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January 29, 2010

Elementary principal scores

On Tuesday, a letter came home from Floranada Elementary school informing us that our son Ryan had been selected to attend FCAT camp for a month of Saturdays beginning in February.
At dinner that night, our fifth-grader announced that he wasn’t going. (My husband Dan and I assured him that he would be attending and explained that extra help to prepare for the FCAT test was a good thing.)

Ryan disagreed. Being asked to give up three hours every Saturday was outrageous, he said, considering he spends Monday through Friday “working myself to death.” Not.

Then something amazing happened.

At dinner Wednesday night, Ryan excitedly told us how the new principal, Keith Peters, had come to class that day and invited him and several other kids to eat lunch in his office. Ryan described Mr. Peters' big, ultra smooth desk, and told how he was a Yankee fan (I knew I liked this guy) and that he really loved hockey and the Florida Panthers. Then he said Mr. Peters took a few minutes to talk to the kids as they ate about the Saturday FCAT camp.

We asked Ryan if he wanted to go. “I sure do. Mr. Peters told us it was a good idea so I’m going to do it.” (He was going anyway.)

We’re impressed. Not only did Ryan feel special by getting to eat lunch in Mr. Peters' office, but now he feels like a partner in his own academic success.

Clearly, Mr. Peters understands that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. His lunch invitation was inventive and refreshing and saved us from having to use our usual top-down approach to education. But best of all, Ryan now feels really special, he wants to please his new principal and he’s looking forward to going FCAT camp on Saturdays.

Nice hat trick, Mr. Peters.

-- Doreen Christensen


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Pompano entrepreneur's Mom Talk Radio now nationally syndicated

Maria Bailey doesn't like the term "parenting expert." But it's fair to say she's an expert on moms and what they need.

Ten years ago, Bailey -- a mom and corporate executive from Pompano Beach -- went out on her own to launch BSM Media, a marketing company, and, a resource for working moms like her.

That led to Mom Talk Radio in 2001, which aired weekly in Broward. Then podcasts and online radio. Since December, Mom Talk Radio has been nationally syndicated on over 50 stations. It airs at 8 p.m. Sundays (it's not aired locally, but is available online) and features guests and discussions of topics such as fitness, money, time management, grocery shopping, sex -- anything relevant to moms. "I'm not the perfect mom," she says, "but I find people who can help me."

She was inspired by her own life, ferrying around four young children. "Moms are in the car more hours of the day than anyone else, but there was no radio show for moms," says Bailey, who for three years has also been a co-host on Doug Stephan's Good Day, which airs in 350 cities.

Her little Pompano Beach startup, now with nine employees, continues to innovate through Facebook and Twitter and a number of websites. Bailey's written six books for moms or for marketers who want to reach moms. She's also a co-founder of, which broadcasts live online shows by 125 moms on topics from sex to the Bible to bathing suits. There, other moms can talk to the hosts via live chats. Mom Talk Radio is the No.1 parenting podcast on iTunes.

Through it all, Bailey's mission is simple: "I want to make it easy for moms to get information."

And what does she hear from moms? "Time is always the No. 1 subject. They are trying to bring order to chaotic lives."

That's what she tells the companies she works with. "I tell them you need to create solutions for moms that save time." How to get dinner on the table in five minutes, for example, or keep kids hydrated when they are on three different ballfields.

Bailey, who left AutoNation in 1999 as a vice president, knows all about the time crunch. She and her husband, Tim, have four kids: 16, 15, 14 and almost 11. He's a busy attorney, and she travels a lot as a marketing expert.

But that's the way Bailey is built: "I had three babies under 2 and worked with Wayne Huizenga," she says with a "been-there-done-that" tone.

Now that her children are older, she's says the radio show has changed a little bit. For one thing, her kids don't want her to talk about them in the same way. When they were little, she could get away with telling cute stories, but she didn't know anything about raising teenagers.

Now, she says, "I can speak from experience."

Photo: BSM Media


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January 28, 2010

Top 5 after-school snacks

Lisa Cain, Ph.D., is an avid healthy snacker, foodie, published author, and mother of 2.

An evolutionary biologist by training, she has become obsessed with how food contributes to our overall health. Check out her Snack Girl website for other healthy snack ideas.

Do you have a food fight with your child after school? Is your child starving because he tossed out his uneaten lunch because he was having too much fun in the school cafeteria?

miniminipizzab.jpgAfternoon snacks tend to fall into the treat category more than parents would like to admit. Cookies, candy, chips, along with “healthy” packaged snacks like fruit snacks are common.

