Christine Park

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What to Do with the Kids during Thanksgiving Break?

Any mom will tell you, sometimes it feels like the kids are off school way too often. Since when is the day after Halloween a holiday??? From what I recall, when I was an elementary school student, I used to only get Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving week. But my kids now have the whole week. Which presents the dilemma: What to do with the kids during Thanksgiving break?

So this week, I found myself scrambling (I'm not the kind of Supermom who plans ahead for these things). I do have my mom -- who kindly offers to help watch my children. But for the sake of her sanity and the kids', I started looking for mini camps.

To my surprise, there are a ton of options. The Chaffee Zoo has Zoo Adventures. The options run from "Cubby Camp" (Ages 3-5), "Adventure Camp" (5-11), "Young Naturalist" (11-17) all the way up to "Shadow a Keeper" (Ages 14-17). It's not cheap, costing anywhere from $36-$57 per day. But the kids love the program, which promotes understanding of animals and nature through live animal interactions, animal observations, games, arts & crafts, and many other exciting activities.

The Little Gym in Northeast Fresno has Adventures of T-Rex camp next Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 9am to Noon. The kids will get to run, jump and climb to the point of exhaustion! Call for rates and reservations.

The Young Chef's Academy in Northeast Fresno has the Turkey Break Kids' Cooking Camp next Monday through Wednesday from 9am to Noon. You can register for all 3 days or 1 day ($110 for all 3 days, $45 per day). The kids learn the basics of cooking and kitchen safety and get to eat all of their creations.

Skywalk, the trampoline arena, has bouncing times open all next week, divided by age groups (that way the little ones aren't run over by the big kids). Reservations aren't required but encouraged.

There are some great kid movies out right now too. I'd highly recommend Disney's Wreck-It Ralph and Brave just came out on DVD.

Any more suggestions for keeping kids busy? Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Letters to Santa are Going Digital

Today my 6-year-old daughter excitedly asked if she could start on her Christmas wish list for Santa. From the sounds of it, she's got some pretty specific things in mind. She just asked me how to spell "heels." Hmmmm. I may have to screen some of these to make sure they're age appropriate! LOL But I love that she's partaking in this cherished childhood tradition. I think letter-writing is a lost art, so I encourage her to put pen to paper whenever possible. I just took a peek, and the list is adorable, slanting to the right, with surprisingly no misspellings, and includes Rapunzel high heels, new earrings, and a karaoke machine. She is her mother's daughter.
She also plans on decorating it with pictures and stickers, which we will then send on to Santa. What an awesome addition to her scrapbook. Something fun for her to look back on when she's a full-fledged diva instead of a diva-in-training. So you can imagine my reluctance at the thought of forgoing the traditional letter to Santa for a digital wishlist. I ran across this article in which the author's kids compile their lists strictly online, whether on Amazon or Toys R Us, just to name a few. But as an adult with my own Amazon wishlist, I can clearly see the benefits. Generous but directionless friends and relatives no longer have to guess. This cuts down on my time spent returning stuff. And the recipient gets exactly what he/she wants. It's a win-win.

Obviously individual stores each have their own gift registry. But you'll often find one store doesn't usually carry everything you want. The online retailer that comes closest is Amazon. For the items you want, you select "Add to Wish List" instead of add to cart. Once you open your wish list on Amazon, you can add a priority to the item (highest, high, medium, etc.). Gift-givers can search for a wish list based on name or e-mail address. Amazon's selection of  toys and electronics is great. Their clothes and jewelry not so much. 

That's where Wishpot comes in -- a free online wishlist that lets you compile a list from anywhere, not just one store. I haven't used it yet but here's the review from USA Today: 
Clicking on the Wishpot icon brings up a window pre-filled with the product's name, price, image and link. You can edit these and then select the wish list you want to add the item to, the recipient's name, number needed, tags, notes and a priority level. For some items and retailers, you can also choose to be alerted if the price drops or deals on the item come up from other retailers.
For those buying from your wish list, they can sort by price, date added and whether an item is available. And if they buy an item, they can indicate that they've purchased it so you don't end up with duplicates.

Tallwish is another free online wishlist that lets you share lists. USA Today says a fun feature is the collaboration:
You can add items secretly to other people's wish lists so family members can collaborate on ideas. The name of the person suggesting the item appears next to it. And when an item is purchased others in the group can see, but the wish list owner isn't notified, so gifts can remain a surprise. It's a little bare bones, though, when it comes to adding items; there is no tool-bar add-on and you can only manually enter the item name, link and priority level. 
Wishlistr and Wantsthis are also similar services.

If the kiddos are young enough to try to keep the magic of Santa alive, Macy's has a cute letter-writing feature on its website. Toys R Us also has help to write a Letter to Santa. And by far, the best personalized Santa video is at PNP, short for Portable North Pole. Last year, the kids watched, mouths open, as Santa called them by name, talked about where they lived, and all sorts of other customizable details. 
Regardless, I know it's still early, but I'm starting to get excited for the most wonderful time of year. Christmas was already my favorite holiday, but having kids just took it to another level of fun. Do you have any special traditions involving your Santa letters?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are you ready for the breastfeeding baby doll?

You may have heard about this doll by now... so much controversy has been swirling around the Breast Milk Baby already... the breastfeeding doll whose suckling sounds are prompted by sensors sewn into a halter top that little girls wear.

