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November 29, 2007

Preparing Ana Isabel to be a big sister.

So we did it again. Despite all the worries and hang wringing about the state of the world and the state of the Perez family, we're having another child.
My wife is five months pregnant. Don't get me wrong, it's a joyous occassion. But it does add another layer of complexity that I know most of the world's parents go through. That doesn't make it any less daunting for us.

So there's a long list of what to do now to prepare. Some are obvious, like painting a new big girl room for my 2-year-old daughter. (It used to be the guest bedroom.)

One that I'm less certain about is what steps should we be taking to prepare Ana for the arrival of her little sibling. What do you suggest?


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November 28, 2007

We don't live in a gated community...

We don't live in a gated community, but almost everyone we know does. And this has inspired some interesting conversations with my kids.

After all, why should I have to show my driver's license to take them to their friends' houses? Why should I have to tell a security guard where I'm going? And why does the guard take down my license plate as I drive through the gate?

But such is the nature of life in South Florida, and I have to explain it to my kids every time we approach a gate.

I don't think gates make a neighborhood more secure, and I don't like the message it sends to the rest of the world ("Keep out of my neighborhood!") But I don't want to put down my kids' friends' parents, so I have to temper the way I tell my kids this.

Do you live in a gated community? What do you tell your kids about why you do or you don't?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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November 27, 2007

The kid gets a bike this Christmas

By Cindy Kent
Staff Writer

We bought The Kid a bicycle for Christmas.

I'm really excited about it -- because together and with family and friends, we'll be tooling all over the place.

But I am taking this fun activity with my 12-year old son very seriously too.

According to 2006 Florida traffic crash statistics 124 bicyclists were killed statewide and 4,227 bicyclists were injured.

We'll enroll in police-sponsored bicycling safety classes. Helmets are a must. Lights and reflectors are part of the garb. We'll rack the bikes on the car and drive to parks and recreation areas for a safer riding environment.

I know that all the precautions in the world sometimes cannot prevent a tragedy. But setting good examples, sharing as much information as possible and providing the right kind of equipment and safety gear can help to minimize those odds.

On a lighter note - -he's getting the self-powered vehicle before Christmas -- OK, he got it this week. The reason for this is that we'll have time during upcoming school breaks to take some rides as we take time off from work and school to celebrate the holidays.

The best gift of all has already been unwrapped -- time together.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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Candyland trauma

Learning to lose gracefully is an extremely important character skill. And as parents, you might not think about it being your job to teach your child how to lose, but it is.cryinggirl.jpg

Lily loves to win. She's only 5, and until I bought the Candyland game, this hole in my parenting had gone completely unnoticed by me.

But while doing my Christmas shopping this weekend it struck me that my children are board-game deprived.

My three sisters and I spent a lot of time playing board games, with each other and with our parents. It's quality family time. It's also how you learn the strategies of competition, the frustration of playing with cheaters, and other life skills. You also have to focus.

And as I said, if you lose, you cannot heave the board and all its pieces into the air and storm out. Which is not, I hasten to add, what Lily did.

But she did burst into tears, and she did continue sobbing for about 20 minutes. She was crushed. Even as I made her tell us "Congratulations,'' her face was scrunched in agony and tears were rolling.

I had invited Creed, her older brother, to play. And Creed won. And I came in second. Lily lost.

In our first round of playing the night before, every time Lily got ahead of me, she would say something like, "You're a loser.'' I had to instruct her that to be a good sport, you do not rub your opponent's nose in his losses.

But she relished her victory. And so it was that much more painful to her when she lost the candyland.jpg
next night.

She cried and cried. "I wanted to win,'' she said, tears dripping down her cheeks.

I told her it doesn't matter, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, that's how life is. It doesn't mean you're not good at the game, it doesn't mean anything about you. You shouldn't be so hurt by it.

I suppose a good, competitive spirit and a strong desire to win can be good traits. But we can't let our kids think they're always going to win. We don't need more spoiled brats in this country.

Do the world a favor and beat your kid at a board game tonight.


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November 26, 2007

The minivan rite of passage

Well, we went out and did it. Got ourselves a minivan. (I know it's not the greenest choice, but it had to be done. With two carseats in the back seat of our crossover Mitsubishi, it was impossible to fit anything else in the car other than the four of us.)

