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October 2007

October 29, 2021

Have a Happy — and Safe — Halloween

Thanks to the American Red Cross for their easy-to-follow tips to keep our little ghosts and goblins safe on Halloween night:

°     Older kids should plan their route and share it with their family — and always go with a friend, not alone. Younger kids should always be accompanied by an adult.
°    Always walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
°    Look both ways before crossing the street to check for cars, trucks, and low-flying brooms.
°    Cross the street only at corners.
°    Don't hide or cross the street between parked cars.
°     Wear light-colored or reflective-type clothing so you are more visible.
°    Carry a flashlight to light your way.
°    Keep away from open fires and candles. (Costumes can be extremely flammable.)
°    Visit homes that have the porch light on.
°    Accept your treats at the door and never go into a stranger's house.
°     Use face paint rather than masks or things that will cover your eyes.
°    Be cautious of animals and strangers.
°     Have an adult inspect treats before eating. And don't eat candy if the package is already opened.
°    Avoid giving young children small, hard pieces of candy. They’re a choking hazard.

Have fun Wednesday night!

P.S. Here's Matt with our good friend Nancy Klosowski. (Can you tell Nancy is a lot of fun?)

October 26, 2021

Can Parents Preach Abstinence AND Safe Sex?

I was flipping through the newspaper at breakfast recently and I about choked on my toast when I saw this: About 1 in every 4 or 5 young people in Los Angeles County, California (where a recent study was conducted) contracted a sexually transmitted disease in 2005. Epidemiologists at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California (who conducted the study) were even taken by surprise at the numbers, saying "this was a shock."

Especially scary was the large number of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are associated with HIV and are considered to be among the most serious STDs, the researchers say. The reason for those numbers? Too many teens and young adults today are having unprotected sex.

One bit of good news is that human papillomavirus — which can lead to cervical cancer — is now largely preventable with a vaccine. The bad news is that we're apparently doing a lousy job of convincing teens to use condoms if they choose to have sex.

Yep, it's a tricky topic for parents. If you talk about safe sex and condom use with your child, are you encouraging too-early experimentation? If you skip the condom talk and go straight to "just say no," will your child be dangerously uninformed and ill-prepared and end up with an STD, pregnant or emotionally messed up (or all three)? It’s enough to tempt any parent to avoid bringing up the subject at all. But we can’t duck this one. Too much is at stake.

So what's the answer?

Continue reading "Can Parents Preach Abstinence AND Safe Sex? " »

October 24, 2021

Indoor Playgrounds: 6 Things Every Parent Needs to Know

Is it getting cold where you live? Or, for those of you here in Southern California, are you stuck inside because of the health-threatening air quality due to the fires? If so, the kids are probably starting to climb the walls — and you're probably ready to climb a few yourself. (Don’t worry. We’ve all been there.)

Indoor playgrounds are a great place to let kids burn off steam. Just watch for these common health-and-safety hazards, suggests the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — and this mom who’s done her time in the ball pits:

1.    Big kid-little kid collisions. Don’t place your toddler in the rowdy big-kid section. (I once had to yank my then-preschooler out of the way as a big kid came careening down a slide into the ball pit.) Older kids love to hurl the balls at each other. Kids bury themselves in balls and can be hurt when another child leaps into the pit. Happily, most play centers have separate toddler/preschooler sections designed just for the younger set. Bringing younger children in the morning, before the rough-and-tumble crowd gets out of school, is helpful, too.

2.    Icky ball pits. Just say no. They’re dangerous — and often just plain nasty. I’ve seen toddlers wading through ball pits with their diapers falling off. And the balls and pits often aren’t cleaned regularly. (The CPSC recommends a weekly cleaning of each ball — by hand — and a thorough sanitizing of the pit itself. But how often does that actually happen?) If the ball pit is located at a fast-food restaurant, take a good look at the restaurant itself. Does it seem to be clean and well-managed? If the restaurant floor is rarely mopped and old mustard spills are dried on the condiment bar, you can probably imagine how often the ball pit is cleaned and inspected.

Continue reading "Indoor Playgrounds: 6 Things Every Parent Needs to Know" »

October 22, 2021

Check out Froggy 92.9 This Thursday for My Halloween Tips

Ready for some Halloween safety tips (along with suggestions for what to do with all that candy — aside from sneaking it while your kids are at school)?

I'll be joining hosts Rob and Joss of the "Rob and Joss in the Morning" radio show on Froggy 92.9 in Santa Rosa, California this Thursday at 8:10 a.m. Pacific Time. Tune in if you live in the area — or visit their website and listen online.

Rob and Joss are always a hoot. And you know you need those candy-be-gone tips. See you Thursday!

October 19, 2021

Get Thee Behind Me, Halloween Candy!

It's coming. In just 12 days and 3.5 hours (but who's counting?)... Butterfinger. Milky Way. A Hershey's kiss or two (or six). All the wonderful things that my son collects in his trick-or-treat bag will call to me as I work in my home office the week after Halloween.

Normally, I sneak a few pieces here and there, and it's no big deal. I just don't get on the scale until, uh, January. But this year I've lost 18 pounds since May (14.8 of it blogging over at, and I want to keep it OFF!

