Welcome ROCmommas, ROCpoppas, and Friends!

Have fun with your kids - that's what it's all about. If you're looking for fun places to go in Rochester, NY (ROC), awesome
crafts to make, and yummy treats to bake with your kids - as well as some ideas for Date Nights - then you've come to the
right place. Welcome to ROCmomma. Happy reading, and please share your comments. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To Boston, With Love: Sending Cards to First Responders

My heart goes out to the Boston marathoners and spectators, their loved ones, the first responders, the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, and Brigham & Women's Hospital, and the entire city of Boston. I won't pretend that I can even begin to understand the pain, grief, and anger they feel right now.

We have seen too many senseless, massive tragedies recently; that goes without saying.

First there is the initial shock and denial: "What happened?," and "That couldn't happen." Then the heartache sets in as we realize the enormity and severity of the nightmare. We see images of those who were injured. Maimed. Killed. We despair in the deranged darkness that has seemingly overcome humanity. But we also see the embraces of loved ones reuniting, and there is hope.  We see the bravery of heroes helping others, and we remember there are still good people out there.

Next come the what-ifs. What if my friend had crossed the finish line twenty minutes later than she did? What if that had happened here, in my city? What if my kids and my parents had been waiting at the finish line while my husband and I finished our run (just like we did in September)? What if my boys were in critical condition at Boston Children's Hospital right now?

Then come the unstoppable tears because we come to the conclusion that there is no way to guarantee the safety of our loved ones in this world.

So we hug a little tighter. We say, "I love you," a little more frequently. We are grateful for the time we have with those we love. We try to carry out small acts to remind everyone around us that there are good people in the world. And the good guys always win.

Those small acts of kindness are the basis behind 26 Acts of Kindness, a movement started by Ann Curry of NBC News in honor of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut.

26 Acts of Kindness posted a request on their Facebook page for cards or handwritten letters to show love and support to the Boston community. If you have been asking, "What can I do?," then please consider sending some kind words. 26 Acts of Kindness will forward the cards and letters to the Boston community. Cards and letters may be sent to:

26 Acts of Kindness
PO Box 185083
Hamden, CT 06518
Choosing stickers to decorate some cards.
You may also send cards and handwritten letters directly to some of the first responders who proved that there are superheroes among us:

Boston Fire Department
Attn: Chief of Department
115 Southampton Street
Boston, MA 02118

Boston Police Headquarters
Attn: Commissioner Edward Davis
1 Schroeder Plaza
Boston, MA 02120-2010

EMS Headquarters
Attn: Chief of Department Jim Hooley
785 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118

Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Emergency Medicine
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Boston Children's Hospital
Attn: Division of Emergency Medicine
300 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Attn: Chairman, Emergency Medicine
75 Francis Street
Neville House
Boston, MA 02115

If you want help beyond greeting cards, check out these suggestions from USA Today. While the Red Cross has what it needs to support this tragedy both financially and with an adequate local blood supply, the Red Cross web site offers other suggestions for those who want to provide additional support.

There is a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. that feels appropriate right now: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" These are just a few ideas of how we can help those dealing with this tragedy in Boston. Please Post a Comment with your suggestions of other ways to help.

As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Family Fun This Weekend

Happy National Scrabble Day! Today is a great opportunity to play the 75-year-old game with the family, or just the two of you after the little ones are in bed.

Tomorrow, April 14, is Look Up at the Sky Day. It's a perfect reason to get your kids to do some bird watching, or even just finding shapes in the clouds.

Need some more excitement in your weekend? Well, there are a few things going on as well. Check them out!

Race: Are We So Different?
Daily through Sunday, April 28, 2013
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Explore the stories of race from biological, cultural, and historical points of view. This new exhibit features hands-on activities, 3-D animation, and more. Included with regular museum admission.

LEGO Travel Adventure
Daily through May 12, 2013
National Museum of Play at The Strong, One Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
Hands-on LEGO and DUPLO building stations, racing ramps, tons of LEGO displays by LEGO Master Builders, and even a spot to take a photo of your own creation and email it to yourself or friends and family. Included with regular museum admission. Check out the ROCmomma review here.

