April 22, 2010 by Robin Beckett
It’s been a few weeks since the Playdate Family Expo and I’ve finally had a chance to cross a few things off my nagging “to do” list, including sharing some of the photos from our fun day at the Yakima Convention Center. (Thanks to Erin Fahsholtz for the photos.)
THANKS so much to all our vendors and parents who brought your kids down to check out the action. This first-ever event was a huge success, with attendance estimated at 2,500. If you’d like to read more about it, click here to read the Yakima Herald-Republic’s article.
The photo that ran in the newspaper reminds me of one of my favorite moments of the day: A woman approached me to ask if there were any hand sanitizing stations for people to use after they’d held the snake. “I didn’t know there was a snake,” I said. Then she said: “Oh, yeah, there’s about an 8-foot python in the center of the room.” Good to know…
So, in addition to sanitizing stations, we’d love to hear any other thoughts and ideas you have about the Expo. Please take a minute to let us know what you liked, didn’t like, what could be done better and whether you’d come back next year. The 2nd Annual Playdate Family Expo will be March 12, 2011!
February 19, 2010 by Robin Beckett
One fun thing about working for a newspaper is the unusual questions we sometimes get asked. Want to know what the low temperature was last Tuesday or what time the city bus is going to pass by your house? For whatever reason, some folks think the newspaper staff might be a good source for this type of info.
Though we don’t know everything, there’s a certain amount of job security that comes from providing people with the information they’re seeking. And, hey, I can Google as well as the next guy, so I typically try to track down answers when I can.
Maybe I learn something, too.
So, today I took a call from someone who was wondering how to make crystals from epsom salts.
I’d never heard of this before, but I found the answer easy enough. If you’re looking for something to do with the kiddos, it’s a pretty simple science project .
But, I have to say that this crystallization project (i.e. how to make rock candy) looks much more delicious:
If you’re looking for other science fair ideas, Michaels (1729 S. First St., Yakima; 452-6484) is hosting a free Science Fair Demonstration from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. Kids can make a free molecule project with Crayola Model Magic, while supplies last.
While you’re waiting for the next issue of Playdate to come out tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan. 27), I thought you might enjoy a little peek behind the scenes of what we’ve been up to the last couple weeks. One of the really fun parts of working on Playdate is the page design, where we finally get to see the stories & photos come together to create a (hopefully) attractive & interesting package.
Sometimes it’s fun to kick around a few ideas. In this issue, our “cover story” is called “The Tantrum Zone.” Here are two different concepts the designer (TJ Mullinax) tried on for size:
Which would you choose? Be sure to let us know what you think about our choice when you pick up a copy of the new issue later this week.
November 30, 2009 by Robin Beckett
With Thanksgiving now behind us, it’s time to pack up the pilgrim plates and flip the calendar to December (yes, already!). In the latest issue of the magazine, I promised to give you a new craft project each week through the end of the year. So, here’s the first project: A homemade advent calendar.
At my house, advent calendars are a big deal. The best part of the season, according to my husband. He’d never even heard of advent calendars until a few years ago — yes, I married a Martian — but now he insists the season wouldn’t be complete without his imported German advent calendar, which I buy online.
A few years back, it was almost impossible to find advent calendars in the stores, but they seem to be gaining popularity now. I’ve seen simple chocolate advent calendars at the grocery store for about $1.99 and the craft stores have all kinds of paint-it-yourself wooden options that you can reuse from year to year.
In case you, like my husband, are also from Mars and don’t know what I’m talking about… An advent calendar is a way to count down the days until Christmas, usually from Dec. 1 to 24. If you’re interested in a little advent history, read more here.
In addition to being fun all month long, I love advent calendars for kids because they help answer the “how many more days” question. So, at the very least, I’d recommend making a paper chain.
You can use anything from recycled newspaper to printer paper to extra pages of scrapbook paper or gift wrap. Just cut 24 strips of paper, approximately 1.5 inches wide by 8 inches long. Tape them together into a chain & hang them on the wall. Each day, through Christmas Eve, you’ll remove one link. (Hint: Before you hang the chain, I’d recommend numbering each link with the date 1-24 so you’ll be able to quickly determine whether a link has already been removed each day. This saves you from counting them over & over again…. learned that one the hard way.) At my house, we like to make paper chains for counting down other anticipated events as well, such as a birthday or family vacation.
Okay, finally now, I’m going to tell you about the little paper bag advent calendars my family’s been making. I first made this last year for my dad, who said it was the best gift he’d ever received. So, keep it in mind for a grandparent gift as well as for the kids.
Here’s what you need:
* 24 small bags. I got these colorful bags at Michaels craft store. Small lunch bags would work too, and Chinese take-out boxes would be super cute.
* 24 small clothes pins (also from the craft store) or paper clips.
