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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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April 30, 2008

Grown-up birthdays: the thrill is gone

OMG!!! TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!!!:)birthdaycake.jpg

That's how I would write it if I were still a teen. But as an adult, I have to write it like this: Today is my birthday.

Because even though I still get that tremendous thrill of anticipation as the day approaches, I always end up unsatisfied.

The day never lives up to the expectation created in me as a kid and maintained into adulthood. I go to work. I drive the kids around town after school. I am not the center of attention, as my kids are when it's their big day.

Some adults make sure everyone knows it's their birthday, but to me, that always seems like a pathetic cry for attention. I live at the other extreme, where I tell few people and end up disappointed.

Do your birthdays live up to your expectations?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 29, 2008

So Miley Cyrus is showing us her ribcage. So what?

I did the unthinkable for the purposes of this blog. I showed my kindergartener the Vanity Fair photo of Miley Cyrus wrapped in a sheet.

"Where is she?'' Lily asked while looking at my computer screen, the only image visible being the photo of Miley Cyrus.cyress.jpg

"She's right there. That's Miley Cypress,'' I said.

"It's Cyrus, not Cypress,'' the 6-year-old corrected. I asked her how she knows Miley and she said, "It's Hannah Malltana.''

Hellooo little Miss Correcter!! Her name is Hannah MONTANA!!!

I let her get away with the "Malltana'' error. That was too far from the point.

"What do you think of this picture?'' I quizzed.

"Umm, what do you think of it?'' she asked.

Ahh, I see. She doesn't care and wants to know if she should. Well, I for one was not traumatized by looking at Miley's ribcage from the back. Put some heels on her and this is the kind of dress these Hollyweird people wear to galas.

Granted I didn't think Annie Leibovitz capture the essence of the young lady we know from TV, but she probably did capture a glimpse of the beautiful woman Miley is becoming.

Big deal. I was much more grossed out by the video that Vanity Fair released of the photo shoot, where she snuggled up to her (pretty handsome) dad like they were a couple. (See the video here, on our Watch This Now blog.)

I am also much more disgusted by the fact that teen Jamie Lynn Spears is preggers, and Lily might find out since she's a fan of Zoe 101.

I don't give much of a crap about celebrities' personal lives; I think they're entitled to privacy. I give even less of a crap about a celebrity teen's artistic photo. Miley should use one of those backbones that are showing and tell everyone to shut up.

If by chance you've missed this manufactured controversy and want to taint your brain with senseless mush, click here.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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April 28, 2008

Kid fest may be fun for some, but not for us

I took the boys on Saturday to the 6th Annual Our Kids World at the South Florida Fairgrounds Americraft Expo Center, billed as "the perfect place for the entire family!" With that kind of a marketing line, I have high expectations.

When I think perfect, I think of a nice, inexpensive, pleasant afternoon with the kids with no stress. Of course, I'm not sure that's such an easy feat.

We left the house in the early afternoon and headed up to the fairgrounds near West Palm Beach. The boys were excited at the prospect of seeing Diego, Dora and SpongeBob. The parking lot was jam-packed, and the line was not too long to get in. Bonus point goes to the lady at the ticket counter who gave me a free pass for one of my kids (I already had one coupon, so I just paid the $5 for myself).

Once inside the Expo Center, it was loud. Really loud hip-hop music that my little ones did not appreciate. Granted, the event was geared toward anyone under 12, but I'd be willing to bet my kids were not the only ones bothered by the blaring, repetitive, hip-hop music.

The line to get a picture taken with Dora and Diego was miles long. OK, not a mile long, but it definitely snaked around and around and I can say without hesitation that it would have taken at least 45 minutes to get to the front and have an up-close moment with Diego. Needless to say we didn't, although the kids were at least a little excited to get to see Diego and Dora. Why not separate those crazy cousins, put Dora in one line, where mostly girls will want to go, and put Diego in another line, and perhaps minimize the wait?

There were dozens of inflatables -- slides, obstacle courses, bounce houses, etc. It just cost $10 per child for them to play on the inflatables as much as they wanted. I thought that was a bit much, and I know those companies made a bundle, judging from the lines of barefooted kids waiting to jump.

Don't forget the pony rides, which also cost money, and the opportunity to look at the "world's smallest horse" for $1. Whatever it was, it was behind a curtain. I didn't pay.

