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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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July 30, 2010

School days: What's best for kids?

A couple topics that always interest me are in the news: Whether high school should start later in the day and whether summer vacation hurts learning gains.

The answer to both is: Yes.

Science prevails on the side of a later starting hour for teens. My colleagues on our education blog recently posted on the topic.

And Time magazine has an intriguing story this week on the learning that's lost, particularly among low-income children, during summer recess.

What strikes me is that both situations are antiquated and certainly not child-centered. And yet, it's seemingly impossible to change these traditions.

Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft commented that when changing school start times was proposed, students and parents rejected the idea, citing after school work and activity schedules, as well as child care for the youngest.

I don't buy that argument entirely because there's always a work-around. Sure, families would have to adjust, but don't we do that anyway with every new school year. People just don't like change. Why can't we start a little at a time? Start the shift, 15 or 30 minutes each year to high school starts later and elementary starts earlier.

As for summer vacation: Students in this country average 180 days in school. In Japan, the number is 243. 216 in Israel, 192 in England, 190 in Nigeria.

And we wonder what's wrong with American education. There's not enough of it!

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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The perils of having an independent child

Our 3-year-old wants to do it all: brush her teeth, make the pasta, get the "wrinkles" out of the bed, load the washing machine. And we want her to do it all. The hope is that she'll crave being on her own and fly the coop promptly at 18 and return only to deliver airline tickets to bucket-list destinations.

But the road to independence is littered with major fashion mishaps.

Each morning, I give her two outfit choices. Then she chooses -- while I'm out of sight -- her socks and shoes and puts them on.

Sometimes the pairings are dynamite. (How cute are those hot-pink socks with kelly-green shoes?!?)


Most times her choices are, um, inventive. Exhibit A: Turquoise socks with muted-silver shoes. Really?


POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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July 29, 2010

Boo-boos hurt parents, too

Rafael Olmeda
I couldn't stand it.

Leo was shrieking. I could only hear it on the phone as my wife was explaining what happened: he burned his finger while apparently trying to grab his big sister's hair straightener. His cries were more effective than any lecture on leaving hot objects unattended with a toddler walking around the house, I assure you.

In any household, the longer you go without an accident, the more tempting it is to become complacent and forget all the lessons about babyproofing and vigilance that were drilled into your head from the moment you first found out baby was on the way. If you're lucky, a little boo-boo is the only price the kid will pay for a momentary lapse of vigilance.

In Leo's case, that boo-boo is, apparently, a second-degree burn on his right ring finger. For me and my wife, the worst thing was hearing his uncontrollable cries and being unable to just make the pain go away. My wife called her brother, a paramedic, who quickly advised her to run Leo's hand under cool (not cold) water and to call our pediatrician. Done. He's fine. We got him some ointment and we'll be keeping an eye on his finger to make sure there's no lasting damage.

Before Leo was born, we all learned infant CPR and picked up other first aid tips. But now he's almost 18 months old, and the lessons we learned are even older. It's time for a refresher, not only on prevention, but on what to do in the event something happens (as it inevitably will).

For information on pediatric first aid classes, check with your pediatrician or your local hospital.

Another handy place to check is your local Red Cross chapter. In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, visit for general information, or call 954-797-3800 in Broward and 305-644-1200 in Miami-Dade.

Linda Olson, safety education director for the Greater Palm Beach Area Chapter of the Red Cross, stressed that first aid and other safety education is valuable not only for parents, but anyone of any age who might supervise your children (like their older siblings, for example): call 561-650-9115 for information on classes in Palm Beach County. POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Safety (59)

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Finding ways to teach boys through farts and fun

worksheet.jpgWhat is it about boys and bodily functions?

Last night, my five-year-old son was working on a recommended summer worksheet that asked that he draw and write three things that are important to him. His answers were:

No. 1: Water, “Because water helps me poop.”
No. 2: Poop, “Because it’s important that I poop every day.”
No. 3: Drago (his Bakugan), “Because everybody needs a protector.”

Yes, my son drew poop.

And I didn’t care. I was just thrilled that he was writing without complaint. Getting him to write or read (actually reading, not just being read to) usually takes pleading, bribery or both.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Many parents of young boys express frustrations of trying to engage their sons in homework.

What to do? Here are a few thoughts:

Poop, farts and anything gross: Some experts suggest topic selection is the way to engage young boys. Gross, silly and nonfiction appears to do the trick. In fact, there is now a series of children’s books based on passing gas. A fourth-grade teacher in 2008 published “SweetFarts,” a book about a 9-year-old boy who developed a science project that turned foul smelling gas into sweet scents (candy, grapes, pickles). The second installment, “SweetFarts: Rippin’ it Old School,” is scheduled to be released next month.

Make it fun: The other day to reinforce numbers and counting, I had my son start a list and begin counting objects in our house. He had to complete sentences like, “My house has ___ beds. My house has ___ sinks.” You get the idea: Closets, bathrooms, bananas…whatever. He loved it. He jumped out of the chair and took a notepad around the house.

Experiment: I learned early on that my son loves science. Mostly, it’s the experiments that draw him in. We experiment mixing paint colors; we experiment mixing milk with water; we experiment in the bathtub to determine what floats and what doesn’t. Along the way, he has learned words like “hypothesis.” And, yes, he’s learned a lot about poop. POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 28, 2010

Kids say the funniest things: Viral videos

Art Linkletter is dead but kids keep saying the darndest thing. Go figure.

And we don't have to wait for one of the big networks to compile the videos for a TV special.

YouTube has them all waiting to tickle our funny bones.

There's the video that the world saw of Charlie biting big-brother's finger. It starts out harmless and then it turns hurtful quickly. More than 213 million views make it the gold-star of kids gone viral videos.

But have you seen the video of the girl having a fit because her parents suggest they give away the newborn sibling? (Video No. 4)

Or the one in which the toddler tells Mom he only likes her when she gives him cookies? (Video No. 5)

Check out all 14 videos of kids gone viral.

"Charlie bit my finger"

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Do you share a bed with your spouse?

My husband and I have our share of sleeping issues. He snores; I'm the lightest sleeper on the planet. I go to bed early and get up early; he burns the midnight oil and gets up well after sunrise.couplesleeping.jpg

I have found this is sort of a taboo topic among my friends. So I was reassured this week to learn we are not alone. Lots of couples have sleep problems. One in four American couples sleep in separate beds, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The trend is so strong that the National Association of Home Builders expects to build separate master bedrooms for 60 percent of custom-built homes by 2015.

That statistic really stopped me. People are even telling their architects about the challenges of sleeping together. Finally this topic is coming out in the open.

Do you sleep with your spouse? What kinds of issues do you face? What do you do to make sure you get enough sleep? POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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July 27, 2010

Teaching life skills through travel

mariabailey100.jpgFrom guest blogger Maria Bailey:

As a working mom with four busy children and a hectic business travel schedule during most of the year, I make a point to carve out an extended summer vacation with the family. As the children have grown older, they have had more of a say in the destination, to the point that this year’s vacation choice was made entirely by the children - with our final ok, of course! Because they made the choice, I let them organize the trip. Planning a trip incorporates skills not just geography, but life skills like finance, organization, time management and more.

