Moms & Dads: Stories, tips, and advice on raising your kids from South Florida parents | Sun Sentinel blogs

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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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September 30, 2010

Texting while driving bans ineffective?

Rafael Olmeda
It seems like a no-brainer. Texting while driving is obviously dangerous. Anything that results in distracted driving is dangerous, but many such activities can't be banned. Just try passing a "no fiddling with the radio while driving" law.

But texting while driving has been banned in 30 states (alas, Florida is not one of them). Some well-meaning friends have tried to persuade me that these laws are ineffective, that the bans had no effect on the number of accidents or the prevalence of texting while driving. And a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute would seem to support that position.

Their argument is that the bans have compelled people to text more surreptitiously, keeping their phones out of sight and therefore increasing the amount of time their eyes are off the road. In other words, the bans may make matters worse by making texting-while-driving more dangerous than it would otherwise be.

Don't buy it. Or at least, don't buy it without giving it a hard look.

Rob Anderson over at the Boston Globe gave it a hard look in an article this morning. Anderson provides a pretty good counterargument, namely that the Highway Loss Data Institute failed to take certain information into account, such as the increased prevalance of texting in general, before reaching its conclusions. In other words, if crashes increased after bans were put into place, how much more would they have increased had the bans not gone into effect?

Who do you believe? Personally, I don't know. Nor am I convinced it matters whether there's a law in place. The public policy question is an interesting and controversial one: are the bans effective? What results are desired, and does the law produce those desired results?

The personal policy question is far easier to answer. Whether the law bans or allows texting-while-driving should be irrelevant. There's no specific law against driving while staring at your lap. You don't do it because you know it's dangerous. Texting while driving is dangerous. Tell your teens to knock it off. Yeah, and you too. (Yeah, and me too).

Keep up with Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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September 29, 2010

Milk Parties: The Children's Movement hopes to influence politicians

While the Tea Party seems to be getting all of the attention in the media these days, it is the Milk Parties being held by The Children's Movement that have me excited. This nonprofit, nonpartisan group's mission is to make issues regarding Florida's children a top priority for the state's leaders. From their website:

Our mission is not about raising taxes, but rather about raising children. Florida's children deserve to be our first priority when deciding how the state's resources are spent.

Hear, hear. The savvy people at The Children's Movement of Florida also put together this video to tug at all parent's heartstrings...

I Am Florida from Children's Movement of Florida on Vimeo.

Worked on me. Even though the video is PAINFULLY long, the message is solid: the well-being and education of our children in Florida must be the highest priority of government, business, non-profit institutions and families. I couldn't agree more.

Our very own Robert Nolin wrote an article about last night's rally which was held at Broward College. Despite the bad weather, they still had a great turnout. The last local rally is tonight! Don't let a little tropical storm keep you away. Come down to Miami to support our kids, and get some milk and cookies in the process.

Wednesday, Sept. 29 - Miami-Dade County
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. - Doors open at 6 p.m.
Location: Miami-Dade County Auditorium
Contact: John Knight -


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Do your kids hold it in til they get home from school?

When my sixth-grader and eighth-grader get home from school, they zoom past me and head for the bathroom.

I chastise them for holding it in all day. But it ends up that they don't use the school bathrooms for a whole bunch of reasons, only one of which is the stereotypical grossness of middle school toilets.

They say they don't have time to go between classes. And their teachers only allow them two bathroom passes per academic quarter, which the kids want to save for "emergencies."

Needless to say, holding it in is uncomfortable and unhealthy. But I'm going to let them figure out how to best use those two passes per quarter by themselves.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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September 27, 2010

Daughter's prayer request raises alarms in Plantation church

I was busy at work when my phone rang. It was Pastor Chip, from Plantation Community Church. My church.

"Now don't be offended,'' he started out. I don't know about you, but I've never had anything good come after the words "now don't be offended.'' I braced myself for an insult. I had just volunteered to teach children's church classes, so immediately I wondered if Pastor Chip was calling to gently say that I hadn't passed the background check, so to speak.

"We got a prayer request,'' he delicately went on. Now I wondered if someone had suggested my family is so dysfunctional that we needed some extra attention from God. Which is true.

"Lily filled out a prayer card,'' he said. "She said she's hungry, and there's no food.''

What a relief!

I burst out laughing.

