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August 31, 2009

Tell Me a Story: Folk tales the whole family can enjoy

Teachers, grandparents, anyone who appreciates folk tales -- this one's for you.

Follow this link to Tell Me a Story -- folk tales from around the world -- brought to you by the Sun-Sentinel's wonderful Newspapers in Education program.

For years the Sun-Sentinel ran this feature in print. But you can still find it online, complete with the beautiful illustrations.

Over the years, I heard from a lot of grandparents who sent this feature to their grandkids up north.

And many many teachers, who used this weekly feature in their classrooms. Elementary teachers use it to teach about cultures and fables. Young kids really like how each story has a problem or obstacle that is overcome. Teachers of older students use it in English or Literature classes. And teachers of English as a Second Language use it because the language is simple and many of the stories are familiar to people from a variety of cultures.

A new story is posted every week. This week, it's the Greek myth about Scylla and Charybdis, when Odysseus (or Ulysses) finds himself "between a rock and hard place."

Amy Friedman is the nationally syndicated writer who adapts the stories; Jillian Gilliland's beautiful illustrations accompany each story.

Go to for this and other helpful teaching tools. Or find it at We'll post a new story every Monday.


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Divorce complicates school forms

Filling out school forms for your child is never easy, but for parents who have remarried it comes with an added burden—figuring out where to squeeze in information about a stepmom or stepdad.

I was filling out some required enrollment forms for my daughter last week when I noticed that while there were two or three lines allotted for information about the child’s mother and father there was no space specifically allotted for step-parents.

There was space further down on the forms for “Emergency contacts,” which is where I suspect some folks list a step-parent.

But in this day and age with so many blended families I’m surprised public school forms in general haven’t been modified to reflect our changing demographics. I know some forms ask about custody arrangements, but few ask for any specific information about step-parents.

While some may argue that it’s a private matter that doesn’t deserve ink on a school form and that in some cases it could get too complicated, I think it would help schools to know all of the primary caregivers in a child’s life, beyond mom and dad.

In a lot of households it’s stepmom or stepdad who is picking up a child consistently from school or the first point of contact should the child get sick.

Don’t they deserve to be recognized?

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Step-parenting (59)

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August 28, 2009

What's the best vehicle for a growing family?

When it comes to daily transportation, our family was already prepared for our newborn’s arrival earlier this year. We already have an SUV and a minivan, so for us it was a simple matter of choosing a good car seat. We now have one in each vehicle.

mazda-cx-7-732533.jpgBut not every family’s driveway is ready for that first baby.

The folks at South Florida-based contacted me earlier this summer about a survey they conducted showing what parents-to-be consider when they pick out a new vehicle to accommodate their growing families.

What they found was…

Okay, wait. I’m a reporter, and the folks I spoke to were publicists for a business. Gotta check it out, right? So rather than just copy and paste what they sent me, I placed a call to the Automobile Association of America and put the question to spokesman Gregg Laskoski.

Laskoski pointed me to AAA’s 2007 Best Cars For Families list, compiled in partnership with Parents magazine.

What did they like?

They broke it up into five categories and selected three vehicles for each. For economy cars, the Mazda 3 “is simply too much fun to be so practical… The hatchback version provides extra storage space for strollers and suitcases.” For minivans, “Load the (Toyota) Sienna with eight passengers and there’s still room for groceries, baby gear, and lots more.”

Read the complete list here.

The reviewers looked at a number of criteria (air bags, fuel economy, cupholders, cargo space, etc) and checked to make sure it was easy to install car seats.

The AAA/Parents list was not updated for 2008 or 2009.

And that brings us back to this year's survey. The company has a program called “New Lease on Life,” designed to help drivers get out of leases for vehicles that no longer meet their growing families’ needs.

Leasetrader polled 2,000 new parents and found that 43 percent prefer crossovers to SUVs (preferred by 31 percent) and minivans (preferred by 21 percent). The crossover of choice in the survey was the Mazda CX-7.

That result didn’t surprise Laskoski over at AAA. “Overall, our recommendation for any car buyer and certainly for parents is to find a vehicle that accommodates your most critical needs: driving safety; functionality … and affordability. Crossover vehicles are popular because they address all three of those factors in a practical and comfortable way that makes sense to many families.”

Other factors that were important to parents, according to the Leasetrader survey: video monitor with night vision for rear-facing carriers; automatic opening hatchback and/or doors; impact-resistant and secure child car seat; leather seats that allow for easy wiping of spills; and extra cargo space and fold-down seats for additional storage.

So should you go to and get a Mazda CX-7? I can’t help you there. This isn’t an endorsement or an ad for the company or the car.

This is a conversation among parents, so I’m interested in your input: what do you think is the best kind of vehicle for a growing family?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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We survived the first week of school!

Our biggest challenge the first week of school was --getting The Kid to school.

Well, it really wasn't our challenge - it was the bus driver's. Alternately, the bus was early, on time, or very very late. But by Friday morning, the bus was waiting for him for a change.

That pretty much sums up our week because that was the most unpredictable part.

The Kid got up each morning at 5 a.m. on his own - except for one time.Another time, he had to wake us up.

I think teamwork played a big role in our success. We support one another. As much as we love to spoil him - we also make it clear that it's up to him to stay on task, to be a self-starter, to go that extra mile.

The next step is the extra activities - should we wait to start up martial arts again? How will he manage homework and after school club stuff? He also has to find the time to volunteer.

We're looking forward to a weekend of downtime. Yeah, right. We'll be back to the store shopping for lunch food. We have to get The Kid some long pants - he grew out of every pair over the summer. He has to get a few more school supplies.

Oh, he has to review his assignments to see what projects he has to begin - and he'll hang out with his friends at some point. For that, he always manages to find some time.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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August 26, 2009

Free admission to Museum of Discovery & Science

robots.jpg This deal is too good to pass up: Free admission Thursday and Friday (Aug. 27-28) for kids 12 and younger at the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

This is your chance to see "Robots: An Interactive Exhibition" before its last day, Sept. 7.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., so head over after school. Or take your littlest ones earlier in the day. There will be a special demonstration between 10 a.m. and noon.

The "Robots" exhibit is based on the movie of the same name. There are more than 15 interactive displays. Kids can build their own Wonderbot or take ride the Crosstown Express.

MODS is at 401 SW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale.

Photo: Museum of Discovery and Science, courtesy


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Should every boy be circumcised?

I have three girls, but I always wondered what I would do if I had a boy and the circumcision issue came up.circumcision.jpg

I'm sure I would go through with it, but I can't help thinking about its barbarity.
Now experts are thinking of recommending routine circumcision for all boys born in the United States as a way to prevent HIV.

