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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January 30, 2009

Confederate flag on our bookshelf?

We had an interesting dilemma this week. Our son, who’s almost 3, wanted to take his new truck book to school. He got it from the Broward County Library.

It’s your normal truck book, filled with all kinds of vehicles to marvel at, except for one thing: a page with an illustration of a Confederate flag atop a monster truck. The flag has a skull and bones in it, and above it words to the effect of, “Look at the flag fly.”

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First things first. I’m not looking to ban anything here. Parents are free to put whatever book they want – or don’t want – on their shelves. In fact, this book seems accurate enough in its depiction of monster truck culture. I’ve seen a few Confederate flags atop monster trucks in my day. The point is whether we wanted to make Confederate flags seem normal in our house. We’re all familiar with the debate about the flag’s meaning. To me, it’s like global warming: the research has spoken. It’s impossible to sever ties between the Confederate flag and slavery. Could it represent something else? I suppose, but I don’t see how it’s not tied to slavery.

Still, is this something I can explain to a toddler? Would reading the book prompt a helpful conversation about the flag and its meaning for America? Or would it make something I find objectionable seem acceptable?

In the end, we decided to remove the book from the house for now. I need to answer those questions for myself before bringing it back.



POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59), Toddler (127)

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Mother of octuplets needs a nanny

The California mother of six who recently had eight children is perfect for a cause celebre.

Let's hope Angelina Jolie swoops in and sends this woman a few nannies to give her a hand. angelinajolie-family.bmp

As a mother of half-a-dozen kids, Angelina knows what it's like to juggle bottles, potty-training and bedtime stories. Right?

POSTED IN: None

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It's about choosing child care, not shopping for shoes

Priority #1: Safety. Hands down, when it comes to our children. But somehow, we let our guard down in the process of making child care decisions.

Parents of children under the age of 6 are most concerned about safety when choosing child care, according to a recent survey. The report, Parents' Perceptions of Child Care j0438799.jpg in the United States, highlights other top issues: learning environments with trained child care providers, and cost. Zogby International conducted the telephone poll of 1,004 parents in November for the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.

The report also revealed that parents assume a lot: that there is governmental oversight to ensure child care safety; that background checks are conducted and employees do get training on child development, CPR, child guidance and discipline, and can recognize signs of child abuse.

Sometimes, we parents are naive, just like our children. We place complete trust and faith in the system, just as our children do us. The report went on to say parents believe that state governments license and inspect all child care programs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The NACCRRA reports that only about half of the states inspect child care settings only once a year or less.

The report details its findings on cost and other child care issues. The NACCRRA provides links, facts and score cards.

If you had been asked - and other than safety – what is your biggest child care concern?

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), Newborn (39), Pre-K (25), Pre-Teen (57), Safety (59), Toddler (127)

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January 29, 2009

Kids, parents should be aware but not scared

Let's see, if you tally up all the extra-curricular events that have been going on in and at schools around here lately, it adds up to a lot of mayhem. And you should be concerned, rightfully so. But how do you show that without teaching fear?

There have been shootings, stabbings, teachers accused of inappropriate sexual conduct, teachers assaulting students, students ambushing teachers and yesterday's giant fight at South Broward High School.

Schools everywhere are potential venues of turmoil at one time or another over one thing or another. Even death and murder. No one intentionally puts their child in harm's way because of the school they are attending.

Last night, one of my son's friends called so they could chat about the incident. At the end of the conversation, they both said they are looking forward to going to S. Broward next year anyway. Sometimes things happen that are out of an individual's control.

But what if your kid expresses they are nervous about going to school because of these incidents?

Do you discuss this stuff with them? What about those classic rumors like, there is going to be a big fight at the bus stop, or so and so is going to beat up someone at lunch time? How do you encourage your child to be alert but not afraid; to be safe and have a plan, but not overly worried?

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), School Issues (135)

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Baby proofing the house a second time

You think it would be easier since we did it for my daughter Ana Isabel, now 3 1/2 years old. But for some reason, it seems not.
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My son, Lucas Emilio, who just turned 9 months old, started crawling then furniture surfing within days all in the last month. He'll soon be running around the house.

With Ana, we had one gate, latches for cabinets, outlet covers, foam bumpers for the sharp corners on walls and furniture. It worked and kept her from getting hurt (except for one encounter with a drawer pull).

With Lucas on the other hand, we already have three gates and may be getting one more. There's seems to be more foam in some rooms than furniture. We have outlet covers where we don't have outlets. OK, I exaggerate. But you get the point.

He's getting into everything. And everything that gets into his hands goes in his mouth. It's not fun for a nervous-nelly parent like me.

I went looking for some more information -- here for childproofing and here for general child safety -- to make sure we didn't miss anything. We did. We're not done yet. We have more work to do.

Mannnn!! This parenting thing can be exhausting.

POSTED IN: Luis Perez (32), Safety (59)

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January 28, 2009

Advice to parents, straight from the teens' mouths

Two teens are here at the Sun Sentinel today, shadowing me in my job as a reporter. I asked them to give parents advice on dealing with teen-agers.

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High schoolers Famishia Williams and Kelsey Dean

KELSEY DEAN, 17, WESTERN HIGH SCHOOL in Davie

"As far as advice for parents of other teens, give us space, but not too much. We're still learning. We will make mistakes.
Don't brush us off as children, but don't assume we know what we're doing all of the time.
Overprotection and underprotection can cause rebellion. And even if you're doing everything right, we'll criticize you anyway. It's how we get our point across.
Also, don't undermine a teenager's problem; it might seem irrelevant to you, but to us, it probably means the world, at least for the time being.''

FAMISHIA WILLIAMS, 17, NORTHEAST HIGH SCHOOL in Fort Lauderdale:

"Communication is key. When dealing with teen-agers, especially girls, it's important not to simply assume that you know exactly how they feel and what's going on with them because you've "been there before.''
It's important to do more listening than talking because honestly, we want nothing more than to express the way we feel and tell parents everything that's going on in our lives without being judged.
Most parents feel uncomfortable with talking to their teens about certain subjects such as sex, love, drugs and other things that are important to us. Parents have to sometimes cross that line dividing parenting and befriending. Parents have to come out of this dictative mindset and talk to teens. That 'my house, my rules' cliche is becoming a bit overrated.
Children are tired of being silenced. It's time to listen.''

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

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The pit bull or the baby: one of them has got to go

A confession: I’m a bigot. I don’t trust pit bulls, especially around children.

Now before the defenders and detractors line up with their documented evidence of why I’m right or wrong, let me just say that the pit bull living on my property now is the dopiest, friendliest, most goofiest bundle of fun imaginable. But in a week and a half, my wife and I are coming home with a baby, and we want the pit bull gone.

Dopey.jpgThe dog belongs to another family member who is not in a position at the moment to care for him.

I’ve read the literature. I’m familiar with the arguments presented by sites such as Jason Mann’s Pit Bull Lovers page. And I sympathize with those who have tried to stand up for the breed’s reputation.

But I’m also a reporter, which makes me paranoid, and a father-to-be, which makes me doubly so, and that paranoia leads me to think that when campaigns have to be organized to assure me that a particular animal is safe around infants, it’s because they’re not. Pit bulls and babies go together like Freddy Krueger and teenagers.

Ok, I'm exaggerating. In truth, this is a personal decision, not really a bigoted one. If I felt our family had the time, inclination and resources to properly train and raise a pit bull, this big fella would be just the right fit. But honestly, we don’t. And that’s the kind of dog news stories get written about. You know the stories. They always contain quotes like “He never acted up before” and “She was the friendliest dog.”

