Friday, February 29, 2008

I had briefly mentioned "Reader's Theatre" in a previous blog about the Madison Public Library offerings. A date has now been set as shown below:

Date: 3/19/2008
Start Time: 6:00 PM
End Time: 8:00 PM
Description: Read a play, practice and present it to family and friends. Practice from 6-7 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. No memorization required, scripts will be used. For children ages 8-12. Call 824-1780 to register beginning March 5.
Library: Alicia Ashman Branch Library
Location: Meeting Room

If your children love to act, this is a funtastic event!

Daughter asked me to order a Captain Zoom birthday CD for one of her friends yesterday. I thought that I would take this opportunity to share this awesome product with you.

Captain Zoom has been enhancing birthday fun for many years. In the unlikely event that you've never heard of Captain Zoom...

From the website: "Captain Zoom™ will travel from the Moon to Earth to sing a PERSONALIZED HAPPY BIRTHDAY SONG that mentions your child's name eight times!
It will make their birthday a day they will always remember. Our PERSONALIZED BIRTHDAY SONG is recorded on an audio CD or sent to you as an MP3 file, and is guaranteed to be the hit of the birthday party."

My daughter requests hearing her birthday CD each year. She often takes it to school to share it with her classmates. It's not the same ole' birthday song rendition for sure!

Hear a clip and get more information here:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun Visit

Ssssh, lest my daughter see this post, and it would ruin her annual FUN!

St. Patrick's Day is rapidly approaching, Parents. Two days till March and it's time to get a plan into place for the leprechauns to visit your home!

Would you like to make your children's St. Pat's Day ROCK? I have the plan laid out for you below...Last year, I actually marketed and sold, many of these "Leprechaun Visit Kits." The instructions were also utilized by several teachers to stage their own classroom visits.

Below I share my tips and secrets for staging a memorable leprechaun visit on St. Pat's Day. Your children will be delighted. Get busy!

  • 1 Leprechaun Hat
  • glitter – gold, silver and green
  • gold chocolate coins
  • 1 black kettle
  • 1 piece of crushed green velvet (fabric store)
  • 1 shoe print stamp (easily make your own)
  • 1 green washable ink stamp pad
  • plastic shamrock good luck coins
  • Green food coloring
  • Adapt "ingredients" as needed. You're only limited by your imagination!!!

Setting the stage prior to St. Patrick’s Day

1) A few days before, discuss St. Patrick’s Day with the children. Share stories and pictures of leprechauns.

2) Explain that leprechauns are wee people from Ireland. They like to do tricks and mischief in homes and classrooms. Tell them that the magical leprechauns are able to find gold at the end of rainbows and sometimes they share their gold.

The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day

Make Leprechaun Mischief in your Home or in the classroom. Use any or all of the following ideas:

· Sprinkle glitter about the room

· Place the piece of green velvet fabric in a spot where the leprechaun could have caught his clothing. (in a window, in a door, etc.)

· Make leprechaun shoe prints along the chalkboard, on desktops, across student’s homework, etc.

· Make some shamrock cut-outs and place them around the room

· Turn things upside down and topsy-turvy: chairs, toys, books

· Switch everyday items (hang up shoes in the closet & place coats on the floor)

· Unravel the toilet paper

· Turn the toilet water green (1-2 drops of food coloring)

· Leave normally-closed things, open (windows, doors, cabinets, drawers, etc)

· Place the leprechaun hat in a non-obvious, hidden place for the children to discover.

· There’s no limit to the number of mischievous things that you can do. BE SILLY! At each place of mischief, place one of the green shamrock coins for the children to collect.

· Write the following on the chalkboard or a piece of paper:

Good Morning, Boys & Girls (or your children’s names at home):

I had a great time dancing and playing in your home/classroom last night! I’m sorry if I have made a mess of things. I seem to have misplaced my hat. Will you please find it and keep it for me? I’ll be back later to get it.

