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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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June 30, 2008

The recession stresses out kids, too

I walked in the door from shopping the other night, and Lily had a little office set up on the floor in the foyer. recession.jpg

She had her pink telephone, a stack of computer paper, the kind with the green and white stripes, and Bob's old computer keyboard. She was "typing'' furiously.

She got up and came to me in the kitchen. "My boss said if I don't get my work done, I'm going to lose my job!'' she told me.

"Wow, really?'' I asked.

"And my house. And my kids!'' she added.

Ummm. I guess Mommy and Daddy should not be talking so much about the bad economy, pending layoffs in various industries including our own, and the price of gas and food.


Then last night she asked me as I tucked her into bed: "Do we have enough food to eat? Are we going to run out?''

"Yes, we have enough food, and we have jobs so we make money and can buy more,'' I assured her.

"Good'' she said, "because I have $100 in my wallet and I want to buy a giant toy.''

I had never thought of raiding her little pink mermaid wallet to buy groceries. Until that moment.

Let's hope and pray we never get that desperate!

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54)

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The best vacation: a "staycation"

By Cindy Kent

This is our vacation -- right here, right now.

I would like to think this was a great strategic plan on our part, that considering the cost of gas, food and the expense of eating out we decided the best way to enjoy the summer was at home.

But really, it required no planning whatsoever.

My son Tom will visit family in Miami frequently over the summer months including a few overnight and weekend stays at his grandparents and his sisters' place. A day trip to a water park hanging out with his older brother and some other stuff will fill out his time with friends.

Tom and his friends play lots of card and video games; they go bike riding and to the park. Tom loves archery and martial arts both of which also keep him busy. For other ideas on how to keep busy without leaving South Florida, check out the Sun-Sentinel story about "staycations."

We like to mix all that fun stuff up with chores: taking out the trash, washing the dishes, helping with laundry and yard work. And believe it or not we throw in a few grammar and math worksheets! (He finished this year with a 4.0 average.)

Now, we're working on getting him to enhance his summertime adventures by picking up a book.

Cindy Kent is a Fort Lauderdale mother of three.

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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Talent agents or vultures? Protecting my stepkids

I wanted to believe. So did my wife. So did the girls.

But when a modeling/talent agency told us our girls had been “chosen” to be represented, and all you have to do is pay $500 per child plus $40 a month (per child), forgive me, but I got skeptical. My journalist’s instinct, dormant through the early steps of the process, kicked in when the modeling agency started asking for fees up front. One Google search later and I was on the phone with my wife telling her to get out, with the girls and with her money.

If you’re about to enroll your child in a modeling or talent agency, do your homework. I’d have to do a little more journalism homework myself before naming the agency in this space. From what I’ve been able to gather, agents are supposed to get paid when they find work for you. When they start asking for fees up front, start sniffing. If there’s any hint a bovine has been to the bathroom, run.

I did, and I trust the girls may someday forgive me. But not on Friday evening. Not at first. And who can blame them? Seemingly nice people were telling them they have what it takes to be a model. They were on the brink of being discovered, and these nice people were going to help.

“They’re cheats,” I said after their mom pulled them out and tried to explain my reservations. “They’re not going to help you. They just want your money.”

“You don’t know that!” they each replied, and they were right, in a sense. I was going by my gut, by a few web sites in which people who had dealt with the same agency warned other prospective customers to head for the hills.

I realized, with too little tact, that in their eyes I was not protecting them – I was doubting them. I was doubting their beauty, I was doubting their talent, and I was doubting their marketability as models. None of that is true, but it is what they were feeling. A dream was within their grasp, and I yanked it away from them. I felt an ache in my heart. It has not gone away.

But if they’re going to be serious about modeling, acting or dancing professionally, we are all going to have to realize that there’s hard work and investment involved. No one’s going to knock on our door and hand us the opportunity of a lifetime.

Worst of all, there will always be people and companies out there eager to exploit our hopes and dreams.

I know I made the right decision. If the people we were dealing with are running a legitimate agency, they weren’t acting like it. And maybe I’ve only been a “father” to these girls for a year, but I’ll be cursed if I’m going to let some vultures break their hearts.

I’d rather have them angry at me.

