attract families from across a school district to attend identified schools, often for the purpose of creating a diverse student body. The Magnet School Planning Committee is looking at designing special programming with input from parents, staff, and other stakeholders for Garden Hills and B.T. Washington elementary schools to draw families to these schools from across the District. The addition of Magnet School programming will occur when construction is completed on these schools to add classrooms and add air conditioning and new electrical and mechanical systems."

My favorite Sundays

One of my favorite things to do is to sip coffee and listen to NPR on Sunday mornings...especially Says You. (today I listened for hours as I painted my kitchen...Car Talk, On the Media, Media Matters).

We are fortunate to have three PBS stations on our TV...so I can always choose something great! So, on Sunday evenings I like to watch either Masterpiece Theater or whatever is on...the past two weeks they have featured amazing women, An Evening with Eartha Kitt and Betty Ford: The Real Deal. I also love American Masters and recently watched Jerome Robbins.

In related PBS news....Mr. Steve from PBS Kids will be at the Champaign Library April 4th (11am and 1pm) and Calling All Super Readers...the Super Why crew will be there April 18th (10am-12pm). See here for more details.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Break '09 Whoo Hoo!

Here's what that week amounted to:
*Finally deciding on a color to repaint the kitchen (many hours were spent staring at paint samples and the wall).

*Playdates for the little ones and 'hanging out' for the older one.

*Visits with family...watching old Beta videos.

*Lots of legos, painting, art work, biking, superhero stunt shows, general childhood adventures.

*A trip to the Orpheum Children's Museum in Champaign. I haven't been there in awhile and they have made some great changes. The little ones LOVED it! and there is enough to keep me interested (plus there were some other parents I knew to chat with). My only worry is that you cannot see your children 100% of the time since there are lot of places to climb, etc.

*Eating in and out around town including Fiesta Cafe, Courier Cafe, and Ruby Tuesdays and using our new grill.

*Reading a lot....I read two books and my daughter read Twilight.

*Saw some movies, DVD, and theater.

*Saw High School Musical, the Ice Tour! It was $10/ticket so well worth a condensed version of all three movies. Our 5yo LOVED it! I thought it was entertaining but not the best Disney on Ice I've seen (but this was very story-driven, the others I've seen have had lots of different 'numbers' and focused more on the beauty of skating and cool special effects).

*Of course, we went to the library.

*Lots of rest and relaxation!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do you have the falcon?

Its time for the community to come together and read...the CU Big Read 2009 begins tomorrow. This year's book is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Throughout the next two months, there will be many events, contests, discussions, etc. in the CU area about this book. The libraries will have lots of copies to share with the community...so borrow one and read this iconic book and discuss it with anyone you meet in the community!

See more information and calendar of events here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Driving Lessons

After checking this out from the library and not watching it twice...I made myself watch this one last night and I was pleasantly surprised. I got it simply because it had Harry Potter's Ron and Mrs. Weasley in it.

Driving Lessons (PG-13, 98mins)
This sweet and funny coming of age film is well written and directed by new director Jeremy Brock. The story follows a young man, Ben, Rupert Grint, who incidentally is learning to drive as he takes a job to care for an aging actress, Evie, played by Julie Walters. His parents are an odd couple with an overly strict and religious mother who is having an affair with a young clergyman, played with a painful British accent by Laura Linney, and a emotionally-absent father, played well by Nicholas Farrell. What is missing at home and in his social life, he finds in Evie. He develops into an amazing young man by the end of the film.

Despite the somewhat predictability of the theme, the story drew me in. I wanted to watch it again since I feel like I didn't give it my full attention right away. I was excited to see Grint outside of Hogwarts and really holding his own. At only 16 while filming, he seemed to develop his character and give him the depth it needs. Walters is amazing and the more I see of her, the more I want to see. She plays this old, quirky woman beautifully and believably. The music is the film is great as well including Salsa Celtica and Sufjan Stephens.

It is just a nice film...a great library find.


Since we are not at Disney World over Spring Break like many of my daughter's friends, I thought a movie was the least I could do. So we had a girls' night at the movies.

