Category Archives: Things to do Thursday

Fun City this weekend!

Aaaah, Festival. Streets full of people and art and of course, that one crazy guy who carries around the giant picket sign and yells at everyone that the world is ending.  Little kids from local dance studios performing on the ‘big’ stage in front of a huge crowd absolutely thrilled because they’re famous.

Children soak up the art and don’t even realize it. They participate in the activities, but also swing on a tire swing which, by the way, is a di Suervo sculpture and stroll right under a bright, giant Calder. Tacos in a bag, lamb on a stick, and Bosnian meat pies. Halava, shrimp quesadillas…

This is my Grand Rapids. This is what I want people who don’t live here to see, and what I want people who do live here to notice. Festival brings it all together. That’s what I’m doing this weekend.

Well, that, and – moving Big Binder to it’s own website. Yep. I’ll be adding bells and whistles all weekend.  Check the CalendarActive Kids and the Summer in the City now, because I don’t know if you’ll be able to access it for a couple of days. I have been updating the heck out of them, so there is new stuff there. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for sure on Monday. Enjoy your weekend!

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Summer Reading Programs

Have you seen the Vacation Bible School listing? It’s HUGE – and growing daily! Thank you so much for sending your church’s information in; we are going to have the holiest kids in the country. I’ve added a few races to Active Kids, too, and somehow managed to leave off the entire city of Grandville from the Parks & Rec  post. Oops. Sorry, G’ville. You’re on there now.

This next part in Big Binder’s “Summer In The City” series is probably my favorite. 

Probably schmobably. It straight up is my favorite.  I am wholly consumed with summer reading programs.  There are good reasons, too. There are a bunch of studies that say kids lose ground over the summer, and have to make up for lost time when the start school. But really, we are good about reading to or with our kids, and I know you are too. I mean, usually. Unless it’s kind of a bad day. Or sometimes a bad couple of days. But mostly; your kids would read or be read to without these programs. So why do we do it? Swag, baby.

Most of these programs don’t start for a few weeks, but you need time to develop your strategy.  First, make sure you get the reading logs or forms early so as to obtain maximum program completion prizes. For example, if reading 15 books = a coupon somewhere, start early so you can get lots of coupons. I mean, your child. So your child can get lots of coupons. Kids love coupons.

Second, have a centralized location for the logs and forms.  Big shocker, I have a folder next to the refrigerator for each kid. 

Third, put all the completion dates on your calendar.  You don’t want to miss turning in the forms after you have worked so hard filling them out. Reading is its own reward, yeah yeah, but still. Get the goodies.

Fourth, count any stories read to your children (if they are pre-readers) on the logs. Story time TOTALLY counts.  It doesn’t have to be books that you personally read to them.

Fifth, and this is the biggest time saver; each night write down the books on all the logs. You will never, ever remember and you will feel guilty if you just make it up later.  Since you have followed step two and put the forms in one place, just knock it all out at once.

Ok, ready? Not all of them are Grand Rapids exclusives. I’m nice like that.  If you are one of “The Others”, check your local library. In order of start date, the summer reading programs are:

  • May 3 to September 30: TD Bank Summer Reading Program. Yes, I know this isn’t a local bank. But I have a friend who goes to Lake George during the summer, and so I’m tossing it in for her. It pays to be friends with me. $10, as a matter of fact.
  • May 4 to August 26: Borders Double Dog Dare Reading Program – kids under 12 read 10 books, bring this form in (Waldenbooks is part of Borders too), and get a book for free. 
  • May 24 to August 30: VERY cool on-line summer reading program from No Time For Flash Cards; with weekly chances to win.
  • May 24 to “the end of August”: New York Times Student Challenge, something something, made my head hurt just reading the directions.
  • May 25 to September 7:  Barnes And Noble Summer Reading – kids from 1st to 6th grade read 8 books, bring this form in, and get a free book.
  • June 1 to July 31: Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Challenge. Kids get a $3 gift card each week when they read 15 minutes a day.   There isn’t even one of these stores in Michigan. But, maybe if you travel out of town you could cash in.
  • June 5 to August 21: Schuler Books Summer Reading Club. The clear directions and specific instructions of the program, along with cookies at Saturday storytime make this my personal favorite. Kids can earn up to 3 $5 gift certificates for reading an age-appropriate number of books.
  • June 14 to August 7: Kent District Library Summer Reading Program. Keep checking back; more to come.
  • June 14 to August 7: Grand Rapids Public Library Summer Reading Program. It sounds like the kids decide how much they want to read? That can’t be right. What I can tell you is that the swag-bag contains a t-shirt, Whitecaps, andGriffins tickets. SCORE!
  • June 14 to ? Pooh’s Corner bookstore. Keep checking back.

