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Advice/Info/Links for Solo Moms

 

Want wise and warm solo mom advice? See Dian Larkin's column ... Ask Solo Momma

Plus, updated, up-to-the-minute ideas, listings and stats, linking you to great solo parenting resources!

Scroll down to read all, or click on ... Park Experiences for All Ages ,.. Facts on Grandparents Traveling with Kids ... Safeguarding Web Choices. ... Don't Lose Things! .... 9 Mistakes to Avoid with Baby ... Getting an Online Degree ... Summer Family Tours/Ideas/Deals ... Links to Specialty Camps ... Family Cruises ... Dozens of the Best Aquariums & Zoos! ... Just for Kids: Books, Movies, and Fun Get-Aways!  ...

 

 

Ask Solo Momma!

 

 

Any ideas for Halloween, Dian? -- Lea, The Solo Lady

Halloween is SCARY, Unless It’s Safe.

Of course I have ideas! Halloween is possibly the most purely fun holiday we have. What’s not to love about lots and lots of chocolate, skeletons, ghosts, clanking chains, gravestones, cauldrons, spooky music, costume parades, superheroes, princesses, Jack-O-Lanterns, and so much more? Our creativity really gets a chance to shine. I recollect my all-time favorite costume – a woman dressed up as a fully laden tea table, including china teacups, teapots, and all the fixin’s.

If you want to avoid the street goings-in, consider ditching the traditional Trick-R-Treat for a Halloween alternative:

*Throw your own Halloween party (visit www.kid-party-ideas.com and www.yankeehalloween.com for party games and suggestions) – don’t forget the piñata!

* Take part in the Halloween parade most towns organize, and skip the night-time events.

* Coordinate a neighborhood block party, or a church / temple Halloween bash;

* Organize a “mentor” face painting contest – high school or college kids painting younger kids in the school gym or your own basement, serve spooky refreshments (visit www.kitchenlink.com/halloween.html for recipes);

* Take your show on the road: call on a senior residence or children’s hospital in full costume regalia with as large a group as you can gather. Everyone benefits.

If you do take part in the doorbell-ringing street festivities, remember ’s not all fun and games. The American Red Cross reminds us that safety is first on Halloween, as always! Read these easy safety tips before you hand out your first treat, escort your little ones through the neighborhood, or allow your older kids out alone; visit www.redcross.org (search ‘holiday safety’ and ‘Halloween safety’), and www.lafd.org/hween.htm   for more information. Once you guarantee Halloween safety, Halloween fun follows.

Supervised Children:

* Secure emergency I.D. (name, address, telephone) into a pocket in your little one’s costume or treat bag. Show your little Cowboy where this information is and explain that he’ll need it if he accidentally gets separated from the group.

* Take cell phones or walkie-talkie with you. If practical, plant one on your pretty Princess, and show her how to dial your number or answer if you call her.

* Avoid sight-hampering costume face masks. Opt for non-toxic face paint instead.

* Only knock on doors with porch lights on.

* Do not go into stranger’s homes (ever!) and use care with strange animals.

*Adhere reflective tape to every reasonable surface on your child’s costume.

*Carry flashlights with fresh batteries – LED lights are the brightest and most compact,

* Set them off stylin’ with florescent accessories, like glo-stick bracelets and necklaces – safe and fun.

* Remind all kids to stay with the group, and have a back-up plan in the event one gets separated. Count heads regularly.

* Teach children 9-1-1.

Older kids:
Know where your kids are going:

*What route they are taking.

*Who they will be with.

*Talk to other parents.

* Insist on the buddy system – no one walks alone on Halloween! Have an adult tag along if possible. Otherwise, groups are best. Remind the kids to stay together.

*Set a curfew and make sure the kids have watches.

*Get cell phone numbers for the group of kids, and their parents.

*Make sure your child has a charged cell phone, and that it’s turned on.

* Halloween is temptingly referred to as mischief night. Openly and clearly discuss expected Halloween behavior prior to the start of the fun. Remind your child to bail out of the party if someone suggests mailbox smashing or similar destructive ‘mischief’. Let them know you are relying on their good judgment and decision making abilities.

* Safety first: No bike riding or skateboarding. Remove scary, creepy, vision limiting masks to cross streets. Otherwise, the same general safety rules for little guys apply to older kids. Older kids may argue against flashlights & reflective tape rule. Insist. These accessories may be un-cool, but getting hit by a car is far less cool!

 * “Toy” guns look real at a casual glance, and people are jittery today. Mark your child’s toy weapon with black permanent marker “this is a toy – not a real gun.”

* Traffic rules are not suspended! Even in Halloween’s street carnival atmosphere, traffic rules rule– stay on sidewalks; cross in groups at cross walks; look both ways.

Costume Safety:

* Look for flame resistant labels on purchased costumes – even with that label Halloween costumes can be dangerously flammable – use extra care and teach your kids about the danger. A little awareness goes a long way on Halloween (and every day)!

* Refresh the STOP, DROP & ROLL procedure in case the worst does happen.

* Trip hazards – pin or cut costumes so they are safely secured and will not tangle the feet or knees.

* Make sure shoes fit well and comfortably.

Treat Safety:

*Grown-ups inspect treats before they are consumed.

* Toss anything opened or otherwise suspect.

* Small, hard candies are choking hazards for little ghouls and goblins.

Generally:

* At your own home eliminate trip hazards (toys, flower pots, branches, wires, hoses) and make sure visitors can see well – I turn every light on and open the front door wide.

*Halloween – the holiday season kick-off – is a good time to run maintenance on your home smoke alarms.

*If you’re the one manning the door for revelers, segregate your house pets. Halloween noises and activity will confuse them. Agitated animals underfoot will dampen your own fun.

* Refresh your CPR skills, just in case.

* Notify law enforcement immediately if you witness any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Join in the fun! I love to hand out treats dressed as a gypsy witch with spooky background music at full volume – come and get a treat from me if you dare!

