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September 30, 2009

A toddler discovers his you-know-what

It started as joyous praise when we changed his diaper. This was a few weeks ago. He would grab himself and shout, “My penis!” with gusto. I noticed something similar with our first son, but not with this much vigor.

Still, this should be handled maturely, even with a boy not-yet-2. Like many others, my wife and I believe in using proper names for body parts, as well as engaging in the inside voice/private parts discussion. (See this related Moms and Dads blog on this subject.) So I would say, “Yes, that is your penis, but that is private.” And then I would try to finish changing his diaper with a straight face. Difficult.

Then, he stopped. I thought the stage was over.

The other night as I changed him, he grabbed himself again. But this time, with his language developing, he could elaborate. He has two new words these days -- usually reserved for cars and trucks -- “big” and “huge.” Hence, he shouted, “My big penis.” And then, “My huge penis!”

What do you say to that?

Here’s what some experts say. “For the toddler, explorations of all kinds are normal,” write the authors of What to Expect: The Toddler Years. They make the point that, for toddlers, their private parts have been “largely out of [their] reach – under wraps, so to speak.” Our youngest isn’t out of diapers yet, but he’s realizing that he will be. What to Expect also offers a tip: if their hand is wandering in public settings, and it makes you uncomfortable, try distracting them with an activity such as blocks. And engage in the public vs. private discussion.

The New York Times’ Jane E. Brody wrote on a related topic this week in a column about the importance of talking with children, and providing them with the correct names for things, including body parts. “Avoid 'baby' words and baby talk, which can confuse a child who is learning to talk,” Brody writes. (This column will also make you think twice before listening to an iPod at the playground with your kids.)

This advice reminds us that, while these moments prompt some inevitable laughter and perhaps discomfort, they are crucial for your children. It’s not enough to say, as I did, “well, that’s private.” That's really just a starting point.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Should Roman Polanski go to jail for raping a 13-year-old 30 years ago?

If director Roman Polanski were a priest and had raped a 13-year-old, there would be universal condemnation and disdain across America.polanski.jpg

But as Father Tom Reese of Georgetown University points out, no one seems too outraged that Polanski, who won an Academy Award in 2003, fled the United States in 1978 before his sentencing on charges of giving drugs and alcohol to a minor and having unlawful sex. He faced a 50-year sentence and was arrested on Saturday after three decades on the run.

The victim, Samantha Geimer of Hawaii, says she does not want to prosecute, which to me makes it different from the Catholic sexual abuse cases, in which many victims sought justice decades later. Still, I do see the double standard. What do you think?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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Watch out moms-to-be: C-sections are on the rise in Florida

I couldn’t believe it when I heard it: An office assistant in my doctor’s office told me over the phone that the only way I could guarantee that my doctor would deliver my baby is if I had a scheduled caesarean section. Otherwise, I’d be subject to whoever was on call. Maybe my doctor; maybe not.

Hmm…And people wonder why C-sections are at an all-time high nationally and in Florida?

After the initial shock, I got mad. I’m not opposed to having a C-section – if I actually medically require one. In fact, I almost had an emergency C-section five years ago during labor with my son. I was carted away as nurses walked while dressing my husband in scrubs. My doctor zoomed into the operating room and in one swift movement someone handed him a scalpel. When he realized I hadn’t had an epidural, he decided to re-check the baby’s vital signs. They were up. He stopped and told me that I could have one more chance to deliver naturally. If the vitals dropped one more time, he would operate. I trusted him, and I gave birth within the hour.

Little did I know that my doctor’s decision – and the choice he gave me – few other doctors would make. Recent state figures show that 43 percent of births in Broward County and 41 percent in Palm Beach County were done by C-section in the year ended June 30, 2008. That’s far above the national average of 31.8 percent and greater than the state average of 39 percent.

Experts attribute the rise to fears of malpractice lawsuits, a rise in diabetes and obesity in pregnant women (which may lead to having bigger babies) and the medical belief that once a woman has a C-section, all subsequent births should be delivered via C-section.

Some things expectant moms should consider and discuss with their doctor should the word “C-section” come up during a visit:

Contrary to popular belief, C-sections actually cause more complications and side effects for the mother and baby than do natural births, according to researchers. And don’t forget: Recovery time after delivery is longer for C-sections.

The cost of a C-section is typically twice as much as a natural birth because it is a surgical procedure and requires a longer hospital stay.

The vast majority of women in Florida who deliver a baby via caesarean will likely deliver future babies through C-section. That’s because it’s rare to find doctors who will perform “vaginal birth after caesarean.”

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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September 29, 2009

Sharing friends is one more way to stay in touch

Yes. You are coming out to dinner with us, I said to The Kid.

We were invited to have dinner with friends at their house. It was an impromptu invitation. Letting The Kid stay home was not an option - going out would not have been as fun without him - I like introducing him to our friends. The balance is that there are times we let him "sit this one out" and he stays home.

He wondered why he had to - after all, these people are strangers, he said.

But not once you meet them, I countered. So off we went to dinner at their house - enjoying awesome homemade chicken pot pie.

Turned out to not be too difficult a task after all. The Kid had seconds. He enjoyed the conversation, even though the rest of us were just a bunch of adults.

I like my son knowing who our friends are: We share little stores about what so-and-so is up to, keeping him updated in conversation that isn't always just about him or us, but others out in the world.

I don't think I intended it to be an example but, in turn, he also introduces us to his friends. He lets us know about things going on in their lives - generalities, important events, etc.

So, we get home from dinner, bellies full of pot pie and he says, he's glad he came with us. It's a simple thing, I know - nothing earth-shattering, but I'm glad he came too - our dinner out with friends was also family time.

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

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Remember I Love You Always

Rilya.jpgWhat do you say on a day like this?

A little girl should be celebrating her birthday today. One of the big ones -- her 13th. And she should be doing it in relative anonymity, surrounded by family and friends who know her and love her.

Is anyone marking Rilya Wilson's birthday today?

A few weeks ago I was assigned to cover Missing Children's Day in Florida, and I noticed Rilya's picture among those who'd still not been found.

You remember Rilya. Her name was an acronym: "Remember I Love You Always." She was placed in the state foster care system with a woman believed to be her grandmother. Officials don't believe that anymore. Now they believe that woman was Rilya's killer.

Rilya disappeared in 2001. The foster care system, which was supposed to be keeping track of her, didn't realize she was gone for 15 months.

The case sparked outrage and, ultimately, reforms. Next spring, nine years after Rilya's disappearance, a woman will be put on trial, accused of murdering the little girl.

Rilya was 4 when she disappeared.

Today is her 13th birthday.

What does one say? To whom does one say it? I wish no harm had ever come to you, that I had never seen those pictures of you as a toddler or looked at a computer's best guess of what you might have looked like when you were 10?

RilyaProg.jpgThe Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse still posts Rilya's picture, notwithstanding the Miami-Dade State Attorney's certainty that Rilya is dead.

"If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of this endangered person," the Web site says, "please contact the Miami-Dade Police Department at 305-418-7200."

If only that phone would ring. "Here she lies," the caller could say. Or, perhaps more optimistically, "Here she is!"

One can hope.

Maybe prosecutors are right, and maybe it is too late to save Rilya Wilson's life. But if you could, take a minute or two to look at some of the faces on the Web site of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Maybe there's a face you recognize there.

Maybe, on this day, if we can't recognize Rilya Wilson's birthday, we can reunite a child with his or her parents and give another family something to celebrate.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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September 28, 2009

Would a doctor's prescription make you a nicer mom?

We see a lot of women these days who are high-performing, over-achieving Supermoms we want to strangle.

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Might Mommie have accepted
wire hangers with a shrug,
if she had been on prescription drugs?

But what about the moms who are drowning in life, the under-achieving, just-getting-by moms? I had to admire the honesty of one mom-blogger, who admitted that she resorted to taking medication to avoid creating a reality sequel to Mommie Dearest.

She felt remorse after screaming at the top of her lungs at her kids, who were ruining what might have been a wonderful Hannah Montana moment. She'd bought them a Hannah CD double-pack, and the kids were arguing over which of the two CDs to listen to.

This reminded me of when my sister and I took our kids to Disney World. (Click here for memory refresher about the trip our kids might remember as "the horrible day when I didn't get the souvenir I wanted.'')

Here's a link to the mom-blog about taking drugs to be a nicer mother.

Her conclusion:

"Maybe we moms should do more yoga, cut back our responsibilities, see a therapist, exercise more, put duct tape over our mouths every day after 5 p.m. Maybe we should do anything to avoid relying on drugs to become calmer, happier people. But unlike Hannah/Miley I only have one world. And I want to enjoy it as much as I can."
I don't think drugs are the answer, myself. I think we should all just stay away from Hannah Montana stuff.

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

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September 25, 2009

Some of our best writers are... you!

MomsDads.JPGThe writers of Moms & Dads struggle on a daily basis to find interesting subjects to share with you, and then we wait to see how you’ll respond.

Sometimes, you shrug. That’s okay, we can take it.

More often, a few people will have something interesting to say, and we appreciate that input.

