Hot days, cool nights

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

UGH! It’s hot. Too hot for April, right? I feel like every April I ask if it’s always this hot this soon. Then I remember that we live in the desert.

The good news? The evenings are still cool. It’s not August-hot yet– that’s the type of heat that seeps into the ground and bakes our houses. In August, it may get down to a freezing 90 degrees, at 3 a.m.

At least now we can enjoy the last vestiges of our spring weather.

Palm Desert is offering a series of free evening concerts to the public. The spring concerts are at the Civic Center Park amphitheater and attendees are encouraged to bring  food, chairs and blankets. There is plenty of room for kids to play, which makes it a great family activity. The concerts are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. The park is at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and Fred Waring Drive.

May 9: Bobby Sanchez Combo; 50s-style rock.

May 16: Jasmine Fields; new country.

May 23: Upstream; calypso music, dancing and fire eating (them, not you).

May 30: L.A.vation; U2 tribute band

 

From chaos, unity

People gather in Boston for a candlelight vigil following the bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon. Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

When television networks interrupt regularly-scheduled programming with frenetic music and the words “SPECIAL REPORT” glare boldly from the screen, my heart skips a beat.

“What now?” I wonder.

If my kids are sitting with me, I turn the TV off and go to the computer. I can’t have them watching scenes of traumatized school children or storm-wrecked homes or, most recently, innocent people crumpled on sidewalks, fighting to survive.

Or news coverage of a little boy who died while cheering his father across the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A father and son in the midst of completing entirely different races.

This week, once again, we were faced with the challenge of explaining how dark and awful things in this world can hurt and destroy the innocent things.

Because the Boston Marathon wasn’t a classroom, Monday’s bombing didn’t send a hush over my kids’ school campus the way the Sandy Hook massacre did. The younger kids didn’t come home with questions.

At home my husband and I were careful to speak in whispers of media updates and theories and I kept the front page of yesterday’s newspaper folded in on itself, but my oldest– 10 next week– still knew something was wrong and asked what happened.

I considered his question carefully and in that moment I thought of our evening tradition.

Tucked between my kids’ hurried baths and their bedtime stories we each share what our mountain top (best part) and valley (worst part) of our day was.

One of my favorite quotes is by Billy Graham and it says, “The view is beautiful from the mountain tops, but the fruit is grown in the valley.”

We want our kids to take all those valleys, those things that were embarrassing, awful, hurtful, stressful and hard, and learn from them.

What’s our take-away when we go through the hard stuff? How can we do it differently next time? Can anything good come from it?

That all crossed my mind when I explained, in limited detail, that there is a famous marathon and while people were cheering for runners there were two explosions and a lot of people were injured. I told him that the good guys would find the bad guys and that he was safe.

But I wanted to share the fruit– the good that was emerging from the very, very bad.

“So many people helped though,” I explained to him. “The ones who were able to help gave the shirts of their backs and pushed wheelchairs and opened their homes to people who couldn’t get to their hotels.”

I thought of the American flags that waved en masse following 9/11. Regardless of political affiliation, sexual orientation, race or gender, together we were all one nation.

Again, we stand united.

That’s the fruit. The coming together of people, the laying aside of differences.

The helping, selflessly.

From chaos, unity.

I told my son that.

“Let’s just think about that part of it,” he wisely said to me.

I nodded, proud of my boy.

 

Suggestions from an expert:

Brent Cooper, a licensed educational psychologist in Palm Desert, Calif,. suggests shielding young children from news coverage following tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings. Be honest and sensitive, but don’t give too many details or visuals, Cooper said. Take age into account and explain in a way that’s easy to understand.

“Parents can be anxious and project their own fears on to their kids,” Cooper said. “Kids pick up on that, so make sure to reassure them that they’re safe and protected.

Kids also tend to be very resilient. We’re afraid they’re going to fall apart, but they don’t,” he added.

 

 

 

Skip the wind and play inside

A shot of Mt. San Jacinto from the Desert Sun building, taken by Brian Indrelunas, digital editor.

Last night I went to sleep in the Coachella Valley in 2013 and awoke this morning to the Great Plains of the 1930s.

There is so much sand in my house that I’m thinking of getting some buckets and shovels so my youngest can play in it.

I should clean the floors, again, but I’m doing everything to avoid lugging my husband’s shop vac up the stairs. The broom is not cutting it.

