Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Hilary Duff!

Former tween queen Hilary Duff's birthday was September 28. The Lizzie McGuire star has a new gig guest starring on Gossip Girl. Happy Birthday to Ms. Duff!

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Emma Watson: Fashion Designer

Harry Potter star Emma Watson is multi-talented. Not only is she attending Brown University, serving as the muse for British fashion house Burberry, and filming the last two Harry Potter movies, but she just joined the organic fashion company, People Tree, as a creative advisor.

Ms. Watson has collaborated with the company to design a capsule collection of organic cotton t-shirts, dresses, skirts, and knitwear. She says, "I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren't many options out there."

According to the People Tree site, not only does the collection use 100% organic and Fairtrade certified cotton, it is also made entirely by Fair Trade groups by hand, using hand weaving, hand knitting and hand embroidery to create livelihoods for some of the most disadvantaged people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Go Emma! We can't wait to try it!

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Selena Gomez Album Released Today!

The latest Disney tween album was released today: Selena Gomez and her band, the Scene, released "Kiss-and-Tell". We LOVE the album cover art!

Did you listen to their sneak peek last week? What do you think?

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Happy Birthday to Frankie Jonas!

The "bonus Jonas" turned 9 on September 28. While Frankie is the youngest member of the Jonas family, this tween already has several professional credits to his name including Ponyo and Camp Rock 2.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wishing We Lived in London

This is one of those times that we wished we lived in London: to grab one of the 1000 black balloons that had a special Harry Potter ticket in them. Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) were on the Millennium Bridge in London on Friday to launch the balloons. Each balloon has a ticket with a code that entitles the holder to enter a sweepstakes. The winner will appear in the final film as a moving portrait on the walls of Hogwarts school!

Read more: http://justjaredjr.buzznet.com/2009/09/27/evanna-lynch-launches-1000-balloons/#ixzz0SLX3rQQp

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A Tween's Review of the 2009 National Book Festival

A tween’s review of the 2009 National Book Festival:
It rained, and it poured, but that didn’t deter the crowds: more than 130,000 people attended the 2009 National Book Festival according to the Library of Congress (LOC). The Mall was soggy, but 4th grader Madison Jones from Holy Trinity School braved the elements to get a glimpse of one her favorite authors, Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Says Madison, “It was really fun, and I was really excited for it because of Holly Black. There were lots of choices [of authors to see], but you had to be willing to stand in line for over an hour sometimes.” Sadly, after standing in line Madison and family did not get to meet Ms. Black at the book signing because the authors were called away for a press conference.

A great summary of the day’s events focused on children’s, teens, and tween literature was published by “Letters From Rapunzel” author, Sara Lewis Holmes on her blog.

The LOC has gone high-tech! The LOC tweeted live from the event all day; you can look up the journal of the day’s tweets by searching for the hashtag: #nbf, and their Young People’s Literature Ambassador, Jon Scieszka, announced the launch of The Exquisite Corpse project. It’s not as scary as it sounds - here’s how their website describes it: “An Exquisite Corpse is an old game in which people write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold it over to conceal part of it and pass it on to the next player to do the same. The game ends when someone finishes the story, which is then read aloud. Our 'Exquisite Corpse Adventure works this way: Jon Scieszka . . . has written the first episode, which is ‘pieced together out of so many parts that it is not possible to describe them all here.’ He has passed it on to a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators, who must eventually bring the story to an end. Every two weeks, there will be a new episode and a new illustration. The story will conclude a year from now. This story starts with a train rushing through the night....’No one knows where or how it will end!’” You can read the chapters online as the story unfolds every other week at http://read.gov/exquisite-corpse/episode1.html.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jonas Brothers and Build-A-Bear

Build-A-Bear has jumped on the Jonas Brothers' band-wagon (groan, yes, the pun was intended): starting TODAY, tweens can now make their own Jonas Brothers dog (modeled on the character in the Disney Channel t.v. show, Jonas) complete with Jonas sound. At $41.00, it is more costly than the other Build-A-Bear options - MsTwixt wishes that at higher price tag it included a charitable contribution.

