Moms & Dads: Stories, tips, and advice on raising your kids from South Florida parents | Sun Sentinel blogs

Moms & Dads

South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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March 30, 2007

Day-care study takes jab at working parents

Some days I feel like a great mom. Other days I feel like I could do better. Now comes along a study that stands to make working mothers like myself feel like absolute failures.

A report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development published in the latest issue of Child Development suggests a correlation between disruptive behavior in children and the amount of time they spend in day care. The federally funded research tracked 1,300 children from infancy to elementary school. The latest findings follow a mid-term report in 1999 that found young children in day care were slightly less likely to bond with their mothers than stay-at-home kids.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying my heart sank when I first heard the results. But then came a few silver linings: 1) Parenting and genes had a greater influence on behavior. 2) Kids who had high-quality day care scored higher on vocabulary tests.

As for No. 1: I just hope my two-year-old son doesn’t inherit my ability to bomb the SAT test despite a series of honors, AP and SAT-prep classes.

As for No. 2: I can already attest to the strides my son has made since he began the Infant/Toddler program at Nova Southeastern University’s Mailman Segal Institute.

Aside from vocabulary, my son is learning socialization skills he just wouldn’t get at home: Basic things like how to stand in line; sit down to eat at a table with other kids; follow instructions from someone other than Mom or Dad.

Ultimately, rather than sulk about a study that documents marginal differences, I’ll take pride in the values I know my husband and I are instilling in our son. I was reminded of that the other day when my son’s teacher said our son had remarkably good manners, saying “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” often.

“If they weren’t so expensive,” she told my husband, “I’d bless you with six children.”

Now that's an assessment I can live with.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Can you say 'I love you' too much?

I don't recall my father telling me he loved me a lot when I was a little boy.He was more the type of guy who showed his love, in small, everyday ways. Emotionally, words often escaped him. And that was fine for me, because when he did those little things, they filled my heart.

Once, when he was repairing a city-owned sidewalk in front of our home, I begged him to let me write my initials in the wet cement. He tried to explain to me that the city would know he did the repair and could possibly fine him for not paying city workers to do the job. I just got upset and stormed off. A few days later, with a stern look, he told me to follow him outside to the front yard. My father wasn't frivolous, so I knew it was a bad sign. Without a word, he pointed at the repaired sidewalk, where the initials "DV" were etched in the concrete. My heart nearly fell because I knew I was in for it. It didn't matter that I was innocent. Words poured out of me, so did tears. But my dad said nothing, just smiled slyly and walked away. It took several stunned minutes for me to realize my old man had done the dirty work, despite the possible wrath of the city's code enforcement.

Those initials are still there, more than three decades later.

Another time, when I was in Little League, I went up to bat and was struck by a fast pitch. It hurt, but my dad taught me to be tough. My next time at bat, I was hit again. My third time at bat? It happened yet again. But with that one, I remember falling to the ground in pain, no longer caring about being tough. It really hurt. In fact, I was almost ready to cry when I suddenly noticed my dad had jumped off the bleachers and ran to my side, all the while screaming at the coaches, umpire and at that young pitcher with a terrible arm.My pain suddenly evaporated, as did my dad's pretense of never showing emotion publicly.

I have a two-year-old son now, and I make it a point to tell him I love him repeatedly. I sometimes ask him, "Do you know that your Daddy loves you very much?" He responds with a long, sweet, "Yesss." I just hope I'm not over doing it with the I love yous. I don't want him to just hear the words, I want him to feel them just the way my dad made me feel them without even having to say them.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Don't call me stepmother

Almost three years ago, in one ceremony, I became both a wife and a "stepmother."

I had lived with my husband, Marc, before tying the knot, but I was just dad's "girlfriend" at that time. When we got married, the word stepmother -- with all its negative connotations and images -- started being applied to my name, causing much discomfort. It caused more than discomfort ..I HATE THE WORD!

I hate it because the word can't be said without "wicked" being attached to the front of it. It doesn't help that most children's books and folklore portray stepmothers as being self-centered, jealous, without morals and down right evil. Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White all revolve around the actions of an evil stepmother. That all may seem harmless, unless you're the stepmother.

When I fell in love with my husband, I also fell in love with his two sons, Austen and Dalton. I've never felt jealous or treated them badly. I call them my children and try my best to treat them the same as my biological son. I consider myself a friend and an authority figure, but not their mother. They already have a mother who loves them dearly and whom they love.

So what's my label, since society demands one? Am I their "Other" mother? Austen, our oldest son, called me that once when speaking about me to his first grade teacher. I can live with that label.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 29, 2007

The Guilt

guilt.jpgI know it happens to every working parent. Still, that doesn't make me feel any less guilty about not spending more time with my daughter.

I see Ana Isabel, 19 months, for an hour in the morning, maybe an hour and a half, if I'm lucky. At night, I usually get home passed her bedtime. I suggested to my wife maybe moving it back a bit so I can see her at the end of the day. But keeping her to a schedule is important and my work schedule is erractic. I don't get home at the same hour every night.

Lately, I started renovating one of the bathrooms during the weekends. So now my weekends are booked solid for weeks to come. I'm thinking it would be worth it to hire someone on the next house project so I could at least hang out with Anita on the weekends.

I wonder what other busy parents do to find quality time with their children.


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March 28, 2007

Is Your Baby Gay?

baby.jpgIf there were prenatal testing to determine if your child was going to be gay, would you use it? This provocative idea, still a fantasy, is being debated in some Christian and gay circles after the Rev. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, wrote about it on his blog last week.

The headline was "Is Your Baby Gay? What if You Could Know? What if You Could Do Something About It?" Mohler said he would approve of an intervention, if someone invented one, to change the baby's sexual orientation in utero if tests showed he or she were going to be gay.

This is interesting because many conservative Christians believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, not determined biologically. Mohler said he would not support abortion or gene therapy, but might support something less invasive, like a hormone patch.

Gay rights groups, of course, were infuriated. Harry Knox of the Human Rights Campaign told The Washington Post: "My word for [Christian conservatives] is they should be more focused on repentance for the sins they have committed against homosexuals than on manipulating the next generation of the unborn."

POSTED IN: Newborn (39)

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Make business trips bearable

Each time I tell my husband about an upcoming business trip, he cringes. Then he apologizes. Before I got on a plane this time, he had even calculated the probable number of dirty diapers he would have to change until my return. Yes, business trips can be tough for everyone involved.

But thanks to keeping a routine with my two-year-old son from the day he was born, my husband has a game plan to rely on when Mom is not there. Taped onto our kitchen cabinets (right now as I write this on a plane) are a series of yellow pieces of paper that outline my son’s day: The time he wakes up; eats breakfast; has milk; goes to daycare; has a snack; eats dinner; has more milk; watches a video; takes a bath; and goes to bed. In between, are significant gaps for playtime, reading stories and, yes, countless diaper changes.

Having a routine is probably the best gift new parents could give their children–- and themselves. You will see the payoff in a matter of days or weeks, and it will keep paying off years later. And you will be better rested. My son doesn’t fight bedtime or naptime, leaving Mom and Dad enough time to reenergize.

Family and friends have told me I’m blessed with having an “easy” child who loves to sleep and eat, who is happy and adaptable. That may well be true. But I also know he’s “easy” because, even at such a young age, he knows his little world is a predictable place.

