Written on November 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm , by Family Circle
Last Friday, we followed Batkid as he kept the streets of Gotham/San Francisco safe. Batkid, aka Miles Scott, is a 5-year-old who has battled leukemia for years. His wish to become Batman was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and thousands of San Francisco residents.
After being called into service by San Francisco police chief Greg Suhr, Batkid performed various missions, which were chronicled by the media and won him fans all over the world.
We can’t get enough of Batkid, and now we have a trailer featuring our new favorite pint-size Caped Crusader.
It’s wonderful what people can do when they come together, isn’t it?
Written on November 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm , by Celia Shatzman
For many people, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey and the fixings. But for other families—mine included—the highlight of the holiday is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So I was thrilled to visit the Macy’s Parade Studio in New Jersey to see where the magic happens.
All of the new floats are built there, where about two dozen people work year-round. John Piper, vice president of the parade studio, described the process as “a whimsical, wonderful, enchanting adventure,” which seemed pretty spot-on.
This year, five new floats will make their debut, bringing the grand total of floats in the 87th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to 30. Like Santa’s workshop, the action in the studio is nonstop; they’ve already started designs for the 2014 holiday season and even the parade’s 100th anniversary. Watch the video below for an insider preview.
Be sure to watch the parade live at 9 AM EST on NBC.
Written on November 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm , by Rosalind Wiseman
People have described teens to me with words like “terrifying,” “apathetic,” “hormone-crazed,” “entitled” and “naive.” Add that to the general assumption that teens use social networking only to say “Hey! What’s up?”, relentlessly bully one another or send inappropriate pictures to each other, and it’s easy to think the younger generation can’t be counted on to make the world a better place.
Not true. I recently came across two examples that show how often teens are standing up against bullying and using the Internet in positive ways. The challenge for us is admitting that often the people they’re standing up to are bullying adults.
Last week, the Richardson High School PTA in Dallas sponsored motivational speaker Justin Lookadoo to advise the students on dating. One piece of advice that he shared with the Richardson female students, which can also be found on his website with co-author Hayley DiMarco, was:
Be mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation….The sexiest thing on a girl is happiness. Dateable girls aren’t downers, they love life.
Here’s Lookadoo and DiMarco’s advice for male students:
Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls, and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous and more adventurous, and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.
Mr. Lookadoo and Ms. DiMarco base their advice on their Christian faith. Having worked with many wonderful people in Christian communities who would never agree with this kind of teaching, it’s incredible to me that a school would allow someone to share a message that girls should “shut up,” and if they do speak, to express only “happy” opinions, while telling boys to be more “adventurous” and “dangerous.” This advice is exactly the kind of message that sets up the dynamic where girls are taught to say nothing when they’re in a sexual situation that they don’t want to be in and gives boys permission to run roughshod over those girls—which is exactly how rape between acquaintances often occurs.
Many teens were outraged by Mr. Lookadoo’s comments and confronted him during the assembly. But they also used Twitter to share their feelings about his message and the frustration they felt toward the school for bringing him.
Here is Aisleeen Menezes’ tweet: I refuse to listen to the enforcement of stereotypes and gender roles.
Another student, Meg Colburn, tweeted: I love that RISD has a no-tolerance on bullying and they brought in a bully to motivate us.
And even better, other students, parents and alumni are supporting those that spoke out. You know who are the only ones sending disrespectful responses to these students? Adults…whom the kids don’t know.
Across the country, in Washington, D.C., another incident took place. I grew up in the nation’s capital and spent most of my career there as well, so it was inevitable that I would learn that one of the best high school newspapers in the country was Annandale High School’s The A-Blast. Last week The A-Blast again showed how good reporting and a civil, measured response can make a difference. Here’s what happened.
Last Friday night, the Annandale football coach bullied his own school’s marching band off the field during halftime, with some vocal support from the football parents. In response, A-Blast reporters wrote an article protesting the marching band’s treatment, concisely articulating the problems and asking for an appropriate administrative response. My favorite part of the article is when the writers ask the administration the larger question of what the school values—not in words but in actions:
Under the direction of Coach Scott, the football team has won one game throughout their 2013 season while the band received Virginia State Champions and won a National award for their “III-Open” class (which is the hardest competition division). And all the while, the band stands proud with the football team through every loss and through every win. Since when has administration asked the football team to support the band by going to a competition, whether we win or lose?
