Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ready For The Stage! Can you believe it?!

Hi Everyone,

Oh my dear blog....I've missed you so. As a matter of fact, I've missed ALL of my blogs!!! Ladies and gents, the book manuscript is in final editing...and just when I thought I was going to take a breather (yeah, like I take breathers)...


Okay, I totally auditioned for a national public speaking contest called "Ready For the Stage". It's taking place in Washington D.C. this week at an event called SEVEN. I am so lucky to be here learning from the best in entrepreneurial everything, and how to use speaking and events to launch more of what I love to do best: help women, write about women, make women superstars! Just think of how I will be able to promote my book "Off the Couch, Back to Business"-- A Woman's Guide to Success After Setback, as well as all of the awesome and important topics I love to write about, like cool mom stuff, women's rights, bringing positive energy and optimism into your life, orgaizations doing right by women and children and exposing the ones who aren't, and totally hot sports for chicks!


I am one of the semi-finalists! If I make it to the top four, I'll be competing on stage Thursday night from 7:30-9:30 PM Eastern. And...you can watch if you like! Here is the link to opt in, or just "like" Ready For The Stage on Facebook.

And finally, if you are so inclined...you can place a pre-order for my book. Just click http://offthecouch.eventbrite.com/ and as soon as it becomes available you"ll get it right off the press! Planned release is for first quarter 2011.

I've missed blogging so much! I'll be back in Michigan before I know it and will be sure to get my bloggin' on! Until then, I hope you'll tune in Thursday night and vote!

Thanks readers! You are all awesome!

april S.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What a night! A meeting with Congressman Mark Schauer

I realize I am supposed to be on hiatus to meet my book deadline, and I am so thankful for your patience in doing so, but some things are too good to skip out on writing about.  What a night I've had!  I'd like to tell you about it...

I attended the 2010 Saline Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards.  This is always a great event, but tonight was fantastic.  Of course, I was thrilled to be there to support award honoree Jill Hartman, of Hartman Insurance, who is a smart and savvy business woman and super involved member of our community.  I was also pleased to see Leibherr Aerospace and Gear Technology win the award for a larger business.  Saline really is fortunate to have both of these businesses in our city.  Kudos also to A2YP.TV for filming the event.

I was so happy to be there tonight, you'd think I was the one receiving the award. I may not have brought home a plaque or trophy, but I brought home a memory of an evening I won't soon forget.  The company at my table couldn't be beat.  Let me introduce you to my table-mates.

I was so pleased to dine with Congressman Mark Schauer, Saline City Councilman Brian Marl, Senior District Representative Fran Brennan, Mayor of Saline Gretchen Driskell, City Manager Todd Campbell and savvy business owner of DesignHub in Saline, Karen Ragland.  I couldn't have dreamed this up any better!

An evening like tonight is a perfect way for me to remind all of my readers to vote this November.  Now it's obvious from this post who I am voting for, and I've got some great reasons for doing so. (The only other candidate I wish had been there was David Rhoads, Saline City Council).I hope you'll consider doing the same.

It is so important to exercise your right to vote, especially YOU, ladies.  The reason I say that is we must remember how many women in so many other countries will never have the freedom to fill out a ballot and have a voice.  We are so fortunate here in the U. S.  We may not have a woman in the Oval Office yet, but she's coming...ahem...Hillary. 

Thanks to all for such a wonderful evening, to Mayor Driskell, Todd Campbell and Brian Marl (and David Rhoads who we missed) for taking such good care of our Saline citizens.  Thank you Congressman Mark Schauer and your camp for looking out for so many people.  I wish you all nothing but success this November!

(photos top right, me and Congressman Schauer, bottom left me and City Councilman Brian Marl)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Hiatus, Be back Soon!

Hey readers! Just a quick note...I am so happy to announce I have a publisher for my first book...A Women's Guide To Business Success After Setback. With it, however, comes a looming deadline. This means I'm going to be out of the blogosphere for awhile because all of my time and attention will be on getting this book published and promoted. I will be back as soon as I possibly can!

I appreciate your understanding and support, and look forward to writing and hearing back from you again soon. I will keep you posted as to my progress! It is because of the encouragement and feedback from readers like each of you, that I have felt confident enough to pursue my dream of becoming an author. Thank you so much and I'll be in touch!

April Scarlett

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to school means PTA

Friday morning was this year's PTA coffee kick off at my youngest son's elementary school. Lots of parents, familiar and brand new, showed up to drink coffee, munch doughnuts and bagels and talk all things school policy, student fundraisers and volunteers who are needed everywhere. It was fun and informative, and really got the juices flowing toward making this school year better than ever before.
Being a member of the PTA/PTO doesn't mean you have to "live" at your child's school. All the stereotypes of PTA mom's and dad's have them running non-stop from classroom to lunchroom, sewing costumes, blowing recess whistles and staying up all night baking cupcakes for spirit day. Don't be deterred. Just like any other volunteer organization, the more who join, the less there is to do for each one.

If you WANT to all but pitch a tent by the car loop outside the main entrance, well, more power to you! But you can be involved for as few as 30 minutes a month, if that is all you have time for. At our school, thirty minutes in the lunch room helping to open milk cartons and yogurt tubes is extremely appreciated. Are you a runner/walker? I bet you could take an hour to join the kids in their walk-a-thon. How about 15 minutes every so often to read aloud in the classroom? Are you one that needs a break from the kids during the day? Treasurers are always looking for help with money collection/counting and keeping the books. My point is...there really is something for everyone when it comes to doing something easy and in your comfort zone to help your child's school.

What I really love about being a PTA member (this year on the Board!), is what my child thinks about it. He loves knowing I am in the building, even if I'm not in his classroom. Plus, he gets a "backstage pass" to just about any event I am helping to set up. Finally, he knows I care about his school and what goes on there, which makes him more likely to care about it too. I'm setting a good example of volunteerism and team work.

I encourage parents to join their child's school's PTA. It'll only cost you 4 or 5 bucks for the year, and if you don't have that, they'll probably take you anyway. Don't be intimidated. The people are friendly and supportive and always appreciate the extra help

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sports Concussion Conference to be held

Perhaps, like me, you've received a phone call in the middle of your son's football practice from his trainer. "...he took a pretty hard hit to the head". Not the call you want to get.

Sure enough, after picking up my teenager and taking him to the emergency room for evaluation, he was diagnosed with a concussion.

It is frightening to see your A student struggle to count backwards, really have to concentrate to come up with the backward sequence of the months in a year, or look like he just woke up and is still a little foggy, and see him stay that way for the rest of the day.
My son is fine now, but I was rattled a bit. Thus the reason I think it is important to pass along this information about a Sports Concussion Conference coming up on Sept. 12.

The Michigan NeuroSport Concussion Program and Michigan Athletics is holding a conference called, "Keeping your head in the Game." It is for parents, trainers, coaches, athletes or whoever else wants to learn the ins and outs of all things related to concussions, including how to manage concussions and when it is safe for your child to return to play.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, director of Michigan NeuroSport and Team Neurologist of Michigan Athletics and NCAA and Big Ten Conference Concussion consultant and advisor. Sounds like he knows his stuff!

You'll need to register to attend. Here is all of the information:
734-998-7432 or email
Date & Time:
Sunday, Sept. 12, from 3-5 p.m.
Detroit Country Day School
Performing Arts Center
22305 W. 13 Mile Road
Beverly Hills, MI 48025

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sports Season Anxiety for moms

Last week my youngest son (age 8) suffered his first ever sports injury while doing a forward roll off of a trampoline in gymnastics class.  He landed on his head the wrong way, got the wind knocked out of him and had a pretty sore neck and chest.  Yikes!  This was the first time I think he's ever really felt pain.  It was scary for him and really scary for me.

Today, my teenager heads off to "two a days" at football practice.  It's going to be 90 degrees today with high humidity.  Ugh!  I packed his lunch and loaded him up with Gatorade but will that be enough? It's hot as Haites out there!

How do we draw the line between letting them go and trying not to worry ourselves to death as parents?  Truly we can't wrap them up in bubble wrap like we've seen on TV.  We don't want to share our anxiety with them, which would certainly erode their own confidence.  We want to encourage them, toughen them up, teach them good sportsmanship and social skills.  Athletics are a way of keeping our kids healthy and fit.

This is all good stuff, right? 

All I can do is shuttle them to practice, prepare them the best I can with sleep, nutrition and encouragement, trust the coaches to know what the heck they are doing with our kids and cheer them on from the sidelines....

Oh, and maybe try and get them to take up professional golf...still all of the skill and athleticism, but no linebacker pounding them into the turf or high flying landings off a high bar.  A mom can dream...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Literacy Library Book Drive: Stop, pop and drive! Very convenient!

kids books.jpg
If your family is like mine, you understand how quickly the accumulation of children's books can overwhelm your bookshelves, long after your children have outgrown the colorful titles. It is true I have some sentimental favorites I'll probably never get rid of, but when it comes to cleaning out the archives, it is nice to know there are ways of passing kid's books on, ensuring the longtime enjoyment of budding readers. Next weekend, there is a real opportunity to do just that in Saline.

We've all read about strained school budgets. This morning, I received an email from the SAS Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Steve Laatsch with an announcement regarding a great way to give back to young Saline students.

Two local Girl Scout Troops are sponsoring a Literacy Library Book Drive next weekend, July 31st and August 1st, at Historic Union School (200 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline) as their community service project. It is quick and easy, literally stop, pop and drive.

Here's how it will work: Drive into Union School's Parking lot (entrance off McKay St.) with a trunk full of books, stop and pop your trunk, the Girl Scouts will unload the books for you and close your trunk, and off you go. Simple and convenient.

The books they are looking for are gently used early reader picture and chapter books, with nothing tougher to grasp than Junie B. Jones or Hardy Boys Mysteries type books. No amount is too small, one book is one more than they have now.

All donations will benefit students in grades Kindergarten - 3rd Grade and will be greatly appreciated by Saline students.

It goes without saying this is a perfect teaching moment for our own kids on how to give back, how to help others in need. Big kudos to the Girl Scouts for creating such a thoughtful community project which will benefit so many.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lawsuit filed for 6 year old handcuffed in school, it is about time!

In May of this year, a six year old student at Sarah T. Reed elementary school in Louisiana was handcuffed and shackled because he had gotten into an argument with another student over a chair.  Parents didn't find out until a couple of days later when he complained of his wrists being sore from the handcuffs.  To their astonishment, this hadn't been the first time their child was handcuffed at school, nor would it be the last for any of the students, without public outcry.

The child's name is Ja'Briel Weston.  On behalf of all of the students at Sarah T. Reed, parents Robin and Sebastian Weston are filing suit against the Superintendant, the Director of School Security, the Board of Education, the school Principal and two safety officers.  The lawsuit pushes for a complete overhaul of school policy and procedures regarding disciplinary action.

I have written about corporal punishment in public schools before, in regards to using a paddle.  Louisiana is one of the states remaining where it is still legal to use corporal punishment.  Again, I think this kind of discipline is unhealthy for children on many levels, and keeps them from feeling safe at school.  I will note that schools in New Orleans have become models for excellence in academia as they rebuild after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.  Lets hope their policies and procedures can rise to the same level.  I'll be interested to hear the outcome of this case, and will let you know as information becomes available.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is it cool to "friend" your teen on Facebook?

Sams 1st Comm 016.JPG

A recent study by online fashion gamer Roiworld released a study this month showing a decline in Facebook usage by teenagers. Out of 600 teens, ages 13-17, one in five have stopped using the social networking giant. The main reason being boredom. That said, I know in my house I have a teen who is one of the other four out of five, who does use Facebook, and MySpace too. I also have a Facebook account with both personal "friends" and professional "fans" or "likers". The question becomes whether or not it is acceptable to merge both my online social
networking world with that of my teen?

To "friend or not to friend?" That is the question
I'm sure the answer hugely depends on the relationship a parent has with their teenager. Some parents want their kids to have a bit of privacy and freedom to be with their peers, others only allow social networking if they are allowed into their child's circle, with total access to their profile. Personally, I decided to do both. I am "friends" with my son on Facebook, where he has also friended many other relatives, but I keep my distance from his MySpace account. I am not naive, I know the language and topics of conversation certainly polar each other between the two sites, but I still see a pretty good sample of how he interacts with the people within his network.

It is possible to be a friend your child, and still not mortify them. Just because you see what they are up to doesn't mean you have to comment on their posts, for all their friends to see. If you need to send a message, try a private one instead of posting something on their wall. And note, teens are savvy users and can easily hide things from your view with a click of the privacy settings. Again, the relationship you have with your teen will dictate the outcome of communication as much online, as offline.

Some kids really don't care if their parents are in their network. One mom I know was surprised to receive a friend request from her sophomore son. She said to him, "You don't have to do that. I trust you." And he replied, "I don't care mom, I'm friends with everyone else in the family." Turned out she was the one who felt uncomfortable about it, invading his privacy.

One article in the Washington Post which was written back when Facebook first went public, quoted a teen who turned on her computer and found a request from her parent. She said, "I feel like they just walked into my room."

Being included within your child's social networking circle in no way replaces the need to monitor what else they are doing online. My kids still have to use the family computer in the dining room, they aren't allowed computers in their rooms. I still know what sites my kids visit, what games they play, etc.

No matter what you decide for your distinctly unique relationship with your child, my advice is this. Sit down and have a real discussion about how your teen feels about a new, online relationship between the two of you. Will it mortify them? Or will it be away to open up about things they find hard to deal with face to face (just make sure you learn how to post privately vs. publicly)? Chances are, you might not see much more within your child's online network, as you already see in their real one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Teaching kids the attitude of gratitude

Thank you.jpg
I am still amazed at how often I notice adults not exercising the practice of appreciation and gratitude. It is the little things, like when someone lets you turn into traffic ahead of them and you wave "thanks" as you pull out in front of them, or when someone holds the door open at the gas station, or stops the elevator doors from closing so you can get on. In any of these situations I would be mortified if I didn't take a second to say "thank you". But I do see this behavior all the time, where people could care less about thanking anybody. It makes me wonder "weren't these people raised to say thanks" and "I wonder how their kids will learn to be thankful?" Showing gratitude and appreciation is an important value to put upon our children, and it is an easy lesson to teach.

First and foremost is teaching by example. When your kids see you act in a thankful manner, they will see it as a normal way to behave. Not only is it nice for children to see you being appreciative of others, but of themselves too. Next time your child gives you a spontaneous hug, be sure and let them know how much you appreciate it.

