Archive for July, 2009

Intolerant People Awards…

July 31st, 2009 11:23pm

I would like to take a moment to celebrate and recognize the insensitive and offensive people that roam freely around us throughout the day, unfortunately not unnoticed…

3rd place goes to the obnoxious lady at the PetsMart today who had the audacity to give me a dirty look as she raced me to the register with her 45 items, arriving a split second after me as I quickly checked out with my one bag of dog food and 4 little kids in tow…

2nd place goes to the idiot who attended a children’s animated feature at 11:00am and seemed annoyed and surprised that there were so many children interrupting what was aparently supposed to be his personal, undisturbed viewing of the show…

and our grand prize winner goes to the thoroughly ridiculous man sitting at a CPK restaurant near my amazing sister and her two wonderfully chatty toddlers. He somehow felt justified as he turned around and glared at this woman who routinely sacrifices her social life  just to avoid offending idiots like him with her toddlers noise level. Apparently, this man felt it important to ruin the one social outing she was brave enough to risk in order to support a friend struggling with a premie in the NICU.

Why are people so generally intolerant of small children in public? Are mother’s seriously expected to keep themselves sequestered until their children come of age to be seen and not heard? When did we as a society decide that a family is “not cool”? Funny, I don’t remember being included in that vote.

From people who glare at nursing mothers who are quietly and as discreetly as possible trying to feed their babies to the obnoxious women who exclaim loudly and with sideways glances that “they would like a different table” because they are in too close proximity to a young family. We are surrounded by intolerant individuals. Perhaps society would be a much happier and more forgiving lot if we could remember that children teach us as much as we teach them….sometimes just by the way they mimic our behaviors…

“Children seldom misquote.  In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.” – Author Unknown

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What kind of gaming personality are you and your kids? Do you know? What you discover should guide your choice of what games and how  much gaming you do.

What kind of gaming personality are you and your kids? Do you know? What you discover should guide your choice of what games and how much gaming you do.

I recently read an article that sought to showcase the benefits of cyberspace gaming for kids. It definitely makes a great case for the benefits that gaming can offer our kids. Things like “enhanced logical thinking and problem solving skills…improved alertness, math skills, spelling and vision…develop communication skills.” And while I do not doubt the truth of these benefits, I question the mode of operation.

For instance, what happens when the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur? At what age are our kids able to tell the difference and separate themselves from that fantasy? Is there an age where this ever becomes easy? I don’t think so. In this new cyberspace world, there is no safe zone for kids or adults but especially for kids.
Common and frequent exposure to violence and aggression dulls our sensitivity to it. These games, while possibly educational and beneficial for things like reflexes, problem solving and deeper understanding of societal groups, may also influence other areas in our psyche like reasoning, justification, and a sense of moral abiguity. Forgivenes, understanding, compassion and a sense of eternal consequence are painfully absent from most games…even those considered “educational”. When we achieve knowledge without consequence, it is rarely wisdom. My question to parents would be this…what qualities are your kids developing while in their gaming fog and do you care enough to be forcefully involved in the process?

Before I go further, I must say that I am absolutely and totally against censorship of literature, games, music, art, etc. but I do believe that parents, have a responsibility to know their children well enough to understand the things that will help them and the things that will hurt them. Some kids have a very easy time separating fantasy from reality and can step outside the games without taking everything with them. But there are others that are not so grounded and must have help to overcome this potentially addicting medium.

There was a very insightful article written by John Timmer that cites a study published in Psychology, Crime and Law. It talks about how video games and literature, while not in and of themselves repsonsible for violent or aggressive behavior, do influence personalities with a predisposition to these aggressive tendencies. They can incite certain personalities to violent acts. Pay attention to the state of mind of your child when they sit down to enter their gaming world. Are they angry? Frustrated? Calm? The study found that angry gamers will often relax during gameplay while calm gamers were typically  more agitated the longer they played. The study separated gamers into two groups…”stable personalities and those with emotional states thatare susceptible to being influenced by game play.” As parents, you must know to which group your child belongs and be vigilant.

