All posts in Non Profits

  • Chapter 149- Volunteering in Milwaukee

    Volunteering and getting to know your neighbors is such an important value to teach your kids, especially in the wake of tragedies that are all too frequent.  I don’t have the one answer to our national community finding its way back to humanity and decency and kindness, but I do know that reaching out and giving can only help.

    On The Morning Blend, I’ll mention a few of my family’s favorite ways to donate our time, money and energy.  But there are so many ways to get involved that I’ve created a list with some tips for the blog.

    A few things to cover first:

    • It can be difficult to find organizations that accept young kids as volunteers, so get creative and volunteer from home!
    • Talk to you kids about why it’s important to care for others.  Explain that there are neighbors who don’t have enough money to buy food, clothing or gifts.  But those are real people like you and me, who could use some help.
    • You don’t have to spend money to donate.
    • Model charitable acts for your kids.  They aren’t going to be inclined to donate some of their allowance if they don’t see you making effort and sacrifice for others.

    Last spring, I logged on to our neighborhood’s Nextdoor page, and asked if anyone’s Little Free Library needed filling.  I had lots of responses of things like “Yes!  On the corner of __ & __, our library gets a lot of kid traffic and goes empty so quickly!”  People were so appreciative and excited.  I then asked my kids to gather up all the books we don’t read anymore, and we filled a few grocery bags full and piled in the car.  While I stayed in the car, I sent out my kids to fill each library and they always came back with smiles.


    Milwaukee Riverkeeper has an annual Spring Cleanup!  It’s an easy and family-friendly option to get outside and make a difference.  There’s even a map that predicts the amount of trash to be cleaned up, so you can plan accordingly.  They provide gloves and trash bags, you provide the boots on the ground.  And at the end of the cleanup?  Cookies!!

    Community Projects for Seniors has a unique way to volunteer from home.  The organization provides over 4,000 meals to elderly folks in our community over the holidays, and with that they deliver cheerful placemats on which to enjoy the meal.  You and your family can make placemats by decorating paper with positive messages and pictures.  Then send or bring them into CPS’s office.  Done!  Call beforehand to make sure someone is in the office, and click here for specifics about the project and other ways to join the cause.


    Another option is to bring old stuffed toys, paper towels, dog/cat food, and many other wish list items to the Humane Society.  Call your closest location to see what requirements they have about donating certain items, and get your kids involved in gathering supplies.  Then, when you bring it to the shelter, have the kids be a part of the process of handing over the items so they can be thanked by the other volunteers.  Donating = caring!

    Write letters of encouragement for veterans!  Mail Call is a way for you to make a card, and have it delivered and read to a veteran on a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.  There are lots of ways to send messages either online or via snail mail, and just takes a quick search online to find the opportunity that fits for you.

    Schools and many other organizations hold winter coat and food drives, which are great ways for kids to make a difference.  Last year for our school’s food drive, my kids each decided how much money from their piggy banks they’d donate (I supplemented with a few dollars).  We then took that money to the grocery store and picked out the healthiest and best options for donating.  We learned about the value of certain types of food vs. others, and when my kids brought their items to school, I could see how proud they were.

    A few other organizations we’re hoping to be a part of soon:

    • Victory Garden Initiative.  Join in on one of their BLITZ weekends and help move soil, install raised garden beds, prep soil for trees, and more.  This is best suited for older kids, but families can find ways to be involved by contacting VGI.  They also have an urban farm in the Harambee neighborhood, where you can find volunteers planting, harvesting, weeding and more.  Kids should be 8 years and older.  There is also a great AT HOME option of starting seedings in your home in January and February, which will then be planted through VGI’s Youth Education Program.
    • Riverwest Food Pantry has lots of locations and times to help get food to hungry people.
    • Toddlers & Kids on a Mission provides meals and events, and families with very young kids can get involved!  We’ve baked cookies to be served at meals in the past, which was a super easy way to help out.
    • Feeding America invites kids 10+ to join their parents in sorting and inspecting food to the hundreds and thousands of people they serve.  Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin distributes to hundreds of thousands of children, families, and seniors across 36 counties in eastern Wisconsin. Anyone interested in group or individual volunteer opportunities for kids should visit Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, and contact the Volunteer Engagement Coordinator to schedule an opportunity.
    • Core ElCentro is an amazing resource for people to get healthy!  Each volunteer opportunity has a slightly different schedule of day and time that it is available. Volunteers who volunteer 4 hours per month also receive free access to our holistic exercises (like yoga, zumba) and children are welcome to participate in class with their parents as well. Volunteering and exercising together is a wonderful way for families to spend time together, build community with others, and engage in other healthy classes and other wellness opportunities too!

