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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coming Up: Randall Museum Drop-in Saturday Crafts in December

Each week, the Randall Museum in San Francisco has drop-in craft activities. Here’s the schedule for December:

December 6: Holiday Crafts Day

December 13: Using found wood, construct and paint your own ad hoc sculpture in our wood shop!

December 20: Make your own mosaic picture frame.

December 27 Dip into the art of printmaking with bold and instantly gratifying monoprints
What: Drop-in crafts at the Randall Museum
When: each Saturday from 1:00-4:00
Where: Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
Cost: $3/child, $5/child-adult combo. Kids under 8 must be with a paying adult. Sign up at the front desk to participate (last sign-up time is 3:30).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Review: Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch

If you’re looking for a good chick-lit book to read, or a present for another mom, think about Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch. The book features Jillian, a 30-something mom of a toddler , who spends a lot of time thinking about “what if…” What if she didn’t marry her hubby Henry, who she's began to loathe. What if she instead married her previous boyfriend Jackson? What if she continued in her high power advertising job instead of quitting to be a stay-at-home mom? What if she still lived in Manhattan, instead of moving out to the suburbs?

Rather than just wondering, though the mystery of a certain massage therapist’s hands, Jillian ends up in her old life. She has the chance to change her future, and to learn about herself in the process. What does her new future hold? That's up to you to find out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What happens to the presidential turkey? I'm going to Disneyland!

Okay, here’s a little known Thanksgiving fact you can use to impress your friends and family. Or maybe none of them will care.

What happens to the turkey that the president pardons this year? It’s going to Disneyland! After President Bush pardons the turkey (for its sin of being born, apparently), it will fly on United Airlines to California (window seat?) and serve as grand marshal in its Thanksgiving Day parade down Main Street.

Maybe the turkey will pull a Nancy Kerrigan, saying during the parade “This is dumb. I hate it. This the most corniest thing I have ever done.” Or maybe it will be happy it didn't get clubbed in the knee...or worse.

It’s too bad the Alaskan turkey Sarah Palin pardoned won’t go here. While being pardoned, that turkey got to watch its friends get decapitated.

After the Disneyland parade, the presidentially pardoned turkey (named Pumpkin) and its friend Pecan will live its remaining days at Santa's Reindeer Round-Up at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland.

So if you go to Disneyland and get a big ole turkey leg for lunch…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coming Up: Santa Claus comes to Talbot’s Toy Store

Santa and his elves will Talbot’s Toy Land on a San Mateo fire truck on Friday, November 28 at 11:00 a.m.

From 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 Santa will pose for free photos.

Talbot's Toy Land is at 445 South B Street, San Mateo – (866) 924-5708

Monday, November 24, 2008

Airline Traveling with Kids: Flying without Fear

Before we had kids, we saw those pathetic families in airports with mountains of luggage, screaming kids and bags not only streaming behind them, but dragging down their eyelids. Yes, we felt a little sorry for them. But mostly we hoped they weren’t sitting near us.

And now we’re them. Follow these steps, and any passenger will be happy as your seat mate.

The best flights. This is a no-brainer. Fly direct if at all possible. Do it even if it costs you more. A lot more. Child time on airplanes is like dog time. Each hour feels like seven.

Checking the carseat. Let’s say you’ll need a carseat at your destination. Do you check it as luggage or bring it on board? It depends.

If you paid for a seat, bring it on board and strap it in. Aside from safety, the advantage is that your child might actually fall asleep on the plane. And that makes it easier for you to use the restroom and eat the delicious airline peanuts.

For older kids, it’s a toss up. My 3 year old is just as happy sitting in the seat with the safety belt, and it’s one less thing to lug through the airport. The airlines usually put the seats in clear plastic bags, so they arrive clean.

To get through screening easily, wear shoes with no laces. Don’t wear a belt – too much time. Count your carry-ons (or at least the number of bins you use) before sending them through the x-ray machine so you know how many you need at the end. I almost left a leather coat at the exit after failing to do this.

Contrary to popular belief, not all airlines let you board early. Southwest Airlines lets you on between the A and B groups (unless you already have A boarding passes) if your child is 5 or younger. But American? You, your carseats, backpacks, and 50 pounds of “must have” carry-on luggage boards with everyone else.

But boarding early is overrated. Do you really want to feel trapped for another 30 minutes? Sure you can be the first to stuff that overhead bin with your winter coat and the carry-on luggage you're too cheap to pay to check. But if your child is mobile, that extra time on the plane is no fun for you or junior. My advice? Board LAST. Let junior get out some energy on that clean, hygienic airport carpet. Limit your carry-ons and use the space underneath the seat in front of you.

