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Archive for August, 2007

aPARENTLY Speaking: Toy recall drop-off sites

elmo toyThe toy recalls keep coming and frustrated parents are left with toy boxes full of dangerous trinkets. Many don’t want the hassle of boxing up the toys and returning them to manufacturers (but don’t forget, doing so will score you vouchers to buy new, safer toys). For those who don’t want to tote recalled toys to the post office, Contra Costa County has rolled out drop-off sites in several cities. Please, for the sake of our environment, make use of these sites. Tossing lead-based toys into the trash means they end up in our landfills and can harm our environment.

For more information about site locations, read the story in today’s Times. For full details on which toys have been recalled, check out the consumer products link at
— Ann Tatko-Peterson

Posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
Under: Toy Recalls | No Comments »

MISS SCHOOL MANNERS: Lunchbox dilemma

teacher Dear Miss School Manners:
I picked up my registration packet for school yesterday and wasn’t entirely surprised that school-bought lunches went up to $3. My son loves to buy. So with that in mind, he needs to start bringing a lunch so many days a week to defray some costs. But I know that if he brings peanut butter, he gets sent to the “peanut table.” So, what’s the favorite “brought lunch”? And do kids eat it? Signed, Needs Inspiration in San Ramon

Dear Needs Inspiration: Lunchboxes – so adorable, so challenging to fill. We’ve consulted a number of experts – several food gurus, a Walnut Creek middle schooler and several Lamorinda teens – and the consensus is …
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners, Teens | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Back to School

Toy school busYou’ve bought the backpacks, sharpened the pencils and laid out those all-important first-day-of-school clothes. Now for some fun…five ways to welcome a new school year for kids K-12.
1. Host a neighborhood back-to-school party. For years, our neighborhood hosted back-to-back parties for kindergartners, first graders and so on, a different group every hour. Some years it was a back-to-school carnival (with a cupcake walk set to the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School”), other years featured scavenger hunts, art parties, barbecues and ice cream socials.
2. There’s nothing like a big sister (or brother) to ease the way. One of Campolindo High School’s most beloved traditions…

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Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007
Under: Fab Five, Kids & Tweens, Teens | No Comments »

Bill would ban teens from using cell phones while driving

phoneThe state Assembly today passed a bill that would make it illegal for teens under 18 to use cell phones while driving. Even using a phone with a hands-free headset wouldn’t be legal.

The bill is headed for Arnold’s desk and would go into effect July 1, 2008, which is when another law will require the use of those hands-free devices by anyone who’s driving and using a cell phone.

Here’s the story.

Related: California Teen Driver site

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007
Under: Teens | No Comments »

Backyard sports complex: sign of fatherly love or over the top?

baseballSome Danville folks are raising a stink about a backyard sports field that was built without a permit. Aside from whether the lighted field with its artificial turf and 14-foot fence is legal or appropriate for the neighborhood, it raises a question of priorities.

According to a Times story published Sunday, “One neighbor said David Lowe told him he wanted to remain involved in his children’s sports programs, but his busy schedule didn’t permit him to make all the games. He built the $300,000 park, the neighbor said, as a way of bringing the games closer to home.”

As a kid I would have loved having a field like that in my back yard. But then again, we might not have had those quirky ballgames in “The Bowl,” an asphalt playground where you could hit homers (or were they ground-rule doubles?) into the tunnel.

In the reader comments attached to the story, PMW says:

I guess I’m a very poor parent. When I couldn’t make all my son’s games my response was “sorry son, that’s life”. I now see that I should have built him his own ballpark.

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Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2007
Under: Other | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: Pachelbel Bedtime

On a lighter note, here’s something completely unrelated to toy recalls. One of our favorite moms, Timiza Johnson, who heads up West Contra Costa’s Mocha Moms group, just sent us this YouTube clip of a singing dad who warbles about the woes of bedtime … to Pachelbel’s Canon. We’re thoroughly enamored and we’re not alone – Pachelbel Bedtime’s at 184,000 hits and counting.

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Posted on Sunday, August 26th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots, Kids & Tweens | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: More toy recalls

recalled top Don’t know how to tell you this but… now they’ve recalled Curious George and SpongeBob too. Toy companies yanked another 340,000 Chinese-made sand pails, spinning tops and other toys off store shelves late last week, and once again it’s for lead paint. US legislators are holding hearings on the lead paint issue next month, but Jean Halloran, a product safety expert for Consumer Reports sums it up in an LA Times article: “You need to start from the point of view that to a large degree, you’re on your own. You are the one who has to protect yourself and your family.”

So this time around, you’re looking for Curious George and Thomas the Tank Engine tops and pails, and SpongeBob Squarepants address books and journals with painted spiral bindings. Sigh. You know the drill by now. Follow the links above to see photos of the recalled toys and get how-to-return details.

Meanwhile, we’re wondering… are these recalls going to change how you shop for kids’ toys? Do rag dolls and handmade toys hold new appeal?
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Sunday, August 26th, 2007
Under: Toy Recalls | No Comments »

Reality TV show is child abuse

kidnationReality television has gone too far. In the spring, CBS taped “Kid Nation,” a reality show in which 40 children, ages 8 to 15, try to build a society for 40 days alone in a New Mexico desert “ghost town.” That’s right — no parental supervision. (Adults were on hand, CBS says. But they were only supposed to intervene in emergencies.)

Officials in New Mexico are investigating whether CBS and the show’s producers broke state laws. The show never obtained work permits for the kids and allegedly refused set access to a state inspector. CBS lawyers argue the kids weren’t employees, just participants.

We will let those two duke it out. Our censure is for the parents who exploited and endangered their children. Worst yet, they did so knowingly. Proof of that is in the 22-page contract in which they signed away the rights and potentially the lives of their children.

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Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007
Under: Kid Nation | No Comments »

Free: Placard to drive across new Benicia Bridge

I have one of the 300 placards needed to drive across new Benicia Bridge during Saturday morning’s opening ceremonies, but we can’t go because my daughter has a morning soccer game. First person to send me an email can have it. You’ll have to pick it up today in Benicia.

The ceremony starts at 9:30 a.m. More info here.

One request: If you go, please post photos Saturday to the breaking news photoblog.

You can reach me at

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007
Under: Family Outings | No Comments »

aPARENTly Speaking: Schools in the news

Breaking news ILLUS.jpgMore school headlines this morning – Oakland school board member Chris Dobbins is being asked to step down after fellow trustees discovered he went on dates with a 17-year-old student, including one alleged date to the Berkeley Marina after 2 a.m., and sent her inappropriate e-mails. (Thanks to the folks who posted this in our blog’s comments section! Read the story here.) Your thoughts?

Read on for the latest California high school exit exam stats. According to an AP story yesterday, 9 out of 10 seniors passed the exam in time to graduate with their class. The Times’ Shirley Dang reports that achievement rates are rising for minorities too.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Friday, August 24th, 2007
Under: Schools, Teens | No Comments »