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August 31, 2007

Enrolling in voluntary preschool not as easy as 1-2-3

Today's Sun-Sentinel story about Florida's voluntary prekindergarten program is a good reminder to parents who are considering enrolling their children: Do your homework.

The first step is figuring out what schools in your area participate in the program. You'd be surprised that not all schools are participating. That may be for a number of reasons, including a school might be in the process of seeking accrediation either through the National Council for Private School Accreditation or through the state to meet the qualifications of the program.

Also, remember that parents need to fill out an application form to enroll their children. It's not just a matter of showing up at school and saying your Little Einstein is ready for school.

Lastly, the state's program is limited. It only covers up to three hours of prekindergarten during the school year. If you want your child enrolled in a full-day program, particularly at a private school, chances are you will still pay a pretty price, albeit a pro-rated one.

Check out this Web site for a list of frequently asked questions about the Florida's voluntary prekindergarten program.

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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Sweet deal from Sesame Street on iTunes

I hide my iPhone from my son. Sometimes.

Not yet 3, he's already an iPod and iPhone fan. He knows those shiny black and silver gadgets show some of his favorite cartoons, including Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and Go, Diego, Go!

At $3 bucks a pop on iTunes, those cartoon costs add up quickly. That's why I was happily stunned when I realized iTunes offers no less than 6 free Sesame Street TV show videos. Did you catch that? For free! No cost. No check needed.

The selection is great too, including the episodes "Music Works Wonders," "Happy, Healthy, Ready for School," and "A is for Asthma." And we're not talking five-minute clips. Some episodes are 20 to 40 minutes long. (On iTunes, click the TV shows tab, then the Free on iTunes tab.)

Now my son has more reasons to covet my iPhone.

My wife won't let me install DVD players in our family SUV because she doesn't want him to get hooked on watching TV screens everytime we go for a drive. I get that. Then again, sometimes a tiny screen can really calm a tiny kid, especially on long, boring car rides.

So, when I can, I slip my iPhone to my boy in the car. That is, when I'm not hiding it from him.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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Saying farewell to baby teeth

By Cindy Kent
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer

My youngest son lost his last baby tooth this week. Before I could even process it, Tom said, "Mom, this is special."

Wow. It really is.

When talking about growing our professional skills, we might say, "We cut our teeth on the family business." The silly song with the lyrics, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..." brings a smile and a giggle to every generation. A child's first trip to the dentist provides that dreaded -- then cherished --experience of getting their teeth gently cleaned. (Not to mention a fancy new toothbrush from the doctor with the cool tools.)

Teeth are one of the many ways we measure a person -- through their smile, how they talk, and children growing up.

My daughter would snuggle each lost tooth gently under her pillow, delicately wrapped and ready for the magical Tooth Fairy's visit. My sons had a more, "that's awesome" approach. Turning the "lost" tooth in their hands, exploring each crevice, fresh out of their mouth.

Pointing to various spots on his last lost tooth, my son pointed out to me the gummy "Shark Bite" candy he was chewing on when the big event happened.

"See that light blue spot there? That's the candy I was chewing on," he said proudly. "Shark Bites are my favorite now."

At dinner that night (you should have seen how much he ate!) he grinned ear to ear and announced, "I'm so happy!"

Losing teeth, growing an inch taller, fitting into bigger shoes -- those and so many other milestones -- bring a smile to our faces, even ear-to-ear grins.

Cindy Kent is the mother of three children.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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August 30, 2007

The trials and tribulations of toddler tummies

She's cranky this morning because she's hungry. Ana Isabel is so distracted with everything going on around her, she doesn't realize she's hungry. She just acts up.


Some days she eats only pasta. Some days she eats only meat. Other days, it's fruit that she
wants. Once in a while, she'll have a day where she eats a combination of the above.

My wife will often load up on snacks (a purse full of fruit, granola and yogurt) when where going on out for an hour or two. And then the kid doesn't want anything.

It all makes for a confusing diet, not to mention confused parents.

Do anybody else have any tricks for dealing with toddler tummies?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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August 29, 2007

Vegetables are not grown at Publix...

My kids have no idea how most fruits and vegetables are grown, and to be honest, neither do I.


So I am making an investment in a farm near Boynton Beach. For $400, Green Cay Produce will deliver part of its bounty to our house every other week from October through May. We will also be able to visit the farm to see how our fruits and vegetables are grown.

They call it community-supported agriculture, and it's considered a way to keep small farms afloat and eat food as it's fresh and available, instead of frozen and bland.

It sounded pretty expensive, and I chose the least costly option (you can also get a bigger box and get one each week instead of every other week). If we have a hurricane, I likely will lose my money.

But I want to see if fresh-off-the-vine produce actually does taste better than what I buy at Publix. For more information, go to

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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August 28, 2007

Now the school wants me to hawk candles for them?

