Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Tween Sasha Obama and Nick Jonas at Motown Tribute

The White House hosted a night of Motown music in honor of Black History Month last night, and First Tween Sasha Obama helped to dance the night away. Video from ABC News is below:




Stars who performed tributes to Motown greats included Nick Jonas (himself no stranger to the Obamas), Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, Jordin Sparks, John Legend, and Amber Riley and Matt Salling from the cast of Glee. The President took a great deal of ribbing about his own stiff dance style from emcee Jamie Foxx, but he took it good-naturedly and danced with young Ms. Obama on the stage during "Dancing in the Streets."

As part of the First Lady's new initiative, "The Sound of Young America", Michelle Obama invited 100 local students in Washington to attend an educational workshop at the White House on the history of Motown. You can watch that video here.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Justin Bieber's Birthday Plans

Justin Bieber is a busy boy, but he plans to spend his 17th birthday (on March 1st) with family back home in Canada. His only request is for his grandmother's homemade cherry cheesecake and to relax before kicking off his world tour in England on March 4th. He said, "Hopefully my grandparents will be out here and I'll be able to spend time, a little bit, with them. My grandma makes the best cheesecake - cherry cheesecake. She made that for my 13th birthday." 

It's nice that a teenager still appreciates his grandparents, isn't it?

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some Positive Press About Miley Cyrus and Her Service Projects

The media has been filled with not-so-nice things about former tween icon Miley Cyrus. Well, here's something positive about her service efforts and the lasting effect it's having on America's youth:  Ms. Cyrus was awarded the Global Action Youth Leadership Award by former tween icon Hilary Duff earlier this week.

"The Global Action Awards acknowledged persons who have committed time, talents and resources to taking action in order to save lives, solve problems and empower future generations. The awards were presented to people who showed innovation, effectiveness and measurable solutions to global challenges and who have collaborated on projects and in campaigns which have served as catalysts for action."

Ms. Cyrus received the honor for the impact her own charity, Get Ur Good On, has had on recruiting and empowering tweens and teens to get involved in their community and for her participation in Ms. Duff's charity, Blessings In A Backpack.


You can see the star's eloquent acceptance speech below and on our YouTube channel. We think that her message that "you don't have to give billion dollars . . it's about looking at your neighbors and seeing how you can help"  to make a difference - that every little thing you can do right here, right now in your neighborhood is important - really strikes the right chord with tweens.



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Justin Bieber's Version of Locks for Love

The tween world is a-twitter over Justin Bieber's recent haircut, but what we found most interesting is that he's donating his locks to charity. Well, not the hair itself, but boxes of famous 'do are being auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds to benefit charity. Ellen DeGeneres received her box when Mr. Bieber visited her on her show yesterday (yes, the same show that Maria Aragon sung "Born This Way" on - we wonder if the two Canadian, YouTube-discovered kids met backstage?).  Proceeds from The Ellen Show auction will benefit The Gentle Barn, which rescues abused and neglected animals and invites high-risk children to visit them to help them feel less alone.

Photo credit: Justin Bieber's Twitter account

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Lola (Lourdes) Leon on Access to Her Mom's (Madonna's) Closet

Fourteen year old Material Girl designer Lola Leon was recently interviewed about her spring line and spoke about her access to her mom's enviable closet.

Ms. Leon said that she's allowed to borrow clothes from mom but "only if I ask first" and admits "that she has such an amazing collection." Surprisingly, she shared that Madonna often raids her daughter's closet "especially for my shoes and my accessories."

She also announced that the new face of Material Girl will be Kelly Osbourne.

Video below:


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It's On: Social Networks' War For Tweens

It seems as though social network membership is about to get as ubiquitous as cell phone ownership amongst tweens - are you ready?

Everywhere we turn, folks are talking about social networking sites for tweens - it's like tweens are the new "It" girl at the party. This week alone we've been asked to engage in conversations about Facebook usage amongst tweens (despite their stated policy of being 13 years old), Everloop officially launched, and today we learned of two social networks for tweens being re-launched:
  • Togetherville was JUST bought by Disney (and we do mean "just" - as in 3 hours ago) and 
  • Imbee, one of the original tween networks from "way back in 2006", has been brought back to life by new management
All of these networks offer clusters of interest-areas such as sports, science, books, etc. to engage like-minded tweens into virtual communities - Imbee calls these FanZones, Togetherville has Neighborhoods, and Everloop has, well, loops. All claim to be COPPA-compliant. And all of them are going to be competing for your tween's attention.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10 Year Old Tween Maria Aragon Invited to Sing With Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has invited ten year old Maria Aragon to join her onstage at her Toronto concert to sing her hit, "Born This Way". Ms. Aragon joins Greyson Chance and Justin Bieber in being the latest music sensation to be discovered via YouTube.



Her mother uploaded a video of her singing "Born This Way", and Perez Hilton saw it and sent it to Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga was so impressed that she contacted Ms. Aragon and invited her to join her on stage.

Ellen DeGeneres had Ms. Aragon on her show yesterday - we loved her interview and the reasons she expressed for wanting to cover the song.

Lady Gaga's Monster Ball concert plays at the Verizon Center in Washington tomorrow.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cool Kicks For Tweens: Zodiac Converse

Love this! Converse has had its make-your-own line for a few years now, but they've just introduced zodiac prints to this collection. Perfect for a tween's birthday.

We wrote earlier about a custom zodiac Hello Kitty stamp - this is its footwear counterpart. Very cool. Mom may need to get her own pair.

$65 from converse.com

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Monday, February 21, 2011

A Project for the Father-Daughter Dance

Our tweens attended the annual Girl Scout Father-Daughter Dance a few weeks ago. This has become a tradition that the girls look forward to every year, and this year's dance was particularly exciting because it was the first year our youngest tween was old enough to attend.

We wanted to make the experience extra special for her after she spent so many years watching her sisters go off with her dad, so we made a boutonniere and corsages to mark the day. We've purchased these from our local florist before, but the project seemed easy enough to attempt at home. 'Turns out, it was pretty painless, and it was about one-third of the cost.

Here's what we did:
  • We went to our favorite neighborhood florist and asked which flowers they had that would work best for this type of project. They had some really nice white anemones with dark, inky blue centers and suggested that we use one white hydrangea stem cut into small florets to fill out the pieces. The flowers cost $12.
  • They also threw in the remnants of a green floral tape roll for $1.
  • At home, we assembled our supplies: scissors, some pearl-headed pins, and some ribbon.
  • We cut the anemones very short and wrapped the stems with floral tape. For the corsages, we added bits of hydrangea and bound those with the floral tape to surround the anemone. 
  • Then we cut the tape and wrapped the stems with ribbon (we just used curling ribbon which we had around the house).
  • For the boutonniere, we framed the anemone with a hydrangea leaf and secured the floral tape with a pearl-head pin.
  • We stored the flowers in the fridge until the dance.
Our eldest used an extra flower in her hair. We think these turned out great!

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What Happened to the Gamma Girl?

After reading yesterday's article in the Washington Post about "What Happens When Mean Girls Girls Grow Up?" we started doing some research. At the end of the article the author, Laura Sessions Stepp, makes reference to a positive model for girl behavior called "Gamma Girls". Unlike Mean Girls, Queen Bees, or Wannabes, Gamma Girls are self-possessed, follow their own paths, and are defined by being well-adjusted. They lead through cooperation instead of intimidation - exactly the kind of tweens we're trying to raise.

The term "Gamma" comes from the third letter of the Greek alphabet and is known in science as being one of three or more closely related chemical substances. A Gamma Girl is independent and well-rounded - she jumps from group to group socially. She is a friend to everyone and "characteristically talks about activities they're doing for others, not for themselves" (think Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde or tween fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson). Gammas are smart, planners and detail-oriented.

A bit of background:

These terms appear to have been coined by Post writer Laura Sessions Stepp in a 2002 article titled "Alpha Girls: In Middle School, Learning to Handle The ABCs of Power". She described three groups: "Alphas", stars who define teen life and determine who will be excluded; "Betas", who worry that they're not in the in crowd; and "Gammas", student council president types who care more about what they do than how they appear. (If you follow "The Clique" series, consider Massie as the Alpha, Alicia as the Beta, and Claire as the Gamma. I can't take credit for this point - my eldest tween pointed this out to me during our discussion for this post.)

Later in 2002, Susannah Meadows wrote an article in Newsweek about Gammas in high school titled "Meet the Gamma Girls". Rosalind Wiseman's seminal book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes" also came out in 2002, as did Rachel Simmons' "Odd Girl Out". (We wonder: what was in the water that year?)

Then mentions of Gamma Girls seem to die down. The movie "Mean Girls" (the first one, not the recent "Mean Girls 2") came out in 2004 and was based on Ms. Wiseman's Queen Bees book. In 2007 the "Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Girls" referenced Gamma Girls albeit briefly, and the Meredith Corporation, a media publishing company (with titles such as Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies Home Journal) created a marketing division called Gamma Women to study this consumer target group amongst adults. There seems to have been little to no discussion on this group again until yesterday.

To the present:

There's been a nearly ten-year history of well-educated folks studying this phenomenon, and at first I was kicking myself for not being aware that there was a middle-path of raising a Gamma Girl for parents of tweens to follow. Then I remembered that my eldest tween was only five years old in 2002, so I wasn't paying attention to any of the issues surrounding tweens at that time.

But still, I have to ask: what happened to the Gamma Girl?

Why is our discussion dominated by Mean Girls and bullies? Are we guilty of the same situation plaguing our teachers - that we fuss and fret over the "problem kids" and end up ignoring everyone else in the middle because they're doing just fine?

Or is the Gamma Girl essentially the over-pressured and over-worked SuperGirl? Is it possible to raise a Gamma Girl without stressing her out on a "Race to Nowhere" or becoming a Tiger Mom ourselves?

We're going to be exploring these issues in the coming days and weeks as part of our continuing mission to discuss positive experiences for tween girls. We welcome your comments and value your input to this important discussion. Are you a Gamma Girl or raising one? What are you doing that's working well?

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Happens When Mean Girls Grow Up?

Thanks to Rosalind Wiseman for pointing us to this very interesting article in today's Washington Post on "What Happens When Mean Girls Grow Up?"

We're still processing and would love to hear your thoughts!

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Justin Bieber Voted MVP in NBA All-Star Celebrity Basketball Game

It was a big weekend for tweens and basketball: the President coached local tweens on Sasha Obama's basketball team yesterday morning, and Justin Bieber was voted the MVP at the All-Star Celebrity Basketball Game in Los Angeles.

Although much shorter than his teammates (who included Scottie Pippen and Rick Fox), the Biebs scored 8 points and had 4 assists and 2 rebounds Friday night. More details and photos here.

Mr. Bieber's team was coached by Lakers legend Magic Johnson, and he played alongside Modern Family's Ty Burrell (he plays clueless dad Phil on the show). The public voted on the MVP award, and the tween star recruited his legendary Twitter following to garner the most votes.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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First Tweens Ski Vail This President's Day Weekend

First Tweens Malia and Sasha Obama are skiing in Vail, Colorado, over the Presidents' Day weekend. They are with their mother, First Lady Michelle Obama, and family friends. This is a "private family vacation" according to the First Lady's spokeswoman. They are reportedly staying at the Sebastian hotel in Vail.


President Obama did not join his family for this outing (he is not a skier) but instead filled in to coach Sasha Obama's basketball team when their regular coach had a conflict. The younger Ms. Obama usually plays at a local community center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This is not the first time the Obama women have vacationed without the President: Mrs. Obama took the girls to Los Angeles this fall, and in the summer, the First Lady and Sasha visited Spain on their own.

The First Tweens have only recently tried skiing - they took their first ski trip last Presidents' weekend to a local resort about a hour from Washington at Ski Liberty in Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania. According to Liberty Mountain's Marketing Director, the First Lady says about skiing: “We discovered skiing. My girls had never been skiing. With a couple hours, you’re skiing.”

Do your tweens ski? Was it easy for them to learn?

Photo credit: AP from just after the Ski Liberty trip in 2010

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The Tiger Mom Addresses Parents in D.C.

The Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, addressed a standing-room-only crowd on Friday night at local D.C. bookstore Politics & Prose. Washington is well-known for its reputation for competitive parenting, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the turn-out. A few young children and tweens were in attendance with their parents, but the crowd was ninety-percent adults.

Ms. Chua read from selected sections of her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", and took a few questions from the audience. Unfortunately, we did not get an opportunity to ask about her reaction to a "Race to Nowhere".

Here are a few takeaways from the evening:
  • One audience member commented that as a Latina parent of three now-grown children, Chinese mothers do not have a monopoly on high standards and strict parenting. She spoke of her experience in raising her very successful children and the hands-on parenting style she employed. She asked the author, "While I agree with many of your philosophies, I have to ask: have you thought about seeking psychological help?" Ms. Chua replied that she hadn't.
  • When asked how her daughters have responded to the book's publication, Ms. Chua said that they have been incredibly supportive from the start and forward her the positive comments - "what little they find" [Blogger's note: these are her words, not mine)]
  • The author also said that her own daughters have told her that they plan to raise their own children strictly as well but will be more socially permissive (allowing playdates, sleepovers, etc.).
  • One audience member was openly hostile to the author and asked if she was aware that the suicide rate was the highest amongst Asian-American young women and that these deaths are caused by the intense performance pressures these young women feel. Ms. Chua responded that she was aware of the statistic, but that she never positioned herself or the book as a child psychology how-to. Rather, she says that her book "should be read as a memoir and as a "don't try this at home" as opposed to a parenting how-to".
  • When asked, "If she had to do it all again, would she do anything differently?" The author responded that she would do the same thing but would pay more attention to her youngest daughter's (Lou Lou) requests to quit the violin earlier so avoid the dramatic glass-throwing scene.
  • In terms of the book's reaction, Ms. Chua said that she wished the book was "reviewed more for its literary style and quality of the writing" than as a parenting tome. She compares herself more to a David Sedaris than a Dr. Spock.
Did you attend the book talk? What questions do you have of the Tiger Mom?

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy 60th Birthday to the Baseball Card!

On this day 60 years ago Topps introduced the modern baseball card. Happy Birthday to the baseball card!

Do tweens still collect these? I was obsessed with collecting Red Sox baseball cards when I was a tween (my favorite card was of the Yaz), but these seem to have fallen out of favor amongst the tweens in our crowd. Do you collect baseball cards?

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Tweens Unwanted at the Neighborhood Park?!?

I've just returned from our neighborhood park and am STEAMING. I need the counsel of fellow tween parents: another mother has intimidated my older girls and made them feel unwelcome at the park. Has this happened to anyone else? How did other parents handle it?

We were at the park this afternoon with all the kids, and I was pushing the toddler on baby swings while our tweens were sitting on big kid swings. No one was waiting for any swings or hovering.  Then another mother approaches the swings with a toddler in tow, and my eldest daughter hops off the swing. This other mother says in a voice clearly loud enough and intended to be heard by us, "Those girls are not supposed to be here. This is a Tot Lot. They should get off the swings."

I say, "Excuse me?" And she repeats her statement. Our tweens are threatened at this point and both leave the Tot Lot. I address the mother and say, "My girls are happy to leave the swings and always give them up when they see little kids approach. You just walked up now -  all you had to do was ask, but you don't need to make them feel intimidated or uncomfortable to be here." She replied unkindly and said again that this a Tot Lot and they don't belong. Then we went back and forth, and I'm so upset that I no longer remember the blow-by-blow. I am certain that I was not at my best at this point.

Parents, I need your counsel: Are older kids who are well-behaved and NOT loitering and clearly playing with their younger siblings and parents as a family allowed at the neighborhood park? I checked all the posted signs and saw none restricting the age range for the park. We go to this park regularly and have for years; our older girls always help other kids at the park (pushing them on the swings or watching the younger ones on the climbing structure) and babysit for families in the neighborhood. Now, our tweens feel unwelcome and uncomfortable at their own neighborhood park.