We all want to ensure our kids don't get too cranky before dinnertime. But, we should try to feed them something that will feed their brains (homework time!).

What can we feed them without a war? Here are five afternoon snacks that have promise as peaceful substitutes for unhealthy treats. Replace brownies, potato chips, candy, pizza bites, and ice-cream with these suggestions:

1. LÄRABAR is a packaged snack that includes only a few ingredients. The are made with dates, cashews and other whole foods. Let you kid choose his or her favorite and relax.

2. Make “Ants on a Log” for a fun treat. Take a celery stick, spread with peanut butter or cream cheese, and add some raisins. These logs have a great crunch and combination of vegetable and protein.

3. Instead of junky candy try dark chocolate covered raisins. Dark chocolate and raisins are both healthy foods (remember chocolate is made from plants). You can give out a handful of these after your kid eats that healthy apple.

4. Mini pizzas are a simple snack that kids will love to make. Layer crackers with pizza sauce and shredded cheese and pop them in the toaster or microwave.

5. Plain yogurt with jam is a wonderful snack. If you add your own jam versus buying a packaged yogurt, you can control the amount of added sugar.


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January 27, 2010

Stinky, icky "Grossology" returns to MODS

EWWWWWWW..... The Museum of Discory and Science will be up to its eyeballs in mucus and vomit and all sorts of stinky things when "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" returns for a second engagement on Saturday.

This is the popular traveling exhibit that explains how the human body works in ways that kids can understand. Since "Grossology" last visited MODS in 2001, they've added to and refreshed the whole exhibit.

Kids can help Burp-Man expel gas in his stomach, play a pinball game that shows how foods cause gas, take a tour of a slimy nose and climb a large replica of human skin to learn about blemishes -- warts and all. It's all very disgusting, so kids will love it.

There will be special activities Saturday and Sunday.

At the teddy bear clinic, staff from Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospital will teach kids about medical equipment and basic anatomy. (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday)

Watch a cow eyeball dissection (1:30 p.m.), participate in a burbing contest (2:30 p.m.), watch a shark feeding (3:30) and more.

The exhibit runs through May 2 at the museum, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $16 adults, $15 seniors, $12 children 2 to 12. Info: 954-467-6637;

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Entertainment (114)

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Will Boca police ever find the Bochicchios' killer?

Two years after Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey, were murdered at Town Center mall in Boca Raton, it's pretty clear that Boca Raton police have no idea who killed them.bochichio.jpg

The police on Monday released a photo of the goggles that the killer put on either Nancy or Joey (they wouldn't say who). Police found the pair shot to death in their car in the mall parking lot on Dec. 12, 2007 after they had gone Christmas shopping. They had withdrawn $500 from the bank and were bound with plastic ties and handcuffs before they were murdered.

I think about the Bochicchios every time I go to the mall. Since the murders, emergency telephones have been installed in the garages and security cars are all over the place. I still do a scan around my car before I get in and lock the doors as soon as I get seated.

Police have received about 2,000 tips regarding the murder. I'm sure they are doing their best to find the killer, but I'm afraid he is living among us and starting to relax because there are few clues as to who he is.

Photo courtesy of Timmy McCurdy

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Safety (59)

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January 26, 2010

Snacking: The Berlin wall of maternity

I knew it.

Mamas in labor can eat without the fear of dying, says a new study reported in the New York Times this week.

pinklady-blog.jpgNearly 70 years of dogma have prevented women in labor from snacking or drinking. When I checked into the hospital to deliver my baby, my snack-in-hand was met with a gasp and mandate: Throw away the apple.

The apple? Not this Pink Lady bought in the dead of a Midwestern winter for a pretty penny. No ma'am. I couldn't fathom going hours without eating or drinking.

The concern is real. Bits of the apple or Sprite (which I had later in the day during lunch) could have made their way from the stomach to the lungs if I were put under general anesthesia. However, the study notes, most women given anesthesia are given a regional dose -- as was I.

Like with any study there are flaws in this one, mainly that there were only 11 case studies and 3,130 women included.

The best thing that could come from this study is a healthy discussion between women, doctors and researchers about whether the embargo on food during labor can be lifted.

Perhaps it would be better to suggest that it's OK for most women to have 3 ounces of chicken broth or a fist-full of nuts during labor.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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January 25, 2010

Are single-parents using their kids as bait on dating sites?

With internet dating the thing these days, I couldn’t help but notice a strange pattern. So many single moms and dads post pictures of their kids under their profile. Go to and you can’t help but wonder why there are so many toddlers on there.

