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What to do When Your Kid Isn't Invited (Source: CNN.com)

Olivia Nakamura can still remember the neighbor who always hosted a barbecue in his front yard for his son's birthday party. He'd invite all the kids on their suburban Seattle block, except her son and the Asian-American children who lived there.

"I think it was racially motivated since he never invited the other family as well," says Nakamura (not her real name), who has since returned with her husband and two sons to her home state of Hawaii. "My son was only 3 years old, so I just told him they were having a family party."

Welcome to exclusion on the play date circuit.

What should parents do when someone else won't let their kid play with yours? No matter who you are, some parents won't like your family.

It's not just having the "right" skin color, ethnicity or religion anymore. These days, parents might be nervous about your two-mommy family, the sugary soda you let your kid drink, the peanut butter or other food that might kill their kid, your refusal to vaccinate, your habit of cursing or the war games your son is always playing.

Or maybe they won't say why.

Maybe it doesn't matter.

Toddlers learning how to interact with their peers exclude each other on the tot lot. What really matters is how you teach your kid to react to that reality now. Otherwise they'll come home from college sobbing when they don't get into their first-choice classes.

The birthday party invite. Once your kid's circle of potential friends expands to 30 classmates, some parents won't invite the entire class to the birthday party. It's too expensive, their two-bedroom condo won't fit the entire class or perhaps your kids don't like each other. Or maybe they don't like you. That means Janie or Bobby will not get an invitation.

If your child notices the exclusion, address it but don't dwell on it too much, says Ashley Merryman, co-author of "NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children." "You can say something like, 'It would have been nice to be invited, but tomorrow someone else will have a party," says Merryman. "Let's go to the pool or the park." The message: Brush the dirt off your knees and move on. We have other fun stuff we can do. (Be honest with yourself. Aren't you glad you didn't have to buy another present?)

Empower your kid. What do you do when your kid falls flat on his face on the playground, and everyone laughs and calls him "Trippy" for the day? There's a key distinction between the kids who wear that nickname for the day and the kids who wear that name into high school. Research shows that the child who blamed the bullies for doing something wrong didn't stay in the bullied position, says Merryman. He knows they were mean and shakes it off. The child who gets bullied long term thinks the teasing is his fault: "They laughed because I'm a klutz," he thinks.

Don't reassure your kid he's such a great kid. Of course he's great but you're actually telling him he can't change his fate, says Merryman. "Think about it from the kid's perspective: 'I'm really a wonderful kid and they still hate me, what chance do I have?'" says Merryman. "Parents can change that dynamic by telling their kid, 'They did a bad thing. You did a klutzy thing but you can be different tomorrow.'"

Overall, kids need to be praised for their efforts, not their innate abilities. "The more you praise them for who they are, the more you are telling them that success depends on innate skill rather than what they do," she says. "You are telling them not to try. It's really hard to change who you are, not what you do."

Be a mensch. Sometimes the discrimination is obvious and requires you discuss it with your child. But take a breath first. Don't start the conversation with your kid when you are feeling the intense anger or pain of the exclusion. That makes the conversation more about you and your feelings of rejection than teaching your child how to handle the exclusion. Be thoughtful and calm with your response, making sure you're teaching them how to act effectively against bigotry.

Before you act, make sure the bigotry occurred the way you think it did. Even when you think it's obvious racism or other insidious discrimination, sometimes it's not. At the Jewish day schools where noted psychologist Wendy Mogel consults, she often notices historical splits between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic children. (Ashkenazis are traditionally of Western and Central European descent while Sephardic Jews trace their roots to Spain and Portugal.) When the Ashkenazi children weren't invited to a Sephardic child's birthday party, the default explanation was racism. When asked, the Sephardic parent explained that they didn't think the other families would want to come.

"If that happens for the parent, you could be a mensch and make an overture to the family, understanding that family's discomfort," says Mogel, author of the crossover best-seller, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children." "If they reject it, just let it go. You're teaching your children character."

Be proactive. Avoid misunderstandings by educating your child's teacher (and therefore the students and parents) before anyone has a chance to say something offensive, suggests Stephanie Meade, founder and editor-in-chief of InCultureParent, an online magazine featuring articles about raising multicultural and multilingual children and parenting around the world. She and her husband are raising their children largely in his Muslim faith.