Need more info?… Read a previous article on technology and your kids, understand the 7 Learning Styles or navigate through out site for ideas on fun family activities, parenting/teaching tips, and educational resources for small children. So much depends on the habits our kids develop at an early age. Make them good habits.

Share your thoughts on this topic in our forum.

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The better question might be “how do I train a dog to be good with my kids?”.  But I’ll address both questions in this post.

A family pet can offer love, compassion and unconditional friendship to your kids. But it takes effort to make this truly wonderful relationship flourish.

A family pet can offer love, compassion and unconditional friendship to your kids. But it takes effort to make this truly wonderful relationship flourish.

We were adopted by our first pet after we moved into our first house and about a year before I became pregnant with our first child. We found him in the middle of the summer, looking extremely overheated, dehydrated, hungry and thoroughly wiped out from sitting on a curb outside a brand new PetsMart. He was laid out in the lap of a 10 year old boy holding a sign that read “My Uncle bought me this dog but we live in an apartment an dmy mom says I can’t keep him. Please give him a good home.” Having made a deal with my “not so pet loving” husband that once we moved into a house, I would get a dog, I decided that rescuing this poor little pup was as good a choice as any. And so we called him “Chance” since we were definitely taking a chance on this little pup being a good family dog.
I tell you that story to endorse the idea of pet adoption verses purchasing a pet through a typical pet store or breeder. There are so many wonderful pets out there that are in need of homes and would have no chance at all without those of us willing to take a gamble on them. In my case, it paid off. We have probably the best “kid-friendly” 70lb dog I’ve ever owned (and I’ve already been the proud owner of 1 pure bred dog, two “pet store” dogs, and two birds). He has commonly been caught patiently sitting with many of my toddlers while they played with his tongue, used his sleeping body as a stepping stool to get onto the couch, stole his toy and even sampled his dog food (see my other article about strange toddler tendendies)!
Now I have to ad a caveat to this story. Pets do not come “kid friendly” even though some breeds have a better temperment for it than others. For instance, be aware that most large breed dogs are much more inclined to be patient with your kids than smaller breeds. It may make you nervous to have such a large dog in the company of your small toddler but trust me, larger dogs are much less likely to take a snap at your kids than smaller dogs. A great place to find pets in Arizona in need of rescuing is at Circle L Ranch Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. These are animals that are in desperate need of a second chance and as in the case of my dog, these “second chance” animals make the most devoted and thankful pets.
There are a couple of tips for helping your pet become more friendly towards your kids. Dogs, while domesticated, still think like pack animals. Dominant pack members run the show. Your job is to help your dog understand that your children are part of the dominant force in the “pack” family. When your pet recognizes that their livlihood also comes from these small pack members, they learn quickly to respect that pecking order. Here are a few tips…

  1. Let your children play a role in feeding your pet. Your dog will learn quickly that these little pack members are a source of their livlihood and will be more likely to assign them respect. On the same note, never let your kids feed your dog from the table…this will encourage your dog to be ever more aggressive at mealtime.
  2. Never let your kids walk you pet if they are not strong enough to control them. Once a dog learns that they can easily overpower these “pack” members, they are much more likely to start asserting their dominance. Instead, allow your kids to issue commands to the pet (like sit, lay down, etc.) and reward them with treats. It will help your children understand how to speak with strength to your pets and help your pets understand that they are rewarded for treating these small pack members with respect.
  3. Lots of love! Try very hard not to neglect your pets need for love and attention. They are just as much in need of it as your children are. If you are taking on the responsibility of introducing an animal into your family, then this is a crucial component of making that work. You and your children must make time to play, walk, and stroke your pet so they know they are not competing with your kids for love and attention. Allowing your children to interact this way with your pet as often as possible helps both your children and your pet begin to understand this wonderful loving relationship.
  4. Early Training. The more you pet, stroke and interact with your dog as a puppy, the easier it will be for them to accept the oftentimes intrusive attentions of your toddlers. Touch their paws, stroke their ears, and most especially pet them while they eat. They are less likely to interpret these attentions as a threat when they are already accustomed to them.