Your Friend – Lucky the Leprechaun

On St. Patrick’s Day morning

· St. Pat's is on a weekday this year! Celebrate the leprechaun visit at home/school on Monday, March 17th.

· Upon the children’s awakening at home or arrival at school, mention that some mysterious things have happened and let the children search out all of the mischief.

· At snack time or milk break, secretly change the children’s white milk to green milk with green food coloring.

· When the green hat is finally discovered, exclaim, “The Silly Leprechaun forgot his hat!” Remind the children that he will return to get his hat, as he mentioned in his note. Have the children pick a special spot in the room for Lucky’s hat.

· Have the children clean up the leprechaun’s mischief. (The excitement will no doubt turn to a little grumbling about “messy Lucky” at this point. J)

· A fun writing assignment would be to have the children write letters to Lucky, and leave them with the hat.

Later on St. Patrick’s Day – afternoon

(At lunch time/nap time/recess/or any extended absence by the children…)

· Remove the hat and the letters that the children left for Lucky – hide them away!

· In the now-empty spot, place the small black kettle that you have filled with the gold chocolate coins.

· Leave a trail of glitter behind…

· Also leave the following note for the children:

Dear Boys & Girls:

Thank you for finding my hat!

For helping me, I am sharing some of my gold with you.

See you next year!

Your friend – Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (in advance)!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dozin' with the Dinosaurs - Chicago Field Museum

Dozin' with the Dinos at the Field Museum - Chicago

(Visiting our neighbor to the south today as Hannah reminded me of this awesome overnight experience to share...Book now because they fill up FAST!)

Spend the Night at the Field Museum! Dozin' with the Dinos
"Sue the T. rex is having a sleepover! Join us for a night of family workshops, tours and performances. Explore ancient Egypt by flashlight, prowl an African savannah with man-eating lions, and take a stroll through the Royal Palace in Bamum, Africa. Then spread your sleeping bag amidst some of our most popular exhibitions.
Cost: $55 for families with children ages 6-12 years old."

March 7, 2008 - SOLD OUT
March 14, 2008 - SOLD OUT
April 18, 2008 - SOLD OUT
May 9, 2008 - SOLD OUT
May 16, 2008
May 30, 2008
June 27, 2008
October 24, 2008
November 28, 2008

5:45 p.m. in the evening until 9 a.m. the following day.

For more information and to purchase tickets online:

You could spend several days exploring the Field Museum!
Information on the exhibits here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Wonder of Physics - 3/8 & 3/9 FREE tickets

The Wonder of Physics Presentation - March 8th and 9th (4 shows)

Another edition of the blog today, because I just received new information about the Wonder of Physics!

Due to bad weather, the shows were canceled this past weekend. Here's your shot to get some free tickets to the rescheduled performances. Suitable for all ages.

From the website: "The Wonders of Physics is aimed at generating interest in physics among people of all ages and backgrounds. The heart of the program is a fast-paced presentation of physics demonstrations carefully chosen to be entertaining as well as educational."

Get information and request tickets online here:

Hurry! Tickets are going fast.

American Players Theatre - Tix on Sale 3/3/08

American Players Theatre in Spring Green

The 2008 American Players Theatre tickets go on sale on March 3rd, for previous ticket buyers only. (Newbie ticket sales start on 4/14.)

The plays this season are:
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Ah, Wilderness!
  • Henry IV, Part I & II
  • Widowers' Houses
  • The Belle's Stratagem
I have taken Hannah to two APT plays each summer since she turned the required age of 6. She LOVES these shows!!! The majority of shows are held in the evening, but I find that the best time to take a child is a Saturday 3pm matinee.

For early bird ticket buyers (ME), there is a 25% discount for June, July and August shows. September and October shows are discounted 40% when purchased in conjunction with summer show tickets.