I’ve always been a big believer that knowing how to navigate TSA and exchanging currency are as important as knowing Einstein’s theory of relativity. Over the years, I’ve learned a few secrets that make a trip, across the state or overseas, a teaching tool for children.

1. Tour guide for a day: I appoint each child the role of tour guide for the day. In this role, the selected child has the option to select whatever site, landmark or attraction they want to visit. However, they must research their options and educate the rest of the family. Our child tour guide is also required to point out to the rest of the family at least five fun facts about our destination. These can be names of special sites, historical events or even famous residents. As the kids have grown, they choose to surprise the rest of the clan once we arrive at our destination.

2. Transportation Navigator: Once again, this is a daily assignment for one of my children. Our selected Transportation Navigator is responsible for directing the family through train stations, subways or airports. This enhances their skills in reading maps, finding departure gates, using fare machines and time management so we don’t miss the bus, train or plane!

3. Family Banker: This child is responsible for all things money such as converting Euros to dollars or determining the appropriate tip for cabbies or lunch. It’s a good way to get children familiar with currency issues and it also reinforces math skills.

Of course, not all learning is independent learning while we travel. As a group, we review hotel etiquette and safety, carry-on packing strategies and emergency food assembly. There’s nothing like being prepared and sometimes this can be the best lesson of all when traveling for business or pleasure.

Be sure to check back for the follow up to this blog when I report back on our trip to a country far, far away!

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

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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July 26, 2010

Might - of the mind - builds self-esteem

It’s OK to “fight” for your identity – by developing a positive self-image.

That’s the message former WCW female wrestler, Ann-Marie Rae, will convey to a group of youth at a free event Wednesday July 28.

Known as “Midnight,” in the ring, the local entrepreneur and motivational speaker will share her philosophy with children and their parents at 7 p.m., at the Christ Community Church at 901 E. McNab Road in Pompano Beach.

Her presentation, geared primarily toward children entering middle school and older, will also feature some clips of her wrestling days.

Choosing sports as a way of being focused and active and working with local youth has long been a part of what defines Rae – before she became a professional wrestler, she worked at the North Lauderdale Boys & Girls Club and for Lauderhill Parks & Recreation.

Rae’s outline for children to build self-confidence: identify your strength and find a way to develop it. Envision your future. Forgive. Share your skills

It seems like sound advice– create an environment where one can grow to be well-rounded and confident. Sharing makes one’s world bigger. Forgiving allows us to move forward. And keeping an eye on what one wants to be with he or she grows up creates focus.

And it all takes a little of something Rae knows about – strength – of the mind kind.

For more information about her presentation call 954-943-3866.

Follow Cindy Kent on or join her on Facebook

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), School Issues (135), Sex (16), Sports (29), Teen (158)

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July 23, 2010

The crazy things parents say to get their kids to eat

It happened at dinner.

My husband said to our 3-year-old, as way of encouragement, that she should eat her spinach because it'll make her poop green.

HULLO, I'M EATING! (Well, I could actually lose a few pounds and that statement made me forget my appetite.)

That got me to thinking what other wacky things parents are saying to cajole their children into eating their fruits and vegetables.

pickyeater-image.jpgI put the questions to my Mommy Friends who offered up a few gems. Feel free to use these tactics with your own children. And, wise mamas and papas, be sure to share your Words of Encouragement with us.

Broccoli, it's the new popcorn

When Lauren was about 3 or 4 I wanted her to eat broccoli. She wouldn't. She said it smelled funny. So one time we were having movie night. Instead of making popcorn, I made a big, steaming plate of broccoli. I added butter and I ate every last piece. No matter how much she begged, I wouldn't give her any. I told her it was "big people food" and I didn't think she was ready for it.

So the next time I made broccoli, she said, "Mommy, I sure would like to try that big people food." At first I said absolutely not. Then I looked suspiciously over each shoulder then whispered, "I'll give you a little, but don't tell anyone. This is not for little, bitty girls like you."

She very seriously nodded her head and wolfed down my broccoli. Now, she's 12, and to this day when I make broccoli she cheers. CHEERS! For broccoli.

-- Sherri Winston, author of The Kayla Chronicles

Yucky food is the best food

My parents told my brothers that brussel sprouts were frog eyes with blood (served with ketchup). They told my sister mushrooms were angel-bread. And I told my daughter Beka that broccoli heads are trees, where the birds live. She loves birds so she eats it right away. She only eats the tops.

Also when it comes to new round fruits I have to tell her they are apples to get her to take the first bite.

-- Sarah Dussault

Food as science

For the most part, my dad gave very weird sage wisdom: Corn is a good tracer -- if you get my drift.

And he gave some foods some weird names like honey is bee puke. Minced, dried onions are clipped toenails (My sister won't touch onions to this day.)

Mountain Dew is panther pee-pee.

My parents also told us that onions cure colds, and ketchup goes with everything, which it practically did.

And Dad taught one of my sisters to mix everything up in one big heap. Said the food got mixed in the stomach, so might as well start the process early. I make a point to this day to keep my food separate.

It's any wonder that I don't have a lot of food issues.

-- Belinda Long Ivey

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Family dining reviews: Got any ideas for dinner tonight?

Eating in my family is a challenge. On one end is my son who is stubborn and picky. Then there is my husband, who would rather drive many miles to eat at a hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant with authentic food than go to a chain. My daughter is willing, to a point, to try new things. Me, I just want everyone to be fed and happy.

So it's hard to find a restaurant that pleases everyone. That's why when we do go out, we want to make sure we know what we're doing and we don't want to waste our money.

To the rescue: Our family dining reviews.

A couple months ago us Moms & Dads bloggers started reviewing restaurants with our families in tow. The reviews run every Thursday in the Food section, and you can find them all online at

The beauty of this is: We are not food snobs. We are just regular moms and dads trying to get our families fed without too much time, money or effort invested.

I got to review Bellini's Coal Fired Pizza in Fort Lauderdale (I'd like to go back to with my girlfriends.) Chris Tiedje and his small brood had a blast at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Dania. Jon Burstein checked out the funky Mellow Mushroom in Delray Beach. But we aren't ignoring the chains (because, aside from my husband, that's how most of us eat).

But we'd really like to hear from you. Where do you go with your family? Share your ideas. Maybe one of us will go back later for a closer look.

And if you're one of those people who takes photos of your restaurant food (yes, husband does that, too) share those, too. We took the photo above at a little Mexican place in the Redlands. Can't even remember the name of the place, but it's attached to a Valero gas station.

Upload your restaurant food photos at


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July 22, 2010

When will my toddler start to talk?

Rafael Olmeda
Did he just say "Do it again"?

