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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June 29, 2007

Communicating with sleep-away campers

So, the emails were split. (OK, one for, one against) in response to my question as to whether I should let my son break the rules and use a cell phone at sleepaway camp.

The arguments were as expected: Following the rules vs. keeping your child secure.

Meanwhile, another update: At this camp, apparently you can email your camper with a "Bunk Note," to be printed out and placed on his pillow. My wife signed up for it. Our theories are different on this. I believe being so prominent in his sleepaway experience can upset him, kind of like a constant poke. She believes it makes him more secure.

Again, need some advice here. Communicate or leave him the heck alone?

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A whale of a dream

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My 5-year-old son Jayan has started remembering his dreams.

He had a douzy the other morning, which he relayed to us with eyes wide.

"Me and Ammama (the name he calls his grandma) were in the ocean and my feet touched the ground."

Jayan paused, and then said, "Wait! there's more!"

"There was a cruise ship, and we were climbing up the side of it."

"You climbed up a cruise ship?" my husband asked.

"There's more!" he said, as his eyes squinted and his little mind recalled the details. "A whale came and swallowed the ship. But I was ok."

My husband and I looked at each other, silently wondering about the fate of grandma.

Proving that kids really can often sense their parents' worries:

"It's ok," Jayan said. "Ammama's not dead. The whale spit her out."

We were relieved. For the record, so was grandma.

--KVW

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June 28, 2007

Long-distance grandma.

My mother-in-law was just in town. It was the first time she saw Ana Isabel, 22 months old, since her first birthday.

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It was a nice visit. My daughter got to play with her grandmother and my mother-in-law got a chance to how much she's grown in the last 10 months. My own mother and siblings haven't seen Ana since last year either.

We decided to move to Florida when we were childless. Now both my wife and I wonder about that decision with all of our family in New York and New Jersey.

Any advice on keeping those long-distance family ties strong?

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June 27, 2007

IQ explained

I have wondered for years why my oldest's daughter's IQ was so much higher than her two sisters'. Now I see it's all my fault!threesisters.jpg

A new study shows that oldest siblings have consistently higher IQs than their brothers and sisters. Why? Because parents shower them with so much attention for that brief period when they're the only child.

They thrive on that attention. Then their IQ continues to grow by mentoring their younger siblings.

This doesn't mean the younger ones are doomed to low IQs. There are many examples of younger siblings who have been brilliant. They benefit from having an older sister or brother to learn from.

But many of the results of this study fit our family to a T: the oldest sibling is seen as more responsible and disciplined, while the younger ones distinguish themselves in other ways. For us, that's been gymnastics and piano.

Still, the study brings up a question I've pondered for the past few years: How have so many of my acquaintances managed to have not only their oldest children, but ALL their children, in the county's gifted program? This means they all have IQs over 130, which is only 2 percent of the population. I know many people manipulate the system, but something is definitely wrong here.

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Potty training can be as simple as a high five

Who knew a high five from Dad could be so effective?

That’s all my 2 ½ year-old son needed to reinforce his recent breakthrough with toilet training. Apparently, the “toilet learning” class I took in January, the repeated attempts to coax my son with books and toys, and the ever-stylish Blue’s Clues toilet seat can't compete with a good 'ol high five.

The potty training product industry has really taken off as parents continue to push back the time at which they start training their children. Books, videos, dolls, charts --everything a desperate parent needs to get their child out of diapers.

By far, the high five is the cheapest.

My son had become quite the expert at peeing anywhere except in the toilet: on his bedroom floor, while brushing his teeth (must have been the running water), in the bathtub (again, the water) and on the floor next to the toilet.

The heartbreak came during those times he sat on or stood in front of the toilet without success.

“It’s not working,” he’d say in his tiny voice. “It’s not working, Mommy.”

“It’s OK, baby. Maybe you don’t have to go to the bathroom,” I’d respond, certain the experience was shattering his self-confidence.

He still has a long way to go to be completely potty trained, but all of us in the Vasquez household are absolutely giddy about the most basic of bodily functions. Every parenting book will tell you that positive reinforcement is key to successful potty training. So when my son marked his first potty training milestone, I hugged him, kissed him, told him what a big boy he was. Then I told him we should go run and tell Dad. Enter the high five:

“I did pee-pee in the toilet,” my son mumbled with a wide grin.

“You did? Give me a high five!” my husband said.

Since then, every time my son goes to the bathroom, he seeks out high fives –- from Dad, our beagle Chico and even the big Mickey Mouse that sits in my son’s room.