I had tucked away a blog post idea about indoor activities for kids during the oppressive heat of the August desert, but I think today is a great day to throw a few suggestions out there.

I’ve collected most of these ideas over the years from brilliant moms, parenting magazines and most recently, Pinterest.

If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, check it out. You can search for just about anything and when you find something interesting– a recipe, craft idea, organizational tip– you can “pin” it to boards that you create and name. If you get really into it, don’t be surprised if you start hoarding Mason jars, nail polish and those little plastic tabs that close bread bags.

With Pinterest you can probably figure out how to decorate an entire wedding reception with an old wood pallet and a few yards of chevron-print fabric. And a candle.

I digress.

A simple Google search will net a lot of indoor activity ideas too.

Coloring, drawing, painting, fort building and play-dough are all great go-to’s.

You can also make a track on the floor with masking tape and kids can “drive” their cars around on it.

Balloon ball– which involves whacking balloons with pool noodles (seriously, you aren’t going in your pool today anyway)– is a hit (see what I did there?).

I bake often and this is great weather for baking. The wind may be making outdoor play impossible, but it is keeping the temperatures low– perfect for using the oven. My kids love to help pour ingredients, mix batter and break the eggs (into a gazillion pieces so I have to fish them all out) and baking is a good distraction.

My daughter, "brooming"

Toddlers and older children might like helping you vacuum and sweep, or “broom” as my daughter says. My daughter “broomed” for 20 minutes this morning and while it’s completely ineffective as far as cleaning up the sand, she was thrilled.

Be creative and have fun!

 

 

Coachella!

Photo by Debi Del Grande

It’s “all Coachella, all the time” in the valley until the festival comes to a close.

The valley is a bustle of activity with concert-goers settling in– locals may find traffic a bit congested and there are a lot more pedestrians than normal.

Since this is a blog geared toward families, a few things come to mind when I consider Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and kids.

First, parents taking their young children to the festival.

Full disclosure– I’ve never attended the event– but, I did live near the venue at one time and would see concert-going-parents and their toddlers shopping at the nearby grocery store.

I sort of feel like it’s perfectly fine to dress your 2 year old in a linen smock and vegan Toms and Instagram it, but not to drag him to Coachella Fest.

It’s loud, the crowds are massive, there is drinking…and stuff, and it can get really, really hot– weekend forecasts peg temps in the high-90s.

However, on the official Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival website, it is clear that children are welcome. “All ages” are listed as “OK.” The site also says that children 5 and under are free and strollers (for children!) are allowed.

As an aside, fanny packs are also on the “OK” list and I don’t think those are ever “OK.”

According to the camping rules, people under 18 must be accompanied by an parent or legal guardian. There’s even a lengthy explanation about becoming a minor’s legal guardian.

Teens across the valley look forward to the festival every year. My husband teaches high school and the topic of “Coachella” has been bouncing around the hallways for months.

Following the festival last year, The Desert Sun addressed the growing rate of absences in local high schools on the Fridays and Mondays sandwiching the festival.

The biggest problem?

April is state testing month for local districts. If teens are absent or exhausted, the test scores can be impacted. Granted, high school seniors don’t participate in state testing, but grades two through 11 do.

I have several years before I have to start worrying about my kids attending Coachella Fest. For now, I’ll just remind the teens who are going to drink a lot of water, wear plenty of sunscreen and for the love of all things fashion, do not wear a fanny pack.

 

 

 

 

Surviving the milestones

Our youngest-- and smallest-- at two days old.

I remember my first pregnancy like it was just yesterday. No sooner had I taken the pregnancy test when I declared that we were having a boy. I looked at those two purple lines and wondered how they’d twist and turn to form the map of his life.

It makes my heart ache to conjure up those memories because I blinked, and that baby will be 10 in a few weeks.

Sometimes, when I think back on my kids as babies and toddlers, it makes my breath catch because those days are gone and I can’t reverse time.

We had four kids in less than six years. People would always tell me to enjoy them when they were young because time goes by so fast. I would smile and nod, but I was so tired that a big part of me couldn’t wait for them to be older.

I’ll feel better when the baby sleeps through the night. Things will be much easier when she can feed herself. When he learns to dress himself, our mornings will be less chaotic. When they aren’t toddlers I’ll be able to get more done.

Motherhood is about seasons. In many ways, each one is better and more challenging than the one before it.

