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April 30, 2010

Year-round schools a step in right direction

Every teacher and student knows that the period from winter break to spring break is one long monotonous slog, studded with the low point of FCATs. And from spring break to the end of the school year, it's a slippy slide toward summer.

Turn out the lights and let your mind go blank until August, when it's time to reacquaint and spend the first weeks remembering everything forgotten over the summer. Could it be that the only time of the school year that brains are properly in gear is a couple months in the fall?

That's why year-round school makes sense. And I hope Palm Beach County -- and eventually every other school -- follows the successful lead of Hallandale Elementary.

How families would make it work is a different issue. But it's not insurmountable. Solutions have a way of rising up around a situation.

Summer break is an antiquated convention dating back to when we were an agricultural economy. Anybody been to a farm lately? I didn't think so.

I know that in my household, the beginning of summer is filled with good intentions. By the end, my teacher husband can't wait to get back to work and out from under "daddy day camp." Even the kids will grudgingly admit they are ready to go back to school.

The issue shouldn't be decided on family vacations or complicated work and childcare schedules. That's not a good enough reason to avoid what's best for learning.

Given the choice, I'd put my kids in a year-round school. What would you do?


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Cuts to education: Let your voices be heard

Face it: Cuts are coming to our kids' schools, and we aren't going to like it.

What I read and hear are a lot of ideas being floated. (Here's the latest Broward story.) And that's good. It sounds like district officials and board members and principals are considering any and everything, listening to all quarters, brainstorming and tweaking.

One way or another, the kids are going to get the short end of the stick. Teachers and others are going to lose their jobs, programs and services are going to be cut.

It's our responsibility as parents to learn and to understand. We'll have to make choices, too.

What are you willing to give up? Think about it, and let your school board member know.

Does your child ride the bus? What would happen if that wasn't available? Could you cope with that?

Is your child in a magnet school? How would you respond if the program were eliminated? Or moved to another location?

Is your child an artist? A musician? An athlete? How willing are you to help raise funds for those activities?

How would you manage if schools operated only four days a week? If you need child care, what would you do? Could you help other parents?

Parents: It's time to make your voices heard.

Here's a link to the Broward District site. Email board members and district officials.

Here's a link to Palm Beach County school board members.

And if you're on Facebook, search for the group The School Board of Broward County Can Save Money By .... to share your ideas and see what others are talking about.

Last year, an infusion of federal money gave Florida schools some breathing room. We can't count on that happening again. And we can't count on the State Legislature to fix this either.

Parents, what do you think?

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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April 29, 2010

Top Five manners to teach your children

My proudest parent moments are when my son does something honorable without my prodding. Earlier this week, my visiting sister-in-law from California tagged along when I dropped off my five year old at school. We entered the classroom and before I knew it, my son was introducing his aunt individually to each of his friends:

“Drew, say hi to my Aunt Debbie,” he started. “Aunt Debbie, this is Drew.”

He repeated the introduction at least several times over and finished by introducing his teacher. My sister-in-law was impressed and so was I. It made me think that these past years of trying to teach manners are beginning to pay off ---without the need of constant reminders.

Here’s my Top Five list of manners all parents should teach their children starting at a very young age. I’d love to hear your list:

1) Say, “Please” and “Thank you” often. And if your child is thanked, teach him or her to say, “You’re welcome.” After four years of pushing this one, I feel like my son gets it. And if he happens to forget, I’ll gently remind him.

2) Wait your turn and do not interrupt other people when they are speaking. This is tough one, and I’ve only recently made a breakthrough with my son. It seemed whenever I took a phone call or began to have a conversation with anyone other than him, my son would want (demand) my attention. Over the last couple of weeks, he has begun to say, “Excuse me, Mommy…” Music to my ears. And, frankly, it makes me want to stop what I’m doing to respond.

3) Clean up after yourself. Teachers drill this in at school, so why not make sure it happens at home? Teach your children to help clean the table after a meal or put away their toys when they’re done playing with them.

4) Practice good sportsmanship. My son is not a gloater, but he also hates to lose. If he sulks, I tell him we won’t play again until he learns how to lose graciously.

5) Exit/entering etiquette. Kids can’t help it. They always want to be first – for everything. My son and I now play a silly little game when we enter Target. “After you,” I tell him. “No, after you,” he replies. We repeat it a few times and it always makes him smile. Now he’s doing it elsewhere on his own. So what if the unsuspecting people at the receiving end don’t realize he’s playing a game? At least my son is being polite.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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April 28, 2010

Why you should never ask someone when they’re due

Guest blogger Jenny Isenman 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.

Today, I learned how quickly you can turn a friend into an enemy. Sure, the obvious ways are rather simple: run up to them, tap them on the shoulder, and when they turn around give ‘em a pop in the kisser. Insult their cooking, their attire or worse, tell them how they should raise their children.

Those are no-brainers, if you’re in the market to lose a friend. They’re also too malicious for my taste. No, today I did the one thing that can make a mortal enemy while trying to make polite conversation. I asked the non-pregnant receptionist at the salon I go to when she was due.

You hear about people uttering the dreaded, “When are you due?” to those not with child or to those who just had a child, all the time. We all know better than to ask that question unless we’re 110% sure. Frankly, I think you should witness the Clear Blue line on the pregnancy test before ever uttering that phrase. But there I was, saying it as if I were a lovely, caring, wonderful person. But when she replied, “due for what?” and then I watched as she processed my meaning while the color drained from her face, I realized, I was no friend of hers. I was the devil!

I can think of so many awkward moments brought on by social ignorance. My daughter pointing to someone and saying “Mommy, that man is sooo fat!” with said man inches
away. My son running up to a large black woman, grabbing both her breasts, and yelling across a Foot Locker, “Look at this Mommy, her boobs are HUGE.” Yes, I’ve had my share of explaining to do, but short of my husband grabbing that same woman’s bosoms and yelling across the Foot Locker, I can’t think of a more “foot in mouth” situation than I had today.

“When she asked due for what?” it sent my mind a flutter, holy crap, she’s not pregnant -- is
there some other way to respond: “Due for a teeth cleaning. Due for a pap smear. Due for a
subscription renewal of Cosmo. Yes, I just took a job doing magazine sales to earn extra cash
to redo my kitchen, and I just wanted to give you a great rate on a full year of the magazine of your choosing at half the newsstand price!”

No, there was no other answer, though I stood silent for quite some time, thinking out the magazine salesperson script. I went with, “I am soooo sorry. It’s just that those damn empire waist shirts make everyone look pregnant, frankly you’re the 5th person I’ve asked today. And then when I saw that glow to your perfectly clear skin, I just I..., “ (she had walked away mid-sentence, no joke). I think she may have gone to cry or print out a picture of me to throw darts at. Either way, I’m in the market for a new salon -- if you know of any!

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Rules for my new driver

Now that my 16-year-old is a licensed driver, my husband and I are trying to figure out what are some reasonable rules for her to follow.

Some friends of ours sent over these:

"Only you in the car until end of school (5 months). This will be re-evaluated at the end of school. Any passengers must be pre-approved and typically only under unusual circumstances.

You must text either Mom or Dad before departing any location and upon arrival (except home – if someone is there).

No driving anywhere you do not know how to get to.

You are responsible for all traffic fines.

If you are uncomfortable driving or incapable of driving –CALL SOMEONE! NO TROUBLE!

We will try and accommodate car availability. No complaining, nagging or whining.

No texting or cell phone while car is running!

If the rules are broken, there will be consequences (loss of driving privileges).

If we are asleep, you must wake us when you get home."

I liked a lot of these, especially the "No complaining, nagging or whining." But I wouldn't necessarily rule out banning her from going somewhere she hasn't been to before.

What do you think? What kinds of rules have you created for your teenage drivers?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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Mom of preemie has a lot to be thankful for

My daughter came across one of her old baby diapers the other day and immediately started to laugh.

In her mind she couldn’t imagine that she was actually that small. Which is weird since almost every night, when I tuck her in, it’s hard for me to grapple with the fact that she’s grown so big.

My daughter was an extreme preemie. She came into this world, almost three months before her due date, weighing only one pound, 13 ounces.

The first time my mother saw her, she turned to me and said, “She looks like a little bird.’’
It was true. Her skin was fuzzy; her bones were small and fragile.

Because of her prematurity, I didn’t get to hold her for the first time until she was five-days-old.

With all the wires attached to her in the incubator and other preemie factors, she didn’t wear clothes for the first time until she was about three-weeks old.

She was fed by tubes the first two months. It wasn’t until she was almost three months that she drank from a bottle.

Time really flies.

She recently turned 7. She’s one of the tallest girls in her first grade class. She’s a ball energy, a smart cookie (if I say so myself) and she loves to dance. Believe me, Justin Bieber is in fast rotation at my house.

Nowadays I look at her doing cartwheels and I can’t help but think of the long nights in the neonatal intensive care unit at Plantation General Hospital, where I prayed for her to breathe on her own, to make it through another night, to gain another ounce. Those prayers were answered in abundance.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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April 26, 2010

"We're not playing 50 Questions'

That's what my dad used to say when my sisters and I started zapping him with question after question after question: "We're not playing 50 Questions.''

My mother would cut me short after a few questions and tell me I had to save them up for the evening, when she would address them all at one time.

I have to admit, now that I'm a parent, it does get annoying answering all those questions that require the general knowledge you never did acquire.

My daughter was hitting me with all variety of questions on a recent road trip to Orlando. Instead of crying or turning the radio up so loud she couldn't be heard, I started writing them down. Here they are, in order:

"Who invented hours?'' "Can I flush one of my goldfish down the toilet?'' "When you bury a fish does it turn into stone?'' "If you roll your fingers up in the window, will your fingers break off? Does it hurt?'' "What body part would hurt the most if you broke it? The eye?'' "What's the awesomest number?'' "Are lipsynchers good people?'' "When you lipsynch will you get in trouble?'' "What's the worst thing you could do on this Earth?'' "Who are you most embarrassed of?'' "Who's your worst enemy?'' "Were dogs invented before dinosaurs?'' "If I were a singer, would you put any of my songs on your i-pod?''