You think your property insurance is high, you should see how expensive it has become to be my neighbor. My poor neighbors have been asked to purchase cups and trinkets and flower bulbs and all variety of fund-raising crapola over the years, for these school and sport fund-raisers.

salesman.jpgMatter of fact they just purchased a set of four sports cups from my son, to benefit his football team.

Now I get a pile of booklets full of candles and other "treasures'' they sent home with my five-year-old BABY who just started kindergarten.

I pictured her knocking on doors, and actually for a second, I was just trying to decide whether it would be negligent if I sent her around a block alone, where surely the residents of my neighborhood would be smitten with this itty bitty saleslady and buy her wares.

Yes, negligent. Can't leave her in car alone at liquor store, can't send her out as a door-to-door salesman. I'm learning!

Then Lily dropped the bomb. This was not a project for her at all. It's Parent Homework!

"We can win jewelry! Mommy, I really want the jewelry. Will you do this for me?''

I looked at the materials, and sure enough it tells the kids not to sell door to door.

"Parents,'' the note reads, "this is a family project. Please DO NOT allow students to sell door to door.''

Do they really think I want to ask my co-workers to buy wrapping paper and mint patties to benefit my child's school? Cripes.

Couldn't they leave the fund-raisers to the parents who don't pay taxes?

* * *

Unrelated strange quote of the week, asked by Creed during algebra homework last night: "If I had three arms, would you amputate one of them?''

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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How Shaq ruined recess

swing.jpg My fourth grade daughter's class has decided it's all Shaq's fault. They lost recess, but gained daily PE, because Shaquille O'Neal has pointed out that there are a lot of fat kids who don't get any exercise.

I have nothing against PE. I have nothing against Shaq. And in fact, I applaud the state Legislature for sending the message that health is just as important as the FCAT. But come on. Can't there be a happy medium? If anything should be legislated, it should be recess.

Erika's school was one of the good ones, one that actually didn't eliminate recess in its zeal to boost test scores. Granted, they've chipped away at the length of recess, but they still valued that wonderful tradition: Kids just playing. Freely. Outside.

Remember swinging on the monkey bars? Playing kickball and tetherball and four-square. Lots of things get resolved, and instigated, during recess. Relationships are tested. Hierarchies are established. What a proving ground for life! Sure, it's not always safe and easy. But it's memorable. In second grade Shelly Spencer stunned us by removing her fake tooth. In fifth grade Clay Coffey slipped on the ice and kicked me in the face. Clay died in a motorcycle accident after high school -- this kid I knew my whole life, but didn't necessarily like, or dislike. But I have a scar on my lip because of ... recess.

Why do adults, and specifically legislators, always muck everything up? Why couldn't principals place any value on free play? Why are the pressures so extreme that schools have to be forced BY LAW to send kids outside to run and jump and do all those things kids do so naturally? Kids who are cooped up inside all day working, working, working need to expend some energy, get refreshed, so they can get back to work. It's so obvious. And don't kids spend enough time in organized activities? We shuffle them from sport to lesson to play dates where overprotective moms mediate every argument and kiss every boo-boo. I just can't stand it anymore.

So now Erika's wonderfully academic teacher has to think about organizing soccer games during a time she otherwise would have been able to observe the kids interact during free play. Imagine what a teacher gains by observation. What kids gain by being able to get the teacher aside if they crave a little extra something.

Erika said, "Ms. D. doesn't know anything about soccer. But we do." My dream is that in some unintended way, kids will take back their time. Teachers will slyly subvert the system and turn daily PE into an exercise in kids taking control. Remember what happens when kids pick the teams and set the rules and referee? It's incredibly memorable ... and really really fun.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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August 27, 2007

Shyness -- just a phase?

First of all, I should disclose that I probably shouldn't even be using the word "shy." My husband absolutely hates it. Multiple people have used the word to describe our older son, Evan, who turns 4 next month. My husband thinks it has a negative connotation and that it possibly sets up our son to be shy for the rest of his life if he keeps hearing it.

Although I'm not entirely on board with that theory and I think it's a word that people who meet Evan have used for lack of a better word and because they don't really know him, I'm not ready to throw it out either. And I don't appreciate that my dictionary's first definition of shy is "easily frightened."

Evan was never a daycare baby, but has been exposed to other kids through playground visits, some play dates, occasional visits with cousins and the like. It has always taken him at least half an hour to warm up to kids, but then he has a great time. I notice it seems like he's always thinking, watching, taking everything in before he acts.

On Saturday we went to the birthday party of a close friend's son, who turned 5. All of the birthday boy's friends were there that he sees on an everyday basis. They were strangers, naturally, to Evan. So Evan hung back, never straying from my side. Never participated in playing with any of the kids and did not really even want to stand in line for a piece of cake without me.

