> Posted by Matthew Strozier on December 30, 2008 01:52 PM
Let me continue the music-themed posts. Among my favorite gifts this year was a CD from a good friend that included Bob Dylan’s version of “This Old Man.” It appears on a charity album for pediatric AIDS. A reviewer on Amazon.com fittingly describes it as “unforgettable” and “phrased and delivered as only Dylan can with his mercurial invention and powerful character.”
Dylan echoed through my house when I was kid. Hearing his voice now brings me back to the rural Illinois home where I spent my formative years. Playing his music for my kids gives me a certain E.B. White “Once More to the Lake” chill, but it’s worth it. Take a listen.
> Posted by Joy Oglesby on December 29, 2008 02:43 PM
There is probably no holiday song that is at once annoying and endearing than Auld Lang Syne.
No matter who's singing the lyrics -- the song sounds as if it should accompany a sailor walking down the plank.
And with the advent of YouTube and the like, finding annoying versions of the songs is much easier. Here's my pick -- an animation of children singing with a bonus caption to follow along. Alas there's no bouncing ball.
> Posted by Lois Solomon on December 24, 2008 07:00 AM
Do your kids download music from the Internet? Looks like they're not likely to get sued anymore, but trouble still might be brewing for them (and us).
The Recording Industry Association of America is trying a new tack to get people to stop illegally downloading music they are supposed to pay for. Instead of suing the pirates, the RIAA is working with unnamed Internet service providers to slow down or possibly cut off service to people who illegally download music.
You could get a polite e-mail asking you to stop, or another possibility, according to Ben Patterson, a Yahoo! tech blogger: a charge on your cable bill, similar to an I-tunes bill.
I can see why kids (and adults) can't resist downloading music when there appears to be no penalty. But I sympathize with the music industry too: The Wall Street Journal says record companies sold 500 million CDS and albums in 2007, down from 656 million in 2003.
> Posted by Lois Solomon on December 17, 2008 07:30 AM
It has always bothered me when I have to sign my kids' lives away so they can participate in a field trip, whether they're swimming, horseback riding, canoeing or bungee jumping.
I'm sure you've seen the fine print: "I waive the right to sue if my child is injured or dies," or a variation on that theme.
So I was thrilled last week to see that the Florida Supreme Court ruled that parents cannot waive liability if their children get injured while participating in one of these activities.
Just last weekend, I signed a waiver so my 14-year-old could go on a snorkeling trip in the Keys. This was after the court's ruling! Clearly things are not going to change soon, but at least I know the paperwork, which they make me sign if I want my kid to go, has become meaningless.
> Posted by Daniel Vasquez on December 16, 2008 01:10 PM
Most parents would safely say it's a good idea to buy a holiday gift for your child's most important teachers. But did you know you could give the wrong gift?
Apparently, some teachers don't like certain gifts, including a framed photo of your child (I would've honestly thought that was a sweet gesture), coffee mugs (They already have too many) or poorly-made baked goods - even if they are the work of the teacher's student (Now this one I get).
Honestly, it's not easy shopping for a teacher. You don't want t spend too much. Too little. Do you go with a gift card? Is that too impersonal?
If you're a teacher reading this, please share some suggestions.
Many of us parents would like to thank you for your hard work and profound influence upon the children we sometimes send your way with the occasional runny nose and/or penchant to challenge authority.
> Posted by Brittany Wallman on December 16, 2008 08:54 AM
Now that we're duping our second child into believing in imaginary characters, we're kind of losing our excitement about it.
For instance I don't think we'll take Lily to sit on any Santa's lap this year. A letter will do.
And this morning I heard those dreaded, dreaded words: "Mom, the Tooth Fairy's not real. She didn't leave me any money!''
You know your priorities went askew when you stay up till midnight sending emails, but forget to put a couple dollars under your child's pillow when a front tooth falls out.
