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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April 30, 2007


While personally I think Elias has a very handsome, boyish face, that still doesn't stop some clueless folks from commenting on what a cute little girl he is.

I guess it's the curls. He's almost two years old and hasn't gotten a real haircut yet (just a trim of the bangs once). So his hair is a little long. But I can't bear to cut those adorable curls. What if they are gone permanently once I give him a haircut?

I'm thinking I might have to do it, though. The back of his hair looks like a bird's nest whenever he wakes up or gets out his carseat and his yelping while I try to comb through it is not all that pleasant.

And while I'm on the topic of hair, what is up with the fact that he's still got a bit of cradle cap? I thought that was a newborn thing. I've tried shampoos that specifically say they are for cradle cap, and I've tried scrubbing with baby oil, but NOTHING works. Any suggestions?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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Find out more on your child and the FCAT

FCAT scores came in, and you can do more than just look at a piece of paper and a number from 1 to 6.

Look in your kid's backpack and pull out the sheet of paper, which will direct you to the web site

The sheet also will have your child's own personal password, which will lead you to more detail info on how your son or daughter did, including how many questions they got right on each segnment -- which gives you a clue as to what you need to improve upon.

Ours came home last week, after the fourth-grade writing scores were released. We navigated through and found out how our son did on: writing focus, organization, support (using details) and convention (grammar, spelling and punctuation.)


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April 26, 2007

Unstable Ana Isabel

No. I'm not talking about her mental state. She's only 20-months old. So it's way too soon to say what neurosis she has picked up from her parents.


No. My daughter is a bit unstable on her feet. She falls ... A LOT. And lately, well, it seems like she's losing her balance more often. Yes. I know. She's learning how to use her little legs and that means taking some tumbles. But man, I can see why they made diapers with extra cushion. It's not just to avoid those nasty leaks.

No. I don't think there's anything wrong with Anita. Her mommy and papi just cringe a lot lately. Sometimes, it's funny. Other times, we hold our breath. But so far, we have probably suffered more pain than she from her wipe outs. Of course, we pick her up and dry off her tears when they come. And off she goes again.

She just seems to be in such a hurry to get to where ever she's going. I hope it's not a rush to grow up.


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April 25, 2007

Do I Really Need A Minivan?

I am trying to save the environment.

I am obsessed with turning off lights and computers in my house and making my husband turn off the tap when he shaves.


I need a new car to replace my trashed 2000 Toyota Sienna minivan, but unfortunately there are no hybrid minivans out there. So I am wondering whether I need a minivan at all. Why not continue my environmental crusade by getting a smaller car with better mileage?

I have three kids, and I like the way they can spread out in a minivan (less fighting). I also drive carpools a few times a week.

But there are lots of people I know who can't drive big carpools because their cars are too small. Why do I have to be queen of carpool central? Then again, are we wasting even more gas if more parents are out in their individual cars driving their individual kids? And will I really be saving the environment by getting a few more miles per gallon on my car?

So many big questions to ponder. The weight of the world is on my shoulders.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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Alec Baldwin: Who's the pig?

My husband and I affectionately refer to our two-year-old son as “our little monkey.” It seems a fitting term for when he’s climbing on top of the furniture or running across the house naked after bath time. We find humor even in his misbehavior.

I know that’ll be harder to do as he gets older. But listening to actor Alec Baldwin’s telephone tirade, in which he called his 11-year-old daughter a “rude, thoughtless little pig,” makes me wonder: How can a parent ever recover from that?

I can still remember in vivid detail every insult I endured during my adolescence. And those are just the stupid comments from kids who didn’t know any better. But from a parent? That kind of scar runs deep. Baldwin’s daughter will remember her father’s words for decades to come.

If Alec Baldwin spent as much time apologizing to his daughter as he has blaming his ex-wife for supposedly making the tape public, he’d be off to a start to healing that wound.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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April 24, 2007

Bagels, with a smile on the side

"That was fun." My son actually said those words to me.

We had just had lunch together. Just a bagel (him) and a salad (me). But we were both playing hooky and it felt downright scandalous to be eating lunch together on a Monday.

He had opted out of an overnight school field trip (haven't quite figured out why), so instead of sending him to school to sit in a class with a bunch of "scary" eighth-graders, we let him stay home. I slipped out of work for an hour to check on him and took him to his favorite bagel shop (the boy would live on bagels if I let him).

So we sat outside, enjoying the sunny day, people watching. There was the "grandma" who was having some issues with the way the restaurant was run. The souped up car, racing through the parking lot, with the loudly arguing teenagers inside. We had no agenda, no serious topics to discuss. Alec was all smiles. I felt relaxed.

It was just .... fun.


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Banned in 50 States and all U.S. Territories

Creed, our sixth-grader, made family history this weekend.

He is the first one in the Norman family to be declared social contraband.

The message was delivered on a voice mail. One of Creed's best friends tearfully let us know that his mother said he's not allowed to play with, ride bikes with, or hang around with Creed anymore.

This, despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that Creed attended this very kid's birthday party the day before.

All of this stems from some kind of tangled mess involving some other kid, who was fighting with Creed and this kid. Or something.

My gut reaction was to call this kid's mom and interrogate/berate her like a CIA-agent-turned-mobster, leaving her a quivering pool of jello. Then I remembered how much I hated those sissy girls in school whose moms interfered in their catfights.

There have been kids I wanted to keep away from Creed. But I know the lure of anyone considered Off Limits by the parents. Suddenly they skyrocket to Best Friend status, with Cult Hero features.