So, for me, it was a bust. I should have known better. These kinds of things are basically one huge advertisement for other companies that have booths set up, ready for you to sign up for a chance to win this or that. I'm sure hundreds of kids had a great time. Maybe mine are too young. Next weekend we'll just hit a free playground.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Nancy Othon (21)

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April 25, 2008

Training child to use the bathroom

I'm starting to get Baby to tell us when she has to use the bathroom, but am finding that I'm the one who needs training.

I get restless sitting on the bathroom floor while waiting for her to go.


Plus, I don't think at 14 months that she's grasping the concept. Right now we rush her to the bathroom at the times when we know she's due for a delivery.

What has worked for you?

Is it potty-training videos? Patience? Books?


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April 24, 2008

Teens need their privacy

I was helping my 14-year-old daughter to get her sheets on her bed in the few minutes before a friend came over to visit.

I picked up a piece of paper that was stuck between mattress and headboard, that looked like it could be trash, but to be sure, I glanced at its contents.


This set off a firestorm of protest. Paper snatched from my hand, quickly wadded and thrown away. Defiant glare.

Truthfully, I didn’t have time to process the contents, and caught only one name, which I am now sworn by the bonds of motherhood never to reveal, for fear of losing all connection to my child forevermore.

This note was a note to herself, she later explained, in which she essentially was reinventing herself and saying what she might be like if she could be someone else and who she might pretend to have as a boyfriend. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s her story and she’s sticking to it.

I did not mean to invade my daughter’s privacy. But this incident did remind me how powerfully teens react to the mere perception of a privacy invasion, even when there is nothing at all to hide. What’s interesting to me, though, is that Beth will tell me who she’s on IM with. She’ll even tell me about the contents of her conversations sometimes.

What’s the dif? “Well, that’s a safety issue, Mom,” she says. “I know you’re just trying to keep me safe.”

Well, amen to that.

POSTED IN: Teen (158), Vicki McCash Brennan (13)

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What's a child to do while mommy is in the hospital having another child?

Everything in our lives right now revolves around the pending birth of Lucas Emilio. He's scheduled to arrive via C-section next week.


My wife, Carrie Ann, is at that point where she can't get comfortable in any position. I worry about having all the last minute errands done.

My daughter, Ana Isabel, well she seems to be the least worried. Of course, she'll be three in August. So her focus is playing with mommy or papi or a best friend she makes that day. Still, Ana knows she's going to become a big sister next week.

My biggest worry is how will Ana handle her mommy being in the hospital for a few days. My mother-in-law is flying in to help. And I'll be off of work. So hopefully, we'll keep her busy. But still, the hospital can be a traumatic place for adults. And it's the first time Ana and momma won't be sleeping under the same roof overnight.

So what do you suggest for keeping a nearly three-year-old child from being traumatized by a hospital experience?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Luis Perez (32), Pregnancy (31), Toddler (127)

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Do you let your kids go out alone?

A New York mom who let her nine-year-old ride the subway alone (without a cellphone!) has unleashed criticism throughout the blogosphere for her supposed disregard for her son's safety.subway.jpg

In response, Lenore Skenazy, the allegedly uncaring mom and a columnist for the New York Sun, has started her own blog to encourage Free Range Kids, with the slogan: "Let's give our kids the freedom we had!"

Skenazy's son had been begging for more freedom to go places without her. She left him at Bloomingdale's and gave him a subway map, $20, a subway card and some quarters to call her in case of emergency. He made it home fine, but Skenazy has been deluged with scorn.

I grew up in a suburb similar to where I live now, and I used to walk everywhere, unaccompanied. As a teen, I took the train to New York City regularly - by myself. It's hard to imagine parents letting their kids do these activities today.

How much freedom do you give your kids to go to places without an entourage?

POSTED IN: Activities (143), General (185), Lois Solomon (211)

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April 23, 2008

Keep mall murders in the news

I'm not sure I agree with Randi Gorenberg's family suing Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, but I'm glad her murder is staying in the news.gorenberg.jpg

Her husband's lawyers held a news conference today to announce the lawsuit. She was killed in March 2007 after she left the mall. Her body was dumped in a park west of Delray Beach.

