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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June 30, 2009

My kids heard it on TV: President Obama smokes!

While everyone else was reminiscing about parachute pants and psycho-analyzing the late Michael Jackson, my kids latched onto a different story they heard on TV: The president smokes.

"Creed!,'' I heard Lily yell from another room. "Obama smokes!''

"He's the president!'' she said later, reporting this disturbing news to her grandmother. I guess she missed this news story when it came up before his election. But President Obama was re-interviewed on the subject, and admitted he still slips up and smokes now and then. He called himself 95 percent cured.

"He might die!'' was the conclusion that Lily lept to. A conclusion which is true, of course. He certainly will die, eventually.

One of the president's comments was this: “I don't do it in front of my kids,” he said. “I don't do it in front of my family.''

Well he might as welll have just smoked in front of every child in America. I didn't bother with the explanation about the president not being perfect. He is supposed to be a role model, a mere mortal or not.

On another note, I met a guy at the gas station Monday morning who had just run out of gas. It was raining (of course), and he was putting gas into a tiny gas container. I asked if he needed a ride to his car, and he said, "Oh, no, no, no. That's my son over there.'' Then he said he planned to use the drive to his gas-less car to give his son a talking to, because he'd gotten no Father's Day card from him this year.

"I don't care how poor you are,'' the guy said to me. "You can get your dad a Father's Day card.''

Amen to that. (And click here to be reminded about the day that in our household can now be known as I-Didn't-Get-A-Mother's-Day-Card Day.)


POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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June 29, 2009

Favorite museums for kids (and parents)

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When I heard a child say she had never been to a museum, I was stunned. How could this be? We've dragged our kids to museums across several states.

Yet, I can understand how it might happen. Many museums are dusty and fusty and so-so serious. No fun at all.

But there are those that take you smack dab to the place where art or history or invention happens. These museums are vivid and memorable and definitely worth a couple hours on your summer vacation.

Any "best of" list would include the Smithsonian, the British Museum, the Louvre. So here are my (other) highlights, for kids AND parents. And yes, I lean toward art and history, not machines. What are your favs?

National Constitution Center, Philadelphia. This is interactive history at its finest. The opening multimedia/theatrical presentation is really moving. Then let the kids run around the exhibit hall to push buttons and pull levers that let them vote, serve on a jury, decide a Supreme Court case. This is a museum that keeps up with history, too. The day we were there, a group of immigrants were being sworn in as citizens.

American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore. You think kids have wild imaginations. OK, maybe some of the artists on display here are a little ...off. But their art sure is fun to look at. This is colorful, crazy, sometimes mind-blowing art that kids can relate to, and adults will puzzle over.

Tenement Museum, New York City. Go to 97 Orchard St. on Manhattan's Lower East Side to see how 7,000 immigrants lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Take an evening tour by flashlight -- no electricity here -- to see the time capsule apartments. This is without a doubt one of the best history museums I've ever been to.

Art Institute of Chicago: This is where you will see art you recognize, even if you don't remember the name of the artist. American masters like John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer. Grant Wood, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper. Plus, it's family-friendly free on Thursday evenings.

Fairchild Tropical Bontanic Garden, Coral Gables. I'm ashamed to admit I'd lived in South Florida for 20 years before I'd been to this gem. This is nature's art museum -- really cool plants, lively guided tram rides, easy walking trails. Even better when man-made art is on display throughout the lush grounds.

If I had to pick one museum in Paris to take the kids to, it would be Musee d'Orsay. Or maybe Musee de l'Orangerie to see Monet's water lilies. The Orsay is a beautiful light-filled building, a former train station, filled with beautiful art. Less ponderous than the Lourve.

The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, S.D. I am not a dinosaur geek by any stretch. But getting up close to an active paleontological dig -- with mammoth bones and other fossils emerging from the site -- is pretty awesome. Real science takes place here.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco. True confession: I have not been to this island paradise, but it's my son's favorite museum, so it makes the list. Why? "It's cool." Ok, but why? A ferry ride to an island in San Fancisco Bay. A vivid audio tour using prisonors' and guards' own voices. An old prison. What's not to like?

Photo: Political commentator Mo Rocca strikes a pose beside a life-size mannequin of Benjamin Franklin at the National Constitution Center. Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation photo

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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Mommy, why are you sad?

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I was in the car with my daughter when I got the news about Michael Jackson.

For me it was personal. Not only did we lose the “King of Pop,” I lost my very first pop icon.

I had the “I Love Michael” buttons. Every inch of my wall was filled with Michael Jackson posters. When my parents bought me my first record player (yes, record player), they threw in the “Super Freak” single by Rick James and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album.

I still love Michael to this day. Despite his tarnished image in the media, I put on “Man in the Mirror” and I feel inspired. And a party just isn’t a party without one or two Michael Jackson jams to close it out.

At least back then I was allowed to just love Michael without having to think about all his personal dilemmas. Too bad our kids aren’t allowed the same luxury.

My daughter already knows Chris Brown did something bad to Rihanna, as she put it. She knows Lindsey Lohan’s battles. And I’ve had to set the record straight on some of the Hannah Montana rumors.

It’s sad that with all the gossip on television and the Internet it’s almost impossible for our kids to embrace an artist for their music and their talent and leave it at that.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Georgia East (44), Music (22)

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June 26, 2009

Staying busy might be the hardest job

Do you have a teenager that got a job for the summer?

Don't get me wrong help2058031199_c271d2213e_m.jpg - every kid is entitled to his or her summer fun and some down time.

But kids that are 16 years old to 18 years old are probably anxious for some work experience, extra money and independence.

In this tough economy - those traditional teen jobs aren't coming easily. One of my son's friends applied to several places that aren't hiring.

Did your teenager line up volunteer work or extra chores instead?

If not, what is he or she doing?

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114)

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June 25, 2009

When cultural tradition dictates how to celebrate rites of passage

The milestone birthday. The Christening. The graduation. These banner events in children's lives cause intense hand-wringing for many parents in terms of how to celebrate the day. Should the once-in-a-lifetime event be marked big-willy style or in an intimate and low-key fashion?

Our guest-blogger Deborah David is struggling with the same decision on how to celebrate a rite of passage.

Deborah%20David.JPGDeborah is a wife and mother to a six year-old daughter and 19 month-old son. She currently hosts the Balanced Melting Pot, which is a blog she created to share the experience of raising her children as second generation immigrants.

She is the Director of Community Relations & Resource Development for a South Florida non-profit and her interests include social and community development.


Here is her dilemma:

My daughter is just about to complete her first year of Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).

For you non-Catholics, it’s basically religious education classes that prepare children for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Even though we are not devout Catholics, culturally this is a very important milestone for her, as well as the family.