The result was swift. Again, students, parents and alumni supported the marching band; the principal apologized to the student body and requested that the football coach do so as well. I hope the coach takes this opportunity to role-model what a person should do when he makes a mistake and needs to make amends. But in the meantime, as we wait for adults to do the right thing, let’s not forget that young people often can show us the way.
Have you seen a recent example of young people standing up to adult bullies? Post a comment and share it here.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question? Email email@example.com.
Written on November 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm , by Family Circle
It’s the pop song of the moment that, with its catchy lyrics and hum-worthy beat, gets stuck in your head. Even one of our editors and her kids are obsessed with “Royals” by Lorde.
But this cover of the song by the all-girl Florida State University AcaBelles takes the crown for originality. The beatboxing is music to our ears.
Warning: You WILL end up dancing. And playing this version on repeat.
Written on November 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm , by Family Circle
Written by Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children.
It’s now late fall near my family’s home in Connecticut. With the cool, brisk air and bright, falling leaves comes the promise of cozy evenings gathered around our fireplace and the fun times of the approaching holidays.
Each autumn, my family looks forward to celebrating Thanksgiving—a time to connect with loved ones. For us, this means a festive gathering of more than 40 members of my husband’s family in upstate New York. Our tradition is for everyone to bring a homemade dish, which often results in an endless feast of mouthwatering dinner staples. One of the designated bakers, I have already started to plan the dessert menu, which will include several pies, in addition to the all-time-favorite sweet potato casserole.
But this year as we look forward to the holiday season, a very different anticipation of winter weighs on my mind. I have been traveling to refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq this past year, where many Syrian families are facing the prospect of freezing temperatures without warm shoes for their children, let alone a cozy fireplace at the ready. I have talked with moms who are raising their newborns in a small tent that provides relief neither from the baking summers nor the bitter winters, like the one starting now.
More than a million Syrian children are refugees, with millions more trapped inside Syria—and many families unable to produce or buy enough food. As Maryam, a mother of two, told me, “Because of a lack of food, my children didn’t grow as they should. They started losing weight, and it was all we could do to keep them alive.”
Imagine, as a mother, scrambling day in and day out to provide just enough food so your kids can make it through the day.
That image really puts Thanksgiving, with our eye-popping, calorie-laden feasts, into perspective. But how do we share that perspective with our children? How do we get them to feel grateful for what they have and to feel compassion for children who are less fortunate?
It is up to us as parents to find an age-appropriate way to make the hardships other children face real and relatable to our kids.
As the mom of a 12-year-old, it’s a conversation I find myself having when I have to make sacrifices for my work, as CEO of Save the Children, that affect plans with my daughter. Recently, I was returning from Iraq, where I had met with children who now call a crowded tent home, when a travel delay resulted in my missing her recital. As I tried to make it up to her over a cone from our local ice cream parlor, I took the opportunity to explain why I do the work I do.
I want my daughter and her two older siblings to know that each and every day of the year—and especially the holidays—is a time to be grateful for what we have and reflect on how we can share those gifts with others. With children whose families no longer have a garden to tend to, and who have to risk their lives every day trying to get bread for their families.
The task seems overwhelming at first—a catastrophic war on the other side of the world, producing the horrifying images we see on the news. But a little goes a long way to make a real difference in the lives of Syrian children and families. Just $10 could provide a thermal blanket to protect a child from the cold. A contribution of $50 could provide a heater to keep a family warm for the winter. Talk to your teens and tweens about why helping a child like Warda (pictured below) is within our reach, whether we are 12 or 80.
Written on November 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
I have been having a blast with my photos since I started using Google+ (free; apps available for Android, iOS and Web) to back them up online. I once took photos with the intention of someday finding time to edit them, turn them into little animated vignettes, create slide shows and share them with friends and family. Now I just take the photos, and the Google+ Auto Awesome feature does the rest. Even uploading my shots to Google+ happens automatically.
I discovered Auto Awesome completely by accident when I snapped a series of photos of my husband at the beach. He always makes a face (not his best face) when I point a camera at him. He wanted a new picture for his Facebook profile; I wanted one picture of him not making that face. So I took 20 photos in a row, hoping I would catch a candid expression. When I opened the Google+ app on my phone to browse through the photos, though, I discovered it had automatically made a short animation of my husband from some of the shots. The animation was terrific. It was short, but it caught the movement of his hair, the wind and the ocean, and a range of expressions that eliminated all my concerns about “that face.” It was like those animated newspaper photos in the Harry Potter movies. I sent the animation (GIF) to my husband and he loved it so much that he posted it all over his social media pages. He was impressed with my photo-editing and animating skills, and grateful that I had spent so much time on the project. I didn’t explain. I just said, “You’re welcome.”