A few months later, a mother and daughter were murdered and their bodies found at the mall after they had left it a few hours earlier. It seems like no one talks about these incidents anymore.

Does everyone realize there is a murderer or murderers on the loose? The only change is there seem to be more security and police cars roaming the mall parking lot. But I'm afraid something bad is going to happen again before the criminals are caught.

Have you changed your mall shopping behavior since these incidents happened?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Shopping (28)

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April 22, 2008

What did he say? That's so cute

Our 2-year-old Alexander is adding new words each day, and refining his pronunciation of existing words at the same time. So now he says “big” instead of “aBIgh!” and “pizza” instead of “aPEETza.” Similarly, this weekend he started to pronounce the “w” in his younger brother’s name, Rowan. Before, it was “Roro,” or “Rahrah.” So when he said Rowan, or rather “Rowyn,” I should have been nothing but delighted.


And I was proud of him. But something occurred to me: I loved hearing him say “Roro” or “Rahrah.” Our family isn’t into nicknames and we didn’t anticipate Rowan being shortened. Then Alexander coined this catchy name, and I figured it might stick around for a while. Turns out we had it for only a few weeks.

We were with some friends yesterday, and they had a similar story about one of their boys. He would say “froy” for “toy” until his uncle taught him the correct pronunciation. His mother said she loved the way he said toy, and missed hearing it. She knew its disappearance was a good thing, but wished it could have stayed just a bit longer.

So what’s your favorite (mis)pronounced word from your kid?


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Cursing jar in high school? What the @#$#@?!

When you were in school, if you launched a mouthful of profanity in one of your classes, and your teacher overheard, could you have just paid the teacher 25 cents and been done with it?

If you said, "no, I would have received a painful paddling with a piece of wood'' then you are not a recent student at Cypress Bay High School in Weston. profanity.jpg

Two of the teachers there apparently have "curse cans,'' where quarters are collected from students who use profanity in class.

I am judging a high school journalism contest and that's how I found out about this. Student journalist Emily Miller wrote about it for that school's newspaper, The Circuit.

One student was quoted saying "I have probably paid over $15.''


That's 90 curse words that flew out of her mouth!

By the way, this is the same school and paper that are the subject of their very own MTV reality show.

This swear jar seems unfair. Why should rich kids be able to curse more than poor kids?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), School Issues (135)

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April 21, 2008

My stepdaughter goes to the movies

The name of the movie was “Under the Same Moon.”

Never heard of it.

Pax told her mother about it on Sunday, and later was eager to tell me about it. Seems much of the movie is in Spanish, with English subtitles. It’s a border story, about a boy seeking to reunite with his mother.

I had to admit, I was impressed.

Pax is my 12-year-old stepdaughter. She was out at the movies Saturday with her friend. Everything they originally wanted to see, such as “Superhero Movie,” was sold out. So they chose this film about one of the most controversial subjects around – illegal immigration. And she liked it. She wants us to rent it so we can see it as a family when it comes out on DVD.

This is not what I expected at all. I tend to think the movies I like are dull to my two stepdaughters, the other of whom is 15. This is especially true of those movies that aren’t really made with the younger audiences in mind. We’re in that period now where Disney-esque youth fare is still acceptable to the girls. I would think Pax is as likely to buy a ticket for “Under the Same Moon” as she is to bring a worn copy of “War and Peace” to the beach.

But she did, opening the door to an intelligent conversation about the struggles, morality and other themes inherent in the illegal immigration debate.

When I was about her age, I stunned my friends by going to the movies, by myself, to catch a showing of “On Golden Pond.” You have to picture me in that theater – a pre-teen Latino catching a movie about Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn aging. Not a lot of people in that audience who looked like me.

And probably not a lot of pre-teen girls at a Saturday evening showing of “Under the Same Moon.”

I don't want to push it, but I wonder if she and I can bond over other movies. Maybe we can trade. I'll sit through "High School Musical" again, if she'll sit through "12 Angry Men."

Okay, maybe I'm pushing it. But I don’t know why it surprises me when Pax and I have something in common. Still, it does. And I’m really proud of her.

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57), Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59)

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Toddler toothbrushing tantrums

Why, oh why, must the toothbrushing ritual be such a pain?

Elias, who is almost 3, recoils in horror twice a day during toothbrushing time. He flails, he cries, he grabs my hand, he twists, his head moves away from me with a strength that I didn't know he had.

I have tried everything. Giving him the toothbrush first so that he can do it himself. Singing silly songs as I brush his teeth. Explaining to him rationally (as if he can understand) that he is going to have big boo-boos in his teeth if he doesn't let me brush. Cheerfully telling him we've got to get the "sugar bugs." Getting his older brother to show him how it's painless to brush teeth. Buying him one of those Spin toothbrushes with Thomas the Train on it.

But everyday, it's an ordeal. He works himself up to the point sometimes where he's crying uncontrollably and I want to give up. But every time I want to throw up my hands, I think of the dentist experience that Evan had. Suffice it to say he had more than one cavity. More than two, even. It was a horrific experience, one that Evan ever-so-helpfully tells Elias about.

I'm wondering how other parents deal with their toddler who are violently unwilling to have their teeth brushed, and I'm also wondering what age your kids were when they first went to the dentist, and what you did to make them comfortable. Confession: Elias hasn't gone yet. Gulp.

POSTED IN: Nancy Othon (21), Toddler (127)

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April 18, 2008

Mommy wants a nose job: New children's book tries to explain plastic surgery

Just in time for Mother’s Day, a Bal Harbour plastic surgeon is releasing a new children’s book: “My Beautiful Mommy.”

The illustrated book helps walk little kids through understanding why Mommy wants that tummy tuck, breast augmentation or nose job.

“But you’re already the prettiest Mommy in the whole wide world!” reads an excerpt from the book by Dr. Michael Salzhauer posted on Newsweek's Web site.

No matter. Mommy doesn’t feel that way.

I’m doing my best not to pass judgment. (I’ll leave that to all of you transPARENT readers and those of the parenting bloggers at our sister newspaper, Orlando Sentinel.) Not my job.

Let me just say I’m happy I have a son. I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a young girl to deal with a Mom who is struggling with body image issues.

Believe me, I have my share of those. But my son is more interested in cars and robots than whether Mommy is upset that she still can’t get into her pre-pregnancy jeans. I have often thought about how mindful I would have to be about making seemingly innocuous comments (“Do I look fat in this outfit? I look pregnant!”) if I had a daughter.

For all you mothers of daughters out there: How have you handled the issue of body image? Any inadvertent missteps?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), Family Issues (231), Health (111)

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What parents think about teen ambush in Lakeland

Last week I asked whether parents were to blame in the beating of a teenage girl at the hands of six teens.

There was a healthy discussion about individual responsibility, parents' roles in raising children, the amount of violence in society and media.

I want to thank everyone who spoke out about what went wrong in the case, and who may be to blame.

Now I think we should commit ourselves to improving the lives of one un-related child.

I intend to help nurture a friend's teenage son. He's well-behaved and a good student, but as we saw in the Lakeland case, being "good" isn't always enough.

I challenge you to share your time and sensibilities with a child -- be it formally (through groups like the Boys & Girls Clubs) or informally (taking a neighbor's child under your wing).


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April 16, 2008

Where should 416 children of polygamy go?

I will never understand polygamy, but I can't help but sympathize with the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints mothers whose children were taken away from them last week in Texas.

The state believes there was a "systematic process at the ranch of sexually exploiting and abusing children," so obviously there was good reason for the government to go in and figure out what was going on.

Still, to throw 416 children into our society when they have been isolated on a polygamous ranch their whole lives has got to be a devastating culture shock. And to be separated from their mothers, however complicit they were in the abuse, has to compound the trauma.

Kids are resilient and I'm sure these kids will recover. But there must have been a more gentle way to handle this, although I'm not sure what it is.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211)

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April 15, 2008

A truck by any other name


Could we agree on some common terminology for trucks? Each children’s book uses different terms for those big lumbering things. Is it a container truck or a semi-trailer truck? Or a tractor-trailer? Or a transporter truck? Or a box truck? And let's not even get into names for tractors. How are my kids ever going to get their trucks straight!

There was a wonderful story last year in the Washington Post about parents, particularly dads, who, when faced with a technical question from their kids, just make up an answer to cover for their faulty memory or ignorance. The Post story said: “But probably no venue generates as much paternal misinformation as the museums, such as [The National Air and Space Museum], that specialize in machines, gadgets and technology.”

I think this also explains the range of terms for trucks in all those books. Don’t know the name? Well, call it a box truck! Can’t distinguish between a transporter truck and a semi? Well, just use the name you like! And say it with authority -- as people tell lawyers about words they don’t know but must say out loud in court.

All of this leaves me in an occasional pickle as I drive with Alexander, who is 2, on Interestate 95. What’s that, he says. Well, that’s easy, that’s a tanker truck. Or a tank truck. Whatever.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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School board sends advertisements home with students

I got a thick envelope in the mail from the Broward County School Board.junkmail.jpg

Must be important, I thought.

Inside was a packet of advertisements. The Miami Herald, Huntington Learning Center, Wyndham Vacation Resorts, Vonage phone service, Dish Network, Proactiv, ADT Home Security systems, Payless Shoes, Sears, and oh, a newsletter from the school board.

They might as well not bother throwing the flimsy newsletter in there. Most people probably don't get to it before they toss the packet in the trash.

I sure hope they're making lots of money selling out the parents to a bunch of advertisers.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), School Issues (135)

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April 14, 2008

Playdates and moms group for any South Florida mom

Recently my friend and colleague Missy, who has a 5-month-old baby, mentioned she'd love to find some moms with babies to hang out with on the weekends. While there are many moms groups in the area, most are geared to stay-at-home moms who meet up on weekdays.

By the time the weekend rolls around, I imagine most of them do things with their hubbies or at least make their husbands take over the childcare duties. There seemed to be no groups for working moms who might want to find women with similar interests and similarly aged babies to get together.

So I got on the website Meet Up, which links people with similar interests. Anything from dog lovers to people who just want to meet others from their home countries to people who scrapbook.

It's pretty simple. Enter "Moms" in the website and your zip code, and voila. There's a group in Boynton Beach with moms over 30. How about the North Broward Working Moms? I found one that seemed to meet Missy's criteria, one for working moms with weekend playdates (with the ominous warning, "this group contains TODDLERS," but it meets primarily in Plantation. There's one for single moms, one for "hip mammas," and my favorite, the "Playgroup for the Naturally Nurtured."

This group says they are "open-minded, non-judgmental and loving mamas who support breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, home schooling, delayed or refused vaccinations, gentle discipline, family balance, natural or home births and more!"

It's a great site where you are sure to hook up with other parents who share your interests. You might make a great friend. Or your child might. Either way, it's worth a try.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Nancy Othon (21)

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April 11, 2008

Making your kid love (your) music

Last week, our parenting blog colleagues at the Orlando Sentinel began a discussion about children and music. (One parent worried about her young daughter coming home singing the lyrics to a rap song. ) And at transPARENT, fellow blogger Matthew Strozier lamented that he had to give up his hope (at least for now) of introducing grown-up music to his two-year-old. His son loooves Raffi.

My three-year-old son did too. But then he discovered Avril Lavigne. And Alicia Keys. And Journey.

I thank the iPhone and the fact that I love to sing in the car on the 40-minute drive down to my parents’ house in Miami each weekend.

And in some cosmic sense, maybe the fact that my son was born to a mix CD my husband and I made for the special occasion has something to do with it. Officially, our son was born to Sade’s “By Your Side.” A few seconds earlier, and he would have been born to the Santana/Rob Smith 1999 hit “Smooth.” (How I remembered this amid a non-medicated birthing process is beyond me.)

You never know whether your kid is going to be a music aficionado. My advice? Expose him or her often and early. And, as much as possible, engage in the music. Sing and dance together. Be silly. Make it fun.

To this day, I still insist on dancing to the Go Diego Go! song before each episode. I can’t think of a time when my son – even in the worst of moods – didn’t want me to pick him up and twirl him around.

He also pulls out his Fisher Price piano every time he’s inspired: Usually when he sees former Journey frontman Steve Perry play the piano in the “Don’t Stop Believin’” video we downloaded from iTunes. My son quickly learned how to navigate my husband’s iPhone and likes to replay his favorite songs and videos over and over again.

As for other grown-up music, he learned on those trips down to Miami to request certain songs: There’s the CD that has some oldies like “Sugar” and “Buttercup.” And the Indigo Girls CD, which has, according to my son, the “Mommy and Daddy” song. (Our wedding DVD, which my son loves to watch, has as part of its soundtrack the IG song “Closer to Fine.”)

