Tag Archives: storytime

Tea times three!

It’s been a while since I did the tea party thing with my children, who now range in age from 18 to 22. But recently I’ve learned of three tea parties that almost leave me wishing I could turn them very tiny again.

The Ballet Academy of Arizona is holding their “Fairy Godmother’s Tea Party” Sun, Sept 25 from 3-5pm in the Camelback Ballroom at the Phoenician Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. It features a high tea (with menus for children and adults), singing, dancing and a silent auction.

Also an appearance by the fairy godmother and a performance by “Jolly Roger” the magician, who’s entertained at several parties my own children once attended.

Ballet Etudes holds their Nutcracker Sweet Tea in November

Yet another charming tea takes place this fall as Ballet Etudes presents its “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” both Sat, Nov 12 (at 10am and 11:30am) at the Wright House Reception Hall in Mesa and Sat, Nov 19 (at 11am) at the Johnson Ranch Golf Course in Queen Creek.

The “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” invites those who attend to explore the “Land of Sweets,” enjoy a light luncheon buffet, decorate their own cookies and listen in on storytime. They’ll also experience a Ballet Etudes performance.

Scottsdale Ballet Foundation presents their “Nutcracker Sweets Tea” Sun, Dec 4 from 11:30am-2pm at the Phoenix Country Club ballroom.

Another delightful dance event takes place Sun, Sept 18 at 1pm. Storybook Ballet, the student ballet company of Dance Theater West in Phoenix, and children from the Professional Artist Series program at Free Arts of Arizona present “Wonderland” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Free Arts of Arizona is dedicated to healing abused and homeless children through artistic expression, and Dance Theater West is one of many community partners who join them on the journey. RSVPs for this free event are requested by Wed, Sept 14 (602-258-8100 or info@freeartsaz.org).

Like many parents, I spend far too much time chasing espresso when I should be sipping tea instead. How lovely that Valley arts organizations give us opportunities to slow down and really linger over time with our little ones, who don’t stay little for long.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about these family-friendly tea parties at www.balletacademyofarizona.org, www.balletetudes.net and www.scottsdaleballetfoundation.org. Visit Dance Theater West at www.dancetheaterwest.com and Free Arts of Arizona at www.freeartsaz.org. Local resorts like The Ritz-Carlton, The Phoenician, and The Arizona Biltmore offer high tea. Check with Girly Girlz for girl-friendly tea parties (www.girly-girlz.com).

Coming up: Celebrating holidays arts and culture style


Cows for a cause

Thousands of boys from Sudan immigrated to the United States during the 1990s — including the “Arizona Lost Boys of Sudan” — who are among the many children orphaned in one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.

Sudan might feel a world away, but who can’t imagine what it might be like to be orphaned? And who doesn’t wish there was some way they could help.

This is where the cows come in. They’re ceramic handmade cows crafted by orphaned children, and they’ll be on sale during “The AZ Lost Boys of Sudan 6th Annual Birthday Party” at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Birth dates are rarely recorded in Sudan, so aid workers have given many orphans a Jan 1 birthday — which Changing Hands recognizes with an event featuring birthday treats and a cow sale to benefit the AZ Lost Boys and Girls scholarship fund.

If you want more info on the scholarship fund, just visit the AZ Lost Boys Center online at www.azlostboyscenter.org. Of course, they pretty much had me at “ceramic cows.”

Changing Hands Bookstore has all sorts of interesting fare this month — including a Jan 12 panel with psychologists and educators sharing “strategies on how teachers, students and parents can cope with bullying.”

Sesame Street puppeteer Noel MacNeal hits Changing Hands Jan 14, and the “Yallapalooza” — “a literary extravaganza for tween and teen readers featuring more than a dozen ‘YA’ authors — takes place Jan 29.

You can bring little ones clad in pajamas to the Jan 13 “Pajama Storytime for Preschoolers” with children’s specialist Ramie Manch, or awaken your own writing muse with one of Changing Hands’ many writing workshops and poetry roundtables.

