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A look back at 2008 and the year ahead

In February of 2008 I launched the blog Kidzense which currently has 159 active posts. Kidzense was originally started when I found myself looking for stuff to do with my toddler on the Internet. I found myself having to pull information from many sites in trying to make a decision about whether or not a particular activity might be be a good choice for my family to do. I wanted to create a site that would be a single place for families to go and get information that would enable them to make informed decisions.

Categories have included: There have also been special series such as the Dinosaur Dig I did in Grand Prairie Canada over the summer and a series we ran the week leading up to earth day Earth Day.
In 2008 I also created my first eBook a children's story titled:Timmy the Tug and Billy Barge - A Story of Teamwork

Most notable has been the affect that blogging has had on my life. Through researching events to write about I think that I have done more with my daughter than I otherwise would have. Writing about these activities has also provided me with a greater appreciation of the time spent with my family. The other unexpected benefit of blogging has been my interaction with other bloggers and readers like yourself. I have been happily surprised by the support and encouragement from readers and the blogging community. In 2009 I hope to extend these relationships through guest articles and more reader comments and feedback.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year

Kidzense Review of The Tale of Despereaux

Despereaux is a small mouse (small for a mouse) but in his head he is a giant. Different than the other mice he does not scurry or cower. Despereaux is a brave little mouse a hero that will lift the dark cloud that hangs over the kingdom of Dor. Despereaux is born shortly after a tragic accident causes the Queen to cease living (A rat falls in her soup) the king is grief stricken and outlaws soup and rats. The kings actions have grave repercussions and the kingdom falls into darkness. This movie is remarkable in that it will appeal to adults as well as children and speaks to them on a different level. Unlike some other animated films that seem to intentionally throw in some trendy, nostalgic or "clever" dialog aimed at adults audiences, Despereaux has many levels of complexity. On the surface it is cute and funny with adventure and a fairy tale based story line. Beneath it cute exterior is a movie that examines how one event can trigger another and that a act by one can affect the lives of many in profound ways (both positive and negative).

We went to see The tale of Despereaux with kids ages 4,10,13, and 15 this is truly a family movie.

I would not take children below 3 years of age to see Despereaux. There are a few scenes that are scary and where Despereaux is in peril.

Tip: Go to a matinee (before 4:00 PM) for a reduced ticket price

First Night 2009 in New Jersey

First Night New Years Eve is a few days away. After Christmas you may not have a hundred dollars per plate to plunk down for a meal and a glass of champagne and it may be difficult to find a baby sitter on New Years Eve. You could stay home but you don't want to fall asleep again waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square. So what is a person with kids to do on New Years Eve. How about First Night. What is First Night you might ask.
Well For close to 20 years, First Night celebrations have attracted thousands of people to parades, musical and dance performances, storytelling and magic shows. Some of the communities hold their activities on site while others use numerous venues nearby.

Ice Sculpture from Montclair First Night 2008“First Night celebrations are a great way for families and friends to bring in the New Year while enjoying a diverse selection of entertainment that includes performances for adults by local artists and children’s attractions,” said Nancy Byrne, executive director of the New Jersey Office of Travel & Tourism.
First Night seeks to foster the public's appreciation of visual and performing arts through an innovative, diverse and high quality New Year's Eve program, which provides a shared cultural experience, accessible and affordable to all. The price of admission varies in each community, ranging from $5 to $15 per person. Many offer discounts for children and for those buying in advance.
Participating First Night Cities in New Jersey are:

Holiday Contest and Give Away

Holiday Giveaway: Register below for our feed delivered to you by email and be registered to win this Holiday themed Memoir Photo Album.

Winner will be notified by email and item shipped by Kidzense.

Drawing will take place on January 1st

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Christmas in New York City

Christmas in New York City is a tradition for many families ours included.
With classic events like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, skating in Rockefeller Center, beautiful window displays, and of course the tree. New York City offers a great day out with the family. We took the ferry into the city it was pretty cold around 20 degrees. It had snowed over the weekend so everything looked great covered in a blanket of white (at least on the Jersey side of the river). The bus from the ferry dropped us off a few blocks from Radio City.On our walk we stopped off for lunch at Applebee's.