Have a holiday story, idea or problem? Please email us!

Have a HORRIBLY Safe Halloween!
Yours Creepily,
The Solo Momma

*****

I get overwhelmed because nothing I plan to do seems to work. As a single mom I find it especially difficult to function without plans. Any suggestions? -- Mary B, Boston

Plan to Succeed

Planning often seems like a fairy tale goal when it comes to parenting. We can’t plan our children’s nature. We accept, love and deal with our kids the way they are. And the name of the parenting game is flexibility. Someone throws up, loses their baseball glove or lets the gerbil loose as you’re walking out the door, already 10 minutes late. Who can focus on detailed long-range planning? Day to day planning is the best we can do – birthdays, work, vacations, play dates, sports and orthodontic visits are enough for anyone.

However, planning in a broader and larger sense is an essential component to conscious success, and therefore an essential component to conscious parenting.

What do you plan for your life to look like –specifically – in 5 years, in 10 years, from now? Who, what and where will you be?

What would you like your child’s life to look like 20 years from now? Think beyond her immediate sports schedule, his academic, material and external success alone. Remember that True Success is measured by internal fulfillment and external contribution© and not only about paychecks, prestige or what the neighbors think. What sort of relationships would you like your child to have in his life in 20 years? What character traits? How will she connect with, and fulfill, her passions and purpose?

Many adults look back over their lives and realize they more or less stumbled along, hoping for the best, with little or no conscious planning. Who are you, who do you to be, and how can you get there from here©.
 
Because life is, in fact, what happens when we’re looking the other way, and because we don’t want to miss out on our dreams, planning is central to life; and central to parenting.

The certified experts who teach planning and other success skills at The Dale Carnegie Institute tell me there are several critical stages to planning:
Ultimate goal – be as clear, as detailed and as specific as possible.
Component goals – your ultimate objective is comprised of lots of moving parts. List all the pieces that make up the pieces – this is the “how do I get there from here” part.
Time Line – do you have a day, a week, or 6 years to accomplish the overarching goal? Break component goals into time frames too. What must be done, by whom, when?
Action Steps – what have you accomplished towards this goal already; what do you have to do next; what gets done after that? Precision and detail count.
Assess and Adjust – Regular reality checks are a must. Measure your progress against your timeline, make adjustments and tweaks.
Consider impediments, “what ifs” and potential obstacles; draft a “Plan B” and decide what you will do if “X” occurs.
Write it down. Don’t just ‘think about it’ – that’s too loose, too vague. The tighter, more detailed – more clear – your plan, the higher the level of success.

Involve your children in the planning process, be it planning retirement goals (yours, theirs, or both); college prep; getting a dog; trying out for the soccer team; or a family vacation. This is critical modeling – you’re demonstrating process and imparting essential, concrete success tools.

Learning to clearly visualize and express your dreams, hopes and desires; and translating them into written objectives and goals; is a vital life process. Planning requires vision; strengthens passion and determination; enhances communication skills; and develops a firmer connection to oneself and to the outside world. In-depth planning builds discipline and patience; develops internal insight and external problem solving skills; teaches action-based optimism and faith; and leads to success. You can accomplish any dream – as long as you plan it!

Most people don’t in-depth plan their lives out – due to fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being told ‘you can’t” by the world or by a significant person. Shove that aside and reach for the stars – just add clarity and strategy.

As John Lennon said; “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Pete Johnson, Poor Man’s College, says: “[Planning is] a style of thinking, a conscious and deliberate process, an intensive implementation system, the science of insuring FUTURE SUCCESS.” And Winston Churchill reminds us: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Don’t leave your one and only life to chance or happenstance, and don’t let your kids do that either. Make your dreams a reality! Be awake and engaged in your own life. Plan where you and your children are going next on this journey called life. You’ll be amazed at the results.

*****

Praise Right

I get tired of watching moms overdo praise for their kids. As a single mom I am often tempted to join in. But I'm trying to be authentic. Any comments? -- Belinda, White Plains NY

You're on to something Belinda. By the time The Wall Street Journal published The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work (April 20, 2007) the business world was already in shock. Author Jeffrey Zaslow describes the messy clash between the business world and this generation of “me first” kids.

Kids today are shocked when they don’t get bonuses, and their bosses are angry at having to explain bonuses are for extra work accomplished – not just for showing up.

In our quest to ensure no one “feels bad,” we’ve dragged our kids down to the lowest common denominator. Our kids today are praised more for doing less. On the other hand, we’ve placed different, higher, achievement stresses on our kids. In grade school they must play more sports, and in high school take more APs. To compensate for the extra stress, and to keep the praise flowing, we hover over them, we fix their mistakes for them, we even do their homework with, often for, them.

So….when the 4th grade class is building “Explorer” boats – think twice before you buy the grandest boat kit you can find, and ship it off to grandpa the boat builder for construction. Not only are you teaching that cheaters do prosper, but how does your child really feel inside when she passes the boat off as hers? We’re winning the battle but losing the war with these tactics.

Kids know true from false – often better than we do. When they receive praise they did not earn, they know it. Contrary to making them feel better, it makes them feel worse. We sabotage the very self-esteem we are trying to build. Worse, our kids grow into needy praise junkies – dependent on praise to feel ok. They don’t develop the internal compass that leads to true success.

Do praise your kids – praise them 100 times a day, just be sure to attach praise to something meaningful. Self-esteem is built by doing esteem-able things.

Use praise to support character traits, values and behaviors you want to encourage. “You studied hard for that math test, and look, you got a better grade than last time. Your effort paid off. That’s great!” and “I was so happy when you put your arm around your crying friend. I love your compassion,” or “I’m proud of you getting your homework done every night. Your responsibility, discipline and commitment will serve you well,” or “It makes me happy the way you practice an hour of baseball every day. That determination means you’re a winner!”