Lap child or extra seat?Purchasing seats for kids under two is not required by the airlines. For these kids, you’ll pay half the cost of your ticket on most airlines (but your baby can earn full frequent flyer miles). Over age two, you’ll pay full fare.

In the olden days (pre-9/11 and before airlines were all going bankrupt and cutting flights), families could easily snag an empty seat for their child. It might not be next to you, but surely some kind passenger with grandkids would sacrifice by moving so your screaming bundle could have a seat to call her own. These days, the plane will be full. If there’s a spare seat, buy a lottery ticket when exiting the plane. It’s your lucky day.

Purchasing a seat does not guarantee your child will sit in it. But you’ll have a place for toys, food and sweaters, and your child has one less person to poke and prod during the flight (of course the people in front of and behind you are still fair game).

Internationally, you’ll pay fees for your child if you don’t buy a seat. A friend took her baby to England and it cost her $100 for her lap child. And she suffered the entire trip, swearing she’d buy a seat for her baby on her next overseas flight.

Some airlines require you to show a birth certificate for your lap child, to ensure he is under age two. Make a copy and put it with your flight information, so you won’t be forced to buy a last-minute ticket for him if the check-in agent can’t tell a three month old from a three year old.

Entertaining Junior
While the standard goody bag of toys is helpful, parents ignore the hidden treasures already on the plane: barf bags, laminated airline safety cards, in-flight shopping magazines (with pictures of kids and toys), in-flight snack packets (at least the free ones on Southwest). They have texture, noise and don’t hurt if thrown. And play with plastic cups from the beverage cart and headphones too.

Bring along crayons and stickers to transform the barf bag into a puppet. Blow bubbles in the aisle – other kids will appreciate it too (mini bottles are under 3 ounces). Use the airline magazine photos to make up stories. The headphones are fun as-is, and many airlines have kids’ music as a selection. Bring or rent a portable DVD player or save movies on your iPad. Yes and Know invisible ink books are awesome. Wikki Stix are great, as long as you don't need to cut them. Older kids can make friendship bracelets (nail clippers work for cutting), and of course there's the Rainbow Loom.

Get creative. On one miserable flight with a screaming two year old (ours) we were so desperate we actually gave her a beer can to play with. We got some strange looks, but it kept her entertained long enough for us to drink the other beer.

Happy Child/Happy Parent
A little bribe goes a long way to make flying easier. Figure out what it would take for your child to behave on a flight – whether it’s stickers, M&Ms or a Hot Wheels car at the end of the flight. And remind Junior when he starts whining that he only gets his special treat if he behaves.

Bring food, even if its being served on the flight (yeah, right!). Your plane could be late. Domestic flights these days (flying coach) usually only sell meals on board – you’re stuck with their overpriced selection. Sandwiches, cheese sticks, goldfish, carrots - we bring it all.

I know some of you are going to shake your heads at this, but some parents give their kids Benedryl to help them sleep during the flight. I’m not taking a stand (though it hasn’t worked for me). If you consider doing this, ask your doctor the correct dose for your child. Try it out ahead of time. Some children have the opposite reaction, becoming hyperactive, not sedated, with Benedryl’s use.

I highly recommend a carrying device like a Bjorn Bjorn or sling for the flight, if your child is under one year, or is lightweight. The Bjorn (and other front-carriers) cannot be worn during take off and landing (we’ve been caught numerous times, but it is an FAA regulation). All other times are fine. Having your child quiet is invaluable. Having your hands free during that time is golden.

What to bring
Bring a lightweight stroller, preferably one with a basket. Even if your child won’t ride in it, it doubles as a luggage cart in the airport. Check the stroller at the gate, and you’ll have it waiting for you at your destination gate.

Bring extra diapers, extra clothes (for parents and kids) and extra plastic bags. My daughter was talented enough to poop in her pants while sitting, avoiding the diaper altogether. She can leak through her shorts onto Dad’s khakis. And she can spill six ounces of apple juice in my lap 20 minutes into the flight. Did I mention you should bring extra clothes?

If all else fails, bring correct change for drinks in the cabin (most airlines now only accept credit cards) – and order them for yourselves and everyone around you. Happy trails!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Volunteer: Donate Books for Children

The Mercury News and RAFT (the Resource Area for Teaching) is teaming up on a 2008 book drive. The program distributes new and “like new” children’s books directly to kid and to teachers in the community. Spanish and Vietnamese books are always in short supply, but any kids’ books are welcome.

You can also donate by mail by sending checks to RAFT-GOR at 1355 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95131. Donations are tax deductible, Tax ID # 77-0365627.