* A 5-foot length of ribbon.
* Stickers. We used number stickers, but you could also hand number the bags with a Sharpie. Also, this is a great use for leftover scrapbooking stickers with a holiday theme.
* 24 items to stuff the sacks (more on this below).
So, the basic idea is that you number each bag 1-24. On Dec. 1, you open bag No. 1 and see what prize is inside, repeat the next day with bag No. 2, etc. I love the little bags (as opposed to the drawers of most reusable calendars) because you’re not so limited in size of items … and the variety of daily surprises is what makes this fun.
I let the kids decorate their own bags, then I secretly stuffed them with the goodies. This year, I also sent each of my parents their own advent calendar. Since I can’t be with them as much as I’d like during the holidays (they live in Oregon), it’s a nice way to be a regular part of their day.
Anyway, here are some ideas for fillers for grandparents: Ornaments, jewelry, pocket-sized tissues, soaps, small office supplies (sticky notes, push pins), seed packets and bulbs, playing cards, fishing lures, fridge magnets, wallet-sized photos of the kids, travel or sample-sized items, coffee/tea bags, hand-written notes or drawings, and — of course — chocolates and other candies.
You’ll want to decide on a budget since the cost for 24 items can get out of control pretty quickly. I’d suggest doing at least five “gifts” and then filling the rest of the days with an inexpensive treat.
For the kids, filler ideas include:
* Candy. Find cute foil-wrapped chocolates at Boehm’s Candy Store in the Chalet Place shopping center, 56th and Summitview avenues, Yakima. Also, Top Foods grocery store at S. First Street and Washington has tons of bulk candies.
* Small toys: Leftover party favors, Silly Putty, toy cars, Bakugan, Polly Pockets. The Clover Leaf at 4110 Main St. in Union Gap has some fun stuff for advent calendars or stocking stuffers. Dollar stores are also a great place to look.
* Holiday ornaments.
* Pencil sharpeners and erasers. We found lots at the school supply store at 302 W Yakima Ave. Other small arts and craft supplies are great, too. A new box of 24 crayons would fit in my bags.
* Items for their treasure box: Shells, colored rocks, marbles, etc.
Now enjoy the Christmas countdown!
After more than a decade in the news business, I’ve certainly come to expect a word of criticism now and then. One of the perks of working at Playdate has been that I tend to receive many more compliments than complaints. Nevertheless, I do hear a complaint now and then, particularly when a reader feels a child’s safety is at risk.
These days, news rooms know to expect calls when they publish a photo of a bicyclist without a helmet or somebody holding a cigarette. I have to admit, though, I was a little surprised when I got a note last year about this photo of a little boy pretending to drive his grandfather’s RV.
“I was disappointed to see the picture of the child in the front seat of the car. It’s a very unsafe practice, and hopefully you’ll put a statement about that in your next issue,” the e-mail said.
What is there to say? I wondered. The mother was standing close by, taking the photo. The engine wasn’t running. The boy is obviously playing, not actually riding in the front seat of the car. You all know that children should be seated in an appropriate car seat or booster seat in the back seat until they’re either age 8 or at least 4’9″ tall, right? Also, “children under 13 years old be transported in the back seat where it is practical to do so,” according to Washington law.
Anyway, I knew when I first saw this next photo that somebody would be happy to remind me — and you — that infant seats should never be set on an elevated surface.
In fact, the baby’s mother and I talked about that very topic when I called to let her know the photo was selected as the winner of our Gotcha! contest. She was the one who brought it up, pointing out that the chair is actually a very low beach chair and also that she was “right there,” just an arm’s reach from the baby.
After giving it some thought, I didn’t include any sort of warning in the text that we published alongside the photograph. I decided that I didn’t need to make excuses for the photo, which our judges chose because the baby’s kick-back pose and expression made them chuckle. But I knew it was just a matter of time before I got a letter.
“I am writing out of concern in regards to a picture shown in the most recent Playdate magazine,” said the note in my inbox. “The picture is one of the last pages in the back of the magazine and shows a cute baby in a Bumbo seat. While the baby is adorable, the picture actually shows the baby in a Bumbo and the Bumbo is on what looks to be a lawn chair.
“My concern is that the picture shows the use inappropriate and unsafe use of the Bumbo seat. There are a lot of articles and a statement from Bumbo about the correct use of the seat. It adds: ‘This site is devoted to educating users of the Bumbo Baby Seat how to use the product safely in order to prevent falls. Never use the Bumbo Baby Seat on any elevated surface and never leave a baby unattended in a Bumbo Baby seat because babies can get out of a Bumbo — it is not a restraint. ‘ http://www.bumbosafety.com/
“Additionally, here is another resource: http://www.bumbobabyseat.com/“
Wow! A whole Web site dedicated to the proper use of the product… got me thinking that our Yakima mama wasn’t the first person to put the Bumbo on an elevated surface. I forwarded the letter from our concerned reader onto the baby’s mother to get her thoughts.