Lily, my 8-year-old daughter, had skipped breakfast that morning, looking forward to her church donut. But then she decided she was "starving'' and she wrote her concerns on a prayer card and dropped it in the offering plate. I had seen it and thought the church deacons would read it and chuckle.

Nope. My pastor was so concerned he showed up at my house the next day, ready to fill my cupboards. I wasn't home, so he called me at work.

Click here to read Lily's plea for food from God.

Even after I told the pastor what had happened, he wasn't sure. He pressed me again: If you need food, he said, we'd be happy to help.

Nice to know, isn't it?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160), Say what!?! (25)

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Women look to boyfriends rather than sperm bank

A good friend of mine is turning 38 soon. Her relationship with her boyfriend is like a refrigerator on the brink of collapsing—sometimes hot, sometimes cold.

While she’s not sure if the relationship will last, she knows time is ticking and she’s ready to become a mom.

She’s so ready that she’s willing to ask her boyfriend in this lukewarm relationship to be her donor with no strings attached. She said she doesn’t see why she should go to an anonymous donor and shell out the expense for artificial insemination, when she can cut to the chase and handle it this way.

She’s not alone. There are a lot of women in this predicament.

But while some women may see getting the boyfriend to be a donor as a simple way to deal with some serious maternal yearnings, it can get complicated. It’s not easy for some new moms to detach themselves from their boyfriends, even if they’re in a bad relationship once the baby comes along.

And it’s hard not to feel some resentment when at 3 a.m. your up for a feeding and your former boyfriend is no where to be found, because he was just a so-called donor.

Honestly, I can see why some men flat out decline to do this and why some women opt for an anonymous donor with no strings attached. This way in the long run there are no hard feelings.

POSTED IN: General (185)

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September 24, 2010

How to tame the activity monster

I created an activity monster. My daughter has to have something to do every day afterschool and on the weekends.

I blame is on the blasted parenting tome What To Expect: The Toddler Years. I took the section on how children need consistency to the extreme and so we were going to the library on Thursday nights because our branch stays open to 8 allowing me to make it there after work. And then Fridays were spent at the park and Mondays and Wednesdays were craft days at home. And Saturday morning was occupied by dance class. And then there were swim classes and mid-week playdates and more crafts. And then my head started spinning.

We're not so hot and heavy with the set schedule, but we're still doing something most nights and weekends. These days our activities are low-key but I announce them as if it was the next Olympics game and the crowd of one goes wild.

I hit gold with an after-work trip to our neighborhood firehouse and I think you should try it, too.

It turns out that if the firefighters aren't busy or having dinner, an officer will give you and your kid a tour. You'll have to set expectations low with the kid because without setting up an appointment you may get turned away.

We got lucky and my 3-year-old got to sit in an engine, put on the hat, see the hoses and then we went upstairs to see the pole and meet the crew. The firefighters were so sweet to her: complimenting her on her dress; asking her to show them how her shoes light up.

Our neighborhood firehouse is a newer one, so there is a movie room, private bunks and computer stations. But the crew still likes to hang out in the kitchen and we had a blast just talking to the men about their day, their kids and life in the firehouse. My girl was thrilled at the end of the tour.

Oh, and if you have other suggestions for taming or entertaining my activity monster let me know.

{Photo by Vince Alongi/Flickr}

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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September 23, 2010

The missing ending of the James Jones bullying story

Rafael Olmeda
Two days ago I wrote about James Jones, the Central Florida man who got onto a school bus to confront the middle school students who were tormenting his disabled daughter. I chastised him for taking matters into his own hands, for appointing himself judge and jury, and for turning bullies into victims by becoming a bully himself.

Turns out, as I was writing that post, Jones was speaking to the press: "At that time, I was a bully. And I apologize again for that," said Jones. "If you see the tape, I feel like I was backed up against the wall as a parent. I just didn't know where else to go. We definitely don't want to promote that... We don't want vigilantes going on buses, threatening kids, because kids have rights too."

Terrific. Well said. Bravo. And now that Mr. Jones has apologized, it's time to hear some more apologies.

How about an apology from the cowardly bullies who thought throwing a condom in a girl's hair is funny? Where's their apology to Jones' daughter, or to the girl Jones' daughter may have been defending? Where's their apology to the school bus driver for disrespecting the rules of conduct on a bus, for acting like animals in a cage instead of children on a moving vehicle?

