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Archive for December, 2007

BABIES BEWARE: Air Mattresses are Hazardous

Baby sleepingIt’s tempting to blow up an air mattress or two when guests come to stay, but if you’ve got a baby, beware of alternative sleeping arrangements. The  U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement today warning families that air mattresses are too soft for infant use and the consequences can be heartbreaking: “Since 2002, CPSC has received reports of 16 tragic deaths, mostly infants younger than 8 months of age who were placed to sleep on air mattresses: 11 suffocated in a face down position on an air mattress and 5 died due to suffocation after falling into gaps between the mattress and bed frame and mattress and adjacent furniture or wall.”

Plus, all the usual caveats: Babies should sleep on their backs. Be wary of putting a baby down to sleep in an adult bed. Babies can become entangled in the bedclothes or slip between the mattress and bedframe. And if you’re traveling with a port-a-crib or playpen, make sure it meets current safety standards, and has a firm, tight-fitting mattress and tight-fitting bottom sheet.

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
Under: Health & Safety | No Comments »

ALVIN, CHIPMUNKS & Movie Treasure

Alvin and the ChipmunksAl-vinnnnnnn! Can we be frank? We loved, loved, loved the Chipmunks growing up. Heck, we bathed in Alvin, Simon and Theodore bubble bath, and we can still recite dialogue from that movie where the Chipmunks and Chippettes race around the world in hot air balloons. (Happy sigh) So we were delighted to hear they were making a live action/CGI version for the silver screen. And fortunately for us Chipmunkophiles, the reviews have been pretty good, considering the thing is rated PG for “scatological humor.”  Media News’ Bob Strauss gave Alvin and the gang a B-. And both CommonSenseMedia and Plugged-In-Online say it’s fine for kindergartners on up, as long as you don’t mind your youngsters spouting lines like “Yippee-ki-yay, mamacita.” If they haven’t seen the “Die Hard” movies, your kids won’t know why you’re laughing anyway.

Of course, singing rodents aren’t the only attraction at the local cineplex…
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Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
Under: Movies | No Comments »

CANADIAN DAD puts Santa to shame

20071002 Santa ClausMost of us will admit to using it, at least once, at this time of the year: “If you’re not good, Santa won’t come.” It’s the ultimate weapon to wield against our kids. It’s the best way to insure chores are completed on time. But now, thanks to a dad in Canada, we have a new source for the power of persuasion.

guitarlogoCheck out Tony Hicks’ column about a father in Montreal who bought his teenage son the popular video game “Guitar Hero III.” When the dad caught his son smoking pot, he listed the game on eBay, denying his son the ultimate gift and pocketing a winning bid of $9,000-plus. Wow, talk about a costly lesson during the holidays (costly for the son, that is). We’re pretty sure this father’s not alone. If you have a great “lesson” story, share it with us in the comments section.

Posted on Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »


High School Musical Is the wholesome goodness of Disney’s High School Musical franchise starting to get to you? Then you’ll love this story by the OC Weekly’s Ben Westhoff that has Lil Wayne, the prolific MC, doing a rap remix of the best-selling HSM, even though the musical’s “clean-cut characters and positive themes don’t seem to jibe with Wayne’s lyrical content, which tends to focus on giant spliffs of marijuana and boasts about receiving sloppy (er, look it up yourself).”

But Lil Wayne’s got Zac Efron by his side on this project. “Zac and me was both in San Francisco a few months ago for a comic book convention or something, and we met at an afterparty at some bar,” he told Westhoff.  And the rest is music remix history. Says Efron, “Word.”

Really??? Well, maybe not. But we laughed. (Warning: Westhoff’s story is not for a tween audience. You, though, are free to enjoy it.)

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007
Under: Just Bizarre | No Comments »

PACKING LIST: Don’t leave home without it

Venice, copyright Joan SteinerWe had big fun last week, collecting stories of embarrassing things kids do while visiting Grandma’s – plugged toilets, heads stuck in banisters, dramatic entrances and, in the case of winner Naomi, kiddies who tattle.  Loved those tales of shame!

This time, we’re giving away a couple of wonderful books – El Cerrito mom Shelly Rivoli’s “Travels with Baby” (just written up in the Times this weekend too) and Joan Steiner’s “Look-Alikes Around the World,” an amazing picture book (photo, left) that’s perfect for keeping kids of any age, 2-92, totally absorbed in the backseat, aboard a flight or waiting, waiting, waiting at the airport. Take a close look at that image of Venice. Not actually Venezia, is it? But can you tell what it is?  Very, very cool – we’ve added it to our “absolutely must pack this” packing list.

So, here’s this week’s challenge. Click “comments” (we’ll draw a name Friday night) and tell us what item your family absolutely, positively cannot travel without. Who, us? Hmm,
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Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007
Under: Books, Contest | No Comments »

FAMILY TRAVEL: Are you a globetrotter?

