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Archive for August, 2008

SATURDAY Morning Cartoon Giveaway

George of the Jungle DVD **Yawn** It’s Monday and there’s not enough caffeine in the world to get us started this morning. Oh to be a kid again, lolling in front of the TV on a lovely summer morning, scooping up spoonfuls of sugary cereal and watching cartoons. Of course it doesn’t help that we’re sitting here, staring at a “George of the Jungle: Swingin’ First Season” Cartoon Network DVD and dreaming of Frosted Flakes. You’re on your own for the cereal, but if you’d like a shot at winning the DVD, all you have to do is click “comments” and tell us, what was your favorite childhood cartoon? (This contest is now closed, and congrats are due to our winner, Irma. For the next aParently Speaking giveaway, just click here!)

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008
Under: Contest, TV | No Comments »

PARENT TALKS: Childhood Matters

Radio (Photo by Ann- Kathrin Rehse, StockXchng) Here’s a couple of parenting talks — on the radio yet, so you can listen in your jammies — to see you through till school starts up once more:

“Childhood Matters: Preteens in a Tech World”
Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. on 98.1 KISS-FM and 105.1 KOCN-FM
Childhood Matters’ Rona Renner and panelists talk about preteen social development, consumerism, technology and increased screen time.

“Childhood Matters: Disaster Preparedness”
Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. on 98.1 KISS-FM and 105.1 KOCN-FM
Childhood Matters’ Rona Renner and guest Ana-Marie Jones, executive director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD), discuss how to prepare for earthquakes, fire and other disasters, and how to talk about it without frightening your kids.

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

FAMILY TRAVEL: Greece with Teens

The Race family in Greece
Planning that next family vacation? The Race family, one of the finalists in the Times Travel section’s “One Perfect Day” contest, gives us the scoop on Greek Island travel – windmills, pelicans, traveling pants and all!

THE TRAVELERS: Concord residents Barnie Race and Ann Allen, owners of Bay Area Jump, and their daughters Alexandra, 19, and Karina, 17.

THE TREK: “This two week Greek Island trek was our daughter Karina’s graduation trip. She chose this location after watching ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.'”
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Posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2008
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

TRAVEL Q&A: Last Minute Family Getaways

Del Mar Beach, California (Songha Lee photo/MCT Direct) Hello, happy travelers! As we mentioned Friday, we’re launching a family travel Q&A this weekend, and we’ve recruited TravelMuse‘s Donna Airoldi and her staff to help. We’re leading off with a question of our own, and hoping you guys will chime in with comments and questions of your own, either by clicking “Comments” or via e-mail. Let’s start, shall we, with the question on everyone’s minds:

Q: Summer’s almost over, it’s too late to get away before school starts, isn’t it? I mean, we have no reservations, no ideas. Where can we go right this minute without busting the bank?

A: Ah, it’s never too late. If you’re not set on a destination, there are tons of options. New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago, Cancun and Las Vegas are often the most popular last-minute getaway spots, but there are lots of possibilities. Look for online deals and packages, be flexible about dates and destinations. And if you have preschoolers or college kids who have not yet left, the week after Labor Day is a good time to travel – fewer crowds, more discounts. But here are four family-friendly possibilities, two a quick flight away, and two closer to home.
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Posted on Saturday, August 16th, 2008
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

FAMILY Travel Q&A: Inspiration Finder to the Rescue

Family travel (Ana Lense Larrauri illus/MCTDirect) If you’re like us, you spend a lot of your vacation-planning time simply surfing the Web, looking for ideas and inspiration … and trying to sift through all the advertising to get some Real Advice. That’s partly why we started featuring readers’ family travel adventures — and you’ll see a new one this Sunday, by the way! We wanted to get the real scoop on where to go, where to stay and what to see that would delight not just grown-ups but kids too.

But now we’ve been thinking what we’d ALSO really like would be our very own family travel expert, someone we could pester with all our (and your) family travel questions. So we’ve asked Donna Airoldi at TravelMuse to help and this weekend, we’re launching something new, a family travel Q&A.
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Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2008
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

FORBES Flunks College Ratings Game

Muhlenberg College Tour (Photo by Max Orenstein, MCT Direct) We’ve always had issues with the US News and World Report’s college rankings. We don’t agree with its criteria and we blame its use of easily manipulated “exclusivity” ratios for fueling today’s insanely competitive admissions climate. Now, we’ve got a new focus for our college rankings wrath: Forbes Magazine.

Seems Forbes wanted a piece of that US New and World Report sizzle, so they’ve issued a list of their own, “based on the quality of the education (colleges) provide, and how much their students achieve.” Yeah, right. Guess what they used for their uber-scientific methodology? Some 25 percent of the score was based on commentary. Now, we’re as big a fan of RateMyProf as anybody. We find the student critiques as helpful as TripAdvisor’s hotel reviews – it’s always useful to get input from people who’ve actually experienced something, whether it’s a swanky suite or a tedious lecture. But you take TripAdvisor’s reviews with a grain of salt, right? They’re subjective – one person’s “5” rating is another’s “3,” you can “vote” over and over and over, there are no controls over who is posting, and they skew toward extremes. Plus, RateMyProfessors lets you rate an instructor’s hotness too.

Another 25 percent of the Forbes score hails from another odd statistic:
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Posted on Friday, August 15th, 2008
Under: College Apps & Angst | 2 Comments »

FAB FIVE for the Weekend

Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet (Contra Costa Times) 1. Take a flashlight tour aboard the USS Hornet, an aircraft carrier berthed in Alameda, Saturday morning. Or do a family sleepover tomorrow night. ($35 for the flashlight tour, $100 for the overnight, but regular admission is $6-$14.)

2. Scamper down to San Jose’s remarkable Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. for a little archaeological family fun. The monthly “Little Scarabs” program offers archaeology digs, DIY sarcophagi and other fun – a different activity each month. (Free with museum admission – $5-$9)
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Posted on Thursday, August 14th, 2008
Under: Family Outings | No Comments »

NEVER SPOKEN Parenting Advice

Late for school (Hector Casanova ill., Kansas City Star, MCT) If you’re like us, you’ve always wondered what preschool teachers and pediatricians would really like to tell you – you know, the harsh, unspoken stuff. Well, the geniuses over at, the Family Circle, American Baby and Parenting mag website, went ahead and asked… and the results are startling. Some we agreed with. Others we found appalling. Take a look and see what you think:

PRESCHOOL TEACHER: If the parent doesn’t obey the teacher’s rules – turns in forms late, for example, or calls instead of e-mailing – chances are the child will be just as disobedient. It “creates an immediate bias against your child,” the anonymous teacher said, “and most teachers feel the same way.”

How do you make the teacher regard you as a “preferred family”? Ask for a classroom wish list, the teacher said: “When you spend maybe $20 on these items, it goes through the grapevine that you are here not just for your kid but for the entire class.” (Um, are we the only folks taken aback?)

Then, the pediatrician said…
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Posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008
Under: Advice | No Comments »

WAITING FOR BABY: Best adoption picture book

BABY_ofyouidreamed(“Waiting for Baby” is a closer look at adoption and my family’s personal experience as we go through the process. It will appear every Wednesday in the aPARENTly Speaking blog.)

Anyone who’s seen the inside of my family’s office/library knows how much I love books. And ever since we decided to adopt, I’ve paid particular attention to the picture books that help tell adopted children the story of their lives and how they came into the lives of their families. Among my personal favorites: “The Family Book” by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Young Readers, $15.99), which illustrates the different makeups of families, from stepchildren to adopted children and two moms and two dads. As a stepmom, I really love how Parr tackles this subject, especially in contrasting two families by showing how one pig family is clean and another one messy. “Horace” by Holly Keller (Greenwillow, $11.55) is also cute in depicting the adoption of a leopard by tigers. “I’m all the wrong colors,” Horace explains and later sets out — with the support of his adopted family — to find his biological parents.

There are dozens of fabulous picture books, each different enough that adoptive families easily could find one that best illustrates their own situation. But for all the books on the market, the one I loved the best you won’t find in bookstores or on It’s literally one of a kind. A couple we met through our adoption agency made the book using pictures from their adopted son’s birth. It includes photos of his birthmother and birth sisters. The words are simple enough for a child to understand. All of it is bound in a hard cover book (you can find great online publishing programs such as Shutterfly and Blurb that have great easy to use templates or consult an adoption scrapbook specialist). Every child who is adopted — and even those who aren’t — should have one, because while picture books make for great bedtime stories, none of them compare to a picture book that truly reflects the life of your child.

Posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008
Under: Adoption | No Comments »

Memo to Olympic people re: lip synching child

I’ve been stewing all afternoon about this story. (Chinese Olympic officials say girl not cute enough to sing at ceremony). What the HECK???

It’s so obviously such a horrible negative message to send out to children that it seems sort of silly to even point it out, but apparently some powers that be thought that it would be a good idea. They even defended it!

HELLO!!! Gee, don’t little girls (and boys, too) already have a hard enough time fighting a hellofa uphill battle when it comes to developing a positive self image in our “Dr. 90210″ plastic-surgery swilling world?

The official comment defending the decision, saying it was the most “fair” solution to combine the “perfect” voice with the “perfect” look was chilling in the worst science-fiction story way. WE ARE ROBOT NATION. WE MUST BE PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. God forbid a beautiful voice not have a beautiful face to match.

What a sad pall to cast over an event that’s supposed to be about real people who train and work and sweat and bleed, etc., to make it to the top of the athletic world. What’s next? We superimpose better looking faces on the athletes who win the gold because the winners don’t fit our aesthetics? (Although, we must say, those male swimmers are easy on the eyes, thankfully).

Apparently a child with a wonderful voice isn’t enough when it comes to the image that must be projected to the world. Hmm, yeah, as if the world doesn’t already know that some kids are cuter than others. Duh!

OK, I know that when we grow up that looks do count and that’s just a reality of us as being biologically programmed human beings and all, but let’s give kids just a few years to not care. To be real. To sing for the world in all their awkward-kid glory. Now that would be an Olympic moment.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Under: Just Bizarre | No Comments »