As predictable as, say, at least two dirty diapers a day.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 27, 2007

Stay-at-Home Genetics

My daughter is not yet 5 but already wants to be a stay at home mom. She doesn't even have a job yet, but she already doesn't want one.

Almost every time she's asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, "A mommy.''stayhomemom.jpg

"But that's not a job,'' I said. (I know. Clobber me.)

"I don't want a job. I want to be a mommy.''

"Well, who is going to pay your bills?'' I inquired.

"I don't know,'' she answered.

I'm not sure how to proceed on this issue. I've always worked full-time. I keep reminding her that her own mother has a job, and two kids, and does quite fine. Yet, would it be OK to support her idea of aspiring to be a fulltime housewife?

I am forming a theory now that stay-at-home moms might be "born'' rather than "created'' through their environment.

I certainly think that prissiness is a genetic feature and not inherited, since my daughter is like Jon Benet reincarnated and I am ... not.

If you don't believe me, introduce yourself to my daughter and see how long it takes her to comment on your fingernails.

So perhaps part of the prissy gene in my daughter includes the idea that she will never have to get her lipstick smudged from picking up a telephone to say "Sun Sentinel Newsroom.'' Or any other workplace.


POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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March 26, 2007

Kid in a scramble, kid with a smile

Just when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I look at my kid's senior-year home stretch.

In the next nine weeks: Class trip, prom, AP exams, graduation. Then there's our family trip, and a trek to college for orientation. And that doesn't include a weekend away and other related activities with her religious group.

Meanwhile, she goes to the gym regularly, hangs out with friends and helps chauffeur our 10-year-old.

I'd think some teens would live the melodrama, but that hasn't happened ... at least yet. And in the long run, learning to juggle is a highly underrated skill -- as many of you out there likely know.


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He did not just say that

Went to Barnes and Noble last week with my sons. They really like playing with the Thomas the Train set in the children's section, and I really like checking out gossip rags while they do that, so it works out well.

Another mom walked in with her son and baby daughter in her arms. The woman had long, gorgeous hair and a husky voice.

My son walked over to me, stood close and said, "Mommy, I think that looks like a girl."
I looked at the baby, wearing all pink, and answered, "Yep, that's a girl."
He continued.
"But she kind of sounds like a guy," he said.
Horrified, I realized he was talking about the woman with the husky voice. I quickly glanced over but the woman either did not appear to hear Evan or was ignoring this comment.
"No, babe, that's a girl too," I whispered.

Thankfully, the conversation ended there. But that was my first brush with my 3-year-old's brutally honest observations in public. I don't want to muzzle him, but how do I talk to him about keeping this kind of stuff between us?

POSTED IN: Say what!?! (25)

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March 23, 2007

A Class Act


The news of Elizabeth Edwards' cancer relapse is unbearably sad. No mother who has had to bury a child (her son Wade died at age 16) should have to suffer through more tragedy. This woman is a class act -- from her legal career, to her parenting of kids ages 25, 9 and 7, to her marriage and partnership with husband (and presidential candidate) John Edwards and her first battle with breast cancer. If you haven't yet, check out her best-selling book Saving Graces. It is truly inspiring. Here's wishing her well.

Oh, and yes, I think John Edwards should stay in the presidential race. The story in today's New York Times says the couple made the decision together, without influence of aides and advisors. Only Mrs. Edwards knows whether she can handle a campaign along with her treatment. More power to her if indeed she can.


POSTED IN: General (185)

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Keep those paws away

"Why don't we have a dog?" asked my middle child Dalton the other night.

I paused and pondered whether we should consider adding a four-legged friend to our famiy. Then I came to my senses and thought, "No Way!" Not because I don't like animals. I grew up with dogs that I loved very much. I even have a picture of my old dog, Coco, next to my bed at home.

But why would I want to get another "thing" that I would have to feed, clean up after and worry about when I already have three boys that require that attention? I still wonder: Am I depriving my children of a faithful companion to play with and learn how to take care of?

I think not. I remember that my mom did all the dirty work with Coco. I reaped all the benefits. But as I grew older, Coco took a back seat to my friends. My mom didn't mind. She loved Coco, and he became her constant companion after I left to college, moved to Atlanta for my first job and even when I moved back to South Florida.

It took me a minute to figure out how to answer Dalton as he looked at me with his puppy eyes waiting -- hoping -- for my response.

"Honey we don't need a dog," I told him sweetly. "We have your two-year-old brother to play with and clean."

Dalton didn't like the answer. But it worked for the time being.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 22, 2007

The summer is long ...

Who is camp for? It's for the kids, right? Help them learn something. Occupy them so they don't spend the entire summer with SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron and Naruto.

There's a lot to be said for letting kids get bored and have some down time over the summer. They work awfully hard during the school year. They deserve a break. Besides, boredom begats creativity. In a good way. You can't think great thoughts if your mind is always occupied.

summercamp.jpg But 10 weeks of summer is a long, long time. Camp is necessary.

It's also much more expensive than school. So you like to think your'e getting your money's worth.

Most parents, including me, look for camps that enrich. Camps that teach. We want our kids to learn a new skill. To discover a passion. I have spent unbelieveable amounts of money trying to spark the passion in my curious and iconoclasitc older daughter. I'm not sure any of the camps she's been to were really worth the money. I'm still waiting for that undiscovered passion.

My younger kid just wants to have fun and she loves an adventure, so for her going to Girl Scout camp (very inexpensive) in Tennessee and staying there to visit with aunts, uncle and grandmothers is just peachy.

Is she learning new skills? Maybe. Will they make her smarter? Probably not.

I've found, over the years, that the only way to choose a camp is to let the kids choose. You can try to encourage them to do something different or spend time honing a skill, but in the end, it's their time, not yours. You have to let go and let them pick the camp -- and the activity -- that feels right to them.

Even if they aren't learning much.

Truth is, they are probably learning more than you know.
-- VMB

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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The Kid and The Cat

Mac, the gold tabby cat, has been with my wife longer than I, and much longer than Ana Isabel, who hit the the 19-month mark the other day.


Mac likes to scratch at the furniture now and then, which usually garners him a holler. Or he'll jump on the counter or do what cats like to do. He's a cat, after all.

Ana also likes to push her limits. And sometimes it's with Mac. Like the other day when I turned around and she was starting to play drums with a wooden spoon -- on the cat. Of course, Mac lifted his paw and gave her a quick swat. She cried. He ran. There was no harm, therefore, no foul, right? However, we decided to discipline both the cat and the kid.

So as Ana gets older and more assertive with Mac, what steps should we take to keep her from hurting the cat? Or worse, Mac hurting her?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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March 21, 2007

Hang On A Minute

cellphone.jpgIt's got to be one of the Palm Beach County School District's most misguided efforts in recent years: The School Board wants to ban kids' cell phones.

Superintendent Art Johnson says too many kids are using their cell phones to bully, take pictures under girls' skirts and cheat on tests. Although Florida law allows kids to carry cell phones, Johnson got the School Board to agree to help him get the state to change the law.