For more info: Check out some wonderful articles on pet safety and care at You can also build a custom chore chart for your kids to help them remember their pet responsibilities right here on our charts page. Do you have an experience or advice you’d like to share on this topic? Join our forum discussion!

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Hit your space bar if the Arizona monsoons make you shake in your boots just a little! It looks like the first of the season is just rolling through my neighborhood tonight and let me tell you, it can be a little nerve wracking! I saw the thunderheads building in the distance and new we would be in for quite a storm tonight so I started our bedtime routine a little earlier than usual. Thankfully, my kids all crashed out before the howling wind started pounding their windows and shaking their screens! Unfortunately for their brave and ever so courageous mother…I will be curling up under my covers with my hubby and my dog for comfort as we listen to the storm wreck our pristine yard! 🙂

As parents, we are sometimes called upon to offer comfort to our kids in these scary moments. My husbands nephew was being just so comforted by his dad one night during a monsoon storm. They were looking out the front window across the street. As his dad was assuring him that the lighting won’t hurt him, a bolt of lighting apparently struck the palm tree across the yard with sparking results! As if parenting isn’t hard enough, we have to be mocked by the weather! Sheesh!

I love a great storm but even though I can appreciate them for the blessing they are to the parched valley, they still can make me a bit nervous and generally terrorize my children around bedtime! I learned last year that unless I wanted to have a campout in my bed with all four of my kids (and my scaredy-cat dog), then I’d better plan ahead when I see those stormheads roll in by getting my brood into dreamland quickly!

Share some of your stories! What do you do to help your kids understand and not be overly fearful of the weather? Or is a little fear a healthy thing?…

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There are a lot of things we can do for our kids at home that don’t necessarily require a structured preschool. For instance, having a designated “school” hour of the day where you are the teacher works really well at our house. I’ve been doing this at home with my kids this summer and it’s been fun for all of us. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s “homeschooling” but essentially that’s what I’m talking about.

First, I try to time it with my littlest ones naptime. Pick about 10-15 minutes to work on different concepts…for instance, for 10-15 minutes, you work on making the shapes of the letters (moving the pen correctly, making the sound of the letter, etc.). You could even take a “sound safari” (get some binoculars, safari hat, etc.) by walking through the house and trying to find something that sounds like “a” or makes the “t” sound. Move on to math by having a counting activity (how many toys do we have out, lets count them! or if we have 5 toys out and I put one away, how many do we have out now?). Keep transitioning through activities for about an hour. You could even invite a friend or two over to “play school” with you. Essentially, these are the things they are learning in preschool and there is no reason you can’t duplicate these experiences at home. Just make it fun! Have a singing time, a puzzle time, etc. and read, READ, READ!!

With the Culture Pass available at the public libraries, you can visit 14 different venues in the city for free! Great field trip opportunities to places like the Arizona Science Center, Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix Children’s Museum, etc. A word of advice for Mesa Public Library main location attendees, they recommend you get to the library an hour before opening Tuesday through Thurdsay to get a good spot in line (you want to be in the first few spots in line if you want a decent pick of the passes). Check out our previous blog posts on the subject at


Good luck and don’t torture yourself for not being able to follow the norm. Your kids will do even better spending quality time with you than they would spending 2 or 3 hours with a stranger and having you stressed out with work worries. It might take more effort on your part but it will be well worth it and rewarding for you both.

Here’s some links that might help you network and get some great ideas…


Do you endorse preschools or have you brought your toddler home because of finances or other concerns? Share your thoughts in our forum discussion.

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Can’t get your ears to pop?…

July 11th, 2009 1:25pm

If you’ve tried the traditional methods of making your ears pop (namely, plugging your nose, taking a deep breath  and then blowing as if through your nose while it’s plugged), then you might have the same problem I did…ear wax buildup. Your ears always have  a certain amount of wax in them that helps protect and keep them clean. But sometimes that build up can become problematic when it blocks the ear canal. Symptoms include ear pressure that won’t release, loss of sound (kind of like being in a wind tunnel) and even pain resulting from the unreleased pressure.