We've all seen children receive gifts they do not like, or which is a duplicate of what they already have. Be sure to give a reminder to younger tots about how their reaction may effect the gift giver. No child wants to deliberately hurt someone's feelings. Let them know if their is a problem with the gift, you will help them to work out a solution after the fact.

I also think the act of sending Thank You Cards is a lost art. Even the youngest of kids, with guidance, can finger paint their appreciation on a quick note, letting the gift giver know their thoughts and efforts were appreciated. I've told my children, "the gifts aren't really yours until the thank you card is in the mail."

Third, and perhaps the best lesson of all, is perspective. Some children have no concept of the fact there are other children who can only dream of what they have. Take the opportunity to have your child participate in a toy drive, food pantry or children's hospital cheer group. Not only will they see what other kids go through, but they'll be on the receiving end of the appreciation...and that is a gift all its own. Part of knowing how to be thankful comes from knowing what it is like to give.

Finally, there doesn't need to be a special occasion to recognize the many things to be thankful for. Thanks can be given any day of the year. Teach your kids to appreciate what it means to be healthy and to have people in their lives who love them. That is what they want most anyway, remind them how lucky they are to have it.

For more tips on getting the attitude of gratitude across to your kids, check out Parentdish.com.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top twelve fruits and veggies with pesticides: Yikes!

There has been yet another conversation brought into the mix about the benefits of buying
organic fruits and vegetables. I'll admit, as much as I would like to say that I buy strictly organic foods, the truth is, they are often more costly than I can afford.

Studies show children with ADD and ADHD have much higher levels of pesticides than children who do not. And though my children do not have this condition, the information I've learned has got me wanting to find ways to pay the extra charge to keep my family as pesticide free as I can.

I was under the impression that as long as I washed fruits and vegetables well, the pesticides would be gone. Not so.

There are a couple of lists on the web and elsewhere that itemize the most contaminated fruits and vegetables when it comes to pesticides. The pesticide levels were taken after washing and peeling. The recommendation is to stay away from the top twelve, and you'll limit your pesticide intake by 80%. Well, the top twelve are all of the typical, kid friendly fruits and veggies that my kids love. My youngest will sometimes eat two apples a day, at the very least he eats one per day.

I'm sure there are many parents who already have this information. I am hoping, however, that if there are more out there like myself, who really believe they are doing the best for their children by washing and/or peeling their fruits and veggies, that this will be informative and useful information.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tons of family fun at "Bid For a Cure" event July 1st in Saline

If you are looking for some excitement for you and your kids, while giving to a good cause, have I got an event for you! This Thursday's Bid For a Cure event in Saline is sure to not disappoint.

The event is July 1st from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM on S. Ann Arbor St. in Downtown Saline. There will be celebrity athletes galore on hand for autographs, including Detroit Tigers Brandon Inge, Rick Porcello, Joel Zumaya, Ryan Perry, and Austin Jackson. PAWS will be around to hang with the kids from 3PM - 5PM. There will be food, refreshments, cotton candy, face painting and live music.

A tin can raffle will be accepting tickets all day, winners to be drawn at 7PM. The items for bid are fantastic: Family pass to Henry Ford Museum, one year membership to Mattheai Botanical Gardens, a Men's Trek Bike, a signed script from the Young and the Restless, a Vera Bradley bag and much, much more.

The live auction begins at 8 PM and the items are nothing short of amazing: a $17,000 Smile Make Over with veneers or crowns (I got my veneers from this dentist and am super-happy!), 18 tickets in Brandon Inge's Luxury Suite at Comerica Park, a Detroit Lions Experience package, unlimited car washes at Zippy's in Ann Arbor, and too much more to list here.

The point is, this is going to be a terrific outing for the entire family. Food, drink and autograph tickets as well as auction bids all go to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The event is sponsored by Brecon Grille (best pulled pork sandwich you'll find!). See you there!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Work-at-home moms and summer, how do we get anything done?

Ahhh summer! I am actually one of those parents who gets as excited about having the
kids home as they are to be out of school. I love hangin' with my boys everyday, not having to get them up at the crack of dawn, the leisure, the play, the whatever.

The only thing about summer that is really different for me, is that suddenly I've got to put my time management skills into overdrive. You see, I work from home.

During the school year, I know I can count on a pretty steady routine where my time is my own from 8:45 AM to 3:00 PM. I can write all day, go to meetings, meet deadlines, do research (uninterrupted) and whatever else I need to do to keep my work life rolling. How then, do I keep up the same schedule when the kids are home from school?

I'm not one of those parents who want my kids in day care, camp (unless they really WANT to go), or with a sitter when I am home. My kids are 8 and almost 15, so there is something to say about a bit of self-sufficiency here, but they still require a lot of attention and I want to give it to them.

There are some experts who say outsourcing and virtual assistants are the way to go. Well, they aren't in the budget just yet. Other experts say close the door and don't open it. That means I'm "at work". I don't like that one either.

This is what I do. Plan. Plan. Plan. I get up earlier than the kids to get the routine office- type stuff out of the way and get as much done as I can while they are sleeping. This is also true for late at night after I've put them to bed.

If I know I have a heavy workload coming up, I let them know the day before so they are prepared to see me at my desk most of the day, then I compensate on days that aren't so demanding. Even on busy days, I take Star Wars battle breaks, or play a round of Mumbo's Tumble, or drive my teenager to wherever he's going. You'd be amazed how many battle ships you can blow up in fifteen minutes! I "plan" a trip to the movies into my schedule. A matinee just means I'll be fitting in two hours work somewhere else.

During the school year, day time is work time and after school is family time (with all the other stuff like dinner, laundry, kids sports, birthday party planning, groceries, etc.) and in the evening it's nice to hang out with my husband. But summer is less rigorous. It means fun and freedom and family. I don't mind moving my schedule around a bit to accommodate all the extra noisy questions and lunch requests, laughing and legos and teen taxi service. Summer will fly by and before we know it we'll be back to school, back to schedules, and I'll wonder how I ever worked when it was so quiet.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Teens want summer jobs, summer money

                                                  The phone rings yet again,

help wanted.jpg
"Is your son available to do some more yard work? My neighbor likes how my yard looks and is wondering if he could do hers?"

This makes customer number three in a time span of about a week and a half, and he's not even advertising. It is a true snowball effect in the middle of eighty degree weather.

My teen is just about to turn fifteen this summer. He's always been a hard worker doing everything from bailing hay and helping out with community events, to keeping an eye on his younger brother. Lately though, he's discovered how nice it is to earn his own money, pay his own way through night's out with friends, movies, munchies, and lucky for me, even Mother's Day.

With summer upon us, chances are your teen may be saying, "I want a job". There are a few things to consider before unleashing your guy or gal into the world of outside employment.
First of all, the legalities. According to FamilyEducation.com:

Under federal law: * Children younger than 14 are restricted to delivering newspapers, working in a non-hazardous business owned by a parent, baby-sitting or doing other minor domestic chores in a private home, or performing on stage, screen or radio. They may work only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year and until 9 p.m. in the summer.
* At 14 and 15, teens may work at non-hazardous jobs for three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days, 18 hours during a school week and 40 hours during a non-school week.
* At 16 and 17, teens may perform any non-hazardous job for any number of hours.

