Children and Facebook

children on Facebook
Children, to Facebook or not to Facebook

Many people have Facebook these days and some people don’t feel that Facebook is for them. I enjoy it, I think it helps keep me connected, seeing as how I live so far away from my family and friends. One day about a year ago, my oldest daughter (14 years old) decided that I should have a Facebook account and she set one up for me (she is much more computer savvy than I am)! I check in every day to see what my friends and family are up to, what new recipes are up on my friend Eileen’s cooking site and what cool crafts have been posted on my favorite craft site or my other favorite craftsite. I also have a business Facebook fan page called Laura Lee Burch Studio to promote my artwork; I post my artwork and photography every day on my Studio site.

I post my photography
I post my photography on my Laura Lee Burch Studio Facebook site

The girls know that they must not “friend” anyone they don’t know and that they need to tell me if someone is “bothering” them. I go over the friends with my younger daughter to make sure she really knows the people in her group of friends and how she knows them. My oldest daughter has a Facebook account and almost 400 friends from all over the world. (who knows that many people?) She chats with many people at the same time, in 4 different languages; when this happens, she has 3, 4, 5 chat boxes up simultaneously, she’s an advanced user. Now that is too much for me. I feel like the kid who sits at the back of the class and rarely participates compared to her.

Are your kids ready for a Facebook account?
Facebook for kids?

I think all people using Facebook should imagine that all their Facebook friends are sitting around a big table at a dinner party and act as such. To help my children determine what is appropriate or inappropriate to say, to help them stay out of trouble, I tell them to “pretend all your Facebook friends are sitting around a big picnic table together”. What is appropriate to tell others about yourself, your family or about your friends? Would you gossip about others in front of their face or should you be gossiping at all? Would you risk insulting a friend by saying something insulting or mean? I often need to discuss with my children examples of something they might feel like saying but others might deem insulting. One of my daughters has forgotten her manners once or twice and suffered the social consequences, I think she’s learned her lesson now. I have to keep a close eye on my children and their Facebook accounts: I watch that they don’t post inappropriate photos or links and if they do, they need to take them down. I insist on being a Facebook  “friend” to my kids so that I can see what they post. My oldest daughter sometimes accuses me of “stalking” her if I comment on something she posted on Facebook (choosing my battles, I keep my comments to a minimum), but I tell my kids that as their mother, this is how it will be if they are allowed to have an account-no discussion.

computers and kids
Children's computer activities should be closely monitored.

 My youngest daughter is definitely not old enough to have a Facebook account even though many of her friends have one (8years old). How do I know this? I know she’s not ready for Facebook because she says things to people (face to face) that she shouldn’t. I know because she regularly gets thrown out of Fairy World (a kid’s computer game) for inappropriate behavior such as calling other fairies names! (Those fairies are mean, I much prefer that she plays with the penguins). No matter what age, I limit all the girls’ time on the computer, if I don’t it takes over their lives. I stress diversity in their daily activities because the computer and Facebook especially (many are attracted to the games offered on Facebook) will turn them into computer zombies.

NOTE: What I deem appropriate for my children, may not be what is best for your children.

Valentine’s day necklace Tutorial

needle felted heart necklace
Needle felted heart necklace for Valentine's day

Emili is modeling a needle felted heart necklace, trimmed in cotton lace. This needle felted heart is fast and easy to make, it makes a great activity to do with your children. You can sew beads and sequins to the heart or embroider designs on the front; I’ve opted to keep this one simple, red and white.

red needle felted heart in hands
Red hearts say 'Love' for Valentine's day.

 Together, my girls and I made needle felted heart necklaces as gifts for their grandmother, friends and teachers. The simplicity of this project made it a fun activity and the girls were happy to have made a unique and personal gift for their classmates. Continue reading “Valentine’s day necklace Tutorial”

Give me your lunch money, or else…

childhood friends
Friends are important.

School is about learning, discovering, making friends and learning how to get along with others. Sometimes our kids have to learn to deal with a bully and it’s not fun, for you or your kid. My children have had to deal with bullies a few times already. 

