Why I Won’t be Buying a Toyota Highlander - or Van de Kamp’s Fish Sticks

November 1st, 2010

Please do me a favor and watch these two ads, then read the post, below. I really want your opinion on this…

I’ve owned two Toyotas in my life. I don’t have anything against Toyotas. But I won’t be buying any car that is advertised with a bratty kid looking up from his video game and saying “I don’t tolerate dorkiness very well. Yet my parents cart me around in a car that says ‘Hi, we’re the geek family.’” The tag line spoken by the kid at the end: “Just because you’re a parent, doesn’t mean you have to be lame.”

Oh, and the young man is walking around pontificating while his hard-working (but apparently lame) dad is working away in the driveway, washing the “dorky” family car.

I know it’s just an ad. But as a parent, I’m wondering… Does Toyota think I’m so worried that my kid won’t think I’m cool that I’ll buy a vehicle because our dear little children “don’t tolerate dorkiness very well”? Give me a break.

Somebody needs to tell Toyota and its ad agency to give the Little Prince a bit less video-game time and to introduce him to a bucket of water and a sponge.

Then there’s the ad for Van de Kamp’s fish sticks. The adorable-looking little girl says to her mother, who just served her fish sticks: “What is this, minced? You feed me minced? You ever catch a minced fish?” After Mom switches to another brand, the little cherub says “This is more like it.”

What scares me the most? The fact that Toyota and Van de Kamp are probably having success with these ad campaigns — which says something about the current state of parenthood. Me? I’ll buy my cars and my fish elsewhere. What do you think of these ads?

Should You Use Your Phone To Track Your Kids on Halloween?

October 29th, 2010

Are you planning to personally keep an eye on your kids this Halloween as they go door to door? Or are you comfortable using a cell-phone-based GPS tracker?

MyEyewitnessNews.com, based in Memphis, TN, spoke with Jane Schneider, editor of Memphis Parent, about the new “Trick-or-Tracker” Android app ($9.99) that allows parents to monitor their children’s whereabouts. (Of course, any GPS tracker will do the same thing. You don’t need one specifically designed for Halloween.)

What do you think about this? Would you use one? Do you think parents are shirking their responsibilities by using a tracker? Or is it a handy high-tech tool for today’s parents?

Check out the article and the interview with Schneider, then let us know what you think.

When’s The Last Time You Took a Break?

October 27th, 2010

I need to post this pic on the fridge. It was taken a few years back, when Randy and I got away to a bed-and-breakfast while Matt was at summer camp for a week.

Just looking at the photo reminds me how relaxing those few days were. We walked around the lake. Lounged in the in-room jacuzzi and looked out at the lake. Tried parasailing above the lake (fun!) and sat around, enjoying a glass of wine and (you guessed it) gazing at the lake. (What is it about water that’s so relaxing?)

We didn’t stay all week, and didn’t break the bank. Just a night or two was all it took to feel like we’d gotten AWAY from the everyday routine.

What do you do to refresh yourself now and then? And (be honest) when’s the last time you did it?

Suggestively Sucking Popsicles — in a Bubblebath With a Friend? Just Another Day in the Life of Some Teens on Facebook

October 25th, 2010

Wanted to share with you my guest post on SafetyWeb.com about kids giving out too much info on FB…

Do you know what your kids post? I saw one FB profile pic today featuring two young teen girls together in a bubble bath, wearing flesh-colored tube tops and sucking suggestively on Popsicles. Their mothers would be so proud… if they knew.

Make sure you know what your kids are up to on social media — for their safety.

Is Your Kid Smoking?

October 25th, 2010

Every time I drive by a group of high school kids and see one of them smoking, it breaks my heart. My mother-in-law, Pat, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a few years ago after smoking her entire adult life. She started smoking in college because she thought it was cool, and back then, no one knew of the dangers.

One of the many gifts she gave to her grandson (my son), Matthew, was to talk with him about the dangers of smoking, how addictive it is and how important it is to never start. Coming from his grandmother, those words made a big impression on Matt.