To commemorate this occasions, many Haitians throw lavish parties where family and friends all participate in the celebration. In the past, I have always considered these parties to be over the top and the true meaning of the occasion is often lost.

I envisioned the celebration for our children to be intimate gatherings where close family and friends would be present, as they would for many other momentous occasions.

Well, this sounds good -- in theory. My husband and I are now beginning to develop our invitee list and somehow it just keeps growing. We will think of one person and realize by inviting him/her, you automatically need to invite another four people who are associated and/or family (this has to be another cultural phenomenon).

I think what I will eventually have to come to terms with is that this is going to be big party, whether I want it or not. I am going to choose to look at the positive side and accept that there many people who wish to celebrate this milestone with our family.

Do you have a similar tradition in your culture that you continue to observe?

Also, do you have any suggestions on how to keep this party manageable without offending anyone?

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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June 24, 2009

It'll be fun in the sun at this water park on Sunday

We've shared parenting highs and lows. We've been appalled about the same disturbing childhood trends such as sexting.

Now let's meet face-to-face.

Join the Moms & Dads bloggers for an afternoon of fun in the sun on Sunday.

We'll swap parenting advice and tales while the kids splash in the water playground or pool. There will be snacks, drinks and giveaways.

THE DETAILS:

croissant2.jpgWhen: 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. June 28, 2009

Where: Croissant Park, 245 W. Park Drive, Fort Lauderdale.

How much: FREE

The water playground is for children ages 8 and younger. The pool is for all ages. Children must be in the care of a parent at all times. Bring a swimsuit and towel. Little ones who aren't potty-trained must wear swim diapers.

For more info, call Joy at 954-356-4728.

POSTED IN: None

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Jon and Kate Gosselin: Finally divorcing

I confess I watch many of the shows about giant families, including Jon & Kate Plus 8 and 18 Kids and Counting.jonandkate.jpg

In "18 Kids and Counting," you can sense some chemistry between the married couple, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. But in "Jon & Kate Plus 8," I could never understand how they loved each other and remained married.

So I'm not at all surprised they revealed on Monday night's show that they are getting divorced. You could see in their body language they almost disdained each other.

Tabloids and blogs have had a field day blaming one or the other. But I believe you could see from the outset that this marriage was not meant to last.

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

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The iPhone, computers and TV: How much is too much for children?

My 4-year-old son is about to get his own iPhone. When Dad upgrades his phone, he has decided to pass down the old one to our pre-schooler (sans the SIM card).

I thought the idea a bit strange at first, but I’ve come around. My son became an iPhone whiz before his third birthday. He knows his way around the apps, the videos and even the camera, teaching my husband and me a few things along the way (like how to get a screen grab from the phone).

As far as debates between my tech-junky husband and me go, the what-to-do-with-the-old-iPhone one was pretty easy. We’ve butted heads before on the issue of wiring our kid.

How much is too much too soon?

Here are a few of the tech debates we’ve had in the Vasquez household. Would love to hear some of yours:

TV in the bedroom. Just say no. Really. What child who has spent more than half of his life in diapers needs a TV in the bedroom? My husband thought it’d be a great idea. In addition to the common sense argument, I have legions of pediatric professionals on my side. As it is, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under the age of two watch no TV. And those older than two watch no more than one or two hours of quality programming. Granted, they are tough guidelines to abide by. (I loved those Baby Einstein videos when my son was a toddler.) But a TV in the bedroom at this age is like walking off a cliff. Our compromise? We put a TV in my son’s playroom, which, frankly, doesn’t get a fraction of the use as the one we all watch together in the family room.

Video games. I am a huge fan of educational gadgets like those made by Leapster. My son has a Leapster L-Max handheld video game player that is teaching him math, writing and problem solving. I’m convinced the player (and its stylus pen) is the reason he can now write numbers that actually look like real numbers. He is now fascinated by addition and subtraction. He also has a Smart Cycle by Fisher Price that incorporates peddling a bicycle with educational games. I think it helped encourage him to practice riding the real thing.

I’m less enthused about game players like Playstation and the Wii. Yes, they’re very cool. And I fully expect that at some point down the road, my son will start playing them. But right now? I’d rather he go swimming in the pool or play with friends outside. And my son is not all that interested. My husband tried to get him to play a Lego Star Wars game on an old Playstation 2 console. It’s sitting gathering dust.

Computer. It’s inevitable that your child will show a growing interest in working on a computer. Getting children to understand how computers function is more a necessity than a luxury. My six-year-old niece who is in kindergarten already gets homework assignments via e-mail and the Internet. So the question here is really: When? When do you start making it a regular habit? When do you buy your kids (if you can afford it) their own computer?

My husband and I are still wrestling with this one. There are some great educational websites that we allow our son to check out on our computer with our supervision. A recent favorite is colorwithleo.com, which has all sorts of geometric games, puzzles and art-driven activities designed to bring out the Leonardo da Vinci in young children.

My husband is already talking about getting my son his own laptop. But I’m thinking: Let’s first buy him a bicycle with training wheels. Am I wrong?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 23, 2009

Buy a blank book for your kid's funny questions and comments

I'm not one of those moms who jumps into every spontaneous scene with a camera, and makes people line up and smile. I think it's much more fun, and less annoying, to capture what my kids are saying.

Someone bought me two blank, hard cover books. The covers are canvas, for a kid to draw on. I marked one for Creed, and one for Lily. And I've been writing their hilarious and ridiculous questions and comments in them for years.

When and if I ever deem them old enough and responsible enough to appreciate these keepsakes and not to lose them in a stack of school yearbooks, I will give them these treasures.

Lily gave me three more questions last week to add to her book:

"Why do we have to wear underwear, anyway? What does it do?''

"Has a dog ever peed on you?''

"Can a person be born with pierced ears?''

Hand me the pen!

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

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June 22, 2009

How to un-spoil a child, fast?

Your child doesn’t listen to you. You make excuses for your child’s behavior. You do your child’s chores. You feel like a nag.

You repeatedly threaten, warn and count to three. You explai,n on and on, everything you ask of your child. Much of the time, parenting feels like driving an out-of-control race car.

According to psychologist and author Richard Bromfield, author of “How to unspoil your child fast,’’ these are just some of the signs that you are a parent who spoils your child.

Bromfield has an extended list of symptoms. I’m only mentioning a few.
For a working single parent, it can be a struggle at times to stay on your children about the rules. There are times when I feel like a true nag.

"Get out of the pool!"

"Pick up your crayons!"

"Brush your teeth!"

And it goes on. It can wear you down if you’re not strong.

But Bromfield offers some suggestions to unspoiling and goes into quite a bit of detail.
Grab your child’s attention, stand firm on your rules and follow through, he suggests.

After all, he asks, who made the child the head of the household? Some parents are giving in to their children way too much.

