Blog Posts by Mira Jacob, Shine staff

  • The best of the Thanksgiving crafts for kids

    I have a dream about Thanksgiving crafting with my son. It involves turning pine cones into turkeys, fashioning construction paper pilgrim hats, and using cornstalks to great effect. I also have a two-year-old who turned my dream of "taco night" into an orange meat smear on the wall yesterday, so I've pared back a bit. Tomorrow, we're going to collect a few leaves for a centerpiece and call it a day.

    All the same, I stare at some of the family crafts ideas like a teenage dude stares at fancy cars. Some day, I think to myself. The truth is, here at Shine we've gotten in TONS of fantastic posts about crafts you can do with your kids, and in an effort to live vicariously through those of you whose children have outgrown the meat smear stage, I've rounded them up.

    Two of our Shine users had some great suggestions using leaves. If you have a little one (like me), and a big space to make a mess in (unlike me) check out Sarah's awesome splatter paint idea . For those of you with

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  • Tips to make travel with kids (a little more) enjoyable

    It's that time of year again, when we breathlessly shuttle our family into cars and planes in an effort to get them to a turkey on time. While no one can guarantee you stress-free travel, these are a few tips to help you enjoy getting there :

    Do the "treat reveal." Whether it's toys or food, parsing out the surprises is a great substitute for being able to run, scream and kick the back of car and plane seats. Well, okay fine, but it really does work for the running part.

    Go ahead and lean on technology like a cane. Yes, I know about the recommended screen time and I know the dangers of iPhones making in to the hands of thumb suckers, but when I travel, all bets are off. You want to take pictures? Watch the DVD? Play the video game? As long as you do not touch anyone else but me, you've got it.

    Cut yourself a good-but not excessive-amount of slack. Listen, we've all had those public experiences that leave us in a shaking parent heap, a tantrum we never saw coming on, a

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  • Couple asks strangers to vote on their abortion

    You know how sometimes asking a question leads to an answer you might not be ready for? Well, such is the case with Pete and Alisha Arnold, a couple from Minneapolis who have decided to ask anonymous strangers (i.e. the internet masses) if they should abort their child.

    That's right, by logging on to and clicking the obnoxious widget pictured left, you, the hoarder down the street, and millions of angry, volatile people can hold the life of the Arnolds' unborn child in your very own hands! After that, Potential Mom and Dad will have a talk and decide if the angry masses win or lose. In an interview with Gawker, Pete lays out this winner of deductive reasoning, "Voting is such an important part of who we are as a people. Here's a chance where people can be heard about whether they are pro-choice or whether they are pro-life, and it makes a difference in the real world."

    Wow, Pete. You just, like, blew my mind. Or took Sociology 101 to the stupidest of all

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  • Study finds kids with siblings are less happy than those without

    Children with siblings are less happy than those without, a new, wide-ranging study in Britain reports. Studying over 100,000 people in 40,000 households, the findings, which will be published this Friday by the Economic and Social Research Council, suggest that kids with fewer siblings were happier than those with many, and that only children were among the happiest kids.

    So why would a sibling make a kid less happy? Apparently bullying is one factor (31% of the children said they were physically roughed up by their siblings "quite a lot") while lack of space, privacy, and competition for a parent's attention all played a role.

    Now, as a parent of an only child, I'd be lying if I said some part of this study did not cheer me, working, as it does, against the stereotypes of only children. And yet as younger sister, one who considers her life much better for the brother in it, I have to question what we're really supposed to extrapolate from a study like this. Should we limit

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  • Bristol Palin and The Situation get awkward about sex

    Okay, listen, I am all for any kind of announcement that helps teens understand their options when it comes to sex, but seriously, using Bristol Palin and The Situation together in an ad for abstinence and safe sex? C'mon. These two make as much sense together as pickles and pearls, which is to say, ew.

    Could it get any more convoluted and awkward? I'm not faulting the players here, God knows Bristol is pretty great about keeping poised under duress, while The Situation is generally good about not barfing in public, but let's face it: this ad makes no sense. These people shouldn't even be in a room together, much less a faux-backstage, talking in strange, pun-laden circles about mankind's most intimate act.