We really do have an impact on our kids when we talk with them from the heart. Are you concerned that your child (or grandchild) may be starting to smoke? Talk with her. Tell her about the dangers. Talk about peer pressure.

I still have vivid memories of high school and I remember the feeling of wanting to fit it. I’m betting you do, too. Let your child know that you understand those feelings but that it’s more important to be her own person and to do what’s right for her — regardless of what others do.

Cross-Country Parents, Share This With Your Kids

October 21st, 2010

You may have heard about Conor Lynch, the 16-year-old Notre Dame High School student in Sherman Oaks, CA who was killed by a hit-and-run driver Tuesday during a cross country training run at 3:45 p.m.

I just read an article in the Los Angeles Daily News about the incident and it broke my heart. The tributes from fellow students and friends on a quickly created “RIP Conor Lynch” Facebook page are so sad.

Of course we all remind our kids to “be careful out there.” But I’m going to ask my 14-year-old son — who runs cross country for his high school and was doing his own practice run at 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday —  to read this article so he can see just how quickly a tragedy can occur.

People drive without paying attention sometimes. Kids have their minds on lots of stuff. Things can happen in the blink of an eye. I think we need to share this story with our kids and remind them that they are no match for a car or an SUV.

Our kids will tell us we worry too much. They’ll say they’re careful. But still… Let’s let them know how important this is.



Parenting Multiples Just Got Easier

October 21st, 2010

I’m so jazzed to share with you the new book Magical Multiple Moments (Parents of Multiples Share Stories and Advice on Raising Happy, Healthy Twins, Triplets, Quads and More!) by Julie Gillespie. Julie’s website, TripletTales.net, was the inspiration for the book.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have triplets, or wondered how parents of multiples manage their lives, this is a great resource. Gillespie answers every question you could think of, from “How big should I expect a belly for three to get?” to “How much help will I need to keep everything together?”

After interviewing more than 250 parents of multiples, and becoming a parent of multiples herself, she knows the ropes. She also shares expert advice from psychologists, sleep specialists and more.

Want to see those three adorable babies as they are now? Visit TripletTales.net. They’re just as adorable, but now they have homework!

Get Your Free Cyber Security Guide for Parents

October 21st, 2010

Thanks to the folks at SafetyWeb for providing a wonderful, detailed, new guide for parents, “Cyber Security in the 21st Century.” You can download it as a free PDF here.

One of the most important things to talk about with your kids when it comes to being safe online is sharing personal information and photos over Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks to SafetyWeb for allowing me to share these tips for parents, which are also appropriate for kids:

• Don’t post the exact details of your whereabouts before the fact. Announcing the exact dates of a two-week vacation; reporting when and where a child goes to and leaves school; saying anything that tells strangers too much about your location or your kids’ locations should be avoided.

• If you choose to upload photos to a social networking site via a smart phone, turn off geotagging.

• Monitor kids’ networked friends. Be sure they understand that they should not accept invitations from people they don’t know.

• Do not include too many personal details. Birth month and day is adequate, for example, especially for information about children, but the same applies to adults, too.

• Use avatars or pet pictures for kids on social networking sites.

• Understand that Skype and other VoIP software can share too much information, too. Share information judiciously.

• Think before posting anything – pictures, facts or opinions. Privacy is a relative term on a social networking site, and things travel quickly on the Internet.

• Set and maintain your security settings. Do not assume that the site’s default settings are the best for you.

Halloween Costumes for Baby

October 20th, 2010

I just saw the CUTEST Halloween costumes for babies over at Gifts.com and I have to share them with you. While some are a bit pricey, in my opinion, some adorable costumes are just $9.95. Here are some of my favorites, covering all price ranges. (Makes me miss those preschooler days, when Matt was a spider for Halloween!)