Meade sees it as their role as parents to ensure their child's identity is positively represented at their preschool. "For our main religious holiday (Eid, to celebrate the end of Ramadan) we brought in a fun book to read and special treats for the kids to share," says Meade. "We gave each of the teachers a nice plant. I am pretty sure everyone at their preschool has a pretty positive association with our religion now as a result."

Make explanations age-appropriate. When Kelly Wickham's son was in second grade, she learned that his friend's mother wouldn't let him come over to play because he read Harry Potter books. Wickham, who writes the Mocha Momma blog, says the other mother took that to mean that "we allowed witchcraft in our house."

"My son was too oblivious to be devastated by this but he kept asking when John (not his real name) could come over and play, thinking we couldn't come up with a time to get together," says Wickham, a Springfield, Illinois, mother of four (mostly grown) children.

By the time Morgan had turned 12, he started asking questions about the incident. "We discussed at length why we can't be friends with everyone if people aren't open to differences" says Wickham. "This led to a great conversation about differences and biases, and all the -isms that prevent humans from understanding one another."

Create your own fun. If your children don't fit into the dominant culture at school, don't make them feel like losers. Instead, make sure they have other nonschool friends and activities they enjoy. Football and cheerleading aren't for everyone, but there's no reason to let the kids on top define what's fun. Your child may prefer an art class, a reading group, a religious social justice movement, a political campaign, creating video games, hiking or dance.

"If they're doing an activity they enjoy with students from other schools who don't have preconceived notions about them, they can gain confidence both in their skills and in their relations with other kids," says Alexandra Robbins, author of "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth." "Praise them for thinking differently, creatively, out of the box. Kids need to see that they don't need to be, act or look like everyone else in order to have a solid relationship, and that can start at home."

When to worry. It's OK to seek help when you think something's wrong in your child's world. Worry about your child's mental health when you see real symptoms, Mogel says. That includes them losing pleasure in things they used to enjoy, over- or under-eating, becoming socially isolated, coming to your bed at night, complaining of tummy aches, or for little children, chewing on their shirts.

Don't argue about a child's life. Some parents exclude to protect their children's health, whether it's deadly allergies or cancer. Chrystine Ammari's 10-year-old son has battled a malignant brain tumor twice and has a weakened immune system. The Fullerton, California, mom won't allow play dates with kids who haven't been vaccinated or enroll him or his siblings in a classroom where any children haven't been vaccinated.

"The risks of not vaccinating to my child can be devastating, with death being the obvious answer," says Ammari, an original member of 46 Mommas, an advocacy group for childhood cancer. The name of the group, whose members shave their heads to draw attention to the disease, refers to the number of U.S. children diagnosed with cancer each weekday. "But it's also the risk of what they may have been exposed to. Most unvaccinated kids aren't going to carry a disease, and most don't, but that small percent scares the crap out of me."

Take a look at yourself. If your kids get out of hand or won't listen to adult directions, they're not going to get invited to my sister-in-law Noemi's house to play in Clovis, California. (Even my brother and I behave better around her.) With a husband who travels a lot and three children, she doesn't have time to clean up whatever bad habits badly behaved kids are going to teach my superpolite niece and two nephews.

"There was one little girl who would talk back to her parents and say bad words, and my daughter (who was 5) started doing it when we spent time with her," says Noemi Hetter. "I immediately told her to stop and asked her why she was doing it. She said, 'I don't know, I was just doing what my friend was doing.' It didn't take long for me to stop bringing my daughter around this little girl."

This Day in History: First US Train Robbery (Source: History.com)

On this day in 1866, the Reno gang carries out the first robbery of a moving train in the U.S., making off with over $10,000 from an Ohio & Mississippi train in Jackson County, Indiana. Prior to this innovation in crime, holdups had taken place only on trains sitting at stations or freight yards.