“[R]egarding the safety concerns I’d like to note (and you may remember from our chat) this lawn chair was significantly low to the ground and he was within an arm’s reach. At that time (4 mos.), he was no where near capable of climbing out of the Bumbo. However, he is crawling now and pulling to a stand. The last time we … put him in the Bumbo on an elevated surface, I barely caught him in time as he climbed out and was taking a header towards the ground. The Bumbo has a bold warning in red right on the product as well as on the packaging and in the instruction manual so unless a parent can’t read or doesn’t pay attention to such warnings, a parent may or may not knowingly and willingly take the same risk I did. I was always aware of the risks and carefully supervised him, but the incident did happen very, very fast. I would certainly support any warning or disclaimer you might want to include in the next issue of Playdate.
“Thanks for forwarding that message on to me. As you noted, a response was likely and the author does have a point. I can’t say I wouldn’t have written something similar out of concern for baby safety.”
As the mother said, when accidents happen, they do have a tendancy to happen very, very fast. You don’t ever hear people say, “Johnny had been playing in the middle of the street for about an hour when this car rolled down the street at 20 mph and hit him.” Nope, Johnny darted out, the car swung around the corner too fast, the sun was in the driver’s eyes… When accidents happen, we’re usually not expecting it. And, unfortunately, all the seatbelts, helmets and properly used Bumbo seats in the world aren’t going to keep our babies safe all of the time. But we’ve still got to do what we can, right?
October 26, 2009 by Robin Beckett
So, assuming you haven’t already thrown out your Baby Einstein videos with the bath water, you might be interested to know that Disney is offering a refund for any of those lame-brained baby videos you may have collecting dust on the shelf. To get your refund, the video must be purchased in the last five years and you must submit your claim before March 4, 2010. Find all the rules and whatnot here.
The refund is the result of continued pressure from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which in 2006 filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission requesting that Disney stop claiming that Baby Einstein videos were educational for infants.
If you’re interested in the politics of this topic, check out the latest scuttlebutt on the D.C.-based Web magazine Slate, http://www.slate.com/id/2233556/. (A little heads-up that the author penned this as a Bush attack, which isn’t my intent. I just like Noah’s take on the “mompreneur” who created the videos. Common knowledge seems to be that kids under the age of 2 shouldn’t be watching any TV, so the idea that somebody who markets programs especially for this age group would be held up as a hero is a little absurd.)
That said, both my kids watched TV before they were 2… and they still do. No doubt, they watch too much. But if your tots enjoy Baby Einstein and the show buys Mom a few minutes of freedom to make dinner/help with homework/paint her toenails/whatever, I’ve got no problem with it.
So, while I’m not deluded that watching TV is going to make my kids smarter, here’s one study that agrees with me that a little TV in an otherwise healthy childhood isn’t going to harm a kid either. Here’s the news release from the March issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
TELEVISION AND VIDEOS FOR CHILDREN UNDER 2 MAY NOT INFLUENCE SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Exposing infants and toddlers to television does not improve their language and visual motor skills at age 3, but does not appear to harm them either. In the study, “Television Viewing in Infancy and Child Cognition at 3 Years of Age in a US Cohort,” researchers looked at the amount of time 872 children spent watching television or videos from birth to 2 years of age, then assessed their language and visual motor skills at age 3. When researchers adjusted for other factors that could influence these skills, such as maternal education and breastfeeding, the effect of television appeared neutral. Contrary to many parents’ perception that television viewing is beneficial to their children’s brain development, the researchers found no evidence of such a benefit. The authors point out that there are many potential benefits of limiting television exposure in children, including improved diet, lower risk of overweight, less exposure to violent content, and improved sleep quality.
October 21, 2009 by Robin Beckett
Hey, all you Oscar Mayer fans, this just in: The 27-foot-long Wienermobile is pulling into Yakima Thursday morning.
Yep, that’s a custom-made fiberglass hot dog resting on a lightly toasted bun… the stuff childhood dreams are made of. Visit the Wienermobile for free at various local groceries this week to play games and pick up an elusive Wiener Whistle. Hot dogs will be served at some locations.
You can ketchup (I relish a good pun) with cross-country hotdoggers Alison and Mary Kate at the following Yakima locations:
8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Top Food and Drug, 2203 S. First St.
1-5 p.m. Safeway, 2204 W. Nob Hill Blvd. (Hot dogs will be served.)
1-5 p.m. Safeway, 5702 Summitview Ave. (Hot dogs will be served.)
8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Rosauers, 410 S. 72nd Ave.