This year we were guests of Radio City, before the show we got in to meet with the big guy himself, Santa. The Christmas Spectacular was updated quite a bit last year so if you have not been to see the it in a few years you will be pleasantly surprised.

After the show we went on a tour back stage where we were able to pet the animals from the nativity act. There we camels, sheep, and a donkey named Billy.
Z-girl even got to take a ride on an electric car on the stage. All of this made it a pretty special day.

After we left Radio City we went to see the tree. Tall and majestic it stands with it's lights glowing. People come from all around dealing with gridlock, cold weather, and crowds just to get a view a picture.

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center is an essential New York City winter experience. The rink was built in 1936, replacing the complex’s original shopping concourse. Today, more than a quarter of a million skaters enjoy the Rockefeller Center rink every year from October through April.You don’t need skates or reservations to skate at the Rockefeller Center Ice-Skating Rink. You can rent your skates, but the rink can get crowded, especially during the holiday season when tourists flock to Rockefeller Center. Your best bet is to skate in the early morning or on weekdays before 4 p.m.

Then we left Rockefeller Center got back on the bus to the ferry and back to New Jersey for some hot chocolate at Starbucks.

Holiday Coupon Codes with LeapFrog

For two days only save 15% off orders over $50.00 at Leapfrog enter Promo Code: HY8EC only good through 12/26/2008 also get free shipping. Leapfrog has some great Discounts of up to 50% on select items.
Enter promotion code for $5 off any Leapster® gamewith any purchase of $30 or more!* SU8LPSW

Bring the Polar Express to Life at the Strasburg Railroad

Strasburg Santa Train Santa’s Paradise Express – 50th anniversary
The Strasburg Station is all decked out in holiday cheer anticipating Santa’s 50th visit to Strasburg Rail Road. Santa’s Paradise Express will pull in to the station this weekend, December 19 - 21st. The holiday celebration begins on the platform of the East Strasburg Station as the sounds of the season fill the air and the platform sparkles with lights. Passengers relax as an authentic vintage steam train, warmed by a potbelly stove, travels on a 45-minute journey, past more than 1,000 acres of picturesque farmland on the way to Paradise, PA. As the train chugs down the track, Santa, carolers and musicians stroll from car-to-car spreading the magic of the season to thousands of families who believe.

Where: Strasburg Rail Road – Strasburg, PA


  • December 19th 7 pm train
  • December 20th trains depart hourly 11am – 7pm
  • December 21st trains depart hourly 11am – 4pm
Tickets: Coach tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children age 3-11. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 717-687-7522.

Ten Holiday Movies that you must see this Season

Our tree is up but not decorated yet, I have barely started shopping for gifts, and I have not sent a single card out yet. I just have not been in the Christmas Spirit this year. I need a way to get a quick dose of that Christmas feeling. So what am I to do. Short of a blanket of white snow, something that always gets me in the mood of the season is a holiday movie.

When I was a kid there were certain movies that marked the holiday starting with the Wizard of Oz usually shown on Thanksgiving. Back then we did not have DVD collections of all the holiday movies. There was something about not being able to see a movie whenever you wanted to that made it more special. Coming across a movie on TV that you wanted to see was serendipitous.

I remember when I first “discovered” It's A Wonderful Life . I had never heard of this movie before. While I watching it I thought to myself everyone needs to see this. I had uncovered one of the holiday greats.

I would try not miss any of the Rankin and Bass Classics like Santa Claus is coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and The year without a Santa Claus.

My older brother's Favorite was the Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Mr. Magoo's rendition of a Christmas Carol while my step-dad would always hope to catch George C. Scott as Scrooge on Christmas night.

I am sure everyone has a favorite holiday movie, the one that kicks it in high gear for them; a movie that stirs up childhood memories of Christmas past.
Please share your favorite by posting it in the comments section.

Oh I almost forgot my personal Favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Happy Holidays

Holiday Savings with Leapfrog

For two days only save 30% off orders over $75.00 at Leapfrog enter Promo Code: HY8SHOP only good through Tuesday 12/9/2008 also get free shipping. Leapfrog has some great Discounts of up to 50% on select items.