This new method of sticking up moving trains in remote locations low on law enforcement soon became popular in the American West, where the recently constructed transcontinental and regional railroads made attractive targets. With the western economy booming, trains often carried large stashes of cash and precious minerals. The sparsely populated landscape provided bandits with numerous isolated areas perfect for stopping trains, as well as plenty of places to hide from the law. Some gangs, like Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, found robbing trains so easy and lucrative that, for a time, they made it their criminal specialty. Railroad owners eventually got wise and fought back, protecting their trains' valuables with large safes, armed guards and even specially fortified boxcars. Consequently, by the late 1800s, robbing trains had turned into an increasingly tough and dangerous job.

As for the Reno gang, which consisted of the four Reno brothers and their associates, their reign came to an end in 1868 when they all were finally captured after committing a series of train robberies and other criminal offenses. In December of that year, a mob stormed the Indiana jail where the bandits were being held and meted out vigilante justice, hanging brothers Frank, Simeon and William Reno (their brother John had been caught earlier and was already serving time in a different prison) and fellow gang member Charlie Anderson.

October 6th: Mad Hatter Day (Source: HolidayInsights.com)

Mad Hatter Day is a great day to be silly and celebrate silliness.

The Mad Hatter is a fictional cartoon character depicted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Mad Hatter is always acting silly. So, on Mad Hatter Day, it is only fair and fitting to act a little silly yourself.  

Despite being a silly day, the selection of the date was actually quite logical. The Mad Hatter wears a top hat. On the front of the hat is a slip of paper with "10/6" written on it. The paper is believed to be an order to make the hat, and that it costs ten shillings sixpence.

Grab yourself a top hat, and have a a very silly Mad Hatter's Day!

Did You Know? In the 8th Century, mercury was used in hat making in a process called "carroting". Mercury poisoning drove some hatters crazy (mad).

America's Most Beautiful College Campuses (Source: Yahoo! Travel)

"If you ask freshmen why they chose their colleges, they usually say one of two things,” says Baltimore architect Adam Gross, who’s worked on projects at the University of Virginia and Swarthmore. “Either they got a good financial aid package or they thought the campus was beautiful."

America’s most beautiful college campuses have the power not only to sway indecisive high school students, of course, but also to attract tourists. Their appeal comes through varying combinations of awe-inspiring architecture, landscaping, and surroundings. To choose among more than 2,600 four-year American colleges, we considered these three key factors as well as architects’ expert opinions.

"The most important thing to realize is that how landscaping and buildings interconnect is as important as the buildings themselves," explains Boston-based architect Mark deShong. At Princeton University, for example, “It’s really about landscape,” he says. The campus connects its ivy-covered gray stone buildings with footpaths, idyllic small greens, and courtyards that create an intimate village-like scale.

Architectural coherence also plays a role in making a campus beautiful. Take the University of San Diego, which sticks to one architectural style: the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved wood. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards are extra selling points.

So plan your own trip to check out these campus masterpieces.

Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Frank Gehry’s Fisher Center—an undulating work of glass and brushed stainless steel—showcases Bard’s thriving arts scene throughout the year (current college president Leon Botstein himself is an accomplished conductor). The center is on the contemporary side of the rural campus’s architectural spectrum, which goes back to the 19th-century Blithewood Mansion and its manicured Italian garden. Pathways make for easy exploring, with the Catskill Mountains visible in the distance. —Kate Appleton

Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA

The entryway to Stanford’s 8,180-acre campus is arguably the grandest of any college campus: a mile-long, tree-lined Palm Drive, which leads up to the expansive green Oval, red-clay-roof-tiled Main Quad, and the campus’s crown architectural jewel, Memorial Church, with its striking mosaic façade.

Photo-op: The view of campus—and all the way to San Francisco on a clear day—from the Hoover Tower observation platform.

To-Do List: The Cantor Arts Center’s collection of 170 bronzes by Auguste Rodin, among the largest outside Paris, includes the Gates of Hell and Burghers of Calais. —Ratha Tep

University of Notre Dame: South Bend, IN

It’s hard to miss the glistening golden dome of the university’s Main Building, not to mention the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart that defines this 150-year-old Catholic school. Besides gorgeous architecture, the campus is chock-full of lush quads, where students congregate to kick back when they’re not in class — or at the football stadium. —Joshua Pramis

Florida Southern University: Lakeland, FL

What do Ellis Island and Florida Southern University have in common? They’re among the 32 U.S. spots that have recently been put under watch by the World Monument Fund as endangered cultural sites. You might also be surprised to learn that Florida Southern—on a hillside overlooking Lake Hollingsworth—has the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel with its colored pieces of glass and wrought-iron tower. —Ratha Tep

University of Cincinnati: Cincinnati, OH

A decades-long renewal topping $1 billion is paying dividends for Cincy, which has cultivated a strikingly modern look—and proven that “it doesn’t need ivy-covered brick walls” to be beautiful, as UC Magazine put it. Notable architects Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, Frank Gehry, and Peter Eisenman have each made their mark on the campus, whose Main Street leads to the prow-shaped Steger Student Life Center and the Tangeman University Center, which, in 2005, dramatically repositioned the original clock tower atop a skylight in a 90-foot atrium. —Kate Appleton

University of San Diego: San Diego, CA

Some campuses are an amalgam of styles; the University of San Diego sticks to just one, and what a glorious one it has chosen—the Spanish Renaissance, with its elaborate façades, delicate ironwork, and carved woodwork. Ocean views and palm-tree-lined courtyards only add to the paradise-on-campus appeal.

Photo-op: The Immaculata Chapel, with its piercingly blue dome, visible from much of the city.

To-Do List: A walk around the Garden of the Sea, behind the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, and its serene reflecting pool and gardens overlooking Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. —Ratha Tep

Berry College: Mount Berry, GA

This rural college holds a lofty record: it’s the world’s largest contiguous college campus in the world, with more than 26,000 acres of fields, lakes, forests, and mountains. Berry makes prime use of its setting too, with numerous reflecting pools and fountains situated nearby its beautiful English Gothic–inspired buildings like the Ford Dining Hall, Ford Auditorium, and Mary Hall, made possible by the school’s largest benefactor—Henry Ford. —Ratha Tep

Lewis & Clark College: Portland, OR

Six miles from downtown lies this 137-acre parklike campus of verdant forests, sweeping pathways, and stone walls. A tree walk with native species encountered by the two explorers for whom the college was named on their epic journey west surrounds the Frank Manor House—originally built as a 35-room private mansion.

Photo-op: The serene Reflecting Pool, bordered by a wall of wisteria, for a stellar view of Mount Hood.

To-Do List: A day hike through surrounding Tryon Creek State Park. Begin with coffee brewed with beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters at the Lewis & Clark bookstore. —Ratha Tep

Rice University: Houston, TX

Don’t be fooled by Rice’s urban address. A double row of majestic oak trees encloses its perimeter—a harbinger of the lush 285-acre campus to come, divided into quadrangles and planted with 4,000-plus elms, hickories, maples, and other trees (a ratio of more than one for each undergrad). The oldest buildings, like the standout Lovett Hall, borrow elements of medieval southern European architecture, including grand, arched passageways and rose-hued brick. —Ratha Tep

Cornell University: Ithaca, NY

Ambitious campus planners wanted to create a main quad over dramatic Cayuga Lake, the longest of the Finger Lakes. “It’s the idea of putting education on a high platform,” says architect Mark deShong. That original plan evolved, and the beautiful setting now accommodates both historic structures (McGraw Tower) and contemporary ones like the I. M. Pei–designed Johnson Museum of Art—whose walls screen movies on summer evenings—and the new Milstein Hall by Rem Koolhaas.

Photo-op: Cascadilla Gorge, whose eight waterfalls drop more than 400 feet from Cornell’s campus to downtown Ithaca.

To-Do List: The paved paths that wind through Cornell Plantation’s 150-acre arboretum; climb to the Newman Overlook for a sweeping panoramic view. —Ratha Tep

Memorable Quotes from Steve Jobs (Source: CNN.com)

Sometimes your own words aren't enough.

As the news that tech revolutionary Steve Jobs had died spread across the Internet Wednesday night, many people abstained from posting their own tributes to the Apple co-founder.

Instead, they shared Jobs' own words:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose," media mogul Arianna Huffington wrote on her Twitter feed, quoting Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

Among Jobs' other memorable quotes circulating social media sites and blogs on Wednesday night were these:

-- "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

-- "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

-- "Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

-- "We're here to put a dent in the universe."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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