Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I Learned from the Oral Reports

By my 4th grader. He's going to get in trouble for being such a smart ass as soon as I am sure that I'll be able to keep a straight face while delivering my lecture  -

George Washington had elephant tusk teeth

Winston Churchill was in World War 1

Emily Dickinson existed

Vasco De Gama conquered Asia

J K Rowling is still alive

George Washington battled Indians

Davy Crockett died from a bullet

George Lucas is still alive

JFK joined the Navy

Tomas Edison invented the light bulb

Anne Frank had a diary

William Shakespeare is not still alive

Albert Einstein made the nuke

Tea By The Sea at The Getty Villa

Beginning this Thursday, December 2 and running every Thursday through October 27, 2011 The Getty Villa in Malibu will be offering "Tea by the Sea."  The idea of offering a special tea was inspired by the herbs, vegetables and fruits that grow in the villa's  re-created first-century Roman gardens.  A sample menu includes a basket of scones and tea breads, tea sandwiches with a Roman flair (grilled bocconcini with olive vinaigrette) cheeses, carrot cake and a berry tart.  Doesn't that sound lovely? The tea is priced at $36 a person and tickets must be purchased when making your Getty Villa reservations.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Very Best Children's Books ON SALE

Don't miss Barefoot Books     post Thanksgiving sale. Everything on the site is %20 off through midnight, Nov 29th.  Plus - if you spend $60 or more you get free shipping.

Mulit-Award winning Barefoot Books has something for everyone.  From colorful board books for  babies to beautiful collections of stories from around the world for older children (and adults) the company makes some of the best books on my boys' shelves.   

Barefoot has a huge selection of books with story cds (don't miss my favorite, Huge Lupton) to listen to in the car or before bed on those nights you are just too tired too read. And here's a former teacher's tip - you can use Children's books to help your older child.  Got somebody working on The Odyssey (and maybe struggling a little?)

Barefoot has a FANTASTIC book and CD set that's great for the whole family to listen to (maybe in the car?) AND help your child get the groundwork for the study of the harder text.

Do you have a beginning Spanish student  and a younger child at home? Barefoot has a big selection of Spanish books that the beginning Spanish student can read to the younger sibling and nobody has to know how smart mom is.

But little tricks aside - when it come right down to it you need to know about this small, independent. woman-owned Barefoot Books simply because they make the most beautiful children's books available.  Click here to browse some of my favorites, then enjoy the rest of the web site.  You can find free craft downloads here too, to go with your new books.  The SALE runs through tomorrow night. Free shipping for orders over $60.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gratitude Turkey

If you are hosting a big Thanksgiving, one that includes children, right about now you may be thinking something like - "what the heck am I going to do with all these kids?"

Here is a project I do with my kids every year.  It takes a little easy prep - all cutting - and it goes most easily (i.e. lasts more than 2 seconds) if there is a willing teenager or non- cooking adult to dedicate herself to the project and the kids - a child-free friend, an aunt, a sister.  You might even have a man willing to sit down for half an hour and help make gratitude turkeys. If you do, put his name on a big feather and stick it on a turkey of your own.

 Materials - Various colors of construction paper, scissors & glue. That's it.

Cut out turkey shapes - I do this free hand and you can too.  Cut out several different colors and sizes of "feathers."

Using about half the feathers, write a single word - puppies, chocolate, mom & dad, my dolls, my teacher etc. on each. Be sure not to get carried away and use all the feathers - only do enough feathers to get everybody started.   Having the kids connect to, and write down,  what they are actually grateful for is the point.

Glue the feathers to the back of your turkey in a fan design. That's it.  Don't get fancy or particular about the shape. I would so much rather see my son's turkey (below) with crazy layers of grateful feathers than see a perfect turkey (Impossible anyway because, as I said, I cut the bird bodies free-form and the results, as you can see, are more love than they are Martha Stewart). If you must have a turkey pattern click here for a nice one.

A suggestion - try not to get too particular about the things they choose to be grateful for.  Young children will often write "my teacher" or "mom and dad."  Tender, happy sigh.  BUT when they get a little older they may be much more likely to write "My  BFFs" or "My Wii."  We once had a young guest who said he was grateful for his b.b.gun. At the time ( ah, fond memories)  I was still running a "no guns" house and this was not the spirit I had in mind for the gratitude turkey at all.  I said nothing but I'm afraid I looked disapproving. Today I wouldn't budge, at least on the outside, if a kid said he was grateful for Call of Duty 4.   Genuine gratitude is the point and if Call of Duty 4 makes some kid happy, well, have at it.  And, no, my boys. The last sentence does not mean you should put it on your Christmas list.  I am so grateful to have wonderful children over whom I still exert a large measure of control!

