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March 31, 2010

Kids perform a theatrical version of Scarface for a viral video. Is this wrong?

With all of the recent news of violence in our youth, I have to scratch my head and wonder what in the world these parents were thinking. We have a 15 year-old boy beating a 13 year-old girl almost to death, another boy punching a girl on a bus, and of course we can't forget Teah Wimberly murdering her classmate in the school hallway. Honestly, I try to not even swear around my kids, let alone let them witness anything violent on TV or movies.

Turns out this was filmed as a viral video to intentionally spark outrage. So the question then becomes, is your child's acting career worth the loss of innocence? Maybe I'm overreacting. It is cute, in a twisted kind of way. Share your thoughts.


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Healthy Spring Break 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.

Spring break is going on around the country and it is time to figure out what you are going to do with your kids. If you are like me, you don't have an expensive vacation planned. Instead, we will be looking at each other and wondering what to do.

What about making some snacks? There are a few really good reasons to take some time for cooking with your kids.

1. Teach them how to cook early, so you can hand over the apron strings when they hit the right age.

2. Cooking is fun and it will keep them quiet for an hour (it is cheap too!)

3. You can make a whole bunch of healthy snacks for the end of the school year. This way, you will be prepared when they come home after school demanding cupcakes.

Here are three suggestions for your freezer. All three of these snacks will keep for at least 3 months and provide your kids with a yummy snack.

Overnight Pancakes -
Homemade Energy Bars -
Buttermilk Banana Bread -

Homemade cereal s is fun to have around the house for munching, and a blast to make. It will keep for 3 months in your cupboard, but you should keep a lid on the portion size. A small bag of this is enough to satisfy anyone's appetite.

DIY Cereal -

Finally, you can make no bake cookies! An older child needs absolutely no help making these because there is no hot oven involved. Just mix it up, mash it on a plate, and wait about 3 hours.

No Bake, Oatmeal, Nut Butter Cookies -

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Is there a Spring Break bedtime?

As I was getting ready for bed around 11 p.m. last night, unusually late for me, I realized my kids were still up, on the computer or watching TV with my husband.

I scolded them to log off immediately and get to bed! They said, "Why, Mom? It's Spring Break!"

They aren't doing anything special this week that they have to get up early for. So I wondered: Why should I hassle them to go to bed? Does it really matter?

I could enforce the rules for the sake of enforcing the rules. But I think I am going to take it easy this week and chill out about bedtime. I'll tell my husband, who goes to bed later than me, to make sure they don't stay up TOO late, whatever that means.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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March 30, 2010

Kids and chores at spring cleaning time

Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media, speaks to over 8 million moms a month in print,online and on radio. She is the author of “Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion Dollar Market”, “Trillion Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers” and “Mom 3.0: Marketing with Today’s Mothers By Leveraging New Media and Technology”. Bailey also writes for several parenting publications such as OC Parent and Pregnancy Magazine. She has been featured in Business Week, Parenting, Child and O magazines as well on CNN, CNBC and World News Tonight. You can hear more from Maria at and

mariabailey100.jpgAs we enter the month of April (and as two articles in the Sun Sentinel confirmed), it’s time for spring cleaning. Task lists will be written and households decluttered and organized, as moms and dads everywhere vow to conquer the clutter for good. But what about the rest of the year? Wouldn’t the annual ritual of spring cleaning be easier if the smaller jobs were assigned as chores and the entire family pitched in? Ideally, the house and kids’ rooms stay clean, with the more important benefits of teaching life skills, work ethic and money management through allowances.

With so many options and free resources, establishing a system for chores and responsibilities is easier than ever. The standard chore chart on paper is always safe, and now many households have the task lists on a home computer, with many online resources offering printable charts. Recently, I discovered, which takes the concept one step further. Children can access their account and keep track of their responsibilities, with an email sent to an inbox or phone letting parents know when a task has been completed. If the challenge is to motivate kids to do their work, a computer-based system will do it, along with the weekly payout of allowance!

In our house, each child has a different number of chores with age-appropriate levels of responsibility. My kids are pretty good at keeping track of their stuff since I started a chore/allowance system fairly early in our household. While different rewards motivate them, they know there will be consequences if the chores aren’t finished on time – if I have to do a lot of cleaning, I do a lot of tossing.

As it is, I’m always cleaning things out of closets, cars and the garage. It’s amazing how fast items accumulate with six people in our house. On a recent cleaning spree, I confess to finding an 18-year old wedding present on the top shelf of a hall closet. We shared a laugh about the long-lost wedding gift, and my children promptly turned the tables on me when they suggested I donate it to a local charity to reduce the clutter in the closet. Those funny kids.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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March 29, 2010

Before you bring a hamster home!

A close friend of mine recently bought my daughter a hamster during a trip to the pet store.


They brought it home, along with a blue cage and what I presumed was some hamster food.
“Mommy, you’re going to love him,” my daughter said boiling with excitement. “I’ve named him Mr. Hammy,” she continued.