The problem is, these are not rhetorical questions. They all require an answer.

So I had to laugh when a friend of mine wrote on Facebook the other day, asking other moms if it's OK to tell her kid to "just *@#$#ing Google it!''

I can relate.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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April 22, 2010

Does the new car seat bill go too far?

Ever since moving to Florida five years ago, I have been amazed by the number of parents who don't use car seats. Heck, many don't even make their kids wear seat belts. This just blows me away. Are you really too busy to take 30 seconds to possibly save your child's life? My wife and I actually ended a close friendship because they would babysit our daughter and drive her around with no car seat. This was even after we told them how strongly we felt about it.

The new bill being floated around by Florida lawmakers would require children ages 4 to 7 and shorter than 4' 9" to ride in a booster seat. Senator Thad Altman, the senate bill's sponsor, says that children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in an accident than those just using seat belts.

This isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to pass this. Back in 2001, Jeb Bush vetoed a similar bill calling it a "de facto tax on families living paycheck to paycheck". However, Florida and Arizona are the only two states that do not have similar laws. Is it time for Floridians to pay up for the sake of our kids?

Personally, I have a tough time with this law. I support our current law which says all kids 3 and under must be in car seats, but once they turn 4 they can move into a seat belt. Now maybe 4 is a bit young to be without a seat, so I agree that maybe we should tweak the guidelines a bit. However, a 7 year-old who is almost 5 feet tall seems a bit large to me for a booster chair.

Share your thoughts with us.


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Earth Day coloring pages for kids

Looking for ways to teach your children about Earth Day? Sure fire ideas like walking to the park instead of driving, helping clean up the beach, or planting a tree are always good. Will these things really sink in for the younger kids?

For an easy way to get kids of any age involved and thinking about Earth Day, try just using these great coloring pages. The site also has great puzzles, games, recipes, and craft ideas.

No better day than today to start your children thinking about a greener world. Do you do anything special with your kids for Earth Day?


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Give them roots, give them wings

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.jpgRecently, as I helped my oldest daughter prepare for a trip to Spain, I faced one of the biggest dilemmas as a parent – raising independent children. It’s a conflict we face as our natural instincts tell us to nurture and protect them, while our higher level reasoning tells us to (gently) nudge them out of the nest!

It takes so much to let them go. The irony of raising self sufficient children lies in the selflessness that is truly counterintuitive for most parents. We want to protect and provide our offspring. Our daily routines and actions revolve around nurturing our children and doing things to make their lives easier. While younger children require more care and maintenance, older children need these lessons in independence. Too much nurturing can make them more dependent on mom or dad to handle everything. If our ultimate goal is to raise children who are confident and self sufficient; children who will thrive, not just survive, we need to make the effort to promote those behaviors as soon as they can handle the responsibility.

In my daughter’s case, I worried over short- and long-term questions. It wasn’t just about the right clothes and a current passport. Had I taught her how to be responsible or how to handle herself in an emergency? It struck me as I watched her board an international flight that the feelings so closely resembled the ones I had when I walked her to her first day of preschool. The feelings of letting go, but watching your heart walk away in another body; of giving her roots and a solid pair of wings; and of encouraging her excitement and anticipation when embarking on a new journey or adventure, even when I’m not there.

In the end, my worry was just that – mine. My daughter’s ability to handle herself far outweighed any anxiety, and I truly enjoyed her anticipation and building excitement as the departure date approached. Despite my confidence in her, I couldn’t resist that one bit of last-minute motherly advice as she left: “Have fun, love you, and don’t put anything in the airplane’s seat back pocket! I’m not replacing that ipod again!”

My daughter enjoyed her trip to Spain, and can’t wait to travel again. We encourage her (and her siblings) to have a zest for adventure and a thirst for knowledge about different countries, it’s people, culture and history. After all, we try to visit a different country every summer as a family vacation. Now, since my children are old enough to voice (strong) opinions, we encourage a democratic process in choosing a country. So, when asked to choose a country for this summer’s trip, they chose Russia! Do I have enough frequent flyer miles for that flight?

As you go through summer months, think about how can you can create independence in your children while telling yourself, “It’s OK to let them fall on their own, I don’t have to rush to pick them up.” It’s a lesson for you and your children, and one that the children will benefit from long after they’ve flown the nest.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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April 21, 2010

Storytime at the library — My favorite evening playdate

One of the biggest challenges for me as a parent is finding enough quality time to spend with the kids. I generally work from 8am-5:30pm, so by the time I get home it is almost 6 o'clock at night. After an awesome greeting from the kids, I usually have about 30 minutes to play with them before dinner — if I'm lucky. Then we might get an hour after dinner before it is time to start the nightly routine. With such a limited time frame, how can you make the most of it?