You can lay the turkeys out on the kids table as decorations (we put them in our Pilgrim boat which you can see on the smaller table in the back.)

 Later, visiting children can take them home as favors.  Be sure to hang on to any your own children make.  You will treasure them.  And, if you are a guest this year, why not take along a bag of gratitude turkey materials all ready to go?  One more reason for your hosts to be grateful for your presence. 

Happy, happy Thanksgiving Dear Readers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Los Angeles Holiday Ice Rinks

The ice rinks are opening! This is one of the city's greatest holiday pleasures. You can put on your mittens and feel a little wintery but it never gets too cold.

ICE at Santa Monica opened on November 5th and runs through February 15th 201. The rink is located at 5th St. and Arizona Ave. in Santa Monica.
Hours are:
Mon-Thurs noon - 10
Friday noon- midnight
Saturday 10 - midnight
Sunday 10 - 10

Cost to skate is $10 which includes skate rentals but be aware that it's $10 to skate even if you bring your own skates Available skate sizes: kids 10-4 and Adults 5 - 13
For complete ICE at Santa Monica information click here 

Pershing Square Downtown On Ice opens today, November 18th, and runs through January 17, 2011.
Mon - Thurs 12 - 10
Friday - Sunday 10 - 10
You skate here in 1 hour sessions. Each session costs $6 and skate rentals are $2
Click here for a complete schedule and other information.

The rink is available for private rentals should you be looking for a place to have a Holiday Party.  Exclusive use of the rink runs $1.500 for 1 and 1/2 hours, $2.500 for 2.5 and $3.500 for 3 and 1/2 hours. The entire facility (includes canopies, tables, chairs, rentals) is available for $3500 for 2 hours and $5000 for 3 hours.

Even if you don't want to skate, or you just want to sit and watch while your kids go 'round and 'round, Pershing Square is a great place to get into the Holiday Spirit. I don't know about you, but I can hardly believe it's almost Thanksgiving. I'm afraid if I don't take myself somewhere that will make me realize - Hey! It's the holidays! I'm going to feel like they passed me right by.  A weekend afternoon sitting by an outdoor ice rink is just what I need.

A series of  FREE concerts are happening throughout the holiday season - click here for a complete schedule.

 A Menorah Lighting with blessings and song is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec 1st (exact time not currently listed, I'll keep trying to get it) 

The Winter Holiday Festival happens the weekend of December 11th & 12th from noon to 6pm.

And Holiday Caroling is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 21st from 8 - 9

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Greens Up! Fresh and Fast on Montana

Today, in honor of National Fast Food Day, I give you - salad. Oh come on, what did you expect? I'm a westside L A  mother. What am I supposed to do? Confess how much I love the grilled cheese from In- N- Out burger (everything on the bun but the burger. It's good... oh, it's so good...) Tell you that there really is no faster lunch than the pint of ice cream you can eat while driving to early pick up? I'm not going to do that (but, just in case, make sure you find a trash can before you get your kid because he will start sniffing around like a dog and know in a matter of moments that the remains of a pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream are in the car even though you have closed the empty container, placed it in a bag and tied the bag closed before shoving it under the seat. Then you will have to explain yourself.)  But, if it's not that kind of day and you want something fast and good for you look no further than the recently opened Greens UP! on Montana Ave in Santa Monica.

Greens Up offers a selection of chef created salads or you can pick your own combination.  For $6.95 you start with one of 4 greens (you can also mix them up), add up to 4 toppings and pick a dressing. If you want more toppings you can add them for an additional charge - .50 for basics, $1 or $1.50 for cheeses and up to $2 for chicken, turkey, tuna and avocado. I had spring greens with chick peas, beets, kidney beans, dates, avocado, cucumber and goat cheese ( I was hungry) and topped it with the tangy apple vinaigrette. Plenty of really good, fresh food for around $12.   They have nice drinks too, with a yummy selection of iced teas from the iced tea bar.  Service is friendly and fast. But, though you might be in a hurry,  stop a moment to listen to whatever music is playing. Greens Up! plays only unsigned bands and lists the featured artists on a board.