1-5 p.m. Albertson’s, 401 S. 40th Ave. (Hot dogs will be served.)
To read all about life inside the Wienermobile with Alison and Mary Kate, read their blog at hotdoggerblog.com.
October 13, 2009 by Robin Beckett
A little Frenchman was born this morning, 1:40 a.m. Paris time. His mother was recovering well after delivering by Cesarean. His father was stressed then relieved, ultimately proud.
Across the world, I learned about the birth from an e-mail. Sent mes féliciations via Facebook.
Sometimes it’s amazing how small the world can be.
In 1994-95, I spent a year in Dijon, France, as an exchange student with Rotary International. I was 18 years old, and it was a big thing for a girl from a small town to do. With four years of high school French under my belt and three bags full of clothes, I set off across the world on my own. On my own. As a mother, the idea of my own children leaving on their own makes my stomach knot.
To let me go, my mother must have been very brave. I suppose that going made me brave, too.
It was a hard year in a lot of ways. We didn’t have e-mail or Facebook back then. I spoke to my parents once a month on the phone (and it cost them a fortune). Correspondence with other friends and family was all via snail mail. My French wasn’t that strong and I didn’t know a soul, at least at first. The experience was both amazing and, frequently, quite isolating. And I’d absolutely do it all over again.
Through the years, I’ve managed to keep in touch with several people I knew in Dijon. I’ve been back to Europe three times since my exchange, including one trip where I was able to show my husband where I lived and introduce him to the families who hosted me. Mostly, we keep in touch with Christmas cards and wedding photos. But when I think of France, I know real people, not stereotypes or caricatures. And when I look at that photo of my host sister holding her newborn baby, she looks like any other mother I know. Absolutely in love with that little prince. Day 1.
A couple weeks ago, I had the amazing experience of being able to spend an evening with one of my old classmates from Dijon. Maëlle was a French girl in my class, almost three years younger than me but one of my better buds while I was there. A year after I came home, she came and spent a month with me in Grants Pass, Ore., my hometown. It wasn’t anything formal, just something we’d worked out so she could visit the U.S. and work on her English.
After that summer, we lost touch for at least a decade, then found each other on Facebook about a year ago. She works in international business these days and, in September, her job brought her over to Seattle. I made the two-hour drive over the mountains to see her. Thankfully, Maëlle’s English is much better than my rusty French these days, so we had a really nice visit. She doesn’t have kids yet and she had a lot of questions about how becoming a mother had changed my life. It’s a lot like traveling to a foreign country, I told her. It’s an amazing adventure. Sometimes isolating. Really, you just can’t know how different it’s going to be until you get there. And I’d absolutely do it all over again.
Congratulations, Stéphanie and Fréderic. Enjoy your new adventure!
September 22, 2009 by Robin Beckett
As far as excuses go, this one’s probably right up there with the dog eating your homework: “Sorry, Boss, I’m going to be late…. actually, this might take awhile. You see, I’m stuck in lockdown at my daughter’s daycare. I think somebody’s trying to rob the bank across the street. I’m not really sure when I’ll be able to get out of here. I’ll call you later.”
The day started for me like they usually do: I dropped my first-grader off at his school, then headed up Summitview to KinderCare, the child care center that’s been watching my kids for the past 2 1/2 years.
The center is more than 30 blocks from my house, in the wrong direction from work, but I like it there. Why? Well, I love Ms. Veronica’s contagious laughter and chatting with Ms. Judy in the office. I like that my 4-year-old can write all her letters and recite the days of the week. But here’s what I’m really paying for: Safety.
I like the keypad lock at the front door and the six-foot fence around the playground. I like that administrators and parents are able to look into all the classrooms from the hall to make sure everything’s OK. And, I like the way the staff handled the emergency lockdown on Monday.
On my drive up Summitview, I had a little warning that things were shaping up strangely. Just as I was approaching the school, I had to pull over three times in one block for police vehicles with their lights flashing. While I was pretty sure they didn’t weren’t trying to surround ME, there was a brief moment where I was pulled over in front of Banner Bank (scene of the crime) and I was in fact surrounded my multiple police cars (and saw more lights coming my way). I ducked out of their way and pulled into the daycare parking lot, telling my daughter that we needed to hurry inside.
At the same time I was pulling into the lot, a teacher was parking a KinderCare bus after dropping elementary kids off at school. She saw what was shaping up on the street and hollered at another teacher whose class was playing outside that everybody needed to get in the building. The teachers immediately notified the center’s assistant director Judy Epperheimer, who was in charge of the building at that time, and she put the school in lockdown mode. Everybody — including three moms who were dropping off kids — would have to stay inside the building, away from the windows.
