Thursday, July 24, 2014

The School Readiness Summit from Durham Public Schools

Understanding the Kindergarten process can be tricky.  So, Durham Public Schools is doing what it can to help us out.  Here's a great post from Zion about a Kindergarten resource from Durham Public Schools.  While the event has already happened you can definitely investigate future meetings, and the website listed at the bottom looks really helpful!

What it is: Sooner or later we all must embark on figuring out schooling for our kids. This past week I reached my first milestone on educating myself by attending the School Readiness Summit put on by Durham Partnership for Children and Durham Public Schools at the Durham Convention Center on Monday July 21st 8:30am-12:30pm. It was discussed how families, teachers, schools and the community can all contribute to improving school readiness and supporting a smooth transition to kindergarten for children in Durham. Through interactive presentations and neighborhood-based planning, we gathered information on our role in what we can do to help close the achievement gap. They provided a light breakfast,  held a raffle and kept the energy in the room high with mixing up our tables so we could meet new people.

The keynote speaker was Ken Smythe-Leistic from Pittsburgh who is a national consultant,  Pathways to Kindergarten Success Advisor and Assistant Director at the University of Pittsburgh office of Child Development. His research was both intriguing and informative on why Kindergarten success is so important.  In my own notes I learned the key element/predictor of Kindergarten success is parent involvement (who knew?). I hope they continue to put on events like this since it was so well received.

What I liked: There were so many different people who attended.  Although many educators were there,  I was glad to see commissioner Ellen Reckhow, and other community members in the room who advocate for early education.

What I would change: having this event on a Monday morning probably stifled the numbers.  I'm sure an even better turn out could have been had on a weekend. Also, I wish there could have been more men representatives. I saw 3 men in a room of 100+ people :(

Find more information on school readiness visit durhamgoestokindergarten.com

Photos: 





Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beach in the Mountains: Another Look at Hanging Rock State Park

At the end of June, I took my three kids, ages 6, 4, and 2, camping for three nights at Hanging Rock State Park, described a few years ago in a Stir Crazy Moms post:  http://stircrazymomsofdurham.blogspot.com/2012/11/hanging-rock-state-park.html.  While this state park is well known for its technical climbs and its accessible waterfalls, this trip’s unexpected find was a lake-front beach experience with boating and water play.  Situated in the middle of a great mountain getaway, the water and sand make the park worthy of yet another look.

What it is: Hanging Rock State Park is located a little over two hours from Durham, near the Virginia border just outside Danbury, North Carolina.  The campground features all the typical amenities of a state park:  gravel tent pads, fire pits with grates, solid picnic tables, and plenty of mature tree cover for hanging tarps, clotheslines, or hammocks.  A central bathhouse has hot showers and large, exterior dish-washing sinks, also piped with hot water.  I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively high number of tents, as opposed to just RVs and pop-ups, around the loops, and sites were large enough that some sense of privacy was preserved (but choose carefully as some sites include trash dumpsters).  The campground hosts had firewood for sale, and the facilities personnel kept the bathhouse in decent condition each day. Reservations are a must:  the campground sells out regularly, and the available cabins, extremely popular with those looking for a slightly less rustic stay, are often booked far in advance.  Like many state park campgrounds, gates lock at 9 p.m., so campers can’t waffle on their decision to stay late at night. 

The kids and I hiked to the three waterfalls described in the previous Stir Crazy Moms post, Upper Cascades, Window Falls, and Hidden Falls.  At each of the falls, the kids took off their shoes and waded and splashed around.  All three falls afforded opportunities for the kids to climb and explore, although how much one might want to encourage this depends on the kids’ sure-footedness and experience around waterfalls and cliffs.

We spent quite a bit of time at Hanging Rock’s lake, which features boat rentals, swimming, and a sandy beachfront for playing.  Usage fees are surprisingly reasonable.  Canoes and row boats can be rented by the hour, with life jackets supplied.  That timing works out well, as it took us just about one hour to explore the full perimeter of the lake in a rowboat, with lots of rowing “assistance” from my kids. The beachfront features a large expanse of sand, where visitors decamp with their beach chairs, towels, and toys as if they were on the coast. 