It's hard to confront a bully

 I sought out advice from several teachers, mothers and a psychologist about the best way to deal with a bully situation. From my own children’s experiences, I believe communication is of the utmost importance, an adult should be informed to help the child deal with the problem. With one of my children, I had no idea she and several others in her class were being bullied for two years till another class mother told me. I was upset that I hadn’t known and I asked my daughter why she hadn’t told me about the abuses she suffered at  school. At 7 years old her response was “oh mama, it’s so embarrassing!” She had dealt with the bullies on her own by fighting back, she’s a tough cookie.

big bullies
Kids can be very mean to one another.

Children often don’t want anyone to know that they are being bullied for fear of being made fun of, shame or reprisal. The parent of the bullied child should not initially confront the parents of the bully; this takes power away from the bullied child which can further distress the him/her. The teacher is usually the most important problem solver in a case of bullying. I went to the class teacher in all situations and I informed the teacher as to what was happening outside of the class room, but on school grounds. Teachers often opt to talk with the class about what’s going on and sometimes a weekly class discussion time is implemented to talk about problems, thoughts or concerns of the students. I found that these discussion times were helpful for the children. Teachers often have no idea bullying is occurring and they should be told. If the problem can’t be solved by the teacher talking to the bully, the teacher should have a meeting with the bully and their parents. 

how to tame a bully
One of my children reacted with tears, the other one reacted with her fists.

 If a child’s teacher does not step in and deal with the problem for whatever reason, seek the help of another teacher, counselor or principal at the school. If no one at the child’s school takes a bullying situation seriously and fails to act upon the best interests of a child, you may consider changing schools. Just because a teacher intervenes and parents have been informed doesn’t mean that the problem will always go away. Children often need outside help to learn to deal with aggression, talking to a therapist is a good way for a child to learn social coping techniques. I told my children that they need to stand up for themselves; this seems obvious to me, but not always obvious to some children. Learning to deal with a bully is a skill that one will use their entire lives; I’ve run into plenty of bullies as an adult.  Bullies are not always peers, teachers can also bully students, we have encountered this problem as well. After my husband and I learned that our child didn’t want to go to school and was very stressed out because of what went on in the class room, we set up a meeting with the principal and the teacher to inform them that our child felt intimidated by the teacher’s yelling in the class and from insulting comments that the teacher made to the children. Sometimes just telling the teacher how you feel about his/her actions in class is enough to get them to stop or at least tone it down a little. I’ve found that many parents are afraid to speak up.

school friends
childhood friends

For a parent,  knowing that your child is suffering at the hands of another is frustrating and at these times I think most of us would like to step in and “do something” about it to help our children. Stepping in (for example, informing the teacher) is one thing, but acting for our children (for example, speaking to, yelling at, threatening) the child or children tormenting our children is unacceptable. Parents are offended (rightfully so) when other parents reprimand their children. I’ve seen parents become hostile about a bullying situation, screaming at the offending child, the child’s  parents and even the teachers for not being able to control the situation; these people were later banned from the school grounds. Each case is different and should be dealt with as so. Parents are not always open minded (sometimes downright blind) to the idea or fact that their “little darling” is bullying another child and they become defensive (sometimes nasty) when told so, this is why letting the school authorities handle the situation is a better idea for everyone. I am happy to announce that my children have come through all their challenging social situations and we’re working our way through the new ones that come up. The best piece of advice I can give is, when “a situation” arises, take a deep breath before you proceed.

Needle felted Dog/Cat Tutorial

needle felted dog and cat
Needle felted dog and cat.

 Animals are easy to needle felt, just felt the basic shapes and put them together (see tutorial for details).

Kitty cat
Kitty cat with a heart collar

 For very small children (under the age of 4), small pieces such as the collar,heart, jaw and tongue should be eliminated from the toys so as not to become a choking hazard!   

puppy dog
Needle felted puppy dog with a heart collar.
needle felted puppy dog
Dog face

 This cute needle felted dog and cat make great toys for kids or the perfect gift for a dog or cat lover. The tutorial shows the basic steps, which work for both the dog and the cat.  

