The Dreaded Science Fair

If you have a child in upper elementary grades or jr. high, you have probably faced the dreaded science fair. Listen with us and laugh about this rite of passage.  If your kids are not there yet, listen and learn what NOT to do and WHAT WORKS when helping your child with their science fair project.

San Francisco from the Top

San Francisco: an enchanting city and with a stay at the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill, who wouldn’t be enchanted. We discuss our inter-generational travel to the city by the Bay and how to make it work for every generation along with our exciting adventures.

The City Is the Adventure

You would think that a city without a large amusement park would be the last place to take children.  San Francisco is an amazing place because it is the city itself that provides the amusement.  There is something about it from the hilly streets, cable cars, winding roads, bridges, fog and rain, and of course Nob Hill and the Mark Hopkins hotel that makes this city enjoyable for all generations.  This city holds extra charm for us because it is the city where my mother and I started our journey together–where my mom had lived as a single woman and then taken me as her baby and young daughter to enjoy city life.

During our 3 days in San Francisco, we took in the city’s sites using our San Francisco City Pass. From other shows, you know we are a fan of checking for City Passes that include multiple attractions and rides on local transport services–this was a great deal since it included museums, cable cars, muni-bus service, and a ride on the Blue and Gold Fleet.

The Escape from the Rock cruise around the bay plus Alcatraz was fabulous and well worth the extra money. Alex, who never stays still, listened to the narration intently.  He had read a few books that featured Alcatraz and was surprised to learn that Al Capone was just a short, fat Italian who he never would have recognized as a criminal mastermind. The view of Alcatraz was incredible.  We opted not to go to the island because the climb up is very steep and Grandma would not be able to make it.  Sometimes, with inter-generational travel, you have to make these decisions.

Another thing we are fans of are hop-on hop-off bus tours because they allow you to see the sites in major cities the way you want to in an efficient manner.  The City Sight Seeing San Francisco double decker bus was just perfect for this.  We opted for the 4-tour pack but only were able to do two of the tours–the downtown loop and Golden Gate to Sausalito. It was still a bargain and I would do it again (we ran out of time and it was raining in the evening so the night tour would not have been that much fun). The tour guides on both were lively and entertaining with great stories and information to help.

Because the weather can be very unpredictable in San Francisco and we dealt with a great amount of rain while we were there (houses in the city were flooding), we had to plan around it a bit. Remember to bring rain gear and warm clothes even in the summer.  The sweat shirt shops do huge business in July when tourists expect summer temps and get rain and cold.

We also enjoyed walking through Chinatown and going to the Chinatown Kite Shop.  Alex bought a Dragon Kite that we have since found is impossible for him to fly (the woman at the store was very knowledgeable and tried to help him find a kite that was easy to fly but he chose looks over function and how we have a nice kite hanging in his room).  We went to Japantown as well, but it is not comparable to Chinatown in size.  We did get some great Bento Lunchbox items and Origami papers there though.

Being in the city itself is the fun.  We rode the cable cars up and down California Avenue enjoying the feel of the wind in our faces and the fun of the ride.  Our HUGE tip is do not wait in line at Fisherman’s Wharf for the cable car ride–you can wait up to 2 hours to ride a cable car if you do on any of the three lines.  Walk, drive or take public transportation to any where down to the middle or other end one of the three lines and you can get right on.  At the end of the California line, there were only 10 passengers boarding and we got to take pictures while the gripman took a quick break.

Even though the city itself is the attraction, we did go to two museums: the Cable Car Museum and the Exploratorium. The Cable Car Museum sits on Nob Hill and can be accessed by the California line or the Powell-Mason line. It is the actual working hub of the cable car system and allows you to see how the cables run through the city and what employees need to do to keep the cars running.  It is incredibly educational and fun, especially after a few rides on the cable cars.  We left Grandma behind for this museum because the trek from the California line was too steep for her.  However, we could have taken her on the Powell-Mason line which drops you off right in front of the museum.