He did. We're sure of it. Or at least, he meant to. When his mom tickled his belly, and when his big sister tossed him on the bed (gently, never exactly letting him go). "Dah-gin." We're sure it meant "Do it again." What else could it mean?

Leo is, at last, at the stage when the sounds coming out of his mouth are related to the thoughts, or at least the feelings, in his head. He'll hold a camera or a cell phone up and say "aaaaaah," which we all know is his way of taking a picture of himself (sigh) and saying "cheeeeeese."

He's fast approaching the age of 18 months. I don't know why, but I figured at this stage he and I would be having profound discussions about the role of government envisioned by the founders, the existence of God, or at least the benefits of going potty rather than waiting for a diaper change.


We're not sure what it means, but we're sure it means something. I'm hoping it means "Cancer cure! I've figured out a cancer cure!" Somehow I doubt it, unless the cure for cancer is related to throwing plastic balls out of the makeshift ball pit in our living room.

Everyone's telling me not to worry and not to rush Leo's speech development. For one thing, I'm being a tad unrealistic. I mean, really, who wants to talk about Benjamin Franklin's political philosophy with a toddler (or with anyone else, for that matter)? And for another, children learn to talk at different paces. Before I know it, I'm assured, my wife and I will be falling into the same pattern as so many parents before us.

You know the pattern: "you spend the first 18 months trying to get them to stand up and talk, and the next 18 years trying to get them to sit down and shut up."

I don't know who first said that, but whoever it was deserves a Pulitzer.

Leo, can you spell "Pulitzer"?


POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Say what!?! (25), Toddler (127)

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Five things to do with your kids to keep cool this summer

When my children are miserable, I am miserable. The South Florida summer heat has been testing my family lately. It’s so hot that I’ve begun to compile a list of things to do that can keep my kids cool and occupied even if it’s 95 degrees outside with a humidity level so thick you can dip chips in it.

Here are my top five. What are yours? Please share:

Water parks: The only parks I’m going to these days must have the word “water” in front of them. And one of the perks of living in South Florida -- there are plenty of options for water parks. My two favorite are Paradise Cove at CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines and Castaway Island at TY Park in Hollywood. Food, shade and water slides. What more do you need? Want more options? Check out’s list of South Florida water parks.

Skating rinks: There are both ice skating and roller skating options throughout South Florida, and I’m determined to try a few this summer. Just because you’re indoors doesn’t mean your kids can’t be doing exercise. I plan to introduce my five-year-old son to both ice skating and roller skating before the summer is over. Wish me luck.

Get messy at home: The other day, I took my kids to the art supply store to buy an ample supply of finger paints and big banner paper. Both loved getting messy in the (screened, ceiling-fan equipped) back patio. My son made an American flag, and my 9-month-old daughter just had fun making a big, fat mess. A nice bubble bath followed.

Be a tourist: Sure I know South Florida like the back of my hand. But my kids don’t. A boat and a nice view of our beautiful waterways can be a nice distraction for everyone in the family. Fort Lauderdale has the Jungle Queen. Miami’s Bayside has the Island Princess.

Indoor attractions: There is a selection of museums, of course, but there’s so much more: Wannado City in Sunrise, Playmobil Fun Park in Palm Beach Gardens, and the new LEGO store in Aventura, to name a few.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 21, 2010

Another day, another funeral for my daughter's beloved goldfish

I have to be honest: One reason I bought my daughter a goldfish bowl for her 8th birthday is to expose her to the cycle of life. You know -- birth, growth and the inevitable trip down the toilet pipes. And then Fish Heaven.

Thank goodness the fish are only 25 cents. We've been through quite a few. This morning, we woke up to find all three fish -- whom she had named Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy -- floating lifeless in the bowl.

I've gotten to where I don't make much ceremony about the burial. I just toss them in the toilet. But friends have told me about burying these four-for-a-dollar beings in tissue paper and boxes, or floating them in a river, on a paper plate. I'm not sure how big of a deal to make of it. I didn't want her sobbing. But it might be important to put some value on life, even if it is just a goldfish, so she doesn't go on to become a serial killer.

As you can see in the above clip from this morning's service, I did at least utter a quick prayer before the ... FLUSH!

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Kids with webcams: 11 year-old YouTube star Jessie Slaughter in protective custody

11 Year-Old YouTube star "Jessie Slaughter" was taken into police protective custody after her family began receiving death threats following this video post.


I hardly know where to begin with this one. Are parents really so lax that an 11-year-old has unrestricted access to the internet with a webcam? Not to mention the things that are coming out of her mouth. Wow.

Just to show you how clueless the parents really are, they posted this response to the threats their daughter received via YouTube.


And then they leave the room to allow their daughter to continue her video post. Seriously? Here is an idea, TAKE THE WEBCAM! How about moving the computer out of her room so that you can see what she's surfing? Maybe put some site restrictions on her browser so she can't access YouTube? Wow.

Lucky for me, my kids are too young to face these issues yet. Do you have rules for computer time in your house? Are certain sites restricted on your home computer? Share your thoughts with us.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Family Issues (231), Pre-Teen (57), Safety (59)

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July 20, 2010

Mr. Cellophane, the perfect stepfather

Rafael Olmeda
I wasn't a stepfather for very long when I learned that conversations, even those held in my immediate presence, are private affairs that require an invitation in order authorize my participation.

The first time I was made aware of this was during a car ride. One of the girls was having an argument with their mom, and I chimed in with what I thought was a brilliant, informed and relevant observation. And I may have been right. I thought I'd get a thank you. But I didn't have an invitation, a fact my stepdaughter reminded me of rather abruptly.

It happened another time, when my wife was arguing with her other daughter about a fire hazard in her room. Responding to her mom's criticism, my stepdaughter said something that actually undermined her own argument. Naturally, I stepped in and informed my stepdaughter of the fact that she was contradicting herself and making her mother's case for her. This should have made her see the error of her ways and cause her to rethink her opposition to her mother's guidance.

"Who invited you into the conversation?" she screeched.

Now, I don't think I said anything wrong in either case. But I was wrong to jump in. On the playground, it was "mind your own business." In our house, it's "who invited you into the conversation?" Is that disrespectful? Definitely, but no more disrespectful than barging into a conversation uninvited.

This prohibition against conversation crashing, incidentally, only goes one way. The girls are perfectly free to barge into any conversation I'm having with my wife, whether we are discussing household finances, our friends' wedding plans or the moral issues raised by last night's episode of "Glee."

If I were to respond to one of their interruptions with "who invited you into this conversation?" I'd be sleeping in the doghouse for a week. We don't have a dog. Or a house for visiting canines.

So I'm learning to shut up, which is a skill that one needs to develop. I'm not very good at it, I must admit. But I'm improving.

As my wife and one daughter argued heatedly one recent evening, I struggled with a huge dilemma: do I eat the chicken my wife just cooked or the store-bought wings that were in the refrigerator from the night before? It was a tough call. Both were delicious. But I chose the freshly cooked meal. And it was goo-ooood.