A year ago, at what some expert's consider to be the bottom of the recession, it was nearly impossible for teens to find summer work because there were so many adults looking in the same market. But this summer, jobs seem to be more available for teens.

When looking for summer work, consider your teen's interests. Are they a mega swimmer? Check out lifeguard posts at community pools and beaches. Do they love animals? How about an internship at a veterinarian or kennel helper at the Humane Society. Are they more social? How about the movie theater, a restaurant or camp counselor?

Or, like my son, they can explore their entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own service business like lawn care, washing cars, dog walking, you name it! For safety's sake, however, it is a good idea to know who your kid is doing the work for, so family, friends and referrals are a good and safe way to find customers. If you, as parents, work during the day, a summer job can also be a great way to know your teen is still supervised, in a professional environment.

I am all for my teen working this summer, as long as he does so responsibly and the job doesn't take over his "being a kid". He still will have football conditioning, 4H and hanging out with friends and family. But he'll have a sense of accomplishment, a few more business skills and a fatter savings account before the craziness of the next school year begins.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Literary characters trump video game heroes

Thumbnail image for video gaming clipart.jpg
Imagine my delight when my eight year old son, who was playing a Star Wars game on Wii, blasting and lasering and dodging and exploding, paused his game, looked back at me and quoted a silly three-liner from a Judy Blume book. Hooray. Books still play a role in his imagination, even among battles with ships bursting into flames.

I'll credit that incident to the moderation we have placed, as parents, on his gaming activities, and the roots of reading we placed on our kids, incessantly, in their very young years. I am not a hater of video gaming. I do not believe they will be at fault for the downturn of future minds or upswing in children obesity numbers. As the Palo Alto Medical Foundation reports on their website, just like anything else, video games are okay in moderation as long as they are the right games, for the right amount of time.

Parents are advised to pay attention to the ratings. Our kids didn't start playing video games until they were at least six years old, after throngs of books had been read to them over and over again since before they were even born. For them, almost anything rated E for Everyone was okay. Even Star Wars was okay for us, as it was the LEGO version, and nothing more than they would have seen in the original movie.

Also, it is important to limit the time kids play, to make sure other activities take priority, or to even use gaming as a treat or reward. Monitor games, don't put them in the kids' bedrooms and talk about the games with your kids to find out what it is they like about them. Then, share your findings with other parents to keep everyone current on the video market.

According to PAMF, too much game time with violent video games can lead to more aggressive behavior. This is due to the repetition of the violence and a desire for kids to want to role play their gaming heroes. Again, a huge incentive for time limits.

I for one, am thrilled my son gets as much fun out of his literary characters, as he does his gaming ones. His room may be full of Darth Vader and R2D2, with light sabers and laser blasters, but at bedtime or on "library day", his heroes are still Fudge, Geronimo Stilton, Cam Janson and the barnyard animals of Holly Webb books...with a little bit of

Saturday, May 29, 2010

10 yr. old runner inspires other girls, our daughters

Lauren 002.jpg
Photo by Julie Charney

Sometimes it takes awhile for our kids to find their niche, the one or two interests that will fuel them through childhood and adolescence. For Lauren Charney, a 10 year old fourth- grader from Saline, it wasn't until third grade that she truly found her passion. Running.

Not only has the sport inspired Lauren, but it has given her the platform to inspire other girls to run too. A national platform.

Although Lauren participates in other sports, it is running that "makes me feel like I can do anything." When I asked Lauren what advice she would give other girls who might be a little shy about putting their first step forward, she didn't hesitate in giving credit to Girls On the Run. Girls On the Run has given Lauren a vehicle to great achievement and put her in a place to inspire all of us.Girls On the Run is a non-profit, non-competitive organization. According to their website,

"Girls on the Run® is a life-changing, experiential learning programs for girls age eight to thirteen years old. The programs combine training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development."
Lauren Charney has taken her running a step further. Turns out her love of the sport and inspirational attitude has launched her to a place where she is one of six national finalists in the Kelloggs 2010 Junior Achievement Awards. She has already been flown to Chicago for a photo/video shoot, and is now being featured on the Kelloggs webisite competing for the 2010 ESPY award. She will fly to Los Angeles later this summer to attend the ESPY breakfast, where the winner will be announced. The winner will then attend the ESPY Award Ceremony that evening. To learn more about Lauren and vote her to to the top, go to www.frostedflakes.com.

Lauren has learned more than how to prepare for a race (like loading up on healthy peanut butter waffles and warming up her muscles with jumping jacks). She has learned what it is like to be supported by a community, to have self-esteem, to feel empowered to do anything.

Sometimes it takes a little time for our kids to really find what it is they are looking for. When they do, it is important for us as parents to support them, find outlets for them to go after what they dream of that gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. We all could learn a lot from girls like Lauren. It is never too late to take the first step.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saline District Library cool for teens this summer

library inside.jpg
Photo by Vance Shutes--Real Estate One

I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager (ahem...back in the day), the only thing
we went to the library for was to study and do homework with friends. We had to whisper every bit of the time we were there, and we were afraid to get up and wander around looking for books in fear of being reprimanded.

Now I live in Saline with my family. Compared to the library of my youth, the Saline District Library is a rock star. Not only do teens have their own space there, complete with internet access, music and teen books galore, but the programs being offered to teens this summer are second to none.

We all know that most really good movies start out as even better books. The SDL has teen movie days showing rated PG-13 films from terrific books. This Friday kicks things off with 17 again, then later this summer the fun and suspenseful Jaws, and the breathtaking cinematography and drama of Titanic. It wouldn't be a true movie experience without popcorn, so the library is providing that too!

Any parent who has a teenager is well aware of the Twilight, New Moon and upcoming Eclipse frenzy. If your kids aren't into Edward, Jacob and Bella, there is a good chance you are! Eclipse comes out in theatres June 30, so it makes perfect sense to attend the Eclipse Pre-release Teen Party on June 29th. Teens get to test their Twilight knowledge with games, make some cool gothic stuff and graze cuisine of all things vampire. How cool is that?

Another of my favorite programs for teens this summer is later on August 12th. For all
Saline library logo.jpg
the budding clothing designers out there it is the Project Runway: Back To School Edition where teens will Up-cycle a fabulous new creation for their fall wardrobe. Plus, they’ll discuss the fashion industry and careers for young designers and check out what’s hot for back to school.

There are a ton of other programs for teens and all ages this summer at the Saline District Library, a lot of which do require reading! As a matter of fact, the teen summer reading program is giving prizes away for the first, sixth and twelfth books read. Some programs do require registration, so be sure and check the website.

I for one, need no flashing lights, sparkly baubles or trends du jour to get me into the library. I love the smell of the books, the hushed sounds of patrons walking among the shelves, the giggles of delight from a puppet show in the children's section. If, however, you are looking for a way to get your teenager in the library doors more often, be sure and let them know about all the "cool" things happening at their neighborhood library this summer

Saturday, May 22, 2010

House supports Byrnes anti-bully law, Saline acts too

Thank goodness and thank you state Representative Pam Byrnes (D- Lyndon Twp.) for introducing and obtaining support for "Matt's Safe School Law", passed in the Michigan House of Representatives last Thursday. The law is based on a student in East Lansing who committed suicide after being "hazed" or "bullied".

This legislation can't come soon enough. We have heard a lot of incidents concerning bullying lately, from cyber bullying to abuses on the playground with students as young as age 11. It is about time bullying moves into the legislative arena.

