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

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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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July 31, 2009

Our photo scavenger hunt is free fun!

DSCN0723.JPGLooking for some free fun? Try a scavenger hunt -- a photo scavenger hunt.

We did and had a blast. And by "we" I mean the Sun-Sentinel, with an assist from some very enthusiastic helpers -- my daughter Erika and her pals Sofia and Kendra. They gave our scavenger hunt a trial run to make sure it was kid friendly, and fun. Go here to print out a copy of our scavenger hunt.

Give our Fort Lauderdale hunt a try, or make one up on your own. (If you do, we'd love to hear about it.)

Here's what we did: Reporter Liz Doup created a list of 10 spots to look for around Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront. She added a little history and fun facts to each. With the list in hand, Liz and the girls hit the road. The fun of it was not only looking for each spot, but taking pictures. They brought along a prop for some creative picture-taking.

You could make a day of it. Explore the area. Bring a picnic lunch. Stop for ice cream. Or while you're there, visit the Museum of Discovery and Science. This is something you can do anytime the kids start to get a little antsy.

Then, upload your photos to our ever-growing photo gallery. Check it out. We've got pictures of beach balls and Marlins caps, families and friends. Show us your shots!

Photo: Sofia, Erika and Kendra relax on the porch of the King-Cromartie House, built in 1907. That's old for South Florida!

POSTED IN: Activities (143), General (185)

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Back to school, Part II: Has your child been reading this summer?

I’m referring to the summer reading lists schools post on their websites or at local bookstores.

Hopefully, your child is taking the time to crack open a reading.jpgfew books – you might have to re-direct them away from their iPod Touch, video games and computers.

My son selected a book from his school’s list.

He’s not thrilled about the book he selected either-but it was his choice. He had the opportunity to pick from several authors and titles. I’d like to think that rather than just being critical, he’s practicing critical thinking.

The author’s writing style bothers him and he shares those examples. He thinks the plot is slow-moving and discusses where he feels the author doesn’t deliver.

Still, he is sticking to reading the book to its finish. And I’d like to see him read at least another book from the list.

My son was so completely unenthusiastic about getting a book from the list, it was like pulling teeth. Frankly, I don’t get why students dread or sneer at the idea.

But a USA Today opinion piece by an English teacher gives insight on why some teachers empathize with the students’ "pain."

An in depth Christian Science Monitor article discusses the modernization of summer reading lists. Students have to make selections from books they might not otherwise – well, select. They expand their horizons by looking beyond their interests.

There’s also value in the tangible experience of holding a book.

Reading and turning it’s pages and placing a bookmark between chapters gets kids out of their “myspace” mentality.

Of course if they’re going to read books from a Kindle or other electronic book reader, that’s a different story.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Elementary School (54), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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July 30, 2009

Reading, Writing and Philanthropy

Today's guest blogger is Penny Loughan, chief executive officer of The Pantry of Broward.

penny.jpgPenny served in the United States Army for 21 years before retiring and being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

In Broward County, she worked as a JROTC teacher at Piper High School for eight years and for three years a social service agency feeding Fort Lauderdale’s homeless and families who had fallen on hard times.

Penny, with BJ Buntrock, founded The Pantry of Broward to help seniors on low fixed incomes and grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Penny talks about how the Pantry is working to get students more involved in philanthropy.

As a new school year looms with a multitude of lessons, schedules and homework assignments demanding most of our children’s time, when and where do parents find the perfect moment to "teach" the concept of philanthropy?

We’d like to hear your stories about how your family teaches the idea of "giving back" to the community.

In that vein, over the course of six weeks, this blog will follow two schools in Broward County as they put their special spin on a food drive for our featured non-profit, The Pantry of Broward.

The agency provides food and support services to more than 350 seniors on low fixed-incomes and grandparents raising their grandchildren throughout Broward County each month.

The need for food brings these seniors to seek assistance from the agency, but it's usually the symptom of greater needs, such as payment toward a utility bill or medical care.

Count on both classes of students to come up with philanthropic tips and create the "look" of the food drive at their respective school, with the ultimate delivery of grocery items to The Pantry of Broward.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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July 29, 2009

Solo flight an exercise in confidence building

Quick update: A couple weeks ago I blogged about how my 14-year-old son was going to be flying on his own, making two connections. And yes, instead of coughing up the extra cash for sending him as an unaccompanied minor (after all, this unexpected change in plans forced us to pay extra on the ticket anyway), we decided to let him go it alone.

Glad to report that Alec came through with flying colors. He found his way between terminals and gates. He fed himself. He texted us all along the way. And he emerged from the final plane into my waiting arms ---- not that he allowed me to hug him in public. Little sister did manage to snap a picture of the momentous occasion.

I survived, too. But more importantly, he was really proud of himself. He's starting high school in the fall, and will have much to negotiate then. I can only hope this experience gave him a little extra confidence.

POSTED IN: Teen (158)

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Electronic cigarettes: Who needs them?

As I walked through Town Center Mall in Boca Raton with my 15-year-old, a guy at a kiosk asked us if there was a smoker in our family who sought an alternative.smokelesscigs.jpg

He was peddling electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a cigarette shape without tobacco smoke. My daughter disagreed with me, but I couldn't help but think he was sending a subtle message to teens that there is a new kind of cigarette out there that is "healthier."

How timely that the FDA announced last week that electronic cigarettes are close to poisonous. They not only contain cancer-causing nitrosamines; they have diethylene glycol, the toxic ingredient in antifreeze.

Unfortunately the FDA is not taking smokeless cigarettes off the market. In the meantime, watch out as mall workers try to lure you in with claims, such as this description on the Smoking Everywhere website, that you can avoid "the fire, flame, tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide, ash, stub, smell and all the other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes." Right, instead you can inhale a different set of cancer-causing chemicals.

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

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Fight the baby blues without eating your own placenta

Warning: What you are about to read may gross you out. No, let me rephrase that: It will gross you out.

I nearly lost my lunch the other day when I read a first-person Time magazine article about a new mother’s pursuit to eat her own placenta to ward off the possibility of post-partum depression. Yes: Eat. Her. Own. Placenta. (Those with strong stomachs can read the article here. Those with REALLY strong stomachs can watch the video of the “placenta cooking lady” here.)