Well now... it's 50% off... down from $89 to $44.50 just in time for the holiday season.

I first heard about it back in March when we here at Action News ran this story. And when the toy hit store shelves here in the U.S... the outcry was immediate. "I just want the kids to be kids," Bill O'Reilly said on his Fox News show when he learned of the Breast Milk Baby. "And this kind of stuff. We don't need this."

But in this Huffington Post article, Dennis Lewis, the U.S. representative for Berjuan Toys, the family-owned, 40-year-old doll maker in Spain says, "We've had a lot of support from lots of breastfeeding organizations, lots of mothers, lots of educators," and he can't understand why it's been so difficult to get the dolls onto mainstream shelves more than a year after introducing the line in this country.   As a mother of a little girl, I'm honestly not sure what to think. On one hand, I embraced breastfeeding with both of my children, and advocate it to any new mom who will listen. So a doll like this would encourage girls to grow up thinking breastfeeding is normal and natural. But I also feel like breastfeeding is an adult function of our bodies, and don't necessarily think it's age-appropriate for young girls to be imitating that behavior. Sure we think it's cute when our daughters "cook" in their play kitchens and "vaccuum" their rooms... and even "bottle-,feed" their babies... but for some reason, there's something a little disturbing about my 6-year-old "nursing" her doll.  
This reminds me of my daughter Sydney. One day, not too long after my son was born, I came home from work to find Sydney sticking out her chest and proclaiming she was, "Just like mommy!" My 3-year-old had inserted teacups into her shirt and called them "nipples" so she could feed her babies. I wanted to laugh, but she was so proud of herself. Obviously she had seen me breastfeeding her little brother, and like many little girls, wanted to imitate her mommy. Little did I know there was a doll that did just that. She's since outgrown the baby doll phase, but I'm still pondering... would any of you buy this doll for your daughter?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Freebies

Voting is a right and a privilege... and if you do vote today... you can have your cake and eat it too!

One of my favorite Fresno cupcake places Frosted Cakery just posted in a Facebook update: show your "I Voted" sticker to receive a FREE I Voted Mini Cupcake from Frosted Cakery! They'll be open until 8, when polls close. For those absentee voters, including myself, who didn't get a sticker, the owner says: "if you have a stub or anything that shows you voted we will accept it!"

Apparently several other companies want to provide incentive for Americans to exercise their civic duty as well. Boston Market, Blockbuster, and Starbucks are all giving out freebies on this Election Day. For details, you can go to the Election Day Freebies website. Happy Voting!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Trader Joe's Obession

So I know I'm late to the party, but I'm starting to understand shoppers' fanaticism over Trader Joe's products. There's one down the street from my house but I rarely went. Aside from their hummus and "Two Buck Chuck" wine, I figured I wasn't missing much. I didn't know how wrong I was

But then I tried their Belgian Waffles. And I saw the light. I've never had a lighter, crispier, more delicious store-bought waffle. $1.99 gets you a box of four. 50 cents for a piece of breakfast heaven. The only other place that comes close is a local breakfast joint I frequent here in Fresno, and only if I specifically ask them to make it extra crispy.

So now I'm that person, who fills up her cart with four boxes at a time. I've even resorted to stalking the store when they're out. It was a miserable waffle-less month for me. So my kids were forced to eat Eggos... which forced me to find another delicious breakfast options from... Trader Joe's, of course: Frozen Chocolate Croissants! Huffington Post family blogger Julie Tilsner even blogged about these puppies. Her experience pretty much sums up mine.

WOW.  Possibly the flakiest, tastiest, butteriest, chocolatiest croissant I've ever had. So flaky, you'll be wearing it all over your clothes after breakfast. As the box suggests, there's some forethought involved. You need to put them on a baking sheet the night before to let them rise, then stick them in the oven for 20 minutes the next day. While getting the kids ready, the house fills with THAT smell... you'll swear you've been transported to a little cafe in Paris. They have 18 grams of fat  IN EACH CROISSANT---but who cares when you're nibbling on such a delicious morsel?

Then there's their $3.99 tub of Fat Free Frozen Vanilla Greek Yogurt. My family lives off of smoothies for our morning serving of fruit... a scoop of this in the blender adds the creaminess without the fat. Plus we're getting some of that protein that greek yogurt is praised for.

My obsession isn't limited to just their breakfast options. It's just that with two school-aged kids and two working parents, I'm always on the lookout for fast and tasty morning shortcuts. But Trader Joe's fans are well aware of their other cult favorites like their seasonal offerings... including pumpkin flavored everything... from pumpkin pancake mix to pumpkin butter.

But as a Korean American... I'm also always on the lookout for Korean food shortcuts. I swear someone at Trader Joe's has got to be a brother from another mother. Not only do that have edamame, bulgogi and kimchi fried rice but they've also got wasabi flavored seaweed! I lived off of roasted seaweed snacks in college. A 99 cent pack plus some sticky rice = a meal for a poor student sick of ramen. And now one of my favorite Korean snacks comes with a kick of wasabi. I'm smitten.

Anyhow, for those of you reading this who are already TJ shoppers, none of this is news to you. So thanks for indulging all my newfound wonder. You're all just nodding your heads knowingly... because you've all gone through this falling in love stage. I'd love to hear about your favorites you can't live without. I'll see you in the aisles, reusable bags in hand.