The lake’s swimming area is quite large and roped off, with life guards stationed all along it.  A diving platform (with lifeguard attendant) is anchored near the middle of the lake, which provided terrific fun for my oldest, along with many of the teens and adults who were there.  The lake also boasts a robust salamander population, and many of the kids entertained themselves catching, releasing, and building sandcastle moats for the creatures.  A fishing pier juts out into the lake for both its named purpose and pleasant walking. The lake’s bathhouse has a snack bar, with a menu including ice cream bars, soda, and pre-packaged sandwiches. It also is the only source of bagged ice in the park for campers who need to restock coolers.

Although the sandy beach covered in sunbathing vacationers felt a bit artificial tucked into that particular mountain environ, the cool water and overall entertainment factor outweighed that oddity in my perception, and made it the perfect combination water-play and hiking getaway. 

The park also features several different day-use areas, with literally hundreds of picnic tables, shelters, grills, and more, and on the weekend, most of the areas were booked solid with family parties, reunions, and picnicking friends. 

Hanging Rock’s elevation is not high enough to completely escape the summer heat we face in the Triangle, but it is high enough (the park’s peaks rise to just over 2,500 feet) to drop the temperatures noticeably and provide some pleasant relief.

And, as noted in the previous blog write-up, finding the park is not intuitive. Print out good directions before going, as there is little cell coverage for folks using a phone for directions (my kids actually got to see me navigate with a paper map!). 

All told, we thoroughly enjoyed our camping trip that combined mountain views and kid-friendly hiking with waterfront fun.

What we liked:  Swimming and boat rental, beachfront water play; reasonable prices for facility usage and concessions; kid-accessible hiking trails to scenic waterfalls; user-friendly campground.

What we would change: On the weekend, the park was extremely crowded:  the campground was sold out and the lakefront packed.  The weekday part of our trip, however, was a delight, and I will try to avoid weekends in the future!  Also, the camping experience could be improved with better availability of firewood (the campground ran out after the busy weekend) and more accessible ice purchases for campers.

Website and other important information:

Swimming fee:  $5/day ($4 for kids ages 3-12)
Boat rental:  $5/hour
Concession price samples:  $2 for 8 lb bag of ice; $1-$1.50 for ice cream bars
Firewood bundle:  $5
Campsites:  $20 per night

Address: 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury, NC 27016-7417

Hours:
November - February, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
March, April, September and October 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
May - August, 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Camping and cabin guests must arrive prior to closing the hour, after which the park gate is closed for the night.
The park is closed Christmas Day.

Photos:


(campsite in the campground, with our tent and a picnic shelter pitched)


(catching salamanders in the lake)


(the diving platform in the middle of the lake)


(sandy beach at the lake)


(Window Falls)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Crayons2Calculators "Fill That Bus!" School Supply Drive

Crayons2Calculators is a great Durham organization.  They support Durham teachers which in turn helps all of our kiddos.  Now, they need our help, so check out the information, and let's get as many Durham parents together to help out this great cause and "Fill That Bus!"  

Crayons2Calculators' "Fill That Bus!" school supply drive runs July 21-August 16.  Businesses and other organizations throughout Durham are hosting bins in their facilities for employees and customers to donate school supplies.  All supplies go on the shelves of Crayons2Calculators store where Durham Public Schools teachers can select the supplies they need for their classroom for FREE!

On August 16 school buses will be located in the parking lot on Shannon Road near Office Depot and Sam's Club  and at Chick-fil-A at Renaissance Village near Southpoint.  Volunteers will be on hand to collect supplies.

In 2013, Fill That Bus! collected $63,000 in supplies.  The goal for 2014 is $75,000.  For more information or to learn how you can help, visit Crayons2Calculators.org.

Here are some great family-friendly events where you can go, have some fun, and drop off some school supplies!

*This year's Bull City Burger and Brewery is hosting our kick off event on July 24th at 5:30-9pm. 10% of the proceeds from the receipts collected will go to Crayons2Calculators.