It’s not the dog, it’s the owner. I get that. And I don’t have the time to be the owner this dog deserves. And neither does anyone else in our household. So maybe my decision, my insistence, would be the wrong thing for your household. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s the right thing for mine, if for no other reason than that the dog deserves a better home.

[By the way: I'm not a dog breeder, veterinarian or expert. I'm speaking as a guy about to bring his firstborn son home next weekend. An expert may look at the picture above and say, "What an idiot. That's not a pit bull." If that's the case, enlighten me. I can take it.]

In the meantime, check out this video, on YouTube under the title “Pit Bull Viciously Attacks Baby.”


POSTED IN: Newborn (39), Pets (4), Rafael Olmeda (59), Safety (59)

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Time to sell the Thin Mints!

Every year I dread Girl Scout cookie season and get excited about it at the same time.girlscout.jpg

As Girl Scout parents, we are asked to sell so many cookies that it's pretty burdensome. At the same time, almost no one says no when you ask them to buy.

According to Girl Scouts of South-East Florida, nine out of 10 people will buy cookies if asked. Despite the recent peanut scare and kosher-labeling problems, the flavors are so unique (think Thin Mints, Thanks-A-Lots and Samoas) and the time frame so limited ( Jan. 22 to Feb. 10), that many people stock up on their favorites so they can last into next year.

For the second year, you can also donate Cookies for the Military. Last year, more than 19,000 boxes were delivered to military personnel.

Click here to find cookie sales locations in Broward and here for Palm Beach County.

POSTED IN: Food (56), Lois Solomon (211)

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Best parks in South Florida

South Florida's winter is best spent outdoors in the parks, the Everglades, on the water. In places that are hostile in the summer because of the mosquitos and heat.

I'm partial to parks that cater to the under 5 set, which meet the needs of my 23 month old.

There's the newly expanded Hardy Park in Fort Lauderdale, which has cool chair-like swings for kids at heart.

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The ground cover is artificial grass and crumbled tires.

We also like the Riverland Park that has two playground sets, a swing set and a nearby bathroom. The ground cover is mulch.

But I'm always on the hunt for another park that has a (reasonably) clean playset, a bathroom in close promixity and a covered pavilion or trees with shade.

What's your favorite kiddie park?

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Family Fitness (21), General (185), Joy Oglesby (134), Parks (12), Pre-K (25), Toddler (127)

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January 27, 2009

Who should play Michael Jackson on Broadway?

I LUV Michael Jackson.

The Michael Jackson of Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad.

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The one that lives on in memory. (See Exhibit A pictured at left.)


Not this lighter, crazier version of the entertainer. (See Exhibit B pictured below.) jackson-light.jpg


I even have a Michael Jackson doll from my childhood. He's wearing the red pleather Thriller jacket, and pleather red Thriller pants. My daughter has discovered the doll and calls him: My Jackson. She's barely 2, and Michael isn't rolling off her tongue.

So when news broke that there are plans for musical production of Thriller, I was ecstatic. If there were pre-sales on a show that hasn't been written or cast, I would have a ticket.

The part that is stumping me -- beside the fact that Michael Jackson is now miraculous well enough to be creative director of this project -- is who would play him?

usher.jpgThere's the reliable Usher, who's had his turn on Broadway. The talented Jeffrey Wright who would be great if he weren't too old and pudgy to be Michael circa 1982.

Who do you think should fill that werewolf grill and cigarette pants?

POSTED IN: None

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Family campouts: When else is such a huge hassle so much fun?

We pulled into Jonathan Dickinson State Park, watching water spouts form in the black cloud above us. Could the park be cursed, or is it only when I want to go camping there?

Last time I'd taken kids camping at that state park, which is about an hour-plus north of here, a tentcamp.JPG
controlled burn raged out of control in the fast winds, and the park was severely damaged.

I had my Cub Scout den there, and it's a campout none of them will forget. They couldn't breathe; the smoke was thick. Fire was licking the sky, and firemen (and, maybe, firewomen), were shouting for everyone to get out, quickly. We threw all of our stuff in the car, amidst chaos and screaming, and coughing and choking, and we left. Many, many other people must have lost their campers, tents and gears, because the fire lept across the lake to our campsite.

For some of them, it was the last campout they've had. Not that they died in the fire. They just couldn't shake the traumatic way that campout ended, when they were only 9 and 10 years old.

But the park itself is quite nice. So I took my two kids there last weekend. We did a one-night camping trip. And it was wonderful.

Mind you, as during any campout, I had moments where I wondered: Why in the world would I do this to myself? The wind started to pick up, and the sky looked ominous. People were videotaping the water spouts -- mini-tornadoes -- forming in the clouds. And it was one of the coldest nights of the year.

It was so difficult putting the tent up in the wind that I became a spectacle for other campers.

But that's one of the reasons we camp, instead of going to a hotel. You "build'' your little house for the night, and you have a sense of accomplishment. There's no TV. You have to resort to good, old-fashioned fun, like kickball, hiking, building fires, and maybe cards.

It's great for city kids like ours growing up in Broward County. You'd think they'd never seen a cactus the way they enjoyed finding them on hikes.

I started looking for another place to camp, to show my kids all the faces of Florida. This site, Reserve America, allows you to reserve campsites and pay for them online. That's how I reserved the campout last weekend. But it doesn't have all the campsites in Florida on it. So this is another good resource: The Official 2008 Florida Camping Directory.

Enjoy!

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

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January 26, 2009

What's the best hospital in South Florida for giving birth?

My son’s birth is less than two weeks away, so this request for advice is, I’ll admit, a little late. But maybe not for all our readers.

We picked our hospital based on a number of factors,babyward.jpg not the least of which was the likelihood of getting a private room for my wife’s stay. Without a private room, the girls and I can’t stay the night. One hospital we checked couldn’t guarantee it, and was going to charge us extra if we were among the lucky few to get a private room. I’ll say that again: IF we were among the lucky few.

It would be one thing to save up for the private room if we could guarantee we’d get one when the time came, but the hospital actually advised us on how to rush out of the delivery room, down the hall, through the double doors, past Simon, Paula and Randy, up the stairs, around the kitchen and behind the laundry room to let them know we wanted a private room, IF one is available. And after all that, the answer could still be no!

Pardon me, but I’ll have other things on my mind in the minutes after my son’s birth. I can't follow the directions on a box of Lucky Charms. They expect me to remember how to get around that labyrinth in the minutes after my son is born?

We ended up scheduling the birth at a hospital where all the maternity rooms are private.

So here’s my question: What’s the best hospital in South Florida for giving birth? And by what standard? Privacy? Quality of care? Nursing staff? Security? Neonatal ICU? How do you judge?

POSTED IN: Health (111), Newborn (39), Pregnancy (31), Rafael Olmeda (59)

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January 24, 2009

Bush twins offer advice to Sasha and Malia

The Bush twins, Barbara Bush and Jenna Hager, wrote an open letter last week to Sasha and Malia Obama about growing up in the White House. It was published in the Wall Street Journal, and NBC had them read it and produced this piece.
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It’s hard not to be moved, no matter what your feelings about W as a president. It’s remarkable, and I think refreshing, to know that there is always a space inside a family that remains unknown to the outside world. Bush’s daughters remind us of this.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59), Politics (18)

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January 23, 2009

Warm(er) weather activities

The sun is out. The temperature is rising.

Frigid mamas, papas and babes can come out of hibneration and get back outside. (I know I can't be the only one who was COLD this week)

Baby and I will be heading to the recently renovated Hardy Park in Fort Lauderdale at 8th St. and Andrews Ave.