When: November 12 to December 10, 2008
Where: Click here for drop off locations for the book drive
- donation sites are mostly in Santa Clara county
More info: Mercury News, RAFT Book donation site or call (408) 213-7217 or email

Help for the Grandparents this Holiday Season

If the grandparents will be spending any time with your kids this holiday season, send them a link to the Ultimate Holiday Guide. It’s a free website download, and has recipes for cookies and latkes plus articles like “How to buy gifts without causing rifts,” “4 gifts you can help kids make their parents,” “how to stop competing with other grandparents,” “ways to get your grandchildren involved in charity,” “safe ways to choose toys for your grandkids,” as well as “8 places to hide from your grandkids.”

It’s beautifully designed and may get you out of a sticky situation, if grandma can read it and take some hints!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coming Up: Family Gallery Adventures at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Join educator-led tours and craft projects for the family at this free event at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (free with admission).

When: Sunday, November 23rd, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, SF
Info: 415-655-7800 (
Cost: free with admission; admission is $10/adult, free for kids ages 18 and under

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Coming Up: Model Trains in Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers

I can’t wait to see this. The Conservatory of Flowers is hosting a model G-gauge train exhibit, complete with 12 landmark buildings (including Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, the Ferry Building, Chinatown’s dragon gate and the Transamerica Building). The train even wends its way through gardens of dwarf plants, a miniature Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers.

But don’t just look at the trains. Look for every-day items that are “reused” in this sustainable exhibit.

What: Conservatory of Flowers Model Train Exhibit
When: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November 20, 2008 to April 19, 2009
Where: Conservatory of Flowers, 501 Stanyan Street in Golden Gate Park, SF
Cost: $1.50-$5.00 (free for kids 4 and under)

Get ‘Yer Tickets: Stars on Ice

I’m no stranger to Stars on Ice. I went years ago (probably 16 years ago) at the Cow Palace, and again in Wisconsin. The latter I managed to snag free tickets, thanks to my friend who worked for the corporate sponsor at the time. She even gave me a black commemorative fleece covered with the logo in the back. I can’t take the logo off, because that IS the back. So I only wear it camping. So no one throws tomatoes at me. It's warm, but a little embarassing, if you know what I mean. Not that I'm known for my fashion sense, but...

That said, if you love ice skating and you love campy shows, this one is for you. It’s a production, and you can’t expect Olympic level skating, even though there are Olympicans in the show. Hey – they don’t want to injure themselves.

So who is in it? Sasha Cohen, Michael Weiss, Todd Eldredge, Evan Lysacek, John Zimmerman and a bunch of skaters I haven’t heard of. I’m sure they’re terrific skaters, but I haven’t been following skating since the Olympics. And even then, I was in Mexico for most of it, and missed out on the fabulous competitions. Huge bummer for me, since I love watching skating.

So get your tickets! If Stars on Ice gives me free tickets, I'll happily review the show for the blog.

What: Smuckers Stars on Ice
When: January 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm.
Where: HP Pavillion

Cost: $25-$120

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coming Up: Free Romeo and Juliet tonight!

Free as in no cost. You won’t actually free these young lovers.

Bring the kids to the West Portal Branch library for a 1.5 hour show by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

Where: West Portal branch library, 190 Lenox Way, SF
When: November 19 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Cost: Free!

Review: Counting in the Crazy Garden

My kids get excited whenever they get a new book. But 5 year old Zachary was especially excited to see Counting in the Crazy Garden by Margarette Burnette. Maybe because there were cute bears on the cover. The story, about Arnold Chipper, starts out with him “cooking” with food from his garden. Only his garden consisted of yummy things like worms, tumbleweed, mud and dandelions.

Yes, it sounds a lot like my garden.

As Arnold makes new foods, like “peely, prickly, stick and stone scones” and “plates of pine needle noodles” he tries serving them to his brother Albert and friend Maria. They aren’t impressed at all. Each new culinary delight is a tongue twister combined with a number, so the kids get to practice counting the items on the page, and if you’re in kindergarten, can try to recognize the number spelled out letters.

Here’s the SPOILER (don’t read on if you like a mystery). At the end, Albert and Maria help Arnold plant ten seeds which grow into a delicious garden of strawberries and tomatoes (granted those sound as delicious to Zachary as the mud pies). So the kids also learn about plants growing, in addition to numbers.

The book is written by Margarette Burnette, illustrated by Brooke Henson. It’s a cute book, appropriate for kids ages 3-7.

Get ‘Yer Tickets: Holiday Concerts and Peter and the Wolf by the San Francisco Symphony

The SF Symphony offers a variety of concerts, from choir to gospel this holiday season. One we’re going to: Peter and the Wolf.

