Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Area Attractions: Ridgedale Play (Ridgedale Mall MN)

Ridgedale Center recently created Ridgedale Play, an innovative 6,000 square foot museum-quality play 

The immersive play experience features seven unique exhibits designed to promote learning, discovery and expression within each age group. The exhibits include:
·         Happy Apple Tree – Centering the play space, this giant tree releases apple balls that children can redistribute through the tree. Platforms inside the tree allow children to climb to new heights while exploring the canopy.
·         Choo Choo Island – This 12 foot train table features a mixture of fixed tracks and removable railroad pieces, and special sound effects. Children can create their own path, or drive their train along the preexisting rail.
·         Baby Oasis - Children between the ages of 0-2 can play at the interactive miniature Happy Apple Tree, get some tummy time on the designated mats, or discover new textures on the sensory wall.
·         Gone Fishin’ – Wooden fishing poles mounted to the side of the lake encourage development of hand/eye coordination as children fish for the catch of the day!
·         Light & Shadow Jungle – A maze of pool noodles anchors this exhibit, but the real fun begins at the end of the maze. A disco ball dance party awaits children at the back of the maze where light and shadow meet.
·         Big Build City – This skyscraper city is filled with stackable building blocks. Children can play with the blocks to create something of their own imagination, or build within the modular unit.
·         Bug Mobile – This giant beetle shaped vehicle is equipped with multiple pretend play driving wheels, and buttons that light up.
·         Dwell Lounge – Parents or caretakers can take a seat, grab a snack or beverage from the new Hello Goodness and Starbucks vending concept, and charge their phones while  children play within sight.
·         Party Room/Workshop – A 500 square foot - enclosed room is available for private events and birthday parties. This space will also be used for a variety of classes starting in January. (For more information on renting the party room, contact the party facilitator, InnerActive Playground, at 612-567-1004.)
Who: Ridgedale Play is designed by Roto Design, an award winning firm that specializes in producing unique experiences for family-oriented museum and entertainment destinations.

For more information, visit www.RidgedaleCenter.com/play.

About Ridgedale Center
For more than 40 years, Ridgedale Center has served as a primary shopping destination in the Twin Cities.  Ridgedale Center recently completed a $100+ million renovation, adding a Nordstrom and more than 15 new retailers. Owned and managed by Chicago-based GGP, Inc., Ridgedale Center is located at 12401 Wayzata Blvd. in Minnetonka, MN.  Ridgedale Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. For more information, follow us on Facebook, visit www.ridgedalecenter.com or call 952.541.4864.

About GGP Inc.
Ridgedale Center is owned and managed by GGP Inc. an S&P 500 company focused exclusively on owning, managing, leasing, and redeveloping high quality retail properties throughout the United States. GGP is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol GGP.

Time Tidbits: Stress Less: A Morning Routine for Parents this Holiday Season

Image via Pixabay

The holidays are stressful when you don’t have kids… but once they come into the picture, this time of year becomes downright chaotic. Between presents and decorations and parties and taking time to care for yourself, even the most banal weekdays can feel rushed and hectic. If you want to cut down on holiday stress this year, implement a steadfast morning routine in your household to help get your family on track and keep your stress levels down.  

Productivity experts tout morning routines as a way to set the tone for the rest of your day. It builds momentum and provides a solid foundation. When your kids have a morning routine, it gives them a sense of normalcy that makes it easier to take on the cognitive load of school. Finally, having a good morning routine allows time for family bonding -- something we all could use in our households.  

Here are some steps to take to keep your schedule streamlined for an effective morning routine.

Preparing the Night Before

A smooth morning begins at night. Before you wind down and get into bed, take your free evening hours to do necessary preparations for your family’s morning routine. If you have younger kids, help them pick out their clothes, pack a lunch for the next day, and check their homework so they aren’t scrambling for you to do it in the AM. If your kids are older, ask them to do these preparations on their own. 