It has two playstations -- one for the big kids and one for the tots. But the best part are the big-people swings that look like suspended lounge chairs.

The "grass" is that hybrid of artificial turf and crumbled rubber tires. It's squishy goodness.

Where's your favorite park to hang out with the kids? Let us know and we'll compile a list of the Best Parks Cause Mom/Dad Said So.

POSTED IN: None

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Aren't grades reward enough?

So what if the kid gets good grades? That's his job. He's supposed to. If he gets bad grades - he's grounded until his next report card. It's a hardball philosophy, but we stick with it.

He's set up for success. He has his own room, a desk, a computer and good lighting. He has shelves full of books, paper and pencils. He gets three square meals a day. He has time and space to do his study and homework. He has free time, friends and sport activities.

walletmoney.jpg We acknowledge his good work and grades with a dinner or by going out somewhere special. He'll get a little surprise like a t-shirt or a few bucks so he can by something. I don't think any of that is overly extreme. It's consistent, which is what we are teaching him - constancy.

But what about kids who seem to need extra motivation? I know of one person who would give their child about $200 for a report card with no "Cs" on it. But since the child did get Cs this quarter, there was no reward. It kind of produced a "don't matter" result.

To me, there is so much wrong with that kind of dangling carrot: it devalues the teacher and the spirit of personal growth. It certainly goes against the idea of constancy.

It's an age-old question, with answers that come from various angles. A Kiplinger's Newletter columnist says it's a slippery slope.

A blogger at Queercents.com agrees its a bad deal. Comments for and against the practice follow her post.

Listen to an NPR interview that features Mocha Moms on the topic of cash incentives schools are beginning to implement.

Assuming you checked in with everyone involved in your child's education, but your child were still performing poorly - grade-wise - in school, what motivational push would you give?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), School Issues (135)

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January 21, 2009

"Momma's Boys": We want more!

I told my kids NBC's "Momma's Boys" was silly and prurient, but then I got hooked.
sarysz.jpg

I enjoyed watching the interaction of the twenty-something men with their mothers, whom they clearly adored but were trying to break away from.

The premise: The three men get to choose among 32 women, similar to other dating shows. But their mothers also get a say, and they all had strong opinions, including Lorraine Nichols of Sunrise, whose son, Michael Sarysz of Plantation, a firefighter/paramedic pictured here, went against her wishes to choose Amanda, a medical student.

What irritated me initially were the obvious nose jobs and breast enhancements of most of the young women, some of whom had appeared in Playboy and Penthouse and were seeking further media attention. But ultimately the mother-son relationships, so deep and complicated, won me over.

Although the series is over, you can still watch it here. Here's looking at Season Two!

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Sex (16)

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January 20, 2009

She's having a C-section. He's having jitters.

He’ll be here in a little more than two weeks.

It’s too soon. We’re not ready. The house is a mess. Where will we put him? Where will we put all his stuff?

Baby_under_Construc.jpgBreathe. He has to get here first. And we decided early on, after consultation with the obstetrician, that he would get here by a scheduled c-section. So unless he surprises us by showing up early, he’ll be here on Feb. 5. All I have to do is make it through the surgery without fainting. (Actually, I hear that almost never happens, but still).

There’s so much to think about now, and as a first-time biological father, I find it all a bit daunting. My wife will be recovering from the surgery, our kid will be wailing at all hours with no sense of time, our girls (my stepdaughters) will need to be reminded that they are special and loved...

How did humanity ever survive more than one generation?

As far as the c-section goes, I’ve learned in the last year that there are two groups of people who get the most medical advice – the terminally ill and the pregnant. Listen to the advice given by well-meaning people to the terminally ill, and you’d be amazed that anyone ever dies. Listen to the advice given by the same people to the pregnant, and you’d be amazed that anyone ever survives into adulthood.

And the advice is conflicting. One recent report links c-section deliveries to asthma. Yikes. We have our reasons for a planned c-section. Is it the right call? We believe it is – for us, anyway.

POSTED IN: Health (111), Pregnancy (31), Rafael Olmeda (59)

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Tuning out TV commercials for children

My four-year-old son is a walking commercial.

My husband and I recently decided that it was OK for him to watch a few cartoons that were previously off limits – SpiderMan, Ben 10, Phineas and Ferb. He’s enjoying the more sophisticated dialogue (Albeit the occasional “stupid” reference, which we have explained is a “bad word.”)


The real problem is the commercials. These new shows are riddled with ads, and my son just eats them up.

In the past week, here are a few of the exchanges my son and I have had:

“Mom, look! Bendaroos! I want those,” he explains to me with the excitement of opening a Christmas gift. “If you buy one, you get another free!”

Ouch.

Last night, my son asked me to take off my sweatshirt, suggesting instead that I use a blanket to stay warm. I explained to him that blankets aren’t as practical because you can’t wear them around the house the way you wear a sweatshirt. It’ll just slide off my arms.

“You can buy a snuggie. Right, Mom?” he said, completely oblivious that he sounded like a pitchman for As Seen on TV products. “That’s a good idea.”

Oh, no.

The icing on the cake came at bedtime, when my son squeezed in a few more minutes of playtime with his Bionicles (which are a new line of Lego toys).

“New, from Bionicles,” he said as he lay them down next to his bed.

That’s it. From now on we are going to Tivo the shows and fast forward through the commercials.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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Broward performing arts center is offering summer camp

I've barely given thought to summer camps yet, except to set up deductions from my paycheck so that I can get out of paying taxes on my summer camp expenses. (If you didn't know that childcare was tax deductible, now you do.)

But the Broward Center for the Performing Arts announced it's starting early registration for a theater camp this summer.

Last summer, we did a Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art camp that probably qualifies as Lily's Best Life Experience to Date.

So I might consider this one, too. The youngest age is 7. Lily said she's got "stage fright,'' so I'd have to really push her into it.

The trick is to mish-mash a bunch of good, short camps together into a good summer curriculum for your child. That's much better than sticking them in one, generic camp all summer. It's also more expensive, and you can end up with overlapping camps, otherwise known as wasted money.

But that's why it's important to use pretax dollars for camp, or deduct them when you file your taxes. Please, don't take my word for it; ask a licensed accountant.

Here's the camp info from the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which has a camp in Miramar and a camp at the downtown Fort Lauderdale center. Looks like the camp ends at 4 p.m. For working parents, that's tough but it's good to ask if the camp offers after-care. I found that many of them offer it for an extra fee:


Secure a spot for your child at Summer Theater Camp!
This year, Summer Theater Camp has...
2 Sessions • 2 Age Groups • 2 Locations
Monday to Friday • 9am–4pm

Register by Feb. 1, 2009 – and SAVE $50

Our unique Summer Camp program sparks interest in the theater arts, sharpens performance skills and develops self-confidence in the campers. Each 4-week session exposes campers to all facets of the performing arts, and studies culminate with a show performance in a professional setting.

Young Camper Shows (Ages 7-13):
Session 1: Fiddler on the Roof
Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark • June 8–July 3
Broward Center • June 15 –July 10
Session 2: The Wiz
Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark • July 6–July 31
Broward Center • July 13–Aug 7

Young Professionals Program (Ages 14-18)
Session 1: Seussical The Musical
Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark - June 8–July 4
Broward Center • June 15–July 11
Session 2: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark • July 6–Aug 1
Broward Center • July 13–Aug 8

CLICK HERE
Or call today! 954.462.0222


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

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January 19, 2009

Jessica Simpson makes shoes for little girls

Baby needed a new pair of shoes, so I headed to Stride Rite at Broward Mall.