Almost 80 percent of American males have been circumcised, but public health officials still think routine surgery could take a jab at the virus that causes AIDS.

They admit, though, that circumcision wouldn't make a dent in one of the major groups affected by AIDS: homosexual men. The surgery appears to curb the spread of the virus only in heterosexual men.

Did you have any second thoughts about circumcising your son?

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

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Cost of raising a child can give you sticker shock

There is a reason babies are irresistibly cute. It’s nature’s way of keeping parents (and potential parents) from thinking about how much it actually costs to raise a kid from birth to adulthood.

I took a spin through Baby Center’s “Cost of Raising Your Child Calculator” and learned that raising my five-year-old son will cost me well over $200,000 by the time he turns 17. And this is a conservative outlook: It estimates childcare/education costs at a little more than $2,000 a year. I could only wish good childcare was that kind of a bargain.


Baby No. 2 will cost me almost $12,000 in the first year alone. And that’s not including what the Baby Center calls “one-time costs,” such as bouncy seat, high chair, crib, etc. I am forever grateful that my husband and I decided to store all of my son’s baby equipment rather than get rid of it. According to a recent Time article, parents with only one child spend 25% more per child than those with two children. The power of hand-me-downs.

So with that in mind, here are my top three ways to save money. What are yours?

Consider a childcare flex account: These are typically offered by employers and they allow you to set aside up to $5,000 before taxes for dependent care costs. You can then use the money to pay for at-home care (like a nanny or babysitter) and for outside care like daycare. One thing to keep in mind: Be careful how much money you set aside for the flex account because you stand to lose any remaining money that you fail to use during the calendar year.

Get a library card: I wish I would have done this sooner with my son. Not only can you get countless books that your child can select for himself, but libraries also have DVDs for rent. Making a trip to our nearest branch is now a special event – and often comes at the request of my son. Just be careful with those late fees. They can add up! (I learned this the hard way with the DVDs.)

Open a 529 savings account: It’s never too early to start saving for college. The longer you wait to save, the more it’ll cost you in the long run. With a 529 plan, you set aside money for your child’s education and watch it grow tax-free. Unlike pre-paid tuition plans, you can use it at any accredited college or university in the country.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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August 25, 2009

In search of truly family-friendly restaurants

I’m wary of restaurants dubbed “family friendly.” This makes no sense, of course, since we have two small boys. But they make me think of mediocre food, overwhelming neon and cartoon characters on the kids’ menu.


Does it have to be this way? I hope not. And I’ve come across places that balance a touch of sophistication with a forgiving attitude when things go awry. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza makes this list for me. We eat at the one on South Federal in Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s how Anthony’s won me over. One Friday night, our then infant decided to hurl his plate onto the floor. It didn’t break, but it made quite a noise. Everyone stopped. There was quiet – it felt like silence to me – in the usually noisy restaurant. A beat passed. Then someone at the next table shouted “opa!” So I shouted it in return. There was a laugh, and normal activity resumed.

That was it, I thought. A family-friendly restaurant isn’t a place with an endless supply of crayons – although those don’t hurt. A family-friendly restaurant is a place full of fun, good food and patience during those moments when kids cross the line. Children need to understand the rules of a restaurant. I understand why diners often get frustrated with them. But they need time to learn.

What are your recommendations?

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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First day assignment: Communication skills


This is the difference between boys (men) and girls: I ask my husband, a teacher, "How was the first day of school?" "Fine."

I ask him (also the family chauffeur) how our kids' first day was: "Fine."

I ask my son, the new high school freshman. "Fine."

When I finally get to my daughter, I say: "Give me all the details." And I am rewarded with a solid 20 minutes of blow-by-blow, down to the color of her schedule, the excrutiating details of her long-delayed bathroom break and commentary about "the popular girl" and "the annoying boy." I even got some info on my son's day.

But the biggest news: "We don't have to wear uniforms!" What??????

Why I didn't know this before Monday, I don't really understand. My husband says, "It was on the website." And, "I didn't know you were shopping for uniforms."

You would think that a mom who'd already had one kid go through the school, and whose HUSBAND WORKS THERE, would have an inside track on information. True, I did not check the website. I accept that. But still.

"Daddy just doesn't understand what a tragedy this is," I tell Erika. "I know," she whines.

This is a practical, no frills kind of girl. She's happy in a t-shirt and black Converse sneakers. Now she'll feel compelled to think about outfits. For middle school. I shudder at all the implications.

We'll have to head back to the mall to return all those polo shirts and navy blue shorts (fortunately, she hadn't cut off the tags). And we'll have to shop for just the right clothes so she can fit in -- and be herself.

Photo: Sun Sentinel file


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Texting while driving PSA: your message has been sent

Warning: The video attached to this post could be very disturbing to younger readers/viewers. Parents should review this video before deciding whether it's appropriate to share with their children.

I first wrote about texting while driving back in April, and not surprisingly, the issue has not gone away. For our family, it's taken on a little extra significance because my older stepdaughter now has a bona fide driver's license (and her own car). She no longer needs to wait for us to take her anyplace.

And we trust her (with all the hesitation that most parents feel when their 16-year-olds get behind the wheel of their cars).

Right now, her phone is out of reach while she's driving. We know we can't monitor every second she spends in the car, but I'm glad my wife talked to her about the dangers of distractions behind the wheel. I hope she listens. I know it's had an effect on me.

Speaking of which, I was disturbed yesterday to see this video being played on CNN. I thought it was a bit much. But now I'm not so sure. Maybe we should see this kind of thing more often.

By the way, it's a British public service announcement, which explains why the driver is sitting on the "wrong" side of the car.

What do you think; is this an effective way to get the message across, or is it bound to backfire as a scare tactic?

Teen drivers: Ad campaign targets risky road behavior

Stay Safe: Tips for new teen drivers

Parkland Commissioner wants to ban texting while driving.

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

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Mickey and Minnie Mouse come to South Florida

Our July trip to the home of Mickey and Minnie was a super-success. The 2-year-old was thrilled to meet the "princesses": Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle. And tickled at the mess Goofy created in Mickey's kitchen.

This weekend we're hoping to welcome Mickey and Minnie to our South Florida home with a hug.

The longtime couple will be on hand for the opening of the remodeled Disney store in Aventura Mall on Saturday. The mousekeeters will greet their public from noon - 4 p.m. at the mall's center court.

Mickey_Mouse_marching.gifCoupons for 20 percent off will be given to families who have a chance to shake the mitts of Mickey and Minnie. The catch: You have to use the coupon this weekend.

Other treats lined up for the grand-opening include free Mickey Mouse ears to the first 100 children to enter the store. The festivities begin with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m.

Radio Disney will pitch in with music and games.