I have to say, it was painful. Because the Evan that I know is strong-willed, funny, loud, and even a bit of a daredevil at home. He'll have extended conversations with adults but all of a sudden become meek with other kids. It makes me wonder how much of his personality is influenced by parenting and what have we possibly done to contribute to this. Have I hovered? Did we keep him at home too long? He is a sweet, sweet kid -- so bright. I know he wants more friends, he's already naming kids from his preschool and talking about inviting them to his party. But there is something holding him back.

I'm wondering whether he will always be so reserved, so timid with kids or whether he can still outgrow this, and what I might be able to do to push it along without it backfiring on me. I'm also wondering if I'm overreacting. I'd be interested in hearing from other parents with "shy" kids.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Walk or bike to school one day a week

You're settling into your school routine. You've had summer discussions about your carbon footprint. Schools are talking about fitness more. How about linking the three by leaving the car in the garage and walking or biking to school?

Sometimes we robotically go through our routines. One of ours -- which is ridiculous when you think about it -- is to drive our son to school early, so I can go home and run. My goal this year: walk with my son to school, about a mile, once a week. I'll give him a day of advance notice, so he can leave the heavy books at school.

If you've never done it before, and are getting resistance, test out your route with your child during the weekend. Take your time, pick your shady spots, and choose sidewalks with fewer intersections.

If you are biking, have your child practice locking up his or her bike during the weekend. If your child wears long pants, consider a chain guard or clothes clip to prevent his or her pants leg from getting caught in the chain. (A low-tech alternative: a rubber band, placed around the ankle.)

And recruit one of your children's friends to make the trip with you. You can find strength in numbers.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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August 22, 2007

Would you like lead with that sandwich?

On my son’s second day of pre-school, I was given a special homework assignment: Find a smaller lunch box.

Finding one that would fit all of Tupperware, ice packs and utensils would be a challenge. Little did I know that I also had to worry about lead, the toxic metal that has been the subject of many recent toy recalls. I had thought lead was only a potential problem with metal lunch boxes.


That vinyl lining keeping your kids’ lunches cool could be as much of a health risk as that “Sarge” car that was recently recalled. (The Center for Environmental Health has been looking into the issue for years and gives some sage advice on its Web site.)

After a good 20 minutes scouring the store aisle for Spider Man, Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean lunch boxes, I finally came across one that caught my eye: It had a special tag that deemed it “ultra safe,” explaining it had been checked and passed by the “LEAD SAFE” Detection system.


Sure, the lunch box doesn’t come decorated with cute characters from a movie, but it gives me the peace of mind (real or perceived) that my son won’t be ingesting lead with his cantaloupe.

Quick question for you parents out there: Have you tried or are you thinking of trying a home lead testing kit?

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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They took away our school bus!

There's nothing like learning the day before school starts that the School District has taken away your school bus.schoolbus.jpg

I actually knew this could happen. State law says school districts only have to supply buses if the school is more than two miles away. The entrance to our neighborhood is slightly less than two miles away. But they could never find enough crossing guards to cover all the intersections in between, so they gave us a bus.

At orientation yesterday, our neighborhood learned they had taken away the bus. We heard they were supplying one crossing guard.

I thought there was going to be a riot. My neighbors were so angry! But I took it in stride and immediately set up a carpool.

What bothered me was we only heard through word of mouth. There should have been an official notification.

Have you had any transportation issues with the schools this week?

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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August 21, 2007

Back to school: survival of the fittest

My 7th grader started a new school yesterday, and I was a nervous wreck. How would he get along? Would anyone talk to him? Would he be sitting alone in the cafeteria? The fact that it's the school where my husband teaches was only small comfort. Sure, Dad can show him around and all his teacher friends will look out for Alec. But what about the other kids? That's the real test.

But Alec survived, and even seemed upbeat after the first day. He managed to negotiate a lunch schedule snafu on his own. He said he was too busy to talk to other kids much. He vaguely knows one other kid in the whole school, and they happen to be in three of the same classes. So that's a lucky break.

My friend says Alec's a survivor and so adaptable it'll be no time at all before he's comfortable. I hope she's right. I've always credited daycare for making my kids adaptable. Alec started daycare when he was 3 months old and has been plowing through life ever since.

We make so many choices for our kids, but there's only so much we can control after a certain point. I guess it's really up to them whether they sink or swim.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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This year we're sucking up to authority figures

Lily was not crying and was not sitting in Time Out when I picked her up from her first day of Kindergarten. That means she is already on a better footing for her primary school career than her brother was.teacherpet.jpg

The same teachers were in charge of Aftercare as back in Creed's elementary days. He's in 7th grade now. Gone, but not forgotten, from Plantation Park Elementary.
Needless to say I am not going out of my way to tell Lily's teachers that she has an older brother they might know.
But we didn't even make it across the parking lot before Coach saw us and said, "Not another Norman!''
Lily didn't cause any trouble, though. She did tell on a boy who was eating with his mouth open. And some bigger kid said to her in a menacing fashion, "In your face!'''
And she didn't enjoy taking a nap while sitting in a chair with her head on a desk. Where are those cozy mats they used to have?!
But I've decided this year will be different. We are going to strive for teacher's pet status for both kids.
Thus I advised Creed not to put "math' as his least favorite subject on a form that was handed out by his math teacher!
If I have to bake cookies, I will. We even sent tennis balls to school with Creed, as requested by one of the teachers, for the bottom of the chairs.
I might even show up for one of those School Landscaping Days.
The tide has turned. Either this will help us gain more understanding from the teachers, or I will be such a pain in the neck that I will have them all saying "Not another Norman!''