Another way to help prepare for the morning is to go ahead and get breakfast ready. There’s no need to stress yourself out making eggs and pancakes every morning. Easy breakfast recipes like overnight oats make nutritious meals that you can grab and go. If you want something a little warmer and heartier to get you through the cold winter days, try out a slow-cooker morning casserole that you can start the night before, and wake up to a hot, protein-packed breakfast. 

The Right Media for Mornings

Screens are the killers of morning routines. Whether your kids are glued to their smartphones, tablets, or computers, they’ll lose precious minutes checking social media or getting caught up in a favorite video game. Make the mornings a screen-free time to keep everyone on task during this crucial time of day. TV and video games should only be used as a reward to receive once the day’s work is done.

On the other hand, an eerily quiet house does your family no favors. Set the mood for the day with upbeat music that gets everyone moving. You can create a playlist of family-friendly jams that inspire and motivate. Put them on when it’s time to get out of bed. Creating a lively atmosphere will prevent morning lag and inspire creativity. Extra Tip: use the songs as measurements of time for other crucial tasks like brushing teeth. 

Self-Care: Taking Care of Yourself to Deal with Parenthood Stresses

If you’re feeling stressed about this time of year and the hectic nature, don’t forget to take time every day for a bit of self-care. The mornings can be the perfect time for this. If you can, wake up about an hour before the kids to spend time alone and reflect. Self-care can be anything from meditation to a workout to a hot bath that releases the stress in your shoulders.

While it may be tempting to forgo self-care because of stress, it’s important to take the time and do it. It helps promote a healthy body and mind so you can function your best for the good of your family. 

The holidays are a chaotic time for families whether the kids are young or almost out of the house. Putting a morning routine in place can help set the mood for the day and keep everyone on track. The secret to a successful morning routine is planning ahead. Pick out clothes, pack lunches, and even prepare breakfast the night before to save crucial minutes in the morning. Make the AM a screen-free zone. Phones, tablets, and computers provide unnecessary distractions for kids and adults alike. Finally, set the mood in the morning with an upbeat playlist that will motivate the family and inspire creativity throughout the day. 

Music Minute: Kids' Music Concert at Symphony Space (NYC)

There's an upcoming show at Symphony Space featuring this year's GRAMMY Award nominees for Best Children's Album. It's the first time that this annual concert featuring the nominees will be held in New York, one day prior to the actual GRAMMYs!

A public children's concert honoring the children's recording arts has become an annual tradition. This is actually the ninth year that the Children's Recording Arts Alliance has produced these public shows (all previous concerts were hosted in Los Angeles). Symphony Space's Just Kidding series is renowned for featuring high-quality and unique concerts for kids and their grownups. That's why we chose this venue for the show and why we're calling it the "Best of Family Music Showcase!"  

The featured artists and producers are donating their time to produce this family concert. 
Net ticket sales will benefit the children's music education programs of Education Through Music

​​The performing nominees are:
  • Alphabet Rockers
  • Morgan Taylor's Gustafer Yellowgold
  • Lisa Loeb
  • Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players

Please enjoy this playlist of sample songs from these nominees, here on Soundcloud.

General admission is $20, and the Symphony Space member price is $17. 

Parenting Pointers: Ways to talk to your child about sexual assault

A tough, but critical conversation parents must have with their child

The recent Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened the gates for millions of women and men to come forward and say they were the victims of sexual assault. It’s not just teenagers and adults that these heinous acts are happening to with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reporting that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Talking to your child from a young age can make sure they know the warning signs of a dangerous situation and that they feel comfortable about communicating any sexual assault incidents or issues. 