After visiting my doctor, I was shown a great way to clear these blockages at home. First, fill a bowl with equal parts warm water, rubbing alchohol and hydrogen peroxide. Take a bulb syringe and squirt out the ear with the solution. Make sure you don’t put the bulb syringe into the ear canal…you need to have room for the fluid and wax to wash out of the ear while you’re flushing it. It may take several tries (even 15 or 20 tries!), but the solution will soften and eventually loosen the wax buildup and clear it out of your ears. You’ll know when that happens because you will be able to hear clearly again and the pressure build up will be gone!

Incidentally, a few drops of rubbing alchohol in each ear after swimming can help prevent swimmers ear.

Have some tips and tricks of your own? Share them in our forum!

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Vacation destination…Tucson?…

July 10th, 2009 6:34pm

Yes! I know, I know…you must be rolling your eyes right about now. Tucson? Really? My answer is absolutely! I have to say, I would have been sharing your same reaction if someone had shared this thought with me. But give me a chance to defend our southern desert.

I recently vacationed here with my family for a weekend away from home. We were looking forward to getting out of town and really didn’t care much where we were going. We are like everyone these days and needed our vacation spot to meet some specific criteria…namely, pricetag and close proximity of activities. Tucson delivered and then some! We stayed at the Tucson Omni National Resort where they are currently running an amazing summer deal where they match dollar for dollar what you spend on your room in resort dollars. So basically, whatever you pay on your room, you get back in cash you can spend at the resort! We golfed, dined, and some of our group even visited their spa…all for the price of the room!

Now, I know what your saying…the food must’ve been nasty or the accommodations had to be poor. But I will tell you now that the room we stayed in was probably one of the nicest, largest and most well-equiped rooms we have ever stayed in. We had a dining area, sitting room, bedroom with two queen size beds, and a bathroom as large as the bedroom. The food was amazing whether we were eating in the formal dining restaurant, eating room service on our couch or munching on some great lunch dishes at the little cafe overlooking the golf course. The pool area was clean and large with a sand volleyball court and two full size tennis courts. They even offered lunch barbequed poolside along with drinks for guests playing in this area.

The golf course was well-manicured and a lot of fun for experienced golfers as well as those of us who don’t play quite as often. It was challenging without being frustratingly difficult. The weather was amazing…warm in the mornings but by afternoon, Tucson’s legendary monsoon storms settled in and dropped the temperature 10 degrees while entertaining us with some spectacular lighting! Who needs fireworks? But Tucson delivered that as well over the fourth of July weekend.

We visited the Kartchner Caverns which was a delight for my husband and I as well as my little ones. Amazing cave formations coupled with a family-friendly guide made the 45 minute tour a great experience for us all. Word to the wise, Kartchner Caverns sports an 80 degree temperature with about 98% humidity so don’t plan to go anywhere you have to look nice for afterwards! 😉 We were a little disappointed we couldn’t see the “Great Room” because this area closes down this tim eof year while the bats that make this cave their home are taking care of their babies. But maybe on our next trip.

Pima County Air Musuem

Pima County Air Musuem had some great hands on activities for the kids as well as some fun historical trivia for the adults!

We also visited Pima County Air Museum. This had a wonderful array of history. I was impressed as I read about the different types of planes how many historical air events took place in Arizona. The kids had a wonderful time playing in the kid-friendly hanger where kids can be hands on with various types of planes, simulators and even toddler friendly equipment. We probably spent at least two hours here and didn’t even see the entire museum. There is a tram that will carry you throughout the outdoor exhibits but we declined this trip because it is not air conditioned and we didn’t like the idea of baking in the sun for 30 minutes. It gives us something to try next trip!