What has worked for your kids?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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June 26, 2007

Sneak a cell phone to camp or not?

My son is leaving for sleepaway camp. Their rules: No electronics, no cell phones. The idea is to focus camp, and shut off the outside world.

His friend is smuggling a cell phone; my son will borrow it and call us.

I told him no.

Now, I'm going to miss the heck out of him and would love to hear his voice and how he's doing, but I have a problem breaking the rule, and supporting breaking the rule.

Other family members say I'm nuts. I need help here; If I'm nuts, tell me; if I'm right, tell me (gently). Would love to hear from some child experts, too, please. And quickly.

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Born to rock to Muzak?

Apparently the "Mozart Effect'' theory, which held that listening to Mozart sonatas would somehow increase your child's intelligence, has been debunked over the years.

I didn't know this. I didn't keep current.

babymusic.jpgAnd I've been making my daughter listen to Phantom of the Opera. It's not a sonata, exactly. But it seems to me that it should qualify as classical music, and as music that would increase a child's intelligence, simply because it's a soundtrack that instinct tells you your child will hate.
And things children hate generally equate to things that will make them smarter.

Yet she loves it. She asked for, even, when I was playing Radiohead.

"That music is getting in my head. I don't want it in my head.''

"What do you mean, in your head?'' I asked.

"It's getting inside my head. Just play the Opera.''

Phantom of the Opera, that is.

I've gotten interested in children's musical tastes, though I haven't heard very many personal stories about this. I really wonder: Is the love of cheesy music a lifestyle choice, or are you born that way? Are some kids just not into music at all?

My son is so un-musical it's just weird. He's in sixth grade, but he never listens to music. He doesn't play the radio or have a favorite band.

And I can' t understand it, because my life would never have been the same without Donny and Marie Osmond. I was a cultist, really. I Donny-worshiped.

I played piano, I listened to Abba, I sang French songs as a street urchin in a professional production of Carmen when I was my son's age. (And I'm not a good singer, my husband often tells me. But his "singing'' is more akin to howling.)

Lily, the 5-year-old, loves the cheeseball stuff. Abba, Elton John, the Bee Gees.

She was singing to the BeeGees' "Jive Talking'' last week.

"Jiiive donkey,'' she sang.

She calls rap music "crazy music.'' And as I said, she thinks Radiohead invades her brain, in a bad way.

I really wonder if I've overly influenced her musical tastes because she commutes with me. Or whether she was born loving easy listening.

* * *

Unrelated strange question from Lily: "Do you know how to play the guitar while you're driving?''

And even stranger question from Creed: "If you could grow a beard, would you?''

bw

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June 25, 2007

Sports and other fees and property tax cuts

I'm hearing whispers among parks and recreation departments that sports league fees could get a big hike in light of the recent property tax cuts.

No one knows for sure yet -- the depth of the cuts has to be determined first, then the budget, then ... -- but their point is that the days of subsidizing ballgames for kids (and adults) might be on the wane.

But you never hear that side of the story when the property tax cuts are discussed, although you've heard municipal leaders emphasize (properly) the need to maintain strong police and fire departments.

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June 24, 2007

How my brilliant husband got two kids to make their own dinner, and ours, too

Like everybody's kids, mine have food quirks that make them seem like picky eaters.

Abby, 15, has not eaten meat since she learned where meat comes from at age 3. For years, we fought the good food fight and made her eat fish and poultry, but as she’s grown, she’s stuck to her anti-meat stance. Now she has political arguments to go with her touchy-feely ones. She will not eat anything with eyes (except potatoes).
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Beth, 13, likes many foods including red meat, but she doesn’t really like things all mixed up. She’d prefer a meal from 1955 every night: meat, veg, potato or rice.

In our family, my husband is the one who’s home in the afternoons to cook dinner. Only he’s, well, not a great cook.

So he came up with an offer he hoped our daughters would not refuse: He would double their allowance any week that they cook at least one dinner for the whole family. They could choose the menu and the only rule is it has to be a complete meal, not just dessert or a bowl of fruit.

I jumped in and taught them some basic cooking and menu-planning skills. And I bought a couple of easy cookbooks.

It worked! For more than a year now, I’ve enjoyed dinner cooked by my kids at least once a week and usually twice. Yes, I do have to give cooking advice over the phone from the office. But that’s a small price.