Happily, the good folks over at Keeping The Castle have some terrific suggestions for using all that excess Halloween candy that tends to hang around until Thanksgiving. Just a few of their great tips:

* Melt caramel squares to use as drizzle over apples, ice cream or cake.

* Instead of jam, put mini Reese’s cups in thumbprint cookies.

* Freeze the candy for use as decorations on gingerbread houses in December.

Of course, I realize that doing these things will fill my kitchen with caramel sauce, thumbprint cookies and gingerbread houses. But at least those are the sort of treats that I tend to make with Matt to share with friends and neighbors. Sneaking Halloween candy at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, while Matt is at school? That's a solo act of taste buds over common sense.

OK, twist my arm. Bring on the thumbprint cookies! Hey, I can freeze 'em and be that much more ahead of the game when I get invited to a cookie-exchange party. (Hint, hint.)

October 18, 2021

Meth: It's Everywhere

I'm happy to report that the Parenting Teens Resource Network is running a piece I've written on the dangers of methamphetamine. But it's the editor's comments, written by Carey Simon, that will really get your attention.

"I searched for cocaine, and several sites came up offering to show me how to make crack at home," says Simon, noting that our kids are practically living on the Internet these days, where all this info is at their fingertips. "Another web site instructed me on how to pass a methamphetamine test. Then I discovered that it’s just as easy to learn how to make crystal meth," she adds.

As parents, we're all busy, I know. But we simply have to take the time to educate ourselves about the current crop of illegal drugs that are all too available to our children. The Parenting Teens Resource Network is a good place to start.

October 16, 2021

Let's Make Smoking a Little Less Appealing

Every time I drive by a group of 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 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.

In honor of Pat, I just fired off a note asking my Congressional representative to override President Bush's veto of legislation to boost the federal tobacco tax. The money from this tax will go to pay for health insurance for low-income children.

The American Cancer Society is leading the fight to override this veto. The ACS says we have the potential to save many lives by convincing Congress to increase the federal tobacco tax. In addition to providing these much-needed funds for children's health insurance, the tax will encourage adult smokers to quit — and it can help prevent our kids from ever starting to smoke.

This Thursday, October 18, your Congressional representative will vote. He or she needs to hear from you TODAY. Just click on this link for an easy-to-use form letter. You can make your wishes known with the click of a mouse. Thanks!

October 15, 2021

Teddy's Travels: Making Our National Parks Come Alive for Kids

Our family is nuts for Yosemite National Park. We've made so many memories there with our annual winter trips. And, as usual, Mom was the one to save those memories in scrapbooks and photos. But now, there's a way to get kids in on the act when the family visits Yosemite — or any of America's national parks.

Teddy's Travels — America's National Parks, by "Tedrick de Bear" and Trefoni Michael Rizzi (Tdb Press; $19.95) is the first book in a series of interactive travel guides/scrapbooks/journals for kids. Readers join Tedrick de Bear as he travels across the U.S. by way of our national parks and monuments.

The books is filled with gorgeous color photos, fast facts, scavenger hunts, journal pages and graphics designed to keep kids interested, learning and having a blast. And be sure to visit Teddy's website to check out his newsletter, blog and fun activities for kids.

Just looking through the book gave me ideas for future family vacations, too...

October 11, 2021

To Catch a Predator

Late yesterday afternoon, as a girls' soccer team practiced on a field at the elementary school down the street from us, police arrested a registered sex offender that they had been following from a town about 10 miles away. Surveillance-task-force officers had been tracking him all day, and when he parked in front of the elementary school, they made the arrest.

Fortunately, the man was never able to make contact with any children on the playground. But just hearing about this happening right in front of our school is scary, of course. However, some very good things have come of it:

  •     We're all feeling appreciative of these police officers and the work they do.
  •     Everyone's awareness has been raised, and we all need those reminders now and then.
  •     We saw, yet again, what a great — and communicative — group of parents and school administrators we have in our community. News of this arrest spread, via e-mail, very quickly, and the deputy superintendent for our school district sent out a note to parents, informing them of what had happened.
  •     When I sent a note to my own network of local moms, I heard back from several who were planning to talk with their kids about sex offenders and to review what to do if they are approached. True, it's not an easy conversation to have. But it's important.

I'm going to talk with my own son tonight at dinner, with the emphasis not on scaring him but on giving him the tools he needs to protect himself. He's 11, so we've talked about this before. He even attended an excellent "Stranger Danger" presentation at the elementary school a couple of years ago.

But kids can't always remember to feed the dog, much less remember what to do if they are approached by a stranger. So a little review won't hurt.

Here are some tips from parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish on how to protect your child in an unfamiliar world:

Continue reading "To Catch a Predator" »

October 08, 2021

Driven to Distraction

Cell_phone_2 A couple of years ago, my husband, then-9-year-old son and I had a too-close call with a cell-phone-wielding woman maneuvering an SUV through our always-crowded downtown area.

She hung a fast right on red without stopping, slowing or, apparently, even wondering if any pedestrians might be taking advantage of the flashing “walk” signal. Fortunately, my husband saw her and pulled both Matt and me from her path. She never even noticed us scrambling out of her way.

Continue reading "Driven to Distraction" »

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