OK, so it may be a cliche to write about how we've totally succumbed to the suburban parenthood trap that is buying a minivan. Too bad. Now that we've had it for about two weeks, I can write about how very lovely it is to drive and how very excruciatingly frustrating it can be to drive it with two little boys who constantly want to flip every switch.

It's a gently used model. We were looking at two minivans, one was a newer, basic no-frills model with Stow and Go. The other was slightly older but fully loaded. To me, the convenience of keyless entry, power windows and automatic everything, including side doors, was far more alluring than stowing away luggage underneath the seats. I didn't count on the annoyance factor of automatic everything.

My younger son now cries because he wants to hold the keys and push the button. My older son insists on being the one to open and close his door. (Why, oh why did they put a button on the side of the door that he can reach with his foot?) Open. Close. Open. Close.


Oh yeah, and there's the little matter of the DVD player. While I wanted to establish a rule that the kids were not going to watch TV during short trips around town (the main purpose of that thing is that we're driving to North Carolina next month ... 'nuff said), my husband thought it would be harmless to let them watch whenever they wanted. Which basically means, every time we get in the car. While for four years I had managed to avoid playing kid music in my car, I'm now forced to listen to the not-so-sweet sounds of kid TV.

What about you guys? Any ground rules for DVD playing in the van? Will the novelty ever wear off?

POSTED IN: General (185), Nancy Othon (21)

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Our Thanksgiving Day 5K adventure

(Also posted on Trials and Errors.)

Finally sitting down to write after the long weekend. Our family, and fitness, highlight came before 8 a.m. Thursday, as the five of us raced with 1,300 of our closest friends in the Tamarac Turkey Trot 5K.

Our two girls in college, Diane and Michelle, were looking at finishing in about 30 minutes. Aaron, 11, just wanted "to run the first mile with my sisters, and beat Mom." Robyn was the good sport, walking most and trotting a little bit, wearing her Gator visor and headphones.

I usually take off and leave them all, finishing in 23, maybe 24 minutes. But a sore knee and back eradicated any hope of running for time. It was a day to waddle.

So, I ran with everyone in my family. I started walking with Robyn, caught Aaron during the first mile -- the girls had already taken off -- and then caught the girls for the end. Meanwhile, in the back of the pack, Robyn closed in to within a few yards of Aaron, but made the mistake of yelling to him, to get his attention. So he bolted for the finish line. Left her.

We stretched a few minutes afterward, went and looked at our results in our age groups (all of us were bottom 10 in fields of 70 or so), then came home for breakfast, a nap and Thanksgiving dinner, when our visitors just kind of looked at us askance when we told them what we did. College kids? Getting up at 6 a.m. to run on Thanksgiving?

You know, life is short. You don't get many days like this. But at least I can say I had one of them.

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November 21, 2007

Just say no to cheap toys

First, a confession: When my daughters were young, I bought enough plastic toys made in China with enough tiny parts and magnets and maybe even lead paint (for all I knew) to kill a kid for sure.
My children survived.

That's because they never played with most of it.

My girls were not enamored of the Fisher Price dollhouse with all its plastic furniture and plastic people and plastic pets. I was.

They could not care less for Barbie, except when their friends came over, stripped off her clothes and made Wedding Barbie ride horses while Dr. Barbie was tossed in a corner, and Horsewoman Barbie tended the pediatric nursery filled with the little preschool Barbie wannabes. When their friends left, my girls tossed Barbie's accoutrements into the nearest bin and never looked back.
I loved Barbie when I was little, and I could not resist buying all her wonderful things when I had money of my own and girl children to give me an excuse, even though they did not share the passion.

My girls did like the teeny-tiny Polly Pockets with their little magnets, but only for the minute it took before half the set was lost in the couch cushions. They also liked the larger Polly with her odd rubber clothes, but those things lasted about as long as a Happy Meal toy.

My children did not need that any of that stuff. The only toys I remember either of them actually playing with were some hand puppets, a baby doll and a play kitchen. (But not the hundreds of pieces of plastic food that I just had to buy.)

Abby always has preferred a book to any toy. Beth always has loved movies and music. These were much better gifts than any plastic crapola I could ever buy.