It’s a bizarre trend if you ask me. While I know some single parents may want their prospective internet mates to know it’s a package deal, why is it necessary to have your child’s picture right beside yours?

Your child isn’t looking for someone to kill time with, you are. Plus, in some cases when there are about a dozen pics of the child and only one or two of the mom or dad, I can’t help but wonder if they're using these adorable kids as bait.

I think parents should exercise more caution online in this day and age. If you really can’t wait to show off that cute little girl or boy to your prospective partner, wait until the first or second date and bring a couple of photos.

Right about now, “Sexy in Miami” is looking for love-- there’s no reason to bring little “Soggy in diapers,’’ along for the ride.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Sex (16), Single moms (14)

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January 22, 2010

My wake-up call that the economy is kicking my butt

Guest blogger Jenny Isenman talks about losing her cool. She last exposed how a shopping trip with her daughter turned ugly quickly.

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

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

snoozebutton-blog.jpgOn Monday morning while half asleep and lying in bed, I reached for the remote, as I do every morning before my daughter wakes up and begs to play with her Barbies. I gently squeezed the on button and received a wake-up call that I could not push snooze on.

The message on the TV said: You no longer have Direct TV service. Please call us, Deadbeat.

In a frenzy, I switched to my Tivo list looking for a prerecorded episode of Jersey Shore to calm my nerves, but the Tivo service was also, no longer available.

The exclamations “why” “Say it isn’t so” and “what does this mean” escaped my lips almost simultaneously. Hello!, The Bachelor narrows his bevy of possible flight attendants down to 12 ladies tonight and what am I supposed to do while that’s happening? Read??

Maybe this isn’t the first sign of my financial woes. Has the proverbial alarm been buzzing and I’ve been sleeping through it?

Is it possible that being down to one credit card, that I randomly opened at Costco, was some kind of indicator that times are tough? Is the credit card Roulette I play at check out not a real game? You know, when you grab a card from your wallet at random and pray you don’t hear the dreaded “You’re Declined” which is followed by mental buzzer, while the contestant -- me -- fishes through for another possible loser to swipe.

Now, in hindsight I feel almost silly. I think there may have been other signals I missed. Like when we cut out our annual vacations, or when we lost our savings in the market.

Darn it, have I just been phoning it in? I’m not sure if those other signs are worth investigating, but the thought of missing the new Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice crossover (that they haven’t stopped touting) could send anyone into a deep over-advertising induced depression.

In response to my wake-up call, I’ve done what any pop culture/ TV addict would do. I pulled out my Costco American Express and called it in. I know, it’s not tightening the purse strings, but I intend to skip grocery buying this week to make up for the loss. Eating is overrated; especially after the holidays.

The truth is, I have a perfectly tasty cat just walking around the house. Taunting me like a steak on wheels. That’s ridiculous, why would I eat my cat when my dog is 40 lbs heavier? I may be poor, but I’m not stupid.

(Picture credit:


POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Coaching your kid from the stands: Why not to do it

I've always left my kids alone at their sports activities because even if I could direct them into a spot to, say, kick a goal, it would stop being their goal and become part my goal.

But I didn't explain it as well as this guy. I don't know Guy Edson, who is part of the Fort Lauderdale-based American Swim Coaches Association, but this showed up, and I really wanted to share it.


By Guy Edson

For many years I watched my daughter swim under the direction of other coaches. I have also watched her at basketball practice and games, and dance, and figure skating. I know the joy of watching her in these activities. I also know and understand the overwhelming desire to direct, correct, encourage, and sometimes scold her at practice. But these are not proper parental behaviors once I have released her into the care of a coach or teacher. As a parent, I am not to interfere with the practice or attempt to talk to my child during the practice session.

At swim practice coaches want the children’s attention focused on the coach and the tasks at hand. Occasionally children miss an instruction, or have a goggle problem, or are involved in some other distraction, or are simply playing and having fun – which are all normal behaviors for young children. Coaches view these little difficulties as opportunities for the children to develop good listening skills, ability to reason, and self discipline. Sometimes we allow failure on purpose -- a missed instruction leaving the child confused often results in the child learning to pay better attention the next time. We endeavor to provide an environment for the children to develop these skills. A well-intentioned and over-enthusiastic mom or dad sometimes has difficulty allowing their child to miss something and wants to interfere. It’s understandable.