This Prokoviev masterpiece is narrated by Dr. Spock, er, I mean Leonard Nimoy on December 13 & 14. The San Francisco Youth Sympony performs, with Benjamin Schwartz conducting. My 7 year went to the Music for Families series this fall, and thought the conductor was hot. She’s only SEVEN!!!!! So now I get to judge “hot or not” while listening to the performance for myself.

Tickets are quickly selling out – the cheapie seats are gone, as are most of the front orchestra seats.

What: Peter and the Wolf, San Francisco Symphony
When: Saturday, December 13 (Davies Symphony Hall, SF) 1:00 and 4:00
Sunday, December 14 (Flint Center, Cupertino) at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15-35 (no discount for kids)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coming Up: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in San Carlos

San Carlos Children’s Theater is performing this classic tale November 21-23.

Shows are at 7:30 Friday and Saturday nights, and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Click here for tickets to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or call 650-594-2730.
Where: 2757 Melendy Drive, San Carlos
Cost: $10

Help Others this Holiday Season in the Bay Area

It’s a tough time financially for most of us this holiday season. But that’s the time when others need the most help. Throughout the holidays, I’ll post some ideas on how your family can help others.

Today I’ll focus on the Shelter Network, which provides housing and support services to help homeless families and individuals to “re-establish self-sufficiency and to return to permanent homes of their own.”

I was shocked this year to learn that someone I know socially became homeless with her child, due to a marital break-up. The Shelter Network is the type of place she could go for help.

Here are some giving opportunities at the Shelter Network:

Adopt-a-Family or Adopt-a-Resident: purchase items from a specific wish list so someone less fortunate can have something new this holiday season.

Host a holiday party: Bring friends, coworkers or family and put on a party at one of the shelters

Hold a holiday gift drive: whether you get a list of items to pass out, or put “wishes” on a Christmas tree, this is a great way to involve a large group of people much pressure or sacrifice on your part. (We did this with my son's preschool class last year)

Attend a gift wrapping party: help wrap gifts for the residents at several sites, from Daly City to Menlo Park.

Create a holiday dinner basket: you know the drill – buy some items for your dinner, and some items for someone else’s.

Serve holiday dinner: the Maple Street shelter for single adults needs servers for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Donation: cash always accepted, in honor or memory of someone.

For more info, contact them at and click on the “holiday programs” button. Or call 650-685-5880

Coming Up: The Kindergarten Readiness Dilemma

What is Kindergarten all about? How has it changed since you were in school? Does your child have a fall or late summer birthday? Is she more interested in free play than teacher directed activity? Does he have a hard time handling his emotions? Are you wondering if your child will be ready to enter Kindergarten in the fall?

Then this workshop is for you! Come learn about what Kindergarten teachers really expect from children and how to assess if your child will be ready to go or if he might do better with the "Gift of Time". This workshop is geared toward parents with children who will be entering Kindergarten in fall of 2009 but parents with younger children are invited to attend.

The facilitator is Stephanie Barry Agnew, BA. Stephanie is the Coordinator of Parent Education at the new San Mateo Parents Place Office. She has extensive background in Early Childhood education with 20 years of teachingexperience in Palo Alto area schools.

What: "The Kindergarten Readiness Dilemma -How do I know if my child will be ready?"

When: Tuesday November 18th, 7:00-9:00 PM

Where: South Peninsula Hebrew Day School's Multipurpose Room

1030 Astoria Drive, Sunnyvale

RSVP to Barbara Goldstein at 408-738-3060 or

Cost: $5 donation for community members (free for SPHDS parents)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coming Up: Gingerbread House Extravaganza at Bay Area Discovery Museum

One of my favorite Bay Area kid museums has their gingerbread fun coming up in November and December. If you dream of candy canes, gumdrops, frosting and other treats on top of a gingerbread masterpiece, now’s your time to signup.

Pre-registration is a mustthey sell out
Early registration (supporting members) starts November 3
Open registration: November 17

What: Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza at Bay Area Discovery Museum
Where: BADM, Sausalito (Fort Baker)
When: Saturdays: November 29, December 6 & 13
Sundays: November 30, December 7 &14
Tuesday-Thursdays: December 18-23
Times: 11 a.m., noon & 1 p.mCost $25 per gingerbread kit
Cost: $25 per gingerbread kit

Friday, November 14, 2008

Coming Up: Peter Yarrow Songs and Folktales at Kepler’s

Ah, Puff the Magic Dragon returns, in person! Yes, Paul as in Peter, Paul and Mary. I heard him in concert a few years ago. And he’s back, and it’s free!

