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South Florida parents share their stories and advice


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November 30, 2010

Where did you hide the Christmas gifts?

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Make sure you hide them really well - like maybe next door.


We have friends who, despite all their planning and painstaking efforts to hide Christmas gifts - one of their kids found at least one. And it wasn't just any old stocking stuffer: it was the big daddy of the season - a video game system.

At first, the discoverer was feeling very victorious. But needless to say, everyone was upset - including the sibling who told on him. The parents were frustrated and a bit deflated. Still, they're giving him the present on Christmas day.

So, what gift-hiding tricks do you practice? Where is the best place to hide a gift? If your child discovered where the stash of presents were hidden - would you still give those gifts? Would you punish him or her?

If my kid discovered something meant as a gift for him - depending on the age - obviously I'd explain the concept of a surprise. As he gets older, I expect more common sense and sensitivity on his part.

I have to admit, sometimes I've hidden things in plain sight. And right now, I'm just hoping he doesn't decide he has to clean under his bed between now and Christmas!

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Entertainment (114), Family Issues (231), General (185), Holidays (49), Shopping (28)

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November 29, 2010

Which do you prefer? Your child, or your iPhone?

I'll never forget the first time I saw our sad new reality reflected on the big screen -- meaning it was happening in all of your homes, and not just mine: The parents in the movie Coraline ignored their daughter because they were so busy tapping away on their laptop computers.

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Lily's technology-free zone.

That was the first time I'd seen it acknowledged, in a big way. But privately, in our home, we'd been doing the same thing for about a year by then.

It must be upsetting to the younger kids, whose lives were interrupted by mobile technology in the rude kind of way a new sibling comes along, sucking all the attention away from them.

My daughter Lily was born in 2002. She was able to live her toddler years without competing for my attention with a smart phone; I just relented and got one this year. I had a laptop computer back then, but before blogs became prevalent in newsrooms, I wasn't half-listening to her while writing blog posts.

Lily recently instituted a new rule in our house. She said that she and I can't use electronics after 8 p.m.

She brought me her Nintendo DSI and asked me to hold it for her, saying she was becoming addicted. When she sees me checking emails on my Blackberry, she reminds me gently, "Mom. The rule.''

It made me feel bad. It reminded me of a blog post my colleague Anne Vasquez wrote a while back, telling you that her young son was asked to fill in the blank in the sentence "My mom likes to BLANK.'' He wrote "WORK."

(Click here to read her tips on separating yourself from your electronic tethers.)

Which do you spend more time with? Your child, or your iPhone?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 26, 2010

Christmas traditions: What do you do?

I love Christmas. The smell of Douglas Fir. The lights on the tree. The seafood dinner with family. The presents.

christmas%20tree.jpgAnd I love hearing about how other people celebrate Christmas. What they must do. Like the friends who help serve meals to those with less. And the families that host cookie exchanges.

What are your family Christmas traditions?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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November 25, 2010

Take a break. You deserve it.

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If you’re a working parent, then you know that taking a few days off around a holiday can sometimes be more work than play — not just around the house with the kids home from school, but at work, too, trying to get everything done before you leave the office for a few days.

Lots of parents overwork themselves so they don’t feel guilty about taking a real break. I know that if I don’t get everything done on my list, I can’t fully relax.

Being busy and trying to do too much can make it hard to see what’s really important in life. Do as much as you can and learn to let go what can wait.

So if on Thanksgiving your mind is racing or if you’re stressed out with work or the holidays, try focusing on what’s in front of you, not what isn’t. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family all together, and worry about your to-do list later. Thirty years from now, when you look back on your life, you’ll wish you did.

Have a relaxed Thanksgiving!

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), Health (111), Holidays (49)

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November 24, 2010

Do your daughters wear jeggings?

You've probably seen them on girls throughout South Florida without realizing they have a weird name: "jeggings," a merger of jeans and leggings.
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They are super-form-fitting jeans or other skinny fabrics that are more like tights. They tightly frame the thighs and butt and are hard to get on and off. I am surprised they are allowed at school but I haven't heard of any official objections to them.

I don't love them but my girls are wearing them. I hope this is a trend that fades fast.

Photo by Julian Frost

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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November 22, 2010

My teen-ager, my historian

A note to parents of young children, from the parent of a teen-ager:

Guess what? When that bundle of hugs that is your child grows up and has a mind of his own, he will be an expert on All Things You. He will see trends in your behavior. He will see your short-comings.