We know it is common in many other youth sports for parents to stand at the sidelines and shout instructions or encouragements and sometimes admonishments to their children. However, at swim practice coaches ask parents not to signal them to swim faster, or to tell them to try a certain technique, or to offer to fix a goggle problem, or to move away from some other “menacing” swimmer, or even to remind them to listen to the coach. In fact, just as you would never interrupt a school classroom to talk your child, you should not interrupt a swim practice by attempting to communicate directly with your child.

What’s wrong with encouraging your child during practice? There are two issues. First we want your child to focus on the coach and to learn the skill for their personal satisfaction rather than learning it to please their parents. Secondly, parental encouragement often gets translated into a command to swim faster and swimming faster may be the exact opposite of what the coach is trying to accomplish. In most stroke skill development practices we first slow the swimmers down so that they can think through the stroke motions. Save encouragements and praise for after the practice session! This is the time when you have your child’s full attention to tell them how proud you are of them.

What’s wrong with shouting or signaling instructions to your children? When I watched my old daughter play in a basketball league I felt an overwhelming desire to shout instructions to my child and so I understand the feelings that most parents have. But those instructions might be different from the coach’s instructions and then you end up with a confused child. Sometimes you might think the child did not hear the coach’s instruction and you want to help. Most of us do not want to see our own kids make a mistake. The fact is that children miss instructions all the time. Part of the learning process is learning how to listen to instructions. When children learn to rely on a backup they will have more difficulty learning how to listen better the first time.

As parents, many of us want our children protected from discomfort and adversity and we will attempt to create or place them in an environment free from distress. So, what’s wrong with helping your child fix their goggles during practice time? Quite simply, we want to encourage the children to become self-reliant and learn to take care of and be responsible for themselves and their own equipment. Swimming practice is a terrific place to learn these life skills. Yes, even beginning at age 6 or 7.

If you need to speak to your child regarding a family issue or a transportation issue or to take your child from practice early you are certainly welcome to do so but please approach the coach directly with your request and we will immediately get your child out of the water. If you need to speak to the coach for other reasons please wait until the end of practice.

Thanks for bringing your children to swim practice. Every swim coach I know coaches each child with care for their safety and concern for their social, physical, learning skills, and life skills development.

POSTED IN: Sports (29)

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January 21, 2010

Boom, boom pow: What's playing on your child's iPod

Maggie Cary, a national board certified teacher has been an educator for more than 17 years. She is certified in secondary education and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education.

maggiecary.jpgOver the years she has mentored countless teachers and advised hundreds of parents. Cary has taught children from preschool through high school. She also offers classroom advice on website Classroom Talk. She last wrote about teaching manners.

A mom recently mentioned to me that her kids were going around the house all day singing Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas.

She asked me if there was anything wrong with that. I’d heard parts of it on the radio in passing and I thought it was a catchy tune. What could be bad about that, I thought. Right before going to bed my curiosity got the best of me and I Googled the song online.

The chorus repeats the line: I got that Boom Boom Pow ... I got that natural style. I went to bed and kept waking up on the hour at 2, 3 and 4 a.m. with that song playing in my head and disturbing my dreams. “I got that Boom Boom Pow... I got that natural style”.

When I dragged myself out of bed it was still playing between my ears as I brushed my teeth and got ready for work. “I Got That Boom Boom Pow.”

When I looked into the song further, it surprised me that there were two versions of the song.

The "clean" version and the original version. I listened to both and trust me you wouldn’t want your 10-year-old saying or singing the original lyrics that contain a four-letter word frequently!

Since then I’ve found that there are several versions of the song and video. Some of them are appropriate for younger children and some are better suited to teenagers or adults. Who knew that there were so many choices?

Now that the holidays are over and the new iPods are unwrapped, juiced up and ready to play maybe you should take a moment and borrow those ear buds from your child.

Without a doubt your teenagers may find the original version of certain songs cooler then the cleaned up version. Which one do you want them listening to?

Music has a subtle way of influencing who we are and how we see ourselves; especially true for tweens and teens. Elementary-age children want to be that teenager. So please turn on and tune in to your child’s music and find out what that Boom Boom Pow and other songs are all about.


(Pictured: Black Eyed Peas)

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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January 20, 2010

Parents that barter, not beg, to keep the household afloat

In these tough times more moms and dads now barter rather than pay cash.

Our Lifestyle reporter Liz Doup is looking for parents who barter to share their stories.

So, if you bake a cake for a neighbor in exchange for her transporting your kids. Or you repair a roof in exchange for getting your pool fixed. If you barter with friends, or strangers, Liz wants to talk.