Kepler’s is hosting Peter Yarrow in his only Bay Area appearance. The theme is Sleepytime Songs and Favorite Folk Songs. They’re celebrating (and selling) the release of beautifully illustrated song books…ironically titled Sleepytime Songs and Favorite Folk Songs. And I’m sure you could buy a copy while you’re there.

What: Peter Yarrow in concert
When: Monday, November 17 at 6 p.m.
Where: Kepler’s bookstore, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Cost: free

Outdoor ice skating rinks in the Bay Area

It's time to get out those skates and gloves, and pretend we live in cold country. Here are three outdoor ice skating rinks in the Bay Area:

Justin Herman Plaza (adjacent to Four Embarcadero Center and across from the historic Ferry Building)
Dates: November 12, 2008 through January 4, 2009
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Sunday – Thursday10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. on Friday - Saturday
Session: 90 minute sessions starting on every even hour
Information: (415) 837-1931 or its website
Cost: $8/adults, $4.50/seniors/children ages 10 and under Monday – Friday until 6:00 p.m. (50 cents more at other times)Skate rental: $3.50
Birthday parties: $250, includes admission and skate rental for up to ten people, a decorated party area, birthday cake and soft drinks. Skating guests in excess of ten will be charged an additional $12.50 each.

Union Square Ice Rink
Union Square, downtown San Francisco
Dates: November 12, 2008 through January 4, 2009
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Sunday – Thursday
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. on Friday - Saturday
Information: (415) 781-2688 and its website
Cost: $8/adults, $4/children ages 8 and under, Monday – Friday until 6:00 p.m. (50 cents more at other times)
Skate rental: $4.00

San Jose Downtown Skating
Downtown San Jose: 120 Market Street
Dates: November 14, 2008 through January 9, 2009
Hours: vary – check the website
Session: no set session –skate all you want, though no in/out privileges
Information: (408) 279-1775 and its website
Cost: $15/over age 13; $13/ages 12 and under
Skate rental: included in admission

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coming Up: Meet Author Jeff Root from Welcome to Monster Isle

It’s great for kids to meet an author and hear the book straight from the writer. San Francisco children's book author Jeff Root (and illustrator Scott Runcorn too) will lead story times on their new book, Welcome to Monster Isle on the dates below. Here’s a synopsis of the book from their website:

A family's vacation goes bananas when a perfect storm tosses their skipper's tiny boat off course. Now seven castaways are stranded on an uncharted desert island! Finnegan, his sister, parents and dog Howl venture into the wild and encounter a menagerie of colorful monsters. Can these hardy survivors befriend seven beasts straight from their wildest inaginations? Whimsical and lushly layered illustrations invigorate a zootopia of mythical creatures like the Yowie and Ogopogo. Adventurous readers will take a trip they'll never forget, since being lost was never so fantastic!

Here are three free story times in the Bay Area featuring the author and book.
11/17/08 San Carlos Public Library at 7:00 p.m.
11/30/08 Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park at 11:30
12/6/08 Foster City Public Library at 10:30 a.m.

Coming Up: San Mateo & Foster City Preschool Fair

This Sunday, Nov 16 is the San Mateo and Foster City preschool fair, hosted by the Parents Place. Win raffle prizes and get gift bags and refreshments while learning about the preschools in San Mateo and Foster City. The event is free to FCMC and SMMC members. All others pay $10.

What: Preschool Fair (San Mateo and Foster City
Where: Parents Place, 2001 Winward Way, San Mateo
When: Sunday, Nov 16 from 2:00-5:00 (3:00-5:00 for the public)
Cost: $10 if you're not a member of the Foster City Mothers' Club or the San Mateo Mothers' Club
Info: 650-931-1840

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coming Up: Elixer of Love Opera for Families

Today we have a guest blog post from Lydie Thomas, of

My youngest daughter loves opera. We discovered this by accident when she was a young child. Since then, we have taken both kids every year to the San Francisco Opera for Families. They present shorten English version of classical operas (without cutting the quality). It is a nice way to enjoy opera without having to stay 3 hours. This year, the San Francisco Opera is presenting the Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti.

We went last Saturday and we had a really nice time. It is very joyful and has a nice rhythm that will keep children entertained. I really encourage families to go.

(Synopsis from the opera website: The Elixir of Love for Families is a condensed two-hour version of Donizetti's delightful comedy in a charming production set in Napa Valley circa 1915. Sung in English with English dialogue, this special family opera retains all the sparkle and sweetness of Donizetti's score. The tale of shy Nemorino winning the heart of the beautiful Adina—with the help of a "love potion"—is a heartwarming celebration of innocence and love in a simpler time.)