I’ll update this post as the details become available, or as new places add the information. For now, get ready to rock the Summer Reading Programs. You know I love them.  For more Things I Love Thursday, go to The Diaper Diaries.

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Oh It’s ON!

Summer, I mean. And the air conditioning; for a few days anyway until some Canadian air mass blows in and cools things off.  I tell you what, being in Michigan is hard work. We are constantly assaulted, if it’s not Canadian air, it’s Asian Carp by way of Chicago.  Good thing we can still get together and celebrate our Michigan-ness.  Have you read the comments and posts (you have to click on that “McLinky” thing)? Wonderful stuff!

The kids and ended up making Michigan pancakes instead of cookies. 

And also, a lizard.

My husband is from Arizona, and since I don’t have an Arizona cookie cutter he made a lizard in that state’s honor.  He’s very fair-minded, that A.P.  Although, thinking back – how hard would it have been to free-hand the shape of Arizona?

Well, I’ll let a blogger from that state answer such pressing questions.  On to weekend fun.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, of course.  Here are my picks for where frugal, family-friendly, and interesting intersect:

  • May 31 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM Coopersville Rail Road Troop Train – Free for vets, everyone else over 2 years old is $7.50 (it’s usually $10.50).
  • Various parades around town as compiled by GR Now.
  • Farmers’ Markets are starting to pick up a bit; use this listing from the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council  to find one near you.
  • If you have a Grand Rapid Children’s Museum or a Meijer Gardens membership, this is the last week for the cultural exchange between the two.  We went to the GRCM last week on a sunny afternoon and it turned out to be accidental genius.  No one else was there. 
  • It’s also the last week for the Big, Big, BUGS! exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. We liked the exhibit, but not the planetarium show.
  • Check out a Whitecaps Baseball game (but be sure and read my tips here first to see if you can save on tickets!).
  • Relax.  This is it before open houses, weddings, camps, and the hectic lives we lead in the summer making sure we enjoy every minute.

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Things To Do

School’s out for summer – for my husband any way.  He finally gets a chance to catch up on some of the family fun he has been missing out on. Things like sitting down with us for dinner, instead of going to class.  Reading the kids bedtime stories, instead of getting home three hours after they go to bed.  Last night, he had the pleasure of going to the Big, Big Bugs Exhibit at the Museum.  My husband is not a museum-y person and anything with a ton of kids tearing around gets on his nerves.  I think it gets on everyone’s nerves, but some of us just live with it daily and know how to deal with it.  A nice glass of wine with dinner, mainly.

It was quite the surprise for both of us that I was the one who declared it a FAIL. Well, not the exhibit itself.  The bugs are fine. It was the planetarium show that was Included In The Price Of Our Ticket. I may pay extra not to have it included next time.  I’ll just do bullet points with my objections rather than make you listen to a full-on rant.  My husband has already done that.  Incidentally, today he is looking for some summer classes to take.

  1. The show was designed for children.  It was 45 minutes long and involved mostly lecture.
  2. The lecture began with a distinction between what technically defined a constellation (not pictures, but specific segments of the sky), and how it is incorrectly used in common speech.  As a 45 minute long example, it was used incorrectly thereafter.
  3. Somehow the lecture wandered into saving endangered lions or something , and environmental stewardship.  I’m not opposed to either, of course, but it was a little stretch-y for kids to follow. OK and adults too.
  4. The show concluded (finally!) with a very loud, very long thunder and lightning soundtrack and sky-lighting finale.  Everyone under the age of eight wet their pants a little, and everyone under two was screaming their heads off by the time it was over.  Kids LOVE thunderstorms!!