You can reach her at

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Braces: Phase 2 begins

I've known it was coming for a while, and we have been preparing our finances. But when my daughter got a "crossbow" installed in her mouth yesterday, it became official: We have entered "Phase 2," the infamous and incomprehensible second stage of orthodonture in America.braceface.jpg

She finished Stage 1 about two years ago by getting her braces off and getting a retainer. Now, at 13, she gets more braces, beginning with the crossbow, which resembles a medieval-style torture device cemented to her molars, with springs that are supposed to realign her jaws.

I have never gotten a clear answer as to why there are two phases of orthodonture for so many kids. Each stage costs about $5,000, obviously a major investment for everyone I know. As I said in a previous post, every kid I know goes to the orthodontist and needs braces. When you think about how much it's costing each of us, you've got to question whether the lengthy process is a necessity or a luxury.

Photo courtesy Pink Sherbet

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

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January 18, 2010

Peanut Butter: The wonder meal

I heart peanut butter. On toasted wheat bread. On untoasted wheat bread. In cookies. In candy. But not in ice cream.

peanutbutter-52Projects.jpgAnd now my daughter is part of the Peanut Butter Cult. She requests peanut-butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I haven't saved so much money since she stopped wearing diapers. There is nothing like a peanut butter sandwich consumed on the way to a restaurant to ease the dent in our bill.

And for the one-too-many nights when a proper dinner hasn't been planned for, I reach for the jar of creamy peanut butter.

I know for many families, having a speck of peanut butter can lead to severe allergies.

For me, it's a nutritional time-saver and low-cost meal. (Why this topic was never covered in the parental tome What to Expect: The Toddler Years is beyond me.)

When my sister was a kid, there was no end to how much butter-coated noodles she would consume.

What's your child's favorite low-cost meal?

(Picture by 52 Projects)

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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January 15, 2010

When you know all the words to every Wiggles song

OK. I admit it. I have a problem.

Not exactly shocking news to anyone who reads this blog, but I figured I'd provide more details. On the way to work yesterday morning I found myself singing along to "Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car". I had already dropped my daughter off at school, and when I got back in the car I didn't even react to change the music. Yikes.

Now as far as kids music goes, The Wiggles are actually a group I can tolerate. Probably more from the fact that my kids genuinely love them rather than it being good music. They have a staying power that is undeniable. Heck, I remember when we took my daughter to see them live at Bank Atlantic Center and Greg wasn't on the tour! That was shortly after his retirement for health reasons. Is it sad that I know all of this Wiggles trivia?

Studies have shown that children who study music learn at a faster rate than kids that don't. That helps me feel less like a moron when I'm hopping up and down in my living room.

Music has always been a big part of my life, and I want to instill that into my children as well. I have vivid memories from my childhood of my mother singing songs to us while playing her guitar. She was a camp counselor in her youth, so she knows more songs than you can imagine. Seeing my kids' faces light up when they hear grandma sing or when they hear a Wiggles song is absolutely priceless, but should I be trying to expand their musical horizons more?

I've tried listening to Disney soundtracks, Raffi, and a few others (Barney is not allowed in our house - had to draw the line somewhere), and attempts to listen to music from my iTunes library have resulted in a few profanities being repeated. That, and my 2-year-old's Red Hot Chili Peppers version of the ABC song which he performed for us (actually, that was priceless). So like I said, I need help. I need some new tunes for the kiddies. Help! Who do you play for your kids?


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January 14, 2010

When is OK to tell kids about world horrors like Haiti's earthquake?

When the news about Haiti's devastating earthquake was contained on my laptop -- through online reports, Flickr pictures and Twitter feeds it was easy to shield my daughter. But by Wednesday the horrific pictures of despair, destruction and death were plastered on the TV, and I couldn't turn it off.

Last night, the hubby and I were parked on the sofa watching news reports from Haiti. We talked in hushed tones about what was going on and what we could do when the 3-year-old bopped over and asked in a pitched voice: "What's Going On?"

mom%20and%20child.jpgSo we talked about the earth shaking. About how mommies and daddies, grandmas and grandpas and little girls and boys are hurt. All of that information was met with silence.

Had we said too much?

Then I said that we were going to send money to help with the rescue efforts (she knows all about rescue efforts because we're a few blocks down from a fire station and with each siren's wail I'm peppered with questions about who's in trouble, what will the rescuers do, what happened).

My husband asked how much she wanted to give. She said: six monies.

So I went online and donated money to Red Cross' international response fund.

How are you explaining the fallout from Haiti's earthquake to your children? What has been their reaction?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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January 12, 2010

"..and the wheels on the bus go..."