Saint Nicholas Day and the Van Riper Hopper House

Built in 1786 by Uriah Van Riper for his bride Maria (Polly) Berdan, this New Jersey Dutch colonial house offers a rare walk back in time. This weekend the friendly staff will be your guide back to what Christmas or The Feast of St. Nicholas would have been like back in the late 1700's. Our tour included a very informative guided walk through complete with stories, singing and some hands on experiences. The decorations were festive and depicted how the house would have been looked back then. At the end of our tour we were served Dutch cookies and cake along with hot spiced cider. The tour is about 15-20 minutes and starts at the top of the hour after that you are able to look around more on your own. Admission is a very reasonable $4.00
I recommend stopping by if you are in the area.

Saint Nicholas Day:
Many countries in Europe celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, on the eve of December 6. After dinner, families hunt for their presents, following clues in funny, anonymous poems. They also eat candies and cookies, especially spicy crispy ginger-cookie figures formed in a traditional wooden mold. The legend of St. Nicholas is, like the lives of many saints, shrouded in mystery. We know that he was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, part of Asia Minor, during the fourth century. He is credited with saving three sisters from lives of ill repute by throwing bags of gold into their house (some say down the chimney, others say through the window) to provide for their dowries.

After the Reformation, St. Nicholas was largely forgotten in Protestant Europe, although his memory was kept alive in Holland as Sinterklaas. There St. Nicholas is said to arrive on horseback on his feast day, dressed in a bishop’s red robe and mitre and accompanied by Black Peter, variously described as a freed slave or a Moor, to help him distribute presents to good children or lumps of coal, potatoes, or switches to bad ones.
The Dutch took the tradition to New Amsterdam (New York City)
In many places in the United States and abroad, children still hang their stockings by the chimney or place their shoes by the window for St. Nicholas to fill them with presents and sweets on the eve of his feast day. He is considered the patron saint of children.

Kmart Family and Friends Event

As a Reader of Kidzense, we invite you and your family and friends to this event.

The next Kmart Family and Friends Event will be held in stores and on on this Sunday, December 7th*. If they’re looking for the best selection and deals for the holidays like Disney, Martha Stewart Everyday, Jaclyn Smith, Craftsman and more!

You will save…
• 20% on apparel at stores and
• 10% on other merchandise at stores and
• 20% on Kenmore major home appliances, sold in select Kmart stores
• 15% off any parts order at, 1-800-4MY-HOME or at any of our parts and repair centers. Use reference code 80067 to get the discount. Excludes all parts sold in Kmart or Sears retail stores.

Plus, Sears Card holders may utilize the No Payments, No Interest until June 2009 on total purchases over $199!

Here is the link ( for you to use and email to your friends and family to give them holiday savings at Kmart.

It’s Easy – just bring in the coupon!

Bergen County
*NOTE: Stores located in Utah, Idaho, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Closter, Elmwood Park, Paramus and Westwood, NJ stores, will hold the event on Saturday, December 6th, 2008.

Holiday Planner

I remember being around eight and my brother and I not able to wait for Christmas Day to arrive the excitement would just grow and then Christmas Day would come and go. Well as an parent I can wait, not because I don't enjoy Christmas and the feelings it brings, but because there is so much to do and get ready. Decorations, cards (I never get them out in time), presents, parties, year end projects at work, and day-to-day craziness. Among all of this I want to make Christmas something more than anticipation and one special day for my daughter. This month provides many opportunities to create many special days and create and carry-on traditions that your children will cherish.
Below are some Holiday events that you can enjoy with your Family:

Tree Lightings:
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Location: Rockefeller Center is located in the center of the complex of buildings between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues. See Rockefeller Center Map.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is typically illuminated from 5:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, except on Christmas and New Year's Eve. On Christmas, the tree is illuminated for 24 hours and on New Year's Eve the lights are turned off at 9:00 p.m.

East Rutherford Recreation presents the 2008 Holiday Celebration on Friday, December 5th at 7:00pm at Borough Hall Park. (rain date December 6th)
Festivities will include hot chocolate, music, hot pretzels, candy canes, lighting of the Borough tree and a visit from Santa!

Midland Park Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration at Veterans' Memorial Plaza
Friday December 5th, 6:30pm-8:30PM
Raindate is December 8TH, 6:30-8:30PM Raindate announcement hotline: (201-652-2747)
Montclair Tree Lighting
Montclair's tree gets lit on Friday, Dec. 5th, 6 p.m. at Church Street.
Santa will be on hand, too, to usher in the season and pose for pictures .

