Moms & Dads: Stories, tips, and advice on raising your kids from South Florida parents | Sun Sentinel blogs

Moms & Dads

South Florida parents share their stories and advice


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September 30, 2008

The inner workings of a 6-year-old's mind

"George Bush was the last president,'' Lily told me one day recently on the way to school.

I was impressed.

"George Lincoln is dead.''

Not impressed. I corrected her.

"Just let me say it the way I want,'' she insisted. "I'm not that smart.''

The same day, she asked me all of the following: "Can we go to Disney world?" "What does someday mean?" "Can we get a puppy?" "Why do farts smell so bad?''

I also had to explain the difference between a diary and diarrhea. I'm not kidding.

Saturday she advised me during a discussion about college that "I don't want a job. I want to get married and do nothing.''

I told her Sunday that, "we're going to get you the best doll house for Christmas.''

"You know what,'' she answered. "Tell Santa. I don't want you to have to spend your money.''

Last night she said I was distracting her from her Webkinz activities.

"I can't focustrate!'' she said.

This is what parenting is all about. Answering weird questions like "do ponies lay eggs.''

It's a lot more fun than answering the questions she'll probably ask when she's a teen, like, "Are you sure this dent wasn't in your car before I drove it?''' or "Who washed my cell phone?''


POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Say what!?! (25)

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September 25, 2008

The mysteries of a five-month old's sleeping patterns

My son Lucas Emilio has been a champion sleeper until now.
sleep2.jpg

As a newborn, he slept in three and four hour stretches overnight. As he has grown, he has given his mommy and daddy (admittedly, mostly mommy) stretches of up to six hours straight.

We have been overjoyed with how well Lucas has slept, especially since my three-year-old daughter, Ana Isabel, never slept for more than two hours it seemed for the first six months of her young life.

But now, Lucas has taken a turn and has started waking every two hours. And that's driving my wife and I a bit crazy.

We can't figure it out. We're almost to the point where we will let him cry it out. We did that with Ana. It was hard. But it worked.

We're perplexed as to why my son would seem to be regressing with his sleeping patterns.

Any idea on why this may be happening or suggestions?


POSTED IN: Luis Perez (32), Newborn (39)

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September 24, 2008

Step to the music

There was an old man who lived next door to my sister's house when I was a teenager. I don't remember his name - let me call him Sal, just for kicks. He was a nice man, and we were on friendly terms.

"You're a good kid," Sal said of me once, "when you're sleeping."

In our north Bronx neighborhood, we often blasted music from our stereos out the window so everyone could enjoy the sounds. Thriller was all the rage then. We had Beat Street and Jam On It, Ghostbusters and Purple Rain, Roxanne, Roxanne and The Fat Boys are Back.

I was the nerd of the bunch, of course, occasionally blasting Thompson Twins and Neil Diamond songs, but that's a whole other story.

Our neighbor couldn't stand it, but also couldn't do very much about it. His complaints were gentle and good-hearted, and they fell on ears plagued by the selective deafness of adolescence.

So long ago.

Today I live with two teenagers. I can't name the bands or the songs that blare out from their music systems. It's a lot of thumping, and I can barely make out the words. I often can't tell the high-pitched instruments from the shrieks of the performers playing them.

I hear these noises coming from the kids' bedrooms as bedtime approaches.

Hey, Sal, about that apology I owe you...

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

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My teen will skip the abstinence pledge

It's hard to believe there are still public schools that ask teens to sign pledges that they will be virgins until they get married.

According to a study by Columbia University, 88 percent of teens break these pledges. It's clear these vows are made under pressure and do not work.

At the Open House at our high school last week, I was shocked to hear my daughter's health teacher say she was inviting one of these abstinence programs, called Be The One, into her classroom. And yes, she said when I asked her in an e-mail the next day, they are going to ask the kids to sign the pledge.

The national teen pregnancy rate is going down, but it's not because of abstinence programs funded by the federal government. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the rate is going down because kids are getting more savvy about contraception.

So that is what health classes should be teaching. As for me, I told my daughter she does not have to sign the pledge.

POSTED IN: Health (111), Lois Solomon (211), Teen (158)

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September 23, 2008

Vote now: Who's the enforcer in your house?

Our 2-year-old, Alexander, figured something out recently: If one parent says no, try the other.

We've tried to hold the line, but there's been at least one crack in the "we're united on discipline" front. I confess that I was to blame for that one. (Sorry!) But it's a fascinating process to watch unfold. He wants to know what buttons to push, and when to push them.

That got me thinking: How does this apply to your household?