This weekend will be fantastic though.  Maybelle has her tap recital and I tried to get you all tickets, but she’ll be tapping to a sold out crowd.  I found a few other things going on, and listed them here.  If you don’t live in Grand Rapids, don’t worry.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a book review and then a tutorial about how to cook dried beans.  You just never know what you’ll find here…

May 15 8:00 Grand Rapids Bike Park – Trail Day and Pumptrack Grand Opening 8am- noon, open riding afterwards. Help clean up the Plaster River Corridor. At 11am Mayor Heartwell will cut the ribbon and take the first official ride on the pumptrack. Rides will be offered on the developing singletrack and on the Plaster Creek Trail. (This may only be exciting to my husband, but you never know).
May 15 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Arts in Ada Festival – kids activities.
May 15 11:00AM- 3:00PM Picnic in the Park (Wilcox Park) Eastown kicks off the 2010 special events season with the fourth annual Wilcox Picnic in the Park. This year, they are teaming up with Friends of G.R. Parks for a morning Wilcox Park Cleanup followed by the Picnic in the Park. Everybody who helps clean up the park gets a free hot dog, chips and a pop as a thank you. This is a family friendly event with live acoustic music, children play activities, and informational booths. 
May 15 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM (Wyoming) UCOM Community Carnival – Games, inflatables, and snacks. More info here.
May 15 12:00 – 5:00 PM Community Open House at the old Public Museum.
May 15 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM (Grandville)  Safe for Summer Swim Days, Visser Family YMCA
Find out if your child has the skills they need to be safe in the water this summer!  The Y will offer free swim tests to any child in the community (You do not have to be a member.)  Contact Katie Long 530-9199 or email Klong@grymca for more info.
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Things To Do!

I am looking forward to this weekend! It’s getting nice out, and there is so much to choose from.  Let me help you. 

First, there is a very inconspicuous-looking flyer floating around Grand Rapids you will want to get ahold of.  It isn’t fancy, but if you see something called a “Culture Pass”, grab one.  There are tons of coupons you will want for places like the Zoo, the Children’s Museum, and the one we’re cashing in on Friday – a buy one get one admission for a Friday Night at the Grand Rapids Art Museum .

Saturday, of course, is Earth Day (Observed).  It’s the big Four – Oh.  Time to re-evaluate your purpose, Earth Day. Make your bucket list. Write a book. Run a marathon. Or, you can do exactly what I am going to do for my fortieth birthday, which is to have a party and let everyone tell you how awesome you are. 

Grand Rapids Tightwad reminded me that a very cool little garden container project is happening this Saturday at Lowes, so that’s our first order of business.  Well, second actually, after we hit the gym.  This is important because making garden containers can build up a voracious appetite for snacks.  We’re going to swing by the Kava House on Kalamazoo (near 68th) to check out the National Food Blogger’s Bake Sale, headed up by locally Megan who promises lots of deliciousness will be available for purchase.  It’s a benefit for a hunger organization, which I am ALWAYS down with.

This next part pains me a little.  The John Ball Park Zoo is having it’s Party for the Planet on Saturday.  We went to to the zoo today, and here is a partial list of what is not open yet, although, they may open them by Saturday – just check beforehand if any of these are dealbreakers for you (or your kids):

  • Sting rays
  • Zip line
  • Ropes course
  • Petting zoo – the animals are there, you just can’t get in the little pen with them
  • Waterfall (by the zip line)
  • Camel
  • Budgees – whatever.  Those birds you can feed.
  • Macaw
  • Baby goats (the petting ones)
  • Flamingos
  • The Drive-Your-Own-Swan boats
  • Half of the bathrooms
  • Nessie.  Oh, Nessie.

There is, however, an abundance of iguanas in random cages in the Reptiles and Amphibians exhibit.  Seriously, they are everywhere.  Check for the aforementioned Culture Pass – there is an admission coupon for the Zoo in it 🙂

My friends, I have to break with my loyalty to Grand Rapids momentarily here.  If you want to celebrate Earth Day, the Kalamazoo Nature Center rocks it.  If you haven’t been there, it is world class, award winning, and amazing.  It is rarely free, but it will be on Saturday. 