But, by far, my son’s favorite, No. 1 request, several months running, is “No One,” by Alicia Keys. In my household, it’s better known as “Special Music Song.” That’s the term my son coined the first time I played the song for him and told him: “I have a special song for you.”

Hot Wheels in hand, head bobbing to the beat, he does his best to sing the song. Just last week, as we were listening to the song on the way to school, he told me he wanted to sing it to his friends. A cute notion, but one I thought he’d soon forget.

He didn’t.

As soon as he stepped into the classroom, he found his best friend and started:

“No one, No one, No wa-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-n, (mumble, mumble, mumble) feel for you,” he began. Then he skipped to his favorite part: “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh (oh), Oh (oh), O-o-oh.”

Now that’s music to my ears.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), Music (22)

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School pictures

Baby's daycare is holding picture day later this month.

For a mere $35 or $60, 1-year-olds can appear as hula girls or sailor boys. camera.jpg

I was not prepared for the onslaught of school portraits to begin in daycare.

What has been your experience?

Did your child's daycare offer professional photo shoots? How did you handle it?


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April 10, 2008

Can feeding my family get any more complicated?

Our 16-year-old daughter, a vegetarian, has recently read the book The Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.
This New York Times bestseller opened her eyes to food additives, including high fructose corn syrup, MSG, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Pollan, a science and food writer who has conducted tremendous research into where our food comes from, suggests a mantra we should all live by: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

By food, he means food that would be recognizable to your great-great grandparents in the 19th century. Food that comes from real plants and animals that are fed what nature intended for them to eat.

Abby vowed on Easter Sunday that she would no longer eat any bad food additives. Her chocolate bunny remains unopened. She printed a list for my reference from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group of liberal, activist scientists concerned about our food supply .

Meanwhile, daughter No. 2, who will eat meat and has no compunctions regarding high-fructose, multicolored “food,” gets insanely painful migraines of unknown source. The neurologist’s recommendation: No food additives. No peanuts. No chocolate. No caffeine. No hard cheeses.

And my husband has slightly elevated blood pressure, so low-sodium for him.

I challenge you to walk in my shoes for just one trip to the grocery store. Try reading the labels on everything you buy. High fructose corn syrup is everywhere: In crackers. In jelly. In waffles and cereal. In strawberry cream cheese. Artificial sweeteners are in almost anything labeled “low” or “no” sugar. MSG is in packaged soups, taco seasoning, salad dressings and lots of mixed spices. You’ll see long lists of things that turn out to be benign vitamins in bread, but then there’s BHA or BHT. There are sulfites in bacon, sausage and frozen turkey and chicken products.

Sodium is loaded into soups, canned vegetables and almost every prepared food. Cold cuts have all kinds of complicated-sounding preservatives. Tuna has traces of toxic metals such as mercury which might trigger migraines.

Do you know how hard it is in the 21st century to sustain yourself on a 19th-century diet?
We’re managing so far. But even with the no-additives diet, our younger daughter has been sidelined with a migraine for the past two days.

I guess I really am going to have to take that no-peanuts edict seriously. But what do you put in a lunchbox for a kid who cannot eat cheese, peanut butter, cold cuts or tuna?

POSTED IN: Food (56), Health (111), Shopping (28), Teen (158), Vicki McCash Brennan (13)

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Boy, I sounded like a parent today.

“Alexander, I’m not going to tell you again…”

The subject at hand was flushing the toilet. He’s being potty trained, and he likes to flush the toilet repeatedly during the process. Of course, I did tell him the same thing again. And again.

There are other versions of this: “Don’t make me come in there again,” “You won’t get a cookie if you…” These statements are usually followed by the action that you just vowed not to repeat.

These are not ideal parenting strategies, but we all resort to them at one time or another. But alas, this post should be short because, well, I’m not going to tell you again.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Bullying is all the rage in elementary

Apparently a large percentage of kids get picked on at school. bully.jpg

Lily, my 6 year old, regularly complains of being bullied, usually at the hands of a boy who likes her. At Spring Break camp, a 5-year-old boy actually used the "F'' word in telling her "F--- you.'' I was quite surprised to hear this come out of her mouth. This same lad also told her that her mother (that's me) is ugly. I found that much more offensive than the first thing he said.