Greens Up!
703 Montana Ave. between Lincoln and 7th.
Santa Monica
310 394- 1111

Online ordering is available
Delivery is available through City Food LA

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitty, kitty!

Sanrio, the home of Hello Kitty and all her pink glory, is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a 10 day bash that opens today at the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport.  The event includes an arcade, a ferris wheel, food trucks, art displays, workshops and several parties -  an "I heart nerds"party tomorrow night and a retro 80s prom party on Saturday the 20th.
Insert tiny, kitty like sigh here -  possibly when they were little, but my boys are 10 and 12 and there is almost no way I could get them to go here with me. Maybe if I emphasize the word "arcade?" But then as soon as they see there isn't any game called "Blast The Kitty - The Final Conflict" it will all be over. Somebody please go to this and tell me all about it!

For a complete schedule click here.
For workshop availability and other ticket information click here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

School Lunch - what's an L A parent to do?

Jamie Oliver, the British chef, restaurateur and TV food darling, is moving production of his show, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, to Los Angeles.  I am mad about this guy.  What's not to love? He's a beer drinking, child-rearing, food loving, messy-haired, socially committed bad boy with a heart at least partially made of gold who cooks and uses his voice to help others.  And now he's coming  to
L A. What might that mean for Los Angeles families? Well, for one thing, season 2 of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is casting. ABC is looking for local families with children who need help getting over their fear of, or just plain resistance to, healthy eating. Click here for more information.

More importantly, however, is that Oliver has offered to use the platform of his show to work with LAUSD and make our school lunches more healthful. The response? Thanks, but no thanks. According to Melissa Infusino, director of partnerships at the school superintendent's office, "Our feeling is that his time would be better spent or invested in other communities."  Oh, okay.

Hey. Wait a minute. No!  LAUSD  food service operates the largest school breakfast program, and the second largest lunch program, in the nation - 69 million lunches were served in the 2009-2010 school year. There's a lot of learning, a lot of success, tied up in the quality of those meals. And did you know that more than 76.5 percent of area kids are eligible for reduced or free school lunch?  For many L A kids, the food they get at school lunch is their main meal of the day. Who better to get the attention of someone like Jamie Oliver? 

Take a look at the nutritional information from a lunch menu at a typical LA elementary school.  Nuggets, corn dogs, steak fingers (whatever those are)  most of it processed, full of salt, fat and just plain crap.  Every year our kids are at higher and higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Students are heavier, sluggish and all too often, failing. Yes, there are a whole host of reasons for this - I'm not trying to be polyannaish and say "just feed them well and watch them soar!" BUT you're telling me the kids can't use the help of someone like Oliver, who comes into their lives with love, good humor, and a sense of fun to talk about making good choices and taking responsibility for their eating and, ultimately, their health? You don't have to think too hard about why LAUSD doesn't want a crusader and a bunch of TV cameras trained on the food they are serving, not to mention looking at the notoriously hard to figure out food service budget. 


 This issues hits home for me for a couple of reasons. My youngest attends a local, public elementary school. I am fortunate because I have the money to feed my kids well and I usually have the time in the morning to pack a healthy lunch.  But, guess what? They don't always want my healthy lunch. They want pizza. They want "frozen chocolate cup." Yeah, sure, I can hang tough. But my boy is struggling this year.  His learning and social challenges have been showing themselves as his class size has gotten larger (29 kids - 1 teacher.) Because of his own positive development (a good thing) but also because of budget cuts (decidedly not) he no longer qualifies for an aid in the classroom and it feels like things have been going steadily downhill since September. There have been friendship challenges, learning struggles and tears. I have had 5 conferences with his teacher in the last month.  This fall has been tough. So, I don't always want to say "no" when he says he wants to buy lunch because there is  something cheesy on the menu, when the cafeteria is selling ice cream.  For crying out loud, if it gives the kid a little pleasure in the middle of a tough day, what's the big deal!? The teachers give candy as a reward. The PTA sells krispy creme doughnuts after school to raise funds. It's everywhere anyway. What am I supposed to do?  Well, it is a big deal. A bad lunch translates into less ability to pay attention in the afternoon. A blood sugar crash can contribute to my kid having a mini breakdown on the playground.  What he eats matters. And though my kid has "special needs," the food/health/energy/mood connection is true for everyone.

Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to add school lunch to our daily list of worries and Things to try to deal with today without having a nervous breakdown (or whatever you label your "to do" list? ) If our schools supported and nourished our kids with the food they serve instead of making cheap food their bottom line? Honestly, we pay for it one way or another anyway. A little more for a healthier meal now - a lot less for health care and missed work days later.

Here are a few things you can explore; take a look at this web site- Food For Lunch is a group of concerned LAUSD parents, residents and organizations who have joined together to affect change in the LAUSD food service program.

 You can join the Facebook group LAUSD parents say yes to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution by clicking here.

 And, you can e-mail your School Board representative to express your opinions about the food service by following the links on the LAUSD Board of Education website.

Los Angeles Story Telling Festival

This Saturday, November 13, L A Story Works presents the Los Angeles Storytelling Festival. The festival takes place at The Culver/Palms United Methodist Church. Pre-registration has ended but on-site registration is available as of this post time and begins at 8:30.  The  family program starts at 9 and runs until 11:30.  It's designed for kids ages 3-10 and is free! Kids must be accompanied by a paying adult. Concerts and workshops for adults run throughout the day.

Click here for a complete schedule and here for directions.
All day prices are as follows - Adults $40, students and seniors $25, kids 6-14 $10, kids under 6 free all day.
For a single event adults are $15, students and seniors $10, kids are $7.50 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today's Deal Pop Deal

Today's DealPop Deal is a great one - $25 for a 3 hour bike tour of Venice and Santa Monica with the highly rated Pedal or Not. The tours usually cost $49. Do you have guests coming for Thanksgiving?  What a great way to get them out of the house for a few hours!  They can enjoy our beautiful weather, see the beach neighborhoods of LA and have a great time. Pedal or Not offers 2 electric bike tours daily, morning and afternoon. Tours are designed for "confident" riders age 14 and up.  You can sit back, relax and let the motor do all the work or pedal yourself to work off that turkey and pie.  The deal is good November 12, 2010 through May 12, 2011 and you can buy up to 4.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let Them Eat LACMA

This Sunday, November 7th, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents an all day, all-campus event. Let Them Eat LACMA is the culmination of a year long investigation into art, food, politics and culture created by the a group of artists and activists known as Fallen Fruit. Over 50 artists and collectives are participating in Sunday's event.  The day features several fun, thought provoking activities including a watermelon eating contest, a taste of what inmates in California prisons eat and a chance to "eat the museum itself."  The events are free with general admission, no reservations are required. The event runs from 12-8.

Also at LACMA a new series of art classes for kids begins Saturday, Nov 13th.

For ages 3 1/2 - 5 Meet The Shapes! runs Saturdays from 11am - 12:30 

Kids age 6-9 can discover The Power of Dreaming beginning Sunday the 14th from 11-1

And older kids age 10 - 13  can make their own wearable artwork with Jewelry: Art to Wear on Sundays from 11-1 beginning November 14th

I'm imagining I can put my 2 boys into Jewelry: Art to Wear on Sunday mornings, sit for an hour with the paper drinking coffee on one of LACMA's terraces, and then spend the second hour exploring a gallery at my own pace.  How's that for the power of dreaming?  Oh, well - maybe that would work for you...  For more information on kid's classes at LACMA click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Annoyed Mother's Guide to the California Elections - The Propositions

Tomorrow is election day and here in California we have a number of ballot propositions on which to vote. Frankly,  all these propositions annoy the #$&@ out of me.  "Direct democracy" is one thing but I feel like our system of voting on nearly every single proposal that might cost anybody any money only serves to confuse people and maybe even keep them away from the polls.  How about we elect qualified people and allow them to do their jobs - which ought to include making many of these kinds of decisions? Our job will then be to stay informed and determine if our elected officials are doing what they are being paid to do - make wise decisions that are in the best interest of the state - and to vote them out if we don't like the job they are doing.

In the meantime, we have the privilege of, and responsibility for,  making good decisions tomorrow.  If I had to put myself in a political box it would be labeled Liberal/Progressive with a stubborn streak of Libertarian. If that doesn't sound anything like you, you may want to stop reading now. I'll share some delicious new treat or fun thing to do before the week is out so do come back.  Herewith - my opinions on the 9 propositions we are being asked to vote on tomorrow.