Gulp. My mind raced through various options of "recovery'' from this mortifying oversight. Should I take the pink tooth bag into another room and declare that I found money in it that she had missed? Should I stick money under another pillow when she leaves the room and tell her she didn't look in the right place? Should I make up something on the spot about the Tooth Fairy not visiting little girls who don't clean their room?
"Well,'' I said, "we'll just have to try again tonight.''
"She must have looked under the wrong pillow,'' Lily decided, because she was sleeping in the wrong direction and had her feet on the tooth pillow.
Thank goodness kids always give the Tooth Fairy the benefit of the doubt.
> Posted by Brittany Wallman on December 12, 2008 09:53 AM
On the radio this morning I heard an advertisement for a service that helps you keep your child safe from molesters. They said you could order a report that would include information about potential sexual offenders in your midst.
Fortunately that information is public record, and available for free to all of us in Florida.
I look up my neighborhood once in a while on the state's sexual offender and sexual predator database, to see which neighbors of mine to look out for.
You can even sign up to get an email if a sex offender moves in or out of your community. And on the state's searchable database, here, you can look up email addressess and Instant message names to see if they're registered to offenders.
> Posted by Rafael Olmeda on December 12, 2008 06:42 AM
The anniversary of the murders of 7-year-old Joey Bochicchio-Hauser and her mother, Nancy Bochicchio, serves as a sobering reminder of the reality of crime and violence. The Sun Sentinel has revisited the case several times, including today, following the latest developments in the investigation and providing useful information for others concerned about their safety.
Hang up the cell phone, leave the purse at home and master the art of getting in and out of the car quickly.
All can help a shopper avoid falling victim to the most common violent crime reported at area malls: robberies in parking lots and garages.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reviewed hundreds of police reports and interviewed victims, investigators and experts to come up with ways to help you stay safe.
What about parents who shop with children?
Some criminals won't shy from confronting a mother with kids. In fact, a few have used children to manipulate a woman to hand over her purse and valuables.
We found nine reports of women who were robbed as they walked through a parking lot with children. Two cases were at the Pembroke Lakes Mall in Pembroke Pines in October 2006, and at the time police said one man was likely responsible for both attacks. In both cases, the gunman said he would hurt the child if the woman didn't hand over her purse and valuables.
In 2007, there were also two extreme cases involving children, both at the Town Center at Boca Raton. In August, a woman and her 2-year-old son were abducted from the parking lot and robbed; and in December, Nancy Bochicchio, 47, and her daughter Joey, 7, were found dead inside their running SUV parked outside of Sears.
It's important to note that not all facts on the case have been revealed. Here's what we do know:
Three 7th graders have been suspended and face expulsion for alleged "inappropriate sexual conduct." The school district on Wednesday used the word "perpetrators" to describe the three students (two boys, one girl). A short time later, police issued a news release indicating there were others involved in the case who were described as "victims."
School district spokesman Keith Bromery said Wednesday that two teachers were reassigned as part of the investigation because the behavior is alleged to have occurred in their classrooms.
And that's one part of the story that seems to have parents upset. To put it delicately, what exactly was this "inappropriate sexual conduct," and how could it have taken place in a classroom without a teacher noticing? The more serious the misconduct, the harder it is to believe a teacher didn't notice it.
So how serious was it?
Meanwhile, other readers who are responding to the story think we should be blaming the parents of the three suspended students. Teach them right from wrong, they argue, and we won't be reading about sex in the classroom.
That may be true, but it doesn't account for teenage rebellion. I mean, if Franklin Graham could go through a period of rebellion (despite the efforts of his father -- a preacher named Billy whose name you might recognize), how can anyone automatically blame the parents when teens go astray?
Unfortunately, she said, sometimes teen rebellion can go too far, particularly when parental influence is outweighed by other factors. "Once kids are entering adolescence, peer groups have much more influence than parents," she said. Add to that a pervasive media and the Internet, and the job of keeping kids in line becomes more difficult for even the most involved parents.
Not that Faffer lets parents off the hook: "There is still the reality that parents need to spend time with their kids, talk to them, open a dialogue. And that needs to start at a young age."
