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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Release the minions! New ride opens Monday at Universal

minionride.jpgOur colleague Susan Thurston got a sneak peek at the new ride at Universal Studios, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which has a grand opening on Monday (park visitors have had previews of the ride for the last couple weeks as well). You can read her review here.

It's the theme park's first new ride since Harry Potter's debut in 2010 and the latest of several new attractions this year. Based on the 2010 hit film, the ride transforms guests into goggle-wearing minions and takes them on a wild adventure through villain Gru's lab with his three adopted daughters. "It's chaotic, funny, heartwarming and, like most simulator rides, a bit nauseating," she writes.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

snowfest.jpgWe've got summer snow slides and a creepy bear giveaways at the Rays games, not to mention a great price break at a local children's museum. Read on for more wallet-friendly diversions with the kids this week:

Is it too early for snow? The Leon Festival on Friday (Leon is “Noel” spelled backward) and time to join the Metropolitan Ministries in marking the half-way point to Christmas at this festival with a 60-foot snow slide, photos with Santa, inflatable games, balloon characters, holiday music, face painting, video games, corn toss and visits by the Tampa Bay Storm mascot “Storm Dawg” and the Storm cheerleaders. Every $10 donation or donation of a new toy gets a free ticket to a Tampa Bay Storm game and “fun tickets” for rides. Free, but “Fun Tickets” are required for some activities. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 209-1000. 5-7:30 p.m. Friday.

See free water ski shows at the St. Petersburg Pier on Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. There will also be an Alligator & Python Show, Florida musicians, free oranges for all and seafood in this celebration of all things Florida.   …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

snowfest.jpgWe've got summer snow slides and a creepy bear giveaways at the Rays games, not to mention a great price break at a local children's museum. Read on for more wallet-friendly diversions with the kids this week:

Is it too early for snow? The Leon Festival on Friday (Leon is “Noel” spelled backward) and time to join the Metropolitan Ministries in marking the half-way point to Christmas at this festival with a 60-foot snow slide, photos with Santa, inflatable games, balloon characters, holiday music, face painting, video games, corn toss and visits by the Tampa Bay Storm mascot “Storm Dawg” and the Storm cheerleaders. Every $10 donation or donation of a new toy gets a free ticket to a Tampa Bay Storm game and “fun tickets” for rides. Free, but “Fun Tickets” are required for some activities. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 209-1000. 5-7:30 p.m. Friday.

See free water ski shows at the St. Petersburg Pier on Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. There will also be an Alligator & Python Show, Florida musicians, free oranges for all and seafood in this celebration of all things Florida.   …

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Nora Ephron's best quotes about parenting

noraephron.jpgPeople who only know Nora Ephron from her movies are missing out. The writer and director (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood), who died Tuesday from pneumonia after a quiet battle with leukemia for the past six years, was first a journalist and then a brilliant essayist. I had a dog-eared copy of Crazy Salad that I turned to often for inspiration when I was a young journalism student. As a writer of deeply personal essays, she of course had a lot to say about parenting.

She even has something to say about the word "parenting," which she said was inspired by the women's movement -- to show how men and women now shared raising children. "Suddenly, one day, there was this thing called parenting. Parenting was serious. Parenting was fierce. Parenting was solemn. Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic, it was unrelenting."

She wrote that in a very moving essay in her book I Feel Bad About My Neck, which you can read here, about the many stages of being a parent, from babies to teens to adulthood. She writes: Parenting was not simply about raising a child, it was about transforming a child, force-feeding it like a foie gras goose, altering, modifying, modulating, manipulating, smoothing out, improving.

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Some ideas for rainy day fun

skating.jpgWe are now on Day 3 of Debby downer, the wettest tropical storm we've seen in awhile. By now you and the kids are going stir crazy. So what do you do for rainy-day fun?

We rounded up this list of all the indoor fun zones in the bay area. Skating rinks, bowling alleys, trampoline parks, jump zones, we seem to have a lot.  

But if you don't want to weather the roads, and with all these bridge closures you may not be able to. Here's some indoor games to consider:

Play hopscotch indoors. All you need is some masking tape, painters tape or brightly colored packing tape to map out a playing field.    