And before I could enter the store, I had a WTF moment. There was three shelves of shoes by Jessica Simpson, for girls.

GIRLS.

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And, yes, I'm talking about that tart Jessica Simpson who has taken being blond, busty and a bumbling idiot to the bank.

jess.jpg


What kind of message is this sending to our girls. Have you gotten these shoes as a gift from the clueless aunt? Or did you, gasp, buy them yourself for your little darling in a moment of weakness??

Let's talk!

POSTED IN: None

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January 16, 2009

What to do with the kids this week

You can re-enact the joys of winter: roasting marshmallows, sipping cocoa; or you could escape the cold at one of these weekend events as compiled by South Florida Parenting:

READ ON FOR THIS WEEKEND'S BEST BETS

Friday, Jan. 16
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Farm Village. 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Amelia Earhart Park, 401 E. 65th St., Hialeah. Pony rides cost $2. 305-685-8389.

The Flying Trapeze School. Come take a swing on the flying trapeze in a fun and safe environment with professional instructors. Classes for all levels are offered, as well as birthday parties and group outings. For ages 5 and older. Take a test fly with the Try n’ Fly program. 6 - 8 p.m., Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. 305-358-7550.

Keeper Tours. Meet face-to-face with exotic animals in this behind-the-scenes tour and learn fascinating animal facts from the zoo’s zookeepers. Ages 8 and older. Two-person minimum, six-person maximum. Reservations required. Tours accommodate up to five people. Children must be a least 8 years old. At least seven days advance notice required. For reservations, call the Group Sales Department at 305-251-0400. Available daily. 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., Miami Metrozoo, 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami. Two people, $65.95; $22.95 each additional person. 305-251-0400.

Ecology Theater . 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., Miami Metrozoo, 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami. Free with admission. Adults, $11.50; children, $6.75. 305-251-0400.
Hungry Raptors. Learn about birds from eagles to owls during feedings of the raptors in the Bird of Prey center. Offered daily. Noon, Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami. Free with admission. Adults, $20; students, $18; ages 3 to 12, $13; members, $8; members 12 and younger, $6; 2 and younger, free. 305-646-4200.

Flamenco for Kids. A fun, energetic class in which students learn the basic techniques of foot and arm work, work with palmas as an accompaniment to songs and dances and learn a popular dance from Sevilla. Ages 7 to 12. Register. Other times and days available. 3:30 p.m.,
Vladimir Issaev School of Classical Ballet, 849 NE 125th St., North Miami. Four classes, $48. 305-893-3234.

Bicycle Racing. All ages and proficiencies welcome. Registration at 6:30 p.m.; racing at 8. Call to confirm. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Miami South BMX, 13050 SW 216th St., Miami. $7 per rider ; spectators free. 305-258-9442.

Target Free Third Fridays. Join Miami Children’s Museum and Target for fun and exciting activities every month for free. You can also explore hundreds of bilingual, interactive exhibits related to arts, culture, community and communication. 3 - 9 p.m., Miami Children’s Museum, 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami. 305-373-5437.

Free Museum Evening. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Miami Children’s Museum, 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami. 305-373-5437.

Nature Fridays. 6:30 - 8 p.m., Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Crandon Park, Key Biscayne. Adults, $5; children, $2; members and their families, free. 305-361-6767.

Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays. Free music and arts festival featuring a history walking tour of Little Havana, karaoke and more. 6:30 - 11 p.m., Calle Ocho, 8th Street, Miami. 786-314-5922.

BROWARD COUNTY

Cardio Kids . 3:30 p.m., Memorial West Fitness Center, 703 Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines. Fees vary. 954-433-7125.

African Dance. African Kukuwa dance workout for children and adults. 7 p.m., Sadkin Center, 1176 NW 42nd Way, Lauderhill. 954-588-7385.

Legacy 1.5 Magic: The Gathering Tournament. A new tournament every Friday night. At the end of the tournament, winners receive a ranking, and the top winners receive gift certificates that can be used to purchase anything in the store. 7:30 p.m., Florida Sportscards, 4681 N. University Drive, Coral Springs. $10 entrance fee. 954-345-4407.

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. Children enrolled in the park’s after-school program can see a video and participate in an open discussion of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ages 6 to 17. 2 - 4:30 p.m., Lafayette Hart Park, 2851 N.W. Eighth Road, Fort Lauderdale. 954-791-1041.

Family Hayride and Campfire. Enjoy an evening with family and friends and take a hayride around the park. You can also roast marshmallows and hot dogs on the campfire and drink hot chocolate. Groups of 15 or more should call the park for reservations. Hayride: $3 per person ages 3 and up per ride, includes marshmallows, chocolate, hot chocolate and graham crackers. 6 - 9 p.m., Topeekeegee-Yugnee Park, 3300 N. Park Road, Hollywood. 954-985-1980.

Family Shabbat Experience. Families with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are invited to share a Shabbat Dinner with a youth service to follow. 6 p.m., Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach, 132 SE 11th Ave., Pompano Beach. 954-962-6410.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

Nature Walk. 10 - 11 a.m., John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive,

North Palm Beach. Free with park admission of $4 per carload. 561-624-6950.

Family Laser Show. 3 p.m., Aldrin Planetarium, 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach. $4. 561-832-1988.

Science Club: Snowflakes. No two snowflakes are alike. See if this is true while we look at snow crystal morphology. Ages 8 and up. Registration is required. 3:30 - 4:15 p.m., Tequesta Branch Library, 461 Old Dixie Highway, Tequesta. 561-746-5970.

Evening on the Avenues. Experience music, arts and crafts vendors, classic cars, food and family fun as you take a stroll through the streets of downtown Lake Worth. Weather permitting. All ages. 6 - 10 p.m., downtown Lake Worth, Lake and Lucerne Avenues, Lake Worth. Free. 561-582-4401.

BMX Track Racing. Racing for members of the National Bicycle League, $7 per race. Practices from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Spectators free. 8 p.m., Okeeheelee Park Nature Center, 7715 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach. Free. 561-791-2610.

Make and Take: Positively Penguins. Learn more about everyone’s favorite tuxedo-ed bird by making hand-puppet penguins and viewing a documentary. Ages 2 to 5. 10:30 a.m.,

Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach. $2.50 per child in addition to admission. 561-742-6780.

Saturday, Jan. 17
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Torah Tots. Share the joy and peace of Shabbat in this weekly, kid-centered environment through a family service of prayer and song designed just for little ones. Older siblings welcome, too. 9 a.m., Temple Israel, 137 NE 19th St. The Ballroom, Miami. Free. 305-573-5900.

Heritage Tram Tours. Enjoy a tram ride through Crandon Park and the Bear Cut Preserve. Learn about the island of Key Biscayne and its fascinating history, from the Tequesta Indians to the pirates and pioneers. Reservations are required. 10 - 11 a.m., 3 - 4 p.m., Crandon Park, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. Adults, $2; children, $1. 305-361-6767.

Oleta River Canoe Tour. Relive the beauty and historic past of the Oleta River with park naturalists. Explore the natural haven for wading birds, osprey, fish and the endangered West Indian Manatee. 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., Greynolds Park, 17530 W. Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach. 305-945-3425.

Weekend Science Showcase. Exciting science demonstrations such as how to make slime, reptile encounters, raptor feedings and more. Check with the museum for a schedule. 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami. Adults, $20; students, $18; ages 3-12, $13; members, $8; members 12 and younger, $6; 2 and younger, free. 305-646-4200.