So, I decided in this case to back off and let Creed handle his own social implosion.

But the whole thing annoyed me, especially after I got my 79th phone call from Seminole Middle School last week, telling me that Creed went to the awards ceremony without permission, and is getting three days of In-School-Suspension. Personally I prefer After-School-Suspension, because the acronym is more fitting.

Unrelated exchange with Lily last night:

Lily, age 5: "150 animals died! This is a true story! Boats been crashing into stuff and the oil comes out and seals were in the water and we saw a picture of a seal and a duck and Miss Carol said 150 died. That's sad, right?''

Me: "If you're so sad about animals dying, then why do you eat hamburger and hotdogs?''

Lily: "I like hot dogs and animals.''


POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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April 23, 2007

Milk Tastes the Same From a Cup!!!

What do I have to do, beg? When my son Evan turned 1, the transition from bottle to sippy cup was seamless. Not a peep out of Evan. As long as he got his milk or his water-juice combo, he was happy.

Not so with Elias, now 22 months. It's nows been 10 months since the time that he ideally should have made the switch. He drinks juice and water from a sippy cup with no complaints, but God forbid you try to put his precious milk in a cup. No sir, he wants that in a baba.

Oh, and he wants chocolate milk in the mornings and the milk must be warm at night. Once I tried to give him his milk lukewarm, trying to phase in to cold milk gradually, and he took one sip and gave it back.

"Too. Cold." he told me, looking at the microwave expectantly.

Anything else, your highness?

Sure, we've tried not giving him a choice. Many times. I relent more easily than my husband, who pours the milk in a cup and just walks away. But it's so much easier to give in, so much nicer not to hear screams of anguish when you're still groggy in the morning or at the end of a long day.

It'll happen. Eventually. I mean, I'm sure he's not going to be in kindergarten still drinking from a bottle.


POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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April 22, 2007

Guess where we are?

No fair looking further down the blog...

And if you're a friend of ours, this is likely what your holiday card will look like this year.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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April 20, 2007

The terrible, horrible, lousy day

cryboy.jpgI was running late to pick up my son from school yesterday, so I had a friend get him for me. When I arrived, I found him in tears. He had fallen down, skinned his knee and was crying uncontollably. When he just wouldn't stop crying (and I had assesed that the knee didn't look too bad) I chastised him for being unreasonable.

"C'mon, buddy, you need to stop. It's just a little scrape. It's not the end of the world," I said.

Once home, -- after the crying had finally, finally ended -- we were taking care of the knee and I noticed he had blood in his nose. I asked if he fell on his face. No, he said. Apparently that was from earlier in the day, when he got a bead stuck in his nose. The teacher had to fish it out. (I asked why he put it in his nose in the first place. He just shrugged.)

When my husband got home later on, he talked to our son and then commented to me, "Did you hear what happened to him today?" I said yes, I knew about the fall, and the bead.

"The fall? The bead?" he asked. "I'm talking about the bathroom incident."

Apparently even earlier in the day, he had waited too long to get to the bathroom and had a little, well, accident. (He's only 4; it happens.) He had to change into a fresh set of clothes, which of course tipped off the situation to his classmates, much to his embarrassment.

I looked at my sweet little angel and mentally kicked myself for being so hard on him when he wouldn't stop crying.

After such a lousy day, his little 4-year-old self must have felt the world really was coming to an end.


POSTED IN: General (185)

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Am I raising a mass murderer?

I’m scared for my sons and their future. I'm not talking about the normal anxiety about whether your kid is hanging with the wrong crowd, swearing, fighting or drinking. My fear as of late is admittedly pretty outrageous: How do you know if you're raising a mass murderer?

The more I read about the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-hui, and his seemingly normal family, the more I think how could they have prevented what happened? Cho Seung-hui's parents are described as hard-working immigrants who were able to send their son to a good school like Virginia Tech but were ill equipped to help their son’s depression.

I can’t help but wonder what can I do to prevent my sons from suffering the same fate as Cho Seung-hui?

It seems as though Cho’s parents loved their son, worked hard to provide him with a good life and education. Where did they go wrong? Or did they?

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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April 19, 2007

She did it.

bilingual.jpg It was music to my ears.

Ana Isabel said: "Vamos" or at least something that sounded like it in her little girl voice. It's her first word in Spanish and it translates to roughly "Let's go" in English.

You see, I've fretted on this blog before about teaching my 20-month old daughter my parent's native tongue. Since I grew up bilingual the reponsibility to teach her a second language falls mostly to me. Sure, Dora and Diego help, I guess. But with no family nearby, it's up to me to make sure she grows up with the two languages.

It happened while we were leaving the house together one morning this week. My wife was heading to do some grocery shopping and me to work. I bellowed purposelfully and in Spanish to get everyone out the door. As my daughter walked out in front of me, holding her mother's hand, she said it "Vamos."

I turned to my wife, beaming with pride. Did you hear what she said? What a sweet sound.

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Buh-Bye Sanjaya


Not to be Simonesque, but it was long past time for Sanjaya to go. I don’t think I could have stood another week of dissecting the reasons he was not voted off already.

It was sad. How could a 17-year-old kid take being ridiculed week after week in the national media? It’s obvious he doesn’t sing as well as the other contestants, but really, he’s not as miserable as everyone says he is. He’s just a kid. And he definitely sings better than most of us.

sanjaya.jpgI couldn’t help looking at him like a mom. It just made me cringe. If that was my son, I’d be so relieved right now I couldn’t even speak. (And maybe I wouldn’t want to. What mother wants her son voted off American Idol?) Still, listening to him week after week, witnessing the weird hairstyles, reading and hearing the mean things people wrote and said about the poor boy … what mother could take that?

How did Sanjaya survive as long as he did?

I could never believe Howard Stern had the power to turn American Idol on its head. Only Howard has an ego big enough to believe that.

Could Indian call centers really muck with American phone lines enough to overpower legitimate in-country voters? That seems pretty far-fetched to me.

I am not cynical enough to go along with my husband, who believes the producers of Idol were in on it.

So that leaves us with the preteen vote. My 13-year-old daughter, Beth, who got me into the whole American Idol craze in the first place, would like to assure you that young girls are NOT responsible for keeping Sanjaya on the show.

“Yuck. He’s awful,” she said. “His hair is weird and he’s not even cute.”

So there. That kid Ashley, who cried through Sanjaya’s performance at the end of March like he was the Beatles or something, I am told, would be “totally teased” if she attended my kid’s middle school. (More likely mocked, then ostracized.)

We’ll probably never know how Sanjaya survived as long as he did.

But now, on to the next Idol buzz: Will Bono show up on the show? He might. Idol is raising money for kids in Africa next week.


POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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April 18, 2007

Those Dreaded Thank You Cards

thankyoucard.jpgAs I supervise thank-you card writing from my daughter's bat mitzvah last weekend, I've been thinking about notes from birthday parties and other events we've gotten from kids over the years.

I've found that most people have stopped making their kids write birthday party thank-yous. They probably think it's just too much effort after all the work they've put in to the party. If the kid says "thanks" when they are given the gift (hopefully they have been taught that much!), do they really need to write a card, too? I admit I have used this as a justification when I have wanted to slack off after my three kids' birthdays.

My middle daughter got a birthday party thank you recently that was clearly written by the 10-year-old's mother but signed "Danielle," all in adult handwriting. I got a kick out of that one, because the mom knew a thank-you should be written but didn't have the patience or the will to sit down with her daughter and trudge through the writing.

As for us, Abby has been writing 10 bat mitzvah thank-yous each night. So we should get through this project pretty quickly!

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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Will Mommy get cancer?

This month marks a special milestone. It passed with few words. What do you say, after all, when your mother marks five years since undergoing a mastectomy?

Five years is a key number when it comes to cancer: If you’ve made it that far, you’re considered a “cancer survivor.” I started counting the moment my mother emerged from surgery. With each April that passes, I breathe a little easier.

It seems appropriate, even if by chance, that I will have my first mammogram this month. I’ll undergo more diagnostic screenings than is normally prescribed because of my family history. I’m also starting at a younger age, as a precaution. I won’t, however, undergo an MRI, which the American Cancer Society now suggests for women with higher risks of developing breast cancer. Maybe next time.

But it got me thinking about another type of screening – genetic testing. How much do you want to know about your future health?

If you had asked me three years ago whether I wanted to know if I carried an inherited gene "alteration" known to increase the chances of developing breast cancer, I would have said, “No way.” But now that I’m a mother of a two-year-old boy, I want to make sure, more than ever before, that I am healthy for a very long time.

When my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45, I was 12-years-old. She survived, and I grew up giving little thought to the prospect of my health. Young and invincible, as they say. But when my mother – my aunt’s older sister – developed breast cancer, I woke up.

“What does that mean for me or my sister?” I thought. My doctor at the time wasn’t worried. He didn’t even suggest moving up the age in which I would get my first mammogram. He did mention, however, genetic testing.

“Well, what do I do if I find out I carry this gene?” I asked him. He gave me two options: 1) Do nothing. 2) Consider having a preventive mastectomy. Neither sounded comforting. I’d either know too much without doing anything about it, or I’d take a drastic measure that may be unnecessary. Either way, the test could not guarantee that I would or would not develop breast cancer.

Much in the way I didn’t want to know the sex of my child before he was born, I’ve decided for now that I don’t want to know if I’m carrying a gene mutation that may or may not cut short my life. The best thing I could do for my son is to eat well and exercise regularly -- and remind him how lucky he is to have Abuela around to spoil him.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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April 17, 2007

More questions than answers

I'm a journalist who has always protected her children from the news. Columbine. 9/11. Just the random day-to-day violence that is modern America.

I've hidden the newspaper. Avoided CNN. Don't get me wrong. I don't bury my head in the sand. But I don't want my children to see and hear things before they are ready.

But my son is 12 now. ESPN is his news source of choice. Of course he wants to see the game highlights, but I can almost feel his attention become more focused when the story is about another athlete's brush with the law. A rape or drug bust or a DUI. I don't like it, but I've started to let him watch. I wish I could say I've taken every opportunity to talk about the issues, but I haven't.

When he does his current events report every week for school, I often point out particular stories in the newspaper that I think might be interesting to him. He tends to judge what's interesting based on how long a story is (note to self: are newspaper stories too long?). But I've noticed that he's drawn to stories that are more....unseemly.

So now this...Virginia Tech. Two weeks ago Alec could tell you it's an ACC school with a solid sports program. And now he knows more than I ever would have wanted him to know.

When I brought up the killings, the first thing he wanted to know was whether it was a terrorist attack. I explained that it wasn't and I asked which is worse, just a very disturbed person or terrorism? To him, terrorism is worse.