The exhausted mom of babies and toddlers will soon be the taxicab driver-mom of kids in extra-curricular activities and eventually, the mom worried about her teens making the right choices and driving safely. In time, she’ll be the mother anxiously waiting for the college acceptance letter and years down the road, the mother-in-law and the grandmother.

Motherhood, organized into seasons.

When my “baby” turns 10 this month, he’ll be a double-digit, never a single-digit again.

I look at my oldest daughter and think back to when she was 2. That entire year she walked around with one arm pulled out of the sleeve of her shirt and through the neck hole, because it looked “bettuh.”

I distinctly remember looking at the infant-version of my youngest son and wondering, “What will he be like when he starts school?” and figuring it didn’t matter because I had so much time until then. He’s almost done with kindergarten and I’m trying to gather up the last six years in my arms because the wind carried them off somewhere and I desperately want to hang on to the memories.

Our youngest, almost 5.

This year, during the last languid week of August, our youngest will march into her kindergarten classroom with her Disney princess backpack (already, the child knows what she wants), find her spot on the carpet and wave good-bye.

And I will stay until the last possible moment, hiding behind my camera, and smile at the other parents as I make my way to the car. And if I’m lucky I’ll make it home before the tears fall hard.

Of course I’ll volunteer in their classrooms and continue doing things with the PTO, but it won’t be the same without at least one kid home during the day.

I know I’m not alone in this. Schools across the valley are starting kindergarten registration this month.

Surely other local moms will find themselves in the coming weeks, filling out papers with a brave face, but grasping for their kids’ youngest days.

As we were heading out the door this morning for my daughter’s kindergarten physical, I got a call from the pediatrician’s office. Her appointment had to be rescheduled for Monday.

“Yes! Yes! That’s fine. No problem!” I nearly shouted over the phone to a startled nurse. I was relieved to put it off, even if it is just a few extra days.

I have a friend whose oldest will be 16 on Monday and another friend who is starting to wean her child off the pacifier. They’re both sad. Their babies aren’t babies anymore.

That’s what makes milestones triumphant celebrations, cause for reflection and painfully final.

If you’re a new mom and another mom tells you to enjoy your children while they’re young because time flies by, believe her. You may regret it if you don’t.

 

Important information for parents of soon-to-be kindergartners:

According to Senate Bill 1381, passed Sept. 30, 2010, eventually children will have to be 5 before entering kindergarten. The age-requirement is being drawn-back over time. If you are registering your child in kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year, they must be 5 prior to October 1, 2013. For the 2014-2015 school year, children must be 5 prior to September 1, 2014. Many California schools have established transitional kindergarten classes for children who won’t be 5 by the cut-off date. Check with your local district for more information.

 

 

 

 

Discover the Dinosaurs Exhibit

Julian Sanchez, 2, looks into the jaws of a dinosaur before having his photo taken at Discover the Dinosaurs during the traveling exhibit's March 9 stop in Houston at the George R. Brown center. Discover the Dinosaurs is a hands-on exhibit that consists of animatronic dinosaurs that give the opportunity to get close and touch the dinosaurs. / AP

A traveling dinosaur exhibit is scheduled to open tomorrow at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The interactive exhibit features 60 mechanical dinosaurs, scavenger hunts, face painting, mini-archaeological digs and more.

Information:

Time/date: noon-9 p.m., April 5; 10 a.m.-8 p.m., April 6;  10 a.m.-7 p.m., April 7.

Location: Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, Palm Springs

Cost: Adults, $17; Children, $20 or $12 for exhibit only; Seniors, $15.

Tickets can be purchased at the event or at www.discoverthedinosaurs.com.

 

 

Spring Break: relaxing, swimming and the dentist

One pair of cool glasses and zero cavities.

Spring break for my brood is over. My husband (a teacher) and our kids are back in school this week. Each year I’m shocked at how fast one week can pass. We don’t really go anywhere and this year we made an effort to stay home as much as possible.

We had a list of things to do around the house and the kids are content getting in and out of the pool 72 times a day, so we didn’t see any need to be constantly on-the-go.

The kids did have one unavoidable appointment during spring break though.

The dentist.