I’ve never had a hamster. I never wanted one.

After seeing how thrilled my daughter was about her new pet, I started to slowly give in to the idea.

Then, that same night, just as my daughter attempted to transfer Mr.Hammy from his little carrying case to his shiny new cage, Mr. Hammy sunk his razor sharp teeth into her index finger.

My daughter let out a blood curdling scream. There was blood dripping from her finger and tears streaming down her face. And in a matter of minutes Mr. Hammy was on his way back to the pet store.

Hamsters can make good pets, but you have to know a little something about them before you bring them home. We knew very little.

I learned later that you never want to just scoop up a hamster and put them in a cage, because they usually come from the pet store scared. Experts recommend you give hamsters some treats first and wash your hands thoroughly, because they can mistake it for food. The key, they say, is to be gentle.

I debated whether I was teaching my daughter the wrong lessons by having my friend bring the hamster back. But I didn't want to risk another bite. For days she wanted to know what would become of Mr. Hammy. I told her we were not a good fit. I’m hoping he’s found the right home.

Now we're on the hunt for the right pet.

POSTED IN: Pets (4)

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March 26, 2010

Wrong and wronger: understanding the beating of Josie Lou Ratley

This post originally appeared March 26, prior to the release of the text message exchange that preceded the assault on Josie Lou Ratley.

In covering the assault on Josie Lou Ratley, I've had the opportunity this week to talk to several friends of Wayne Treacy, the 15-year-old boy accused of trying to beat her to death.

Treacy2.jpgSo brutal was the violence allegedly committed by Treacy that I was stunned, more than once, to hear Treacy's friends trying to make sure I knew that he is not the only one who was in the wrong.

You see, Ratley, also 15, sent a text message containing some kind of "disparaging" reference about Treacy's brother, who committed suicide last October. It was Treacy who found Michael Bell hanging from a tree. The text message from Ratley, investigators said, infuriated Treacy and sent him out in search of Ratley. When he found her, they said, the beating began.

I struggled with this comparison of "wrongs." You see this comparison in the comments that accompany the articles and on the Facebook pages that have sprung up to support Ratley. Yes, Treacy was wrong for what he did, they say. But so was Ratley! Don't forget that Ratley was wrong too!

Have our kids lost all sense of perspective? Is the wrong of an insult, however cutting, even in the same league as the wrong of beating someone to within an inch of her life?

Turns out it’s not unusual for friends of a criminal suspect to try to make sense of the allegations (and we need to remember at this point that these are allegations) by pointing fingers at whatever instigated the crime.

ratley.JPG“Young children see things as black and white, right and wrong, good guys and bad guys,” said Dr. Eugenio Rothe, an forensic psychiatrist who teaches at Florida International University. “Adolescents start to see ambiguity. They see how two people on opposite sides can, in a way, both be wrong.”

Jan Faust, director of the Child and Adolescent Traumatic Stress Program at Nova Southeastern University, said friends of suspects are confronted with allegations of violent behavior and feel the need to explain it to validate their friendship.

“My friend couldn’t possibly be responsible for this heinous act,” she said. “Otherwise, how do you rationalize having a friend capable of doing something so horrendous?”

I think I understand Treacy's friends a little better. I'm sure they understand that two wrongs do not make a right. I hope they grow to appreciate that not all wrongs weigh the same. Some are as light as a text message, and others as heavy as a steel-toed boot.

It should be noted that the exact content of Ratley's text message has not been disclosed, so we have no idea how insulting or innocuous it was. But how much does it matter? What level of insult does it have to contain to justify what was done to her? Can we feel compassion for a traumatized and troubled boy without resorting to an attempt to hold the victim partly responsible for an injustice committed against her?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Safety (59), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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March 25, 2010

Mall in Palm Beach County features photos of adoptable kids

Similar to what's going on at the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale, the Boynton Beach Mall is showing a photo exhibit of 40 parentless kids, from March 31 to April 12.

The Heart Gallery dispaly includes bios of these kids, who are looking for permanent homes.

A program of Children's Home Society of Florida, the Heart Gallery works with local organizations to show photographs of kids in need of adoption.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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City of Sunrise hosts free concert for kids on April 10

The city of Sunrise alerted me to a cool-sounding event for kids.

It's the city's Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 10, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Here are the particulars, from the city:

This free, family-friendly event will take place at Sawgrass Sanctuary (237 North New River Circle, Sunrise 33326), a 20-acre park and environmental learning center near the junction of I-75, I-595 and the Sawgrass Expressway.

The Earth Day Festival will feature a Kids’ Korner with hands-on activities, face painting, a bungee jump, inflatables and more.

And at 11:30 a.m., nationally-known singer/songwriter Randy Kaplan will perform on the Festival’s main stage. Kaplan’s Loquat Rooftop was named one of the “Top 10 Children’s CDs of 2008” by National Public Radio (NPR).