How about an apology from the bullies to their parents? If your parents raised you better than that, then you owe them an apology. If your parents are decent people, then it's likely they will look beyond the wrong committed by Jones (who apologized) and focus instead on the wrong committed by you (who have not apologized).

How about an apology from the parents? Lead by example and show these kids that their bullying won't be tolerated, that you will support your children, but not their misdeeds. Show your kids that standing up for them sometimes means you have to stand up to them.

It's about time the bullies of this world started acting like we're all on that bus, because in many ways, we are. And we are sick of people like you getting away with being obnoxious, entitled thugs and getting away with it.

And maybe, maybe, apologies are in order from the school bus driver and the school itself. A dad who should have known better crossed the line, but he did it because of a frustration many parents feel. To paraphrase: we don't trust you to watch out for our children's safety or well-being. I have no way of knowing how much responsibility you bear for letting this incident escalate to this point, but you know. You know whether you let the bullies cow you into silence. And only you know whether James Jones was compelled to take action because you refused to.

Click here to find the James Jones support group on Facebook.

Jones doesn't want financial help from supporters. He'd rather see the money go to the National Center for Bullying Prevention.

Keep up with Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter.
POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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September 22, 2010

Halloween: Choosing a costume

OK, I thought it was a wee bit early to talk about Halloween but then my colleague Daniel Vasquez busted out with Toys R Us' list of hot toys for Christmas/Hannukah.

The plan was that the whole family would dress up to the delight of the 3-year-old as Cat in the Hat (that would be Dad), Thing 1 (that would be me) and Thing 2 (that would be our daughter). We had settled on this back in February after watching Mike Meyer's Cat in the Hat for the umpteenth time.

But the direction of the winds has changed and this morning my preschooler told me she wanted to be Tinkerbell. So my work on a Halloween costume is pretty much done. We have a Tinkerbell costume bought for a friend's Princess party earlier this summer. My daughter has pretty much worn the costume every weekend at home, at Home Depot and at the Grands' house.

All we need is to make a wand. I'm thinking: cardboard, lots of glue and lots of green glitter.

This will be the first store-bought costume for the 3-year-old. Abuela made the other costumes: Year One's kitten suit and Year Two's Minnie Mouse dress.

There are so many good ideas of homemade costumes that I'm kinda bummed we won't be doing one this year. I had my eye on this judicial outfit by Disney's Family Fun magazine.

[Discarded toilet-paper rolls are used to make the hair and gavel. An oversized black shirt could work as the robe.]

What is your child wearing for Halloween?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Teacher on cell phone: Should I tell principal?

One of my daughter's middle school teachers has been gabbing on her cell phone during class. In the most recent episode, my daughter said she took a call from her son, who wanted to know what tie to wear. The teacher went into her classroom office and closed the door, then came out and yelled at the kids for talking.

It's not the first time my kids have told me stories about teachers taking calls during class. I researched the school district's technology policies, but couldn't find anything specifically addressing teachers' use of cell phones for personal reasons. It seems obvious, though, that it's the wrong thing to do.

The question is what I should do about it, if anything. Is it worth a call to the principal's office? Or is this one of those "choose your battles" quandaries that probably is not worth my energy?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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September 21, 2010

Father stands up to bullies on school bus

Rafael Olmeda
A message for James Jones, dad to dad: I get it. I understand. But you blew it. You blew it for all the right reasons. But you blew it.

I heard you on Good Morning America today, and a lot of what you said makes sense. But when you lost it and screamed at a bunch of middle schoolers on a bus, you turned your targets from bullies into victims.

Your story by now is fairly well known: You got on your disabled 13-year-old daughter's school bus and confronted the children she accused of bullying her. You threatened to kill the bullies and the bus driver. "When I walked my daughter to the bus that morning, she broke down in tears and finally told me about the bullies who had tormented her on the school bus. She was afraid," you told a reporter. "In the heat of the moment, I wanted to confront the individuals…as the protector of my daughter I could not stand by and helplessly watch her suffer."

I am SO with you on your motive. But not on your behavior.

Because man to man, you got a problem with my kid, you take it up with me. I'm not around, you take it up with a responsible adult: the bus driver. The teacher. The principal. The police, if need be. But you don't confront my kid. You do that and you haven't solved the problem. You have escalated it.

The last thing you want to give a bully is the moral high ground.