*Wednesday, August 13, 11am-3pm: Chick Fil-A on Roxboro Road--bring 3 school supplies and get a free chicken sandwich

*August 16th--FILL THAT BUS! at 2 locations--the parking lot on Shannon Rd near Office Depot/Sam's and at Chick Fil-A Renaissance Village.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunni Sky's Homemade Ice Cream

Since the arrival of frozen yogurt shops on the scene, I've been missing good ol' ice cream places. While we enjoy the Parlour and Mapleview Farms (a lot), a few weeks ago we visited another great stop to get some real old fashioned ice cream.

What it is:  Sunni Sky's Homemade Ice Cream is an ice cream shop located way down south of Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina in Angier.  Our friends had sworn to us that is was the best ice cream around, but since it's so far away, we hadn't had the chance to get down there.  However, it was in the perfect spot to hit on the way home from our trip to the SC beaches, so we stopped by.

It's actually just off of Hwy. 55.  Yep, the same one that's in Durham only about 50 miles further south. We parked in their lot and headed in.  On that particular Saturday afternoon, their small shop was pretty crowded.  Immediately, we figured out why there were so many people in their just standing.  They have 120+ flavors of ice cream and are constantly developing new flavors.  Plus, they offer free samples, so if you're anything like us, you might take a while to decide what you want.  After some sampling and much debating, I went with the traditional mint chocolate chip so I could compare it to other places I've tried.  My husband sampled red raspberry, my older son tried mint-oreo while my youngest son sampled strawberry daquiri.  Everyone said their flavors were delicious.

Sunni Sky's ice cream has been featured on several different TV shows. They were featured on the Food Network for a particular flavor they have called Cold Sweat.  It's made from 3 different kinds of hot peppers and two different kinds of hot sauce and it's so hot that you have to sign a waiver to try it.  We weren't brave enough to sample it, but you always have that option.

There's no seating inside the shop, so we sat outside on some rocking chairs they had set on their porch. They even had small sized chairs for the kiddos.  There were also picnic tables across the parking lot where we could have enjoyed our treat.

What we liked:  We loved how many flavors they had and how you could sample any of them.  All of the ones that we tried were delicious.  Also, their prices were very good at just $1.50 for a kiddie cup or cone and  $2.50 for a single cup or cone.

What we would change:  Of course, the drive is long, but if you're headed down in that direction, then it's a great stop! Oh, and the day that we went, there were quite a few bugs buzzing around, but I don't know if that's a regular thing or not.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://www.sunniskys.com/

Address: 8617 Highway 55 S, Angier, NC  27501

Hours: December, January, and February: CLOSED, March: Sunday-Thursday 12pm-11pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-Midnight, April-September: Monday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-12pm, Sunday 12pm-11pm, October-November: Sunday-Thursday 12pm-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-Midnight

Photos: 


(the sign)


(a small portion of the flavors listed behind one of the counters)


(some of the 120+ flavors)


(additional seating)


(even more flavors)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Once Upon A Child-Durham

I have checked out the fabulous resale shop Once Upon a Child in Cary and realized what a great place it was to both drop off old clothes and kid gear and buy what you need at great prices.  Therefore, I was thrilled when I heard that Once Upon a Child was opening a store in Durham, right off of 15-501.  I couldn't wait to check it out!

What it is: Once Upon a Child is a childrens' clothing, toys, and gear resale shop.  They have several different locations including one that just opened up in Durham.  The Durham location just opened up off of 15-501 business in the shopping center with Target and Sam's.  It was a little tricky to find, so if you're looking for it, head to the opposite of the parking lot from Target in part of the office store building.

We headed on over one day, and when we first walked in the first thing that struck me was how many clothes they had in stock.  There's definitely more than at some other local consignment/resale stores, partially because they sell all seasons of clothing all the time.  They also had baby gear like strollers, bathtubs, potties, etc., bins and bins of shoes, books, and toys.  However, I noticed that they didn't have nearly as many toys, gear, and books as they did clothes and shoes.  Maybe that's because this is a new location and they are still collecting their inventory.