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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August 20, 2007

High School Musical 2 breaks cable records

Apparently Gretchen (see below) and our house wasn't the only one watching Friday night. A record for basic cable.

I thought the first one was much better, but my son, the one who believes the hype, calls this movie "the best ever." Just so you know, he also liked Norbit.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Entertainment (114)

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Deck the halls with books and apples ...

When she was in elementary school, my daughter thought the first day of school was a holiday.

“Really?” I said, wondering how I could have missed that. “Why did you think it was a holiday?”

“Well, everybody gets dressed up. And you get new things. And it’s very exciting. It’s a beginning. You’re going to learn new things and have new people in your class.”

To her, the first day of school was sort of like Christmas and New Year’s rolled up together. The day has its rituals, its symbols and it generally does come with gifts.

Because she went to a school that assigned children to the same classroom for two years, her second year with each teacher was her most favorite. She knew what to expect, so there was no nervousness, but there was plenty of positive anticipation about what she would be doing in the coming school year.

No wonder she thought it something to celebrate. “Usually,” she said, “I couldn’t sleep the night before.”

I never realized any of this. When contemplating this first day of school this year – my daughter’s tenth-grade year – I felt a little sad. How could I have not realized that “back to school” was a holiday my child liked more than Christmas?

But then, I did create the anticipation, didn’t I? I took her school shopping. I talked to her about how much fun it would be to be in the next grade. I usually had a nice meal the night before and a special breakfast – french toast or blueberry pancakes, food I never make on any other school day. I even took pictures.

The magic left sometime in middle school, right around the time puberty hit and her peers tried to convince my girl that reading and learning were “boring.” What she decided, unfortunately, was that school, and most teachers, were the real bores. Thankfully, that’s wearing off now in high school, as she’s more challenged and she understands the importance of good grades on her future.

She’s even a little excited about school starting again. “Only now, Mom, it’s all about my friends.”

HAPPY HOLIDAY, everyone!

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

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Late birthday? Pre-pre-K for you

Today was Evan's first official preschool day. He'll be 4 next month, too late for enrollment in any of Florida's voluntary pre-K programs. I dropped him off with some trepidation, naturally. It was his first day in a new classroom, with new teachers, new everything. I checked out the other kids. Evan towers over all them, of course ... most of them are probably 3.

When I was initially told Evan would be put in a classroom with 3-year-olds, I was a little bummed. I had been hoping that there would be some sort of transitional classroom for those kids with late birthdays who will be past the Sept. 1 cutoff in Palm Beach County, as an acknowledgement that they may be a little advanced when compared to younger 3-year-olds.

A colleague of mine told me that her daughter, who just misses the cutoff by a week or so, has never once been at a disadvantage as a result of being one of the oldest in class. It has never made a lick of difference, I was assured.

I'm reassured and I know that realistically, it won't be a big deal to Evan whatsoever. Maybe, I hope, this will evolve into Evan taking a leadership role as the oldest kid. I have to admit, though, that I looked at the curriculum goals for the year and immediately thought that Evan already knows how to do 75 percent of the things on the list.

But as I spied on Evan through the window after saying goodbye this morning, I had to dismiss all of that concern. He barely looked back at me, he was so involved in an animated conversation with another boy. I know this is going to be a valuable experience for him.

Curious to hear what other parents think of the Sept. 1 cutoff. Too early? Just right?

POSTED IN: Pre-K (25)

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First day of school, settling in

OK, first day of public school today in Broward.

A friend of mine remarked that it's a day working parents look forward to, much more than non-working parents, the thought being that we need the routine much more.


You won't hear me bemoaning the end of summer. I've been looking forward to this day for about two weeks now. I'm ready to see my son get rolling, and have been dying to rip that Nintendo out of his hands. That, plus I like getting up in the morning, getting him off to school and having the early morning to go on my run or swim.

And, sorry, but I don't feel guilty about it.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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August 17, 2007

Hold that load! Backpacks are too heavy for kids.

I watched my older daughter struggle to get out of the car with her backpack this morning, her first day as a sophomore in high school.
She could barely lift the load. I grimaced. "I know, Mom. Don't say it. I just have to get these to my locker. Most of them will stay there. I don't have to bring all these books back and forth every day."

She knew the lecture: You can't carry all of that. It's too much. Backpacks should never weigh more than 15 percent of your body weight. For my skinny daughter, that's no more than 18 pounds. One textbook weighs almost that much. I think she had four this morning.