Certainly we don't want older kids monopolizing the equipment or making younger kids feel uncomfortable, but tweens shouldn't feel unwelcome either. Shouldn't whole families be able to enjoy the park together? How is a mom of older kids supposed to keep an eye on multiple kids in different locations? And in this time when our country is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity, do we really need any impediments to tweens going outside to play? Any advice? Did I over-react? What can we do to make them feel welcome again?

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The Tiger Mom is Coming to D.C. Tonight

Amy Chua, author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", will be speaking at Politics and Prose (Washington's best and independent book store) tonight at 7pm as part of her book tour. Our readers know that we differ strongly with Ms. Chua's parenting recommendations, but we are looking forward to participating in this discussion and asking her about another hot tween parenting topic, "Race To Nowhere."

Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Ave, NW in Washington, DC

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Celebrate Black History Month With Tweens: Explore American Girl Addy's World at the Smithsonian


In celebration of Black History Month, the Smithsonian Museum of American History has put together a self-guided tour for tweens of the museum featuring American Girl Addy Walker. Addy is a nine-year old girl born into slavery who escapes to freedom with her mother during the Civil War. The Museum has gathered a collection of pieces that help bring to life what Addy experienced growing up.

We toured the exhibit on opening day with our tweens, and our 11-year wrote the following review of Addy's World:

"The Smithsonian museum is amazing. Today, my mom, my sister, my other sister, and I went to the Smithsonian. We went there because today was the first day of the Addy exhibit, and we are all huge fans of the American girl dolls.

The exhibit was all about the freedom of slaves during the time that Addy had lived. There was one part that was dedicated to African-American art. It was so cool with all of this amazing art was all around us. While we were exploring the exhibits, we were given a sheet with all of the exhibits concerning Addy and where they were.

Among the many exhibits, which we found with no trouble whatsoever, there was one in which an entire house had been moved to into the museum. Apparently, the whole museum had been built around that house! Also, one of the most intriguing exhibits was the one that showed all manner of African-American art. There was photographs, paintings, bead art, and sculptures. They were all so intricate and pretty.

As we neared the end of the exhibits, we came by a room full of things that looked like a mini, high-tech spaceships from a video game. We soon found out that they were simulators, and as soon as we did, I was already in line (that is, after is I begged my mom to let me). I went on a ride that went under the sea into the Bermuda Triangle. It was so cool! I went into a whirlpool, past some stingrays, and through a grave yard of shipwrecks! The Smithsonian was so awesome, and I do not think that that is going to be my last trip to the museum."

Thanks for writing this review, Indi!

Parents, here are a few tips as you plan your visit:
  • Wear comfy shoes - the museum is a huge building with tempting things to see on all four levels.
  • Stow your coats in the Museum's free lockers located across from the Information Desk
  • We had a snack after the exhibit at the Museum's Constitution Cafe - it was convenient, well-priced, and had great food.
  • If your tween collects those flattened pennies, be prepared - we found several of these machines in the building.
  • Leave some time to explore the Museum's collection of the First Ladies' Inaugural Gowns and the very cool Spark!Lab and Innovation at Play hands-on "experience labs" on the First Floor.
  • Who knew?!? The Smithsonian houses a mini-amusement park in the basement of the American History Museum! There are about six Ride Simulators offering a 3-D immersive experience. Each ride costs $7 and lasts 5 minutes. Keep this in mind for your next tween birthday party!
Addy's World would be a great activity to do with tweens over the Presidents' Day weekend.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tween Fashion Blogger Tavi is a Justin Bieber Fan

'Turns out that Justin Bieber's appeal extends to the high-brow couture crowd: tween fashion blogger Tavi is a fan.

Ms. Gevinson took time out to see "Never Say Never" during Fashion Week and was hooked. She writes, "I am pro-JB because someone has to be a tween dreamboat pop boy and he's not going away, but what started out for me as 'I'm just gonna embrace him' has become a bit of an obsession. Plus he started out playing on steps outside a theater."

I have to say it's comforting to know that one of the most important new youth voices is still a young girl at heart who has to do homework and has teeny-bopper crushes.

