Tag Archives: neighborhood

Cops & Robbers

27 Oct

Now that it’s fall, my children and I are able to spend more time outdoors again.  This summer was so hot that we wound up spending most of our time indoors.  Oddly enough, even the pool was too hot this year.

I love being outdoors.  When I was a kid, you could always find me outside somewhere, playing with neighborhood kids, swimming at the neighborhood pool, riding my bike, climbing a tree, having an acorn fight, judging a talent show, or making a hideout in the bushes.  My siblings and I did not go in until it was time for dinner.

Back in those days, we used our imagination to entertain ourselves.  Over the past few years, I have been trying to instill the same love for outdoors and innovation!

This weekend, a neighbor boy came over and I taught the kids how to play cops and robbers.  You split the kids into two teams.  Half are cops half are robbers.  You designate a “jail” and conversely, a robber “hideout”.  From there, the robbers pretend to steal (we pocketed leaves from the yard).

If the robbers are spotted stealing, the cops try and catch them.  If the cops catch the robbers, the robbers are escorted to jail.  The robbers can stay in jail for a minimum time limit (we made it two minutes, so the kids would not get bored).

If the robbers get away with the theft, they can bring the monies back to their hideout and stash it.  The robber hideout is “base”.  Robbers can also bust their partners or teammates out of the jail.  If no police are guarding the jail, one robber can save another robber.

The cops win if all of the robbers are jailed.  The robbers win if they confiscate “x” number of fake money (we did 20 leaves).  If you can find an enthusiastic group of kids, they might even help you keep the brown leaves off your lawn and they wouldn’t even know it; less raking for the grown ups!

Have a Happy, Safe Halloween!

26 Oct

My love of Halloween is no secret among my friends. I adore all of the rituals, from decorating the house and baking pumpkin-shaped cookies to carving jack-o-lanterns and handing out candy. To make sure your family has a great October 31st, check out the following safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Halloween Safety Tips


  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections.


  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.


  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.


  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!


  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

For more information, visit www.aap.org.


12 May

A couple weeks ago, after much hemming and hawing, I decided to donate my kids’ baby dressers (changing tables) to Goodwill.

My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while.  After months of trying to organize our kids’ rooms, we finally decided the dressers had to go.  They were big and bulky, taking up way too much room in what are already fairly small spaces.  And they didn’t even hold all our kids’ clothes!  We needed to just get rid of them, and hopefully someone else could use them.

But the first time I mentioned it to the kids, they freaked.  “What about our stickers?!” they cried.  Oh crap, I had forgotten about the stickers.  For years, we’ve let them decorate their dressers with stickers – I think it came about one bleary-eyed morning when we were just too tired to say no.  Every time each of our kids got a sticker anywhere (the doctor, a festival, a birthday party, the museum), they came home and put it on their dresser.  And our son, who had dozens of stickers on his, could remember where almost every single one had come from.

So I had to work really hard to convince the kids that we were doing the right thing, but I finally managed.  Apparently, however, I was the one who needed more convincing.  As the two men at Goodwill unloaded the last dresser out of my van, I surprised myself by bursting into tears.  My chest clenched up as I felt a panic in seeing the dressers move out of sight.  It was only the presence of my kids that prevented me from yelling, “Wait!  I changed my mind!!”

I know they’re just pieces of furniture, but that’s where I changed my kids’ diapers when they were babies, gave them their first washcloth baths after coming home from the hospital, and snorked out their noses when they were sick.  They’re monuments; tangible pieces of history in our lives, proudly displaying many moments of fun.  The top drawers, only recently emptied of big-kid underwear, used to hold nothing but diapers and wipes.

But I know it’s not exactly the furniture that I was pining for.  It was the infancy of my children, the brief and magical time when they were so small, so snuggly, so new.  Now I have a 5-year-old about to start Kindergarten and a 3-year-old who is as sassy as a teenager.  And it hurts because those baby days are such a distant memory…

I have the same feelings whenever I’m near the neighborhood where my grandparents used to live.  I always feel compelled to drive by what used to be their house and stop outside, just looking at it.  Their house was the family meeting place.  Every weekend, my mother’s siblings could be found there –  playing cards, making jokes, and laughing so loud my ears would hurt.  It’s a time in my life for which I am constantly nostalgic.

My kids aren’t babies anymore, and my grandparents are gone.  Sometimes, the physical objects that are left behind remind me so strongly of those memories, it takes my breath away.

I did manage to give up the changing tables, but I’ll never stop driving by that house.