I popped into the store over the weekend, and spotted cute Wall-E, Buzz Lightyear and Minne gear from cups to sleepwear; some of it discounted by 40 percent. I'm sure I'll make it out of the store for less than what we spent at Disney World this summer.

The store is on the lower level of Aventura Mall, 19575 Biscayne Blvd., near JC Penny.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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How do YOU keep your teen out of the vodka bottle?

Now that my kids are 14 and 7, I got the Phillips head screwdriver out on Sunday and removed the child-proof latches from the bathroom cabinets.


But now apparently I need to apply some kind of latch to the vodka, maybe to prescription meds in the house, and quite possibly to any cigars my husband might have lying around. Why? Because as I said at the beginning, I have a 14 year old.

A few weekends ago, I was in bed reading a book (John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, about an innocent young boy and his beloved horse), when I heard an ambulance, and sirens. Sounded like they were heading our way.

They were.

A group of young teens, my son included, were at a friend's house a block down the road, and her mom wasn't home. Some of them guzzled the vodka. One of the teens passed out, several vomited. A neighbor checked on them, found the grisly scene, and called 911. The sober kids, my son among them, were told that one of their friends "might not make it.'' Three of them were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Did they learn a lesson? I hope they did. And so did we, the parents.

A lot of the important work raising kids is done by the time your child is 14. You've built the foundation, and when your kid's a teen-ager, you find out how sturdy it is.

Is there anything you can really do to stop a teen from drinking?

Will a child-proof latch work?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Family Issues (231), Teen (158)

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August 24, 2009

Back to school vow: "I won’t hold up the car line.”

My daughter starts first grade today. She shared with me a few things she plans to do differently now that she’s a BIG girl.

Her thoughts led me to thinking that mommy could make some changes also. So here’s my back to school pledge.

• I pledge not to hold up the car line at my daughter’s school. I will not brush my daughter’s hair, search for her socks or sign permission slips while other anxious parents waiting to drop off their kids are behind me.

• I pledge to read every piece of paper that comes home and not wait until the night before her school project is due to comb the stores looking for glitter.

• I pledge to be a more stringent enforcer of bed time, so that we can both wake up more cheerful in the morning.

• I pledge not to become an over-involved mom, who wants to hold her daughter’s hand every step of the way, but to let her grow and learn by experience with some things. (notice I said “some.’’)

• I pledge not to over schedule my daughter’s after-school life with too many extra-curricular activities and to cherish the down time when we’re doing absolutely nothing.

Have you pledged to do things differently this school year? After all, the great thing about the first day of the school is that it's a new beginning for parents too!!!!

POSTED IN: Family Fitness (21), Georgia East (44), School Issues (135)

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August 21, 2009

First day of school jitters -- or real, genuine child anxiety?

Don't automatically dismiss your child's jitters about returning to school, one child psychologist warns. They might actually be suffering from bonafide anxiety.

Wendy K. Silverman, a psychologist at Florida International University’s Child Anxiety and Phobia Program (CAPP), says parents might just dismiss child anxiety and that it could mushroom into depression, severe behavioral problems and even substance abuse later in life.

And really, would you want that pinned on you? I wouldn't!

Silverman and colleague William Kurtines are in the midst of a $3.3 million study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health to develop state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat children with anxiety.

(If you think your kid has had anxiety for at least six months, call the Child Anxiety and Phobia Program at 305-348-1937.)

Click on the jump for Silverman's tips for getting children ready for the school year:

1. Remind them of the friends they have not seen all summer
2. Remind them of a favorite teacher they may see again
3. Get children excited over the “back to school” shopping routine, even in terms of school supplies.
4. Discuss extracurricular activities in school, such as sports or clubs, may also motivate children
5. For kids going to a school for the first time, make sure to check for open house type activities that provide an opportunity to meet teachers before the official start of the school year

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

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August 20, 2009

First day of school: Share your photos


There I stood, in the courtyard outside my son's PreK class, sobbing. He was fine inside the classroom. He'd been a full-time daycare baby since he was 3-months-old, so it's not like I wasn't used to saying goodbye to him every morning.

But I was a mess. It was hot and I was sweaty. And to top it all off, I was holding my 5-month old, whose diaper had exploded in a dramatic, vivid way -- all the way up her back.

Yet I stood there, tears and sweat streaming. Pathetic.

Three years later, I sent my baby girl off to the same PreK fate. And, because she's a victim of second child syndrome, I don't really recall any drama.

Good thing I snapped this picture. And I've been snapping ever since.

This year is a big one. He starts high school, she starts middle school. I will take a picture and try to coax a smile out of them.

I suspect there will be a few tears (mine). But I guarantee: no exploding diapers.

To share your first day of school photos, go to

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), School Issues (135)

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The end of summer -it's here already

Guest blogger Tom Kent has already had his fun in the sun. He's got to hit those books now. To his mom, the new ninth-grader seems pretty cool and calm about the whole deal - going into high school and all.

Well, high school really is approaching fast. What I truly mean is… summer sure is ending fast.

I’m looking forward to high school – I don’t have much to worry about. I’ll be earning college credits as a freshman.mindsmeeting.JPG How cool is that? I am very lucky to have the opportunities my high school offers me.

Which high school is that, you ask? Well none other than South Broward High School. The programs at South Broward are very interesting to me.

I went to New River Middle where I took the marine science program. (I love the water.) It just so happens, that South Broward also has a marine science program which I will continue to follow! In college I plan on majoring in Journalism with a minor in Marine Science.

When I grow up (no joke) I want to work at the Sun Sentinel in its Science and Health section; just like my mom, Cindy Kent (only she works in the business section).

Well, my expectations for high school should be just as I anticipate because I have already been there sixteen times! I participated in a marine science camp, called the Summer Beach Program and already earned 35 volunteer hours. Go Reefdogs!

I will definitely have a good four years at South Broward.
--Tom Kent

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

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August 19, 2009

Middle school survival: How bad could it possibly be?

Lots -- and lots -- of books cross my desk. But this one really caught my eye:

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School.

Bingo! My daughter Erika is starting sixth grade. That's a big enough deal. But she's also going to a school with absolutely nobody she knows. (Except her dad, who teaches there.)

Sixth grade. Big school. No friends. Ugh.

As I flip through this handy guide, I see all kinds of useful advice: "How to Play It Cool When You Don't Know the Answer." "How to Survive a Massive Mess-Up." "How to Survive Mean Girls." "How to Survive a Crush Without Getting Crushed."

I really wish I had had this book back when I was that age. Maybe I would have known how to actually, you know, talk to boys. Maybe I could have avoided that haircut (there's a chapter in the book). Maybe...sigh. It's too painful to even think about middle school.

