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October 29, 2010

Halloween: To trick-or-treat at night or not?

Halloween is three days away. Do you know what you're doing, what the kids are wearing?

Since my girl is still hip-high in past years we've opted for the more safe trick-or-treating at daycare or the supernova-bright mall. But this year, I want her to roam the street at night and plan to plant treats and games at neighbors' homes for her to collect. My daughter is one of two kids on the block and we get little foot traffic on Halloween so this should go as planned.

The second-best thing to getting all that candy was being out in the dark. Any other night, as a kid, I had to be in before the street lights came on.

What will you do this year?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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October 28, 2010

In defense of the teenage trick-or-treater

The girls want to know whether they should go trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood or in the neighborhood where they grew up. My initial thought was: one of you is in college. You're not going trick-or-treating. You're staying home and handing out candy to kids, which you're not anymore!

Oddly enough, I don't get a vote, a fact I've come to terms with since I became a stepfather to two teenagers three years ago. I thought it was odd that they were still trick-or-treating last year, when the older one was 16 and the younger 14. Now it seems even more bizarre, if only because our oldest graduated high school and is enrolled in college. Seriously, how many college students trick-or-treat?

But before you go agreeing with my gut reaction, you need to understand something: it's wrong. The more I think about it, the happier I am that the girls still want to go door to door with the rest of the neighborhood kids. For one thing, it means they're not "too cool" for Halloween. Fear the teenagers who think trick-or-treating is just for kids, because rest assured, whatever they've concocted as a more mature alternative can't be good.

That's why I can't support the efforts of some cities to ban high schoolers from trick-or-treating. Don't we already force kids to grow up too fast? We introduce sexuality to them at younger and younger ages, numb them to violence on television, scare the bejeezus out of them with unfortunately necessary warnings about people who would do them harm... now we want to pull the rug out from under their childhood over something as arbitrary as a 13th birthday? Enough! If a high schooler, or even a younger-than-average college freshman, wants to trick-or-treat and the neighborhood is OK with it, who am I to spoil the fun?

Besides, there's more to trick-or-treating than extorting candy from prepared neighbors. In our family, it seems to be more about having a bit of innocent fun and reconnecting with neighbors who watched them grow up. My wife and I tag along. Last year, as the girls went door to door, they were able to introduce neighbors to their baby brother, my son, Leo. And he'll be making the rounds with the family again this year.

At some point the girls won't want to trick-or-treat anymore. They'll see themselves as grownups.

No rush.

Keep up with Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter.
POSTED IN: Activities (143), Holidays (49), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Step-parenting (59), Teen (158)

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Trade your Halloween candy for cash


How many families do you know who can actually finish their kids’ trick-or-treat stash? Instead of tossing it or letting it get old and stale, let your kids pick out what they really want, and sell the rest to a local dentist for $1 per pound through the Halloween Candy Buy-Back program.

Just go to and put in your zip code for a list of nearby participating dentists. The dentists send the candy to Operation Gratitude, which ships it to soldiers deployed overseas. If your dentist hasn’t heard of the program, it’s easy for him or her to register on the site.

You can also organize your own candy collection with your neighbors, co-workers or friends. Just register at

Last year, Operation Gratitude shipped 60 tons of candy to soldiers, and this year, it needs just as much to fill 60,000 care packages, which will be shipped in December.

If your dentist isn’t participating in the Halloween Candy Buy-Back program, that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t offering to buy your kids’ Halloween candy as an incentive to limit sugar intake, so be sure to give your dentist a call and find out. POSTED IN: Food (56), Health (111), Holidays (49)

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October 27, 2010

Is bad parenting part of our health care crisis?

Sick kidAccording to Bernie Siegel, M.D. on the Huffington Post site, bad parenting can lead to health problems for the children later in life. Here is a quote from the article:

Studies verify what happens to children who grow up unloved and experiencing indifference, rejection and abuse -- by midlife if they haven't killed themselves and others while seeking revenge and experiencing guilt related to their actions, almost 100 percent of them have experienced a major illness, while loved children have one-fourth the serious illness rate.

Wow! Talk about the power of love. The article goes on to make many other various points on the health care debate, but this quote was what really caught my attention. What is the connection? Mostly the fact that modern medicine tends to treat the immediate illness and not the underlying cause. For example: We hold birthing classes for expectant mothers, but not parenting classes?!? Don't you think both are equally important?

I think it is safe to say that most people reading this sincerely care about and love their children (why else would you be reading a parenting blog?), but there are still many neglected kids in our area. If you have some spare time and good parenting skills to boot, then consider helping with our local kids who may not be getting the care they need. Check out Kids in Distress or the Boys and Girls Clubs for opportunities to help our youth, and remember to give your kids a big squeeze.

Photo courtesy of © Fernando Cortés |

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Health (111), Politics (18)

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The SAT: What is best way to prepare?

My 16-year-old is getting free SAT prep this year.

It's an honors elective course at her public high school called "Research 1," but it's actually an SAT readiness course, with half the year devoted to verbal skills and half the year to math.

sat.jpgI was thrilled that I won't have to pay for private classes, which can cost hundreds of dollars and whose benefits are unclear.

How much do the kids' scores improve with a class as opposed to sitting down with a sample book of test questions? Is a tutor worth the expense? Is it worth it to bring up the scores by paying this extra money? Do colleges think this preparation has value?

All these questions flow through my mind as we start to think about getting into college and how to pay for it. I'm sure the prep course teachers and tutors think they are worth the money, but in this economy, I'm glad my daughter is getting this knowledge at no cost.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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October 25, 2010

Should I give away the baby clothes?