Also at the event, a farmers’ market, food, a fashion show, crafts, and live music for adults. The first 1,000 people there get a reusable shopping bag from Whole Foods Market, and a BPA-free water bottle from the city of Sunrise utilities department.

Click here for more information.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Brittany Wallman (160)

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March 24, 2010

Open hearts, open homes

ChildNet is the private, not for profit organization created to manage the child welfare system in Broward County. Our mission is to protect Broward County’s abused, abandoned and neglected children. ChildNet directly provides case management, independent living and adoption services. We also ensure the delivery of a comprehensive local system of care by subcontracting with more than 30 social service agencies to provide a full array of child welfare services. For more information about fostering, adopting or helping abused children contact ChildNet at (954) 414-6000 or visit

adopt-march.jpgTyrese is a ten year old boy of African-American and Trinidadian heritage. This handsome young man has an outgoing personality and enjoys playing tag and kickball with his friends. Despite overcoming many changes that require him to adjust to new circumstances, Tyrese has managed to advance to the appropriate grade for his age. He has two older sisters who have already been adopted with whom he wants to continue to have a close relationship. Tyrese deserves a forever family who will love him unconditionally and reassure him that a bright and beautiful future is ahead. A patient parent who can guide him to positively channel his frustrations and hurt would be ideal. With the love and support of a willing family, Tyrese will reach his full potential and indeed have a promising future.

For more information about Tyrese or other children available for adoption, contact ChildNet at (954) 414-6001 or visit

Check out more photos and bios of local children available for adoption by visiting The Heart Gallery of Broward County’s exhibit at The Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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My husband's midlife crisis

It's been fun to watch my husband start playing soccer at age

After he gets home from each game, he is sure to detail for me his tremendous athletic abilities, as well as his many injuries. He then sits down in front of the TV with buckets of ice for his aching muscles.

He is playing in the Soccer Association of Boca Raton's over-35 league and loving it. He got hooked on soccer this winter after coaching our 11-year-old's team.

If you're a a man and you must have a midlife crisis, this is a good one to have. The alternatives for expressing frustration about your age, like having an affair, are definitely much worse.

Photo courtesy Multisanti

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211), Sports (29)

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March 23, 2010

What can be done about school's culture of violence?

The fact that Michael Brewer and Josie Lou Ratley are both Deerfield Beach Middle School students is so disturbing.

Michael, set afire last October by classmates. Josie, savagely beaten last week by a high school student.

It's really hard to know what to think. But it's not time to point fingers. It's time to intervene, and I hope Deerfield Middle -- and every school and every parent -- is taking a hard look at the culture and relationships in their homes, their schools and their communties.

Last October I talked to Harvard's Dr. William Pollack. He's an expert on boys and communication, and has worked with many schools and the federal government to address issues of bullying and communication. He had a simple plan for a school like Deerfield Beach Middle to begin to change its culture from the inside. It starts with the adults in the school reaching out, and listening, to each and every student. Read the interview here.

Deerfield students were interviewed on the Today show this morning, talking about feeling the need to look over their shoulders. Be on guard. Be careful what they say, and text, to others kids.

What kind of a childhood is that?


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March 22, 2010

"Mom strike'' struck fear into the family

Alert: Mother's Day is May 9. You have seven weeks to thoughtfully consider how you will honor the Mother in your life. A lot of advance notice is needed for some people, apparently.

Last year, only my daughter showed me how much she cherished my existence. My son and husband carried on as if it were any other day, which is to say, leaving a mess in the kitchen and not picking up my vibes about wanting to be worshiped.

Consequently, I went on a Mom Strike. Click here to read my post about it, from last year.

I can now report to you that the Mom Strike was incredibly successfully, and is seared in my family's memory.

My son is terrified that he will forget Mother's Day again. I was reading a piece of advertising Saturday targeted toward Mother's Day, and he froze. "Is Mother's Day coming up or something?'' This is the first time the topic's been raised since last year. I told him it's not until May.

"Isn't that when you freaked out and went crazy?'' he asked, just to be sure.

"Oh, you mean my strike? Yes,'' I replied.

One day later, I was admiring a drawing Lily made for me, and as I read aloud her cute expressions about what a great mother I am, once again Creed suffered a minor heart attack.

"Wait,'' he said, "is it Mother's Day!?''

Seriously, I had just told him the day before that Mother's Day is in May. But this was a visceral reaction, a fear that seized him before his brain could kick in.

"You got me worried,'' he said in relief when he realized.

Wow. Time to study up on psychological warfare. Whatever works!

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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March 18, 2010

Should you be your child's Facebook friend?

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.

maggiecary2.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.

As a teacher, I’ve given advice to parents for years. Although not “new” in today’s fast paced technical revolution, social networking sites and the discussion regarding the pros and cons of parental involvement hadn’t really struck me as particularly important until recently. I am concerned about those of you who have younger children. Should you be your child’s friend on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites, and if so, what kind of friend should you be?