Use praise to encourage curiosity, vision and passion “I notice you ask good questions about everything. You’re a curious little girl who wants to know more. That’s wonderful!” or “It seems to me you really love to make up stories – you’re a storyteller! You could be a writer or a filmmaker. Everyone loves a good story!”
 
Since your kid is not the most important person in the world, do teach her manners, and teach him to demonstrate a deep respect for everyone, all the time. Being respectful earns respect, which in turn builds solid self-esteem.

Over-praised children – children who never face the consequences of their own actions; children whose moms edit their term papers and do their homework; children who do not make decisions for themselves – do not, as adults, fly high. They can’t. They weren’t raised to.

We don’t get bonuses and trophies in life just by showing up on trophy day. We earn privileges and perks. Allowing your kids to learn that now is a gift for life.

*****

Am I the Only Solo Mom Around?

I feel terrible that my son is the only one in his preschool class with a solo mom. I'm surprised, and wonder if this is normal. Solo mom in Cleveland

You are not alone! In fact, according to a study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, only 63 percent of American children grow up with both parents — the lowest figure in the Western world!

I figure that as the years pass, many more solo moms will appear in your son's class. You didn't say how many are in that class, but never fear, the number will grow. Meanwhile, make your son feel that your love is more than enough.

*****

My Daughter's a Slob!

The youngest of my two girls is a free spirit, creative and cool. And a slob. The trail of dirty clothes, dirty dishes, papers and stuff that follows her through the house makes me scream, literally. Her mess and inconsiderate behavior throws the entire house into dysfunction (my oldest daughter hides out alone in her own neat room, and cleaning up after my youngest exhausts and infuriates me). I've yelled, threatened, even cried, but my daughter ignores me. A child psychologist I know said, "It will take years to change her behavior," but I need help now. Cathy V., PA.

Hi Cathy. I'm glad you aren't minimizing this. Being a slob may seem like a comparatively small thing. So your daughter's a little messy – all creative free spirits are, right?

Wrong. Even cool and creative people need to learn respect, discipline and rule following, and that includes picking up after oneself.

A couple I know just divorced, due, in large part, to the husband's slovenly ways; and my son's roommate will soon be out in the cold (literally, they live in Vermont). The rest of the household is fed up with the roommate's inconsiderate, downright dirty, habits.

You need to lessen your workload; your household needs less chaos; and your daughter needs more self-discipline. Model your parenting along the "authoritative" lines discussed below, and clean things up!

Lay down the law; establish rules and expectations and explain why they are necessary. Clearly outline consequences for lapses (and there will be lapses, particularly at first). Ensure the punishment fits the crime. Unreasonable or difficult-to-enforce punishments will likely be dropped, whether or not the behavior changes.          

Then follow through – quietly, calmly ... And consistently.

We can't scream at a child for disobeying a rule one day, and laugh about the same infraction the next day (www.child.com, "Bring Out the Best in Your Child").

When making changes in your single parent household, consider the following research:

Permissive parents lose. Permissive parents may believe they are encouraging their children, but one of life's little ironies is that children thrive and grow best within a framework of structure and rules.Research consistently demonstrates that kids who internalize discipline, respect and deferred gratification are more successful and happy as adults than kids without these character traits.

Going further, a recent study led by Catharine Montgomery, Liverpool John Moores University, England, finds that teens raised by permissive parents are more likely to use dangerous drugs, and less likely to abide by curfews or other important parental controls.

Authoritative parents win. Researcher Diana Baumrind made parenting history with her landmark(www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc/parentingstyles.html) determination that "successful parents" -- those whose children exhibit desirable character traits and high confidence levels -- are typically "authoritative" parents (distinguished from the less successful "authoritarian" parenting style).

Authoritative parents encourage questions, are warm, respectful and highly communicative towards their children on the one hand, while maintaining control over and expressing high expectations of their children on the other. In authoritarian single parent homes, everyone provides feedback and input, but at the end of the day it's mom who decides what's what -- and the kids listen.

And yes, authoritarian parenting is the most hard work for beleaguered single moms, but it's well worth the effort. Rules and high expectations, lovingly and respectfully imposed, nurture kids and allow them to expand.

You can help your daughter change this selfish behavior, and your entire household will benefit. She'll thank you some day…okay … maybe she won't thank you, but your single parent family will be happier!

***

Dian Larkin, our own Solo Momma, is an attorney, writer and single mother of three. She is founder of Whole Person Parenting, providing parent coaching, family mediation and free parenting skills workshops.

Do you have a single mom problem, or a single mom family idea or experience to share with our single parent community? Write to "Ask Solo Momma" at sololady@sololady.com You can also use our blog spot and message board for feedback, comments, questions, or other input on parenting problems.

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How To Pick the Right Park Experience for Your Family

For every family, there is a perfect national park vacation. Choosing the right experience, however, requires a bit of planning and research as well as factoring in family dynamics such as age and fitness level. So here you are, solo moms -- our choices for some of the best parks for different ages.

“National park vacations are all about making memories, and even young children can have positive experiences they will remember for a long time,” said Judi Lages, vice president of sales & marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts. “Some park experiences are perfect for families with older children while others call out to families with high-energy youngsters. And within most parks there are a wide variety of experiences from which to choose.”