Along with the new law, I am impressed with what I am seeing in my kid's school system. In Saline this year, despite an incident at Heritage School recently, younger children at Pleasant Ridge Elementary participated in a "Bucket Filler" program, based on the idea that it is not nice to "take out" of someone's bucket by making them feel bad, but to "fill buckets" to make others feel good. The program is based around the book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" and hopefully will help prevent incidents like the one at Heritage from occurring in the first place. The district also held a community forum on safety, to invite parent involvement and reassure us student safety is top priority.

For older students and adults, ages 16 and up, there is a program called safeTALK, through Saline Community Education, and it is designed to teach people to be depression aware and suicide alert, as well as providing resources for those who need help.

Bullying is serious business. It is not swirlies and stolen lunch money like when I was a kid. I appreciate any effort, by any organization State or otherwise, that is willing to insist on action to stop bullies in their tracks, and prevent bullying behavior for the future.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garage Sale Season is upon us, fun for families

garage sale.jpg

I am a self-professed, hard-core garage-saler. I love them. When Spring rolls around my eyes are peeled for orange and black signs as I drive my neighborhood and I don't stop looking until after Labor Day. Going garage or yard sale shopping is the perfect Saturday activity if you don't have anything else to do. For some, it is the only thing to do!

I've rubbed off on my sons too. They have keen garage sale sign radar and help me navigate my way looking for addresses and scouting good deals. This upcoming weekend is sure not to disappoint.

The biggest scores come from subdivision, multi-family, business and church garage sales. This Saturday, I've found one that is a little bit of both. The Children's Creative Learning Center (voted Ann Arbor's favorite center/preschool by Ann Arbor Family Magazine) is having a huge, combined yard sale with over 20 families setting up their wares for your browsing pleasure. If you have toddlers, then day care centers and preschools are terrific places to find toys and educational items for your kids at TERRIFIC prices.

Here are the details:

Saturday, May 22
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
5939 Saline-Ann Arbor Rd.
Saline, MI

Here are some shopping tips for the all day garage/yard sale shopper, thanks to The Yardsale Queen:

1. Make sure you have sun hat, sunglasses (to prevent glare when trying to read signs) and sun block if the weather is sunny.
2. Keep a small cooler in your car with cold water and beverages
3. Wear comfy shoes, and avoid sandals unless you like wet feet from dewy grass and sprinklers.
4. Carry plenty of change and small bills, don't be afraid to negotiate price!
5. Bring rope and an all purpose tool in case you need to tie something to the top of your car or tie your trunk closed.
6. Carry a local map or mapquests along with classified/garage sale ads
7. Bring a variety of batteries if you want to test battery operated items to make sure they work
Garage sales are also great places for kids to get more for their money (piggy bank change can go a long way) and practice their math and change-making skills. It's never too early to teach them to be smart consumers.

So load up your dollar bills and tote bags, bottles of water and sneakers and be sure to navigate the classifieds of Annarbor.com. Go forth this weekend ready to shop and may the deals be with you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moms backed by proof that we can "make it all better"

A recent study done by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences proved a child's stress is greatly reduced by the reassurance of their mother's voice, as well as their physical touch or embrace.

We knew that didn't we? The study was conducted on mothers and daughters ( I have sons, but I'm going to go with it anyway!).  Girls between the ages of 7 and 12 were separated into three groups and put in stressful situations like speaking in public or doing math tests in front of an audience.  Before the event, one group had contact with their mothers to recieve vocal and physical reassurance. The second group spoke to their mothers by telephone.  The third group had no contact with their mothers at all, and were given a film to watch.

The study showed an increase in the hormone oxytocin, shown to reduce stress hormones and produce feelings of well being, in both groups of girls who had maternal contact, as opposed to higher stress hormone levels in girls without.

I appreciate the study, but it only proves what I and other mother's already know, because we see it in our kids' faces when the tears or pouts stop, and the smiles start. 

Appreciation for Foundation for Saline Area Schools

As a parent with two kids in the Saline Area School District, I am so appreciative of the work that is done by the Foundation for Saline Area Schools. Their sole purpose is to find ways to raise funds specifically designed to benefit my children, their peers and their educators. As summed up on their website, the Mission of the FSAS is:

"to generate, for distribution, financial and other resources to the schools for enrichment programs and other projects aimed at enhancing the quality of education and educational opportunities."

This Thursday, the FSAS will hold a fundraiser and recognition reception that is open to the community and an opportunity for people to see what great things are happening for their kids because of the FSAS.

The reception is Thursday, May 13 from 5-8 PM and will take place at the Stonebridge Golf Club (see map here).

Contributors and sponsors of the event are considered "Friends of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools" and will insure future support for grants and other initiatives within the district.

The FSAS is a non-profit, volunteer organization that is completely separate from the school board. Students in Saline have been benefiting from its efforts since 1987, when it was founded by Community member and parent Bruce Paxton. His son, Reid Paxton serves on the board.

Thursday night's reception is open to community members. For more information, please call FSAS President Cheryl Hoeft at 734-429-5922.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Eagle-cam for early birders

Photo by Mark Scarlett, Nature Photographer

Photo by Mark Scarlett, Nature Photographer

Photo by Mark Scarlett, Nature Photographer

On my way home from dropping the kids off at school last week, I saw an American Bald
Eagle perched at the very top of one of the trees along my road. Living on a dirt road, in the woods and surrounded by farm fields, wildlife is around us everyday. This is the first time, however, in the eleven years of living in this area that I have seen a Bald eagle. I stopped my car and rolled down the window for a better look, was quick to call my husband at work, as he is a real bird enthusiast. He answered to an excited "Guess what?" and urged me to catch a photo, though I only had the camera on my cell phone. It worked in a pinch, though hardly did it justice without a zoom lens.
Bald Eagles are majestic creatures. Children learn about them early in school, right along with the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. They are not a common site, and that is what makes it so special to witness them up close and in real time.
Coincidentally, the day I saw the eagle on my road, I received an email from my son's second grade teacher with a link to an Eagle-cam they were watching in school.
The Eagles of Hornby Island is a website with a webcam right at the edge of the eagles' nest. One of two eggs in the nest have recently been hatched, and there is quite a bit of activity to be seen as the first eaglet is cared for by its parents, and the anticipation of the second is building.
Make sure your volume is up (or not), as tiny, fuzzy-feathered birds make a lot of noise. Also, be sure to click on the "Play" arrow to pick up the action in real time. The website is by Doug Carrick and boasts a chat room for bird enthusiasts to participate in friendly discussion. Click here to see the Hornby Island eagles.
You'll notice also, the incredible photographs presented in this blog. They are not of
the eagle on my road, but of others caught on film by Nature Photographer Mark Scarlett, during his many treks to catch wildlife within their own habitat. For more information on Mark's photos, please contact me at ajscarlett@comcast.net.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How much politics should we teach our kids?

President Barack Obama's visit to Ann Arbor last  weekend was very exciting for a lot of people living in the surrounding areas.  Lines for tickets to the event to hear him speak stayed steady for three days.  For our family, we certainly would have attended, however, the U of M Commencements at which the President would be speaking, happened to fall on the same day and time as my youngest son's First Holy Communion.