Saturday Story Time. 11:30 a.m., Barnes & Noble, 152 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-446-8627.

Tram Tours in Spanish. Guests will marvel at Fairchild’s tropical rain forest, butterfly garden and the monumental sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Fernando Botero, as well as glass art by
Dale Chihuly in the Windows to the Tropics conservatory. Also at 12:30 p.m. 11:30 a.m.,
Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Miami. 305-667-1651.

“AVery Old Man With Enormous Wings”. This play takes place in a remote Caribbean town where a mysterious creature resembling an old man with wings falls from the sky. Fear turns to understanding when two children, and eventually the villagers, realize this strange “angel” not only means them no harm, but is a symbol of the healing and love he can bring to their world. 3 p.m., PlayGround Theatre, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. $15. 305-751-9550.

FestivArt. A street celebration with musicians, sculptors, artists and photographers exhibiting their work. 7 p.m. - 1 a.m., Espanola Way, between Washington and Drexel Avenues, Miami Beach. Free. 305-531-0038.

Saturday Star-Viewing. Enjoy the night skies with the help of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society. Bring your own telescope, or use one of theirs. 8 - 10 p.m., Bill Sadowski Park and Nature Center, 17555 SW 79th Ave., Miami. Free. 305-661-1375.

BROWARD COUNTY
Cosmic Questions. Markham Park, 16001 W. State Road 84, Sunrise. Free. 954-583-4699.

Free Math Trial Class - Coconut Creek. This fun, hour-long class for ages 6 to 11 offers parents a unique opportunity to observe their children in a real classroom setting. Parents will see firsthand how their children perform, think, and respond to new ideas in one of Broward County’s leading mathematics enrichment programs. IMACS Coconut Creek, 7600 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek. 954-791-2333.

Free Math Trial Class - Weston. This fun, hour-long class for ages 6 to 11 offers parents a unique opportunity to observe their children in a real classroom setting. Parents will see firsthand how their children perform, think, and respond to new ideas in one of Broward County’s leading mathematics enrichment programs. IMACS Weston, 2585 Glades Circle. 954-791-2333.

Boot Camp for New Dads. Learn the ropes of fatherhood from veteran dads who serve as drool sergeants. Covers all, from burping to balancing the demands of career. 9 a.m. - noon, Esther L. Grossman Women’s Health & Resource Center, 4320 Sheridan St., Hollywood. $10. 954-987-2000, ext. 4484.

Kayak for Beginners. Kayak skills from basic stroke to how to paddle long distances as well as sea-kayaking and safety skills. Advance registration required. 9 - 11 a.m., Holland Park, 801 Johnson St., Hollywood. 954-921-3404.

Family Canoe Instruction. Learn basic canoe paddling strokes and take a short tour along the park’s mangrove trail. Ages 13 and older with an adult. Meet at the park’s marina. Registration and prepayment required. 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., Anne Kolb Nature Center, 751 Sheridan St., West Lake Park, Hollywood. $8, includes canoe, paddles and life vest. 954-926-2480.

Model Steam Train Rides. The Tradewinds and Atlantic Railroad offers model steam train rides on a half-mile track around a lake. Pregnant women are not allowed to ride the train. The park’s regular weekend and holiday gate entrance fee of $1.50 per person (children 5 and under free) will be in effect. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $1 per ride; children 3 and under, free. 954-968-3880.

Puppet Play. 10 a.m. - noon, First United Methodist Church of Hollywood, 1804 Van Buren, Hollywood. 954-457-3337.

Yoga Kids. 10 - 11 a.m., Coral Springs Community Education Center, 3100 Coral Hills Drive, Coral Springs. $65 for 10 classes. 954-344-3344.

Weekend Farm Tours. See numerous farm animals, including a cow, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. The park’s regular weekend and holiday gate entrance fee of $1.50 per person (children 5 and under free) will be in effect. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $2 per person. 954-968-3880.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Tournament. Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments are a good way to improve children’s math skills. A licensed Upper Deck judge conducts the tournaments, has mini-seminars and teaches the children how to play the game. 11 a.m., Florida Sportscards, 4681 N. University Drive, Coral Springs. $6 entrance fee, includes one booster pack. 954-345-4407.

Wild Things . 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., Flamingo Gardens, 3750 S. Flamingo Road, Davie. Adults $15, children $8. 954-473-2955.

Conversations in the Hut. 1 - 3 p.m., Young at Art Children’s Museum, 11584 W. State Road 84, Davie. Free with museum admission of $8. 954-424-0085.

Aquarium: Behind the Scenes. 2 - 3 p.m., Anne Kolb Nature Center, 751 Sheridan St., West Lake Park, Hollywood. $1 per person. 954-926-2480.

Grand Re-Opening of The Little Gym. The Little Gym of Coral Springs is under new ownership. Come and see the remodeled facility. There will be fun games and activities for the whole family. Prizes will be raffled off. Special promotion for those signing up for classes. 2 - 5 p.m., The Little Gym of Coral Springs, 10359 Royal Palm Blvd., Coral Springs. 954-344-9267.

Naruto Challenge. The latest addition to the world of TCG games, Naruto helps kids with their math skills and captures their imaginations in a ninja card game. A judge conducts the tournaments and teaches children how to play the game. 2 p.m., Florida Sportscards, 4681 N. University Drive, Coral Springs. $8 entrance fee, includes one booster pack. 954-345-4407.

Free Chinese Lessons. For anyone interested in learning. No prior knowledge necessary. www.cnlesson.com. 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., Northwest Regional Library, 3151 University Drive, Coral Springs. 954-478-6403.

PALM BEACH COUNTY
Water Safety Classes. Participants will develop American Red Cross water safety skills by learning to recognize and avoid dangerous situations and assist themselves and others should an aquatic emergency occur. Every Saturday. 9 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., Pompey Park, 1101 NW 2nd St., Delray Beach. 561-243-7356.

Dinomite Dinosaurs. Hear stories about dinosaurs doing many amazing things and do a “dinomite” craft. Ages 3 to 8. Registration is required. 10:30 - 11:15 a.m., West Boynton Branch Library, 9451 Jog Road, Boynton. 561-734-5556.

First Saturday Family Studio. Children and parents explore works in the galleries with educators and create their own artworks in the Reynolds Art Education Room. The program is limited to 20 children, ages 5to 9, and their parents. 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. 561-832-5196.

Guided Tours with Shark Feedings. 10:30 a.m., Sandoway House Nature Center, 142 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach. Ages 5 and up, $4; under 4, free. 561-274-7263.

Story Time for Children With Special Needs. Enjoy stories, songs, crafts and movement activities specially designed for children with developmental disabilities. All ages. 10:30 - 11:15 a.m., Southwest County Library, 20701 95th Ave., Boca Raton. 561-482-4554.

Up in the Sky. Noon, South Florida Science Museum and Planetarium, 4801 Dreher Trail N. Dreher Park, West Palm Beach. $2, plus museum admission. Adults, $7; children, $5. 561-832-1988.

Walk-In Story Time. Drop in for music, films, puppets and a craft. Ages 3 and up. 2 - 2:45 p.m., Belle Glade Branch Library, 530 South Main St., Belle Glade, Palm Beach. 561-996-3453.

Stargazing Kayak Adventure. Enjoy the night sky as your guide leads the way around Pelican and Adventure islands, then toast marshmallows by the campfire. Register. 7 - 9 p.m., Jupiter
Outdoor Center, 18095 Coastal A1A, Jupiter. Adults, $27; children, $22. 561-747-9666.