So it got me thinking, as I head into the final stretch of my second pregnancy: Would I eat my own placenta?

This week during a routine check-up, I decided to ask my doctor about the practice, officially referred to as placentophagy. I worked up my nerve at the very end of my appointment. My doctor was about to stand up when she heard my question, then sat back down:

“Have you ever had a patient who wanted to eat her own placenta?” I asked, explaining the purported benefits of staving off post-partum depression and assisting with breast-milk production.

“Never, in my 20 years of practice, has a mother asked me about eating her own placenta,” my doctor said with a surprising sense of shock that there was even a term for washing, steaming and eating your own placenta. “Dogs eat their own placentas.”

Enough said.

It's important to note that there have been no scientific studies on afterbirth consumption to support the alleged benefits. It’s also unclear how many women actually partake in this seemingly self-cannibalistic practice. It has been documented, though, that cultures around the world revere the organ, which develops within the uterus during pregnancy and nourishes the growing fetus via the umbilical cord.

Post-partum depression is a serious condition that deserves a doctor’s attention. So I can understand the desire to avoid it. But even new moms who aren’t clinically diagnosed can still struggle soon after childbirth. So here are a few tips that worked for me, the first time around, and that I hope to apply this fall when Baby No. 2 arrives…

How to fight the baby blues without having to eat your own placenta:

1) Join a local mommy group. It’s not in my nature to want to bond with complete strangers. But I found soon after the birth of my son almost five years ago that I needed to talk to other women who were going through what I was experiencing: Sleepless nights, questioning my parenting skills, wondering if my baby’s development was on track. I didn’t necessarily make lifelong friends, but it did give me a good reason to get out of the house once my son was past that “quarantine” phase when new moms fear any contact with the outside world might make their newborns sick.

2) Understand that new moms are not perfect. I learned this lesson the hard way, during my agonizing battle with breastfeeding. Let’s just say that giving birth (without an epidural) was a piece of cake compared to nursing. The societal pressure was unreal: I tried special pills; I pumped; I went to a breastfeeding class twice a week. All the while, I felt like a failure. It didn’t help when I got an unexpected visit from a neighbor who said she was an active member of La Leche League. I started to think breastfeeding was a cult. I finally turned the corner after enduring my lowest moment: I broke down crying after accidentally spilling a bottle of breast milk in the kitchen. My husband thought I was having a nervous breakdown. This time around, I have promised not to beat myself up if things don’t go as planned.

3) Lean on your partner and family. You’ll have plenty of time to perfect your “Super Mom” routine once you return to work. For those early weeks after birth, be sure to accept and ask for help from those around you. You’ll need the help in order to accomplish the most simplest of things, like taking a 20-minute shower.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 28, 2009

Four more years! (Until your high schooler moves out)

If I were sentenced to four years in prison, I think I could take it. Four years is really not that long, in the context of our lives. I've lived four decades now, after all.

So that's how I'm thinking about high school: "Only four years.'' Creed starts high school in August.

These are the years I've been anticipating for 14 years now, since he was born. I've re-lived the worst episodes of my own high school years, the clashes with my parents, the misdeeds they never found out about. I had great fun in high school, but those are troubled times for a kid, as well.

Only four more years. That's all we have left with Creed, before he goes off to college, if all goes as planned.

Four years to cook the meals he'll compare other people's cooking to for the rest of his life. Four years to repeat pithy bits of advice he might one day pass on to his child, or someone else's. Four years to stop doing things I don't want him remembering and telling everyone else about when he's an adult.

Four years. Not much time.

POSTED IN: Teen (158)

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July 27, 2009

Are divorce parties bad for the kids?

Divorce parties seem to be the thing these days.

Parting partners are ordering fancy ‘’just divorced’’ cakes, hosting divorce spa parties and in some cases going as far as to have their divorce soirees catered at a banquet hall.

While I can fully understand how these parties can be cathartic, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a bad thing for the children of the divorcee to attend.

On one hand, it might be good for older kids to see that their parent can celebrate their split. Parties are associated with happy times, right?

On the other hand, if a child is hurt by their parents’ divorce, is it pouring salt on their wound to have a whole bunch of friends over and pop open the champagne?

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

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July 24, 2009

On the bookshelf: Blueberries for Sal

Some books are defined by a phrase. With Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, it’s the words “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.” As in: “Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail… kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.”


The book was first published in 1948, but seems to be in the midst of a revival (see this Publishers Weekly story for an explanation). The phrase appears as Little Sal and her mother go to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill. It turns out to be a busy day on Blueberry Hill, with a bear and her cub also out looking for blueberries. Little Sal and the cub get mixed up, mothers get confused, but then everyone returns to their proper place. They all leave Blueberry Hill with either a stomach or pail full of blueberries. Or both.

To be honest, our boys are not crazy about this book. It meanders a bit, which is also part of its charm. Still, our 3-year-old loves to say “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.” And Blueberries for Sal uses the phrase as a thread through the book. It mimics a child’s fascination creating words. Our 3-year-old loves to say “Bobo.” Bobo this, bobo that. We call it his “bobo language.” It's the same idea as “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.” It just sounds fun.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Back to School, Part 1: Is your child wardrobe-ready?

I wanted to take this time to impart my wisdom on being fashion savvy when it comes to high school students. But I realized I have nosewing.jpg fashion sense – none. Nada.

This is the cleverest thing we came up with at home: We’re not shopping for back-to-school clothes yet – The Kid is spouting like Jack’s beanstock!

Even though school is around the corner, we’re waiting until a week or two after school has started to refresh his wardrobe. Of course, if there is some emergency must-have fashion, we’ll take that under consideration.

But even he thinks waiting is good because he’d get a better idea of what to wear, in high school. Being that it will be his first year, that’s not a bad idea.

I could sew him some new clothes – no, really I couldn’t. Hand-me downs are out – for one, he’s taller than me now!

So, between now and then, I’m pretty much open to suggestions. Only, I’m looking for humor, because it’s the most affordable [free].

Share you’re ideas here, along with your donation for our Buy The Kid Some Clothes Fund. Kidding about the fund.