Sorry, Art, this cat is out of the bag. The majority of kids in middle and high schools (and possibly elementary schools!) are carrying them. Parents feel more secure knowing their kids can call them quickly in an emergency. Do we really want teachers and police officers spending their time confiscating hundreds of cell phones a day? I say we give clear directions on when they can and can't use the phones and concentrate on important things, like getting more kids to graduate.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Daylight saving is a beach

There’s nothing like the frigid water of the Pacific Ocean to remind you that South Florida is home to some of the best beaches in the country.

Like most native South Floridians, I took that fact for granted growing up in Miami. It wasn’t until I moved to Northern California for seven years that I grew to appreciate the white sand and warm water that doesn’t make your limbs numb.

Now that daylight saving time began early this year, my family is ready for our regular weekend jaunts to beaches near and, well, nearer. (My two-year-old son’s afternoon nap doesn’t give us much time to travel far.)

In the year since we moved (back) to South Florida, we’ve hit the beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Deerfield Beach, Miami and Key Biscayne. They’ve been some of the best memories we’ve had as a family. What’s more, aside from paying the parking meter, it’s free. Just bring a blanket, a lot of sand toys and plenty of snacks.

There’s something special about showing my son the true beauty of South Florida. And when it comes time to explore mountains, nearby snow and beaches made for bodysuits, we’ll pay a visit to Grandpa in California.

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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March 20, 2007

Try a little kindness

My daughter's teacher is trying to turn his second and third graders into better people. Bless his ambitious little heart.

First the young Mr. V put them on a break-a-bad habit program. Erika's task was to keep her room clean, without complaining. So far so good: she's made her bed every day for a couple weeks without being told (which is more than I can say for her mother).

But now I'm worried. She is supposed to be performing anonymous acts of kindness. But, she can't think of anything to do. Apparently, she doesn't know how to be kind.

So I'm tempted to give her some ideas, ways that she can be kind TO ME.

1. Quit fighting with her brother Alec over silly things like who the dog loves more.
2. Practice piano/pick up her shoes/put away her softball gear without being told.
3. That high-pitched whine...."AAAAlllecccc dooooon't" ... just knock it off.
But mostly:
4. Lose the Vanessa Hudgens CD.


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Who are summer camps for?

I helped run a boys' basketball camp for 11 years and always found myself balancing this question: Do we please the parents or the kids?

If the kids had their way, we'd play games all day and not do any practicing; most adults would prefer we do work -- teach them something -- so they get value for their money.

I think of this because we're starting to map out our summer, and trying to find a balance.

FYI, the Sun-Sentinel's camp guide ran Sunday. Go to this guide.

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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What's a shoe lace?

Why am I wasting my time teaching my daughter to tie her shoes?

I see clearly, as I look around me, that there is no need for a person to learn this arcane skill. Most new shoes for kids, and even for adults, are made without shoe laces.

Wouldn't it be much, much easier for me to teach my 4-year-old how to yank a Velcro shoe strap? velcrosneak.jpg

Yet something within me cries out for the shoe lace. I remember Mrs. Roswell, my kindergarten teacher in Rockwell City, Iowa, letting us take home the classroom shoe-tieing aid -- a toy wooden shoe with a pretty lace.

I want my daughter to experience the frustration of finishing the knot and having it be so loose that it comes undone immediately. Or is crooked. Or one stupid loop is an inch long and the other one is so humongous it drapes under the shoe. So many important life lessons can be learned by a young child with a shoe lace. (Such as, for the child who wonders why his shoes aren't like everyone else's, "Because you are special,'' or "Because you don't make the decisions around here until you start paying rent.''')

Am I being old-fashioned? Should I give in to the Velcro Society?

I am inspired by the web site, Ian's Shoelace Site.

The site is entirely devoted to shoe laces, including instructions on how to tie some very special looking shoe lace knots, different methods of lacing the shoe, some 'testimonials' about crooked bows, and much, much, much more. I emailed Ian and he was glad I was going to share his site with you. He's in Chelsea, Victoria, Australia, where apparently they still have shoe laces.

According to the website, learning to tie your shoes is a rite of passage that occurs around the age of 5. (And the tip of a shoelace is called an "aglet.'')

Is connecting a Velcro strap a rite of passage as well?

Unrelated quote of the month this time goes to my 11-year-old son, Creed: "The worst mistake I ever made in life was asking Dad if I could try the lawn mower.''
Also, for those keeping a log of the disciplinary measures in Creed's Permanent File: He has just concluded five days of In School Suspension. Three days were for throwing the noodle, a.k.a. Inciting a Food Fight that Never Happened, in the cafeteria at Seminole Middle School in Plantation. We are not sure what the other two days of suspension were for.


POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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March 19, 2007

Too sleepy to argue

Show of hands here: Who lets their kid sleep in their bed? Nothing wrong with it, I say. Nothing too wrong, anyway. Sure, you get kicked and whacked by a toddler who packs more wallop than you knew he had when he's in a sleeping state. But you get to sleep. Eight hours, even.

I know. I should make my kids sleep in their beds. But we didn't let them cry it out when they were babies, and we're paying the price now.

Neither child can fall asleep on their own. The youngest sleeps in our bed; the oldest sleeps in his own bed and does a pretty good job of staying there all night unless he wakes up and realizes that Mommy or Daddy didn't stay next to him all night. Then he climbs into our bed. Good thing we have a king-sized model.

I was greatly relieved when I read a story in Sunday's Sun-Sentinel about this very phenomenon.

The New York Times article included interviews with a handful of parents who admitted to letting their kids sleep in their beds because the alternative -- crying, cajoling, arguing -- would take away from precious hours of sleep.

It's just easier this way. While I'm glad I'm not the only one in this boat, I do wonder when it will end. I fantasize about cheerfully telling my sons goodnight and walking away from their beds, where they would be curled up and blissfully asleep. On their own.

Who knows. Maybe it's not just a pipe dream.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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March 16, 2007

Keep on brushing


It's funny how you go through phases, depending on the age of your kids. Take teeth brushing. My kids, at 7 and 4, are finally old enough to do it by themselves, and that means everything -- from putting the toothpaste on the brush to brushing, rinsing and even wiping the sink of all the leftover globs of paste.

But I still have a hard time getting them to brush for the dentist-recommended two-minute time period. We've tried various things, like making them sing Happy Birthday twice. (You - have - to- do - it - very- slowly.) We also bought one of those Firefly toothbrushes, which has a flickering light that stops when you are done brushing. That lasted till the battery wore out and was never replaced. In the Sun-Sentinel's Family Style this Sunday, you'll read about a
cool new product, Tooth Tunes, a battery-operated toothbrush that plays pop music as you brush. For $9.99, it plays everything from songs from Disney's High School Musical to the Beach Boys and the Village People. Kids brush till the tunes stop.

I got another idea recently while visiting friends in California. Their kids use an hourglass (the mini ones that come in board games) and brush till all the sand goes through. Maybe it was a visual thing, but it seemed to work everytime.



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Spanish lessons from my son

I will turn 42 years old this year. My son is two. And I’m starting to realize he already knows more Spanish than I do, even though I grew up with it.

I grew up with my parents, siblings and grandparents speaking to me in Spanish, but I tended to listen and respond in English, since that was the language most spoken by my friends, classmates and my favorite cartoon characters. But the biggest reason I shied away from Spanish as a child was the racist baggage that came along with it. I grew up hearing about how my parents -- both of whom were born in the Los Angeles area -- were teased by classmates and punished, physically, by teachers, whenever they spoke Spanish on campus. In those days, a Spanish accent was often equated with stupidity, laziness or just plain un-American behavior. Those scars can stay with a person, and a family, for a long, long time.