Abby and Beth have discovered lots of great vegetarian dishes this way, and we have all found it a much healthier way to eat. Abby has learned how to prepare tofu and what to do with tempeh. She’s discovered dozens of recipes with chickpeas.

Beth has become proficient with these staples: lasagne roll-ups, tacos and sloppy joes. She uses soy crumblers, not ground beef, so that everyone can eat what she cooks.

The girls rely on two cookbooks in particular, and I recommend them both to anyone who has a preteen or teen just learning to cook.
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The Jumbo Vegetarian Cookbook is the vegetarian version of Kids Can Press Jumbo Cookbook. Both Jumbo cookbooks present simple recipes with clear step-by-step directions. Recipes are marked “beginner,” “intermediate” or “advanced.” But there are not many advanced recipes. We haven’t hit a dud in this book yet, and it is well-worn and sauce-stained.
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The other book that Beth goes to quite often is Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat, by Megan and Jill Carle. (Gotta love that title.) Not all the recipes in this book are vegetarian, so sometimes Abby will have to cook a garden burger on Beth’s dinner nights. This book was written by two teenage sisters (now in their 20s and authors of a sequel, College Cooking). The recipes in Teens Cook are a little more challenging than the Jumbo recipes, but nothing a kid can’t do with a little help.
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And for parents of younger would-be chefs, I have to recommend two tried-and-true favorites by Molly Katzen, author of the Moosewood series of cookbooks: The Pretend Soup Cookbook for preschoolers with recipes in pictures for pre-readers, and Honest Pretzels, for early-elementary cooks. I loved these cook books more than my kids did, but I think the foundation from these two books at least helped my girls not to be afraid of the kitchen.


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June 21, 2007

Swimming along.

We took our daughter, Ana Isabel, to the beach on Sunday morning. She, of course, loved playing in the sand.swim.jpg

I chased her around for a while. And then, I wanted to take her into the ocean. She balked. I persisted. She cried. I relented, for a bit.

So she played in the sand again, getting it all over her. Just as it was time to leave, my wife packing up, I said: "Let me take her in the water again, at least to wash her off."

Again, Ana resisted. But she seemed to get more comfortable as I jumped up and down in the water. Finally, I got a big smile out of her and a "wheeee." A couple of day's later she asked to go to "papi's beach." A small victory.

So I guess it's time to get her, at 22 months old, some swimming lessons. What kind of experinces have you had with toddlers and swimming?

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June 20, 2007

Make Your Own Damn Dinner!

I take it very personally when my kids don't want to eat my food. But I have never told them to go make their own.

kidsinkitchen.jpgStill, I'm enjoying a blog from a mom in Austin, Texas, who got tired of having to make separate meals for her kids and told them to Make Their Own Damn Dinner!

Last summer, she began recording every meal she made for herself and her husband, as well as what her kids, ages 8 and 10, made for themselves. The only rule for the kids was that their meal had to have a protein and a fruit or a vegetable.

Her experiment is over, but she still writes about what she has been cooking. Last night I made the roast chicken she recommended, and it was real simple to make and came out juicy.

I like to be adventurous when I cook, but I have restricted that urge because I want my kids to eat my food, not only because it's healthy, but because it's a way of showing them I love them.

How do you handle dinners? Do you make your kids eat what you eat, cook them separate meals, or tell them to Make Their Own Damn Dinner?!?!?!?

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R.I.P. Pacifier

My son this week is saying goodbye to a trusted friend –- his pacifier.

For two-and-a-half years, his “tete,” as we call it in the Vasquez household, has guided him through some difficult times. It has been there every night, without fail, to help him fall asleep. It helped him nurse some bad colds and his first earache. It magically appeared at those critical moments to fend off temper tantrums. It eventually multiplied to three at night in his crib so that he would find one in the dark with ease.

My husband and I knew this day would come, and in many ways, it’s just as hard for us to let the pacifier go. In the short term, it means no easy fixes to helping calm down our son. It means that for the past three nights, I’ve had to lie on the floor in my son’s room to help comfort him to sleep. It means my son now thinks his room is too dark at night.

His pacifier was his security blanket.

If you’re a parent, you typically fall into one of two camps: Pro-pacifier or Anti-pacifier. There’s much debate about what a pacifier does to a child’s teeth and speech. Some consider it cruel, likening it to popping a plug in a kid’s mouth.