Tice's Corner Tree Lighting & Santa Visit Thursday, Dec 4 6:00p Woodcliff Lake, NJ
Join us for Santa's arrival by fire truck, tree lighting, and caroling by the Immaculate Heart Academy choir. Enjoy the complimentary hot cocoa and refreshments while we spread the holiday cheer. Activities are held in the courtyard by Talbots.
Price: FREE Phone: (973) 495-7514
Age Suitability: Kids and up

Meet Santa:
Santa will return to East Rutherford on December 21st for one last visit before the big day! Be sure to look for Santa as he makes his way through Borough streets along with his friends from the East Rutherford Fire Department.

Midland Park Firehouse Breakfast with Santa
Saturday December 13TH 8am – 11am
At the Firehouse on Witte Drive
Pancakes, Sausage, Coffee & Juice
Tickets available at the door: Adults $4.00, Children under 12 $2.00, Children under 2 Free

Holiday Shows:
Christmas Carol Sun., Dec. 21 - 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM
A powerful story of redemption, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has enchanted audiences the world over with its simple message of selfless giving. Ebenezer Scrooge, survives a merciless battery of revelations through visits by the ghosts of his own Christmas: Past, Present and Future. Performed by TheatreworksUSA.

Car Seat Safety Check Today

Local police officers certified as Child Passenger Safety Technicians will show you how to properly install and use your child car seat.

A Chilton Memorial Hospital Registered Nurse will be available to answer questions on child Safety issues.

Free give-aways and educational literature.
To register, please call Janet at (973) 831-5475

3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
1515 Route 23 South, Wayne
Event will be held indoors.
Sponsored by Chilton Memorial Hospital,
State Farm Insurance and Paul Miller BMW.

How to stop the glut of junk mail

Each year, the junk mail industry spends more than $50 billion on the production and distribution of more than 40 billion pieces of junk mail. In the process, more than 100 million trees are destroyed, with most mailed advertising material ending up in incinerators, garbage dumps and recycling centers. Want to do something about it? Here are ten easy steps from that you can follow to put the kibosh on unwanted junk mail and lighten the load on your mailbox.

World AIDS Day - Talking with your Kids about AIDS

When I was a kid AIDS was prominent in the news. First there was a period of fear, misconceptions, and bad information about the disease. Then Magic Johnson came public stating that he had the HIV virus. That changed everything suddenly the disease was not something that was relegated to homosexuals and those who had bad blood transfusions. Anyone could get AIDS.

Then the mention of AIDS in media became less frequent which created a false sense that the disease had become less prevalent. This is not true - The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing.

At the end of 2006, the CDC estimates that 448,871 people were living with AIDS in America. An estimated 3,775 children aged under 13 were living with AIDS at the end of 2006. The vast majority of these children acquired HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding.

Children newly infected with HIV in 2007 was .37 million and .27 million children died from AIDS in 2007

It is important that you talk with your children about AIDS. Here are some guidelines from talking with your kids:

When should I talk to my Kids about AIDS?: By the time they reach third grade, research shows that as many as 93 percent of children have already heard about the illness. Yet, while kids are hearing about HIV/AIDS early on, what they are learning is often inaccurate and frightening.
You can set the record straight -- if you know the facts yourself. HIV is transmitted from person to person through contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. HIV can be prevented by using latex condoms during sex, not sharing "drug needles," and avoiding contact with another person's bodily fluids. So stay informed. Sharing this information with your youngster can keep them safe and calm their fears. Finally, talking with your child about AIDS lays the groundwork for any future conversations about AIDS-preventative behavior.

Initiate discussion
Use a "talk opportunity" to introduce the subject of AIDS to your child. For example, try tying a discussion into something your child sees or hears, such as a commercial about AIDS. After you and your child watch the ad, say something like, "Have you heard about AIDS before? Well, what do you think AIDS is?" This way, you can figure out what she already understands and work from there.