According to Bromfield, and I quote, “You’re an educated adult who’s had sex, backed into a tree and lost money on lottery tickets. She hasn’t even finished kindergarten. What does she know?’’

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Single moms (14)

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June 20, 2009

Caption This: Grocery Shopping for the kids

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Photo credit: Elizabeth Potenza/Fort Lauderdale

POSTED IN: Caption This (3), Cindy Kent (78), Food (56), Newborn (39), Parks (12)

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June 19, 2009

Great idea! Use Facebook as a megaphone to find your teen

The Sun Sentinel's Russell Small offers this:

I have finally found an excellent use for Facebook – other than catching up with people I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Our son, whom I won’t name, heads to college soon and is down to only one important house rule: If you’re gonna be getting home later than 2 a.m., call and leave a message saying you’ll be out late and you’re okay.

One recent Thursday, my wife woke up at 4 a.m. (we won’t get into the reasons here) and saw he wasn’t home. She raced to the car, went to look for him, and they crossed paths as he was arriving home.

A week later, the wife wakes up at 6 a.m. and discovers, again, no son at home. She calls his cell phone; no answer, and no callback after her message was left. She calls all his friends’ cell phones; no answer there either.

Now she’s really beginning to panic. Wandering the halls, wondering what to do, she discovers that once again, he’s left his computer on (Electricity? We pay for that?). This time, the online DSL is running and his Facebook page is right there on the screen.

So the wife sits down and types a posting: “To all [our son’s] friends: [Our son] did not come home last night. He still is not home. He does not answer his phone or return calls. His friends aren’t answering their phones either. His father and I are worried sick. If you have seen him, please tell him to call home and tell us he’s all right. Thanks.” She signed her name.

A half-hour later, our son calls. “Do you know what you just put me through?” he barks into the phone at his mother, who picked up.

“Do you know what you put us through?” my wife answered. Her response was a bark magnified a dozen times.

“All my friends are phoning me to tell me to call home.”

“Good,” she answered. “At least they can get through to you.”

POSTED IN: Teen (158)

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Study says rear-facing seats are safer

Did you see this? A new study in the British Medical Journal says that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats for children under 4. “In rear facing car seats, the head, neck, and spine are kept fully aligned, and the crash forces are distributed over all of these body areas,” it says.

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This is quite a shift from current practice in most places, where babies are moved from rear- to forward-facing seats at about 20 pounds, usually 8 months for a boy. I think we waited until a year with our boys, but no longer than that.

The authors, Elizabeth A. Watson and Michael J. Monteiro, acknowledge the difficulty of even finding rear-facing car seats for older kids. “In North America, no rear-facing seats are available that are suitable for children over 35 pounds,” the study says.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: 70 to 75 percent of Swedish children under 3 ride in rear-facing seats, and crash data say that’s a good thing. The study cites an analysis of crashes reported to Volvo’s insurance company from 1976 to 1996. Once again, rear-facing seats performed better on the “injury reducing effect.”

The study doesn’t say that forward-facing seats are unsafe, just that rear-facing seats are safer. So I don’t think it’s a reason to panic for those of us using forward-facing seats, but it is clearly a call to do things differently. Maybe our bankrupt car companies should start offering good car seats to parents. There’s a market there.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Life gave me a lemon: I made a lemonade stand

Jon Kolbe agreed to write about his "dadness" at Cindy Kent's request. She's off to celebrate Father's Day with her own dad. Kolbe's creative use of social networking is engaging and effective. Today he shares with us how being a dad has changed since he lost his job.

My life is...almost perfect.

I've got a beautiful, caring and selfless wife; I have the two most beautiful girls. Ever. I have family, I have friends. Everyone is healthy, who could ask for more?

The only little teeny, tiny thing that is missing is: a job.

I've come to the realization that only after a job is gone can you fully appreciate it and what it really does for you.

I worked as a project manager for an architectural firm for 11 years. My two girls were born during a time of rampant construction, economic expansion and an economy that Kryptonite could not hinder. I worked, and I worked, at least until nightfall, sometimes later.

I'm not complaining. This was the way I was raised. kolbeDSC01211.JPGMy dad has always had his own business, his dad had his own business and his grandfather had his own business. This 'work til the job is done' ethic is ingrained deeply in me. Life was good, my wife was a stay at home mom and my kids were among the happiest around.

Cue the "bubble burst," "market correction," the "financial crisis," or as I refer to it: the implosion.
The one thing missing in my life during the "good days" was family time. Six day work weeks did not allow me to spend any amount of quality time with my family.

Now, between applying for jobs and the phone not ringing with offers, I have had time.

I have tried to capitalize on this opportunity by building strong bonds and one very cool lemonade stand.

I have changed more diapers in the last six months than I have in the last six years. I've made lunches, burned dinners, been to the playground, applied Band-Aids, removed splinters, walked to school in the rain, been stuck in the car line, spared the rod, spoiled the child and taught tic-tac-toe. I've had fevers, I've held their hands and given them baths when they had fevers. I've even collected hail in the middle of what I can only describe as a typhoon for a science lesson.

Even though the last six months have been enormously stressful and my finances look almost as good as Bear Stearns' (just prior to the JPMorgan Chase deal), I am thankful and even consider myself blessed to be able to have had this time.

In the time I have not been working, I have had the gift of my family. They've kept me grounded. They've kept me laughing. They've kept me focused. And most importantly, they've kept me positive.

This Sunday is Father's Day, and it's the first one that I, by my own judgment, truly deserve.

You can visit Jon Kolbe's web site to see how he's implementing his social networking skills to obtain employment, at Jonkolbe.com E-mail him at jon@jonkolbe.com and follow him on Twitter @jonkolbe

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Guest Post (79), Holidays (49)

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June 18, 2009

In-laws on your nerves? Maybe it's time for YOU to change!

Today's guest post comes from New York writer Jenna D. Barry, author of “A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parents.” You can find more about her on www.WifeGuide.org. You can also follow her on Twitter @JennaDBarry. The advice she dispenses here is her own: feel free to let her (and us) know your thoughts.

GuestJenna.jpg“My in-laws want to see my kids constantly. They drop by the house unexpectedly and stay for long visits. They offer unwanted advice about everything from breast pumps to hemorrhoids.”

Can you relate to those statements? If so, then how do you usually respond when your in-laws say or do something you don’t like? Do you gossip about them to your spouse, parents, siblings, and friends? Do you hold grudges against them? Do you demand that your mate tell his or her parents to jump off a cliff? If so, then it’s time to tweak your behavior a bit so you can start getting your needs met.