One of my favorite things to do with the kids (and it gives my wife a break) is to take them to the West Regional Library on Wednesday nights. They have an awesome storytime from 6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. which is followed by a quick craft project. The staff are great at keeping the children enchanted with the books, and provide much-needed help during the project time too.

Not sure if your library offers similar programs? Check out the Broward County Library website to see what they have in store. Do you have any good local events like this to share?


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Three reasons to take your child to work on Thursday

My five-year-old son thinks I choose not to pick him up from school every day. Several times a week, he asks if I’m going to pick him up that day. It doesn’t matter that I take him to school practically every day. It’s often my husband’s job to do pick-up.

“Can you race Daddy today and win?” he asks.

After countless failed attempts at explaining myself, I now usually reply, “I’ll race him, but Daddy might be faster than me today.”

As I see it: Better my son think I’m a really slow driver than a mom who, according to him, doesn’t want to pick him up.


It’s these types of struggles that I think make Take Your Child to Work Day on Thursday worthwhile. And for working moms, it’s finally an event that you don’t have to try to rearrange your schedule to accommodate. You’re actually cool for going to work away from home. No guilt.

If you’re still on the fence about bringing your son or daughter to work with you, here’s my list of reasons to go for it.

* Chances are your child has no concept of all that you do in a day’s work. For all he or she knows, when you go to “work” you spend the day doodling on a notepad and eating Cheetos. (I go to plenty of meetings and have seen my share of both.)

Giving little Johnny or Jenny a real taste of your daily obligations at work could go a long way in helping them appreciate all that you do when you finally make it back home and start your second shift.

* Shadowing you for a day can help your kids learn why going to school is important. It can help them connect the dots and realize there is an end result to seemingly countless years sitting in a classroom. It can also spark a conversation about going to college, which is never too early to start.

* It reinforces you as a role model. I love that my son and daughter will grow up watching Mom and Dad break traditional gender roles. I enjoy watching my son help Dad when he’s doing the laundry. I think it’s great for my kids to see where I work and aspire to a career when they’re older.

Take advantage of the day to talk to your kids about what they’d like to be when they grow up. My son, as of late, has said he wants to be a scientist --or a reporter who “works for the Big S (Sun Sentinel Co.).” Wonder how long that will last.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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"Glee" is no longer a family show

Last night, I regretted inviting my kids to watch "Glee" with me.

The Fox show about a high school glee club started out last year as a fun, funny musical comedy show with a subversive edge. But last night's show, ostensibly about Madonna and girl empowerment, was really about sex, which couples were going to have sex, which songs they would sing during foreplay, in front of the bed, on the bed, in the bathroom, etc.

I became increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable as the plot proceeded. After the cast sang Madonna's "Like A Virgin," I decided to attempt a teachable moment. "Do you know what a virgin is?" I asked.

"Yes, mom." It wasn't the right time to get into a whole conversation about sexual decisionmaking, so the teachable moment ended there.

Now that my kids are into the show, I'm not going to pull the plug. But I hope the plot lines get back to the competitiveness, intrigue, pettiness and popularity contests of high school that made the show an original sensation last year.

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

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Has Take Your Child to Work Day evolved?

By now, most workers and employers have a plan in place for Take Your Child to Work Day, tomorrow.

And for many employers like Kaplan University, technology has redefined the workplace to include virtual and at home.

businesswomanchildcomputer.jpgAs educator, Kaplan has more than 60,000 online students. As an employer, Kaplan has over 2,800 employees throughout South Florida.

So, Kaplan has a lesson plan– to share the experience of that other dimension– the virtual connection.

Kaplan extended TYC2WD into a week-long program with online activities, to encourage employees and their children to take it virtual – at home, or the coffee shop or anywhere else there is internet or wireless connectivity..

Employees’ children will have the opportunity to learn what their parents do at work by doing a variety of parent/child activities that they can complete anywhere and at any time.

How has Take Your Child to Work Day evolved in your workplace over the years? What dynamics have pushed the biggest changes?

Share/see Take Your Child to Work Day photos here

(photo credit: flicker: Businesswoman with Children Using Computer --- Image by © Jutta Klee/Corbis)

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78)

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April 20, 2010

South Florida prom dresses: your advice, please!

Let me get this out of the way first: it can't be time for prom. She's only four!

prom1.jpgActually, no, Rafael. She's 17. You just met her four years ago. That was her first year of high school. Add four years, and she's finishing her last year of high school. So yes, it's prom time.

Good heavens, that was fast.

Recently they've been talking about dress shopping. Something I have never experienced. For guys, the search for a prom outfit is only slightly more complicated than picking a particular shade of black for your rented tuxedo.

For girls? OK, I'll admit it, I'm clueless here. Sequins or no? How much shoulder do you show? How much leg? How much... else? How many chaperones will there be at a dance that is all but certain to include a song about riding a disco stick?


She's anxious about the dress shopping. We went two weeks ago and couldn't find anything. Prom dresses weren't in stock yet, we were told. Naturally, she's convinced that the entire prom dress inventory will be stocked and sold before we get out there again. Insane, I know, but that's what she really believes.