If You've Got The Look, Look Out! Avoiding Modeling Scams

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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June 27, 2008

Going to the movies to see Wall-E?

My son is finally at the age where he can enjoy (and sit through) a movie at the theater. We've seen Kung Fu Panda, Speed Racer and Horton Hears a Who in the past year.

Now the movie my son has been waiting for opens this weekend -- Wall-E, a lovable little robot tasked with cleaning up the mess that is Earth in the distant future. Judging by the review, it should be well worth the wait.

Will let you know what my son thought of it next week. At what age did you start taking your son/daughter to the movies?

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 26, 2008

Gosh, my daughter is getting heavy

There's nothing better than when I walk into the house after work and Ana Isabel runs up to me yelling "papa."

I usually pick her up and give her a kiss. I ask her if she has been a good girl and ask about the day's activities. It's usually a short conversation, aside from the fact that she's not even 3 yet, I usually arrive just before bedtime.

There are other times when I pick her up and carry her around. At the mall, during walks to the store or when she wakes in the morning. But since her brother, Lucas Emilio, arrived two months ago Ana wants me to carry her all the time. She was 35 pounds at her last doctor's visit. So my arm hurts after a while.

My wife says Ana has me wrapped around her little fingers. Maybe so. But I see the time when I'm going to have to stop just because my arm is about to be pulled out of its socket.

Any suggestions on how to encourage my daughter from making that same request over and over and over. My arm would sure appreciate it.

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

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June 24, 2008

We've got clapping

Rowan clapped. And, luckily, I was there. I started humming a song yesterday and he thrust his hands together and, for the first time, hit palm to palm. Excellent.

Milestones fascinate me. When our kids reach one, we immediately figure out whether they are meeting those all-important developmental stages. Then either panic or pride hits. So this morning I searched “baby and clapping” online and discovered he is, well, right where he should be. He’s seven months. One web poll at even suggests there’s a bell curve out there when it comes to babies and clapping, with most kids learning it between 7 to 8 months. (This isn’t Rowan, but check out this “baby-clapping video” for fun.)

Credit for this new skill should go to Rowan’s older brother, Alexander, who is 2. Rowan studies him, reaches for his toys and crawls in his direction. This makes me wonder: Do younger siblings reach milestones faster? I suppose this gets into the “are first-borns smarter” question , but this isn’t about IQ. Here’s my question: Are older siblings better teachers than parents? And, if so, how much better?

Now if only Alexander could potty train Rowan.


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Kidnapping your pre-teen the only way to get quality time

One key change I've noticed since my son inched closer to age 13 (less than one month away, and counting) is that it takes a real intervention in order to get one-on-one time with him.60428-Beachfront-On-South-Sea-Island--Nadi-Fiji-1.jpg

We're on vacation this week. You might laugh at us for vacationing on the beach in Broward County, but leave this website, go look up the price of four airplane tickets or the tab for gas if we were to go on a road trip, and then come back and tell me what a great idea a vacation in Deerfield Beach is.

(Actually, I'm sitting in my kitchen in Plantation right now. If you're on a local vacation, you can come home and grab the things you forgot. Or run home to get online for a bit.)

Today we sent both kids to camp so we could have time without them, for probably the first time in many years. Granted we're spending the time reading our emails, but still, it's peaceful!

But the quality time we've had with the kids this week by snatching them out of the home, and transporting them a mere 20 minutes away, is amazing.

Recently we took another week off for a Fort Lauderdale beachfront vacation. Again, that's all it takes to get some great time with the kids.

At home, kids and parents are distracted constantly. And a pre-teen like Creed will be on his cell phone, at a friends' house, having friends over or chatting on his MySpace page.

Yank them away to a local hotel, leave their cell phone at home, and you have instant parent-child bonding.

Creed and I took a long walk on the beach Sunday night and had our longest conversation in months. He and Lily, 6, have been forced to play together for the first time in months. We all had to sleep together in one big bed.

It's like we're a family! It's been great!

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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June 23, 2008

Have bicycle, won't travel

Today is my younger son's third birthday. He got a Thomas the Tank Engine bicycle. And he just sits on it. Or he walks it around the house. Or he sits on it, waits for someone to put his feet on the pedals, then waits for someone (me) to grab the handlebars and walk him around. That's right, he refuses to push on the pedals.