The Exploratorium is a uniquely educational and fun museum for kids and parents. It is filled with experiments and displays that, if the time is taken, can teach principles of science, physics, geology, meteorology and more.  My kids were less interested in active learning and opted for the “let’s have fun” approach and just played in the Exploratorium.  That has its value too.  Mom and Grandma got some needed time to relax while the kids entertained themselves. The Exploratorium is included in the San Francisco City Pass and the pass even gets you past the very long line to get in–you go to a separate window and get right in–a real plus for us since we were there on a day where the line had over 100 people waiting in it.  If you are taking the Golden Gate to Sausalito hop-on hop-off bus tour, you can stop at the Exploratorium before going to Golden Gate. Even though parking at this museum is free, it is difficult so if you have the tour, use it first as transportation to the museum and then join a tour a few hours later to go across the Golden Gate Bridge. Tip: The food at the Exploratorium is great.  Like most food in the Bay area, it is a step up from the common fare at museums.  We had the hand-tossed pizza and nachos which used REAL cheese and not sauce. It was very delicious.

Reaching the Top

The most enchanting part of our entire stay in San Francisco was the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill.  I cannot say enough about this hotel.  People may shy away from it because of its prestige and location, but it is a fabulous family destination.  The service is incredible and the hotel is enchanting.  My kids ask everyday if they can go back to the Mark Hopkins again.  When we made our reservations, the staff asked the ages of our party members and if any members of our party had any special needs.  When we arrived, there were cookies and milk in our room for our kids and even a plate of gluten free cookies for me (WHOOO HOOOO!) The pastry chef at the Mark Hopkins has to be a cookie fairy.  These were the best cookies ever.  My kids and Grandma ate cookies day and night.

We had asked for a room that accommodated roll-away beds if possible–a rarity in a city hotel because the rooms are generally quite small. When we arrived and were shown our room, the manager called up and said that he was afraid that our room was too small for a roll-away but that he could move us to a room where one was available.  We agreed and the staff moved our luggage while we were at dinner.  When we arrived at our new hotel room, we found that we had been moved to a room on the 16th floor that looked exactly the same as our other room with one exception–it had a sun room where the staff had placed a roll-away bed with a teddy bear on it!  We had a 3/4 view of San Francisco to enjoy as well.  My son thoroughly enjoyed his stay in the sun room and did not want to leave.  The magic of older hotels is that there are small gems like this room tucked away in them.  We are so lucky we got to experience it.  After one of the staff told us that we were staying on one of the floors where the Saudi princes stay when they come, we had fun imagining who might have stayed in the room we were in.

The Mark Hopkins is truly a luxurious hotel but is also very accessible for families.  We met a family earlier in our travels (see our show on Monterey) and they were also staying at the Mark Hopkins.  The rack room rate is very reasonable and the rooms are quite luxurious.  Of course, the hotel has a wonderful set of suites if you need the extra space and have the money to spend.  These are very luxurious and include rooms that bring the charm of old San Francisco with a feel of staying in a library to a modern suite that feels like an apartment for a hip DotCom mogul.  But, you don’t have to splurge to take advantage of the amazing staff (that is the REAL difference in a good hotel and an amazing hotel).  The staff treated us like royalty.  They parked our Hundai rental car right next to a Rolls Royce and a Lexus happily and were there to open doors, give advice, and make our stay amazing.

The Mark Hopkins has a famous restaurant called the Top of the Mark.  It is a great place to have tea with the kids and enjoy the amazing view of the city.  It is one of the highest points in the city and the view cannot be matched.  The Top of the Mark has been the sight of many impressive parties and was a true in-spot in the 1960s.  In her younger days, my mom met Liberace at the Top of the Mark.

One option the hotel offers that I would suggest is the Club Intercontinental Lounge.  If you are not a member, you can purchase a membership while you are staying at the hotel.  Located on the Lobby floor, the Club offers 5 food and beverage services a day including a spectacular continental breakfast with smoked salmon, cheese, cold cuts, cereal, yogurt, fruit, pastries and much more. Grandma and the kids LOVED the last service called Sweet Dreams because they served their favorite cookies which we cannot say enough about! The food services are also very convenient if you are dropping in to the hotel during your activities.  The kids were able to get a soda and some fruit in between sight seeing and riding the cable car.  We were in no rush and did not have to sit with other diners while we just had a quick sip and then were off again.  It is a perfect option with kids who need to eat frequently but don’t eat too much each time.  As we enjoyed ourselves, we could hear the cable car bell outside which added to the charm. The Club also includes a game area where families can play games in the evening as well as a tv with DVDs and a Office area with computers, internet, printers and so forth needed to make travel plans easily. Members are also enjoy a later check out time–2pm–and a guest relations staff member there to help arrange anything needed.