And now and then, there’s a gem that makes us smile or laugh. This post is dedicated to a few of those gems.

Like the two commenters who chimed in on Cindy Kent’s recent post about making her kid do homework when he’s absent from school due to illness.

Billybobhobag” was first. “I would probably just not have children so I can not deal with this crap!” he wrote.

Honestly, we don’t know how to respond to that. Fortunately, we didn’t have to. John R. did it for us: “You'd be doing society a favor, billybob. Please stay childless.”

My post on bringing babies to church brought a couple of good responses. My favorite came from Kevin K., who noted, simply, “That’s one of the reasons duct tape was invented.”

So that’s what it’s for.

But the one that really got under my skin was from a poster named Jamie: “Having a baby is purely a narcissistic self-indulgence. Period. Others should not be subjected to those outbursts because you wish to 'have' a baby. It's not all about you sweetie.....so either stay home or get a sitter.”

Ouch. How about finding another church? Isn’t that an option? Sweetie?

Anne Vasquez touched a nerve when she wrote recently about Miami ranking near the bottom of a list of family-friendly cities for raising children. She said Miami should be proud of, among other things, its diversity.

Well, you can imagine how that went over with some folks. But we have to thank canesman for coming to the defense of the Magic City: “I'm originally from Northern Europe. I have lived in numerous countries and cities. I love Miami. Whenever I visit the old country I cuss and complain and can't wait to get back home, yes home, to Miami. Burlington, VT????? I'd go crazy.”

Oh! Burlington, you got told! You gonna let canesman talk about you like that?

Anne's post, by the way, received 99 comments, a pretty healthy response.

Last but not least, my personal favorite. I wrote in April about my surprise when someone sent my teenage stepdaughter a text message wishing her a “Happy 4/20.” For those who don’t know, April 20 is a pseudo-counterculture holiday celebrating marijuana use. The post asked how you, as parents, handle the drug talk in your family. The first response came from a reader who called himself Dan:

“Shut up you stupid whore! DIE.”

Can’t really ask for a better comment than that. Really puts the conversation into perspective, doesn’t it?

Dan later clarified that he uses marijuana (for medicinal purposes, of course).

Why am I not surprised?

The list of favorite comments will constantly change and constantly grow, but on behalf of the Moms & Dads team, thank you for making this part of our job so much fun. We may not always agree, but you do make us think. Hope we do the same for you. Keep those comments coming!

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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Will your kid be learning to drive soon? Time to take notes now

Recently, a friend of The Kid asked if he had his driver's permit yet.

Needless to say, the question gave me pause - and I did everything in my power not to slam on the breaks - not out of anger or anything - more out of worry and shear horror.
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I was driving the children at the time.

Gosh - these kids are younger than the blades of grass in our yard for cryin' out loud!

And what's the rush anyway?

Isn't it kind of nice to be chauffeured? Sure, our "passengers" are a captive audience as we adults drive them everywhere--the service comes complete with lectures and conditions.

And we get to spend time together. I get to meet his cohorts - in person no less!

But at some point, kids-my son included, are going to be in the driver's seat. And the best we can do, short of never, ever letting them out of our site, is to empower them with the right tools, starting with good driving instruction.

You can download AAA's Choosing a Driving School pamphlet here.

It's a guide for parents of beginning drivers. There is a check list of questions to ask, things to look for in a driving school. There are tips on how you can supplement what they'll be learning with additional information and experience.

It seems like only last year, I let him ride his bike - as long as he's wearing the helmet, knee pads, has reflectors, lights....

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), Safety (59), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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September 24, 2009

Maker recalls some children's and infants' Tylenol products

It's worth reading this story from The Hartford Courant and then visiting this site for more information.

The makers of Children's Tylenol have announced a voluntary recall of more than 20 children's and infants' liquid products.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes Tylenol, is recalling "select lots" of the products due to a bacteria that was found in medicine manufactured between April and June 2008.

The recall was done on a warehouse and retail level. Products already packaged and on store shelves have been deemed safe. No bacteria has not been found in any of the finished products, according to the statement by Tylenol.

Parents and caregivers are urged to talk to their child's health-care provider about any concerns.

The full list of affected products can be found at Tylenol.com. Consumers can find the lot numbers on the bottom of the box containing the product and also on the sticker that surrounds the product bottle.

More here.

POSTED IN: medicine (9)

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Nickels for Noodles: How elementary students are learning how to give back

The Pantry of Broward has teamed up with an Oakland Park school in an effort to teach children the benefits of philanthropy.

Penny Loughan, the CEO of the Fort Lauderdale outfit that provides food and assistance to low-income seniors, offers this update on the students' progress:

This week we visit with St. Mark’s Episcopal School fourth-graders and follow them on their lesson in philanthropy, and see them intensely focusing on ways to give back to their community.

blog-pantryofbroward.JPG Lesson plans created by teachers Mrs. Knafo, Mrs. Glasser, and Mrs. Knife this week have been encouraging discussion among this group of students and they seem especially thoughtful to the questions: “Why people are hungry, how we can help them and why we should help them”.

Their responses so far, reveal that the students are carefully crafting what kind of project would best serve the seniors who are helped by The Pantry of Broward:
"Its so sad that some people have nothing to eat," says Naomi E.

"Everyone should have enough food," says Paige V.

"It gives us a chance, an opportunity, to be better," says Colin F.

St. Mark’s first- and second-graders are busily collecting “Pennies for Pasta” and “Nickels for Noodles”, in which they will turn over the change to The Pantry of Broward for the agency to purchase the macaroni products.

Parents, tell us about your projects to involve children to share their wealth -- be it time, money or food?

Pictured: Ron Hayde, St. Mark’s school chaplain, with students in Mrs. Knife’s class.

POSTED IN: None

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Can you take too many pictures?

I just uploaded about 200 pictures from my phone, mostly of Leo. That's not to mention the 1,000 pictures on my wife's phone, and Lord only knows how many are on the phones belonging to my two teenage stepdaughters.

Oh, and then there are the cameras.

Photo0244.jpgI'd say that in the seven months since Leo was born, his picture has been taken an average of about 20 times a day.

How many baby pictures do you have from your childhood? I think I have about a dozen. Maybe. Okay, more than that, but not really all that much.

Pictures used to be special, remember? They took preparation, a little luck, and time to develop. Hours, if you were lucky. Days, more likely.

Polaroids were called "instant" cameras because you could see the picture within minutes of taking it. There was even a delete option: it was called the trash can, but you never wanted to throw the picture out because, no matter how lousy it was, the film cost so much that you didn't want to admit you screwed up.

Could you imagine waiting minutes to see the pictures you just took? Or not being able to delete a blurry image or one you just don't like?

Let's face it: We're spoiled. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I don't want to go back to the days of educated guesses and crossing fingers, hoping the picture came out okay, condemned to wait hours or days before knowing for sure.

But I have to admit that I'm concerned for Leo and for the girls. Flooded by photographs of themselves, will they ever appreciate them? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what are a thousand pictures worth?

Considerably less, I fear.


POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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September 23, 2009

Palm Beach County schools: Parents are rebelling

Protests against Palm Beach County schools' new policies are getting pretty intense.
testing.jpg

The city of Boca Raton is considering converting schools in the city to charter schools so they can be free of the Palm Beach County School District. Websites and Facebook groups are popping up all over the place, including For Our Kids, United, Palm Beach County Parents for Educational Reform, and Testing is not Teaching. Parents are dressing their kids in orange this week to support teachers and show their disapproval of district policies.

The protests stem from several radical new practices implemented this year, including "embedded assessments," or frequent testing of skills learned, and "departmentalization," in which elementary school kids change classes like they are in middle school.

My kids are tired of all the testing, so I hope these parents can get the school district to allow schools more autonomy. Why not give principals the discretion to decide what's needed for their students? Unfortunately, I have little hope my fellow parents will be able to rock this bureaucracy.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), School Issues (135)

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September 22, 2009

Finding an alternative to spanking

You’d think parenting and Guns N' Roses don’t go together. But when I think about raising my soon-to-be five-year-old son and soon starting over with a newborn, I can’t seem to get the chorus of one of the ‘80s band’s songs out of my head: “All you need is just a little patience…” Queue the whistling…

Before my son was born, I knew I’d need help in the patience department. I’m naturally impatient. So in the words of a wise blue dog preschoolers love, I learned to “stop, breathe and think.” (Thanks, Blue's Clues.)

Some parents have a different mantra: “stop, threaten and spank.” My parents spanked – well, mostly threatened to spank. Just one sting of my dad’s slipper was enough to remind my siblings and me that we should listen to our parents before they walked to the closet. There’s endless debate about the effects (or lack thereof) of spanking. Here is one more to consider. I don’t put too much stock in these studies because there are so many other variables to consider, which a study’s author typically concedes.

My husband and I made the conscience decision not to spank. But what to do instead? What’s more effective?

I took a six-week class at the Mailman Segal Institute at Nova Southeastern University when my son was two years old. Called the STEP program (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) for children under six, the course gave me a lot to think about. Mainly: Discipline and punishment are NOT the same thing. You want to correct bad behavior, not a bad child. And knowing the difference can not only relieve your stress level but also help foster self esteem in your child.