But there’s one area on which many of us can agree: Those crystal encrusted “bling” pacifiers are a bad idea. The public’s enamor with everything celebrity has parents putting potentially hazardous pacifiers in the mouths of their little ones. Federal investigators are looking into the product, fearing the tiny crystals can come loose and put babies at risk of choking and suffocation, according to a story in Sunday’s Sun-Sentinel.

Fortunately for my son, his pacifier wasn’t a fashion statement. It was his friend.

What's your take on pacifiers? Tell us by posting a comment.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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June 19, 2007

The anti-role model

Weekly Reader Research released this finding in its latest survey of 6- to 18-year-olds:

Lindsay Lohan is not a role model, according to 75.7 percent of kids surveyed. Amen, my children. And thank goodness you understand that her behavior is abominable and not to be emulated. 52.3 percent of the kids said they don't even like her.
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The Lindsay loathing didn't differ much with age, either, although the youngest group of girls, ages 6-9, were more likely to say they liked her a little. Boys that age, on the other hand, were the largest group of Lindsay-haters: almost 78 percent of them don't like her. I'm a little sad, myself, to see how she turned out. Where oh where is that cute kid who played the twins in The Parent Trap?

The research didn't ask, but I'm willing to bet that Paris Hilton would have even lower numbers.

More findings from this summer's Weekly Reader omnibus survey:

* During the summer, the largest percentage of kids (46 percent) like to mix it up with some days scheduled full of activities and some days with nothing to do at all.

* Kids know they should be wearing sunscreen. 80 percent say they think it's important. The numbers don't even drop off that much when kids are asked if they do actually wear sunscreen every day. (Huh? Do you think most kids really wear sunscreen every day? I don't either.)

* And some good news for parents and teachers: Fully 25 percent of this survey's respondents gave a 10 to the question, "On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 means 'I hate it' and 10 means 'I love it,' how much do you like to read books for enjoyment?"

Well, it is a Harry Potter summer.

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Belated Father's Day reading

From the Poynter Institute's Chip Scanlan, who teaches journalists the world over how to write.

Other than the fact that I've been compared to Ray Barone, I like what he wrote.

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Good morning, class. I'm Mrs. AlphaUnit53

If your young child suddenly didn't show up for a class on a day when he was on the campus, wouldn't you expect to get a phone call from the school? And, taking this a bit further, would you expect this phone call to be from a human being?
In the last week of school, we got a call from Seminole Middle School in Plantation. Apparently,robot.jpg
they believed my 11-year-old had disappeared mid-day and not shown up for a class. I'd be concerned he'd been snatched or maybe even murdered and stuffed in a locker by a classmate, except they don't have lockers anymore, for just this reason. But still, I would be concerned, if I were the principal.
And I guess they were. They ran to their robo-calling machine and must have punched in my telephone number.
"Hello,'' the computerized voice said to our answering machine, "this is a call for the parents of [dramatic pause that leads you to believe your actual child's name will be coming next] the student. Your child had an unexcused absence today.''
If went on to tell us whom to call for more information, and of course upon my calling that number, I connected with a machine and left a message, which went unreturned.
Creed said he was in the cafeteria taking a two-hour test from the earlier class.
I LOVE public schools!!!
Then we got his report card in the mail this weekend. And it reported four unexcused absences, along with the great set of grades and test scores that my otherwise delinquent son achieved. (I will spare you a post about his first day of camp yesterday, during which he was threatened with being evicted from camp and losing my $900-plus after making sound effects when the bus stopped each time. My mantra remains: "At least he gets good grades.'')
Wouldn't it be nice, though, to get an earlier start issuing the Amber Alert and passing out Missing Child fliers? Shouldn't the school be concerned if students vanish during the day? Don't you expect that when your child gets on campus, the school will keep tabs on him until the bell rings?
I guess not. I mean, it's public school, not Pine Crest.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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June 18, 2007

Following up on camp cost poll


OK, it's confirmed: I'm cheap.

About one-third of poll respondents (scroll down to June 11 to see the poll) say they spend at least $200 per week on summer camp for their children. Extrapolate that over a school year and you'd be paying about $9,000, enough to get into some (not all) private schools.

But I applaud you all: You're investing your money on the most important thing in your life. And you're not scrambling daily, trading play dates and prying your children away from TV or the computer.

And for those of you who still haven't booked anything, here's a national Web site with links to all kinds of camps. Or check my post below for a link to the Sun-Sentinel's camp guide.

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

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Restaurant Wars

You know what I'm talking about. The (mostly) unspoken war in a restaurant, between the tables with kids and the tables without.

