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 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 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, 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!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The End of the ER Era

Tonight one of my favorite shows for the past 15 years will have its final episode...NBC's ER.

I have to say that it is one of the shows that I have consistently watched for its entire run. I also watched it a lot when I had my 5yo and it was on TNT in the mornings (2 episodes back to back). Its part of my Thursday night ritual.

Most people talk about Clooney but I really enjoy the entire show. My favorite episode (a 2-parter) was when Lucy Knight (played by Kellie Martin) was stabbed and later dies. I cry just thinking about is one of the best episodes of television. And at the time, no one killed off main characters. ER did that a couple times (Dr. Green, and of my favorite deaths, Dr. Romano, and Dr. Pratt). For years we waited for Doug and Carol to get together (I almost wet myself when they showed up in the episode last month!) and for Abby Lockhart to finally find happiness. Always amazing guest stars....Sally Field was probably my favorite. The cast changed over the years but there was always someone I loved (John Stamos and his sideburns and Scott Grimes' Archie Morris really grew on me). Great stories following major issues (I still get angry about Kerry almost loosing her son due to unequal right for gay couples).

Its a great show and it will be missed. (But I will enjoy every minute of the 3-hr finale)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Books by the Bushel--This Weekend!

If you are in need a new book, cd, dvd, game, calendar...head over the Barnes and Noble in Champaign April 3-5th for Books by the Bushel. A percentage of the profits will go to CU schools.
So go and by your kid a book for Easter or treat yourself to a trashy novel.
Support our local schools!
In related Champaign school news....a candidate forum for the upcoming school board election will be held this Thursday at 7pm at the Mellon Building. The forum will be shown on Champaign Goverment TV (Channel 5 on local cable).