So cast your vote below.

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

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Weston mom writes a book about her struggles with teen daughter

I'm not sure I want to start reading books about horrible teen-agers just yet. My son is a fresh teen-ager, turned 13 this summer. But he's still a good kid.

For those of you already trying to decide what size cage to purchase for your teen, you might want to read a Weston mom's account of how she handled her daughter.

Sue Scheff turned her ordeal into a book called "Wit's End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen." She also does parent consulting now, I guess you could say. In other words, she turned her trials as a parent into a career.

I sure hope my trials as a parent do not provide me such a rich experience that I will spend the rest of my life telling other parents how awful it was.

Apparently this Weston lady was a single mom in the 90s when her daughter "embraced disturbing friends, beliefs and behaviors.'' Ultimately, she sent her to a residential treatment facility, which made things worse, Scheff says.

Beyond writing a book about it, Scheff also founded Parents' Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.), to help families who have at-risk kids. She's been on national TV news shows and in newspapers and on talk radio. She has a website here.

Like I said, I haven't read the book and am not sure I want to jinx myself by doing so. But if you're already suffering, it's another source of info.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Teen (158)

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September 17, 2008

Is it time to raise the driving age?

My 14-year-old is clamoring to get her learner's permit next year.teendriver.jpg

But I am hesitant. A 15-year-old does not belong behind the wheel, even with a parent next to her.

Will we be able to resist the pressure? A new recommendation is giving me support. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is asking states to change the minimum driving age to 17 or higher.

New Jersey is the only state where 17 is the driving age, and there are a lot fewer teen accidents there. According to cbsnews.com, there were 18 teen driving deaths per 100,000 in New Jersey in the 1990s, compared with 26 per 100,000 in Connecticut, where the driving age is 16.

I know I can give my daughter lots of rules about driving that go beyond the law, such as restricting the hours and how many people are in the car. But the problem is not her; it's the other drivers on our crazy South Florida roads.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Teen (158)

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September 12, 2008

Long Key Nature Center: site for birthday parties

Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center in Davie is offering a birthday party package for children 6 to 12.

The bad news: it's $450. The good news, if you haven't been to Long Key, it rivals Anne Kolb as a nature center.

It's at 3501 S.W. 130th Ave., Davie, across from Flamingo Gardens Call 954-327-8797.


Parents can choose from four theme options, according to a county press release:

The release's words:

Science Mania: Explore the hair-raising side of science by helping generate electricity, making slime, creating volcanic eruptions, watching seltzer-powered rockets launch, and making a take-home experiment. Projects vary by age, weather, group size, and availability. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.

Nature Detectives: Pick up your magnifying glass and explore our natural area to unlock the secrets hidden in the hammock. Hands-on games and crafts help hone your detective skills. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.

Scare & Dare: A must for fans of creepy critters! Get introduced to some of Long Key’s animal residents, then compete in games for the brave and projects for those who dare. Learn where and why people eat insects. Play clothes are recommended for this party. Recommended for ages 8 to 12.

Radical Reptiles & Amphibians: Junior herpetologists, hop or slither over to Long Key to learn about our turtles, frogs, snakes, and alligator. Play frog games, create a turtle to take home, and visit some amazing animals. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.

A park naturalist will lead the group in hikes, hands-on demonstrations and other activities for one and a half hours, followed by a half-hour for cake and presents (cake and other refreshments must be provided by parents). At the end of the party, the birthday boy/girl will receive a take-home, nature-themed toy, and each child in attendance will receive a take-home goodie bag of small toys/trinkets.

There is a maximum of 20 children per party, and there must be at least one adult (18+) per 10 children in attendance. The fee is $450 per party.


POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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September 11, 2008

Webkinz comes to Lily's rescue!

Today I got a call from the Ganz folks up in Canada who make Webkinz stuffed animals and their accompanying virtual world website.

They were feeling sorry for Lily because she was the victim of a home invasion robbery in Webkinz world. See my post on that by clicking here. They wanted to know if there was something they could do to help.

Awww, isn't that nice?

To bring you up to date, I very stupidly published Lily's logon and password on this blog, (see the post here) and joked about someone stealing the "furniture'' in her bunny's bedroom.

Surprise, surprise! Someone did just that. Yes, it's true, one of you readers is THAT MEAN!

The cyber burglar also cleaned out Lily's Webkinz virtual bank account. Lily was devastated.

But I told the Webkinz spokeswoman that Lily is already rebuilding from this life tragedy. She got a new job, has a fresh infusion of cash to pay her veterinary bills, and has almost gotten over the mental anguish she suffered.