He was more excited about his new DVDs, books and his cake than he was his bicycle. Although he won't let anyone else touch his bicycle.

I remember when Evan turned 3, he also got a bicycle. And he went wild on it, riding up and down the sidewalk with a big grin on his face. I know -- different kid, different skill sets, etc.

But it's tough to remain patient when your kid flat-out refuses to even try. He already has a tricycle that he loves ... to be pushed on.

Any suggestions?

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

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My stepdaughter's movie pick

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my younger stepdaughter's trip to the movies to see "Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)," a film about a 9-year-old Mexican boy who crosses the border illegally to reunite with his mother in Los Angeles. You can find it in Blockbuster now. We did.

Pax, now 13, almost jumped out of her shoes with excitement when she saw it. We had to rent it. Had to. This was not optional.

I won't go into a full movie review here, except to say that I do recommend it and that I have rarely seen a movie end on a more perfect note.

But what really impressed me was that a teenage girl with no connection to the grand debate about illegal immigration would choose to see this movie in the theaters, gush about it when she got home, and then insist that we watch it together as a family as soon as it was available.

Afterward, we talked about the movie a little bit, about the characters and the storytelling and about one character's act of sacrifice. But I didn't want to ruin a child's enjoyment of a film by delving any deeper into the issues raised by this one. We now have a common reference point around which we can frame future, more profound discussions. The truth is, she didn't like this movie because of its immigration themes. She liked it because it was about a child's love for his mother.

Knowing how lovable Pax's mother is, I can relate.

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

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June 20, 2008

Eating without wandering

I had one of those “ah ha!” moments this week. I noticed that when I get up from meals, Alexander, our 2-year-old, tends to wander away as well. Obvious, right? But somehow it just made sense this week.

It might be that Alexander is growing more and more independent. He’s sleeping in a “big boy” bed now and learning to play on his own. So it makes sense that he’ll decide to get up from the table when he wants to. He’ll also follow our lead. If he feels like there’s fun to be had at the table, he’ll stay. So our job is to stay put as a family and eat a meal.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Our big meal together as a family tends to be breakfast, and that’s inevitably rushed. Unfortunately, I usually get home too late for dinner. This probably gets into the debate over “equally shared parenting” that Lois Solomon wrote about earlier this week. I’d love to give my kids the kind of fun, conversation-filled dinners I had growing up. But newspapers have a way of eating into evening hours. So perhaps I’ll try to set a start time for breakfast to avoid the coming and going. We’ll see if it works.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Matthew Strozier (59)

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Best free events for kids

In this week's installment of free stuff to do. transparent.jpg

Take your budding car expert to check out the classics at Lake Worth's Evening on the Avenues.

If your kid is interested in making things explode, the free science museum at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton is a good bet.

Good (free) times can also be had at:

Today: Summer Games exhibit at Miami Children's Museum, 980 MacArthur Causeway. If you don't make it today, save the date for the third Friday in July when its free admission.

Musical performances from 7 - 9 p.m. at Hollywood's Young Circle Park at U.S. 1 and Hollywood Blvd. Bring a blanket or lawn chair for seating.

Saturday: Asian Pacific Festival at the Alvin Sherman Library in Fort Lauderdale. Learn about traditional Chinese music and dance, Thai traditional dance and see a Korean Hapkido martial arts demo. Plus there will be food and craft projects. From 1 - 4 p.m.

Storytime for kids ages 3 - 6 at 10:30 a.m. Barnes and Noble, Broward Mall, 591 S. University Dr., Plantation.

And if you have a few dollars to spare this weekend, take the kids to:

An arts and crafts workshop 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday at Michael's Arts and Crafts, 11300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Ages 5-12. The cost: $2

The Playmobil Fun Park in Palm Beach Gardens is divided into themed areas with toys geared to toddlers, an area with a doll house, castle, trucks, planes and construction equipment, and another spot that resembles Noah's Ark. The cost: $1.


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June 19, 2008

The step on the gas pedal

"Can I drive?"

My older stepdaughter just got her learner's permit. I'm sure there are questions that strike more fear into the hearts of all parents, step and bio, but "Can I drive?" has to rank up there as among the scariest.

