Saturday, May 29, 2010

10 yr. old runner inspires other girls, our daughters

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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

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

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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
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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

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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 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

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 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.