The staff was absolutely professional — calm and collected. Some of the older kids (including my Annie) thought “it’s silly to have moms at school,” but they didn’t have a clue about the cops and would-be robber who were outside. Center staff hung makeshift curtains over the windows to prevent the kids from seeing anything that might be going on outside. (I was curious and peeked out the windows, but there wasn’t much to see. Ultimately, that’s a good thing when you’re surrounded by dozens of children, I suppose.)
“It’s the first time in 23 years I’ve ever had an officer with a rifle come to the door,” Ms. Judy told me. It was the first time in her lengthy tenure that she’d ever needed to put the school’s emergency plan into use, thank goodness. But you’d never know it. Throughout the morning, she calmly handled an endless stream of calls: Parents and grandparents wanting to make sure their kids were safe. Parents and staff who weren’t able to get to the center because of police barricades.
Mostly, though, there was just business as usual: Reading books, practicing numbers, playing with dough and puppets and blocks. We used walking feet and listening ears and tried not to burp during lunch.
Ms. Judy offered the parents donuts and coffee. While munching my maple bar in the staff room, I noticed an official KinderCare calendar, published by the Portland-based parent company, Knowledge Learning Corporation. Each day has a different “to do” task for the centers. Somebody had checked off each day’s task as they’d been completed. Monday’s reminder, coincidentally: Update emergency plan. Check!
Nearly three hours after we arrived to drop off our kids, the three stranded moms got word that we could leave. We left. And we left our kids there…. because the center was doing exactly what we were paying them to do: Keeping our kids safe.
A million thanks, ladies!
Looking forward to some “Fair-N-Dipity” at this year’s Central Washington State Fair? The theme, a play on the word serendipity, will focus on “discovering desirable and valuable things unexpectedly at the fair.”
Here, you can discover desirable and valuable things before you ever go to the fair. I’m talking about a deal, friends.
First off, admission for kids ages 5 and younger is always free. Regular admission is $12 for adults, $7 for youth (ages 6-12) and $9 for seniors (65+). Carnival wristbands are $25 Tuesday-Friday and $30 Saturday-Monday.
So, let’s assume you have two adults and two kids, ages 4 and 6. Regular admission plus two wristbands would be $33 plus $50/$60 (depending on what day you go) = $83/$93.
We can do better than that.
First, you can buy discounted carnival wristband vouchers ($22) until 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 at the State Fair Park box office, Banner Banks, Wray’s, Fiesta Foods, Big R and most Yakima AM/PMs. Cash only, except the fair box office, which will accept credit cards.
Advance purchase will save you $3-$8 off the cost of each wristband. That’s enough to buy a corn dog!
Adjusted cost for my example family: $77/$77. If they visit the fair on a weekend, they’ve just saved $16.
Bet we can still do better. Here’s some info about the fair’s promo days that offer a price break on admission/carnival rides:
Friday, Sept. 25 — KIMA TV “Dollar Day”
Deal: $1 Gate Admission (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and $6 parking all day.
Example family: $3 admission + $44 advance purchase wristbands = $47 total ($36 savings). Awesome deal! Without buying wristbands in advance, the total is $53 — still a sweet deal.
Monday, Sept. 28 — Franz Bread Day
Deal: Bring an empty bag of Franz bread with a blue sticker on it, pay $25 for admission and a wristband. One sticker per person is required. Note: This is the only pay-one-price promo day this year. Also, Yakima School District kids will get out of school early, so this is a fairly practical day to go.
Example family (updated 9/24 and 9/26): For the adults, purchase two admissions/wristbands for $50 + $7 youth admission = $57 total ($36 savings). Give the wristbands to the kids. Note: Today, our example family pays a little more with advance purchase wristbands: two wristbands at $22 each + $33 admission = $77 total. But that’s still a $16 savings off the full price (wristbands are $30 today).
Wednesday, Sept. 30 — Pepsi Kids Day
Deal: All kids ages 12 & younger get free admission all day when they bring an empty 12-oz Pepsi can or other Pepsi product can (Mountain Dew, Mug Root Beer, 7-Up, Squirt, Dr. Pepper). Enter through Blue Gate or Gold Gate. One can per youth. Kids must be accompanied by an adult.
Example family: $24 admission for two adults + $44 advance purchase wristbands for kids = $66 total ($17 savings). Without buying wristbands in advance, the total is $74 ($9 savings). And, this deal improves if you have more kids ages 6-12.
Sunday, Oct. 4 — Sonic Family Day
Deal: Pay $25 and receive gate admission for two adults and three youth. No coupon required; just ask for the Sonic Family Day special. (Remember: Kids 5 and younger are always free.)
Example family: $25 admission + $44 for two advance purchase wristbands = $69 total ($34 savings). With wristbands purchased at the carnival = $85 ($8 savings). However, this deal definitely improves when you have more than one child age 6-12.