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THE Place For Tweens Today: the National Book Fair

The place for families to be this weekend is the National Book Fair on the Mall. Leading tween and teen authors will be out in force. Here is an edited list of the must-sees:

Judy Blume’s work has stood the test of time. She has sold more than 80 million copies of such young-adult best-sellers as Blubber: Super Fudge, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret . Ms. Blume has won numerous awards for her writing, including the Living Legends award from the Library of Congress. Her newest book is Friend or Fiend? With the Pain & the Great One (2009). She will be signing books from 11:30a-12:30p and speaking from 5:00-5:30p.

James Patterson is well known for his fiction, but he recently started writing young adult titles. His first young adult book, Maximum Ride, was on the New York Times Chapter Book best-seller list for 12 weeks, and he has made a commitment to “making kids readers for life” through his ReadKiddoRead site. Mr. Patterson’s latest book is Daniel X: Watch the Skies. He will be speaking from 10:00-10:30a and signing books from 11:00a-12:00p.

Liz Kessler is known for her Emily Windsnap series for middle-school readers. This series stars Emily, a half-girl/half-mermaid character who has adventures underwater and on land. Ms. Kessler’s newest title is Philippa Fisher and the Dreammaker's Daughter. She will be speaking from 10:35a-11:05a and signing books from noon to 1:00p.

Jacqueline Woodson’s books have been honored with Newberies, Caldecotts, and Coretta Scott King awards. Her latest book is Peace, Locomotion (2009), about two foster children who are forced to live in separate families after the death of their parents. Ms. Woodson will be speaking from 1:30-2:00p and signing books from 4:00-5:00p.

The Tale of Despereaux (2003) reigned in our house for many months as a tween favorite. Author Kate DiCamillo is also well known for Because of Winn Dixie (2000), which was made into a movie in 2005. Her newest book is The Magician’s Elephant, and Ms. DiCamillo will be signing books from 11:30a-12:30p and speaking from 2:40-3:10p.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid author, Jeff Kinney, will also be at the Book Fair tomorrow. He is a University of Maryland alum and used to write a comic for the campus paper. The latest in the Diary series is The Last Straw due out this year. Mr. Kinney will be signing books from 1:00-2:00p and speaking from 4:25-4:55p.

Megan McDonald is the mastermind behind the Judy Moody series. Ms. McDonald is another author who started young – she wrote for her school newspaper when she was ten years old. Her newest books are The Rule of Three (2009), which is a Sisters Club story, and Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt. Ms. McDonald will be speaking from 10:00-10:55a and from 1:55-2:25p and signing books from 4:00-5:00p.

The Stinky Cheese Man is coming! Well, the author, Jon Scieszka, is. The Library of Congress recently tapped Mr. Scieszka to be the first National Ambassador for its Young People’s Literature program, and he is the founder of a non-profit literacy organization, Guys Read. His books have broad appeal to young kids and adults alike, and he is due to release a new book, is Robot Zot!(2009) later this year. He will be speaking from 10:00-10:55a and signing books from 11:30a-12:30p.

The adorable tale of friendship between a hippo and turtle, Owen & Mzee was told by Craig Hatkoff in 2006. His picture books have told amazing tales, and his newest book, Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again (2009), is about a rescued baby dolphin that learned to swim using a prosthetic tail. Mr. Hattkoff will be speaking from 12:10-12:40p and signing books from 1:00-2:00p.

See you on the Mall!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Is Tween Gabi Wilson the Next Big Thing?

Take a listen for yourself at the Next Big Thing. Radio Disney has found five emerging artists and is showcasing their talent on the radio station starting this week. It's sort of American Idol for tweens. The show is hosted by Sonny With a Chance's Tiffany Thornton.

The first artist to be featured is 12-year old Gabi Wilson from California who has been making music since she was born. This tween has been writing poetry since age five and plays, count them, FOUR instruments: guitar, piano, drums, and bass. Fans can vote for their fave, and the winner will be featured on Radio Disney's Jams 12 CD.

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We Are SO Excited for Fame!

Fame opens today, and we can't wait!