Here are a few of the key takeaways when a child is misbehaving:

Distract: If your toddler insists on playing with that fragile vase sitting in your living room, grab a toy and direct him to another corner of the room. Do it calmly and without making a big fuss.

Ignore: When my son yells across a room to ask me for some cheese and crackers, I don’t respond. It might take a few times, but he eventually understands and will walk up to me and ask politely, even adding a “please” for good form. Obviously, if your kid is about to run into a busy street, ignoring the behavior is NOT an option. Use common sense.

Set routines: Children need limits. It helps them learn what to expect. Make a routine for the morning, mealtimes and bedtime. Doing so can save you quite a few battles and headaches in the long run.

Give choices: Control the situation, not the child. This is particularly important for older toddlers or preschoolers, who want to feel some control. When my son interrupts me while I’m on the phone, I let him know he can stay and play quietly or leave the room. His choice. When he insisted tonight that he didn’t want me to comb his hair in the morning, I explained to him that I could leave the knots in his hair or gently smooth them out. His choice. (He ultimately didn’t like the idea of going to school with knots in his hair.)

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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Drink plenty of liquids, and do your homework

If your child was out sick from school, home with a cold, or flu, maybe a fever, would you insist they do their school work?

I did.

The Kid is under the weather. We baby him when that happens. It just one more excuse to spoil him even more.
temp.jpg
Homemade chicken soup is just the beginning. He’s been reading, sleeping and relaxing. His house chores are on hold.

Still the biggest worry – probably more for us than him – is his getting behind in his school assignments.

Life goes on: when he gets better – he’s going to feel worse about all the homework that piled up.
Class work will become homework. Homework will be added to homework. And he has a few projects coming up.

So we give him a cup of warm soup, hot tea, crackers to much on – and pen and paper to get cracking on his studies.

Nice, huh.

What’s your philosophy when the kid is down and out with the occasional bug -- Do you give them the total spa treatment – or keep them on task with school work?

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), Health (111), School Issues (135)

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September 21, 2009

Which one's a grandfatherly guy, and which one's a pedophile?

Maybe I'm a paranoid mom, but I consider any adult male whom I've just met, who spends more than 10 minutes chatting with my young daughter, to be a pedophile.

End of story.

If I'm wrong, so be it. But if I'm right, I've helped prevent something horrible from happening.

This weekend we were at a cute waterfront Inn in Jensen Beach, and a friendly guy was hovering a little too closely to my daughter in the swimming pool. It was 9 a.m. or so, and he was already drinking a beer. At that hour, I don't even think the idea of "it's 5 o'clock somewhere'' applies.

My sister called my daughter back to the room and reminded her not to be alone with strangers.

"Dan is not a stranger!'' was her response.

After that I mentally branded Dan as a pervert, and kept her away from him. Is this fair? Maybe not. Some men like little kids, right?

My sister has a neighbor who is an older gentleman, and he's shown a lot of interest in her young son. He recently offered to babysit. I told her the guy is a pedophile. Obviously!

How do you know who is safe and who's not? For starters, in your own neighborhood you can check regularly for registered sex offenders. Click here to do so now. You can also sign up there to get an e-mail alert if a registered offender moves into your neighborhood.

I might note that there are two in my neighborhood, and another 80 in Broward County who are listed as "absconded'' or not yet registered. With photographs.

This list I found offers Eleven Ways to Spot a Pedophile. It has some interesting insights on it, such as noting that something might be amiss if an adult man decorates his home with cartoon characters.

The writer ends by saying, "Don’t look for proof that your instincts are right or wrong. Trust them. They are always right."

Read the jump page for a proposed children's book text one reader sent me, on this issue.

A reader who wished to remain anonymous sent this children's book (unpublished) she wrote. Print it out if you think it's appropriate to read to your little one.

"When Danger is not a Stranger."

Mommy always says “Never talk to strangers.”

Even when they offer you candy

Or say they need help to find a lost puppy.

Or they say “your parents told me to pick you up.”

She told me to run, as fast as I can.

And scream as loud as I can.

Mommy always tries to keep me safe.

But today, Mommy’s friend touched me in my private place.

He said to keep it our secret

Mommy never told me what to do,

When the person who does bad things,

Is someone I love, and trust.

I was scared.

I didn’t want Mommy to be upset.

So I thought about it.

I thought all during my favorite TV show.

I thought about it when I ate dinner and my favorite chocolate cake.

I knew what I should do.

I waited until Mommy and I were alone,

And I told her, when she leaned in to kiss me good night.

I knew then that everything would be all right.

Mommy always tries to keep me safe.


POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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When a married mom feels like a single mom

As single moms, sometimes you can’t help but wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.
brideandgroom.jpg


There are times after a hard day at work when you’re exhausted and can’t help but think about what it would be like to have a partner to work on homework with your son or daughter while you cook dinner.

But imagine what life is like when you have a partner and you still have to imagine what it would be like to have help with your child.

On the blog singlemommyhood.com a number of moms were recently expressing how frustrating it is when they have to assume all the parental duties and their husbands don’t pitch in to help.

Some women said their husbands were workaholics who never made enough time for the kids. Others said it wasn’t until their marriages ended that their spouses stepped up to the parental plate.

The blog prompted me to think of some of my friends who are in similar situations. Moms and dads with to-do lists longer than there are hours in the day, because the other parent isn’t pitching in.

The worst part is that married single parents don't get the same support true single parents get because most people assume their spouse is helping with the kids.

I wonder how many parents are dealing with this? I think if both parents are in good health mentally and physically, a married parent shouldn’t have to feel like they’re raising their kids on their own.

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

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September 18, 2009

What I learned from stay-at-home moms

My days of masquerading as a stay-at-home mom have come to an end.

For months, for one weekday, I have been able to frequent the haunts of stay-at-home moms: Parks, indoor playgrounds, children's museums, water parks.

I marveled at their ability to call a girlfriend in the middle of the day and talk for long stretches. (What luxury to have a friend available!)

I marveled at their firm bodies. (Who has time to work out?)

I marveled at their expertise. (No, I didn't know there was an indoor playground four miles from my house.)

My time spent with the moms reinforced three things about parenting:

Be prepared. I'd see the mom with the jogger stroller and exercise clothes and think: brilliant idea. Darting from swing to slide is exercise, right?

Have a support system. Many of the moms came in twos and swapped tales and advice on carving out personal time and the latest oddity their child exhibited.

Diversity is the spice of life. In talking with some of the moms, I found that their routines didn't break away from the cycle of park, library, nap time, museum. I was able to share tips for places and restaurants that didn't scream kids but would satisfy both parties. Kids need exposure to things that aren't tailored to a T for them, too.

POSTED IN: None

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Do you let your kids walk to school?

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Much has been made lately about kids getting themselves from one place to another by themselves. There's the mom who let her 9-year-old ride the New York subway alone. That set of a fire-storm last spring. Lenore Skenazy, the mom, has become something of a stop-the-madness voice for children and families who don't want to live in fear all the time. Her blog is called Free-Range Kids -- "Give our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry."

The New York Times followed up with a story on Sunday about how parents struggle with letting their kids walk to school. One mom in the story relates how a neighbor DROVE her 7-year-old child home, five houses away. That's just crazy, and lazy.

My kids started walking to their friends' house down the street at a young age. I'd stand in the driveway and watch them go. Then retrieve them later (I didn't DRIVE!). Eventually, they were doing it on their own. There were lessons learned along the way: "No, you cannot walk around the block." "No, it's too dark." In time, the rules loosen, the parameters grow.

We live close enough to stores and restaurants that the next step was inevitable. This summer my son would hop on his bike with friends to grab some lunch somewhere. They'd walk to Blockbuster to pick up a video. Once he called me in a panic before a trip that he needed socks. I told him to ride his bike to the store and buy some.

Next will be driving. And college. And, hopefully, studying abroad. All of the little steps along the way have been preparing them for that.

So yes, whenever possible, parents should let their kids walk down the street and to school and beyond. What do you think? Are you a free-range parent?

Photo: Forum Publishing Group

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September 17, 2009

How one Oakland Park school is working to feed the hungry

It can start small with pennies collected in a jar. Or it could be a multi-state plan worthy of news coverage.

However philanthrophy starts, it should start now with our children.

canned%20good.jpgThe Pantry of Broward is a big believer in getting children involved in helping others. The group, which helps low-income seniors put food on their tables and get transportation to appointments, has teamed up with two Broward County schools to help kids learn the ropes of philanthropy.

Here's their story about how students at an Oakland Park school responded to the challenge of helping others:

On September 3, Bruce Harris, The Pantry of Broward’s Development Director, addressed two student assemblies of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Wilton Manors at the conclusion of Morning Chapel. St. Mark’s staff and students have long been friends to the seniors served by agency, and jumped at the opportunity to participate in this very special philanthropy lesson.