Guest Post: I Was Bullied As a Kid

October 19th, 2010

Stacy Lipson is a terrific freelance journalist and a woman who’s not afraid to speak up. I’m so happy that she wanted to share this very personal post with you, and I think she sends a critical message to parents.

We need to talk with our kids about bullying. Someone’s children are doing the bullying. Someone’s children are either joining in, standing by and doing nothing or standing up for the rights of the kids who are getting bullied and saying “this is not OK.”

Please take a moment to read about what Stacy went through as a child and a young teenager. Then sit down at the dinner table tonight and talk with your kids. It’s going to take all of us together to make a dent in this very real problem — which can sometimes lead to tragedy.

Thanks, Stacy, for your post.

Growing up, I wasn’t a part of the popular crowd. I didn’t seem to fit in with the other kids. I was terrible at sports, and with big, dorky glasses that seemed to envelop my face, I was a prime target for bullies.

The abuse started in third grade. It began with a small paper airplane that had been tossed into my cubby hole. “You have germs. Stay away from me.”

Later, my classmates graduated to an even better nickname: Stacy Germs. In line for lunch, on the playground, or at class events, my classmates would huddle as far away from me as possible. I felt isolated, alone, and miserable. So I did what any child would do — I told my teacher.

My teacher held a class meeting, in which she discussed how wrong it was to tease others. Still, my classmates’ behavior was clear enough. I wasn’t a part of their group.

As the years passed, I had trouble making friends. Every time I tried to talk with the other children. I would be shunned for being an outsider. Over time, I learned to find solace through reading. My mother would take me to the bookstore and I would spend hour upon hour delighting myself with fictional characters, immersing myself in a world full of literature and knowledge. Yet I was alone, in ways more than one. And I didn’t know how to tell anyone.

By the time I hit seventh grade, I was a walking mess of insecurity. I was desperate to make friends, but had no idea how to do that. At the same time, my body began to change, and the bullying that I had gotten so used to over the years began to turn into a dulling roar — only this time, it was directed at my body.

A neighborhood bully, Arthur, started to sexually harass me on the school bus. The cruel comments he made left me a quivering, crying mess by the end of the day. Day after day, I endured the comments. My sister and brother, who rode the school bus with me, would try to stand up as my ally. Still, their words fell on deaf ears. Even with three voices raised, the other students sitting beside us never said a word. More than once, multiple voices would join in the torment.

As the abuse continued, I found myself wondering if there was something horrendously wrong with me. When I pounded my pillow at night, I wondered what I had done to make them hate me so. Was it the speech problem I had as a child, where I would accidentally slur my words? Or the way I did my hair, pulled up in a ponytail?

I wish I could say the abuse stopped. That an adult stepped in to make it better. But it didn’t stop with the sexual harassment. In gym class, other girls would offer their own version of torture. I began to get teased for the gym shorts I wore, the t-shirts I brought. Slowly, a ball of bitterness began to sit in a hard knot at the pit of my stomach. In class, I was afraid to speak, for fear that laughter would echo throughout the room. I ached to be a part of the social scene. Still, I didn’t know how to get the abuse to stop.

One night I confessed everything to my mother. With heaving sobs, I told her about all of it. She went to the principal, to the teachers, and to the bus driver, but the abuse never really stopped until I turned 16.

After reading recent news reports about the astonishing number of children who have been bullied, and after reading their tales, this is what I have to say to all of the parents out there:

You may think you understand. But you don’t. You can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. And if you have experienced it, you know how it feels. The anxiety, fear, and sadness that seem to be a part of your daily experience. The wish that some day, not too far off, the abuse would stop. The wish to be someone else.

I don’t like to talk about what happened to me as a child. I never thought I would need to. But I think it’s important for parents to realize that bullying is an epidemic. It’s not going to go away anytime soon, and once one child starts, the rest can join in. It’s time to do something. Children need to realize the power behind their words and actions, and parents need to make sure that their children are listening. Hard.

I didn’t speak up then. I wish I had.

Stacy Lipson is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications. Follow her on Twitter.