She slung the pack over one shoulder (another no-no) and limped off, off-kilter.

I hope that the lope to her locker will not cause any more permanent damage to her spine, which is already twisted by scoliosis. The American Physical Therapy Association has issued its annual warning about kids carrying heavy backpacks, and she's following none of the recommendations.

What can be done about this? Kids won't wear their backpacks the right way. They have to carry loads that far exceed what their growing backs can support.

Teachers require too many different binders, composition books and such, which weigh down already overflowing packs. I fear we are raising a generation that will reach mid-life with serious back problems.

Doesn't this frustrate you, too? What can we do?

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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August 16, 2007

It's her birthday. What tradition to follow?

My wife and I come from quite different backgrounds. And that's reflected in our family traditions when it comes to celebrations like holidays and birthdays.


So as Ana Isabel's second birthday comes up next week, we work to find a balance that fits our family.

Growing up, my siblings and I didn't have birthday parties. My parents immigrated to this country when my sister and I were under three. My brother was born here. So our birthday celebrations mostly consisted of sharing a cake, a card, maybe a present and a gathering of immediate family.

Comparatively, Carrie Ann's family preferred a bigger splash. Parties with lots of children. A home made birthday cake. A big sign celebrating the yearly milestone. And gifts from two sets of grandparents.

Now, we're away from our extended family with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles all in other parts of the country.

For Ana's first birthday, we spent it with my in-laws who put together a huge party for our daughter. While it was very much appreciated, it wasn't our style.

So for this birthday, we're staying home and planning on celebrating with just us. No big party. No bounce house full of screaming children. No sleepless hours worrying about planning it just right.

I don't know that one is better than the other. But I like it this way better.

How have you created your own family traditions?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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August 15, 2007

Confession of an alpha mom

I’m the editor of a parenting magazine. This gives me license to tell myself I need to be the perfect mom. It wouldn’t do for me to be a lousy parent.

When my children were little, I tried to run everything. I was the chairperson of the school advisory forum and a member of the school advisory committee. When something wasn't right at the school, by golly, I would fix it.

I read to my daughters every day from the time they were born until they started reading faster than I do. Now, I just discuss the books they read.

I make healthy home-cooked meals, and insist that they do the same when it's their turn to cook.

When she was younger, I signed up my poor older daughter for every imaginable activity except the one that it turns out she might really have loved: martial arts. Who knew? She was a bookworm. I thought the arts and outdoors would hold more appeal.

I became the Girl Scout leader, and proceeded to control things to the point that I had almost no other adult help – except from the other alpha moms in the group. (Of course.)

Did I mention that I work full time, I'm happily married (which means I do try to pay attention to my husband), I help care for my centenarian grandmother in Boca, and my kids are honor students?

I could go on, but I won’t. Instead I challenge you: Are you an alpha mom, too? Do you think it’s a good thing for your kids that you are?

Just so you know, I don’t think my alpha-mominess is all that great for anyone in my family. I never really have time to do it all, and it makes us all kinda nuts when I try. Truth is, I'm learning to let go of my alpha self before I drive my kids, my husband and myself right off the deep end.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185)

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August 14, 2007

HSM2: Resistance is futile

images.jpgThe tween in my house already has most of the songs on the new High School Musical 2 CD committed to memory. Over the weekend, she called all her friends to brag that she got the CD even BEFORE it went on sale. (One of the perks of having a mom who personally knows the newspaper's pop music writer. Yes, I pulled rank. I've sunk that low.)

We are in full HSM2 mode: couple gal pals sleeping over to watch the big premiere on Friday night. We're making cupcakes Thursday night. Kicking the big brother out of the house -- not sure yet where he's going, but he must leave. We may even do our nails during commerical breaks. I honestly don't know who's more excited. Me or Erika.

In my heart, I know the sequel is not going to live up to the original. The reviews have pretty much been clear on that point.

But don't call me Friday night. I'll be glued to the TV with a big bowl of popcorn, waiting for a big kiss between Troy and Gabriella, and soaking up all that pink bubbly frothiness.


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Good morning, class. No talking in your sleep.

I don't have a positive outlook for the school year that starts Monday. I have a couple of good reasons for that.

One is a letter I got from Seminole Middle School in Plantation. They're switching to "block scheduling.''

The other is a comment Creed made last week: "I hate school.''

About the block scheduling: Remember when you were in college and you had those long classes that tested your ability to hold your eyelids open??

sleeping.jpgDo you think extra long classes would be a good idea for 7th graders?

If so you should open a campaign account and run for school board. That's where you belong, and not out here with the humans.

The letter from Seminole says we'll be having an "exciting time'' subjecting the kids to 85 minute classes.

I'm not the only parent of a child who has problems focusing on educational materials for prolonged periods. Some kids actually have to take medication for this. Am I going to have to go get a prescription just so my son can sit through 85 minutes of world history?