So I give the book to Erika with instructions to mark up the parts that are particularly handy. She flips through it. Gives it a good look. And yawns.

Anything helpful? "No," she says. "It's all so obvious."

Uh-oh. The girl must be deluded. Have I sheltered her? Have I not given her the skills she needs to find her way through the trecherous hallways of .... middle school?

Or maybe, just maybe, she's .... confident. She's always had a pretty thick skin -- a byproduct of having an older brother.

But I'm going to keep the book handy in case she ever has a crisis of confidence. Or in case, you know, she needs my advice.


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Do hurricanes induce labor in pregnant women?

As if hurricanes aren’t stressful enough, it seems the last thing you’d want to do is sleep under a desk in a crowded hospital to wait out the storm.

That’s what my very pregnant friend had to do as Hurricane Wilma bore down on South Florida in 2005. Doctor’s orders. (The hospital; not the sleep-under-the-desk part.)

I am now in my 34th week of pregnancy, at the height of hurricane season. South Florida dodged a Category 4 bullet this week with Hurricane Bill. But it got me thinking. (It doesn’t take much; I thrive on worrying.) Why and when do pregnant women become a concern during a hurricane?

There is widespread debate about whether a rapid and steep drop in barometric pressure -- the weight of the atmosphere pushing on the surface of the Earth -- can induce labor in women who are at or near term. The lower the barometric pressure, the more intense the storm. And, according to several local hospital accounts in past years, the higher the number of deliveries. Broward General Medical Center received 17 babies in a 24-hour period during Hurricane Frances. Holy Cross Hospital delivered 21 babies in one day.

Official studies are inconclusive. But, in my humble arm-chair estimation, I can see how there’d be some kind of effect with such a dramatic change in pressure. Right now, I feel like I’m headed for the delivery room every time I stand up quickly after sitting down for a long period of time.

In any case, if you’re pregnant, here are some things to keep in mind before and immediately after a hurricane:

- Talk to your doctor well in advance about what precautions you should take. I called my doctor’s office this week, and they faxed me a notice from my hospital stating that pregnant women who are considered high risk or are within 1-2 weeks of their due dates are encouraged to sit out an approaching hurricane in the hospital lobby. The main concern is that you avoid having to travel during a storm if you go into labor. Hospitals usually don’t allow spouses and others to stay during a storm.

- Careful what you drink. Everyone needs to be mindful of boil-water advisories that tend to pop up following big storms. But pregnant women, in particular, are at greater risk of complications if they get sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Better just to stick with bottled water.

- Carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC, in its advisory on hurricanes and pregnant women, warns moms-to-be of steering clear of generators, kerosene heaters or camp stoves indoors. Those pieces of equipment should not be used in a closed space. The colorless, odorless gas is toxic for anyone. And it can poison both you and your baby.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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August 18, 2009

Dear parents, Welcome to our (D-rated) high school!

Creed's first day of high school is Monday.

A big deal, to me. I was waiting for a letter from the principal welcoming me as a parent, embracing me as we work together to help my son succeed, holding my hand as we step across this threshold together, nervous yet eager.southplantationhigh.jpg

It came in the mail Saturday, from the principal of South Plantation High School, where Creed will begin his journey to adulthoood.

"I would like to set the record straight and ease any anxiety you may have,'' it said. Yes, Mr. Principal. Tell me more!

I read on: "As you may or may not know, our school grade is a 'D.''

Oh. No, I didn't know that. Thought it was higher. Um, keep going?

"How did we become a D?'' The letter went on to explain that the lowest quartile of students didn't make enough progress in reading and writing, and that instead of going up a percent, they went down. "That's it,'' the principal wrote, like we should be comforted by the reduction in progress. Well, Creed's not in the lowest quartile, but I am quite sure the parents of struggling students would not get a warm feeling from this letter. And neither did I. I was crestfallen, actually.

I wasn't fixated on the school's grade, until I got his letter. I've always been a supporter of public schools, and I continue to be. But this is disturbing. I have friends sending kids to St. Thomas or American Heritage or even Pine Crest. Am I accepting mediocrity by allowing him to enter a school whose grade would draw a severe grounding if it showed up on his report card?

Maybe I can send a letter to colleges when he's applying, saying, "I want to soothe your anxiety that my son's grade point average is a D. You see he just didn't do well enough in school.''

Click here to see his welcome letter.

And click here to see the grades of all Broward County high schools. There are very few A-rated high schools in Broward County's public system.

Click here to read our schools blog, about changes in the way high schools are "graded.''

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

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August 17, 2009

Breastfeeding doll sparks debate among parents

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a controversial doll that allows children to breastfeed.

Released by Spanish toymaker Berjuan, the doll “bebe Gloton,’’ which means gluttonous baby, comes with a pink and green halter that kids can strap to their chests.

The halter has flowers in the place of nipples and when the child presses the doll’s mouth against the fake nipple, the doll makes a sucking sound.

I came across this doll in an article in the New York Daily News. There is video demonstrationg how to use the doll.
Debates about this doll are lighting up the parenting blogosphere.

A lot of parents have been on the attack, saying the doll will promote teenage pregnancy and is too mature for little kids.

My immediate reaction to this doll was: how creepy. But now I can’t help but wonder if parents are taking their criticism of the doll too far.

For one thing, it seems kind of hypocritical to me that in a society that promotes breastfeeding as the best option for babies, we slam a doll that actually gives kids some sense of how it’s done.

Children like to pretend. Having a doll, no matter what method you use to feed it, is already introducing kids to the grown-up concept of becoming a parent.

And there is a lot of fascination around the whole concept of breastfeeding. So what’s the big deal?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Georgia East (44), Toddler (127)

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August 13, 2009

Dania offers free jai-alai lessons for kids this weekend

It's indoors, it's a sport that you really don't have to run a lot in, and it's something you probably want to do yourself: Dania Jai-Alai is offering free lessons for kids this weekend and next.

And besides that, how often can a guy link from a parenting blog to a gambling blog? Hey, life is short...

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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August 12, 2009

Give your little athletes the lemonade/apple juice test

Hydration and sunblock. If you are a kid who plays sports in South Florida, you cannot avoid being lectured -- by coaches and moms and random sideliners -- about drinking plenty of water and spraying it on thick.

Alec came home from basketball camp at the University of Florida with this little tidbit: If your urine is like lemonade, you're hydrated. If it's like apple juice, you are dehydrated. Call the medics!

We are a protective generation of parents. Notice I didn't say OVER-protective. Avoiding heat stroke is a good thing. (Bad mommy confession: I once sent Erika to soccer camp without water, or lunch.)