My heart and the hearts of my children have been left in this beautiful city. They ask daily if we can return to the Mark Hopkins and to the wonderful city of San Francisco. The trip was a magical experience for all generations with my mom and I reliving our past experiences while making new memories with my children.  San Francisco is a place we will return to again and again.

Introducing Kids to Other Cultures

We discuss ways to introduce your child to other cultures.  It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t need to involve lengthy travel.  It might surprise you the resources you have in your own community or on the internet to introduce your child to the greater world around her.  Festivals, ceremonies, religious centers as well as neighbors and friends can be a great way to learn more about other cultures and traditions and help raise a wel-rounded individual who thinks about more than baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet (even though there is nothing wrong with those things too)!

Part 2: Signing Explosion-How Easy is It?

Kathy Irving and  Nancy (author of Baby Signing 1, 2, 3) continue their discussion and explain what it takes to sign with your child and the benefits that come from it.  With her background working with hearing impaired children, Kathy is uniquely qualified to explain what is going on with her daughter and other kids who are lucky enough to sign with their parents. This is Part 2 of a 2 Part discussion requested by listeners.

Baby Signing 1, 2, 3 is available in bookstores, on Amazon or from SignBabies.com.  You can even purchase a Kindle version from Amazon.com and from iTunes for the iPad.

Preparing Kids for Historic Travel

Whether you are traveling to historic places like D.C. or just visiting the local historic locations, a bit of preparation can help your children really absorb and enjoy the history they will see.  We share insights and tips on what to do to prepare: things like reading historic fiction, watching documentaries, discussing family stories, sharing pictures of you as a child in those places and many more tips help bring historic travel to life for kids and give them mental hooks they can hang their experience on to savor for years.

Fostering Animals

Thinking about getting a cat or dog but not sure you want the long term commitment?  Fostering animals might be the option for you. Shelly has been fostering kittens and she introduces us to the idea with two experts from No More Homeless Pets: Ashley Wing and Verral May. Ashley works for No More Homeless Pets and Verrel volunteer with No More Homeless Pets, as well as many other animal rescue groups and has rescued over 1500 dogs and cats.

If you are looking to foster or adopt an animal, check out these sites:

When Bright Kids Can’t Learn

We talk to Dr. John Heath, author of When Bright Kids Can’t Learn to discover the research into training the brain to learn better and how it can help your child succeed in school and overcome small and large learning problems like forgetfulness or dyslexia.

Suzuki Music Lessons–What are They?

TruAnn Boulter, Suzuki violin teacher, discusses what the Suzuki method is and how it might work for you and your children interested in taking music lessons. Suzuki uses the Mother Tongue approach.  Learn what this is.

If you are looking for a Suzuki teacher, check out the Suzuki Association www.suzukiassociation.org. If you are in Utah, you can check the Utah site at www.suzukimusicutah.org/.

Getting Your Child Ready for His Senior Year

Your child’s senior year can be much more daunting for both of you thank you both expect. Learn from Stacey and Shelly the things you need to do to prepare WAY in advance.   Learn the things you want to do in the sophomore and junior years to be prepared and what you need to expect in the senior year and beyond!

When Your Child has an Issue with a Teacher

We discuss what to do when you find that your child has some issue with a teacher–perceived or real and how to approach the teacher and deal with the situation.  As mothers of 14 school-aged children, we have had experiences that you can use to deal with questions that come up when dealing with your children and their teachers.

Can Hypnotherapy Help You?

We’ve all seen the shows where a hypnotist makes a guy cluck like a chicken, but can hypnosis help you?  Licensed Therapist and Hypnotherapist Shanna Gwilliam tells us what hypnotherapy can do to help you overcome defeating thought processes you have and help you conqueror your fears.  Maybe you sabotage your own weight loss, feel like you can’t get that new job, or feel inadequate as a wife and mother.

