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Archive for April, 2011

Parents Need to Get Their Hands Dirty With Social Media

April 11, 2011 7 comments

When I visit my family each summer, I watch my nieces and nephews text each other furiously. Their fingers are working overtime to host constant communication. I asked if their professors had any trouble with this during lectures, and my niece replied that they all have their phones on silent, but can still easily text without looking at them.

So while a professor may see a sea of attentive faces, quite likely they are deep in thought texting.

Tcchnology has changed the way our children communicate. How you feel about this personally is irrelevant. Texting, skyping, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are only gaining in popularity and children are finding ways of adapting them earlier.

Your mission as a parent, if you choose to accept it, is to become versed in social media before your child has to teach it to you.

There are two reasons for this:  If they are on Facebook or another social networking site, you can (attempt, at any rate) to be on their contact list, or ‘friend’, and therefore watch what they are doing more closely.

Being knowledgeble yourself in social media is to take away another layer of potential misunderstanding between you and your children. You are bridging a gap. If you are using social media effectively, your children are more likely to see you as an ally when they most need one.

Cyber-bullying is a nasty consequence of the proliferation of online communication. It’s easier than ever to be mean behind the cloak of anonymity. The rash of suicides amongst teenagers citing online bullying as the cause is rapidly increasing. As governments and teachers rush to react with preventative policies, teenagers will continue to circulate hurtful lists on their smartphones with a vengeance. They will start nasty Facebook campaigns and they will tweet nasty comments. Cyber-bullying won’t disappear, so arm yourself and your child against it.

Yet I know a lot of parents who know nothing about social media. They view it as a waste of time. They can’t get their head around it. They prefer traditional methods of communication. Knowledge is powerful, and learning this strange new world of interacting and socializing is to learn the language of our children.

Adapting the attitude that social media is child’s play will only keep you out of the conversation.

If the Joshua Tree Falls In the Desert, Does Anybody Hear it?

April 7, 2011 2 comments

I have spent several vacations in Palm Springs, whiling away the hours playing tennis and lounging poolside in its blissfully arid climate. But during our last vacation we ventured to the Joshua Tree National Park – and it was by far the highlight of our trip. A gem not to be missed.

Notably, this trip involved a small hike, appropriate for our children, and it was still a hit. Hiking and my children are normally like oil and water, but this one held their attention.

As a U2 fan, I was naturally drawn to this park, to see the namesake of their iconic eighties album cover. Incidentally, the tree which appears on the album, which is in a high remote area of the park, sadly has fallen. RIP. Nevertheless, U2 fan or not, the amazing beauty and unlikely fauna of this park are worth viewing in person.

entrance to hidden valley hike

The park is a popular climbing destination, and we saw several on our short hike. Its enormous granite boulders are ideal for serious climbers, and the smaller ones amused my children for a long time, as they tried to scale boulders while I closed my eyes and hoped for the best.

No trip to this park would be complete without driving up to the lookout for the San Andreas Fault at Keys View. You can see the fault line running through the middle of the Coachella Valley from this perch.

Parts of this park are so beautiful it’s hard to believe you aren’t looking at an elaborate movie set. A one hour’s drive from Palm Springs is the gateway to a strange and alluring oasis, a journey worth taking.

Canucks Vote Early and Vote Often

April 6, 2011 3 comments

An election is coming.  Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.  ~George Eliot, Felix Holt

My cup is overflowing. It is the time of year when I normally jump on our Vancouver Canuck bandwagon, as they head into the playoffs with flying colours; I paint my face blue and acquaint myself with the names of the players on their first line. But this year there is something else to brush up on: our federal election.

How I will slot in time to part my hair I’m not sure.

I normally avoid politics like the plague. It is as interesting to me as Jerry Springer, which is to say, it’s not at all interesting. I just can’t get excited about grown ups arguing over policy. It’s not like they are speaking openly and honestly about anything, they are speaking in order to win supporters. They are saying whatever will get them in power.

The last time I heard a politician compliment an opponent, or say something along the lines of “that is a great idea, I think Canadians will really benefit from your suggestion,” was, let me see, never.

They argue for the sake of arguing. It all seems futile. Like a game I used to play with my friend when we would each scream, and then vote about who screamed the loudest. Everytime, we voted for ourselves, no matter how lung curdling and impressive the result.

On our trip home last week from California, I spied a red election sign, soon accompanied by blue and orange ones. An election had been called in our absence, which not surprisingly the USA Today – delivered each morning – had not picked up, choosing instead to report about how beautiful people were happier than those less beautiful, and how a movement was afoot to ban children to their own separate section on airplanes, among other gems. It was like reading People magazine everyday, fine for a vacation, but far from reality.