If at all possible a parent definitely should become a tweens or teens internet friend. Be aware that most kids are tech savvy enough to restrict your access and share only what they want you to see, but some access is better than none. At this age, no matter how close you think you are, children are going through a tumultuous period of growth and are reluctant to share their ideas and feelings with parents. But it seems that they think nothing of sharing these feelings in cyberspace. Being their unobtrusive “friend” will allow you to better understand and communicate with your child. It can help tune you into what’s important to them and who their friends are. You don’t need to embarrass them by making comments, just become a good listener. Ideally, social networking sites could even keep you in touch with your child’s friends and their parents.

Although kids aren’t concerned about what future employers think or what would grandma or grandpa might say about a nasty post, they need to be taught that what they say on the internet may be accessible forever. The need to know that unlike something that is said in person, their words can reach countless unintended recipients and it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings without intending to do so. If they are going to post about someone, it should be something that they would say to a person’s face. There are no take backs in cyberspace.

Parents can also use being friends with their kids as a jumping off point to talk about privacy settings on sites like this so that future employers/colleges don’t end up seeing their spring break pictures down the road. Privacy settings can also control who can find be found. So for example, a search which reveals younger kids could be limited to students that go to their school. Here is a link to Facebook’s privacy/safety policy page that has good information for parents:

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Are you ready for kindergarten?

My son has been going to daycare or preschool since he was 20 months old. He’s no stranger to socializing with other kids, listening during circle time or keeping track of his lunchbox.

That’s why I thought the transition to kindergarten would be anticlimactic. I wouldn’t have one of those tearful first days. My son is an old pro.

Silly me. There’s so much to worry about – and worry about five months before my son has to step foot in his new school. Just the other day my husband and I were reminded by a teacher at my son’s preschool that, “Kindergarten is the new first grade.” I’ve heard that before, but it’s starting to sink in: homework, tests, projects.

If you wait to prep yourself and your child for kindergarten right before the school year starts, you’ll be too late. Start now. That’s what I’ve been doing.

Here’s my short list to get started. For those parents who’ve already been through this rite of passage, what would you add?

Brush up on academics: For a five year old, that means everything from holding scissors the correct way to being able to write his or her name. The list can seem endless and will be different depending on whom you ask. Here’s one list that seems to cover a lot of the basics I know my son has been learning in his preschool class.

Refine those social skills: Can your child share? Take turns? Wait in line? Keep his hands to himself? You’ll save your child a world of hurt by working with him or her on social skills now. If your child is not in preschool, find opportunities to join a play group or go to a park regularly and encourage your child to play with others.

Register: Check your school district’s web site for information on what you need to register your child. (Here’s a link to Broward County schools' site.) Birth certificate, proof of residence, vaccination forms.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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March 17, 2010

Stop idling in the carpool line

In this gorgeous weather, please explain to me why people sit in their cars with their motors running.

I can understand if you are in a school carpool line that is moving along at a steady pace. But last night, I was in a carpool line of about 40 cars that was not moving because the kids hadn't been released yet. Every single car had its lights on, which I assumed meant their motors were running.

I turned my motor off and continued to listen to my XM radio through the car battery and wondered why no one would think to do the same.

I see people almost every day parked in parking lots running their motors with the windows closed. Can't they live without the air conditioning if it's 70 degrees outside? Every two minutes of idling uses the same amount of gas as traveling one mile, according to the California Energy Commission, which recommends turning off the engine if you are idling for 30 seconds or more. Let's adopt this standard here in South Florida.

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

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March 16, 2010

Silly Bandz: Is your young'un caught up in 'em?


So my son came home with these rubber-band bracelets that are shaped like animals or other figures when you take them off.

The brand we have are called Silly Bandz, and apparently they're hot in schools everywhere. The original is from vendor Toysmith, out of Washington state and there are at least four other Silly Bandz competitors, too.

We've been trying Learning Express on Sunrise Boulevard near Flamingo Road, but because we get there late in the day, sometimes the selection we want has been snagged by kids rushing there right after school.

Learning Express' Heather Morgenstern says the bands are coming in from six different vendors, maybe even more, on a weekly basis.

"It's unbelievable to literally get in 500 of one style and be sold out of them by evening the same day," she says. She suggests to prevent unnecessary frustration, call and get a courtesy hold. (They have stores in Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, Sunrise and in Sawgrass Mills Mall.)

The Sunrise store, at 12536 W. Sunrise Blvd., is having a trading party at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"We've had a lot of trends come and go, but nothing like this," she said. "It's been nonstop for a couple of months."

Since I can't go to schools everywhere, I'm fishing here for parents. I did a quick q-and-a with the inventor, Robert Croak in Toledo, Ohio, and have a short article in Sunday's paper.

I also found an animal bracelets blog (of course).

Anybody know about these things?

What ages?

Where'd you get yours?


POSTED IN: Shopping (28)

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Tap their inner-wild - and yours too

Get your little lions and tigers outdoors – after all - it’s National Wildlife Week, through March 21.

And since our children, by nature, are nature lovers – it’s also a good time to teach them the value of wildlife and enjoy the great outdoors.