My wife and my stepdaughter were still arguing when I was finished eating, but by then I was far more interested in why the judges on "So You Think You Can Dance" were so critical of the Jose Ruiz routine using "Mr. Cellophane" from the musical "Chicago." I thought it was a good routine. I didn't see why they were so hard on him.

Oh, and yes, my wife and stepdaughter still argued.

It's not that I wasn't listening. I was. It was impossible to avoid it. But had I jumped in, I would probably have said...

Actually, it doesn't matter what I would have said, which is kind of the point. If you're not invited into the conversation, you become the issue, and whatever you have to say, right or wrong, wise or foolish, gets lost.

So shut up. Mind your business. And have some more chicken.

I hope I didn't take up too much of your time.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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July 19, 2010

Dads Life Rap Video. Does this sum up your life, too?

This sums up my life so perfectly that I had to share. What is your favorite part?

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Music (22)

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July 16, 2010

Rules for mommies (and daddies) to live by

A wonderful mommy friend of mine shared a list of 10 Mommy Commandments on her Facebook. I love them!

I share gently used clothes and toys. I share coupons and deals with my mommy friends. And tips on where to take the little ones to play without spending the mortgage.

Here are the first five of the commandments:

I. Thou shall always return the Tupperware. Clean.

commandments.jpgII. Thou shalt not judge the Mommy Friend who: formula feeds, gets the epidural, vaccinates, works outside the home or works inside the home.

III. Thou shalt not crucify a fellow Mommy Friend for choosing not to join the PTA.

IV. Thou shalt not steal baby names, nursery patterns, blog posts or another Mommy Friend’s thunder.

V. Thou shall offer that frazzled stranger mom in the throes of an ugly public tantrum a word of encouragement, but never advice.

Read the other commandments.

And let me know what's missing.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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July 15, 2010

Top ten list: Golden opportunities of summer

You can take advantage of the extra time you’ll have with your child this summer by incorporating reading games into your everyday activities. These times when you can help your child practice reading and writing are Golden Opportunities. Here are 10 ways to make sure you don’t miss out.

1. When waiting for a meal in a restaurant, ask your child to read items on the menu.

2. When waiting at the ice cream shop, have your child try to read all the ice cream flavors. To mix things up you could ask them to read to themselves and then tell you all the flavors that include chocolate or a type of fruit.

3. On a car trip, a great way to pass the time is to read bumper stickers and the sides of panel trucks. See who can be the first one to spot a specific word or letter.

4. If you go to a theme park or zoo this summer, let your child be your “tour guide.” Depending on age and reading level, your child can read signs or the full descriptions from books and brochures.

5. Let your child write a list of things to take on vacation. They can then check off the items on their list as they pack.

6. Similarly, your child can make a summer activity to-do list. Let them post it on the refrigerator and make tally marks of the number of times they did particular things at the end of the day.

7. Summer is the perfect time to make cool collections of things you find outdoors—bugs, rocks, flowers, etc.—and make custom labels. Older kids can look up the objects in their collection in library books, while younger kids can fill out their labels with simple descriptions.

8. As a family, send post cards to friends and relatives even if you don’t leave town.

9. A new notebook can serve a number of purposes for your child: a diary or travel journal, a field notebook or collection of short stories.

10. Start a scrapbook with pictures and captions of summer fun.

maggiecary2.jpgMaggie 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.

Over 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.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Rush Limbaugh's 'cracker' comment: No offense intended?

Rafael Olmeda
It took two tries, but it seems I got my point across with my last two entries exploring the dynamic of teaching politeness to your kids and developing a thick skin.

And not a moment too soon. Motherlode, the parenting blog at the New York Times, ventured into somewhat similar territory with a post on a Chicago writer who, in a very serious story, used the term "ghetto parenting" to describe a particular kind of neglectful childrearing that produces everything from kids with their belts at their knees to young adults bound for prison.

Question: is the term "ghetto parenting" racist? Does it affect your answer to that question to learn that the writer who coined the term is, herself, black?

limbaugh.jpgThe next day, talk show host Rush Limbaugh stepped in it (actually, he gleefully jumped in it with both feet) by describing the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as a "cracker" who made a lot of African Americans rich while firing a lot of white managers.

The comment seemed calculated to provoke outrage somewhere, somehow, from someone. Al Sharpton rose, or stooped, to the occasion by decrying the comment and suggesting an apology was in order.

Nonsense. The only thing that was offensive about Limbaugh's statement was that he neglected to mention the number of Hispanic millionaires Steinbrenner created. I hate when Latinos are left out of stories, especially when the stories are about millionaires.

I thought Limbaugh was rather clearly playing with people's perceptions of himself and making a serious point, too: while his detractors search vigorously for the smoking gun that proves his racism, he contends his real passion is not for white supremacy, but colorblind capitalism.

And it was funny. He calls it "illustrating absurdity by being absurd." Limbaugh calling someone a cracker is like me calling someone a hypersensitive p.c. cop (at least, according to MY critics).

My point is that we are bombarded daily by examples of people using words that provoke: sometimes they provoke pain, anger, hurt, or offense. Other times they provoke righteous indignation, resolve, determination and courage. At the very least, we can hope they provoke thought.

Did Rush Limbaugh go too far, using Steinbrenner's legacy to make a political point when the body wasn't even cold yet? Did Mary Mitchell go too far, coining the phrase "ghetto parenting" and not expecting race to overwhelm the ensuing discussion?

As parents, we are charged with the mission of teaching our kids right from wrong, good from bad, polite from rude. In doing so, we should also be able to see that intending offense is not always a matter of black or white.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Politics (18), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Say what!?! (25)

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Keeping kids safe on Facebook takes a village

Twice in the last month I’ve had to play Facebook cop. On two separate occasions, I came across photos from the children of two childhood friends of mine. With a simple click, I was not only able to see the most recent photos they tagged on Facebook but all of their photo albums. I shouldn’t have been able to. I’m not friends with them on Facebook.

In both cases, they were young teenage girls, which meant they had their share of photos where they tried their best to look 25. I messaged both of their mothers and politely suggested that they check their daughters’ privacy settings. My guess was the teens had their albums set to be viewed by “friends of friends” as opposed to just “friends.”


Both of my friends quickly responded with a big thanks. They had not realized there was an open window to their kids’ accounts. I just hope I have friends who return the favor one day when my kids are teens.

There has been lots of chatter lately about Facebook and its privacy settings. All parents should take steps to keep their kids safe on the social networking site. Here’s where I would start. What do you have to add?

First, get on Facebook. Don’t just open an account and never use it. Become “Friends” with your kids. Learn to use and love Facebook. Become familiar with its applications. It’s only when you become a skilled user that you’ll be able to inform your children on how to behave and use Facebook.