Rather than gossiping about your in-laws, why not communicate directly with them to resolve differences? Instead of holding grudges, why not set boundaries so their behavior doesn’t have such a negative impact on you? Rather than insisting that your spouse handle every disagreement, why not earn their respect by standing up for yourself in an assertive manner? (Sure, there are times when your spouse should confront his own parents, but there are also times when it‘s appropriate for you to address the problem.)

It’s quite possible that you have in-laws from hell, but don’t assume that until you’ve communicated your needs and given them a chance to respond appropriately. They may not realize you feel smothered when they invite themselves over constantly or show up unannounced. They may have no idea that you’d like their visits to be a bit shorter. They may honestly think they are being helpful when they give you advice about how to flatten your tummy.

It’s usually not necessary to have a big serious confrontation to communicate your needs. Just be respectfully assertive whenever a problem situation comes up, and set boundaries if necessary. Here are some examples of what I mean:

 The next time your in-laws call to invite themselves over, you could say, “Tomorrow won’t work for me, but next Wednesday would be great if you’re free then.”

 If your in-laws show up unexpectedly, feel free to say, “This isn’t a good time for me, but you’re welcome to come over Saturday evening. From now on, give us a call before you come over-- I’d hate for you to waste a trip if we aren’t available.” (This approach won’t work if your spouse is home and invites his parents in. You don’t have control over your spouse’s behavior, just your own.)

 The next time you invite your in-laws for a visit, be specific about what length of time they are welcome to stay. You could say, “We would love for you to come visit us December 23rd through December 26th if you’re available then” or “I’m available from noon until 2pm on Friday if you’d like to come over to the house.”

 If your in-laws tend to offer unwanted advice about things like breastfeeding or spanking, you could say, “Thanks for your input, but I’ve decided to do it this way instead.”

In-laws with healthy behavior will respond appropriately when you communicate your needs and draw boundaries. However, in-laws with destructive behavior will choose to be offended and try to make you feel guilty for having needs that conflict with theirs. It’s important to stand your ground with controlling, manipulative in-laws. Behave as an adult on an equal level to them. Here are some things you can say if they react negatively when you state your needs and draw boundaries:

 “You’re entitled to your opinion, [Helen], but this isn’t up for negotiation.” (Make sure you call her by first name because calling her “Mrs. [Smith]” or “Mom” may encourage her to dominate you.)

 “I’m sorry you’re upset, [Harry], but I still need for you to [call first before coming over].” (That lets him know you are aware that he isn’t happy about the situation, but that you still expect him to respect your needs.)

 “[Helen], I’m not willing to discuss this anymore. Is there something you’d like to talk about instead?”

You can’t control your in-laws’ behavior, but you can control the way their behavior affects you.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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June 17, 2009

How do you deal with summer camp blues?

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I thought we had it all worked out.

My daughter started summer daycamp this week and seemed to like it. She went swimming, raved about an animal show she saw with her fellow campers, and even came home with some colorful artwork.

But today she started her boycott. The very first thing she said to me this morning was that she didn’t want to go back to camp. She couldn’t pin down what she didn’t like, she just kept saying she didn’t want to be there.

Of course we went back today. I talked to the counselors about how she felt, they listened, and after some serious sobbing, she waved goodbye. We didn’t have this issue when she started kindergarten last year.

Now I’m wondering if I may have set the expectations for camp too high. For weeks I’ve been talking to her about summer camp and all that she had to look forward to.

My friends say it’s just a matter of her making friends. But if you have any suggestions on how to make this transition a little easier send them my way.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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Martha Stewart: A mom who can laugh at herself

I have become addicted to "Whatever, Martha!"

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It's a show on Wednesday nights on the Fine Living Network in which Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, and her friend, Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, make fun of old Martha Stewart shows, which ran from 1991 to 2004. I find myself laughing out loud as they take apart Martha's obsessive and controlling personality and find sexual innuendo in her every offhand comment.

They mock Martha's clothing, body language, choice of words, choice of projects, choice of guests: everything Martha says and does is subject to their ridicule.

I laugh -- sometimes -- when my kids make fun of me, but this skewering takes Mom-mocking to a new level. Still, I wasn't surprised to learn the idea for "Whatever, Martha!" was Martha's, a way to revive interest in her old shows.

We all know she is a savvy businesswoman, but now we learn she has a terrific sense of humor. Here's to mothers who don't take themselves too seriously.

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

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Five questions every couple should ask themselves before starting a family

It’s wedding week at SouthFlorida.com/LIVE, and it got me thinking…


There are seminal moments in a young couple’s life: There’s the day you meet, the day you move in together, the day you get married (which can coincide with No. 2), and the day you become parents.

Each one is both blissful and stressful. Perhaps none more than becoming Mom and Dad. If you’re smart, you’ve talked about family planning before you walk down the aisle. And if you’re really smart, you keep talking about it long after the honeymoon.

It’s not as simple as knowing whether or not you both want kids one day. That’d be way too easy. Life is much more complicated than that. So here’s my list of questions any couple on the cusp of marriage should be asking each other. I encourage readers of this blog to add ones I may have missed.

How many? My husband and I quickly settled on two. We both have siblings and couldn’t imagine having an only child. Three kids and we’d be out numbered. Not to mention broke. My sister is now a working mom of three. My brother-in-law jokes about having a fourth. She doesn’t think it’s funny. She’s plenty happy with a party of five.

Where will you live? Before I got married, I knew I wanted to own a home before a little one arrived. Not only that, I knew I’d want to eventually move back to live close to my family in Miami. My husband, a California native who really loved our seven years living in the Golden State, definitely would have been in for an unpleasant surprise if I kept either of those two expectations to myself.

What if you can’t conceive? Admittedly, this one didn’t come up for us until after we had our first child. We just assumed we’d have two kids. Little did we think Mother Nature may not work in our favor exactly when we had planned. Two miscarriages and more than a year of trying, we finally decided we were blessed with one child and grew at peace with our new reality. No fertility treatments. No adoption. A few weeks later, we learned we were pregnant with Baby No. 2, who is due this fall.

Keep the faith? We’re still wrestling with this one. My husband was raised Catholic. I am Methodist. We both quickly decided to baptize our son but knew we didn’t want parochial school. Now we’re torn about Sunday school. What church? What faith? We’ve put it off long enough.

How will you deal with change? You can plan until your face turns blue. More important than any answer to my questions above is coming to an understanding that things could change. You may want that home with a white picket fence but can’t afford more than your two-bedroom rental. You may vow against fertility treatments but later realize you couldn’t live with yourself without trying every possible solution.

Just keep talking, and you’ll figure it out.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 16, 2009

Recession buster: Use every piece of stale cereal in the house

I've learned a lot about frugality from my mother-in-law. She's the best kind of economizer: She's got a generous heart, but a frugal lifestyle.

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Stale cereal can be yummy.


