Author Archives: Leslie Helsius

I Put a Spell on You

By Guest Blogger Leslie Helsius

The witching hour is almost upon us. The one day of the year in which ghouls and goblins walk halloween-haunted-houseabout on the hunt for…..candy. Yes folks, it is Halloween time. I am a lover of Halloween. I always have been, I always will be. I remember as a child the hours of thinking of what “to be” for Halloween, the anticipation, getting dressed up and roaming the streets filling my bag with goodies. I remember coming home cold and exhausted and wet. Dumping my bag out on the floor and banishing my costume to a corner of the room so that I could properly sort though my tasty treasures. Making neat and tidy piles of candy…suckers, gum, hard candies, licorice and candy bars, only to put it all back in the bag. Taking it out again, sorting it and carefully selecting the sweet, sweet morsel I wanted to consume. Putting it all back in the bag. Taking it all out again, sorting it, scrutinizing every delectable foil wrapped treat, making the calculated, cautious choice…yes…there it is…..my next little piece of Halloween joy. Ah yes, it was a wonderful night.

Now my wonder lives on through my children. Well, it did. My oldest (Kid A) is in her first year of high school and is no fun at all now when it comes to Halloween (yes, I let my 13 year old go trick-or-treating). She does not like any of my costume ideas and thinks that Halloween is all about what she wants to dress up as. That is okay, because I have a two year old (Kid B) that doesn’t know any better and has no choice. My costume idea for them last year was a box of Kleenex for Kid A and a booger for Kid B.  Sheer Awesomeness!! Unfortunately (for me), Kid A vetoed that. You have no idea how disappointed I was. I am sure some years down the road Kid B will be thanking her that no one dressed her as a booger. There will be no incriminating photos or “the year you were a booger” stories. It is truly a Halloween nightmare! This year Kid A wants to be a cat. A cat? How original (eye roll…mine, not hers). Not that there is anything wrong with a cat, it is the way she wants to do it…some ears and a tail. Seriously…have I taught you nothing child? If you are going to be a cat, be a cat! Or a cat burglar or a cat in a hat or road-kill-cat. Sadly, she just isn’t on that level. I take comfort in knowing that where I failed with Kid A and the love of Halloween, I still have years to work on Kid B. So here are some of my Tricks to make Halloween a spooktacular Treat!(hahahhaaaa…yes I am that lame).

Please dress your child up. People (probably your neighbors) are spending (insane amounts of) money on candy to hand out to kids who knock on their doors. Why? Because at some point you do get too old to trick-or-treat, so the next best thing is to hand out the candy and see all the costumes. Dollar stores, thrift stores, garage sales, your garage, basement or even your own closets are good places to come up with creative costumes that won’t break the bank. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a box, markers and duct tape. Remarkable things can happen, like a Match Box car.

– Kids are creative and draw inspiration from the strangest places. Your little boy wants to be a stapler. Awesome. How to make a costume like that….I have no idea, but he may have a thought or two on how to make that a go. Listen to him and try to figure out how to make that walking office supply dream a reality.

– Keep climate in mind when picking a costume. I’m in Michigan. You never know what kind of weather you are actually going to have at the end of October. You can guess…..but never assume. And the weather people can’t really tell you either. It could be 70 or it could be snowing. Does that mean that when kid A wanted to be a princess I said no…of course not. Just make sure whatever costume you make or buy has enough room for warm layers underneath. Possibly even snow gear, like the kind you go skiing in. Or why not just be an Olympic Skier!

– Try to create or buy a costume that does not have a mask. Here is the thing. They are hard to see out of and they are hard to breathe in. They get sweaty and gross and visibility goes down to nearly nothing. The result will be removal of said mask, which goes back to the first point. Face paint and cheap make-up are great alternatives to the blinding, gag inducing confines of a mask.

– If they are wearing anything long – dress, cape, tentacles – make sure they can walk without tripping or getting their dress, cape, tentacles stepped on causing them to wipe out. Probably dropping their candy and crying. And it seems the older they are, the harder they cry when the drop their candy.

– Comfortable shoes. Need I say more? Seriously. It is bad enough when you have to carry the candy bag, you don’t want to carry the kid too.

– Glow sticks and flashlights are your friends. There are kids bolting every which way in a sugar induced frenzy. They do not care if they run you, your kids, grandma or the dog down. If you are in their way, you are fair game. They. Will. Not. Be. Stopped. If they are visible to you, you can get out of their way. They also don’t seem to heed the “look both ways before you cross the street” advice that has been drilled into their heads since they could walk. In fact, they have pretty much forgotten how to just…walk. They have one pace. Crazed. Making sure that kids (and you) are visible is a necessity.

halloween pumpkin– Always require payment for everything you do (beyond normal parenting things) in candy. Unless you hate candy (which I can’t imagine). Starting with payment for services rendered as a costume maker and candy bag carrier. Under no circumstances should you settle for the cast off candy. You know, the stuff your kids don’t want. Like the candy corns, or the mini bag of pretzels. No thanks. That should be given to you anyway upon the dumping and sorting of the candy bag. This is bonus candy. It belongs to you by default. You want a ride to your little friend’s house because its too cold? That will be a Snickers bar. You don’t pay, you can hoof it the couple of blocks that it is. You want me to get you to the next level on Mario Brothers, that will be two Butterfingers. Don’t want to divvy up….spend the next two weeks getting through it yourself. And no, I won’t help you later either….when your candy is gone. There will be no negotiations. No loans. And no freebies. If your kid has Halloween candy, you get payment. End of Story.

Somebody call 911

These are words no one ever wants to say or hear. The fact remains, that you may. I know this for 911 safety tipstwo reasons – I have had to call 911 (several times) and I used to be a 911 dispatcher (ambulance only). There are more than a few things I learned about calling 911 while working for them that I otherwise would not have ever known, and I am going to pass that knowledge on to you, dear reader.  Most are common sense. So….onto the Safety Saturday Tips!!!

– Learn and teach nine-one-one, not 911. Silly for me to say, I know, but in a true crisis, people say some really strange things, and sometimes logic goes right out the window. It is nine-one-one. Not nine-eleven. There is no nine-eleven on the phone.

– Remain calm. It is hard. I KNOW it is hard. You (possibly) will want to cry, scream and will someone to get to you faster. I assure you, they are on the way before you even know it.  If you are calm, the dispatcher can help you help the person in need. Being calm will also help you to…..

– State your address and phone number clearly. Usually your address will show up because it is linked to your phone number and you may only need to verify it. Unless technology has changed, this only holds true for a land line. If you call 911 on your cell phone, no address comes through.

– Answer the questions asked of you, no matter how dumb they may seem. Yes, the dispatcher heard you say that someone has sliced their leg open something horrible and can even hear them screaming in the background. So when you are asked if they are conscious, answer the question. When they ask if they are breathing, answer the question. When they ask if they have a pulse, answer the question (I will explain more about this later).

– Follow the directions the dispatcher gives you. And please, no matter what…..

– DO NOT HANG UP! Please. Unless the dispatcher tells you to.

A couple of other things that can be helpful –

– Make sure your street address is clear on your home or property or both.

– For each person in the home have a list of medications and any allergies written down and keep it  in an easily accessible  place. The paramedics will want this.

– If able, open the door to help identify the home.

– If there is more than one person besides the person in need, send them outside (if there is someone there who is in a panic, they are a good person to send outside to wait for help).

– Assure the person in need that help is on the way.

While the tips above are specific to medical assistance, I am pretty sure they would translate over to police and fire.

Some tips just for kids.

– Teach them nine-one-one, your address and phone number. ParkingPal’s Emergency phone list can be a good tool to keep handy.

– If someone in the home has a medical condition, teach them that as well.

– Set up a 911 drill at home (without actually calling). The main reason to make sure they know the address.

– Check if your city has any kind of Safety Day. If they do, take your kids and let them meet your city’s police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and EMT’s. Let them get to know them as real people and not just cool cars with the lights and sirens. Because Emergency Vehicles are cool, until one gets behind you with the lights going because you were driving just a little too fast on the highway, not that I know that from experience.

 

Please keep in mind that different counties probably have different 911 systems, and what I say may not be correct for your county – I am only familiar with one type. The system I used had computer generated questions based on the initial complaint. The system would not let us go onto the next question without an answer. The first questions being breathing, pulse and consciousness. Because these are the MOST IMPORTANT ONES (for a medical emergency) Again, I do not know if all emergency systems work this same way.

Phone Home

Do you remember being young and having to learn your phone number and address? It was like, a whole big deal at our school. A whole safety week where we made a small village in our gym. It had roads, and trees, and stop signs and I think even little cars. It was AWESOME! And during this safety week, we learned all things ‘Safe’.

– Stranger Danger

– Bike Safety

– Fire Safety

– How-to-cross-the-road Safety

– 911 Safety

This was back when cell phone literally did not exist and we still had a rotary phone. So when we had to learn our phone number, we only had to learn one number. It was THE number to know. I still know it. It is one of the few that I retain in my memory. I have about…..oh three of them there. Our home number, my best friend’s parents number (from when we were children) and my cell phone number. That is it. These are the only phone numbers I remember. Not my husband’s, not my mother’s, not my daughter’s, not my sister’s or my brother’s. I do not know any of my doctor’s phone numbers, or the pharmacy, the dentist or the vet. Do you see what I am trying to say….in the event that I lost my cell phone, or locked it (with my keys) in my car, there would only be one place I could call. Home.

My Safety Saturday tip – give your child(ren) a Home number to call. I am not saying to go out and get a land line if you only use cell phones. But teach them One number that is their Home Base number. If you are a stay at home parent, and you have a land line, you could use that. If you have two working parents, choose one cell phone as a home base. I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching kids several numbers – home, work, grandma’s or aunt’s – I do believe it is wise to give them a main one to try first. One that gets so embedded into their tiny little sponge-like brains, that they will remember it….forever. Or at least until they stop locking their cell phone AND their keys in their car.

Smart Phone Dangers….Safety Saturday

cell phone dangersWe all do it. Snap pictures on our smart phones and load them onto Facebook, Twitter and any other manner of social media you can think of. Vacations, night out with friends, kids here, kids there…..visually sharing our everyday lives with our “on-line” family. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s fun, it keeps us connected to people and lets us live vicariously through each other. But, along with that photo of little Emma proclaiming that “Our daily trip to the park!” or a picture of our feet with the sand captioned “A week of fun in the sun!” we are announcing our location. We are telling the virtual world where were are, what we are doing and when. The photos we take with our smartphones not only show sweet Alex on his first day of school, they also contain the latitude and longitude of where that photo was taken. That Exif metadata attached to each picture we take can be viewed and then be mapped….rather easily. This discovery of mine, is not a new one at all. Most of you are probably already aware of it. And while I knew of the GPS capabilities of my phone, and that the pictures I took had location data stored into them, I wasn’t overly worried about it. Not until my oldest daughter started using her phone for all of the above.

Er…..hold up there.

So you want to wander through life taking pictures of you and your friends and POST THEM ON THE INTERNET!!! Suddenly, the danger seemed real. Very real. Some random stranger could check out her photos and figure out, quite literally, where she was. What her roaming-with-friends habits were. What she looked like, what she likes, her name. I am sure the list goes on and on and on.

The safety part of this post, or rather where the danger lies, could go in a hundred different directions. Because there are so many different “scenarios” I can only suggest the most basic of solutions.

1- Turn your GPS off on your phone. If the phone can’t log it’s location, it can’t tag it onto the photo.

2- Inform your kids, specifically teens who have phones, that it can potentially be a security threat.

3 – Check privacy settings on your accounts periodically to make sure that only the people you want to see things, can.

4 – Be aware of the sites and apps your using. Some sites automatically wipe the geotagging from your photo when it is uploaded (Facebook & Twitter), others do not.

My favorite is option 1 (though I do them all). It is quick and requires minimal effort on my part, and I can get back to snapping and uploading!

Interested in writing a guest blog on children safety topics or other family-friendly topics? If so, email your topic idea to info@parkingpalmagnet.com.