He was eager to ask me questions: Why did he do it? What did the police do? What did the other students say? Did the students who jumped out the windows get hurt? Very specific questions.

I'm going to let him guide me through this discussion. Give him the opportunity to ask. I know I won't have all the answers, but maybe that's not as important as just giving him a way to try to figure things out himself.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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First came carriage, then came marriage

Lily recently picked up our wedding photo.

Of course, the first thing she wanted to know was "Why was Creed at your wedding?''.pregbride.jpg

Sure enough, there was her older brother Creed, when he was 1 1/2, sitting there on the steps at the altar with a wedding ring in his mouth.

[As an aside, this photo is one of the few actual records we have that this event even happened. The video was overdubbed by a football game. I don't watch football. That one is easy to figure out.]

I had to do a sudden prioritization. Which is the more important lesson for my daughter? That lying is bad? Or that having a child before you get married is bad?

"What now?'' I asked her.

"Why is Creed there?'' she wanted to know.

"He just pops up everywhere, doesn't he?'' I replied. "I don't remember.''

She's only 5. She's not ready for a detailed version of the story. But I'm not going to be one of those moms who sets aside all the embarrassing family secrets and then when she's 13, I say, "Lily, it's time for a chat.''

I find it's better if you make kids think they've always known Embarrassing Family Secret XYZ. And by the time they're ready to ask for details, all they'll have to do is look it up on a blog somewhere.

Speaking of which, I decided to check to see if Creed knows about this blog yet. I've revealed a lot of his personal information, especially matters about his increasingly large Permanent File at school. So last night I asked him, "Creed, do you know what a blog is?''

He's in sixth grade. I figured he'd know.

"Blog? B-L-O-G?'' he asked. "I've heard you guys say that word a lot.''

OK, good enough. He has no idea.

Here's this week's Totally Weird Comment from Lily. We were driving past the police station in Fort Lauderdale, and she asked, "If I killed someone, would you take me to jail?'' "Who are you going to kill?'' I inquired. "A bird,'' she answered.

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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First came carriage, then came marriage

Lily recently picked up our wedding photo.

Of course, the first thing she wanted to know was "Why was Creed at your wedding?''.pregbride.jpg

Sure enough, there was her older brother Creed, when he was 1 1/2, sitting there on the steps at the altar with a wedding ring in his mouth.

[As an aside, this photo is one of the few actual records we have that this event even happened. The video was overdubbed by a football game. I don't watch football. That one is easy to figure out.]

I had to do a sudden prioritization. Which is the more important lesson for my daughter? That lying is bad? Or that having a child before you get married is bad?

"What now?'' I asked her.

"Why is Creed there?'' she wanted to know.

"He just pops up everywhere, doesn't he?'' I replied. "I don't remember.''

She's only 5. She's not ready for a detailed version of the story. But I'm not going to be one of those moms who sets aside all the embarrassing family secrets and then when she's 13, I say, "Lily, it's time for a chat.''

I find it's better if you make kids think they've always known Embarrassing Family Secret XYZ. And by the time they're ready to ask for details, all they'll have to do is look it up on a blog somewhere.

Speaking of which, I decided to check to see if Creed knows about this blog yet. I've revealed a lot of his personal information, especially matters about his increasingly large Permanent File at school. So last night I asked him, "Creed, do you know what a blog is?''

He's in sixth grade. I figured he'd know.

"Blog? B-L-O-G?'' he asked. "I've heard you guys say that word a lot.''

OK, good enough. He has no idea.

Here's this week's Totally Weird Comment from Lily. We were driving past the police station in Fort Lauderdale, and she asked, "If I killed someone, would you take me to jail?'' "Who are you going to kill?'' I inquired. "A bird,'' she answered.

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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April 16, 2007

Please, let this phase end NOW!

Experts say separation anxiety can be at its worst when babies are between 12 and 18 months old. Well, Elias is about 22 months old, and I guess his separation anxiety phase was a little delayed, because it's in full swing now. So much so that when my husband and I are in the same room and one of us leaves, Elias wails out for the one that has left. Even though the other parent is still there.

It's getting old, people.

But what to do? You walk away, the wail sometimes turns into a scream. MOMMY! Or, "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" And when you're in a public place, it can be a little embarrassing. WHEN WILL IT END?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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Parents, sports and rooting

I'd like to point you to three interesting points of view on kids, sports and how we parents behave.

They are: Ralph De La Cruz's Sunday article on parks (actually, sports fields) as a hub for life, and a cut-to-the-bone back-page cartoon essay in the April 23 Time magazine, called Eight Again and thoughts from Brian Shulman, from his new book: The Death of Sportsmanship, and How to Revive It available via his site.

A portion of Ralph's article touches on the volunteer time parents, put in, and how for the most part, parents are well-behaved, eager to contribute and put their egos aside. How much they make 9-to-5 doesn't ordinarily give them rank. That jibes with what I see out there: very, very few "crazy" parents.

The Time cartoon essay (I love when they do those!) reflected on a chess tournament that required the parents to wait outside, and how the author's status among the other parents depended on whether his son won or lost. (Ever been there before?) The closing line, after his son's win: "And I was instantly ashamed of having taken to much pleasure in Lars' visible pain. After all, he was only 8. And after all, I knew that face. It had been mine often enough when I was his age.

How parents can conduct themselves at events can be upgraded with just a few thoughts, courtesy of Shulman:
1.) Compliment the other team by telling the parents how well their children played.
2.) Never try to coach your kid from the stands during a game or in practice.
3.) Compliment the officials.

