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Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 1999

PARENTS GET CREATIVE TO ENTERTAIN YOUTHS

December 29, 1999

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With children out of school this week, parents are struggling to keep their young ones entertained.

Greg Ford planned to spend this holiday week relaxing around the house, bonding with his three nephews ... but in relatively short bursts.

Instead, he said, he is running himself ragged, trying to keep the boys entertained, because the electronic baby sitter -- cable television -- is out.

The Fords' cable service and about 200 others near 19th Street and Heatherwood Drive are being shut down during the day this week while work crews update their portion of the Sunflower Cablevision system. Sunflower is a division of The World Company, which also publishes the Journal-World.

Though the cable outage is limited, Ford's troubles are being replicated throughout the country as parents, used to ushering their young ones off to school each morning are instead ushering them into the living room.

"This week and spring break are the two weeks that are extremely difficult for parents," said Trudy Rice, director of K-State Research and Extension -- Douglas County.

Ages 10, 11, and 12 are high-energy ones for boys, Ford said, particularly when you don't have use of your television.

"They bounce off the walls," said Ford, who is baby-sitting his nephews for the week. "They start early, about 6 a.m."

This week is a big one for movie theaters, shopping areas and bowling alleys.

Conrad Miller, general manager at Royal Crest Lanes, Ninth and Iowa, said older people have been replaced this week by school-age children who have filled the bowling lanes and anxiously wait for laser tag.

Rice said some parents collaborate by baby-sitting for each other. High school students are making up for their Christmas expenses by baby-sitting as well, Rice said.

Others are just staying home alone.

"Lots of youth during this time are caring for themselves," Rice said.

Ford has the sympathy of cable television management for making his week a little harder.

"It's unfortunate and I hate it, because I have children myself," said Tom Evans, managing engineer for Sunflower Cablevision.

Evans said Ford is a victim of "really bad luck of the draw."

A system upgrade started in September 1998 and should be complete by March or April.

While the work is being done, 200 to 250 customers at a time are having their cable cut off during the day -- mostly between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. -- for two or three days in a row.

Unfortunately, the project reached the Fords' home the same time as the holiday break.

On Monday, Ford drove his nephews to a Topeka mall and then left them with their grandmother for the evening. Tuesday included another trip to "grandma's."

Ultimately, there will be a payoff for Ford and other Sunflower customers, Evans said.

The new cable equipment has an automatic back-up system and includes fiber optic lines that virtually will eliminate outages because of storms or other problems, he said.

But that won't take care of Ford's baby-sitting needs this week.

"They cut you out the worse time of the year," he said.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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