Build a parking lot for your toddler's cars and trucks, add on city streets or a race track too. If the tape gets stuck, use a hairdryer to soften the adhesive to pull it off.    

Set up an indoor putt putt golf course throughout the living room, kitchen and bathroom, using little plastic cups placed around the house and secured in place with masking tape or duct tape.    

A bucket and a ton of sponges can turn into Florida's version of a snowball fight. My kids actually love to wash the car. It always ends up in a water fight, the good kind.   …

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Pregnant and waiting (and waiting) for a seat

pregnantbelly.jpgThe title of this column by Washington Post transit writer Dana Hedgpeth says it all: Pregnant and Waiting for a Seat. In her 8th month of pregnancy she started making some observations: …

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Firework safety tips

fireworks.jpgAbout this time of year, my husband and kids start scanning the roadsides for fireworks on sale, hoping to score that great combination of boom and flash. Not to be a fun-sucker, but this stuff is dangerous. One of my favorite jokes this time of year is: What's the last thing a redneck says before he dies? "Hey ya'll watch this!"

If you insist on lighting your own instead of seeing the many gorgeous professional fireworks displays around town on July 4 (You can find a list of them here), we offer some firework safety tips, sent to us by of all people the TNT Fireworks company, the nation’s largest distributor of consumer fireworks and novelty items. …

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Only in St. Petersburg: a youth shuffleboard league

shuffle.jpgThe folks who run the fun Friday night St. Pete Shuffle parties, where young families and singles play shuffleboard on St. Petersburg's magnificent Mirror Lake complex, are starting a youth league (Youth shuffleboard? Oxymoron?). It starts Tuesday, June 26 and it's free for members, $3 each for non-members. Annual membership only costs $20, you can sign up here.

The first night of their summer Youth League/Family Night runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday through July 24. "Families and younger kids are encouraged to stay and play while the leagues are playing," the group said in a news release. Non-league players under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The group is going to have a special July 4-themed obstacle course for the teams on Tuesday, July 3.

"We'll have small prizes for each week's winning team, then an overall team winner tallied at the end of the final game on July 24. Ice cream every week."

Email info@stpeteshuffle.com and tell them the names and ages of anyone who wants to be in a league. You can also sign up at the club on June 26. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

skishow.jpgSee a free water ski show, and there's free fireworks at the ballpark, and there's lots of free movies in the park or on the beach this week.  Meanwhile, a summer zoo party returns and Gulfport salutes its waterfront with lots of family friend fun. We have all this and more in this week's round up of wallet-friendly diversions:

More than 100 skiers ages 6-60 perform theatrical water shows similar to those seen at Cypress Gardens. This week features the Southern Regional Show Ski Championship combined team show including barefoot, jump, ballet, adagio and pyramid acts. Free. Tower Lake, 130 Burbank Road, Oldsmar. (727) 480-9365. 6 p.m. Saturday.

Gulfport salutes its waterfront with Aquamania, a festival that includes a recycled regatta, water slides, arts and crafts vendors, children’s entertainment, live music, kayak and paddleboard races, badminton, a corn hole tournament and a potato sack race. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Gulfport Beach Park, 5730 Shore Blvd. Free. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

skishow.jpgSee a free water ski show, and there's free fireworks at the ballpark, and there's lots of free movies in the park or on the beach this week.  Meanwhile, a summer zoo party returns and Gulfport salutes its waterfront with lots of family friend fun. We have all this and more in this week's round up of wallet-friendly diversions:

More than 100 skiers ages 6-60 perform theatrical water shows similar to those seen at Cypress Gardens. This week features the Southern Regional Show Ski Championship combined team show including barefoot, jump, ballet, adagio and pyramid acts. Free. Tower Lake, 130 Burbank Road, Oldsmar. (727) 480-9365. 6 p.m. Saturday.