Coraline (PG, 100mins)
This stop-image animated film is stunning to watch. It was so nice to get out of the computer-generated images that the kids have come accustomed to. It reminded me of when I was younger. It is very stylistic and unique.

The story follows a girl who has recently moved to a new town. Her parents seem uninterested and too busy to parent and she has no friends. Things happen and she comes across a parallel world that is just perfect (but, of course, too good to be true). In the end, Coraline prefers her boring parents to the evil mother she meets in the other world....lesson learned.

I'm not sure whether I liked this movie yet. First, it was in 3D...apparently the newest thing in children's movies (and they cost more). It was visually amazing, I'm sure the 2D version is just as good. Secondly, this is a suspense almost horror movie. Very clearly so and not a great one at that. The story did not pull together well enough for me. If this had been a R-rated live-action suspense movie, I would say it was bad. It is scary at times and creepy throughout. My 12yo was scared and I was worried she won't get to sleep that night. It also contains a seen that I thought was entirely inappropriate for children. The two aging sisters in the basement perform their act....barely clothed and they are very well disporportioned. The movie, overall, is completely inappropriate for younger children. However, older children and adults might enjoy a completely different film.

It is one that I would recommend seeing the on big screen simply for the sight of it but the story is lacking (for this reason, I am going to read the original book). Older children may enjoy this but be warned that any scary movie is doubly scary viewed in a dark movie theater. Overall, its probably a renter and definitely a 'watch with parent' movie.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spiderman Saves Child with Autism

this is thinking outside the box.....Fire Fighter Dresses Like Spiderman to Rescue Boy.

In related news....The CU Autism Network is sponsoring the 1st Annual Autism Walk and Safety Fair Sunday, April 5th at Parkland College. There will be fun for the whole family including a fund-raising walk for all ages. See here for more details.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Timeless Fun

This television show started when I was a kid....when most people didn't own a video camera...when we didn't have cable....reality shows didn't exist...and it has showed the test of time. I'm talking about America's Funniest Home Videos (AFV) on ABC (and ABC Family).

My kids LOVE this show....I mean LOVE it. The laughter that erupts from the room is amazing....every time!

And when I watch it...I laugh too. I know someone is going to jump out of the box and scare their loved ones....I know that that kid is going to hit his had with the bat....I know the person will wipe out badly on water skis. But I still say 'oh' and 'ouch' and 'no!'.

So say what you will about how tv isn't so great anymore or we need more and more to make us take notice....America's Funniest Home Videos shows us how pure entertainment remains.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frugal Friday!

Beauty doesn't cost a thing...or at least that $100 trip to the salon. Most families can save hundreds by reducing their beauty-related costs. I'm not saying stop trying to look fabulous...just do it for less.

*No one in our house gets regular haircuts outside the family. I cut the boys hair, my sister-in-law trims the ladies' locks. (I do head the the salon when I am drastically changing my hair....once every 2 years when I donate my hair). Get a haircut that is easy to maintain and find someone to do it.

*No one here colors or perms their hair.

*My husband uses hair product but we buy them at the drug store. I wear a little makeup which I buy at the drug store (on sale, of course).

*No special creams or potions. Rest, exercise, good food, and fun.

*Shampoo and conditioner should only be purchased either on sale at your grocery/drug store OR from a big store (Sam's, Costco). As well with body lotion and soap. I do not use 'kids' shampoo or soap now that the kids are older. (I actually use really cheap shampoo for the boys since it often gets poured into the bathtub by the bottle).

*No pedicures, manicures, massages, wraps, scrubs, waxing, tanning.....my husband is a great masseuse, I do my own pedicures, the kids love to do their own nails, you can make your own scrubs out of your kitchen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sick of being sick...

I have been busy being really sick this week. I woke up on Saturday feeling terrible...and this has continued. So my basic routine has been taking turns laying in bed or on the couch...then going to work...resume horizontal position....repeat (with a shower or bath mixed in). It really kicked my butt. I am still sick but I am feeling better and definitely on the other side of the illness. This just in time for the kids to get sick.