Present the facts
Offer honest, accurate information that's appropriate to a child's age and development. To an 8-year-old you might say, "AIDS is a disease that makes people very sick. It's caused by a virus, called HIV, which is a tiny germ." An older child can absorb more detailed information: "Your body is made up of billions of cells. Some of these cells, called T-cells, help your body stay healthy by fighting off disease. But if you get a virus called HIV, that virus kills the T- cells. Over time, the body can't fight disease any more and that person has AIDS." Pre-teens should also understand how condoms could help protect people from getting AIDS and that the disease can be transmitted between persons who share drug needles. (If you have already explained sexual intercourse to your children, you might add, "During sexual intercourse, the semen from the man's body goes into the woman's body. That semen can carry HIV." If you have not yet talked about sex, don't bring it up during initial discussions about AIDS. It's not a good idea for your child's first information about sex to be associated with such a serious disease.)

Set them straight
Children's misconceptions about AIDS can be pretty scary, so it's important to correct them as soon as possible. Suppose your 8-year-old comes home from school one day, tearful because she fell down on the playground, scraped her knee and started bleeding -- and the other kids told her she would get AIDS. As a parent, you might explain, "No, you don't have AIDS. You're fine. You can't get AIDS from scraping your knee. The way you can get AIDS is when the fluids from your body mix with those of someone who has AIDS. Do you understand?" After such a discussion, it's also wise to check back with your child and see what she remembers. Understanding AIDS, particularly for young children, takes more than a single conversation.

Foster self-esteem
Praising our children frequently, setting realistic goals and keeping up with their interests are an effective way to build self-esteem. And that's important, because when kids feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to withstand peer pressure to have sex before they are ready, or to not do drugs. In short, they are less likely to engage in behavior that could put them at risk for AIDS.

Put Your Child's Safety First
Some adults mistakenly believe that AIDS is only a disease of homosexuals. Whatever your beliefs, try not to let your opinions or feelings prevent you from giving your child the facts about AIDS and its transmission -- it's information that's essential to their health and safety.

Be prepared to discuss death
When talking with your kids about AIDS, questions about death may come up. So get ready to answer them by reading books (see Readings for Children and Parents) available at libraries or bookstores. In the meantime, here are three helpful tips:
Explain death in simple terms. Explain that when someone dies, they don't breathe, or eat, or feel hungry or cold, and you won't see them again. Although very young children won't be able to understand such finality, that's okay. Just be patient and repeat the message whenever appropriate.
Never explain death in terms of sleep. It may make your child worry that if he falls asleep, he'll never wake up.
Offer reassurance. If appropriate, tell your child that you are not going to die from AIDS and that he won't either. Stress that while AIDS is serious, it is preventable.

Questions & Answers
What is AIDS?
AIDS is a very serious disease that is caused by a tiny germ called a virus. When you are healthy, your body can fight off diseases, like Superman fighting the bad guys. Even if you do get sick, your body can fight the germs and make you well again. But when you have AIDS, your body cannot protect you. That's why people with AIDS get very sick.

How do you get AIDS?
You can get AIDS when the fluids from your body mix with those of someone who has AIDS. You can't catch it like the flu and you can't get it just by touching or being near someone with AIDS, so you and I don_t have to worry about getting it. (NOTE: If you have already talked with your child about sex, you should also add, "You can also get AIDS by having unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who has the HIV virus.")

Can kids get AIDS?

Very few children get AIDS. But if they were born to a mommy who had AIDS, they could get AIDS when they were born. A long time ago, some kids who had hemophilia -- a disease that means their blood doesn't have enough good cells, so they need to get blood from other people -- got AIDS when they got blood. But that doesn't happen anymore. AIDS is mostly a disease of grownups. (NOTE: If your child already knows about the link between sex and AIDS, and IV drug use and AIDS, you might also add, "Sometimes teenagers who have unprotected sex or who share drug needles get AIDS." But you should still emphasize that "AIDS is mostly a disease of grown-ups.")

How can you tell from looking at someone if they have AIDS?
You can't. Anyone, regardless of what they look like, can have AIDS. People find out if they have AIDS after being tested by a doctor. Therefore, the only way to know if someone has AIDS is to ask him if he has been tested and if the test results were positive for HIV/AIDS.

Do all gay people get AIDS?

No. Homosexuals get AIDS the same way that heterosexuals do. And they can protect themselves the same way, too.

Herman Melville said:
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
Bloggers writing today World AIDS Day have the opportunity to collectively connect with their readers and raise the awareness of the public. Through this medium we can bring back into focus an important issue that the mainstream media has let fade into the background.

Children Affected by AIDS