So, over time I’ve lost most of my Spanish memory and have paid the price for it, particularly when it comes to retaining a part of my heritage.

That’s why I’m so thankful that others are helping my son do better than me when it comes to being bilingual. The biggest contributors to my son’s growing Spanish skills are by far my wife and her parents. Through them, my son has a growing fascination for words like “croquettas” (fried ham treats), “mimir” (a child variation of "dormir", which means sleep) and “por favor” (please). However, the word he uses most is “mas” (more), which he conjures up for words like “mas cookies” or “mas croquettas” or “mas Dora.”

The latter reminds me to be thankful for the growing number of products and TV shows that help young and old learn Spanish. Aside from his relatives, my son picks up Spanish words by watching cartoons like "Handy Manny," "Dora the Explorer" and "Go Diego, Go!" Even mainstream English-speaking shows are helping to teach him Spanish, including the PBS Kids Sprout cable TV show and Blues Clues, both the TV show and the DVDs.

Then there are all those toys out now that weren’t around when I was young that help my son too. He has a Leap Frog basketball game that counts his baskets while also teaching him to count in Spanish, plus he has a small library of children’s books that teach English and Spanish.

I am proud of all the things my son is learning now, and believe me, he’s a sponge when it comes to soaking up new words and skills. But his growing Spanish skills hold a special place in my heart. And I can’t wait to watch him as he learns "mas."

POSTED IN: General (185)

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To spank or not to spank?

That is the question.

My son, Ashton, has thrown himself full force into the "terrible twos." I've never had to deal with this question before. I became a mom when I married my husband, Marc. When we tied the knot, Marc's two children, Austen and Dalton, were well past their terrible twos.

I'm torn: My mother never spanked me as I was growing up. She instead preferred to pinch to let me know she meant business. It was discrete but painful enough to get my attention and to modify my bad behavior.

Now I'm torn between different methods of discipline: Corporal punishment, time-out or spanking. Most times, I just pull my hair out when Ashton throws himself onto the floor, screaming in a high-pitched voice in a public place. I'm ashamed to admit that I have spanked my son two times -- on the hand. I regretted it both times.

I've since placed a self-imposed moratorium on spanking until I'm convinced that it works. What works for you? Let me know. I'm the mom without any hair.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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March 15, 2007

Want Kids to Eat Veggies? Be Sneaky.

I am fascinated by a book scheduled for release in just a couple of weeks called The Sneaky Chef. The author, a food journalist and trained professional chef, has done time in the toughest kitchen of all: Her own, with two young children.

Not to be outdone by a 4-year-old, Missy Chase Lapin created a whole new cuisine, a sneaky cuisine, a cuisine made up of purees, juices and special baking mixes that sneak the vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and other good stuff into the foods that kids generally do eat. Foods like brownies, french toast, ice cream and mac-n-cheese.

ingredients.jpgThe idea, she explains, is to pull out the heavy machinery and make pure purees of, say, cauliflower and white beans for a white puree, or broccoli and spinach for a green one, and then whip the heck out of the stuff until it has no texture left. Then sneak it into your kids’ food.

This book contains two recipes for brownies with blueberries (purple puree) and one that calls for spinach in the form of “green juice.’”

I couldn’t resist. I bought the brownie mix, the blueberries and the spinach. Imagine: Healthy brownies.

A few days later, my daughter called me at work.

“Mom, can I make the brownies I found in the cabinet?”

“No, Beth, I’m going to make that a different way. I’m adding blueberries to it.”

“Yuck! Why would you do that?”

“Blueberries are good for you. You won’t even know they’re there. Hey, I have another recipe where I can put spinach in.”

“Mommm! Gross. Can’t you just let me make the brownies?”

I glanced at my watch. I wouldn't be making brownies today, that's for sure. “Well, OK. But there are some walnuts in the cupboard. Add those in.”

And so, I didn’t get to try the sneaky recipes, but at least walnuts add protein. Next time I try to be sneaky, I’m not telling.

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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Dance. Dance. Dance.


Ana Isabel is going on 19 months and already she's a dancing queen.

She twirls in the living room, arms flailing, singing a version of la la la la la. She bends at her waist slightly and shakes her little behind. Often, she insists mommy or papi join her, pointing her little finger to a spot on the dance floor, which doubles as the rug. And we do.

I can just imagine our neighbors walking by the front of the house and seeing through the windows two adults, arms gesticulating and going in circles. No matter. It's a lot of fun.

But it does bring me to this: At what point does a child's passing fancy turn into something more?

Do we have the next Ginger Rogers grooving in our living room? Probably not. But one never knows.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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March 14, 2007

Drinking while pregnant

[Written by Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer Kathy Bushouse]

True story: My husband and I were out to dinner in Boynton Beach last Friday night at a Beer-Brewery-Slash-Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named, and I started chatting with the waitress as she brought my husband his beer and brought me a water and a Coke.

I’m at the point in my pregnancy where I’m really looking like I swallowed a watermelon, so there’s no hiding the Little Dude at this point. I’m either pregnant, or smuggling a soccer ball under my shirt to dinner.

When she set the beer down, I asked for mine. I told her, of course, that I was kidding. Her response: You’d be surprised how many women aren’t. Then I told her she couldn’t be serious. Turns out, she was. She’ll serve wine, she said, but our waitress draws the line at beer and – this part shocked me – shots of liquor.

“What do you say?” I asked her.

“I tell them it’s a personal preference,” she said. If they insist, she sends them to the bar to buy the beer or the shot or the margarita or whatever.

Now, I’ve been known to drink a soda or two, and have been told that the world won’t end if I have a little wine while I’m expecting. But liquor? Really? I mean, I like a good vodka-and-tonic as much as the next person, but can’t that stuff wait until after the baby is born?

POSTED IN: Pregnancy (31)

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March 13, 2007

Hoop dreams

My son is quitting his travel team. Soon he’ll be telling his coach he’s done, turning in his uniform, saying goodbye to his friends and teammates.

He happens to be giving up basketball, but for the purposes of this discussion it could be any sport. And any parent of a travel team player will understand my feelings of both regret and relief.

To any parent contemplating getting a child onto a travel team, all I can say is, be prepared. You expect to sacrifice your time – long practices, longer weekends spent at tournaments near and far. But be prepared to question your motives, your parenting, your child’s abilities and desire.

This is not about playing time or about coaching or about personality conflicts. To dispel any question about that, I have to point out: Alec was often a starter on a team that made it to the semi-finals of a state tournament last year. In three years on the team, we had none of the usual travel team complaints.

My husband and I had long and heartfelt discussions about whether we were doing the right thing – to get involved, to stay involved, to quit. About when to push, when to pull back. We wrestled with it, because we expect our kids to be active. We don't abide quitting when a committment is made. But when basketball ceased to make Alec happy, it was time to say goodbye. It sounds so obvious now.

Now, the ball's in his court -- so to speak. He's decided to try travel baseball - a sport he almost gave up two years ago.