I can't be the only one who needs advice about this. What are you doing about the great prom dress search of 2010? Where are the best deals? What are the best styles?

And for the dads out there, what are the best ways to sabotage the backseat of a limousine?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Shopping (28), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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April 19, 2010

State law says pedophiles can't dress as clowns or Santa

You like to think that when you take your child to sit on Santa's lap, you aren't providing fantasy fodder for a child molester. But this is not codified into law, apparently. State legislators in Tallahassee are working right now on this issue, with bills that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders or registered sexual predators to dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas or thereabouts.

The proposal would clean up the clown ranks, as well. We all know that unlike Santa Clauses, clowns are creepy, and some of them are way too fond of children. The bill would prevent registered sex offenders from wearing a clown costume, "or other costume to appeal to children.'' It also specifically names the Easter Bunny as a costume on the banned list. The offenders also could not entertain at children's parties.

None of the above would be allowed, that is, unless a judge approved it beforehand.

The proposed law's primary purpose is to set "safety zones'' around parks, day cares, schools and other kid hangouts, where registered sex offenders cannot loiter or prowl. The House version, HB 119, passed last week. The Senate version, SB 1284, has another stop in a committee before heading to the Senate floor.

One last provision in this law: Registered criminal pedophiles no longer could give out Halloween candy. (These legislators think of everything.) If you're interested in seeing which homes in your neighborhood would be dark on Halloween, under this provision, click here to see the registered sex offenders in your vicinity. There are two in my neighborhood, and another 161 in Broward County who either absconded from registration or gave "transient'' as their address.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Russian adoption gone wrong raises serious concerns

By now most of us have gotten wind of the Tennessee woman who put her 7-year-old adopted son on a plane by himself and sent him back to Russia, on grounds that he was mentally unstable.

Her actions has set off some serious debate within adoption communities here and abroad and has Russia looking to temporarily halt adoptions by U.S. citizens until certain policies are changed, according to a recent Reuters article.

Can you blame them?

When I first heard this story reported I thought in my heart that it couldn’t be true. How could a mother take a child that they promised to love and care for and put them on a plane with a note and send them back to Russia?

Since then, I’ve heard some parents say that the incident highlights the need for more services for parents who adopt internationally.

On a radio show recently, some parents said they were deceived by agencies in the past and were not made aware of the full extent of their adopted child’s illness, in some cases.

They spoke out against this woman's behavior, still some said it raises a serious issue that needs attention.

While I think more resources for parents can only help, I still can’t fathom how one parent could be so cold and return a child in this manner. People need to understand that when you enter this journey called parenthood you don’t decide all the variables and you can expect some serious challenges.

No child is perfect. Every parent is tested at times--- some more than others. But what if we were to all head to an aiport or a bus station and leave our child for someone else to deal with?

These are human beings we’re dealing with. Some say the incident has given the U.S. a black eye. I’d say for most parents, it has left us with a broken heart.

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

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April 15, 2010

How to know if your kids are 'huffing'

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.

It’s not just the usual illicit drugs and abused prescriptions which parents need to be concerned about anymore. I’ve recently learned of several tragic incidents caused by middle school students “huffing.” Although the practice of abusing common chemicals found in products from glue to carpet cleaners to aerosol cans has been around for years, incidents involving young teens have dramatically increased. Here is some basic information for parents on this form of chemical abuse.

Huffing: Inhalant abuse (huffing) is when people inhale chemical vapors to get high. The results can be debilitating and actually cause death. Today many household products are being used as inhalers. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, a primary user group is 12-17 year olds. Inhalant users tend to include people that do not have access to other drugs or alcohol, such as children and teenagers.

Signs of Abuse

- Drunk or disoriented appearance
- Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothing
- Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing
- Slurred speech
- Strong chemical odors on breath or clothing
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Red or runny nose
- Sores or rash around the nose or mouth

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Pool safety season starts now

My son and I took our first dip in the pool last week. I was nervous: It had been a good seven months since my son last went swimming. Would he remember how?


Fortunately, the swimming lessons of the past two years had staying power. But as fellow Sun Sentinel writer and occasional daddy blogger Nick Sortal pointed out in a story this week, knowing how to swim doesn’t make a child drown-proof. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission gives the following tips for pool season:

- Install barriers to the pool to limit access. Fences should be at least four-feet high.

- Learn CPR. Check out local community colleges and universities or the YMCA for classes.

- Avoid pools that have broken drain covers. New, safer drains are usually dome shaped.

- Parental supervision: Nothing tops that.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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April 14, 2010

Kids-eye view of parents @work

Coming soon to an office near you, it’s Take Your Child to Work Day, but wait, there’s more.
How about what it’s like to work and then come home …and work?

April 22nd marks the annual Take Your Child to Work Day.

Each year, companies and employees sponsor a day that parents can bring their child to work as a way to mentor children and educate them about career choices. Children get to enjoy the commute, the lunch hour, (If you bring a brown bag lunch on a daily basis - stick to the routine) -- or not, meetings, tasks, and everything else in between.

