A Christmas present from the Carousel: free rides!

Theresa Cox, executive director of A Carousel for Missoula, just sent out the news that the Carousel will be offering free rides on Christmas Day – that’s tomorrow, folks! – from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as its “Christmas gift to the community.”


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How to handle bullies at Christmas? Give them gifts

Was the Grinch a bully? You know – that hairy green guy who snuck into people’s houses and tried to steal Christmas? The guest post below argues that indeed he was – and like the Grinch, other bullies can be won over in much the same way.

By reaching their hearts.

Read on:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Santa is real and he has a home in Florence, Montana

By TOM BAUER/Missoulian

By TOM BAUER/Missoulian

My daughter is on to the whole fake Santa thing. She sizes up the various Santas we see around town, in the mall or outside grocery stores, usually, and then turns to me with a knowing look and declares, “That isn’t the REAL Santa Claus.”

She believes they are Santa’s helpers, needed because the real Santa is too busy this time of year to do all the things Santas need to do. Today’s Missoulian story about Santa – AKA Charlie Jerke – explains just what those things are, and gives us a glimpse into why Santa’s helpers like Charlie Jerke can be every bit as magical as the “real” Santa.

– MM


Missoula has good stuff for kids and community: A free swim, a phone call from Santa and more!

It’s a busy time of year, isn’t it, fellow parents? There are all these special school activities, holiday events and community campaigns. It’s fun, it’s meaningful – and after a while, it’s rather exhausting.

A fun way to take a break with the whole family is to pack up the swimming suits and towels and head on down to Currents. And lucky you, tomorrow – Friday, Dec. 10 – Currents is offering a free swim for all ages in honor of the fact that Missoula has once again been designated a Playful City USA. The free swim is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

AND, if you bring in a donation of a non-perishable food item for the Missoula Food Bank, you can enter a drawing to win a 10-swim punch card.

(Special note: The e-mail I got from Missoula Parks and Rec about the free swim had this statement in bold – “Kids ages 7 and under must be accompanied in the water by an adult.” I haven’t yet figured out how to add emphasis to statements on this blog, which I why I still use the dreaded ALL CAPS when I would prefer to use italics or boldface type. So just consider that statement bolded, ‘K?)

Know what else Missoula Parks and Rec does that is tons of fun? It runs this program called “Santa’s Calling.” You can sign up to have your child receive a phone call from “Santa” on Wednesday, Dec. 15 between the hours of 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Click here to download a form. You can also pick one up at Currents, which is also where the form should be turned in – by Dec. 13 at the latest.

Santa’s Calling is completely free, but donations are appreciated. The money goes to fund youth recreation scholarships – yet another very worthy cause.

Next up: If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, Missoula Parks and Rec says it has the perfect item. It’s the new Parks, Trails and Open Space map! You can download the very large electronic version of the map by clicking here. However, I recommend paying the $4 to get the full-color, high-quality 24×36-inch map in a form you can actually roll up and stuff into a stocking.

Here’s how Missoula Parks and Rec describes it: “The map details all of Missoula’s parks, streets and bicycle/pedestrian routes, PLUS hiking trails on Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel, the North Hills and all of Missoula’s other great recreation areas.  No other Missoula map covers both city streets and open space trails.  The information side of the map features a comprehensive map of the Riverfront Trail System, and complete directions to family hikes, visitor tours and even challenging treks to Sentinel and Jumbo’s summits.”

Sounds like a great present, right? If you’d like to buy one, you can do so at Currents, and with the knowledge that 50 cents of each sale will go to fund recreation grants for low-income families.

Last on my list of niceness provided by Missoula Parks and Rec is its teamwork with Families First to offer a parenting program/youth swim special. Parents can get tips from experts while their kids swim. The special part is that if you buy a swim for one kiddo, you get one free.

The next parenting workshop will be held on Jan. 26, so you have plenty of time to find out more. Contact Families First at 721-7690.

– MM

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Children’s Museum has awesome alphabet poster by Josh Quick

Quick alphabet

Looking for a cool but family-friendly gift idea? Check out this poster by Missoula artist Josh Quick.

Sweet, huh?

Quick designed the poster exclusively for the Children’s Museum in Missoula. Run by Families First, the museum is offering the poster for sale for $12 each – making it a fun and affordable Christmas gift idea for the kiddo on your list.