"Let's invite President Obama to my Communion," my young son said.  I looked at my husband, he nodded in agreement, "Well, we could."  And so we did.  When it was time to send out invitations, one of them was addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. complete with a picture Sam had drawn of President Obama during "free draw" in art class.  (He presented me with the picture two days before the election in November 2008 and it now hangs in our living room).  "You never know what is on his agenda, and we're only about 8 miles away from Michigan stadium" I added.

I wanted my son to know that his President is accessible.  True, he probably won't make his Communion celebration, but he should feel free to write to the President any time, for just about any reason.  This helps drive home the idea that government and politics are very much a part of each of our lives.

Studies show the significant influence we as parents have on our children's political views.  I remember on my first day of Government class at WCC, my professor pointed out the overwhelming evidence that most people are products of their parent's political viewpoint.  It is true, some may rebuke those ideals during adolescents, but mostly revert back to the liberal, moderate or conservative viewpoints of thier parents as they reach adulthood. 

My husband and I have always tried to teach our kids the importance of politics to their daily lives.  We take them to the voting booth EVERY TIME.  They know the issues, we tell them why we vote the way we do, but how everyone has the right to vote anyway they choose.  They hear our discussions, ask questions.

My oldest son (a freshman in high school) has been exposed to both sides of the aisle, from myself and my husband (his step-father), as well as from his dad.  This has been really great for him, as he hears two different perspectives and then gets to make up his own mind.  I love it when I pick him up from school and he says "I argued some really good points in History today, but I can't believe there are so many kids that don't pay attention to what is going on in the world."  I am thrilled he feels confident enough to assert his own views, and sees the importance of current events.

The next question is whether or not kids are exposed to too much information.  For example, my seven year old comes purposefully walking into the kitchen, "Mom, I know who the next victim of Walmart is going to be...it is MacDonalds!"  He had seen a Walmart commercial selling the same toys offered in Happy Meals.  From the conversations my husband and I have had about our belief that Walmart stores are unhealthy for small town "mom and pops" shops and small business owners, he drew the conclusion that MacDonalds was next to go out of business!

I've told this story to others and have drawn some critics who state an eight year old has no business worrying about things like small businesses and the economic climate. We, however, see this as a grand teaching moment.  I get to make it clear what our views are, however teach him that it is important to respect other people's choice to shop at Walmart or anywhere else for that matter, without judgement.

Politics and current events are full of teaching moments, and can be a wonderful asset to our children's academic toolchest as long as information is provided respectfully. We are our kids' first teachers. We read to them to help improve their reading/language arts skills, we run flashcards to help them with their subtraction, we even quiz them for their spelling tests.  Why not add some civics and current events to the mix?  As far as I'm concerned, it is never to early to start lessons of fairness, social justice, and the benefits of living within a democracy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Saline Family Chiropractic sets the bar for food donation

Dr. Paquin, his staff and all of his Saline Family Chiropractic clients have set out to make a real difference for area families.  If you follow my blogs at all, you know that about every month or so I write something about the importance of food donation for families in need.  I remind you that food pantries aren't only for the poor and homeless, and that your very own next door neighbor could be utilizing a food bank and you wouldn't even know it.  I also remind you that donating food is a great way to plant the seed of volunteerism in kids, and to teach them the benefits of helping others with a topic they can relate to, like Cheerios and grilled cheese sandwiches, and what it would be like to not have them.

Over one million people in Michigan alone visit food banks annually.  According to the Food Gatherers website in Ann Arbor, a land mark study, Hunger in America 2010, released in February, reports that more than 43,900 people--including more thatn 14,000 children and 6,500 seniors--receive emergency food each year through Food Gatherers' network of emergency food pantries and meal sites.  The findings represent a 138 percent increase since 2006.

This is where Dr. P. comes in.  Right now he and his staff are collecting good food for Food Gatherers and United Way right in his office waiting area.  They've got eight giant barrels filled and want to overflow those before the food drive ends in another week or so.  To add a little incentive to get donations sooner than later, he's having a drawing.  One bag of groceries gets you an entry to win a gigantic, flat screen TV.   It's a beauty!  I've seen it myself during our regular visits for adjustments and my ticket is in that bowl!  The more bags of groceries, the more entries.

If you'd like to donate, the time is now.  Food banks are in short supply, especially over the summer when kids are home from school and unable to benefit from school lunches.

Dr. Paquin and his staff are happy to take your donation in their office located at 144 S. Industrial Drive in Saline, across the street from Country Market.  They are closed from 1pm-3pm for lunch daily, and are closed Tuesday mornings and all day Thursday.  Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pennies For Peace at Pleasant Ridge

Students at Saline's Pleasant Ridge Elementary school are participating in a global initiative to help build schools and educate children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Pennies For Peace Program is a global campaign of the Central Asia Institute (CAI) that teaches students about their capacities as philanthropists, a few cents at a time.
The campaign began in 1994 when author and program founder Greg Mortenson took his story, "Three Cups of Tea" (#1 New York Times best seller), to the students of Westside Elementary School in River Fall, Wis. where his mother was principal.

The CAI Foundation began shortly afterward in 1996 and, to date, has built nearly 100 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, serving more than 28,000 students, over half of which are girls. One penny goes a long way toward eduction in these regions. It buys one pencil and the beginning of an education. When children in these countries learn to read, write and learn, they are less likely to be recruited by terrorist organizations.

Visit the Pennies For Peace Web site for information about the program and how your school can participate.

April Scarlett is a freelance writer. Find her work at www.fromherdesk.com, www.successfulwomenweekly.com, www.aprilscarlettwrites.blogspot.com, www.aprilscarlettmotherboard.blogspot.com, on Facebook search ASW-April scarlett Writes and on Twitter @ajscarlett.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hubble turns 20, kids can be a part of history!

Young Sam in front of one of the Hubble photos at the exhibit last summer.

Happy twentieth birthday to the Hubble Telescope. Our family had the pleasure of seeing
the Hubble exhibit at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor last summer. Since then, we have all continued to be fascinated by Hubble, the mirror repair, its gorgeous pictures, the fact that it is been around for twenty years, and that it is expected to keep snapping photographs for at least another five. What was really exciting though, was when we found out what the Hubble people are doing in honor of their twentieth year. Your kids can actually record their thoughts and feelings about Hubble, and have it recorded in the archives, right alongside the full collection of the telescope's scientific data.
You can check out all things Hubble at its very own website, www.hubblesite.org. This is where you can record your thoughts about the telescope for all to know for the rest of history.
The Hubblesite also has a step by step process for kids to build their very own hand-held replica of Hubble using everyday items found at your local hardware store. There are three different versions depending on the age or skill level of your child from average to very difficult.
For parents and teachers there is an educator's section, a full gallery of gorgeous photographs taken by Hubble and all of the latest news and updates on its progress.
If you'd like to hear a terrific discussion about Hubble, its history and facts and tidbits, go to NPR's Science Friday's website to listen to an audio file of yesterday's show. They explain so many interesting things, including the colors in the photos, whether they are real colors or filtered.
If you or your child is at all fascinated by space or astronomy, I highly recommend taking some "Hubble time" this weekend. Have fun!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Party