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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Food fight

[Written by Brittany Wallman]

Got another call from the school. Let me observe that I'm getting to know the middle school teachers without having to attend PTA meetings.This time it was an assistant vice principal (there seem to be many of these), who said my son threw food (a noodle, as it turns out) at someone in the cafeteria.


He didn't consider, she said, the fact that this could lead to an all-out food fight. You see, every destructive, anti-social food fight starts with ... just ... one ... noodle.

They're giving him three days of in-school suspension.

That's fine, I told her. Do you have any recommendations on how my husband and I can follow through at home to stop these INCESSANT PHONE CALLS? I asked kindly. You see, I continued, I get calls constantly. When Creed makes a teacher angry, they have resorted to just saying "Here, call your mother!' and handing him the phone.
[And again, I say, "What in the world is going on at this school?"] Then I get a phone message like: "Uh, mom, my teacher wanted me to call, uh, to say that I was calling out in class."

So I asked this v.p. what she thought we could do, punishment-wise, at home. First she kind of defended him. Maybe she wondered what kind of punishment I had up my sleeve. She replied something like: "Well, it's all harmless stuff, just goofing off, nothing mean-spirited.'' And finally she admitted: "I don't really know your son.''
OK, thanks.

I was pretty angry at him, anyway. I had warned him that if I got another call, he'd be grounded from TV for a week.
I told my husband what happened, via this email: "Your son is getting three days of in school suspension for throwing food in the cafeteria YESTERDAY."

Here's his response: "Well, I threw a tater tot or two in my time. ''

(Maybe I could ground them both from TV for a week.) ... So I punished Creed just as promised. Creed's response: "For throwing a noodle?''

I don't think this was too harsh. You issue a warning, and then you follow through. Basic Parenting 101.

Unrelated quote-of-the-week goes to Lily, our 4 year old, who asked this morning:
"Mommy, when you die -- when we all die -- what will happen to our cars?''

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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March 12, 2007

Sooner or later ...

Our oldest child, Evan, will be turning 4 in September. He's past the Sept. 1 cutoff, so he won't be eligible yet for the state's voluntary Pre-K program. But we are considering some sort of summer camp program to get his feet wet.

Aside from a three-month stint late last summer, he hasn't really been in any daycare or preschool situation yet. We did enroll him into a part-time program last year, but it wasn't the right place. The staff there was not very attentive and since he didn't have to be there, we pulled him out. No sense in having him miserable when there is a caregiver at home.

I'm now wondering, however, if we should have persisted in finding an alternate program that we were comfortable in, just to prepare him for pre-K? How is he going to adjust? Is it going to be a heartbreaking experience? This is not a kid who is immediately comfortable with other kids, much less adults that he doesn't know and must now trust. Of course, back in the day, pre-K or kindergarten was the first time most kids entered a school setting.

Any suggestions on preparing my son for this new world?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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Got milk?

Whenever I consider the thought of having another baby, I can’t help but think about the dreaded B-word. No, not birth. That, believe it or not, was pretty painless –- even without an epidural. I’m talking breastfeeding.

The absolutely beautiful and natural way of feeding a child was absolutely emotionally and physically draining after I gave birth to my now two-year-old son. I only wish I had the overabundance problem that has prompted some local mothers to ship extra supplies of their breast milk to Africa to help reduce the risk of HIV infection in newborns. Some have shipped as much as 1,000 ounces, according to today’s Sun-Sentinel story by Tim Collie.

Perhaps worse than the physical discomfort –- OK, downright pain -- was the guilt I felt when I ran into trouble breastfeeding. Societal pressures are intense, leaving an already hormonally challenged new mother feeling like a complete failure if she can’t exclusively breastfeed her child. By Day Two at home, doctors ordered me to supplement with iron-fortified formula. Even more mortifying, I had to birdfeed my son with a dropper to avoid “confusing” him and to make sure he still breastfed.

I refused to give up. I attended weekly breastfeeding support groups at the local hospital, obsessively weighing my son and praying for wet diapers. (A sign he was eating well.) I took herbal vitamins. And I pumped like I worked at a gas station. Every ounce was gold in my mind. Once, I accidentally spilled some from a bottle I was carrying, and I just broke down into tears.

Eventually, I had to throw in the towel –- and the pump –- for my own sanity. Several months, I figured, was better than nothing at all.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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"Not MY kid!"

Just a quick update to my post below, where I tried to consult John Rosemond for advice on what to do if you're in charge and other people's kids misbehave. Well, I went to the library, and every Rosemond book was checked out. (Almost gives you hope for society.)

But I checked through some other books and heard tales from co-workers, and have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of parents:

One asks: "Why did you discipline my child?" because no way he or she did anything wrong.

The other asks: "What might my child have done for such discipline to be administered?"

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 9, 2007

Play Ball (and keep score, too!)


Our son's long-anticipated first tee-ball game was the other night. And his team, the Mudcats, won!

Well, kind of. Actually, not really, since in the 4-5 age group, they don't keep score. But as my son rationalized, "Mom, you know even though they don't keep score, we had more runs."

Yes, you did, buddy!

I used to be the parent who agreed with the idea that at this age, the whole point of the sporting experience is to learn about teamwork, have fun, and not worry about who wins or loses.

I still think those things are important. But after going through two torturous, no-score-keeping tee-ball seasons with my daughter, I have decided there's nothing wrong with keeping score. It's part of learning the game.

Just as you have to learn that when you get tagged by a player, you're out, you learn that when you cross home plate, it counts as a run. Not keeping score is just confusing for kids (not to mention, boring for spectators.) And the reality is you have to teach winning and losing at some point. Why not now? If we can mold gracious winners and losers at this young age, it can only help them compete in the years ahead.

Now, I am not saying this because my kids are always on winning teams. In fact, of the more than half dozen teams (soccer and tee-ball) my husband has coached them in, they've lost way more than they've won. (And that has nothing to do with your skills, honey!)

Take my son's most recent soccer team. They lost all but the last game. The losses were disappointing for my son but not devastating. We'd tell him we were proud of him and make a point to discuss how well the other team played. He was always excited and ready to play the next game. When they finally won, his happiness came more out of a feeling that he had finally earned the win.

When tee-ball started, he said, "I hope it's not like soccer season."

I told him not to worry. "If you win, it's great. If you lose, it's no big deal, you just have to do your best the next time."

The Mudcats play again tomorrow. Here's hoping for another score-less "win."



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Make Dad proud

It happens just about every time I pick up my two-year-old from daycare. One of his little classmates, a girl named Nicole, shouts out his name and waves her tiny right hand wildly, clearly sad to see my son leave.

0202val017b.jpg She's also the first one to greet my son when he arrives in the morning. She spreads her arms wide and wraps him in a warm hug. It's so sweet to watch. Sometimes I pretend to leave after dropping him off, and then hide behind a wall or door just to watch what happens between them.

They obviously have a connection. I've seen my son share toys with Nicole, an act of generosity that can be rare for a child his age. Heck, at home, I can barely get him to share his toys with me. Occasionally, he'll give up a Hot Wheel that he doesn't really care about, but never his favorites.

But with Nicole, he seems to share just fine. They also spend time talking to each other while their other classmates are busily running around, falling down and/or spitting up. Their conversations are mostly gibberish at this point, but they seem to understand what each other is saying just fine.

