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FAB Five for the Weekend

Egg Scramble at Crown Beach (Bay Area News Group Photo) Egg Scramble: It’s spring, which means egg hunts, egg scrambles and egg rolls galore. Among the possibilities, the Egg Scramble at Alameda’s Crab Cove and Crown Beach on March 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Spring Thing: Ashkenaz’ kids concert series in Berkeley continues March 28 at 3 p.m. when the Vaudevillians Stage Troupe presents its “Spring Thing,” a variety show tailor made for the 5- to 16-year-old crowd.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
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EASTER: Countdown

Easter Count-Down (Courtesy Family Fun) We had so much fun last year counting down to Easter with bunny crafts, recipes and such, we’re doing it again – and we’re starting with this 12-day countdown calendar from our buddies over at Family Fun Magazine. Don’t toss that empty egg carton, they say. Turn it into an interplanetary transport, a grassy caterpillar or this clever Easter countdown craft.

Cut off the empty egg carton’s top and sides, and trim the center dividers so they’re even with the outside edge. Dab glue around each cup rim and all around the edges, then lay a sheet of colorful tissue paper over it and press to affix. Cut 12 small circles of contrasting colored tissue paper and glue them over each cup. Each day, let your child tear open one cup’s cover to find a small surprise, Advent calendar-style.
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Posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
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20 Failing East Bay Schools Face Dire Sanctions

UPDATE: There’s good news for Mt. Diablo and Pinole high schools – not so good for a couple of middle schools though. In a last-minute revision of its failing schools list, the state removed both high schools from the list and replaced them with Concord’s Glenbrook Middle School and San Pablo’s Helms Middle School. Read the latest news on this topic here.

Mt Diablo High (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group) Pinole Valley High, Mt. Diablo High (pictured), Oak Grove Middle School, and 17 other East Bay institutions are on the state’s list of failed schools and may be facing draconian penalties, including the firing of principals and staff, outright closure, or closure and then a re-opening as a charter school. “This is an opportunity to make dramatic changes at chronically underperforming schools,” says state schools chief Jack O’Connell.

Doubtless there is much wringing of hands at the 188 schools statewide that are affected, but here’s what I don’t get. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – these schools’ dismal test scores, the bar they had to reach, and the sanctions have been in the public eye for a decade. The only question to my mind, as a former education reporter who covered the Mt. Diablo school district, among others, was always whether the state would have the gumption to actually impose those sanctions. And frankly, they haven’t yet. They’re just threatening. It’s like those parents who give their kids till the count of 3 – “OK, 1, 2, 2 1/2 … I really mean it this time: 1, 2, 2 1/2, 2 3/4… We’ll try that again, 1, 2…” Hello?

Meanwhile out in Rhode Island, where half the students at Central Falls High were failing every subject, the school board just fired its entire school staff, including 74 teachers and the principal, after the teachers union refused to follow state-mandated restructuring plans that called for longer school days and tutoring. The union said they wanted to be paid for the extra work and that their students had made great strides in recent years.

I have my own thoughts about those arguments, but I’m considerably more interested in hearing yours. Click comments and share your thoughts, or punch a button on the poll… (P.S. Answers are in random order and you can select as many as you wish.)

Posted on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
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FANTASTIC Mr. Fox Giveaway

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Happy Monday! This week, we’re giving away a couple of wonderful books for kids. The first is that Roald Dahl classic, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” with photos from the recent movie. And we’re pairing it with The Inside Tree, by Linda Smith a cool new picture book called “The Inside Tree,” by Linda Smith. It’s the story of sweet Mr. Potter (no relation to Harry), who feels sorry for his dog, sleeping alone outside under a tree, so he invites him in and makes him an “inside dog.” And all’s well until he starts feeling sorry for the tree, all alone. So he … well, you’ll see.

And both these books can be yours! Click “comments” and tell us, what’s your family’s favorite book? We’ll draw a winner’s name on Monday, March 8.