I went to visit a friend recently. Her baby is about six months and needless to say I was shocked to find that she already had stacks of his clothes set aside to be donated.

Some of it was newborn stuff he outgrew. Some of it was clothes friends and relatives had bought, which she said doesn’t match his style. I didn’t know six-month-old babies had a style, but that’s another story.

All in all I had to commend her for her diligence. She’s a true minimalist and she had no problems parting with his little onesies and booties and all of his little baby clothes that just scream CUTE.

She said she had enough pictures with him in his outfits to keep the memories alive. And if and when she goes down the mommy path again, she’s prepared to start afresh with a whole new wardrobe for that baby.

I’m all for donating clothes so that other children who really need them could make use of them. But I’m also super sentimental when it comes to my daughter’s stuff. I look at a pair of tap shoes that no longer fit and so many memories run through my mind.

I still like to hold on to some of the clothes she wore at three months. They remind me of just how much she’s grown.

Don't get me wrong, I’ve given away a great deal, but I’ve held on to a great deal, also.

I take comfort in knowing that i'm not extreme. I have a friend who has a walk-in closet crammed with her daughter’s baby clothes and her daughter is 12. And an aunt with a garage full of baby clothes that her four daughters once wore.

I can understand. I know everyone has their own comfort level. But I left my minimalist friend’s house feeling somewhat inspired to get rid of more. Rather than invest in more plastic containers to store adorable clothes she'll never wear again, I’ve invested in another memory card for my camera.

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44), Newborn (39)

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October 22, 2010

Four facts of life for high school students

I recently was talking to a group of young adults about what they might advise students beginning high school. Here are some of their tips for making high school a positive experience.

1. Be nice. Really, be friendly with everybody. You’d be amazed how the people from your past have a way of turning up after graduation. One recent college grad I spoke with mentioned that when she couldn’t get a job in her field, she applied for a job waitressing at a popular restaurant. Wasn’t she surprised when the interviewing manager turned out to be a guy she had teased (not in a good way) through high school. Needless to say she didn’t get the job.

2. Freshman year counts. When colleges look at your GPA, they look at all four years of high school. So even if you improve your grades by senior year, if you get off to a rocky start, that first year will lower your overall GPA. Most colleges have a range of scores they accept and you could end up missing the mark to get into your favorite school.

3. If you’re having problems in a class talk to the teacher early on. Most teachers will give you extra help if you need it. They can also arrange a peer study partner or give you extra time to make up missed work. Even though colleges want to see that you have expanded yourself by taking more difficult classes, sometimes it’s better to do well in a lower level course than to get a C in a class you’re struggling through.

4. Make the effort to join clubs, play sports, and be involved in extracurricular activities. Not only will you have more fun, broaden your horizons and meet new people, colleges are going to look at how you spent your free time in high school.

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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Message to gay teens: It gets better

Go to YouTube and search for It Gets Better. Or go to

There you will find an astonishing collection of videos of adults speaking directly to teens who are gay or confused about their sexuality, who feel different and are frequently bullied because of who they are. These videos are very simply telling kids: If you are feeling tormented in high school, hold on, don't do anything drastic: Life gets better.

The brainchild of radio host and columnist Dan Savage, the It Gets Better Project has taken on a life of its own on the Internet.

Hundreds and hundreds of videos, new ones being added every day, with the power to reach out and touch that kid sitting in his or her room, tormented and feeling alone. Parents of those kids who don't know how to help.

The recent news reports of bullied gay teens committing suicide prompted Savage and his husband Terry to make a video and post it on YouTube. Soon, other gay adults were making their own short messages. Celebrities have gotten on board, gay and straight.

There are videos by Chris Colfer of Glee and pop stars like Ke$ha and Jason Derulo. The cast of Wicked. Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay Episcopal church leader. This week President Obama added his message.

But the most powerful videos are from average folks. The kid from small town Iowa or the South. The videos from gay Christians, Mormons and Muslims, all saying, Don't feel alone. Know that I exist, too.

This is something every teenager, gay or straight, should see.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), Teen (158)

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October 21, 2010

The working mother mind-set


Working Mother magazine surveyed more than 4,600 working moms, stay-at-home moms, working dads and singles for its “What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report,” which came out this week.

Some of the main findings include: moms who view their jobs as a career rather than just a paycheck were more satisfied with life overall; male managers are big supporters of working moms; and men and women feel a deep ambivalence when wives out-earn their husbands.

But one finding in particular really got me thinking: Though moms view flexibility as a benefit, men are more likely to use it or have jobs that offer flexibility. I work from home two days a week. I’m grateful that I have co-workers and supervisors who understand and support the work-life balance. But not all working moms view working at home as a positive thing.

According to the report, women tend to “apologize” for taking time off work by using paid time off. It showed men were more likely to just leave work if they have to take a child to the doctor, while women would take official time off for the same activity.

Valerie Voorheis, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, said it’s different for working moms. “Women don’t want to push it,” she said. “They don’t want to be stereotyped as moms, so they’ll miss the soccer game but stay home when the kids are sick.”
Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media, said, “When a woman says she’s going to take her daughter to the dentist, people think she’s shirking her job. If the father takes her, people think, ‘Oh, you’re so great.’”

Are old-school conceptions of working mothers still entrenched in some deep part of the American mind? Do some people still believe that mothers are less reliable? Do some working moms subconsciously work extra hard or put in longer hours to prove that’s not the case? I think they do. People say feminism isn’t needed anymore, but I disagree. Sure, women have equal rights, but why then do many working moms sometimes feel like they have to “make up” for the fact that they have children?

For more on the report, visit

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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October 20, 2010

Ohio toddler helps fallen father by calling 911. Thanks, SpongeBob

Spongebob.gifYes. You read that right. SpongeBob is actually educational, at least for this sharp 3-year-old boy from Ohio. According to Fox 8 News in Cleveland, Vincent Lamitie was home alone with his dad when his father passed out and fell down the stairs. Here is the 911 audio with a video of the Lamitie family recounting the event. When asked how he knew what to do in the emergency situation, Vincent replied, "Sponge Bob calls 911."

Great story! However, I'm not sure I buy it. Have you ever watched SpongeBob? Never in a million years did I ever think that a child would learn anything from a sponge who works as a fry cook at a burger joint. Kudos to Nickelodeon to sneaking in the subliminal message somewhere in between Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula and Patrick falling over something.

My wife and I currently only have cell phones, and there is no way even my 6 year-old could figure out how to call 911 on my BlackBerry. We have been debating getting a land line just in case of emergency, and this story may have sealed the deal.

Have you taught your child how to call 911? Check out my previous post on preparing kids for emergencies, and this great resource from the Sesame Street gang for more great tools.

SpongeBob image © 2010 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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

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"Text neck": Not just a grownup problem

If adults are suffering from neck problems after only a few years of texting and cell phoning, imagine what's in store for our kids, who may start having physical problems much younger than we are.
Daniel Vasquez's Sun-Sentinel story Monday on "text neck," the upper-body problems that come from mobile devices and poor posture, hit home for me. My kids slump at the computer, hang their necks as they look down on their cellphones and tilt their heads to the side as they hold the phone between their neck and their ear as they type.

I tell them to sit up straight, use a headset or speakerphone, etc., etc., and they roll their eyes as I used to when my parents told me to stop slouching. But I think what they will soon experience is much more dangerous and threatening to their future health: painful necks and shoulders, tight muscles in the back and stiff hips, all of which I am already experiencing after only a few years of the digital age.

No matter how much we warn them, I think this is a problem we are not going to be able to fix.

Photo by Emma Gillespie

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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October 19, 2010

My vote: Exercise your right

There is an advantage to early voting. The hours are such that I can take my son with me.

Kids today (I know, I’m sounding like my parents here) have it too easy. They can blast out a message via Facebook or Twitter. They can send a text message or instant message to a buddy. They can chat via game systems.

And they don’t have to leave their couch, house, chair or the mall – or wherever they're hanging out. And now comes voting – early voting and even voting by e-mail.

I know early voting breaks tradition, but to me – at least for now – I cherish the process of going in person to vote.

There is value in being around others who exercise the freedom to vote, to gather in person to do so, despite our differences, opinions and politics.

My son should see this. He and his generation should never let the ease of technology minimize the process of thinking, choosing, doing.

It takes more effort that hitting “send.” It takes active participation.

It may be a new generation of iPad and iPod. But it’s still – I vote.

Check out the Broward County Supervisor of Elections for more voting and elections information.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), Politics (18), Teen (158)

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October 18, 2010

Teens don't care anymore about getting a driver's license

I've finally had the chance to shake my head disparagingly and utter, "kids these days.''

And what gave me that opportunity to feel like an old person, a veteran of life, a person brimming with the wisdom that only people of my generation possess, is the fact that I'm seeing and hearing about a lot of teen-agers who don't bother getting a driver's license or learner's permit.

This is not just a Brittany observation. There are signs out there that fewer minors are getting their licenses. Read this USA Today article about fewer teens getting cars, as well.

Please tell me that when you were a teen, you got off your lazy rear and took whatever test was required, and jumped through absolutely every hoop held out, in order to get those car keys in your hands. I know that I did, even though the keys were to the ignition of a stinking station wagon.

Yet now that my son, Creed, is 15, and he went through the not-very-laborious process to get his learner's permit, I'm finding out about a lot of teens who haven't bothered. I'm hearing from lots of parents whose kids haven't shown interest.

I have no good working theory on it. No one I've talked to is quite sure, either. I'm leaning toward thinking it's because kids these days are spoiled, which is my pat answer for all their ills, and in general is accurate.

Click here to see one person's theories, including that everything kids need is just a web click away. What do they need cars for?

This writer mentions that kids are taught now that cars are polluting machines, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I'm going to hang it out here today, though, as an unsolved mystery. There's something about it that rattles me.

On the jump: A story we wrote about this three years ago.

. Teen in no rush to drive
Fewer getting their licenses as soon as they are old enough

Date: Sunday, November 4, 2007
Edition: Broward Metro Section: News Page: 1A
Zone: NB
Byline: By Jamie Malernee Staff Writer
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Illustration: Photo(s) Graphic(s)

The car sits in the driveway, waiting.

Kevin Krutek, 16, has had private driving lessons and taken driver's ed - twice. Yet he hasn't bothered to get his driver's license, and the car he could call his own, a Ford Focus that belonged to his older brother, sits unused in front of his Lighthouse Point home.

"I could get the license if I took the test, I just don't feel the urgency," said Krutek, a junior at Pompano Beach High. "I don't see what the big deal is."