Below are some tips from Krav Maga Worldwide, a global leader in defense training, on how to approach this difficult and sometimes uncomfortable subject with your child. 
  1. Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old. This may seem very early but children under 12 are most at risk at 4 years old. Even if they can’t speak well, children at this age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot more than adults usually realize.
  2. Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched. An age appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody – including a parent or caregiver – should see or touch their private parts (what a swimming suit covers up) – unless they’re keeping them clean, safe, or healthy.
  3. Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
  4. Babysitters, coaches and teachers can all be perpetrators. Teach children not to assume all adults can be trusted. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 93% of children that have been sexually assaulted know their perpetrator. It’s important to discuss with children that just because the person is considered a “trusted” adult they can still manipulate a situation and do things that are not appropriate. 
  5. Inform your child about the tricks used by sexual predators. Tricks such as continued accidental touching, or an emergency trick where the predator tricks the child into thinking there is an emergency and the child must go with the predator. 
  6. Teach children that they must trust their inner voice. Especially that feeling we all have inside that tells us what feels right and what feels wrong or uncomfortable. Many children who have been sexually abused describe a feeling of discomfort as having a “yucky” feeling inside. You must teach your child to trust or honor their inner voice or that “yucky” feeling.
  7. Teach your child that they have the right to say NO! As the majority of child abuse is based on coercion rather than force, teaching your child to say NO strongly and forcefully really can make a big difference in many situations. 

About Krav Maga Worldwide

Founded in 1997 to promote Krav Maga throughout the United States and around the world, Krav Maga Worldwide trains and certifies instructors and licenses over 150 authorized Krav Maga Worldwide training centers in the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South America, and Europe, as well as over 800 law enforcement agencies and military units. Krav Maga offers the highest caliber of instruction to thousands of people, supporting the company’s core commitment to improving and saving lives. Krav Maga Worldwide continues to develop, promote and implement self-defense and fitness programs. For additional information, visit: www.kravmaga.com. 

Thrifty Thinking: Take Charge America Helps Consumers Tackle Financial New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a time of optimism, often marked with lofty resolutions to lose weight, kick bad habits, pay off debt and save money. However, the glow of Jan. 1 is quickly dimmed. A full 80 percent of resolutions fail by February.
“Most people fail to keep resolutions because they don’t create an action plan to achieve their goals and fall back on old habits,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal finance consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management counseling agency. “In the case of financial resolutions, the best plans are focused on forming new money habits and taking advantage of automated services.”
Sullivan offers the following tips for achieving financial goals in 2018:
  • Create a Budget: Many people groan when thinking about budgeting, but it’s key to every financial to-do list because it works and is eye opening. Choose an online program, spreadsheet or old-fashioned pen and paper to track income and expenses, and then allot target amounts based on your goals for the year. Review quarterly and adjust as needed.
  • Automate and Simplify: Put your bills on auto-pay to ensure on-time payments. Also, arrange to have money direct-deposited from your paycheck to your savings and retirement accounts. Start small, and increase your contributions as you go. If the cash doesn’t hit your checking account in the first place, you won’t miss it.
  • Pay Off Your Credit Cards: To pay off debt quicker, consider paying more than the minimum, automating your payments, transferring balances to lower-interest cards or taking part in free, online credit counseling.  
  • Evaluate Your Student Loans: If you have student debt, make sure you’re enrolled in the best repayment program for your life situation now – not when you graduated. For some, an income-driven plan is the best bet. For others, consolidating multiple loans into one monthly payment saves money and hassle. There are numerous options depending on your income, family size, and even your career. A student loan counselorcan help you decide what’s ideal.
  • Assess Daily Spending Habits: Take a hard look at your spending habits and find places to cut. For example, you can skip restaurants, bars and cafes for an entire month to see just how much you’re spending. Consider at-home entertainment options such as game nights and potlucks. Also review your daily bills – do you really need 300 cable TV channels? Can some simple home repairs help you trim electric or water bills?
  • Get a Buddy: Lots of people have “gym buddies” to help them reach their fitness goals. Buddies are a great option for financial fitness, too. Share your goals, cheer each other on and hold one another accountable.
For more information on credit counseling, debt management or student loan counseling, call (888) 822-9193 or visitwww.takechargeamerica.org.
About Take Charge America, Inc.
Founded in 1987, Take Charge America, Inc. is a nonprofit agency offering financial education and counseling services including credit counseling, debt management, student loan counseling, housing counseling and bankruptcy counseling. It has helped more than 1.6 million consumers nationwide manage their personal finances and debts. To learn more, visit www.takechargeamerica.org or call (888) 822-9193.