Photo credit: thestylerookie.com

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It's Fashion Week: One Last Tween Brand

Fashion Week has come to a close, and we have brought you a few new fashion brands that really work for tweens. Here's one last pick for you: Converse. But not just regular Converse - Marimekko Converse. Yup, Chucks are being made for a limited time in classic, graphic prints from the Finnish fashion house. We think that the combination of an All-American style with retro-Euro-patterns is incredibly cool. We especially love the black and white ones.

From converse.com, about $80

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The Last Clique Book Released This Week

It's the end of an era: the last book in The Clique series was released this week. The title is "A Tale of Two Pretties" and purportedly ends with a huge surprise. The author, Lisi Harrison, will be hosting a Twitter party this Sunday, February 27th at 4pm to chat with fans of the series. We plan to attend and can't wait to see how Massie, Claire, Alicia, Dylan and Kristen turn out.

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A Candy Diary!

If you and your tween had started a journal this year (or were considering it), this fun diary is just the thing to jump-start your efforts. Dylan's Candy Bar has partnered with craft kit company Alex Toys on a line of candy-inspired projects. This sweet diary craft caught our eye, and at $14, it would also make a terrific birthday gift for a tween.

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A Film Tween Parents MUST See: Race To Nowhere


A documentary relevant to school-age children and their parents is making the round at area schools: "Race To Nowhere" is a  film made by a mother of three in Lafayette, California, Vicki Abeles. She saw the strain in her children "as they navigated days filled with school, homework, tutoring and extracurricular activities." When her 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a stress-induced illness, it was a wake-up call that made her "look closely at the relentless pressure to perform that children face today." The movie features interviews with tweens, teens, teachers, parents and development experts about the stress, depression and burnout that pervades schools in the U.S. The film comes as a particularly poignant time: we simultaneously have experts questioning the pressure to perform on kids while others, such as the Tiger Mom, advocate for stricter standards and greater focus on performance.

"Race to Nowhere: the Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture" is upfront with its agenda to "radically changing the national dialogue on education" and "mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens."

We had the chance to attend an early screening last week, and additional screenings are scheduled in the District on March 1st and 8th at Washington Hebrew Congregation (3935 Macomb Street NW) and the Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave NW) respectively.
While we didn't agree with everything in the film, we were struck by its message and the voices of the tweens and teens interviewed. Some points that particularly stuck with us include:
  • Are we raising a nation of "academic competitors" at the expense of true learners?
  • The dread and inevitability expressed by students about the treadmill they are on to "get-into-a-good-high-school-so-that-they-can-get-into-a-top-tier-school-and-then-get-into-a-top-tier-grad-school-so-that-they-can-get-a-good-job."
  • We've turned out children into professional students. High school transcripts are the essentially the resume of students, and their job is getting into college. And kids start building their resumes at age 8.
  • The common source of most kids' negative behavior is stress.
  • Sleep deprivation is a form of child neglect.
  • Cheating is becoming rampant, and students are feeling intense pressure to "get the grade by hook or by crook." "Cheating has become another course in school that one gets better at each year."
  • The only unstructured time kids have these days is on the computer, and that brings its own set of issues.
  • The world is run by C-students - very few CEOs were top students; they were just the most persistent.
The movie closes with a litany of suggestions for students, parents and educators, but it's clear that the path to solving the stress problem is a long road.
The film has received critical acclaim and will resonate especially amongst denizens of America's most overachieving city.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tweens and Nesting

We're not sure if it's the February doldrums or winter fatigue, but we're definitely seeing a sluggishness amongst the tweens in our circle. The girls are tired a lot more than usual, and we're seeing entire classrooms full of exhausted kids (which gives us some solace that our tweens are not alone in this). We've established that nothing is amiss medically, and psychologically, this appears to be simply a phase.

Our own tweens have been acting almost like they're nesting - finding cozy nooks to curl up in with a blanket and books and opting to stay home for family movie or game nights. So we're going with it and looking for ways to help them cozy-up.
  • Herbal tea has been a big hit in our house of late (especially Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Vanilla), and the girls have even been taking it to school in the morning in thermoses.
  • They seem to be living in their fleecy PJs these days, with hoodies being the top of choice.
  • Fuzzy socks are a must!
  • Fleece, fleece and more fleece - these little blankets appear to be back in fashion.
  • Baking cookies has become our new afterschool pasttime.
  • The kids are unplugged, opting to read instead.
We're just enjoying the calm and quiet for a change and giving out lots of hugs.