That’s what the National Wildlife Federation -sponsored week is all about. This year’s theme: Be Out There At Home, School and Play

A few fun facts: The first National Wildlife Week observance took place more than 70 years ago.
Today’s average child spends only 4-7 minutes outside each day. Compare that to the 7 hours and 38 minutes per day the average kid spends engaged with electronic media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There are activities for all ages and links to resources here:

Get active: National Wildlife Week

Locate venues: NatureFind

For teachers: Educator Activity Guide

Now, go on, go outside! (Just like how Mom says)

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Family Fitness (21), Health (111), Parks (12), Sports (29)

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March 15, 2010

Daylight Saving Time robs mom of needed rest

This is the time of year I love to hate.

While I'm thankful for the longer evenings, which allows me to have more outdoor time with my daughter, the first few mornings after switching the time forward can be a real pain.

Everyone says keep your child on the same schedule despite the change in time. But my six year old couldn't seem to fall asleep last night at her bedtime. It was an hour earlier and her body knew it.

Getting up in the morning while it's still dark is no fun either. My daughter looks at me as if all of a sudden I've gone totally bonkers when I'm waking her up while it's still dark outside.

Parents can expect to be more sleep deprived until we're back on schedule and that's no fun in a society where everyday some new study is coming out telling us how sleep deprived we are to begin with.

I'd like to hear how parents adjust to the time change with their families. Maybe there are some tried ways of keeping a family on track that I just don't know about.

The one thing I am thankful for with the time change is the extra brownie points it earns me with my daughter.

Because the sun is so bright when I pick her up in the evenings now, she's going to swear i'm picking her up earlier. She doesn't truly grasp the idea of Daylight Saving Time yet. And that's alright with me.


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March 12, 2010

Chat Roulette: The next thing for parents to fear

Have you heard? There's something new on the digital front that we parents have to fear: Chat Roulette.

This is a social media site where people all over the world can chat with random anonymous other people using web cams. You don't choose who you chat with. Basically, you spin the dial, and up pops a stranger, sitting at their computer.

With any luck, that stranger in Berlin or Hong Kong or Sacramento is wearing clothes.

This is what Omar Gallaga, the tech reporter with the Austin American-Statesman in Texas, had to say about Chat Roulette on NPR:

"It's something I would definitely, definitely keep my kids from because you see a lot of male genitalia, you see a lot of just bad things, very disturbing things."


(Here's the interview.)

And then there's This is a sort of Facebook for cowards, where you can ask people questions anonymously or make comments. What is the point?

Monica Hesse, on the The Washington Post's Web Hostess chat, says, "I can see people using Formspring as a sort of mental weirdness check-up."

Great. Just what insecure teens need: Ask your classmates if you're weird, and just wait for the helpful anonymous input!

Here's more by Omar Gallaga on Chat Roulette. Click here.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


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March 11, 2010

Are your children prepared for an emergency?

As I was trolling through my morning reading ritual of scanning headlines, I stumbled across this on CBS News: "911 Dispatcher: Boy's Call 'Unbearable'" Needless to say, I had to read it. I still have goosebumps from listening to the audio clip.

The part of the story which stuck out for me was the part about the 7-year-old's ability to remain calm because his mother used to make him practice calling 911 in case of an emergency. Brilliant! This kid's parents were being held at gunpoint right outside the bathroom where he was hiding, and yet this kid knew what do to and held it together. He probably saved all of their lives. Amazing.

I don't know about you guys, but I will be going straight home to start practicing this with my 6-year-old. I hit Google to try and find some good resources, and came across this great site on emergency preparedness featuring the Sesame Street gang. There are videos, PDFs in English and Spanish and links to other helpful sites. Do you know of any other good resources? Share with us in the comments.

Hopefully you'll never need it, but I think this story shows that it is better to be prepared.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Family Issues (231), Safety (59)

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Sharing family traditions with your children

Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media, speaks to over 8 million moms a month in print,online and on radio. She is the author of “Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion Dollar Market”, “Trillion Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers” and “Mom 3.0: Marketing with Today’s Mothers By Leveraging New Media and Technology”. Bailey also writes for several parenting publications such as OC Parent and Pregnancy Magazine. She has been featured in Business Week, Parenting, Child and O magazines as well on CNN, CNBC and World News Tonight. You can hear more from Maria at and

mariabailey100.jpgWith a surname like Bailey, you get one guess to name the holiday our family looks forward to every year. Yes, we are in the countdown for St. Patrick’s Day, the annual celebration that we love to share with family and friends. It speaks to our heritage and gives most of us, Irish or not, a reason to celebrate. More importantly, it gives us, as parents, a chance to share something even more important with our children: family traditions.

Underlying all of the decorating, cooking and deciding how to mark the occasion, our children are learning about their roots; the history that is their foundation, and even more of a springboard. We hope that the traditions we are teaching our children now through stories, recipes and even flipping through old photos or keepsakes will carry on with their own families someday.