My kid has advanced - the the back of the bus.

I'm worried.

He hasn't given me a reason to worry really - but I am. Should I be?

After all, why did he make his way to the very last seat on the bus? There are more than enough seats up front. In fact it's crowded back there.

I noticed his sly move last week when I was waiting to pick him up from the bus stop. He came off the bus with a spring in his step and a big grin. "Mom! I sit in the back now with my friends," he boasted.

"You have friends in the front of the bus," I replied.

"Yeah, but I have them in the back too. I know all the kids on the bus, we went to school together last year," he explained.

I know his friends wooed him. "Come on dude, sit back here with us," they would croon.
I know that's exactly what they said.

What the allure? What's the big deal?

It's been several weeks now and I haven't gotten any calls from his high school counselors, concerned parents or the bus driver. So, what I'm I so worried about?

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

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January 11, 2010

No time like the present to take the family camping

My Dad didn't grow up camping. He grew up in North Miami and probably wasn't introduced to camping until he joined the Army. But he bought a pop-up camper and he and my mom took me and my three sisters camping all over the state parks of Iowa.

Don't let unhappy faces fool you. Camping is fun!

As anyone who was brought up camping understands, I arrived at adulthood feeling this compulsion to buy a tent.

We've been camping a lot over the years, and those weekends are some of the most memorable we've had as a family. Raising my son in Cub Scouts, we camped all over Florida. My daughter was sleeping in a tent as an infant.

Every New Year, I think about camping. I make a resolution to get the family out in the tent at least once, maybe three or four times.

For something new this year, I forced the family to go camping on New Year's Eve. Creed being a teen-ager, we let him bring his friend, Alex, along. We found a tent site at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. If you're looking for a campsite, just search this site, Reserve America. It's easy.

I've been talking to a few parents lately about camping. Some have camped in cabins at places that have heated pools and bounce houses. In other words, you don't have to totally rough it if your spouse wants to camp and you'd rather be at a bed-and-breakfast.

On our trip to Key Largo, we grilled steak and lobster, we had hot showers, we rented canoes. We drank champagne, the kids drank bubbly apple cider. We hiked in the light of the full moon. We even played badminton. As others were partying back home in South Florida, we were sitting at a picnic table listening to a guy play John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads'' on his guitar. I cannot think of a better way to ring in a New Year. No TV, no ball drop, no mob of drunk people. Just the family and a tent.

When Lily returned to school after the two week Christmas break, her second-grade teacher asked each child to report to the class about what they'd done during the vacation.

We'd taken Lily to Miami Seaquarium, to Jacksonville, to Port St. Lucie, to the beach at Las Olas, to the movie Avatar, and a whole lot of other things. And the camping trip was just a 24-hour deal. But when asked to sum up what she did over the break, that's what she said. "I went camping.''

Do your family a favor this year and buy a tent. It'll cost you less than one night in a hotel room.

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

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January 8, 2010

Autism Society hosts special screenings of Alvin and the Chipmunks on Saturday

The Autism Society and AMC theaters have planned movie opportunities for children with autism or other special needs.

They are called Sensory Friendly Films, and the first one -- Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel -- is at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Theaters for these special showings will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families can bring their own snacks, and no previews or advertisments will be shown before the movie. And people will be welcome to dance, walk, shout or sing. This is a time for kids and their families to feel comfortable.

Tickets are $4-$6 depending on location and can be purchased on Saturday at the theaters:

AMC Coral Ridge 10, 3401 NE 26th Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
AMC Aventura 24, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura
AMC Sunset 24, 5701 Sunset Drive, South Miami.

Next up is The Tooth Fairy on Feb. 6.

For more information, go to

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Entertainment (114)

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January 7, 2010

Pets for kids: The gift that keeps on giving

I knew we were in trouble when my daughter asked Santa for a kitty. We always try and deliver on our kids' top wish if we can, so my wife and I began planning.

A quick call to the Broward County Humane Society presented us with our first challenge — closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. How in the world will we hide a kitten for 36 hours?!?! Luckily, my first call was to my father who lives in Pompano Beach and he agreed to host our newest family member until Christmas morning. Now to pick a kitty...

I have to admit that we spend quite a bit of time at the Humane Society. My wife and I jokingly refer to it as the "free zoo" because we'll go there to visit puppies and kitties and then hit Bass Pro Shops to see the tarpon. Since I know my way around the place, I went straight back to the cattery to find the youngest and the cutest. The first two brought into the visitation room were adorable, but very nervous and scared. I was ready to take them both due to the cuteness factor, but decided to meet at least one more. I knew as soon as the volunteer placed her on my lap that this was the one. Loud, frisky, and VERY friendly, she immediately climbed up my shirt to nudge my nose and perch on my shoulders. At that point I took the photo you see to email to my wife for approval. Done.