He will see right through you.

We have two children. Creed is 15; Lily's only 8. Lily gives us the benefit of the doubt, in everything. Creed is our hostile historian.

I was reminded of this Saturday night, when we all went to dinner. Creed said I'm not raising Lily correctly, because she doesn't know how to eat spaghetti properly. Of course, this isn't the only parenting advice I've gotten from Creed. He gives it to me all the time.

It's a good thing to keep in mind when your kids are young. You aren't going to fool them. You really have to live the way you want them to live one day. You really do have to set a good example, every day, every decision.

Just summing it up in a speech is not going to do it. That only works when they're 8. By the time they're teens, they're paying a lot of attention to what you do, and absolutely none to what you say.

I don't know about you, but I don't want my kids spending their adult years telling people about my bad days. So I'm trying to make them all good.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 19, 2010

Moms put the 'happy' in holidays

Here at BSM Media, Moms are our business. We love to talk to Moms to get feedback on a wide range of topics, from personal to financial and all subjects in between. When it came to a holiday spending survey, what better group to answer the questions than Moms? After all, Moms are the primary shoppers for holiday gifts, as well as most purchases year round. The responses we received for our Holiday 2010 Spending Survey are, as usual, interesting and enlightening. Let us know how you plan to spend your holiday dollars. Will you spend less this year, or about the same amount? Will gift recipients be narrowed down?

To consolidate the survey results into a reasonable space, a glimpse of the survey results and tactics are outlined with the five W’s plus one: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

The “Why” is fairly easy. It’s the holidays, and Moms handle most of the shopping for gifts and food, as they do most of the home purchases throughout the year. The other “W’s” and “How” reveal an interesting look at Moms’ intentions when they hit the stores.

• Who is Mom shopping for? Almost everybody. Close to 99% of Moms surveyed will be shopping for the kids’ gifts, 92% will buy gifts for a spouse, parents and in-laws and almost 70% will shop for siblings. The in-laws take the top spot in the “hard to buy for” category, with 54% of Moms indicating the in-laws as a gift-buying challenge. Retailers should note that this gift idea quandary is solved by websites and blogs, with 71% of Moms relying on websites and 62% using blogs to find the “perfect” gift. If your product or brand is unique and fits the “in-laws” demographic, reach out to top bloggers and websites with a sample of your product. Many bloggers publish gift guides or suggested gift lists. Remember to seek out bloggers who have a popular social media presence, as almost 70% of Moms will look for product reviews on Facebook or LinkedIn.

• What is on Mom’s shopping list? With a shopping budget over $100 per child for 63% of respondents and a majority of the number (24.6%) intending to spend $200+ per child, there is plenty of opportunity to get your share. Electronics and entertainment topped the most popular gift categories. Many of last year’s top ten gifts for children are listed in the survey responses.

• When will the shopping get done? For moms, their shopping lists are still being made, which is good news for retailers. A whopping 90% of Moms have not started shopping for holiday gifts, or have only picked up a few things. Almost 40% indicated that they would shop after Halloween and on Black Friday, which means there is still time to place ads, recruit bloggers for product reviews or schedule a Twitter party.

• Where is Mom looking for gifts? An overwhelming majority of moms in our survey are planning to buy online. An even 66% of Moms surveyed said they plan on purchasing more than half of their gift items through online retailers, with Amazon and Ebay leading the list.

• How will Moms get their shopping done? “Word of Mom” and social media are in a tug-of-war for the most popular form of communication among Moms for gift ideas, coupon codes and product reviews. Social Media and online tools ranked highly among Moms with blogs as king (or should I say queen). Close to 93% of survey respondents favor “Mom Blogs” and 83.1% liked websites and 61% and 69% choosing Twitter and Facebook, respectively, as the preferred choice for holiday gift information. However, while social media remains the popular tool and a hot news topic, Moms still love hands-on, face-to-face contact to share information. Survey responses totaled 75% for Moms who would seek the advice or recommendations of other Moms about a specific brand or gift idea. Moms love to socialize and spread the news about best prices, gift ideas and more. Companies can capitalize on “Word of Mom” marketing with customized events like MommyParties.