Statistics from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicate increasing numbers of Florida teens, like Krutek, are waiting longer to get their drivers' licenses.
In 1991, 16-year-olds made up 60 percent of the teen drivers issued licenses that year. Now they're only 40 percent. The percentage of teens who were 18 or 19 when they got their license has increased, from 24 percent to almost 40 percent.

Driver's education teachers, parents and teens suggest several reasons, from tougher license requirements to a growing awareness of the dangers of driving. The high cost of gas and insurance, as well as protective parents, may also be factors.

"It's not just my son. A lot of his friends just don't seem to have that oomph, the 'wanna do,' " said Bim Krutek, Kevin's mother.

In 1996, Florida started requiring teens to have a learner's permit for six months before applying for a permanent license. In 2000, the mandatory wait increased to a year. What's more, novice drivers must obey curfews or be accompanied by someone at least 21 unless they are going to or from work. You must be at least 16 to have an operating license.

Bill Massey, a driver's education instructor at Boca Raton High School, knows firsthand that it takes more time and effort for his students to meet the tougher requirements for a license. And he thinks that's good.

"I make [my own children] wait until the summer before their senior year. I just don't think they are really mature enough. It's too much responsibility for that age, to put them in a ... potential death machine."

Danielle Mueller, a 20-year-old from Plantation who knew two schoolmates killed in separate car crashes, said fear kept her from getting behind the wheel for several years. She didn't get her license until she turned 18, and just started driving on Interstate 95 this year to travel between her home and college, the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

The memory of her dead friends from Nova High - Rebecca Kirtman, an honors student who was Mueller's science lab partner, and Michael DiPasquo, a family friend Mueller was on the swim team with - stays with her. Rebecca, 16, was killed in 2003 when she lost control of her Mustang and got trapped under a truck. DiPasquo, 18, was coming home from a day at the beach last August when his Dodge Neon hit another car and caromed into the path of an oncoming pickup. He was declared dead at the scene. One of the four teenagers riding with him, Jannel Jasmine Thompson, 14, died the next day of her injuries.

Exposure to such tragedies "makes you more cautious," Mueller said.

Rosslynn Rodriguez, 15, of Boca Raton figures she probably will wait until she is 17 to get her license. Given the dangers of driving - her mother got into an accident and now has neck pain, and her uncle suffers memory loss from a crash - she feels that it is better to let her mother drive her around.

"It's easier. You don't have the trouble of worrying about anything," she said.

For many families, there are also financial factors, said Albert Guzzo, a driver's ed instructor at Hallandale High. Many of his students have no way to practice driving outside class.

"We have kids whose families don't own a car," he said. "They walk or take the bus."

Some teens intend to get a job to buy their own wheels, but then they calculate the cost vs. the benefit.

"They are starting to realize that when they are working at Boomers for $5.75 an hour, when they have to pay for a car, what that's going to do" to their earnings, he said.

John Pisula, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said his company doesn't track whether Florida teens are waiting longer to get their licenses. But he knows many parents are concerned about the cost of adding a young driver to their insurance.

"Let's face it, parents don't want to have to pay that bill for a 15-year-old that doesn't use the car that much anyway," Pisula said.

Adding a teen to a policy can boost insurance premiums between 50 and 100 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.

Bim Krutek, who remembers being impatient to drive as a teenager, wonders if overprotective Baby Boomer parents haven't stifled independence in their teenage offspring by agreeing to be 24/7 chauffeurs.

She admits sometimes to doing this herself. A working mother, Krutek takes her son to school in the morning for the time it gives them together. On weekends, she drops Kevin off at friends' houses, the movies and the bowling alley, then picks him up at night.

"I have a midnight limit, but some of the parents go and pick them up at 3 o'clock in the morning," she said.

She added that she is sure her son's desire to drive will increase as he matures. For now, Kevin says there is really only one scenario he can imagine that might spur him to stop using his mother as his driver:

A girlfriend.

"That," he said with a laugh, "would be some pretty good motivation."

Jamie Malernee can be reached at or 954-356-4849.

Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

Tougher rules, risky roads, pricey insurance and overprotective parents are among the reasons more teens are waiting to get their drivers' licenses.

Video report looks at why teens are waiting longer to get drivers' licenses.

Parental oversight
To address parental fears of young drivers committing offenses behind the wheel without their parents' knowledge, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles now allows parents to go to its Web site and check the driving record of their children by entering their driver's license number, date of birth and Social Security number.

The Web site is

The site also offers a link to a Florida company that sells "Teen Trackers" - electronic devices that parents can install in a car that lets them "locate, track, determine speed limits, and even create areas that are off limits" for their children. It uses a global positioning system that notifies parents by e-mail or cellular phone if an infraction occurs.
Pay more for insurance
Auto insurance rates for teens depend on several factors:
Gender: Premiums are higher for males because they have higher accident and speeding ticket rates.

Type of car: New cars can be safer, but sometimes also more expensive to insure.

Other factors: Discounts sometimes given for completing a safety program or for having good grades.

In general, however, adding a teen to an insurance policy can increase the cost by between 50 and 100 percent.
Source: Insurance Information Institute.

Time to take the test
Requirements for getting a Florida driver's license:
Be at least 16 years old and have had a learner's permit for at least a year without any traffic convictions.
Must have at least 50 hours of driving experience, 10 of which must be at night.

Must pass a driving test, which includes written questions and a behind-the-wheel skills test, as well as a hearing and vision test.

Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among American teens
The number of fatal accidents involving 15- to 20-year-old drivers in 2005 was the lowest in 10 years.
Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Caption: Starting out slow: Christian Harvey, 15, practices driving on a simulator during his driver's education class at Boca Raton High School, where he is a sophomore. If he follows the trend, it will be several years before Harvey gets his driver's license.
Staff photo/Mark Randall
On the road: Cameron Mercado, 15, checks for traffic before pulling away from the curb during his lesson at Boca Raton High School, where he is a sophomore.
Staff photo/Mark Randall
At his own speed: Kevin Krutek, 16, has taken private driving lessons and driver's ed - twice - but he hasn't bothered to get his driver's license. "I could get the license if I took the test. I just don't feel the urgency," says Krutek, a junior at Pompano Beach High School.
Staff photo/Robert Mayer
CHART: Teen Drivers. Percentage issued by age. Source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Staff graphic/Belinda Long

All content herein is © 2010 The Sun-Sentinel and may not be republished without permission.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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October 15, 2010

This Mom is just saying no to solo visits with friends

This story of the 17-year-old charged with shooting his 12-year-old friend just strengthens my resolve to not let my daughter be at friend's house without me or her Dad there.

And I especially don't go for closed-door playdates.

Friends are more than welcome to come hang out at our house or meet us at the park. You can check back with me in nine years when she's the same age as the victim and see where I am with my resolve.

My coworker Linda Trischitta has three polls on her blog asking parents:

• If they search their child's room and belongings?

•What parents would do if they found weapons?

•How do they monitor their child's playmates?

Feel free to join the conversation or cast your vote.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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October 14, 2010

Apology from an anti-gay bully

Rafael Olmeda
Dear David and Scott,

Remember me? From high school? I remember you. I tormented you for your decision to be gay.

You guys have actually been in my thoughts quite a bit over the years, though I haven't seen you since we were teenagers at that school for so-called brainiacs in the north Bronx. You were the first gay people I knew. Well, the first I KNEW that I knew, anyway. Scott, we were friends before you were gay, remember? You used to call the 9th grade art teacher names behind his back, the names I would later call you behind yours. Naturally, if that's how you felt about gays, you couldn't be one at the time. They must have gotten to you later, no doubt right before you came to school in a dress and said it was an Edith Piaf costume.

We had our lunchroom debates, and I took the righteous position that, of course, condemned you for failing to live up to the Standards Demanded by my God. By then, of course, both of you were "out," which I imagine in hindsight was a tough and brave thing for you to do in high school. Especially when you had to endure the taunts and judgments coming from, well, from people like me. No, scratch that. Not people like me. Me.

Remember, David? You called me homophobic. I denied it. "I'm not homophobic," I said. "I'm homo-hatic." I was proud of that one. My bullying was restricted to cruel words, repeated and relentless, though you appeared to deflect those words with an ease that, I must admit, frustrated me and made me more fervent in my disapproval.

I can't tell you what changed in me, or when. When it comes down to it, I came to realize that if it is not a choice, I have to respect that as surely as I expect you to respect my heritage. And if it is a choice, I have to respect your freedom to make it as surely as I expect you to respect my faith. Besides, I don't remember asking you for approval of my heterosexuality.

I'm grateful (hopeful?), these 20-some-odd years later, that you did not allow my words to affect you the way similar words, actions, taunts, and disapprovals have affected others. At least, you didn't seem to. Did you? If I got to you, you hid it well. Nowadays, I cringe at news reports of adolescents committing suicide after being bullied for who they are. Even if I didn't intimidate you, I have to wonder whether my righteous indignation had an effect on others who may have been listening to my condemnations. I'll never know.

As a stepdad and as a dad, lately I've become keenly aware of my responsibility to raise kids who don't become bullies, who stand up to bullies, and who are comfortable with who they are.

In any event, I'm not going to settle the societal debate on homosexuality. I'm not going to reconcile my personal faith with your lives. I have enough trouble with my own, thank you very much.

And I recognize that in writing this, I'm going to attract speculation about my motives, my "liberalism" or "political correctness." People on all sides will make arguments based on studies and statistics. Some will be motivated by faith. Others by ideology. Some, too few, will be dispassionate about it. No matter. I wasn't having a sophisticated debate with you. I wasn't reasoning with you. I was a bully, pure and simple. My goal was to intimidate you into forsaking your personal identity.

So I'm not trying to make a political statement. I'm not writing about whether you should have the right to get married or adopt children or anything complicated like that. I just want to say something anyone should be able to understand, regardless of their political views.

I'm sorry I bullied you. I hope you accept my apology.

It's long overdue.

For more information and resources, visit Safe Schools South Florida.

What parents can do to combat gay teen suicide.

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

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

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I’m not Buddha, so don’t rub my belly

Rubbing my pregnant belly won’t bring you good luck, but it may bring you an uncomfortable confrontation.

I’m pregnant with my second child, and already the unsolicited belly-rubbing has begun. I wasn’t pregnant that long ago with my first, but people are getting creative these days. The other night, someone rubbed her belly against mine, saying she hopes pregnancy is contagious. Talk about an awkward face-to-face moment. At least she wasn’t a stranger.

I’m not sure what provokes a stranger to touch another person’s body without her permission. Sure, pregnancy is magical, but no genie is going to pop out and grant anyone three wishes, so perhaps a hands-off policy is best.

During my first pregnancy, I hung a sign at my desk at work that said, “I’ll let you touch my belly if can touch yours,” along with a list of other FAQs (It’s a boy; I’m due in March, etc.) but it didn’t work. There’s a reason there are so many “don’t touch” maternity shirts out there, like the ones at or

If the baby is moving and I give you permission to feel it, that’s one thing, but without my permission, it’s a violation of my personal space.