While I was there, I found a few great polo shirts for my rising kindergartener, and while I was paying I asked about their resale policies.  Apparently, they will take most kids clothes and gear except cribs, bedding, underwear, and maternity clothes.  As I said earlier, they take all seasons of clothing all year long which makes it a little easier for the seller.  You don't need an appointment to drop things off, just bring them by.  They will give you a time to come back.  When you come back, they will return all of the items that they did not accept and give you a cash offer for the others, easy as that.  Oh, they do ask that you put your clothing in a box when you bring it in because bags can break and clothes can get mixed up that way.

What we liked:  I always like resale shops because you can walk out with the money and not worry about it anymore.  You don't have to keep track of your items as they go through the consigning process.  I love their selection of clothes, and I love their new location right here in Durham!

What we would change:  As I said, they were a little low on their selection of toys and baby gear, but hopefully they will get more as they stay open.

Website and other important information:

Website: http://www.onceuponachilddurham.com/

Address: 4001 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, 27707

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-5pm

Photos:


(lots of clothes!)


(their growing toy selection)


(what they need most)


(the outside view)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bull City Play Streets

What it is: Last month I got the chance to attend Bull City Play Streets on Driver street in East Durham  hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC in partnership with the City of Durham. This endeavour is part of the "Building a Healthier America" initiative where they celebrate  playfull living outdoors with biking,  skating using hoola hoops, bean bags and little-to-no accessory games like "red light green light" and" Simon says". These play street initiatives are hosted throughout Durham during the year in various communities. 

My family and I enjoyed seeing friends and neighbors supporting the community and playing outdoors. The food was delicious, the bouncy houses were a hit, the live marching band and music by DJ PDOGG was nice, and most of all the collaborative effort was effective for showing families and children that there are more ways to have fun than being indoors playing video games.

What we liked: The music was great.  It kept everyone entertained and dancing.

What we would change: Bathroom accessibility in a residential neighborhood for an event like this was a necessity. Especially with kids, I only got by because I had a friend who lived near by. Also the displays from one table to the next were pretty distant.  Condensing everything down to one or two blocks would have been more efficient for walking.

Website and other important information:

For more information visit ahealthieramerica.org/play-streets

Future Event Details coming soon!

Durham Play Street would not be possible without the support of: •Clean Energy Durham •GoTriangle and Get Up and Go Durham •Durham County Healthy Department/The Partnership for a Healthy Durham •Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) •Be Active, NC •Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission •Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina • Clean Energy Durham •Downtown Durham Inc. •Durham Bicycle Coalition •Durham Bike Co-op •Durham Central Market •Durham Department of Transportation •Durham Department of Parks and Recreation •Durham Fire Department •Durham Police Department •Durham Police Reserves •El Centro Hispano • 1-9 Sports •Neighborhood Improvement Services •Playworks •YMCA

Photos: 





Monday, June 30, 2014

Durham Public Library Summer Reading Program and Kick-off Party

What it is: The Durham Public Library Summer Reading Program is a free program to help kids continue reading over summer vacation, and even though the summer has already started, you can still register. The program is accessible to readers of all ages.  Registration is simplified by applying in person at your local library or online at durhamcountylibrary.org/summerreading. From June 14th thru August 9th you can earn points by reading, attending reading programs, writing book reviews,  exploring their database and visiting a library location. The best part is that you receive prizes for reading as you accumulate points of up to a maximum of 1000. Earning 600 points or more will enter you in a drawing for one of the BIG grand finale prizes.

The summer reading kick off party is something I look forward to every summer. This year's festivities were held at Northgate Mall from 10am-2pm on Saturday June 13th. Every year I am surprised by something new and fun like the b-boys dance team, the booth for fairy hair, and the on site mobile video game truck. It was great fun and for a free event, it is always well worth the while.  

What we liked: air brush tattoos, and they always have the best face painters around. The bouncy houses and on stage entertainment were also very captivating for kids of all ages. I greatly appreciated the event being outdoor and indoors to get relief from the heat.

What we would change: I wouldn't change a thing!


Photos: