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Archive for January, 2011

Book Giveaway: The Runaway Wok

"The Runaway Wok" by Ying Compestine Chinese New Year starts this week, and with it, dragon parades, fireworks and all sorts of tasty celebrations. So this is the perfect time to talk about award-winning Bay Area writer Ying Compestine and her newest book for kids. From hungry ghosts to “boy dumplings,” Chinese food, culture and folk tales have always appealed to Compestine, whose young adult novel about China’s Cultural Revolution, “Revolution is Not a Dinner Party,” won 19 major literary awards. Now she’s back in bookstores with a picture book for kids, “The Runaway Wok.” It’s the rollicking tale of a magical wok, a poor family and an unexpectedly splendid Chinese New Year celebration. Very, very fun – and it can be yours!

Click “comments” and tell us, do your kids celebrate Chinese or Lunar New Year? We’ll draw a winner’s name next week. (Meanwhile, congrats are in order for Marci, who won “The Grouchy Ladybag”!)

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Books, Contest | 5 Comments »

Fabulous Valentine Bears

Bear hugs 3 Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and we can’t wait for that sweetheart of a holiday. It’s a time to tell friends and family that we love ’em, and to do it in a froth of pink adorableness.

So we’re putting together a Fab Five list of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, with the cutest, easiest valentine cards and treats. And we’re leading off with this sweet treat from the archives of Family Fun Magazine: Fill tiny cellophane bags (we picked ours up at Michael’s – we think they’re supposed to be for homemade lollipops) with tiny Teddy Graham cookies and gummi bears. Tie on a ribbon, and attach a tag that says “Bear hugs for you,” “Join the cub,” “I can’t bear to be without you” or something else suitably adorable. Voila. Instant valentine.

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Valentine | No Comments »

Newest Drug: Fake Bath Salts

Poison shirt (copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Who’d have thought? First came regular old pot. Then salvia, prescription drugs and even Coricidin-abuse. Now comes this warning from the California Poison Control Center’s Dr. Richard Geller. Your teen’s sudden interest in bath salts from the corner store may have nothing to do with cleanliness or rubber duckies.

“Beginning in September, 2010,” says Geller, “US poison control centers began to receive reports of patients ill from the effects of a series of previously unreported drugs of abuse collectively known as “bath salts”. These agents have nothing to do with bathing, and, like the synthetic cannabinoids marketed as ‘spice,’ are marketed as something other than what they really are.”

Poison Control Centers across the U.S. had 236 calls on this topic last year. They’re at 220 to date for 2011, and it’s not even February yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Health & Safety | 1 Comment »

Parent Talks: Preschools, Expulsions & More

School sign Choosing a Preschool Workshop
February 2, 7-9 p.m., Bananas, Oakland
What is a preschool and how do parents choose quality care? Join Judy Kriege of BANANAS for a discussion on preschool options and how to make that choice.

Childhood Matters
February 6 from 7 to 8 a.m. on 98.1 KISS-FM, and streamed live and archived on
Join Rona Renner and guests as they discuss parenting issues.

Preschool Expulsion Support Group
February 7 at 7 p.m. at Bananas, Oakland
Bananas is launching a support group, led by Tasha Henneman of BANANAS and Madeline Meyer Riley, MFT, for parents of kids who have been expelled from their day care setting.

Autism Forum
Feb. 11 9 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at the Levy Conference Center, 2121 Harrison Street, Oakland (3 blocks from BART)
Autism syndrome disorder (ASD) rates have been increasing nationally. Now, 1 out of every 110 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The Bay Area alone accounts for 10.5%t of the state’s cases. What does all this mean and what solutions and resources are available? Easter Seals Bay Area is hosting its second annual Autism Forum with nationally-recognized experts from Project Mosaic, the UC Davis Mind Institute and Children’s Hospital, Oakland. Free, but you’ll need to reserve a seat.

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

Family Fun for the Weekend

"Little House on the Prairie" (Bay Area Children's Theatre) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic tales of covered wagons and the wild pioneer have entranced generations of young readers. Now, Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa hit the footlights in a Bay Area Children’s Theatre production of the charming “Little House on the Prairie.” It’s a throwback to a simpler time … although your children may wonder why the Ingalls family didn’t just consult Google maps for a better route through the wilderness. Catch the show at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., where weekend matinees run now through Feb. 13. And if you miss it there, don’t despair. The production continues Feb. 19-27 at San Ramon’s Front Row Theatre, 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road. Tickets are $14-$20;

Posted on Thursday, January 27th, 2011
Under: Family Entertainment | No Comments »

Children’s Film Fests

"Dot" at the Bay Area International Children’s Festival Forget all the fuss about violent flicks and too-scary PG-13 rated movies at the cineplex. If you want to see some cool, truly family-friendly movies, here are two options – and they start in just a few days…