    So however you can make a difference, let this be the nudge that says DO IT!  You’ll feel better, too!  If you’ve got suggestions, please let me know through comments, or on my Instagram account.  I’d love to hear what else is going on in the world of charitable giving in the Milwaukee area!




  • Chapter 140- Schlitz Audubon Nature Center


    Contrary to what my kids’ faces say in this photo, we had a really nice hike at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center over winter break.  We met up with some friends and took to the trails to adventure and get really wet and a little chilly.  This post is a little short on words, so browse through the “General Outdoor Adventures” category on the right for many more adventures to SANC.


    We headed out on the Norman C. Huth trail, and made our way to Teal pond, which was frozen through.  So of course, we went “boot skating”!  After slipping and sliding around, the group decided to keep going towards the North Prairie trail.


    About halfway through, we had requests to take a break at the tall evergreens.  We stopped on some benches in the tall evergreens and ate some granola bars.

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    The kids were pretty beat after the hike, so after stopping on the rocking chairs on the porch, we went inside for snacks and hot chocolate.  In the main hall, you can grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and leave a donation in thanks.  We also looked at the resident rodents and turtles while warming up.  Schlitz Audubon has SO many opportunities to learn and explore, you just have to make the trip there to see all the options.


    I’ll leave you with this picture of Little A and S reading trail maps in kid-sized rocking chairs.  Because there’s nothing cuter than when kids cross their legs as if they’re reading the Sunday paper.

    Hope you’re all doing well this spring, and getting outside!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 132- Schlitz Audubon Nature Center


    On a fairly mild but rainy day a few weeks ago, I took the kids out to Schlitz Audubon Nature Center to hike around.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the nature center, it’s 15 min north of the city and worth the short drive.  You can get annual memberships, or pay by the day to hike the trails, climb the observation tower, learn about see animals in the building, walk down to the lake, and more.


    After checking in inside the building, we geared up and took a short trek over to the wigwam.

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    Even though it was drizzling, the kids didn’t want to stay inside.  They were more excited about boot skating on the frozen puddles!

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    We looked for animal tracks and signs of wildlife, and saw a bunch of turkeys hanging out farther away in the woods.

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    We stopped off for a quick play session at one of the Nature School’s play spaces, and had a blast playing peek-a-boo and jumping in more puddles.  If you do use the play spaces, please be considerate and leave it in the same shape you found it, as preschoolers use the space every weekday.

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    We got goofy and super wet and had a blast!

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    Some of us also took “a shower” under the gutters.


    We walked through the woods a bit more, and decided to call it a day because we were soaked through.  After some hot chocolate at home, the kids wanted to head back!

    This is totally an annual membership worth getting for our family.  You can hike down to Lake Michigan, up the observation tower to get one of the best views, to any of the ponds to look for snails and turtles, and so much more.  Inside the building, there are lots of interactive learning spaces and a few animals to view.  You can even check out backpacks filled with tools for exploring (magnifying glasses, scavenger hunt items, etc).

    Hope everyone’s enjoying the snow!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 128- Milwaukee Art Museum


    So the twins turned 4 this past week, and instead of having a party or something else that would take up energy and not be that enjoyable for me, we let J & Little A choose a special date.  And my heart swelled when Little A said she wanted to go to the Milwaukee Art Museum with JUST MAMA.


    This morning, we got dressed up (because she requested “Mama, will you make your hair fancy and wear a dress?”) and hit the road to the museum.  Our membership lapsed back in April, and I didn’t renew because the museum was under construction.  But now construction is finished and YES WE’RE BACK!!!


    It’s so beautiful.  We saw like 15% of the collection, and it was incredible.  I think there are something like 1,000 new pieces, and they’re big and colorful and thought-provoking and refreshing.  We took a few pictures of our favorites.

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    And after taking a pit stop to look at Lake Michigan, we headed to the Open Studio to create some magic.  We saw our friend Shannon, who has seen my kids create and make huge messes for the past few years, and she walked us through the different materials and techniques of the day.

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    Little A is an artist at heart, and went right to it, using stencils, watercolors, oil pastels and more.  When I asked her how she felt while painting, she replied “proud!”.