But it’s also a chance to expand on what being a responsible adult and parent involves and the challenges in balancing work and home life.

After that full day at work, consider having the children help with the real homework – that’s the stuff you and I do when we get home from work. If you're job-hunting instead, and if you think it’s appropriate, take your child with you.

Either way, there’s still the laundry. Preparing dinner. Making lunches for the next day. Paying bills. Going grocery shopping. Walking the dog.

Sure, these might be chores your child is already doing. But don’t make TYC2WD so special that they lose the reality and importance of the message -don’t devalue your role. You won’t be turning them off of the idea of a balanced work-life. You’ll be opening the door for them and empowering them with the right coping tools.

Will you and your child be participating in TYC2WD? IF so, how?

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz

Photo courtesy of chefranden on Flickr


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Keep your dog on a leash so he doesn't bite my daughter

Walking home from school yesterday, my 13-year-old got bitten by my next-door-neighbor's maltese

You could see the bite marks and bruised muscles on both her calves. The dog was dragging his leash, which my neighbor was not holding for some reason.

I have come close to getting bitten by several neighborhood dogs who are not on leashes when I go on exercise walks in the mornings. The owners are nearby and apologize for letting me get attacked. But my question remains: Why don't you hold on to the leash?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 13, 2010

Sins of the sons: Are parents always to blame?

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A week ago, Hilda Gotay, the mother of Josie Lou Ratley, said she had not heard words of apology from Wayne Treacy or his family. Words of remorse were passed from Treacy's lawyer to Ratley's during a court hearing. Wayne Treacy was said to be deeply remorseful about beating Josie Lou Ratley and concerned for her recovery.

Well, it's not exactly a phone call, but now Gotay can hear the apology straight from Treacy's clearly distraught mother. Gotay's response on Monday came through her lawyer:

"She is too hurt right now to even think about an apology," said attorney Rick Freedman. "The anger and pain she is feeling is too fresh in her mind, and all that she can think about right now is her daughter Josie".

Naturally, our comment boards at are filled to near capacity with harsh words directed at Treacy's mother, Donna Powers, and stepfather, Cary Smith, as if they personally strapped on the steel toed boots that were used in the beating of Josie Lou Ratley.

I can't help but be reminded of the conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with Reenie Brewer, the grandmother of Ratley's one-time classmate Michael Brewer. Reenie, whose grandson survived being burned alive by a group of schoolmates last October, has been trying to get adults to take a proactive role in preventing teen violence, primarily by being decent role models for their own teenagers. Blaming fathers for the sins of the sons is not on her agenda.

"They need more help than we [families of victims] do," she said.

Those words have stuck with me ever since she said them. Every time I read a comment excoriating the parents of Wayne Treacy, or the parents of the alleged cyberbullies in Massachusetts, or the parents of those accused in the burning of Michael Brewer, I go back to Reenie Brewer's words. "If you can find me a perfect person, I'd like to meet them."

Nobody's perfect, and nobody's perfect at parenting. We've all seen families where one child is a model citizen and another child, with the same parents, is a model inmate. What makes or breaks the difference? And rather than scapegoat the parents and try to put them in the same jail cells as their wayward sons, how can we as a society help these parents to become part of the solution?

Can it be done?

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Teen (158)

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April 10, 2010

Plantation student wants everyone to wear black Monday to support teachers

If your child insists on wearing black on Monday, here's what it's about:

Gregory Bernstein, a Plantation High student, is leading efforts for public school students to wear black to show their support for and solidarity with Broward County teachers and the Broward Teachers Union.

He's going through the media, Facebook and word of mouth and is coordinating with other protests throughout the county as well as the state. The Facebook event page he set up has more than 700 members, as of Saturday morning.

The adults protested the passing of senate bill 6, the teacher merit-pay bill, by wearing black to work on Friday.

"Since this legislation will negatively effect both students and teachers, we also must make our voice heard, so that Gov. Crist will veto this piece of legislation," Bernstein said.

Questions: E-mail Bernstein at

Second Update: Now, as of 1 p.m. Sunday, it's over 2,400 confirmed guests. You know, some adults might suppose that the era of activism is dead, that "it could never be like when we were kids." Then you see something like this, using new media. Despite where you stand on this particular issue, does it almost support having a restored faith that we are raising a generation that cares?

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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April 9, 2010

Water-safety season: Some thoughts

So with the weather heating up, it's a time when you and the kids start hitting the pool.

I timed my package of stories about drownings to this month; many area pools are having water-safety related "April Pools Days."

My story in Sunday's Outlook section takes on a much darker tone -- the idea that some of these drowning cases are more outrageous than you'd think -- but for most of us, I just want to say, hey, make sure your chld knows his or her way around the water.