Look, I'm not one of those parents who thinks their kids can do no wrong. I'm really not. With an almost 2-year-old and an almost 4-year-old, my husband and I generally stay away from restaurants because it's a lot to ask of the boys to stay still and mind their manners for that long, and, let's face it, it's really not that fun of an outing for us.

But our kids are actually pretty mild-mannered. And they deserve a treat every once in awhile. So I headed out to Pete Rose Ballpark Cafe for lunch with the boys recently. It was a weekday, I figured it wouldn't be very busy and we could have a fairly uneventful lunch. I didn't know we'd be sitting next to The Most Crotchety and Humorless Woman in the World.

We sat in a booth. Booths at Pete Rose's in Boynton Beach are a great thing. They have televisions. Order your food, switch the channel to whatever cartoons are on, and you don't have to worry about squirming or arguing while you wait for your food.

Things were going swimmingly. Evan and Eli were keeping busy. Just as I began to silently congratulate myself, Evan began to bounce in his booth. Lightning-quick, before he could even get a second bounce in, I sternly told him to stop. But not before the elderly woman sitting on the other side of Evan whipped her head around, quicker than lightning-quick, and snapped, "Could you please control your child?"

I was so stunned and caught off-guard that I couldn't respond before she turned back around, but I still protested that I had immediately told my son to stop. "Control yourself," I then muttered in a monumentally lame retort.

And you know what? Evan did stop, immediately. He was great, other than that momentary lapse. But she wasn't done, and she called our server over to ask her to please inform "that mother" to control the child because he was "ruining my meal." I know this, because our very cool server came over to our table, shrugged her shoulders and then told me she had a 4-year-old at home.

I had to contain myself. Trust me, I was tempted to tell that woman to chill out, and remind her that she was EATING AT PETE ROSE. Kid-friendly? Did I mention the TVs at the booths? You think the arcade and prizes maybe should have signaled to her that there WOULD BE KIDS THERE? Ya think?

Before I get myself too worked up again, I'm interested in hearing from parents on their restaurant experiences? Does the sight of a waitress pulling up a high chair at your table elicit snide looks from other patrons? Do you not eat out, ever? And what are your strategies for a pleasant restaurant experience with kids?

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June 14, 2007

On being a father

FatherDay.jpgAs Father's Day approaches, Spike TV, which is promoting a new program called True Dads, put out an announcement this week about a new study that shows: Men turn to their mothers for parenting advice instead fo their fathers. Men are more likely to be involved with their children today than in past generations and many feel they don't get credit for it.

The study broke down dads into four categories: Superdads who do everything and are confident at it. Dads who struggle, but want to be superdads. Men who juggle being a superdad and life's other responsibilities. And, finally, dads who take the traditional approach.

Here's where I stand as a father: I love coming home to Ana Isabel greeting me at the door. Nothing is better than Ana, saying, "Papa, ready?" just before she tosses me her ball. There's no greater joy than having a tickle war with Ana, now 22 months. And nothing tops when I asked her for "un beso" (a kiss) and she puckers up her little lips and gives me a smacker.

I don't know what catergory that puts me in. And I don't care. I do know I love being Ana Isabel's father.

Happy Father's Day.

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June 13, 2007

McDonald's Moms

Like my fellow transPARENT blogger Brittany Wallman, I haven't been to a McDonald's in a long time. It's definitely not on my radar when I'm thinking about where to take the kids to eat. mcdonalds

But after hearing about McDonald's campaign to work with mothers to improve the chain's fast food, I'm thinking of giving it a try.

The company is set to start a Moms blog today. They sought women from all over the country who wanted to write about their fast-food experiences. They apparently are listening to the women and modifying their menu accordingly.

When I went on the Web site, I was shocked to see nutrition advice from Dr. Dean Ornish, a famous vegetarian. I checked out what McDonald's has been serving and saw an assortment of salads I had no idea they were offering.

Still, if you bring your family to McDonald's, the kids are going to want a burger and fries.

What do you do when you go to a fast-food joint? Do you make your kids eat as healthy as possible, or do you just say "I give up. Order what you want!"?