But looking forward to your funny experiences, advice and tips; on the lighter side of getting your kid wardrobe-ready for their first big day as a kindergartner; or middle schooler or high school student.

Personally, I’ll appreciate it, even if my son doesn’t.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Elementary School (54), School Issues (135), Shopping (28), Teen (158)

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July 22, 2009

Will you vaccinate against swine flu?

The amazing ability of swine flu to spread like wildfire hit home for me this summer, when my kids' sleepaway camp was canceled due to an outbreak among the counselors just before camp started.fluvaccine.jpeg

So I am reading with interest about the federal government's preparations for more potential outbreaks when school starts next month.

Children ages 5 to 17 will be among the first to be offered a new vaccine, scheduled to be available in October. It will be interesting to see if schools start to require the new shot and refuse to allow kids who aren't inoculated.

I hope not. From what I've read, if you're healthy, swine flu will knock you out for a few days but
then you get better, just like any flu. So I would hesitate to vaccinate my kids with a quickly developed, largely untested vaccine against an illness from which they likely would recover quickly with no long-term effects.

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

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Talk to kids about safety early and often

My post last week about sexual predators and the series of arrests at several major Florida water parks in the past month sparked some good discussion. Quite a few of you mentioned Adam Walsh and how his disappearance and murder in 1981 changed your perspective on the world and is now shaping you as parents.


My seminal moment came in 1994, when my childhood friend, Shannon Melendi, disappeared from a softball field in Atlanta on a Saturday afternoon. She was an Emory University sophomore, 19 years old, wise beyond her years and the daughter of smart, loving parents. Twelve years later, the man long suspected of abducting and murdering Shannon confessed in horrifying detail to the macabre crime.

That’s my story. That’s why I shift in my seat every time my four-year-old son moves out of view on a playground. It’s why I ignore small talk with other parents at a birthday party at a local water park in order to carefully track my son’s whereabouts.

But a parent’s vigilance can only go so far. Talking to your children about personal safety needs to happen early and often, well through the teen years. How to do it can be tricky. Here are a few tips I’ve culled from personal experience and reliable sources, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Toddler-Preschooler: Think about how you phrase your conversation to avoid frightening your child. When I first brought up the concept of strangers, my son was filled with questions and concern long after our conversation ended. It also was a rooky mistake on my part. The Center for Missing and Exploited children strongly discourages teaching “stranger danger.” After all, who is a stranger in the eyes of a four year old? A police officer? The new volunteer at school?

Instead, use role-play to go over specific situations: A person offering your child a ride home; an adult asking for help to find a lost puppy; a man using a cool new toy as a lure. Teach your child to run away, scream for help and find an adult who could help. My son turned our first conversation into a scene from a comic book. He told me he would “fight” the bad guys and “punch” them and “kick” them really hard. He also would outrun them with his superpowers. I appreciated his spunk and confidence, but I gently reminded him that smart superheroes call for back-up by running to get help.

6-10 years old: If you haven’t already, help your children memorize their address and phone number by the time they enter elementary school. Also, at this age, many children still tend to want to please adults and don’t want to be rude. Explain that it’s OK to say “no” to an adult that makes them feel uncomfortable, whether they know the adult or not. Refine the concept of strangers by explaining that you can’t judge whether or not a person is bad solely based on appearance. Continue to devise more sophisticated role-playing to make your points.

11-17 years old: Drive home online safety. You may need to start this one early if your child is independently surfing the Internet at a younger age. Remind your kids not to chat with people they don’t know online and to NEVER give out personal information about themselves or the family. This is becoming increasingly challenging with the growing popularity of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Experts suggest keeping the computer in a common area in the home. Consider using blocking software to limit access or enabling parental controls.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 21, 2009

Fun craft for the bathtub, from the comfort of your couch

Sometimes on weekends I get desperate for things to do with Lily, that don't require me leaving my chair, or my house. We run around like crazy a lot, and sometimes, I just want to stay home to wash clothes, cook, and pretend I'm one of those wives and moms I saw on TV when I was Lily's age.newsponge.jpg

So I subscribed to a magazine called Family Fun. It has some easy crafts and projects you can do with your kid. This one I really, really liked. In order to rise to the top of my Really Liked It list, it has to be both easy and something I have all the supplies on hand for. If it's something that would make a cool kid gift, it gets bonus points. It needs to make me feel like Martha Stewart, but require only the skills and effort of maybe The Cable Guy.

This one was all of that. Check it out in the picture. It looks even cooler if you have three different colored sponges. I had two yellow and one green.

Here's how you make it:

Cut each sponge into five long pieces. Put them back "together'' as sponges but with the colors all mixed up. Stack them on top of each other. Then take a piece of yard and just tie across the middle. NOTE: You have to get the sponges a tad wet, for this to work.

Voila. A really sudsy, fun bath sponge.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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July 20, 2009

Nanny positions requiring college degrees

It’s tough out there for job hunters. It’s getting even harder for those looking for nanny work.

I’ve noticed more and more job postings are requiring nannies to have a college degree. Some nanny agencies won’t look at you unless you have a Bachelor’s degree under your belt.

Just yesterday I came across a mom looking for a nanny for her fraternal twins. Under her list of skills--“college degree preferred.’’

I think these parents and agencies are totally off base.

While earning a college degree is a major accomplishment it doesn’t mean you know squat about parenting or caring for kids.

As a working single mom, I relied heavily on nannies and babysitters when my daughter was much younger.

The nanny my daughter loved the most was a high school dropout with three grown kids. She cared for my daughter for two straight years until it was time for her to start pre-school.

She was loving, playful and creative. But she was also stern, disciplined, and organized. She knew my daughter so well she called my attention to things her pediatrician missed.

When I panicked about certain behavior, she was able to tell me from her own parenting experience, not to worry, it was a phase. And she was flexible, which was a big plus in my line of work.

I’m grateful for having found her. She’s no longer our nanny, she’s a family friend. To my daughter she will always be “Tia."

Had I narrowed my nanny pool to college graduates, we would have never met and our family would have missed out.