20071129 Denver trip For the last several months, we’ve been gleaning family travel tips from the real experts – families. We’ve trekked to Paris with babies, London with teens, and checked out locations from Cancun to Colonial Williamsburg, Vancouver and more. We’ve gotten the lowdown on great family-friendly hotels, fun places to eat and cool sightseeing options in the Big Apple from a theater-going family and a passel of baseball fans. And every entry has been loaded with wonderful tips, loads of links and all sorts of helpful hints on where to find diapers in the 12th arrondissement or how to book an impossible touch-the-stones tour of Stonehenge.

Now it’s your turn. If you’ve been somewhere wonderful with your family, we’d love to hear about it. E-mail us and share your best finds – the best gelato in Rome, nicest hotel in Santa Fe or ET museum in Roswell. Europe, Asia, stateside – we want to know what floated your boat. Send us a jpeg of your family and the highlights of your trip (hotel, restaurant and cool sightseeing options), and we’ll exchange it for a little dash of fame, via the Times’ travel section and this blog – plus we’ve got some fun family travel-related prizes to give out. Need family travel tips for a specific location? Click comments and post your questions there.

Posted on Sunday, December 16th, 2007
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

SCHOOL NEWS: Lafayette party shack, Northgate secession and more

School signIn case you missed ’em, here are the latest Bay Area school headlines:  
You thought you had the perfect party set-up? Lafayette police just tore down an illegal plywood party house built by Acalanes high school students in the hills of Briones Regional Park. “The Shack” had a bar, couches and a fire pit and was just “amazing,” say the Lafayette officers who tore it down after discovering “Shack” fliers advertising keggers.

Northgate parents are holding a secession rally at Civic Park tomorrow at 4 p.m. The rally’s sponsored by Northgate Parents for Transfer, the group behind the petition drive to withdraw Mt. Diablo’s Walnut Creek schools from that district and join the Walnut Creek elementary and Acalanes high school districts instead.

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Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2007
Under: Schools | No Comments »

Let’s keep Santa’s belly full o’ jelly

I’m just loving this holiday Web site, Keep Santa Fat, which offers a lighthearted poke at the politically correct obesity police while raising money to fight hunger. masthead Visitors will find an “investigative report” into the controversy, links to various news stories about the issue, links to online holiday games and historical Santa information and images, and of course, Santa’s favorite cookie recipes. Don’t miss the “interviews” with kids about how they feel about Santa’s girth — classic great laugh out loud stuff. As the site’s promoters say, it was Mrs. Claus who, in 1964’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” said, “Whoever heard of a skinny Santa?”

The ad agency that created the site will contribute the equivalent of one pound of food to America’s Second Harvest for every petition signature received, up to 50,000 pounds, and the equivalent of 20 pounds of food for every piece of Keep Santa Fat merchandise sold. Second Harvest, the nation’s food bank network, expects a 15 million pound food shortage this holiday season. So check it out to give your kids a laugh while also supporting a good cause.

Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2007
Under: Family Entertainment | No Comments »

GRANDMA’S HOUSE: Tales of shame

OK folks, this is the last day! Read on, then click comments and enter by midnight tonight:
craniumLast week, we asked readers to tell us what lurked in the depths of their totes. The results were, as expected, hilarious – pumpkin seeds, snot busters, dolly socks, even a potato – and we loved the suggestion of keeping a defunct TV remote control in there to keep junior occupied on shopping trips.

So, two things: we’re shipping winner “CPA and Soccer Mom Angela” a copy of PH Hanson’s adorable “My Mommy’s Tote” board book. And we’re launching this week’s big Q. The prize? We’ve got a trio of new books, including “Cranium: Ultimate Book of Fantastic Fun and Games,” Jerry Pinkney’s “Little Red Riding Hood” and Holly Hobbie’s “Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow.” Perfect fare for a long holiday car ride to Grandma’s … who inspired this week’s contest. Much as we adore Grandma’s house, our kids always manage to get into wildly inventive trouble when we visit. So this week, we’re sharing the shame. Click “comments” (we’ll draw a winner Friday night) and tell us, what’s the worst thing your kids have done at Grandma’s? Ours plucked an avocado off Grandma’s tree and discovered that when you throw one against the side of her pretty, pretty, pale gray house, it explodes in a spectacular green smear … and when you throw a couple dozen of them … OK, now it’s your turn!

Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2007
Under: Books | No Comments »

PLEASE HELP, his baby is coming

NEWS AIRLINE 1 FTWe’ve taken our shots at Southwest Airlines for its decidedly un-family friendly policies of late. So, when we heard this story (from the Washington Post) of customer service done right, we just had to share it.

While aboard a Southwest flight in August, Chad Older’s wife went into premature labor (six weeks early) back home in Washington, D.C. Older’s father-in-law called Southwest with the news. As soon as Older’s plane touched down in Albuquerque, Southwest agents hustled him to a flight headed back to D.C. The airline offered big incentives to get a passenger to voluntarily give up his seat on the full flight. A ground crew member dug up Older’s bag. And when Older insisted on paying the return fare, Southwest refused to hear it. The first-time dad arrived home in time to see the birth of his son. As if that weren’t enough, when Older sent Southwest a thank-you note, the airline sent him one back, along with a gift for the baby.

Even we’ll admit, that was a classy move.

Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2007
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »