Thursday, April 24, 2008

You would never endanger your kids but it is ok to put yourself at risk

Adults expect children to do things to keep them safe, but don’t do those same things themselves. Who pays the price? There is this commercial done by the Canadian Red Cross that had me crying and trying to not throw up. It was that hard to watch, even now I feel ill thinking about it. Why, because it showed the truth. It shows this scene with two little kids in a rowboat, with life jackets on. The kids are sitting together holding each other. They have these unbelievable looks on their faces. There is a voice talking about how you would never endanger your children by letting them go out in a boat with out a life jacket on. Then it starts pulling out and you can see that there is no one in the boat with the kids. The voice then starts talking about how if you make your kids put them on why don’t you. I don’t remember the exact words because this horror started to fill me as I started to understand what was going on. The last scene you see is of two little defenceless children to small to row a boat or know what to do sitting in a boat in the middle of a large area of water. The scene ends just as you start to see their father floating face down just out of reach of the boat. What makes me sad is that even after seeing this commercial there are going to be people going out without their life jackets on and their kids get to see them die.

So you would never endanger your children but for some reason people think that they don’t have to keep themselves safe. You are not willing to do what you demand your children to do. I see it all the time. Parents with no life jackets on, or worse some times not on the little ones: even though it is against the law not to have them on. Then you see the same adults drinking as they relax out on the boat. That is always a bad mix. There are deaths related to drinking and boating every year, usually because the person did not put on their life jacket. There are always things we tell our kids not to do or to do to keep safe that adults just don’t seem to do. Bike helmets, why don’t people put them on? Are our heads harder then our children’s? I know that the watermelon demonstration is enough for me to put a helmet on and expect my kids to have theirs on. Seat belts, well it is the law but some people still don’t put them on. We usually find out when they are dead or in the hospital. It is ok to keep your kids safe, but at the same time to put yourself at risk so your not there for your kids. I just don’t understand this. I will not put myself at risk, I want to be a part of my kids lives not a memory.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good, old-fashioned fun for kids: Activities that don't involve TV or a computer

As parents we want to give our children every opportunity possible. If we have the money we enrol our children into after school and summer time activities. When we do not have the money it is much harder to involve our children in activities that don’t involve TV or computer. Even more so when our children are latch key kids and we don’t control what they do from the time they get home and we do. There are places that it is just not safe to let our children hang out. At the park with their friends, or even ride their bikes around the block. As parents we have the job of finding safe activities for our children that does not always involve TV or a computer.

The younger our children are the easier it is for us to expose them to all kinds of activates. They actually still like spending time with us. So we need to get them interested in some thing other then TV, video games and the computer. Most younger kids will prefer to spend time playing with their parents, siblings and friends then watching TV or being on the computer. So as long as we are willing to play with them and have activities to do it is easy to control younger children’s TV and computer usage. The best part is that as we spend more time with our kids playing and paying attention to them we will usually notice improvements in their behaviours. They are getting positive attention from us and will usually reduce negative behaviours they were using to get our attention. We also get to know our kids better, and they are learning so much just by playing with us or doing fun activities. It is a win win situation. The real question is what do 8 to 12 year old children like to do? You want activities they enjoy and be safe doing.

After school programs are wonderful for both boys and girls. Where we live there are programs for almost any thing you can think of; Karate or self-defence, dance, music or band, cooking, astronomy, 4H club, any sports, gymnastics, swimming, marching band, computer club, chess, even a go cart racing club. The options are only limited by location, availability of the program and money. There are quite a few programs that have a different price rate for lower income families, like our local recreational community centre and pool. They let us pay less to join and get our children into different programs. City Kids, YMCA, YWCA and many church groups also have free programs or are priced for lower income families.

For activities in the home parents have to find something their children like, and then be supportive and whenever possible participate with them. Here are some in home activities, please note that some will require adult supervision.

Games: board or others like the Yugioh card game.
Crafts and art: Sculpting with wire, clay or paper mache. Jewelry designing and making. Ceramics, painting, drawing, model making, and needle crafts.
Writing: Poems, stories, songs, or plays.
Designing clothing: learn how to make, alter or accessories clothing.
Cooking: from helping with a meal, making cakes and cookies to making the meal with adult supervision. Creating new foods, trying new foods can all be fun. This one also helps get kids to eat their vegetables and try new things.
Designing and building: Lego’s, building sets, wood or cardboard. Kits are great here, miniatures can add a lot.
Theatrical arts: Singing, dancing, learning to play a musical instrument, make plays and act in them, learning magic tricks.
Science: CSI kits, Spy kits, Chemistry kits are all great ways to stimulate children’s interest.