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Georgia East (44), Single moms (14)

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July 17, 2009

Parents worry about fifth arrest in a month at Florida water parks

There seems to be a new haven for sexual predators: Water theme parks. In the past month, police have arrested five men on charges of molestation at an Orlando-area water park.

The men, some local and some out-of-towners, have fondled young girls and boys at places such as Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Universal’s Wet ‘n Wild and Sea World’s Aquatica water park. The latest incident involved the arrest of a man late Thursday who inappropriately touched a 13-year-old boy while in the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon. According to investigators, the man admitted to touching young boys in the wave pool as an “experiment.”

As a parent, this news has to make you rethink how to handle these public places. My son is four years old and won’t ever be far from me at a water park. But I have quietly panicked when I momentarily have lost sight of him while he goes down one of the dozen kiddy slides at Paradise Cove at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines.

Where do you draw the line between freedom and overprotection with your kids?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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The post card says "Wish you were here"

Yep - the Kid has been traveling for almost two weeks.

He's with relatives. They're traipsing through several states.

Adventures include cabin dwelling, fishing, visiting a farm, visiting small towns, visiting ontheroad.jpgbig towns, river floating. There have been deer and bat sightings.

There is more on their agenda, before they get back to their starting point.

Each day The Kid calls to check in. We call him too, but not as often. We don't want to cling.

But I did finally catch a "I'm homesick" tone in the most recent conversation.

I was going to ignore it, but then I just out and out asked if he was feeling a bit homesick.

"Yes," he said.
It was total relief. I could hear that in his voice too!

I said we missed him too and that we were really looking forward to his coming home. I told him that we were also very happy he was having these experiences.

Though I am keeping a positive upbeat conversation, I have to admit, I'm going to smother him in kisses when he gets home.

I'm glad he's there, but I kind of wish he was here.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), General (185), Parks (12), Teen (158)

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July 16, 2009

Baby Loves Disco: The party is over

Does baby love to drop it like its hot?

Then take thee little one to Baby Loves Disco on Saturday.

babylovesBLOG.jpgScratch that.

The traveling party, which put up stakes at the Fort Lauderdale nightclub Revolution for nearly two years, featured a DJ, juice boxes and cool vendors such as Yummy in My Tummy, a local maker of organic baby food.

For South Floridians, the party has ended.

Baby Loves Disco "decided to downsize and keep fifteen cities, including Orlando," said Ellen O'Halloran, the local co-host.

The Philadelphia-based company, which has been throwing these fiestas for about five years, had about 30 host cities.

"It's very unfortunate because we just had a Kids Crown award from South Florida Parenting, and now I'm getting all this feedback about the need for a party" like Baby Loves Disco.

Ellen is looking for locations now to host a similar party for kids and their parents in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"I definitely feel that its necessary to have an outlet for families," she said. For more info on the planned September and November dates, email Ellen.


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How often do you ask your parents for advice?

A recent book review by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker made me think about this. The review looks at how we’ve come to rely on parenting books (and, as she notes, parenting blogs!) instead of family and experience to answer our questions about child-rearing. It used to be that everyone raised kids, so that, Lepore writes, “to be an adult was to be a parent.”

That’s all changed, as Lepore says. Women have fewer babies and extended families are spread around the country, or world. So now we turn to experts or fellow parents for help.

Anyway, this has led me to a little project. I’m going to ask our boys’ grandparents for advice more often. I want to see what they suggest. We tried last night with a potty-training question about our preschooler. Stay the course, my mother-in-law said, he’ll figure it out. So simple, so true.

As many have said, our generation takes parenting seriously – maybe too seriously. So perhaps we should loosen up a bit and let our parents guide us more. You agree?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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July 15, 2009

Mom on the Go: Cute hats to take kids from beach to playdate

For mamas, going from day wear to night wear usually takes a change in jewelry or the slipping on of a pair of sexy heels.

But what's a kid to do when going from the beach to a playdate?

A collection of cute sun hats by Purple Alex solves that dilemma. The playful beach hats are cotton-lined, machine washable and come in five sizes from newborn (13 inches) to big kid (18 inches).

But will kids LOVE it?

purple%20alex%20fish.jpg We gave a Purple Alex hat to a South Florida 1-year-old and here's what her mother reports:

After spending a long day at the pool in which my daughter, Madison,
surprisingly kept this adorable hat on, she didn't even have rosy
cheeks! This made Mommy very happy.

Later that evening we prepared dinner. As usual I undressed Madison and before I could get her in the highchair she ran to get her hat!

So just imagine this little bundle of joy eating dinner with nothing but her hat on! The hat kept the sun off, looked adorable on and Madison enjoyed wearing it.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Is your kid attached to a piece of clothing? Tell me about it. (My 2-year-old wants to wear her hand-me-down ladybug rain boots all the time. Rain or Shine.)


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Five books every new mother should have

New parents get mounds of "essentials," which mainly amount to junk: teeny blankets, stuffed animals and fancy outfits that will only be worn once.

For new mothers (and the dads) these five books are the new essentials:

Modern Girl's Guide to Motherhood. This frank and cheeky book has advice on feeding a baby with a stuffy nose (turn on the hot water and close the door), getting your sexy back (lose the maternity pants) and what to do with those egg cartons (turn them into paint palettes).

Baby, Make Me Breakfast. This picture board board has clear instructions to help your child be a caring and helpful addition to the family. For wry mamas and papas, Lisa Brown's series includes Baby, Mix Me a Drink. baby-book.jpg

What to Expect: The Toddler Years. The compendium covers it all -- from dealing with tantrums to introducing "adult" foods.

Good Dad / Bad Dad: Do's and Don'ts from the Trenches. This straight-forward guide to parenting includes instruction on baby-proofing the house and setting up college funds.

How to Potty Train a Monster. There are a gazillion books on how to get the little one using the bathroom, but few books address the real spoke in the wheel: Parents.


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July 14, 2009

How do I get my kids to make their beds?

When I look at my kids' beds each day, I feel like a failure.girlmakingbed.jpg

Their blankets are strewn in all sorts of mysterious positions: at the foot of the bed, in the space between the bed and the wall, on top of their pillows. I hit the roof recently when my youngest daughter began tossing hers on the floor.

I guess I could start withholding allowance, computer time, TV time and food. But then I wonder if it's worth it. Does it really matter if they make their beds?