The Trick to a Fun, Safe Halloween

19 Oct

An ongoing battle with my 5-year-old over this year’s costume (he wants to be a ninja-cowboy-wizard—don’t ask; I want him to wear the astronaut suit Grandma ransomed from FAO Schwartz!) hasn’t dampened my excitement about trick-or-treating.  We live in a busy subdivision; last year, we handed out 135 Twix bars and M&Ms to tiny witches and wee tigers!  This year we’re heading once again to a friend’s neighborhood, a network of about 100 homes accessed via a single street entrance.  The minimal car traffic combined with hordes of kids does this mama’s heart good.

I also try to follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Have a safe, funny, happy Halloween!

Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

Avoid trick-or-treating alone.  Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them.  Limit the amount of treats you eat.

Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.

Always test make-up in a small area first.  Remove it before bedtime to prevent skin and eye irritation.

Look both ways before crossing the street.  Use established crosswalks wherever possible.

Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.

Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.

Eat only factory-wrapped treats.  Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook well.

Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult.  Otherwise, stay outside.

Never walk near lit candles or luminaries.  Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

For more tips, visit http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/.

National Night Out

6 Oct

National Night Out, a crime/drug prevention event, was last night.  It is hard to believe it’s been going on for 27 years now!  I remember being a kid and participating with most of the neighbors that lived on our street.  Our parents would let us stay up late, which was extra cool on a school night!  We would grill hotdogs and eat ridged chips with sour cream and onion dip.  Us kids would ride our bikes, play flashlight tag, and have races in the street.  Our parents would set up card tables & chairs, relax, telling stories, playing cards, and having a beer!

National Night Out was designed to get people out and into their neighborhoods, to meet their neighbors and create a presence that makes an anti-drugs/anti-crime statement.  We have a fairly active HOA in our current neighborhood (they are really quick to give you a note when your weeds are too high), so I was disappointed to learn we were not doing anything as a neighborhood to raise awareness.

That did not stop me as an individual from getting my own family involved!  It was nothing like my childhood memories, but that’s OK!  We started a new tradition for our family and were able to get a few of the neighbors involved!  I even talked with one of the HOA Board members, who said he had no idea what NNO was.  He was eager to plan something for next year!  You can bet I will make myself available to help him!

My husband and I got outside with the kids and played.  My husband taught the kids some skateboard tricks and I wrangled them up for a game of flashlight tag.  The kids stayed up late, got plenty of fresh air, and had a ton of fun!

For more information on National Night Out, check out this website: http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/about.html

When you register in advance, you can get all kinds of perks, like law enforcement coming out and giving safety tips to you & your neighbors.  The librarians at our local public library were also offering to set up a table in the neighborhood to get people to apply for free library cards!

I’d love to hear how you celebrate NNO, either present day, or when you were younger, so feel free to leave a comment!

Kick the Can

15 Sep

Every time I think of my childhood, I smile!  I was raised in a suburb of Houston, and in those days, times were different.  I hung out with a gaggle of kids who were all about the same ages as my siblings and I.  In those days, we didn’t worry about being kidnapped, robbed, or beat up.  We were completely carefree.  In fact, we literally played outside during the summers from about 10am until dark.  Long before the days of  “helicopter” parenting, our own mom and dad let us run wild throughout our neighborhood.  In fact, we even rode our bikes up to convenience stores to purchase candy and ice cream!  Can you even imagine letting your grade schooler do that now?

In those days, the outdoors was our environment; it was our habitat!  We were forever swimming, biking, exploring, dancing, and playing games outdoors.  I hope to instill that same love for games and the outdoors in my own children.

This past weekend, I taught the kids to play Kick the Can!  It’s SO fun and anyone old enough to play Hide n Seek can play!  You create a large square or rectangular boundary (we used the natural square of the concrete driveway panel) for the “it” person to stand.  Someone kicks over an aluminum can and everyone runs and hides.  Again, the need to create a boundary is imperative.  The “it” person has to run, get the can, set it upright in the square, close their eyes and then count (we kept it simple to 10).  While the “it” person is counting, everyone else hides.  The “it” person, then has to look around the area, and if one of the players is spotted, they must come into the square.  Now, persons in the square may do whatever they need to (short of hurting the “it” person, or getting physical) to distract the “it” person.  If the “it” person is distracted, another player can run or sneak into the square and kick the can.  Once the can has been kicked, everyone inside the square is released, and is allowed to find another hiding spot.  A player wins when they have spotted every other player, and there is no one left to try and kick the can.

I’d love to hear from you!  What are some outdoor games you remember from childhood that you want to pass along to your own children?  Let’s maintain a love for nature, the outdoors, and get those bodies moving!  Don’t be afraid to play with your children.  Those are the times they will remember forever!

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