Sit down and go over all of the account and privacy settings with your teen. (Facebook rules dictate you must be at least 13 to open an account; I’m sure there are many kids who get around that.) Become familiar with how to block someone, how to secure photo albums, wall posts, etc. Be sure to check back regularly. Facebook has changed its privacy settings several times in the last year.

Enlist your close friends to help keep your kids safe. Ask them from time to time to try to access your child’s account. If they are not “Friends” with your child, they should not be able to see anything that is posted on your child’s page. If you see something wrong with your friends' children's accounts, be sure to reach out to the parents and let them know.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 14, 2010

Open hearts, open homes

Keerin.jpgKeerin is a delightful ten year old girl who enjoys being outdoors. She is an active youth who enjoys most outdoor games and also drawing and coloring. With her bubbly personality, Keerin can make friends almost instantly. Her favorite food is McDonald’s French fries. This loving child is in need of a home that will provide structure and gentle guidance. Currently, Keerin is receiving special education services. She would benefit greatly from a family that will provide her with the encouragement and support she need to excel academically.

For more information about Keerin 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 Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs.

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

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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i-Dosing: Should you worry about digital drugs? Are binaural beats dangerous?

Use of digital drugs is said to be on the rise with our kids, and there is still little we know about the long-term effects of binaural beats. "i-Dosing", as it is called, is when you put on headphones and listen to music or tones that are designed to alter brainwave activity. The result is a supposed drug-like euphoria similar to alcohol or marijuana. The website has tracks with titles like Cocaine, Opium, and Peyote. They even have an ad telling you that you can "earn big money selling i-Doser digital drugs." Nice.

This is a video clip which I found on a recent story from The Oklahoman on the subject...

I think the fact the major universities have done studies which have been "inconclusive" is reason enough for us to be worried. That along with the fact that the websites who sell these tracks (for no cheaper than $16.95) also push "Legal Bud", "Mood Pills" and "Legal Hash".

Granted this isn't as bad as The choking game, but still something we need to be aware of in order to be responsible parents. Have your kids had experiences with this?

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Health (111), Music (22), Safety (59)

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July 13, 2010

It's already time for back to school shopping

Went on a quick shopping trip yesterday to grab up some school supplies for my son. The first day of public school in Broward County is Aug. 23.

But there are a lot of South Florida parents on top if it already - because the composition notebooks I intended to purchase were already sold out. So I ended up getting some essentials - but not many.

I've noticed - as he gets older and more connected to technology that he uses fewer pens and pencils. He goes through less notebook paper.

But we get him a new portable USB drive each year. And he uses more paper for the printer.

Still, he uses colored pencils for at least one or two assignments and still needs notebooks for each subject. There is always a glue stick around the house, and tape and a stapler.

When my son takes lunch to school - he brown bags it - so I don't have an excuse to get a cool lunch box.

Have you already filled your kids back back with tools for school? Or are you waiting for the last minute? Are you noticing that there are things you aren't buying? or not buying as much of as in past years?

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz Join her on Facebook at Cindy Kent Sun Sentinel

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Elementary School (54), School Issues (135), Shopping (28), Teen (158)

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Political correctness v. defending boorishness

Olmeda60x56.jpgWhen did advocating civility become a bad thing?

Last week, I wrote about my personal objection to the expression “that’s so gay,” a needless and usually thoughtless insult that, unfortunately, shows little sign of abating in popular culture.

And boy, did I hear it from some of you.

“How about promoting thicker skins instead of curbing language?” one reader weighed in.

“We have turned into a society who tip-toes so as to not offend anyone. Maybe people should just be less easily offended,” wrote another, who [full disclosure] is an acquaintance of mine with a terrific singing voice.

“How can we compete globally as a nation of thin-skinned crybabies?” asked a third.

These criticisms raise a valid point, one I agree with. But they miss a valid point, too: I just don't see why it has to be an either-or proposition.

rickles.jpgLet’s clarify: I intended to share what I think and what I'm doing with my conversations and my household. Yes, I hope you agree with me and do the same, but I don't advocate the counterproductive approach taken in one of the public service announcements I posted (comedienne Wanda Sykes berates a group of teenagers at a pizzeria who use the expression, reinforcing the stereotype of 'voluntarily indignant' p.c. police barging into other people’s conversations, uninvited, to tell them what they can and cannot say).

Some of us (myself included) need to grow a thicker skin. A thick skin is a virtue, no doubt. Looking for offense around every corner helps no one, and butting in on other people’s conversations only compounds rudeness, in my view.

But I don’t see where developing a thick skin on my part excuses a lack of politeness on yours.

A thick skin and a respectful attitude are not mutually exclusive virtues. They can, indeed should, coexist peacefully.

It's not about barging into other people's conversations. It's about taking responsibility for my own, and passing that sense of responsibility and respect onto my kids. You would think no one would have a problem with that, but some people do. They think any sensitivity is hypersensitivity, any voluntary show of respect a mandatory surrender to the ironically intolerant forces of political correctness.

In their paranoia, they turn boorishness into a virtue, and woe to those who have the inner decency to recognize their boorishness for what it is.

Here’s what I think: some people enjoy being offensive, and they hate being called on it. They gleefully use words as weapons to spread their rudeness, either with deliberate intent or reckless disregard, and when their rudeness has its inevitable effect and they are called on it, they play the victim by accusing their critics of political correctness or hypersensitivity.

Or they play the misunderstood comic genius, branding themselves as “equal-opportunity offenders” in the style of Don Rickles, failing to understand how Rickles brilliantly undermined bigotry by exposing its ugliness. Rickles should sue such amateurs for slander.

It is the height of hypocrisy, how they whine about the criticism by telling other people not to be so sensitive to their deliberate or reckless rudeness. Or worse, in other cases, they imply or state outright that because they're not offended by an insult that wasn't directed at them in the first place, no one else should be. The arrogance!

The truth is, you don’t have to be thin-skinned to know rudeness when you see it. There should be nothing wrong with insisting on civility in yourself, or in passing that virtue on to your kids.

So thanks for the advice. I'll teach my kid to grow a thicker skin. And to be a decent person, to boot. I've found that if you’re any good at either, it's not hard to be good at both.

A little credit where credit is due: to the best of my knowledge, the term "voluntarily indignant" was coined by Sun-Sentinel TV writer Tom Jicha to describe those who are quick to take offense. It's a good term, but I didn't ask him for permission to borrow it. Gee, I hope he's not offended by that...

POSTED IN: Politics (18), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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July 12, 2010

CDC: Pregnant women and the Gulf Oil Spill

I hope no one's getting Gulf Oil Spill fatigue. This is one news story that is not going away, and we do ourselves a disservice if we don't keep ourselves up to date.

Deepwater.jpgOur particular stretch of beach in South Florida is still clear and clean, fortunately. Still, coastal counties are preparing for what to do in case Deep Water Horizon tar balls start washing up on our shores.