Two good contacts:

In Palm Beach County, call the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County at 561-616-7068 or go to

In Broward County, call Swim Central at 954-357-7946 or go to

POSTED IN: Safety (59)

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Breast-feeding at work: What the boss has to do

A health care law passed in March puts an end to breast-feeding in the office bathroom stall or broom closet.

nippleslowflow-02.jpgThe law requires that employers provide a private place for breast-feeding moms AND the time to do so. The break time doesn't have to be paid, but the space must be secluded and reserved for breast-feeding.

Bosses of 50 or fewer employess will have to comply, too. Exemptions will be made for those employers who demonstrate that setting aside a private room would cause an "undue hardship."

What do you think of the law? Is it a welcome change?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Autism Awareness Day highlights available services, resources

From the Broward Sheriff's Office:

The City of Cooper City, in conjunction with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, will be hosting an Autism Awareness open house on Saturday, April 10, at Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Station #28. This event will offer an opportunity for families who are affected by autism to learn more about local resources available to them.

People with autism will have the opportunity to meet firefighters and deputies in full uniform, tour their emergency vehicles and see their equipment in a controlled, non-threatening environment.

11 a.m., Saturday April 10

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Cooper City Station #28

10550 Stirling Rd., Cooper City

Broward Sheriffs Office deputies and firefighters/paramedics from Cooper City have received training from the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities to understand the Autism spectrum and learn how to deal with people with autism. As first responders, it’s important that public safety personnel know how to manage and incident involving people with disabilities.

Also showcased at the open house will be the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM/NSU/CARD) Mobile Family Clinic. It is a 23-foot long bus customized with a therapy/evaluation room, waiting room and work station. The therapy room is equipped with materials that allow a clinician to evaluate a child in a variety of contexts. The Mobile Clinic does not provide formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders – it is a first step for parents who have concerns regarding their child’s development.

Parents or individuals who already have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder can register at the Mobile Clinic with UM-NSU CARD and begin to receive their free support services.

Collaborative efforts by the Cooper City districts of the Broward Sheriff Office and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue, the City of Cooper City, Broward County Professional Fire Fighters Local 4321, Autism Society of America, UM-Nova Southeastern Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD), the Kiwanis Club of Cooper City, Broward Children’s Center, LoJack Safety Net – Project Lifesaver, Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) have partnered to make this special day possible.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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April 8, 2010

Make your home safe by checking for recalls

The perils of parenting.

Sitting in a basket in my living room are toys for my 6-month-old. I just learned that one of her favorites, a soft wind chime, is a hazard. So much of a hazard, in fact, that toymaker Tiny Love recently announced a voluntary recall of the toy and others like it because young children can break them and expose dangerous metal inside.

A lot has changed since my son was born five years ago. Today, there are high-profile recalls of cribs, strollers, high chairs and toys containing unsafe levels of lead. Making matters worse, my daughter is inheriting a lot of her older brother’s toys and equipment. The crib, high chair, activity saucer, toys -- including the dangerous wind chime mentioned above.

What’s a parent to do? Be vigilant.


Check your cribs: More than 700,000 cribs have been recalled just since the beginning of this year, including models responsible for at least four child deaths. If you’re a second-time parent like me, chances are your baby is sleeping in the crib an older sibling used. New or old, keep up on the latest crib recalls by visiting the appropriate section of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

Check your toys: I remember going out and buying lead testing kits when there were the spate of toy recalls a couple of years ago. We actually had to part with one of my son’s favorite dye cast metal cars, which made a recall list. And as my discovery this week shows, it’s not just lead you have to worry about. There are choking hazards or toys that come apart and can scratch, scrape or otherwise injure your little one. Put your toys through a test and pull, shake and smack them on the floor, just like a child would, to see what happens. And regularly check the CPSC list of toy hazard recalls.

Check your baby bottles: Only five years ago, it was considered the norm to nuke your baby’s bottles in a microwave sanitizer container. That’s what I did, as did my sister, in-laws and friends. Today, you’ve got to be aware of recent studies that say clear plastic baby bottles can leach a harmful chemical when exposed to intense heat, say a dishwasher -- OR a microwave sanitizer container! Time will tell if millions of babies, my oldest included, get sick as a result of potential exposure. The substance known polycarbonate apparently gives off small amounts of bisphenol A, called BPA, which has been shown to cause tumors, reproductive problems and developmental damage in some animals.

When my baby was born, I switched bottles to a brand called Born Free, which markets itself as a safe, BPA-free product.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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April 7, 2010

Toddler dies while eating popcorn

This story is heart-wrenching: A 13-month-old boy dies after choking on popcorn. According to the Orlando Sentinel story, the dad was on the computer when the kid came over and "frantically tapped" him on the arm. Good grief.

popcorn400.jpgI let my daughter eat popcorn when she was about that age. I would break off the brown parts that stick in the craw and give her the puffed kernels, and when that got too time consuming I made the switch to Pirate's Booty, a popcorn imitator.

But this story has me rethinking allowing her to eat popcorn. It's like the stories of children found drowned in buckets of mop water. I will not leave a bucket of water unattended with her around. I'm too scared that the freak accident would happen on my watch, in our house.