Also, here’s the entertainment lineup and fair hours each day, in case that helps you decide when to go.
- Friday, Sept. 25: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Jamie Lee Thurston. American Sprint Car Series NW Region.
- Saturday, Sept. 26: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Phil Vassar. American Sprint Car Series NW Region.
- Sunday, Sept. 27: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Juice Newton. Latino Festival: Yolanda Del Rio, Con Mariachi, El Chichicuilote and more.
- Monday, Sept. 28: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Guitar Hero. Red Hot Ride Horsemanship Challenge.
- Tuesday, Sept. 29: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Billy Ray Cyrus.
- Wednesday, Sept. 30: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Boys II Men.
- Thursday, Oct. 1: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. REO Speedwagon.
- Friday, Oct. 2: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Curtis Salgado. Pro-West Finals Rodeo.
- Saturday, Oct. 3: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Little River Band. Pro-West Finals Rodeo.
- Sunday, Oct. 4: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Laura Flores and Sergio Goyri. Demolition Derby.
September 18, 2009 by Robin Beckett
We’ve just wrapped up production on the next issue of Playdate and I have to say, with all due respect to our previous issues (because I love them all), this one is our cutest cover ever. Our cover kids are Seri and Jett Nugent, who we discovered when their mother Timi submitted this photo to our Gotcha photo contest a couple months ago:
This isn’t the same photo that will be on the cover, but we do love those tights, so we asked Seri to wear them for our photo shoot, which she did. Yay!
Look for Playdate at your favorite stand next Friday, Sept. 25. This issue includes a round up of fall harvest festivals and upcoming children’s theater productions as well as a chat with three Yakima-area moms who’ve had breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
September 12, 2009 by Robin Beckett
Thar be somethin’ me loved about pirates long before Johnny Depp’s swaggering Cap’n Jack sealed the deal. They’re “bad boys” with frilly costumes, wanderlust and treasure. What’s not to like, right? I mean, if you can just look beyond all the pillaging and the plundering, pirates are inherently likable characters. At least most kids seem to think so.
Pirates inspire the imagination. They’re a great thematic backdrop for story books, birthday parties, Halloween costumes and all sorts of other childhood mayhem. Check out this amazing ship-themed bed I found at Chasing Fireflies, a Seattle catalog company.
If I had tons of treasure (like, oh, $1,900 + s/h + sales tax), I just might buy this for my little scoundrels. Unfortunately, my coffers won’t even cover the $98 costume. Oh well. They say “talk is cheap” and this Saturday — Sept. 19 — is (quite officially) Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I can probably afford some of that. Actually, it’s pretty easy to steal a few bon mots from the official Talk Like a Pirate Day Web site.
Personally, I’m trying to figure out how to trick talk my husband into driving us down to the Portland Pirate Festival this weekend. (We can drop anchor at Grandma’s house and save a few POE … pieces of eight, that is. I just picked up a few bits of pirate chat lingo here.)
I’ve never gone to the festival before, but it looks like they’ve got lots of fun activities for the kiddos such as Scupper Monkey Island, a play area with several thematic inflatables, free balloons and temporary tattoos, jugglers and puppet shows.
There’s also lots of music, a blacksmith demonstration, grub/grog and, aye!, cannon fire. We actually have a little experience with cannon fire from last year’s Tall Ships Festival in Victoria, B.C. There were lots of amazing ships in port including a replica of Columbus’ Niña and The Lady Washington, our state’s “official ship” that starred as the Interceptor in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Anyway, I’ll write more about that trip another time, but my point is that there were a few pirate-y activities going on and it was lots of fun. We had the opportunity to go for a sail during one of the festival’s cannon battles and the kids thought that was a hoot. That festival should be returning to Victoria in 2011.
Anyhoo… If you’d like some pirate fun closer to home, you might try marauding your basement or a local appliance store to find a few cardboard boxes to build a super-cool cardboard pirate ship. Mr. McGroovy’s page has detailed plans and lots of pictures for inspiration. I haven’t made the pirate ship yet, but I have used McGroovy’s plans to build a cardboard castle and a semi truck (Optimus Prime, Transformer fans). Here’s what I learned about cardboard construction: Making the structure is simple. Painting it is … entirely optional.
“It’s not camping,” the sign on the office door said. “It’s kamping.”
My family spent last weekend at the Redmond/Central Oregon KOA, located about 3.5 hours south of Yakima off US Highway 97. Although I grew up “car camping,” I’d never stayed at anything quite as civilized as a KOA before. And, honestly, we chose the location only because my college BFF lives there (her husband works there), we hadn’t seen each other in a couple years, and it was a relatively inexpensive way to get out of town for a long weekend. Rates vary depending on how many people are in your group and whether you’re renting a “kabin” or bringing an RV, but our 4-person tent site was about $30 a night.