Susan McVeigh, a spokeswoman for the company, advised me that many a child has had the "learning experience'' Lily had.

"We say never share your password. Never,'' she said.

Kids can learn "safe Internet practices'' at a young age on Webkinz.com, she noted. And many a child has given out a password to a friend who is no longer a friend, or to a sibling, and been victimized like Lily was.

However, not many kids are victimized by their own parent publishing the password on the Internet, McVeigh noted. Not very smart.

"Send me the link when you do one with your bank account logon and password,'' McVeigh said and laughed.

Touche!

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Entertainment (114)

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September 10, 2008

The endless trip to the grocery store

Remember those “quick trips” to the store?

They’re gone, along with Friday nights at the movies. Now every trip within 100 feet of Publix means you will soon be walking the aisles with a full cart and a soon-to-be empty wallet. No matter how much we shop, there’s never enough baby formula.

So there’s a little debate going on in the household about whether to join Costco and start buying in bulk. I hate paying for a membership, but it’s jarring that the folks at Publix and Whole Foods are getting to know us by name. Not that they aren’t lovely people, of course.

So here’s my question: what’s your grocery shopping strategy? Do you go during the week or save it for Sunday? Do you buy in bulk once a month? Does that really save you money?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59), Shopping (28)

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Burglar strikes Lily's Webkinz world; was it you?

Lily is only 6, and already she's been the victim of a major crime. A burglar broke into her home, stole all her furniture and all her money. And, inexplicably, left four new chairs in her bedroom.

All of this occurred in cyberspace, in Lily's beloved Webkinz world.

She came to me crying hysterically, and told me of the invasion. Real tears were streaming down her cheeks. She'd earned $24 doing Webkinz "jobs,'' and it was gone.

"I went to get my pet some medicine,'' she told me, "and $1 came up. And then, sadness,'' she told me.

She wept openly as she told me that making this tragedy even worse was the fact that "my bunny is so SICK!'' And she had no money to take him to the vet.

In Webkinz world, which I told you about in a previous post, you earn "money'' working "jobs,'' and then you can "buy'' special beds and nightstands and such and furnish your pet's room. Lily had carefully done so. I specifically remember a cute little pink love seat. And a pink bed. A pink phone.

All of it, now gone.

"And they left four chairs in my room. Why would I need that many chairs?!'' she cried.

I tell you all of this to warn of the danger of sharing your logon and password with any friends or cousins. Or newspaper readers.

I shouldn't have published Lily's logon information, huh?

Did one of you make Lily cry?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Entertainment (114)

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September 9, 2008

Bristol and Levi: Our national teen soap opera

Would you make your teen get married if she got pregnant?bristol.jpg

We got an uncomfortably close view of this type of very personal teen drama when the pregnant Bristol Palin, 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and her "fiance," Levi Johnston, took the stage at the Republican convention last week.

I couldn't take my eyes off this young couple and kept wondering how their "engagement" came about. Were they going to get married anyway? Or is it being forced upon them for political expediency?

Studies show about half of teen marriages end in divorce within 10 years, compared with 24 percent of adults who marry after age 25. So Bristol and Levi are likely to have a failed marriage on top of a baby in their teen years, not to mention immaturity issues (you probably read about Levi calling himself a "f----n redneck" and saying he didn't want kids on his MySpace page).

What are your thoughts on this shotgun marriage? Are Bristol and Levi doing the right thing?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211), Pregnancy (31), Teen (158)

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September 8, 2008

MTV, purity, politics and a step in the right direction

I love it when obnoxious, virtually unknown, foreign, painfully unfunny music awards show hosts tell me how to vote. Love it even more when they tastelessly mock the Jonas Brothers for the unspeakable crime of being virgins, especially when my stepkids are watching.

So you can imagine my wife and I had a blast watching the MTV Video Music Awards last night. My first thought when I saw the host, British comedian Russell Brand, was, "Who the devil is British comedian Russell Brand?"

russell_brand_280_373293a.jpg Then the nitwit started talking, representing himself as a member of the global community and begging the U.S. to elect Barack Obama president. Now, I'm not going to declare my political leanings here, but I am going to recall something I observed four years ago: U.S. Americans really, really don't like it when foreigners tell them how to vote. If they did, President Kerry would be seeking his second term right now. In urging a vote for Obama, Russell Brand did as much to further the cause of John McCain as 10 Alaskan governors could hope to do.

