I appreciate the recent comment I received asking for more posts … so kind!! I miss the blog a lot, not least because here I am the boss, and in the steady-paying gigs that are taking up so much of my time now, I am far from being in charge!

This has always been a therapeutic endeavor for me, something I did purely for my own benefit, and because it encouraged me to get out with my boys it was also good for their health.  I wouldn’t say that their health is suffering, but mine definitely is (at least, according to both my dentist and my hairdresser!) and so yesterday we blew off a Parent Association meeting at school and headed out for a sunset bike ride at Tower Grove Park instead. It was a beautiful fall evening, and I had barely shifted into Park before the 4-year-old was out of the car and over by the lily pad ponds, exploring with the joyful oblivion that only preschoolers seem to have. The 7-year-old was no less eager to start, but he dutifully hung behind to strap on his helmet.

Their ride wasn’t particularly long, maybe half an hour, but it was long enough to teach me two things:

  1. I have to get back into this habit of exploring for free.
  2. I have to suck up my fear of cycles and invest in a bike — there’s no way I can keep up with these two on foot!

Yes, I have officially fallen off the face of the earth. That’s what I get for accepting enough freelance projects to equate to a “real” job! I have missed so many of my favorite events this summer, including the International Institute’s Festival of Nations.

So I’m really hoping things slow down enough the next couple of weekends to explore two upcoming festivals in St. Charles: the Missouri River Irish Fest Sept. 17-19 (with the catchy slogan “halfway to St. Patrick’s Day”) and the St. Charles Oktoberfest Sept. 24-26.

I’ve not been to the Irish Fest, but last year my sons’ dance group preformed at the German event, and I have to say that I love the setting there along the river. We weren’t blown away by the carnival or the food, but since it’s just a few blocks to the historic Main Street district, it’s easy to find something better to eat. The fun is in the setting and the entertainment. I hear that the Irish Fest will have some demos of Gaelic football, among the usual dance groups and bands, which should be fun to see.

And there’s guaranteed to be good beer at both of these!

If you’d rather not stay home and watch the Rams get trounced by the Saints on Sunday, and if you’re avoiding raking/mowing/blowing all the leaves that have fallen this week, I have a suggestion for spending your afternoon (Nov. 15): the annual Cranksgiving food drive, er, ride. A couple hundred cyclists will set out at noon from Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchster Ave. in The Grove, with a map of stores at which they’ll purchase items from a shopping list for Food Outreach. Along the 10- or 25-miles routes, they’ll stock up (in the $10 to $20 price range total) then loop back around to Atomic Cowboy.

If you’d prefer to watch the Rams but want to donate ahead of the ride, there’s a list of drop-off points on the St. Louis BikeWORKS homepage.

Is anyone else out there avoiding kiddie attractions lately? Much as we love them, we are. I just can’t bring myself to risk the contagions. There’s only been one confirmed case of H1N1 affecting a child we know, but she got really sick … so we’re staying home more than usual. Jupming in leavesIt’s a good excuse to bake Christmas cookies. And to jump in leaves.

And when we do go out, it’s to places where there aren’t a lot of interactions or shared toys. So today’s recommendation is for the Family Movie Day at the Missouri History Museum. At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 7), you’ll be able to see Aladin for free in Lee Auditorium. Beforehand, from noon on, there’s a craft-and-storytelling workshop (the story is at 1 p.m.), and of course you can break out the hand sanitizer and venture into the special exhibit, Treasure!, which the museum’s hosting until Jan. 3, 2010. For details about the day’s events, visit this link.

And stay healthy, everyone!Throwing leaves

If you happen to be hitting the Justin Roberts concert at Off Broadway today at 3 p.m. — not free, but at $10 per person it’s worth it for hard-core Yellow Bus fans like my boys! — consider coming over to Cherokee Street before or afterward. From 1 to 7 p.m., the annual Dia de los Muertos festival will be taking place, centered around the Cherokee-California corner. This year the organizers have set up a cemetery so we anglos can see how a traditional commemoration of the dead might look. You can learn more on the Riverfront Times blog post here. Even if you can’t stay long, it’s worth stopping by the many bakeries on the street for the sweet and delicious pan de muertos.

Such a bummer of a week — not only is it raining (again), but it’s the final week of the year for the Children’s Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden, for the rooftop at City Museum, and for the corn mazes and other assorted Halloween activities we’ve been indulging in recently.

It’s a good time to introduce the kids to something fun that’ll last into the new year … like the Treasure! exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, now through Jan. 3, 2010. Tomorrow (Oct. 27) residents of St. Louis City and County receive free admission to the exhibit as part of the museum’s  Halloween Pirate Scarefest, a free evening of storytelling, activities, costumes and, yes, candy for the younger set. Party like a pirate from 6 to 8 p.m. — and learn about every form of treasure, from sunken ships to attic stashes.