These are great activities that do not involve TV or a computer. They let our children grow and explore. Just right to keep our children entertained and safe. What is important is that we turn off the TV and the computer. If we want our kids to be doing something other then watching TV or being attached to the computer then we cannot tell them to not do it only to go do it ourselves. As hard as it is going to be we that adults have to also reduce our TV and computer time and do other things, and if we are luck it will be with our kids if they let us. What is the point of going to all the effort of finding what your kids like, set it up only to have you go sit in front of the TV or computer. That is not going to work. To keep our kids doing activities, we have to be setting a good example and become active ourselves.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

So who is standing outside your door, and how safe are you?

Today I had to think about how smart I am when it comes to me knowing verses using safety tips. What made me question it? My kids were looking out the window saying that some one was banging on our door. I looked out the window and called for my husband to come up from the basement. Then I opened the door, why, the guy had a uniform on and looked official. I was thinking that there was another problem with the water pipes like last weekend. It turns out he was one of those pushy sales guys that go door to door for Union Energy. He would not leave until my husband came up and said no thank you. James then asked me why I had called him. “There was a strange guy at our door, of course I want you to come up just in case.”

Then I thought about it. If it was dark I would not have opened my door, I would have talked through the door until I knew what the guy wanted. I know better then to open the door, today I failed the test. I opened it because I saw the official looking uniform, though I did not know what or who the guy was. Safety 101 you don’t open your door to strangers until you identify them and what they want, and sometimes you still check with the company if they want into your home. We teach this to our children, but I the adult did not follow a simple guideline. Just because it looks like a cop, UPS, flower delivery or pizza delivery does not mean the uniform is not a rental. If you are not expecting someone delivering something then are they lost or something else?

One of the most common ways thieves are able to walk around a neighbourhood looking for a home to break into is to have some type of uniform on. This way people don’t even give them a second glance. They must be there for a reason. It makes it easy to go to a door and see if anyone is home. If someone sees them going around the house looking for way to get in, they are just looking for a meter, or some damage or something. Though most people will not even think about checking why they are there. It is a great way to case a house or even break in if the opportunity is there.

Then you have the wonderful knowledge that they don’t care if you are home or not, if you open the door bam you have a home invasion. Now I don’t live in a rich area, and we don’t have a lot so I don’t think we have to worry too much about someone doing a home invasion. But at the same time we do know that there is a building with drug dealers about four blocks away. A person on drugs, or in need of drugs is not thinking clearly and will be happy to get enough money for the next fix. So who is standing at your door?

I am not trying to scare people, just make them more aware of simple things to try to keep our selves safer. If someone is at your door and is planning to rob you, they are also planning to hurt you. Otherwise they would break in when you are not home. Now most home invasions are a crime of opportunity. If you open the door they are in, if not they move onto the next home or apartment. If you are the target they are going to get into your home even if you don’t open the door, but at least the door will slow them down a little. At that point in time robbery is probably not the main crime on their minds and all you can do is try to get yourself and your family away from them and hopefully you have a cell to call 911.

What made my brain start thinking about this, the guy walked past our window about ½ hr later. Then about 20 minutes later the police were out in the back looking around all the homes and seemed to be looking for clues. The timing just made me think about how stupid I had been for opening the door to a stranger, in uniform or not.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The influence of alcohol on teen life

Alcohol can be found just about any place. It is in the corner store, our homes, in restaurants, on TV and in the movies. Drinking for the most part is shown as a social activity, something you do to have fun and fit in. There are scenes of underage drinking in a large number of movies and some TV shows. Advertisers tie alcohol with looking good, popularity and sexuality. The first alcoholic drink is also seen as right of passage, going from childhood to adulthood. We even give our kids non-alcoholic versions of our drinks. With all this positive imagery of alcohol, what is the influence of alcohol on teen life?

Drinking alcohol is perceived to be a positive non-harmful social part of being an adult. All teens want to be seen as adults, drinking is doing something reserved for adults, so by drinking you are doing something an adult would do. It is also an easy way to rebel, you don’t think I am an adult so I am going to drink to show you how much of an adult I am. This lets them do some thing that is against the rules but at the same time an adult thing to do. Teenagers will often boast about how much they drank showing how much of an adult they are. Other teens turn to alcohol to escape the reality of their lives, be it pain or boredom. Once a teenager has a drink it is easer to take the next one. They get a quick buzz and it feels good, they think they are having the best time ever. Drinking becomes associated with having fun, and soon drinking becomes the fun.