But I tend to agree with Atlantic High coach Andre Thaddies who said, “The heat isn’t new here in South Florida. The kids are outside and living in South Florida. Their bodies adapt." By the time an athlete is in high school, he or she has been drilled on the subject for 10 years or more.

It starts at the earliest ages with the post-game snacks and drinks (don't get me started on the tyranny of that ritual!) By the time they've played a few years (soccer, football, baseball, what-have-you), these little button-pushers learn how to tap into the fear of prostration (usually it's Mommy's fear), especially if they are tired and/or having a bad game and/or losing. "Coach, I'm dehydrated, I need to sit." To which a coach is inevitably muttering that the kid is "out of shape." Funny, kids rarely want to sit when the score is in their favor or they are on a hot streak.

Erika has been practicing soccer at 8 a.m. Saturdays this summer. Her little round face is beet red and her clothes are soaked by the time practice is done at 9:30. She's wiped out. But each week she gets stronger. She's adapting.

Don't get me wrong: Running laps at 3 p.m. in 98 degree heat is no fun and probably best avoided. ESPECIALLY for those kids who are aren't in shape or have other underlying health issues.

The best we can do as parents is supply our kids with knowledge. Give your little athletes that lemonade/apple juice test so they can learn to pay attention to their own bodies. And don't forget to send them to practice with a jug of water.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Family Fitness (21), Family Issues (231), Sports (29)

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Cut the prime-time ads for sexual dysfunction

I'm all for teachable moments. But does my family have to watch penis enhancement commercials during prime-time news?

The commercials are for ExtenZe, a pill that promises larger and harder erections. I have been secretly hoping my kids have no idea what the commercials are talking about.

The Viagra and Cialis commercials were more subtle and easier to ignore. But the ExtenZe ads are pretty direct, promising to "make a man larger" and increase "the size of a certain part of the male body."

Let these commercials run in the middle of the night!

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

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Siblings shape your life in more ways than you know

In less than seven weeks – or thereabouts – my life will change dramatically as my husband and I welcome baby No. 2 into the world. The change, though, may be more dramatic for my almost five-year-old son, who has only known life as an only child.

He has been plenty excited about the upcoming event: He already treats my bulging belly as if it’s a full member of the family. He kisses it goodnight, shows it off to his friends as if it’s a new toy and suggests watching funny cartoons to make the baby inside giggle. He also is doing something he has struggled with as an only child – sharing. Already, he is willingly (and without prodding from mom or dad) setting aside some of his “baby” toys that he thinks his brother or sister will like and that he has outgrown.

As much as I love being pregnant, I’ve loved even more watching my son morph into the role of big brother. It’s a life-changing transition that has deeper effects than I have considered. According to a recent US News & World Report article, siblings impact our lives in ways good and bad – and far more than most people give them credit for.

Here are a few highlights:


Help us deal with our peers: All of that sibling rivalry that moms and dads instinctively want to squelch may actually serve a purpose, according to experts. It can help kids learn how to interact with friends and how to resolve conflict. Millions of thanks, then, to my older sister and brother for molding me into a well-adjusted adult.

Stress relief: It’s great to have someone who can truly understand what you’re facing at home: Overbearing mom, angry dad, divorce, illness, whatever the case may be. My siblings and I are immediately on the phone with one another as soon as a new health concern arises with my aging parents. I don’t remember us all being so close and on the same page early in life, but it’s nice to know our shared childhood greased the wheels for later in life.

They make us more hip: This is particularly true for younger siblings, who benefit from the experience of an older brother or sister. My taste in music – and knowledge of lots of different genres – is definitely a byproduct of my brother and sister. Long before I learned my math tables, I could name members of rock bands most kids my age hadn’t yet even heard of. My husband, the youngest of seven, also has a unique appreciation of oldies music that dominated radio long before he was born.


Modeling bad behavior: Bad habits or choices can be passed down to younger siblings: Drinking, smoking, early pregnancy, etc. On the other hand….

Make us want to be different from them: This could be good if the behavior mentioned above is what you’re trying to get away from. But it’s not so great when it stems from mere competition with your sibling: Your sister is the brainiac, so you decide to let your grades slack. Experts say it’s a greater issue for siblings close in age, where competition is more fierce.

What do you say? How have siblings affected your lives or your children?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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August 11, 2009

How to keep the peace at the family reunion
The "family reunion" has become an industry unto itself. There are websites, magazines and books. You can buy invitations and t-shirts and save-the-date magnets. You can create playlists and themes. We didn't do that. We're just not that kind of family.

But our vacation qualified as a family reunion because we drew 23 people from seven states -- four gerations from my 84 year old dad to the nearly 2 year old great granddaughter (we were missing seven). We were spread over three cabins for four nights in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The last time we all gathered in this particular location, Papa spent a great deal of time in the pool with a bunch of kids younger than 10. This time, those same kids are all in their 20s, and Papa isn't as agile as he was then. There have been marriages and babies and college degrees and global travels along the way.

When we gather like this every couple years -- the last time for my niece's wedding -- the dynamics change. But we've learned a lot along the way, especially about keeping the peace. Here's what works for us -- what works for you?

1. Don't over plan. The only activity we do as a group is dinner. Trying to get that many people to agree on anything is fraught with peril. So during the day, we go our own ways to the sights or to nap. As it turned out, small groups would form for a particular adventure -- caving one day, horseback riding another. So we all spent a little bit of time with everyone else.

2. Share dinner responsibilities. It's too expensive to eat out all the time. And nobody wants to get stuck with all the dinner planning. So we assign nights to family groups -- from the shopping and cooking to cleanup. Over happy hour, we share our adventures from the day. We play a few games -- dominoes or bocci ball. The kids kick a soccer ball around. It's a nice way to unwind.

3. A campfire is a essential. And not just for the 'smores. This is when the family stories are passed down, when the far-flung cousins rebuild their bonds, when the younger generations get initiated into broader family dynamics. The last campfire is always the best -- by then our guards are down and the laughs are loudest.

4. Humor Grandma. If Grandma says we're going to the cowboy dinner and sing-along, by gosh, we're going. And we're going to enjoy it. And don't be late. Just do it. And if Grandma wants to play word games and give out prizes, so be it. It's the least we can do to play along...and wouldn't you know, it's fun.