I hand her the keys. She gets into the driver's seat, adjusts the mirrors, turns the car on, looks behind her and begins to back us out of our parking space.

"Congratulations," I tell her. "You just failed your driving test."

She stops, puts the car in park and looks at me. "Sorry," she says. "Is your seatbelt on?"

I put my seatbelt on. "Go ahead."

She won't forget to ask that one again.

I'm (naively) convinced that nothing ages a parent faster than being driven around town by a teenager. I'm measuring her success by my silence. The fewer words I speak, the better job she's doing behind the wheel.

"You're too far to the right," I tell her. Poor kid. She's used to seeing the road from the passenger's seat. Now she has to adjust to being a couple of feet to the left. Worse, she has to adjust to my reminding her of this fact every single time the car veers a little to the right. My wife kindly reminds me that I might be overdoing it. After all, I'm used to seeing the road from the driver's seat. I need to adjust, too.

I think we all do.

"You can step on the gas," I tell her. "It's okay."

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

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Boy gets bigger; Is Dad getting weaker?

Every year, we head to the beach around Father's Day, and my wife takes basically the same picture. I thought I'd provide this 2008 update:


My son obviously is getting bigger, but am I getting weaker?

Does anyone out there remember some parable about an Indian boy and a calf? Something like: If a young boy begins by lifting a calf, and continues lifting it as it grows, he'll be the strongest man on Earth?


20XX: What year will HE be lifting ME?

POSTED IN: General (185)

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June 18, 2008

Is there such a thing as equal parenting?

It's hard to imagine a husband and a wife sharing child-care, financial and domestic responsibilities in a perfect 50-50 split. parentsworking.jpg

But there's an organization out there, with a devoted following, dedicated to making sure parents split duties with perfect egalitarianism. Detailed in a New York Times article last Sunday that's been on the most e-mailed list for the past few days, the story explores how despite the best of intentions of our post-feminist generations, women inevitably end up doing more housework, curtailing their career ambitions and spending more time taking care of the kids.

That is my story, so of course I could relate to the statistics that showed the imbalance. I was intrigued, though, to see there are couples out there who don't accept that and have created detailed systems, with help from ThirdPath Institute, to divvy up responsibilities equitably and enthusiastically.

How have you split up child care duties with your spouse? Who cleans the house? Who makes more money?

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

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June 17, 2008

The cell phone bill tells a story

One can discern a lot about a family by looking at their cell phone bill summary.

In our house, we have a family plan. Our pre-teen has unlimited text-messaging (of course). texting2.jpg
That is a must for a parent of a pre-teen. Creed will be 13 in July. His hands have been prematurely aged to about 76 because of all his text-message activity. One day I am sure he will either wear a hand brace or collect disability checks because of arthritic fingers and thumbs.

Check it out. For the month, yours truly sent and received 289 text messages from the cell phone.

Meanwhile, Creed sent and received 1,761 text messages.

Bob's data is perhaps even more meaningful to anyone looking for the Last Neanderthal. He only sent or received six text messages. It's important to note he was also one of the last humans (in a civilized country) to buy a cell phone.

Only Lily, who is 6, is free of a working cell phone in our family. She has our cast-offs, which she uses to pretend to text-message people.

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57)

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June 16, 2008

'My mom loves to work'

The sting from Mother’s Day is slowly subsiding. Yes, Mother’s Day.

For the special occasion, my three-year-old son answered a series of questions posed by his teachers for a special, keepsake memento for Mommy. Questions like:

“My mother’s eyes are _(green)___ . My mother’s hair is _(brown)__ . My mother’s favorite color is _(red)__ .”

Cute, harmless stuff. Then came the zinger, the one I can’t get out of my mind and has fueled both tears of laughter and sadness.

“My mother loves to _(WORK!!!!)_.”

OK, he didn’t actually yell the answer to his teachers (the caps and exclamation points are how I read it). But he might as well have. His answer gets to the heart of insecurity for most working moms I know. And it breaks my heart to think “work” is what first came to his mind.