Saturday Science Series: Blow, Wind, Blow. Explore the power of wind and make a colorful pinwheel. Ages 5 to 8. Registration is required. 2:30 - 3:45 p.m., Tequesta Branch Library, 461 Old Dixie Highway, Tequesta. 561-746-5970.

Sunday, Jan. 18
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Skyward Kites. 10 a.m., Haulover Park Beach, 10800 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Kite purchase, $5. 305-893-0906.

Heritage Tram Tours. Enjoy a tram ride through Crandon Park and the Bear Cut Preserve. Learn about the island of Key Biscayne and its fascinating history, from the Tequesta Indians to the pirates and pioneers. Reservations are required. 10 - 11 a.m., 3 - 4 p.m., Crandon Park, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. Adults, $2; children, $1. 305-361-6767.

Birds & Butterflies. Join a naturalist and explore the shoreline and trails of the Bear Cut Preserve to learn the basics of bird-watching, and butterfly and moth identification. Be sure to bring binoculars. Reservations are required. 8 a.m., Crandon Park, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. $3. 305-361-6767.

Greynolds Park Guided Nature Walks. Join a naturalist-guided walk around Miami-Dade County’s second-oldest park to discover the wonder of our local history, flora and fauna. 10 - 11 a.m., Greynolds Park, 17530 W. Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach. 305-945-3425.

Jungle Fever. See nature displays, Bengal tigers, Malaysian bearcats, Arctic wolves, Komodo dragons, alligator snapping turtles and a 20-foot, 2,000-pound crocodile. Meet the twin orangutans, and, of course, see the exotic birds and world-famous bird shows. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Watson Island, Miami. Adults, $27.95; children, $22.95. 305-400-7000.

Family Day. 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Scott Rakow Youth Center, 2700 Sheridan Ave., Miami Beach. $20. 305-673-7730.

Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast. An animated planetarium show that teaches kids about the solar system, rocket physics and more. 11 a.m., Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami. Free with museum admission. Adults, $20; students, $18; ages 3 to 12, $13; members, $8; members 12 and younger, $6; 2 and younger, free. 305-646-4200.

Working on the Railroad. Take a ride in a real locomotive. Train lovers can ride in the cab with the engineer. Miniature steam and coach rides also available. Incredible model-train exhibit with
Thomas the Tank play area. Train rides on weekends only. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Gold Coast
Museum, 12450 SW 152nd St., Miami. Adults, $5; children, $3. Train ride costs vary. 305-253-0063.

BROWARD COUNTY
Model Steam Train Rides. The Tradewinds and Atlantic Railroad offer model steam train rides on a half-mile track around a lake. Pregnant women are not allowed to ride the train. The park’s regular weekend and holiday gate entrance fee of $1.50 per person (children 5 and under free) will be in effect. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $1 per ride; children 3 and under, free. 954-968-3880.

Weekend Farm Tours. See numerous farm animals, including a cow, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. The park’s regular weekend and holiday gate entrance fee of $1.50 per person (children 5 and under free) will be in effect. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $2 per person. 954-968-3880.

Aquarium: Behind the Scenes. 2 - 3 p.m., Anne Kolb Nature Center, 751 Sheridan St., West Lake Park, Hollywood. $1 per person. 954-926-2480.

Hit the Trail. Saddle up for horseback trail rides. Ages 9 and older. Pony and trail rides also available at Tree Tops Park, 3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie. $23 hourly. 954-370-3750. 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $23 hourly. 954-968-3875.

Hands-on Museum Fun. Explore Jewish culture and universal values at this interactive children’s museum that incorporates creativity, play and learning for visitors from varied backgrounds. 1 - 4 p.m., My Jewish Discovery Place Children’s Museum, 6501 W. Sunrise Blvd., Soref Jewish Community Center, Plantation. Admission, $4; ages 2 to 6, $3; 1 and younger, free. 954-792-6700.

PALM BEACH COUNTY
Up in the Sky. Noon, South Florida Science Museum and Planetarium, 4801 Dreher Trail N. Dreher Park, West Palm Beach. $2, plus museum admission. Adults, $7; children, $5. 561-832-1988.

Palm Beach Now & Then. Take a narrated tour down the Intracoastal on a water taxi, see the sights, and learn about the history and culture of Palm Beach. Tour runs 90 minutes. Weather permitting. 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach. Adults, $17; children $9. 561-683-8294.

Peanut Pirates. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach. $5. 561-683-8294.

Sunday Fundays. Family tours, readings in the galleries and hands-on workshops introduce children and their parents to the world of art. Every program features a hands-on art project. Drop-in visitors are welcome. 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. 561-832-5196.

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January 15, 2009

Still waiting for Santa to write back ...

Dear Santa Claus,

Why haven't you written my 6-year-old back like you promised?

Still waiting.

Brittany, mother of Lily Norman

p.s. First the Tooth Fairy forgets to leave money, and now this. What's the deal?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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January 14, 2009

I am trying to keep this bat mitzvah under control

The time is coming for my husband and me to do our biennial ritual: Give our daughter a bat mitzvah party.bottledancer.jpg

Our three girls are two years apart, and no. 2's bat mitzvah will be in September. We are wrestling with how much to spend when we don't have money to splurge.

My first daughter's party was not an expensive affair, but it was good enough. However, we have even less money now for the upcoming event.

We went to a bar mitzvah this past Saturday night and saw a performance by The Amazing Bottle Dancers, which I really enjoyed. I would love to have something like that at our party, but extras like that are out of the question because of the cost, whatever it is.

Got any money-saving tips for putting on a classy event on a low budget?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Lois Solomon (211), Pre-Teen (57)

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January 13, 2009

Broward schools set 2009-2010 calendar

From SunSentinel.com schools reporter Kathy Bushouse

The Broward County School Board on Tuesday approved the school calendar for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Classes will start Aug. 24, and the school year will end June 9. Winter break is set for Dec. 21, with classes resuming Jan. 4, 2010. Spring break starts March 29, 2010 and runs through April 5, 2010, with classes starting again on April 6, 2010.

For the full calendar for 2009-2010, including when report cards will be sent home, early release days and other information, Click Here.

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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My teen, my critic

One thing I hadn't prepared myself for as a parent was having an in-house critic analyzing everything about me.

I open my mouth occasionally while chewing, I don't keep the living room clean enough, I have bad hair days, I've been known to drink out of the orange juice container, and sometimes I eat with my fingers instead of using a fork.

All of that has gone happily unnoticed for years in our household. By now, my spouse has learned to look past my flaws because he knows I will never admit them. Thus, there's no point bringing them up.

And then Creed turned 13. Suddenly I have another set of eyes on me. It's like being on reality TV, where every mistake I make is fodder for discussion.

If my husband and I argue, I no longer walk away feeling victorious. Now I have to hear, "Why did you say that to Dad?''

I'm still trying to get used to this new arrangement. Kids walk around oblivious to the world for so many years, and anything that does snag their attention can easily be smoothed over with a parent's white lie. ("Of course that's not beer in my cup! They don't allow beer inside movie theaters. It's Sprite.'')

Right about this age, you're finally seeing the results of your consistency in the first dozen years.

If you didn't consistently impose homework requirements and academic standards, you'll be lost at this point. If you were off-and-on about your child keeping his room clean and his bed made, don't try now. If you didn't consistently show through your own behavior the kind of character you want your kid to have, you can't really start in the teen years.

So in some ways, the incubation is over, and the hardest work is done.

But in another respect, after a dozen years of correcting your child's behavior and pointing out their mistakes so they can reach their full potential, the tables get turned on you. Better hope you have nothing to hide.