5. Realize families change. Every reunion, there's a newbie who gets a little gentle hazing. This time, my nephew brought his girlfriend. That Emily...she held up pretty well! When my husband was the newcomer, he got stuck babysitting some rambunctious tots who tortured him with dog piles and pillow fights. Now, 20 years later, he's offering advice to those same kids about how to tolerate all the family togetherness when they'd rather go into town. And yes, 20somethings will sneak away to the liquor store. When they were little, all they needed was a swimming pool to keep them happy. Things change.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), Holidays (49)

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I was an infant when my Uncle Hector died. He was my father’s brother. He died young. Drugs. I have no memory of him, and our family rarely spoke of him. All I know of him is one photograph. It’s one of those vintage black and white pictures, with the subject seated and his head turned so that he’s looking to the cameraman’s left. This picture was taken for the army. Hector was a rather handsome man. But when it comes to most of his life, I barely have the luxury of hindsight. He’s an object lesson for me. “Don’t do drugs,” a lesson in the form of an infant’s lost memory. Of the real human being, I know nothing.

Hector.jpg My brother, also named Hector, was born two years before I was. We fought constantly as children. I always lost the battle of fists. He always lost the battle of wits. And that would be the pattern all our lives. The two of us became increasingly incompatible. Our arguments grew in volume, in frequency and severity. He resented my holier-than-thou snobbery, as I resented his seemingly endless well of need. “The bird with the broken wing,” my mother called him. I used different words. “A guest of every county he’s ever lived in.” That’s when I was being charitable. I cannot repeat what I said in blinding anger.

What was left of our relationship as brothers, so promising recently when he was sober and he held my infant son in his arms, vanished when Hector held a beer, and another, and another.

Some tried to convince me of his inner goodness, but I could not see past the wedge that had grown between us. Some saw his overriding concern for wounded animals; I saw his reckless willingness to put our pets at risk so he could nurse a wounded raccoon back to health (a task for which he was utterly unqualified, as proven by the swift death of the raccoon).

The little boy who put his arm around my shoulder on a bench outside our home in the South Bronx in the early 1970s was ultimately replaced by a man whose bad decisions finally took physical form. For years, Hector betrayed his body. On July 23, his body responded in kind, without mercy. A dozen family members came to console my mother.

It's impossible in a few words to capture the bitterness of my relationship with Hector. It will take a long time for everything to make sense, if it ever does.

Just like me, my son will eventually say he was an infant when his Uncle Hector died. He’ll have more pictures to look at. That bench in the South Bronx. Hector and I sitting on tricycles in our winter coats. A more recent photo of Hector sitting outdoors, looking directly into the camera, at peace.

He’ll see those pictures and he’ll ask about his Uncle Hector, as I asked my father about mine. And yes, my son will be taught the same object lesson by his Uncle Hector that I was taught by mine. But maybe by then I will be able to see past the years of anger and fury that built up between Hector and me. What will I tell my son? I can’t be sure.

Hector’s son, a grown man, held my infant son in his arms last week. They brought smiles to each other’s faces. And I couldn’t help but hope… pray… Maybe these cousins will succeed where their fathers failed.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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August 10, 2009

Today is National S'mores Day!

Today is National S'mores Day. Hip-hip-hooray! Put another log on the fire...

S'mores are, and I'm not exaggerating (much), critical to a happy childhood. Think about it. S'mores signify togetherness, warmth, overindulgence. Any child who doesn't get to sit around a fire at least once with family and friends eating s'mores, singing campfire songs and telling ghost stories something special. (And those microwave versions -- completely missing the point.)

This summer, I was priveleged to participate in a campfire where I encountered THREE s'mores innovations.

First, instead of the traditional chocolate, there was the Cookies N' Cream candy bar option. Maybe I have a limited imagination, but it had never occured to me that you could use a different kind of candy bar. What's next, flavored marshmallows?

Second, credit goes to my daughter Erika for sticking a small piece of chocolate INSIDE the marshmallow before roasting so it got all melty. Very clever.

But the most important revelation: The very handy Rolla-Roasters that Cousin Becky brought from Colorado. These extendable roasting forks have a knob on the handle that you can turn as the marshmallow roasts. I'm telling you, they produce the puffiest, goldenest marshmallows ever. She got hers at REI, the very popular outdoors store.

This is not a great time of year in South Florida for a campfire. So on this day, National S'mores Day, let's vow to haul out the backyard fire pit in four or five months. Grab the marshamallows, chocolate and graham crackers, and make some memories.


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Back to School Part III: What's for lunch?

It’s time to get serious now, we’re talking school lunches.

Bring ‘em or buy ‘em, either way, school lunches deserve a parent’s focus and consideration.

I’m as interested in packaging as I am ingredients.

baglunch.jpgOn most occasions, I pack The Kid’s lunch in a brown paper bag. He folds it up and closes it between pages of a book after lunch, that way, he isn’t carry a bulky empty object. He re-uses the bag til the thing basically dies – up to a month or more sometimes. I wrap his sandwich in wax paper sheets. (I love the wax bags but can never find them.) Sometimes his drink is a water in a bottle he re-uses, or box drinks.

Whole Foods Market even partnered with the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Science and Discovery by providing nutritional snacks with environmentally low-impact packaging to summer camp attendees.

When I shop for food, just about everywhere you look, there are great simple recipes using produce, fish, meats, grains and dairy products.

For some upfront investment in prep and cooking time – you can send your kid packing with fresh, cool (as in hip), filling and healthy snacks and lunches. metallunchbox.jpg

If you rely on school-provided lunches, this just-released news today about another Whole Foods initiative might interest you:

schoollunchline.jpgRenegade Lunch Lady” Chef Ann Cooper will partner with Whole Foods Market to launch the Virtual Lunch Box Web Portal, which will enable administrators and like-minded “lunch ladies” throughout the country to reform their meal plans by offering the necessary tools and resources. The portal will serve as the most comprehensive, easily accessible, and free set of resources available, offering scalable recipes, training resources and educational tools.

Links to the joint projects enlighten us parents to the daunting task of what’s involved in the planning and feeding a mass of kids in a smart yet affordable manner.

The School Food Project – Boulder, CO

Sundance Channel: Grains of Change

If you’re on Twitter, follow other concerned parents to ask questions, share ideas and resources beginning with @SSParents and @lunchboxbunch and @WFMFtLauderdale

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter @mindingyourbiz

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Elementary School (54), Family Fitness (21), Food (56), Health (111), Pre-Teen (57), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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Willing to give up your home to your ex?

Those who co-parent know the challenges. When your child spends one week with you and one week with your ex, it’s often hard to keep track of everything-- the homework, the school uniforms, the ballet shoes.

I hear these days more families are trying a concept called “nesting.’’ When you nest, it’s mom or dad who leaves the house and the kids stay put.

Some ex-partners get along so well that mom goes over to dad’s place for the week and vice versa. These are parents who don't live with partners, of course.

My daughter's dad lives out of town so it's geographically impossible for us to try this.

But I'd like to hear more about co-parenting arrangements that work. I came across the nesting concept in the book Shared Parenting: Raising Your Children Cooperatively After Separation.