The L.A. premiere was last night - BTW, why, why, why didn't DC get a Fame sneak-peak?? MsTwixt does not understand why studios do not recognize that Washington is a top-tier arts city - we have the Washington Ballet, the Kennedy Center (hello?!?!), the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, the Smithsonian (hello again ?!?!). What gives, Hollywood? DC needs more movie premieres here!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Backstage With Miley's Little Sister

Miley Cyrus is no longer a tween, but her little sister and cousin are: Noah Cyrus is 9, and Emily Grace Reaves is 10. The pair have been accompanying Miley on tour and taping their escapades backstage. (I guess the girls are tutored on the road so that they can see the tour.) The video is being posted on MileyWorld.com, and these special episodes can be viewed below. Must be pretty cool to have your older sister be a rock star!

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Happy Fall!

Today is the first day of Fall! MsTwixt and tweens are making apple crisp to celebrate, but we hope to get around to making these adorable apple "cake pops" from Bakerella. What are your Fall traditions?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are Tweens Today the Next Generation of Latchkey Kids?

Calling all moms! Did you read the recent article in the New York Times, "Recession Drives Women Back to the Work Force"? Whether you work outside the home, stay at home, or work part-time, this article is worth the time out of your busy day to read.

Steven Greenhouse writes about the record number of mothers returning to the workforce after "opting out" while their children were young. The reasons cited for returning to work are all due to the recession - a new economic necessity because a spouse was laid off, retirement losses that were too great, or just the new daily financial need. The reasons and even the trend itself is controversial (do you remember the "Opt-Out Revolution" article a few years ago?) as economists and researchers argue about the demographic chameleon of mothers in the workforce. Many say that the moms who do work work out of necessity and that only a very small group of affluent moms have the luxury of opting-out of work. Work-life balance guru Sylvia Ann Hewlett, says that, "Women are at a watershed moment." And even more disturbing, studies have found that for every two years a woman is out of the labor force, her earnings fall by 10 percent, a penalty that lasts throughout her career. We already knew that women get paid less than men for the same work, but now there's also a literal parenting penalty that only moms must pay?!?

With record numbers of moms returning to the workforce, will we see a new generation of latch-key kids amongst tweens today? After all, if both parents are at work out of economic necesity, no one is at home at 3pm to meet the kids after school. Certainly some families are fortunate enough to have extended family nearby, but the costs of after school care is often prohibitive. Are tweens old enough to stay home unsupervised for a few hours? What is the "right" age to allow this?

What will our tweens need to manage in this new reality? Will this cause them to grow up a little too early, or is increasing independence a good thing? Clearly, tweens need to be comfortable with being on their own for a few hours, know how to handle contingenices (a lost key, a stranger at the door, etc.), and know all the key contact numbers. But since the last generation of latch-key kids, there are new challenges to deal with: balancing the need to access the Internet for homework versus the need to monitor online usage and visitation, and the question of whether or not your tween should have a cell phone, are just two of the technogical issues to address. What differences do you see between the latch-key generation of the past versus a new one today?

Please join this discussion and post your comments below.

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It's International White Chocolate Day!

Did you know that today is International White Chocolate Day? We found an amazing photo of the White House made entirely of white chocolate - yum!
Here in D.C. you can get Washington landmarks such as the White House, the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and more crafted in white chocolate at Thomas Sweet in Georgetown, a favorite after-school stomping ground of the First Tweens.

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Sneak Peek at Selena Gomez's New Album

Ms Gomez's debut album, Kiss and Tell, will be released next week (on September 29th), but the band is releasing one track a day so that fans can get a little preview. Take a listen - what do you think?

BTW, how amazing does the raven-haired performer look in this pic?!?!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Special Screening in D.C.

As mentioned earlier on this blog, the classic Wizard of Oz film is celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the film will be shown on Wednesday, September 23rd at 7pm in hi-def with out-takes, historical interviews, and behind the scenes footage here in Washington at the Mazza Gallerie movie theatre in Friendship Heights. This is a special one-night only event coinciding with showings throughout the U.S. on the same date and time.
There's even a fun quiz for you and your tween to take to see which Oz character you are most like.