I sat up straighter in my seat. The vacation was over, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Growing up, my father was a big proponent of exercising your democratic right to vote. It went something like, if you live in this house, you had better vote in every election you are privileged to live through. He was outspoken on this topic. Although his roots are Irish, his vehemency makes me wonder if also had some ties to Socrates.

And so as I spied those red, blue, and orange signs, I realized it was time to force myself to pay attention to what differentiated the parties at war. Sift through the rhetoric to determine what would match my best Canada. I know it won’t be pretty or fun and will certainly be frustrating, but it’s my small contribution to society.

And so, as I actually read instead of skip over the growing political section of the newspaper, I ask you this:  How about those Canucks?

I Put It In a Safe Place

April 4, 2011 8 comments

I put it in a safe place, that little piece of paper with the important information on it.

Of course, if I’d put it in my wallet with the other pieces of paper I got that day, I would have it in my hot little hands. But it’s not, because I wanted to put it somewhere extra safe. And now I can’t find it.

So I rack my brain, where is that place I deemed safe? I have torn apart my wallet, and it is not in any compartment. Nor is it in any crevice of my purse, although I did find my long lost lip gloss and an old piece of chewed gum in its wrapper. Sometimes, I stick things in the sides of my car door, but not this time.

Could I have stashed it in my jeans pocket for safe keeping, meaning to transfer it later? After rummaging through every pair of pants I could have worn that night, I come up with a crinkled movie ticket and an elastic, but not the piece of paper I was looking for.

Had it rained that night? Chances are it had, so I check the pockets of first my rain coats, and then every other possible option, including my ski jacket; although it most certainly wasn’t snowing. Nada. I must have stashed it in one of my trusty drawers, unfortunately there are many of these in my house. I should really do something about this.

Kitchen drawer? Utensil drawer? Basket under my island? Desk drawer? Sock drawer? Loose change drawer? Did I absentmindedly drop it in my daughter’s drawer? I open them with anticipation, and close them, crestfallen.

Did I use it as a bookmark? Grasping at straws, I rifle through the stack beside my bed, and then start on the magazines, but I’m starting to lose hope. I hit the recycling bin, but digging through the garbage yields nothing of importance, only paper cuts.

As I retrace my possible mysterious steps, I become more obsessed with finding the paper, not because of its worth, but because of the need to redeem myself, to show there was method to my madness. To prove to myself that safe places exist. Imagine what other treasures I will find there, assuming, of course, I find it.

The Flip Side of Archaic

April 1, 2011 3 comments

In the parental press box, I had become a dinosaur. For years, while others videoed their children using a device barely bigger than their palm, I scouted my surroundings for a power outlet to plug in my comparatively enormous camcorder.

Good things come in small packages, many will be heartened to hear, in the world of video cameras.

I’m excited.  My heart is beating a little bit fast, even though I am sitting here on my tush typing away on my computer. I have truly taken a giant step forward into the twenty-first century of technology. I bought a Flip video camera.

I realize these have been around for years, but they are new to me. I guess I have been so overloaded by the frenzy of Apple products, that I have overlooked this tiny video camera that is smaller and lighter than my Blackberry.

It fits in my back pocket better than my Blackberry, go figure.

It really is a crime that I have three kids who can be incredibly delightful at times, and yet an extremely outdated and limited capacity to capture their essence on video. Our former beast of a camera was one that required it to be hoisted on one’s shoulder, and would film for approximately five minutes before the battery lost power. Furthermore, it would record onto these tiny cassettes that are unplayable anywhere in the world but on your actual video camera.

As I charged our old behemoth in preparation for my daughter’s gymnastic competition, she begged me to not bring it. It was too embarrassing for her. Normally I would chide her for this, but this time I was relieved. It had crossed even my higher threshold for embarrassment. I gladly left it behind.

Only one of these will fit in my purse...

At the competition, a mother beside me pulled out what I thought was a tiny camera, but in fact was the Flip video camera. I immediately realized that all this time I had been mistaking this much heralded video camera for a still camera, since that’s what it looks like. And the Flip doesn’t actually flip. Maybe it did at one time in its life, but the latest models don’t require opening. They are ready to capture what’s happening in front of you, just push the red button.

The biggest advantage to the Flip is there are no tapes, cassettes, cords, or strings attached. You simply press a button and the USB connector flips out (ah, is that the namesake?) and you connect it to your computer to both download your videos and recharge your camera. So this is why YouTube has become so accessible.

If I sound like an advertisement, apologies, I wish Flip was paying me to write this but sadly they are not -I bought it for $150 at Target. I’m just excited that I can capture little moments in my kids lives without looking like I’m filming a segment for the evening news.

Where have I been all its life?