Disney YES is a Dream Come True

We’ve done a show on Disney YES and here is a video of our experience of the program! It was a hit once Alex woke up and realized that school at Disney would be fun! Our teacher Tabia was incredibly energetic and happy while still teaching the kids great info. Tabia taught the kids about the first 18 presidents of the US and the challenges they faced creating the nation, keeping it together, and then expanding it West. We were allowed behind the scenes at the Hall of Presidents where we got to meet the presidents up close and personal–you could see every hair on the heads of their animatronic doubles. We also rode Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain before the park opened to other visitors–I really appreciated that later in the day when the wait was 60 minutes (I thought WDW was supposed to NOT be crowded in October)!

NOTE: The YES Program only recently opened to individual students and their families and is only available on select days but you should check and see if your dates coincide with YES programs because your school-aged kids 6 and older get an exciting experience in the park behind the scenes (along with a chaperon) and your entire family gets discounted park tickets (our discount was 50% off the regular ticket price—an incredible savings). Fore more information, check out their website at http://www.disneyyouth.com/individual-enrollment/ and check out my podcast where I interview the YES Marketing Director about the program and learn more details at http://www.themompodcast.com/2010/10/03/educational-opportunities-and-disney/

Reading Program Gets the Squeal!

Over the past few months, Anna and I have been using an excellent educational program that covers the beginning reading skills, alphabet, basic science, math and much more.  It is called Rusty and Rosy and was created by Waterford Institute–a respected leader in educational materials for schools and home schools.

Rusty and Rosy is not your run-of-the-mill software program that tries to teach children while mostly just entertaining them.  Believe me, we have tried several of those programs in our house and they were never worth the price I paid for them–even when I paid very little. I first learned about Rusty and Rosy because my son was using it in his first grade class during computer time.  He would come home and tell me what he had done and learned.  He was very excited.

When my daughter had a problem with preschool and we decided to bring her home (she calls herself a Preschool Dropout), I wanted to still find a way to get her ready for Kindergarten.  That is when I remembered my son’s experience with Rusty and Rosy and looked to see if the program was available to parents.

I wasn’t prepared for how excellent the program would be and how much my daughter would enjoy it.  We got our Rusty and Rosy drive and hooked it up to our computer.  The drive contains all the lessons and materials for 3 years of reading learning.  Once you hook it up to your computer and create an account online, Rusty and Rosy also has the ability to adjust to the skills your child already has and customize learning from the resources on the hard drive. Continue reading “Reading Program Gets the Squeal!”

Teaching Preschoolers Joy with Joy School

Not found a preschool yet or looking for something more than the ABCs?  Want your child to be emotionally ready for school? Nationally acclaimed author Linda Eyre discusses how to teach children joy using the Joy School program.  Both Stacey and Nancy have had children in Joy School and found it to be an amazing experience.  Learn why!

AND–We were nominated for the Best of Salt Lake 2010 as the Best Resource for info for Moms!  Whooo Hooo!

For more information on Joy School, go to JoySchools.com and for more on Values Parenting programs, go to ValuesParenting.com.

Ideas for Lunches

We share ideas for how to make nutritious lunches your kids will eat and not throw away as well as ways to keep the environment healthy with less lunch waste including green alternatives to lunch bags and juice boxes as well as fun ways to make your kids interested in lunch!

Great containers we LOVE:

Lunchskins: Reusable sandwich and snack bags made from cute pastry bag fabrics–they saved more than 12 million plastic bags from being in landfills last year.    These can be washed in the dish washer or washing machine.

Other options are available from people on Etsy, but they may not be made of food grade materials.

KlipIt by Sistema: A cool container that holds a sandwich in one place and two sides in the other side.  Available at The Container Store or in Old Navy stores for a limited time.  They also make other cool containers you will want to check out.

Recycled Sandwich Wrap (Original idea from Family Fun)

  1. Find a sturdy food grade bag (Large cereal bags, candy bags, cracker bags, Pirate’s Booty bag).  The best bags are thick and have some silver lining in them–or they may be completely silver like the cereal bags inside the Costco Kirkland brand cereal boxes.
  2. Cut the bottom from the bag, open the side seam, and clean the bag.
  3. Cut it into a 10 or 12-inch square.
  4. Attach self-adhesive hook-and-loop dots at two opposite corners of the square, one on the front and the other on the back of the bag.