I learned from the volunteer while I was filling out all of the paperwork that "Snowflake", as they called her, had a cold.

She had sneezed a few times while I was holding her, but I didn't think anything of it. The volunteer presented me an antibiotic to give to the kitten twice a day, and explained that my adoption covered vet expenses for 14 days. I didn't give it another thought, and drove our newest family member to my dad's apartment.

When Christmas morning rolled around, our perfect plan went off without a hitch. My father arrived early enough to see the kids wake up and witness what Santa had brought. Everyone opened all of their presents, and then dad went out to let the kitten in the back door. The kids were busy playing with their new toys as the kitty slowly trotted into the living room. Everyone went nuts. My daughter scooped her up saying, "Santa knew I wanted a kitty!" Almost immediately my daughter announced the kitten's name would be "Lucky".

This is where the fun begins. Remember that "cold" I told you about? Lucky seemed a bit lethargic, so on the 26th our first stop was the vet. Long story short, we have pumped more meds into this poor kitten than I have in all 3 of my kids. Everything from eye drops, to nose drops, to nebulizer treatments. She wouldn't eat, and at one point we even thought we might lose her. My wife was a wreck from administering all the drugs and keeping Lucky away from our other cat. My daughter was in tears when we had to prepare her for the worst-case scenario. Quite a rough first week for my little girl's Christmas wish.

The good news is that Lucky is on the mend. After days of hand-feeding her baby food, she is finally eating regular cat food on her own. She is running around playing with toys, and most of the meds have finally run their course. I have to give a shout out to everyone at VCA Central Park Animal Hospital for being so awesome through this whole experience. The doctor would call regularly just to check in. Can't beat that kind of care. Our newest family member truly is Lucky.

Sorry for the crazy long post, but I had to get this story off of my chest. Anyone else have any wild pet experiences to share?


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Poison control hotline: 800-222-1222

poison.jpgThe comments that accompany our news articles on can often be pretty nasty, but now and then we get something that's really useful.

This morning, we received one such helpful comment in response to an article I wrote about a child who died after his mother gave him a sleeping pill meant for adults. Apparently they found 4-year-old Nicholas Ordze next to several open bottles, but they weren't sure he had taken anything. They went to sleep, and when the parents woke up the next morning, Nicholas didn't.

A reader identified as "paisleyk" wrote in with the following (cleaned up for a family audience):

The thing that bothers me (aside from the whole giving a 4 year old an xxxx Lunesta!!) is that they found him with all the other bottles and weren't sure if he took anything else. I have two little ones that got into a child proof Advil bottle in my purse once. I called that poison hotline 800-222-1222. They answered on the first ring and couldn't have been nicer or helpful. They had me tell them what the worst case scenario was (how many pills missing) and calculated against each child's bodyweight.

Paisleyk, thank you for a terrific reminder of a valuable resource available to every parent, guardian or caregiver.

Waiting for the child to look or feel sick is a mistake in such cases. By then, whatever poison has been ingested is doing what could be preventable damage. If you even think your child might have possibly swallowed a medicine he shouldn't have, call that hotline 800-222-1222.

Whether Nicholas' death was a tragedy, criminal negligence or something worse is for the justice system to decide. But parents don't need to wait for the case to work its way through the system to remind themselves of the importance of childproofing or of keeping that phone number handy. Put it on your speed dial. Tape it to your refrigerator. Wherever there's a phone, this number should be there. I'm going to put it in my address book right now.

Poison control: 800-222-1222.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Safety (59), medicine (9)

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January 6, 2010

Do your SoFla kids refuse to bundle up in the cold?

If my teenager wants to wear flip-flops to school this week, I am not going to fight it.Winter-Weather.jpg

Same for my other kids, who are still rolling up their jeans to be fashionable and wearing only sweatshirts as a concession to the weather.

At an outdoor party last weekend, the legs of my teen, who was wearing short shorts and no jacket, turned blue. She learned nothing from this almost-bout with frostbite and continues to refuse to cover up.

Eventually, they will learn. In the meantime, they will not get sick or suffer permanent harm.

I am choosing my battles, and this is not going to be one of them.