Naturally, we knew this was not going to be a rural, “roughin’ it” experience. But I was still a little shocked when I realized our “camp site” was a patch of grass roughly half the size of my front lawn (without so much as a picket fence for privacy). However, I have to say, the KOA’s amenities were kinda nice. We had flush toilets and free showers. There was a heated swimming pool and playground. The kiddos enjoyed sleeping in a tent and our fire pit was perfect for making s’mores. On Saturday night, camp staff led all the little ones (decked out with glow necklaces) on a boisterous “glow light parade” around the campground, complete with boosterish chant: “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, the KOA is the place to go.”
It’s not traditional camping, but this “kamping” trip definitely had its perks. One of them was definitely the patch of grass. We ran around in bare feet or flip-flops without the dirt-kicking and constant filth that I’ve come to associate with “kid camping.” KOA camping, I discovered, is actually pretty “klean.”
And that was perfect because we didn’t want to look like Pigpen when we drove into Bend to do some tax-free school clothes shopping. (You can do that when you’re kamping.) We found fun shops and lunch at the Old Mill District, a mixed-use development on the site of an enormous old lumber mill. Stop by the Central Oregon Visitor Center to pick up brochures and maps with loads of information about all the recreational opportunities in the area. Find pint-sized entertainment at the Working Wonders Children’s Museum is also located right at the Old Mill. (Find pint-sized entertainment for adults across the river at the Deschutes Brewery, but that’s a different vacation.) Just for kicks, we rented a surrey (with the fringe on top) from Wheel Fun Rentals; an hour cost $20. The kids thought that was hilarious good fun.
We were disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to tour Lava River Cave in Newbury National Volcanic Monument. The High Desert Museum is also definitely worth a visit. Guess we’ll have something to look forward to next time we go kamping…
Of course, we could save some gas if we tried the fresh pizza delivery and pony rides at the Naches/Mt. Rainier KOA at Squaw Rock Resort. Krazy, I never stayed at the KOA before.
August 11, 2009 by Robin Beckett
Have you been out shopping for school supplies and new shoes? Don’t forget how much a fresh haircut can really clean up a kid. I’ve been noticing that my own son’s looking a little shaggy around the ears lately.
Which reminds me of these photos we took of 2-year-old Ezra Rottman getting his first haircut last spring. I’d planned to use them in the magazine as part of a package on childhood “firsts,” but I just never got the time/space to finish it up… so I thought I’d at least show them to you here before he heads off to kindergarten.
Anyway, I thought Ezra’s big boy cut turned out great. He didn’t say much, but we could tell he was proud. He looked pretty awesome with a little patch of green hairspray! And, because it was his first cut, Ezra also got a keepsake certificate (with a lock of that precious baby hair) from Crazy Kids Hair Design in Selah. Thinking about heading there yourself? Find a coupon for $2 off a kid’s cut in the latest issue of Playdate (page 17).
August 10, 2009 by Robin Beckett
We’re in the home stretch of summer vacation now… back-to-school season is lurking on the horizon. But — hey! — summer’s not over yet. Not even close. Late summer and fall are a great time to enjoy the Yakima Valley (and surrounding region) without the blazing temperatures we saw in July.
Just yesterday, my family drove out SR 410 to Chinook Pass to take a little walk around the Naches Peak Loop, where the abundant wildflowers failed to notice it’s no longer spring. The colors were gorgeous!
I heard from several famililes last year who enjoyed our story on the hike to Umptanum Creek Falls. And, on cooler days, Cowiche Canyon is a great place for a kid-friendly walk without much of a drive. The last guided Hikin’ Around walk of the summer will be Aug. 20. Of course, the Yakima Greenway is also close to home and great for walking, riding bikes, etc.
Looking for something wet? A friend who visited the aquatic center at Moses Lake last week had a great time with her two boys (ages 8 and 11). They’ve been to Silverwood Theme Park in northern Idaho several times… and had just as much fun in Moses Lake. Besides being closer to home, admission to the Moses Lake aquatic center was much more reasonable ($32 for the whole family v. $40.99 for one person at Silverwood) AND they loved being able to bring a picnic instead of being forced to purchase food from overpriced theme park concessions.
Here at home, this is the last week for swimming at the Selah pool, which closes for the season on Sunday. Yakima’s Franklin Pool will be open daily through Aug. 30.
August 10, 2009 by Robin Beckett
Red Robin is looking for junior burger masters to design the restaurant chain’s next gourmet burger. Until Sept. 13, kids ages 6-12 can enter the Kids’ Cook-Off contest for a chance to have their burger featured on the menu and win a family vacation to Orlando. How cool!
Find the details about how to enter here.
