December 28, 2006

  "A Night at the Museum"

"A Night at the Museum" was a movie my family had been looking forward to watching, and we weren't disappointed at all. This movie was funny and action-packed, while still throwing in bits and pieces of history without the kids realizing it.

"A Night at the Museum" features actor Ben Stiller as Larry Daley, a divorced dad who can't keep a job or an apartment, who still continues to believe his luck is going to change at any time. At the beginning of the movie, he is facing eviction again and his ex-wife tells him that maybe their son would be better off not visiting his dad until he gets his life together. The threat of losing his child is enough to make Daley find a stable job, and he ends up accepting the position of night watchman at the local historical museum.

Daley is expecting a quiet night at the museum, but not long after he arrives and locks up for the night, the exhibits come alive. The giant T-rex skeleton races down the hall after him, the miniature cowboys in the Wild West exhibit tie him to a train track and run a steam train into his head, and the lions try to eat him for supper. Daley survives the night and things go better the following evening, when he's prepared for the nighttime antics of the exhibits. But a few nights later when Daley's son comes to spend the night at the museum with him, the former night watchmen decide to rob the museum. Things get interesting as Daley, his son and all the various exhibits, from cavemen to Attila the Hun, realize they have to work together to save the museum.

The plot line moved so quickly that we were surprised the movie was over so soon. There was a little minor violence and bloodshed when the bad guys fight Daley, but nothing most kids can't handle. This movie was a great delight to all three of my kids, ages 8, 10 and 13, while still being fun for adults to watch. We can't wait for this one to come out on DVD. Liz DeCarlo

"A Night at the Museum" is PG-rated.



  Mayor Daley's "Holiday Sports Festival"

Mayor Daley's "Holiday Sports Festival"

The post-Christmas blues will vanish when you dust off your sneakers and head out to Mayor Daley's "Holiday Sports Festival." This festival has been a highlight on our family's calendar for the past three years. If this year is the same as in years past, you can introduce your kids to a cornucopia of sports and remarkably, it's all free.

At the end of a long journey down the McCormick Place corridors, you'll be rewarded with the ultimate sports experience. Throughout the three - day festival, there are ongoing volleyball, soccer, basketball and floor hockey tournaments as well as gymnastics meets. The table tennis tournament is a treat, since it's rare to watch one live. (The speed and agility of the players will amaze you.)

This festival isn't just about watching, though. It's also about giving kids a first-hand experience with a variety of sports. You can bring your own balls for the open volleyball and basketball courts, but also seek out games that are out-of-the-ordinary for your family. At the fishing "pond," kids receive individualized instruction on how to cast a line (don't worry, there aren't any hooks), and then try to score a prize by landing their lure in a bucket. The tennis area also offers one-on-one attention. Last year, my (then) 5-year-old triplets received a 30-minute private tennis lesson from enthusiastic instructors.

The giant climbing walls are an exciting challenge for many, though my kids were too short last year. Novice climbers are surrounded and supported by the pros, who help lift and land climbers safely. At the golf course section, kids use plastic clubs to practice driving, chipping and putting. Less subdued is the football obstacle course, where kids run with a football down the field, around rings and cones and over hurdles. My kids felt like hot stuff when they (finally) crossed the finish line.

There's also a timed 50-yard dash (out-of-shape adults, beware-you might strain something), hockey, martial arts, skateboarding, football, boxing, badminton, cheerleading-and if that's not enough, head for the giant inflatable slide. You can find activities for the wee ones at the tot zone-last year it housed tricycles, little pedal cars, an inflatable obstacle course and mini-gymnastics area with rings to hang from.

This year, aerobic and yoga classes will interest teens and parents, as will health screenings and lectures on nutrition from personal trainers. Need more motivation? Sign up for the 15th Annual Race to Taste 5K Run/2-Mile Walk in summer 2007. It's a $5 fee here instead of the usual $20 (pay by cash or check only). Jill S. Browning

"Holiday Sports Festival" Dec. 28-30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Tournaments may be later or earlier, depending on the sport; check Free. McCormick Place in Halls A & B. 2301 S. Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago.

  "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker"

My parents, my little sister and I made some popcorn and watched "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" on DVD. We all had a good time with this movie.

Alex Rider is a James Bond-type movie except it is fit for kids. There is no blood or bad language, but there is violence.

I liked it because it had a good story line and was fun to watch. At the beginning of the movie a guy is hanging upside down out of a helicopter over a moving car. There were some really great chase scenes including one on a bike, one on a motorcycle and one on a horse. It was a great action-packed movie.   The only thing I didn't like was the cheesy bad guys. I would say that this movie is good for all ages above 6 for the violence. It may be a bit scary if you're younger. Alek Pedersen

"Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" is rated PG.



  The Little WoWo: My First Nursing Pillow

The Little WoWo: My First Nursing Pillow claims to allow young children to be like their parents by having their very own nursing pillow. My 3-year-old daughter has enjoyed using her pillow, although she tries to hold her baby sister on it. She likes that she can hold her dolls on it and pretend to nurse them.

My daughter loved the ballerina design and the details on the pillow. She also loved using the burp cloth as a blanket for her dolls. The bottle is optional and the price is $1 less without it. There are enough dolls that come with bottles that a toy that is supposed to promote the benefits of breastfeeding does not need to come with a bottle. I would recommend this product-my daughter has enjoyed using it.

This is a well made, very cute toy. My daughter loves the fabric and the burp cloth got a lot of play when it first got here. The only problem I see with it is that they are all trimmed with pom-pons. I know this is a toy for children over 3, but it is marketed at people with babies as well. The pom-pons are very cute, but not necessary and are tempting for the little ones to chew on. Michelle Fisher-Rohde

Little WoWo: My First Nursing Pillow by Designs by Danielle, $32.99-$42.99; 


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