Please, parents, learn from my excess. Take your money to the book store, where you can buy safe things that will entertain your children for hours, not the toy aisle, which despite recalls, may still proffer danger. Check out as this story in the Sun-Sentinel.

Buy tickets to live children's theater or a kids' concert instead of another piece of licensed merchandise. Buy some balls and teach your kid how to throw and catch, shoot hoops and complete a pass.

If you must have "toys," invest in some good blocks, some non-toxic paints and some puzzles you can do with your child. Put the money you save by not buying all that cheap, meaningless, useless and possibly dangerous junk into a 529 plan for college.

Trust me. When your children are teens, you will be very, very glad you did.

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November 20, 2007

Is it a diet or healthy habits?

"Mommy, I want to go on a diet."

And now, my worst fears are realized. Erika is all of 9. She's active and a normal, slender girl. She does not need to go on a diet.

Where is this coming from? From some mean tween on the playground? From TV, which at times feels like the font of all her knowledge?

We are not a dieting kind of house (although some of the older members of the family probably should be dieting.) I've never restricted my kids' food much because they've never abused the privilege. We have junk food around the house, but they don't gorge on it. They like apples and baby carrots and pretzels. They might eat a piece of candy now and then, but they tend to forget they even have a Halloween stash. I figure if I don't make an issue of food, they won't either.

And so far, it's worked. Erika eats pancakes and waffles with little or no syrup. She takes the cheese off her pizza. She likes broccoli. Not because I've harped. She just tends toward healthy habits.

So, a diet? I ask her why, tell her she's healthy, explain that she already eats a pretty good diet. Why, Erika, why?

"No, I want to go on a healthy diet. No junk food. I'll just eat fruits and vegetables and protein. And one piece of garlic bread."

Oh. How can I argue with this?

"And I'll just have one brownie a day. Two. Maybe three."

Sounds like my kind of diet.

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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November 19, 2007

What time do you eat Thanksgiving dinner?

I'm a Midwesterner, which means I like to eat at noon, or 1 at the latest. My logic: That way you eat twice.

My wife and her sister seem to gravitate toward, oh, midnight. Well, actually 4 p.m., maybe 5 p.m.

We've been married 14 years, and I've lost the 1 p.m. eating argument every single year.

Simple question today: What time is Thanksgiving dinner at your house? Maybe if you all say 1 p.m.....

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November 16, 2007

Cold weather, heated battles over winter clothes

I love the cold weather. My three-year-old son loves it too. But every year, around this time, we have a confrontation over clothes.

This morning it went something like this:

Slip on long-sleeved shirt: “What’s that? I don’t like it Mommy,” he says with a look of desperation. “Take it off!” I ask him to think of it like a pajama shirt for school.

He looks at me funny.

Slip on pants: His reaction is delayed somewhat because I was clever enough to call the dog into the room to distract him. Thirty seconds later: “It’s too long,” he says tugging at the pants. “I can’t walk.” "Let me put on your shoes," I tell him. "You’ll see you’ll be able to walk just fine."

He looks at me funny.

I hold off on the hooded jacket until I step outside to check if it’s really, absolutely, 100 percent necessary. Snap. It is.

“OK, Danny, we need to put on your jacket,” I tell him. Before he can turn to give me a look, I’ve already got one arm in the jacket and working on the second. I zip him up. He doesn’t move. It’s as if I’ve wrapped him in a straight jacket.

He eventually takes a step toward the car. And then another. Finally, we’re on our way to school. Once there, though, we enter a practically empty classroom.

“Where are all my friends?” my son asks.

“They’re probably all wrestling with their parents to put on their winter clothes,” his teacher explains.

I find comfort in knowing I’m not alone.

Then my son chimes in: “Mommy, take off my jacket.”

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), School Issues (135)

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November 14, 2007

I need a good bakery!

For better or worse, my kids love bread as much as I do.bread.jpg

We like the crusty Italian or French breads that are hard on the outside and soft and luscious on the inside. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer places to buy these delicacies.

One of my favorite bakeries, Flakowitz in West Boca, closed recently for unknown reasons. It made me realize there are almost no traditional, stand-alone bakeries near where we live.

Has Publix put all the bakeries out of business? Are rents too high to support little bake shops?

In Boca Raton, Kings Market had excellent bread, but they are temporarily out of business. The Boys Market in Delray Beach also has good crusty bread, but I find shopping in the narrow, crowded aisles there too unpleasant.