August 2, 2009 by Robin Beckett
After dropping a friend off at SeaTac on Friday, the kids and I needed a place to stop and burn some energy before heading back home to Yakima. Of course, Seattle has lots of fun things to do with kids: Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo and the wading pool at Green Lake were all tempting options.
Ultimately, though, I decided to stay on the eastside of Friday afternoon traffic. So, we stopped by the KidsQuest Children’s Museum at the Factoria Mall in Bellevue. It’s at the junction of I-90 and I-405, so it was super convenient for our route. Admission was $7.50 per person. We stayed about two hours and, honestly, the kids could have stayed longer but I was ready to move on (especially because the “jeans for $12″ sign on the OshKosh B’gosh store across the way was screaming at me to check out their back-to-school sale).
Anyway, the kids had a great time. Annie, 4, loved the Waterways area, which had several interactive exhibits that allowed kids to explore the power of water. Max, 6, really loved “driving” the full-size Peterbilt semi-truck.
The museum’s not especially large and I wouldn’t recommend it as a destination from Yakima, but it was a great way to pass the afternoon if you happen to be in Bellevue or (like us) just passing through. Makes me wish we had something similar closer to home…
Looking for an indoor place to beat the heat? Check out our list of Indoor Play Places.
Hey all you Mamas (and Papas)!
Do you like to cook? The Herald-Republic is looking for delicious family recipes to publish in the Wednesday Taste section. Now, I know you all like to eat and some of you are pretty handy in the kitchen. So, go on, then… give us the dish on your favorite foods. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Just has to be good.
To download the instruction form, click here.
June 11, 2009 by Robin Beckett
I’ve been invited to a couple of different “idea parties” this spring. It’s a great way for moms to get together and build a little stockpile of summertime activities for the kiddos. Here’s how it works: Each guest brings 5 identical activity kits that would be suitable for kids of a certain age (under 8 at the party I attended). At the party, names are drawn to see who will take home each activity (no fighting!) and each mom goes home with 5 new kits… as well as several other ideas she could put together at home.
The ideas could really be anything… my friend Danielle tells me her kids LOVE the baby food jar “bug catchers” she got at a party a few weeks ago. It’s basically an empty baby food jar covered with a mesh lid that’s held in place by a rubber band. The catcher came with a little notebook decorated with a bug sticker for documenting the kids’ finds. Her 6-year-old has been emphatically scrawling about each s-p-i-d-e-r he finds and the two-year-old is just happy to have her own notebook.
Anyway, I thought the party was a great chance to meet a few new moms — the hostess just invites everybody she knows and sees who shows up — and get some new ideas and activities for keeping the kids busy throughout the summer. That said, my own contribution wasn’t the most original, but my kids LOVE playing with play dough, so perhaps this recipe for scented homemade dough (which I stapled to a packet of Kool-Aid) will help keep yours entertained. (Thanks to Wendi for the idea!)
A couple of kits I didn’t get to take home from the party were a deck of cards with instructions for all kinds of different games; a list of local family-friendly hikes (cutely packaged with a granola bar, trial-sized sunscreen and a few other items); and a kit to make little bendy dolls out of rafia and pipe cleaners.
Okay, here’s what I did get: First, I was really excited to get this super cool “I Spy” pillow filled with rice and more than a dozen little doo-dads from around the house: dice, crayon, penny, Lego. What a great way to get rid of some of that junk that’s always laying around (and getting stepped on – yeouch!). The plastic window is made from a sturdy Ziplock bag.
My family is going on an epic road trip to Disneyland soon so I’m hoping the pillow will help keep the kids entertained. Hopefully they won’t fight over it. (For more road trip ideas, click here.)
I also got a kit of geometric shaped papers and stickers that the kids can create their own designs (photo at the top).
And, much to the delight of my daughter who was at the party with me, we got this water toy. The mom who brought this toy said her kids love using it to help water the flowers. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Don’t you love thinking about baby names?
The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Washington’s most popular baby names in 2008 were Ethan and Olivia. Really? I’m always a little surprised by these lists, which never seem to reflect the kids I know (many of whom rhyme with Aiden). Seems like half the girls I know are named Emma (the other half are Emily). Elizabeth is popular, too.
Nobody calls their girls Janet or Linda anymore, but I’ve been surprised by how many “mature” names I’ve heard recently for boys: Arthur, Bruce and Oscar come to mind. Personally, I wouldn’t name a baby anything that ever stood aside the word “grouch.” Parenting is hard enough as it is, you know?
But who am I to judge? When I was pregnant with my first child, my sister-in-law with six warned me to be careful what we name the baby: “They become who you name them,” she said. We ignored her and named our son Max. That is not a synonym for “quiet and obedient.” But we love him just the same.
Which makes me wonder, as Shakespeare’s Juliet once did, whether “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And I suppose it would.
But I’m still glad my name’s not Mildred.