• Presents aren’t the only items on Mom’s Holiday Shopping List. Don’t forget the holiday dinners, office parties and get-togethers. Food retailers should take note that the majority of Moms will try a new product when offered a coupon. Fifty six percent of Moms would “always” try a new product with a coupon and 40.9% would “sometimes” try a new product when enticed with a coupon.

• Finally, in what I’d consider one of the most surprising results, the roller coaster of economic news has not changed the majority of Moms’ budgets. From gifts for immediate and extended family to gifts for teachers, coaches and caregivers, an average of 55% of Moms reported the intention to spend the same amount on holiday gifts as last year.

What about you? Do these numbers generally fit your shopping plans for this holiday season?

mariabailey100.jpgMaria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media, speaks to over 8 million moms a month in print,online and on radio. She is the author of “Marketing to Moms: Getting Your Share of the Trillion Dollar Market”, “Trillion Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers” and “Mom 3.0: Marketing with Today’s Mothers By Leveraging New Media and Technology”. Bailey also writes for several parenting publications such as OC Parent and Pregnancy Magazine. She has been featured in Business Week, Parenting, Child and O magazines as well on CNN, CNBC and World News Tonight. You can hear more from Maria at BlueSuitMom.com and MomTalkRadio.com.

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Baby Mama Drama

One of my Mommy friends is outraged which means I'm outraged.

Her daycare has decided that it would be a great idea to have 2-year-olds wear uniforms. Oh, and the shirts with the daycare's insignia are $15 and can only be bought one South Florida store.

We're talking about uniforms: khaki pants, shorts or skirts and the special-order shirt for kids ages 4 and younger.

The brains behind this policy says in a letter sent home that the uniforms will "assist our children to focus on the most important task, which is learning and growing in an environment that enhances school spirit, good self-image and school unity."

Last I checked, Woody T-shirts worn by 2-year-olds wasn't getting in the way of learning ABCs and they didn't have self-image issues.

shirt-blog.jpg This policy seems like an unnecessary cost, but if for the greater good -- security and spirit -- parents are made to use uniforms shouldn't they be able to shop around for a cheaper shirt that meets that criteria?

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Harry Potter not for young kids

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, there is no question that you will see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1." Do yourself a favor: Go see it at the Imax theater. This movie is lush and grim and startling and riveting, all the more so on the giant Imax screen where the story will swallow you whole.

My 12-year-old daughter and I, both big fans of the books, went to a special screening last night, and if this were a ride at Universal, we would have jumped right back in line to see it again.

But parents, know this: It's dark, it's scary, it's intense and not for young kids. I'd be very cautious about taking any child younger than 10 -- in part because of the fright factor, but also because this is a serious movie. Fleeting moments of humor serve to release the tension, and highlight the extreme danger our heroes are in.

HP7: Part 1 is all about Harry, Hermione and Ron. They are alone, but prevail in skirmishes with Snatchers and Death Eaters and in the Ministry of Magic. Their victories ring hollow, however, because doom covers them like an invisibility cloak. (On the Imax screen, the special effects are huge -- I practically broke my glasses when my hands flew up to my face. And Erika closed her eyes during the most intense parts.)

There is a weightiness -- and waitiness -- to the scenes where Harry, Hermione and Ron are in hiding and trying to figure out how to find the horcruxes. You can feel the burden these kids are carrying, and it's not comfortable.

HP7 is a movie for those already in the Potter fold -- and that's a lot of people. It's for those of us who never wanted the story to end. I'm glad the filmmakers have broken the final book into two parts and are keeping the magic alive for just a little longer.

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November 18, 2010

10 tips for a successful parent/teacher conference

1. Bring a written list of questions that you may have about classroom procedures, homework, grading, etc.

2. Stay on topic. The conference is set up so you can discuss your child’s progress with the teacher. You shouldn’t get into a discussion about your child’s siblings academics, or your personal life unless it affects your child’s ability to perform at school.

3. Find out what you can do to help your child at home to be successful at school.

4. Be open-minded. We all want our children to succeed and sometimes it’s hard to hear that they are behind or disruptive in class.

5. It’s OK to ask how your child is performing in relation to the rest of the class. “Which reading group is my son in?” “How is my daughter doing in math compared to the other students in the class?” “Is she average, below or above in social skills?” These are all appropriate questions to ask.