My all-time favorite moment, however, occurred two months ago. I had just brought my son to daycare and did my hiding trick when I observed he and Nicole having one of their talks. My boy handed her a little toy car, which, again, to him is worth more than gold. Anyway, they had just begun another unintelligible discussion, with words like "jish" and "dipoteet" and whatever else, when I noticed another of my son's friends, a boy, see my son and excitedly start to run toward him. My boy also noticed. Without breaking his conversation with Nicole, he quickly glanced at the boy closing in and shook his head, mouthing the word "No," as in, "No, don't interrupt us now."

I understood what my son meant. The boy, unfortunately, did not. That's why, at the last second, my son turned his body ever-so-slightly toward the oncoming kid and suddenly straight-armed him, knocking that boy back several steps and eventually onto his butt. Then my son turned back toward Nicole as if nothing happened and kept gibbering with her.

Sure, I felt a little sorry for that kid (he wasn't hurt at all and even giggled before getting back up). But mostly, I felt proud that my boy had established an important priority at such a tender age: Girls.

I'm not saying my boy is in love. I'm just saying he seems to know that it's better for him to be kind and gentle with girls, and at times, a little rough with boys.

I can't wait to see him at work when he turns three.

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March 8, 2007

En Español

spanish.jpgIt seems like my year-and-half old daughter learns a new word daily.

The other day at dusk I carried her in the backyard and she pointed to the sky. Mooooon, she said clear as day. One recent morning she repeated after my wife, Maaccc. That's the cat's name. It's really amazing to watch her learn.

But the more I hear her speak new words, the guiltier I feel none of them are in Spanish.

I grew up speaking Spanish with my parents and family. I consider it a blessing to be bilingual. And I want to pass the language on to my daughter. Since my wife speaks little Spanish, the responsibility falls to me. I'm making an effort to speak to her more in Spanish. And my wife and I have talked about getting her enrolled into a bilingual program soon.

Still, I wonder if that's enough and what else we could to do short of having abuelita move from New Jersey to Florida.

POSTED IN: General (185), Toddler (127)

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March 7, 2007

Children’s music: A danger to your mental health?

In The Three Martini Playdate, a brilliant diatribe on surviving parenthood with all your sensibilities and culture in tact, Christie Mellor includes a chapter called “Children’s Music: Why?”

She, like many parents, could see no need for Barney, Big Bird, Raffi or any of the rest. Having listened to more children’s music in the past seven years than most people hear even snippets of in a lifetime, I can tell you with certainty: She is absolutely right. I reached a point when I simply could not listen to another album by Tom Paxon, Tom Chapin or any other Tom, Dick or Trout Fisher in America playing a guitar and singing clever ditties for kids, usually with a moral.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been some really good music made with kids in mind. Laura Kelly noted several I missed in my last music-related post, including brilliant albums by Jack Johnson and They Might Be Giants. There’s one more album I really need to add, one by various rock musicians called For the Kids. Proceeds of this album benefit VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, which supports music programs in schools.

For the Kids features Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik getting down on a song about frogs called “Hop Hop Hippity Hop.” Silly as it sounds, that song made me a Five for Fighting fan. Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker, the Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, Barenaked Ladies, Billy Bragg and Wilco, Tom Waits and Dan Zanes all make appearances on this album. All great stuff, but the one cut that will make you not mind listening to this over and over with your kids is Sarah McLachlan’s heartwarming rendition of "The Rainbow Connection."

So, you see, there is good music made for kids. But, for the most part, you have to be careful, otherwise, you end up feeling just like this description from Christie Mellor’s book:

“There is a very real mental health danger to bad music that is rarely mentioned: The melody and lyrics will get stuck on a continual loop in one’s head, often for weeks at a time. … What little sanity you have left will slowly crumble; you wil soon find yourself making smiley-faced pancakes, collecting colorfully costumed teddy bears, and decorating with plaid. … Avoid bad music and you avoid an insidious and downward descent into sheer blandness.”

So, unless you can pick something good in kids' music, stick with your tried-and-true. When they're little, your kids can love the blues or Led Zeppelin or hip-hop or Phish just as much as you do. It doesn't matter what music you play for them, they will end up liking stuff you hate anyway. Mine, for example, like all those Disney Channel stars. Gak.

POSTED IN: Music (22)

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Say what!?!

They are the stories our children will hear us tell time and time again as they grow up well into adulthood: Those unexpected moments when they open their mouths and say something truly amazing – or just plain funny.

We at transPARENT have plenty of those gems to share. We’d like to hear yours.

One of my favorites came around the New Year. My two-year-old son had just begun to understand the sights and sounds of fireworks. Dad had made a few demonstrations while my son and I soaked in the experience sitting on top of my car. There were plenty of “oh, wows” and “oohs.”

But the best moment came days later as I toweled off my son during bath time (and after a hearty dinner). His bare bottom on my lap, he let one rip. Then another. And another. He giggled, looked up at me and said with such innocent glee: “FIREWORKS!”

I can’t wait until the Fourth of July.

POSTED IN: Say what!?! (25)

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Weeping for Webkinz

black_and_white_cat.jpg I heard a primal scream and recognized my daughter Ellie's voice. I ran over to the computer to see what had happened. Someone had stolen the furniture from her Webkinz house!

Are your kids as into Webkinz and Club Penguin as mine are? These sites are sort of like Myspace for the elementary school set. They can meet friends and make friends and play with them on line, with games such as arcades, bowling and ice skating. They can also put together houses with furniture for the animals they play with, getting money from "jobs" they do online.

Ellie had given her password to someone at school, although she never quite admitted this. This boy was able to remove all her furniture, worth thousands of Webkinz dollars, and give it away to other friends in the club. It was quite stunning to see how deeply invested she was in this game. I hope she learned an early lesson about not giving away any online information about herself.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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March 6, 2007

How to manipulate your kids (Try at your own risk)

[Written by Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer Ian Katz]

Here’s some advice you’ll never find in any parenting book: Bribe your children and manipulate them by playing them off each other.

During dinner Monday night my wife and I were engaged in one of our all-too-frequent battles with Philip, 10, and Caroline, 7, to get them to try a new (to them) food. My wife had baked sweet potatoes and cut them into small, thin slices. Excellent stuff. No matter, neither kid would bite.

Philip launched into a discourse on how eating foods he doesn’t like makes him throw up. Here’s the Mensa-caliber debate that followed:

Me: “You’re so full of it. That’s never happened.”
Philip: “Yes it did, with corn.”
Caroline: “No, you didn’t throw it up. You just spit it out.”
Philip: “Well, I don’t want to try sweet potatoes because I don’t like sweet foods.”
Me: “How about chocolate and candy?”
Philip: “I mean real food, like meal food. And I don’t like the texture of sweet potatoes.”
Me: “Texture? You don’t even know what that word means.”
Philip (laughing): “Yes, I do.”

(It’s tough to get a big head in the Katz household. Recent paternal comment: “You? You were named student of the month? Who’d you pay off to get that?”)

I decided to work on Caroline first, though she is usually the more reluctant eater. I told her that if she ate just one small slice, I’d give her $2. She took the bait, and admitted that it didn’t taste bad.

Philip seemed a bit jealous, but refused to budge. Should I punish him? Sure, I could take away his Nintendo, but that would only anger him. It wouldn’t make him try the potatoes. Then I started to wonder: What would be, from Philip’s point of view, the worst possible outcome?