She and my late father-in-law gave my kids their first savings bonds and $100 bills. But she also uses empty cereal bags to store leftover foods.

So I'm dedicating this recession busting idea to her, even though it's so sugary, she probably wouldn't approve of my feeding it to the kids.

It's my way of using all food, and letting none go to waste. (Just like restaurants take their wilting vegetables and make vegetable soup.)

The principle is that of Rice Krispie Treats. Just sub out whichever cereal is getting stale. I keep a bag of marshmallows on hand for this very purpose. Melt the marshmallows, add a tad of butter to the mix, pour on the cereal and refrigerate.

No matter what kind of cereal it is, believe me when I say, it will be delicious when covered with melted marshmallows.

Yum!

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Food (56)

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June 15, 2009

Should a date pitch in for babysitting?

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There is a debate stirring among some of my single mom friends about who should pick up the tab for baby-sitting.

While no one expects a first date to pitch in for someone to watch your child, when you’ve been dating someone consistently for a few months, I think the cost of baby-sitting should come up in conversation at some point.

Often, parents don’t want to expose their children to the person they’re dating until the relationship is serious, which makes sense. But what happens when baby-sitting fees start to cut into your budget?

A friend of mine recently shelled out $200 to a baby sitter who watched her daughter while she was out with someone she’s been seeing regularly. That’s two week’s worth of groceries in my house.

For those with family and good friends to lean on, this isn’t an issue. But for single parents who have to pay a baby sitter, dating can get pretty expensive.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Single moms (14)

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June 12, 2009

Questioning gender is real mind-bender

What do you say, what do you do, if your child says he or she wants to change their gender?

Chastity.jpgIf it takes a famous person like Chastity Bono to openly go through the process to create dialog, that's great. But not everyone is so lucky to have a built in fan-base, financial reserves, good connections. And not everyone is an independent adult.

Your questioning child still depends on you.

It's a complicated issue for those on the outside looking in.

But "complicated" doesn't even come close to describing the process for the individual going through it. How does he or she even begin to articulate it to others?

Think about this: a female wants to transition to male (F2M). Would that person want to be with females (straight) or other males (gay)? Conversely, would a male, transitioning to female (M2F) want to be with males (straight) or other females (lesbian)?

Is it even that simple? I think not.

Several articles and blogs have discussed one family where the parents are letting their 8-year-old son openly live life as a girl.
Here is one report.

For more insight, read this account of a woman whose son came to her and said "Mom, I need to be a girl."

Lots of organized information is available.

In this post Transproud helps parent navigate the reality that their child just announced they have a gender conflict.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is a voice within the school community to ensure a safe environment to GLBT youth and create open discussion.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Fitness (21), Family Issues (231), Health (111), Sex (16), Teen (158)

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June 11, 2009

Kid Tested: The Monopoly Deal card game

Once upon a time there was a board game that families played until the cows came home. Not so much because they enjoyed playing Monopoly, but because that's how long it took to crown a winner.

Now there's a version of the classic Parker Brothers game that can be played in 15 minutes.

monopoly.jpgMy savvy 12-year-old neighbor, Chabella, recently tested out the card game with three other preteen friends (two boys and a girl) here are her impressions on Monopoly Deal card game:

First impression: "This looks like a confusing game to play."

What's cool: The game doesn't last as long as other Monopoly games.

What needs improving: Nothing.

Would you recommend it: "Yes, it's easy to play and you can play it anywhere." No need to collect teeny board pieces.

POSTED IN: None

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Whew!

Today's guest blogger is The Kid, Cindy Kent's son. He's a good guy, and a busy one.
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In between participating in South Broward High School's Summer BEACH program and finishing the rest of the day in martial arts, he took a few moments of his free time to jot down these notes, mostly because his mom made him.
But for the record, after the task, he said he enjoyed it and he's up for being a guest blogger in the future.

Whew! Done with the middle school legacy, time sure goes by fast. In middle school I matured a lot, I also gained a ton of knowledge, friends and life skills.

Too bad not too many of my friends are going to my high school. I am lucky if ten of my friends are going to my high school. Most of my friends are going to South Plantation High, only because they want to be with their friends that are going there.

I am going to go to South Broward because I am really interested in marine science and they have a great marine magnet program. I really do care about my education and want to become successful.

I am going to be a freshman and have to start all over again as I work my way up to "The Top Dog."

As I am going into 9th grade I really do hope I can continue to do as well as I have done in middle school. I am an A and B student NO C's. I'd say that's commendable, and I am not over-complimenting myself.

Math is definitely my weakest point. The only grade I got in it this whole year was a B, still a good grade though, right? I even got an A in Spanish every quarter except the third quarter.

High school shouldn't be any harder as long as I continue to keep up with my assignments. I will surely be going into high school with a positive attitude!!!

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Guest Post (79), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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How young is too young to study abroad?

We've been following the story of nine teenage South Florida students and one teacher who have been quarantined in China because they were seated in close proximity to a man who had swine flu symptoms on their plane.

GreatWall.jpgIt seems some of our readers were surprised, not because the Chinese were so worried about swine flu, but because teenagers were touring a foreign country without their parents.

"Who in their right mind would allow their CHILD to travel to China?" wrote one reader who calls himself (or herself) "Alrighty Then."

Alrighty then, who would? If the tiny bit of research I've done is any indication, study abroad programs are plentiful and often welcome teenagers. Adults chaperones accompany them, but the majority of children participating are not accompanied by their parents.

I don't know that there's a right or wrong answer here. I saw one site that featured a study abroad program in Spain that welcomes children as young as 5.

I'd draw the line there. No way am I sending a 5-year-old to Spain, or any other country, without me or my wife. It's tough enough seeing your child off to his first day of school for a few hours. Shipping him off to another country for a few days or weeks? I can't imagine it.

When is a child old enough to study abroad? And how much does it depend on the destination?

POSTED IN: Pre-Teen (57), Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), Teen (158)

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June 10, 2009

Do you argue in front of kids?

Like every couple on the planet, my wife and I sometimes argue. Usually, I’m wrong. But that’s not the point here.

It used to be just our problem. We could sulk for hours, even days, or carry on that time-honored traditional of low-level marital guerilla warfare in which complex emotional problems are reduced to some tiny personal habit such as how you drink coffee or whether you plop into bed (random examples, I swear).

But alas, this is not a marital blog, it’s a parenting one. So what’s the point, you ask.
Kids.

Yes, fighting – arguing – in front of them.

We all say we won’t do it. But, honestly, how can you avoid it?

And does it make sense to shield your children from all conflict? Don’t we need to learn how to handle conflict?