Other readers are blaming school administrators, the principal and even the alleged victims, who didn't begin reporting the incidents until last Thursday.
Blame the perpetrators? Blame the victims? Blame the teachers? Blame the parents? Blame the school?
We know the old saying: it takes a village to raise a child. Is the whole village, then, to blame?
> Posted by Lois Solomon on December 10, 2008 07:00 AM
What do we tell our kids about why people are protesting our governor's wedding on Friday?
According to GaySoFla.com, members of Impact-Florida will protest Gov. Charlie Crist's wedding to Carol Rome at a St. Petersburg church and will follow the reception to the Renaissance Vinoy.
The protesters want to point out that Crist, who voted for Amendment 2, has the right to marry, a right they believe gays and lesbians should also have.
After the demonstration, participants plan to gather at the Green Iguana, a bar in Tampa where Crist hung out as a bachelor.
Although I want to be up front with my kids about sexual issues, I often get tongue tied after the first sentence or two. I found some good suggestions here on how to keep the conversations on gay marriage simple and direct.
> Posted by Matthew Strozier on December 9, 2008 06:51 PM
OK, moral dilemma here. Someone on the condo board asked me recently what I think about the building’s “no pets” policy. There's a movement afoot to reconsider the policy, and as a board member, I might have some sway in the matter.
So here’s the question: Is it OK to support changing the policy to benefit my kids if I wouldn’t otherwise? I grew up with pets, and it’s generally made me a better person (or at least I hope). There are also practical benefits, like cats keeping mice away. Still, truth be told, I don’t want everyone to get a pet. I just want one for my kids. Even then I wonder how a cat or a dog would fit in our condo.
As you can see, I’d like the option for my kids. But as an owner, I worry about people failing to take care of their animals, both for the sake of the animal and the building. So it’s the personal vs. the collective good here. In the immortal words of Bernie Mac, America, what should I do?
"A former Pembroke Pines Charter High School student filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the school's principal, alleging that he violated her first-amendment rights by suspending her for creating a Facebook page that criticized one of her teachers."
Let's face it - I don't know all the facts here. Students can be cruel. Teachers can be cruel. Classrooms have lots of personalities and factors that make school a good or bad experience for both teachers and students.
But I know some basic rules:
You have to get along with people in the real world, even if it's difficult.
Treat others as you would like to be treated. Could you imagine if teachers had Facebook pages for every student they disliked?
Two wrongs don't make a right - even you feel you were the one victimized. If the student felt her teacher failed to do a good job, did she take it up with the teacher, with her parents or with the school administration?
It's basic really -- call it Respect 101. I wonder whether the parents of this student are involved or assisting in the lawsuit.
As a parent, what are your thoughts about this student's actions and the school's reaction?
> Posted by Brittany Wallman on December 9, 2008 09:27 AM
Used to be that when my daughter came home from school with a cute drawing or some kind of construction paper and glue creation, I'd get all excited and proud, and I'd think, "Now this I have to keep.''
Now I assess it quickly, and if it's not brilliant, I think, "which trash can should I throw this in that Lily won't see I threw it away and start crying.''
Because if you save kid art long enough, you have to invest in some of those giant plastic tubs with lids, and then after another year or two, you get a citation from code enforcement for "improper outdoor storage.''
I do want to keep some of these hints into her little mind, though.
(I'm a big advocate of promoting a child's artistic side. Click here to read my earlier post about art supplies and displaying your kid's art in the home.) (And click here to find out about the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art's summer camps, which are awesome. Click here to find out about their Saturday morning art classes for kids.)
So there's definitely need for a "system'' in the house when it comes to the kid-art. Keep, or toss?
I've heard some good advice on this. One is to toss any art that was done from a pattern, like one of those cute Thanksgiving construction paper turkeys, for example. Toss anything that involved coloring in an existing drawing, like from a coloring book, no matter how great it looks.
Keep only original works, in other words.
You'll still end up with too much. But I have ideas on what to do with some of it.