Curious George Swings into Spring
Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
WXXI Studios, 280 State Street, Rochester, NY
PBS Kids presents hands-on activities, a special episode of "Curious George," and giveaways. This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Genesee Community College, One College Road, Batavia, NY
Bring your old electronic devices - including unwanted cell phones, laptops, printers, and ink cartridges - to the eighth annual EcoFest for recycling. You may also bring paperback books, eyeglasses, sneakers, and old flags. A raffle ticket is awarded for each item brought in; the grand prize is a new mountain bike. Plus free tire pressure check, "green" games/activities, a wildlife show at 1 p.m., and food to purchase.

The Kingdom of Grimm
Saturday, April 13 at 11:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
National Museum of Play at The Strong, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
A theatrical performance by students from SUNY Brockport based on the folktale The Brothers Grimm. Included with general admission.

Tiny Science NanoDays
Saturday, April 13 from 12 - 4 p.m.
Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Learn about small-scale science and technology - like the minuscule world of atoms, molecules, and nanoscale forces - in a way that's fun, hands-on, and easy to understand. Included with general admission.

36th Annual RIT Juggle-in-Public Show
Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m.
RIT, Clark Gym, One Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY
See jugglers from around the nation at this juggling festival. Doors open at 7:10 p.m. Click here for a map, detailed directions, and parking info (Parking Lot D). Tickets are $14 for general public, $10 for RIT staff, students, and seniors (65+), $8 for children ages 10 and under.

Open Gym & Extreme Sports Practice Night
Saturday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. (repeats Saturdays through May 25)
Sports Academy of Victor, 6385 Route 96, Victor, NY
Have fun with mats, sports equipment, tumble track, foam pit, turf field, batting cages, spring floor, and inflatables. Instructors are available to help. For ages 6 and up; cost is $10.


Saturday, April 13 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. & Sunday, April 14 from 12 - 4 p.m.
National Museum of Play at The Strong, 1 Manhattan Square, Rochester, NY
Move like a piece on a giant game board and journey through the history of games in Game Time! Interactive stations include digital party games, racing games, card games, a giant game of bingo, and more. Included with general admission.


How I Became a Pirate
Sunday, April 14 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (repeats 4/20 at 2 p.m., 4/21 at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.)
Hart Theater at JCC, 1200 Edgewood Avenue, Rochester, NY
When Captain Braid Beard and his crew invite Jeremy Jacob to join their voyage, it's the swashbuckling time of his life. Based upon the best-selling book by Melinda Long and David Shannon.  Best enjoyed by children ages 4 and up. Tickets are $15 each; you may order tickets online.

Sunday, April 14 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; departures at 12, 12:30, 1, and 1:30 p.m.
New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, West Henrietta, NY
Purchase your tickets, then explore the train cars, antique cars, fire truck, and the model trains in the museum. At your departure time, board the trolley and enjoy the 1-mile ride to the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. Explore the second museum before boarding for a ride back to the Museum of Transportation. No reservations required.

Billy Kelly and The Blahblahblahs in Concert
Sunday, April 14 at 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
The Little Theatre, 240 East Avenue, Rochester, NY
Join WXXI for a special children's concert with singer/songwriter Billy Kelly and the Blahblahblahs. Doors open at 10 a.m. and the concert starts at 11 a.m. Tickets - available at 10 a.m. - are $25 for a family four-pack, $7 for additional kids tickets, and $10 for additional adult tickets.

Family Fun: Craft
Sunday, April 14 from 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Rochester Public Library (Central Library), 115 South Avenue, Rochester, NY
Families are invited to come to the Children's Center of the Central Library to create a beautiful magnetic handprint for Earth Day. This program is free, so bring the whole family. No registration required.