My husband and my son’s teacher both worried I might take it the wrong way. I’m sorry: What good way is there to take it? Yes, I’m sure at three years old, my son said it as matter-of-factly as, “The sky is blue.” Still doesn’t make me feel any better. (That said, I’m sure I feel better than the mom whose son said: “My mother loves to ___(put me in time out.)_”)

A colleague at work, hearing my telling of the story, offered some insight that poured salt on the wound: “It’s not where you want to be that matters to children. It’s where you are.”

Leave it to my son to be the one to make me feel better. He overheard me reciting the Mommy questionnaire on the phone to my mother.

“You’re never going to believe what he said,” I told my mom.

“Your mother loves to …..” I continued.

Then my son chimed in: “Bake cookies!”

I looked at him, put the phone down and ran across the room to give him a big, fat kiss.

And then I wondered if permanent marker was a bit much to add a footnote to my cherished memento.

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

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June 10, 2008

Wow, it's quiet

Not much to report on the parenting front this week. The wife and kids are out of town. The boys, ages 7 months and 2, are with grandma in Connecticut while my wife travels for business. They left Thursday and return Friday.

So this is what it was like before the kids ruled the roost. Quiet. Things stay in the same place until I move them. In fact, the whole house stays still if I leave. I need to find things to do instead of thinking, “Remember when we went to the movies?” Or: “That would be fun if I had the energy for it.” When the kids are around, they are the activity. Tons of it. So much that I wait, longingly, for that glorious time of the day: naptime.

Breaks are good, and I’ve enjoyed mine. I’ve seen a movie – You Don’t Mess With The Zohan – and sat through a Marlins game – they lost. I’ve had a couple of realizations since they’ve been away, though, that apply here. First, I am struck by how much we, as parents, get done on an average day. It’s a daily whirlwind of tasks, games, meals and just plain silliness. On most days, I worry about what’s not getting done. It’s good to remember that the opposite is the case.

Second, as they saying goes, life is in the details. I miss my family for those little moments when you connect: the car ride, the funny game and the good meal. You experienced parents out there know this well. I’ve heard you tell me it many times. I’m just not sure I understood it until now.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Matthew Strozier (59)

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June 9, 2008

Slobber-covered toy from a child I've never met? No thanks

Long ago, I told you guys about one of Palm Beach County's best places to go for entertaining little ones, the Playmobil Fun Park. Located near Palm Beach Gardens, it costs just a buck to get in, and it provides an afternoon or morning of relaxation for moms or dads, who can just kick back on a bench while the kiddies go to town on the hundreds of Playmobil figures, vehicles and play sets.

We were there yesterday, in fact, when something rather disgusting happened.

Elias was sitting on the play mats, happily assembling train tracks, playing with trains and putting the "choo-choo guy" on the trains when another little boy made his way into Eli's space. The boy looked barely a year, as his steps were tentative. He picked up one the play figures from the train, and promptly put it in his mouth.

Sure, I know babies put stuff in their mouth ... duh! But this little guys just mawed on it, just moving it all along the inside of his mouth while his mom stood by. I looked at her, looked at him, and she casually told him not to put it in his mouth. Of course, the kid ignored her. Then he walked DIRECTLY UP TO MY SON, and tried to put the offending, spit-covered conductor person into Elias's hand. I quickly tried to intervene, wondering when this mother was going to step in so that I didn't have to put my hands on the disgusting conductor.

She didn't. I gingerly grabbed it, resisting the temptation to actually kick it away on the floor rather than touch it. Again, nothing from the mom.

Now, I harbor no illusions that the toys at a place like this would be germ-free. Of course not. But jeez, at least TRY to stop your kids from sucking on the toys and then handing them off to someone else.

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

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June 6, 2008

Parents, need a laugh?

Watch Knocked Up this weekend.


Perhaps you’ve already seen it. I had. And, frankly, it didn’t do much for me the first time. Funny, sure, but I found some of the performances uneven -- even flat.

Now it’s on the HBO rotation, and I’ve stumbled upon it a couple of times. How much I missed! There are all these hilarious asides, mostly from Ben Stone (played by Seth Rogen).

Here’s one I caught last night. Ben and Alison (Katherine Heigl) are shopping for a crib with Alison’s sister Debbie. One catches their fancy, but then they note the hefty price tag. Alison suggests they borrow Debbie’s. Then Ben counters that there’s one in an alley behind his house. “We could just grab that. Just rub Purell all over it.”