AP photo/The Miami Herald, Walter Michot

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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January 5, 2010

Parents tattoo their seven kids with a homemade gun

Not sure where to begin with this one. First, you have the issue that these kids have other parents who were not involved in the decision. Second, you have the health implications from using the same needle for all of the kids. Third, you have basic common sense. A tattoo on a ten year old?!?! Someone help me figure this one out.


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January 4, 2010

Baby bottles have left the building

Not quite as nice as being diaper free, but our first few days without having bottles around has really been liberating. Needless to say, this did not come without a price.

Let me set the stage a little. Both of our boys sleep in the same room, and both would go to bed with full bottles in hand. We know it's not a good habit, but this is where we ended up. Our routine would consist of filling up bottles to keep them happy during the night. Not good for any of us.

Giving up the bottle was not a big deal for our 19-month-old. We "lucked out" that he was cutting a few teeth at once and couldn't take the pacifier or bottle. Since that few days of screaming, we have not had to worry about him needing any accessories.

Now the two-and-a-half-year-old, that is a completely different story. Mind you, he only gets the bottle when he naps and goes to bed. I have been trying to convince my wife that we needed to pull the bottle and pacifier from him for some time, but she is of the "he'll do it when he's ready" school of thought. Since she is the one home with all three kiddos, she gets to make those calls. Her idea was to set him up with a date and give him fair warning when we would take the bottle from him, so we set our sights on the new year.

When the big day came, the bribe (sorry, "incentive") of a trip to the "Goo Goo" store was presented. Translation: Goo Goo = Choo Choo = Train = The Hobby Superstore. I let him know that he could pick out a really big toy if he agreed to no more bottles. He was very excited and agreed while jumping up and down. After a quick scare that the store might not be open on New Year's Day (thankfully it was), he decided on Cranky the Crane for his wooden Thomas the Train set. I told him that he couldn't take Cranky out of the box until he had taken a nap and gone to bed without his bottles. That was the easy part.

I've heard about what it is like to see someone go through heroin withdrawal, and it can't be much worse than this. "I want my baa baa!" was the cry which would come from his bed for the next hour before we gave up trying to have him nap. He was fine the rest of the day, despite not having his usual rest. However it was no surprise that the same "I want my baa baa!" cry would dominate our entire sleepless night. We gave up keeping Cranky in the box around 2am thinking it might give us a moment's peace — no luck. We all tossed and turned, but he made it through.

We celebrated his success by building a huge train track on the living room floor for his new toy. Since then the cries have died down, and we are all finally enjoying a full night's rest.


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The sane Mom's New Year's resolution: Accept the mess

My son said you're not supposed to have "negative'' New Year's Resolutions.

This was after I announced that my No. 1. resolution this year is to "stop keeping the house so clean.''

Did someone say the living room is messy?
I can't see it from this comfortable chair.

He did a rapid-air-intake gasp of disgust when I said it. Ever since he became a teen-ager, he's been concerned with cleanliness. Nevermind that his own bedroom is a pit, and that he probably thinks you can sanitize something by spraying a third of a can of Axe cologne on it.

"The house never has been clean!'' he said to my New Year's resolution announcement.

This was after I had cleaned the living room. And his Dad had tossed one pair of dirty socks on the floor, to mark the space as his.

"I'm just not going to drive myself crazy trying to keep the house clean,'' I explained to Creed, my 14-year-old, as I chopped vegetables and lettuce to fulfill my No. 2 resolution ("Eat more salad.'') "I'm going to accept the mess,'' I told him.

This exchange was just days after a New Year's Eve campout in Key Largo -- planned, shopped, packed and executed by me -- during which he complained bitterly that I had not brought paper plates on which to eat the lobster, steak, scallops and baked potatoes I'd brought along.

"And your top resolution,'' I advised him, "should be to pay more attention to the hard work your father and I put in to make your life better.''

He went on and on in a teen-agerish way about us not teaching his 7-year-old sister to keep her belongings in her bedroom, about the supposed fact that none of his friends' homes are as messy as ours, that even when they are in the midst of cooking dinner, his friends' kitchens are spotless, and on and on. So I gave up.

But I've already left my mark. On the refrigerator is a new magnet I bought during the Christmas break, at Miami Seaquarium (annual passes!).

I took down all the photos, the A+ spelling test, the cutesy drawings of Mommy. And on this clean slate I put up one ceramic, square magnet. It has a fake button on it, kind of like a doorbell, and it says "Press button for maid. If no one answers, Do it Yourself!''

The sad thing is, everyone in the family, including my husband, actually pushed on the fake button. They looked around the kitchen, but there was no maid. Only me. And I'm accepting the mess.

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

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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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