Have a great weekend! As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kids Birthday Party: Race Cars

Last month we had the opportunity to host a Hot Wheels Spin Shotz House Party. That means we received a free party kit filled with Spin Shotz discs and race tracks, as well as some other party swag. Then we invited a bunch of friends to come over and play, and tell us what they thought of the toys.

The party planner in me approached this like a birthday party, so allow me to share the details for anyone looking to plan a race-themed birthday party in the near future. This could be easily adapted to any type of race-themed party, such as a race car party.


You could purchase race- or car-themed invitations, or you and your child can make your own with the help of some themed stickers such as checkered flags and race cars, along with some paper in the birthday child's favorite color.


I found a multi-colored pennant banner on clearance at Target and thought it was great for our theme. We hung it in our front hallway. Black and whited checkered pennants would have been perfect, but how could I pass up something similar on clearance?

We taped a black plastic tablecloth to the floor, using tons of tape on the perimeter's underside to keep it secure. We used additional strips of masking tape on top to create the dashed line of our roadway.

Upon arrival, our guests were greeted with a personalized VIP badge on a Hot Wheels lanyard, thanks to our Spin Shotz party kit. And what is a race party without VIP badges? You can make your own ahead of time by purchasing lanyards with clips (found at office supply stores) and printing your own badges on card stock. Check out this template and download a free printable Spin Shotz badge.

The most valuable thing I learned during student teaching was to change the stimulus every 15 minutes.  This is true in the classroom, at home on rainy days, and even at parties.

0:00 - 0:30          Free Play

  • Allow enough time for all guests to arrive before the structured activities begin.
  • Be sure there are enough race cars - or in this case, Spin Shotz discs - for each child to play.
  • Inspire some creative play by using low-tack painter's tape on the floor to create roads, parking lots, etc.
  • Set up a quiet activity for those who are shy and need to warm up to more active play; some coloring pages and crayons are a great option.

0:30 - 0:45          Let the Races Begin

You could get elaborate and create a tournament bracket for a super-fun racing showdown. Or set up a few race tracks and encourage the kids to race each other.
0:45 - 1:00          Go Off the Track

Provide the kids with props to create their own obstacles and stunts for the race cars or Spin Shotz discs. Props could include cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes, plastic cups, dominoes, building blocks, LEGOs, even a stack of books.

1:00 - 1:15          Pit Stop

Every race car needs to refuel, so set up a Pit Stop for your little racers. Our party was on a weekday morning from 9 - 11 a.m., plus there were some severe food allergies to consider, so our snack options were grapes, animal crackers, and fruit leather. Depending on the ages of the children, this might be a good opportunity to encourage a trip to the potty.
1:15 - 1:30          Arts & Crafts

Since we were having a Spin Shotz party, a spin art craft seemed appropriate. I had seen this idea a few times on Pinterest, so we gave it a whirl. You'll need:
  • salad spinner
  • washable tempera paints
  • white paper, trimmed ahead of time to circles that will fit in your salad spinner
  • masking tape
  • diaper wipes or wash cloths for quick clean-ups
Fold a piece of tape into a roll and use it to secure a paper circle to the bottom of the salad spinner. One at a time, help the kids drip a few blobs of tempera paint onto their paper (near the center works best) and place the top on the spinner. Let the kids operate the spinner...

...and voila!
1:30 - 1:45          Pin the Wheel on the Race Car

Who doesn't love a good round of pin-the-blank-on-the-blank? If this game goes too quickly, give the kids another chance to race on the tracks or on their obstacle courses.

1:45 - 2:00          Hot Car

Play "Hot Potato" with a race car or a Spin Shotz disc. Have the kids sit in a circle and hand one child a race car. Play some music and have them pass the car to their left until the music stops. When the music stops, the child holding the car is out. Once a child is out, give him or her a goody bag. Keep going until there is one child left (or until everyone has lost interest), and be sure everyone has a goody bag. Be sure to thank your guests for coming.