Since then, I intentionally take a burst shot of photos or a series (I take at least five to give Auto Awesome enough to work with) whenever I’m shooting something that looks like it would make a fun animation: the cat chasing our bird, my daughter goofing around, sporting events, a car race, birds on the beach. It’s super fun. And I don’t have to do anything except check out what final result Auto Awesome has come up with.
Auto Awesome is not limited to animations. Sometimes it decides my photos would make a nice panorama, so it stitches my landscape photos together. Sometimes it takes a series of portraits and merges them into one really great shot of my subject. Sometimes it decides a series of pics would translate nicely into a photo-booth-style grid. And sometimes it just fixes the colors or lighting in my shots. I can undo any of this, of course. (It marks any photo it has retouched with a sparkly Auto Awesome icon.) But mostly I’ve been very impressed with its choices. (And I can also do editing of my own online if I get ambitious.)
Google has just launched an Auto Awesome movies app feature. (To access it, you will need the latest version—4.3—of Android.) Choose the photos and videos you want to turn into an Auto Awesome short film, and the app does the rest. It’s a great way to share a happy moment—like this man did of the day he became a dad—or a holiday get-together with friends and family.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.
Written on November 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm , by Family Circle
The holidays are supposed to be a happy time—but all too often they can leave you frazzled and exhausted. When your schedule starts to stress you out, decompress with these three tips.
Written on November 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by vvanedwards
Written by Vanessa Van Petten
You might be surprised what keeps your teen up at night.
Parents can help teens understand what is happening to their body and let them know that they don’t need to be embarrassed. Many teens shared that what stressed them out the most was talking to their parents and asking for help in solving these pesky health issues.
Here are the top five things that teens are embarrassed to talk to parents about, plus a few ideas on how to solve them.
1). Body Odor: Teens are uncertain when to start using deodorant, how often to apply it and how to select a product from all the available options.
Solutions: Take your teen to the grocery store and explain the different types of deodorants and how they work. Let her explore scents on her own. Buy a few sticks for the bathroom, bedroom, gym bag and backpack. Teens told us that they also want more help on the daily application routine—many have no idea how often deodorant is needed.
2). Acne: Pimples, acnes and zits are one of teens’ top stress areas as they don’t know if they should be using acne products, how to deal with a pimple or how to come up with a skin-care regimen.
Solutions: Start your teen with a simple daily routine that use just a few products, like the Clean & Clear Essentials collection. Getting him in the habit of washing and moisturizing his face will get him started on the right foot. And don’t forget to stock his backpack with an emergency zit cream (Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment is a good one)—breakouts always happen at the most inconvenient times!
3). Menstruation: Many girls feel underprepared when they first get their period. As adults, we forget how daunting that time of life can be. Girls told us that they want to know what to expect from their first period and are overwhelmed by the wide variety of menstrual products available.
Solutions: Whether your daughter has gotten her first period or not, it is important to check in and address any questions that might have popped up. For example, many teen girls are concerned about how their period will affect their participation in sports and on athletic teams. Also, go to the drugstore or supermarket with your daughter so you can explain the differences between brands and products.
4). Dandruff: Dandruff is one of the topics teens feel most embarrassed talking to parents and friends about. They not only worry about how to handle dandruff but also if they should hide their dandruff shampoo under the sink instead of keeping it in the shower where friends might see it!
Solutions: Explain to your teen that dandruff is an irritating but completely normal problem. Go through the different reasons dandruff could be a problem—seasonal changes, new shampoo, stress—and try some over-the-counter products. If necessary, you can take your teen to a dermatologist to address the issue.
5). Breath Odor: When teens start thinking about having their first kiss, they also start thinking about bad breath. And let’s be honest—even if you aren’t planning on kissing someone, bad breath is awful for any kind of relationship!
Solutions: Bad breath can be tackled a number of ways—and you want to arm your teen with all of the tactics. First, talk to your child about proper dental hygiene—thorough flossing and brushing is the best method to tackle bad breath. Second, equip your teen with bad-breath-combating tools like mouthwash, gum, mints and breath sheets for the backpack and gym bag.
Be sure to keep communication lines open so that your teen feels comfortable sharing his or her worries with you. That way, you can help if any other issues arise. Most important, make sure your teen knows that these issues are completely normal and there is no reason to be embarrassed.