I find it really telling that boys start in kindergarten driving the females they love insane, as a way of showing love. Hmmm.

Anyway, our sister paper in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel, has an interesting post about bullying on their parenting blog. Check it out by clicking here.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), School Issues (135)

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Baby Lucas arrives in three weeks

We're in the final countdown for my son, Lucas Emilio, to arrive. We're all very excited, including my daughter, Ana Isabel.


My wife and I are scrambling. I'm finishing up house projects to get everything ready. My wife is pulling out all the baby stuff. And family members have booked their flights since Carrie Ann has a C-section scheduled.

That brings me to Ana. We have been telling her for months about Lucas' arrival. She's two and a half years old and seems to get it that there will be a new addition to the family.

Still, I don't want her to feel left out. I'm planning on doing more daughter and papi things with her. And we've put aside a few presents for her as well from our generous family, friends and colleagues.

Any other suggestions for keeping the jealous-sibling syndrome at bay? Or should we just be prepared to face it?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Luis Perez (32), Newborn (39), Pregnancy (31), Toddler (127)

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April 9, 2008

Is Chelsea Clinton fair game?

It has become a college sport to ask Chelsea Clinton, when she is campaigning for her mother at college campuses, about her father's affair with Monica Lewinsky.chelsea.jpg

She has been asked three times in the past two weeks. Each time, she gives a different but non-committal answer.

"I think that is something that is personal to my family. I'm sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don't think are anyone else's business, either," she said during a visit to North Carolina State University in Raleigh last week. "But also on a larger point, I don't think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father."

I kind of liked that answer. It was better than the "none of your business" answer she gave the first time at Butler University in Indianapolis.

How do you think Chelsea should answer these questions? Do you think they're out-of-line?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211), Politics (18)

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Lakeland teen beating: Were parents to blame?

The video clip is hard to watch. A teen girl being punched, slammed into a wall, taunted to fight back.

The Lakeland, Fla., beating happened March 30, and was released to the media on Tuesday.

The six girls, ages 14 - 17, have been arrested and may face charges as an adult.

According to news reports, the victim was lured to the home for the beating, to be aired on YouTube, after allegedly posting an offensive remark on a MySpace page.

This horrific beating begs the question: Who's to blame?

Should the parents of these alleged bullies be held accountable? Was the victim in the wrong? Is the media to blame?

Let's start talking about how we can prevent our kids from being the victim or bully . . .


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The great shoe debate

Ana Isabel is two and half and hates shoes.


It doesn't help that my wife, who is nine months pregnant, often has swollen ankles and feet at this point. So she often ends up either barefoot or putting on sandals.

I'm the one always insisting that Ana put on her slippers or shoes. And it's not just about dirty feet either.

The other day Ana was walking with a noticeable limp. She favored her right leg.

Of course, I feared the worst. I worry that her bare feet hitting the cold, hard tiles in the house could have a detrimental effect on their development. I know that when I walk barefoot for too long, it hurts my feet.

We later realized that when Ana slipped trying to climb onto our bed in the morning she banged her ankle against the bed frame. It swelled for two days, but it's better now.

Still, it seems to me that Ana sometimes has a misstep in her walk.

Am I crazy or is it only natural for a toddler to reject the restrictions of footwear? Should papa stop being a fuddy duddy and just let Ana run wild bare foot?

POSTED IN: Health (111), Luis Perez (32), Toddler (127)

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April 8, 2008

Tell your kid to take the bus

I found a way to get more for your tax dollars: Instead of carting your kid all over town, tell your kid to ride the county bus!

I'm not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, since a county bus comes belching by a block from my house every few minutes, seems like.bus.jpg

But I turned to public transportation after Creed, my 12 year old, told me something that scared the crap out of me. He and his friends were riding their bikes all the way out west -- trying to get to Sawgrass Mills! That means riding through intersections like Broward Boulevard and University. Not safe.

I suggested they take the bus. And now I'm offering to buy him a bus pass. I mean, the kids can explore the county on the bus. They carry cell phones, so it's not dangerous, certainly compared to riding a bike. They've ridden it a couple times now to Sawgrass Mills, to see a movie.

He's learning the layout of this area, learning a little bit of responsibility, and gaining independence. And he'll grow up appreciating the possibilities of mass transit.

