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May 14, 2021

The Top 10 Urban Legends About Kids: Are They True?

Istock_000000815564xsmall_2 Are evil-doers really lacing kids' fake tattoos with LSD? Did a certain "Pokemon" episode actually give Japanese kids seizures? Find the answers to these and eight more urban legends (or are they true?...) on a terrific post by Amy S.F. Lutz over at Strollerderby.

With websites like Snopes and Urban Legends & Superstitions and T.V. shows like MythBusters, it's getting easier to figure out whether the stories we read about, in too-frequent crazy e-mails from certain friends and relatives, are true. (And you know you have someone in your life who just loves to send you these.)

So are Webkinz really being murdered online? I love how this blogger brought together 10 of the most-heard urban legends about kids and got to the bottom of things. Check it out.

 

May 12, 2021

A Few More Thoughts on "Young@Heart"

Alg_young In response to some reader e-mail, I've been thinking about why I was so drawn to the people featured in this wonderful documentary, which I reviewed here.

In short, they inspire me, and I can think of nothing better than to be that gutsy, feisty and just plain brave when I'm 80-something. Clearly, being a part of this group adds life to their years.

A couple of years ago, I took a comedy improv class through our local adult-ed school, and I saw a similar thing going on there. We beginning improvers ranged in age from late teens to 70s. When we were performing, having a ball and living in the moment, it didn't matter how old anyone was. In fact, some of the older members of the group were some of the least-inhibited and most-entertaining improvers.

1172935553 It didn't mean they didn't have aches and pains, or that they were able to do everything that they physically wanted to do in an improv sketch. But it didn't matter to them and it didn't matter to the audience. It was just so energizing to be in that room with them.

Yes, it's incredibly sad that the group in Young@Heart has some very tough days dealing with the loss of some close friends and fellow members. But they also have the comfort of knowing that each of those people was doing what he or she absolutely loved to do, right up until the end.

Could any of us ask for more from life?

Blog Tour Stop: The Baby Bonding Book for Dads

When I first picked up a copy of The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, by James di Properzio and Jennifer Margulis, I have to admit that I expected it to be one of those Hallmark Father's Day gift books filled with gorgeous photos and not much substance.

Happily, I was wrong. And that makes me especially happy to be hosting a stop on di Properzio and Margulis' blog tour today.

You have to love a book for new dads that tell it like it is: "Unless your wife had a C-section, your new baby probably looks weird. He may be all scrunched up with a cone head like Bart Simpson, odd-looking skin that's been out of the sun and in amniotic fluid for nine months, and eyes that cross or look unfocused..." Hey, so much for the Hallmark-card text, huh?

And I love the diaper-changing advice: "It's a good idea to talk to the baby and distract her so she doesn't fuss," the authors advise. "Talk about your day, the Red Sox, or tell her how much better she'll feel once she's clean. Or, if things get particularly funky, sing 'She's a very stinky girl,' to the tune of 'She's a very kinky girl."

You have to love a baby book for dads that quotes a Rick James song. And check out these amazing photos...


May 11, 2021

Go See "Young@Heart"!

Young_at_heartWhat a wonderful Mother's Day gift I received! Randy and Matt took me to see "Young@Heart," and it felt like a full-body workout. I laughed, I cried and I was glad I wasn't watching it at home in the den. This felt more like a community event.

The theater was packed with people ages 10 to 80, and we were all so involved in the movie, everyone was silent. (When's the last time that happened at the movies?) OK, we were silent when we weren't laughing or stomping our feet. But there were a lot of silent tears, too. Check out the trailer. Then grab your kids (over about age 10), grab your parents and GO!

May 06, 2021

How Many Balls Are You Juggling?

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., author of Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap!, tells a wonderful story, over on his website, Crazy Busy Life, that every parent can appreciate:

"I once interviewed a professional juggler. He told me the greatest number of balls he could juggle was six. The greatest anyone had ever juggled, as far as he knew, was eleven... I asked him if he was working to get to seven balls. He told me he was not because in order to get to seven he would have to give up several hours a day for at least six months, and he didn't have time to spare to do that. 'I'm very good,' he told me. 'I put on a great show with six. No one has ever come up to me and told me they wish I had done seven. I can work many variations with six and make people's jaws drop. Six is enough. I don't need more.'

Hallowell then asks us to consider: "Are you juggling more balls than you NEED to juggle? What do you give up if you are?"

That's a tough one. I love my family. I love my job. I love volunteering at my church and my son's school. What tends to get lost in the shuffle are things like exercise, getting my hair trimmed, shaving my legs — you know, basic physical maintenance. Not good!

So this week I plan to visit the dentist, shave those hairy legs, and get on the treadmill (an actual treadmill, not the treadmill that is sometimes my life!) for some cardio work. (Maybe I'll work out during American Idol tonight. And if Jason Castro wins this thing in a few weeks, it will only be because every 11-year-old girl in America voted for him because of his eyes! My pick? David Cook.)

April 29, 2021

"My Mommy's Having a Boob Job!"

Just not sure how to explain to your child that "Mommy's going to get breast implants"? There's one Florida plastic surgeon who'd like to help.

Michael Salzhauer, M.D., has written a new book for kids ages four to seven: My Beautiful Mommy. He describes the book as "a must-have for any mother with young children considering plastic surgery."

The cover alone makes quite a statement. There's nothing like seeing a little girl, teddy bear in hand, expressing delight over her newly transformed mommy, who now resembles a sexed-up Disney princess, complete with belly top and surrounded by magical sparkles.

Now that's something every little girl should aspire to.

As Newsweek reports: [The book] features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist... The book doesn't explain exactly why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, Mom reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear — prettier!"

What about the body issues raised here? Will our Ms. Perky Boobs' 6-year-old daughter start worrying that her nose — or stomach, or whatever — isn't good enough? Will she worry that her breasts — still years away from even making the scene — won't measure up?

Here's my alternative book suggestion: I'm Gonna Like Me — Letting Off a Little Self Esteem (HarperCollins; 2002), by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. It's written for ages four to eight. "Self-esteem is at the core of what is wrong with us and what is right with us," says Curtis. "It’s an absolutely universal issue. I’m Gonna Like Me allows children to explore their own feelings of self-worth."

And you gotta love a first line like "I'm gonna like me when I jump out of bed, from my giant big toe to the braids on my head."

After all, isn't that the message we really want to share with our kids?

P.S. I have to say, Dr. Michael has a killer P.R. person working for him. This book seems to be on the desk of every parenting editor I've spoken with this week. And they all seem to think it's pretty pathetic. Even perezhilton.com got in on the book-review act. Check it out here.

P.S. Oh, by the way... If you click on the link to Dr. Michael's website, you'll get a pop-up "live chat" box, where a "patient coordinator" will ask what surgical procedure you're interested in. I used that as an opportunity to briefly share my thoughts on the book...




April 28, 2021

Children See. Children Do.

Australia's non-profit National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect is running a powerful ad, "Children See. Children Do." Fortunately for the rest of the world, the ad has made its way to You Tube. Check it out:


April 24, 2021

Knock Yourself Up (No Man? No Problem!)

As a book reviewer, I've had fun carrying this hot (shocking pink!) little number around town with me this week, reading a few pages during my son's piano lesson, taking it along for a solo lunch at a favorite little Mexican restaurant — and never knowing who might see the cover and wonder...

Of course, like the just-too-funny promos for the new movie "Baby Mama" (about a woman who enlists the help of a surrogate), which opens today, the title Knock Yourself Up (Avery), by Louise Sloan, is meant to be an attention grabber.

But once I cracked the cover, I found solid information and lots of real stories about single women over 30 who are trying to make the right decision on this life-altering issue by doing a lot of research, doing a lot of soul searching and enlisting the support of family and friends. Sloan shares her (touching and often really funny) experiences and those of many others who've decided not to let being single stand in the way of becoming a mom. 

Got questions? The book answers these and a lot more: When do I decide it's time to go it alone? How do I choose the right sperm? Is this fair to the kid? Can I afford to do it? How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my dates? Have I gone totally crazy? Will I ever have sex — or a life — again?

For those who want to discuss these juicy questions with their book club, there's a guide with discussion questions. For even more info, stop by knockyourselfup.com.

While I had a man involved when I got pregnant, I can't say Randy and I exactly did it the old-fashioned way. Having gone through in vitro fertilization, I could relate quite a bit to the tales of hormone injections, blood tests and waaay too many doctor appointments involving transvaginal ultrasound and stirrups. Trust me, nobody goes through all this stuff on a lark.

As "Baby Mama," Knock Yourself Up and my own IFV experience will attest, there are lots of ways to bring a baby into the world these days. But one thing remains, and you can surely can see it in this melt-your-heart picture of Sloan and her son, Scott: Women are making these decisions based primarily on something that mothers have had in common through the ages: love.

March 27, 2022

All Hail The Anti-Princess Reading List!

For little girls, Cinderella and Snow White may be the ultimate storybook characters. And these princesses certainly have their place in a child's world — up to a point.

For parents who want their daughters to grow up looking for a bit more from life than a prince to rescue them, there's the "Anti-Princess Reading List" (click on it under "browse by category") over at a wonderful website I just discovered: mommytrackd.com.

Just looking at the titles brought me back to some of the heroines I loved as a girl: Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy. These gals solve crimes, wear what they please (and it rarely includes taffeta), and have marvelous adventures.

I'm not suggesting an all-or-nothing approach here. After all, who says a kid can't wear her Princess Jasmine costume while reading a story about a girl taking first place at the school science fair?

March 24, 2022

Why We're Hooked on HBO's "John Adams"

Thanks to his wonderful fifth-grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Stelter, my now-12-year-old son Matt is completely jazzed about anything having to do with the American Revolution.

I'll confess, my fifth-grade social studies teacher didn't inspire such enthusiasm, and (while I've never shared this with Matt) I had always equated American history with "Read chapter 6. We'll have a test on Friday." But now Matt's enthusiasm is inspiring my own.

Mrs. Stelter made the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the battles that followed, come alive for her students. Matt would come home from school last year talking endlessly, and in great and gory detail, about what hardships the soldiers endured in their fight for liberty. (Mrs. Stelter knew how to throw in just enough yucky stuff to keep the boys enthralled.)

It was Matt who first started talking about HBO's new series, "John Adams." We started watching it as a family the other night and we're hooked. Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, the series sucks you in from the first five minutes. (Executive producer Tom Hanks read David McCullough's Pulitzer-prize-winning book by the same name and decided this mini-series had to be made. Thanks, Mr. Hanks.) HBO also offers a free teacher's guide and a student's guide on the website, which you can download as a PDF file.

The series is definitely not for young kids. It's appropriately rated TV-14, and I think it's probably fine for mature middle schoolers. (Randy and I are pretty careful about Matt's exposure to movies and T.V., and we don't let him watch most other shows rated TV-14 just yet. But we happily made an exception for this one.) There have been two pretty hairy scenes so far — one showing a man being tarred and feathered and another showing Abigail Adams and her children being vaccinated for smallpox. (I didn't know how it was done back then. Yikes. Let's just say I'm happy to be alive in 2008.)

HBO shows lots of repeats of each episode, so it's not too late to catch up if you haven't started watching it. (There's also an episode guide, with a synopsis of each show, on their website.) And if you don't have HBO? Not to worry. This seven-part series is sure to be available, not too far down the road, on DVD. Either way, if you have older kids, check it out. Heck, if you have NO kids, check it out. It's terrific.

P.S. Here's Matt as Thomas Jefferson last year during a production of "Walk Through the American Revolution," put on by Mrs. Stelter's class in conjunction with a terrific company, California Weekly Explorer, Inc. (Don't ask how many cotton balls I glued to that backward baseball cap!)

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