All four of them, at the same appointment (it was less horrific than that time a couple of years ago when I took all four of them for vaccinations, at the same time)

Kids’ dental exams and cleanings are necessary, but can be stressful. I’m anxious– what if there are cavities? They can be nervous, especially the youngest one who is slowly getting over a dentist-phobia. The last time we took her, she acted like the water squirter thingy was a snake ready to attack. Really? You’ll let them buff your teeth with gritty paste but water is totally off the table?

Since I took all four of them, my husband came with me– that’s why I made the appointment when he was off work– but I left the office feeling like I might be able to handle it solo next time, if I had to.

Any well-trained, knowledgeable dentist is a great option for kids, but according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, pediatric dentists are preferable.

Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of special training following the standard four year dental school program. According to the AAPD, pediatric dentists ”focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.”

Waiting for his turn.

Plus, pediatric dentists have super cool offices– not a must, but an added bonus since the decor may assuage a child’s fear or at least preoccupy them.

The AAPD gives some tips for successful dentist visits:

- Pick an appointment time that works in your child’s schedule, so not during snack or nap times.

- Tell your child what to expect and never use the word “hurt” (oops).

- Make it fun with books and positive stories.

- Let them have a bit of control– what toothbrush color they want, flavor of fluoride rinse, etc.

We told the kids they’d get a special treat if they were good during their appointment.

They were.

I didn’t feel right about giving them a piece of candy for behaving at the dentist– especially since “we” were completely cavity-free– so we took them out to lunch instead.

Next on the calendar is a kindergarten physical for our youngest. That one is sure to result in a lot of tears…mine.

 

 

 

 

“Bright Young Things” not such a bright idea

Underwear from the new "Bright Young Things" line at Victoria's Secret

Hey dads- are you cool with your 15-year-old daughter wearing a pair of thong underwear that says “I Dare You” across the front?

Those underwear, along with several other mature styles with cheeky sayings emblazoned across the front and back, are part of Victoria’s Secret’s “Bright Young Things” line. The line falls under the PINK umbrella, a collection of undergarments, bathing suits and clothing aimed at the 15-22 crowd.

Parents, bloggers and conservatives across the country are angry about the  underwear styles and concerned they’re just another way to sexualize young girls.

A misunderstanding is that “Bright Young Things” is aimed at tweens– 9 – 12-year-olds. I wasn’t able to find anything to support that.

But, the line is geared toward girls that still may be too young to wear such provocative undergarments.

This statement recently appeared on the Victoria’s Secret Facebook page:

“In response to questions we recently received, Victoria’s Secret PINK is a brand for college-aged women. Despite recent rumors, we have no plans to introduce a collection for younger women. ‘Bright Young Things’ was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition.”

However, the company’s own description of PINK is a line of clothing for young women 15 – 22-years-old. Then there’s this statement by Stuart Burgdoerfer, Victoria’s Secret’s chief financial officer:

“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

So the company has admittedly set its sights on teens, but probably not 9-year-olds.

Several online petitions are gaining names and momentum as the fervor over “Bright Young Things” grows.

The biggest question people are asking? Why is society trying so hard to over-sexualize girls?

As a mother of two young daughters, I can attest to the mature– and dare I say, tasteless– styles that I often come across when shopping for them.

It’s pretty common to find padded triangle bathing suit tops as small as size 8 (on average, that size would fit an 8-year-old), shorts for 4-year-olds with a 1″ inseam (yes, I’ve measured) and shirts that are sheer from the rib cage down.

Why?

Why do girls and young women need to dress like this?

I asked for my friends’ opinions on my Facebook page.

One friend, a mother of two from Bermuda Dunes, said this: “What gets me about this ‘modern feminism’ is that girls are being taught that their objectification is OK because they are the ones buying it (literally) and therefore ‘in control’ of their sexuality.”

Her comment made me think… if we’re supposed to be teaching our daughters that they are just as good as the boys, that they can do anything– be scientists, fight in wars, direct the Secret Service– why are we sending the message that flaunting their bodies is the best way to get noticed?

I want my daughters to feel beautiful because they’re smart and witty and creative. Because they are bright, not because they are “things,” and definitely not because their bottoms are hanging out of their shorts.

I don’t want any part of that “magic” and my husband and I are raising our daughters not to want it either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Break Fun

Spring break is fast approaching and a lot of parents are looking for things to do with the kids and ways to keep them entertained over the break.

Here is just a small sampling of what’s out there. If you know of valley events and activities that are family-friendly, please feel free to post them in the comments section.