Hopefully, the parents of these bullies are peaceful people who did not realize what their children were doing. Hopefully, they will (ahem) talk some sense into their kids to teach them not to be school bus bullies in the future. God forbid these parents react to your bullying the way you reacted to their children's.

That's not to say I dispute your motives or the righteousness of your cause. But you lost control, and part of our job as dads it to maintain control when our anger wants to take us somewhere else.

You did the right thing to apologize on Good Morning America. You were concerned about the innocent children on the bus, the ones who did nothing wrong. What I'm saying is, you had no right to target the guilty, either. This wasn't a street gang or the Mafia, and you're not Charles Bronson or Eliot Ness.

These were children. You're not.

P.S. A message for the parents of the alleged bully/bullies: James Jones was wrong to get in your kid's face about this. You would not be.

P.S.S. A message to the school system and the bus driver: If James Jones is to be believed, he got involved because you wouldn't. These are our kids on that bus. We expect better of you.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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Poll: Is my kid getting to school on time?

I’m giving myself a little mid-term report card on how well I’m doing my part to get my kid up, out and to school on time.

I’d give myself a B.

And like it or not – getting kids off to school – no matter what grade they are in – is a team effort.

A few times – I’ve slept in – just enough to allow him some extra snooze time –I’ve driven him to school on those days rather than him ride the bus.

But so far this year, he’s never been late to school. That’s a feat – considering he has to be at the bus stop which I drive him to – by 6 a.m.

Since there are already passengers on the bus by the time he gets on – I know there are parents and kids starting their day much earlier than we start ours.

Part of the success is about my son getting to bed early enough to wake up before dawn. He has to have his backpack organized the night before.

I have to have a cup of coffee in the morning.

Do you have any tips or routines that ensure your brood gets to school on time? (you getting to work on time is a whole other matter!)

How do you rate your Get ‘Em to School on Time performance so far this year?

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Daily Poll (2), Elementary School (54), Family Issues (231), General (185), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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September 17, 2010

Win tickets to see Sesame Street Live at the Broward Center

Win a Family 4-pack to see Sesame Street Live! at the Broward Center for Performing Arts

Show runs from Saturday, 9/25 - Monday, 9/27

Just sign up for our Entertainment text alerts and you will be automatically entered to win.


Standard messaging and data rates apply.

Click here for official rules.

(Text to win Sesame Street Live tickets)* *Defined as a family 4-pack of tickets to see the Sesame Street Live show at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter without sending a text message, just click here. Sweepstakes begins 09/15/10 and ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 09/21/10. Standard text message rates apply to entries via text message. Other restrictions apply. Void where prohibited. Text STOP 2quit. HELP 4info. Odds depend on number of eligible entries. Sponsor: Sun Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Entertainment (114)

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September 16, 2010

Open hearts, open homes

VictoriaS.jpgVictoria is a lovely young lady, who may appear shy at first but once she warms up to you, she is quite talkative. This active fifteen year old loves sports and enjoys playing football. This self described tomboy would like a family who also enjoys sports and will encourage and support her athletic pursuits. Victoria will greatly benefit from a family that can provide love, structure, patience and guidance. With the right balance of therapeutic support and a caring and committed parent, Victoria will overcome any challenges she may face.

For more information about Victoria or to view other children available for adoption, visit

For more information about adopting contact ChildNet at (954) 414-6001.

The Heart Gallery of Broward County’s exhibit is at the Westfield Broward Mall for September and October. Visit for more information about the Heart Gallery.

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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More for parents of primary grade writers

When my first grade class first comes into my room in the morning, a mob of quivering little people surround me in breathless anticipation, jostling for position in order to be the first to relay a nonstop staccato rendition of all the details of their lives, and all the news about everyone else that they know, all of which occurred since they left school the day before. However, when I ask the same students to write a story more often than not they respond, “I dunno what to write about.” My fellow teachers and I will work on this over the school year, but we can always use help from home. How can you help?

The simple answer is to have them write and practice at home. Children as young as kindergarten are expected to write in school, so its never too early to start. In another post on my website I’ve written about how to facilitate writing at home for the very young, and gave tips on techniques, materials and tools to utilize. You should reference that article if you haven’t read it, and these more “advanced” tips.

1. Just as the “oral reports” they barrage me with are a retelling of what they know, most primary children can best write about true life experiences. So have them write about what they know.