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June 12, 2007

Cellular deGeneration

I've never considered myself old-fashioned, but I'm not buying all the parenting advice about buying our children cell phones.
I've read online polls and pediatric websites and other advice suggesting how "safe'' my son will be once he gets a cell phonecellphonetoy.jpg
It's just another device we always lived without but somehow we can't fathom our kids living without one.
My husband doesn't have a cell phone. And he gets by just fine without it.
Why does my 11 year old need one?
He spends zero time on the land line chatting with friends. His phone conversations with me go something like this:
Mom: (something intriguing and interesting)
Creed: (one-word answer)
Repeat several times.
I saw a poll where most people said the proper age for getting your kid a phone is 10-11.
I wonder if I'm the only parent who thinks that is ridiculous. And are you cell-phone indulgent parents paying the bill also? Because if I get him one, I think I'd make him earn an allowance that would cover the monthly bill.
But I'm not convinced about buying one at all.
I know what some people are thinking -- what if I drop him off at soccer and it rains and he needs me to pick him up?
Of course that is not a problem. He'll call me from a buddy's cell phone.
-- Brittany Wallman

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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June 11, 2007

The cost of summer

What do you normally spend per week for summer camps?

$100 and below
$100-150
$151-200
$201 plus

11 long weeks. That's this summer vacation.

Like everyone else, we patched together a plan for our son: a couple of trips, a "good" camp, a couple of camps that you could consider glorified babysitting.

I kind of feel bad because if money were unlimited, there are a lot of camps I'd put him in. But money's not unlimited. You gotta balance.

So, what do you pay? And, for those who still don't have a plan, here's our Sun-Sentinel camp guide.

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A Wondrous Playland in Boynton Beach

Months after promising in this very space that I would report back to you after visiting the Schoolhouse Children's Museum in Boynton Beach, I have finally made it there.

Why the heck hadn't I been there before? It's just a few miles from my house, and inside the walls of this 1913 schoolhouse, kids can find tons of stuff to do.

Just my luck, I had to go there on the first day that the museum was open since the last day of school in Palm Beach County. So it was a little crowded, and as a result, Evan sort of stuck by me most of the time. No worries, within minutes, he was firmly involved in one activity or the other.

During my visit to the museum, I was treated to the ever-present din of happy squeals, an occasional cry and a constant chatter of happy children.

Babies and toddlers under 2 get in free. Kids 2 to 17 pay $3, grandparents pay $4 and adults pay $5. For that nominal fee, you could spend hours in the two-story schoolhouse exploring rooms full of old-time toys, puzzles ... and you can learn a little something about the history of Boynton Beach, to boot.

My sons were particularly enamored of the school room, where they sat in small, old-fashioned wood chairs and conquered puzzle after puzzle. Elias also enjoyed the replica of a little general store, piling up his "purchases" in a basket and handing me fake paper money to pay.

Another room has a huge, practically life-size boat where kids can grab the ship's wheel or grab a play fishing rod and pretend to go fishing. There's also a pretend train. And a pretend car, with a pretend gas pump. You get the idea. The folks who created this museum definitely had in mind the imagination of a child.

You can be sure I'll be back. The museum is located at 129 E. Ocean Ave.

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June 7, 2007

School at 2? Are kidding me?

My wife tells me about parents she knows with children about my daugher's age. (Ana Isabel is 21 months old.) And they're already talking about sending their kid to some pre- pre- kindergarten program.

I know there are hyper-competive parents out there who want to give their kid every advantage. And don't get me wrong, I want to give Ana every advantage as well. But school at 2? That just seems so foreign to me.

Here's an article in the The New York Times that details how children do better when they're the older kids in their class. It's seem logical since at such a young age, a few months can mean a world of developmental progress.

Look, I'm a proud papa who can rattle off Ana's long list of vocabulary words (a few even in Spanish). She strings some words together. She likes to sing something that sounds like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

I think she will get much more out learning from Carrie Ann and me at this point than from some program with 20 other kids. Does that make me strange?

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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June 6, 2007

My would-be athlete

Tonight my older daughter worked out for two hours at our local gym, which we joined at her behest a few weeks ago. She exercises every day now, often for more than an hour.

Most parents, I think, would be proud of any child with this level of commitment, and I certainly am. But this turn of events has defied all expectations I ever had as a parent for this child. I think maybe an alien invaded her body.

She is good -- even great -- at many things, but sports are not among them. In all my years as her mother (now numbering more than 15), she has never taken more than a passing interest in anything physical. I once enrolled her in yoga classes to help her get some kind of physical activity in her life. She hated it and ultimately refused to go.

I certainly never expected this child to join a sport in high school, much less decide that she would work to be good at it.