Xanterra operates lodges, restaurants, gift shops, tours and other activities in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Everglades, Petrified Forest and Bryce Canyon National Parks and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Here are some suggestions:

Families with very young children (five and under):

  • ·   Even the little ones will enjoy the Old West Dinner Cookout in Yellowstone National Park. Horse-drawn wagons carry visitors through sagebrush flats to the cookout site while wranglers tell stories about the Old West. Guests enjoy a hearty buffet-style meal while listening to a cowboy sing Western ballads. Dinner and the horse-drawn wagon ride is priced at $55 for adults and $44 for children between five and 11. The ride is free for younger children if they share an adult’s plate. (Reservations: 1-866-GEYSERLAND; 1-307-344-7311.)
  • ·   The Volcano Boat Cruise Tours at Crater Lake National Park can also be enjoyed by families with very young children. This guided tour of Crater Lake lasts one hour and 45 minutes. A steep 1.1 mile hike is required to get to the boat launch, so adults should be prepared to carry little ones. At 1,945 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest and clearest lake in the country. It is surrounded by lava walls up to 2,000 feet high. In 2007, the boat cruise tours were priced at $25.50 for adults, $15 for children between three and 11 and free for children under three years old. Pricing for the 2008 summer season will be announced soon. Tickets for boat tours can be obtained upon check-in at the Crater Lake Lodge or Mazama Village. (Hotel Reservations: 1-888-77-4CRATER; 1-888-774-2728.)
  • ·   Ice cream. Many adults will tell you some of their first and most vivid childhood memories are about food. The “Monumental Scoop” of ice cream at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is practically enough to feed a family of four on its own. The hand-dipped or soft-serve ice cream is served in the Memorial Team Ice Cream station, named in honor of the baseball team formed by Mount Rushmore carvers. Other fun places to enjoy a national park ice cream cone: Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, the Bright Angel Fountain Bar in Grand Canyon National Park and the Painted Desert Oasis in Petrified Forest National Park.

Families with children between five and eight:

  • ·   Most children are fascinated by trains, and the Grand Canyon Railway ride to the Grand Canyon gives kids a chance to experience a real train ride, be entertained by the pre-train “wild west shootout” and see the Grand Canyon all in one day. Prices for round-trip train travel begin at $35 for children between two and 12 years old and $65 for adults. (Reservations: 1-800-THE-TRAIN; 1-800-843-8724.)
  • ·   What kid wouldn’t just love to blow something up and not get into trouble for it? Children stand in line for the chance to virtually “blow up” Mount Rushmore at the National Park Service Visitor Center. The interactive exhibit features a plunger that can be pushed down to trigger a perfectly timed video of an actual Mount Rushmore sculptor’s dynamite-driven explosion. Although the Park Service clearly designed this interactive feature for children, it is not uncommon to see Dads – and the occasional Mom – stand in line for their turn to blow up the mountain.
  • ·   The Furnace Creek Inn and the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley National Park are among the few lodging facilities within a national park that offer swimming pools. Both pools are fed by natural by warm springs that keep the water temperature at a comfortable 82 degrees. (Reservations: 1-800-236-7916; 1-303-297-2757.)

Families with children between eight and 11:

  • ·   Xanterra has created a five-night vacation for families with children over the age of eight. Called the Total Yellowstone Package, the trip includes day tours and experiences including a horseback ride, guided walk along the geyser basin, lake tour, tour aboard a historic Old Yellow Bus, stagecoach ride and private campfire program. The package also includes meals, accommodations, a special gift and photo CD. Price is $1,229 for adults and $619 for children between eight and 11.
  • ·   Climb the Desert View Watchtower at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Modeled after ancient ancestral Puebloan watchtowers, this 70-foot tower is the highest point on the South Rim and offers stunning 360-degree views of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the San Francisco Peaks and the Vermilion Cliffs. But kids will get a kick out of climbing the spiral stairs along rock walls that feature colorful Hopi murals. The watchtower is a featured part of an entertaining half-day motorcoach tour along the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. The cost for the tour is $35 for adults; children 16 and under are free. (Reservations: 1-888-29Parks; 1-888-297-2757.)

Families with children between 12 and 16:

  • ·      Many people have yearned to ride the mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but few people actually get the chance. With a little planning, families can take that trip of a lifetime: a 10 1/2-mile trip on a mule to Phantom Ranch, one or two nights on the canyon floor in comfortable accommodations, and a return trip to the South Rim. All mule riders must weigh less than 200 pounds, be at least 4 feet 7 inches in height, speak and understand fluent English and be in good physical condition. The rate for a one-night ride for the first person is $420.09 and $743.03 for two people. The rate includes the ride, accommodations in a Phantom Ranch cabin, breakfast, lunch and steak dinner. Rates are available for additional riders. Xanterra also offers a seven-hour day trip that takes riders from the South Rim to Plateau Point and back.
  • ·      Yellowstone Lake is home to native cutthroat trout as well as the exotic lake trout. Xanterra offers charter boats with experienced fishing guides, gear, life jackets, and even fish-cleaning services. This is a great choice for families who want a customized experience with a guide to themselves. Rates vary.

Families with older children:

  • ·      Teens do love a chance to show up their parents, and a physical activity like hiking just might give them that chance – or at least the opportunity impress their parents with their superior physical endurance. Choosing the right hike in the wilderness should not be a lighthearted decision, however. Xanterra recommends that families consult National Park Service rangers for advice and recommendations. A classic and extremely strenuous hike is Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. This five-mile hike takes approximately four hours to complete. The hike ends at a summit high above Zion Canyon, and the last half mile follows a steep, narrow ridge where chains have been added for support. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates the Zion Lodge, the only in-park lodging. (Reservations: 1-888-29-PARKS; 1-888-297-2757.)
  • ·      Teens also enjoy a good story, especially if it is a little weird. And Scotty’s Castle, named for “Death Valley Scotty” certainly fits. Located 55 miles from the Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort, Scotty’s Castle was built between 1922 and 1931. The Moorish-style castle was built on the site of a “secret gold mine” discovered by Death Valley Scotty. Park Service staff dressed in 1930s costumes tell the tale of Death Valley Scotty and his mine while they guide visitors on a tour the spectacular complex, which contains exquisite tile work and furniture, including a rare Welte Pipe Organ.