And if you want to up the ante a bit, the Children’s Museum is offering a membership special – family membership and a poster for just $75. The offer is good until Dec. 31, so you’ve got about a month to snag this deal.

Call the museum at 541-PLAY for more information.

– MM

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Help make the holidays special for kids going through a tough time

The Missoulian’s Tandy Khameneh put it beautifully in her Thanksgiving Day “We Care” column: “Sometimes children are not able to be with their families, but you can help make them feel special during the holiday season.”

There are many ways to show kids who belong to needy western Montana families – or who find themselves apart from their families this winter – that they are part of a community that cares about them.

Yesterday’s “We Care” column, for one, provided a wish list for the current residents of Watson Children’s Shelter, an emergency shelter for children ranging in age from newborn to 14 years old who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment or other family crises. Give the shelter a call at 549-0058 to find out which wish list items have been filled and which are still needed.

In Ravalli County, some 250 children have pinned their holiday hopes upon the angel tree inside the Prudential Montana Real Estate office in downtown Hamilton. The organizers of this gift-giving effort are urging anyone interested in buying a present – or perhaps several presents – to bring them in by Dec. 10 so that they can be wrapped and delivered in time for Christmas.

“I know it’s a really hard time for everybody this year, but if we band together as a community, we can get this done,” organizer Carolyn Corter says.

As much as I dislike shopping, it’s always fun to buy presents for kids. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a child feel special. A box of new crayons and a journal-style book of blank pages only costs about $2 – but the lift it gives the recipient is absolutely priceless.

– MM

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Moms who plan ahead get blame for ‘Christmas creep’

If you walked into one of the major retailers in western Montana this weekend and were shocked to see Christmas items sharing shelf space with Halloween leftovers, consider yourself in good company. I know it SEEMS like Christmas comes earlier each year, but this is ridiculous.

The retail phenomenon known as “Christmas creep” is not just happening in  western Montana, either. Major U.S. retailers have already starting their toy-pricing wars in anticipation of a particularly brutal Christmas shopping season.

Warms the heart, doesn’t it?

Well, fellow moms, take note: it’s all being done in our name. Apparently moms are considered the “Chief Gift Giver” of the household, and since we try to get our holiday shopping done before the last minute, retailers feel forced to grab our attention earlier in the year.

Not me, though. I refuse to even THINK about Christmas until after Thanksgiving (well, except for this post), and in fact, as in years past, I will be taking a decidedly minimalist approach to the season, with homemade decorations, simple gifts, and a focus on the fact that reaching for one’s wallet is not an automatic expression of love for one’s family.

The big question is, can I maintain this approach all the way from now until Christmas? Time will tell …

– MM


“Dance Star Mickey” better not bust a move in my house

Does anybody really base their purchasing decisions on retailers’ so-called “hot lists”? I’m asking because now that there are only 72 shopping days left until Christmas, my inbox at work is fast filling up with suggested gift lists from national names.

The one from Toys R Us this morning stood out, partly because we do not have a Toys R Us in Missoula and partly because one of the “hottest” gifts on its kids gift list is a Pillow Pet – and my daughter just got one of these for her birthday, courtesy of my grandparents. The one that looks like a bee. She loves it. Sleeps with it every night.

Browsing through the list, however, I see a lot more stuff my kiddo can do without. Stuff I don’t even recognize. What in the world are Zoobles? Sing-a-ma-jigs? Squinkies? Am I officially an old fuddy-duddy already or do these toy names sound like they came from somebody 12 months old?

Even the toys I do recognize – such as Dance Star Mickey, whom I remember making a fool of himself gettin’ jiggy with Donny Osmond at his big unveiling earlier this year – look horribly annoying. Dance Star Mickey, in fact, bears too close a resemblance to Tickle Me Elmo, once considered the hottest of hot gifts, who has lived in the back of one of our closets for several years now. He, too, was a gift from a grandparent – but he terrified the bejeezus out of Willow, and after the first 20 minutes or so, her terror ceased to amuse us. So into the closet he went.

Funny thing is, I know that whatever gift we end up getting for our daughter, even at the ripe old age of 6, she will still show a marked preference for the box it came in.

– MM

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