Love Notes for the Lunch Box:

You can write your own notes for your kids lunches, get some online, or get these totally cute ones with great kid-fun facts along with your note.  We like “Did you Know that a Turtle breathes through is Butt?  OThey are called Lunchbox Love by SayPlease.com.

Ideas for Great Lunches:

Remember to think power snack instead of full lunch since they don’t have time to eat a large meal.

  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Bagel sandwich
  • Rollup with cucumber, bell pepper and salad dressing
  • Tortilla, spread with PB, wrapped around a banana—can add a drizzle of honey
  • Tuna salad and crackers
  • Quesadilla (just cheese, or add some ground beef) serve with salsa
  • Hard boiled egg, roll, fruit or veggie
  • Fruit smoothie: I love this trick—make several smoothies, freeze in 8 oz containers and pop them in your child’s lunch. They will defrost and be ready to stir or spoon up by lunch
  • Cold pizza
  • Baked chips (whole grain/healthy versions)—dips or sauces if you like
  • Pretzel, cheese stick, apple/grapes
  • Crackers, lunchmeat, cheese (homemade lunchable)
  • Waffle
  • Plain tortilla (dip in salsa or spaghetti sauce—or nothing)
  • Bagel (loads of different flavors), apple
  • Granola bar and a piece of fruit or a vegetable
  • Muffins and a fruit smoothie
  • Soup in a thermos
  • Pasta. Fun bite sized shapes. Toss with parmesan cheese, include some sauce to dip it in. Eat like chicken nuggets!
  • Dry cereal (not the sugary stuff—how did that EVER make it to our breakfast tables?)
  • Biscuits and jam, stick the two sides together.
  • Cookies: make with smashed beans instead of butter, applesauce for half the sugar, add raisens and nuts. Keep in freezer)

If they have a microwave:

  • left over dinner
  • Macaroni and cheese (add a little milk in the container so it won’t be dry when reheated)
  • Soup (homemade or from a can)
  • Pizza

Sides:

  • Nuts
  • Cheese sticks/slices
  • Snap peas
  • Canned fruit
  • Carrot sticks
  • Dried apples
  • Broccoli and ranch
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Bell pepper slices

DRINK:

Water. Really. No fruit drinks. It is a lot of money and they really need to rehydrate with some good old water.  Check out the Kleen Kanteen or the SubZero Stainless steel containers instead of the plastic ones.

Cowboy Cookies (with healthy alternatives)

1 c butter OR 1 cup mashed white beans
*1 c sugar
*1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla or 1/2 t almond extract
**2 c flour
**2 c oatmeal
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c chocolate chips

Mix butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla or almond extract.  Add dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.  Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes.

* You can decrease the sugar or alter with sugar substitutes. If using agave, you will need to increase the flour and oatmeal until the batter is not too runny.

**For Gluten Free cookies, use gluten free flour, xanthum gum and gluten free oatmeal.  Follow the instructions on your gluten free flour for quantities.  I found that I had to add another 1/3 c to the recipe to make it work.

If you use beans instead of butter, you are created a “perfect protein” mix with the oatmeal.  My kids could not taste the difference in the cookies and I felt less guilty about giving them something tasty.

I make a separate batch for me and lessen the sugar, use agave or xylitol and add some protein powder to make a protein cookie.

The Cost of a Free Education

Free education might not be so free when you see the fees and other things you may be required to pay for your child in public schools.  Shelly shares tips on how to deal with this expense which all seems to hit at the same time.  We also chat about the new little bag we found and love–the Lilly May Bag. Check it out at www.lillymaebags.com

Book Clubs for Boys Only

Boys sometimes have a harder time getting interested in books.  One way to solve that is to start a book club for boys only. Laura Blum, mother of 4 and reading advocate, discusses how she turned her reluctant readers into great readers and how you can too!

Check out her site and some great ideas at http://bookclub4boysinfo.blogspot.com/2008/12/start-book-club-for-your-boy.html

UPDATE:  Nancy’s son and his friends met for the first Boys Only Book Club and about 50% of the kids showed up, but they had fun and Barnes and Noble was very accommodating to help them choose books.  They chose Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians.  They will be meeting every 3 weeks over the summer to get them interested in reading.  They also joined the Barnes and Noble reading plan, the Borders reading plan and a local library reading plan that all give freebies to kids who read.