Don't harangue me because you think all kids age 12 should be able to sit quietly for an hour and 15 minutes.

Before you start typing, consider that he does sit through church. He sat through countless Cub Scout meetings.

That's right -- you are attacking a church-going CUB SCOUT!!

I don't know what to do. Ritalin hash browns for breakfast?

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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August 13, 2007

Broward parks offer healthier food options

In case you missed it this weekend, here's a story and video about Broward County parks and their move to offer healthier fare. If I had to do it over again, I'd mention that perhaps the healthiest way is to bring a cooler of your own stuff (which is permissable) or at least an apple or your own trail mix.

In response to the story, a person with a string of titles after his name (even if you do have those why use them?) offers his opinion on the county's food.

Agree or disagree?

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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It's summer finals!

OK, one week to go before school starts. Hope you've made a list of everything left to do.

Got your after-care situation lined up?

Bought the new backpack?

What will your child do for lunch?

I think we're in decent shape, which means I'm forgetting something. Tell me what you're worried about or working on this week, so that way I can run it through my mental check list.


POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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August 10, 2007

Mickey gets a raise


Good gosh. Did you see this story about how Walt Disney World has raised its rates for adults to a whopping $70 per day?

That means that for a family of four, just one day at a park will cost you more than $200. Add that to the price of gas it now takes to get from So. Fla to Orlando (two tankfuls in my Honda Pilot is easily $120), and the never cheap hotel rates (last time we stayed at the Swan & Dolphin and got the DISCOUNT Florida resident rate of $150 per night).

Rough grand total for a one day, one night stay puts you in the ballpark of around $500! (And who really only goes for a day; you really need atleast two days to make it worth the time and energy.)

Since I don't care for the Disney experience (I go for the sake of my kids), I can think of many other fun things to do/places to go for $500. (A round-trip ticket to Paris, anyone?)

But Disney fans, what in Mickey's name are you going to do?

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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Make my child's medicine taste like watermelon, please

The new trend in children's medicine is designer flavors that are fit for an ice-cream shop.

That's pretty tasty news if you've ever been the parent of a sick child. About a week ago, my son got the stomach flu and my wife and I got to clean up the vomit stains that came with it.

Our pediatrician recommended a strict liquid diet in the beginning, which meant my son had to drink either grape-flavored Pedialyte or the bubble-gum version (the only choices available the day I shopped at a nearby CVS store). He hates the bubblegum, which meant he had to spend nearly two days drinking grape. Of course, my little boy quickly became tired of the grape taste and it became a battle to get him to drink up. It's hard to explain to a child who is not even 3 yet how important it is to stay hydrated when you're sick.

Anyway, I wished he had more flavors to choose from. That's why I was excited to see recently Walgreens and Target stores advertising pharmacy services that allow parents to add a variety of sweet tastes to children's (and adult's) medicine.

For $2.99 at Walgreens, your child can choose from 11 flavors, including sour apple, raspberry and watermelon. At Target there's no charge and the medicine menu includes 19 flavors, like citrus punch, strawberry cream and chocolate banana pie.

Almost makes me wish I had the stomach flu myself just so I can get the watermelon-flavored medicine, or maybe the strawberry cream. Man, I can't decide.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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August 9, 2007

Another day, another toy recall

For my son’s upcoming 3rd birthday party, I had thought about making it a Thomas & Friends theme. But with yet another recall on the famous blue train toy, Thomas’ popularity has dropped considerably in my household.

The makers of the toy announced a voluntary recall on Wednesday of a Thomas & Friends spinning top because a painted wooden knob on one of the toys contained 40 times the legal limit for lead. This comes after a major recall in June of 1.5 million wooden railroad toys and set parts from the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line. The toy maker, RC2 Corp., said that the surface paint on some of the toys made in China between January 2005 and April 2006 contain lead.

Lead in toys? I thought that health hazard went away about the time bell-bottoms went out of style. It’s scary to think of all the toys in our house and whether they might have the same problem. (Tip: Check out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site for other recalls.)

And as for my son’s birthday party, I’m now thinking animals –- the stuffed kind.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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My 2-year-old daughter is beating the cat

OK. So maybe she's too young to pummel Mac. But Ana Isabel, who's weeks away from 2, likes to take her toy spatula to the kitty's head.
She often goes up to the cat and yells. She'll start petting him and then smack him. She chases him around the house and tells the cat that he's getting a timeout.

Mac is a good cat and often just runs away . But everyone once in a while, he'll swat at her with his paw. (Yes. He has his claws.)

Unfortunately, I'm afraid Ana mimics some her parents' behavior. We yell at the cat when he's scratching the furniture, that's less than a year old, instead of his scratching post.

We had a second cat, Xander, that attacked me twice (once while I was holding Ana) within a year after she was born. I still have scars from the last attack. Xander's gone.

So we're extra careful (and a bit paranoid) when Mac and Ana are interacting.