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    Afterwards, we checked out the new Haitian exhibit and then made our way back down to the main hallways.

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    And to our surprise, we got to see live music!  Painted Caves were playing some super calming and interesting music, and we sat in the front row to get the best view.


    Little A was deep in musical meditation, and didn’t want to leave.  It was also past lunch time and she was basically melting into my lap.  I suggested we go get noodle soup (pho), which she loves, but she couldn’t bare to leave the museum and we ended up in the cafe downstairs.


    A kind and funny and silly woman offered to take our picture.  Little A joked with her and smiled and asked why she was so silly (I highly-regarded trait in our house).  After our dishes were cleared, we found that our new photographer/silly friend had paid for our lunch as a happy birthday present.  That’s never happened to me before, and wow…that was just about the kindest thing I could imagine.  She saw the special one-on-one time we were having, and made it even more so.


    Next, Little A asked for ice cream.  I asked if she preferred frozen yogurt with toppings, or some delicious and SUPER YUMMY ice cream from Purple Door.  Luckily, she took my bait and we ended up at the latter.  She had chocolate and I had salted caramel.


    We spotted a nice wall across the street, which had rich brown colored leaves and interesting vines, and decided to take a few pictures there.  When we got close, we even saw small blue berries on the vines…such fun color-hunting with this one.


    It was just as special for me as it was for her, I’m sure.  I rarely get to spend one-on-one time with my kids, so it’s a real treat to devote my full attention to them.  And as a bonus, we got to do all the stuff I really like doing.  Making art, taking in beautiful works of art by all kinds of artists, listening to live music, and eating good food.

    So in the name of Thanksgiving, I’m really grateful for this day!  I’ll leave you with my favorite shots of the day.

    A. Storm


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    (Yes she carried around a notepad all day, taking “notes”.  When I asked her what her notes meant, she said “they’re all about my day, of course!”)

  • Chapter 127- 414 Music Live at Radio Milwaukee with New Age Narcissism


    Another reason I love this city?  Music.

    I’ve heard New Age Narcissism (a group of local musicians including Lex Allen, Siren, Webster X, Lorde Freddee, Bo Triples, Chris G., Jay Anderson and Q the Sun) on the radio for the past year or so, and been meaning to get to see them.

    So when I heard that they’d be on 414 Music Live at Radio Milwaukee, AND THAT IT WAS EARLY IN THE EVENING AND I COULD BRING MY KIDS, I jumped on it!  We’ve had plenty of dance parties to “This Is Our Year” at home, and the kids were stoked to have a public dance party.


    I knew it was going to be a great night when while we were parking, I saw Lex Allen frolicking across Pittsburg Ave while The Weekend’s “Can’t Feel My Face” on the radio.  I got there with enough time to purchase a dinner of champions from Stone Creek: cashews, almonds, a cookie and hot chocolate.


    First up was Siren, who serenaded us to no other song than the one we had just heard on the radio!  She slayed “Can’t Feel My Face” and my kids were enthralled.  At one point, when she was belting it out, I looked over at Little T who was plastered to her chair with the widest eyes I’ve ever seen, just taking it in.  I don’t know that she had ever experienced live music so deeply (being in the front row helped heighten the intensity too!).  Her parents were there, and even said hi to us after the show…it was heartwarming to see such support.

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    Next up was the fabulous Lex Allen who sang “Earned It”, also by The Weekend.  It was steamy and sultry and marvelous.  You know, as I’m writing this, I’m remembering that the first time I heard Lex was on 414 Music Live a while ago.  His mom was in the studio audience, and he was real and authentic and charming.  How cool to see him still going strong (ahem, stronger even) on the same stage.


    And then Webster X took the stage with Bo Triples and performed “Kid X” off of his new EP for us.  It was one hell of a song…included dancing and audience participation.  Can’t really go wrong with that.  In the interview with Ken Sumka afterwards, Webster X mentioned that his father recently said how proud of his son he is, and that was the highest approval Web could ever ask for.  It was really heartwarming to see the family ties among the artists!

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    Lex came back on stage to perform his new single “Cream and Sugar” and DAMN it was good!  Be on the lookout for it, and get yourself ready.

    After the radio program ended, we were treated to a bonus performance of “This Is Our Year”, to which my kids jammed out hard.