6. Find out what excites your child about learning. Is she a math wiz or perhaps a future author, artist or scientist? Ask the teacher in order to get a better insight into your child’s strengths and interests.

7. If your child has behavior issues, offer to follow up at home. Ask for behavior notes and let your child know that misbehavior at school will have consequences at home.

8. Remember that a teacher’s time is as valuable as your own. He or she probably has more than twenty conferences. An efficient conference should last 15-20 minutes tops.

9. If a teacher gives you advice or tips on how to work with your child in a subject area, follow that advice. She has the professional insight to know what kind of a learner your child is and how to best teach to his individual needs.

10. If you’re able to, offer your time to help out in class or do some prep work at home.


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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No need to boycott Amazon

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I kind of feel sorry for the folks over at Amazon.com. Not for their dunderheaded defense of selling a pro-pedophilia code of conduct, but for the way their clumsiness has emboldened the "boycott Amazon" movement that has taken over a corner of the Twitterverse.

It's time for the critics to cool it. Before this scandal erupted, I had no idea where to find pro-pedophile reading material. Isn't it just a teensy bit counterproductive to publicize the availability of a book whose availability we're protesting? There's got to be a better way.

As this scandal developed last week, Amazon made the unwise decision to defend itself by claiming it was censorship to refuse to sell something just because they found the content objectionable. The idea, of course, was to convince objectors that allowing a sociopath to hawk his wares in the online marketplace was somehow morally preferable to telling him that you'd rather not do business with him. And that is, to put it in printable form, excrement of male bovine origin.

As a dad, and as an Amazon customer, I don't object to "censorship." I expect it. It's how I know I'm not turning on pornography when I tune into the Disney Channel. It's how I know the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald won't print letters to the editor that begin "I never thought this would happen to me..."

What Amazon should have said when the uproar began is what it said a few days later.

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The online retailer has expanded its services to the point where millions of items can be sought and bought by millions of people looking for millions of books, articles, games, toys, electronics and other gizmos. Amazon is making it easier than ever for authors to forego traditional publishers and hawk their wares on the open market, meaning you can write and sell a book more easily than ever before. That's a good thing.

But the technology that allows Amazon to offer as much as it does also leaves it open to abuse by sociopathic authors who look at the Kindle platform's potential the same way they look at a prepubescent boy: something to be used for their satisfaction, decency be darned.

So Amazon did the right thing. It stopped selling the book that started this mess. It also pulled some other ill-advised works off its listings. And that has, for some reason, emboldened Amazon's critics to "keep the pressure on." Now they're trying to look for every bit of objectionable material that Amazon sells, and calling Amazon on the carpet with each "gotcha."

Yeah, good luck with that. By my calculation, it won't be long before the "boycott Amazon" crowd learns what Amazon execs probably already knew but couldn't figure out how to say: we've created a monster. You can cut off a tentacle here or there, but others will pop up somewhere else. It will never end.

So let's stop picking on Amazon. It's not their job to protect my family from what's out there. It's mine.

Sure, I want them to do their part as a good corporate citizen. That should be the contructive goal of this dialogue between a corporation and its customers. And we, the customers, need to be reasonable about our expectations.

What's Amazon to do? I'm not entirely sure, but the retailer must find a way to get a handle on quality control, or its product guidelines aren't worth the pixels they're printed with. Amazon's product guidelines prohibit the use of its site to sell pornography, but somehow you can still find a series of movies about Deborah the cheerleader's exploits near Fort Worth. Someone's not minding the store.

Boycott them until they get their act together? Honestly, I don't think that will help. On top of that, people are contacting Amazon and demanding to have their accounts deleted. What's the point of that? It's one thing to decide not to shop somewhere. It's quite another to demand they erase any evidence that you ever shopped there in the past? If you take that line of thinking alll the way to its logical conclusion, you'd half expect the protesters to return everything they ever purchased on Amazon and demand a refund!

I suspect Amazon got the message of the recent fiasco. They probably want our business more than they want Greaves'. Keep them honest, sure. But let's not get carried away. Christmas is right around the corner, after all.

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

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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Belly armor

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Trying to explain the concept of a baby in Mommy’s tummy to my 2-year-old has been like trying to explain why girls go to the bathroom in pairs to my husband. My son likes to say “baby in there” and “baby in mama’s belly” as he points to my baby bump, and I was beginning to think he was getting it.