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Matthew Strozier (59)

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'Dry drowning': Hidden danger of swimming

Dry drowning. Ever heard of it?

I hadn't until my brother passed along the following link. A 10-year-old from South Carolina died this week, more than hour after he had gone swimming.

Apparently, during his day at the pool, water accumulated in his lungs. He walked home with his mother, talking normally, and then went to bed because he felt very tired. He never woke up.

About 3,600 Americans died from drowning in 2005, according to the latest figures by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 10-15 percent of those were classified as "dry drowning," in which death occurs up to 24 hours later because of water entering the respiratory system.

As the summer swimming season kicks off with the end of school this week, I'm keeping this story top of mind. My hope is to teach my 3-year-old to swim this summer.

Any tips on good private instructors or classes for pre-schoolers?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67), Health (111)

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June 5, 2008

The language of toddler Neanderthals

Got a toddler? If so, it’s worth picking up Dr. Harvey Karp’s book on them. We went right out and bought it after reading the New York Times story on it.

Karp’s earlier book, Happiest Baby on the Block, was hugely influential for us. We were religious with our oldest, Alexander, about using Karp’s soothing techniques. They worked, and they worked again with Rowan, although I probably pulled back a bit from the constant swaddling the second time around. (Hey, that swaddle gets hot in Florida!)

Karp’s theory is that a toddler’s development mirrors human evolution, but he rockets through evolutionary stages that took millions of years for our ancestors. So toddlers go from “charming chimp-child” to “knee-high Neanderthal” to “clever cave-kid,” and then “versatile villager” from 12 to 48 months. He writes: “Once you learn how your toddler is similar to a caveman, your true job will become clear – you must think of yourself as an ambassador from the 21st century to the Neanderthal people!”

Then Karp offers a key piece of advice: how to talk a primitive language your toddler will understand. There are a few steps to speaking “toddler-ese”: short phrases, repetition, tone and facial expressions and body gestures. Here’s where it gets funny. It really comes down to embracing those silly moments when you manage to distract your toddler from some pending meltdown. So I tried it with Alexander, our 2-year-old: He woke up one morning and starting banging on the refrigerator for juice. His frustration was growing. So I went over and joined him. I got to his level and started saying “juice, juice, juice.” I smiled and laughed, and looked like a fool. But, as Karp would say, Alexander was happy because I understood him, so he calmed down.

You need to be a bit dramatic, Karp says, and don’t be surprised if you feel uncomfortable, or even weird. Still, it shouldn’t be that foreign. Lots of people naturally speak toddler-ese; they’re people we compliment as “good with kids.” They don’t mind looking silly if it makes the kid happy.

It’s not a cure-all, but the beauty of Karp’s writing is that he reminds us of self-evident parenting skills. He didn’t invent swaddling; he just reminded us how to do it. The same goes for toddler-ese. So give it a try. And then post to tell us if it works.

POSTED IN: Toddler (127)

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June 4, 2008

What to do when a five-week catches a cold?

My almost three-old-year old daughter, Ana Isabel, caught a cold at Mommy and Me. And she brought it home, promptly sharing it with her little brother, Lucas Emilio, who is five weeks old.


Not exactly the kind of sharing we would like. Nonetheless, we never had to deal with a sick Ana at this age since she didn't have other little children brining home germs.

Lucas mostly sounds congested and he makes a lot of noises when he sleeps. Before this came on, he was sleeping in three and four hour stretches, which was great for a kid his age. Not any more.

We have a suction bulb that we use to clear his nose. And we prop up his body so the mucus can drain when he sleeps. I know some say a humidifier can help loosen up the congestion.

But is there anything else that we can do to deal with a cold in baby at this age? I know drugs are out. A tired and sleep papa would welcome any suggestions.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Health (111), Luis Perez (32), Newborn (39)

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Crazy 8th-grade Republicans

I was talking about the election with my daughter Beth the other day, and she said: “Well, all the Republican kids in my class are completely looney anyway.”

You cannot let a sentence like that fly by without a follow up. “Really?” I said. “How are they looney?”