That’s why we will make corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot, along with an Americanized side dish of fresh-out-of-the-Jiffy-box cornbread. We would be ostracized if we didn’t e-mail our family in Ireland to wish them a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and find out how they are celebrating their national holiday. We will gather with friends and family to celebrate, and hopefully catch the St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Kids love family traditions, especially the celebrations, which need to be passed on from generation to generation. While the St. Patrick’s Day celebration has taken a decidedly secular turn for many people, it still counts as one of the holidays we like to share as a family. I encourage my children to take part in the planning and parade-watching, and to spend time with their grandparents, asking questions and listening to stories about their ancestors. Even though I may get the typical teenage "eyeroll," I know they enjoy their grandparents’ tales; some of the people on the family tree were real characters. All of this is what makes our family unique.

What about your family? Whether you can count one culture or more in your background, what celebrations incorporate family traditions? With Passover and Easter right around the corner, this is the time to remember and appreciate old customs and even make new ones for your family, especially the children.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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March 10, 2010

Team sports are more than just a game

The other night while my husband and five-year-old son were playing Connect Four, I asked if I could play next. My son turned me down.

“No, Mom, I want to play with Dad because I want to win,” my son explained.

Apparently, I’m too competitive and don’t let my son win enough. Either that or my husband is a softie who is so worried about shattering my son’s self confidence that he over-compensates by allowing my son to believe that he is great at everything. We are probably both guilty.

But what about the value of practice? Learning that it takes hard work to achieve something? Realizing that life is filled with ups and downs?

Learning those life lessons are some of the reasons I enrolled my son in soccer and TBall. (And for more on this topic, read a great post from fellow blogger Brittany Wallman.) I’m not trying to groom a new David Bekham or Jose Canseco. (Sorry, those were the first two names that popped in my mind.) I just want a well adjusted, confident kid who doesn’t cry because he didn’t win or stops trying because it’s too hard.


My son came a long way during his first two seasons playing team sports. Sure, he danced with his shadow on the field during some of those night games and played with dirt while playing third base. But what he’s learning, even if he doesn’t realize it, is invaluable. Among them:

Learning to lose: It was tough watching my son’s disappointed face when he didn’t win that first “game ball.” (Only one is handed out after each game by the coach.) Or the second. Or the third…But when finally did, he treasured that ball above all else. And I have a feeling it will be a long-lasting memory for many years to come. Learning to lose makes winning so much sweeter.

Teaching good sportsmanship: My son is learning to cheer on his teammates. Their successes are his successes. Their disappointments are his disappointments. One of my favorite moments was when one of my son’s teammates wanted to quit playing in the middle of a soccer game because he didn’t think he was fast enough to get the ball. With no prodding from us, our son gently took him by the shoulders and told him: “You can do it. All you have to do is keep trying.”

Playing by the rules: As much as my son would like an extra turn at bat, he is realizing that there are rules even during playtime. If he played first base during the last inning, he needs to give another player a chance the next inning. If he doesn’t want to wear his baseball cap, he can’t go out on the field. And it helps him to see teammates following the rules – and taking note of the consequences for those who don’t.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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FCATs: We are trying not to obsess

My kids' teachers told them to eat eggs for breakfast on FCAT mornings. So I am getting up early to make the eggs.testingfcat.jpg

It's pretty silly. The eggs are not going to change their performance. But I am trying to strike a balance between our schools' obsession with the test and what a waste of time I think it is.

I know a lot is riding on these tests for my kids' teachers and schools. But the FCAT means very little in terms of making my kids intelligent people. They learn to answer questions from a paragraph, write an essay in a very rigid format and fill in bubbles on computerized sheets. For the past few weeks, teachers have talked to them about little else, priming them with cliched expressions like "Give it all you've got!" and "Show what you know!"

At home, I'm trying to ask as few questions as possible about the FCAT to de-emphasize its importance. I talk about it only when my kids bring it up. And I'll cook eggs for the next two weeks, just to show my kids I trust their teachers.

Photo/ Robert Pollack

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

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March 9, 2010

Are you ready for the terrible twos? No! No! No! No! No!

I like to think that I'm prepared for just about anything when it comes to parenting. My wife and I have already been through this legendary age with one girl and one boy, so we should know what we're up against. Right?

HA! As any child psychology expert will tell you, every child is unique, and our youngest is currently giving us a run for our money. He has even decided to get a head start and hit the famed "terrible twos" three months early. Just our luck.

Last weekend I took him to Costco with his big sister to do some shopping. He fell asleep in the car on the way to the store, so he was a bit groggy. When we got inside, he insisted on being held the entire time. If you've ever been to Costco on a weekend, then you know how hard it is to navigate the mayhem even with two hands on a cart—let alone when you're carrying a 25 pound kid. At one point I had to put him down in the cart, and that did it...complete public meltdown. Screaming, crying, kicking, the works. I never experienced this with my other two kids, and I must admit I was at a loss. I chose to ignore him and the disgusted looks from the other shoppers and finish our errand. After he calmed down a bit, I managed to bring him back to reality with the promise of pizza when we were done checking out. By the way he ate that slice I'm guessing hunger was the issue, but WOW was that ugly.