The mistake I made is not drilling in the bedmaking habit when they were little. Warning to parents of little ones: Teach your kids the advantages of a neat bed. They will be able to find things better! It looks good! And visitors will be impressed!

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

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Pregnant women at risk for swine flu

I’m not much of a hypochondriac. But the latest cases of swine (H1N1) flu involving pregnant women has me wanting to spend the rest of my pregnancy inside a bubble, free of germs.

The first reported Swine Flu death in Palm Beach County last week was a 25-year-old pregnant woman, whose newborn survived. The state’s health department is awaiting official results on another pregnant woman, 27 years old and 26 weeks pregnant, from Wellington who now lies in a medically induced coma to help fight off the illness.

What gives? Hard to say if the women had any pre-existing health issues prior to contracting the flu. But it’s hard to miss what they certainly have in common.

So what’s a pregnant woman to do?

My 4-year-old son’s pre-school has twice in recent weeks sent home notices about Type A flu, including one confirming that a child at the school was positively diagnosed. State epidemiologists are saying that chances are on the high side that those coming down with the flu likely involve the H1N1 strain. That’s because it’s rare to see so many cases during summertime. And to be clear: Most patients recover.

But my bulging belly has me worried if: 1) I’m more at risk and 2) whether I can do anything to fight it if I do become ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women can develop more serious complications from the illness because of changes in their heart, lungs and immune systems during gestation. The World Health Organization on Monday announced that a Swine Flu vaccine wouldn't be ready for wide distribution until the end of the year.

Here are some steps you should take if you or someone you know is pregnant and worried about contracting swine flu:

Talk to your doctor. I did just last week because my 6-year-old niece was diagnosed with Type A flu, and our families had recently vacationed together. The CDC recommends that pregnant women who come down with flu-like symptoms be treated with antiviral prescription medications, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Your doctor might disagree, as mine did. Many prefer to try to treat the symptoms with, say, Tylenol for a fever, for example. But you should have the conversation and be armed with information to be able to discuss your options – even if they are hypothetical, as they were in my case.

More than ever, practice good hygiene. That means you shouldn’t feel like you’re overreacting if you go wash your hands after shaking hands with that job candidate in the office. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk (am grabbing for mine as I write this). And avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. My parents, both in their golden years and caregivers to most of their grandchildren, managed to avoid getting the flu from my niece last week even though they cared for her while she was sick. They asked their doctor about prescriptions for Tamiflu as a precaution but never found the need to use them.

Pay close attention to your body. Most pregnant women are tired and live with daily aches and pains. But if you are having trouble breathing, come down with a fever, get a persistent cough, feel dizzy or find yourself completely drained, make an appointment to see your doctor. If it’s truly pressing, visit an emergency room. Your doctor will decide if testing or treatment is needed. Tests to confirm flu usually involve a nasal swab and are best to do soon after you come down with symptoms because antiviral medications work best within the first 48 hours.

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

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July 13, 2009

Don't post my child's picture on Facebook!

Although I love social networking sites and give them much credit for reuniting me with some 200 friends of the past, I don’t have any pictures of my daughter on Facebook.

Call it the paranoid mommy in me, but I worry about the security on some of these sites. I don't want my six-year-old's picture posted on some random page that I can't control.

I know it's common to share photos via Facebook and other sites these days. But I think it's good social networking practice to get clearance from a parent before you post another child's photo.

This way everyone is on the same page. What side of the fence are you on when it comes to uploading children’s pictures on Facebook?

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

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July 11, 2009

Caption This:

He's got the whole world, er universe, in his hands
photo credit/Christina Kent/Kennedy Space Center

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Caption This (3), Cindy Kent (78)

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July 10, 2009

Kicking the bird out of the nest


I have really matured in the past year.

Last summer, I sent my 13-year-old and his buddy cross-country on a plane all by themselves. We worked diligently with the other parents to find a flight that didn't require changing planes. We paid the extra fees for flying as unaccompanied minors. We got them official picture IDs from the police department. We had lists of phone numbers stashed in their bags. Phone calls flew back and forth between all the parents and both boys when they had a layover in Austin. My sister took time off from work to be at the gate in plenty of time to pick them up in San Francisco. (Then she had a flat tire on the Bay Bridge, but that's another story.)

This summer, my son is flying alone. He has to change planes twice. I figure he can pass for 15 so we didn't have to pay the exorbitant unaccompanied minor fair. Since the rest of us will have already left, I'm not entirely sure how he's going to get to the airport in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how he's getting back from the out-of-town baseball tournament he'll be playing in. (We do have a great network of friends and neighbors to help.) When we pick him up on the other end, we have to time it just right so our seven-hour car ride across South Dakota ends just when his plane touches down in Rapid City. Piece of cake.

What could possibly go wrong? I typed those words. I shuddered. Is it getting hot in here? Why am I breaking out in a sweat?

But here's the deal. When I was 15, I flew to Hong Kong by myself. Alec has a good head on his shoulders. He's observant. He's responsible. He's...mature.


What do you think?

PHOTO: Associated Press/Frank Augstein


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July 8, 2009

How could she not know she was pregnant?

Women who have given birth looo-oo-ove to talk about it. They love to talk about all the gory details, they love to play "top that." Over drinks, on the soccer sidelines, at PTA events eventually and inevitably, there's a chorus of "when my water broke during the board meeting.....I pushed for 48 straight hours....and then my idiot husband....and the baby's head was as big as....."

OK, ok, since you asked. My favorite part was when I heaved myself over the hospital admissions desk and the idiot nurse, in her whiny stupid voice asks, "Are you in labor?" and I say, "No sh-- Sherlock." That was fun! Or some hours later when I screamed, "GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL!!!" And the nurse screams back, "IT'S TOO LATE!!!" That wasn't as much fun.

But my stories are NOTHING compared to what you'll see on TLC network's new series: I Didn't Know I was Pregnant. This series promises to reveal "the astonishing stories of women who conceive and carry their babies all the way to labor and delivery, while never even knowing they were pregnant."