The Centers for Disease Control has put together a handy guide for pregnant women who live in or are visiting coastal areas and are concerned about the potential effects on their unborn children. The information page is, refreshingly, not alarmist:

Although the oil may contain some chemicals that could cause harm to an unborn baby under some conditions, the CDC has reviewed sampling data from the EPA and feels that the levels of these chemicals are well below the level that could generally cause harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies. The effects that chemicals might have on a pregnant woman and her unborn baby would depend on many things: how the mother came into contact with the oil, how long she was in contact with it, how often she came into contact with it, and the overall health of the mother and her baby.

People, including pregnant women, can be exposed to these chemicals by breathing them (air), by swallowing them (water, food), or by touching them (skin). If possible, everyone, including pregnant women, should avoid the oil and spill-affected areas. Generally, a pregnant woman will see or smell the chemicals in oil before those chemicals can hurt her or the baby. The EPA and CDC are working together to continue monitoring the levels of oil in the environment. If we begin to find levels that are more likely to be harmful, we will tell the public.

Be sure to read the rest, if only to be on the safe side. For now, at least in South Florida, the coast remains clear: Click here for a live webcam of Fort Lauderdale Beach!

POSTED IN: Pregnancy (31), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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Should you tell a friend their child is dangerously obese?

I’ve learned that you have to tread carefully when bringing up certain issues to parents. Most parents don’t want to hear that their disciplining skills need work. Few want to know that their child is spoiled.

And a child’s weight is often seen as a taboo subject you just don’t touch.

But what do you do when you're friends with a parent whose child is extremely overweight, and yet they’re constantly feeding them unhealthy fast food?

On one hand, by sitting back and saying absolutely nothing aren’t you silently watching a parent put their child at risk?

We know the rate of obesity among children has been on the steady rise since the 70s. Obese children are much more likely to display risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure.

Yet, still, this is still a subject parents try avoid among each other.

Rather than preaching to a parent, I think you have to open up a dialogue with a few questions and hear them out. Maybe they’re searching for some help but don’t know where to turn.

Why not start healthy-eating potlucks and invite that parent over? Make sure play dates involve something physical where kids are getting exercise. And skip the fast-food drive thru -- we can all benefit from that.

Rather than telling a parent the obvious, we can show them alternatives that may just help.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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July 9, 2010

LeBron James' alleged father should owe him money

"A Washington lawyer has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming he is the father of basketball star LeBron James," reported this week.

LeBron is now part of the South Florida family and as such I feel I have to defend him against this frivolous lawsuit. (His agent and lawyer, I'm sure, are a bit busy getting him settled in with the Miami Heat.)

The D.C. lawyer Leicester Stovell claims that in 1984 he slept with LeBron's mother and a few months later Gloria (we're on a first-name basis now) told him she was pregnant. Stovell admits she didn't say: I'm pregnant and I think the baby is yours.

Oh, and he didn't think anything of it until 20 years later.

"Stovell said his only request was that the child, if a boy, play basketball. He said his memory of the encounter resurfaced more than 20 years later, "after being asked whether I had a son, and I then systematically explored all of my past for that possibility."

Give me a break, mister.

If Stovell's lawsuit goes anywhere and he's granted the DNA test (this would be the second one he's taken; the first one didn't establish him as Dad) and is proven to be the father I say he owes LeBron at least $100,000. That would be his share of the estimated $200,000 that it takes to raise a child these days.

If he had an inkling that he was a father than it was his responsibility to find out 24 years ago. Not now when LeBron is lined up to rake in $99 million with the Miami Heat on top of his gazillions from product endorsements.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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The myth of the lazy summer

Summer is a myth. All those "lazy days of summer" cliches. All those images of lounging in a beachside cottage. Falsehoods. Especially if you have kids. And double-especially if you work.

Getting kids up and dressed and packed with lunches for camp is just as trying as getting them ready for school. Organizing playdates, getting them to practices and games and volunteer jobs, catching up on doctors and dentist appointments -- it requires just as much coordination. And summer reading lists? Even more argument-producing than homework.

Somehow, things are even worse the older the kids get. They are more mobile, harder to keep track of. You'd think cell phones would help, but I've found that when there's a big Xbox tournament going on at someone's house, teenage boys don't answer calls from their mother. (My colleague Cindy Kent knows. She wrote about the gaming phenomenon earlier this week.)

I'm exhausted. Thank goodness for our support system. What would we do without Maria, Magali, Rick, Kenny, Georgie, Dennis, Chris, Ralph, Pamela, Denise and all the others who help me and my husband keep track of our kids and get them to where they need to be. Thanks everyone!

I hope every parent has a network of friends and family to help out. "It takes a village" is a cliche I believe in.

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

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July 8, 2010

Get it straight: why I won't say 'that's so gay'

It's funny how some words and phrases vanish as fads while others manage to stick around for decades. "Cool" stuck around for generations. "Bad" is, of course, good. And if something's really good, it's really bad... like "wicked."

Most terms suffer a quicker and more merciful death. Remember when the latest dance move was considered "fresh"? I'll never forget the day I went to see The Running Man at the movies in 1987. As I left, I overhead two guys about my age saying the movie was "dope." It was a compliment. "Dope" certainly outlived its 15 minutes, but I'm not sure it outlived the 1990s.

Sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s, I started to hear "that's so gay." Seriously, it was that long ago. I can document it: the phrase was used in the 1999 movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" (a hilarious picture you should hide from your children at all costs).

I care about language, and I care about the damage words can inflict on civil discourse. Some people call me politically correct, to which I normally argue that they're half-right. It's not about politics. It's about standing up for what's right.

I don't know how many teens have exercised the self-discipline to refrain from using this demeaning expression. I cringe when I hear it uttered by those who are close to me. I found a handful of public service announcements that try to deal with the issue, that try to show people how rude and disrespectful they're being when they use the term. And while I find myself in agreement with the PSA's, I seriously doubt they will have much of an impact.

People just don't seem to care. "That's so stupid. That's so dumb. That's so retarded. That's so blonde. That's so gay." It's just words, right? So what if it slowly but surely embeds in the speakers a coarse indifference to those around us? So what if it validates disrespect to the point that anyone who complains about it must have a problem. Must be a sympathizer. Must be one of them, secretly.

Look, I can't speak for or at everyone else, take the case to the world and convert people toward a more respectful manner of speech. Some crusades are doomed to fail: you just have to start in your own household, maybe let the people around you know what you're doing, and hope respect catches on.

I hope our girls see from my example, and my wife's, that there's something inappropriate about "that's so gay." And I hope my son, still too young to know bigotry and hate, never has to deal with this particular contemptuous expression of banality.

For this expression to last another 10-15 years? Why, that would be so...

POSTED IN: General (185), Pre-Teen (57), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Say what!?! (25), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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Is your child gifted?

If my husband and I had met when we were in grade school (technically impossible, I like to point out, since we’re nine years apart), we probably would not have been in the same class. He was “gifted.” I was not.