Gulfport salutes its waterfront with Aquamania, a festival that includes a recycled regatta, water slides, arts and crafts vendors, children’s entertainment, live music, kayak and paddleboard races, badminton, a corn hole tournament and a potato sack race. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Gulfport Beach Park, 5730 Shore Blvd. Free. …

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Free home design seminars (and snacks!)

ikearoom.jpgIkea had us by the Kvartal when they threw in free snacks with their free design workshops. The Tampa store’s Life Improvement Workshop on June 30, at 10:30 a.m. will include topics such as measuring your space and design options. The best part is attendees get free refreshments, including warm cinnamon buns and organic coffee. They also can enter to win a $25 Ikea gift card. Register at the store’s textiles department or call (813) 623-4042 and ask for the textiles department. My kids love the play area there so you can bring them along. …

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Get a parenting lecture at the movies

karp.jpgThursday is Parents Night Out with the Happiest Baby and Happiest Toddler on the Block author and pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp.

I have to say, I totally loved both of his books. They offered great practical tips on how to soothe a baby, how to manage tantrums and more. I don't know anyone who didn't get a lot of out his advice. I have witnessed  fussy babies who are quickly (almost eerily) soothed by a combination of tight swaddling, loud shushing and swinging, which he says mimics the sensations of the womb. His toddler "cave man" theory -- that they are primitive, emotion-driven, instinctive creatures -- made the challenge of communicating with the cave man in the crib so much easier to understand.

In an unusual arrangement, movie theaters on Thursday will broadcast Karp as he shares his parenting tips and tricks in a simulcast of a live theater presentation hosted by Ali Landry, actress, founder of Spokesmoms.com and mother of two.  You can see it Thursday at  Park Place Stadium 16 in Pinellas Park, Hyde Park Cinebistro in Tampa, Woodland Square 20 in Oldsmar, Citrus Starium 20 in Tampa, Regency 20 in Brandon and Grove 16 in Wesley Chapel.

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Take the kids to a museum this summer

chairs.jpgSome price breaks at local museums are making it easier for parents to show kids the wonders of some of our local museums.

Each Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. it’s free to visit the Tampa Museum of Art. This summer is a good time to take advantage of that deal to see two intriguing exhibits that are visiting. “A Hundred Years — A Hundred Chairs” comes from the Vitra Design Museum, and the visual appeal of all the work of influential architects, artists and design firms will appeal to the whole family (although it may be tough to keep anyone from trying to sit on the art). The exhibit runs through Sept. 16. Also on display  through Sept. 9 is “Masterworks of 20th Century Sculpture,” which chronicles important developments in sculpture in the second half of the 20th century. The museum is in downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 120 Gasparilla Plaza. Afterward, have a picnic dinner in the park and let the kids play in the fountains. …

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Remember Rufus the pelican from Dolphin Tale? Welcome home!

rufus.jpgTwo more stars from the Dolphin Tale movie are taking up residence at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. One of the comic highlights of the Clearwater-based movie about Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tale, was a mischievous pelican named Rufus. He was played by a pair of trained African white pelicans named Lucy and Ricky.

Today (Friday) at 10:30 a.m. the aquarium will hold a welcome ceremony to unveil the couple in their new home there, an exhibit called Pelican Beach.

The birds are only 7 years old, but according to Bird Life International, they can live in captivity for more than 30 years. They were trained in California before they came to Clearwater to shoot Dolphin Tale, but this was not their first movie role. They were also used for the 2008 movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan starring Adam Sandler. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

largopark.jpgWe've got a new exhibit at a kids museum opening this week, as well as a night out for parents while the kids have night outside by the campfire. And it is Father's Day, so you could take him out to one of the many free and cheap things to do with kids this week:

Great Explorations will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Great Beginnings exhibit that focuses on early childhood education using a farm-themed exhibit. $10 ages 2-54, $9 ages 55 and older, 1 and younger free. Great Explorations Children’s Museum, 1925 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-8992. 11 a.m. Saturday.

For Parent’s Night Out: Kid’s Night Outside Mom and Dad can go out on a date while kids in grades K-5 are entertained with supervised night hikes, crafts and a campfire with s’mores. $15. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. (727) 893-7326. 6-10 p.m. Friday.

Forget the tie, give the dads in your life the gift of time. We have a round up of all the Father's Day events this weekend as well as all the attractions such as the zoo and aquarium that are offering dads free admission this weekend. Click here for the complete list. …

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