I'm still sitting here slack-jawed. There are enough women to make a SERIES out of this phenomenon?? Are you kidding me? It's been several years and the painful memories do fade, but lemme tell ya, I can still conjure up those backaches and swollen ankles and, well, I'll spare the details here. I can't imagine NOT KNOWING!

Tonight's debut episode at 9 p.m. sounds intriguing: "Nicci, a 31-year old mother of three goes into labor and gives birth at home with some surprising help from her 10-year-old son - and she didn't even know she was pregnant!" This is a woman with experience in these matters!

So you know where I'll be tonight at 9 p.m....pass the popcorn and the Chardonnay.


POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Newborn (39), Pregnancy (31), Sex (16)

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Our theme-less bat mitzvah

As I plan my middle daughter's bat mitzvah, friends and people I am hiring usually ask: "What's her theme?"

Although everyone these days seems to do a theme for their bar or bat mitzvah party, such as sports or camping or ballet, I still think it is ridiculous to have to design an expensive motif that no one will care about or remember.

The theme usually applies to the table settings, the centerpieces, the music, the giveaways (I'm not doing those either) and the invitations. Some parents say it helps them focus their party planning; I think it's a silly extravagance that takes away from the meaning of the day.

One party my daughter went to had a shopping theme. Extremely offensive.

To reduce costs but still make a party that is classy and fun, I'm hiring a DJ and buying some centerpieces. I bought invitations on-line and created an e-mail address for people to RSVP. In this economy, I'm not sure guests should expect much more.

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

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White lies parents tell their children: Are they harmless?

My 4-year-old son and I have a common exchange when I give him the one-minute warning.

“You’ve got one more minute, and then it’s time to (eat dinner, get out of the pool, go to bed, etc.)” I tell him.

“Is a minute a long time?” my son asks with complete sincerity.

“It’s 60 seconds,” I tell him.

“Oh, cool. Thanks, Mom.”

He’s happy. I’m happy. And, best of all, I didn’t have to lie.

According to a recent Redbook survey, 84 percent of the magazine’s readers said they lie to their kids about once a month. But they’re not proud of it: 76 percent said they feel guilty about telling their child a lie.

As much as I try to avoid lying to my son, I too have been guilty. When the time came to wean him off a pacifier, I concocted the perfect plan: Upon our return from a trip to California to visit Grandpa, I told him we had accidentally left them behind. I got the queue from my Mom, who 30 years earlier turned me off to pacifiers by telling me we lost them outside and then “found” them, dripping in mud. Disgusted, I gave those suckers up cold turkey that night.

Childhood experts seem to agree that, generally speaking, white lies parents tell their kids don’t scar them for life. In fact, those tall tales we tell our kids to foster belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, for example, can actually fuel their imagination.

But resorting to lying on a regular basis is not the way to build trust between you and your child and could create a sticky situation if you’re caught in the act. Many kids usually learn to lie by age 3, and most learn by copying Mom and Dad. Best to nip that habit in the bud; otherwise, you might end up with a teenager who thinks lying is perfectly OK.

Here are a few tips from my arsenal of trying to avoid lying to my son:

Explain yourself. Instead of trying to convince your child that the M&Ms are old or rotten, tell him that eating too many of them is not healthy. They don’t make you strong the way fruits and vegetables do.

Of course, it’s important to know your audience and understand what your child is developmentally ready to handle. When my husband and I told our son that I was pregnant and expecting Baby No. 2 one evening, he woke up the next morning with lots of questions.

“Is your belly going to get bigger and bigger and then will pop so the baby can come out?” he asked.

“No, my belly won’t pop,” I assured him.

“Will the baby come out of your mouth?” he followed up.

“Don’t worry. The baby is going to grow in my belly, and when it’s time, it’ll come out,” I answered, as I walked toward his playroom to find some great new toy to take his mind off the topic.

Which brings me to my second point:

When in doubt, distract. When you’re heading to the checkout counter and you want to avoid your child spotting that must-have candy, give her the opportunity to swipe your credit card in the machine. Even better, let her press the buttons! Chances are she won’t even notice those M&Ms sitting there.

It’s OK to say you don’t want to talk about something. Remember, you set the rules. The same way you can and should put a stop to your child eating too much cake, you can stop a conversation nicely and directly.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 7, 2009

How do you have fun with a kid all day for $10? Tri-Rail to Miami!

It might not jump out at you at first as a kiddie attraction. But kids love trains, and we have one running through South Florida every day, all the time. It's called Tri-Rail.

My nephew Logan Smeltzer was here visiting me this weekend. He lives in a small town in Oklahoma, and he loved the idea of taking the train to Miami.

To get to Miami from Fort Lauderdale we took Tri-Rail, then Metrorail, then Metromover.
loganattrainstation.jpg All for $5 each, roundtrip.

When we got to downtown Miami, we ate lunch and looked at all the big sculptures of public art, peeked in the library and snapped photos here and there.

We had an awesome time. Like so much in life, it's not about what you do when you reach your destination. It's about the journey.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Working moms need lunch, too!

Where are you at lunchtime? If you are anything like me, you are sitting at your desk, dropping crumbs into your keyboard, answering phone calls between bites.

We are not alone. Working Mother magazine surveyed its Smart Mom Council and found that 78 percent do take time for lunch....but the majority of us are either eating at our desks or running errands. Some break. We take no time for ourselves to maybe grab a bite with co-workers or spend some quiet time reading with our salad.

This is our problem, working moms. Or is it our strength? We do what we have to do to make it all work.

For years, I told myself that if I take a real lunch break, it just means I'll work later and miss time with my kids in the evening. I was not about to miss bath time or story time for work. Sacrificing a quiet lunch was worth it.

But now as the kids are getting older, they are busier with their own lives and friends. They don't need me in the same way. And I'm beginning to find that I do have a little more time for myself....This week, I've got two lunches scheduled with friends! And I doubt my kids will suffer for it.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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July 6, 2009

Everglades 101: Take an airboat ride

There ought to be a law: Every child who grows up in South Florida is required to go to the Everglades at least once. Period.

The importance of the great River of Grass will probably escape most young kids, but it doesn't hurt to plant that seed early and often.