Six tips to go to the opera with your children:

Tip 1
Do not take your children if they are too young. If your little ones do not last for a whole full length movie at the theater, chances are that they are not going to last long at the opera.

Tip 2
The opera says it is for families but it does not mean that you're entitled to chat, eat, or disturb people. It only means it is a shorter version of the original opera. Make sure that you tell your children about that.

Tip 3
Dress appropriately. There is no dress code for the SF opera. One could go in jeans if he wants. But children are never too young to learn about dressing for certain occasions. They, in fact, love it most of the times. Parents should be dressed up too. Make it special (because it is).

Tip 4
Bring binoculars, especially if you are sitting in the front tier, balcony or boxes.

Tip 5
Bring some snacks and drinks to enjoy during the intermission outside of the opera room. The hallways are a perfect place to have your snack.

Tip 6
Tell them about the story beforehand. They can read what the singers are singing on the screen but for younger children who can not read fluently, it is even more important to let them know in advance what’s going on. When a singer stops, people applaud. That is a great moment to brief your kid on what is going to come next. The opera ushers hand you a booklet telling about the singers and the story. Just retell it to your children. Or check the website beforehand.

What: The Elixir of Love Opera for Families
Where: 301 Van Ness Avenue
When: Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 12:30 p.m. (the show is 2 hours including intermission)
Tickets: Buy tickets online or call the Box Office (415) 864-3330.
Cost: $20-80 for adults, $10-40 for youth

Thank you Lydie of!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coming Up: Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players

November 16

Get your tickets for Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players (see my previous blog post about it - I don't want to plagiarize myself).

Brief synopsis: rare West Coast performance. Sing along together to tunes like Meltdown, My Brother Did It, Taking off my Training Wheels and Stay at Home Dad. Listen to tunes here. See video here.

Tickets are only $13 in advance (it benefits the Mountain View Parent Nursery School). Who isn't behind a preschool education?

When: Sunday, November 16 at 11 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. (each show is one hour)
Where: Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater (12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos)
Cost: $13 each in advance, $15 at door. Buy tickets here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: California Academy of Sciences

We had a plan – go to the California Academy of Sciences on a school day to avoid the crowd. But guess what? It was STILL crowded. That’s not a negative – it’s fabulous that this institution draws so much interest. Just keep it in mind when you plan your trip.

We spent five hours there and didn’t see/do everything.

Some highlights:
The albino alligator. Visit Bonnie and Claude, the American alligators in their swamp habitat with the Bald Cypress tree and giant turtles. Claude is a true albino with white skin and red eyes. Claude came from a Florida alligator farm and is 13 years old. Albino alligators don’t usually live this long, because they’re a prime target for food. Camoflauge? Claude doesn’t have it. He also has poor eyesight and bumps into things frequently and you can apparently see his bruises through the white skin. Bonnie and Claude eat “gator chow” which includes vitamins, fish meal and meat.

3-D Bug Movie: I was warned that the movie contains images of bugs mating and bugs eating each other, but decided it was worth the risk. It turns out that with narrator Judi Densch’s British accent and use of words that minimized sexual connotations, the kids had no idea what the mating mantises were doing. I squirmed a little when the beetles were fighting over the female mate, anticipating the nasty beetles doing the nasty. But it was all fine. They kids did, however, notice bugs eating each other. “Ewwwwww” went the squeals in the audience.

This was a fabulous 3-D movie, not just because we got to wear funky glasses. The photography was beautiful and caught the bugs in natural states that must have taken them a long time to film. And there was a proud mommy moment when Zachary said “that’s an exoskeleton” and he was correct.

Rainforest Dome: We headed to the rainforest dome next. We waited about 15 minutes to get in there, but we got prepped standing outside the dome for what was to come. The tropical rainforest had bromeliads, orchids and butterflies, as well as bats, pitcher plants and leaf cutter ants. Further up, we found rainforest frogs (mating, thank you very much) and different lizards too. We took the elevator down to the bottom, where we were then under the rainforest river, in a tube looking up. Cool view, but the kids were hungry so we had to leave.

Steinhart Aquarium – we didn’t have enough time to see all of this great aquarium and need to come back. We did enjoy the large salt water tank, and earlier in the day watched one of the employees feed the fish with shrimp, from the top. The kids enjoyed the touch tank, which had sea stars (aka star fish) and some other creatures. We also liked seeing the upside down jellyfish that held on to the ocean floor with their body, leaving tentacles up in the air to catch food.