Upon explaining to the students that in Broward County, more than 25,500 seniors age 60 and older are hungry -- and further, that poor nutrition causes sickness resulting in a multitude of health problems, Mr. Harris asked the students if they believed anyone in Broward County or anywhere should be hungry? Their reply? A resounding “NO!”

He then presented a challenge: Raise 2 tons of food for seniors in need. It could be done, he said, if each St. Mark’s student brings in four canned good items that weighs one pound each, which would equal 1 ton. The students were then challenged over the the Labor Day holiday to think of ways to raise another 1 ton of food to meet the goal by the end of October.

The students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten have also started a campaign, which they've coined Pennies for Pasta. They will collect pennies in empty pasta containers. Once filled they money will be used to buy food.


Behind the scene:
The fund-raisers: 470 elementary and middle-school students from St. Mark’s Episcopal School,1750 E Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park.

The moderators: Chaplain Ron Hayde, Jeremy Ayers and Father Dub Brooks

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Bringing baby to church

The sound escaped Leo's lips twice. "Aah," he said. And again. "Aah."

And that, apparently, was enough for the church usher, who tapped my wife on the shoulder and politely asked her to take the baby out of the main sanctuary. There were other places she could take Leo, our 7-month-old son, and still hear the sermon. If she wanted to see the sermon, she could take Leo to a room where the presentation was on closed-circuit TV.

My wife did not want to be separated from me or her two daughters, and none of us relished the idea of catching a church service on television after driving across the county to be in attendance. We came together to be part of the church community, together. But if the mere possibility that our baby might maybe cry at some point in the future was so intimidating that the threat had to be removed before the first howl, maybe this wasn’t the right church for our family.

Cry.pngI think many of us live in fragile little worlds whose walls can be shattered by an infant’s shriek. We are terrified at the thought that a baby will cry, and we will do whatever we can to avoid it if possible.

And sometimes we can’t. Like on an airplane or a bus. Or, to a lesser extent, at a supermarket or department store.

But what about church?

Now, let me set the scene here: the actual spoken part of the service had just started, preceded by a 30-minute musical performance by the worship team. During that half-hour, Leo could have screamed like a banshee under the care of an amateur acupuncturist, and no one would have noticed. Then the soft-spoken pastor came out and started talking.

We were seated in the back row, which is where parents with small children are asked to sit. I presumed this was so that if the child got loud, we would be close to the back door. That makes sense. Respectful parents can't just sit there as their babies scream their lungs out and expect other people to deal with it. If Leo had gotten loud, we were prepared to get up and walk out.

Maybe we have different definitions of "loud."

Leo did make those "aah" sounds. Was he about to go into a crying fit? We’ll never know.

Funny thing is, if Leo were a few years older and said "men" after saying "aah," no one would have batted an eyelash.

In any event, I don’t envy churches. I’ve been in some echo-chambers where a crying baby on one side resounds like Gilbert Gottfried with a megaphone on the other. So I can understand why some congregations go to the trouble of building rooms where parents can take their little screamers and not miss the whole church experience.

Some churches (wisely, in my opinion) have these rooms off the main sanctuary, separated by a pane of glass, with the sound of the sermon piped in via speakers. I kind of like that. We're not as enthusiastic about a separate room where we can watch the sermon on television. We can watch televangelists at home.

In any event, Leo did not cry as our family got up and left.

And neither did we.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47)

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September 16, 2009

Are you a Disney mom? Apply now

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My friend Jodi is a Disney World expert. I am not. So when we make the very occasional trek to Walt's place, I don't buy a guidebook or check a website. I just call Jodi and plead: Tell me what to do.

She knows times, dates, prices. She knows hotels. She knows deals. She knows lines and how to beat them. She knows what's worth doing and what's OK to pass on. Jodi just winds me up and points me in the right direction, and everything works out swimmingly.

Jodi, and people like her, is the reason for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. The panel serves as an online forum, led by these kinds of pros (dads and grandparents are welcome, too), for sharing vacation planning tips. Starting its third year, Disney is accepting applications through Sunday. They are looking for 10 newcomers to join the existing panel.

To apply, you will have to answer some questions and write three brief eassys about your family, your skills as a Disney planner, and your top Disney tip. To apply, go to this website to learn more.

Competition is stiff. They expect about 20,000 people to apply.

I am torn, however, about Jodi. If she applies, everyone else will get to know her secrets, too.


Photo: Beatrice Rose, from Tampa, is a Disney Mom panelist. (Walt Disney World handout)

POSTED IN: Activities (143)

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Do your kids eat too much pizza?

Restaurants are still on my mind.

The suggestions of good spots for kids impressed me. It’s clear parents appreciate a place that welcomes kids, whether with menu specials, an activity or just an attitude. So keep offering more ideas. Post them here or on the earlier post.

Still one comment struck me. Here it is, in part:

Holy cow, do you people ever feed your kids anything healthy? Donuts, noodles, pancakes, fried food. Geez, no wonder childhood obesity is out of control.

A bit snarky, but this raises a real issue. We all wage a quixotic struggle to get our kids to eat well. Failure awaits at every meal. Chicken nuggets beckon. Given this, should we skip restaurants entirely? Or is it OK for my preschoolers to eat pizza once or twice a week?

This prompted some simple online research. Turns out the USDA’s website allows parents to design a food pyramid for your kid. Give it a try. I did, and reminds me of a simple lesson: kids learn to eat well at home. Get that straight and then enjoy that night out. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Kanye, Serena, Joe Wilson: Are their apologies enough?

I have always been fascinated as I've watched my kids and other kids apologize. Because you can tell when it's heartfelt and when they are just mouthing the words to please their parents or teachers.
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Those same feelings came up as I've watched the insincere apologies of three public figures in the past few days: Congressman Joe Wilson, for yelling "You lie!" to the President during a session of Congress; Serena Williams, for threatening a lineswoman during the US Open; and Kanye West, for telling singer Taylor Swift during MTV's Video Music Awards that Beyonce was more deserving of the award she had just received.

They all "apologized," but I believe their actions could have been prevented with some self-control. They know they are in the public eye and are being scrutinized. Perhaps they are enjoying this negative publicity?

As this article in USA Today details, many see their actions as part of a collapse of civility. What do you think? Have manners and self-discipline disappeared from our society?

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Lois Solomon (211)

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September 15, 2009

Miami among the worst cities to raise a family? No way!

Fresh on newstands today is Children’s Health magazine’s ranking of “The 100 Best (and Worst) Places to Raise a Family.” Just skip right to the bottom of the list and there we are. Representing Florida, in all its glory: Miami, #99 (just ahead of dead-last Detroit, Michigan); Orlando, #98; and Tampa, #94.

As a native Miamian who moved from San Jose, Calif. (#39) back to South Florida after starting my family a few years ago, I’m upset. Yes, I know the analysis of FBI, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other expert sources researched more than 30 factors parents consider important, such as crime and safety, education and health. But stats alone don’t tell the story of a place as vibrant, unique and culturally rich as Miami.

I was born and raised in the greater-Miami area, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, a product of the public school system, a graduate of its public university. While I now live 40 minutes north in Broward County, my parents, siblings (and their kids) and extended family still live in Miami. My son knows the city well, since we make the drive down the Turnpike almost every weekend.

"We know not every city is bad from A to Z," said Joel Weber, one of the authors of the study, who explained that Miami's high violent crime rate, high number of sex offenders and high number of missing children per capita contributed to the city's poor ranking. "Every city has its charm."

In that spirit, here is my list in favor of raising your family in Miami:

Diversity: It’s not until I moved across the country that I came to appreciate Miami’s cultural diversity. (At least during my time in the Golden State, Californians had a very skewed sense of race and demographics.) In Miami and South Florida, in general, you can come into contact with different parts of the world just by the people you meet, the places where you worship, the places where you eat. The schools, while far from perfect on a number of levels, force you to mingle with others not like you. I want my son to appreciate that as much as I have.

Big lights, big city: If New York is the city that doesn’t sleep, Miami is its sexy cousin. And while nightlife is certainly not on the top of the priority list for many parents when it comes to raising kids, having easy access to a variety of cultural activities to broaden the minds of young ones is a must. In Miami and South Florida, you’ve got plenty of museums, concert venues, arts festivals – and they’re bigger and better than in many cities across the country.

The beaches: I will never forget my summer internship in Boston when I met a fellow intern from Denver who, at 20 years old, had never seen the ocean. (In all fairness, I had never seen snow at that point.) The ocean breeze, the sand in between your toes, the seashells. Like so many who grow up in South Florida, I took it all for granted. No more. Once I had my son, I promised myself I would give him the same wonderful childhood memories I had at the beach. He loves it, and I love watching him play in the crashing waves.

So speak up: What are your reasons for raising your family in South Florida?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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Reputation is a terrible thing to waste

I know. I know!

You're young and brash. You're witty. You make good grades. You're a little bit bad. You make your friends laugh. You're the master of all that is known and unknown.

But you're also only 14 years old - give or take a few years.

This is for certain - once you click SEND or hit that ENTER button, just like saying something out loud, you can't "take it back."
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It could be worse - your missives are out there on the Internet for all the world to see - for a long time. Those here-and-now communications via photos, blogs, text messages and MySpace/FaceBook could come back to haunt. That includes inappropriate or illegal downloads.