So we headed west to take an airboat ride over the weekend. This is about as easy an introducation to the Everglades as you can get. Including drive time, you can do it in two and a half or three hours. Our 11-year-old daughter really enjoyed the outing, but we left our grumpy teenager behind. ("That's boring." Whatever.)

We went to Everglades Holiday Park, but there are other options.

This campground/tourist attraction is just west of Weston on Griffin Road, past U.S. 27. (Be sure to go to the website to print out a coupon.) There's a snack stand (gator bites!), a kitschy gift shop and, after the hourlong airboat ride, an alligator wrestling show.

The gator handler gives a little history lesson, and explains why the Seminoles no longer have to resort to wrestling (blackjack, anyone?). Then he demonstrates a few different ways of subduing the very big gator. And, for an extra $5, you can hold a baby alligator and snap a picture. Awwww.

The main event, though, is the airboat ride. Boats go out every 20 minutes or so, and carry 20 or 30 people for an hourlong tour. The biggest surprise? No mosquitoes! And it wasn't too hot either, especially when we were moving over the water. Our driver, Deborah, took off with a blast -- "zoom, zoom, zoom." (Bring earplugs if you are very sensitive.) She slowed down to gives us ecological lessons. We saw vultures and gators and plenty of birds.

This is Everglades 101. It doesn't take the energy or time of a canoe ride out of Flamingo or a bike ride through Shark Valley. We've done that, too, but it's been years. In fact, Erika doesn't even remember Shark Valley (we took the very-informative tram ride and saw TONS of alligators), so we really have to put that back on our list of things to do.

PHOTO: Sun Sentinel/Michael Laughlin


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Children not welcome!

The sign on the door of the salon hit me like a ton of bricks. "NO KIDS.’’

I didn’t have my daughter with me, but I was still immediately put off.

While I know kids can be loud and sometimes put up a fuss in salons, it’s downright demeaning for business owners to ban them, formally or informally. It’s a salon not a strip club.

As a single parent, you don’t necessarily want to hire a baby-sitter every time you need to get your hair done. I take my daughter with me most places—get togethers, the theater, late-night runs to Starbucks.

I loved that in France you’d see couples dining late at night with their toddlers.

I came across an interesting article the other day that said some moms in Africa couldn’t stand to put their babies in a stroller because the babies felt too far from their bodies.

Yet, here, people expect you to pawn your kids off on baby-sitters and other folks so they can have their adult-only wedding, adult-only birthday party, adult-only salon.

Give me a break!

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Single moms (14)

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July 3, 2009

Six July 4th shows the whole family will love

This Fourth of July shake up your tradition of grilling and gathering with the family by checking out a fireworks show outside your neck of the woods.

Here are six shows in the tri-county that seem worthy of the trek. If you know of a Fourth of July festivity that uniquely caters to kids and their parental units, let me know.

All events listed are on July 4.

In Broward County:

fourth187.jpgDavie: Cool off at 10 a.m. with a free family splash pool party featuring a DJ. Plus World War I and II military equipment show, bounce houses, climbing wall and free birthday cake. Purchase food or bring your own; grills and tables available. Country music group Shadow Creek kicks off festivities at 6 p.m. in the ball fields, fireworks at 9 p.m. Pine Island Park, 3800 SW 92nd Ave. 954-797-1163, 954-797-1000.

Get to Vista View Park early to get the best seats to see fireworks displays across Broward County. Bring beach chairs and blankets. Food vendors on site. 6-11 p.m. at 4001 SW 142nd Ave. $5 per vehicle or $1.50 for walk-ins, bicycles and motorcycles. 954-327-8797.

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea: Beach Blast begins with a parade at 10 a.m., headed north on Bougainvillea from Town Hall to Pine Avenue. Join the fun 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at El Prado Park, El Prado and El Mar drives. Amusement park, classic car show, DJ and steel drum music. Fireworks shot off at the beach at El Prado Drive at 8:30 p.m. 954-772-3336.

In Miami-Dade County:

Fourth-Of-July.jpgCoconut Grove: The All-Day Celebration kicks off with an old-fashioned picnic 11 a.m. at the Barnacle house. Lawn games, kite-making and knot-tying demonstrations are highlights. 305-442-6866. Scavenger hunt registration begins 2:15 p.m. at Mayfair Passage, Grand Avenue near Mary Street.

Hot dog eating contest happens 4:30 p.m. at CocoWalk. Concert featuring bands Ryan Stone Music, First October, JT4 and Campo Deluxe Jazz Quartet will be 4 p.m. at Peacock Park, fireworks at 9 p.m. 2820 McFarlane Road. 305-444-7270.

Miami: America's Birthday Bash includes 3-7 p.m. Kids' Zone with inflatable slides, carousel, hoops and face painting. The park will be open all day. Fireworks over Biscayne Bay at 9 p.m. Bayfront Park, 301 N. Biscayne Blvd. 305-358-7550.

In Palm Beach County:

fourth-frugal.jpgDelray Beach: A sand sculpture contest, bicycle and scooter parade, music, food and fireworks. 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. at the intersection of A1A and Atlantic Avenue. 561-279-1380 ext. 3.

Wellington: A patriotic pool party with music, games and more from 12-5 p.m. at Aquatics Complex, 12165 W. Forest Hill Blvd. Games, rides, face painting, food and more from 6-9 p.m., fireworks at 9:15 p.m. Village Park, 11700 Pierson Road. 561-791-4733.


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Where to go this weekend if it rains on your Fourth parade

If it rains on your parade this weekend, don't despair. Regroup, pack a snack for the kids and head to one of these 10 places for indoor fun.

boots.jpg TODAY: It's happy hour, but not that kind, with free admission from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 3 at Young at Art Children's Museum (11584 State Road 84, Davie, 954-424-0085). Activities, stories, refreshments and giveaways are tied to the museum's exhibit, "Alice's Wonderland ... A Most Curious Adventure."

SATURDAY: Rain? Ice? Big difference. Especially when the ice is indoors -- and free! Glacier Ice and Snow Arena (4601 N. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach, 954-943-1437) will have free ice skating from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be music, games and sleigh rides, too. Skate rental is $3, or bring your own.