But as soon as the pregnancy belly is gone, I’ll have a much worse thing to worry about — strangers touching my baby.

POSTED IN: Pregnancy (31)

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October 13, 2010

Would you host a party and leave your teen in charge?

Hosting a party for your teen is one thing, but 600 drunken kids in your house is complete lunacy. In case you haven't seen the story, a couple in Boca Raton allowed their 16- and 17-year-olds to host a homecoming party in their house. Fine. However, the parents claim that they never left their bedroom in their 17,000-square-foot house while 600 kids got wasted and puked all over their property. Sorry, not buying it. The "we didn't know" defense won't cut it, at least not in the court of public opinion.

Now, don't get me wrong, I went to plenty of parties when I was in high school. Heck, I even threw a pretty good one (albeit in my garage while my mom was out of the country, something I still haven't lived down over 20 years later). I completely understand the teen's point of view on this one, but what I'm missing is HOW IN THE HELL COULD THE PARENTS ALLOW THIS?!?! If they were out of town and didn't know, that is one thing, but these parents helped plan the damn thing! Kudos to them for hiring security and charter buses for sober cabs, but to claim that they had no idea kids were drinking and trashing their house is an insult to any parent.

Jose Lambiet from The Palm Beach Post has a few photos on his blog, as well as a copy of the police report.

I'm at a loss that the parents aren't in jail over this. How can the police find 600 underage kids drunk, but only arrest 8? Did they hand out any tickets for underage drinking? Four kids were taken to the hospital, for crying out loud!

I'm sure we're going to hear many more details about this party in the next few days, but I want to hear from parents out there. Would you ever allow your teen to host a party in your house and not check in? Do you believe the parents' claim of ignorance?

Photo © Monkey Business Images |

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Family Issues (231), Teen (158)

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Teen napping after school: Good or bad?

My 16-year-old comes home from school and falls asleep.teensleep2.jpg For three hours.

The brutal 6:30 a.m. wakeups for the 7:30 a.m. school start time have hit her hard. I know lots of kids have to get up even earlier.

I have lobbied against the ridiculousness of these early start times, including meeting with our high school principal, to no avail. There are so many studies that show that these early start times go against teen sleeping rhythms and are associated with poor performance in school.

In the meantime, I have to deal with the consequences. If she doesn't have to go to work or another activity, I have been letting her take a nap. Of course, then she can't fall asleep til midnight or so, and then she hardly gets any sleep that night, and the cycle begins again.

Photo by Carlos Perez

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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October 12, 2010

When it's about you there is no guilt

Moms are the middle of the sandwich.

We help our parents. We do for our kids. And at the end of the day, we get a good night’s sleep – mostly because we drop from exhaustion.

But we have to take time for ourselves. Sure the massage, pedicure and a glass of wine are on the top 10 of the list.

But getting an annual physical and mammogram should be #1 – though I happen to know it gets pushed way down to about #25.

Today, I took care of #1, me.

I got my annual mammogram.

Go take care of you. Whether it’s a physical and mammogram or just a physical, get it. You’ll feel better. Besides, what good is a sandwich without a middle?

Now I’m going to enjoy those other guilty pleasures, without the guilt.

POSTED IN: Cindy Kent (78), Family Fitness (21), Family Issues (231), Health (111)

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October 11, 2010

Online etiquette poll: OK to post photos of other people's kids?

Some of the most darling photos I have of both my kids are photos with their best friends. And oftentimes, they're in swimwear. And so ... I stop myself before posting them on my Facebook page, or uploading them to YouTube.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think it's OK to post a photo of another person's child online, without their permission. Yesterday I inched a little bit off of that position, and posted a photo of my daughter with one of her best friends, but I posted it on the Facebook page of the friend's mom. I figured if she didn't want images of her daughter online, she could easily delete it.

I think that's a good compromise. I also didn't write a caption to identify either girl.

I post videos and photos of my own 8-year-old daughter all the time. (I would post photos of my 15-year-old, but he doesn't allow photography much. ) Yesterday I posted a video of Lily singing in the backseat of our car, for example. It made her feel like her song-writing was being exalted. (I especially loved her line "Don't you talk to me in that tone.'')

It's kind of perplexing to see that more than 1,000 people have watched the four-second video of Lily on her first day of kindergarten. But I'm not one to dwell on horrors I'm only guessing at.

I really wouldn't mind at all if someone posted images of my kids online. But I still think other parents would be offended if I did it to them.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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October 8, 2010

When Mothers-in-Law Go Too Far

Once upon a time there was a grandmother who refused to keep underwear on her grandson. When the nearly 4-year-old came to visit, she would strip him of his undies and put diapers on.

boys%20underwear.jpgHis mom, the evil daughter-in-law, was furious. She said, in probably a shrill voice, that the grandmother was emotionally damaging her son, that the grandmother wasn't listening to the wishes of the parents, that the grandmother was down-right nuts. (Actually, she wasn't really brave enough to say that the mother-in-law was outta her mind.)

The two silently warring women went before the wise and wishy-washy judge: The Son/Husband. The grandmother relented and started letting the boy wear underwear over his diapers.

And the family lived bitterly ever after.

This is a true story from the blog Motherlode, and another case of when Mothers-in-Law Go Too Far.