But the other day, he pointed at my husband and said, “Baby in dada’s belly.” OK, he doesn’t get it.

I want him to understand the concept because he’s becoming quite physical when he plays — such a boy. I need some kind of shield to protect me from the unexpected head-butts, elbows, pushes and kicks.

I didn’t really notice how rough he plays or how strong he’s getting until I got pregnant. At least it isn’t malicious and intentional. But even so, I’ve learned never to lie on the couch without a pillow shield over my belly. And I always keep a hand on his leg while I’m holding him to prevent the “put me down” kicks.

I wonder how many other pregnant mothers deal with this.

I was pretty concerned about it, so I asked my doctor, who said, “Yea, toddlers do that.” He assured me the baby wouldn’t come out with brain damage. I should probably be more worried about the baby when it doesn’t have the protection of mommy’s belly.

POSTED IN: Pregnancy (31)

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November 17, 2010

Airport security: Should my kids get a pat-down?


Since I am scared of the radiation emitted by the new airport body scanners, I was going to have my kids get patted down when we fly for Thanksgiving next week.

But now that the Transportation Security Administration has changed its pat-down procedures, I'm not sure what to do.

The new procedure uses a "sliding hand motion" on private areas that used to be skimmed lightly. As you can see in this video, the security agent warned this passenger what was about to be done and it is quite graphic.

A protester is declaring Nov. 24 "National Opt-Out Day," to encourage people to avoid the body scanner machines and submit to pat-downs instead to mess up the TSA on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

We were going to do the pat-downs anyway to avoid the radiation. But now I'm not sure I want my kids to get touched this way by strangers, even if it is in the name of the government.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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November 15, 2010

Reflections of Motherhood video: What advice would you give yourself before your first child?

This video from the site Reflections of Motherhood asks women what advice would you give yourself if you could go back before your first child.

Well? If you could go back, what would you say? I'd like to hear from some dads, too.

POSTED IN: Chris Tiedje (51), Pregnancy (31)

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Why is it so hard to find a pregnant doll?

If you want to be shocked and outraged, do a search online for "pregnant Barbie.''

I'm not saying the concept of a preggers Barbie doll is shocking. What is outrageous is that they don't make these dolls anymore, and if you want to buy one online, you'll have to spend at least $70. preggersmidge.jpg


I cannot believe that in 2010, no toy maker produces a pregnant doll! Why in the world not?

Mattel actually used to make one. It wasn't Barbie herself; it was her friend "Midge.'' There was a whole lot of controversy at the time, (2002), about it.

But you'd think we would be over that now. You'd think a mom could buy her daughter a Barbie doll -- or any kind of doll -- who is "in the family way,'' so our daughters can act out their ideas about how Ken should put a footstool under his pregnant wife's feet, clean her doll house, brush her hair and put a cozy robe on her.

Lily and I were visiting friends when she encountered her first pregnant Barbie, and Lily fell in love with it. Our friends tried to give it to her, but I said, "Oh, don't worry about it. I'll buy her one online.'' (I say this about everything.)

I've had to tell Lily since then that pregnant Barbie is too expensive. To which she replied, "then I'll ask Santa for it.'' I told her I'd make her one using half of a plastic Easter egg and some tape.

Judging from the prices out there, this is a niche market someone should grab.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 12, 2010

Where do babies come from?

When my 3-year-old daughter asks why things are made the way they are, like why lollipops are on a stick and why is her sweater is purple and why don't school buses have safety belts, I say: "That's the way the factory made it."

This week following a barrage of such questions, she asked how did the factory make her. Oy!

Talking about Satan was much easier (especially after your input). So like a good parent I ignored her question.

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When I was telling my husband this morning about her inquiry he decided to tell our daughter that she came from my stomach to which she replied: Was the stomach empty? (Silly Dad, this was the train wreck I was trying to avoid.) And he said "No," and then she said incredulously "Was I in your stomach with the food?" So I spoke up and said you were in my uterus which sent her into silly oral conversions.

Her: Your what?
Me: My Uterus
Her: Your uterus?
Me: Yes, my uterus
Her: Uterus! (imagine high-pitched squeals as the words are eeked out)
Her: Uterus! (imagine high-pitched squeals as the words are eeked out)
Her: Uterus! (imagine high-pitched squeals as the words are eeked out)
Her: Uterus! (imagine high-pitched squeals as the words are eeked out)

So I need some help here. How the heck did you tell your kids how they came into the world, and how old were your kids at the time?

