Category Archives: Reader feedback

Make my day: feedback from a recent contest winner

This was the first thing I saw on my email this morning — a good way to start the day!

Dena Hahlen of Phoenix won a set of tickets to Sea Life Arizona during a recent contest we hosted online. She sent this picture with the following message:

“My family and I would like to thank you for the tickets we won to Sea Life Arizona. It was truly amazing looking and touching the sea life. My children and grandchildren and one of my childcare children loved it.”

Make my day: Dena Reany’s summer vacation

Not a lot I can add to this, which came across my email in the middle of a challenging, get-the-magazine-to-the-printer day and gave me just the smile I needed.

Dear Karen and everyone at Raising Arizona Kids,

Just a quick thank you to all of you for choosing us for the MAY cover for your magazine, and the wonderful trip to Legoland California and our stay at The Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa!

From the moment we arrived we felt blessed to have won this awesome trip for our family. The resort was so kid-friendly and convinient with little ones that I have encouraged all of my friends to stay there! They treated us like royalty. I made sure to inform others of your magazine, along with sharing the article I wrote and the fact you chose us to win the trip.

As parents we were able to “spoil” the boys with a Legoland toy store shopping spree because we were not worried about the cost of the trip. What a blessing and such fun for them! My husband and I built in alone time for each child, which allowed him to rest with our little Luke (2 1/2) and get away from the crowds, while Aidan (4 1/2) and I rode all of the roller coasters we could get in!

My favorite moment from the entire trip was seeing Aidan’s face (filled with joy and excitement) from 4 inches away as we rode the “dragon ride” (his favorite, too!) Luke loved the musical fountains, which allowed him to dance and make his own tune. (He already dances to his own drummer so this was perfect!) My husband Justin enjoyed the amazing Star Wars scenes in Lego form so we sent along a Darth Vader picture that captured this. All in all it was a fantastic vacation that allowed us to escape the heat of Arizona, but also appreciate the place we live and the magazine that celebrates “those who work and play in the Valley of the Sun!”

Thanks again! Hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Dena Reany
Phoenix

Who is your parenting guru? (part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, the remaining five parenting experts recommended by Raising Arizona Kids e-newsletter subscribers:

KEVIN LEHMAN

Kevin Lehman, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 books offering techniques, tips and insights on parenting, marriage and relationship issuesMaking Children Mind Without Losing Yours is the one that first comes to my mind when I think about Lehman, the father of five children and a resident of Tucson. His other books explore topics like birth order, childhood memories, single parenting, the importance of dads and even marital sex.

“I have found sound advice, natural-consequence education, responsibility training and humor in reading Dr. Kevin Leman’s work,” a Valley teacher wrote. “His practical approach to child-rearing and even couples work as a unified entity in parenting is superior in my book. All of this work is presented in a straightforward and highly humorous way. He’s engaging and knows exactly what challenges we as parents face on a day-to-day basis. I have yet to see his presentation in person but hope to very soon.”

LAURA MARKHAM

Clinical psychologist Laura Markham, Ph.D.  is the founding editor of the website AhaParenting.com. Her relationship-based parenting model is based on the premise that children who feel connected want to cooperate, that children need guidance — limits with empathy when necessary — but never punishment.

“I follow her daily posts and receive emails,” wrote the mother of a 2-year-old son. “She is brilliant, and every bit of advice she offers is relevant and realistic. Many parenting advice experts are impressive and great but it is practically impossible to follow through on their advice. She actually relates advice to real people who have jobs and busy lives.”

Here’s an appearance Markham did on CNN’s Joy Behar Show, where she responded to questions about scare-tactics discipline:

KIM JOHN PAYNE

Kim John Payne, M.Ed. is the author of the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids.

Kim John Payne. Photo courtesy of SimplicityParenting.com.

The book blames “too much stuff, too many choices and too little time” for the fact that so many children become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or are even diagnosed with behavioral problems. Payne has been a school counselor, adult educator, consultant, researcher, educator and a private family counselor for 27 years.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Kim John Payne until I got this recommendation from a reader who happens to be a trainer for this approach. As someone who feels no small amount of stress from the constant struggle to simplify and prioritize my own time, tasks and overcrowded email queue, this philosophy sounded very appealing to me. As our world gets more complex and technology makes it possible for incredible amounts of information to reach our consciousness, I truly believe that the successful people of the future will be the ones who can quickly assess it, determine what to let in and know what to dismiss as irrelevant noise.

JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE

Joesph Chilton Pearce‘s  book, Magical Child, was a national bestseller. Pearce focuses on the importance of emotional development, parent-child bonding and imaginative play.

From a 1999 interview with Journal of Family Life: “Children’s emotional experience, how they feel about themselves and the world around them, has a tremendous impact on their growth and development. It’s the foundation on which all learning, memory, health and well-being are based. When that emotional structure is not stable and positive for a child, no other developmental process within them will function fully.”

“Joesph Chilton Pearce is beyond recommendation or discussion,” one Valley educator wrote.

JOHN ROSEMOND

John Rosemond has worked in the field of family psychology since 1971. He has written 14 parenting books and his columns are syndicated in 225 newspapers nationwide. His mission, as described on his website, is “to help America’s parents claim loving leadership of their families.”  His first of four faith-based books, Parenting by The Book, promises that “any parent who so desires can grow children who [are] happy, emotionally-healthy children who honor their parents and their families with good behavior and do their best in school.”

“His books are timeless and he speaks directly to parenting issues with humor and examples,” one reader wrote. “The opportunity to invite a parenting guru such as John Rosemond to speak in the Valley would be an event not to miss,” wrote another.

That brings us to 10. After I’d already decided to limit the list to 10, I got an email yesterday from someone who was wondering if it was too late to suggest another.

“I’m curious to know if anyone suggested Larry Winget, the Paradise Valley author of Your Kids Are Your Fault: A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults,” she wrote. “I realize his style is significantly different from most ‘gurus’ but he speaks in a down-to-earth practical tone that is refreshing.”

Larry Winget. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

We actually have some experience with Winget, who appeared in our June 2010 magazine. Read Dan Friedman’s interview and listen to the podcast.

I decided not to take some of the remaining suggestions too seriously. I’m not sure I’d consider the Duggar family (from the TLC show, “19 Kids and Counting”) to be the best resource. And then there was this suggestion:

“My first choice would be God or Jesus, and…those two are definitely unavailable for a speaking engagement.”

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If you’d like to get our e-newsletter, send your email address to debbie@raisingarizonakids.comPut “OPT IN” in your subject line.

Who is your parenting guru? (part 1)

Two weeks ago I posed that question to the 15,000 readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It was wonderful to watch my in-box as many thoughtful responses came back.

It all started when Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb came to me with a unique opportunity. One of her clients has proposed partnering with us to bring a notable parenting expert to the Valley to speak. We wanted to find out who, in an ideal world, that person should be.

As I reviewed the responses, I realized that the list of suggestions is in itself a tremendous resource for parents. So as we take the next steps — contacting these people to determine their availability and fees — I wanted to share our readers’ “Top 10″ list of parenting gurus, in alphabetical order. Five are listed today; five more will come tomorrow.

NAOMI ALDORT

Naomi Aldort is a self-described “parenting guide,” an internationally published writer and public speaker. Her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy, promotes the idea that children need love and validation, not control and behavior modification. Her perspective is considered “attachment parenting friendly,” according to her website, though she does not use the word directly because of “its multiple and contradictory meanings.”

I watched the following video, where Aldort offers some insightful perspectives when a parent believes “my child doesn’t listen to me.”

JAMES DOBSON

James Dobson, Ph.D. founded Focus on the Family as a non-profit organization, established to strengthen Christian family values. What began with a radio program on a few stations in 1977 has grown to a network of more than 3,000. He gives advice on Christian marriages, families and parenting through the ministry of Family Talk radio.

ADELE FABER AND ELAINE MAZLISH

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will TalkSiblings Without Rivalry and several other books. Their work, based on the philosophis of renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, Ph.D., suggest ways of communicating that make a profound difference in relationships with children. (Both MaryAnn and I are huge fans of these books, which were widely referenced back when we were both taking parenting classes.)

JIM FAY AND FOSTER CLINE

Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. developed the Parenting with Love and Logic approach from 75 years of combined experience working with and raising kids. Like their books, Love and Logic seminars provides simple, practical techniques to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible kids of all ages.

One of our readers, who has children 8 and 10 years old, wrote to share the fact that she is reading the Parenting with Love and Logic book. “It has really changed the way we parent and everyone in the family is more respectful to one another,” she write. “Our children are taking more responsibility and learning from their behaviors. [Fay and Cline] also have a website with an email newsletter that I receive weekly, which reinforces the book and reminds us how to parent. I would definitely go to a seminar led by these authors and I would tell my friends about it.”

Here is a sample from one of Jim Fay’s presentations:

STEVEN HUGHES

Steven J. Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice in St. Paul, where he specializes in the assessment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other learning and behavioral problems.

A parent himself, he chose Montessori education for his own family and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and a Montessori schools around Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his talks, Hughes describes how Maria Montessori’s brain-based approach to education “provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success,” according to his website goodatdoingthings.com. A book is coming out soon.

Tomorrow: Five more parenting experts our readers recommend.

A pleasant detour

I’m usually pretty eager to get straight home on a Friday night but this time I decided to make an extra stop.

I had spent all afternoon getting caught up on recent contests we host through RAK Giveaways. I updated our list of winners on the website and emailed everyone to let them know their tickets were coming.

Claudia Magdaleno of Phoenix was particularly excited to hear that her family had won passes to SEA LIFE Arizona, and a chance to see the new exhibit, “CLAWS: Creatures of the Deep.”

“My daughter’s birthday is on Tuesday, so it will be perfect,” she wrote.

Our mail had already gone out for the day, so I told her the tickets would go out in Monday’s mail. But as I walked out the door I felt a nagging sense of worry. What if the tickets didn’t make it? I decided to make a detour on my way home so I could drop Claudia’s tickets at the post office.

Nothing I had on my evening’s agenda was more important than the chance to make a little girl’s day.

Make my day: feedback

I was out of town most of the weekend, so I missed Saturday’s cover shoot with our 2011 Mother’s Day Cover Mom Contest winner. I’m eager to hear about it from Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Photographer Daniel Friedman when I get back to work on Monday.

Michelle notified our winner (whose name shall remain a secret until our May issue comes out). My job was to contact the two moms who were the runners up. They both wrote fabulous, heartfelt essays about their commitment to raising children who respect and protect our environment. So I felt very apologetic as I wrote to tell them they almost won.

“Your essay was a runner-up for our cover mom contest,” I wrote to each of the moms. “So while I’m sorry that you and your [son/daughter] won’t be on our cover, you will be receiving a gift certificate from Desert Ridge Marketplace/Tempe Marketplace.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect, but the messages that quickly came back were gracious and completely appreciative.

From Karen O’Regan of Clarkdale, adoptive mother of 12-year-old David:

Thanks so much!  I’m so pleased!!!  It is very exciting to be a runner-up! I have been a subscriber for years and appreciate your magazine. I especially appreciated the recent articles on adoption and handling grief.

From Molly Costa of Phoenix, mother of 1-year-old Keira:

How fun, that is so exciting we are a runner-up! I saw the [Facebook] post about the contest and figured, why not? It came at a perfect time because I’m just experiencing all of these “firsts” with my daughter and her enjoyment of nature and being outside. It is the best — amazing at what your kids teach you, right?

We give away a lot of great stuff each year — from cover opportunities to trips to tickets to new movies and live performances. We don’t always hear back from the people who win. So it’s very gratifying when we do. Shortly after I received those lovely messages from Karen and Molly, I heard from a mom whose family won tickets to the “Born To Be Wild 3D” movie sneak preview Saturday morning at the AMC Desert Ridge IMAX. (It opens to the public April 8.)

From Dana MacComb of Phoenix:

We had a great time! The movie was moving and lovely. We felt like we were right next to the animals.  I cried almost the entire time, very moving.  All of us agreed that it was a great family event.

And it was a great email weekend.

It could have been “Beastly,” but it wasn’t

A young girl who lives about as far north as you can get in the northwest Valley went to Tempe to see a movie with her dad.

There are movie theaters closer to their house, of course, but this particular movie, on this particular day, wasn’t playing anywhere else.

It was one of those movies they call “sneak previews.” Promoters, like Barclay Communications, make tickets available to media outlets, like Raising Arizona Kids. We help build “the buzz” about the movie by promoting ticket giveaways in print, online and through social media. Families who win tickets get to see a free movie before it opens to the public.

This girl’s mom won tickets to Monday night’s sneak preview screening of the film “Beastly,” starring teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens from “High School Musical” fame and Mary-Kate Olsen. (The movie opens in theaters on Friday, Mar. 4.)

The girl was really excited about this “date night” with her dad, who agreed to drive her across town (45 minutes each way) to see a movie marketed to tween- and teenage girls. They had guaranteed tickets, but for some reason the person they talked to at the theater didn’t understand and told them all the seats were filled. Disappointed, they went home.

That could have been the end of the story. But the girl’s mom wrote to me to tell me what happened. She was direct, but respectful. She was frustrated, but avoided blame. She told me her story, she said, because “I just wanted to give you this feedback. My daughter was in tears.” She didn’t ask for a thing, not even an email in response.

When I told Alison Frost, manager of Barclay’s entertainment division, what happened, she responded immediately, in the most positive and professional way possible.

“I am sorry to hear he was turned away but I don’t understand why,” she wrote. “I was there, and we had all the RSVPs for RAK on a list,  and [this name] was on it, and all seating was guaranteed. My guess is that there was some miscommunication between him and theatre…I was going back and forth escorting winners in, so I’m not sure what happened.  I would actually like to speak to him to see what exactly transpired, because I’m a bit surprised and would also like to apologize. I don’t know if you noticed, but I always include my cell number on all winner letters so if any problems arise, I can address them on site.”

I’m not using the family’s name because, well, it turns out the dad didn’t look at the ticket voucher and didn’t realize he had a cell phone number for the lady in charge. And I don’t want to embarrass him for not reading directions. (“Men!!” as his wife wrote back later, when she fully understood what happened.)

What I will do, however, is share how this incident ended. Because we at Raising Arizona Kids never want to be the source of any child’s tears, we are sending the family some movie passes they can use to see “Beastly” (or any other movie) whenever they like. And because Alison Frost feels the same way, she messengered over a box of “Beastly” promotional items — a T-shirt, a Wii game, a “Beastly” mask and other logo items — that a northwest Valley girl will be very surprised to see when it arrives at her home later this week.

Putting boundaries on “reader engagement”

When we started providing online content in a blog format that allowed reader comment, we had to decide how quickly we wanted that feedback to appear.

Most news media entities allow comments to post immediately. The advantages of instant gratification and a “real time” dialog are important when the conversation is evolving with a real-time crisis or controversy. The disadvantages, however, are significant.

When you allow readers free access to voice their opinions about what you write, you’re giving people a platform to spread everything from (much-appreciated) thoughtful perspectives and interpretations to outrageous, uninformed and mean-spirited opinions. And you’re giving them a sizeable audience they wouldn’t have on their own.

As a company devoted to providing resources and support to parents, we didn’t feel the need to compromise appropriateness for speed. Comments on our blogs must be approved by the writer, or me as the editor, before they appear live on our site.

Never was I more grateful for that decision than yesterday, when I posted a brief blog linking to two articles I thought exemplified extraordinary writing under the deadline pressure of continuously unfolding events in Tucson. I wasn’t making any kind of political comment; I was complimenting remarkable writing.

A comment I saw in response this morning was completely inappropriate. “Vitriolic,” as Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik  might call it. Certainly ill-informed.

Thankfully, no one saw it but me.

Child development experts will tell you that out-of-control children crave boundaries. Out-of-control adults need them, too.

A community immersed in grief

I spent my lunch hour yesterday corresponding with parents who have lost children.

A mother whose infant daughter was stillborn. A father who lost his son shortly following an emergency (and premature) Cesearean delivery that became necessary when his wife was involved in a horrible car accident. A mother whose 11-year-old son died of an “intercerebral hemorrhage” of unknown cause. And a mother who lost her 18-year-old son during a robbery, when he was shot and killed. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was senselessly murdered, just like bright, brown-eyed Christina Green of Tucson.

A lot of bereaved parents wrote to us after they saw Mary Ann Bashaw’s January article, “Finding Purpose in Grief:  The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel.” Many of their letters will be published in our February issue. I can’t think of a better tribute to the victims of Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson, when 20 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were shot and six were killed, including 9-year-old Christina, who was there with a family friend who knew the young student council member would be inspired by the presence of a role model.

The parents who wrote thanked us for “breaking the silence” on what one parent termed “a tender subject.” For some of these families, their terrible losses occurred years ago. And yet their grief is always there, always part of them. So they know all too well what will soon befall the loved ones grieving small Christina.

For now, the community has rallied; the media is attentive. The family’s shock and the outpouring of support blunts the real blow that will occur in the years that loom ahead, when each day requires them to wake up and miss their daughter all over again.

Christina’s memorial service will be held at noon Thursday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Tucson. Many, many people will be there, most of them dressed in white to show their support.

I hope that many of them will still be there in the weeks and months to come, providing support, talking about Christina, sharing their love and comforting this family for as long as it takes. Which really means forever.

Resources for grieving parents

MISS Foundation
A Phoenix-based organization that provides crisis support and long-term aid to families after the death of a child at any age, from any cause. Also active in legislative and advocacy issues, community engagement, volunteerism and education.

Parents Of Murdered Children Valley of the Sun Chapter
Offers support for persons who survive the violent death of someone close as they seek to recover.

A chance to play Santa

Except for a brief moment of restful regrouping during the Thanksgiving weekend, my staff has been working around the clock for weeks. It’s “that time of year” for us, an annual marathon that tests our energy, our stamina, our resilience and our shared sense of humor.

Double-issue deadline time.

Our 132-page 2011 Schools, etc. book went to the printer last week. Last night, at about 8pm, I signed off on the January magazine and Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams sent the files off to the printer.

Every year we wonder why we pack this double whammy into the weeks leading up to an already hectic holiday season. We talk about scheduling the book at a different time of year but we keep coming back to the same conclusion: Parents need it in January.

January is when many of the Valley’s private schools hold open houses; for the most popular schools, registration may reach capacity soon into the new year. Even public school districts with rolling open-enrollment periods may fill to capacity well before the start of the new school year.

So we bite the bullet, resign ourselves to some late nights (for Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist a lot of late nights) and somehow we always manage to get it done.

After weeks of intense, single focus, I woke up this morning with an almost childlike sense of possibilities. No proofreading today! No frantic, last-minute fact-checking! The excited feeling actually lasted a few seconds before I realized how many other things I’ve let slide the last few weeks. Emails that need responses, articles to be assigned, planning to do.

Before I get mired in all of that, I plan to spend some time playing Santa. We have been running all sorts of promotions on our website lately. Tickets to live events and movie sneak previews, new-release CDs and DVDs. We recently closed five of those contests, whose winners must be notified today.

I like doing that myself. It’s fun to send someone a message that says, “Guess what? You won!” It does my heart good when I get an excited response (“No way — that’s awesome!” or “My kids will be so excited!”).

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