2. Talk about subjects on the way to school or during dinner to bring out possible story ideas that they can share through writing.

3. Remind them that books have a beginning, middle and end, and so do good stories.

4. To make a story flow, help them learn and/or utilize some basic transition words (first, next, last, then, etc.) as they write.

5. Encourage them to use simple describing words to make their story richer.

6. They should be encouraged to write their feelings and emotions about the subject.

7. Get a children’s dictionary and help them use it so that stories can be read more easily by others.

8. They should reread what they have written to see if it makes sense.

9. Keep a writer’s notebook to carry back and forth to school with story ideas in it.

10. Be patient and give praise and encouragement, not criticism. Raise them to believe that they are a writer with stories worth telling, and that is what they will become.

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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September 15, 2010

Delouse the house: head lice on our kids

Last night I had the joy of spending hours going through the steps to delouse our house because our friend found head lice on one of our kids. Yuck.

My first reaction was to be embarrassed. Even though someone at her school was the source, it still felt originally like we must've done something wrong as parents. After a little research on head lice on WebMD, I felt a little better. This is my favorite quote from their slideshow:

"Head lice are not a scourge of the lower classes, nor a sign of poor hygiene. They affect children across all levels of income, social class, and cleanliness. The bugs can survive underwater for up to six hours, so kids who bathe regularly are just as vulnerable. The good news is lice are not carriers of any disease."

That information did not change the task we had in front of us — decontamination of three kids. I stopped at CVS on my way home from the office to pick up the treatment. The full kit was a whopping $25 (here is a coupon for $2 off) which includes the shampoo, the gel & comb, and the spray for their rooms. I only bought one kit to treat the whole family. After dinner, my wife and I split up to our respective tasks. She started the shampoo on our daughter, while I decided this was a prime opportunity to give the boys buzz cuts. We washed all of their sheets and pillows, sanitized all of their combs and brushes, sprayed their rooms, and used that tiny little comb on all of them. WOW, what a process. We still managed to get them to bed at a reasonable hour, but I sure hope that we don't have to go through this again.

Have you ever had this problem with your kids? Did I miss any steps? I'm scratching my head just thinking about it.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Health (111), medicine (9)

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Are breast cancer "Boobies" bracelets appropriate for kids?

Over the years, I have chastised my kids for using the term "boobs" when they mean breasts.bracelet.jpg

So I wasn't sure what to tell my 11-year-old when she bought an "I (Heart) Boobies" bracelet from another kid at school who was raising money for breast cancer awareness.

It's a clever campaign, sponsored by the California-based Keep A Breast Foundation. Several school districts across the country have banned the bracelets, saying they are a distraction and use inappropriate language.

I'll bet that ban will soon apply to South Florida middle schools. Would you let your daughter, or even better, your son, wear one of these?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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September 14, 2010

Peanut butter game: Try it with your kids

After a long day at work, there's nothing like coming home and smearing a little peanut butter on your child's cheek and letting your dog lick it off.

Gross? Nah. Just some really great video footage that's great to listen to over and over again. Turns out there is a whole movement of the "Peanut Butter Game" on YouTube, inspired by the movie "Funny People" with Adam Sandler.

If you haven't tried this with your kids yet, give it a go. And don't forget to come back and tell us about it.

POSTED IN: Anne Vasquez (67)

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September 13, 2010

Daily Poll: What is the worst TV show your kids watch?

We're starting a new feature on the blog where we ask our readers a variety of questions to spark conversation. Join us, and let us know your thoughts and other poll question ideas in the comments.

Obviously this question depends on the age of your kids, and you can tell that my oldest is only six...

<a href="">What is the worst TV show your kids watch?</a> | <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

Concerned about what your kids are watching? Check out this site from the Parents Television Council

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Daily Poll (2), Entertainment (114)

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Would you support “parents-only” driving zones?

Parents, you know the feeling.

There are those mornings when you’re driving your child to school and get stuck behind a huge truck or someone out for a leisurely drive at 8:30. They’re holding up traffic and in the back of your mind you can only think, why me? Of all the routes in the world, why did you have to take mine?

Well, I know we have school zones and all. But I was thinking wouldn’t it be nice to have a parent zone, that covers about a half mile around your child’s school, where only school employees, bus drivers, parents, caregivers and their children can travel between certain times of the day.