I value my life too much to talk about that one time when my mother-in-law went too far, but I invite you to rag on yours. Just leave out really specific details, unless of course you're a brave-mother-something.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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October 7, 2010

Mind your p's and q's: When your child reverses letters

Letter reversals are surprisingly common through age 7. After that age, this could be an indication of a learning disability such as dyslexia. Letters that are similar such as b, d, p, and q are some of the most common errors. However in more extreme cases, mirror writing (writing backward from right to left) is also a problem for young writers. Here are a few hints to help your child conquer those difficult letters at home.

1. Alternate different implements to write with including pencils, pens, markers, sandpaper letters, and tracing with a wet paint brush over a chalkboard.

2. Use shaving cream, pudding and sand to finger-paint the letters for practice.

3. Use pre-printed work sheets with directional arrows when tracing over a letter or an alphabet strip as a visual reference.

4. Make up phrases to remember direction such as, “letter b is a bat (the stick) and ball (the circle),” or “b begins bed, d ends the word bed.” You can find or make up little stories about the problem letters as a memory technique.

Practice makes perfect. There are many handwriting booklets and worksheets (such as those mentioned in paragraph 3 above) for sale in your local bookstore, or even for free online.

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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Punish the bullies in the James Jones case, or clear their names

Rafael Olmeda
After James Jones got onto a school bus last month and threatened a bunch of middle schoolers he accused of bullying his disabled daughter (pictured below), three things happened. First, Jones got arrested. Second, he apologized for his inappropriate behavior. Third, he became a hero to many who are tired of seeing bullies skate along without punishment.

By all accounts, Jones' apology has been sincere, and he really doesn't want other parents to do what he did. I agree. So does the National Association for Pupil Transportation, an organization of school bus businesses that invited Jones to speak at its annual conference in a few weeks. The organization struck the perfect balance between condemning what Jones did on the bus and recognizing that he acted on valid feelings of frustration against a system that failed to protect his daughter. What's done is done, but we need to take action to make sure it doesn't have to happen again.

“We all know that because of legal liability concerns and bureaucracy, getting action is not always easy and can be frustrating. But the answer can’t be to board a school bus and threaten children,” said NAPT Executive Director Michael Martin. “The flip side is that school systems need to take bullying complaints seriously and respond quickly and effectively” [emphasis mine].

It's not enough for "the system" to condemn what Jones did. "The system" needs to make sure that no parent ever feels the need to take matters into his own hands again.

Jones acted because the school bus driver didn't. Why? We don't know for sure. The driver hasn't spoken publicly. But to be fair to him, his job is more than chaperoning children. As the NAPT put it, drivers are responsible for the safe operation of the bus and for getting children to and from school on time. They're not social workers and they're not cops.

Jones acted because the school system didn't. More than a month after the bus incident, the Seminole School District has yet to penalize, or clear, the alleged bullies whose behavior instigated this incident. That's crucial. The crux of Jones' defense is that he acted against bullies. If those children are not bullies, they deserve to have their names cleared. Now.

And if they are bullies, disciplinary action against them is long overdue. Enough dilly-dallying. The response to Jones' complaint has been anything but "swift and effective." The fact that it takes more than a month to find out whether those children acted in a way that warrants discipline is the underlying problem that led Jones to believe that the only reasonable thing for him to do was get on a bus and threaten to kill a couple of middle schoolers. If it's taking this long for action to be taken when the whole world is watching, imagine how long it would have taken had Jones not boarded the bus! We've all seen recent news reports about the consequences of bullying. If we keep taking more than a month to act against bullies, we can't logically expect their behavior to stop.

Is it any wonder people consider Jones a hero?

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


POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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Disguising veggies — genius or mistake?


Being the editor of a parenting magazine, I get a lot of product samples at work. The other day, a box of Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta came across my desk. My first thought was, “This is genius! Pasta that has tomatoes, carrots and spinach!”
My 2-year-old son loves pasta, but he would rather sit in the corner all night than eat any vegetable other than white potatoes. (And they have to be mashed. Not smashed, not mushed — mashed.) It was a miracle I got him to try a piece of broccoli covered by a piece of cheese once. Unfortunately, once he got past the cheese, we almost had a projectile incident. He’s not always unwilling to try; it’s just that he flat out hates vegetables, especially the green ones.
But this vegetable-infused pasta raises the question of whether it’s a good idea to trick your kids into eating their veggies.
My thoughts are mixed. On one hand, I want my son to be healthy and get all the vitamins he needs, and if that means hiding vegetables in other food, so be it. On the other hand, I think he should know what he’s eating and learn good lifelong eating habits. Will forcing him to try vegetables turn him off from them forever?
Cleaning up spewed peas is not my favorite activity, so I’ve hidden many ground peas in his potatoes. While this may be OK for now, getting him to eat actual peas would be ideal.
Do you think it’s a good idea to sneak in veggies? What are some of your tips for getting kids to eat them?

POSTED IN: Food (56)

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October 6, 2010

What is the salary for a stay-at-home mom?

I don't think there are many people out there who could argue the value of a stay-at-home mom (or dad), but how much would her salary be?

We are fortunate enough to have my wife at home to raise our kids instead of sending them off to daycare. As much as my wife says that she loves her job, it still comes with challenges like any other career. In fact, most times the issues surpass anything most of us would experience in the workplace. At least most of our coworkers can be reasoned with and don't cry when they don't get their way (note I said "most"). Any parent who is home with the kids has to be a housekeeper, teacher, cook, chauffeur, psychologist, janitor, nurse, CEO, entertainer — and there is no fancy school to prepare you for this job.