Continue reading “Needle felted Dog/Cat Tutorial”

Gossip from Neve Tzedek

chickens in Neve Tzedek
Free range chickens in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

My neighbor’s chickens got out again the other day, I saw them milling around in the front of his house. He built a small chicken coop inside his house and he keeps a rooster (who likes to crow a lot) and two chickens for eggs. Now, I wouldn’t house my farm animals in my house, but animal pens outside are subject to theft by local immigrant workers; another neighbor’s rabbits were kept outside in a hutch and they became someone’s dinner. I asked Chicken Guy if he was afraid stray animals would attack his free range chickens. He said he needs to let them out for exercise and hopes for the best. I can’t figure out why the neighborhood cats aren’t interested in the chickens! Chickens in the middle of Tel Aviv, go figure. The rooster crowing doesn’t bother me, but I’m often awoken by the call to prayers from the mosque at 5:00 a.m. 

mosque in Tel Aviv
The mosque by the sea in Tel Aviv is 5 minutes from our house

It’s the little things that make living in Neve Tzedek an adventure. I have another neighbor across the street (Cat Guy), he doesn’t work and I have no idea what he does all day. He speaks English very well and we chat a lot, but not about anything in particular. He’s a cat person, he always has 6 or 7 cats hanging around his house waiting to be fed. He goes to the shuk to get chicken parts for the cats, then he comes back to the neighborhood and slings chicken feet, wings and pieces of fat all over the sidewalks and the cats feast. You can walk down our street and see cats sitting on the hoods of all the cars (keeping warm by sitting over the engines). 

Neve Tzedek
My neighbor's window

 The diversity of the people in Neve Tzedek is such that we neighbors don’t all think alike. My mother in law often comes over for lunch on Saturdays; when ever she drives past one of the religious neighbors, they scold her for driving on the Sabbath. She waves and tells them to have a nice day, what else can you do? Then there’s a matter of charity, who’s worthy? There’s a fairly crazy (I mean this in true medical terms) woman “who works hard for her money” that comes to get away from it all in front of my house. She comes here, I think, because Cat Guy and I give her coffee and I bring her out dinner when she asks for it. She speaks very bad Hebrew and so do I, but she tells me stories about the neighborhood she lives and works in and I listen to her. She’s a real sight to behold (I mean that in a sad, unfortunate way), many people are afraid of her because she rants and raves and yells at people. I was afraid of her, till I observed her for a long time and saw that she didn’t seem to be dangerous. I’ve been asked (by other neighbors) why I bother with her and I was initially at a loss because I was asked to explain myself but I tried to explain how I feel when I see her. All I can say is “there for the grace of God go I”. But on the other hand, after their comments, I’ve had to ask myself “how might the neighbors feel” about a “working woman” hanging out in this neighborhood (she doesn’t “work” here, it seems to be a refuge for her). So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a free street

plates on a wall in Neve Tzedek
Painted plates adorn a wall in Neve Tzedek

 We haven’t encountered violence here, just many angry, screamers from time to time. One of my daughters was playing at a friends house and my husband walked over to pick her up around 7:00 p.m. As they were around the corner from our house, they ran into a man screaming and threatening our favorite neighbor (Mrs. Chihuahua). My husband stopped to see if he could help our neighbor and the angry man (who was really drunk) pulled out a machete and threatened my husband and daughter with it. We called the police and by the time the police arrived, the man had hidden the machete so he was not taken to jail, the man’s daughter was with him pleading for him to behave and there was a full blown ruckus in the street. A few days later, the man apologized to my husband for his behavior; we see him sitting in front of his house every day, we wave and are on friendly terms! I don’t know this neighbor’s name, I call him Machete Guy. 

flowers in neve tzedek
Street corner in Neve Tzedek.

 I’ve heard from my mother in law that the Poop police are out and about; she lives within walking distance from us. Some guy with a badge asked for her name and address because he mistakenly thought she hadn’t picked up after her dog, she refused to give him the information. He hounded her (pardon the pun), asking her where was her plastic bag for picking  up after the dog, she showed him the plastic bags. He followed her and pulled a by-stander off the street to ask him if he too saw dog doo-doo on the side walk that she had not picked up. The by-stander did not see anything but an old leaf on the side walk and my mother in law returned home with her dog, bewildered. 

cafe in Neve Tzedek
Cafe in Neve Tzedek

 Many stores and galleries have closed recently. The cafes and restaurants seem to always be full and the streets of Neve Tzedek are always full of tours and tourists. Since the side walks here are barely big enough to walk on, everyone walks in the streets, making it tedious to drive around. The new “hip” destination is the Train Station, 3 minutes further south, toward Jaffa; I’ll write about this next time I gossip about Neve Tzedek.