Do you know a good bakery? Give me a name and I promise to become their best customer!

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November 13, 2007

Governor's Council on Physical Fitness Comes to Town

(also posted on Trials and Errors)

If you're curious about fitness in general and physical fitness in schools in particular, you might want to attend meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Fort Lauderdale of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness.

Gov. Crist created the organization earlier this year. The meeting details:

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Keiser University Broward Branch, 1500 NW 49th St., Fifth Floor Auditorium, Fort Lauderdale.

Public comments will be heard between 2:45 and 3:05 p.m. Wednesday and 11:30 a.m. and noon Thursday. You need to show up a half-hour early if you plan to speak.
Call 850-488-5394.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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Anatomically correct boy doll? (Gulp!)

Lily is a corporate advertising director's dream girl. She's only 5, but every single thing she sees on a television commercial, she wants.

That includes a $350 stuffed horse that you can 'ride.' I try to provide some guidance by saying "that's a stupid toy. You would never play with it.'

So now when a commercial comes on, she asks me, "Is that toy stupid?''babyboy.jpg

Well, she saw the toy that she truly must have, the other day. It's one that goes straight to the top of her list to Santa.

It's a baby boy doll, one of the Baby Alive versions that drinks and pees. We already have a peeing and pooping Baby Alive doll, but this one is a baby boy. And she realllllly wants it.

Trouble is, at the end of the commercial, in white letters that are not very noticeable, the following words flashed on the screen:


Really? I don't know if Lily is ready for an anatomy lesson yet. I mean, in this day and age, the thing could be computerized or something. I mean, how "correct" is it?

I tooled around online to try to find out, but Hasbro does not reveal what the baby boy looks like naked. In fact, on the Hasbro website, they only mention that little Wets N Wiggles does need diaper changing, and then there's this cryptic line:
"But when you change the doll’s diaper, watch out – babies can be full of surprises!''

Yes, I'll bet they can!

The website also mentions that this doll runs on 4 AA batteries. Um, for what????

What do you think, Santa?

POSTED IN: Shopping (28)

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November 12, 2007

New aquatics complex in west Miramar

If you live in southwest Broward, you may want to visit the new aquatic complex in west Miramar.

It has a pool, diving boards, and a water play area similar to Castaway Island in Hollywood.

I know the water temperature dissuades some of us adults from getting into the water playground, but I've never seen the younger kids shy away from it being too cold.

Also this weekend: take your dog to C.B. Smith Park for the annual end-of-the-year canine trip to the water playground.

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November 9, 2007

SpongeBob SquarePants, leave my son alone

My son is barely 3, but somehow I thought it would be OK to let him watch cartoons for slightly older kids, namely SpongeBob.

He was mesmerized. SpongeBob is funny, clever and a whole lot more violent and adult than Elmo, Go Diego Go!, the Backyardigans and the other cartoons my son typically likes to watch.

The first couple of times he saw a SpongeBob show, he sat still and didn't make a peep. His eyes got pretty big though. For a while there, I thought one might actually pop out.

But then he started acting out scenes. He wanted to bop things. Punch'em. Punch me.

And he began to look forward to seeing Mr. SquarePants. "Watch SpongeBob," he'd say as soon as we got back from pre-school. I knew it was wrong; that's why I didn't tell my wife.

And, of course, she found out. I mean, my son's behavior changed that much.

So, no more SpongeBob. He still asks, but I don't think we're going to go there until he's 10, or 20.

(And if you want further evidence that these shows aren't for young kids, see my wife's recent post about a study released this week that ties these kinds of shows with future attention problems.)


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School lockdown more exciting than scary

By Cindy Kent
Sun-Sentinel Writer

It was the second time this school year that my son's school was in "lockdown." No one comes in. No one leaves. The students don't change classes.

Tom was recounting the day's drama this week, when inmate Michael Mazza shot and killed Broward Deputy Paul Rein.

The students got one bathroom break in the 5-hour episode. Students were not allowed to walk across the classroom, avoiding passing doorways and windows. A free lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches was delivered to every room and student.

I detected excitement in Tom's voice. I asked him if he had felt safe. He said yes and that it was fun, though he was disappointed to miss some of his classes.