Caring Causes: Jackson Chance Foundation

The Jackson Chance Foundation was started after baby Jackson Chance spent 10 months of his short life at Lurie's NICU, his parents found the gift of parking to relieve stress of high parking costs to NICU parents as a way to serve his legacy. Jackson loved owls and local mom Carrie Meghie is spreading the holiday season cheer to help other NICU families. 

Give the gift of Jax to brighten holiday season. Add a donation of $30 and you'll donate Jax to a NICU family. All proceeds benefit Jackson Chance Foundation's NICU Transportation Program. Price is $30 for pickup or donation, and $38 with shipping

Order by December 16th for Christmas arrival! For more details or to order, please visit ww.jacksonchance.org/jax  Jax is also available year-round! 

Or sponsor a NICU parking pass to help a family in need at Lurie Children's Hospital and NOW Prentice Women's Hospital where the Jackson Chance Foundation does their magic based in Chicago. 

About Jackson Chance Foundation (JCF) At Jackson Chance Foundation's (JCF), we remove the financial burden of parking fees, giving every family the opportunity to be with their child. Through our NICU Transportation Program, we partner with hospitals to provide complimentary parking passes for families with critically ill babies in the NICU. By providing these passes, we ensure that each NICU baby receives their basic human rights: advocacy, support, and human touch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In short, we give families access – to the best hospitals, neonatal specialists, surgical abilities, and nursing staff that they otherwise may have to turn down because of the high cost of parking to get there. Our program is currently available at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern Prentice Women’s Hospital. To date, all admin costs are covered by the founders’ family in honor of their son Jackson Chance, for whom the foundation was started in his legacy. For more information, please visit www.jacksonchance.org. JCF is an Illinois non-for-profit, tax exempt 501(c) (3) organization.

Book Nook: Hello Mornings

Whether or not you're a morning person, you might get the sense that your morning routine needs a little tweaking. I was recently sent Hello Mornings: How to Build a Grace-Filled Morning Routine.

The book is easy to read. It helps that the author clearly lays out the routine right off the bat in the beginning of the book: God. Plan. Move. The routine she has takes only a few minutes, but could be lengthened to include more God or planning time (or even more moving time) depending on the day.

Kat Lee is an advocate of having a Bible verse as a focus for the morning. I like the verse she identifies in the book, a mini-prayer asking for God's wisdom in our plans, but there are so many good ones that it could easily be swapped out for another similar prayer or one that is particularly applicable to your personal situation in life. The book does a good job of making the case for the morning routine, and although she starts with an extremely simple concept, it's not overly repetitive or dull.

Kat Lee has quite a few resources available on her website: the first chapter available as a download, a workbook to reinforce what's in the book, Bible studies, and interviews with other women.

Kat Lee is passionate about teaching others how to jump-start each day with a grace-filled, life-giving morning routine. She is a writer, speaker, podcaster and founder of HelloMornings.org. She and her husband, Jimmy, live in Waco, Texas, with their three children. Stay connected with her at TheKatLee.com.

Soul Sustenance: In the Middle of the Mess - Strength for this Beautiful, Broken Life

If you're a parent, you're used to messes. Whether it's physical messes in the house, or relationship messes as the kids fight, it happens. Even if you're not a parent, life can be messy, with transitions and change and loss. I had a chance to review In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for this Beautiful, Broken Life by author Sheila Walsh. 