Another “Local First Arizona” bookstore — which has stores in Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson — has diverse offerings for literature-lovers of all ages. This Sat, Jan 8, folks can head to Bookmans in Phoenix to learn the art of paper folding from the Arizona Origami Society.

Other Bookman happenings this weekend include an author signing of a new book about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson), a “Silly Bandz” trading event (at the Glendale Glitters & Glow Block Party) and an anime club get together (Phoenix).

Later this month, you can enjoy several “Music Hour with Nature!” events, a Harry Potter club gathering, and a performance as part of the “Ear Candy Charity & Chicks with Picks Live Music Series!” (Store locations vary.)

Be sure and check with your local independent booksellers as well — many of whom provide an environment rich for conversation and community building. Your local bookstore is a great place to find fellow readers, writers and thinkers — and to help your children cultivate these skills in a day and age too full of distractions.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Local First Arizona and its members (which include Raising Arizona Kids magazine).

Coming up: The fine art of tolerance, The art of “Sacred Places,” Art adventures: Glendale, Shrek: I’m a Believer

Musings on International Literacy Day

We take so many things for granted as Americans — ready access to water, vast choices in fresh foods, stable shelters and structures. We’ve got gaggles of electronic gizmos and more books than we ever bother to read.

It’s a shame, really, when you consider how rare things like books and bathrooms are in so many other countries. (And even — as one of my daughters recently reminded me — for American children living in desperate poverty.)

I’ve heard many a news report in recent days on misguided plans to burn one particular book (a book with great cultural and religious significance) — but nothing, literally, about today’s designation as “International Literacy Day.”

Imagine, if you will, a world without books.

It’s a world without education, civil discourse, political stability.

Books are the very fiber of our being — taking us on journeys to places we’ve never been before, introducing us to new worlds and wonders, posing thoughtful questions about the nature of humanity — helping us feel more, think more, do more. Even be more.

Think back on some of the books that have touched your life — maybe a family heirloom handed down from generation to generation, maybe books your parents read with you as a child, maybe books you enjoy reading with your own children.

Pause today to honor those books that have touched — even changed — your life. Made you a better parent. Helped you succeed in school or business. Taught you to appreciate other people and places.

If books have slipped from the pages of your busy life, bring them back today. Visit a library. Read with your child. Volunteer to tutor students in reading. Sign up to help at an adult literacy center. Read the books of local and international authors. Maybe even write your own book.

Whether books — and the people who depend on them — survive and thrive, is really up to you.


Note: Watch for a future post on the interplay of literacy and the arts — and ways the arts can help make reading more enjoyable for the whole family

Thanks to Christopher Trimble for the graphic  a la Photoshop crafted with a collection of book covers, buttons and magnets

Musings on mice, cookies and polka dots

It never occurs to me that I might like to go back and have really young children again—I’m so delighted with my teenage and young adult children and each of their wholly unique and remarkable takes on, and contributions to, the world.

But I found myself thinking Sunday, while spending part of my afternoon with families who’d come to see the Phoenix Theatre/Cookie Company production of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale, just how enchanting it might be to take a trip back in time to the days my own young children were first discovering the joys of live theater.

The show was everything you’d imagine it to be—charming, funny, imaginative, engaging. It’s adapted from the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, a favorite of families today as it was for us some 15 years or so ago when we had three children ages five and under.

What I treasured most about the day was seeing families linger after the show, enjoying the company of friends old and new, the free milk and cookies audience members receive after every show, and the wide open spaces around the theater so perfect for après-performance playtime.

I love getting dressed up and going to a fancy theater, sitting in plush seats, seeing folks in more formal attire. But there’s just something about Stagebrush Theatre that makes a Sunday afternoon sing. Outdoor benches and stairs create casual centers for conversation, transforming theater into a truly communal experience. (Soon they’ll have new ‘movie style’ seating inside the venue, thanks to a donation from Harkins Theatres.)