Did I mention that we are always in the 1st or 2nd row for our shows? Not only do we get reduced prices, but we get seats so close that you can see the make-up (and the sweat, at times) on the actors' faces!)

TO MY BLOG SUBSCRIBERS in Waunakee***IF***you would like to order tickets and receive my qualifying early bird discount, you can email me at and we'll work out the details to place an order for you.

American Players Theatre website:

It's great fun to take a picnic lunch to enjoy prior to or after the play. Grills are provided.

NOTES: The kids will enjoy taking the "Walk on the Wild Side" which is the scenic trail to the theatre at the top of the hill. Tower Hill State Park is located near the APT entrance for added fun!

Life is Good...enjoy the moments.

It's only 8 a.m. and it's already been a great day.

I took Hannah to the polls at 7:05 and we cast "our" vote. She was thrilled to feed the ballot into the voting machine and then to receive a sticker stating "I voted." She was proud to wear the sticker to school and is excitedly looking forward to the day when she can vote. I look at her and think how she is part of a hopeful future. Her generation is going to clean up the mess that we have made of this planet.

And now, the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies fills the house. And a treat to anticipate later this week is watching Hannah play the role of Charlotte in "Charlotte's Web".

Yes, Life is Good. Savor the moments.

"Life is not about the moments we breathe but the moments that take our breath away."

VOTE in Wisconsin's Primary today!

VOTE TODAY! Take your Children!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Door County Lighthouse Walk Weekend

Annual Door County Lighthouse Walk - May 17th-18th!

WE love, love, love lighthouses! This event is the perfect time of the year to explore Door County with your children.

"A self-guided, county-wide tour of 6 mainland lighthouses. Walk the grounds and soak in the history of Door County’s fabled lighthouses. Boat tours to and around island lighthouses." Walking to Cana Island across the rock causeway is especially exciting!

Some of the featured lighthouses are only open to the public during this annual event.

Tickets go on sale March 3rd. More information:

To request a brochure on the Lighthouse Walk:

While visiting the D.C. area, for an interesting change of pace in accommodations, stay in a YURT!

YURT = "Based on ancient Mongolian tents, circular yurts have been modernized for fun and comfort. The reinforced lattice fir walls are surrounded by canvas/vinyl fabric with rafters reaching to a center dome skylight and heavy-duty vinyl roof." Sleeps 5 people. - from Tranquil Timbers website.

We will be staying in a Yurt in Sturgeon Bay's Tranquil Timbers during Lighthouse Walk weekend.

See Yurt picture:

There are Yurts also available at Wagon Trail Campground in Ellison Bay, too.
More info and pictures here:

TIP: Arrive on Friday, and partake of the famous Door County Fish Boil!

Friday, February 15, 2008

International Festival - Madison Overture Center - February 16th

Zowie! I am excited to attend this event tomorrow! Great entertainment for the entire family in a warm indoor setting of the Overture Center in Madison.

SAT, FEB 16, 2008 | 11 AM - 5 PM

From the website: "A celebration of the cultures represented in Madison, the International Festival is a day of music, dance and storytelling throughout Overture Center. In addition there will be a craft bazaar featuring artisans selling clothing, crafts and jewelry from around the world and a food court where you will be able to purchase a wide array of food from Italy to Jamaica."

Check out the entire schedule of performers and events here:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Frosty Flicks Movies & Valentine's Day Ideas!

Each frigid Saturday morning at 10 a.m., local movie theatres offer children's movies for the low, low price of $2.50 per seat.

*Free* small popcorn with every paid admission.

Upcoming Frosty Flicks at Madison's Point Cinema or Eastgate locations:

02/16 Evan Almighty
02/23 Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
03/01 Bee Movie
03/08 Arctic Tale
03/15 Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep

Thanks, Denise for today's fabulous idea!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Here's an idea that will make your child glow with pride and happiness.

1) Cut out a BUNCH of hearts from construction paper in different sizes. (I know that you remember how to do this.)