Well, the folks at have devised a Mom Salary Wizard to help you put an actual number to the job description. They based their calculator on survey responses from more than 28,000 mothers, so there is some solid research behind this. Take the survey and share your results with us. The average annual salary for the typical stay-at-home parent? $117,856 working 98.9 hours a week.

No matter what this calculator says, I think we all can agree that you can't really put a value on what mothers accomplish — it truly is priceless.

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

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My kids and I will skip the airport body scanner

Despite the assurances of the authorities, I am skeptical of the new airport body scanners, which are now at Palm Beach International and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airports.airport.scanner.jpg
The main reason is the radiation. Although airport officials say it is minimal, I'm the type that avoids X-rays because I believe the radiation adds up in your body over your lifetime.

The fact that some anonymous person is seeing us naked is also disturbing. They say they delete the pictures after he/she views them. Seems like this would be a big mistake if one of us was later found out to be a terrorist.

At the San Francisco airport last summer, I requested a pat-down instead. It was no big deal, and I will do it again every time I approach one of the scanners, where you have to hold up your hands as if you are a criminal.

SunSentinel photo/Mark Randall

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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October 4, 2010

Broward schools co-hosts college fair for parents of high schoolers, Nov. 4

Even though my son, Creed, is only in 10th grade, he and I already talk quite a bit about college. He and his friends are under immense pressure, constantly reminded how hard it is to be accepted even to the state schools where he has a pre-paid tuition fund awaiting him. (I'm a Gator!)

So when I saw that the school system is hosting a college fair for parents of high-schoolers, of course it caught my eye.

Here's the news release:

The Greater Fort Lauderdale National College Fair will be held on Thursday, November 4, 2010 at the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 - 8:30 p.m. Sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and hosted by the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC) and Broward County Public Schools, this event is free and open to the public.

As the process of applying to and selecting a college becomes more and more competitive and complex, students and parents need all the help and information they can get. Attending a college fair is the best way to gather information about colleges and universities. The national college fair program provides valuable resources for students and parents attempting to navigate the college-admission process.

Read the rest on the "jump'' page, including how to register ahead of time, online:

Here's the rest of the news release:

The fair allows students and parents to meet one-on-one with admission representatives from a wide range of national and international, public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Participants will learn about admission requirements, financial aid, course offerings, and campus environment, as well as other information pertinent to the college-selection process. At the fair's counseling center, students and parents can discuss their individual needs with college experts.

"The resources and opportunities that the National College Fairs provide for students and their families are invaluable," said Greg Ferguson, NACAC Director of National College Fairs Programs and Services, "and admission professionals have been delighted by the caliber of students attending our programs."

Now in its 38th year, the National College Fair program annually helps more than 850,000 students and families nationwide explore their options for higher education, making it one of the most visible college recruitment tools in the country. In addition to the National College Fairs program, NACAC also holds Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs. These fairs are held during the fall and are designed to serve students with particular interest in the fine arts. NACAC currently sponsors National College Fairs and Performing and Visual Arts College fairs in 71 locations across the country. For a complete schedule, visit (

More information about the Greater Fort Lauderdale National College Fair, including directions to the fair, a list of colleges exhibiting at the fair, and tips for preparing for the fair, is available on the NACAC Web site at (, by emailing ( or by calling 800/822-6285.

Students can now register prior to attending these events. This makes navigating the fair and collecting information from multiple colleges and universities much easier for students. By pre-registering students can print a bar coded confirmation to be used on-site at the fair as an electronic ID. No more filling out information cards! Have your students pre-register online at (

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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Raising a generation of nincompoops

Middle schoolers who can't tie their shoelaces, teens who don't know how to get ice out of an ice tray. Children who don't know the first thing about using a can opener.

I came across this article which studies the plight of this generation and I just had to share it.

This article resonates with so many of us because as parents we have to ask ourselves if we're slacking off at teaching our kids the basics.

Our parents didn't do everything for us, so why are so many of us babying our sons and daughters to the point of no return. Do, share your thoughts.

Here's the link to the article:,0,1762020.story

POSTED IN: Georgia East (44)

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October 1, 2010

Weekend and leisurely breakfasts

Hurry up weekend and get here, I'm ready for my leisurely breakfast.

pancakes.jpgI want pancakes cooked by my husband. I want to have my daughter tell me which section of the newspaper she wants and watch her struggle to fold it just so. I want linger at the table.I want someone to top off my coffee.

And if the cook is on strike then I want to go to the chain Original Pancake House (where kids eat free if you're in the seat before 9 a.m. on weekends) or The Florida Room in downtown Fort Lauderdale (where we eat outside and get sniffed by passing dogs) or Marian's Bagel Host in Plantation (where it feels like home, and infants and toddlers are given a bagel-on-a-string to nosh on). Anywhere that's casual and where the servers won't give me the ugly eye for bringing in a 3-year-old.

But I can be persuaded to give another restaurant a try. Where do you like to go for breakfast on the weekends?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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New and improved South Florida Parenting website


Hey Moms and Dads, Grandparents and babysitters, check out our new and improved South Florida Parenting website.

For 20 years, South Florida Parenting magazine has been the go-to guide for families, with an exhaustive calendar of events, articles, resources and more. You can pick up the monthly print edition at about 2,400 kids-oriented businesses around South Florida. The October edition is full of Halloween events and ideas.

The new webpage, produced in collaboration with the Sun Sentinel, has everything you'll find in print, and more. There's info on camps, party planning and schools. And it's constantly being updated.

You'll want to bookmark the page and come back regularly.


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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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