Prop 19 - Tax and Regulate cannabis. I said Liberal/Progressive with a streak of the Libertarian, right? So you think you know where I'm going here, don't ya'? But it's a great big NO from me on this one and here's why.  If we legalize pot, and I feel that ultimately we will (and should), we need to provide for - read set up and pay for - 2 things - additional law enforcement to keep stoned people out of cars and off the roads  (don't kid yourself, there will be a lot more stoned people in cars - how many years until your own kids are on the road? Do you want them out there with a bunch of high people? I don't.) AND we need money spent on drug counseling and treatment programs.  Proposition 19 provides neither and I'm voting NO.

Prop 20 - Congressional Redistricting.  This initiative is a reaction to the changing demographics of traditionally white, conservative areas of California.   This measure puts the responsibility for drawing legislative district lines into the hands of a 14 member Citizens Redistricting Commission. Who are these people? Where do they come from? Most importantly - Should the power of fair representation for millions lie in the hands of a few? I don't think so and I'm voting NO on Prop 20.

Prop 21 - An $18 add on to your vehicle registration fees to support State Parks. This fee allows the vehicle free admission (and parking) to the parks all year long.   We have over 300 state parks in California. They are one of our greatest resources and we need to keep them open, safe and available. The best argument against this proposition is that it costs low income people who may not have easy access to parks $18 and there is something to be said for this argument.  But, even if you don't have easy access to a State Park you benefit from the cleaner air and water these parks help to provide.  And providing money for the parks will allow for the possibility of the expansion of programs to bring people, especially school kids who don't have easy access to a park, into the parks.  It's a win - win for everybody for not a whole lot of money. I'm voting YES on Proposition 21.

Prop 22 - This is a flawed proposal to address funding issues.  The idea behind it is a good one but the Proposition doesn't do it right, putting schools and essential services at risk. I (like millions in CA) live in a high fire danger zone and I have a 10 year old in a classroom with 28 other kids and 1 teacher.  I'm voting NO on 22 and encouraging my representatives to work further on these issues.

Prop 23 - NO NO NO - This is  an effort to repeal our air pollution standards law.  It's a money grab by Oil Companies, plain and simple.  Follow the money on this one.

Prop 24 - This one is designed to get large, multi-state corporations to pay what I consider to be their their fair share of taxes.  I think they should and I'm voting YES.

Prop 25  - Eliminates the 2/3 majority requirement needed to pass a budget.  The current rule is stupid, annoying, and causes real problems (budget delays)  EVERY SINGLE YEAR. The 2/3 rule on the budget must go.  A majority vote on the budget is good enough for me - even if I don't like how things are being apportioned. A yes vote here does not lower the 2/3 majority needed to raise taxes. It's a YES.

Prop 26 - The environment and a 2/3 majority again.  This one is a little confusing (which raises some alarms - no?) But here's the best I can do with it - Imagine your kids play and play all day, not cleaning as they go, not taking care to keep the blocks in some kind of order and just flinging them everywhere, not scooping the little bits of paper into their hands but letting them scatter all over the floor and then, at the end of the day,  claim they are too tired, it's just too hard,  to clean up.  You want to take a little money out of their allowance a) until they clean up, or b) as a consequence for their actions (to help them remember to cleanup in the future.) But for some reason you live in a house where a 2/3 majority is required to impose such a consequence. You don't have the majority because you are outnumbered by your kids,  they won't clean up on their own (what kid does?) your house stays a mess and the next day, and every day thereafter, gets worse. Corporations are your kids and their friends on the Legislature make up the 2/3 majority.  No fees can be imposed for environmental messes caused by corporate laziness, cost cutting or negligence because the corporations have spent a lot of money (but not as much as possible future fees) ensuring a friendly majority in the CA Legislature.  No consequences can be imposed and our house stays a mess.  I'm voting NO on Prop 26. "No Consequences" isn't an effective way to raise and manage little boys and it won't work with the big ones.

Prop 27 - This is also about redistricting and is related to Prop 20.   We may need to overhaul how legislative districts are drawn but The Citizens Redistricting Commission isn't the way to do it. This Proposition gets rid of the Commission.  Again, the huge number of initiatives voters need to contend with in each of our elections drives me crazy  but this Citizens Commission was a bad voter approved choice (in 2008) and it should go. I'm voting YES on 27.

For further info on the Propositions click here for the California State Wide Guide and here for the League of Women Voters web site.  I hope you are planning to vote tomorrow and, if at all possible, to take your kids to the polls with you.  Nothing will do as much to insure that your children grow to be informed, active members of society as the practices and values you show them now.

Not sure where to vote? To find you local polling place click here.