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The New Eloise Package at the Plaza Hotel

Uber-designer Betsey Johnson has been tapped by the new owners of the Plaza Hotel to create an Eloise-themed suite. The suite does not come cheap: to book the Live Like Eloise Slumber Party costs $3,995 - to reserve the room costs $895.

Photo from the NYT by Patrick Andrade.

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Pirate Day Gear

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day! We have satirist Dave Barry to thank for publicizing this "holiday" - in 2002 he mentioned this day in his newspaper column - and word about it has spread like wildfire.

P.S. This is the SAME Dave Barry who authored the Peter and the Starcatcher series - a must read starring Molly Aster, another strong tween girl character. Did you know that there will be a new, fourth book in the Starcatchers Series? It's called Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and it will be released on October 13, 2009.

If you want to get in on the pirate action, Ms Twixt suggests accessorizing with the perfect skull-and-crossbones tote from Dogeared.

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Happy Birthday to Hermione Granger

Although a fictional character, Hermione Granger ranks as one of the most influential tween girls of our time. According to Ms. J.K.Rowling, Ms. Granger's birthday is September 19th. Happy Birthday!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Review of the Twixt Sandal on Celebrity Scoop Blog!

As our loyal customers know, the lovely Ms Brooke Shields shopped at Twixt this spring for sandals for her daughter. Celebrity Baby Scoop, a celebrity blog, just reviewed these same sandals and is offering its readers a special discount! Click here to review the article and let us know what you think!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

National Play-Doh Day!

Well, actually it was yesterday, September 16th, but we can't pass up an opportunity to celebrate National Play Doh Day! Play-doh is for ALL ages and is great for de-stressing, a really cool study aid (to keep idle hands busy while reviewing flash cards), and a fun science project (it even makes for a nice last minute science fair project!). Not just any old play-doh will do, and Ms Twixt has found the ULTIMATE playdoh: Dokedo. This is a scented play putty, sort of cross between play-doh and SillyPutty, that comes in fantastic scents like gumball, cotton candy, banana boat, marshmallow, melon, and more.
And did you know that there's even a Play Doh perfume? Twixt has mini bottles of this fresh-from-the-can scent in the special 50th anniversary scent - so fun!

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Free Miley Performance Tonight

The tween pop-star will perform tonight on VH1's Divas Concert at 9pm EST. Miley Cyrus will join American Idol cohorts Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks, and British pop sensations Leona Lewis and Adele.
Miley is reported to have three amazing costume changes for tonight's show.
One more show to Tivo for the girls!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Nick!

Mr. Nick Jonas is 17 years old today - happy birthday to the musical wunderkid!

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Starting a Natural Beauty Trend for Tween Girls

Eleven-year old First Tween Malia Obama can add beauty icon to her resume. Girls everywhere follow the First Tweens - what they wear, their musical tastes, where they vacation - and when Miss Malia updated her hairstyle this summer, girls noticed.

Some of the first photos came from their European trip showing her hair in the very natural style of twists. Throughout the summer we watched the Obama girls on their travels throughout the world. We not only saw them interacting with their family and world leaders, but we also observed how they dressed at both formal and casual ocassions.

As girls return to school this month, many young women brought in photos of Malia Obama from this summer asking for similar hair styles. Moms and hairstylist alike have applauded this trend noting that it does not require harsh chemicals or processes that damage their hair. Other African-American celebrities are also making the move to more natural hairstyles including Tyra Banks and Beyonce. Celebrating one's natural beauty is one tween beauty trend we can all get behind.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Check out Twixt in today's Daily Candy Kids!

Twixt was featured in Daily Candy Kids today! Today's article features our candy parties for tween girls - read more here:
You Say It's Your Birthday

Give your sugar baby a candy party from Treats by Twixt (3222 M Street NW; 202-494-9708). The custom fetes (in your house or the store) will have mini sweethearts doing the licorice limbo, making edible jewelry, and filling up on a candy buffet (complete with chocolate fountain for dipping Peeps).