Don't make phone calls, the teacher said. Don't answer any phones. The concern, they said, was that certain sounds and clicks may spark a bomb -- and since the group was not initially informed of why there was a lockdown, all precautions were taken.

Meanwhile, I knew what was going on and was confident Tom was safe and well cared for.

At the end of the day, when the family was together and we were talking about it, Tom said he had wished he'd know the purpose of the lockdown. I agreed. I think it's better to know.

But like any good student, Tom is equipped with the "essentials" in his bookbag. "I have a stress ball in my backpack," he said, "and we all took turns playing with it."

Cindy Kent is Fort Lauderdale mother of three.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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November 8, 2007

Cartoon violence isn't a laughing matter

Another day, another new study on TV and toddlers.

The latest released this week found that children under 3 who watched shows that involved violence –- even the seemingly harmless “bonk” on the head in Tom and Jerry –- were more likely to develop attention problems five years later.

The researchers at the University of Washington found that educational shows, such as Sesame Street, had no correlation with future attention problems.

Doesn’t seem all that surprising. But it’s nice that researchers are finally acknowledging the difference between TV shows, as opposed to simply saying all TV is bad.

What shows are off limits in your household?

POSTED IN: Health (111)

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November 7, 2007

No more BATs!

My daughter brought home a letter from her school yesterday informing me that since she received a 4 or a 5 on last year's FCAT in reading and math, she will not have to sit for any additional rounds of the district-required Benchmark Assessment Tests.
The reason, according to our new school superintendent James Notter: It's a first step in reducing the FCAT frenzy.
The paper did include a form I could fill out to require my child to take these additional tests. I promised her that I would do that if she doesn't behave herself.
Thanks, Dr. Notter. That works much better than grounding!

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Soulja Boy off in this house

Are your kids doing the Soulja Boy dance?souljaboy.jpg

The hip hop rap has a great danceable beat, and my three kids, ages 9 to 13, are all doing the dance, which has instructions on YouTube.

My 13-year-old asked me if I knew what the lyrics meant, and of course, I had no idea. She told me to go to

I did and I got quite an education. It starts off "Soulja boy off in this hoe," and gets much, much worse from there. It's all about sex, masturbation and mistreatment of women.

So now, what to do? My nine- and 11-year-olds have no idea what the song is really about and probably don't care. But I do.

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November 6, 2007

The FCAT 'frenzy' is really dying

I was skeptical when I read Akilah Johnson's story (which I will paste into the bottom of this post) reporting that the Broward County School Board wants to de-emphasize FCATs. brain.jpg

Johnson wrote: The board's two student advisors said the all-FCAT, all-the-time mentality
is both distracting and draining. From the first day of school until the tests
are over in March, schools focus on teaching students ways to pass the test.

Well it took the school board a lot longer to get fed up with FCAT mania than it took the parents, but still, I give them credit for noticing that our kids aren't getting a well-rounded, traditional education anymore.

Still, I was doubtful there would be any noticeable change.

And then, while doing my daily search of Creed's backpack, I found this letter.

And now I think I believe it. They're serious about cutting out the FCAT mania.

"As a first step in the School Board's commitment to decrease the FACT frenzy,'' my letter from Superintendent of Schools James Notter read, "the Benchmark Assessment Test (BAT), our district developed assessment, will not be administered to all students this year.''

Kids like Creed who scored at level 4 or 5 on the FCAT in reading or math will not be required to take the assessment test in that subject area this year.

Parents who still want their kids to take it are given until Nov. 14 to notify the school.

But naturally, Creed, my 7th grader, does not want to take the test, if he doesn't have to..fcat.jpg

Now, I like to see his scores on major assessment tests, but I'm pretty impressed that the board isn't just giving lipservice to the concept of cutting down on this testing craze.

"As a second step,'' the letter said, "an FCAT Prep Task Force has been convened and will work over the next four months to address the extent of test preparation in our schools and classrooms, and how to move from test preparation to improved teaching and learning.''

I have only one thing to add to that:


If you want to see Akilah Johnson's article about the school board's concerns, keep reading:

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Headline: Policy shift aims to ease FCAT mania

School Board: Test preparation too consuming
Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Section: News
Edition: Broward Metro
Page: 1A
Illustration: Photo(s)
Caption: Schools Superintendent James Notter must find new ways students can prepare
for the FCAT.