Not content to have one foot in his mouth, Brand actually did the unthinkable. He kept talking. He targeted VP nominee Sarah Palin and her future son-in-law (in a bit that could have been a lot funnier than it was), then the Jonas Brothers (in a bit that wasn't even mildly amusing). Somehow, he worked a couple of "master of your domain" jokes in there, just to make sure parents were as uncomfortable as possible if they were watching with their younger teens.

"He's making me mad," my 13-year-old stepdaughter said. "He's making fun of the Jonas Brothers."

My wife and I looked at each other with a hint of relief. Turns out a 13-year-old girl, admiring the talent and wholesomeness of a trio of young men, actually proved to be smarter than a self-appointed representative of the global community. Bravo, kid.

Now, I know this brings up a whole other issue: what's the right age to allow a teen to watch the MTV awards? We all know how, um, challenging they can be to a parent. (Actually, most parents know that. I've only been a parent for a year, and last year we missed the show).

I'm not going to rail on MTV for having the gall to put things on television that I find inappropriate. I've found such protests counterproductive anyway. Want your kids to keep away from programming you find offensive? Watch it with them. They'll have "Little House" reruns on in no time.

Both Chris Brown and the Jonas Brothers were up for awards last night. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to keep our girls from watching that show. So we watched, too.

As far as Russell Brand is concerned, he joked that without fame, his haircut could be mistaken for mental illness. My thought? I don't think it was the haircut.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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September 4, 2008

Taking my three-year daughter to the potty in the men's room

We celebrated my daughter finally learning to use the potty. She did it the week before her third birthday. What a relief.

urinal.jpg

Then came a wrinkle I really didn't think of until, well, my daughter had to go potty and her mommy wasn't around.

I went with Ana Isabel to the beach just us two for a little papi and daughter time. She loves the ocean. She played in the sand. And we had a ball in the small waves. Then came the moment: "Papi, I have to go potty!" she says.

After a brief second of panic, I blurted out: "We're at the beach, go right here." She looked at me with a blank stare and said it again. "Papi, potty." OK. That wasn't the best idea.

I picked her up and headed to the bathrooms, the public men's room. As I'm racing with Ana in my arms, I'm thinking: "Do I take her in the women's room?"

I know what most public men's rooms look like. I'd rather not take my daughter in there. As we approached the two bathrooms doors, a scraggly looking man walked out of the men's room.

"Anybody else in there?" I blurted out. He quickly answered, I think one other person. At least, it was not a public restroom full of grown men standing in front of urinals. We raced into the large wheelchair accessible stall. No one else in site.

Ana peed. I probably was more relieved than she was. Later in the day, we used a unisex bathroom at a restaurant. That was better.

I make it a point to do things with my daughter alone, especially since the arrival of Lucas Emilio four months ago. So I guess I'm going to be dealing with this dilemma for a while.

Any other suggestions for taking my daughter potty in public when mommy's not around?

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

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September 3, 2008

Torn feelings over Palin's candidacy

I've been puzzling over my feelings about John McCain's choice for his running mate for several days now, as more details about Gov. Sarah Palin and her family life come to light. Like many women my age, who came to adulthood in the era of Gloria Steinem, Ms. magazine and the ERA, I have been waiting for the day when I could vote for a woman for president.

As the mother of daughters, I look forward to seeing them live in a world free of sexism, where they can truly be anything they want, including president.

With some chagrin, I'll admit that I've caught myself thinking that a mother of five might have more on her mind than running a country -- particularly when one child is a handicapped baby, one is headed off to war and one is pregnant as a teenager. She also has a bad ex-brother-in-law and a potential son-in-law who claimed on his MySpace page to be a "f--ing redneck."

Well, sheesh. If that was my family, I'd want to run off on the campaign trail, too.

Palin's daughter is a poster child -- literally -- for why abstinence-only messages don't work on teenagers. The hunky boyfriend trumped mom's message pretty thoroughly, didn't he?

Lucky for Bristol it's only a baby and not HIV disease, sterility-inducing clamydia or any number of other serious venereal diseases that can be the consequence of unprotected sex.
bristol-palin.jpg

The public reaction to Palin's teen-pregnancy revelation makes me laugh:"Oh, well, this happens to millions of families. The American people will understand."

Uh, not really. Most parents of 17-year-olds do not, in fact, have to deal with pregnancy. It's neither normal nor common, thank goodness. It is, in fact, a problem. Bristol Palin, like Jamie Lynn Spears before her, is no role model for my two teenage daughters.

I'm sad that the Grand Old Party couldn't find a more qualified woman with a little less baggage to put forward as their vice presidential candidate. Call me elitist -- I'm sure someone will -- but I think Sarah Palin sets back the position of women in this country by decades. It's just too easy to look at her and think: "This is it? This is the best women have to offer?"