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Girl Power at the VMA

Tween idols Taylor Swift and Beyonce Knowles were both honored at the VMA Awards on MTV tonight. You may have heard about the scandal caused when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video (saying that it should have gone to Beyonce).
On so many levels this incident at the VMAs is amazing for girls to witness (although probably via Tivo given the late Sunday hour of the show). Ms. Swift showed incredible grace under pressure after being disrespected in a very public way during what should have been a wonderful moment for her. She then went on to perform live in the NY Subway for the show. Her professionalism and grace were lessons in how to rise above pettiness and disrespect.
Ms. Knowles also performed a very long, strenuous and complicated act live for the show and was later awarded Best Music Video. During what should have been one of her most exciting moments, she invited Ms. Swift to the stage to continue her acceptance speech. Class all the way.
So often society and the media pit women against each other and revel in the "cat fight." Tonight, two of the most talented women in a very melodramatic and intense industry showed how to de-escalate a ridiculous situation, show respect towards each other, and honor their fans. Congratuations, and thank you.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Melanie Oudin's Cinderella Shoes

Melanie Oudin may be out of this year's Open, but she gained legions of new fans and re-energized the game. The seventeen year old tennis phenom has worn custom Adidas tennis shoes during her play at the U.S. Open. While most athletes choose to personalize their shoes with their names, Ms. Oudin had the word "BELIEVE" put on the heel of her sneakers instead. (At Arthur Ashe Stadium, 'Believe' by Cher was played over the PA system after Oudin's many wins.) After this year's tournament, it's clear that Ms. Oudin has several more believers as well.

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First Tweens' Back to School Rules

First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama have some pretty strict rules to follow since going back to school at Sidwell Friends this week. The First Lady spoke about her self-discipline and school night rules in the October 2009 issue of Women's Health magazine.

No staying up late to watch Glee - the Obama girls are not allowed to watch television or use the computer during the week. Those privileges are reserved for the weekend only. (And after watching tonight's episode of Glee and finding it wholly inappropriate for tweens, I may adopt Mrs. Obama's rule too.)

Family dinners are sacred - even the President makes this a priority. “Dad’s office is just downstairs, and it’s rare that we don’t have dinner together. No matter what’s going on, he sets aside that time,” the First Lady said.

The First Family also says grace together at dinner, and each person shares what happened in his or her day. I love this idea! In our house, we have a similar rule: each person must share at least one good thing and one bad thing (if there was one) about their day.

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Back to School Resolution #4: Make New Friends

Part four of the series Top Ten Back to School Resolutions for tweens and their parents:

Back to School Resolution #4: Make new friends.

Or, "Hang out with new people but still keep in touch with old friends." A new school year and/or a new school also means an opportunity to meet new people. While that can be scary, it's also something that tweens can find energizing. What struck me most when hearing this resolution from tweens was how universal this goal is – I heard it from sporty girls, drama girls, rocker girls, city girls, country girls – all around. Tweens are still working out who they are and exploring a variety of interests, and social groupings are often still fluid. It makes sense that tweens still want to meet people from a wide variety of backgrounds with different interests.

As parents, we are often left wondering when our little girl in pigtails who loves soccer and glitter was replaced by the sullen and moody changeling in front of us – and then by how fast she returned. Such is the nature of pre-adolescence. We cannot choose her friends anymore than we can choose her interests, but we can help her navigate how to form and keep friendships. Social skills are still developing, and tweens are trying to make sense of all the dynamics around them. Sharing our experiences with friendship and how relationships can change over time lends some perspective. It can be eye-opening to realize that one cannot get everything from one friend, and that having a network of different friends and groups to draw from can be a source of strength and comfort. Authors such as Rachel Simmons (Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl) and Rosalind Wiseman (Queenbees and Wannabes, among others) have done extensive research on the social dynamics of tween girls, and their findings and case studies have broad application for parents and school administrators.

Is your tween nervous or not about meeting new people? How do you help her in this regard? I’d love to hear your Back to School tips for tweens – send me a tweet at www.twitter.com/MsTwixt or post your comment below.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is Glee for Tweens?