I like what all three of the above say, probably because it supports my own philosophy: Youth sports are about education, not entertainment, and that's where some parents get confused. That's why banging on the bleachers "to rattle the other pitcher" or whooping when a ground ball goes through the other shortstop's legs at a 10-year-old game make me blanche. Put together, these three pretty much put it into the right words.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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April 13, 2007

Grandma is just a star away

Last month was a tough anniversary for my family. It marked thirteen years since my mom died of cancer.

We were fortunate, in one sense, that the disease at least afforded us the chance to be with her during her final days and let us each say goodbye. But it still hurts, even after all these years.

My mom was very brave, always. One of my favorite stories about her is how she had joined the Great Grape Boycott in California led by labor rights leader Cesar Chavez, a childhood friend of hers. During one protest, she took me along, even though I was only about two years old. She was sitting on the sidelines when she noticed a small crowd had gathered in front of a gate as a big truck full of produce arrived at a local grocery store. It became pretty clear that the driver was intent on making that delivery, even if it meant making a few of the protesters pay the price. My mom jumped in front of the truck with me by her side. She forced the driver to make a choice: Make that delivery and run over a young mother and her youngest child, or drive away.

He made the right choice.

It was the first and last time my mom would put me even in the slightest bit of danger. But I love remembering the lesson she taught me that day: Standing up for what is right sometimes means putting everything on the line.

My saddest memory is the day, just a few weeks before my mom actually died, when she and I talked about her impending death. She wanted me to feel better and reminded me that she had a great life and that she wasn’t scared about going to heaven. But then she began to weep: “The only thing I wish is that I could see you with your children.”

Thirteen years later, I am raising my two-year-old son. And I find myself wishing that my mom could hold him, hug him and look into a face that is strikingly similar to the one on that little boy she held in her arms so many years ago.

In one of the last conversations with my mom, she told me that if ever I missed her, all I had to do was find the brightest star in the night sky and that would be her. It’s silly, I know. But I sometimes do just that.

And the other night, after a nice dinner with my family, my son looked up at the night sky and said: “A star, Daddy, a star!” Not thinking he would understand, I responded, “Yes, Baby, that’s a star. That’s your grandma. Say, ‘Hi, Grandma Louise.’ ”

He had never met her. He had never said her name. But he did say it that night: “Hi Grandma Louise.”

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Getting the swing of things


We spent Easter Sunday with friends who live on a golf course in northwestern Palm Beach County. My husband took our 4-year-old son JJ onto the nearby course to let him swing the club. It was JJ's first time and -- being the sports nut he is -- he loved it and was immediately hooked.

Since the next day was Monday and Spring Break vacation, we were looking to kill time and JJ kept hounding me about getting real kid-sized golf clubs (as opposed to the plastic toddler toy ones at Toys R Us). Since I was not about to pay for pricey clubs, I called a few friends who enlightened me about a real shopping gem for anyone who has kids who like to "try out" sports.

It's called Play It Again Sports, a chain that sells and trades new and used sporting goods and exercise equipment. Has your kid lost their soccer shinguards for the third time? Got 'em. Need a pair of cleats to finish out the season. Got 'em. And at super reasonable prices.

We hit the Plantation location (after finding out the hard way that the one in Hollywood no longer exists; note to self: call ahead!) and found several sets of kids golf clubs, but most were lefty and the prices ranged from $19 to $50 (the most expensive included the golf bag, club covers and the like.) I convinced JJ to start with a single club ($8) and some plastic golf balls. He has been out in the yard practicing every day since.

Here are the Play It Again Sports locations in SoFla. (Don't forget, the Hollywood location is closed.)


POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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April 12, 2007

Too Much Boob Tube?

Here's a bit of a confession. The television in our house gets tuned to the Disney Channel or some other children's channel in the morning. It stays on for a good part of the day.

TV.jpgBut it's really more like background noise. My 19-month old daughter watches in spurts. She rarely watches a full program before she moves onto the next thing. She spends time coloring with her new set of crayons, sometimes even on the oversized pad we bought her. She loves playing in the yard. We read to her every night. She has an amazing vocabulary for a kid her age. She even likes broccoli. And on, and on and on.

I know what the so called experts say about minimizing TV watching. But I think my daughter actually learns a lot from some of the programs. Still, sometimes I feel guilty that maybe she's getting too much TV exposure.

My gut tells me it's all about finding a balance. Our struggle: Where exactly is that balance?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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April 11, 2007

Allowance? Who needs allowance?

I get a kick out of reading Brittany Wallman's postings about her kids. They are much more colorful than my children. I’m sure there was a time when my kids made me laugh out loud at the things they would say, but I can’t remember it. And my two young introverts would sooner hang by their thumbs than do something at school that would merit a call home from a teacher.

money.jpgBut when Brittany wondered about her son Creed’s apparent lack of interest in money, it struck a chord. My husband and I have tried everything to make our children more interested in having, spending and saving money. My kids horde money. They never want to spend it.

We even had the same fight with our kids: Sure, they’d rather not do chores, even if it means they don’t get allowance. Wrong. They still have to do their chores, regardless of whether they are paid. Chores are part of living in the family. Given the choice of chores with no money or chores with money, every kid takes the money.

I’ve learned a few other things from my money-hording children:

1) Money is meaningless if you don’t have anything to spend it on. The less you are willing to buy for your kids, the more they will want to buy for themselves. I’m still working on this one. Too often, I buy things for my kids that they should buy for themselves. I'm working on it.