People you have yet to meet might even run into your digital antics along that information highway- like a future employer for example. But it's often, and unfortunately - a hard concept for kids - and many adults - to process.

That's why AT&T and iKeepSafe partnered to create a series of online safety education tools and projects, in conjunction with American School Counselor Association, to teach students how to protect their privacy and reputation online.

Parents should check out the MySpace tutorial. And if you do nothing else, listen and watch- with your child of any age-to first hand stories of students victimized by Cyber-bullies.

Your awareness needs to equal or exceed your child's level of social networking activity.

Together, parents and young kids can watch a Faux Paw cartoon adventure on illegal downloads. But supplement that with some real conversation.

AT&T's Stay safe. Stay connected, suite of resources provides tips for home phone, television and wireless safety tips and well as links to other resources.

Because, before tapping or clicking that send button - kids need to think about their future, their reputation, they could be deleting.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), Pre-Teen (57), Safety (59), Teen (158)

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What's so controversial about co sleeping?

A lot of things about being a first time parent made me nervous. In particular, Leo would howl in protest whenever we put him in his bassinet, and he would not let up. The notion that he would spend an entire night in there was laughable. It wasn’t going to happen. Sorry.

LeoNDad.jpgWe’re co sleepers. Leo sleeps with us, in the same bed. Yeah, I was nervous about it, but we got used to it. In this “controversial” practice, we are joined (if my limited research is any indication) by a little more than half of all parents around the world. I have to wonder why something practiced by half the human population is controversial, but apparently it is.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is opposed to co sleeping. At first, I wanted to know why this particular agency was weighing in. After all, my baby is not a consumer product. Then I realized the bed is, and that’s where the commission has standing. Fair enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs with the CPSC, concerned, apparently, with the possibility of people rolling over and accidentally suffocating their kids, among other risks.

But it seems a growing number of experts are touting co sleeping as normal and beneficial, and the identified risks, they say, are either overstated or easily addressed.

Noted expert Dr. William Sears outlines seven benefits of co sleeping. According to his research, with co sleeping:
Babies sleep better
Mothers sleep better
Breastfeeding is easier
It’s “contemporary parenting”
Babies thrive better
Parents and babies become more connected
The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced.

I’m not en expert on either side of this (especially that last item: a year ago the experts were warning us that co sleeping increases the risk of SIDS). All I know is that the best professionals on parenting have been giving conflicting advice on all sorts of issues for generations. Maybe, like me, you were told “thou shalt not share thy bed with thy baby.” And maybe that was good advice.

And maybe it wasn’t.

So here's a good resource: The March of Dimes has an information page that points out the risks and how to address them.

POSTED IN: Newborn (39), Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), Toddler (127)

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September 14, 2009

It's never too late to start a family "tradition''

Until earlier this year, dinner time at our house was a free-for-all.

The rarity of our all sitting down to eat together was evident in that it even had a name: "family dinner.''

But how hard is it to start a new habit, and to have your kids thinking for the rest of their lives that we ALWAYS sat down at 7 p.m. to eat?

Pretty easy, actually. Lily is only 7. Do you think she's going to remember eating Hot Pockets in front of the television in the back bedroom? Of course not! Not if I can help it!

Creed is 14. I have four more years to create a lasting memory he can miss when he's eating Ramen noodles in the dorm. I want him to tell people about the meals his mom used to cook, and there can be no name brands (like Totino's Frozen Pizza Bites) mentioned in this discussion.

So about a month ago, I started a family dinner routine. Every night, we eat together. I am still amazed at how quickly the kids adapted to it, and how easily it became the norm.

They say you can start any habit with just a few repetitions.

It's like re-writing your family history. You take a look at what you don't like in your family schedule and operations, and you do something about it.

A lot of research has established that human memory is malleable. So if you don't like the memories you're creating for your kids, change them.

It's as simple as that.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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More dads needed on field trips

While some moms clamor to get a coveted chaperone spot on their child’s field trip, it appears that in many cases dad is Missing In Action.

I learned recently that schools are trying to do more to encourage fathers to become chaperones. In some cases teachers are reserving one spot on a trip specifically for a dad and some teachers plan to do some serious recruiting.

One teacher I spoke to over the weekend said it really helps to have at least one dad on a trip with the younger children, since the kids often need to take bathroom breaks and the boys have to be accompanied by an adult.

But beyond that, going on a field trip with your child is such a rewarding experience. For one, most young children feel like they’ve hit the jackpot when they see their mom or dad on that yellow bus with the rest of the class.

And having gone a few trips myself, you walk away with an added appreciation for what these teachers do day in and day out.

With so many working moms and working dads, moms shouldn’t have to be the only ones cashing in their vacation days at work to head on a class trip. Dads, step up to the plate.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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September 11, 2009

Give your grandma a call this weekend!

Time to salute our grandparents, thanks to some info from the U.S. Census Bureau:

56 million: The number of grands in the U.S.

5.7 million: Number of grandparents whose grandchildren younger than 18 live with them.

6.1 million: Number of kids who live with a grandparent, either in the grand's home or in their parent's home.

2.2 million: Number of children who live with both a grandmother and grandfather.

28 percent: Number of preschoolers who are cared for by a grandparent when mom's at work.

700,000: Number of gandparents with a disability, yet caring for their grandchildren.

460,000: Number of grandparents whose income is below the poverty level, and they care for their grandchildren.

3 million: Number of Grandparents Day cards given each year.

80 percent: Grandparents who had visited or spoken with their grandchildren by phone in the past month.

(Give your grands a call!)


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Youth sports: During that car ride home, back off

What we adults call "explaining," our children call "lecturing." Please remember this as the fall youth sports season kicks in.

Especially on that car ride home.

youthfootball.jpgNo matter how much you want to help, starting a conversation about the just-ended game right afterward usually won't turn out well. Kids want our approval, and even if we preface criticism with three positives, they'll roll their eyes when you mention they loafed down the first-base line or muffed a pass for an easy basket.

Besides, they already know that stuff themselves.

So, when's the right time?

Show up at practice, and if the coach needs a hand, helps everyone else's kid. Then yours.

Watch games together, and point out fundamentals the pros are using that your child can work on.

Record your child's game with one of those hand-held cameras and play it back a day or two later, perhaps with a teammate over -- and snacks.

And if you get a minute during the game, put the lens on the coaches and slip them a copy, so they can check if they've leaped beyond "coaching" and into "yelling."

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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An afternoon snack for your little foodie

I didn't realize the bliss that comes with an after school snack until my days as a latch-key child ended and I started staying with Mrs. Fort.

It was then that I had a choice of a Snickers bar or strawberry-flavored milk. For a girl whose sugar rush was derived from raisins and toast-and-honey this was a treat.

The afternoon snacks I make for my girl aren't as likely to send her into a diabetic coma. However, I try to recreate the pleasure that comes with eating something unchartered; hence last week's creation of Jello-filled Orange Halves.

My daughter found it to be a culinary curiousity; our 13-year-old neighbor quickly declared the wedges "cool."

If you have a favorite snack you like to share with your kids, tell us about it.

Here's how to make the gelatin-filled orange wedges as plucked from American Girl magazine:

Ingredients

1 package of flavored gelatin

3 oranges, halved hortizonally

1 muffin tin, or container to hold the orange halves upright

Knife

Spoon

Orange%20Wedges
Slice three navel oranges horizontal. Use a knife to score out the orange, cutting between the pith and flesh. Use a spoon to scoop out most of the orange.

Prepare the flavored gelatin as the package directs. Pour gelatin mix into the hulled orange halves and set oranges in a muffin tin to keep the liquid upright until its firm. It can take 2 hours for gelatin to harden. We used ice cubes instead of cold water to hasten the firming process.

Once gelatin is firm, remove orange halves from fridge and slice in fourths. Dig in. Orange%20Wedges%20Bite


Note: We used raspberry gelatin which blended well with the orange flesh that couldn't be dug out of the halves.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Grandparents Day events on Sunday

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Broward County: Flamingo Gardens & Wildlife Sanctuary, one of Broward County's gems, will have FREE admission for grandparents on Sunday. And half-price admission is $8.50 for ages 12 and up, $4.25 ages 4 to 11, free for tots younger than 4. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Come dressed in your favorite "decade" look and play "name that tune" to music from the '30s '40s '50s and '60s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Grandchildren can color a free Happy Grandparents Day card, and everyone can get together to play the "name that decade game" with prizes.

Admission includes the event, the gardens and wildlife exhibits, and guided tours of historic 1930s Wray Home. A narrated 20-minute tour by tram is extra. Food, snacks, and beverages are available. Parking is free.

Flamingo Gardens & Wildlife Sanctuary is at 3750 S Flamingo Road, Davie; 954-473-2955, flamingogardens.org.


Palm Beach County: The Flagler Museum celebrates Grandparents Day with special activities in the Flagler Kenan Pavilion: create a family tree, create a scrapbook page; be interviewed by your grandchild; write a postcard to send to your family; have a family photo taken in front of Henry Flagler's Railcar No. 91. Plus, tour Whitehall with an activity guide for grandkids.