Is Fox's new series about a high school glee club, Glee, for tweens?

This series debuted in the spring to rave reviews, and our tweens LOVED it (although we were very liberal with the Mute and Fast Forward buttons on our Tivo). The soundtrack is phenomenal, and Gen X and Boomer parents will certainly appreciate the music - when Glee's premiere ran in May, songs from the show were the number one download on iTunes and the pilot was the most viewed video on Hulu.com. The series has even inspired a new term for its fans: "Gleeks"

There are some fairly mature issues addressed in the script including bullying/cyberbullying, homophobia, and some sexual innuendo, but the show's overarching themes are centered on inclusivity, cooperation, and acceptance - all good things that parents would want to instill in their kids. (National Bullying Awareness Month is in October BTW)

A parenting media site, CommonSenseMedia, rates Glee as appropriate for age 14+ and perhaps age 13. That being said, movies about high school musical groups/troupes are spawning like crazy - witness the High School Musical series, Nickelodeon's version of HSM: Spectacular, ABC Family's Another Cinderella Story starring Selena Gomez and Drew Seeley, BandSlam with Vanessa Hudgens, and the re-make of Fame. And Glee isn't the only television series about school musicals: ABC Family has Ruby and the Rockits, there's Disney Channel's Hannah Montana series (which has launched the musical careers of Miley Cyrus, Mitchel Musso and Emily Osment), and rumors of another series in the works. Television is more accessible to tweens because they don't require paid admission so more tweens can see them - but should they? Glee's star, Cory Monteith has described Glee as “It’s as if ‘High School Musical’ had been punched in the stomach and had its lunch money stolen.”

The raw talent of Glee's cast, the intelligence of the writing, positive and upbeat themes, and broad appeal of the concept make it easily likeable. Where do you come out on this issue - are you letting your tween watch Glee?

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Former Tween Queen Lindsay Lohan Named Creative Director for Ungaro

Former tween queen Lindsay Lohan, star of Disney's The Parent Trap re-make and Mean Girls, was just named as a Creative Director for the upscale fashion house Ungaro. Her role will be to serve as an "artistic advisor" to Ungaro's new Chief Designer Estrella Archs.

Ms. Lohan is widely known for her keen and edgy fashion sense, and the deal was apparently cliched during Ungaro CEO Mounir Moufarrige's visit to Lohan's Los Angeles home. "Her home is like a department store," he said. "You have to sit on the floor because the settees, chairs and tables are covered with clothes and accessories." The collection will debut during Paris Fashion Week (October 4).

This is not the actress' first contribution to the fashion world: this summer she launched a line of leggings, 6126: www.6126collection.com

To be named Creative Director for a leading fashion house is every tween girl's dream! Best of luck to Ms. Lohan in her new venture!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Back to School Tradition: the Schultute

Today was the girls' first day back at school, and we started a new tradition in our family this year for Back to School: the Schultute. We have usually given the girls a little gift to celebrate the beginning of the school year, and a few years ago I learned of a tradition in Germany of giving children schultute, or a cone of little gifts, on their first day of school.

Truth be told, I was too overwhelmed in past years to take on a new project, but this year I figured I'd give it a go. It was quite painless (even though I had to make three of them, it was still painless), and these were a HUGE hit with our tweens! I'm told that one can buy empty cones online, but I made ours with a piece of posterboard and some extra wrapping tissue lying around - SUPER cheap. I filled the girls' cones with fun little items for their bookbags and lockers: lip gloss, gum, hand sanitizer, tissue packs, cool mechanical pencils, mini Japanese erasers, a little Ugly doll key ring, socks, and school gym shorts.

What items would you add to a schultute?

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Back to School Resolution #3

Part three of the series Top Ten Back to School Resolutions for tweens and their parents:

Back to School Resolution #3: Participate more.