Being able to provide alcohol to friends and at parties can improve a teens social standing, they are seen as being more mature and are popular because they have the alcohol. People say that drinking will relax you, loosen you up, and let you have more fun. So a shy teenager will drink to feel more sociable, a teenager with low self-esteem will drink to feel more popular or to just fit in and others will drink just because everyone else is. Also it is not a lot of fun being sober around a bunch of drunks, it is easer to have fun with them when you are drunk to. Yes all teenagers understand that there is a legal age that they can go to bars and drink alcohol. At the same time though they see themselves as adults and don’t understand why they cannot drink alcohol legally. It becomes a challenge or a game to beat the system, to get fake ID and get into bars or clubs, or buy alcohol at the corner store. If you can get away with it then you are proving how much of an adult you are. Your actual age is not that important, what you can get away with is.

Drinking alcohol is a status symbol when you are a teenager. Though fortunately the idea of drinking responsible is also reaching teenagers. It is not cool to drink and drive. Unfortunately drinking competitions are still popular, the more you can drink the better. In some cases the faster you can chug a beer is what is seen as being the best. This leads to drinking until you pass out and in some cases get alcohol poisoning. It is easy to see how teenagers can quickly become alcoholics. Alcohol is seen as positive, is easy to get, does not cost too much and gives you a quick buzz. It is a quick fix for any social problems. You did not get the girl, have a drink and it will not matter anymore, or the drink will give you courage to ask another girl out. You don’t dance very well, have a drink and you will not care what you look like on the dance floor. Having a hard time with school or work, drink and forget. It is what some adults do, so it must be ok. Besides drinking is fun and sociable.

Once a teenager becomes an alcoholic things change. They tend to drink all the time, and as great as they think they are when they are drunk the truth is they are not that great to be around when every one else is sober. They start loosing their friends, and tend to drift to other teenagers using alcohol or drugs. Teenage drunks have the same problems as adult drunks. They drink lots, loose friends, drop grades, loose jobs and turn to alcohol or drugs to feel better. It just gets worse and worse until something changes, ether things get so bad someone steps in or they seek help themselves.

There is a lot of pressure on teenagers to drink. Being able to say, “No I cannot drink or do any drugs, my parents randomly test me for drugs and alcohol” takes all the pressure off any teenager. Some times that is all it takes, a parent taking the option away until they feel the teenager is able to make their own informed decisions and are able to deal with alcohol responsibly. Like when they reached the legal age to drink.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why get a Credit report for your child?

I was watching the Montel show about identity theft and learned something new today. Sure I used to laugh when my husband would save our mail and shred it, I don’t now. I never thought about my credit or getting a credit report at all, let alone every 6 months. Check my bank account and credit card balance at least once a day, why would I do that, I knew what I spent. Cut the pin code off of an old credit card and dispose of it at a latter date, what cutting the card in half was not enough? My husband is having the last laugh now, because what he has always done is what we need to do now to keep our identity and credit for ourselves.

Over the years I have learned how to protect myself from fraud and identity theft. Why because I was victim of fraud and did not know for three years. I ended up having to declare bankruptcy after spending over five years trying to get my money back and clear up debts that were not even mine. I will have to spend years rebuilding my credit because I trusted the wrong person. My ability to give my children what they need has been limited by someone’s greed. I was lucky that the person only took my money, stock from my business and my trust. At this point in time I believe my identity is my own, but that may change as I rebuild my credit. I don’t know how much of my information he took as he had access to everything. It may be just a matter of time before I suddenly have credit cards and bank loans I never took out. I don’t know if he sold my information to others or not. It is just a matter of keeping an eye on things and hoping that if nothing has been used in the last seven years nothing will.

So I do everything I can to make sure that I don’t get taken again. However, I never thought to get a credit report for my kids. Today I learned that if someone has a SIN # they are at risk. Even a two year-old can have a credit card issued or a bank loan. There are quite a few cases where parents used their kid’s information to get credit cards and loans and years latter the kids had to deal with the consequence. I would never do that and I never thought about someone else using my children’s information to get credit. It took me a bit to rap my head around the idea of someone destroying a child’s credit, their ability to get a loan to go to collage, or get their first car, or their first apartment. That is just evil, but then they don’t care about anyone but themselves. We as adults need to protect our children and grandchildren as well as ourselves.