What cozy tips and tricks do your tweens favor? Do share!

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Just for Fun: The History of Sweetheart Candies

The Smithsonian Magazine wrote a very thorough history of sweetheart candies . . if you're in to that sort of thing (you know that we are).



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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Facebook for Tweens Launched Today: Everloop

We told you last year about a new social networking site just for tweens (kids ages 8-13 only - no adults) that was in testing called Everloop. Well, Everloop officially launched today, and it also announced a partnership with i-Safe that will bring this COPPA-compliant site into schools. The partnership will bring a series of "social learning networks" into 4,600 school districts and over 56,000 K-8 schools. Everloop already has a science learning network with Mad Science, and that seems to be the model they will follow with their school presence.

The idea behind this social network is to give tweens a safe online community in which to interact. What keeps the community safe is a combination of strict privacy controls and live monitoring of all posts (so any post that smacks of cyberbullying will be immediately removed). The site is designed as a series of overlapping mini-social networks called loops, which are focused on specific interests such as art or sports.


We're going to test the site with our tweens and will report back with their review. If you try this new site out, let us know what you think!

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It's National Gumdrop Day!

In honor of National Gumdrop Day, we're sharing photos from the most amazing gumdrop topiaries we've seen. It's at our favorite candy store in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, Miette Confiserie. The biggest one is nearly 4-feet tall and both are beautifully finished with pearl-head pins and ribbons. We make smaller gumdrop trees at Christmas, but these take the cake!

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Fashion at The Grammys

The Grammy Awards are a night for fashion as well as music. Here's some photos of favorite tween stars from this year's show:

Justin Bieber wore a white tux from D&G


Lea Michele from Glee wore Emilio Pucci



Selena Gomez wore J.Mendel

Willow Smith wore her usual inventive ensembles




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It's Fashion Week: More Cool Tween Brands

In our continuing series during Fashion Week, we're bringing you cool brands that your tween won't see on everybody else in the lunch room. Earlier we brought you beautiful knits Charlotte Tarantola and fun prints from t-bags girls; today's designer is Custo Girls from Barcelona, Spain.

Custo is a bright, funky line for girls that draws its inspiration from a blend of urban and beach artistic influences. Their latest collection includes fun anime drawings that liven up normally plain winter coats. This line is tough to find but worth seeking out for its uniqueness and fun edge. Here are some photos of our favorite pieces:




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Monday, February 14, 2011

A Lesson in Grace For Tweens: Justin Bieber at The Grammys

With the blockbuster opening of his "Never Say Never" movie this weekend and coming off of a very successful My World tour, you'd think Justin Bieber has it made. He performed with his usual style at The Grammy's last night, and our tweens were excited to stay up late and watch the young star and Usher tear up the stage. Despite a sold out concert tour and indeterminable press, the young Mr. Bieber was not awarded his industry's highest honor.

At the tender age of 16, he could well have handled this news poorly, but Mr. Bieber instead took the high road and responded with maturity and grace. He continued to sit at attention in the front row of the Grammy Awards (no doubt the hot seat of the evening and the last place anyone would want to be seen after being so publicly overlooked for the honors) and applauded his fellow nominees, winners and performers. Justin Bieber has historically taken solace with his fans via interactions on Twitter, and notably, he did not turn to his Twitter account until after the awards ceremony was over.  It was a sign of professionalism and respect that he waited until the end of the show to interact with his fans and provide them with his reaction.

And his reaction was gracious and honest: he tweeted:
  • "As for the awards...of course I wanted to win. Its been and still is a dream to win a grammy. Was I upset...yes. But I was happy for her also"
  • "Someone said to me tonight its not your successes that define u but your failures. I lost..but I don't plan on this being my last chance...."
  • "I do this because I love it..and I do it for my family friends and fans who support me. I was grateful for the honor and this..."
  • "...Is just the beginning. #NeverSayNever" 
  • "Now we have so much to celebrate!! Leggo!"
We were reminded of Taylor Swift's grace under pressure during the Kanye West VMA debacle and are pleased that his reaction lived up to his reputation. (Of course we'll NEVER hear the end of him now that his status as tween idol has been martyred, but we're pleased that thus far he's been a stand-up kind of guy.)