***

Additional information about activities, lodging and parks can be found online or by calling the reservations numbers for individual parks. To find a specific Xanterra-operated park, visit http://www.xanterra.com/

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Stats on Kids & Grandparents Traveling Together

National research conducted by Opinion Research's Caravan examined travel preferences for grandparents. The research revealed almost half (49 percent) of grandparents have traveled with their grandchildren along with one or both parents. This is an increase of 12 percent as compared to the results of a similar study conducted in 2000. Additionally, 31 percent of grandparents have traveled with their grandkids but without either parent.

According to the omnibus telephone survey, 28 percent of grandparents rated Orlando as their favorite destination to travel with their grandkids, ranking it above Washington D.C. (20 percent) and New York City (19 percent). Orlando was also ranked number one by 36 percent of grandparents in the category of "top three U.S. cities" to travel to with grandkids.

According to AARP, the average age of first-time grandparents is a relatively young 48, with discretionary income and a desire to travel.

_____.

Safeguard Your Kids’ Web Choices

About a third of 10-17-year-old kids are exposed to online porno. As solo moms, this is an especially difficult problem. To safeguard your children, check out these options:

Askforkids.com – offers only G-rated material; ages 7-14

Yahooligans.com – for ages 7-12; ex-teachers review each site in the directory .

Kidsclick.org – more than 6,400 librarian-picked sites; accepts no advertising; provides reading levels on all results pages

Netnanny.com –20k plus child-friendly sites

NetTrekker.com – 180k teacher-reviewed sites

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How Not to Lose Kids, Clothes, Toys (from Parenting Magazine)

Great tips for solo moms

  • If you’re going to be in a crowd, dress your tot in bright colors or a distinctive hat so she’ll be easy to spot.
  • Safety-pin a card with your phone number into your child’s pocket, and “practice with your children what they’ll say or do if they get lost,” says Dallas teacher Sara Long.
  • Investigate a high-tech tracking system. IonKids allows parents to monitor the locations of up to four kids via water- and tamper-resistant wrist tags that transmit their whereabouts to a base unit up to 500 feet away outdoors, or 350 feet indoors ($200 for one handheld base unit and one handheld Wrist Tag, www.ionkids.com)
  • Purchase an Over-Door Shoe Organizer ($16, inStore) for your closet, and designate a few pockets for hats, scarves, and gloves. For a no-cost alternative, put a clear plastic bag on a hanger for your head and hand accessories.
  • When you take winter wear off while you’re out and about, stuff it securely in the interior pockets of your jacket, says Ashley Miller, who has seen more than her share of missing mittens on the job at the Rockefeller Center ice-skating rink, in New York City.
  • “When you realize a particular toy is important, buy another one of them,” says child psychologist Lawrence Shapiro, author of The Secret Language of Children (www.barnesandnoble.com, Sourcebooks, $15).
  • Never let a treasured toy out of your home, he also suggests.
  • Buy or make a collar and a dog tag for beloved stuffed animals.
    _____

 

Nine Mistakes to Avoid with Baby -- with Links for Further Info

As solo moms, we can especially use these tips--so read and relax

by Aviva Patz

Mistake: Wearing shoes inside the house
Babies live on the floors and rugs -- and right now you're tracking dirt, chemicals, and street germs on the bottom of your shoes. They're also notorious for putting every little thing they find in their mouths.
Smart solution: Invite guests to relax and remove their shoes before entering your home. For those who won't, keep a high-quality mat outside to wipe off shoes and boots, and a softer mat inside the door to catch extra dirt particles.

Mistake: Thinking you have to bathe baby every day
It's fine for most babies, but isn't necessary. If your child has sensitive skin, it might be best to bathe her every other day. For some infants, daily baths can cause pH imbalances, leading to overgrowth of bacteria or yeast or making the skin dry and irritated. Bathing can cause flare-ups in babies with eczema.
Smart solution: Don't feel bad if you miss that nightly bath -- it actually may turn out to be a good thing! Experiment with less tubtime if your child suffers from any type of skin condition.

Mistake: Assuming caregivers understand the health instructions you give them
Be explicit -- you don't want to learn the hard way, like one mom whose 6-month-old daughter took Zantac for reflux. Mom gave it to the director of her daycare center to administer. A few months later when she asked providers if they needed a refill, she was met with blank stares -- they'd stopped giving it long before, without telling her.
Smart solution: Whether it's the daycare staff, a babysitter, or your own mother, write down instructions in simple, direct language. Be precise. Have her read the directions back to you.

Mistake: Treating cold symptoms with OTC medications without calling the doctor
Preparations that contain pseudoephedrine are especially dangerous. They won't make your baby feel dramatically better, and the risk of side effects is real: Complications range from hyperactivity to high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Smart solution: Always get the green light from the doc for babies under 3 months, even if the medication is meant for infants -- acetaminophen can mask a fever, which requires immediate medical attention. For older babies, it's fine to give infant acetaminophen without calling first to relieve teething discomfort, pain from shots, and cold miseries.

Mistake: Sharing spoons or toothbrushes, or popping baby's paci in your mouth to "clean" it
You're a prime source of the germs that give babies tooth decay. Anything with saliva on it has the potential to transmit bacteria. Keep those germs from establishing themselves in your baby's mouth (even if she's still toothless), and you may protect her from the most common dental problems.
Smart solution: Cut down on your own cavity-causing germs -- visit the dentist regularly, brush twice and floss once daily, and if you chew gum, make it xylitol-sweetened. Rather than share spoons with your child, just pretend to taste the food.

Mistake: Changing baby's formula to stop a spitup problem
Frequent formula changes can make it harder for your pediatrician to pinpoint the true culprit, whether it's a milk allergy, acid reflux, or something else.
Smart solution: Work with your baby's doctor to find the cause of the problem, especially if he's not gaining weight (or losing it) or if you see blood in his stool (possibly an allergy to milk-based formula). For reflux, experiment with different types of nipples to eliminate air bubbles, keep baby upright for a half hour after feeding, and offer frequent smaller meals instead of fewer larger ones. If your baby's a spitup artist, consider ditching that tummy-jostling swing or bouncy seat.