Photo Credit| Courtesy Graphic

Earth Day turns forty today. A perfect excuse for you and your kids to
throw Mother Earth a party. Whether you plan it for this weekend, or throw a surprise after-school bash, here are some ideas to make your theme greener. Invitations: Cut up a paper grocery bag and let your kids go to town decorating. One paper bag is enough for your entire guest list!
Cake: Organic, of course. There are a ton of recipes on the web for all-natural and organic goodies. Even better, try some "no-bake" brownies and save energy too! Or have your crowd decorate round sugar cookies with blue and green frosting to make little "earths" to pack in their lunches. A tasty reminder to take care of our planet!
Activities: There are a million! Make bird feeders out of recycled milk containers, plant an herb garden in egg cartons, or how about a field trip to the Scrap Box, or other location where you can get your hands on some un-used goodies to create whatever the imagination can come up with. Want something not so cliche? Check out the web for a ton of green action items.
Music: Love this list of Eco-ABC's...have the kids learn it karaoke style.
Party favors: Send everyone home with a seedling to plant a tree or a treat in a reusable container like a shovel and spade.
Thank you cards: Have the kids paint an Earth Day mural as one of their activities. After the party, cut out pieces of it to make unique cards with a modern-art feel. Send your guests a piece of the masterpiece they created at the party...another reminder of why they were celebrating in the first place.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe's first detective anniversary, mystery picks for kids

Posted: Apr 19, 2010 at 9:47 AM [Today]
Edgar Allan Poe
Public Archives

April 19, 1841, the first fictional detective ever, Auguste C. Dupin, came to life in "The Murder in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe became famous for his poem "The Raven", but became known for his mysteries.

Today's anniversary of the first great detective story had me thinking about what my kids read. I for one, was never a huge fan of mysteries, but my husband and both my son's really enjoy them. I found some good websites for kids to read short story mysteries, and thought I might list for you some great mystery books and series for kids.

For good reads and lists of more good reads, visit www.kidsmysterynet.com and www.kidsreads.com/series.

Here are some others I highly recommend, or have had recommended for my kids:

A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy--Age 9-12
Amelia Bedelia Series by Peggy and Herman Parish--Age 4-8
The Boxcar Mysteries by Gertrude Chandler Warner--Ages 7-12
Cam Janson Series by David A. Adler--Ages 6-9
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobel--Ages 9-12
Nate The Great Series by Marjorie Sharmat--Ages 6-9
Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene--Ages 4-8, 9-12
Red Rock Mysteries by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

Saturday, April 10, 2010

ASPCA anniversary has me thinking locally...


Posted: Apr 9, 2010 at 4:19 PM [Yesterday]
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded 144 years this week, in 1866. I had no idea they've been
around so long! In honor of this monumental achievement, I wanted to let families know what they can do on a local level, and what to expect when adopting a pet from Ann Arbor's own Humane Society of Huron Valley (www.hshv.org).

I hear many families considering adopting pets before summer, in hopes that their children will have the entire summer vacation to acquaint themselves and/or train their new pets. After checking out the Humane Society of Huron Valley's website, I learned there is a lot more to adopting a pet than one would think.
We've all seen the movies where a young girl or boy peruses countless cages of wagging tales and sad eyes, only to end up saying "I want that one!" and off they go into a furry and forevermore sunset.

Not so fast. These are some things the Humane Society wants you to know before your visit:

1. You must be 21 years of age.
2. If you currently have a dog and are looking for another, a "dog-to-dog interaction" is required for approval.
3. You must fill out an adoption survey before you visit with the animals. They are available at the desk or you can download them online.
4. There is an entire list of documentation you need to bring, everything from vet records to apartment leases proving pets are allowed.
5. Expect to pay $25 to $100 for cats, and $100 to $250 for dogs.

In my opinion, the fee is truly worth it when you see all of the veterinary services that are included, and the humane society is a non-profit, so they have to stay afloat somehow.

One thing I learned that I thought was terrific, is sometimes there will be two dogs listed as "Perfect Pairs", which means they will only be adopted-out together. This could be at the request of the previous owner who was unable to keep them, or just that they've never been apart so it would be too upsetting to them to be separated.

There may be a lot to go through when adopting a pet. The good news is you know exactly what your are getting, and the organization knows exactly what the animal is getting too. They are in the business of finding the perfect family-animal match so you end up adopting a very healthy, happy, tail-wagging or purring addition to your family.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

"It's raining, it's pouring, your kids think life is boring..."
Photo by Weiling
Just because it is raining outside, doesn't mean the fun needs to take a break like the sun has for the day. On a quest to keep my youngest busy on a drippy day during Spring Break, I went looking on the internet for ideas. I found some really great websites with neat activities to keep kids creative, and maybe give them a break from the tv and video game remotes...
If you worry about your kids not getting enough exercise when the weather isn't perfect, then www.familyfitness.com is for you. It lists a boatload of busy activities to keep kids having fun while moving and grooving.
If you are looking for a way to keep things green, www.dnr.wi.gov is a website full of environmentally friendly activities, both using recycled materials you have hanging around your house, or creating items to help the environment outside your house. One thing I loved about this site is it has an art gallery where kids can submit their nature-based art for display on the site. It is a very cool place for a budding artist to see their work on an official website.
Finally, if you just want some new game ideas, puzzles and activities that boost brain power, head to www.familyeducation.com. Here you'll find a plethora of science projects, writing games and brain teasers.
Rainy days can also be a great excuse to get friends together and have a party. Any theme will work, have a bug party and go worm hunting, or invite guests to come dressed as their favorite super-hero and save the day with a mystery for them to solve. Have a cookie baking party with plenty of frosting and sprinkles to decorate.
If the weather is less then cooperative for outdoor play, make the day an opportunity to be creative and enjoy something different inside. Before you know it, your kids may actually look forward to those rain-cloudy days, and that is what I call a silver lining.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hans Christian Anderson stories public domain

If you've happened by the Google homepage today you have undoubtedly seen the beautiful illustration banners depicting the stories of Hans Christian Anderson. What a great way to recognize the 205th birthday of one of history's greatest storytellers. More importantly, that banner inspired me to look up some of my favorite childhood Anderson stories, and I found a treasure trove in the public domain, that I can now share with my kids. My very first encounter with one of Anderson's stories was when I was five years old. I was given a "recorded book" of The Ugly Duckling. A recorded story book was a paper back picture book with a sleeve in the back. Inside the sleeve was a 45 record with the story on it. I would play stories like this on my little kid turntable (in a case!) over and over again while I followed along with the pictures. A chime would ring when it was time to turn the page.

As a parent, to my delight, I have found a website listing all of Anderson's stories. It provides the text with the original illustrations by Vilhelm Pedersen and Lorenz Frolich. I found myself deluging into a plethora of fairytale and folklore goodness with The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina and countless others I had never heard of. Did you know The Little Mermaid is one of Hans Christian Anderson's most popular? I found myself surprised, and a little embarrassed that I thought this was a Disney creation! ( Yikes! And I'm supposed to be a little bit more up on children's literature!)

Now i want to learn a bit more about Mr. Anderson. What kind of person was he? Did he have children of his own to whom he read his stories? Perhaps they were his inspiration to write them? The truth is, I know nothing about this great literary artist of our past, but now I am anxious to learn more. Let the research begin. In the meantime, I will take great joy in meeting all of the unknown characters dancing among Anderson's literary index and sharing them with my kids.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eiffel Tower Turns 111, a good family vacation spot?