2) You have to let your kids to spend their money on stuff that you would never, ever buy. Like Nerds and tickets to see Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties in the theater.

3) You have to provide enough allowance to cover certain essentials, like lunch money. In our house, the kids have a choice: They can make their own lunch and take it with them for free, or they can buy lunch at school with their own money.

4) It helps to allow them to spend some of their savings occasionally. My daughter this year paid more than a third of a $270 overnight school field trip that we considered optional.

5) Yes, they have to save. Generally, this is easier with “free” money, like birthday gifts and the little bit they make on odd jobs.

6) We match whatever they donate to charity, and we let them pick the charities to donate to.

7) Money ultimately can be a powerful incentive. When my husband wanted our daughters to learn to cook, he offered to double their allowance any week that they cooked our dinner. It worked. They learned to cook.

I’m not at all sure that my kids are really learning much about budgeting and planning their spending, so that’s my next step. Any suggestions?

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Get Me A Growth Spurt, Stat!

At 4 feet 3 inches, my 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, is about the same height as her eight-year-old sister, Ellie. Strangers often ask if they're twins.

My husband and I are not tall people, so we don't have high expectations for our kids' heights. But at a routine doctor's check-up last week, the pediatrician said we should take Rachel for a hand X-ray to see if her bone growth is on track.

The doctor said it's not so much her short stature as her weight, which according to the growth chart, has been going down proportionally over the past few years. This was a surprise to me because she looks physically healthy: not overweight, not underweight, just right.

The whole conversation with the doctor was pretty confusing and couldn't be pursued in detail because Rachel was starting to get nervous. She now thinks she has to start eating more, but it seems way more complicated than that. Have any of you gone for an X-ray like this before?

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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April 10, 2007

Mother love on the Left Bank

We were three mothers of daughters, spending several days together in Paris. The ultimate escape.

There was my sister Kathy, mother of a brilliant 20-year-old studying abroad for a semester. My French penpal Marie-Claude, mother of a precocious 14-year-old. And me, with a 9-year-old who still thinks I'm worthy.

And we saw in each other our futures and our pasts. I could see the dread in Marie-Claude's eyes as she watched my sister trod carefully, and at times not very successfully, through the minefields of her relationship with her headstrong daughter. And when Marie-Claude talked of her own daughter ("She just talks on her cell phone all the time. She doesn't want to be seen with me. To her, I can't do anything right, I don't even dress right.") I was both comforted to know adolescent insolence is apparently universal -- and in utter denial that my sweet little Erika would ever turn on me like that.

"Just you wait," they told me in so many words.

Even in Paris, there's no escape.

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Too lazy for allowance?

I'm thinking about forcing my son to accept an allowance.

I know a lot of parents have lengthy debates about how much allowance is appropriate for their children. $1 a week? $5 a week? More? allwance.jpg

We don't have that problem at our house, because our son Creed doesn't want an allowance. That's because he doesn't want to have to do a bunch of chores on a regular basis.

He asked if he could just agree to do certain jobs when he knows he needs to raise money for something.

I told him that would make him the equivalent of a labor pool worker who isn't responsible enough for a real job but shows up on the side of the road to jump in the back of someone's pickup to go rake their leaves when he needs to score $50 quickly.

I haven't met a kid who cares less about having money, yet almost never asks us to buy anything for him. He says he wants to have a good job so he can be rich when he grows up. But I don't know why he needs to be rich; he doesn't spend any money.

Even when he used to get an allowance, a couple years ago, he would usually forget to ask for it.

Why is my child lacking greedy ambition? It's just un-American.

Unrelated Strange Quote of the week: Last night LIly, 5, asked the following: "Where did you find our house?'' I answered that we drove around Plantation and spotted it and bought it. She answered: "It's so heavy. How did you carry it?'' I started laughing. She interrupted. "No, no, no. Mommy. How did you get it there? Did someone help you push it?''

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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April 9, 2007

Sex? In Fifth Grade?

Don't know if you all read last week's horrifying story from rural northern Louisiana about the four fifth-grade students arrested after authorities said they had sex in an unsupervised classroom. A fifth student, who acted as the lookout, was charged with being an accessory. Two 11-year-old girls, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy face felony charges of obscenity.

Excuse me? Having covered crime for most of my career, I've never considered myself to be naive. But most of those kids were not even in their early teens. The two girls were 11, for crying out loud. Think back to what you were doing when you were 11. I think I worshiped Menudo and the extent of my contact with boys involved playing Kick the Can.

I understand that kids might have "boyfriends" and "girlfriends" at an early age but I'm flabbergasted that their physical affection would actually go that far. And according to news reports, they were doing their deeds in front of other students while their teacher attended an assembly.

My own boys are only 21 months and 3, so thankfully I still have quite a few years to hopefully instill in them their values and respect for women. But it sounds like I don't have as much time as I thought.

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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I'm really not much of a vacation guy; I like my job and for fun I figure there's everything I need here in South Florida. But today, I'm a changed man.

Our family just got back from a week in London -- our 21-year-old is studying over there for a semester -- and aside from our bank account taking a thumping, it's all good.

We learned history together. We learned how to handle disagreements (ANOTHER museum?!). We fit four people into a hotel room designed for two. And we sat down for family breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And mostly, we have a frame of reference together that we'll talk about the rest of our lives.

So, for 2008, Paris. Unless the market dives, then it's Key Largo.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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April 6, 2007

Breaking up is hard to do

After six years of caring for our two children, our nanny is leaving us.