Whitehall was completed in 1902 for railroad magnate Henry Flagler. Today, it's a National Historic Landmark.

The Museum is at Cocoanut Row and Whitehall Way, Palm Beach. Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for youth ages 13-18, $3 for children ages 6-12, and children under 6 are free. Info: 561-655-2833, flaglermuseum.us.


Miami-Dade County: Miami Children's Museum is having a 6th anniversary family carnival, with rides, games and exhibits. The museum's newest traveling exhibit is "Adventures of Clifford the Big Red Dog." And there's a special Grandparents Corner with activities, a Little Masters Area that features Miami area artists, and a Circus Acts area. Hours are 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $50 for adults, $35 for children (1 to 12 years old). For more info, call the hotline at 305-373-5437, ext. 156. Or http://miamichildrensmuseum.org/

Photo: Forum Publishing Group/Beth Black

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September 10, 2009

Parents: Where do you eat out with the kiddies?

I got some interesting comments to my recent post about good restaurants for kids. But I need more. SunSentinel.com will feature these recommendations with a short description of the eatery.

Remember that we don’t necessarily mean places with flashy lights or playgrounds outside – although those places are fine, too. Just tell us where you go on those Friday nights when you can’t possibly bear cooking macaroni and cheese one more time, let alone face another stack of dishes. Restaurants down here run the gamut; it’s not just a question of fancy or fast food. We get to choose between the tiki bar or the hotel lounge. It’s a hard life, as we all know.

So where do you go? Where do you feel comfortable bringing kids?

POSTED IN: Food (56), Matthew Strozier (59)

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How to tell you're enabling your child instead of helping

Diane Viere and her husband, Gordy, are life-long residents of Minnesota (but plan to one day soon be snowbirds). They are the parents to three birth children and have parented 21 foster children during their 35 years of marriage. Diane has partnered with author Allison Bottke and is the Director of Group Communications in Setting Boundaries, LLC. In that capacity, she joyfully helps parents of dysfunctional adult children find hope and healing through the 6 Steps to SANITY and 12 Weeks to Freedom: SANITY Support Program.

DianeV.bmpAn insidious thing happened on the way to my son’s 18th birthday—he learned to believe that I was responsible for his life.

He was born with learning disabilities, and I advocated for him at every turn. When children teased him at school, when coaches didn’t let him play, when doctors and teachers seemed indifferent – I did not rest until the wrongs were made right. It was my purpose and my passion.

In spite of my good intentions, I never allowed my son to learn how to fail while living in the safety of our home. He had learned as a child that Mom and Dad would bail him out of any situation. Why, then, was I shocked when he began to live irresponsibly as a young adult?

“How did this happen?” As a SANITY Group Facilitator, I am asked this question often when I meet with parents. “We only tried to help her,” they tell me. “How did he miss the importance of responsibility? We have worked tirelessly to help him!”

To understand the answer to this heartfelt question, we must first understand the critical difference between helping and enabling.

In Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents, author Allison Bottke defines this critical difference:

Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone what he could and should be doing for himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to continue with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

What does enabling look like when you are the parent of an adult child?

• Being the Bank of Mom and Dad.
• Loaning money that is never repaid, buying things for them they can’t afford and don’t really need
• Continually coming to their rescue so they don’t feel the pain—the consequences—of their actions and choices.
• Accepting excuses that we know are excuses—and in some instances are downright lies.
• Blaming ourselves for their problems

What does enabling look like when you are the parent of a minor child?

While the circumstances for younger children may be different from adult children, parents still enable when we find ourselves:

• Up until the wee hours of the morning, long after our procrastinating child is sleeping, finishing their homework
• Paying fines for overdue library books, movie rentals, or the overage fees for their cell phone charges
• Softening the blow of the natural consequences when our young children make poor choices (“I forgot my homework at home”)
• Making excuses for their poor behavior (“But, deep down, he’s really a good kid!”)
• Blaming ourselves for our child’s bad behavior (“The divorce really threw Johnny off course.”)

No matter the chronological age of our children, it is never too late for some preemptive strikes against this silent epidemic:

1. Remember the difference between helping and enabling. When in doubt, remind yourself that you can tell you are enabling when YOU are paying the consequence for your child’s unacceptable behavior.
2. Reexamine excuses that keep you ensnared in the enabling trap.
3. Resist the temptation to soften the blow of the natural consequences your child will experience due to his/her unacceptable behavior. Start early! This only becomes more difficult as your child gets older. Give real value to these life lessons even while your child is young.
4. Reinforce the principles you want to extend to your children by giving them the opportunity to learn them through pain when necessary.
5. Resolve to help (not enable) your children of any age develop wings to fly on their own.

You can reach Diane at diane@settingboundaries.com
You can also follow her on Twitter @PartnerinSANITY
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Allison Bottke discusses the subject in this video.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Guest Post (79), Teen (158)

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September 9, 2009

Do you stick up for your kid at the playground?

Here was the scene: My 3-year-old at the playground Monday. At one point, an eager boy about his age pushed him as he readied to launch down the slide. Nothing mean – the other boy was just wanted a turn. I shouted, “Hey, no pushing!” Then I realized the boy’s mom was next to me. I braced myself for her reaction. She apologized instead. Everyone moved on.

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But it raised a question for me: Should we intervene on the playground? If so, when? Where’s the line?

I try to resist doing so. That voice inside my head says, “He needs to learn to speak up. I can’t always be there.” Still, there’s a competing voice: “But he will only know it’s wrong if I say so.” There’s another issue: what if someone is hurt? And I don’t want it to be my kid.

We probably all have a story from childhood on this point. Here’s mine: I was on a seesaw with a friend, who was much smaller (I was a pudgy kid). It seemed like fun to smash the seat into the ground. Next thing I remember, my slight friend was lofted into the air. He crashed into the metal bar, chipping a tooth.

If only someone had stopped me.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Frustrated with Facebook

I log on to Facebook every day, but I don't know why.facebook.jpg

Occasionally I learn a tidbit of gossip about my friends. But for the most part, I read a boring list of things they are doing that day, such as "sitting at son's baseball game" or "doing daughter's camp laundry." Or I get to see friends inviting each other to lunch or read about the parties I wasn't invited to.

Apparently I'm not the only one feeling frustrated. People across the country are rebelling; one guy is selling T-shirts that say "Shut Your Facebook."

People have an assortment of reasons for closing their accounts. They say it made them confused about who their friends were; they felt like they were wasting time in a non-productive activity; they felt like voyeurs, or at the other end, like they were being stalked.

I'm not planning to close up my account any time soon. But I have promised myself I will open it up less frequently (only once a day, I swear!).

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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How to turn a crying infant into "The Happiest Baby on the Block"

When it comes to pregnancy, everyone is an expert. All you need to qualify is to have successfully survived the first year of a baby’s life. (Some might say first few months.) The flurry of information from family, friends and co-workers can make a mom-to-be downright dizzy.

And then there are the books: I spent my first pregnancy reading what amounted to a small library collection of parenting guides. Fortunately, the second time around, I’m just skimming the ones that actually worked.

So let me save you some time. If you’re expecting your first baby or you know someone who is, make sure they pick up "The Happiest Baby on the Block,” by Harvey Karp, M.D. It’s a quick, entertaining read. But here is the big takeaway: Swaddle, Side, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking. You execute those 5 “S’s” in combination, and your little crying machine will learn the joys of serenity.

Swaddle: When my son was born, I became a master swaddler. For the first 3-4 months of his life, I wrapped him tighter than a burrito when it came time for rest. He didn’t like it at first. But persistence pays off. So does the right technique. What worked best for me was using a large, square blanket made of stretchy, waffle-like cloth. Dr. Karp walks you step-by-step in the book on how to fold and wrap.

Side/stomach: When it comes to holding your baby, the side or stomach position can be most comforting to the baby. Many unsuspecting parents hold their baby on its back.

Shhh: I remember searching Sears for the “loudest” air cleaner in stock. The salesperson helping me thought I was kidding. Improved technology over the years has resulted in ever-quieter machines. I wanted a white noise machine that also served a greater purpose, though any kind of white noise could work (think loud static on the radio).

Swinging: Be it in your arms or in a baby swing, make sure your swinging is “vigorous,” according to Dr. Karp.

Sucking: Some parents are adamant against using pacifiers. My son found it hugely comforting. I quickly weaned him off it during waking hours and made it purely a sleeping aide. During the first three months, I actually removed it from his mouth as I lay him in his bassinet or crib. (Didn’t want him dropping it until he knew how to put it back in his mouth.)

Tell us: So what book or technique worked best for you?

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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September 8, 2009

Cell phones and kids: a health(y) decision

We already know the dangers of multi-tasking and cell phones.

But the jury is still out as to the extent of brain tumors and cancer connected to cell phone use - especially with regards to children using them.

It’s a heated debate: studies, seminars and more studies abound, but are often inconclusive.nocellfone.jpg

Reuters and the Huffington Post reported on a two-day symposium on the topic that will take place in Washington DC Sept 13 - Sept. 15.

