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Archive for December, 2007

UNQUALIFIED TEACHERS = $1.3 mil

textbooksThe Mt. Diablo School District just racked up $1.3 million in state fines after California Department of Education officials discovered that 76 teachers on the district payroll lacked teaching credentials in 2005-06.

Naturally, the district is appealing the costly decision. In its defense, the district claims all its teacher had credentials, but administrators failed to file them with the county before the teachers’ first day… which is kind of like saying, you know how to drive, officer, you just don’t have a drivers license at the moment. That argument didn’t serve Britney Spears very well. We’ll see what the state says here.

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Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: Schools | No Comments »

MISS SCHOOL MANNERS: FAFSA to the Rescue

teacher Dear Miss School Manners: Last fall, you mentioned that some local schools host college financial aid nights to help families navigate the stacks of paperwork for getting Cal grants and other tuition help. Have we missed the boat? Signed, Anxious in Antioch

Dear Anxious: Your timing is impeccable — we’ve got more than 52 (!!) college aid sessions coming up at East Bay community colleges and high schools in January and February. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is your key to federal and state grants, student loans, and scholarships from the colleges themselves. Yes, it’s a royal pain to fill out the paperwork, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

This year’s FAFSA is due March 3 and it requires information from your 2007 tax return. So if there was ever a year to get your taxes done early, this is the one. You can file your FAFSA after that date, but you’ll be low wallet on the totem pole. Do. Not. Wait.
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Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: College Apps & Angst, Miss School Manners | No Comments »

SWEENEY TODD offspring into dinosaurs

Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, KRT PhotoGotta love it when edgy directors become daddies. At the end of a fascinating Wall Street Journal interview on the inspiration behind his new, very blood-spattered movie musical, “Sweeney Todd,” Tim Burton is asked, “You … have a young son (with partner Helena Bonham Carter). What kind of books are you reading to him?”

“I’m happy to see that he’s gravitating toward dinosaurs,” says Burton. “I was worried when we got stuck in the Teletubbies and Wiggles phase. But now he’s onto dinosaurs, which is gratifying.”

Sweeney Todd, Bellatrix Lestrange and the Teletubbies??? We can’t even imagine it. But Burton and Carter snuggled up with 4-year-old Billy Ray, paging through “The Big Book of Dinosaurs” by DK Publishing or Jane Yolen’s “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?” Absolutely. Or maybe …
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Posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2007
Under: Books | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Hotel babyproofing

Hotel Sacher by Alexander Wallnöfer, Stock.Xchng PhotosThe holidays are prime travel season, but hotels can bring new challenges for families traveling with tots. Your home may be well child-proofed, but chances are, the Marriott’s not.

DeliciousBaby‘s Debbie Dubrow writes a wonderful family travel blog that includes primo tips on airplane and hotel survival. Here are her top five tips for impromptu hotel room baby proofing:
1) Pack some twist-ties, duct tape or blue painters tape to secure electric cords and draperies out of baby’s reach.
2) Cover electric outlets with duct tape or painters tape.
3) Move furniture away from windows and balconies, so your tot can’t explore his way out an unexpected exit.
4) Check for heavy lamps or other objects that can be pulled down by their cords.
5) And watch out for hotel faucets, which spew water much hotter than at home.

Happy travels!

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Posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2007
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

YOUNG ARTISTS at Mocha

Young Artist by Gary Meader, MCTDirectGot a budding artist at home? Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art is mounting its annual children’s art exhibit, “SINGULAR CREATIONS: Salon of the Independents,” in January. And young Bay Area artists – young Picassos, ages 18 months to 17 years - are invited to exhibit their most creative work.

Just download an entry form and drop off your framed or mounted, ready-to-hang masterpiece at MOCHA, 538 Ninth St., by 5 p.m. on January 6. (Need help framing your creativity? MOCHA is hosting a “Frame It” family workshop Jan. 5-6 from 1 to 4 p.m., $7 materials fee.)

Then join the festivities January 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. as artists, family and friends are feted. C’est magnifique!

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Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
Under: Crafts | 1 Comment »

TIGER TRAGEDY: Talking to Your Kids

Tatiana, San Francisco ZooThe Christmas Day tragedy at San Francisco Zoo hasn’t just freaked out grown-ups. Animal-loving kids have been deeply affected by the news too.

Walnut Creek psychologist Richard Freed recommends keeping a watchful eye on your youngsters, and limiting children’s – especially young children’s – exposure to the news, particularly sensational video coverage.

“Young children who view such coverage are likely to overestimate the danger of a similar incident occurring in their own lives,” he says. “Such exposure can result in serious anxiety reactions such as a sleep disturbance or separation anxiety.”

If your children have heard about the tiger attack and seem distressed, acknowledge their fears and offer reassurance. “It’s important to first find out what they know,” says Freed. “This will help you clear up any misinformation they have acquired, and will help keep you from going into unnecessary — and potentially traumatizing detail.”

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Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

TOT BLOCKS: Back to the Factory

Recalled eeBoo blocksHere we’d thought our nation’s toy recall nightmare was over and we’d have to think up other things to blog about… But no, there are still defective, life-threatening playthings out there.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and eeBoo just yanked back 170,000 Tot Towers. No lead paint this time, but these colorful stacking blocks pose a choking hazard, if the plastic covering comes off in a tot’s mouth. If you’re a grown-up, enamored with the pretty pictures, then you’ll be fine. But if you’ve got a toddler at home, send the blocks back.

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Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Toy Recalls | No Comments »

FAB FIVE for the Weekend

Asian Art Museum Bell RingingNew Year’s Eve is Monday, but the holiday festivities start early this year…
1) Ring in the New Year – literally – at the Asian Art Museum’s Bell Ringing Ceremonies on Sunday. (Free with admission)
2) Make noisemakers and party hats at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art family workshops Sunday, 1-4 p.m. ($7)
3) Ice skate at downtown Walnut Creek’s outdoor rink ($15 including skate rental) now through Jan. 21. On New Year’s Eve the rink is open till midnight, with free hot cocoa and snacks ($20).
4) Or take BART into the city and skate at Embarcadero Center ($8 plus $3.50 for skate rentals).
5) Or head down to San Jose and check out the gigantic, roaming dinosaurs at the HP Pavilion. ($30-$70)

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Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Fab Five, Family Outings | No Comments »

WE THREE KIDS: Home from afar

We are thoroughly enjoying having our college kids home for the holidays, but we had to laugh over this video – it’s one of the winning “twisted holiday carols” from the Times’ holiday contest, written by clever Lafayette mom Kat Mulkey and sung by the Acalanes High School choir. Enjoy!

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Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
Under: Other | No Comments »

SANTA’S COMING: Where to track St. Nick

trackerAs of  11 a.m., Santa was touching down in St. Petersburg, Russia. You’ve got to love the Internet age. No longer do we have to wait until the nightly news broadcast to see where Santa has visited. NORAD is the official Santa tracker, and every five minutes, they update their Web site to show kids (and those of us who are still kids at heart) where Santa has delivered his presents. If you just want more of an overview, with great little news bits, check out NBC’s Santa Tracker. It’s a great way to pass the hours until it’s time to set out the cookies and milk.

Happy holidays from all of us at aPARENTly Speaking.

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Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2007
Under: Other | 1 Comment »