Thank goodness there are plenty of women and mothers like me who know that it is not.

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

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Can a mother of 5 be a good Vice President?

I'm all for women achieving the highest political offices. But at what point do you have too many kids to take on the nation's second, and potentially first, most important job?palin.jpg

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's kids are 19, 17, 14, 7 and four months. The four-month-old has Down syndrome. The 17-year-old is pregnant.

Palin's family issues have ignited debates among women across the country, sometimes switching stereotypes. Lots of normally conservative women are cheering her ability to juggle family issues and political life, while some normally liberal women are wondering whether she can handle so many heavy responsibilities.

What's your take? Can Palin be supermom and Vice President? Or are five kids too much for a VP to handle?

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

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September 2, 2008

Who buys their child three backpacks?

I got a little bit of helpful advice from my son's middle school principal. I had just shelled out $35 or $40 for a new backpack. And she suggested I buy one or two more. backpack3.jpg


Great idea!

The principal advised in a letter to parents that our kids could really have their crap together if they color coordinated their backpacks to the classes of the day. And I quote:

"Parents have found it helpful to have two or even three different colored backpacks to maintain organization at home, especially in th emornings when everyone is in a hurry to get out of the house.''

Hmmm, I thought. Did principal Kris Black read this in a Martha Stewart magazine?

The school, Seminole Middle in Plantation, is on block scheduling, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays they have four 85-minute classes, and on Wednesdays and Fridays they have four different classes, and on Mondays they have a short version of all eight classes.

I asked Creed what he thought of the idea.

"Creed, do you want me to buy you different colored backpacks for your odd and even days?''

"No,'' he said indignantly.

"Why not?' I asked.

"I'm not organized!,'' he said, as if the word "organized'' was a disease.

"Yes," I said, picturing his messy closets, "I know.''


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

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Talking race with kids

Something surprising happened the other day: my son commented on someone’s race.
He’s just over 2, but I had this fantasy it would have taken longer than this. That difficult conversation of “what is racism” must be just around the corner.
Here’s how it went:
The four of us were in the car, packing up after a trip to Fort Lauderdale beach. Just to make small talk, I asked Alexander what he saw out of the window.
“A tall, white man,” he said.
“Oh,” I said.
My wife and I looked at one another. Well, isn’t that interesting, we said.
Our sons are biracial. I’m white (although I wasn’t the man Alexander was referring to) and my wife is African American. We know from a certain Democratic presidential candidate how complicated this racial experience can be for a kid. They are likely to benefit from our new societal sensibilities about growing up with both black and white parents, but it's never going to be easy.

Still, despite all the talk about race this campaign season and the major role it plays in my life, I’m always queasy at the topic. Sure, I talk about race frequently, but it’s never easy. And when it comes to kids, I don’t know when it’s confusing and when it’s helpful to raise it. (Rowan is only 10 months, so I’ve got some time there.)

So when did your kids first ask about race? What did you say?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59), Say what!?! (25)

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One house, (at least) two music idols

Do they even call them jukeboxes anymore?

Kayla stepped up to one of those gizmos at a restaurant the other day and scrolled through the music selection. She didn't want to play anything. She just wanted to see what they had. She returned to our table with a self-satisfied grin. chris_brown.jpg
"They have Chris Brown, but no Jonas Brothers," she said. It's because the Jonas Brothers are lousy, she reasoned.

Lately, Kayla and Paxtynn have been locked in a battle of the fans. Paxtynn, 13, enjoys the Jonas Brothers. Kayla does not share her enthusiasm, which is fine. What irks me is that Kayla cannot seem to allow Paxtynn to enjoy her fandom in peace. Why would anyone like the Jonas Brothers when Chris Brown is so much better? Jonas.jpg

Oh, please. Since when do other musical acts have to be bad in order for the one you enjoy to be good?

Could you imagine Billy Joel fans hating on Elton John fans?

"'Daniel' is boring. 'Piano Man' rules."

"'Piano Man'? More like 'Piano Loser.'"

Chris Brown is a fun entertainer. The Jonas Brothers are fun, too. There's room in our house for both their CDs and both their posters. And, dare I say it? It's possible to be a fan of both, kids.

Not me, of course. I mean, why would I be a fan of Chris Brown or the Jonas Brothers when Linda Eder and Lea Salonga are still singing?

Don't know who they are? Why not? What's wrong with you?

POSTED IN: Music (22), Rafael Olmeda (59), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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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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