There is another, environmentally incorrect option.  It’s the Cottage & Lakefront Living Show.  We do not have a cottage.  We do not have a lakefront home.  We do have free tickets that I won.  We went a few years ago, and I learned my lesson.  There is a big, indoor sandy beach.  On that beach, there is a sandcastle building competition.  I thought the kids would have fun watching. 

Yeah, because kids love to watch intense, nerdy grown ups make stuff in the sand while they just stand there.  We will be planning our visit during a non-competition time, because then the kids just get to play in the sand which is what makes the entire experience of looking at different roofing options for our non-existent lake home worth it.

There are several Whitecaps games this weekend too and we are going to try and make the Saturday night one. 

And after all of that – on Sunday, we will rest!

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’twas the Week Before Spring Break

We had a field trip at Meijer Gardens today with A.P.’s class to visit with the butterflies. If you don’t already know, I do not like them one bit.  I can only blame the trauma of one too many close calls with the flying beasts for somehow missing the fact that I could take my little group of six year old boys outside to the Children’s Garden.  Six year old boys are yucky, trash-talking, nose-picking, fake-farting animals.  They belong outside.  The Gardens is a big place, but there is only so much you can do with boys and butterflies inside and dealing with them all morning completely wiped me out.

Still, I’m glad we went today.  That place is going to be packed during Spring Break so it’s good to get it out of the way. I rounded up some Spring Break fun for you here, but a few other little things have flown across my radar since then.

First, GR Now and West Michigan Mommy list some Easter Egg hunts.  If your kids are a little older, you can sign them up for a Babysitting Class at the American Red Cross.  It’s about time for them to start earning their keep, don’t you think? Kidding! I just need more good sitters and am hoping to increase the pool. Also, you up-northers (this is anyone north of Fulton, in my book) can bowl for cheap at the Sparta Lanes. $1.00 a game – and that includes shoes! 

We are headed to our last Grand Rapids Griffins game of the season tomorrow and I need to spend some time putting together my notes from this program last night.  It was awesome and I promise you will read all about it.  Enjoy your weekend!

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Psst – I Know Why You’re Tired

OK Mami, let’s talk.  Let’s talk about that run-down feeling we get.  Let’s talk about how discouraging it can be to coordinate school schedules and tap class and soccer and making dinner and emptying the dishwasher and sending that birthday card out and cutting out coupons and taking the stuff on the back porch to Goodwill and cleaning the toilet.  Let’s talk about trying to get the right amount of sleep and exercise and finding the right system to keep everything organized.  It’s hard because it’s impossible – but frustrating because it’s required.

The world is no help.  It’s always telling you about something you should be doing, or becoming more aware of.  In like a lion out like a lamb my butt. March is: Dental Health Month, Parenting Awareness Month, Red Cross Month, Organ Donation Month, National Nutrition Month, and Reading Month.    March 7-13 is National Sleep Awareness Week.  The Fourth Tuesday in March is Diabetes Alert Day.  It’s exhausting.

And well-meaning as your family is, I firmly believe that once in a while you have got to get away from these people.  Girls’ night and going out to coffee are great but not nearly long enough.  I didn’t understand that I could ‘get away’ with going away until I discovered the secret:  come back happy and relaxed.  That part is easy.  It takes about 12 hours for your brain to realize that no one is going to ask you for anything except your dinner order and if you want a pizza with mushrooms and onions go for it because no one is going to make a frownie-face or fling them off with disgust.  Take as much time as you want in the knick-knack store because that kid over there shaking the snow globes is not yours.

I go away for one weekend a year, usually to Traverse City.  I love TC and I think it loves me right back.  It’s the Cherry Capital of the World.  It has a fun downtown.  It’s on the water.  Fashion-wise, I fit in perfectly.  Everyone is wearing some version of the fetching little number called, “Why Bother – It’s Going To Get Mud On It”.  Dogs are everywhere.  I meander, and chat with people who seem interesting, and drink fancy coffee.  I sleep late, and hog the whole bed. I write and think and pray and nap. It’s two straight days of pure lovely.

That’s what I love – getting away. And coming back to the same lists and chores and plans and campaigns – but they look much smaller when I return.  For more Things I Love Thursday, go have a visit with The Diaper Diaries.

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