I did watch several movies and caught up on some tv...I even read a book. But I wasn't on the computer much...a few days I didn't even check my email. Besides, the pain and discomfort of being sick...the worst part has been the lack of taste which makes eating almost a chore.

I hope its over so I can enjoy Spring Break. Blogging will resume soon.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Read Across America Day!

Saturday, March 7th is Read Across America Day! (it was really March 2nd, Dr. Seuss' birthday, but in CU we are celebrating on Saturday!)

So take time to read with your family!

At Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana from 10-2pm, there will be celebrity storytimes, games, and free books! It really is a great time for preschool and elementary kids...they learn a lot and get lots of free stuff (including a book!). There are also many community organizations out there to learn about!


Again, this is the time to be enrolling in school for 2009-10!

If you are looking for a great program for your 2 year old (or soon-to-be 2yo)....check out Faithful Friends Preschool in Champaign (preschool@champaignfaith.org or (217)359-3631). We may have opennings for older children as well.

My kids love it! And so do I!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Guilty Pleasure

Ok...I really like to watch The Girls Next Door on E! So much that I stayed up late on Sunday to watch the 'last' episode when Kendra left the mansion.

The show is just simply fascinating.
A very old man who has young girlfriends (he's older than my grandpa and the girls are younger than me).
A man that has three girlfriends who live in the house all together.
Nude modelling.
Uneducated, extremely immature women thinking they are grown ups.
Rich people living way too rich while the rest of us are so poor.

If you only watch one episode...watch this last one where Kendra, the 23yo, decides she needs to move on with her life. The contrast between her mom and grandma's terror that she is going to move out and have to take care of herself (no joke, they tell her to stay in the mansion because she has never had to take care of herself...you know feed herself, pay bills (have you ever written a check? they ask)...and Kendra who wants to try something new...like find a house with a good spot for a stripper pole. Just watching her allow her mom, brother, and the butlers pack up her room is bothersome.

Obviously they get paid well for that show since her first 'apartment' is a mini-mansion in the valley.

But I must watch....I must!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The First Fight

It finally happened...the two boys (3 and 5yo) finally had it out for the first time this week. After deciding to share the remaining fortune cookie, the 5yo ate half and then tried to get away with splitting the remaining half in half to share with his brother. Grabbing, crying...the cookie crumbled to the floor. Screaming, kicking, punching....'he won't go upstairs!' 'no, he won't go upstairs!' 'he won't move away from me!' 'he won't move away from me!' Once the violence ended, the crying continued.

It ended with me folding laundry in my bedroom which is sanctioned a No-Cry zone....so the 3yo quickly quieted down so he could sit with me...and the 5yo followed soon after.

It probably lasted 5 mins in total but man, it was exhausting (and I was just an observer).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

ISAT Season!

Yes, the ISATs begin in Champaign today! If you drive around town, you will see lots of signs up motivating kids and reminding parents. (By the way, make sure to feed your kids and make sure they sleep this week ... in case you don't normally do that.)

For those of you who don't know ... ISATs (Illinois Standards Achievement Tests) are given to 3rd-8th graders state-wide and are used to evaluate the schools (not the individual children ... although parents are given their child's scores). When I was in school, I think I took the Iowa Basic. These are the tests that determine funding. Under No Child Left Behind, schools must show adequate yearly progress in order to maintain or gain more funding.

I've taken many standardized tests; studied them ... I hate them. They are just not accurate representations of the test taker. I don't think they can appropriately speak to the quality of a teacher or a school. This is especially important now as so many teachers take so much time teaching the test and how to test. Obviously, I am a teacher that thinks you can learn anything by doing. (I do this with my preschool class, at home with my kids, and my fitness classes ... embed goals into activities). This can be done at every level.

Why can't we teach kids content and have a test that appropriately measures the knowledge of the content?

And why not give schools that don't meet AYP MORE money, not less, since maybe they need it more to help their kids pass the test (maybe the teachers were worried about if the kids were eating well, clothed, had books to read, had a safe place to play and make friends).

Anyways, I also find it fascinating how the kids are so geared up for ISAT week ... letters home, pep rallies, candy (lots of candy). I just find that it is so odd that this is the week that the schools celebrate.