Archive - April 2016

How to Enjoy Union Depot Train Days for FREE and Scavenger Hunt Challenge
Free Comic Book Day – First Saturday of May
BookHounds Episode 5: Behold! A Baby
Rainy Day Guide for Family Fun
Family Fun: Tail Time at Wild Rumpus Books, Minneapolis
10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park
Kick It – Review
Giving Back as a Family: Second Harvest Heartland
Zoo-Wee-Mama! The World Premiere of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Musical’ is Sensational!
Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More, Monster Bash Sponsor

How to Enjoy Union Depot Train Days for FREE and Scavenger Hunt Challenge


union depot train days

Union Depot and Minnesota Transportation Museum are hosting Train Days this weekend and for the first time, the event is two days long. 

So you can come to FFTC’s Monster Bash on Saturday, and then hang out at the Union Depot and MN Transportation Museum on Sunday.  It’s a win/win. 

And if you come to the Monster Bash, you will receive a family pass to the transportation museum so the whole day will be completely free.

Union Depot Train Days

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Free Comic Book Day – First Saturday of May

Free Comic Book DayThe first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day all over the country. That is May 6th in 2017. Families can find the closest participating comic book store HERE. Each year participating stores feature different free sample comic books from various publishers. I love comic books, just because I love comic books. They can also be nice lead ins to books. In the past, we have been able to find a comic book to go with our favorite books or to encourage a new book.

Local artists sometimes have their own comic books for sale during Free Comic Book Day. Just like with books, it is fun to get comic books with a local tie-in and an autograph from someone you could run into at the grocery store.

Like local bookstores, comic book stores tend to be locally-owned businesses that have to fight against the ease of internet sales. While I certainly enjoy being able to order something when I want it and have it delivered to my door, I’m also aware that shopping locally keeps a little more money in our local economy.

Free Comic Book Day divides its offerings into Gold and Silver Comics. As far as I can tell, the difference is in popularity. If you see Gold Comics that you particularly want, I would recommend showing up early. Each participating store will get a limited number of comics to offer.

Note that not all the Free Comic Book Day offerings are appropriate for children. See Below for the 2017 Free Comic Book List categorized by age rating and color coded by Gold or Silver Comics:

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BookHounds Episode 5: Behold! A Baby

Show Notes

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Rainy Day Guide for Family Fun

Rainy DayA rainy day conjures up an image of a warm drink and a conversation with a friend, a good book in front of the fire.  A lazy day inside catching up on all your shows. 

Unless you are a parent. 

Rainy days are not necessarily romantic, peaceful or perfect.
They can be dreadful, fear-inducing and to put it simply–hated.  I don’t think I even need to explain why. (But I will)

Uncivilized crazies bounce off the walls, tedious groans of boredom echo through the house.  Whiny pleas for “more screen tiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmme!” 

RAiny DayIt’s unbearable.  It’s insufferable. 

We can’t take another minute.

Mom. Dad. We gotcha covered. 

The Family Fun Twin Cities Rainy Day Guide is the playbook you need to get through a chunk of your day when you are stuck inside.  These ideas will spark imagination: whether the imagination is yours or belongs to your kiddos.  And sometimes all it takes is a little bit of effort and intention to make the day a success for everyone. Read More

Family Fun: Tail Time at Wild Rumpus Books, Minneapolis

Tail Time at the Wild Rumpus

It figures I’d pick a day to go to the Wild Rumpus bookstore when I’ve spent the morning swimming in laundry, tripping over the vacuum cleaner and coming to the sinking realization that we’re truly outgrowing our house. But I had already planned to take the girls to “Tail Time” at Wild Rumpus. What’s a little more claustrophobia? Might as well make a day of it!

You can begin by ducking through the preschool-sized purple front door. Then, you can try to get a seat for the wildly popular storytime (ongoing Mondays at 10:30am but apparently impossible unless you show up a half hour early). The bookstore was so packed that we abandoned hopes of any “Tail Time” and the girls decided to pursue their own activities – Emily found a cozy reading nook and Olivia wanted to scout out the various animals that inhabit the shop.