Carbon Footprints. Outside the rainforest dome was an exhibit on carbon footprints and ecology. The kids had fun lifting up the various fake food items, which told about their carbon footprint and how they could help the environment by eating less meat, for example. I suppose it was to be inspirational, but with every food on the table, there was something else you could do to help the environment. It made me feel guilty for eating anything.

Living Roof. Our last stop before heading home was onto the 2.5 acre “living roof”. This looks like a moonscape golf course, with two domes (planetarium and rainforest) covered in greenery and windows, and lots of plants. The plantings support wildlife habitat (butterflies, anyone?) The roof also stands to reduce storm runoff water by 3.6 million gallons a year. Below the green roof is set of solar panels which should produce 10% of the academy’s energy use.

The academy is vying for platinum LEED certification for its energy-saving properties and use of materials. For example, the the museum uses denim remnants for insulation. Their garbage cans are in a trio of “recycle” “compost” and “landfill.” If nothing else, you’re a lot more aware about throwing things out when the garbage can says “landfill.”

We look forward to going back and visiting the planetarium and the dioramas, and finishing our underwater exploration.

Tips:-Go early. If you’re not a member, there are likely to be lines if you get there much past opening.
-if you go on a free day, get there extra early. A friend went on a free Wednesday and was told there was a 2 hour wait to get in – and this was in the morning. The museum has a capacity per the fire marshall, and they obey it.
-Bring a lunch. There are two restaurants, including the Academy CafĂ©, where you can order sushi, soup, tacos, sandwiches or salad to go. But it’s not cheap ($6.50 for PB&J).
-Buy a membership. You’ll get in an hour early on Sundays and Tuesdays and go in the express membership line at other times. For $159 a year, you’ll make your money back after 2-3 visits (depending on your kids’ ages) and it’s fully tax-deductible.
-If you want to do the 3-D bug movie or planetarium, get in line early before the crowds do the same thing.

Where: California Academy of Sciences
Admission Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30 to 5:30; Sunday 11:00 to 5:00
Cost: $24.95 adults, $14.95 ages 7-11, $19.95 ages 12-17, free ages 6 and under
Parking: free in the park, if you can find it. There’s a pay lot under the museum (I don’t recall exact rates, but we paid $15 for parking about 5-6 hours)
Where: 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco (Golden Gate Park, 9th Ave exit from the Sunset)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coming Up: Donut Storytime at Kepler’s Bookstore

Come listen to silly donut stories at Kepler’s, from the Donut Chef. And decorate your own donut after!

What: Kepler’s storytime – the Donut Chef
When: Sunday, Nov 9 at 11:30 a.m.
Where: Kepler’s bookstore, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Cost: free

Friday, November 7, 2008

Get ‘Yer Tickets: Sound of Music by Peninsula Youth Theater

The hills are alive…in Mountain View in mid-November.

While I can’t think of an easy way to explain to my kids why the Von Trapp family had to leave Austria, they certainly do already know and love some of the songs from The Sound of Music. At least Do-Re-Mi and My Favorite Things have nothing to do with the Nazis.

The Peninsula Youth Theater is performing this show live November 15-23 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The hardest thing about this show will be keep my own Trapp shut during the songs.

What: Sound of Music
When: November 15-23 (various times)
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Cost: $16-18 (though the 9:30 a.m. performances are only $7). Get tickets here

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Warm Coat Drive

Do you have extra winter coats hanging in your closet? Perhaps last season’s style, or just a bit too snug or big for your taste?

Help out someone who could use a warm coat this winter, donating your coat through a One Warm Coat Drive. Past national coat drives have brought in 500,000 coats in one season, given out through charitable organizations (the donation center chooses the organization).

Click here for a list of Bay Area One Warm Coat Locations. Here’s a sampling:

Santana Row – San Jose
November 28 through December 30, 2008
Drop off: bins located at Crate & Barrel, Borders, Sur La Table and Cine Arts

PJCC – Foster City
December 10 through January 16, 2009
7 a.m .to 8 p.m.

San Francisco Hilton
November 18 through December 19, 2008
9 a.m. to 5 pm.

Westfield Mall, Santa Clara
November 1 through December 24, 2008
8 a.m . to 11 p.m.

Grand Hyatt San Francisco
November 1 through January 2, 2009

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Get ‘Yer Tickets: Bay Area Nutcracker Performances

It’s Nutcracker time! But where to see the show?

Pacific Ballet Theater – Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
November 28-30
Tickets: $18-23
And join the characters for "sweet tea" on 12/13 & 12/14. During the tea (with other refreshments as well) you can take pictures with the cast and play holiday games. It's an extra $7, in the lobby.