In Europe I noticed there were all these congestion zones, where everyday traffic wasn’t allowed during rush hour.

Well I imagine something like that here. But a little different. Zones where if you’re caught driving without a child or proof you have some connection to a school during morning and afternoon rush hour, you get a hefty ticket or your car towed.

I know there are a lot of kinks to work out. Some people may resort to putting large dolls in their cars so they can get in the zone. But if this concept brings some peace and sanity to the parents trying to navigate rush hour traffic in the mornings on their way to their child's school, it’s worth a try.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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September 10, 2010

Mom on the Go: Getting kids clothes cheap and fast

No time to shop + upcoming trip to cooler climate X outgrown clothes = swapping online.

Last week I turned to, a swap-shop for parents who are looking to share and select clothes for the kiddos. My box of long-sleeve shirts, pants and skirts came in the mail five days later. And they are perfect for the weekend getaway up north. I paid $13 for a box of clothes and am thrilled that I don't have to make a trip to the store.

Without becoming a shill for thredUP, I will say that I think this online exchange will be great for filling in the gaps in my 3-year-old's wardrobe. The company sent me a pack of flat-rate boxes to stuff with my girl's hand-me-downs. I'm not sure how many moms and dads on thredUP will be interested in my summery goods but we'll see.

The idea is you pick what you want and share what you don't need. You can choose mostly tops, mostly bottoms or a mix by season. Since we only have one season here I'm not sure how often I will need to use thredUp.

How do you replenish and supplement your kids' wardrobe on the cheap? I'm always on the hunt for other ideas. (And yes, I do go thrifting.)

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Teachers: Join Publix reading program for chance to win

Teachers, this one is for you!

The Sun Sentinel's Newspapers in Education program is inviting 4th, 5th, and 6th grade educators to register for Publix’s Reading for Touchdowns. This 4-week program is designed to motivate students to read, and give them the chance to win great prizes!

Registration forms are available at Or attend a Fun Night at Dave and Busters in Hollywood or GameWorks in Miami to learn about the program, enjoy complimentary dinner, beverages and game play. There is no cost to participate in the program.

The two events (adults only) are as follows:

Tuesday, Sept. 14.4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Dave and Busters, Oakwood Plaza, 3000 Oakwood Blvd. in Hollywood. RSVP by Sunday.Call 954-923-5505 or email

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Gameworks Sunset Place, 5701 Sunset Dr., Miami. RSVP by Sunday. Call 305-667-4263 or email

POSTED IN: School Issues (135)

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September 9, 2010

Wayne Treacy's stepfather lashes out

Rafael Olmeda
Imagine the indignity of having your parenting skills called into question.

By strangers.

On national television.

Cary Smith and Donna Powers didn't have to imagine it. It happened to them on Wednesday night, on CNN Headline News. Perfect strangers were telling them how they failed. They failed to get treatment for 15-year-old Wayne Treacy (Powers' son, Smith's stepson), following his brother's suicide last October, expert strangers said. Smith in particular failed by seeming to voice approval for the March 17 beating and stomping of Josie Lou Ratley, for which Treacy is facing an attempted murder charge and, possibly, a healthy prison term.

"Who are they to judge me and my wife?" Smith yelled at me Thursday morning. "Who are you to judge me and my wife?"

Smith was referring to my appearance the night before on "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell" (excerpted in the attached video). I was on to talk about an online support group showing compassion for Treacy. Neither Smith nor Powers was on the program. I can only imagine they sat at home and watched strangers criticize them for not insisting that Treacy see a therapist to come to terms with the suicide of his older brother, Michael Bell. Smith also faced criticism for a jailhouse phone call in which he told Treacy he harbored "a lot of anger" toward the victim over the incendiary text message exchange that prompted the attack.

"She ain't giggling now, is she?" Smith said in that now-infamous phone call.

Panelists on the show excoriated Smith. He, in turn, lashed out at me for being the first to find and report on Treacy's jailhouse calls.

But most of Smith's anger seemed to be directed at having his parenting skills scrutinized by people who have no idea what it's like to lose one child to suicide and another to the justice system while struggling to keep your wife comforted and your life in one piece.

"Blame the parents! That's what they said, right on television," Smith barked at me.

Actually, I've always said blaming the parents in this particular case is a simplistic approach that solves nothing. And for the record, I said nothing about parenting on the Issues program Wednesday night. I tried to interject at one point as they were discussing the jailhouse call, but I failed to get a word in edgewise.