I can see how it would benefit the kids. They don't have to be uprooted from their friends on a weekend and can keep better track of their things. But are most parents willing to make the sacrifice?

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Single moms (14), Step-parenting (59)

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August 7, 2009

Free family night at Schoolhouse Children's Museum in Boynton Beach

The Schoolhouse Children's Museum and Learning Center in Boynton Beach opens its doors for its monthly Free Family Night tonight.

Your kids can explore the museum's intereactive exhibits while learning about Florida's past. There's a 15 foot replica of the Jupiter Lighthouse, a Family Farms exhibit to play in, child-sized replicas of neighborhood businesses. They can even deliver mail with the Barefoot Mailman. Also, kids can learn about "How Money Works."

Family hours are 5 to 8 p.m. at the museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach. Call 561- 742-6780 or go to for more information.


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Growing up: it happens fast

My daughter cooked dinner for us last night.

She and her little brother spent the day getting the meal ready. When we came home from work, all that was left for us to do was to sit down and eat.

We talked about all kinds of things around the dinner table: music, jobs, shopping, getting married one day.

Only, this time, though she's my baby daughter – she’s not a little girl any more.

Our gourmet meal consisted of artichoke-leek soup for starters. Turkey Milanese on a bed of eb.jpgarugula mixed greens followed. Homemade cupcakes added the final touch.

She’s getting married in December. We planned a shopping trip for this weekend. She works – sometimes two or three jobs at the same time – and she’s getting her master’s degree.

She’s one busy gal – I’m thankful I took the time I did to spend it with her – we had mother/daughter slumber parties. We spend hours at bookstores, parks and playing in the yard. We camped once or twice (she wasn’t impressed.) Together, we got our ears pierced.

But as we laughed and smiled about all the stuff we’ve done – and the crazy few months ahead before her wedding, I began to wonder, silently to myself, of course – where did she get her incredible cooking skills? Must have been the Easy Bake Oven way back when. Who knew!

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), Food (56), General (185)

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August 6, 2009

Is it a mom's duty to clean house?

Guest blogger Jenny Isenman debates the age-old question to clean or not to clean.

Jenny.jpg Jenny is a freelance writer/humor columnist and wiper of noses, tushies and countertops. She has two perfect children, a boy who is 7 and a girl who is 4.

She has a fabulously funny and relatable Suburban Jungle blog: It May Be Suburbia, But it's a Jungle Out There.

I remember the days before I found a regular housekeeper. I cleaned a lot!

In fact, I could do nothing else around my house until it was clean. I would clean in the morning, watch my kids immediately undo my work, and then clean the same stuff all over again.

I would Swiffer at 9 a.m. when they went to school and at 9 p.m. when they went to bed. Each time I was amazed at how long it took to clean the house and how quickly it became undone.

I made up fascinating “cleaning games” to justify not spending time playing Nerf dart tag or doing spin art like the “good Mommies” did.

Our play was much more educational. I honed my son’s eye for detail and fine motor skills: “Jake, let’s see if you can match the socks and roll them neatly into pairs.”

I knew Jake was a true genius the day he found matches for the 23 mate-less socks I had been rewashing for a year.

I taught my daughter about the nuances of tone and hue: “Ryan, which colors are dark and which are light?”

I considered asking my husband for help, but the truth is, to watch him try and clean could send us straight to divorce court. He would say, “Just do it once a day, why waste your time?”

If you want the job done right (i.e. your way) you have to do it yourself.

I couldn’t delegate because I was too disappointed in the way someone would load my dishwasher. Loading a dishwasher takes serious problem-solving skills and visual prowess; done correctly, it is an algorithm of perfectly fitting pieces with not a single one to spare.

Okay, I’m beginning to sound pathetic, but some of you actually get what I’m saying. You know who you are, you’re the ones thinking: "Please, my dish-loading could kick your &#$*."

Well, you know what I say? Bring it!

I was so vehemently against having help because I was sure it would reflect on some inability to be a good Mother/Housewife (a title I never thought I would covet the way that I do).

However, my need to have “a life” won out and I hired someone.

After a single day I felt like screaming “FREEDOM!” while swooshing down a mountain with a cool breeze on my face, or into a deep echoing canyon while blowing my Riccola horn.

But, alas, Florida is flat.

So, I traipsed into the lake (swamp) in our backyard, and screamed at the top of my lungs.

As soon as I zigzagged back into my house, I considered all of my options: Grocery shop, get Starbucks with a friend, shop for my kids, get a mani/pedi, shop for myself, go to the gym, get Starbucks again.

My days were filled with endless monotony and it was exhilarating.

Of course some days I was too tired from all the shopping and Starbucks, so we lazed on the sofa together and watched Sponge Bob.

Each day I returned to a neat and straightened house, with clean clothes and an organized pantry.

I began saying things that gave away control like, “You know, I don’t care if you rearrange my drawers, whatever is easier for you.” I had to make phone calls to find out where my daughter’s stuffed kitty and my new Hogan bag were, and I reveled in it.

So, I decided to write again. Three weeks later, I felt reborn and my Amex felt dejected, jumping out of my bag anytime we so much as drove past a retail store.

My Amex, however, wasn’t the only one let down. A week later my housekeeper told me she was offered a job at a physical therapist’s office. I said, “Are you kidding me? Who do you expect to do my laundry, clean the kitty litter, the dog pee, the garage… me? I had that job once, it sucked!” Luckily, when I talk fast she doesn’t understand a word.

Then I slowly said “You have to take it, congratulations!” and gave her a huge hug.

She still comes about five hours a week because in her own words: “I’ll help as much as I can. I know how much you need me.”

Apparently, she’s never seen me load a dishwasher, but if you don’t tell, I won’t either.

Jenny has a forthcoming book titled C://Mom Run: Stories from the world's most-harried mommy bloggers.


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A chocolate field trip for kids

chocolate-thumb.jpg This field trip sounds irresistible. The Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Davie invites kids 6 to 13 to learn all about making chocolate -- from cacao bean to candy bar. They will also get to create their own chocolate treats. Yum!

But act fast -- spots are limited. Schakolad is now taking reservations for Aug. 18 field trips. When the morning one fills up, they may open registration for an afternoon session. The price is $9.50 per child. Call 954-472-6155 to reserve.

And every day through the end of August, they offer one of their specialities for just a dollar. Mondays: 12 ounce latte. Tuesdays: two chocolate dipped pretzels. Wednesday: chocolate dipped strawberry. Thursday: one scoop of ice cream. Friday: chocolate flat rose lollipop.

The Schakolad Chocolate Factory is at 7740 SW Nova Drive in Davie.