Much of the time Ana acts appropriately, treats the cat with respect and eveyone seems to get along. But at other times, it's a bit of a war between Ana and Mac.

Any suggestions to keep the peace in the Perez household, cat and all.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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August 8, 2007

'Baby Einstein' study misses the mark

What Einstein said educational videos are bad for babies? Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

I must respectfully disagree with his study, released this week, which says those ubiquitous “Baby Einstein” educational videos have a negative effect on a baby’s language development. Apparently, it made no distinction between parents who plop their kids in front of the tube and walk away and those who actually use videos to engage with their children.

My almost-3-year-old son is an Einstein in his own right. His vocabulary has always surpassed those of his peers. He made a five-word sentence (“I need more yogurt raisins.”) long before his friends could put together two words. He uses pronouns correctly. (“Mommy, carry me.” “I can’t hear you, Mommy.”) He picks up complicated words the first time he hears them. (“Scrumptious.” “California.”) He counts up to 20, granted skipping some numbers occasionally, in both English and Spanish. (“Twelve; doce.” “Thirteen; trece.” “Fourteen; catorce.”) In the Vasquez household, we have a library of “Baby Einstein” videos. We even used one to teach our son some sign language!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months and very limited viewing for older toddlers. But without TV, my son would not have been able to accomplish his latest feat: Telling me a bedtime story.

I thank the educational program “The Wonder Pets,” a trio of heroes made up of a duck (Ming-Ming), guinea pig (Winnie) and turtle (Tuck). The three rescue fellow animals in need. There’s music, foreshadowing and plenty of lessons in vocabulary. When I ask my son to tell me a story, he now recounts me some of his favorite episodes.

Our conversation usually goes something like this:

“The baby cow is stuck in the tree,” Danny says as I get him ready for bed.

“Really? How did the baby cow get stuck in the tree?” I ask.

“It’s windy. A twister is coming!” Danny responds.

“Oh. The twister blew the baby cow in the tree? What happened to the mommy cow?” I ask.

“She’s happy. The Wonder Pets help the baby cow. Winnie, Tuck and Ming-Ming,” he says.

Before I can ask another question, he adds, pointing his finger to his head: “Because they think and think and think.”

That last remark is a reference to another show: “Pinky Dinky Doo,” about a girl who loves to tell stories.

Our son has as many books as the next kid; and we read together every day. But I’m convinced his spike in vocabulary is not a result of books alone – but also TV. And when used as an educational tool, it’s a powerful thing.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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Paper or plastic?

My kids cringe every time we approach the checkout line at Publix, because they are about to hear me make excessive demands on the bagger.plasticbag.jpg

It drives me crazy when they put only one item in a plastic bag and then place it in my cart next to a dozen other plastic bags that will pollute the environment. Usually I request a complicated combination of paper and plastic bags, which I tell the bagger to fill to the brim, and then ask them to give me the gallon of milk with no bag so I have one less bag to throw out or recycle.

To make this interaction easier and help the environment, I bought one of Publix's canvas "green bags." I bring it when I go to Publix or any other market and ask the checkout people to fill it up.

Now I learn that reusable grocery bags are becoming a fashion statement. The tote in the picture here, which says "I'm NOT A Plastic Bag," is by London designer Anya Hindmarch and caused a stampede when it was first released in June in Taiwan. Whole Foods sold out its allotment in New York last month, and I see one is selling on Ebay now for $168.88.

So I am now officially unfashionable with my $1.49 purchase but at least I throw one less bag a week into our garbage dumps. Does our paper/plastic bag system drive you nuts, too?

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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August 7, 2007

Expelled from camp

Whenever I get a call at work from a Plantation phone number, I know that either someone in my church has died or my son Creed has pushed another adult to the brink of homicide.

So far, the two are running about 50-50.

shavingcream.jpgI got a call Friday. That was the last day of summer day camp for Creed, who just turned 12. I paid extra for him to attend an older kids' camp, for kids 12 and 13. They went on field trips every single day. In fact, last week they even drove to Wet N Wild water park in Orlando.

It was a bit early for a call from an annoyed camp counselor. It was not even 11 a.m.

The girl told me that they had sent Creed home at 10:30 a.m. -- even though Creed is officially not allowed to leave camp until 4 p.m., per our instructions to the camp, and even though the camp called our house and got no answer.

Yes, they sent a 12-year-old walking, towards a home that could be locked and empty (It wasn't. But it could have been.)

His offense, according to the camp, was getting shaving cream on the carpet and acting up in general.

Creed's version was a tad different. "Oh my gosh, they thought that I put shaving cream on the carpet? No wonder they kicked me out!'

Creed said he was actually the one who put the shaving cream, supplied by the camp for last-day-of-camp purposes, on his face. Not on the carpet.


We made him work all day instead. He cleaned his room and mowed the lawn.

Sometimes I wonder why these young adults sign up to be camp counselors, if they don't like kids.