In an effort to bring back a bit of peace and quiet to our home (or at least less screaming), I did some poking around on other parenting blogs. Usually I don't find much of value on the big corporate sites, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised on this post I found on about discipline.

I will be trying some of these methods on our little hellion, and will report back in the comments if we have any luck. My poor wife is the one who has to deal with this all day while I'm at work, so I really hope this works for her sake.

What worked for you when your little one hit this stage? Share your stories with us.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Family Issues (231), Toddler (127)

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Campaign highlights consequences of texting and driving

A campaign to urge drivers to stop texting and driving was recently launched.

You know how anxious your kids are to talk to - and text their friends, especially when they are about to meet up somewhere.

They want to get that last tidbit of information just as they are pulling out of the driveway, or zipping along the highway to get there.

But it can wait. Really.

Spring break is around the corner, so is prom night and graduation. Those and every occasion in between put young children and adults behind the wheel of a car.

Eager as they are about staying connected – even phone service providers are telling drivers to put the brakes on driving and excessive cell phone use.

AT&T launched a new campaign, Texting Can Wait for parents, high school educators and youth. emphasizing the risks of texting and driving to remind wireless consumers that text messages can - and should - wait until after driving.

The campaign features true stories and the text message that was sent or received before someone's life was altered, or even ended, because of texting and driving.

In addition, AT&T’s Facebook application, encourages friends to take the pledge to not text and drive.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), General (185), Safety (59), Teen (158)

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March 5, 2010

Baby Expo in Fort Lauderdale this weekend

Grab your stroller, and head over to the Broward County Convention Center this weekend for the extravaganza known as It's a Baby & Family Expo.

More than 100 exhibitors will be on hand with products to demonstrate or sell, as well as experts offering advice on a variety of topics.

Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday. Adult admission is $8, but grandparents and kids younger than 12 get in free. Parking is $6.

For more information, go to


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March 4, 2010

Talk to your kids, even if they can't talk back

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.

maggiecary2.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.

Whether it be in the mall, on the beach, or on the sidewalk, I’m thrilled whenever I hear parents interacting and engaging their babies and toddlers in conversation. Even if children can’t talk back, speaking to them from the moment they pop out into the world (some say even before that) will enhance their vocabulary and ability to learn.

I grow concerned when I see parents simply pushing a stroller and not engaging their child. Children can understand vocabulary before they can verbalize it. When you have a baby, your communication with him or her might include simply describing what you are doing. With a toddler, you might seek more interaction, like asking questions, or describing your surroundings, situation or plans together. You might simply point to objects or actions and ask what they are called. You could provide names for new objects and actions, and reinforce those that may have been recently learned. When your child asks question after question, after question, after question ... even if it borders on annoyance, be patient and answer him. If you’re reading a book with an older child, stop and discuss and explain the meaning of unknown words.

The more you talk to your child, the faster his or her vocabulary will grow. The larger a vocabulary a child has when he or she enters school, the more able the child will be to decode and comprehend what is being read and said during class. If the teacher reads a story about someone, making haste to get away, the meaning will be lost on the child that doesn’t know what that means, and doesn’t have the experience to think to ask what it means.

I took a flight a few weeks ago and there was a very young mom sitting behind us with her daughter. This mother spent the entire flight reading, talking, and explaining words to her eighteen month old. I thought it was fantastic. I felt excited for this child who was going to be one up on many of the other children entering school. She would start her formal education with a rich vocabulary, a wealth of words and a history of being a successful learner. I imagined that one day this little girl might be a great author or statesman. It didn’t hurt one bit either, that she didn’t cry once during the flight.

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

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March 3, 2010

Choosing the right daycare for your child

Letting go is an inevitable step in the life of a parent. But it’s emotional and downright scary when that step comes all too early.

Many working parents dread the word daycare. I used to, when I first gave birth to my son five years ago. But thanks to an absolutely wonderful daycare/preschool that my son will be graduating from this year, I no longer loathe the word.

In fact, I enrolled my five-month-old daughter at the same school last month. There were no tears -- from her or me. (Babies take their cues from their parents. If you’re OK, chances are they’ll be OK.) I know my daughter is in good hands. And that peace of mind is worth every penny I spend on daycare. (And, yes, we’re talking LOTS of pennies.)

So for all of you parents out there who are contemplating daycare, here is my personal checklist (beyond the obvious) for what to consider:


Parent policy: Do they have an open-door policy for parents who want to stop by and visit? If the answer is anything less than, “Yes, absolutely, of course!” you should look elsewhere.