Broward County public school officials say they are tired of letting the
FCAT consume daily classroom lessons and have started the task of preparing
students for the test without compromising day-to-day learning.

"There is no easy answer," Superintendent James Notter said.

The School Board, however, told him to find one.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is more than a way to assess
student achievement. Student graduation, teacher bonuses, funding and school
image are tied to the test, which is given to third- through 11th-graders and
measures progress in reading, math, writing and science.

District officials said Tuesday that they are tired of hearing about
students in physics classes getting lessons on punctuation or advance
placement classes doing 15 minutes of silent reading in preparation for the
exams because the school's FCAT scores aren't high enough.

That's why board members on Tuesday told Notter to create a committee of
teachers, administrators, parents and students to figure out how to prepare
students for the state's high stakes test without hurting other classroom
lessons. Notter also was instructed to reduce FCAT hoopla, meaning the pep
rallies, banners and T-shirts, and cut back on test preparation for middle and
high school students who already perform well on the exams.

"This is something that I think our teachers are crying out for, that our
students are crying out for and I know our parents are crying out for," School
Board member Jennifer Gottlieb said.

The board's two student advisors said the all-FCAT, all-the-time mentality
is both distracting and draining. From the first day of school until the tests
are over in March, schools focus on teaching students ways to pass the test.

Alex Lange, a senior at William T. McFatter Center in Davie, said he
studied reading in history class, which only made it to the Great Depression
by the end of the school year. And last year, since he had to take the science
FCAT exam, "every day in physics it was just drilling and drilling and
drilling," he said.

Dominic Spence, also a student advisor and senior at Everglades High School
in Miramar, said "All the time spent pent teaching the FCAT can be better
spent teaching the subject matter."

School Board member Stephanie Kraft, who initiated the effort to
de-emphasize the test, said its time to stop letting the FCAT consume

"We say don't teach to the test, but we know in schools that's what we're
doing," she said.

Kraft said the School Board is partly to blame because the pressure to pass
starts with at the state and then pours to districts and then to schools. She
suggested the district use old-fashioned end-of-year exams to replace the
FCAT. That way teachers couldn't skip lessons because the test would cover a
year's worth of material.The Florida Department of Education doesn't tell
school districts how to teach, only that they must meet state academic

"This gives them the flexibility to develop a curriculum that is the most
well-rounded and meaningful for their students," said Thomas Butler, a
department spokesman.

But students Lange and Spence both said test-taking tips take precedence
over subject material.

"It's driving the students out of their desire of learning," Deputy
Superintendent Earlean Smiley said. "And they really blame us."

Besides, students, board members and educators all said, the tips don't
seem to apply to college-entrance exams, especially when it comes to writing.
"Our writing curriculum collects dust," Smiley said.

The School Board doesn't want to totally rid classrooms of test-taking
tips, but said schools must prepare students for the FCAT without letting it
consume day-to-day lessons.

"My daughter is in third grade now, and I'm totally for exposing her to the
items at some point before the test," School Board member Robin Bartleman

"There's got to be a balance that's all."

Akilah Johnson can be reached at or

All content herein is Copyright © 2007 The Sun-Sentinel and may not be republished without permission.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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Back in the good old days before the kids could talk

I think it's good to have children for the simple reason they keep you humble.

Sure, for a few glorious years, they build you up as if you were queen of the universe. They cry when you leave them. They throw their arms around you when you return. It's just great.zit.jpg

And then, they start to see the real you.

"Mommy," says Erika in the checkout line at Target, "you have a big pimple."

Yes, Erika. Thank you, darling. I am well, well, past adolescence, and yet, there it is. Big as life.

"How long are you going to be gone?" asks Alec, when I remind him my sisters and I are taking Grandma to New York for the weekend to see the Rockettes. "Can't you be gone for, like, a month? It's better when it's just Daddy at home."

Thanks, son. I'll miss you, too.

And then there's this startling realization. I am a man -- according to my Florida's driver's license. The kids discovered this when they were analyzing why I don't have any wrinkles in my postage-stamped size photo.

For years, apparently, I have been "M" instead of "F." I always wondered why cashiers gave me funny looks -- I thought it was the haircut. So now it's time to renew my license, and I am trying to explain to the DMV that I have not had a sex change operation.