It is a mutual separation -- she is going on an extended vacation and our kids are finally old enough for aftercare at school -- but I am suprised at how broken-hearted I feel.

Maritza came to work for us when our daughter, who is now 7, was 15 months old. She has known and cared for our 4-year-old son since the day he was born. I say she worked "for us" but it was never that kind of employer- employee relationship. She was like a favorite aunt to the kids. One that loved them, protected them and, yes, spoiled them.

She taught them how to fish, and would take them for drives along the beach. She'd take them out for fancy dinners. She'd read and play to their hearts' content. When people would remark on how well our son -- at the time only 2 -- could hit a baseball, we'd joke and say he had a personal coach. That's because she'd spend hours a day playing ball with him.

While my kids adore her and will miss her, I think my husband and I will miss her more. There is nothing like the feeling of being totally confident your kids are cared for when you're not there. She watched our kids while we were at work and on occasional weekend nights. Our kids, especially when they were younger, hated when we left them. Maritza had a way of calming them and us -- she would always smile and tell us not to worry. And she was right. The crying would stop as soon as she closed the door. We always wondered what magic had occurred.

The other day, when she told us she was leaving, I was the one crying. She told me not to worry, that the kids would be fine and that she would be back in six months and would still occasionally babysit. She said our kids would always have a special place in her heart.

I nodded, closed the door, and made myself stop crying. The magic, I realized, is that she held a special place in OUR hearts.


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Get Outside and Enjoy Nature!

An oriole flew into an oleander bush across the street from my house the other day, right in front of me. I stood still in pure amazement. Sometimes it’s a swallowtail butterfly that stops me, or a purple orchid on a vine. Occasionally, I’ll spot a caterpillar chewing on a leaf or pause to admire the shape of a slash pine tree.
Hooded-Oriole-9775C.jpgMy children rarely notice these things. Despite my best efforts to get them outdoors and teach them what I can about nature, the truth is, they’re not as tuned in to the natural world as I wish they were.

“Well, mom,” explains my younger daughter, “we have school till 4, then there’s homework, piano practice, dinner, chores, and then it’s dark. When are we supposed to go out and ‘enjoy nature’?” She says that last bit sarcastically, as if I’m asking her to do something that’s a little strange anyway.

I’ve known kids who hate sand and others who squeal in terror at the sight of a wasp or spider. These children strike me as odd. Isn’t it more normal to love the beach and be indifferent to insects?

It should not be weird to go outside. And yet, for some kids, it is.

Just as the childhood obesity epidemic demonstrates a very real consequence to too much fast food and too little exercise, it may turn out that too little exposure to the natural world may be responsible for the epidemic rise in attention deficit and related disorders.
New research cited by author Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, indicates that symptoms of attention deficit disorder can be eased with more exposure to nature. He wonders whether the radical change in how children live — from being outdoors most of the time for thousands of years to indoors most of time just within the past few decades — can be blamed for many problems in children’s mental, spiritual and emotional health.

I applaud Louv’s effort to convince parents to make kids play outside. He’s supported by a national campaign from the National Wildlife Federation to get kids outdoors for a daily “green hour.”

But I think they face some tough challenges, not the least of which are urban-dwelling mothers who have no affinity for nature themselves. I know one mother who clearly detests the outdoors and has passed on her fears to her daughter, who will only go outside to play soccer on a groomed field or swim in a pool. She sees nature as dirty and unpleasant — not something you would voluntarily seek.

Love of nature should be nurtured in kids, right along with teaching them to read and count and feeding them their veggies. And, since kids don’t roam the way they used to, parents need to give kids lots of chances to see what’s out there. That’s easy to do in Florida.

You can camp, even if it’s just at Fort Wilderness in Disney World. You can take a canoe out on a lake or canal. You can stroll along the beach and pick up shells. You can visit a nature center. You can go hiking just about anywhere you go on vacation.

I’m hoping that one day experiences like these will have an impact and my daughters will start opening their eyes to the beauty that’s right outside their door. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the wonders alone.

[A version of this entry appeared as the Editor's Note in South Florida Parenting, April 2007]

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Blame it on the kid

Here I am about to start a training session (something my boss had to approve and the newspaper pays for) and RING, RING, RING.

blame.jpgThe cell. It's my wife. She knows what I'm up to, so I know it has to be important. I answer.

She sounds frantic. It's not about my 20-month-old daughter Ana Isabel; it's the cat. Wait! It is Ana Isabel.

My daughter locked Mac in the spare bedroom. Worse! My toolbox is in the same room (since I'm working on a house project nearby). Oh, I say, the cat will survive in there for a few hours. But my wife worries about Mac peeing everwhere if he can't get to the litter box.

We map out a game plan, sort of. I'll call her during my first break with an answer. Two hours later, I call. My crafty wife has already figured out a way to undo the door knob without a screwdriver. Great. Crisis over. I think we have to do something so that Ana Isabel doesn't lock the cat in a room again.

A couple days later, I check that door knob. Hmmm. It seems to stick in the lock position. And with the windows open, a strong breeze often blows the door shut.

How often have you blamed the kid when he/she didn't do it?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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April 4, 2007

Easter candy overload

Here comes Peter Cottontail…and lots and lots of candy. My extended family will celebrate Easter on Sunday with lots of food and the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Of course, there will be more candy than eggs – and even those will be filled with chocolates and jellybeans.

What to do?