Mistake: Overbundling her to keep out the chill
After the first few days, infants are quite good at regulating their own body temperature. Dressing them in too many layers can lead to dehydration and exhaustion. During sleep, becoming overheated can disrupt the ability to regulate breathing, increasing the risk of SIDS.
Smart solution: Indoors or out, dress your baby in the same number of layers you're wearing. Summer or winter, if the room temperature is comfortable for you, lightly dressed, it's fine for your baby. Telltale signs she's too warm? She may turn red in the face, sweat, or cry because she's uncomfortable.

Mistake: Not taking her temperature when she seems sick
Parents often skip the thermometer, claiming, "he didn't feel warm to me." But the clinical sign of fever is a hallmark for concern in very young babies. A fever of 100.4 degrees or more in a baby under 3 months means an infection and an immediate trip to the doctor's office, if not the ER.
Smart solution: If your baby seems under the weather, take her temperature with a rectal thermometer, which gives the most accurate reading until a child can hold a thermometer under his tongue (usually, around age 2).

Mistake: Not bringing fresh air into the nursery
A baby's tiny lungs are very vulnerable to secondhand smoke, allergens, and gases emitted from new paint or furniture. Air fresheners won't help; they release pollutants that, in one study, were linked with diarrhea, earache, and other symptoms in some infants. And many electronic air "cleaners" don't clean all that well and emit ozone, an air pollutant.
Smart solution: Open the nursery windows for at least 10 minutes a day. Houseplants (especially Boston fern, peace lily, and bamboo palms) clear carbon dioxide and chemical vapors. A bowl of baking soda absorbs odors, and fresh-cut flowers add good ones. As a last resort, buy an air-purifying HEPA machine, which doesn't emit ozone.

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A Degree Online: With Time for Your Family

A recent survey on adult education conducted by the U.S. Department of Education shows that adults with children under the age of 10 are growing at a rapid rate as higher education participants. But how can you get a degree with all your solo parenting responsibilities?


Flexible options like eLearning give students with busy schedules -- like single moms -- the opportunity to receive a quality education within their own constraints. You can plan school around your family, working evenings after they are asleep, or when they are with their dads or grandparents. .


Online learning provides the flexibility you wouldn't otherwise have in a traditional classroom setting. In the case of moms who need to spend more time with their children, earning an education doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality time.


"A back-to-school mom is a living example, showing her children how to establish goals that extend out from the family," says Thomas Haller, MDiv, MSW, DST family therapist, and author of 'The Ten Commitments: Parenting With Purpose' (Personal Power Press, 2005). "She shows her children how to structure time, set limits, and reach personal goals -- lessons that her kids will carry with them the rest of their lives."

Besides offering the potential for greater earning power, pursuing a degree also provides much-needed mental stimulation, doing something for yourself while doing something for your family --and your future. But there are some big challenges: You do have to be self-motivated -- it usually takes much longer than going the traditional route, and you need to check carefully for each online university's accreditation and costs. Beware of scams.

For more info: www.Education-Advancement.com, www.OnlineDegreeDirect.com, www.CareerDegreeSource.com.

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Summer Tours Geared to Solo Moms and Families

Over 25 percent of US children live in single-parent households, most of them led by solo moms. “There’s a magical mix of quality time that all families need. But we recognize that households led by single mothers can also be prone to higher stress levels, which means that we have to be especially aware of family dynamics,” says Dan Austin, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of Austin-Lehman adventures, a luxury adventure travel company specializing in service-oriented programs in both North and Latin American destinations.

“We’ve identified single-parent travel as a growing market for us. For 2007 we plan to have several destinations and dates specifically designed for and labeled as “single parent adventures,” says Paul Lehman, ALA’s Co-Founder and Managing Partner.

In 2003 single parents accounted for approximately 2% of ALA’s overall guest mix. This year (2006) it has increased to nearly 5%.”

Austin says that single parent travelers find ALA’s domestic trips more appealing than international trips because they can avoid the paperwork (notarized letters of permission from the other parent and birth certificates that may be required when traveling outside the country with a minor child). He notes that more dads travel with their children than moms (54% to 46%), and that single parent households plan their travel strategies four months out or longer, whereas two-parent households book 45 to 90 days out.

Some reasons that tours are popular with single parents
:

•    All-inclusive packages (everything is covered except air) lock costs in.
•    Experts handle all the details, equipment and itinerary planning.
•    Children can meet others their age.
•    Trips are active, outdoors and close-to-nature providing a “Living” classroom that offers authentic and spontaneous learning opportunities.
•    Children see positive role models (guides) in action.
•    The family shares daily accomplishments through achievable challenges, yielding bonding and lifetime memories.

Following is a sampling of ALA’s recommended trips for single-parent families.

Yellowstone National Park Family Adventure http://www.austinlehman.com/ALmain.php?Option=Detail&TripID=53

An Austin-Lehman Value Adventure
Activities:  Hike, Raft, Fishing, Wildlife Viewing, Horseback 
Trip Length: 6 Days/5 Nights
Upcoming Dates: Jul 2-7, Jul 9-14, Jul 16-21, Jul 23-28, Jul 30-Aug 4, Aug 6-11, Aug 13-18, Aug 20-25
Price: $1,798
Children age 7 to 12: From $1,438
Host City: Bozeman, Montana

Alaska – Kenai Peninsula Family Adventure
http://www.austinlehman.com/ALmain.php?Option=Detail&TripID=42

Activities: Hike, Bike, Kayak, Nature Cruise
Trip Length: 6 Days/5 Nights
Upcoming Dates: Jul 9-14, Jul 30-Aug 4, Aug 13-18, Aug 20-25
Price:  $2,698
Children age 7 to 12: From $2,158
Host City: Anchorage, Alaska

Costa Rica Family Adventure
http://www.austinlehman.com/ALmain.php?Option=Detail&TripID=82

Activities: Hike, Horseback, Raft, Wildlife Viewing, Boat, Kayak
Trip Length: 7 Days/6 Nights
Upcoming Dates: Jul 15-21, Aug 5-11, Aug 19-25, Dec 25-31
Trip Price: From $2,198 per person, double occupancy
Children 5-12 receive a 25% discount when sharing a room.
Host City: San José, Costa Rica

For more info on ALA: call 1.800.575.1540, or info@austinlehman.com or www.austinlehman.com. For other tour info, google "single-parent tours."