Courtesy photo


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August 5, 2009

"Best Cities for Working Mothers": Not Miami/Fort Lauderdale

ForbesWoman just released it first examination of the “Best Cities For Working Mothers.” Why am I not surprised that Miami/Fort Lauderdale came in at No. 43 out of 50? New York (New York!) topped the list.

It's so easy to explain away the results -- we are transient, a party city, lots of retirees, lots of immigrants with families back home. "This list fairly reflects how the rest of the country views Miami," said ForbesWoman writer Heidi Brown, who edited the list.

What? We're not family friendly? Maybe so. Although most of the families I know are friendly enough.

To come up with the list, ForbesWoman ranked 50 of the largest continental U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (that's Miami/Fort Lauderdale) by categories: earnings, unemployment, cost of living, violent and property crimes, healthcare, per-capita expenditure per pupil, the number of daycare and preschools, and park acreage. They used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dartmouth Atlas and other reliable sources.

Surprisingly, Miami/Fort Lauderdale ranked No. 3 in the child care category. But keep in mind that quantity, not quality was evaluated. Brown said that in the population area of 2.4 million, we have 709 daycare centers. That doesn't sound like a lot to me. "Perhaps this shows how dismal daycare is around the country," she said.

Another surprise was our low rank in parks: No. 48. Really? In the sun and fun capital? (Jacksonville ranked No. 1.) This data came from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, as well as the various cities. Come to think of it, I know that recreational sports teams are always competing for limited practice space throughout Fort Lauderdale.

Other notable rankings: No. 12 in the number of pediatricians, No. 20. in school quality and No. 20 in per pupil spending. Not bad.

But there's women's income: No. 43. Cost of living: 43. Violent crime: 48. Property crime: 49. Ouch.

Making matters worse, Miami/Fort Lauderdale is actually the highest ranking Florida city. Jacksonville is 44 overall, Tampa, 46, and Orlando is 49. Las Vegas is No. 50.

"Maybe this is a wakeup call to city leaders," Brown said. I couldn't agree more.


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Show your kids nude sculptures!

Some uptight parents at Morikami Park Elementary School west of Delray Beach want these sculptures removed before school starts on Aug. 18.


The set is in a shopping center near the school, and parents say the nudity is upsetting their children.

I get my hair cut in this shopping center, Addison Plaza, and never even noticed the statues before the controversy emerged. The family of three is called "Journey to the New," by Boca Raton sculptor Itzik Asher, and represents the voyage of Russian and Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Our kids today learn almost nothing about art, never mind nudity in art. Their only exposure to nudity is the semi-porn they see on TV and in videos. So if you pass this sculpture with your kids, I say get out of the car and talk to them about the beautiful ways artists can interpret the human body.

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

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August 4, 2009

Anti-bullying advisor: Use psychological warfare to silence brats

I ran across some realistic and possibly unorthodox advice for kids who are mistreated by other kids.

You know what I'm talking about: BULLYING. There's a national obsession with it. Just like suddenly everyone started bringing their own grocery bags to Publix, they also are all obsessed with the bratty behavior of children, and are trying to stop it.

Broward County schools definitely is on board with it. They have my 7-year-old talking about this person or that person as "my bully.''

I'm all for coming down hard on the kids who do this. (Although I wonder, would I be the same person if I hadn't been called a "shrimp'' and teased with the name "Walnut'' when I was growing up?)

I'm posting more info about Broward County schools' anti-bullying policy on the jump page, but I want to share this interesting advice from Costco's shopping magazine. Izzy Kalman takes a psychological warfare approach, in his "tips for kids who are bullied.'' Just as he suggests in the above video, he favors a "so what?'' approach, where you don't let the bullies know they bothered you.


Up until now, 100 percent of the advice I've seen from adults to students is totally ridiculous. They want you to say things a child would never say, like "Your behavior is making me uncomfortable.'' That's only going to lead to more bullying.

Here's Kalman's advice:

*Be nice to kids when they are mean to you, and before long they will stop being mean.

* Don't tell on kids who upset you. They will hate you and want to beat you up. Talk to them directly and they will respect you much more. Tell an adult only if there is an emergency situation, or becuase you want the adult to teach you how to handle the problem.

* Don't get angry when kids insult you. They love to see you getting angry.

* If kids bring you nasty rumors, don't defend yourself. Just ask the kids, 'Do you believe it?'' If they say they do, answer "You can believe it if you want.' You come out being the winner, and they will leave you alone. And if they say they don't believe it, you also win!

* If kids hit you and you're not hurt, act like nothing happened. This way you look tough and cool because you don't get upset over nonsense.

According to Broward County schools,

“Bullying” means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees.

Here's the state law making the act of bullying illegal, and ordering all school districts to put anti-bullying policies in place.

Click here to see the district's bullying page, which includes videos. In one of the videos, even a teacher's conduct can constitute bullying.

"Are you unprepared as usual? ... Every day I go through this,'' the teacher yells at a student in front of his classmates. "You do nothing! You have a zero! You're failing! You might as well just do nothing and make my life miserable. Let's go! Front office, now! .. Move it, idiot! Out the door!''

Here's a question-and-answer sheet about bullying in Broward schools.

It comes down to "RIP,'' the district says. "Repeated. Imbalance of power. Purposeful. ''

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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August 3, 2009

What's wrong with Obama wearing mommy jeans?

Yes, I had a good laugh when pictures of President Obama donning “mommy jeans” hit the airwaves not too long ago.


The president wore the infamous jeans when he threw the first pitch at an All-Star baseball game about a week ago. The media labeled them the “mommy jeans.’’

It’s not every day you see your president at a baseball game in pleated jeans that seem a little too short and a little too feminine!

But I realized the reason I laughed so hard was because I could recognize a pair of mommy jeans instantly.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve become a huge fan of mommy denim, as I like to call it. These are jeans I would not have been caught dead in before I had my daughter.

They’re super faded. Some of mine are high waters, barely reaching my ankles. And they have a way of flattening out everything. They are the kind of jeans that can make Jennifer Lopez look curve-less.

But I’m a mommy jeans advocate because they’re roomy and comfortable.

When I’m running late for my daughter’s dance class I can slide into my mommy jeans, no problem. When I’m heading to a long ballgame, I opt for my mommy jeans.

Ketchup, sweet-and-sour sauce, ice-cream, bring it on. My mommy jeans can handle it.

Every now and then when I want to shake things up, I wear my mommy jeans to a party or a club. While all the women in their skinny jeans and high heels are on the sidelines trying to look cute, I’m on the dance floor getting down in my mommy jeans.

We’re moms, after all. While some people sit back and listen to the music, we’re busy dancing to the music.

Thank you mommy jeans for allowing us to dance more comfortably.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Georgia East (44), Politics (18)

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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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