A couple of years ago, my brother visited Paris, France. As soon as I found out he was going there, I asked if he would bring me back a miniature Eiffel Tower. I didn't care what it was made of or how big it was, I just wanted it to come from a real Eiffel Tower vendor. Somehow, a piece that had actually set beneath the real deal authenticated itself before reaching my shelf far far away.

Wednesday, actually, is the Eiffel Tower's "birthday".  Final construction was completed March 31, 1889. Although I have had three years of French instruction, and can read it un peu (a little), I've never traveled to France. I do plan to someday, ideally with my family. That got me to thinking. We hear of Paris as the "City of Lights", the destination of young lovers and pinnacle of fashion. Is Paris really a destination for family vacation? You bet it is!

I started checking around the internet and found there have been a lot of families from all over the world who have made Paris their family destination. There are a ton of sights to see, street festivals, even the Plage de Paris, or Paris Beach. It is a man made beach set right up on the Seine River, complete with sand castles and beach balls.

The Eiffel Tower itself is somewhat whimsical. As you rise to the observation deck, there are "dummy" construction workers set up like they are working and fun facts about the tower's history posted along the way. Check out this article for tips on how to make the Eiffel Tower tour an optimal experience.

There are definite travel dates for Paris. Each month is ideal for travel for different reasons, with the exception of August. Most residents in Paris vacation in August, so you may find more than a few shops and businesses closed for the month. If you like to ski, February is peak. May brings warmer temperatures and fewer crowds, as the tourists haven't invaded yet. September is still warm and comfortable, but with less traffic. And Christmas in Paris promises absolute delight on many levels, with shopping, street festivities, magical decorations and ice skating.

The Eiffel Tower turns 111 today. I'm thinking I just might set a goal to have our family there to celebrate its 115th!   Et vous?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Is Reading Month: My Picks

March is Reading Month.  I'm not sure how it was designated as reading month but think it must most certainly have to do with Dr. Seuss's Birthday falling on March 2nd. 

If you have young kids in school, then you already know March is reading month because your calendar just got a lot more packed with school activites and events.  I know mine did.  One thing I absolutely love about elementary schools is their ability to still foster major enthusiasm for reading books.  K-4th graders still love books as gifts, can't wait to settle into a story.  Unfortunately for some kids, the passionate flame for reading starts to dim as they get older (that's a whole other blog!).

Anyway,  I wanted to throw out some of my favorite titles for the younger set, both picture books and early reader chapter books.

Kiss Goodnight Sam by Amy Hest
Such a sweet and snuggly, yet brief story that was a favorite bedtime story in my house for years.  It's warm and glowy, about a bear cub who develops a cough on a soon to be snowy night, and how motherbear cares for him until morning...of course the cub feels much better in the morning...just in time to play in the snow. 

Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
Can't say enough about these two.  Parents will definitely relate as well when Trixie becomes separated from her beloved stuffed bunny.  Touching and suspenseful for the very young and hilarious for parents.

Lost in the Storm series by Holly Webb
These are adorable chapter books for early readers about cute and cuddly kittens and puppies who end up in all kinds of suspenseful adventures including snowstorms and getting lost on the farm.  Very sweet, not frightening.

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
This book is just ridiculously accurate and hilarious.  It reads more like a manual then a story, but kids stick with it from beginning to end.  Lots of wacky facts and fun.

Enjoy your March is Reading Month! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vancouver Olympics a family event

I don't know about you, but there aren't too many things that will hold the interest of everyone in our family, for a prolonged period of time, so that we can actually spend more of our free time together than not.

I'm talking about the Vancouver Winter Olympics televised nightly for a total of two weeks.  From the Opening Ceremony last Friday night (my teenager stayed in!) to the nightly coverage of all things snowy and sporty, my family is hangin' together.

It's not that we don't like spending time together as a family, but for all age levels and our different interests, its not often we will spend night after night in one room.  Its been so great!  Wednesday night's women's downhill ski race was as action packed, drama filled and as heartwarming as any one of our favorite movies.

Action:  The track was so rock hard, fast and bumpy, three skiiers crashed before hitting the finish line!

Drama:  U.S. skiier Lindsey Vonn has been suffering a let injury for days and wasn't even sure if she could compete.   Lindsey waited at the top, focused and ready, but still hearing of crash after crash before her.  A couple of the women appeared so apprehensive it was as if they traded in their chance for a medal just to get down the mountain (1.8 miles) in one piece. 

Heartwarming conclusion:  Vonn did win Gold, could barely compose herself through a TV interview, ran to her husband, collapsed into his arms and sobbed for a full minute!

There really has been something for everyone.  My teenager likes the snowboarding and short track, my seven year old likes moguls, luge, and can't wait for bobsled, my hubby digs hockey and downhill, and I love it all!  Let me not forget to mention, this televised event is completely family friendly entertainment.  We haven't even seen the nightly inappropriate commercials peddling cures for ailments we'd rather not talk about in front of our kids.

We are watching together, cheering together, learning about different sports, and being inspired to learn new ones. There are even lessons of geography, as we interpret the flags of other teams. I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics. This year, I especially appreciate how such an event is just cool enough for my teen, and fun enough for my youngest, to hang out with mom and dad, even on a Friday night.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lifelong Benefits of Learning a Second Language Young

Enough research has been done over a long enough period of time to show there is absolutely a significant life-long benefit for children who learn a second, or even third language at a very young age. Universities like Oxford, Cornell, and Cambridge have done intensive studies and their conclusions are all in alignment. Bilingual children experience greater academic success, self-confidence and cultural sensitivity that continues throughout their lives.

According to the Language League, there are the “5 C’s” of early language learning. They are: Capture the critical period, Craft cognitive skills, Cultivate self-confidence, Celebrate cultural understanding, and Create a world of possibility.

Jiemin Jacobson, owner of Saline’s Children’s Creative Learning Center, believes so much in the importance of a second language at an early age, she has decided to make learning Chinese part of their everyday curriculum, with no additional tuition. “ We don’t want any child to not be able to learn such an important skill because of their inability to pay.” Jacobson suggests her preschoolers already benefit from a strong literacy foundation so the addition of a second language will contribute to academic success in the future. Studies indicate children who are bilingually fluent do better on SAT, ACT and other college assessment tests.

Research shows the ideal time to learn a second language is from birth to about age 10 or 12. A child’s brain is still developing language skills at a young age and will literally create “more room” to support the second language as it develops. Learning a second language after this developmental phase is still possible, but new “space” has to be created to house the new skills. It’s like realizing you need to add on an addition to your house while still in the building phase, instead of after construction is complete. This idea refutes the common misunderstanding that a second language is confusing to children who are learning it, before their home language is mastered. Young brains have the ability to compartmentalize as needed during development, storing the two languages equally.

A study conducted at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL), concluded children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language. This is the skill needed for a person to be able to achieve goals in the presence of distraction, which is important throughout many aspects of academic success.

Parents are increasingly realizing the benefit their children can reap from the exposure to other languages and cultures. “We’ve added the second language classes to our summer program for school age children too,” Jacobson said, "the need is great and the time is now while they are still young.”

Combine all of the research and reports and the outcome is similar. Any newly acquired skill ,like the mastery of a second language, will bring about a feeling of self-confidence and pride, especially if a child has mastered a skill his parent does not have. This adds to the spirit of independence and even empowerment. Socially, a child fluent in another language allows children to be more open and understanding to other cultures and academically, will ensure a competitive edge in the global marketplace of his or her future.