This resolution was a bit surprising to hear tween girls articulate – I expected to hear it from parents and teachers about girls and was so glad to hear it from the girls themselves. To strive to participate more in class – also articulated as “Raise my hand more often” and “Pay more attention/ask more questions” – demonstrates a level of self awareness that is amazing to hear from 7 to 14 year old girls. It makes sense that students who engage more in class get more out of class because they are active in the dialogue and mentally present. One of the best tips I heard for achieving this goal also came from a tween: set a goal of making one comment a day in any class; once you’ve lived to tell the tale, it’s not so scary and makes it much easier the next time. To raise confident and competent girls, we need to coach them to take risks by either volunteering an answer or asking questions to clarify her knowledge. By putting herself out there and increasing class participation, girls become more self-confident and little “failures” (like an incorrect answer) only pave the way for greater successes. In the President’s speech to school kids today he also spoke about taking risks (using himself and Michael Jordan as examples) and learning how to fail because without making mistakes, one cannot improve.

As a parent gearing up for the new school year, I am also feeling a renewed sense of commitment to my children’s schools. Education funding is hurting at all levels, and schools need their PTAs and PTOs more than ever. It is in that spirit that I find myself signing up for one extra volunteer task and moving my schedule to accommodate at least some of those parent meetings. So this year I resolve to take those extra steps to stay informed and to participate – I want to be aware of any changes our schools will need to make in this economic climate and be sure that add my voice to the dialogue.

As you send your kids back to school, how are you dealing with the calls for extra help from parents? Participate! Add your voice to the dialogue! Please post your comment below or send me a tweet at www.twitter.com/MsTwixt.

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President Obama's Back to School Speech

President Obama broke the news during his interview with tween reporter Damon Weaver that he would address all school kids in America this fall. The Presidential Address is scheduled for 12pm EST on September 8th, but the White House released President Obama's prepared remarks today.

Presidents Reagan and Bush also addressed American school kids during their terms. President Obama will be speaking live locally from Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA. His remarks are meant to inspire and motivate kids of all ages returning to school this month.

Do you think First Tweens Malia and Sasha helped him to write this speech?

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The First Tweens' Excellent Summer Adventure

First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama will certainly have a lot to say when asked "What did you do over the summer?" The girls return to Sidwell Friends School tomorrow, entering 6th and 3rd grades respectively. They spent their summer traveling to countries on four continents and took in a few American sites as well.

They began their summer in June in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Pompidou Center, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral. Then they hopped over the Channel to London where Sasha celebrated her 8th birthday on June 10th. This amazing birthday celebration was held on the set of the final Harry Potter movie and was attended by cast and crew, including J.K. Rowling! In London, the Obama ladies toured Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Tower of London and even met the Queen! Part of the birthday celebration included taking in a show (a must-do in the London's vibrant theatre district) - The Lion King.

Malia Obama celebrated her 11th birthday on July 4th here in Washington (there's nothing like a fireworks for one's birthday!). The First Family then went to Moscow on July 6th where the First Tweens toured the Kremlin, took in a concert and met with Russia's First Lady. Then it was off to Rome where the girls learned to make gelato at one of Italy's most famous gelaterias - Giolitti, met the Pope, and toured the Parthenon and the Colosseum.

The girls visited their fourth continent, Africa, on a visit to Ghana. In addition to seeing Ghana's vibrant culture and dance traditions, the First Family spent some solemn moments at Cape Coast Castle in Accra where Africans used to be imprisoned before being shipped into slavery. The President said he hoped that seeing the former slave fortress would help his daughters, "who are growing up in such a blessed way," to understand their obligation to fight oppression and cruelty.

The First Tweens spent the rest of their summer holiday State-side. They visited sites local to the Washington area in late July: Luray Caverns in West Virginia and Monticello and Charlottesville in Virginia (we blogged about those trip details here). The Obama ladies also took a day trip to Philadelphia in early August to tour a few historical sites including Betsy Ross' house (we blogged about those trip details here). Mid-August saw the First Family at Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon (more details here), and by late August the girls were on the beach on Martha's Vineyard.

Their scrapbooks must be full! The First Tweens met the Pope, the Queen of England, and dined with the Presidents of France and Russia - all in one summer. Those dignitaries are no Jonas Brothers, but what an amazing opportunity to see the world and learn for these young ladies.

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