The go-to-guide for many parents, What to Expect: The Toddler Years, warns against common toddler choking hazards such as hot dogs, whole grapes, nuts and, yes, popcorn.

Is this story about the toddler choking to death on popcorn frightening enough to make you stop doing the same?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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April 6, 2010

Sticks and stones and words

Whoever first said "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" didn't know a thing about the power of words.

Weapons can wound flesh, but the damage inflicted by words can pierce the heart.

Two recent cases illustrate this point. In one, a Massachusetts girl responded to a barrage of harassment by taking her own life. Nine people are facing criminal charges in the case, most of whom are being accused of inflicting nothing more than words on the victim, Phoebe Prince.

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The second case of words hurting is closer to home, in Deerfield Beach. Wayne Treacy, 15, is said by investigators to have been so incensed by words he received in text messages that he set out to find the person who sent them, bicycling three miles until he found his target and allegedly beat her to the ground and kicked her in the head in an effort to take her life.

Legally, Treacy is entitled to a presumption of innocence. In fairness, such a presumption should also be extended to Josie Lou Ratley: we do not know the content of the text message that was sent from her phone to Treacy's, nor has it been legally established who sent the message.

All we know with certainty is how investigators say Treacy responded to the words that hurt him.

I had a discussion about these cases last week with Dr. Sameer Hinduja, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FAU and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He explained that the responses of Treacy and Prince appeared to fit certain gender patterns.

"Boys tend to externalize feelings of strain," he said. "Girls tend to internalize them."

So when words hurt Phoebe Prince, she responded by hurting herself. But when words hurt Wayne Treacy, he responded, allegedly, by hurting someone else. Both reactions were extreme, and both results were tragic.

There are plenty of differences in the two cases, and drawing parallels between them is problematic at best. But they do have one thing in common: in both cases, people underestimated the harm words can inflict.

And that's a lesson our teens really need to learn.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Teen (158)

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April 2, 2010

This kiss brought to you by Skype

Since our daughter was a cell, the hubby and I vowed that we would continue to travel -- with or without the rugrat. We wouldn't wait until she was 5 or 10 and was better able to grasp the adventure.

So two months into her post-utero life she had a passport (man, what a hassle that was getting a newborn to look at the camera) and we boarded a flight to the Bahamas. We've stuck to our vow these three years without much ajada until my solo trip to Barcelona.

For six nights I'd be a world away during dinnertime, bathtime, watching Thomas-the-Train-time (Yay!). So we planned on connecting on Skype. And it worked -- mostly.

There were several times when the "image" dropped and I had to restart the webcam. But I got to see what she wore to school (another dress); what she was having for dinner (tortellini); the boo-boo she got at school.

The highlight was when I gave her a kiss and she exclaimed: No mommy, not on my chin on my cheek.

Oh, and all of this video conferencing didn't cost me a pretty penny. Skype is a free program, my hotel Wi-Fi was free. Ain't technology grand?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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April 1, 2010

Three easy ways to get your preschooler on the path to algebraic thinking

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.

Learning how to classify, sort and form patterns at an early age gives a child a jump start in math before they even enter elementary school. Here are three easy activities that you can do together at home.

1. Sorting. Let your child help out by sorting laundry, for example, matching and pairing socks by size shape and color, and by sorting laundry by family member.

2. Helping to put away silverware by type and size (forks, spoons and serving pieces, not knives). Learn how to set the table properly.

3. Playing with patterns. Make and repeat patterns of two, three and four objects. Use silverware and other household items. Progress to making patterns using colors and numbers. Blocks and bead necklaces are fun to work with. Make your own pasta shaped necklaces using food coloring and alcohol, allow to dry, and make patterns on string. Learn how here:

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Finding the right summer camp starts now

Summer is right around the corner. If you’re a working parent, you feel like you’re now racing against the clock to find the right camp for your child.

For parents of young children, it’s about finding quality daycare that doesn’t feel like daycare. The last thing you want is for there to be no discernable difference between pre-school and camp. What fun is that?


That’s why I love the Mailman Segal Institute’s Summer Fun Camp at Nova Southeastern University. They transform the place into a unique summer experience, with sing-alongs, “camp fires” and lots of water and playground fun. Last summer, my son came home every week with a repertoire of new songs and art projects.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the summer camp guide, which lists hundreds of South Florida camps. And to help get you started with your search, here are a few tips worth considering:

- Ask for a group discount. If you have more than one child who will be enrolling in a camp, ask for a price break. It’s also worth asking if you get a group of your kid’s friends to enroll.

- Faith-based groups, city parks and recreation departments, and YMCAs usually offer camps that are reasonably priced.

- Ask about scholarships. Some camps work with foundations that set aside some money to be available to families in need.

- Find out about fieldtrips. Do they have any? I prefer MSI's approach: Bring the fieldtrips to camp. Doing so gives parents more peace of mind that the little ones aren't being shuttled around by others.

- Organize play-date swaps. Check with the parents of some of your child’s friends to see if they’re interested in alternating days or weeks to watch over a small group of kids.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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