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Projects For Tweens

Tweens have outgrown the drug-store Valentine card kits, and they're a crafty bunch anyways. Here are some ideas for your tween to make for her class Valentines over the weekend:

Pencil hearts make a fabulous non-candy gift for a crowd. Instructions at alphamom.com

Here's a cute idea for a message in a bottle written with lemon juice invisible ink. Instructions from mini-eco.

This craft will take some time but is sure to be a big hit in the classroom - iPod Valentines made from Conversation Heart boxes. Instructions from FamilyFun.

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It's Fashion Week: More New Tween Brands

As this is Fashion Week, we thought we'd highlight a few tween fashion brands that you may not have heard of. We told you about Charlotte Tarantola's fabulous sweaters; now here's some fun, easy dresses to pair with them from Los Angeles designer t-bags girls. (Moms may be familiar with this designer from their women's or maternity lines.)

T-bags recently launched their line for girls and uses vibrant prints and super soft fabrics to make dresses that drape remarkably well on tweens. The cuts are age-appropriate and really fun to wear.

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A Tween Valentine: Sequin Hearts on Her Toes

We saw these sequined heart shoe clips from Ban.Do and thought they'd make the sweetest Valentine's gift for a tween. We think these would be adorable on a plain ballet flat or even on a pair of white Jack Purcells.

And here are some of Valentine picks from last year.

From Ban.Do, $25

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Fun Fashion Blogs For Tweens

It's Fashion Week, and if your tween is into fashion, here are a few blogs you might enjoy reading together:
  • Tween fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson has been writing about fashion for years now. Her writing is years ahead of her age, as is her very sophisticated style. She is a great role model for girls following their own hearts and speaking their minds regardless of peer pressure. Her blog is called The Style Rookie.
  • Lola Lourdes, Madonna's daughter, writes on the Material Girl blog about her independent style, the bands she's listening to, and her latest vintage obsession.
  • Cynthia Rowley is a well known designer with a quirky, fun style. Her blog includes photos of her latest lines but also snaps from recent trips and musings on fun art.
  • Kate Spade is now a fashion icon, and her colorful and retro style extends to her blog. A section called "Behind the Curtain" includes her recommendations for museum exhibits, office supplies, and nail polish.
  • Cecilia Cassini is a 10-year old designer with an Audrey-Hepburn-like sense of style and whimsy. She blogs irregularly, but her posts are fun to read, and she includes pictures of her latest work and design inspirations.
What other fashion blogs do you read? Please add to this list!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tweens and Fashion Week: The New Tween Style Stars

Fashion Week kicked-off in New York today, and there's a ton going on. We couldn't help but notice that a slew of tween movie stars are now being dressed by MAJOR designers, and this is going to seriously expand the exposure tweens have to big-name fashion (more so than even Project Runway).

Here's a Who's Who of who's wearing who among tween celebs:
  • Chloe Moretz, age 13, has recently worn Stella McCartney, Proenza Schouler, Christian Dior, and Chanel (!)
  • 9-year old Willow Smith has accompanied her parents to European fashion shows for years now. She was interviewed this week by Teen Vogue about her style (we call it fierce!) and cites Dolce and Gabbana as a favorite.
  • Elle Fanning is only 12 and already wearing Marchesa and Rodarte.
  • Hailee Steinfeld is now 14 but already Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress for "True Grit" (did you know that she's in EVERY frame of that film?). She's been dressed by Prabal Gurung and Prada.
  • Kiernan Shipka of "Mad Men" fame is 11 years old and favors the young silhouettes of Papo d'Anjo.
  • First Tween Malia Obama wore New York designer Chris Benz to the Chinese State Dinner earlier this month.
The above list is for red carpet occasions only as tweens generally keep it cool, casual and comfortable - but it IS interesting to note how much more attention is being paid to tween fashion of late.

Which other tween stars have great fashion sense?

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