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Hogwarts, space facilities: Orlando offers a lot besides Disney World

Taking your older teenagers to Orlando for spring break might seem like an odd choice — aren’t they a little old for Disney? Yes, our 16- and 18-year-olds are a bit jaded for Mickey Mouse, but we saw a last-minute trip to Orlando as a chance to hold our kids hostage for some family fun.

We set out to have an authentic experience in a manufactured environment, and decided we would alternate theme-park days with real-world fun.

Staying in a condo on International Drive (near Sea World) gave us more space than a hotel room and a chance for family dinners — a rarity even at home. We agreed to skip Disney World, opting to focus on Universal Studios’ newest attraction, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Autism sample in Arapahoe County higher than nation’s

A Colorado test county has seen a 60 percent spike in diagnosed autism over two years, far higher than an already-worrisome surge in national rates for the disorder, the CDC and state health officials said Thursday.

The Colorado segment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national monitoring project found 1 in 85 Arapahoe County 8-year-olds had some level of autism in 2008, or 11.8 cases per 1,000 kids. That was a 60 percent jump from the last comparable study in 2006.

The boost in Arapahoe County numbers was higher than the 23 percent national increase in childhood autism cases. The CDC’s national composite shows 1 out of 88 children with an “autism spectrum disorder,” across monitoring areas in 14 states.

Nationally, the rate has increased

The overwhelming mind games that come with autism

Depending on who you speak to, your kiddo could have Autism, not Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, a “leaky gut,” an inability to process external toxins, too high levels of metals in his system, unable to hear properly or allergies. These are all the things I’ve heard from the variety of professionals I’ve spoken to since Z’s diagnosis. Crazy, huh? You hear something different from every professional you meet. After all, it’s human nature to see things you’re trained to see. What’s that medical (para)phrase? ”Don’t look for the zebra?  Because it’s probably just a horse (or in autism’s case, a jackass).” Or something like that.

You hear a million different stories from parents who SWEAR by things they’ve done for their kids. You read a million different stories online about things that are GUARANTEED to work.

An 11-Year-Old’s Perspective of The Hunger Games

Under the Christmas tree last year was a set of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, a gift to my son. Having heard for months how great the books were, I decided to get the set so we could all read up before the movie release.

My 11-year-old, my husband and I were hooked from page one, racing through the action-packed series with great anticipation for the movie release. Monday, we celebrated the start of Spring Break at the theater. The following is my son’s review of The Hunger Games, an 11-year-old’s view of the critically acclaimed film.

When is the Best Season to Have a Baby?

Because I have eight kids, our calendar is full of red-letter days. Little squares hail their birthdays nearly year-round. With so many kids, it’s easy and natural for me to consider the best time of year to bring a new baby home. When is the best season to have a baby?

Summer

I’ll start with summer because my first baby was a summer baby. Experienced women ominously warned that being hugely pregnant during summer would be torturous. Oh, the places you’ll sweat, the swelling you’ll get, the chaffing and the desire to lie naked in a cold empty bathtub chomping on ice as you glower at feet that look like loaves of shepherd’s bread—it’s all true. But the summer baby is worth it. There are advantages.

Once the baby arrives, the logistics are pretty easy. Their wardrobe can consist of light cotton onesies, a diaper, and little else. Bundling is unnecessary. Trips out of the house don’t require layers and layers for the layers. Hat slippage is not a big deal. Their first sights, sounds, and smells might include flowers, fireworks, bbq ribs, and chlorine at the pool. It’s easier to lose baby weight because it’s a great time to get outside and walk it off.

Denver Deal: NCAA Tourney, Echo Mountain, Consignment sale and more

Spring break! My kids started screeching last Friday. All I could think of is, “what should we do?!??!?!” Women’s NCAA Basketball tournament comes to downtown this next weekend. There are a multitude of fun things to do for free or nearly nothing. Buick is sponsor of the tournament – but moreso, I love their message – The Buick Human Highlight Reel is an online collection and archive of short videos featuring former NCAA student-athletes whose greatest victories occur away from the game, where they apply their passion to serving those in need. As I think about what we will do for spring break – yes, we may go to some of the NCAA fun but we might also try to find a great volunteer opportunity like the ones through Volunteers of America that let us volunteer as a family!

Women’s NCAA Final Four in Denver

Colorado is the host for the NCAA Women’s Final Four! We will have more in an upcoming post – there are a ton of free things to do. If you are interested in tickets, visit the website at NCAA.com/finalfour

Consignment Sales

There are still a load of consignment sales – this week’s sale is on Saturday, March 31 Darling Doubles. 8a–11a, $1 admission; 11a-12p (Half-price sale) at Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton.

