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Learning how to study without 600 TC Egyptian cotton sheets


When I headed off for college, (back in the dark ages) I had a hand-me-down-comforter, bed sheets from the bottom of the linen closet, some plastic storage cubes and a half a dozen free posters given out at a local promotion. There wasn’t even such a thing as dorm room decorating budget. You moved in, you made do, and you moved on. Today, the pendulum has swung far in the other direction. Moving in days at colleges not only include eager freshman and tearful parents, but not uncommonly, a decorator. For a dorm room. dormupdate9

According to The National Retail Federation, students—well, really parents—are spending about $900 to decorate a dorm room. There are now registries at stores for students to post wish list items. Forget about paying for college. How about that Laura Ashley bedspread? Pinterest has boards with ideas for decorating, which is great, but the newfound industry with products created just for dorm rooms has become a $50 billion a year boon.

I get that kids want to be creative and make their own space in a dorm. In my opinion, part of the process of college is making do in smaller spaces. Part of higher education is learning how to study without 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets or high tech modular shelving. I suppose it’s a shock for millennials to leave their well-stocked and decorated nest and move into what looks like a cell block by comparison. Over the years, the retail industry has had us carve out castles and race car bedrooms for our kids, so a plain, extra long twin is going to look pretty drab. Sure it’s cute, but have we caused a problem in the process? Parents need to take a good hard look and make sure we haven’t taken the decorative touch over the top. Should or could this level be maintained? By making a bedroom too comfy for our kids, are we putting them at a disadvantage? Would you hire a decorator for a dorm? How much did you spend to decorate in college? With college so costly, are you also planning (or saving) for decorating? At least ask yourself this; why would you spend good money on a fancy rug when most of the time it will just be covered in dirty clothes?



I Am Eleven


On the heels of the delightful Boyhood movie comes another charming film focused on children.

I Am ElevenI Am Eleven, which opened in U.S. theaters this past weekend, looks at what it’s like to be 11.

Do you remember where you were at that age? What you were doing and thinking?

Watching this documentary, you will see kids who are “tweens.” They’re not young children, but they still have the innocence of kids. They’re approaching a time of big emotional and physical change. And if you have an 11-year-old in your house, you already know that all too well. As WebMD notes:  “Your child at 11 will be embarking on a period of physical growth at a faster rate than at any time in life except infancy. This will be accompanied by a series of major bodily and hormonal changes in preparation for puberty, as well as increasingly advanced cognitive skills and emotional maturity.”

To capture the feelings of kids who are 11, Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey spent six years traveling the world and talking with 11-year-olds to put together an insightful and sweet documentary. Bailey says she set out to make something optimistic. She wondered if kids were still having fun and still hopeful about the world – as she was at 11. What did she find?

“I was excited to turn 11,” says one girl, “because I’m one-one. I always tell my dad, I’m number one twice!”

The kids, from a boy named Remi in France to a girl named Sreekutty  in India, give their thoughts on all sorts of topics, from racism to the need for empathy, their love of cats, their dislike of snakes. We see them dancing, playing with elephants, getting ready for school, brushing their teeth and just existing, coping and living in very different settings.

At the end, Bailey goes back to the same kids, who are now teenagers. Billy has a mustache. Grace says she thinks adults might be meaner than children. They look different and talk about how they’ve changed and about what lies ahead.

I would like to have seen even more interviews with a broader range of kids in the film, but the ones Bailey chose will give your kids a view of the world they probably haven’t seen. It’s worth watching, especially to open the door to conversations with your own ‘tweens.

Visit the film’s website to watch the trailer and see show times and theaters.




I Speak Up


Mom power. Parental love. These are powerful forces. It can move metaphorical mountains when needed, and, when a child is in danger, it summons superhuman power to get them out of harm’s way. Have a problem? A motivated parent can get the job done.

This country has a bullying problem and we need all of the moms, dads, brothers, sisters—everybody to help. SBSU_raiseFlag_325x340

Even though bullying prevention has been in the news, it is still a huge problem for our kids. Cartoon Network’s  Stop Bullying: Speak Up Campaign is asking one million people to make and share a cell phone video using the SPEAK UP app as well as sending a message via social media sites (using the hashtag #ISpeakUP) to demonstrate support.

Studies prove that the behavior of bystanders is a powerful force in the fight against bullying.