2) On each of the hearts write a note of praise or love to your child. Examples:
  • UR Sweet, UR Smart, UR Cute, I love ur Nose, XOXOXO, UR Cherished, etc!
3) Secretly arrange the hearts under your child's bedcovers. When you tuck them in at bedtime tonight, "discover" the hearts, and read them outloud together. Their faces will light up!

Another idea for a Valentine-y dinner: Make pink mashed potatoes as a surprise side dish!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

1st Annual PHYSICS FAIR - Madison - Saturday, 2/16/08

The 1st Annual Physics Fair will be held at Chamberlin Hall on the UW campus this Saturday, February 16th.

Quoted from the website:
"This will be an open house in which members of the public can come to learn about the research and teaching that are a part of our department. The Physics Fair will include laboratory tours, hands-on demonstrations, activities for kids and families, and informal conversations with scientists. We will have exhibits representing research groups in the department as well as displays on more general physics topics. Two public lectures will be given on popular physics topics (see below). Additionally, the Ingersoll Physics Museum will be open and the 25th Annual Wonders of Physics public presentations will take place."

Physics Fair Events:
  • Physics Fair Exhibits open (11:00 am – 4:00 pm)
  • Research laboratory tours will be given throughout the day
  • Ingersoll Physics Museum open (11:00 am – 4:00 pm)
  • Public Lecture/Demonstration Show by David Willey (Mad Scientist from the Tonight Show) (11:30 am) - "How Does a Thing Like that Work?"
  • 25th Annual Wonders of Physics Presentations (1:00 pm & 4:00 pm) (Sold Out!) Go to the website to get on next year's notification email listing.
  • Public Lecture by Dan Hooper (author of Dark Cosmos) (2:30 pm)
  • Telescopes or planetarium will be open (TBA)

When:Saturday, February 16, 2008 Drop in anytime from 11 am - 4 pm.

Where: Chamberlin Hall, UW-Madison Campus, 1150 University Ave in Madison
Free parking is available in Lots 17, 20, & 21

Who: Everyone! All Ages Welcome.

Website for more information:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Madison Public Library Events

The various branches of the Madison Public Library offer a plethora of *free* events for families, tots, school agers and teens.

Click on this link to find events for Winter/Spring 2008:

Sample activities:
  • Knitting Circle
  • Book Club discussions
  • Storytellers, magicians, singers
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Teens: DDR & Guitar Hero
  • Bad Poetry Night
  • Storytime for Toddlers & Preschoolers
One of my daughter's favorite activities is called Readers Theatre. For one hour, the children read practice, and then perform a play for their parents and friends. No memorization required. The next event for 8-12 year olds will be held on March 19th at the Alicia Ashman library.

Some classes require advance (easy) online registration.

Starting page for exploration of all youth activities at all Madison Library locations:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thank you, Teachers...especially Helene Bloss!

Warning: Kind of sappy today.
Author & Mrs. Helene Bloss

One hundred years from now

It will not matter what kind of car I drove,

What kind of house I lived in,

How much money I had in my bank account,

Nor what my clothes looked like.

But one hundred years from now

The world may be a little better

Because I was important

In the life of a child.

~Dr. Forest E. Witcraft

Today's blog is dedicated to my beloved 1st & 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Helene Bloss. This woman was important in my life and in the lives of the 46 years worth of students that she taught. I attended her funeral in the small unincorporated town of Briggsville this past Friday. They read the above poem and it made me cry.

Mrs. Bloss was warm and huggable and joyful and encouraging and loving...everything that you want your own child's first teacher to be. Sadly, I learned to read with those inane "Dick & Jane" books, but Mrs. Bloss
encouraged me to read more challenging (and interesting) books after conquering "D&J." She imparted wisdom to me as a child that serves me to this day, such as the following nugget: "Love many, Trust Few. Always paddle your own canoe."