From the moment Robert Kolby Harper, artistic director for Cookie Company, stepped onto the stage to welcome young audience members, the house was in high-energy mode. One kindergarten-age boy in the center of the third row sat on the edge of his seat, with perfect posture, for the entire show. He, like so many others, was spellbound.

The show itself runs just 45 minutes, the perfect slice of theater for the preschool through elementary-age crowd. The music is a mix of genres, all upbeat and sometimes circus-like. (If this is your child’s first experience with the strings, horns and percussion of classical music, they’ll love its “get up and go” quality.) The lighting is a kid-friendly combo of bright yellows, pinks and greens.

Children reacted to the physical comedy, rapid-fire dialogue (that mouse can talk a mile a minute) and giant props—which make up the heart of the show—with wide-eyed excitement and lots of laughter.

The mouse may seem mischievous, but he certainly has fine manners, saying “please” each time his requests of the boy escalate, leaving the boy’s kitchen in complete disarray while his mother is away.

The young audience was enchanted watching actors Laura Christian-Brown, Shawna Quain-Weitekamp and Kyle Willis (last seen as the prince in Cookie Company’s “Cinderella Confidential”), and parents were enchanted by their children’s enchantment.

Picture a mouse in denim overalls attempting to drink milk from a straw resembling a striped candy cane twice his size, or whirling through a kitchen on skates made of scrub brushes, or acting out a bedtime story while a frustrated boy attempts to settle him down for a nap in his mother’s box of talcum powder.

The worry wart in me hesitated a bit while watching the mouse throw the loop of a rope over his head so he could secure it around his waist and climb atop the refrigerator to hang a work of crayon art. Kids loved the scene, but I’m hoping they won’t try it at home.

The hours in our days can slip away so softly that we hardly notice they were there. What Cookie Company can do with an hour of a child’s time is truly magical.

As children enter the lobby before the performance begins, they play games related to one of the show’s themes that would otherwise seem anything but fun—helping with the household chores—and take turns moving stuffed mice through foam core mazes.

They enjoy storytellers reading from related books like “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” and “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.” (Cats and cupcakes don’t mix in the real world—so be sure your kids take note.) They make mouse masks complete with yarn whiskers they can either take home or display on lobby bulletin boards spotlighting kids’ creations.

After the show, children line up to meet and greet cast members who cheerfully pose for pictures, patiently sign autographs and sincerely ask children’s opinions of the show. Two of three cast members (we see a third cast member onstage during a mirror scene) kneel on the ground at eye-level with the children who’ve come to meet them.

I give Cookie Company high marks for their integration of sound child development principles into what children experience before, during and after their shows; for their ability to train, retain and recognize so many dedicated volunteers; for their collaboration with others in the community.

They participate, for example, in Public Allies—a program of the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation—which couples “young adults interested in social change” with nonprofit agencies who need “the assistance of an additional young staff member.”

Haddy Kreie, who is enjoying a 10-month apprenticeship with Phoenix Theatre, is a member of the Public Allies class of 2009-2010. She serves as community outreach coordinator for Phoenix Theatre/Greasepaint Youtheatre and is the assistant director for this production of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (directed by Robert Kolby Harper, whose other hats include associate artistic director for Phoenix Theatre and artistic director for Greasepaint Youtheatre).

Thanks to this charming play, I now associate Cookie Company with a whimsical new image—a masterful mouse running to and fro in white boxer shorts with giant blue polka dots (the little boy had so hoped that letting the mouse get comfy would help him settle in to naptime).

Phoenix Theatre is a master of connecting all the dots.


Note: There are just three more performances of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (Jan. 30th and 31st). Because shows sold out during the first weekend, you may want to secure tickets in advance rather than waiting until the day of the show. Ticket information is available at the Phoenix Theatre website or by calling 480-990-7405.