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

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January 12, 2009

The secret misgivings of an American stepfather

The first time I heard of Amy Juergens, she was speaking directly to me about the need for parents and children to be open when it comes to talking about sex.

Amy is the protagonist of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” an ABC Family series (Monday nights, 8 p.m.) about those crazy, promiscuous kids and all the trouble they get into – including 15-year-old Amy’s unplanned pregnancy. My younger stepdaughter, 13, has started to get into the show.

secretlife.jpgTacked onto the end of each episode is a PSA featuring Amy, lead actress Shailene Woodley, telling parents not to assume their kids are having sex just because they ask about it (and telling teens not to assume their parents don’t care if they don’t bring up the subject). Teen pregnancy is preventable, she reminds viewers.

Splendid.

I don’t know yet what to make of this show. Its creator is Brenda Hampton, who was also responsible for the long-running, family-friendly WB series “Seventh Heaven.” I’ve seen two episodes of “Secret Life,” not enough to form an opinion, but enough to form an impression – it’s making teen pregnancy into bad sitcom fodder, and it’s sugar-coating what happens next in a way that can’t be undone with a well-meaning PSA.

In last Monday night’s season premiere, Amy married her boyfriend, who is not the baby’s father. Now, I’m not going to say that such things never happen. I’m sure they do. But it’s not reality for most teen mothers. In fact, according to stayteen.org (the Web site Amy sends kids to at the end of each episode), fewer than 8% of teen mothers end up marrying the baby’s father. I doubt a statistic even exists for the infinitesimal number of teen mothers who marry someone other than the baby’s father before the child is born.

When parents split, Dad doesn’t smugly set up an apartment in the garage. One parent actually leaves the house. Divorce is ugly. Teen pregnancy is agonizing. People get hurt. True friends reveal themselves and, unfortunately, so do false friends. And most of the time, it’s not funny.

And yet, there’s something about this production that keeps me from dismissing it or selling it short.

After all, in the long run, my first impression could be wrong. Perhaps this is an effective way to get the message across to kids who are growing up on Disney TV – the same kids who had the concept thrust upon them in the form of the unplanned teen pregnancies of "Zoey 101" star Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin, daughter of the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. Maybe it’s better that this difficult subject is handled with kid gloves, because the reality of teen pregnancy might be a bit too much to bear for the target audience.

One thing I do hope is that our family’s interest in this show develops into an opportunity to discuss its themes. Kudos, then to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which worked with the producers to develop a discussion guide for parents and teens to talk about the season premiere.

We’re not going to ban the program in our house, but neither are we going to let a well-meaning show substitute for involved parenting. Entertainment is Hollywood's job; parenting is ours. If Brenda Hampton wanted to start living room and kitchen table conversations, she’s succeeded. Again. I’m not sure I like this show, but that’s not the point. My kid likes it, and that gives our family another chance to talk. That can’t be a bad thing.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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January 9, 2009

Weekend with the kids

In the B.K. years (Before Kids) weekend plans were concocted a couple of hours before said event after chatting with friends about what we could get into THAT night.

Now, those last-minute outings have been replaced by play dates with the children of other moms and dads that must be made weeks in advance.

However, if you're the kind of parent who still relishes making last-minute plans, read on for a look at the best of what's going on for kids this weekend as compiled by South Florida Parenting:

Sunday, Jan. 11
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Skyward Kites. 10 a.m., Haulover Park Beach, 10800 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Kite purchase, $5. 305-893-0906.

Heritage Tram Tours. Enjoy a tram ride through Crandon Park and the Bear Cut Preserve. Learn about the island of Key Biscayne and its fascinating history, from the Tequesta Indians to the pirates and pioneers. Reservations are required. 10 - 11 a.m., 3 - 4 p.m., Crandon Park, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. Adults, $2; children, $1. 305-361-6767.

Birds & Butterflies. Join a naturalist and explore the shoreline and trails of the Bear Cut Preserve to learn the basics of bird-watching, and butterfly and moth identification. Be sure to bring binoculars. Reservations are required. 8 a.m., Crandon Park, 4000 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. $3. 305-361-6767.

Jungle Fever. See nature displays, Bengal tigers, Malaysian bearcats, Arctic wolves, Komodo dragons, alligator snapping turtles and a 20-foot, 2,000-pound crocodile. Meet the twin orangutans, and, of course, see the exotic birds and world-famous bird shows. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Watson Island, Miami. Adults, $27.95; children, $22.95. 305-400-7000.

Working on the Railroad. Take a ride in a real locomotive. Train lovers can ride in the cab with the engineer. Miniature steam and coach rides also available. Incredible model-train exhibit with Thomas the Tank play area. Train rides on weekends only. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Gold Coast Museum, 12450 SW 152nd St., Miami. Adults, $5; children, $3. Train ride costs vary. 305-253-0063.

Sundays ‘Til Sundown. Come relax, listen to live music, and learn something new. All ages. 4 p.m., Crandon Park Visitors and Nature Center, 6767 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne. 305-361-6767.

BROWARD COUNTY
Aquarium: Behind the Scenes. 2 - 3 p.m., Anne Kolb Nature Center, 751 Sheridan St., West Lake Park, Hollywood. $1 per person. 954-926-2480.

Hit the Trail. Saddle up for horseback trail rides. Ages 9 and older. Pony and trail rides also available at Tree Tops Park, 3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie. $23 hourly. 954-370-3750. 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. $23 hourly. 954-968-3875.

Hands-on Museum Fun. Explore Jewish culture and universal values at this interactive children’s museum that incorporates creativity, play and learning for visitors from varied backgrounds. 1 - 4 p.m., My Jewish Discovery Place Children’s Museum, 6501 W. Sunrise Blvd., Soref Jewish Community Center, Plantation. Admission, $4; ages 2 to 6, $3; 1 and younger, free. 954-792-6700.

Jammin’. A free unplugged jam session for musicians and listeners interested in folk, mountain, and bluegrass music. Bring an instrument if you like (no amplifiers, please). 2 - 4 p.m., Fern Forest Nature Center, 201 Lyons Road S., Coconut Creek. 954-970-0150.

PALM BEACH COUNTY
Up in the Sky. Noon, South Florida Science Museum and Planetarium, 4801 Dreher Trail N. Dreher Park, West Palm Beach. $2, plus museum admission. Adults, $7; children, $5. 561-832-1988.

Palm Beach Now & Then. Take a narrated tour down the Intracoastal on a water taxi, see the sights, and learn about the history and culture of Palm Beach. Tour runs 90 minutes. Weather permitting. 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach. Adults, $17; children $9. 561-683-8294.

Peanut Pirates. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach. $5. 561-683-8294.

Fourth Annual Children and Parents Days Winter Wonderland. Noon - 4 p.m., 1925 Historic Boynton Woman’s Club, 1010 S. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. 561-369-2300.

Sunday Fundays. Family tours, readings in the galleries and hands-on workshops introduce children and their parents to the world of art. Every program features a hands-on art project.
Drop-in visitors are welcome. 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. 561-832-5196.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Entertainment (114), General (185), Joy Oglesby (134)

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The Next Step

Contributed by Cindy Kent, SunSentinel.com

The Kid takes martial arts. His idea. He wants to be a black belt. His idea.

But now he’s at a crossroads: there is a component to the process of getting a black belt – he will have to spar. He doesn’t want to spar.

taekwondo09b.JPG“Mom, I don’t want to get in a fight, I’m not that kind of guy,” he said. “I know it means I won’t be able to get to my goal though.”