I would have liked to say that Cary Smith and Donna Powers did not assault Josie Lou Ratley and they did not hang Michael Bell.

Is it realistic for people to expect them to emerge from Bell's suicide emotionally unscathed, with enough perceptiveness and acuity to recognize that Treacy needed therapy whether he wanted it or not? That's an easy question to answer in hindsight, sure, but it wasn't so easy for them as they lived through it.

I imagine that if one of my stepkids committed suicide and another nearly killed someone, I might, in unguarded moments, say a few things I'd rather not see quoted in a newspaper or on television. In any event, Smith and Powers already live daily with the consequences of the actions of Michael Bell and Wayne Treacy. Jumping on their parenting skills strikes me as gratuitous.

It's probably not my place to offer an opinion on what they need, but I think I'm on safe ground expressing what I think they don't need.

They don't need more judges.

Doctors say Josie Lou Ratley was left with irreparable brain damage after the March 17 assault. Updates on her condition and information about how to contribute to her cause is available at the websites of attorney Sean Domnick or the non-profit group National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment.

Keep up with Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter (@rolmeda).
POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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Three parents charged with DUI while their kids were passengers

Few things get me more upset than reading stories like this. Obviously the cops were out in full force over the holiday weekend, but hearing that there were 3 separate incidents where parents were charged with DUI while their kids were in the car blows me away.

Is a babysitter really that expensive? Can't find a sober friend to drive you? How about throwing the car seats in a cab?!?!

There were two similar cases last October that I wrote about which were seemingly more severe. However, this story from the Palm Beach Post is still maddening. Driving double the speed limit when your blood alcohol level is twice the legal limit?!? Come on, parents. We need to be setting better examples for our children. According to a study by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (they need a shorter name) children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics. Is that really the future you want for your kids? If this trend continues, they may not have a future at all.

Be safe out there.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Safety (59)

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September 8, 2010

No, you may not miss school for the Jonas Brothers

My 11-year-old stopped talking to us for a day this past weekend. We refused to let her miss school on Tuesday so she could watch the Jonas Brothers play softball at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. jonas.jpg

To me, this was a no-brainer. Academics take priority. But her friends' parents don't have the same philosophy, and they let their kids go. One of the parents took her friends to the game, which was at 12:30 p.m.

According to the Roger Dean Stadium website, the Jonas Brothers play softball with their road crew to make teens aware of the dangers of texting while driving. An admirable public service. I think it's ironic that they want kids to miss school so they can hear that message.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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September 7, 2010

Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison is so tough...

Rafael Olmeda
Oh man, Logan Morrison is one tough guy.

And that's a good thing to see. A few days after the Florida Marlins gave up the high ground and picked a fight with a guy who probably had it coming, rookie leftfielder Morrison reminded South Florida baseball fans (and parents who use sports to impart life lessons to their kids) what sportsmanship is all about. Morrison was on deck waiting for his turn to bat on Sunday afternoon when a foul ball left Emilio Bonifacio's bat and took aim for Morrison's face. Within moments, Morrison was walking off the field, the evidence of his misfortune already showing itself on his face.

As it turns out, Morrison didn't want to leave the game. He wanted to take his turn at bat. He didn't want anyone feeling sorry for him. Getting hit, getting hurt: hey, that's part of the game.

So's playing it safe, to be honest, but isn't it great to see a player show that kind of resilience and determination? When X-rays showed that Morrison's wound was only skin deep, he insisted on getting back on the field. The next day he took his place with his teammates for two games in Philadelphia. That's some tough guy. Tougher than Jack Bauer between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Logan Morrison is so tough that in between the two games of that doubleheader, he beat Chuck Norris in a kickboxing competition and stole his girlfriend.

Logan Morrison is so tough, Voldemort is afraid to say his name out loud.

Logan Morrison is so tough, he raided the lost ark and it melted.

Logan Morrison is so tough, he once got abducted by aliens; they're all citizens now.

Logan Morrison is so tough, his therapist really is a drill sergeant.

Freddy Krueger has nightmares that Logan Morrison is coming to get him.

The most interesting man in the world has a week dedicated to Logan Morrison.

Logan Morrison is so tough, when Dirty Harry asked him if he felt lucky, he answered, "Yeah, punk! Pull the trigger! Make my day!"

