Archive for July, 2009

No parent is a perfect parent including moi. We all make mistakes, even though we mean well.  As a children’s book author, I am around families quite often. As you may know, I am quite observant and tend to pay close attention to what is going on around me – especially in public places. I have seen the good, the not so good, the bad and the completely shocking. I thought it would be interesting to list what I believe are the top 5 BEST parenting practices.


Communication – A good parent not only listens but also provides an environment conducive to open dialogue. You want your child to be able to tell you what’s on her mind. As a parent, you also want to be honest with your kids, and speak to them in a way that is NOT patronizing. There are some things you may not want to discuss with your kids, but a good parent is aware when a child can sense that something is wrong. Kids need information when they are concerned, and a good parent will give it to them.

Respect – Your child will respect you if you respect him. A respectful parent disciplines with love and does not embarrass her children in public places. I personally do not believe in hitting children for any reason EVER. If you hit them, spank them, etc you should expect and accept that they will do the same to others. The children I have known who have been spanked on a regular basis, have the worst ongoing behavior. I am also not a fan of yelling – unless, of course, the house is on fire.

Criticism – No one likes to be disparaged, and it is not productive. A good parent knows this, and will correct a child’s negative behavior with loving discipline. Your child will not feel secure growing up in a critical environment, where the child feels he can rarely do anything right. Many parents who criticize their children, were criticized themselves as children (and hated it).

Setting an Example – A good parent teaches her kids about what is right and wrong through dialogue, but takes it a step further by setting a good example. A good parent is kind to others and demonstrates a proper moral code. If you don’t want your teen to drive like a maniac, you shouldn’t drive like one either. If you’d prefer not to have a cheater as a child, don’t be one yourself. A parent cannot expect his kids to stay away from smoking and other unhealthy behaviors if that parent practices those behaviors himself.

Discipline – By FAR the best parenting practice is following through with discipline.  If your child does not behave or fails to follow expected rules, and you have laid out the consequences, by all means you must follow through. Failing on a parent’s part to follow through with disciplining his child, creates a spoiled, disrespectful kid. Later that child will become a miserable adult who must always get his way. Kids need boundaries, and good parents set them.

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If you are planning a family trip to Boston, here’s a perfect guidebook for you to bring along. I reviewed Fodor’s Family: Boston with Kids for


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Stormy Night

We had a blustery tropical thunderstorm here yesterday. The temp dropped about 20 degrees within a few minutes around 8 pm. The lightning was incredible! I almost crawled under the bed with the dog to hide from the rage of it all.

Lightning kills about 100 people in the US every year and many more are injured. Florida ranks the highest state in the US in lightning strikes. And I can tell you from experience – do not talk on a corded phone during a thunderstorm. I recently had a painful zap in my ear from lightning while on the phone. My ear hurt for several days!

Weather is a great topic for kids of all ages to research. Educate your kids about lightning. Start here with National Geographic.




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Please read the book review I wrote for LA Parent about The Enemy: A Book About Peace, written by Davide Cali  by clicking here. This is an incredible book with a life-changing message that will make you think very hard.

You’ve got to read this book!

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It’s time. Summer 2009. I’m into the initial stages of my 2nd Lilly Badilly adventure. Writing, drawing, painting, editing and so on. Just in case you thought writers were methodical, just know that this one is not! Thus my dining room table will not be used for eating for quite a while. . .

I can’t even guess when I’ll be ready for press. It’ll be quite a while.

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Dave Fox is an award-winning travel writer with a refreshing sense of humor and an incredibly large comfort zone. I just finished reading his highly entertaining Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad. Read the review by clicking here. Dave has been almost everywhere, and he has a unique way of writing about it. With an honest, straight forward writing style, he’ll make you laugh, and he’ll educate you in ways you never knew you should be educated.


Dave squeezed time out of his ridiculously busy schedule to answer some questions for us. Wow. Are we ever grateful he did!

Since you were a young (shy) child, your life has been full of foreign travel and temporary living situations where you were faced with completely unfamiliar surroundings, languages, people and food. What was that like?

I was a shy kid but was also very curious. I grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC with kids from all over the world. I think I related to foreign kids better than some, because at times I felt like a bit of an outsider myself.