I’ve always tried to avoid giving my two-year-old son sweets. He had his first taste of cake at his first birthday party. For his second birthday, I filled the piñata with healthy snacks and prizes.

I’m not a total candy scrooge. My son enjoyed trick-or-treating on Halloween, ate a couple of candy canes around Christmas time and discovered cotton candy at a recent carnival.

Limiting his sweet intake has been pretty easy until now. But at some point, I’m guessing he’ll figure me out and wonder why he’s having a mere lollipop when his cousins are chomping on giant marshmallow-filled chocolate Easter bunnies.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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Questioning God

egyptians.jpgYesterday, the day after our family's Passover Seder, my daughter Ellie, who is 8, asked me why God "killed all the Egyptian boys."

She was referring to the 10th of the 10 plagues listed in the Book of Exodus, where God kills the first-born sons of all the Egyptians because Pharaoh refuses to free the Jews from slavery.

These stories are dramatic and thought-provoking, and I thought she asked a great question. But I didn't know how to answer it. I said we can't always understand the ways of God. I said we don't know if it's a true story, but we tell it to show how God protects us.

She looked a little confused, but so was I. Do I believe these stories really happened? What do I believe about the ways of God? I may need to confront these questions myself before I can answer them for my kids.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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April 3, 2007

Happy Wedding! You're 5!

Lily turned 5 a few days ago, and insisted on a wedding themed birthday party. For a year now, since last year's Fairy Party, she begged to be a birthday "bride.'' The party was Saturday.

I made veils for all the girls, but Lily required that hers be the longest. I bought flowers for the girls, but Lily wanted hers to be the prettiest.

I think we can see what is happening here. Tiger Woods' dad built a great golfer. And I am building the world's worst Bridezilla.


I even found a wedding cake pinata. I doubt there are many other little girls throwing wedding birthday parties.
So I suppose this means there are people out there having pinatas at their wedding. I'm not sure which one is scarier.

Coincidentally, the night before her party, Lily stuffed a balloon into her shirt and said she was going to have a baby. I guess this made her party a shotgun wedding birthday party.

I made a comment that she was really too young for all this marriage stuff.

"Mommy,'' she said, "pretend like I'm 17.''

"How about 27?'' I responded quietly.

I think as long as I'm supporting the idea of a longlasting, committed marriage, there is no harm in her obsession. I could be wrong. I guess I'll find out when she's 17.

On another note, I got a call Friday from Creed's sixth grade science teacher. Here is another one for "Creed's Permanent File.'' Any suggestions on what I should do would be appreciated. Here's what the teacher said:

"Creed had an afterschool detention that he was serving today. He was asked to leave detention because he was acting up and trying to act like a clown and not following directions. In class he does the same thing. He likes to talk out of his seat, he likes to act like a clown and get the rest of the class up in an uproar laughing.''

I think he said "act like a clown'' too many times. Now all I can picture is my son in oversized shoes and striped socks. I grounded him. He claimed that all he did was crack his knuckles, and that there were no clown impersonations involved.


POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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April 2, 2007

Forcing the Hug

Growing up in Panama, surrounded by a large extended family, the Kiss and Half Hug was obligatory. Don't know what I'm talking about? It's what you do whenever you arrive at your aunt's house, or whenever your cousins came over, and you immediately planted a kiss on their cheek along with sort of a sideways embrace. Then when they left you did it all over again. Even if it was just a 15-minute visit. That's just the way things were.

Now twice in the last couple of weeks, I've wondered what to do about the fact that my own boys aren't showing that sort of physical affection with family members.

Granted, my sons have never met my aunt and grandmother, the victims of the non-kisses. On separate occasions (and they are from different sides of the family), both of these fine ladies wanted kisses from my kids as we were ending visits. And both times, my kids turned their cheeks.

In our household, we show a lot of affection. But my kids aren't used to being around family, as only my mom and brother live locally. I'm not sure that I want to force them to kiss and hug people that they just met, but at the same time I want my kids to be courteous and respectful.

I'm just wondering how to accomplish that, and whether my expectations are too high. My oldest is not even 4 years old, and I can't remember when my manners began to kick in. I would welcome any suggestions on how to tell my boys that proper greetings, especially for visiting family members, are a good thing.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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WhooHOO Spring Break! Now What Do We Do?

cococove1.jpgThose of us with children in public school start Spring Break on Monday (or as the kids count it, we started Spring Break on Friday the minute school let out.)

It's nice to have a break. FCATs are over. The school year is on a downhill slide. Spring Break offers a perfect time for everyone in the family to take a break and enjoy the weather that people in the rest of the country pay thousands of dollars to visit at this time of year.

Why live in Florida if you can't appreciate days like we've been having lately? There's no shortage of fun to have, so don't fret if the idea of a week at home with the kids makes you panic a little.

If the heat is already starting to get to you, the water parks are open every day this week. To find a water park near you, click here: (Play Wet, South Florida Parenting)

If you're concerned about your budget -- and who isn't? -- there are lots of places to go with kids that won't cost you much. South Florida Parenting has several suggestions.

Enjoy your break!


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Spring break for the working parent

It's spring break in Broward this week, and if you're reading this at work, here's hoping you didn't have to drag your child to the office with you.

Now's the time when I hope I'm ahead on play-date points -- that I've taken someone's kids somewhere during the past weekend and can set my son up with a friend.

When he was younger, my wife and I would pull out our calendars in March, and map out spring break so there'd be no worries. Now we're either less organized or overconfident.

Hope you all make it through the week.


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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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