A blog post on foodconsumer.org emphasizes study flaws: that health risks of cell phone use is underestimated.

Last year ScientificAmerican addressed the issue – ultimately without concluding one way or another the health risks of cell phone usage.

There are already a lot of negatives stacked against cell phone users --kids or adults: driving and using cell phones, expense, time management and etiquette.

But health seems to also be an issue one should take into consideration.

Maybe - if we share that information with our children, they might opt IN for good old fashioned face to face conversations!

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

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Obama's speech to children: Does it really matter?

Let's talk about Obama's speech to schoolchildren today.

Obama.jpgFirst, I have to get this off my chest. There is no way I would pull my child out of school to avoid a 20 minute speech by the president -- any president. But if a parent wants to keep the kids at home, that's their right.

Parents send their kids to school with a lot of faith that they will be safe and that they will be educated. We entrust our precious babies to strangers who, in the best of situations, become our allies. Between the first and the last bell, a lot happens that parents can't control -- and I know that drives some parents crazy. I've met them.

Here's my question: Can one speech change a child's outlook either way? Or is a family's influence stronger? At what point does a child begin to see the world in their own way? Third grade? 7th grade? Senior year?

My siblings and I think differently from our parents, politically, though we share many many values. But my sibs' grown children tend to think like their own parents. Why is that?

I have no idea whether my kids will be watching Obama's speech today. Either way is fine with me. If their teachers feel they have the time to spare and can turn the speech into a healthy discussion, great. If they have other curriculum to teach, even better.

Today, my daughter's more concerned with finding a good science fair project and a big math test later this week. My son has benchmark testing. This curiculum is far more important to me than a presidential speech.


POSTED IN: None

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The era of textbooks is (almost) over

No more homework, no more books...

Half of that familiar childhood cheer may be coming true faster than many of us thought, but not in the way most kids wanted.

ArnoldKids.jpgAs one way of dealing with the state's budget crisis, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is resorting to greater use of digital textbooks. No more lugging around a bagfull of oversized tomes: digital texts weigh nothing, cost less and can be updated instantly with the latest information (what's that? Pluto's not considered a planet anymore? No, sweat. I'll just hit "delete").

There are drawbacks. As pervasive as computers are, not every family has one. About one out of every four Americans does not have Internet access. What do they do? Yes, you can give them physical textbooks, but in doing so, aren't you telling the entire school population which students have Internet at home and which do not? Are you, in effect, calling out the poor?

I don't mean to reject the idea of digital textbooks. Broward County is starting to use them in some classes, and as far as I'm concerned, it's just a matter of time before they become the norm. Is now the right time?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), School Issues (135)

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September 7, 2009

Coed college dorm rooms?

What do you do when your daughter’s new college roommate is John?

According to an Associated Press article I came across recently, there are about two dozen colleges and universities in this country that allow young men and women to share a room on campus.

Dubbed the mixed-gender housing movement, students have a choice to room with the opposite sex. Officials at most of these colleges reportedly say romantic relationships among these roommates are discouraged. And some say having a choice is just another example of how they are tearing down walls.

But as if dealing with a new roommate, a total stranger, isn’t hard enough, I can’t imagine wanting to make the situation even more complex by having to live with a roomie in college who is of the opposite gender.

Back in my day (which was not that long ago) we couldn't dare think of sharing a bedroom on campus with the opposite sex. Back then having a co-ed dorm seemed like a big deal. And although we had coed dorms, men and women were separated by floors.

While I have no qualms with adults rooming with whatever sex they choose, I have some doubts about these arrangements on a college level, especially among young college students.

While some say they’re just roomies, get over it, the parent and former college student in me, has second thoughts.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Georgia East (44), School Issues (135)

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September 4, 2009

Sex life after the kid

The Duggars seem to have no problem juggling family and friskiness -- with baby number 19 on its way. Where do you stand?


POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Virtual school is not for slackers

This summer, before his freshman year, my son took a personal fitness class online through the Florida Virtual School. It was a smart thing to do for so many reasons.

This was not an easy course -- more challenging than any PE class he had in middle school -- and he really learned the material. He learned more about the body and fitness and nutrition than he had before. He spent hours each week reading, doing various kinds of assignments and assessments, faxing workout logs signed by a parent. It's very structured. Kids can do the work at their own pace, but there are benchmark assignments they have to hit to stay on pace.

He started by enrolling at the Florida Virtual School. You pick the course you want, and then wait to be accepted. Once you have your class, the teacher will contact you.

Alec had an initial phone call with Mrs. Hardman. Then he was on his own. He would keep in touch with her by email and periodic phone calls. Then, she would follow up with a phone call to me to make sure I knew that he was staying on pace.

We encouraged Alec to take this course over the summer for a few reasons: He wouldn't have to take PE during the school year (frankly, a waste of time for someone as physically active as my son has always been). Instead he could take something more academic, and get ahead on his graduation requirements. But mostly: He had nothing better to do this summer and this at least gave him some structure.

Virtual School is not for slackers. Kids have to be motivated, and they have to know how to manage their own time. One of Alec's brainiac friends took a virtual Chinese course over the summer. That's not easy.

The only hitch was that we thought the course was worth one credit, but when he got to high school this fall, he learned it was only half a credit. But by this time, I didn't even mind. He can take the other half credit online next summer.

POSTED IN: None

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If it's about being a good student, brainwash my kid, please

When I was a kid, I heard about presidents. We read about presidents. We saw them on the news. Some presidents were republican, some democrat.

We had civics lessons, learned about the value of voting and learned about the value of, well, people having different values!

But one value is important to most parents regardless of politics – and that is getting an education.

Next Tuesday at noon on C-SPAN and broadcast through the White House Web site, President Obama will give a speech podium.jpgtelling children that succeeding in school is important. He'll stress they are responsible for taking an active role in their learning and education.

Oddly, some parents are opposed to having their children watch/listen to Obama’s talk.

I wonder, do those same parents cut out the portions of or hide pages of the newspapers and magazines on which Obama’s name or image appear?

Do they change the channel or turn off the radio or television when news mentioning the president of the United States is mentioned? Censorship sure takes a lot of energy, time and focus.

Getting good grades, working hard at learning and being a responsible school student also takes a lot of time and focus, and isn’t anyone party’s political agenda.

First Lady Nancy Reagan promoted the “Just Say No to Drugs” program. I think she was addressing both republicans and democrats, and everyone in between.

Visit the Dept. of Education to read about Obama’s upcoming speech.

Some parents say this is brainwashing – but if that includes inspiring, instilling and reinforcing being a good, responsible student-- then brainwash away.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), School Issues (135)

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September 3, 2009

Making preschool a family experience

RoniLeiderman.jpg We wrote yesterday about the Mailman Segal Institute's free class for newborns and their parents, held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Today we present a guest post from the institute's dean, Dr. Roni Leiderman, an educator, author, speaker and consultant in the fields of child development, early brain development, family relationships, work/family issues, parenting, and autism. Leiderman shares her memory of sending her little girl to preschool for the very first time, and she reminds us that there's more to the experience than just the first day of school:

I can remember the first day that I took Rachel, then almost 3 years old, to preschool.

I still vividly remember that anxious feeling when Rachel’s hand slipped from mine to her new teacher’s and the pride in my daughter’s budding independence. I can also recall the reflective emotions about my little girl growing up and leaving me plus downright panic and fear that her well being was, for the next 3 hours, in the hands of others.

We have prepared our children with shiny new shoes and fresh new hair cuts and have been there to cheer them on those first weeks. What do we need to do to support ourselves and make the upcoming year the best it can be for the entire family? Here are some ways to make sure that that the school year is a great experience for everyone:

• Spend time talking to your child about school. As the weeks and months progress, continue your conversations with your child. Ask specific questions like, “What was your favorite part of the day?” or “Tell me about the visit from the firemen.” You want to open communication and asking, “How was school?” won’t get you a lot of conversation as you have most likely already experienced!

• Plan play dates. By encouraging relationships with other children, your child will begin to develop friendships, a key to the preschool experience. Plus you’ll get to meet other parents and develop your own friendships and supports.

• Be involved in your child’s school. Join the PTO, volunteer as often as you can, and take on the responsibility of being an active participator in the school. Your involvement will create an important parent/school partnership, will give you an ongoing picture of your child’s experiences and will foster relationships with your child’s teachers.

• Share the unique aspects of your child with her teacher. Is there a special way to soothe your child if she is frightened or hurt? What are her special strengths and challenges? The more your teacher understands your child, the more prepared she will be to make the experience meaningful and enjoyable.

• Be in touch with our own feelings. If you are hesitant about sending your child to school, your child is sure to pick up on it and may mirror your feelings. If you find that you are concerned about your child or the program speak with your child’s teacher or the school’s director. Ask if you can observe your child during the school day to assure yourself that she is happy and safe.