As our son gets ready to enter kindergarten, we now find ourselves wondering where he might fall on the IQ spectrum. Most parents think their kids are the smartest, cutest, (enter superlative). But is your child gifted?

How and when my son should be tested is an ongoing debate in my household. As we wrangle with the issue, we find ourselves vacillating between the need to be our son’s best advocate and the desire to avoid placing too much emphasis on a label.

Here are things my husband and I are considering as we make our decisions. What’s your take?

Look for signs: Trust your instincts as a parent and consider your child’s teacher’s observations. Look online for some of the checklists experts have compiled that can help parents informally identify if their child exhibits characteristics often associated with giftedness. One website to check out: The National Association for Gifted Children.

Getting tested: Most experts recommend testing a child no younger than 5 years old because results could be unreliable if done too early. Many suggest the ideal range is somewhere between 5 and 9. You can go through your child’s school, which is often free but may not be administered when you want it. Many parents these days (several that I know) go the route of hiring licensed psychologists to conduct the test. Be warned: Doing so can typically cost $500-$800. Be sure to check out a recent post by fellow blogger Lois Solomon on the topic.

Life beyond gifted: If you decide to postpone the test or if the results aren’t what you had hoped, don’t panic. Being gifted does not ensure that your child will be successful – academically or in life. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting at the time when I was tested for gifted and was told I didn’t make the cut. Perhaps that’s when my natural drive kicked into overdrive. One of my greatest joys throughout childhood and throughout my career has been to achieve what I was told I couldn’t. Nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do something.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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July 7, 2010

Mini Matisse: What to do with all of those art projects

If your house is anything like mine, then you suffer from the same dilema: Where do we put all of those awesome crayon, glitter and popsicle-stick masterpieces? Obviously, they start on the refrigerator...or at least they do at our house. Overflow space is the kitchen cupboards, but that starts to drive me crazy after a few days. Here are a few ideas on how to display your child's art more efficiently. I'm going to give the curtain rod trick a try, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

The best piece of advice I received so far was so simple that I felt a bit slow for not thinking of it myself. Take a digital photo of each piece your child has created, either by itself or with your child holding their work. BRILLIANT! The catch is you need to be diligent and keep up with it, or you'll end up with a pile in your closet like we have! Time to break out the camera again.

Have any fun tips for displaying your child's work? Share them with us.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Chris Tiedje (51)

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In summer heat, kids should get sweaty indoors

I want my kids to exercise this summer, but I'm not going to send them to play outside in our 90-plus degree heat.junkyard.jpg

Two Boca Raton women who understand the perils of getting overheated have developed a fun website to encourage indoor exercise for boys and girls ages 8 to 14, using videos and incentives like iPods to make them get their heart rates up. is the brainchild of Benita Appel and Angel Cicerone, who were overweight themselves and decided to brainstorm ways kids could start getting fit early to avoid obesity.

The result: A free website in which the more the children exercise, the more points they get, earning them a chance at a prize.

Their focus groups showed them kids will exercise if they have an incentive, such as backpacks, T-shirts and iTunes gift cards. There is no way to make sure the kids are actually doing the video and not just watching it, but the videos are lively, colorful and fun, and the incentives sweet enough to lure the kids to move the computer chairs over and join in.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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July 6, 2010

Happy Back to the Future Day? Not so fast

Now why would anyone make up a fact that could easily be refuted?

Some British website reported that July 5, 2010 was the date Doc Brown punched into the DeLorean as he planned to be the first human time traveler at the beginning of Back to the Future. About 30,000 twits (um, users of Twitter) passed on the bogus fact (and yes, I was one of them) before realizing that it wasn't true.

back-to-the-future-hoax-we-confess-00-420-75.jpg Even die hard fans of the franchise can be forgiven, somewhat, for blowing this one. At the beginning of the movie, Doc does say he's planning to travel 25 years into the future. And 25 years from 1985 is 2010. Doc also shows Marty McFly some key dates. Why wouldn't he have shown Marty the date he was planning to visit?

Well, he got distracted, it turns out. He punches in Nov. 5, 1955, gets lost in thought, and the rest is the rewritten history of Hill Valley.

So July 5, 2010 was not future day. And according to the movie's first sequel, Marty and Doc (and Marty's gal pal Jennifer) won't be arriving in the sky over Hill Valley, USA, until Oct. 21, 2015. Why the discrepancy between 2010 and 2015? Well, the events of the first film convinced Doc to travel 30 years into the future instead of 25. So we'll have to wait.

Me? I'd like to send my teens back to 1985. Wouldn't that be fun?

How many of our kids would:
* get arrested for indecent exposure, not for exposing too much skin, but too much underwear?

* freak about having to buy a newspaper to find out what time a movie is playing?

* know how to operate a Sony Walkman? Like, you have to actually fast forward the tape and guess where one song ended and the next one began!

* be horrified to turn on a radio station and hear nothing but 80s music? [oh, wait, they get that now].

* utterly panic about having to carry dimes to make calls to their friends' houses on public pay phones?

* go to the movies and choose between the Karate Kid and Nightmare on Elm Street [Just kidding. Everyone knows those movies were released in 2010. Oh, and 1984].

Well, sorry for helping spread the Back to the Future hoax to those who follow me on Twitter. But it was still a fun thought. Now, tech geeks, you've got five years to get me a hoverboard, a Mr. Fusion, and a World Series Champion Chicago Cubs team.

Such vivid imaginations in Hollywood. I mean, really? A flying car I can see, but the Cubs winning the World Series?

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Teen (158)

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Where the boys are

Does social media fit the gender – or does the gender find the social media?

Maybe online gaming isn’t so bad after all. I was resistant to the idea of my son playing games online when he first started earlier this year.

But then again I was resistant to him having a Facebook page and a cell phone!

Things have a way of working out. After maybe a month of Facebook – my son discontinued it. Facebook was too much work, he said.

His cell phone has become a tool – he doesn’t really over-use it. When he first started texting, there was a bit of an issue, but that’s "stale" now too.

His social media de jour is online games.
My son can team up with friends – or play against them. All the while – he can chat with them – not in 140 characters or less, or through long Facebook missives, but actual talking.

With his headset on - he and his friends can go into “party” chat or one on one conversation. They advise, taunt and challenge one another. But they also encourage each other – and even make plans to meet up in person.

In my opinion, it’s the teenage boys’ version of girls talking on the phone. What do you think?

Photo: jwestcoast via Flickr

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz

boys, teenagers, social media, online games, phone, talking, chatting

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Family Fitness (21), General (185), Teen (158), Toys (15)

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July 5, 2010

Photographing my teen -- a "status update''

I'm not going to go so far as to recommend this to you, but I did find a pretty good way to obtain photographs of my teen-age son, Creed.deerfield2010creed.jpg

I told you before (click here for memory refresher) that when my son advanced into his double-digit years, he stopped wanting to be photographed by me.

The photo you're looking at is a fresh attempt, in fact. I shot this one on our family vacation.