This came up the other day. Once again, for the record, I was wrong, but the subject matter is immaterial. We disagreed about something. The kids were playing in the living room as we tossed verbal volleys back and forth. I thought about saying, “Let’s talk about this when the kids aren’t around.” But, really, when is that? An hour or so before we go to sleep? And that would break another oft-quoted rule, “Never go to sleep angry.”

So we kept at it a bit. Nothing major. But I could tell that the boys – ages 3 and 19 months – noticed something. They quieted down and, oddly enough, let us have a conversation, or an argument.

We stopped shortly thereafter, although the issue remained unresolved. We both sensed, without saying it, that it probably wasn’t right to argue in front of the kids.

This got me thinking: When is it OK to argue in front of little ones?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Air travel with children can be tricky

Getting on an airplane with small children can strike fear into the hearts of parents. (And, yes, fellow passengers.)

I know the feeling too well. My four-year-old son has made cross-country flights on an annual basis since he was born.

Before he (I) blew out the candle on his first birthday cake, he had already racked up considerable mileage by flying San Francisco-to-Miami three times. As if traveling with a two-month-old wasn’t challenging enough for our inaugural flight, my husband and I decided to bring our beloved beagle along (inside the cabin). By the time we reached the departure gate, we were breaking a sweat, thanks to the Olympic maneuvers required to get through security while juggling baby, car seat, stroller, carry-on bags and doggy carrier. And then we had a five-hour flight to endure. I’m tired just thinking about it.

But we survived. And so can you. As your little one gets older, the challenges will change, and you’ll need to adjust. With the summer travel season now officially underway, here are a few tips to keep air travel stress free:

Buy a seat for the baby. Sure, right now you think saving the money and having baby sit on your lap for the entire flight is a grand idea. Chances are it won’t be comfortable for either of you. And if it’s a long flight, it’s a recipe for disaster. You can no longer count on having an open seat next to you. Airlines are packing their planes while offering fewer flights. Extra tip: Ask the airline if they have discounted airfare for infants. Most do.

Choose a direct flight. Even if it means leaving from an alternate airport or it costs a little more. Just picture yourself bobbing through a crowded airport (with a child who is tired, cranky, hungry or in need of a diaper change) trying to make a connecting flight. It isn’t pretty.

Consider sitting at the back of the plane. If you have a toddler or pre-schooler who can’t sit still for long, you’ll want some space. Usually, the seats at the back of the plane are situated near the flight attendant station, which can provide a little bit of walking space without disturbing the majority of passengers. Extra tip: You’ll also be closer to the bathroom.

Do not underestimate the power of distraction. DVD player? Toys? Books? Lunch box filled with goodies? Pack all of the above. I also bring one new toy as a surprise present that I break out if all else fails.

Make nice with fellow passengers. This one comes from a former colleague of mine who proudly told my husband and me of a peace offering he made with surrounding passengers on his first flight with the baby to his native Argentina. As everyone settled into their seats, he and his wife passed out ear plugs. They also bought a round of drinks for those closest to them.

So tell me: What’s your plan for traveling with kids this summer?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 9, 2009

Online might rule, but there are rules

Our children completed another year of school. But that doesn’t mean they’re any smarter about online safety.

Just because its summer vacation doesn’t mean rules are on vacation either, especially when it comes to kids and their online Internet activity.

Some kids are going to find they have a lot of time on their hands because many parents can’t afford to send their child to camp, or for other reasons simply choose to have the kids stay home. Other kids looked for summer jobs but didn’t get one.

TV, playing video games and surfing the net will fill a lot of that time. Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, Twitter, online games and draw people into communities online --with total strangers.
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My son will be pretty busy with a marine school magnet program and martial arts. But he does go online. I’m pretty confident though, he’s very safety savvy. He’s extremely diligent about the sites he visits.

He implemented programs to protect his data. He does not veer from his usual book marked favorites. He runs software that prevents random sites from popping up. He does not use Facebook or MySpace. He only rarely e-mails family members and friends.

In fact, I’ve learned a lot of online tips from him. We are constantly sharing information about something we’ve learned.

When he first started going online, I constantly repeated these safety tips – and they’re good for anyone of any age:

1. Never give out personal information like your name, telephone number, address, e-mail, or school name.

2. Be cautious: people you chat with online may not be who they say they are.

My top two tips can be found at

Mcgruff.org

What rules and safety tips have you and your children discussed and implemented?

Add your ideas to the list of safety tips with your comments.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), Teen (158)

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June 8, 2009

Can single moms get some time alone?

I have a confession. Before I became a mom, I actually enjoyed spending time alone.

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A new J. California Cooper book and a comfortable pillow were all I needed to get me through a Sunday afternoon.

That kind of time is rare these days. Most of the weekend is spent doing kids’ stuff. But I’ve found a few inexpensive ways to get “me time” and reconnect with the loner in me.

Visit to Ikea. The Swedish furniture store has free baby-sitting for shoppers. There’s one in Davie. You don’t have to buy anything, and my daughter looks forward to going to their play area. They limit you to about 45 minutes, which can fly by, but it’s nice to have uninterrupted time to look at fabrics and scope out designing ideas.

The gym. My gym charges an extra $5 a month for its kids’ club and it is money well-spent. You get to work out alone, with no distractions while your kids play with others.

The park. Instead of cuddling up on my battered green couch like I used to, I take my magazines and books to the park and read while she plays.

Do you know of any other low-budget ways to get time alone? Do share.....

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Family Issues (231), Georgia East (44), Single moms (14)

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June 7, 2009

Caption this photo: salute

Yeah, we know, we ran this one already. But we wanted to know what you think of it. So come on, what should the caption be?
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A few weeks ago, we introduced "wordless weekends" on this blog. But we never meant to discourage YOU from commenting. So now we're calling it "Caption this photo." We'll keep our comments to a minimum, but that doesn't mean you should. Tell us what you think of these pix!

POSTED IN: Wordless Weekend (22)

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Caption this photo: jumping rope

CaptionThis5.jpg

A few weeks ago, we introduced "wordless weekends" on this blog. But we never meant to discourage YOU from commenting. So now we're calling it "Caption this photo." We'll keep our comments to a minimum, but that doesn't mean you should. Tell us what you think of these pix!

POSTED IN: Wordless Weekend (22)

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June 6, 2009

Caption this photo: megaphone

CaptionThis1.jpg

A few weeks ago, we introduced "wordless weekends" on this blog. But we never meant to discourage YOU from commenting. So now we're calling it "Caption this photo." We'll keep our comments to a minimum, but that doesn't mean you should. Tell us what you think of these pix!

POSTED IN: Wordless Weekend (22)

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Caption this photo: child fishing

What do you think the caption of this photo should be?
CaptionThis3.jpg

A few weeks ago, we introduced "wordless weekends" on this blog. But we never meant to discourage YOU from commenting. So now we're calling it "Caption this photo." We'll keep our comments to a minimum, but that doesn't mean you should. Tell us what you think of these pix!