As I look at the photographs we took that first day of preschool, I see Rachel’s beautiful smiling face and her new blue and white striped dress. I also see her holding a red shiny umbrella to shield her from the rain that morning. I always thought I’d be her only “shield” but the experience taught me that I have a competent daughter and there were wise, caring teachers to care for and teach her. By the way, Rachel got through her first days of school just fine. We both made new friends and as the days turned to weeks and then months, I learned valuable lessons about letting go, trusting and enjoying the experience as much as Rachel did.

Click here for more information about the Mailman Segal Institute.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79), Guest Post (79), Pre-K (25)

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Sesame Street: still funny after all these years

Rediscovering Sesame Street ranks among the joys of parenthood. Not all of it, of course, but the skits have impressed me anew in the last three years. They are just downright funny. (I can't understand why they still use those dated videos in other segments, but that’s another matter.)

This “Meal or no Meal” skit had me laughing out loud. Yes, perhaps I need to spend more time with adults, but hey, I’ll return to grown-up social interaction in a few years. For now, I’ll search for laughs amid the simple pleasures of Sesame Street. There are plenty of imitators these days, some of them pretty good, but too often they are, as the saying goes, too clever by a half. Not so here. The “Meal or no Meal” show is hosted by “Howie Eatswell.” That’s funny. And clever.

Now name your favorite Sesame Street skit.

POSTED IN: Matthew Strozier (59)

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Show me your texting bill and I'll tell you your age

I found the Generation Gap on Sunday. It was right there on my cell phone bill, on the "data'' page. That's where it logs all the text messages sent from the cell phones in our family.celltext.jpg

So far in a little less than a month's time, our three-phone family has sent or received 2,979 text messages. About 100 a day.

Of those, my husband is responsible for eight of them. I can lay claim to 322. And Creed, the 9th grader, has his name on 2,649 of them!

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. My kids are growing up in the 00s. (How do you even say that?)

Their mode of communication is what I'd call "conversation heart-speak.'' Remember those? Those chalky candies were so tiny, they could only fit partial sentences like "2 Sweet 2B 4Gotten'' on them. And that wasn't considered "sexting.''

I have never considered limiting my son's text messaging. I don't know any parent who does. I accept it as a way for teens to communicate, even if it's inferior to actually speaking to people.

I'm taking advantage of it, to keep track of my teen. You can be sure that some of the hundreds of texts he received were from Mom.

I think public opinion is still forming on whether texting is good or bad for teens. Some say excessive texting is linked with anxiety and sleeplessness and immaturity. But isn't being a teen linked to those things?


POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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September 2, 2009

Free class for newborns and their Moms & Dads

Leo was not yet two months old when he was enrolled in his first class. The original plan was for him to go with his mom every week, but we decided it might be better if I went with him instead. For most of the course, I was the only dad who showed up (that changed in the final weeks).

ATT2921418.JPGThe class is called Play Together, Learn Together: Your Amazing Newborn, and it's designed for children starting at age six weeks to three months. Our particular group met every Monday. There weren't that many of us, which was remarkable considering that it was a free class. As in no charge, no obligation, honest to goodness free (the one thing they did request was antibacterial wipes, which everyone was glad to bring in).

Leo loved it. I loved it. It gave us a special time together that can never be replaced. We sang songs and explored different kinds of toys (ever see an infant wrestle a small, unopened bag of potato chips? It's a hoot). It was a thrill to see Leo respond to sights, sounds, smells and textures around him. And the parents always had a chance to talk to each other and the class coordinator about the myths of parenthood and the realities of our experiences.

The 14-week class is at the Mailman Segal Institute located on Nova Southeastern University’s main campus in Davie. A new semester starts next week, and registration is still open. Classes begin Sept. 8 and run through Dec. 14.

Naturally, the institute has other classes for which they do charge, but if you've got a newborn and a limited budget, the free Amazing Newborns class is a value that can't be beat.

For more information on the class and on registration, call 954-262-6949 or click here.

POSTED IN: Newborn (39), Rafael Olmeda (59)

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Back to school: Creating a homework station

Homework is to school as good times is to a glass of mojito. What, mojito is a bore you say?

Getting the kids excited about homework can be difficult, one friend found a great way to get her 7-year-old interested in completing his worksheets and reading assignments. I think the idea, copied from Family Fun magazine is genius.

Here what my friend Vanessa had to say about the Homework Station (pictured) ojorehw.jpg


"We got our fav magazine Family Fun and found the Homework Station. Ojore thought that it was like his own cubicle and loved the idea of having a special space to do his homework. By the time we finished creating the board, Ojore couldn't wait to get his first homework assignment."

You'll need:

1 Tri-fold foam board. The kind used for science projects.

A stapler and staples

Glue dots

1 strip of magnetic tape

A few magnets

2 clothes pins

A calendar

A craft knife or scissors

A zippered pencil bag

The instructions

We cut the board in half with a craft knife. (It can make two work stations.) We first put the magnetic tape in the center the board and then added clippings from magazines based on my son's suggestion we picked out words such as homework, school and glued them all over the board.

On the left side of the board we cut holes to insert the clothes pins to secure his weekly assignments. The calendar was placed in the center of the board with glue dots to mark activities and important dates.

ojore-homeworkstation.jpgWe also adhered a pencil bag with staples. The right side of the board was decorated with cork squares for personal notes.


POSTED IN: None

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The Duggars are pregnant with their 19th

Can you imagine spending quality time with each of your 19 kids?
duggar.jpg
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar insist they will be able to do this, as they announced yesterday their 19th child is scheduled to be born in March.

They've gotten quite a franchise going, with a new book, "The Duggars: 20 and Counting," a reality show on TLC, and various things they promote, such as a "financial freedom seminar" on their website.

They seem so happy and functional on their TV show. Michelle is the epitome of calm and never seems to age, and Jim Bob seems dedicated to the family. This story in People magazine shows how they distribute the workload: Each of the older kids has some serious responsibilities, basically raising the kids and taking care of the house to free up the parents to have more kids.

At first I was quick to judge them; who needs 19 kids? But if they're not on welfare and are creating law-abiding citizens, more power to them.

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Health (111), Lois Solomon (211)

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Arguing in front of children doesn't have to be traumatic

We know we are flawed as parents. It’s a universal truth you learn to accept very early on after the birth of your child.

So what happens when you argue in front of your kids? Are you scarring them for life? Or teaching them how to handle conflict? (Click here to read an earlier post from a fellow blogger.)

Apparently, it’s all about how you argue that makes the difference, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Rochester. The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry earlier this year, suggests that children might actually benefit from watching their parents resolve arguments.

The key is determining whether your argument style is constructive or destructive. Researchers who studied 235 families with children ages 5 to 7 said destructive conflict includes things like name-calling, cursing, physical aggression, crying and “the silent treatment.” Historically, studies have shown that such behavior can make children depressed, withdrawn or aggressive. On the other hand, the University of Rochester study showed that children whose parents argue in a manner that is not demeaning or nasty tend to be friendly to other kids, show more empathy when others are upset and express concern for others.

I wondered about this over the weekend when my parents argued in front of the grandkids. (For once, my husband and I weren’t the guilty ones.) The argument was heated on both sides, unusual in that my mother normally retreats to simmer in silence. My sister and I did our best to keep the kids away, though at ages 6 and 4, they had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

Here are some tips on how to communicate and argue effectively, according to family relations experts at the University of Minnesota:

- Decide on a code word for when things get stressful in front of the children. If you feel tensions rising say the code word so you can stop and discuss the problem in private later.

- Never involve children in arguments. It is extremely unfair and upsetting for children to feel that they are forced to take sides against one parent, no matter how strongly you feel that your spouse or partner is wrong.

- Let them see you make up. Apologize to one another and then sit down and explain to your children how even Mommy and Daddy sometimes make mistakes.

- Consider counseling: If arguing becomes a regular habit, talk to a counselor to learn better ways to communicate.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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September 1, 2009

Got a problem with topless toddlers?

Should toddlers cover up in public?

My wife and I discussed the issue the other day after a snorkeling trip in Key West. A little girl on the boat with us, no more than 4 years old, was with her father on the same excursion, and she wasn’t wearing a top.

Coppertone.jpgI’ve never raised a toddler daughter; my stepkids are in their teens, and the younger of the two was 11 when I met them. But I did ask my wife whether she ever allowed them to be in public without a top, and until what age. Her response: no way. Not in public.

Clearly, the issue has a cultural component. I heard the toddler’s dad speaking a language I didn’t recognize, so it’s likely they were from someplace less inhibited than the United States can be. But still, this trip was in the United States. Should this dad have recognized that? You know, put the other half of the bathing suit on the kid?

Topless toddlers raise a slew of questions, of course. Like why did I think she should have a top on when I wasn’t wearing one? Why is it okay for little boys, and big boys, but not big girls? And when is a little girl big enough that a top becomes a necessity?

Paranoia about pedophiles comes into play as well, but that doesn’t address the gender imbalance here. I mean, do pedophiles really distinguish between a topless boy and a topless girl?

Would you have said something to the dad? None of us did, and we all survived the “trauma” of being on the same boat as a topless toddler. I’m really just raising the question for conversation’s sake. At what point do we need to tell our little girls to cover up in public?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2009 (47), Toddler (127)

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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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