So what can you do to protect your children? Get a credit report for your children and yourself every 6 months. Your childs credit report should be that there is nothing to report. If you can join something like lifelock, an identity and fraud protection company. I only know about that one from their ads, I am sure there are other companies out there. See if they have a plan for children or a family rate. Protect your children’s information as you do your own. Shred your mail, have a mailbox with a lock and do not give information out. Treat information as a valuable resource that can be used against you, protect it or destroy it before someone uses it. We want to protect our kids from everything we can and now we just have to add this to the list.

PS: I have just been informed of Identity Theft Shield provided by Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. for Canadians. Information about this can be found at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gift ideas for the bridesmaids and maid of honor

Your friends are there for you, as you get ready for the big day. They are going to be right there with you as go from bride to wife. You want some way to thank them for being there, interrupting their lives for fittings and rehearsals. You have just spent the last weeks if not months preparing for your wedding. Now you need to come up with the right gifts for your bridesmaids and maid of honor.

Personal gift are the best. These are your friends and family, you know them well and should be able to find each one a personal gift to say thank you. This does take more time, and can be more expensive then giving everyone the same gift. It is nice to be able to give some thing that each person will appreciate and enjoy and lets them remember your wedding. Often a small token is more appreciated if time has been put into it to make it special to the person receiving it then a uniform expensive gift that everyone receives.

Cost and time are always deciding factors in buying gifts. A small token is perfectly fine and appreciated and so is going extravagant if you have the budget for it. It is a lot of fun to spend time finding the right thing for your friends. I can spend a lot of time gift hunting. Often times you can find some great pieces or gifts in local shops and malls. However if you don’t have a lot of time, shop on the Internet. This lets you find thousands of gift ideas in all price ranges. This will save you time and the items you pick will be delivered to you

1) Jewelry is the most common thank you gift, and is often worn at the wedding. There are some wonderful sterling silver pendants, chains, earrings and brooches that will fit any budget and it is easy to find individual pieces for each person all in the same price range.

2) Gift basket or bag with a mix of items is the next popular thank you gift. These can be made to fit any budget. Often gift baskets will have specialty food items, coffee, tea or an alcoholic beverage, candy, some sort of memento like a mug, wine glass, or vase, some times jewelry, gift certificates, perfume, personal care products like body cream, bubble bath, etc. What is great about gift baskets is that you can put whatever you want in them. Very easy to fit your budget and have each basket designed for each person. It is also very easy to match the look of the basket with the look of your wedding with the use of color and flowers. If you have the time to make them yourself it can be a lot of fun, however if you don’t then there are 100’s of places that will make them up for you, both local and online.

3) Find a local artist to make something for each of your bridesmaids and maid of honor. As there are often many different types of artists that work in many different mediums this opens up a lot of unique one of a kind gift ideas. I like the individually handcrafted pottery. This can be dish sets, a unique serving bowl, vase, or just about anything. There are some wonderful sculptors, painters, and even musicians who would love to make something for you to give as gifts, either all unique or a matched set. Don’t forget the local crafters who also make the unusual and one of a kind pieces. There are usually a few stores that carry local crafters work, or local craft shows to go to. I have seen some wonderful handcrafted unique jewelry at craft shows, and I know that you can often have the crafter make a set for each person, or the same set for each person in your bridal party. Some crafters will even have their own online store so you are not always limited to local talent.

4) Gift certificate to a spa or a treatment at a spa is a good way to go, very appreciated after several days of stress and hard work. There are many price ranges available. You can give a pedicure or manicure at a reasonable cost. Or you can go as far as the full spa day treatment if your budget allows and any thing in between.

5) A sitting with the professional photographer for a portrait or family picture just for them is a wonderful way to say thank you for helping you on your wedding day. This is some thing that most people do not think to give themselves Often you can get a good deal if you use the same photographer for the wedding and each of the bridesmaids and maid of honour pictures. It can all be arraigned as you arrange for the wedding pictures. What is great about this is that the pictures can often be taken on the same day as the wedding when every one is already dressed up and having fun or you can make arraignments with the photographer for individual studio sittings.

6) No matter what the gift is, what is appreciated and most often kept, usually with the wedding photos, is the thank you card with a hart felt handwritten note from you to them.