“It’s not like you’re picking a fight,” I said. “It’s about a 360 degree view. About applying what you know.”

He asked me why I am pushing him. I thought we were just having a conversation.

I reminded him it was his idea to take Tae Kwon Do. I told him that he has gathered some valuable tools and he is at a portal, a doorway.

The door is open, and he won’t go through. What if that sets a pattern on how he handles challenges throughout life, getting only halfway there?

What would you say? How would you handle this?

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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January 8, 2009

Cheap kids stuff in danger of going away

Leave it to the federal government to create problems for the little guy while it tries to fix another.
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In a laudable move to protect children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission wants all products aimed at children 12 and under tested for lead. That's the good part.

Now the bad part: Small businesses that sell handmade toys or thift stores could be forced to stop selling childrens products or in some case to close. See, big retailers can pay for the equipment, but the little guys can't afford it. The LA Times wrote about it.

We bought a bunch of toys and some children's furniture at local thrift stores. In fact, my wife helped extend our Christmas budget by buying Ana Isabel, 3, and Lucas Emilio, 8 months, toys at Baby Posh Garage in Aventura and Kids Palace Inc. in Plantation.

Isn't it the government's job to stop dangerous products from getting onto store shelves? I don't have a problem with asking businesses that can afford it to do their part. But it seems unfair that the small fry, like my children, could lose out.

POSTED IN: Luis Perez (32), Safety (59), Shopping (28)

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January 7, 2009

Rest stops for parents

OK, parents, here’s a question: Where do you escape?

We live in Fort Lauderdale, and we’ve found a few spots for those long afternoons with the kids. The first is Barnes & Noble on Federal Highway, across from Whole Foods. There is a Thomas train setup there that can easily keep a kid distracted for an hour. Things go well until the table and toy train tracks get crowded, or the size and ages of kids get out of whack. Then the tussles start, and well, it’s time to go.
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We also head to the playground at Holiday Park. That takes more work, but it buys some time. We live right next to the park so it’s just a short walk away. If I’m really worn out, we’ll head to the fields, where the kids just run around. It’s easy, and I don’t have to worry about toddlers falling off playground equipment.

Another one: the 17th Street Causeway Bridge. My 2-year-old loves cruise ships, and seeing them from the car is enough to keep him content for a while. Not to mention the stop at Starbucks on Davie and Federal on the way back. That's the real escape. Caffeine.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Will boys boycott this vaccine?

I decided a few years ago not to give my daughters the Gardasil vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. I felt and still feel it wasn't tested enough and has too many side effects.vaccination.jpg

The shot used to be for pre-teen and teenaged girls. But now boys may get a chance to get stuck. Merck is seeking FDA approval for boys ages 9 to 26 to get the vaccination to prevent genital warts.

Merck also wants permission to expand the shot's age range to women as old as 45, even though Gardasil is designed to prevent cervical cancer, not cure it.

Meanwhile, information about negative side effects continues to mount. As one doctor whose oldest daughter was devastated by the shot told CBS News: "As the father of three girls, I've had to ask myself why I let my eldest one get an unproven vaccine against a few strains of a nonlethal virus that can be dealt with in many more effective ways. It's not like they are at high risk. It was the regrettable acceptance of the vaccine party line that [mis]led me."

POSTED IN: Health (111), Lois Solomon (211), Pre-Teen (57)

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January 6, 2009

Figuring out the family dinner

One of my New Year’s resolutions sounds simple, but it's not: eating dinner as a family more often.

Because of our work schedules, my husband often eats dinner with our four-year-old son during the week. I arrive shortly after, if I’m lucky. I do my best to make it home in time at least once or twice during the workweek. The weekends are my time to cook and hopefully leave enough leftovers to last a few days.

But it’s just not good enough. Countless studies have explored the benefits of a family dinner for children of all ages. That time around the table purportedly guards against obesity, results in better grades at school, and helps prevent teens from engaging in illicit behavior.

Forget the studies. I don’t need a report to tell me that spending quality family time together has lasting benefits. So I’ve decided to alter my son’s schedule. We now eat dinner a little later and moved up my son’s bath time. We’ve only tried it for a few days, but it seems to be working.

And I can tell my son enjoys the special time together. Just last night, he turned to me in between bites of his fricase de pollo and said: “Mom, you’re the best cooker!”

How do you make dinnertime work for your family?

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

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What a difference a table makes

I found a way to help my middle-schooler son get homework done. It was a lot more expensive than a tutor. But it's a one-time expense. It's called a table.

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Adults have grown used to working in cramped, uncomfortable quarters. They have learned to adapt to a cubicle habitat.

But kids have a long way to go before they learn to love office furniture. At this point they're not even getting paid to do the work, so something about the experience needs to be pleasant.

A comfortable, roomy place to spread out the work. A place with relative silence. An official "assigned seat'' and maybe even an assigned time.

If you research the best studying methods, experts and non-experts alike seem to agree that one important factor in getting homework done is to find the right place to do it.

It's obvious that doing homework in front of a television set is a bad idea. Yet I've allowed my son to do it; I measured the results. If he was getting his work done there, I reasoned that maybe it was just they way he functioned best.

Yeah, right. I've come to realize what a bad idea that was. But you have to offer a good alternative.

I bought my son a desk; he doesn't sit there. I led him to a seat at the dinner table, he didn't take to that well, either. No spot seemed conducive to getting science fair projects done, algebra, sociology, Spanish.

Over the holidays, we bought a large, square table for the kitchen. In moments, it became clear that I'd just accidentally purchased the Great Homework Solution. Everyone immediately gravitated to this large table to work.

As I write this now, we're all three sitting at this table working. No one is allowed to speak (within reason; I'm not Mommy Dearest).

In here, the only distraction is the refrigerator.

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

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January 2, 2009

Where to dump that Christmas tree

Once your get that tree -- you're going this weekend, right?? -- and the new year arrives you'll need a place to dump it.

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Drop it off at one of 13 Broward County parks, which will turn the tree into mulch. There's no fee. Not even gate entrance fee for recyclers.

Here are the rules (there are always rules!):

No more than 2 trees per vehicle

No artificial trees

No commercial vehicles or garbage trucks

Trees must be free of decorations -- this includes tinsel


These 13 Broward County parks will start collecting Dec. 26 - Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations (most are closed Tuesdays, so call ahead):


Brian Piccolo Park, 9501 Sheridan St., Cooper City, 954-437-2600

C. B. Smith Park, 900 N. Flamingo Rd., Pembroke Pines, 954-437-2650

Easterlin Park, 1000 N.W. 38th St., Oakland Park, 954-938-0610

Fern Forest Nature Center, 201 Lyons Rd. South, Coconut Creek, 954-970-0150

Markham Park, 16001 W. State Rd. 84, Sunrise, 954-389-2000

Plantation Heritage Park, 1100 S. Fig Tree Ln., Plantation, 954-791-1025

Quiet Waters Park, 401 S. Powerline Rd., Deerfield Beach, 954-360-1315

Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park, 2520 N.W. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-791-1036

Snake Warrior's Island Natural Area, 3600 S.W. 62nd Ave., Miramar, 954-964-0283

Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Rd., Coconut Creek, 954-968-3880

Tree Tops Park, 3900 S.W. 100th Ave., Davie, 954-370-3750

T.Y. Park, 3300 N. Park Rd., Hollywood, 954-985-1980

West Lake Park, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood, 954-926-2480

For further information, call 954-357-8177 or e-mail praglin@broward.org.

Palm Beach County locations.

POSTED IN: General (185), Holidays (49), Joy Oglesby (134)

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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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