Best DAM Spring Break

Denver Art Museum (DAM) is celebrating Spring Break March 25 through April 1, 2012 with FREE admission to kids under 18.  To celebrate the Denver-only exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, the DAM offers lots of chances to explore what it takes to be a fashion designer. Kids can pick out fabrics, mix patterns and create a new look in our Fashion Studio. The museum also has two Hotspots that focus on fashion. On weekdays, families can make an Egyptian flower collar or sew Oceanic tapa cloth. Using a paper doll as a guide, kids can become a designer as part of an interactive family tour. The museum also has costumes throughout so little ones can dress up as cowboys, Renaissance royalty or the emperor from Imperial China.

Echo Mountain Round-up

Echo’s version of the Wild West happens on Saturday, March 31.  Bust out those boots, hats and western garb as Denver’s closest ski and snowboard area transforms into the ‘Ol West with Scion’s Design Your Own Board Contest, Evening “Sheriff Shootout Rail Jam” (Adults ages 13 & up),”Lil’ Wranglers Rail Jam” for skiers and snowboarders ages 12 and under, costume contests, BBQ, Rocky Mountain Chili Bowl snowboard giveaway,Eating Competition, Stick Horse Races, Contests, Prizes and much more!

Jefferson County Helping Kids Thrive Seminars

Jefferson County is offering free parent and community classes.The classes will offer parenting tips on a broad range of topics. Pre-register for the classes located at Arvada K-8 (April 9), O’Connell Middle School (April 12), Summit Ridge Middle School (April 19) or West Jefferson Middle School (April 26).

Ski Area Spring Fun

If skiing/boarding are in your plans for spring break check out some of the fun going on! This weekend (April 1) boast fun at Steamboat with Springalicious ‘boat-loaded with concerts, cardboard classic and splash-down. More fun coming in the next weeks as many of the ski areas are closing out their seasons with FUN, FUN, FUN…

Email me if you know of any great Denver deals!

Don’t want to miss any of Mile High Mamas’ contests and events? Be sure to sign up for our weekly email newsletter so you can forward these great deals to your friends.

You can also follow me on Twitter (GeeWhy93).  If I find a great deal during the week, I’ll tweet it out.

Postcards from the Edge (of the potty training seat)

“Potty training.” The mere words still make me shudder.

For some parents, it is a simple process. For others, there are months of nail-biting frustrations. And for a select few (like me), sometimes it felt like our child was never going to get trained. Though it was a trying time, I was surprised to learn there are a large number of children who, even beyond the preschool years, continue to have issues. Thankfully, I can finally say we’re in the clear after many difficult years.

I have a few friends who are currently potty training their kids and so I thought I would revisit those harrowing 3 years and 9 months it took to get her potty trained. You know. The first time.

March 2006: We brought home our first potty amidst great fanfare. Twenty-month-old daughter was enthusiastic about being a big girl and using the potty. It was a bald-faced lie.

April Family Volunteer Opportunity: Outdoor Spring Clean-up for Seniors

Spring has sprung and some local seniors need your help. Join Volunteers of America for this April’s Family Volunteer Project, “Spring Clean-up for Seniors.” Volunteers will be assigned to a senior’s home to help with light yard work (weeding, raking, mowing, trimming bushes, etc.) This project is a HUGE help to homebound senior clients.

When: Saturday, April 14th, 2012, 10 a.m.-noon (time frame is flexible if needed)

Where: Family volunteers will be assigned to a senior’s yard.

Who: You and your family…children of all ages are welcome!

What: Family Volunteers will be doing light yard work for limited-income homebound seniors. Depending on the needs of each client, activities include weeding gardens, mowing lawns, raking leaves, trimming bushes, and other general yard work. Families will be asked to provide trash bags and any general yard tools they have available.

RSVP: Please RSVP by April 9, 2012 to Rachel Dolgin at rdolgin@voacolorado.org

As “pink slime” controversy rolls, Colorado districts see red over the beef filler in school lunches

As the “pink slime” controversy has seeped into school lunches, some Colorado districts have responded to a surge of parent and community concern over safety by changing the way they approach their ground-beef purchases.

Ann Cooper, director of food services for the Boulder Valley School District, said she received dozens of e-mails seeking assurances that the school would not serve beef with a filler called “lean, finely textured beef” — more recently dubbed “pink slime” in the wake of reports and social-media campaigns questioning its safety.

“There’s no reason to use ammoniated beef in our school food — just no reason,” Cooper said. “It’s not the same as using 100 percent ground beef. Do we really need to put that in school food? We’re just choosing not to.”

So has Denver Public Schools, which also participates

7 of the Best Books for First-time Moms

I’m at the age now where most of my peers are having children. Since I was one of the first of our friends to have kids, I have been getting more and more questions lately about pregnancy and parenting for first-time parents.

One of the questions I get asked the most involves my favorite books for moms-to-be!

In some ways, I guess babies do come with instructions!

As for books, I love learning, so I read tons of books. Several were absolutely terrible, some were mediocre, but some of them were lifesavers.