Meanwhile, it’s time to give away that Scooby-Doo Laff-a-Lympics DVD from last week, so we’ll draw a name and … Congrats, Cheryl! What fun to read about everyone’s favorite Winter Olympics sport – and we got a kick out of Jason’s suggestion that ice fishing be part of the Olympics. We can hear the announcers now, speaking in hushed, golf-like tones, “We’re in hour 47 of the ice fishing championships and it looks like the Finnish team may be getting a nibble at last…”

Posted on Monday, March 1st, 2010
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HOT Dog Warning Labels?

Wiener Wars (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) U.S. pediatricians are calling for a redesign of the noble frankfurter – or they want a choking warning slapped on ye olde hot dog. The reason, they say, is that while the federal government mandates warnings on toys intended for tots, no such danger signs appear on food – hmmm, perhaps because of the difficulty of printing “Warning: Choking Hazard” on each grape. But each year, more than 10,000 children go to the ER after choking on food and more than 70 die as a result.

I get all that, but here’s the thing. One of the first things you’re taught as a new parent – by your pediatrician, your new moms group and every baby care book on the planet – is not to feed your little one objects that approximate the dimensions of his windpipe. Dice or slice ‘em first. Do we need warning labels on food? Or redesigned hot dogs? You tell me…

Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
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SPRING Kid Flicks

Alice in Wonderland (Disney/MCT) There’s a slew of kid-friendly movies heading to your cineplex in the coming weeks, starting with Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” a completely revamped tale – Alice is 19, for one thing – which opens March 5. Then, in quick succession, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” on March 19, and “How to Train Your Dragon” on March 26.

So what do you think? What are you planning to see?

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
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PERCY Jackson Reviews…

PERCYJACKSON  (Courtesy 20th Century Fox/MCT)
Anyone seen “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” yet? What’d you think? Reviews have been been mixed, but I’m still eager to see it because I loved the books so much.

San Francisco-based Common Sense Media, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on families and the media, says, “Parents need to know… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
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And we’re baaaack!

Tech haze (Illustration copyright MCT/KRT) As you guys may have noticed, we’ve been dealing with blog server issues for dayyyyyyyys. Up, crash, back up, crash… But we’re back now and racing to upload new content before the dang thing crashes again! (P.S. Missed you, guys!)

Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
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PARENT TALKS: Teens, Homework & Facebook

Teens (Illustration by Charles Bloom/MCT) Living in the World of Texting, Video Games, and Facebook
Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., Miramonte High Theater, Orinda
Are texting, video games and Facebook modern means of essential connection or tools of addiction? Therapist Steven Freemire, MFT, discusses the many issues families face with communication technologies. Sponsored by Acalanes Adult Ed.

Helping Teens With Homework Headaches
Feb. 28 from 7 to 8 a.m. on 98.1 KISS-FM and streamed live on Childhoodmatters.org.
The fifth in Childhood Matters’ six-part series on navigating the teen years. Nurse Rona and co-host Beth Samuelson, MA, of Student Organizational Services, discuss ways to help students manage their homework load.
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Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010
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PERCY Jackson & the Olympians

"Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)
So, every tween boy’s favorite book series – “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” – is coming to the silver screen this weekend and reviews are just starting to roll in.

It’s quite the explosive spectacle, says the reviewer at Minneapolis’ Star-Tribune, who gave it a measly C+. Director Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two “Harry Potter” movies, “paces this film like a demolition derby,” the review says, “There’s a ratio of one explosion, monster attack or life-and-death battle every 2.8 minutes, and Columbus makes sure they detonate on time.” Hmm, he says that like it’s a bad thing…

Variety magazine says the movie gets better as it goes along: “Action movies of this scale often start off strong and wind down to forgettable finales, but ‘Percy Jackson’ is the opposite, overcoming a clunky setup to deliver nearly all its thrills in the last half-hour.”

So… are you going?

Posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010
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