Only one thing could sway him -- pure, unadulterated sibling rivalry. So I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Eat a potato slice and you’ll get $2, I told him, slapping down the pair of singles. “But if you don’t, I’ll give Caroline those $2 on top of the $2 she already made, and she doesn’t even have to do anything else.”

It worked. Philip couldn’t bear to see his sister benefit from his potato phobia. He grabbed a silver-dollar sized slice, set it down on a napkin and began to address it as the enemy. “OK,” he said, focusing straight at it. “I don’t like you and you don’t like me.” He finished it off in a couple of bites.

“Hmm. Not bad,” he said, as he reached for another.

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Schoolhouse, or jailhouse?

Did you know that if a kid needs to use the bathroom at my son's school, the teacher has to call security for an escort? That's how it is at Seminole Middle School in Plantation, according to my sixth-grader.


He said there's not enough time to use the restroom between classes. But if you need to heed the call of nature during a class, the teacher calls security and the student has to be ESCORTED.
What in the world is going on in there?

On the one hand their ability to discipline kids is lame -- they can't paddle and they resort to calling the parent and having my child leave me messages like the following one I got recently: "Mom, I made a noise in FCAT practice class.'' And on the other hand, they treat the kids as if they are in lockdown at the jail and might go on a killing spree if they are allowed to run to the bathroom alone.

Sometimes I seriously wonder if I should move to Iowa and raise my kids there.

Now, on a possibly related topic, here is my daughter Lily's (age 4 1/2) quote of the week: "If you stabbed someone in the heart, would you go to jail?''

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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Bad mommy

A quote from my son, then age 5:

"You're not a good mommy. You don't know how to do it very well."

Don’t tell the IT guys, but I found this little nugget when I was cleaning out my email archives the other day. My kids were so little back in 1999. And my pal and I would help each other through the work day with little booster shots of encouragement. This could have been from either one of us:

“I tell you, i am so incompetent too. I keep asking myself, how do these women do it? I mean, Our house is an absolute pigsty always...I never prepare real food anymore. at least I got the kids to brush their teeth today ...guess it was the popsicle for breakfast that made me think, hmmm...they should brush their teeth.”

This may not sound encouraging, but it was so comforting to know someone else felt the same way I did: inadequate, overwhelmed, thoroughly exhausted with trying to do it and have it all. (The great feminist lie.)

These days I like to think I’ve been a pretty good mom. The kids do well in school, are well behaved, have active lives. I know it’s easier during the “golden years” when kids want to please you. Now as we head into the turbulent adolescent years, I’m just glad my friend will be there for me.

“Thanks for cheering me up. Hey, I'm not a good mommy either, I can't even remember why.”
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March 5, 2007

There's a 42-inch cutoff, mister!

Now that I've exposed myself as one of those parents who escapes to mall kiddie playgrounds for some indoor, non-sweaty fun for my kids, I might as well vent.

Seriously, people. There is a HEIGHT limit for these playgrounds. 42 inches, I believe. That surely rules out any middle-schoolers, and many older children. But noooooo, some moms still have to bring their HUGE kids into these playgrounds designed for toddlers and little kids.

The security guards at Wellington Green often kick out the older kids who roughhouse, but there is usually no such policing at Boynton Beach Mall's kiddie playground. Which leaves me sometimes glowering at boys who zip by at breakneck speed despite the fact we're in a confined space and there are frequently little ones who are just learning how to walk. I mean, a kid could get a pretty serious ouchie if they get knocked down by one of these rule-breakers. Maybe (probably) I'm a little protective. I sit down on the sidelines but I'm often popping up to make sure my sons aren't the ones getting knocked down.

I look around, and I see nothing but moms chit-chatting on their cell phones or parents deep in conversation, unaware that their kid has just stiff-armed someone smaller than them in their quest to jump off the gigantic waffle (in Wellington) or take sole possession of the airplane (Boynton).

Sure, every once in awhile I'll catch a glimpse of a similarly-minded mom and we'll exchange silent glances, knowing each of us is cussing up a storm on the inside.

I know I need to be more laidback. Let kids be kids. In fact, it would probably even benefit my kids to just hang back and do nothing. But I also want them to feel protected. I don't want them bullied. And the rules are fairly simple to follow. No big kids! So do I need to find a middle ground here? It's not like I'm yelling at someone's else's kids. But I have felt guilty about the occasional glare. They're just kids being kids. Am I the only one who can't relax at the playground?


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When kids go over the top

When I'm overseeing children in a public setting, such as in a sports league, I follow the usual rule: Treat 'em as though they're my own.

This includes discipline. But what happens when the other kids don't listen, or even worse, do the opposite of what you say out of spite? And doesn't it figure in these cases that their parents are blind to their child's disrespectful manners?

Normally, I let it go -- some people just won't change. But what happens if it's in a situation where their behavior is not only disrupting others, but endangering them? (If it's my own child, it used to mean one quick swat on the butt which, I'm proud to say, has not been used for more than five years.)

But it comes down to this: How do you gracefully get them outta there?

Well, I'm spending the next couple of days consulting John Rosemond's materials ( and others; and I'l get back with you if they have anything good to say.

Meanwhile, I want to hear if there's a technique you all have for this. This is a new one for me.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 2, 2007

Mommy's on a plane

At a school function recently I talked to a single mom who told me she had never been apart from her 8-year-old daughter for a night. This astonished me, although I understand in her case she doesn't have a huge support system to enable her to comfortably leave her child. Still, I felt sorry for her because -- don't you know -- there is nothing like time away from the flock to renergize and regroup.

I say this as I pack my bag this weekend for a 2-day getaway to a friend's wedding. I am lookng forward to some Mom-solitude. Five hours on an airplane and no one to entertain, why, I might even read a book! (I feel fortunate to have my husband and parents nearby to take care of my kids. It allows me to go with a clear conscience.)

How things have changed since the first time I went away. My daughter was only 4 months old, and I had to go to my God-son's christening. I was only going to be away for 36 hours, and had stored plenty of breastmilk for my husband to feed her, so everything was set. But it was the longest 36 hours and I felt so guilty!

The experience turned out to be of great benefit to our family.

For the first time, my husband had to take care of the baby on his own. Better yet, he did it without my hovering and constant badgering of how to do things "the right way" (a.k.a "my way"). Granted, he invited some of my female friends over for backup. I remember calling from California and anxiously asking how the baby was. "Oh, she's fine," he said calmly. "Gretchen is changing her right now." I gave him points for delegating... something I've always had a hard time doing.

Anyway, ever since then, I've made it a point to get away once a year. It's guilt-free and the kids actually look forward to a Daddy-only weekend. It's a win-win for everyone.



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Little boys play with cars and kitchens

My two-year-old son loves to play with cars, especially Hot Wheels. I loved toy cars too when I was a child and now proudly watch him play with them. He also loves to push around his toy shopping cart, which I never thought twice about until recently when a neighborhood kid, who is at least five years older than my son, asked me why my boy pushed a shopping cart around.

toy shopping cart.jpg
He didn't say it, but I could tell he was thinking shopping carts were better suited for little girls.