Throughout the years, she was a strong presence in my life. I always received a birthday card and a Christmas card from her. She would send me occasional newsy letters about her travels and adventures. Her penmanship - even at 91 years - was always, always better than my own. She knew all of my aunts & uncles, parents and grandparents by name, and would often inquire about them. She attended my high school graduation and my brother's wedding. When my daughter was born, she sent an ornament for her first Christmas tree.

Last July, I took my own 2nd grade daughter to meet Mrs. Bloss at the assisted living home in Baraboo. Although there was 82 years of age difference, the two were immediate sweet kindred spirits. Ingrained in my memory forever, is a picture of Hannah softly brushing Mrs. Bloss' hair for a picture yet to be taken. Mrs. Bloss spoke with pride of her many visitors and asked us to sign her guest book. She pulled out old pictures of me and letters from me. I regretted that the pile wasn't thicker, as they obviously had given her great joy. As we parted, she told us that she loved us and thanked us for coming, and then said, "I can die happy now." My heart was heavy with those parting words. And, then, no more letters and no Christmas card.

I learned when I attended her funeral at the overflowing Church, that she had been special to many former students. Briggsville's population of 60, swelled to triple that size during visitation for Mrs. Bloss. I'm sure that these other former students must also feel the incredible loss that I feel, for there is one less person in the world who loves me unconditionally and who always remembered and thought of me and prayed for me, even when I wasn't the greatest visitor or correspondent. And, sadly there won't be anymore cards or letters in the that fabulous penmanship that I have known since first grade.

Here's the thing...the thing that makes my heart ache. When this beautiful soul, this extraordinary woman, looked at me at the age of 40, I felt as if she still saw me as that little 1st grade girl with all of my yet undiscovered great potential inside. She saw me as the person who I wanted to be - instead of the person I was. She made me feel like I could do anything. Good teachers have that gift.

I am blessed to have been loved by her for nearly 33 years. I know why she was special to me...I'm just not so sure why I was so special to her.

So here's the thing...

Thank your child's teacher today. Thank them for everything that they are and for all that they are teaching your children - not just knowledge - what they are teaching your children TO BE. They are important in your child's life...everyday...sometimes in ways in which you are unaware.

They are called on to perform so many roles besides Teacher. They are boo-boo kissers, judge & jury, psychiatrists, role models, cheerleaders, huggers, encouragers, singers, and so much more. Their jobs are often thankless and mercilessly scrutinized.

My hope for your children is that they have the good fortune to have at least one Mrs. Bloss in their own lives.

OBAMA Stand for Change Rally - Madison Kohl Center 2/12!

Wisconsin Votes on 2/19.

Before the primary election, take your children to experience history in the making!

Barack Obama will appear tomorrow, Tuesday, February 12th at the Kohl Center. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:15 pm.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Houdini Interactive Exhibit in Appleton


Do your children love magic? My daughter certainly does, and as a result, she loves all things Houdini.

The AKA Houdini interactive tour at the History Museum in Appleton is one of our very favorite adventures! Just as much fun for parents, as for the children.

Learn the tricks of the trade through these hands-on experiences:
  • Pick the locks on handcuffs
  • Balance a wand on your fingertip
  • Lift a "heavy" barbell
  • Experience a seance
  • How long can you stand the cold? experiment
  • Perform the Metamorphosis illusion
  • Escape from a straightjacket
  • Try to reduce your pulse
  • Attempt to perform a break from a jail cell
  • Find out the secret of the milk can escape trick
Admission: $5.00/Adults and $2.50/Children 5-17.
Location: 330 East College Avenue, Appleton

If the weather cooperates, take the walking tour around downtown Appleton to experience more Houdini sites of interest. See the site of Houdini's childhood home, places where he worked, lived and played, and other locations related to his lifelong interest in his hometown. Pick up a map at the Museum.

Find out more at the website here:

Read about the other exhibits and teaching resources on the website, too.