Holiday art you can keep in your box of decorations for that holiday. Take it out and display it at the right time.
The rest? I keep a stack of Lily's cutest drawings, including some of her homework that has her drawings and her attempts at writing. And every time I have to write someone a letter, be they friend or family, I grab one of Lily's drawings and throw it in there. I reason that I enjoy when friends put the latest school photo in the envelope, and I'd enjoy seeing kid artwork as well.
In my Christmas cards this year, for example, I'm including a copy of a recent Lily poem.
My husband thinks that's going overboard. But I figure, why not?
The incoming president sounds like someone who's not serious about quitting. "I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House," he said.
Coming from a politician, those words leave an awful lot of wiggle room.
I did not see the Meet the Press interview that spurred the flurry of news reports, but I got a feeling of deja vu reading about it. "I've done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier," he said. And in an interview with Men's Health magazine, he said, "But I figure, seeing as I'm running for president, I need to cut myself a little slack."
"I only smoke when I drink."
"I've only had a few cigarettes over the last few days."
"I didn't have one yesterday, and I won't have one tomorrow. Today I'll slip; it'll be okay."
"Today was too stressful. I had to cut myself some slack."
"This one's nothing. You should see how much I used to smoke!"
Granted, I've never run for President of the United States. But I have run from the truth that I was addicted to nicotine, and I denied that truth using the same words I now see and hear coming from Barack Obama.
Now, I'm not going to be some holier-than-thou ex-smoker demanding that the incoming president succumb to my vision of cardio-pulmorality. If Obama wants to indulge in a legal activity when and where it's allowed, so be it. Plenty of presidents have smoked. Reagan was featured in ads for cigarettes.
Just spare us the lame excuses. I didn't believe them when they came from me, I don't believe them when they come from him, and I pray I never hear them from my kids, who, like it or not, will be looking to the new president as a role model.
Mr. President-elect, you didn't pick up a cigarette because you were running for president and it's stressful. You weren't cutting yourself slack. And there's no such thing as keeping yourself healthy "under the circumstances." You're either keeping yourself healthy or you're voluntarily engaging in legal activity that compromises your health. You pick up a cigarette because you're addicted to nicotine and lack either the ability or the willingness to stop.
So drop the excuses. If you really want to quit, try these words instead: "I quit smoking. I need my friends to keep me on track and honest about it."
I spoke those words on July 11, 2008. Haven't had a cigarette since.
Let's see if we can't get Barack Obama into one of these ads someday soon.
For parents and their children, there are quizzes, articles, blogs and advice. Questions children have about sex are headlined as topics. I took the Sex, Do you know your stuff ? quiz and passed. Whew!
The idea is not to turn your child away from getting answers and having discussions with you. But if you find you are at a loss for words when the big questions come, or you think you child would appreciate the additional information then check out "Let's talk about sex, for the first time" and "Why do adults make such a big deal about teens having sex? "
Discussing sex on our son's level is powerful and beneficial to him. We hope he'll keep that line of communication open always for a wonderfully fulfilling relationship in the future .
> Posted by Rafael Olmeda on December 4, 2008 07:40 AM
Originally posted earlier this month: Bringing this back up for the holiday. Merry Christmas!
I’m two months away from becoming a first-time biological father, and I’ve come to an important decision. As early as I can, I’m going to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus.
He’s real, and I don’t see why I should shelter my son from that truth.
My parents sheltered me from the truth, and when I grew up and learned Santa Claus was real, I was upset. How could they have deceived me throughout my childhood? No such thing as Santa Claus? What's next? There's no such thing as hope, or compassion or tenderness?
Santa Claus is the one who, every year, replenishes warehouses when thieves steal toys from charities. Yes, sir, I’ve seen it happen. He helps hundreds of volunteers wake up during the last month of the year to fix plates of hot food for people who can't afford one. He’s behind countless acts of generosity, sympathy and understanding.
As I grew older, I realized that all those things are really real, and that’s when I learned that Santa Claus does exist.