At age 8, I spent a year in England. It was an odd sort of culture shock. In the US, I was teased for being the shortest kid in the class, In England, I stood out for my American accent more than my height, but the kids there had a fascination with the US. England was importing a lot of our TV shows and fast food, among other things. So I guess I felt different in a more socially accepted way there, but at the same time, I felt okay being different.

How did that shape you into the person you are today?

The simple answer is I love to travel, but it gets deeper than that. To me, traveling is a way of collecting stories – my own, and other people’s. We are all surrounded by foreign cultures, even when we’re at home. We just have to be willing to seek them out. Culture is so much more than nationality. There are sub-cultures based on age, religion, race, body type, economic level, political views, occupations, hobbies, and so many other things. When we can’t travel in faraway places, it can be fascinating to explore the foreign cultures that exist close to us. I’ll talk to anybody who is willing to tell me their story, and I’m comfortable around people who are different from me. In that sense, I’m often a foreigner, even when I’m at home. And I love it.

You have been to more than 40 countries on 5 continents! I’d imagine there were times when you missed the comforts of home and wished you had not ever left.

Missed the comforts of home? Yes. Wished I had never left? No way. Even in my worst travel moments – and if we travel enough, it’s inevitable we’re going to have a few of those – I’ve never regretted exploring the world, even when it has been uncomfortable. Staying home and hiding under the bed so nothing bad happens seems a lot more uncomfortable to me than jet lag or traveler’s diarrhea.

Have you any tips for our readers about decreasing the ill effects of jet lag?

If I had a cure for jet lag, I’d be very rich! Our bodies just aren’t designed to be flung halfway around the planet in half a day. So jet lag is an unavoidable side-effect of long-distance air travel. But there are things we can do to reduce its intensity.

The pineal is a gland in our brain that responds to light and tells us whether to be awake or asleep. After I cross a lot of time zones, I expose myself to as much natural light as possible during the daytime, and I avoid bright lights at night to help cue my brain that it’s time to be asleep. For the same reason, I never wear sunglasses during the daytime my first few days in a new time zone.

Eating meals at regular local hours and avoiding caffeine later in the day also signal our bodies to the time of day. And, I sometimes take Melatonin or a sleeping pill my first few nights to help me get a good night’s sleep. But I recommend checking with a doctor before you do that.

Now that we are on the subject, what are your top 5 tips to make travel easier? After all these years, you must have the travel thing down pat!

That’s a tricky question. I think on some level, travel isn’t supposed to be easy. When we venture outside our cultural comfort zones, we have better experiences if we challenge ourselves and accept that we’re in unfamiliar territory. You can make things easier by staying in a glitzy Western-style hotel in a foreign country, but then, what’s the point of going to a vastly different culture? You might as well stay home and watch the Travel Channel!  That having been said, here are five tips for making travel emotionally easier.

  1. Always leave something to go back to, even if you are certain you will never return. A lot of people run around with check lists, trying to do all their guidebooks suggest. Foreign travel shouldn’t be a race. Go for quality experiences, not a high quantity of experiences. Allow “down time” for non-touristy things like wandering aimlessly through side streets, visiting a grocery store, or getting a haircut.
  2. Smile! Yeah… that sounds trite, but I tried an experiment a few years ago. As a tour guide, when I needed help – maybe at a hotel or at a restaurant – I’d make a point to smile and look calm at the group even if I wasn’t feeling that way. Other times, I forgot to do that. I noticed that the difference in people’s reactions, depending on how I approached them, was huge. If you are friendly, people respond in a friendly way. If you are stressed, it stresses them too and they are less open to you. So even if you think you’re having a crisis, appear calm and people will warm up to you and help out.
  3. Never forget YOU are the foreigner. If you are frustrated with the way things are in a foreign place, it’s likely because you just don’t understand the local ways. And not understanding them is fine; feeling confused is part of the fun. Eventually we figure things out, and that can be very rewarding. But whining that things should be different – when in fact, we are the ones who are different – isn’t just ignorant; it’s also a waste of time and energy. Allow yourself some confusion, and don’t be hard on yourself because you don’t understand the local rules. Don’t be hard on the local people either.
  4. Don’t let technology kidnap your trip. When I started backpacking in Europe in the 1980s, I gave people poste restante addresses where once a month, I could stop at a local post office and plow through a pile of letters, hoping one might be for me. Cell phones, e-mail and social networking can help us keep in touch, but some people get so frustrated when they can’t get a Wi-Fi signal or a good phone connection. In a faraway place, let yourself be far away. The world won’t crash down around you if you can’t read your e-mail for a day or two. Another thing that drives me crazy is people who travel with video cameras glued to their eyes. They’re losing out on the experience. When they get home, do they really sit through that many hours of footage? Take advantage of technology when it’s convenient, but don’t let it wilt your mood when it doesn’t cooperate, or drive a wedge between yourself and real life experiences.
  5. When you travel, things go wrong. That was the premise of my book, Getting Lost, and it’s been my number one travel rule for years. It doesn’t sound like uplifting advice, but when we’re out of our element, unfamiliar with the local “rules,” things are going to get wonky at times. When they do, try to find humor in the chaos, keep and you’ll probably have a great story to tell later.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our 4-part interview with Dave Fox, coming up next week. He’s got a lot of great info to share with us! In the mean time, check out Dave’s books and websites by clicking here.