***

Family Resort Deal in Sunny Isles (Miami Beach)

Families seeking a coastal escape will find the ideal setting at Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, from its distinctive childrenUs program to family-friendly suites. The hotelUs unique layout features four to five suites per floor, with many offering full kitchens, making it the perfect arrangement for multi-generational family trips. In addition, the resort offers the innovative AcquaMarine program, designed for children ages five to 12 years old to teach the basics of marine biology through fun and educational activities.

For families traveling May 27 through September 28, 2008, Acqualina is offering a special REscape to Family OfferS with discounted room rates beginning at $375 for stays of two nights, $350 for stays of three to four nights, and $325 for stays of five nights or more in an Intracoastal Room, inclusive of continental breakfast for two adults at Il Mulino New York. Special rates are also available in all other room categories, and all rates are based on availability.

Additionally, Acqualina offers a variety of activities and amenities perfectly suited for children, including:

--RBenvenuto Kids!S Children under 12 eat like kings at Il Mulino New York, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner for the cost of each meal equivalent to their age. For example, a 4 year old child would pay $4 per meal.

--Complimentary cribs—pink for girls and blue for boys, of course!

--ChildrenUs robes

--A special amenity just for kids—their own backpack with coloring book, crayons, and sunscreen

--Sleeper sofas available in most rooms

--Nanny Service available 24 hours, 7 days a week providing a much needed break for Mom and Dad!

--Dinner and a Movie (complete with popcorn) in the privacy of your junior guestUs room or suite.

--Hourly arts and crafts

--Zero-entry pool perfect for toddlers and young swimmers.

 

For reservations, please visit www.acqualina.com or call (305) 918.6777 or 888.804.4338.

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Planning a Family Cruise?

 

As a solo mother, consider the simplicity and fun of a cruise vacation. You can meet, others, unpack once, and stay happily busy. Cruise lines have really stepped up in recent years to make cruises family friendly, with activities for children of all ages.

The following is a SL snapshot of children's offerings on popular cruise lines:

Adventure Science combines fun and hands-on science experiments; Adventure Art by Crayola acquaints kids with diverse cultures through a variety of art projects;
and Adventure Beach activities on sailings to CocoCay and the Labadee islands include sand castle contests, beach relays, parachute games and other water fun.

Additional activities include extreme sports tournaments, musical festivities, behind-the-scenes tours, beach parties and talent shows. www.adventuresci.com
Carnival offers children's programs for youth ages 2 to 14. Each ship provides daily age-appropriate activities for younger travelers and teens alike. 
In addition, there is supervised "free play" and babysitting services available. Camp Carnival is designed for families that want to enjoy "quality family time" at sea.

Kids also have the option of spending time with their peers on board, whenever desired. www.carnival.com

Holland America's childrens program, dubbed Club HAL, offers a variety of age-appropriate activities for younger visitors to the cruise line's private island, Half Moon Cay. The program was recently updated with a horseback riding excursion, a stingray lagoon experience, a new kids aqua park and wave runner park. www.hollandamerica.com
Royal Caribbean offers activities for children ages 3 to 17. To participate, toddlers must be fully potty-trained. Each member of the Adventure Ocean staff has a college degree in education, recreation or related field, or qualified experience.www.royalcaribbean.com

You can book yourself. But using a cruise broker is a cost-effective way to book a cabin. Rather than shopping around, you can go to www.CruiseCompete.com and enter your dates; several brokers will send you their best offers.

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Camps for All

Interested in camps for your kids? For a comprehensive directory of summer camps, winter camps, spring break camps, including traditional overnight camps, sports camps, military camps, health camps, weight camps, hobby camps, arts camps and other niche camps, try:
www.kidscamps.com 

Top searched summer camps on AOL Search:
1. Overnight camp
2. Boot camp
3. Space camp
4. Basketball camp
5. Fat camp
6. Soccer camp
7. Girl Scout camp
8. Baseball camp
9. Football camp
10. Travel camp
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Favorite Children’s Zoos

Follow these links to Zoo fun! Below are the most popular zoos, aquariums and exhibits – recommended over and over again in zoo reviews. These zoos are so hot you can’t go wrong!   Favorite Zoo Guides: The Zoo Book: A Guide to America’s Best, Carousel Press, www.carousel-press.comwww.zooweb.comwww.aza.orgwww.goodzoos.com, www.zooweb.com, www.asa.org, www.iaapa.org, www.arbreptiles.com/zoos, for European zoos, go to www.eaza.net.

Baltimore Zoo (Baltimore, Maryland, www.marylandzoo.org); Bronx Zoo (Bronx, New York, www.bronxzoo.com); Houston Zoo (Houston, Texas, www.houstonzoo.org); Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, Illinois, www.lpzoo.com); Los Angeles Zoo (Los Angeles, California, www.lazoo.org); Oglebay’s Good Children’s Zoo (Oglebay Park, Wheeling, West Virginia, www.oglebayfoundation.org); Phoenix Zoo (Phoenix, Arizona, www.phoenixzoo.org); San Antonio Zoo (San Antonio, Texas, www.sazoo-aq.org); San Diego Zoo (San Diego, California, www.sandiegozoo.org); San Francisco Zoo (San Francisco, California, www.sfzoo.org).  

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Favorite All-Around Zoos

Artis Zoo, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Holland’s oldest zoo is renowned for its gardens, www.artis.nl/international or www.amsterdamzoo.nl.