One annoying thing about being the mom of a class clown is that it gives you no standing to complain about things like the camp sending your child out onto Broward Boulevard in the morning, alone and going who knows where.

* * *

Unrelated recent quote from Creed: "Once I thought I had made up the word 'mongolia', but then I found out it was a country.''

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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August 6, 2007

The great birthday party quandary

I've always vowed I would stay sane when it came to planning a birthday party for my kids. Nothing elaborate. No clowns, no magicians. No renting of any equipment whatsoever. I always figured that cake, snacks and friends would be more than enough to entertain guests and make my kids happy.

But my resolve is slowly shrinking. My son's 4th birthday is coming up. I'm planning to have some friends over. Fortunately, I'm not in a place yet where I feel obligated to invite his whole camp classroom or all of the neighborhood kids. Just some friends and their kids. But I have to admit, I'm having doubts.

Will the kids be bored? Will people snicker behind my back when they see I only have some lame appetizers and games? While I don't want to spend a fortune for a party, I'm now prepared to make some concessions in my previously militant stance against out-of-control parties. Maybe just a bounce house, or a super-cool slip and slide, I'm thinking.

When I start to get too carried away, I simply check out this site, Birthdays Without Pressure, and get a reality check. It's run by a social science professor hoping to spark a movement. It's a refreshing attitude, but I'm afraid it won't get any traction in South Florida.

So while I might buckle and rent SOMETHING to elevate my sons' party -- not for me -- but to make him happy -- I'm not budging (this year, at least) on another hateful ritual: goodie bags! Message to anyone who's coming over in a couple weeks: prepare your kid and tell them to load up on cake at the party because that mean ol' Nancy didn't get goodie bags.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Youth football coaches and injury assessment

Twenty percent of our transPARENT team has children playing tackle football (see posts below), and overall, about 10,000 kids in South Florida are playing.

So you might want to read about how some coaches are getting better educated on how to assess injuries. The "Suck it up" era is pretty much over.

Also, some coaches explain why they work for free almost every weeknight and a good chunk of the day Saturday.

Note to Brittany and Gretchen: Let us know how you do the family dinner thing when you have practice four nights a week and Game Day Saturdays. We have enough trouble as it is.

Also, football safety information is all over the Internet.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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August 2, 2007

Me. Me. Me.

So guess what my daughter's new favorite words are? Yes. It's me or mine.
Everything seems to be about her or hers nowadays. Ana Isabel's second birthday is a few weeks away. And I'm told it's all part of the terrible two's.

I gotta admit I've always been skeptical about this idea of kids hitting this magic number and then becoming little monsters. I've figured it's the parents who are somehow teaching kids this type of behavior. And I could still be right about that.

But I know my wife and I try to teach her to share. Not to throw things. We ignore her little tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants. And we try to teach her patience. I guess it will take time and going through a period of bad behavior.

So what do you think. Are the terrible two's a self-fulfilled fallacy or is it real?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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August 1, 2007

I need a new doctor -- stat!

I’m ready to go shopping –- for a new pediatrician. Remember the days when you got to know your doctor? Right now, I’d be happy if I could get a moment with mine.

In the past year, my son has been treated by his pediatrician twice, despite at least a half-dozen visits to the office. (And one of those was the first "getting-to-know-you" visit.) At this particular group practice in Plantation, an appointment doesn’t guarantee your child actually sees his doctor. In fact, the first question the receptionist asks when you show up:

“Would you like to see your child’s doctor or the first available?”

Choose the former and you can expect to wait your precious life away (personal record: 90 minutes!) in the germ-infested waiting room. Choose the latter and your wait can be cut to under an hour –- or until your son throws up all over you in front of the nurses.

That’s what happened on Monday, when I had to rush my 2 ½-year-old son to the dreaded office. Nothing like a little projectile vomiting to get you past the crowded waiting area and into an examination room. And even that wasn’t enough to summon my son’s doctor.

Please help. What pediatricians have walked on water for your family? Heck, I’d settle for walking into a room.

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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Middle school starts at 9:30 a.m.!!!!

Has the school system become totally oblivious to the lives of working parents and their kids?middleschool.jpg

My daughter's middle school will start at 9:30 a.m. each day next year, pushed forward from the already-late 9:15 a.m. last year.

While studies have shown that high school students do better with later start times, the Palm Beach County School District refuses to adjust the 7:30 am start for the older kids. Then they play with the middle school kids' times, not for academic reasons but due to bus scheduling issues.

Broward County also has several middle schools that start at 9:30 a.m. or later, including Apollo, Crystal Lake, Glades, Millennium, New Renaissance and Nova.

The schools need to pay attention to the needs of the community. That means a later start for high school kids and a more reasonable start for middle schoolers. I say overhaul the whole start-time system.

What do you think about school hours? To check your school's start time, go to the Palm Beach County or Broward County schools Web site.

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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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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