5 Great (And Nearly Unknown) Places to Raise a Family

Every family has its own personality. Some are sports nuts while others are full on sci-fi geeks. There are those that want to huge yard and others that do not want the hassle. Just like a family, cities have their own unique flair. If you are ready to make a move then matching your family’s needs to a city’s culture is the perfect pairing for a long and happy time in the neighborhood.

Old School With A Hip Vibe

If your kids have Ella Fitzgerald on their iPod then the Ballard district of Seattle, Washington may be your perfect match. This is an old-school, small town area in the biggest city of the Pacific Northwest. It has a working waterfront that contributes to the thriving Pacific fish industry. The boutique shops and fresh seafood restaurants have turned this once blue collar fishing town into a trendy area that is great for a family of free-spirited bohemians.

Photo by manleyaudio via Wikimedia Commons

The Electric Family

The engineering industry is changing locations and Boise, Idaho is one of the hubs. Forbes ranks Boise as the second best places to raise a family for it’s low cost of living and low crime rates. Idaho’s population has more than doubled in the last two decades, much of that because of an influx of technical personnel for the booming Boise scientific industry. With its rapid housing growth, it is also a great place to rehab a fixer-upper with additions to enhance the aesthetic and comfort of your home—add a sunroom or put in a new bathroom to gain equity.

Photo by Bjh21 via Wikimedia Commons

Norman Rockwell’s Family

If you are looking for a picturesque suburban area where kids ride their bikes, seniors stroll in the park, and lovers skate at the ice rink then look no further than West Hartford, Connecticut. With only around 60,000 people, West Hartford boasts six parks, ice skating rink, a dog park coalition, two senior centers and three libraries. West Hartford’s school system is one of the best in the state. All is good in West Hartford.

Photo by Ragesoss via Wikimedia Commons

A Sport For Every Kid

Football, baseball, and soccer are the staples of many American families. If your weekends are full of sporting events then move to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. This Albuquerque suburb has a 78.5 acre sports complex replete with baseball fields, dog parks, skate parks, and tennis courts. This is just one of more than forty parks, paths or outdoor venues that the city offers. Rio Rancho offers the temperate climate that comes with the Western states. Add to that the beautiful views and a top ranking school system, Rio Rancho is the perfect place for a family full of sporting enthusiasts.

More Outdoor But With A College Feel

Another place for the outdoorsy family, Logan, Utah is the home of a flowing river of the same name, big skies, and Utah State University. This is a college town by most descriptions. With more than 2,000 staff and faculty, Utah State University is the largest employer of the city. Having a university means that the city values education, and it is reflected in Logan’s educational system. With a city motto of “City United In Service,” Logan is the true definition of a neighborly community.

Photo by UtahStizzle via Wikimedia Commons

Excel at Math and Science Even If You Flunked Both in School

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.

Lessons from Asperger’s + A Mind for Numbers

Jesse Saperstein, author of Getting a Life with Asperger’s.
Topic:
Lessons learned on the bumpy road to adulthood by a young man with Asperger’s.
Issues: Surviving the world of online dating; navigating the challenges of college; understanding how others perceive you (even if they’re wrong); keeping a job; confronting memories of being bullied; serving as a role model to the next generation.

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.

All Work and No Play? Naaaah

Yes, the new school year is almost (or, in some places, already) under way. And yes, the kids are going to start coming home with backpacks full of homework. But that doesn’t mean no more fun. Here are two great activities that will help you make the summer last a little longer, and three that will keep a smile on your face as the weather gets colder.

poo doughPoo Dough (Skyrocket Toys)
One of our favorite fads has been gross toys—things that poop, blow snot, pass gas, and more. If your children are into this (most are), they’ll definitely enjoy Poo Dough, which is completely disgusting, but in a really fun way. You get realistic, pooh-shaped molds and the dough itself (which comes in a lovely shade of yellow and two equally lovely shades of brown). But wait, there’s more. You also get special molds for “corn” and “peanuts.” Yep, the kids (and plenty of fully grown adults) are all set for hours of giggly, eeeew-inducing entertainment. About $8 in stores like Toys R Us, Amazon, and Walmart.  http://www.skyrockettoys.com/

fart pianoFart Piano (Skyrocket Toys)
If the look and feel of poo dough isn’t enough, you can always add sound effects with the Fart Piano. Far more versatile than its name would indicate, this piano can also cough, belch, and sneeze. Just press a key and you’re on your way. It even comes with sheet music so you can entertain out-of-town guests and dignitaries. About $20 on Amazon and Toys R Us.

fuze water blasterCyclone Water Blaster (FUZE/Skyrocket)
What a great way to get the kids involved in doing something physical outside. The Cyclone Water Blaster is essentially a motorized (using 4 AA batteries), handle-bar mounted squirt gun that enables kids (or the kid in any adult) to soak someone up to 25 feet away and pedal off before the victim can return fire. The nozzle has a 180-degree radius and riders can adjust it on the fly. Get two Blasters and you can turn your bikes into horses and water joust. Grab some towels and let the games begin. About $25 at your favorite retailer, including http://www.walmart.com

bike bubblerBike Bubbler (FUZE/Skyrocket)
This one manages to bridge the gap between exercise and gross-ness. All you do is mount this motorized gizmo underneath your bicycle seat, and you can spray out a stream of bubbles as you zip around the neighborhood. In the words of one of our child-testers, “it looks like it’s pooping bubbles.” Well, at least this time it’s clean, right? The Bubbler comes with one 4-ounce bottle of bubble solution, and you can make your own when you run out. For kids who aren’t riding yet (or adults who are exhausted), the Bubbler works just fine without a bike. About $15 at www.SkyrocketToys.com or www.FuzeBikeFX.com

view masterView Master (Fisher Price)
Remember View Masters from when you were a kid—those goggle-like viewers with their circular cardboard story reels that simulated 3D? They’ve been on toy store shelves since the 1940s (it’s their 75th anniversary this year!), and who would have thought that something so low-tech could possibly entertain today’s tech-crazy kids. Go figure. The new View Masters are pretty much the same as the old ones—put the reel in the viewer and push a lever to move through the story. The only real differences are that the images are brighter and the viewers themselves come in a variety of styles, including Hello Kitty and those Despicable Me minions. Gift sets include a View Master, three story reels, and a handy-don’t-lose-them storage case. Available in stores and online for about $15. http://www.fisher-price.com/

How to Understand and Relate to Your Teenage Daughter

understanding your teenage daughter

understanding your teenage daughter

Raising girls is no easy feat, especially when that girl hits her teen years. That doe-eyed, daddy-adoring preteen who would talk your ear off and bat her eyes to get an extra scoop of ice cream is now filled with complicated emotions, and she may lash out and challenge your authority. No matter how much she pushes you away, teen girls need their parents to supervise (from a distance), support and most importantly, talk to them as they face these new challenges of growing up. The best way to get through the emotional teenage years is to understand what’s important to her and figure out how to relate.

Let Her Assert Her Independence

She is certain to test the limits and boundaries from time to time, but research tells us that teens do best when they are allowed to have and express their own points of view, even if they differ from yours. Just keep the lines of communication open and stay closely connected to her world, so you can help her navigate the path to discovering who she is. Allow her to decide such things as:

  • When and how to change her hairstyle
  • What she will wear (within reason)
  • When to do homework
  • How to decorate and organize her room and personal space
  • Whom to invite to parties
  • How to spend her allowance

Respect Her Privacy

No snooping. As she gets older, her personal space and belongings become more important to her and if she feels intruded on, she will feel the need to hide things and become closed off. Instead, let her know she can trust you to respect her privacy, as long as she has and continues to earn that respect.

Understand That Social Standing Matters

Things like style, popularity and image may not matter to you, but they are top of mind for your daughter and her peers. Don’t minimize what is important to her by dismissing her concerns about these things. You don’t have to get her the latest fashions on demand—that’s what an allowance is for, right?—but listen to her and help her find an appropriate resolution.

For example, if your daughter complains that her best friend is not talking to her and she has no friends, telling her to simply find new friends probably won’t help. It’s unlikely to be a viable solution and can leave her feeling like you don’t understand or can’t relate. Instead, encourage her to give you the details of what caused the riff and identify a solution to reconnect with the friend and get back on common ground. However, If the situation becomes worrisome, voice your concerns in a serious but nonjudgmental manner and discuss the serious nature of bullying, so you can identify next steps if it is truly a harmful situation.

Give Her the Right Tools to Be Successful

There are a few rites of passage that she needs your help reaching, no matter how much she acts like she doesn’t. Help her succeed by providing her with the right tools, and then give her the freedom to use them. For example, when it comes time for her to learn how to drive, help her study for her permit, enroll her in driver’s ed or teach her yourself. And when she’s applying to colleges, offer to proofread her essay and tour prospective schools with her. You can help her choose which college to go to, but then remember: The ultimate choice should be hers.