We found a regular menagerie: cages full of birds, ferrets, chinchillas and a lizard. Cats lazed about atop towering displays of books. An aquarium glowed in the bathroom and I’m quite sure chickens scuttle down the narrow aisles between the bookshelves, though we didn’t see any this trip.

Claustrophobic, yes, but still great for the little ones. And the animals make this independent bookstore truly unique in the area. A lot more fun to stumble over them than my piles of laundry back home.

Read more about a book-lovers trip to Wild Rumpus Books here.
For more ideas on where to take the kids for storytime, try our Top Preschool Storytimes in the Twin Cities post.

10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park

10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park

My preschooler’s request for a simple picnic in April turned into a full afternoon of nature play, wildlife spotting and cargo-net clambering. And, thanks to the 80-degree temps, we were able to be outdoors for hours. Bonus: if you can make it out this month, you’ll beat both the crowds and the mosquitoes! Here are 10 things we’re confident kids of all ages can enjoy at the Richardson Nature Center and Hyland Lake Park Reserve: Read More

Kick It – Review

Kick It at MSPIFF Childish Films

Image Courtesy of Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

Kick It is a coming of age drama about a soccer-loving middle schooler who is broadsided with a cancer diagnosis during 7th year. She find herself navigating her illness at the same time she is dealing with all the usual drama of middle school.

Do I think it is appropriate for family viewing? Read More

Giving Back as a Family: Second Harvest Heartland

After our two-hour volunteer stint at Second Harvest Heartland, both kids wondered how soon they could come back and pack rice again.

“Tomorrow?” suggested Andy, the almost 10-year-old. He had had a blast filling boxes with 1 lb. bags of rice, checking to make sure the weight was correct, then taping up the boxes and loading them on pallets to be shipped off to smaller local food banks and pantries.

tm second harvest heartland 2His sister, who had turned 8 only days ago, spent her shift scooping the rice into those pound bags from a one-ton sack. “Now I understand why you have to be 8 to do this,” she remarked as we worked side-by-side with other members of our 4-H club and other community groups. She meant that the jobs available to the volunteers — labeling and packing the rice, using a machine to seal the bags, loading them into boxes — were not tasks her younger sisters were ready to take on.

tm second harvest heartland 3But the shift is perfect for grade school kids (and their adult caregivers) and manages to convey facts about hunger in Minnesota in a manner those kids can understand. For instance, it was news to my children that 1 in 10 people in our state aren’t getting enough to eat each day. Second Harvest Heartland works with donations from farms and companies to provide the equivalent of 74 million meals annually.

4,760 pounds of those 74 million meals were packed by our groups today! Above, Andy and Emily are unveiling the final amount.

Second Harvest Heartland welcomes both groups, families and individuals to come volunteer Tuesday-Saturday at their Golden Valley location. For more information on how to register, click here. Children must be 8 years old to participate and a waiver for each minor must be signed prior to work.

Zoo-Wee-Mama! The World Premiere of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Musical’ is Sensational!

“Hold EVERYTHING! It is NOT a diary! I specifically told my mom not to get me a diary.

diary of a wimpy kid



DIary of a Wimpy Kid

photo credit Dan Norman

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the musical is the story of Greg Heffley and his buddy Rowley Jefferson as they navigate through middle school.  A middle school experience just like yours and mine.

Only instead of the gut-wrenching, emotional heartache of middle school, you experience gasping-for-breath belly laughs.

Greg is trying to navigate through the murky waters of school while being a middle child.  He has a brother in high school (Rodrick who incidentally has a band, Loded Diper) and a “baby” brother who has his own embarrassing nickname for Greg.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

photo credit Dan Norman

He learns pretty quickly that he wants to be a cool kid in school or at least rise in his ranking in the eyes of his peers.  So he sets out to make a name for himself.