NOTE: Another nearby source of children's fun:
Fox Cities Children's Museum - 100 W College Avenue, Appleton

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

VOTE! Wisconsin's Primary Election - February 19th

24 states head off to vote today on Super Tuesday. Many pollsters indicate that the nominees will not be determined in today's primaries, however. That means that your votes will be *still* be very important two weeks from today!

Wisconsin's primary election will be held on Tuesday, February 19th. This event is offers a fabulous teaching moment. So, when you cast your vote that day make sure to take your children along!

Prior to voting day, there are plenty of ways to teach your children about the electoral process.

On DVD for ages 8 & up:
  • All the President's Men - starring Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman (intrigue)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - starring Jimmy Stewart (humor)
I just watched this video from Nickelodeon with host, Linda Ellerbee. It explains the electoral process in a kid-friendly way, features many kid interviews, and gives a brief overview of the candidates. Run time = 20 minutes.

Watch the Video here:

The library has many election titles for children of all ages. I will be listing some of our favorites on the blog later today.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mardi Gras Celebration - Fat Tuesday at New Orleans Take Out

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5th is the Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday celebration at New Orleans Take Out at their 2 locations in Madison.

The Cajun food at NOTO is always wonderful, but the festive
atmosphere on Fat Tuesday is something that you must experience firsthand.

Take the kids along and teach them the magic request of "Throw me Something, Mister!" and they will be deluged with festive Mardi Gras beads and dubloons.

Menu located here:

Recommendations: Adults - Mardi Gras Combo with a side of cornbread.
Children - Red Beans, Rice and Sausage or any of the Po Boy sandwiches.

Locations: East - 1920 Fordem Avenue & West - 1517 Monroe Street

Hours: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. - VERY limited seating. Buy your food and take it home to eat it!

For dessert, you can *easily* whip up your own "King Cake" for a sweet Mardi Gras treat.

1 can of cinnamon rolls
Colored sugar - Purple, Gold or Yellow, Green
(Make your own colored sugars with 1/4 C sugar and a few drops of food coloring for each color.)

Separate the cinnamon rolls, and roll them out by hand into a hot dog sized snake-like shape. Shape the roll into an oval, pinch the ends together and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake as directed on can.

Spread icing on top of roll, and then alternate the 3 sugar colors on the top of the iced cake. NOTE: Tradition says that you should hide a small (1") plastic baby inside it after it is cooled.

Here's ours from yesterday. Not exactly authentic, but easy, quick & delicious! Happy Mardi Gras!

Friday, February 1, 2008

STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli - Read this book

Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli

Read this book. Have your children read this book. I have rarely been as moved by a children's book, as I was by this one.

By Newbery Medal winner, Jerry Spinelli, it is a tale of a self-named high school girl called "Stargirl."

From an Amazon review, "She was homeschooling gone amok."

Stargirl transfers to Mica High School and immediately intrigues her classmates with her eccentric ways. She wears long, flowing dresses, plays a ukulele at lunchtime, and dances without music. She is a free-spirited individual unconcerned with popularity and conformity.

She is at first adored by her classmates, and then shunned. She must ultimately choose popularity or being true to herself. The story is told through a boy, Leo, who is simultaneously intrigued...and annoyed by Stargirl.

Before the phrase "random acts of kindness" entered our collective societal vocabulary, Stargirl embodied the idea. She has a secret office in which she performs secret niceties for the entire community...but you'll have to read the book to find out the rest!

This book will make your heart will want to perform your own acts of kindness. You will want to embrace your individuality and live more fully and more simply.

Recommended for young adults aged 10-14. After reading it myself, I left a "recommended" note on the book for my 8 year old daughter, who read it the same day at school...and LOVED it. Read it first to decide if your younger child is ready for it.

P.S. Thank you to the Borders employee who recommended this book to my daughter when she was purchasing "Flush" by Carl Hiaasen.