Nurturing: Checking the credentials of the staff and school, as well as the student-teacher ratio should be a given (which is why I didn’t think I needed to explicitly list it). What I’m talking about is that X factor that so often cannot be taught. Do the teachers genuinely love taking care of children? Or is this just a job? The only way to really gauge this is by visiting the place and observing the teachers yourself. I know my daughter’s teachers can never love my girl the way I do – but I want them to come very close.

Stimulating environment: Infant care is more than cribs and infant-care gadgets (like swings or bouncy seats). You want your child to be able to move around (or be moved around until they can do the moving themselves) in an environment that piques all of his or her developing senses. My baby is happiest when she’s observing or engaged in an activity. Ask your center if there’s a curriculum. Yes, even young children can benefit from one. And the most important no-no? The use of television in the classroom. TV is never a substitute for stimulating activity and doesn’t belong at daycare.

Cleaning policy: Good hygiene has always been high on my list. My son knows the first thing he does when he comes home (from anywhere) is wash his hands. When he was little, I made sure to clean his toys after a play date. I expect nothing less from my daycare. So ask about the classroom policy on cleaning toys and tables. In my daughter’s class, toys are cleaned three times a day. And objects that become chew toys for a little one immediately get set aside for cleaning. Another plus: You must remove your shoes before entering the room (or wear a pair of those disposable shoe covers).

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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Plastic bags: Publix needs to get frugal

If I bring my own reusable bags to Publix, it means I don't want any plastic.plasticbag.jpg

This seems obvious to me. So why do the clerks proceed to place the things I buy in plastic bags before putting them in the reusable bag?

A gallon of milk merits its own plastic bag at my Publix. How wasteful! So do eggs and meat, which they tell me many people request.

I feel like a taskmaster as I pile up my reusable bags on the conveyor and give explicit directions at the checkout: "No plastic bags, please! Just throw everything in! If I don't have enough room, please use a paper bag!"

But they still give me plastic. I wonder what kind of instructions the clerks get as to how to bag groceries. Because besides polluting the environment, they are wasting the stores' money with their plastic generosity.

POSTED IN: Food (56), Lois Solomon (211)

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March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! What's your favorite book?

Today is the great Dr. Seuss' birthday. And we should all celebrate his genius.

I grew up reading Seuss, of course. And when I cuddled with my little one and a good Seuss book, I couldn't help but recall hopping on my own pop. I almost can't wait to read Dr. Seuss to grandkids someday.

Check out the Dr. Seuss catalog here, and you will be astounded at the number of books Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote. That's a lot of rhyming.

"Left foot. Right foot. Feet. Feet. Feet." Now that's a great line from The Foot Book.

And for inspiring curiosity, from Oh the Thinks You Can Think: "There are so many thinks that at Thinker can think!"

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant." Talk about determination and loyalty. (From Horton Hatches an Egg)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” That's a lesson: Reading and imagination can take you places (From I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!)

It's hard to choose a favorite book. As a kid I loved Horton. And who doesn't wish to be as bad as that Cat, and get away with it in the end. As an adult, I came to appreciate the counting and words lessons in books like Ten Apples Up on Top and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?

But I think I'll have to go with The Lorax. It's a story, not just a series of rhymes, that raises the level of the conversation. It opens kids eyes to consequences and responsibilities. And it's as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1971.

What's your favorite?

POSTED IN: General (185)

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Little sourpusses: Watch babies try a lemon

Check out this funny video of babies puckering up. It's comforting to note that parents of various cultures and ethnicities all get their kicks from watching their little sourpusses squirm.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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March 1, 2010

Competitive sports prepare kids for the worst in life

If I left the decisions up to my daughter, she'd never play competitive sports (and she'd eat Pop Tarts at every meal).


In real life, you're not always No. 1.

Her first season of forced sports, when she was four years old, she cried every time she kicked the soccer ball. She stopped on the way from the parking lot to the soccer field, wailing that her legs hurt. And worse, she cried, "I'm sweating!''

A few years have passed, and she just completed her fourth soccer season. She's starting her second year of softball. Sports trophies line her window sill.

When basketball sign-ups came along last fall, she said she wasn't interested. I signed her up anyway. It was one of the best experiences of her little-girl life.

I learned from the years of football, soccer and baseball in my son's youth that kids need to experience being on a team, and they might not beg you to sign them up. You might have to force it on them.

They need to learn about sacrificing, and about commitment. When my now teen-age son is forced to get up for a 9 a.m. baseball practice on Saturday, he's getting a hint of adult reality.

If you read parenting articles out there, you'll find plenty of folks who shy away from competitive sports because they want their kid to always feel like a winner. I don't know what kind of idyllic life these parents must be leading, but in my world, I'm thinking I need to sign my kids up for something that will teach them about life's devastating disappointments.

Hence, I think my daughter picked up some good life lessons when her team lost almost every game last season.

Sometimes life is like that. Sometimes you get a bad call, the people on your team suck, you're tired and don't feel like playing, the coach is mean to you, someone scratches you in the face and steals the ball, and the snack parent forgets to bring treats. And the next week, you put on your uniform, and you give it your best.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Family Fitness (21)

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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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