Sheila recognizes the struggles, whether they're from daily frustrations that add up and wear on us or from major challenges and crises. She provides inspiration and practical ways to remain firm in the faith. The book focuses on three tools as a way to stay connected: confession, prayer, and meditation on Scripture. Through these, she teaches women how to feel loved, accepted, and understood by God. 

The book shares enough of her struggles to help readers realize she's not just preaching at them. She had to learn to let down her defenses herself. Even though the messes aren't "fixed" when we rest in God, Sheila shows readers how to rest in Jesus' embrace.

Sheila Walsh is a powerful communicator, Bible teacher, and bestselling author with more than five million books sold. She is the author of the award-winning Gigi, God’s Little Princess series, Peace for Today, Loved Back to Life, The Storm Inside, Five Minutes with Jesus and The Longing in Me. She is cohost of Life Today with James and Betty Robison. Sheila lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, Barry, and son, Christian.

Book Nook: ____ Travels Around the World from Family Stories

I recently had the chance to work with a new (to me) personalized book company, Family Stories. Right now they have one option, "Travels Around the World," available in red or blue Christmas editions, or a non-seasonal edition.

There are definitely some unique ways this site makes its books. The character is personalizable as boy or girl, and book creators can choose from different types of eyes, hair, nose, and glasses. Skin color can also be personalized. One downside is that all boy hair styles are shortish and nearly all girl hair styles are long - plus, the girl is pink and wears a dress, and some girls don't like pink. However, they're clearly targeting the majority of kids, and there are also limits to the number of options that can be printed, I'm sure. In each book, two adults can be chosen, and their titles picked - so mom or mommy, dad or daddy, or other titles. The gender of the adults can also be chosen, so while there isn't an option for a single-parent household (other than to choose another loving adult to be featured in the book), families could choose two moms or two dads. It does go a long way towards representing more families than some options.

The story itself is cute - the main character travels around the world, seeing famous sights and learning a bit during the travels. The co-founder, Danai Balta created the book to help solve her issue of explaining business travel to her kids. Whether or not the book is used for a family with a traveling parent, it is a great way to introduce different cultures and customs, and hopefully inspire further discovery about the places and countries in the book.

You're a little late to get it in time for Christmas, but for post-Christmas exchanges or birthdays and gift-giving year-round, this is a unique option! 

Soul Sustenance: The Crooked Christmas Tree

What does a father do when he's on the quest for the perfect tree but the one his kids pick out is rather...well, crooked? He eventually realizes that it's a modern-day parable for all of us. I had a chance to read the book that was inspired by this event, The Crooked Christmas Tree.

The obvious parable is, of course, included in the story - we are imperfect, but God loves us. Author Damian Chandler takes it farther, though, sharing other memories and lessons throughout the book. Each section is only a few pages long, which means it's easy to read a little here and there, or all at once. It also works for a family reading time during the Christmas season. Most of the book is suitable for families with kids of all ages - there is one scene where the author is talking to someone in front of a strip club, so families with very young children might not want to get into that. However, it's a good modern-day fable, and a great reminder for all of us this Christmas season.

DAMIAN CHANDLER was born in Toronto Canada and raised on the island of Barbados. His ministry journey started in a small church housed in the basement of his uncle’s home. With only nine members, the burden of the ministry fell equally on the shoulders of all, including 16-year-old Damian. That small church created his spiritual hunger and formed the foundation of his call to ministry.

He holds a Masters of Divinity; founded Impact Youth Ministries, an urban youth ministry focused on developing teens with a contagious and fearless faith; and has served churches in Seattle, Huntsville, and now Sacramento, where he is senior pastor of Capitol City SDA Church.

Damian is passionate about ministry but he is even more passionate about family. After years of dedicated pursuit, God gave him the desire of his heart and a partner in life, his wife Tanzy Chandler. They later added to their partnership daughter Zoe and sons Salem and Levi.