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    Thanks to the NAN crew, Radio Milwaukee, and Stone Creek Coffee for a really fun evening.  In particular, thanks for letting my kids experience live and local music in such a great setting!  And if you have 26 minutes, check out the session for yourself, and get a more accurate recap.

    Happy Thanksgiving, All!

    -A. Storm

  • Chapter 126- Urban Ecology Center



    In our desperate attempt to take in fall before it’s over, we went out to the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park for a hike last week.  Have you ever read the book Frederick?  It’s about a mouse who’s seemingly shirking his duties of storing food and preparing for the upcoming winter.  But his family finds deep in the cold and grey of winter, that he had been spending his time storing up beautiful words and memories of colors and sounds to get them through the season.


    So we decided to be Frederick and go collect some memories for the upcoming winter.


    Little A spotted two monarchs, and noted their bright orange and black colors.


    J found acorns and stones that were smooth and hard.  He told me how they come from Oak trees and that squirrels hide them in the ground.


    Little T noticed that some of the flowers and plants were prickly and some were soft.


    We saw and heard geese flying south for the winter.

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    We felt the warm sun and breeze on our skin.


    We watched a snake slither across the path right in front of us.


    And we made our way down to the river to watch.  The water was calm and flowing south, and the breeze was blowing leaves into the water.

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    J showed me some big tree roots that were on the path.


    S and Papa snuggled and talked about all the sounds she heard.

    “That sound, Papa??”

    “That’s a bird in the tree”

    “Oh, birdie?  Birdie singing?”

    “Yep, baby.  Birdie singing”


    So from our family to yours, happy fall!  Hopefully you’re soaking up some warmth and sunshine these last few warm fall days.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 117- Milwaukee Public Museum with new friends!


    A few weeks ago, I met up with Keila of Mommy In Milwaukee, and her two adorable boys, at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  Keila is such a kind and positive woman, and I feel so happy to have met her.  We’d connected on Instagram, and decided we should probably adventure together at some point.


    When we arrived, it was decided unanimously that we should see the dinosaurs first.  And I think my kids are officially not afraid of the T. Rex exhibit!  It’s always been a huge draw, but the loud sounds and dark lights were pretty intimidating.  Not anymore though, we’re officially brave.


    At the end of the exhibit, there was a museum volunteer with LOADS of information about dinosaurs.  He let us hold real bones, and helped the kids determine which bones were real and which were replicas.


    The above picture is of one of my favorite spots in the museum.  I love the feeling of being underwater and back in history simultaneously.  Oh, and the kids liked it too.


    After trying to corral five kids under age four, we headed back to the lobby to have some lunch and regroup.  We shared snacks and Keila and I finally had a chance to chat.  Turns out we both have a passion for our city, and want to find ways to get people connected.  Now comes the task of figuring out how to do that!


    Little T was still in school, so I wasn’t able to stay too long.  We hung out in the lobby for a bit longer, and talked of wolly mammoths and other awesome natural science.

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    We also found some stairs behind the wolly mammoth.  Which created an amazing loop for the kids to run around.  And around and around and around.


    Eventually we had to part.  It was a short but super sweet adventure, and I’m sure we’ll hang with Keila’s crew again this summer.


    And on our way out, S had a pretty epic temper tantrum over the stupid sucker she happened to find in the diaper bag (I love everything about our pediatrician except the fact that they have suckers in the lobby.  One accidentally found its way into my bag).  Her older siblings were kind enough to sit next to her (totally unprompted) and wait it out.

    Thanks to Keila for the great company, and to the museum for allowing me to bring some guests!

    Hope summer’s treating everyone well,

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 114- Kaleo at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

    Alright, this is going to be a pretty quick post for a few reasons.  One is that I didn’t take many photos (I took some videos but cannot for the life of me format them correctly so you can view them…boo!) and the other is that I have a  queue of posts just waiting to be published.  So watch out, I might do something crazy and post more than once today!


    But a few weeks ago, I took the girls down to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee to see the band Kaleo.  Which happened to coincide with DJ Kallao’s last day at the radio station.  Crazy, right?

    I’d only heard the band’s one song, All The Pretty Girls, and liked it.  That’s enough to get me down to the studio!


    J was on a special date with his cousin, so it was just me and the girls.  We got some water and cookies from Stone Creek and found seats.  And snuggled while waiting for the band.


    And I have to say, I’m a fan of the band now.  It was a great show…I was surprised that the music had a definite blues and good ol’ rock and roll feel.  We heard “I Can’t Go On Without You” and “Broken Bones” which I loved.