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Let me define my idea of a really good book.

In order for a book to be considered “really good,” I must be so into reading it that I completely forget about all the work I should be doing instead of reading. While reading Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad, I sort of forgot to get out of bed until 11:30 in the morning. Unfortunately for me this was a Monday.

Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad is an honest, forthright account of the author’s many travel adventures, from childhood to present day. It’s easy to read, flows well, and the author did a marvelous job of leaving mundane details out of it. Every chapter tells a complete story of one of Dave’s real life journeys and leaves you feeling like you went along for the ride. From age 8 to adulthood, you become part of this world traveler’s apprehension as he throws himself into (or his parents throw him into) unfamiliar territory time and time again. His bravery is to be commended.  Best of all, Dave unfolds his adventures using a subtle, witty sense of humor. The optimal way to describe it is to say he makes light of otherwise sticky situations in a way that will make you chuckle out loud, and at the same time, you as a reader, will never be offended.

What makes this book really unique is that there are some small drawings with handwritten sidebar notes, much like a real travel journal might be. Dave starts his book by taking you to England, where at age 8, he lived for a year with his family and was faced with wearing tights for the school play. Other highlights include: 1) an incredible exchange program experience he had in Norway, where he had his first experience consuming alcoholic beverages with other high school students; 2) meeting some strange characters in Iceland; and 3) an experience eating at a salad bar in Turkey that would change his life – not in a good way. And there are many others.

Dave wants you to know that “When you travel, things go wrong.” And no one knows that better than he. (At this point I am wondering how many frequent flyer miles he has accumulated.)

If you should ever meet up with this world traveler on one of your overseas flights, rest assured – you will not likely see him enjoying a plate of salmon pasta. Hint: read the last chapter of Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad.

Dave Fox is an award-winning humor and travel writer, and public speaker. He spends several months in Europe each year as a tour guide for Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. A former news anchor for Wisconsin Public Radio, he has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. He won the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop Book Proposal Contest in 2004, sponsored by the University of Dayton, Ohio. When he is not traveling, Dave teaches classes to those who want to learn more about journal writing. Dave also wrote Globetrotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journeys (and Still Have Time to Enjoy Yourself) as well as the Fox that Quacked: Essays from Planet Earth.

Stay Tuned Tomorrow for Part 1 our Fascinating Interview with Dave.

Click here to learn more about Dave and his books

and to order a copy of Getting Lost today!

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The next time you are in South Florida spend a day at John U Llyod State Park. It is a beautiful place!

Click here for more info.








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  1. Children laughing and playing outside
  2. Water splashing
  3. Dragonflies buzzing
  4. Waves crashing
  5. Grill sizzling
  6. Thunderstorms
  7. Leaves rustling
  8. Guitar strumming
  9. Piano playing
  10. Silence of the night


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Yeah! We’ve blessed with another fabulous Lilly Badilly book review! Reviewer Ronna Mandel loves Lilly! Please click here to read the review. And while you’re at, check out her other kids book reviews and the entire LA Parent website.  You don’t have to live in CA to get a lot of great ideas from this site.

Thank you Ronna!

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