Wyatt Earp, Morgan and Virgil stopped by for a photo

Wyatt Earp, Morgan and Virgil stopped by for a photo

We took the short drive to Tombstone one day as well and had a wonderful time reliving the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp and his brothers. We even got some spooky fun visiting the real life haunted saloon, the Birdcage (I ended up with a few photos here that smack of ghost action!). This museum also has some amazing history. Did you know where the term “Aces and Eights = Dead Man’s Hand” came from? Wild Bill was shot in the back while playing poker…he died clutching his hand of aces and eights. The Birdcage is full of incredible history and worth taking some time to walk around and read the plaques.

I read about a Children’s Museum here as well but we didn’t have time to visit this trip. Hopefully we can make it next trip because there will certainly be a “next trip”! I know most would roll their eyes at vacationing in Tucson, but I’m here to tell you…it’s a wonderful spot for a family on a budget and with a little forethought, you can find some wonderful “things to do” here!

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Ok, I know he was a talented performer and did some revolutionary things for his time, but seriously, is that worth raising him to the level of deity? I do not question that he was popular and impacted a lot of people but certainly there are more pressing concerns and newsworthy events that should lead our headline news these days. Let him rest in peace already and move on.

Life marches on and there are many noteworthy people that deserve our adulation and adoration that pass from this world everyday. These ordinary heros are forgotten in the midst of the sensationalism that surrounds a celebrity’s life. When are we as a society going to wake up and realize there is more to life that following the every nuance of celebrity nose picking. Do we really need to put these people under a microscope? Is there life really that interesting? If you really want to “honor” Michael Jackson, then just look at the seclusion that he worked so hard to shroud himself in over the last decade… it would seem ignoring his death would be the most appropriate way to pay tribute to his own wishes while he was alive. So, in honor of Micahel Jackson, I say lets move on people!

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Enjoy these travel tips and tricks for heading off into the sunset this holiday weekend!

Enjoy these travel tips and tricks for heading off into the sunset this holiday weekend!

Are you heading out this holiday weekend for some well-earned family fun? Traveling with the family can be a fun activity with everything you need at your fingertips…or a horrendous nightmare as you realize halfway across the state that you left everyones shoes at home (yes, sadly, this has happened to me…thank goodness for Kmart!). I have a couple of ideas that I’ve earned and learned over the last 8 years as my husband and I have traveled with our four little ones on various trips across the US. I hope they can be of some value to you as well!

  • Make a List! I am somewhat compulsive about this because with 6 people to pack for, there is NO way I will ever remember everyone’s stuff without it. I am a believer in packing as light as possible. Lists help me see the crossovers in everyone’s necessities and realize what should or should not be duplicated. I usually start with the bathroom and itemize everything that everybody absolutely “needs” from this area. Keep in mind that some hotels include some of these items so it helps if you can call ahead and find out what they will be offering with your room. Then I move onto each person’s room. I also keep a separate list for electronics (camera, video, ipod, charging equipment, videos, etc.) since it can really put a damper on a trip when you forget the charger for the camera (no memories this trip!).
  • Keep it Simple! I usually let each of my kids pick one animal, one blanket, one activity and one book to take with them. I always bring a “surprise” activity for them to receive after the trip has gotten underway and after they have exhausted their own entertainment. This can be a lifesaver on long car rides!
  • Be Safe! If you are taking a long car ride across the arizona desert, be prepared! Keep at least enough water and snacks in your car to sustain your family for half of the day. If you should break down,  your foresight in this area may be the difference between life or death in the desert heat. Keep a pair of jumper cables, flares and a flashlight in your car at all times.
  • Packing Tips. If you want to really simplify your packing and condense your load, consider using Space Bags to pack your clothing. I discovered these as I was preparing my family for a 7 day cruise where we would be in small rooms with little or no extra space for storage. I needed everything to be compact and easily accessible. These Space Bags were a wonder! I was able to get seven days worth of clothing for four kids and two adults into 3 duffle bags with room to spare! Plus, everyone had their own Space Bag which is transparent so I could easily sort through and find what I needed for everyone throughout the trip without having to unpack everything.

I hope this helps you with your packing stategies so that you can have a wonderful, relaxing vacation without having to worry about those shoes you forgot at home! 🙂 We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for helping to make family travel smoother. Please join us in our forum and share some of your thoughts!

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