    I thought this was a cool guitar.  (Hey Dad, can the next one you build look like this?)


    The kids danced, clapped along, and we all left feeling like we got a super special treat.  A chance to see a band from Iceland perform in our city.  They stuck around to talk to the audience after, but nap time called so we departed before saying thanks.


    So thanks Kaleo and 88Nine for the entertainment!  I wish I should share with you the videos from the performance, just to give you a more accurate feel for the music, and the vibe of 88Nine’s studio performances.  They’re a really fun and free (and quite family friendly for being live on the radio!) way to get involved.

    Till next time,

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 112- Performing Arts in the Park

    I found out through the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page that the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) put on a cool and free event to bring arts to families.  There were events at Humboldt, Lincoln, Gordon, Mitchell, Lafollette parks and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.  We chose the latter location because First Stage was there, and my kids wanted to see some acting.


    Me and the brood, plus a sweet little girl in pink whose mom took our photo.


    We were welcomed inside and the folks from First Stage greeted us and invited the kids on stage!  My kids were excited to head on up, and only one got shy periodically.


    The kids got to join in on warm ups, using their imaginations, and offering suggestions for the storyline.

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    My youngest even joined in 🙂 She spent the rest of the time walking up and down the stairs to the stage.  And fell on her face twice.

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    The kids got to be on stage for like 45 minutes, and were FULLY engaged the entire time.  They thought it was a morning of playing, basically.  There were no specific acting methods and no rigid instructions.  Instead, they got a general outline for how to tell a story on stage and an opportunity to share ideas about the story.

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    We even won a free book from First Stage, and Little T has been reading (looking at) it since!


    After the event was finished, we walked around the community center a bit, admiring the architecture, the fish…

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    …and even got to watch some kids doing gymnastics!

    Thanks UPAF, First Stage, and Milwaukee County Parks for a fun morning.  I only wish the performances throughout the city were staggered so we could have attended more!

    A. Storm



  • Chapter 104- Studio Session at Radio Milwaukee with Bahamas


    So you all know my trusty go-to radio station, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, right?  Well because I’m a member, I got invited to their Frostbite Series (a bunch of bands played studio sessions for the station).  I RSVP’d to go see Bahamas.  Not that I knew much about them besides this song, which you have definitely heard and loved I’m sure.


    Anyway, I showed up, got myself a Louie’s Demise over at Stone Creek Coffee (because it was too late in the day for coffee, but not too early for a beer), and sat down in the front row.  While I looked around at the entire audience who was on their phones, I sipped my beer and wondered how awkward I’d look taking photos for the blog.  Lucikly, DJ Kallao was sneaking around taking shots so I wasn’t alone.

    And here’s the thing about live music…it’s the best.  Every time I see a show, I wonder why I don’t make it out to see more music (but then I remember how many young children I have).  After this studio session, and only four songs, I’m officially a Bahamas fan.  If you’re curious, Afie is the dude on guitar, and he is Bahamas.

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    After the show, I asked for a photo and said something really awkward as per usual.  I also tried to buy an LP but they only took cash and I was out of luck.  So AFIE, IF YOU’RE READING THIS, feel free to contact me for my home address where you can send a signed album.


    After the show, I got a tour from the lovely Becca, Development & Market Coordinator, and a bunch of us listeners walked around admiring the building.

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    We even got a chance to step inside the recording booth where Marcus Doucette and Kallao were doing their thing.  I had to introduce myself to Marcus because I’ve won tickets from him twice in the past few years, which is pretty awesome.  Because, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Turner Hall in like 2011.  Anyone else witness that musical orgy?


    Back to the tour.  It’s a pretty interesting building, with lots to admire.  Like records for days.


    And bottle caps for backsplashes.


    And old wood pallets for CD shelves.


    And a rooftop for viewing the city and having parties and checking out the green space.


    And having a nice gentleman take a new profile pic for me.  While on the tour, Producer Nate Imig walked past us and I missed an opportunity to give him some feedback and praise.  Because the community stories that he puts together at 88Nine are the reason I started listening to the station, and I get so many ideas for adventures from there.  I really appreciate the work 88Nine is doing, and the efforts to get people involved in their community.  So here’s my virtual handshake, Nate.  Thanks for passing on the stories of our city!

    Thanks Bahamas and Radio Milwaukee for a great afternoon!

    A. Storm