Vanessa Van Petten is the nation’s only youthologist—following youth trends to help teens, parents and families. Vanessa’s unique approach has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Teen Vogue, and she is a two-time winner of the Mom’s Choice Award. Her books can be found at her popular parenting website RadicalParenting.com.
Written on November 19, 2013 at 10:30 am , by Family Circle
Written by Catherine Holecko
Once a month, my daughter’s middle school has a half-day dismissal for teacher development. While this wreaks havoc on my work schedule, my daughter loves it—but not for the reasons you’d expect. Sure, she enjoys having the afternoon off from school. But she really enjoys the morning activities. Instead of having classes, she and her peers spend their entire shortened school day playing: dancing in the cafeteria, throwing footballs outside, playing basketball in the gym, and more. “We get to do cool stations and dance,” says my 11-year-old. “We get to hang out with our friends while doing fun activities, and no one yells at us for talking!” The photo shows a display of snaps of the kids during a Fuel Up activity—I love the action shots!
This is all thanks to the school’s participation in Fuel Up to Play 60, a program sponsored by the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. Fuel Up, and its cousin Play60, can take many forms. (Last year, my kids’ elementary school had a one-day Fuel Up event with football-themed activities.) But the goal is always the same: to encourage kids, tweens and teens to play actively for at least 60 minutes a day, every day. At my daughter’s school, several teachers lead the effort to infuse more physical activity into kids’ school experience via these monthly events. Kids can also log in to the Fuel Up website anytime and track their daily activity minutes, keep a basic food diary, get ideas for school events and report on activities they’ve done. All this earns points and rewards for themselves and for their school.
My sixth-grader is a Fuel Up leader, which means she helps plan and run activity stations on Fuel Up days. She hopes to incorporate lesser-known sports, such as lacrosse, into Fuel Up day events. So far, she has found that kids absolutely love a good dance party, but activities that require them to hold hands (like the Hula-Hoop pass) are a much tougher sell!
I asked my daughter why she thinks this program is important. Here’s what she said: “If kids just sit in class all day, they might start to think that exercising isn’t important. In middle school you don’t get recess anymore. So it’s good to let kids know that they still need to play or exercise for at least 60 minutes a day.”
I get that not everyone loves the NFL (or even the Dairy Council), and there are good reasons for that. But so far, this program is a touchdown for my daughter and her classmates, and I’m glad they can participate. If you, your child or your child’s teacher is interested in Fuel Up, visit fueluptoplay60.com.
Catherine Holecko is the Family Fitness Expert at About.com. She lives in Green Bay Packers territory with her tweens and husband.
Written on November 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm , by Family Circle
There’s nothing cuter than a pet with style, right?
Back in September, we asked readers to submit photos via Facebook and Instagram of their pets dressed up in costumes. We received more than 600 entries. A panel of judges somehow narrowed the list down to 30 finalists–the creativity was endless, and the general public then got a chance to vote on their favorite. Here are the top five winners of our Best-Dressed Pets contest, chosen by you. Fair warning: these pictures are too darn cute for words!
To check out all of the super cute entries, flip though our Best-Dressed Pets Facebook album.
Written on November 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm , by Family Circle
Looking for creative ways to decorate your home for the holidays? Both fragrant and functional, a pretty herb wreath is easy to assemble and perfect for gifting or to hang on your kitchen wall.
Take a look at how easy the steps are!
A few pointers to get you started:
- Select hearty bright-green bunches.
- Give yourself plenty of counter space to spread out—expect to have some loose leaves.
- If making as a gift and not hanging immediately, let wreath dry on a flat surface so leaves don’t droop, exposing the form and wires.
Here’s what you’ll need:
4 bunches fresh rosemary
2 pkg fresh bay leaves
2 to 3 bunches fresh sage leaves
3 large bunches fresh thyme
3 large bunches fresh oregano
2 bunches fresh marjoram
1 8- to 10-inch grapevine wreath
Food-safe floral wire
Wire cutters and scissors
1 24-inch length of ribbon
• Spread newspaper or craft paper on a table. Divide herbs into 8 piles.
• Starting with one pile, stack rosemary, bay leaves, sage, thyme, oregano and marjoram with all stems pointing in the same direction (overstuff piles, as herbs will shrink upon drying). Secure with floral wire, leaving a 6-inch length of wire to attach herbs to wreath form. Repeat with 6 of the remaining 7 piles of herbs.