ANYTIME: The little scientist you're raising might enjoy the Children's Science Explorium at Sugar Sand Park (300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton, 561-347-3913). Currently on display is "Pattern Wizardry," a hands-on exhibit meant to help kids discover how patterns organize and enrich their lives. It's perfect for kids ages 5-12. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Read the story for seven more options for where to go with the kids this weekend.


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July 2, 2009

Don't have a blast on the 4th of July

I remember two things about Washington Rojas. The first is that we met one time, 14 years ago. The second is that he inspired one of my most memorable opening sentences as a writer.

It could easily have been my story. I remember being a child on the playground behind P.S. 111 in the north Bronx, Fireworks.jpgjoined by my friends and cousins setting off fireworks. I held the M-80 in my hand, chuckling as they all screamed at me to throw it. The fuse was getting closer and closer to its target. Finally one of my friends, I forget who, grabbed the firework and hurled it across the empty playground. I can't remember whether it ever hit the ground. The sound and echo of the powerful explosion has never left me.

I don't know that I've ever fully appreciated what happened that day, even after I met Washington Rojas years later, that one time.

Now, I look at my 5-month-old son and his gorgeous little hands. He slaps at my face in that perfectly innocent way babies explore the world around them. I kiss each finger, and I thank God he was born with all his fingers and thumbs and toes. I will do my best to protect him from the foolishness that could so easily have cost me my fingers.

The photo you see here was shot on July 1 by the Broward Sheriff's Office, which offered an annual demonstration on the dangers of fireworks.

I didn't see that demonstration, nor did I need to. I just need to remember the first words I wrote, 14 years ago, in an article in the New York Daily News.

"Washington Rojas used to be left-handed."

Please, have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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July 1, 2009

Family Days at Bonnet House


The Bonnet House is a Fort Lauderdale jewel. And if you haven't visited, take the kids on one of their family discount days this summer -- July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15.

Admission will be half price for adults ($10, $9 for seniors) and free for kids younger than 12. Hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The last tour starts at 2:30 p.m.

This is one of my favorite all-time places, here or anywhere. Just off the beach, south of busy Sunrise Boulevard, the Bonnet House is an oasis. The grounds are tropical and lush -- the kids will love looking for the monkeys in the trees. Walking paths take you across a quaint covered bridge (seen in the movie Hoot) over a pond with swans. There's a small shell museum and an orchid house. Walk the path to a view of the beach across A1A.

And the house itself is unique. Built in 1920 by artist Frederic Bartlett as a winter retreat, this house is not like the opulent mansions of Palm Beach. It's casual and livable for a tropical climate, with an inner courtyard, ringed by rooms where art and music were created and enjoyed back in the day.

We took advantage of the discounted rates last year. The guided tour of the house is probably more enjoyable for adults than kids, but my trio of 10 year old girls seemed to enjoy it.

On July 18, they'll have Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream for sale. A percentage of all ice cream sales benefit Bonnet House.

PHOTO: Sun-Sentinel file

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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Doing the "Helen Keller"

I feel so old when I criticize contemporary music lyrics, but a current hit really has me steamed.3oh3.jpg

I keep hearing my girls sing "Do the Helen Keller." So I asked what it means to "do the Helen Keller," and of course they have no clue. They just like the song.

Here are the obscene lyrics by 3Oh!3:

"Don't trust a ho, never trust a ho
Won't trust a ho cause the ho won't trust me

Shush girl, shut your lips
Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips"

How could any recording company or radio station allow this to get through? Where is the self-censorship? If they sang, "Do the Adolf Hitler and goose-step like a Nazi," would that become a hit too?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Music (22)

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You're out! Find the right time for a child to start a sport

The time has come. I am about to become a Soccer Mom (minus the mini-van). My husband and I are planning to enroll our son in his first sports league. We figure soccer is a good start for an energetic kid who collects so many bruises and scrapes running around that his teacher has coined him “Boo-Boo Boy.” Might as well give him a good excuse!

But I’d be lying if I said we weren’t proceeding with caution. Figuring out the right time to start, balancing the practice schedule with daily life, and deciding – if it comes to that – when is it OK to quit is enough to send any parent running for the bench.

And let’s not forget those diehard parents who make heckling at a ref at their kid’s Little League game a sport. As I see it, parents fall into one of two categories: Those who want to enroll Little Johnny in a sport for his personal development. (Think learning cooperation, teamwork, responsibility.) Or those that are hoping to groom a star college athlete or Olympian. (Think multiple travel teams, intense pressure, little free time.)

My husband and I definitely fall into the first camp. And we both played competitive sports as children. So we’re no couch potatoes.

There’s a lot to consider before taking the plunge. Here are a few points I’ve found important. Would love to hear some of yours:

Pair personality with the sport: A colleague of mine who has coached both of his kids’ various athletic teams realized his son just wasn’t cut out for soccer. His son tried it for a year and hated it. He then switched to baseball. Why? Soccer required his son to be aggressive beyond his natural disposition. In order to get the ball, you’ve got to create your own opportunities. With baseball, everyone has a chance up at bat. I can almost hear some of your responses already: Maybe pushing your comfort zone is a good thing. Well, maybe. But at 4 years old, you definitely want to make the experience fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Don’t overbook: Much has been written in recent years about the “overscheduled child.” Some call it hyper-parenting. Ask yourself: Does your kindergartener really want piano, dance, swimming, soccer and tennis lessons? May be the answer is “yes,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. What about homework, family time and free time? Experts suggest you keep an eye on the following signs your kid may be overextended: Mood swings, fatigue, a change in school performance, inability to complete homework, regular headaches or stomachaches, or losing interest in practicing for an activity.

Calling it quits: Before allowing your child to quit, parents should think things through, experts say. Is it a matter of an overly tough coach? Is your kid stretched too thin with activities? Is she a perfectionist? Identifying the problem is key and may lead you to different conclusions. I already know the challenge we’ll face with our son: He doesn’t like to do anything less than exactly right. If we’re playing catch, and he misses the ball a couple of times, he wants to stop. I’ve been trying to teach him the concept of patience and practice. He’s starting to get it. Just yesterday, as I tried to rush him through a Dr. Seuss videogame at the Apple store, he turned to me, stretched out his arm and said: “Patience.” Well said.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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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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