The boys had a great time playing at our Spin Shotz House Party. I hope these ideas are helpful, and that your party is just as amazing. As always, thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: While I received the Spin Shotz products for free, I did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions are actually mine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to Decorate an R2D2 Cake

When I asked my five-year-old what kind of birthday cake we should make for daddy, I should have known the response would be Star Wars-related.

It seems like Star Wars has captivated another generation; it is the current hot topic among Kindergarten boys. They know the plot lines of every episode of Clone Wars. They know which level their friends have beaten in Angry Birds Star Wars. They are constantly asked to stop humming Darth Vader's theme or pretending to shoot battle droids at school. They all want the LEGO Death Star (suggested retail: $399.99!) for their birthdays.

Really, it's no wonder my son declared that daddy needed an R2D2 cake.

Wilton used to make a wonderful R2D2 cake pan. Unfortunately it has been discontinued, and a search on Amazon yielded a used pan for $73.99. I wouldn't pay anywhere near $74 for a new R2D2 pan; is there really someone who would pay that much for a used one? Crazy.

Instead, here are the steps to make your own R2D2 cake, sans fancy pan.

Step 1: The Cake

First, prepare a cake from a packaged mix or from your favorite recipe, and divide the batter between a  round pan and a square pan. I used a 7" round pan and an 8"x8" square pan.

Once baked and cooled, cut the round cake in half and place on a large platter or baking sheet. Line up the square layer and trim a strip from the side and one from the bottom to make the two arms. Cut the remaining half of the round layer into thirds to make the feet.
Slide some strips of waxed paper under the edges before frosting your cake. This step will protect your serving platter from stray drips of frosting. When the paper is removed, all evidence of the mess will be gone as well. Yay.

Step 2: The Frosting

Next, you'll need a batch of your favorite white frosting (about 3 cups or more), or two tubs of white store-bought frosting. I used homemade cream cheese frosting, but buttercream also works well. Reserve half of the frosting as plain white.

Place remaining half of frosting into a bowl and add a few drops of blue food coloring; stir until evenly colored (Lightest Blue). Scoop three-quarters of the Lightest Blue into another bowl; add more blue food coloring and stir until evenly colored (Blue #2). Scoop two-thirds of Blue #2 into another bowl; add more blue food coloring and stir until evenly colored (Blue #3). Scoop one-half of Blue #3 into another bowl; add more blue food coloring and a squeeze of black decorator icing and stir until evenly colored (Darkest Blue).
From left to right: Darkest Blue, Blue #3, Blue #2, and Lightest Blue.
Step 3: Pretend You Know What You're Doing

While the Wilton pan is no longer available, you can still download the decorating instructions from their web site. Those instructions might be slightly more irritating than listening to Jar Jar Binks.

Luckily, this blog post from Way More Homemade provided detailed instructions that are actually useful.

Scoop some of Blue #2 or Blue #3 into a pastry bag or another decorator tool. Using the finished photo (near bottom) as a guide, or another photo of your choosing, draw the basic shapes on R2D2's body.
Doesn't that look amazing? Yeah, I was about ready to go buy a cake at this point. Any cake. But, do. Or do not. There is no try.

Use white or Lightest Blue frosting to cover all sides of the cake, except for the surface where your lines are drawn.

Use Lightest Blue and a pastry bag or other cake-decorating device to fill in the squares near the bottom of R2's body and the outer parts of his "joints," as shown below. Does yours look as pretty as mine? Are you nervous? Just stay with me. It will be great.
Use Blue #3 and Darkest Blue to fill in the shapes on R2's head and the remaining shapes on his body, as well as the "shadow" at his inner shoulders (gives it a little dimension), as shown below.

Use Blue #2 to fill in the rest of R2's head. Then use a tube of black decorator icing to outline all of the shapes, as shown below. See? Looking better already. Sort of.
Fill a pastry bag or decorator tool with white frosting and fill in all remaining areas. Use two red candies as the lights on R2's head. Ha! Now you can actually tell that it's R2D2! Told you it would be great.
 See how easy? You can do this too for your favorite Fanboy or Fangirl.
Happy decorating! As always, thanks for reading.

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