POSTED IN: Wordless Weekend (22)

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June 5, 2009

Opening your home to a child in need

Anthony is a creative type. He likes to draw and pal around with younger kids.

The 12 year old is one of nearly 1,000 children in Florida in need of a stable family life.

Taking in a child from foster care is an awesome thing to do. If you're considering opening your home to a child now in the state's care, check out the traveling exhibit Children's Trust Heart Gallery on Saturday at Dave & Busters in Hollywood from 4 - 6 p.m.

During the exhibit, potential parents can "meet" some of the children available for adoption and get answers to some pressing questions, such as what financial and emotional support is available, how long does the adoption process take, do the birth parents have rights?

POSTED IN: None

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School's Out!

Take a big deep breath - and a bow - you survived another year of school.

You helped the kid with their homework.

You drove them everywhere getting the kids to and from.

You behaved during teacher conferences.
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You were the science project cheerleader. You fed the kids, made sure they had clean clothes to wear to school.

Let the fun begin.

We started last night with a huge cookout and sleepover.

It is a great way to say "good job," to the kids and pat ourselves on the back too. (We always like a party!)

How is your family celebrating the end of the school year and the beginning of summer?

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Teen (158)

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June 4, 2009

Kids' music that Mom likes: Why I created a toddler iPod playlist

smbushouse.pngGuest blogger Kathy Bushouse is a mother to one rambunctious toddler who turns 2 on Saturday. In her spare time, she covers schools for the Sun Sentinel and contributes to two Sun Sentinel blogs.

To show my son I loved him, I made him a mix tape.

Well, it’s sort of a mix tape. My son Andrew has his own playlist on my iPod.

While I made it for him, it’s also a playlist for me. We spend at least 35 minutes in the car together each day, and honestly, some of the music on my iPod is not appropriate for 2-year-old ears.

We have some children’s CDs, but I either forget to bring them or they’re stashed in my husband’s car. And truth be told, there’s only so much children’s music I can stomach.

Thus, the iPod playlist. A kid-friendly playlist gives me peace of mind that he won’t hear songs with wildly inappropriate lyrics. (I’ll save those for when he’s not in the car) And since I always carry my iPod, I’ll always have mom-approved music at the ready.

I know a kid playlist is not a novel idea – I’m sure other parents have done this long before me – but I decided to do it after our commute home one day, when I caught Andrew grooving to They Might Be Giants’ “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” When we got home, I pulled out the CD and played the track for him, and he danced.

Little did I know that the group I loved in high school and college was now a kids’ act.

I downloaded some new TMBG and combed through the music already on our iTunes to assemble Andrew’s playlist. (I use the iPod, but feel free to substitute your own MP3 player)

I’ve got 54 songs on there, and while I haven’t tried them all on Andrew yet, I already know he has some favorites.

This is Andrew’s top 5, by my best estimation (which is the amount of kicking and cheering that goes on during and after the song). Feel free to try them out on your kids:

No. 5: Anything by Jason Mraz. Really, any Jason Mraz song will do. Andrew loves him. He’s actually cried a few times when I tried to flip through a Jason Mraz song. If anyone reading this knows Jason Mraz or one of his people, please pass along my thanks for making such catchy songs that don’t contain curse words.

"Wordplay" is one of his favorites:

More songs (and videos) after the jump.

No. 4: “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” The Brian Setzer Orchestra. This is a suggestion I found on an iTunes playlist that had a name like “Kids Music for Adults.” Totally worth the 99 cents I paid for it.

Here's a live version of the song from YouTube:

No. 3: “Xanadu” by Olivia Newton-John. I think this one troubles my husband, because he’s not a Newton-John fan. But Andrew loves her, and so do I. Xanadu is our favorite in the Newton-John songbook – he tries to hit the high notes at the end, when Olivia Newton-John sings “Xanadu-ooo-oooooo.” It cracks me up.

No. 2: “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” They Might Be Giants. He tries to sing along. He has no idea what he’s saying, but he tries to sing along. The line where they sing how they’d be fired “After killing Jason off/And countless screaming Argonauts” gives me pause, but I remind myself that it’s based on a tale from Greek mythology and therefore counts as educational.

No. 1: “Song 2,” Blur. You know the song that goes “Woo-hoo!” and you can’t really make out any of the lyrics? This is Andrew’s favorite. He sings “Woo-hoo.” He jumps. He yells, “Yeah yeah!” He demands that we play it at least once a day.

Fellow parents, if you’ve got any songs that your kids like, please send them my way. Andrew’s playlist can always be expanded.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79), Toddler (127)

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June 3, 2009

Rope jumpers bring City Hall to life

As I've said before, I love rope jumpers. If it were an Olympic sport I'd be one of those crazy parents and Lily would be training on the rope every day.

Tuesday, some of Fort Lauderdale's finest little rope jumpers, the Warfield Park Double Dutch team members, visited City Hall to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and show some of their stuff.

Check it out!

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Why save sex ed for the end of the year?

Just before the end of the school year, every year, my kids' schools decide to squeeze in sex education.
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The letter comes home giving us the option of opting out. I never opt out, and always make sure to ask the kids what they learned.

It's funny to hear them recount the lessons. My sixth grader said her science teacher introduced the topic this way: "Let's get two words out of the way. PENIS. And VAGINA."

My fourth grader remembered only that her teacher discussed menstrual cramps. At least that's what she told me.

I love the way the schools leave these controversial lessons for the last few days of the year, post-FCAT, minimizing the ability of parents to complain. This way, by the time parents call in to talk about the lessons or ask questions, the school year is over and no one has the energy or interest to engage in discussion.

POSTED IN: Elementary School (54), Lois Solomon (211), Sex (16)

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Mom and Dad parenting styles still worlds apart -- and that's OK

Two years ago, in this very space, I wrote about how my husband and I were worlds apart when it came to parenting styles.

We’re now two years wiser, our son two years older (4+), and guess what? We’re still exactly where we were two years ago. The scenarios are slightly different, but our roles remain the same: He’s still the “fun” parent. I’m the rule maker.

One key change? I’ve learned to embrace our differences. (Do not interpret that to mean that I don’t get annoyed with the differences. I’ve just learned to accept them, like the stack of dirty dishes sitting in my kitchen sink right now while said husband snoozes on the couch after promising to wash them.)

Acceptance is liberating. But so is realizing that – as much as you’d hate to admit it – Dad’s approach may actually work. A story I read recently reminded me of that. Here are the big takeaways for me:

Thou shalt accept allowing your kids to take risks: Dads tend to be more at ease with letting their children get banged around a bit. That scraped knee may be painful now, but Dad is betting next time Little Danny won’t climb the playground with two toys in hand. My tendency? Tell Danny to put down the toys before he starts climbing.