Rather than pursue an enterprise at which she might be naturally talented, she's turned her back on almost every activity in high school save -- get this -- water polo. Water polo. An aggressive game of strength, endurance and power. It's a lot of fun to watch, and, apparently, pretty fun to play, too. She wants to be in the game.
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But I wonder, will her years of lethargy and distain for sports eventually overwhelm her nascent sense of athleticism? Will she ever be good enough to play a varsity sport, even if she does keep working out for an hour a day?

Will she at some point realize that if she gave the same effort to something at which she most likely does have real talent, she might go farther?

Or am I wrong altogether? Has she found something within herself that not even those closest to her ever imagined was there?

POSTED IN: Teen (158)

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Hipster Parenting

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Parents who don't want to give up smoking pot, going to rock concerts and staying up til dawn, but still want to be responsible caregivers, have a new Web community: Offsprung.

One of the founders is writer Neal Pollack, who has been doing the talk show circuit to promote his new book, Alternadad. The book explores the compromises he and his wife have had to make to be good parents but retain their coolness.

Offsprung has some fun links. I like The Cleaver, which has celebrity baby news (Courteney Cox is talking about getting plastic surgery on her post-baby abdomen!) and Lock The Bedroom Door, about maintaining a love life after you have kids. I also liked Dadsmacker, where I found this T-shirt, definitely an adorable takeoff on trendy baby-carriers. I wasn't too impressed with Ask Alternadad: What makes Pollack, the father of a four-year-old, an expert on parenting?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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High anxiety

My 2-½-year-old son is a seasoned traveler. By the time he was 14 months old, he had flown cross-country three times.

My husband and I had the routine down to a science; we even traveled with our beagle as a carry-on. We called it Airport Olympics: By the time we made it through security and hobbled our way to the gate with baby, dog, stroller, car seat and an assortment of carry-on bags, we felt we deserved a gold medal.

So getting on an airplane yet again should be a piece of cake, right? Well, a lot has changed in 18 months -– like my son’s mobility.

He’s a great kid. He has not given me any reason to believe our latest airplane excursion will be a difficult one. But I worry. Most of his mornings involve dancing in the family room, racing his shopping cart down the hallway (I get the lawn mower), and playing a Fisher Price piano while singing a very loud version of the “ABC” song. Not quite the stuff of cramped airplanes.

As we enter the busy summer travel season, parents should do their homework before embarking on a long trip. I did.

1) I picked early-morning flights to create the least disruption to my son’s schedule as we change time zones.

2) I’ve made a list of all the key essentials I’ll need to pack to make sure my son is as comfortable as possible when we arrive in California. (I made another list of groceries I will need to buy immediately when we arrive. Think chicken nuggets and oatmeal.)

3) I’ve stashed away a few new toys that I will magically introduce when the novelty of being on an airplane has worn off.

4) When I arrive at the airport, I’m going to ask to pre-board and request bulkhead seats. The hope being it would prevent my son from possibly spending 6 hours kicking the back of a chair of some innocent passenger.

5) I’ll pray.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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June 5, 2007

Superstarve Me

I have never taken my daughter to McDonald's. I don't think she's ever been there, in her life.
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I'm doing my small part to combat childhood obesity. I'm also doing my part to combat parental obesity.
She quite possibly might be the only 5 year old in America who could say she's never been under the golden arches.
I think I deserve some kind of trophy, a bronze salad maybe, for this.
I probably haven't taken my son there more than once in his 11 years, either. I heard him telling someone the other day that "I don't really eat at those places.''
And he wasn't bitter about it.
Would I be able to get on a talk show with this information?

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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June 4, 2007

Unsupermoms

My bed rarely gets made. My kids eat sugary, sweet cereals. My car recently had a funk in it that my husband said required mega-doses of the household cleaner 409.

So I'm wondering if that makes me an "unsupermom." Maybe. I think I'm cool with that.

Because finally, someone is saying it. It's okay.

The online support group, Unsupermoms, is here for us. Feeling guilty that your kids are watching more than one hour of television a day (sue me, American Academy of Pediatrics)? This website is here for you. You'll feel much better about yourself (because some moms are worse than you).

I first heard about the website in a St. Petersburg Times feature that made me laugh -- and made me feel a little guilty. I'm certainly not a neglectful mom, but I have been guilty of checking my email or reading a magazine when my son is asking me for the umpteenth time to play. Don't get all huffy with me ... I HAVE played. For endless hours. But there is only so many times you can make Hot Wheel cars have an imaginary conversation. Because Evan is never tired of, "you make these guys talk, and I'll make these guys talk."