Berlin Zoo and its free-range sister park, Berlin Tiergarten, Berlin, German, originally donated by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in 1844, www.zoo-berlin.de or www.aquarium-berlin.de.

Bronx Zoo, New York, well loved for over a century, found on most top zoo lists around the world, this enormous park continues to evolve, www.bronxzoo.com; and visit The Coney Island Aquarium (www.nyaquarium.com), with its own dolphin building, dolphin show, and other unique exhibits on the boardwalk in world-famed Brooklyn, New York

Frankfurt Zooa real city zoo, Franklin Park, Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts, www.taylorhouse.com/zoo and www.zoonewengland.com; for another American city-zoo treasure, visit New York’s Central Park Zoo, New York, New York, www.centralparkzoo.com, the zoo in the movie Madagascar!

Kruger National Park, South Africa, cutting-edge conservation, which means eliminating poachers, also check out the Pretoria Zoological Gardens, www.ecoafrica.co.za, www.ecoafrica.com/krugerpark.

London Zoo, London, UK, a Victorian crowd pleaser (circa. 1828), Winnie the Pooh was born here. Today, animal sculptures and special exhibits (bearded pigs and pygmy hippos) carry the day, www.londonzoo.co.uk.

North Carolina Zoo, Asheland, North Carolina, home to the world-renowned R.J. Reynolds Forest Aviary, and noted for its African Pavilion Exhibit, www.nczoo.org.

San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium, San Antonio, Texas, featuring "Africa," "The Amazon" and butterflies! A most popular zoo, www.sazoo-aq.org.Amsterdam.  

San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park, San Diego, California, this zoo is on just about every favorite zoo and special exhibit list, www.sandiegozoo.org.

Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany. Germany’s largest zoo and botanical gardens is in a historic park setting, Moorish Gardens, 10,000 animals and an aquarium, www.wilhelma.de.

Favorite Aquariums and Special Zoo Exhibits  

African Tropical Forest, Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, Massachusetts, www.zoonewengland.com, www.franklinparkzoo.org.

Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum and Zoo, Bermuda, www.bamz.org

Discovery Reef, Point Defiance Zoo, Tacoma, Washington, www.pdza.org

Disney Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, www.disneyworld.com

Dusit Zoo, Bangkok, Thailand, www.zoothailand.org

East Africa, Caldwell Zoo, Tyler, Texas, www.caldwellzoo.org.

Fragile Kingdom, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois, www.brookfieldzoo.org.

Insect World, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, www.cincinnatizoo.org.

John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, Illinois, www.sheddaquarium.org.

Jungle Trails, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, www.cincinnatizoo.org.

Lied Jungle, Omaha Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska, www.omaha.org/zoo

Louisiana Swamp, Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, www.audoninstitute.org

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay, California, www.mbayaq.org

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, www.aqua.org

New England Aquarium, Boston, Massachusetts, www.neaq.org

North American Living Museum, Tulsa Zoo, Tulsa, Oklahoma, www.tulsazoo.com.

 Northern Trail, Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, Minnesota, www.minnesotazoo.org.

Outback/Pampas, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, Kansas, www.scz.org.

Sea World (California, Florida and Ohio), www.seaworld.com.

Texas! Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth Texas, www.fortworthzoo.org.

The Rain Forest, Cleveland Zoo, Cleveland, Ohio, www.clevelandzoosociety.org.

Tropic World, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois, www.brookfieldzoo.org.

Underwater World, Queensland, Australia, www.underwaterworld.com.au.

Wilds of Africa, Dallas Zoo, Dallas, Texas, www.dallas-zoo.org.

World of Primates, Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas, www.fortworthzoo.org.

World of Waters, Indiana Zoo, Indiana, Indianapolis, www.indyzoo.com.

 If a day at the zoo fails to get you out of the winter doldrums, review our day spa article in Solo Living Links, and our

Seasonal Affective Disorder -- And How to Beat It! feature in Solo Living Features.

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Classic Movies


     Visit http://classicfilm.about.com for a list of classic film suggestions and visit www.kidsdomain.com and www.netflox.com for more great ideas.

_____

Good Reading

For parent-approved comic books, check out Tintin comics and Asterix comics (available through www.amazon.com/books). Boys particularly love comic books, and these are fun, thought-provoking and challenging.
     Charlie Brown, Arthur, Garfield, Clifford and Winnie the Pooh books complement movies, and numerous excellent activity and illustrated storybooks are available (www.booksense.com, www.borders.com, www.usbornebooks.com, www.scholastic.com).
  

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 Get-Aways
     To get away with your children, visit http://travelwithkids.about.com/cs/holidays, www.virtualcities.com, http://guestranches.ca, and www.everyduderanch.com, for kid-friendly historic tours, country inns, guest ranches, resorts, and tips for travel-with-kids.

Also, look for area travel clubs welcoming single-parent families (in Tulsa, for example, the Tulsa Ski Club offers year-round trips and activities, www.tulsaskiclub.com), or, look for a single parent family travel guide, www.qualitytimetravel.com, www.singleparenttravel.net, www.solotravelportal.com. And "Beaches Resorts" waives the single supplement at certain times to accommodate single-parent family travel (www.beaches.com).
For indulgent, mom-only travel this season, check out our Day Spa and related great links on our Solo Living Links spot.

_____
 

~~~~A Solo Mom Tip: If Driving, Use Gadgets~~~~

If you'll be driving much, consider renting or borrowing a car with an automated directional assistant (for mom), and DVD player (for back seat drivers), or buying a portable GPS and DVDs. Visit www.costco.com, www.tomtom.com, www.megaGPS.com, www.garmin.com for portable GPS systems; www.Overstock.com, www.proclipusa.com, http://portables.about.com for DVD players. Visit www.thereareplaces.com for leads to car rental agencies that stock cars with GPS / DVD systems.


Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, 1st Edition (Special-Interest Titles)

 

 




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