• Use floral wire to secure one bunch of herbs to the wreath form at the 11 o’clock position. Attach a second bunch of herbs, overlapping the stem end of the previous bunch. Continue around wreath form.
• Arrange the last pile of herbs with stems crisscrossing. Secure in the middle with floral wire, leaving a 6-inch length of wire to attach herbs to wreath form. Affix final bunch to wreath form at the 12 o’clock position (the ribbon will loop over the center of this bunch, hiding the stems).
• Tie ribbon around wreath and hang from a hook or cabinet handle.
This fragrant wreath is featured in our December issue on newsstands now.
Written on November 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
Being a parent has gotten pretty technical. Our kids are immersed in a world of online learning, social media, cyberbullying and Internet addiction. All of it comes to their impressionable minds through a limitless, invisible signal. I’m a fan of that signal. Much of what rides in on it is incredibly enriching. For example, my son’s knowledge of ancient history—a subject rarely taught in any of his schools—well exceeds that of most adults I know. This is because he has a curious mind and has known how to tap that signal to satisfy his curiosity since I showed him how to do a Google search when he was 4. But some of what comes in over that signal is too mature, violent, dangerous or distracting for a young mind. And all of it needs to be turned off regularly so that mind can pursue activities in the real world.
I have two teens, and I’ve struggled with managing the signal throughout their lives. I know I’m not alone. In fact, a recent Microsoft survey found that, overwhelmingly, parents let their children use technology (specifically computers and gaming devices) unsupervised starting at the age of 8. Is that because parents don’t want to supervise their kids or because supervision is a technical nightmare? I’m going with the latter. That’s why I’ve taken advantage of my access to high-tech companies to harass, cajole, badger and wheedle them to build better tools to help parents manage the information that comes in through the signal. But until yesterday, the tool I’ve been asking for has been in short supply.
I feel pretty strongly that control over this signal has to happen—first—at the Wi-Fi router. If it doesn’t, I have to install something on every device my kids use, which—at least in my house—is difficult to negotiate. While I don’t mind getting technical to install a router, I don’t think consumers should have to. So I want a router that’s plug-it-in-and-use-it simple. Next, I want it to let me assign my daughter’s tablet, computer and phone to rules that apply to her alone, not to individual pieces of hardware. In her case, I want to shut off the signal after her bedtime and set an appropriate age restriction on content. I also want separate rules, adjusted for his age, for my son. But when one of my teens goes rogue and blows off chores or gives me attitude when I ask for help with dinner, I want to be able to quickly and easily, amid the fray of family life, change those rules to reflect a demotion in household privilege. I don’t want to have to speak in code to set any of this up. I don’t want to have to access software that’s only on my computer. And when I’ve decided my kids are awesome and mature enough to handle it (which they usually are), I want to be able to give them complete freedom—with some assurance that I’ll know if they slip into some dangerous corner of the World Wide Web. Yesterday I finally installed a router in my home that gives me all of this: the Skydog Family Router Service ($149 with three years of subscription service).
Easy to Use
I’ve installed a lot of routers over the years, and this was the easiest to install by far. It asked me some questions. I answered them (while my old router was still delivering the Internet). Then I plugged it in and it went to work and set everything up the way I wanted it.
Now that I have the router installed on my network, I control it through an online portal. I can access that portal from any Web connection. It lets me see every device on my network (most of the devices have easy-to-understand names such as “Christina’s IPad”), assign those devices to users and set up rules for each user. My son is 17, but he has a hard time shutting off the signal and going to bed. So while I didn’t do much to filter his access to information, I did locate his phone, tablet and computer and set them all to go dark at midnight. There’s no reason for him to be idly surfing that late. I tracked down my daughter’s devices too, gave her a bedtime of 11 and shut off Netflix during her homework hour. (TV is her procrastination Achilles heel.)
Control and Monitoring
Since my son isn’t exactly a child, I don’t do much to filter his Web access, though I could block specific sites or choose a level of filtering set up by Skydog. If he’s having trouble staying focused on homework, I could set up a schedule that blocks specific distractions during specific hours. But since I didn’t do any of that, I asked the service to monitor his Web history so I can check once in a while to be sure there’s nothing going on I need to worry about. I also set up an alert that lets me know if one of my kids visits a site I consider dangerous, such as one of those that lets them video chat with strangers.
I know I can’t stop the signal. I wouldn’t want to. But I am glad to finally have a simple way to control it.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.