Thou shalt accept that less-than-perfect is OK: So what if Dad dresses Danny in an outfit even a colorblind person wouldn’t put together? And will my son even notice that his shirt is on backwards? It’s not the end of the world. The time Mom spends correcting Dad’s behavior could probably be better spent just enjoying the moment with the family.

Thou shalt accept that acting like a kid has its benefits: My husband has mastered the art of distraction. My son won’t jump in the bathtub? Dad pretends to start taking off his own clothes and runs to the bathroom to beat my son to it. My son doesn’t want to go to bed? Dad secretly steals a few of his toys and mysteriously places them in the hallway leading to his bedroom. Both work like a charm. And if I tried either, my son would see right through it. Dad has the magic touch.

What’s your parenting style? And if you’re wondering where you and your significant other fall on the parenting spectrum, take this test.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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June 2, 2009

Bitten by the summer bug?

Are you getting bugged this summer by insects?

Perhaps, after reading the item posted today by my colleague Brittany Wallman on the virtues of having a dog for a pet - you'll run out and get one this weekend.

So, here are a few things to consider:

If your children are playing outdoors and getting bitten by mosquitoes, chances are the family pet is too.

Mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are right there keeping up with your family on picnics, on walks, at ball games and while doing yard work.

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Barry the Bug Guy at Truly Nolen offers tips on how to keep pets bug-free on The Insect Inquirer.

And yes, I did mention yard work. Here's an idea - a yard work party. Get the kid to invite friends over.

Then announce that before the video games, there are a few things that have to be done outside. (I've never seen kids rake so fast. They haul trash, cut branches and pull weeds at lightening speed.)

After a glass of lemonade, they feel well-paid and happy!

But be sure your kids are protected from insects too! KidsHealth has some pointers on how to handles bites and stings.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Health (111), Parks (12), Pets (4), Safety (59)

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Is your child unpopular or emotionally stunted? Buy him a dog

It's almost like having another baby, making that decision to bring a dog into the family. But if you have a kid, it's almost inevitable that they'll ask for one. Then you'll see that saying no is not an option. Everyone's parents gets them a dog. Thus if you want to maintain custody of your child, you also have to get a dog.

I heard someone tell a guy this weekend that having a child is the best and the worst thing that will ever happen to you. Your child will bring you your highest highs, and quite possibly your lowest lows. A dog can also have this effect, especially one that poops on the floor.

But is there any other single decision (and sacrifice) you can make that will change your kid's life more?

Previous generations of families had more stay-at-home moms and more kids, so adding a dog or two was less of an ordeal, I think. Now, it's seen as a burden. If you work, you not only have to find a doggie daycare, you have to find one with a good curriculum.niceallieshot.jpg


My son begged for a dog for years. We told him he couldn't have a dog until he was 10. Then when he turned 10, we said, "No, not when you turn 10. You're really still just 9 plus 365 days. You have to wait until you've actually been 10 awhile!'' He cried. That probably wasn't a very happy birthday, come to think of it.

Anyway, that fall we finally brought home Allie from the Humane Society. She had some kind of hurricane refugee mystery surrounding her, as they claimed she was sent here from Alabama after Hurricane Katrina. But they also told us her name was Mary, and that's obviously a made-up name that no one would give a dog, so I'm not sure we can trust the hurricane story, either.

Creed wouldn't be the same kid without Allie. He just wouldn't. Allie is always by his side, and if he's not home, she drags a pair of his stinky shorts by her side. She doesn't even want me approaching him when he's sleeping, in case this might be the time I come in to his bedroom to kill him in his sleep.

He's not an unpopular or emotionally stunted kid. He's pretty normal. But Allie's brought so much to his life, it's hard to imagine the alternate reality where we said no.

For parents of troubled kids, a dog can work miracles. Sometimes it's that furry mutt that draws the kid out and helps them be who they're meant to be.

Read this story by Ginny Blansford in Newsweek for a great example. This little girl who was adopted after her first adoptive mom died finally wailed about her life circumstances when her beloved dog went missing. If you don't tear up reading this, then you are emotionally stunted and need a pet.

Here's an excerpt:

Liana came back into the house, sat on her new dog's bed and cried. In her four years with us, she had hardly ever cried. And she had hardly ever mentioned her adoptive mother, my best friend. I almost resented that she seemed to have moved past grief without a second thought. But now she sobbed. She howled. Her thick black hair stuck to her cheeks, wet with tears. She wrapped her arms around herself, then around me, squeezing hard. She cried for three hours—until well after John returned. "She's gone," Liana moaned. "My dog is gone. My mother is dead. I loved my dog. Why did my mother die?"


POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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June 1, 2009

The family: Unplugged

"Power 96, please."

They jump into the car and, without saying hello, request their favorite radio station. Or at least the station they want to listen to at this particular moment.

Borg.jpgI may not hear a word from them for most of the 20-25 minute trip home, save an occasional request to change the station. But I'm lucky this time. Often, I remind myself, they jump in with iPods attached to their ears. And their phones are always on, sending text messages as quickly as they can receive them.

I'm no better. Checking e-mail on the Blackberry, looking to see whether someone I'm following has said something interesting on Twitter, even checking my Facebook updates at times.

No, I can't point a finger at them without three fingers pointed right back at me.

As a stepfather, I don't have a lot of rules that are identifiably mine. But there's one thing I insist on: The gizmos are not allowed at the dinner table. That's my rule, one I am not shy about enforcing, with a gentle but visibly annoyed, "please put that away while we're eating."

I don't have to imagine what it would be like without these gizmos. Like many of you, I need only remember.

Remember when phones in the house had cords? When, in order to be on the phone, you needed to be in a particular chair?

I love the gizmos. I do. But they're supposed to connect us to each other, not disconnect us from each other.

Resistance is NOT futile! Has anyone managed to do an effective job of unplugging? I could use a few tips, if you've got 'em.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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You like Netflix, why not rent your daughter’s clothes?

It’s not just movies and furniture anymore.

At wowclothingclub.com parents who want to keep their child in designer dresses every month can rent them for a fee. Right now, it’s just girl’s clothing and the cost range from about $39 for up to three outfits to $67 a month for up to six.

How does it work?

According to the site, once you join the club and make your selections, the clothes are shipped to you. After 30 days you return them in a postage paid box.

You don’t have to wash the clothes before you send them back, since the company handles having the clothes laundered in fragrance-free detergent.

While this borrowing method may work for some, I can see possible hiccups in my house already. What if you lose a belt or jacket with the outfit, for instance?

And how do you handle the sentimental child who wants to wear that yellow dress way beyond the borrowing period?

Share your thoughts.

POSTED IN: Shopping (28)

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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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