And his faithful friend, Rowley, cheers him on all the way.  Because Rowley’s main objective?  To be Greg’s best friend.

Therein lies the rub.  “I know you will do the right thing,” Greg’s mom tells him.

What Makes Diary of a Wimpy Kid Amazing

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the musical is a STRONG theatrical experience.  (I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Check out Simplicity in the Suburbs author Samara’s Review here)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Children's Theatre Co

Photo credit Dan Norman

Rachel Rockwell, the director, casted the characters perfectly.  Here are my four favorite. (I would add Rodrick played by Brandon Brooks, but that somehow seems disloyal to Greg)

  • Greg, played by Ricky Falbo from Chicago, is the perfect straight man. His exagerrated emotional expressions, let alone his oratory, communicate the entire flavor of the show.  Throughout the whole show, the entire audience is cheering for him.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    photo credit Dan Norman

    Rowley, played by David Rosenthal, could not be a better funny man.  His supreme naivety and dorky innocence makes every mom want to sit down and  explain the world to him.  And the next moment you are laughing so hard at his dancing and singing, your face hurts.

  • Charig is played by Om Angarkar.  OH, MY WORD!  He is hysterical.  He had both my 3rd-grader and me rolling on the floor. Greg’s interactions with Charig and Charig’s reactions were so delightfully written, I felt I was back in middle school.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    Photo credit Dan Norman

    Fregley is played by Soren Thayne Miller and honestly I don’t know where they found this guy.  Fregley is the gross kid no one wants to sit by, walk past or even look at.  He adores Greg, and he let’s everyone know it.

Simplistic sets taken straight from the books focus your attention on the characters, and basic props punctuate the story.  I am sure the sets are not simple to manuever especially with 54 scene changes. From home to school to Rowley’s house to school to his own bedroom to the street to neighbors’ front doors to school, etc.  It takes perfect precision, timing, and organization to be able to keep the moving parts from distracting from the story.  So three cheers for the Run Crew backstage.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Chidlren's Theatre Co

Photo credit Dan Norman

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the musical would be nothing if not for strong writing and music.  Much of the story is in song peppered with narration by Greg and some dialogue throughout. Many genres (written by Alan Schmuckler and Michael Mahler) are represented including Rap, Pop, Heavy Metal, Gospel, and of course Broadway.  With songs like “Stuck in the Middle” and “I’ve Got an Animal Heart,” “Joshie Says” and many more, you will be humming all the way home.

Who Should See Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Musical

This show is perfect for kids of any age who love the book.  It’s also perfect for middle schoolers and high schoolers.  It’s fun for everyone.

diary of a wimpy kidI brought my 3rd grader who has read the books.  I even splurged and bought her a new one just because it seemed like the right thing to do.  

As she sat in the lobby reading her new book, an adorable young man (we soon learned he was a second grader) from New Jersey sat down next her and showed her his book asking who her favorite diary of a wimpy kidcharacter is.  They exchanged names and we learned that my daughter shares her name with his sister.  They were fast friends.  

After chatting with his dad about the theatre and Minneapolis, we were soon ready to find our seats. We were seated in the second row.  Dead center.

diary of a wimpy kid“Mom.  We couldn’t have done anything better.  It blew my mind.” She also stated that she hadn’t understood all the jokes, but it didn’t matter at all.

When I suggested that I should have brought her older sister, she shrieked, “NO!  I needed to come to this. I’m the one who read the books.”  

We walked to our car and smiled all the way home.

Free Tickets DisclosureDiary of a Wimpy KidFamily Fun Twin Cities received tickets to review the show, but all opinions are our own.


Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More, Monster Bash Sponsor

t-shirtsBig Frog Custom T-Shirts & More is a franchised business based in Florida, and it has more than one location around the Twin Cities.  We’ve had the pleasure of working Bloomington for the past year.
Located on 98th Street and Lyndale Ave in Bloomington, they are right behind The Works museum. If you visit the museum, take a minute to stop into the shop and say hello.  They are super friendly and can offer so much variety.

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