 

 

– Spring Spectacular; 10 a.m. – noon, March 23; free

Southwest Community Church; 77-701 Fred Waring Drive

Music, food, bounce houses and an egg hunt with 20,000 eggs.

– Cambria Easter Eggstravaganza; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., March 23; free

Cambria Studio; 42210 Cook Street, Ste. M, Palm Desert

Food, egg hunt and Easter bunny.

– 15th Annual Libraries are Fun Festival; 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., March 27; free

Palm Desert Library; 73-300 Fred Waring Drive

Franklin Haynes Marionettes and Skippy Jon Jones will be on hand.

– Eggstravaganza; 10 a.m. – noon, March 30; free

This three-location event is hosted by Desert Recreation District and scheduled to take place at the Mecca Community Center, Bagdouma Community Center and Indio Community Center Park.

– Easter in the Park at The Living Desert; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., March 30; Free with park ticket

The Living Desert; 47900 Portola Avenue

Crafts, train rides, egg hunts and a visit from the Easter Bunny are planned.

– Easter Egg Hunt; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. March 30; Free

Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center; 11750 Cholla Drive, Desert Hot Springs

– Victory Kids Egg-Stravaganza; 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., March 31; Free

Victory Christian Center; 34500 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage

Face painting, jumpers, slides and contests.

– El Paseo Bunny Hop 5K Run/Walk; 7:30 a.m. March 31; $25-$35; benefits Family Services of the Desert; Registration required: (760) 288-7979.

– The Living Desert is also hosting ZooCamp for children, ages 4 – 14 during the weeks of March 25 and April 1; Information: (760) 346-5694 ext. 2501

– Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert is hosting day-long camps for children ages 5 – 9; 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. beginning March 25; $30 for members and $35 for non-members; 71-701 Gerald Ford Drive, Rancho Mirage; (760) 321-0602.

– Family YMCA of the Desert is hosting week-long camps for children, ages 6 – 13; beginning March 25; $140 – $150; 43930 San Pablo, Palm Desert; (760) 341-9622.

 

Caution: Teen Drivers

Something is definitely in the air.

The weather is warm, spring break is days away and summer vacation is right around the corner. High school seniors are in the home stretch and “senioritis”– the overwhelming desire 18-year-olds have to be out of high school– is at an all-time high.

As far back as I can remember, this is the time of year when teenagers are involved in tragic car accidents.

It’s been less than a week since Victor Regalado Jr., an 18-year-old Shadow Hills High School student, passed away after sustaining injuries in an auto accident. He was a passenger in a vehicle that was being driven by a friend. Authorities believe alcohol was a factor.

Regardless of the circumstances, the number of car accidents involving teens seems to grow as winter blooms into spring.

I was a teenage driver in the desert at one time. I remember riding in a friend’s Ford Fiesta on I10. We laughed as he took that dinky car up to 95 MPH, the windows rattling and the frame shaking. We were sober, but so, so stupid. If I ever heard of my kids driving like that, or riding with a driver who was being so reckless, I’d be irate.

My oldest isn’t 10 yet and I’m already worried about the block of years when all four of my kids will be teen drivers.

An article in USA Today looks at five recent traffic accidents in five states that combined, claimed the lives of 20 teenagers. Experts warn that the end of the school year with proms, graduations and vacations, may result in a heightened number of accidents.

The article, written by Larry Copeland, looks to parents to be hyper-aware of where their kids are going and who they’ll be driving with. Each of the five accidents involved teen drivers with teen passengers. Teen passengers, explain experts, raise the risk of teen driving accidents.

In California, drivers under 18 aren’t supposed to have minor passengers in their cars (there are some specific and strict exceptions to this rule).

Here is an excerpt from the California Driver Handbook, found on the Department of Motor Vehicles’ website:

Once you have your provisional driver license, you may drive alone, as long as you do not have any collisions or traffic violations.

When you become 18 years old, the “provisional” part of your driver license ends. You may keep your provisional photo license or pay a fee for a duplicate driver license without the word “provisional.”

During the first 12 months after you are licensed, you cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and you cannot transport passengers under 20 years of age, unless you are accompanied by a licensed parent or guardian, a licensed driver 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor.

Local roads this time of year are congested. Soon teens across the valley will be out of school for a week and flooding the roadways. They don’t have the experience that older drivers have and are often distracted.

Know your kids’ plans and please drive safely.