Archive for category ICR

Why We Celeberate

There is an enormous amount of misinformation about the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday as we celebrate it today, this includes when, how and why it became a tradition. What Americans think they know about the history of Thanksgiving does not always measure up with the truth. For example, it is generally believed that in 1621, the Pilgrims invited Wampanoag Indians to a feast in Plymouth Colony to celebrate their first harvest, and a good time, with turkey and pumpkin pie, was had by all. Well, maybe, and maybe not. Historians, including those at Plimoth Plantation, a living museum in Plymouth, Mass., say that they do know there was a feast that year shared by the colonists and Wampanoag Indians, and Squanto, who had learned English, served as translator. But the one historical account of the actual dinner says venison was served and some sort of fowl, but it does not specifically mention turkey. Pumpkin was available, but it is not likely the colonists whipped up a pie. Furthermore, sweet potatoes were unknown to the colonists, and cranberries may have been served but not as a relish.


There’s a lot of misinformation about the Pilgrims, too. American kids learn that the Pilgrims came to the New World in search of religious freedom, and they dressed only in black and white, and wore buckles on their shoes. No, no, and no. The Pilgrims left Britain in search of religious freedom, but found it in Holland in the early 1600s, where they found a high degree of religious tolerance. The reason they wanted to come to the New World and establish a colony was to preserve their English identity and for economic reasons. Also, they did not wear buckles on their shoes, and Pilgrim women dressed in colors, including red, green, blue and violet, while men wore a variety of colors, too.

Trick or Treat Safety Tips

Walk Safely

  1. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  2. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  3. Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  4. Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  5. Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to
    the left as possible.  Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  6. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Trick or Treat With an Adult

  1. Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.

Keep Costumes Both Creative and Safe

  1. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  2. Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
  3. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  4. When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.

Drive Extra Safely on Halloween

  1. Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  2. Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  3. Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  4. Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  5. Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  6. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

Halloween Superstitions

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces. Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Of course, whether we’re asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the good will of the very same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly.


Did You Know?

One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

Today’s Halloween Traditions

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Halloween events around Southern California

Check out these fun Halloween events happening around Southern California during the month of October. And if you know of an event in your neighborhood, share in the comments below!

The 17th Door Haunted House
The 17th Door is an immersive and interactive haunted house. Visitors will be required to sign a waiver because the actors can touch you. This attraction is recommended for ages 15 and older. For more information, visit

Boo at the Los Angeles Zoo
Every weekend during the month of October, the L.A. Zoo will have Halloween activities that you can enjoy with your family, including crafts, spooky caves and fun photo opportunities. The event is free with paid zoo admission. For more information, visit

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort
From Sept. 11 through Nov. 1, Disneyland offers family-friendly tricks, treats and attractions. Valid park admission is required. For more information, visit

Knott’s Scary Farm
Knott’s Scary Farm offers several attractions sure to give you a fright, including mazes with themes like “Pinocchio Unstrung” and “Tooth Fairy.” There are also three “scare zones” where you may be terrorized by clowns, the walking dead or ghosts. Knott’s Scary Farm is open now through Oct. 31. For more information, visit

Haunted Hayride
A Southern California Halloween tradition is back to scare up some screams. Visitors are confronted by demonic forces and dark presences frantic to strike at their favorite hayriders. For more information, visit

Halloween Horror Nights
Universal Studios creates a terrifying event every year based on horror films and TV shows. The attractions include movie-quality mazes featuring “The Walking Dead,” “Insidious,” and “Alien vs. Predator.” There are also multiple “scare zones,” so be prepared for chills and frights at each corner. For more information, visit


Halloween Comes to America


Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

October Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure they have a safe holiday, here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Feel free to excerpt these tips or use them in their entirety for any print or broadcast story, with acknowledgment of source.


  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • 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.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • 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. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost/


  • 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 or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.


  • 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.
    • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
    • Carry a cellphone 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!
    • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.


  • 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.

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

Parent-Teacher Conference

20 Questions to Ask During a Parent-Teacher Conference

Know what to expect from a parent-teacher conference and the best questions to ask the teacher.

It’s back-to-school time! That means it’s time for new backpacks, new classmates, new teachers… and parent-teacher conferences. Get the most out of this meeting if you approach it as an opportunity to build a partnership with your child’s teacher — one that lasts all school year long.

Here, Debbie Shiabu, executive director of the Association of Private Schools; Anne Davis, education contributor for the parenting blog We Know Stuff; and Justin Baeder, director of The Principal Center, provide expert advice on effective questions to ask at your next parent-teacher conference.

Child Information
Start the conversation by talking about the most important topic: your child.

  1. May I Tell You About My Child?
    No one knows your child better than you do, so it’s your job to help your child’s teacher learn more. Shiabu encourages parents to “Provide your child’s teacher with more information on what motivates your child, likes and dislikes, special skills, strengths and weaknesses.”
  2. May I Tell You About What’s Going on at Home?
    Situations like illness, divorce or a new baby may affect your child’s school experience, so inform your child’s teacher of such circumstances.
  3. How Is My Child Doing Socially?
    According to Davis, “How the child functions socially in the class” is a topic that should be addressed at a conference, so inquire about your child’s peer relations.
  4. How Is My Child Doing Emotionally?
    It’s also important to ask about your child’s emotional health at school. For example, is your child generally happy?
  5. In What Areas Does My Child Need Improvement?
    Your child’s teacher sees him from a different perspective than you do. Ask the teacher what personal weaknesses your child needs to work on, and listen to the response with an open mind.
  6. What Do You Think My Child Is Particularly Good at?
    Find out about the good stuff, too. Ask about “personal strengths that will extend beyond school,” encourages Baeder.

Academic Performance
Now move onto more school-specific questions.

  1. Is My Child Performing on Grade Level?
    At a conference, parents should expect to see examples of their child’s work. Baeder says that parents should ask “how this compares to grade-level expectations, but don’t try to compare your child to other students.” Each child is different and has different strengths and learning abilities.
  2. What Do These Assessment Results Really Mean?
    When it comes to standardized testing and other assessment results, Baeder tells parents, “Don’t feel bad about asking ‘What does this really mean?’ Increasingly, assessments are given for school-level progress-monitoring purposes, and it’s best not to get too worked up about precisely interpreting every detail.”
  3. Is My Child Doing His/Her Best?
    No matter where your child ranks in relation to grade-level, one important analysis of his performance is whether he’s putting forth his best effort. Does the teacher get the sense that your child is slacking off or not focusing?
  4. Does My Child Need Extra Help in Any Areas?
    Your child’s teacher can tell you if your child is falling behind in a skill or a subject. Armed with that information, you can create a plan with your child to work harder in that area, before it gets too late.
  5. What Can We Do to Provide That Extra Help?
    Shiabu encourages, “Work with your child’s teacher to create a plan to help your child progress well in school.” There may be specific things that you can do at home to help, such as hiring a tutor or helping with homework.

Special Needs
If your child has special needs, ask need-specific questions.

  1. Have You Read the IEP?
    All students who receive special education or related services must have an Individualized Education Program in place, which outlines the goals for that child’s schooling and how those goals are to be achieved. Davis claims, “If you have a child with special needs, I feel like your job is to advocate for your child. It’s not inappropriate for a parent to ask, ‘Have you read the IEP?'”
  2. What Accommodations Are Being Made for My Child?
    Davis encourages parents inquire early in the school year about how the IEP is being carried out.
  3. What Is the School’s Process for Dealing With Special Needs?
    If your child doesn’t yet have an IEP, “Ask what the review and assessment process involves, and ask about the timeline. After discussing this with your child’s teacher, ask in writing to initiate that process, so you’re not put off,” says Baeder.

Tricky Situations
If your child is having problems in school or with the teacher, address them head-on.

  1. May I Share a Concern?
    If you’re worried about a situation at school, bring it up with the teacher. “The worst thing parents can do is just wait and wait and wait,” emphasizes Davis. Teachers usually appreciate when parents bring an issue to their attention, as long as it’s done with respect.
  2. Can You Fill Me in on This Situation?
    When your child has complaints about what’s going on at school, Baeder advises parents to “Ask for clarification from the teacher; often your child’s side is the only side you’ve heard.”
  3. Can You Tell Me About Your Teaching Method?
    If you have an issue with the teacher’s method, ask her to help you understand it. Shiabu explains, “Ask your child’s teacher for more information about the teaching method, how it can help your child and what the teacher can and will do if the method does not work with your child.”
  4. Do You Have Any Advice?
    If you need help with an issue your child is having, ask the teacher for input. “Teachers have worked with dozens or hundreds of students, and many have sage advice to share,” recommends Baeder.

General Information
End the conference with these useful queries.

19. How Can I Help?
Davis suggests that parents ask, “What can I do to support you in the classroom?” There might be supplies you can purchase, prep work you can do at home or other ways you can assist in the classroom.

20. How Can I Contact You?
It’s good to know how to get in touch with your child’s teacher, so find out whether he or she prefers emails, phone calls or written notes.

Get ready for a parent-teacher conference by making a list of the questions you want to ask. A prepared parent with a positive attitude and an open mind is on the right track for creating a successful, year-long partnership with his child’s teacher.

Last minute Summer Fun

Here are a few Last minute Summer Fun Things to do with your family and friends

  • Thank a Hero ~ Take a tour of your police or fire station. Since most locations don’t have set visiting hours, call ahead to arrange an appointment.
  • Take a tip from the Masters ~ Watching artisans paint, pot, and blow glass is captivating. Most cities host regular open-house art events; call your Chamber of Commerce for information.
  • Obstacle Course ~ Build a backyard obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, even a hose, then time race.
  • Petting Zoos ~ Nothing piques kids’ curiosity more than baby animals, so a visit to a petting zoo (or even a pet store) is a surefire hit.
  • Game Night ~ Designate one evening a week for some friendly multifamily competition (think kickball, softball, and capture the flag). Keep things fair by designating a different parent to ref and dividing into new teams each time, like dads and daughters versus moms and sons.
  • Factory Tour ~ Many factories offer tours so kids can see their favorite products created from start to finish.
  • Make Goop ~ Mix up a bowl of Oobleck, a mysterious matter that kids can shape into balls or let ooze from their fingers. Here’s how:
    • Pour one cup water into a large mixing bowl.
    • Add a few drops of food coloring (any color).
    • Slowly stir in two cups of cornstarch (use a spoon at first, but you may eventually find it’s easier with your hands).
  • Volunteer ~ Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility — it also keeps kids busy. There’s plenty little ones can do, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods.
  • Culinary Classes ~ Little-known secret: Many grocery stores offer inexpensive culinary classes for kids ages 5 and up — seek out your store’s manager for details.
  • Museum ~ Some 120 museums across the country will admit you and your kids for free the first full weekend of every month if you flash your Bank of America debit, credit, or ATM card. Not to worry: Many museums, big and small, offer free (or heavily discounted) admission for families one day a week. Put in a call to your local museum to inquire about dates and fees.
  • Plant ~ Plant a garden or just some fresh new flowers.