So if your kids haven't had a dinner with all the food groups in awhile, check this site out. You'll get a good giggle.

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Swim reminders

School's out, which for most of us means more time in the pool. Some water-safety thoughts:

1.) You always hear "don't let your child swim unattended," but in party-type situations, do it one better: Create a water-proof necklace ID and rotate the job of "designater watcher" among adults. This prevents the possibility of an "Oh, I thought YOU were watching them" catastrophe.

Or, use a card that can be downloaded from a group called Safe Kids Worldwide..

2.) Your children really are safer at supervised pools than at home. In the past 20 years there hasn't been one drowning at a municipal pool. We average at least 5 per county annually at South Florida homes.

3.) For more water-safety tips, go to Broward's Swim Central site
or the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County.

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June 2, 2007

From the bookshelf

One of the more fun parts of my job as editor of South Florida Parenting is that I receive a constant flow of new books for parents, some good, some bad, some for extremely narrow audiences within the parent community, such as those for children with a specific diagnosis within the spectrum of austim-related disorders or a book for orthodox Jewish parents of teens.

In the past months, a few books have caught more than my passing attention, and so I’m passing them on to you, in case one of these books catches your fancy, too.
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Just in time for summer, The Fun Book for Moms offers 102 ideas to help families connect with each other. Most of the advice is simple, good fun: “On a road trip, listen to Harry Potter on tape.” “Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest in your backyard.” Or my favorite: “Put a rubber band around the sink sprayer so when the kids turn on the water, they get sprayed in the face.” ($12.95 list price.)

If you’re like my family and not likely to get out of the state this summer, you could try a vacation to someplace other than Orlando. Not that I have anything against Disney and Universal, mind you, but Florida has many, many other destinations and some of them are possibly even more fun than a day at a theme park. Kids Love Florida is the latest in a cottage-industry of Florida family travel books. This book by veteran travelers George and Michele Zavatsky focuses on the natural and offbeat, giving as much space, for example, to several Florida state parks as it does to Walt Disney World. For ideas about things to do with 7- to 12-year-olds, try this book. (Self-published, $14.95) If you’re looking for an in-depth travel guide, though, there are better ones out there. Try the Unofficial Guide to Florida instead.

The title of the next book in my pile is the best part of the whole book: I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids. This book, subtitled “Reinventing Modern Motherhood,” takes aim at the overprotective, over-involved, and overwhelmed mothers of our time. With a lighthearted self-quiz in each section, no doubt many moms will recognize themselves in these pages. Maybe the book will help them do something about their behavior before they find themselves on their way to attending their child’s first job interview after college graduation. By Trisha Ashworht and Amy Nobel, list price $18.95.
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If you don’t need a self-help book to release you from the pressures of motherhood and you’d rather laugh, try both of Christie Mellor’s books. Her new one, The Three-Martini Family Vacation, provides advice about how to travel light with kids and how to have a vacation that doesn't completely wear you out. Here is a book that can teach obsessive parents a thing or two about being a good parent while also relaxing and enjoying life. She’s got the right attitude. And she’s funny. Suggested price $12.95 and worth it.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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June 1, 2007

Making a 'Mini Me'

My 2 ½-year-old son sometimes calls me homie. And I love it.

Some people think it’s a ghetto term. But, when I was growing up, homie was a term of endearment my friends and I used with each other. Hearing my son use it with me makes me remember those days.

Not that I want my son to be just like me. Well, maybe I do. My wife and I did name him after me.

But is that so bad? Before I was a dad, I thought so. In fact, I used to make fun of parents who raised their children in their own likeness, like those dads who played sports in high school who later encourage, sometimes demand, their sons play the same sports. Or the fathers who have long hair and an earring walking around with sons with long hair and an earring.

Now that I’m sort of in that club, it doesn’t seem so wrong. I loved Hot Wheels when I was a boy. Now I love watching my boy play with them too. Maybe I even got him hooked by buying him a new Hot Wheel every chance I get.

I’m sure there is some line out there I don’t want to cross. I certainly don’t want my son to inherit my terrible sense of direction (Yes, I get lost often and never ask for directions) or my lack of patience or my profound ability to lose my keys or wallet just before I head out the door.

On the other hand, having a mini-me around does provide an inner joy that I never knew existed. I do want my son to grow up to be his own man, so I’ll try not to carry this Daddy Xerox thing too far. But I won’t stop calling him homie like my best friends called me back in the day.

After all, my son is my best friend now.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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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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