No, that's not really him ringing a bell beside a kettle outside malls and superstores. Those are his helpers. Santa's the one filling the kettles.
The sober reality of life is that Santa Claus can't make every dream come true, not even the Christmas dreams. No one can do that. But Santa Claus taught me that it’s okay to dream, and I want him to teach the same thing to my son when the time is right.
So my son will grow up knowing the truth about Santa Claus. I’m not ashamed to say it. Santa’s real, and I, for one, still believe.
> Posted by Lois Solomon on December 3, 2008 09:19 AM
Among the many details that have emerged about the murders of almost 200 people in Mumbai, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivkah, is that two of their children have suffered from Tay-Sachs, a deadly genetic disease.
It's a lipid storage disorder often found among Jews of Eastern European descent. The children become blind and deaf and their muscles atrophy. There is no cure and they die at a young age.
The Holtzbergs had one son who died of the disease and another who is currently being treated for it in an Israeli hospital. Rivkah Holtzberg was pregnant when she was killed. The couple also has a two-year-old son, Moshe, who apparently witnessed the murder of his parents but was rescued by his nanny.
Clearly the couple knew they were carriers, but as Orthodox Jews, they likely believed God commanded them to have many children. It's a devastating dilemma that many of us have to go through to different degrees in our own lives.
There's a Boca Raton-based foundation, the Matthew Forbes Romer Foundation, that assists people with questions about genetic disorders. Click here for more information.
There was plenty to, yes, chew on in this, but here’s a gem in the ages 2-6 section: “Two natural parental impulses, pressuring children to eat and restricting access to specific foods, are not recommended because they often lead to overeating, dislikes, and paradoxical interest in forbidden items.”
This comes after a reminder that parents choose what is eaten, and when and where, and kids decide whether to eat and how much. Of course, the article is full of reminders about what we want kids to eat, and even suggestions about ways they might actually eat it.
All this leads me to the dilemma of the fish nugget. I cooked dinner the other night, and our 2-year-old was really only interested in his macaroni and cheese. I heated a fish nugget despite his warnings that “I don’t want that, daddy.” He took one bite. I could hear that voice in my head, “He’s got to eat more.”
How many times did we hear that as kids: “You can leave the table after one more bite.” To this day, I hate Brussels sprouts because that “one more bite” made me once want to gag. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned.
> Posted by Rafael Olmeda on December 1, 2008 10:10 AM
Okay, confession: I don’t know how to help my kids with their homework.
There are plenty of reasons. A big one is that I’m a stepfather; I wasn’t around to watch or influence the development of their study habits. And helping a kid with homework is a major bonding experience. I suspect it develops over time: they learn how to work with me, and I learn how to work with them. We didn’t have that, and in some ways, I think it shows.
My wife, who is a teacher, exhibits a superhuman amount of patience. I, on the other hand, lose my cool at the slightest hint of a lack of effort. I hear what’s being spoken, but I don’t hear what’s being said. I remember one time, I asked one of the girls what a steamboat was. She answered that it was a boat. I just about lost my mind. “If you don’t want my help,” I snapped, “don’t ask for it!”
That showed her. Yeah, it showed her that I lack the patience and understanding to really help her. I learned, way too late, that I should have been listening for the unspoken words. You know, words like, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at with that question. Please clarify. Are you trying to ask how it is powered or how it changed commerce in the 1800s?”
My wife hears those unspoken questions and answers in ways that I envy. Our girls don’t like admitting they don’t know something. They’d much rather take an educated guess or, more frequently, a wild guess. I find that frustrating, but I wouldn’t if I spent more time helping them and less time taking their responses as a lack of effort.
So the bottom line is that I need help being a better parent when it comes to homework. And there is help available locally.
The Learning Tools page on the Palm Beach County School District Web site is a treasure trove (one problem: their link to “Helping your student get the most out of homework” seems to be broken. You can find it here). [UPDATE: The school district fixed the link on its page. Many thanks!]
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 Solomon lives in Boca Raton 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.