Most problems in this world feel beyond our control. This is one we can solve. Visit the I Speak Up website for expert resources, tips and videos about bullying prevention. Share your stories and show your support. We always make time for silly selfies and videos of our cats doing cute things. Why not take a minute to speak up and speak up for a worthy cause?

Together, we can take on bullying. Together, we can stop it.



Calling the Shots


We’ve all been there – in the doctor’s office, tense with anxiety as your child is about to get a shot. But have you ever thought twice about vaccinating your child? Have you been concerned about the national debate that has cropped up in recent years about links between vaccines and side effects?

NOVA, the respected, long-running PBS science series, takes a look at what has become a controversial issue.

As kids go back to school, it’s a time of annual physicals and updating shot records. For new parents, it’s part of so many doctor visits with infants. And now, for tweens, it’s a time for scheduling the HPV vaccination.

Virus_Ms2capsidVaccines – Calling the Shots (airing Sept. 10 on PBS, 9 p.m.; check local listings), from an Australian production company, looks at the history, the facts and the fears of immunizations, using interviews with doctors, parents and other experts.

Specifically, the documentary notes that more than 90% of parents in U.S. vaccinate their kids, often getting up to 28 immunizations to protect against 14 different diseases in the early years of life. Around 1 % don’t vaccinate at all. Why don’t they? And what are those consequences?

Watching a little baby with whooping cough -  his chest rattling and his eyes looking so tired – will give you chills. There is no cure for whooping cough. But there is a vaccine to prevent it. The show looks at immunity and what exactly that means – how a body’s natural defense system works.

One interesting case study involves a child in Australia who got a vaccine and then began having seizures. His parents were distraught and puzzled and worried that the vaccine was the cause. But it turned out that the child had a rare form of epilepsy. The vaccine was a trigger, not a cause.

Vaccines are often blamed when there is no scientific proof, notes one doctor.

The relationship between autism and vaccines is addressed through Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation. Her daughter is autistic, and she has delved into the issue, finding that one medical study of 12 children years ago was thought to have made a link between the two. But since then hundreds of thousands of kids have participated in dozens of studies, none of which shows any link between vaccines and autism. The documentary goes on to present new studies that are now focusing on gene mutation – something that happens in the womb – and environmental factors as possible causes.

Toward the end of the show, a pediatrician talks about the importance of the HPV vaccine, another hot-button topic. The vaccine is recommended for kids around age 11, to protect against cancer, but parents have been reluctant because it’s related to sexual activity.

As parents, the show notes, we always say, “What if? What if my child were to be the one to suffer the rare side effect?” Doctors say making any important decision regarding health is about balancing the risks against the benefits, and the benefits of vaccines in eradicating life-threatening illnesses has been shown throughout history.

But the best way to make any decision is to be as informed as possible. Watching this show will add to your arsenal of information.




Paper Works


report card 1949As another school year gets underway, parents will be privy to weekly folders of information, priceless pieces of art, brag-worthy test results and all kinds of paper. For the very practical, this isn’t a problem. For the sentimental, like me, it can be a problem. A BIG problem. I confess. I am a paper hoarder. I have a box of my own papers from school (pared down considerably over the years) and now have 17 years worth of documents from preschool to high school belonging to my daughter. When we had to relinquish some closet space to a remodel, I was forced to confront my problem head on. First finger paintings, then the daily update that let me know that yes, she did go potty. Why do I have these? Am I weird for keeping them? Worse, is it awful to throw them out?


A wise friend put it into perspective: “There will never be a museum of you. Or your child.”

Why save every piece of paper? Unless it is remarkable, noteworthy or really fabulous, there really is no reason to keep it. Sure you can send it to the grandparents, but really, you are just passing on the problem. Artwork is the most difficult. There are lots of cute storage options, but unless prudence takes precedence, you will soon be swimming in “originals.” Organizers have several good ideas. Take pictures and keep digital files. Put a limit on the number (per week, per year) that you’ll keep. Make a rotating display wall in your  home. Plenty of sites and programs can turn artwork into products that are useful – from a beach towel to wrapping paper or note cards.  For the grandparents who have almost everything – how about transforming them into a complete set of artwork mugs? Or, if you’re Angelina Jolie, you can use the kids’ doodles as the design of your wedding dress.Child_scribble_age_1y10m

Handwritten stories and other treasurers can be more difficult to sort. But a collection of stories scanned into a book, one from every year over a decade, would be a great milestone gift. Even better, teach your kids early how to sort, keep and save wisely, and you’ve given them a gift to carry them through life. As for all of those baby teeth…that’s another story.