A few days after we allowed Creed to take the bus for the first time, I asked Bob how Creed's dentist appointment went.

"I don't know,'' he said. "I had to drop him off and told him to take the bus home.''

Yes, this idea is catching on nicely.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Pre-Teen (57)

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Can birthday parties actually be fun?

Question of the day: How do you create a successful birthday party?

We’ve got one Saturday for Alexander, who’s turning 2. In recent days, Shola and I have turned to one another and said, “How many people are coming to this thing?” We then both shrug and say, “Not sure.” We didn’t set out to throw a big party; it just seems to have grown with each day-care/church/park/family/neighbor friend we invited. And in some cases, we needed to reciprocate invitations. Invitations seem to go out en masse for kids’ birthday parties. Parents don’t know which kid to invite from day care, so they just invite the whole class. It’s a good idea for kids, but sort of makes it hard to plan a party.

But I digress. The real issue is what to do with these kiddies. We thought about a musician, but couldn’t find anyone suitable. A clown was forbidden after our baby, Rowan, reacted with utter terror to a clown at another party. Face painting requires patience, and that’s antithetical to the idea of two dozen 2-years-olds (remember: we don’t know if this is the real number of attendees) at a birthday party. So we’ve settled on the idea of singing some songs, letting them run around the playground and eating pizza and cupcakes.

But I’m on the hunt for ideas. Got any good games? Activities? Food?

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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April 4, 2008

My little boy is already a romantic

My son is 3 years old and he says he has a girlfriend. Not a girl his age, but one of his pre-school teachers.

And I'm pretty sure he's talking amorous affection -- at a 3-year-old's level, of course.

Since he was a toddler, he has had an affection for women. Often, my wife would come back from the grocery store or mall and have a story about how she caught him staring at women. It was to the point where many of the women would notice. A "flirt," they'd call him.

Since he's been in daycare and pre-school, he has had female admirers his own age. But he never paid them much attention. He'd rather play cars or wrestle with the other boys, which is pretty normal.

But the other day, as my wife and I were asking about his day at school, he mentioned one particular teacher. "She's my girlfriend," he offered out of the blue.

The next day, my wife told the teacher. She laughed, saying, "You know, I've caught him staring at me sometimes."

Perhaps I'm reading too much into all of this. But I have to admit, as a father and husband who considers himself a romantic, I'm very proud. His admonition of love gave me one of those "That's my boy!" moments.


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Raffi has arrived!


We thought it wouldn’t happen. We told ourselves, we’ll do things differently. But, yes, Raffi has entered our home. Our 2-year-old, Alexander, loves him. He has a Raffi CD from my stepmother, a preschool teacher. For a long time he never showed any great interest in it. Then about a week ago, he learned how to turn the stereo system on and off. And he realized that he could press a button and – voila - there would be Raffi! Life has really never been the same for him.

Or for us. We walk around the house now humming the tunes (“Down by the Bay” is my favorite). In fact, I heard the same Raffi CD four or five times in one morning the other day. Alexander, for his part, lies on the floor in front of the stereo system, as though he half expects Raffi himself to jump out and say hello. He’s even developed favorite songs, and asks me to play them (“I don’t like this one daddy”).

Our fantasy was that we would teach him to appreciate grown-up music early on, so he would enjoy U2 and Sarah Vaughan in preschool. But when I played a Vaughan song the other day, he said, “Yucky music.” My wife tried another tact: she found a different CD of children’s music and got him interested in that. But this one just isn’t as good, at least to my ears. Raffi may get old, but he’s good. So who do you like?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59), Music (22)

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April 2, 2008

Enough with the school trips!

My 11-year-old just got back from a fifth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. My 13-year-old left today for Washington, Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown.amusement.jpg

In May, each girl will also go to Islands of Adventure with her school.

The 13-year-old will have taken seven trips by the end of this school year, either with school or our temple youth group. Although some of them, like the trip to Washington and the Revolutionary War sites, have been educational, what is the value of an end-of-the-year trip to Islands of Adventure?

These school-sponsored vacations cost a lot of money. Of course I could say no to some of them, and I have. But there's no need for schools to create these uncomfortable situations: Just stop offering these expensive and unnecessary holidays!

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Lois Solomon (211)

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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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