Disclaimer: The only thing 100 percent original about these gags is applying them to Logan Morrison. POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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September 6, 2010

"Student driver'' magnet seems fitting for 15-year-old drivers

Perhaps I'm naive, but I think if i spend about 10 bucks on a magnet, my teen-age son's driving experience will be improved exponentially. The magnet I am threatening to buy him is pictured here. It says "Student Driver.'' They're available online.

Creed has no idea how to operate a motor vehicle. He got his driver's permit recently (click here for a memory refresher and my tips on what to do before your trip to the dreaded DMV).

I don't want a bunch of angry New Yorkers honking at my baby if he decides to stop at a yellow light instead of racing through it. If he hesitates before making a turn at an intersection, or drives below the speed limit, I don't want him to be attacked by a road raging South Florida moron.

So I told him I'm buying a magnet that says "I am a complete idiot when it comes to driving and I have no idea what I'm doing behind the wheel,'' or something to that effect.

My husband thinks I need the same magnet on my car. If it would cause other drivers to steer clear of me, I just might use it.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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September 3, 2010

7 fun places for the kids this weekend from The Go Guide

Our resident entertainment blogger, Ben Crandell, has rounded up some great events for the kids this weekend on The Go Guide. Movies, face painting, ice cream, water parks... everything kids need to be completely worn out in time for bed. Unless, of course, they're in the Great Grove Bed Race.


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September 2, 2010

Is the Internet producing better spellers?

Rafael Olmeda
Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to call shenanigans on this ridiculous commercial from AT&T indicating that the Internet is producing a generation of superspelling kids who are incapable of getting eliminated from a spelling bee. Somebody has to speak the truth.

I am somebody.

Oh, really. Our kids spell better because of Internet access?

Dear AT&T: H-O-R-S-E-H-O-C-K-E-Y.

The Internet is a gold mine of information for those who know how to navigate it and how to separate nonsense from fact, entertainment from information. But your commercial is a parody that backfires. Internet communication, e-mail and the like (especially text messaging) do not make our children better spellers. Your commercial actually reminds viewers of the damage quick and easy communication has done to our kids' ability to spell or string a sentence together.

The kids in your commercial can spell "baccalaureate" and "admirably." The kids who subscribe to your services in the real world can't spell "later" or "be right back."

I'm not saying the Internet makes our kids dumb. It doesn't, anymore than books make our kids dumb. It depends entirely on what books they're reading, what they're doing and reading on the Internet.

Turns our kids into better spellers?

Yeah, right. AT&T, it's time to r-e-a-c-q-u-a-i-n-t yourselves with r-e-a-l-i-t-y.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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A time and place for homework

All too often teachers hear excuses from children for all the reasons that their homework isn’t done. Ideally homework is assigned to practice new skills that have been learned during the school day. Homework should be given for an age appropriate amount of time and shouldn’t be considered as “busy work.”

Here are a few tips that parents might want to adopt in order to improve their child’s homework experience:

1. Have a designated time each school day when homework is done. Some children need a break right after school and some do better getting it over with and having the rest of the evening free.

2. Give your child a quiet study area with supplies they might need. Include a ruler, calculator, markers, pencils, scissors, glue, etc.

3. Make sure your child has a planner at school to copy assignments in. Encourage neatness in handwriting so that you are able to read and understand what is being assigned.

4. Use a calendar to record and track assignments that are long term. Practice budgeting time to get large assignments done on time.

5. Teach your child from an early age that they are accountable for homework not you. Support your child’s teacher in expecting homework to be done.

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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September 1, 2010

Teaching my kids to like the police

A week after my daughter got a ticket for running a red light, my father got a ticket in our neighborhood for not stopping properly at a stop sign.police.jpg

To add insult to injury, the officer came back an hour later and gave him a ticket for parking on the street in front of our house (instead of on the grass; this is a Palm Beach County law).

So we have been talking about the police a lot in our household, not in the most positive way.

My kids want to know why anyone would want to become a police officer, if all they do is give out tickets. I explained that they do many other things, such as rescuing people from accidents, performing CPR, delivering babies, protecting us from terrorists.

But these are abstract concepts for kids unless they have firsthand experience. I hope my kids never need to be rescued by the police, but it may be the best way for them to see that law enforcement's responsibilities extend beyond our cars.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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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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