I reacted without thinking and tried to explain how the shopping cart helped my son practice walking and running. I didn't want to over do it, but I hoped the kid understood how those skills would come in handy one day, you know, when my son begins playing baseball or basketball. Later, my wife teased me for being defensive. Then I remembered that for Christmas, she bought my son a toy kitchen set, complete with cooking utensils, microwave oven and sink. toy kitchen.jpg

I have to admit, I contemplated asking her to get rid of the shopping cart and kitchen and replace them with more manly stuff, like a toy tank or bazooka. I mean, boys should play with boy toys, right? When I was just a little older than my son, I played mostly with Hot Wheels and G.I. Joe dolls. Wait, that's right, I played with dolls ...

The next morning I woke up groggily as my son begged me to get out of bed to play with him. I followed, half-hoping he'd pull out his toy lowrider or ambulance. Instead, he took me to his kitchen where he pretended to make me a hamburger breakfast, replete with corn and a pizza slice.

It was the most fun breakfast I ever had. It even kept me in a great mood later that day, when I chased my son - and his shopping cart - around the house.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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Get moving on taking photographs

The family is gathered. The kids are having a great time playing in the back yard sprinklers. Or it's your teenager's first time behind the wheel... Time to take a picture!

Most people stop the action, place everyone front and center, and ask the group to say "Cheeeeeeese." They forever freeze in time their family and friends, but never capture the spirit of the moment. Here are some tips to make your pictures stop smelling like limburger cheese and taste like brie:

1- Don't ask people to stop what they're doing. Photograph your family and friends laughing, playing or dancing. The result is creating active photographs that aren't static.

2- Don't always take pictures from a standing position. Lie down on the floor and shoot upward, or get on a chair photographing downward at people. These different angles will add visual interests and variety to your photographs.

3- Light is the key to photography. Choose to take pictures during the early morning or late afternoon hours of the day. The natural light early in the morning or late in the afternoon creates warm tones on people's skins and, if it's a clear day, interesting shadows that will create depth in your pictures.

What tips do you have that have worked for you when photographing your family? We'd love to hear them.

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March 1, 2007

Bike week/good for kids

Hey, just a reminder to everyone that Broward Bicycle Week is March 3-11.

Many cities have bike safety "rodeos" and some have scavenger hunts and family rides.

For the full story and a complete list of events, go to

If you can handle seeing Yours Truly in spandex, go to the video report.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Activities (143)

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Project pain and pleasure

[Written by Sun-Sentinel Business Editor Gail DeGeorge]

My 10-year-old son, Matthew, and I bid farewell Tuesday morning to Hernando de Soto and the "Living Explorers" project we have been living with since early January. Dressed for the part (a combination of Party City costume and borrowed cape, hat and sword) he gave a two-minute account of de Soto's explorations after handing in a first-person diary (with correctly cited - we hope - bibliography).

He and his fifth grade classmates at St. Bonaventure Catholic School did a great job and each, I am sure, learned a lot. But each of the parents at the presentation also shared a great sense of relief that this major project was finished.

The mere words "school project" can send shivers down the spine of even the most organized parent. My friend, neighbor and walking partner, Leslie, bemoans that she has been in 'project hell' since her son started sixth grade at Falcon Cove. Many of our 5:15 a.m. walks have been spent recounting our experiences with confusing directions, conflicting deadlines and efforts to make sure our children complete these projects (mostly) themselves.

I had Matthew write the deadlines for each stage of his project on the family calendar, and work out a 'backout' schedule - he managed to get each segment done a few days before deadline. But, yes, I nagged more than I wish I had to in order to make sure it got done. (Using skateboarding as a reward for getting the research/writing done was a big motivator.)

I found myself during the process wondering - what's the right approach to school projects? How much should parents do - since they want their child to get a good grade - versus letting the child learn on their own (and make mistakes)? At science and academic fairs, you can tell the projects done mostly by the parents: Iit can get pretty competitive and expensive. Another neighbor recently complained she spent $40 at Office Depot for binders, supplies, board and other material and ended up doing most of her daughter's school project herself.

As for Hernando de Soto, I feel satisfied that Matthew did the bulk of the work himself and that we shared some good times on it together- doing research at the library, burning the pages of the diary to make it look old (I let him work the lighter, with supervision) and drawing his moustache and beard with eyeliner pencil. (As I did, I ruefully thought it wasn't going to be too long before he'd be able to grow his own.)

On Wednesday, we went to Dunkin Donuts to celebrate the end of the project. I asked him to recite, one more time, his "Hello, I am Hernando de Soto" speech.

Matthew looked at me and said, "Mom, I'm done with that. Don't remind me." So be it.

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Lessons from the Princesses

princesses.jpgReading Anne Vasquez’s entry about her son’s love of Cars and what he’s learned from that movie made me think about my own decade of raising daughters on Disney movies.

They have learned much from the revered Disney Princesses, including a few lessons you might not expect.

snowwhite.jpg1. If a short, grumpy guy tells you not to open the door for “nothing or nobody,” do not open the door for a scary, ugly woman selling apples. Especially not if you already know that someone with magical powers is trying to kill you. This is stupid. It is good to be smart and take care of yourself. It is not good to open the door to strangers. My girls don’t want to be like Snow White, because she is not smart.

belle.jpg2. If a big, hairy guy imprisons you in an enchanted castle, the way you can tell if you’re going to be OK is to check out the library. A well-read man may have depths of feelings and knowledge he’s not showing. You just have to open your mind and your heart. My girls have always wanted to be like Belle, because she is smart and she likes to read. She gets to know her prince before falling in love with him. And she doesn’t go for the first handsome guy who wants to marry her.

3. Kindness counts. Cinderella is kind to her animal friends and even her mean old stepsisters, and look where it gets her. We’re not too sure what happens after the slipper fits, but we know she had a great time at the party and her life is definitely looking up. My girls are, quite rightly, a little concerned about her running off to marry a perfect stranger. We hope it works out for her.

4. Careful who you bargain with. Poor Ariel almost loses the thing she wants most because of her lousy negotiation skills and poor judgment in her business arrangement with the Sea Witch. Thank goodness love triumphs, but Ariel got lucky and also had a loving dad to rescue her.

mulan.jpg5. Girls kick butt. And they also come up with some really good plans. Mulan fights as well as most of the guys, and she out-thinks them, too, thus saving all of China. Not a bad day’s work. It’s good to think before you act.

6. Think for yourself. Maybe a poor, honest man is better than a greedy, rich one. That’s what Jazmine thinks, and for her trouble, she gets to ride on a carpet to see the world and meet a really funny blue genie who makes wishes come true.

And finally, what does Disney have against mothers? Have you noticed that not one – not one! – of these princesses has a mother? What is up with that? My daughters know that they are luckier than any Disney Princess because they have me.

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No. She didn't just say that

Oh, yes she did.
Well, that's my fear: One day we'll turn around and my 18-month daughter will spew out a foul four-letter word she learned from some adult somewhere. That adult would most likley be her mommy or daddy. But we have really worked hard on cleaning up our language since well before the baby came. Not that we had a trucker's vocabulary. But an F or S or B bomb would fly now and then.

So my real worry comes when an uncle's or a grandparent's lips let loose a naughty one without even realizing it. I have had to tell my childless brother to tone it down. Other family members who vist have done it. No one does on purpose. But still, I don't want her hearing it, especially at this age.

So what can I do beside scolding them to try to clean up our family's potty mouths?

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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