Ignorance was bliss.

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November 5, 2007

Halloween over? Finally, I can use Santa threats

Normally, I would say I deplore the fact that the signs of the holidays seem to appear earlier every year. The day after Thanksgiving, now that's a good time for stores to start decorating their walls and windows with wreaths, holly and the like. After all, it's a special time, not to be cheapened or stretched out, right?

But this year I've decided that there's one good benefit to the premature holiday madness. The more my son sees images of Santa Claus, the more he thinks he must behave in order to get a couple of those toys he's been eyeing in the catalogs that started appearing in our mailbox a couple weeks ago.

Oh yeah, I did it. The "Santa's-watching-you" threat ... I'm not above it. Because I have to use every weapon at my arsenal to control the occasional tantrum and the almost constant jostling with his little brother over toys. Time-outs just aren't doing it. A warning about naughty boys not getting presents on Christmas day? Now that's effective.

And yeah, I get that it's not the right permanent solution. I get that it's not the wisest disciplinary tool. But I'm doing it anyway.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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Which sports parent has it the hardest?

If you've been flipping through the TV channels the past few days, you might have seen me talk with Comcast Newsmakers' Spero Canton about overall sports parent demeanor, or background checks of sports volunteers (I'll post about that part some other day).

I talked about how parents at games sometimes go crazy, partially because they confused education (youth sports) with entertainment (pro and college sports). They figure "Hey, I paid my money (registration fees), I should be able to yell whatever I want." Which obviously doesn't help their child or anyone else.

Meanwhile, my son had a swim meet this weekend. We got up at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday for a 7 a.m. warmup, in the dark. For parents, the day was from 7 a.m. to noon or so.

And I have it lucky. For a child to truly be successful at swimming, he or she goes twice a day (at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.), which is why they make bumper stickers that say "Swim Taxi" for minivans.

So I got to thinking... which youth sports parent has it the worst? I think hockey is clearly No. 1, with the expense, odd hours for rink time and few rinks around. Maybe tackle football, with practices every night interrupting every dinner, is next. After that....?

I know it's worth it, and you're doing what's best for you child. That's not what this post is about. Just go ahead, let out your whines here. Fire away.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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November 1, 2007

No more blonde jokes in my house

Do your kids tell "blonde" jokes?

I put my foot down yesterday when my 11-year-old tried to give a "Blonde Test" to a blonde eight-year-old in our carpool.

These tests attempt to embarrass the test-taker by showing they are unable to figure out some kind of riddle. My kids have also told blonde jokes, which have the same theme about blondes' alleged lack of intelligence.

Are these jokes considered acceptable now? To me they are just as bad as telling racial or religious or homosexual jokes.

I explained to my daughter how such jokes are inappropriate and she totally did not get it. But I hope she will at least stop telling them.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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Quick thinking, patience pays off on Halloween

In the end, he was a baseball player.

Halloween in the Vasquez household played out pretty much as expected. When it came time to get dressed to go trick-or-treating, my son would have none of it.

Big tears. Lots of screaming (“Take it off!”) when I tried to slip on the “scurvy” pirate costume he had been talking about for weeks. I managed to get the pants on. But that was it. The shirt might as well have been laced with shards of glass. The painful screams persisted long after the shirt was removed and shoved into a distant corner. Our back-up fireman costume didn’t even make it out of the closet.

The crying eventually subsided, and, amazingly, my son still wanted to go trick-or-treating. So my husband and I improvised and searched the house for some semblance of a costume:

Mickey Mouse Club member. Costume: Mickey Mouse shirt and Mickey ears. My son’s response: “I don’t want the ears. I don’t like it!”

Harry Potter. Costume: Pair of round glasses. My son’s response: “I don’t want glasses!”

Then came one last idea: Baseball player. Costume: Aforementioned pirate pants, San Francisco Giants jersey and plastic bat. My son’s initial response: “No shirt! No shirt!”

At that point, I realized he just wanted to say no to everything –- not exactly unusual for a three-year-old. So I told him if he wanted to go outside to see his friends and go trick-or-treating, he needed to wear a jacket (a.k.a. baseball jersey) because it was cold. (OK, technically, it was just breezy.)

He agreed. He smiled. And the rest is one for the baby book.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), Toddler (127)

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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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