This is a paraphrase, but it goes something like this: One boy, whose redeeming qualities include a love for baseball and a straight-A average, says he hates McCain almost as much as Obama and Clinton. Because McCain is too liberal.

But that's not what makes the boy crazy, according to Beth. He's crazy, she says, because he thinks the war in Iraq is a good thing — and he says that it would be OK to draft people to build up the Army.

Ha, she says, scoffing at him. “I know him. He’d be the first one across the border to Mexico if he got drafted. He’s not going to fight and risk getting himself killed.”

But that’s nothing compared to one girl in her class, a spoiled brat whose parents seem to give her every possession she wants despite her frequent detentions and skipping class enough to be at risk of failing eighth grade even though she makes 5s on her FCATs.

She says that women do not need to vote and that all a girl really needs is to marry a rich man. Women should not work, she says, and they don’t need any rights because their husbands will take care of them.

Well, how can everyone marry a rich man? Beth rightly wonders. “It’s crazy.”

That it is. I can only hope that these two kids do not represent our future.

POSTED IN: Politics (18), Teen (158), Vicki McCash Brennan (13)

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Is there a hybrid minivan out there?

With 137,000 miles on my 2000 Toyota Sienna minivan, it's going to be time soon to get a new car.minivan2.jpg

I want to get a hybrid so I can use less gas and feel less pain as it climbs past $4. But as far as I can tell, there are no hybrid minivans out there.

Toyota may be releasing a hybrid minivan next year, but according to, a project of the Union of Concerned Scientists, they may not, even though they have some in Japan. I was intrigued to read Toyota received 18,000 signatures on a petition asking the company to bring a hybrid minivan to the U.S.

So if I can't get a hybrid minivan, what is the biggest car I can get with the best mileage to shlep the kids around town?

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

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June 3, 2008

County water parks not a bad deal

I've checked out a couple of the county's water parks in recent weeks, and I was impressed with one of them.

If your child is in daycare they've probably already been there, to T.Y. Park in Hollywood. That's TopeeKeegee Yugnee Park, off Sheridan Street. It's a lot of fun, and reasonably priced.

On the other hand, the new regional park in Lauderhill, the Central Broward Regional Park, was a maddening experience for me and the other parents. That park is off U.S. 441 and Sunrise Boulevard.

Apparently the county has two other water playgrounds. One is at C.B. Smith Park, the other at Quiet Waters Park. I haven't been to those yet.

T.Y. Park's Castaway Island is $6.50 for entry. They allow you to bring in food and drinks from outside, so you can really keep the cost down. Only when they're packed do they charge you by the session, one hour and 50 minutes, and make you pay $4.50 for an additional session. When I went there a couple weeks ago, we paid one fee and stayed as long as we wanted.

You also pay $1.50 per person to get into the park gate itself, on weekends. We went on a day off from school, so it was free to get into the park.

At the Lauderhill park, which is new, the entry fee to the water playground is lower, just $4.50. But it only allows you incbrptropical.jpg
for one session of an hour and 50 minutes. There's no provision for a person who arrives in mid-session.

Let's say you arrive at 12:40 p.m., like I and another parent did. The session was set to end at 1:20 p.m. We either had to wait 40 minutes for the next session to begin, or throw out $4.50 per person for only 40 minutes of fun. Both of us had a few kids with us, and we felt ripped off. I had hoped to make a day of it. I asked what would happen if there were only 20 minutes left when a person arrived, and they said they would still charge full price. That stinks.

The other guy started yelling about how his tax dollars were being used for this new park, and he was highly upset he had to stand around 40 minutes to get his money's worth.

I didn't have the patience to stand in the blazing sun that long, so I paid and got the shortened experience. This waterpark also bans coolers and food from outside vendors, so we had to eat our Subway sandwiches in the parking lot. Not cool.

By the way you also have to pay $1.50 a person to get into this park on weekends. No wonder no one goes there, as we wrote about recently.

If you're going to check out this water park, I recommend calling to find out what time the sessions start, so you don't feel ripped off like I did.

Central Broward Regional Park
3700 N.W. 11th Place
Lauderhill, FL 33311
Phone: 954-321-1170
Fax: 954-321-1110

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Brittany Wallman (160)

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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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