    So what, exactly, are we supposed to be getting from this PSA? That the word "situation" can be said 15 times in under two minutes? That anyone would call anyone "Sitch" or "B. Palin"? That under that white suit, Mike is packing a Magnum? I don't know, but all I can tell you is

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  • Failure is impossible for high school students! (No, really)

    What would school have been like if you never had to worry about getting an F? Students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Va., are about to find out, the Washington Post reports.

    Earlier this year, the school all but eradicated the standard mark for "failure", instead supplying wayward students with the letter "I" for incomplete. So what does an "I" give you that an "F" doesn't? Time to redeem yourself, for starters. Students with an "I" on their report card can (literally) learn their lesson and catch up over the year, at which point they will be given a grade for their mastery of the material, just like any other student.

    So is this an inspired move to get those marginal students on track and learning, or just another way in which we're coddling underachieving kids and hobbling the rest? Parents, educators and students are divided.

    Mary Mathewson, an English teacher at Potomac High tells the Post that the new standard not only cripples teachers in that it

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  • Record a Story makes a good book better

    I'm a book addict, and to some extent, a purist-the kind who flinches my son's books come with too many bells and whistles and directions. Why try to make a book better? Isn't the whole joy of reading the simplicity of it? So you can imagine my surprise when I ended up loving a new line of books called Record a Story.

    As the label suggests, Record a Story lets parents (or grandparents, or even kids themselves) record their own voices reading books, resulting in a custom-recorded book. While that sounds pretty tame in our time of technology, it's actually just the right amount of genius. Kids can flip through books at their own pace, reading the story along with the narrator. Even better, it keeps them in touch with that voice telling them a story. While this might have seemed like a silly perk to me before I had a kid, now it seems like a truly inspired idea. With a husband who travels a lot and grandparents that live pretty far away, I can see just how much hearing the voice of

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  • Photographer take pictures of what kids draw

    Why didn't I think of this? Oh yes, because I'm not an artist or a photographer. And yet that doesn't stop me from really loving these incredible photographs by Korean artist Yeondoo Jung, who takes kids' drawings and turns them into awesome, crazy, magical photographs. Apparently, he's even collected 1,000 kids drawings for this express purpose.

    Why are these so fascinating? Maybe it's because they are as
    disjointed and mysterious as many kid's pictures. Maybe it's because they are trying to make sense of the world in the same way. Maybe it's because they're just so, so pretty.

    Now, if I could only introduce him to the awesome mom who takes incredible photographs of what she thinks her baby is dreaming about....

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  • Panic attacks, post-baby bodies, and other things we're strangely thankful for this Thanksgiving

    Oh, Thanksgiving. Here you come again with your turkey cooking tips and onslaught of family-not quite as grandiose as the December holidays, but strangely potent in what you make us think about.

    Being thankful is easier some days than others, isn't it? My father died a few years ago around Thanksgiving, and every year it makes my heart feel like it's the wrong size for my chest-too small with hurt of missing him, or too big with remembering what it felt like to be his daughter.

    I think a lot of us feel this way toward the end of the year-tugged between worn out and blessed, tired and excited, so this month, my assignment to the Shine Parenting Gurus was pretty simple: Write a piece about what you are thankful for this year.

    Thankfulness can come from some pretty unlikely sources. Or as single mom Clare puts it, in a post that includes a picture of a portion of "the village" that raises her daughter, including her ex-husband and his new wife: "As I get older, I find

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  • Would you use a “homework helper”?

    Just when you thought the price of having kids couldn't get any higher, the New York Times lets you know that the Joneses (or the Sternberg's in this case) have started employing "homework helpers." Filling a hybrid role of organizer/ babysitter/ motivational coach, homework helpers focus less on subject specific tutoring and more on making sure assignments get finished and handed in on time. And the price for this "academic support"? About $100 an hour.

    If that sum makes you gasp a little, you're not alone. Just about everyone in the article agreed that while homework helpers reduced everything from lost assignments, to lack of follow through, to unwanted "friction" between parents and kid, they were also a pretty big "luxury" afforded mainly by families in Manhattan its wealthy suburbs.

    There also seems to be at least one major drawback to hiring homework helpers, who can become "a crutch," as one Manhattan private school principal puts it. Sure, the assignment will be

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