But a serendipitous thing happened recently. I clicked on Facebook to play with my friends, and lo and behold, I found myself staring at my son's wall. I had attempted to Friend him, but as of yet, I was (and still am) awaiting confirmation. So there I was, with free access to my son's Facebook account. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I would never attempt to hack into his account, but don't we all agree that if I innocently visited the Facebook homepage and found myself on my son's wall, that I have not committed any crimes of dishonesty?

Among the things I learned were: the new word for something we might have called "lame'' or uncool is "stale.'' As in, "that is so stale.''

The other thing I learned: that my son has no issue with being photographed by his friends. So I got very busy right-clicking and saving, and now I have enough really cute photos of my son and his friends to fill a quarter of the new photo album I just bought.

He will thank me for this, don't you think?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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July 2, 2010

Summer picnics: Fun in a box

I've heard that come summer, thousands of families flock to beaches and parks to picnic -- in the middle of the day.

Can you imagine that?

picnic%20basket.jpgOur summers are so brutally hot that I wouldn't dare to have a picnic with the family at the beach or park during high noon. We do like to eat outside and have had great meals on the covered patio, on the beach in the hours after dawn.

And nothing makes a picnic more fun than low-stress cooking -- whether you pick up ready-made food from the grocer or make sandwiches at home.

I'm planning on trying a couple of Mark Bitman's 101 quick, grilled dishes for our next picnic and's Chicken Spinach Quesadillas.

What's your favorite thing to pack for a picnic?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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July 1, 2010

The Big Bang Theory

I still get a chuckle thinking about that great line in the Christmas Story movie – where the boy’s wish for a bb gun is insatiable.

He’s rebuffed with the comment: “You’ll shoot your eye out, Kid.”

It’s funny, but not really.

Just like fireworks – they’re awesome, but that doesn’t make them safe to be around.

July 4th isn’t the time to teach your kid how to light a match – torch a wick and throw it in the fireworks.jpgair – all in one smooth motion. In fact it’s downright dangerous – adults – professionals - have perished doing just that. (I’m still very cautious when I light the BBQ grill)

So remember safety first this July 4th – no matter your child’s age. Even picking up spent fireworks requires caution – make sure they are hosed down, or soak them in water, before touching if the kids are on clean-up duty to pick up the sparkler sticks and other small fireworks.

If you’re headed out for an evening of community fireworks (I don’t mean a homeowners association meeting, I really do mean the good old-fashioned fireworks) then there are still a few things to consider.

Some children hate the noise – it seems to truly hurt their ears. Be prepared to lay the blanket farther rather than closer to the source of the explosions. Another advantage to doing that is with some distance, you can avoid the raining debris fallout that some fireworks produce.

Check out KidHealth for lots of good no-nonsense common sense fireworks safety advice.

And check out our Crime & Safety blog on the topic.

photo credit: Sun Sentinel, Mark Randall

Follow Cindy Kent on @mindingyourbiz

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Child Care (26), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), Holidays (49)

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Getting ready for summer camp

It’s hard to believe that this school year is over, and summer is finally here! For millions of kids across the country, and for the four in my house, summer means camps of all kinds: day camps for sports and arts, a session of summer school and a sleep away camp for my youngest daughter. I’m almost as excited as my daughter for all of the experiences in store for her, from souvenirs and photos to new friends and great memories. As a mom, I also want to make sure she stays safe and healthy. So I’m packing a few things that she can use to bring back only good things from camp!

- The first items in her bag will be from Zippity Doo’s, a children’s hair care line that prevents head lice. With all of the close quarters in cabins, tents and even at activities, Zippity Doo’s is the perfect preventative solution for head lice. Made from natural ingredients, Zippity Doo’s shampoo, conditioner, detangler and shield spray are going in the suitcase. Find Zippity Doo’s at, and soon at

- Proper clothing and shoes – depending on the type of camp, pack the appropriate clothing, swimwear and footwear. Don’t forget the hoodie-type sweatshirt for cooler nights and foul weather gear (a lightweight poncho works well as it’s lightweight and easy to pack).

- A medicine/first aid kit with items like band-aids and Benadryl, as well as a supply of BioGaia probiotic chewable tablets. These tablets will help in case my daughter’s dinner consists of popcorn and s’mores!

- We always pack something fun that can be traded or given to new friends at camp. This year, the hottest trend is Silly Bandz, the colorful, shaped bands that are also bracelets. We have a few packages already in the pile of items to pack, and we even found an online source for tee shirts with the Silly Bandz shapes! At, we were able to order two shirts (one for daughter, one for best friend) for under $20!

Summer camp is always a great memory maker for kids, and I’m excited for my daughter’s trip to North Carolina. I know she will have a great time, and with proper planning and packing, I won’t worry so much when she is three states away!

mariabailey100.jpgMaria 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

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Cynthia Rowley designs cute diapers for Pampers and Target

I am so glad to be done with diapers. No more messy cleanups, more money in the wallet.

But when I saw the commercials for Huggies jean diapers, I wished for the days when the little one was still padded. The tagline says it all: The coolest you'll look pooping in your pants.

huggies-jeans.jpgI think wee ones look their cutest in onesies or jeans.

And now designer Cynthia Rowley has a line of super-cute (and super-expensive) diapers for girls with motifs of madras, stripes, ruffles. The Pampers diapers will be available at Target later this month.

I am so getting a pack of the Rowley-designed diapers for my girlfriend who is expecting.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Not your average summer reading list

School is out and summer vacation can be a time when skills slip a little. If you focus on activities that are fun and fit a more relaxed schedule, you can keep your blossoming readers reading without burn out.

Two of the most important things that you can do to keep reading skills sharp during the summer are read to your child and have your child read aloud to you or other family members. Make sure you choose age appropriate books—picture books for younger children and chapter books for older children—to keep reading fun instead of turning it into a chore.

- If your child has been involved in a reading program such as Book Adventure ( through school, encourage your child to continue with the program during the summer. If not, your child can sign up for such a program, with your help, on the internet.

- Most local libraries have summer reading programs with incentives to keep children focused during vacation. You can build off of these sorts of programs by offering your own incentives. A trip to the ice cream store, a movie, or a pizza night are rewarding to young readers while also being a great way to spend family time together in the summer. Another reward system could involve a trip to the bookstore to pick out a new book when your child has completed their current read.

- If you’re looking for a way to keep kids entertained on a rainy afternoon, there are many a-b-c activities, word games and math activities available online. Check out sites like, and with your child to get started.

- Parent /child summer book clubs are becoming very popular, and if you can’t find an existing one in your area, it’s very easy to start your own. Round up a group of your child’s friends and their parents, decide on an age-appropriate book that will still hold adult attention and get started! Each week, the group can meet at a different family’s house (or a family-friendly location like a library reading room or community center), discuss the parts of the book they’ve read so far, and agree on how far to read for next week. Adults bring open ended questions that children might not have considered, while children can provide adults with a fresh view on group’s book of choice.

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.

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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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