Hey, we can see the sun today!  Woohoo!  And here I am at the computer … but I’m getting outside to work in the yard as soon as I remind you that Boo at the Zoo is on from now until Oct. 30. It’s a very non-scary, low-sugar-content nighttime option for little kids.  And yes, I know some boys M.’s age are going to The Darkness, and you can call me a mean mom all you want, but he’s not heading for any haunted houses this year.  Plenty of time for that when he’s a teenager — and can go without me!

I’m going to have to wrestle S. into a costume for the $1 discount off the $5 non-member admission (ages 2 to 12 only; kids under 2 are free).  Parking in the south lot is free, and the entrance is on the east end of the turnstiles nearest that lot.  Hours are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly.

Another little-kid-oriented Halloween event that started Friday night is Purina Farms’ Haunted Hayloft. It’s free (parking is $5 per car) on this weekend and next (Oct. 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25) at the Gray Summit exit of Interstate 44 West. There’ll be dog shows, hayrides, milking demos and magic shows by the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Hours are 4:30-8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3:30-7 p.m. Sunday.

If your kids are older and you’re looking for alternatives to The Darkness, check out one of these online Halloween event aggregators:

Kids in St. Louis

Parents Connect

Stltoday.com

Fox 2 News

Or if you’re the one looking for Halloween events:

Metromix

Riverfront Times


Today’s e-mail yielded several ideas for the weekend — love it when that happens! They included:

  • The FallFest in Glen Carbon, Edwardsville and Southwest Illinois University-Edwardsville.  The communities are pulling out all the stops — I don’t remember ever seeing such a wide range of activities at so many businesses and locations on one slate.  Ghost talks, night bike rides, BBQ and blues, soccer, firehouse tours, storytelling, face painting, classic cars and “unique” vehicles … and tons more, on the Web site’s “Family” section, not to mention all the others] categories of events.  It runs Thursday through Saturday (Oct. 8 to 10).
  • St. Louis Kids Magazine (of which I’m contributing editor) is hosting an education expo on Saturday (Oct. 10) in Webster Groves. I’m not intimately involved in planning it, and thus can take no credit for the wide range of schools and other organizations that will have booths there. As we’re going into the height of open house season for independent schools, I expect the expo to be particularly helpful for that.  It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the community center; the site has more details.
  • The Greater St. Louis Metro Area Train Show is happening just down the road, in Kirkwood. A $5 admission fee (free for kids 12 and under when accompanied by an adult) gets you in both Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 10-11) for a sale and swap and demo of all gauges, though the event is sponsored by the Mississippi Valley N Scalers. For the location, check the online flyer, which also has a number to call for more info.

Kindermusik is a music-and-movement program for kids from birth through age 7 — admittedly a non-essential expenditure during rough economic times. And realizing that, the Kindermusik Academy St. Louis (with locations in Clayton, Des Peres and Chesterfield) is offering free tuition to those who have lost a job. Some classes started in late August and others begin on Monday (Sept. 14), but there’s still time to call 314.434.9496 to apply. Enrollment is accepted throughout the fall semester, with tuition prorated for the remaining classes.

Come back tomorrow for a weekend roundup of six fun, FREE events!

Yesterday evening we’d planned to be at the Missouri History Museum’s Twilight Tuesdays kick-off concert for the fall season … and I’d planned to blog about it earlier in the day. But instead, I was dealing with the aftermath of a scary asthma-type breathing episode with my 3-year-old. He’s fine today, happily, and I think he might have even been OK for the concert, but I was a wreck.

So we’ll have to settle for the four remaining concerts of the series — Sept. 15 with Dr. Zhivegas, Sept. 22 with Legacy Jazz Quintet, Sept. 29 with the Fabulous Motown Revue and Oct. 6 with Boogie Chyld — all of which should be great shows. If you haven’t been to one of these, my tips are as follows: Plan to park in the lot near the Forest Park visitor’s center or along the street southwest of the museum (unless, like us, you arrive extra-early at 5 p.m. so the kids can run wild in the playground for an hour before the show — at that time, there are usually still spots in the museum’s lots). Seats with a good view of the stage start filling up about half an hour before the concert’s 6:30 p.m. start, but many families and groups prefer to be back a ways, which gives them more room to spread out. My boys like to see the instruments and lights, however, so we’re usually off to either side of the curved walkways on the museum’s north face. There are no restrictions on food or beverages, and we usually do a nice picnic. But food and beverages are available from Patty Long Catering. If the concert is threatened with rain, they’ll make the call of whether to go on or not at 3 p.m. and make it available at 800.916.8212.