Peninsula Ballet Theater – San Mateo Performing Arts Center
December 13, 14, 20 & 21
Tickets $12-62/adults, $7-52/kids

San Francisco Ballet – War Memorial Opera House
December 11-28
Tickets: $18-198

For a full list, click here.

Coming Up: Intel Kids’ Class – Creating Circuits

For kids ages 9 and up, check out the free Intel Museum class “Creating Circuits” where your kid will learn about reading schematics and building circuits. Class is free – you need to register though. Several classes run between 10:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Museum admission is always free at this Santa Clara museum.

What: Creating Circuits class- Intel Museum
When: Saturday, November 8 between 10:30 and 1:45
Where: Intel Museum, 2200 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara
Cost: Free

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Free Food for Voting

Vote for president, get a cup of Joe. And no, it's not from JOE THE PLUMBER. (I'm sorry, but I just made myself laugh). (obama obama obama obama...subliminal message)

Get a 12 oz "tall" coffee from Starbucks by telling them you voted.

Then go to Krispy Kreme for a free star-shaped doughnut. Of course after this, you'll hope you get the candidate with the really good health plan (though it turns out the doughnuts are trans-fat free!).
And I already posted about free Ben & Jerry's.
Happy voting! I'll be at the polls tomorrow, letting my son push the buttons for me.

Help a Fellow Mom - Register as a Bone Marrow Donor

Are you of German and Native American ancestry? If so, please consider a free bone marrow test to help a fellow mom (with 3 kids) diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia. This 40 year old mother needs a bone marrow transplant to survive, but she has no donor match yet.

If you (or someone you know) fits the description and is willing to be tested, please send an email to, with your full name and address. You'll be sent a cheek swab kit directly to your home with a self-return envelope and an identification number (to help track the results). There is no cost to the donor.

Please pass this along to anyone who might be able to help. I'm already on the bone marrow registry myself, and the sign-up process is painless (literally).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Coming Up: Randall Museum Drop-in Saturday Crafts for November

Each week, the Randall Museum in San Francisco has drop-in craft activities. Here’s the schedule for November:

November 1. Explore complementary colors and color blending as you create amazing crayon resist paintings.

November 8: Discover how everyday objects can be recycled into beautiful bird sculptures.

November 15: Movin’ & Groovin’! Experience how easy it is to suggest movement in people and animals with torn paper collage.

November 22: Bring a photo or other 2-D memento or choose from our collection of glitter, sequins, feathers & more to embellish your own refrigerator magnets.

November 29: Assemble your own bendable sculpture using wire and beads.

What: Drop-in crafts at the Randall Museum
When: each Saturday from 1:00-4:00
Where: Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco
Cost: $3/child, $5/child-adult combo. Kids under 8 must be with a paying adult. Sign up at the front desk to participate (last sign-up time is 3:30).

Coming Up: Asian Art Museum – Storytelling and Yoga on Free Target First Sunday

This Sunday, the Asian Art Museum has two family programs on the free Target day.

From 2:00-3:00, join Lorna Reed, as she leads a yoga class – focusing on balance, strength and flexibility. She’ll bring “the sculptures in the galleries to life through active movement, mudras and gestures.” Bring a yoga mat if you have one.

From 1:00-1:45, the museum storytellers bring Asian myths and folktales to life in the galleries. Meet at the information desk.

When: Sunday, November 2
Where: Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street (between Fulton and McAllister Streets
In the Civic Center district, across from City Hall.
Time: Museum is open 10:00-5:00
Cost: Free admission (admission not guaranteed if there are too many people)

Crafts: November & December kids’ programs at Michaels – the Knack

On most Saturdays, Michaels craft stores offer a program called The Knack. It’s for kids ages 5-12, and the instructors lead the kids through a craft project ($5 a kid, including supplies). Here’s the schedule for November and December:

November 1: Winter Wonderland (Sculpey project)
November 8: Under the Sea Figurines & Activity Books (Crayola)
November 15: Yarn Cake Slice
November 22: Kid’s Choice Day

December 6: Santa’s Workshop (kids make gifts & wrap them)
December 13: Drawing Shapes & Letters (for kids ages 3-5)
December 20: Holiday Cookie Kit (Wilton)

And free demos for adults:
November 1: Fun with Beads – learn how to make bracelets & necklaces – Free, from
1-4 p.m.
November 9: Annual Yarn Event – free make-it & take-it demos. 1-4 p.m.
November 15: Wilton Holiday Gingerbread House demo from 1-3 p.m.

What: The Knack – Michaels craft store projects
When: Nov 1, 8 15 & 22. Dec 6, 13 & 20. 10 am. - noon
Where: Michaels craft stores
Cost: $5/kid, which includes supplies