This weekend, the Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival kicks off with a quirky mix of 43 animated shorts, award-winning documentaries and hilarious little films. Among the offerings, Jenny Mackenzie’s “Kick Like a Girl,” about a girls’ soccer team competing in the guys’ league, and showing them what it really means to kick like a girl. We’re also smitten by “Dot” (pictured), Will Studd and Ed Patterson’s teeny tiny stop-motion character who wakes up one morning to discover her world caving in. How tiny? They had to use a microscope and tweezers to move the 9 mm figure around for the camera. Dot rescues herself through sheer ingenuity, with a little help from some handy pencil shavings, pennies and pins. It all goes down this weekend — films, animation workshops and more, Jan. 29-30, in the art deco theater at Michaan’s Auctions, 2700 Saratoga St., Alameda. Tickets are $10 for a half-day pass, $15 for a full day and $20 for the weekend. Visit for details.

Meanwhile, over in Moraga, the 2011 California Independent Film Festival hits the silver screen at the Rheem Theatre, and the lineup includes a whole list of children’s films. Among them: “Inka Bola,” an animated French short about an irresponsible guard, whose babysitting gig for a slightly wild, young Mayan prince go terribly awry; and the charming German short “Bob,” about a hamster, who chases the love of his life around the world in, yes, a hamster wheel. Check out the line-up here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Under: Family Entertainment, Movies | No Comments »

Tiger Mother, Major Controversy

Amy Chua (AP Photo/(CC) Larry D. Moore)  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock – or vacationing somewhere really  remote – you’ve been hearing the froth of consternation about Amy Chua (pictured) and her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” The book, by Yale Law professor and El Cerrito High alum Chua, has definitely touched a nerve. The Wall Street Journal got more than 5,000 comments from irate and impassioned readers after Chua was featured. She’s on the cover of Time, the New York Times has editorialized on the topic (David Brooks called her a wimp.), and bloggers everywhere have weighed in. Meanwhile on Amazon,  readers are overwhelmingly giving Chua’s book one or  five stars  – and virtually nothing in between.

But I’m loving this witty and wise rant by my colleague Tony Hicks, who says it’s the first book that has ever made his heart churn, beginning with the section in which Chua buys a dog and tries to turn even the puppy  into a super achiever. “That’s when my chest started to hurt,” he says. “It didn’t get any better when I read the part about her throwing back the homemade birthday cards her daughters made her, and demanding they make better ones.”

Read the rest here, then click “comments” and share your thoughts…

Posted on Monday, January 24th, 2011
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

Parent Talks: Bullies, Preschools & More

Bullies (Illustration by Gaylen Floy/MCT) Tots to Teens: Reducing Bullying, Raising Ethical Kids
January 30 from 7 to 8 a.m. on 98.1 KISS-FM, and streamed live and archived on
Join Rona Renner and guests Barbara Coloroso, author of five bestsellers, including “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, and Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet, from Parents Place on the Peninsula, as they discuss ways to teach children to act with integrity, civility and compassion.

Choosing a Preschool Workshop
February 2, 7-9 p.m., Bananas, Oakland
What is a preschool and how do parents choose quality care? Join Judy Kriege of BANANAS for a discussion on preschool options and how to make that choice.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 24th, 2011
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

Family Fun for the Weekend

San Francisco Opera's "Elixir of Love"
Between the foreign languages and multiple-hour length, opera can be an intimidating thing for a newbie, especially when that first-timer is, say, six. So the San Francisco Opera launched a series of special, shorter, kid-friendly productions — first “The Magic Flute for Families” and then “The Elixir of Love.” Then they trumped that brilliant idea by turning the operas into movies, suitable for ages 4-12 (plus doting parents or grandparents). Now, families can catch the sheer, operatic spectacle of Donizetti’s “Elixir of Love – For Families” — set at a Napa Valley country fair in 1915 and sung in English — on the Herbst Theater’s silver screen at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 23 and 30. Tickets are free, but you’ll need to register.

Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Book Giveaway: Grouchy Ladybug

The Grouchy Ladybug Kohl’s is doing one of its wonderful Kohl Cares efforts that combine children’s literacy efforts with philanthropy. And this month, the theme is Eric Carle’s books. Check out the details at that link, and  swing by a Kohls store. But first, in honor of the Kohl’s program and Carle’s marvelous books, we’re giving away a copy of “The Grouchy Ladybug,” the tale of a very grumpy ladybug who tries to pick fights with everyone, from a yellowjacket to a whale. Adorable.

And it can be yours! Click “comments” and tell us, which Carle book is your favorite of all time? We’ll pick a winner’s name next week. Meanwhile, congrats are in order for Kay, who won the “My Favorite Recipes” cookbook!

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Under: Contest | 6 Comments »