Photo credit: tostadophoto.com/Flickr

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Lessons in pop culture

This week in pop culture:

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Demi Lovato: The Disney star who seemed like the nicest, most normal of them all has "emotional and physical problems" that are tied to bullying she endured in middle school. She has cut herself. She may or may not have drinking and drug issues. She may or may not be in a feud with BFF Selena Gomez. She may or may not be pregnant. All these things are swirling around the Internet. And, because my 12-year-old daughter is vaguely aware of all this, I have to pay attention. And I have to figure out what I'm going to say about it. If anything.

"Don't be like Demi" is rather obvious. Good thing Erika isn't a pop star. That seems like a good first step in avoiding some of these problems.

Broward schools were locked down.....the day after the new Call of Duty video game came out. Coincidence? Hmmmmm. Wednesday after school activities were canceled -- conveniently, the night before a day off from school (thank you veterans). This, of course, gave certain 15-year-old gamers even more time, perhaps even all night -- who knows, I went to bed -- to shoot em up. What do we learn from this? Timing is everything.

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Lil Wayne is out of jail! Oh joy. Of course, we hardly missed Mr. Wayne, what with the new music timed to come out at regular intervals even during his eight-month incarceration. Genius. What a lesson in time management for his young fans.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 premiered in London. And oh my goodness that Emma Watson looks fabulous in her short 'do. She is shaking off her nerd/wizard past and telling us what every girl knows: Cut your hair, change your life.


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November 11, 2010

Amazon lies with pedophiles

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I have to admit I was amused when I first heard that a pedophile's code of conduct was being sold on Amazon.com. It's not that I find the subject funny. It's just that if I were a cop looking for an easy way to identify and track pedophiles, I'd probably concoct just such a book and sell it. Visions of "To Catch a Predator" danced in my head.


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"Thank you for ordering The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure. This e-book will be downloaded to your Kindle momentarily. Your credit card information, we assure you, will NOT be shared with local authourities, the LEACH task force or Dateline NBC. You have our word as entrepreneurs. Sincerely, your friends at Amazon.com."

Alas, as the story progressed, I was disappointed to hear that it wasn't a trap. It was a real e-book, really offered on Amazon.com with no strings, or handcuffs, attached.

The offering of this e-book and Amazon's reprehensible defense of it, give capitalism and entrepreneurship a bad name.

Here's what Amazon said. And no, I'm not kidding:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

Based on that quote alone, I'm going to choose not to make my purchases through Amazon.com. At least until they fire or educate whoever was responsible for that ridiculous statement.

If I may offer assistance on the education front: Freedom of speech does not compel association. In other words, just because a sick pedophile who's waiting for the opportunity to prey on your children or mine is free in this country to write a book promoting his depraved illness does not give you the obligation to sell it! He is free to write his book. You are free to refuse to sell it.

But why am I telling you this? You know it already! See, it's right here in your content guidelines (you have read your own content guidelines, haven't you?):

Amazon.com reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of items sold on our site.
Well put. Now go exercise your right.

I suppose you recognize this now, considering the book has suddenly disappeared from your website. But it's obvious you haven't learned your lesson: "Understanding Loved Boys and Boy Lovers" is still on your site as of this writing. And you get a cut from every sale, don't you?

Listen, there's nothing complicated here. Exercise your support for freedom of speech by not calling on the authors of these books to be arrested solely for expressing their reprehensible thoughts in written form. Then exercise YOUR First Amendment right to CHOOSE the people with whom you will associate when you do business.

Because if you don't cut those authors off, your customers will be more than happy to cut you off.

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

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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Misjudging Barbie?

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Barbie’s latest commercial, which I saw for the first time last night, was pleasantly surprising. I loved playing with Barbie dolls as a kid, but as an adult, I found myself hating on Barbie because of how the dolls influence young girls to think they have to look a certain way to be beautiful and focus too much on looks.


But Barbie’s new commercial promoting its “over 125 careers and counting” slogan has me wondering if I was too harsh on Barbie. Maybe she’s just misunderstood and I judged her too soon. I never really looked at Barbie as a career woman.


I was curious about some of her career choices, so I went to Barbie.com to check them out. Her first career in 1959 was a teenage fashion model (typical Barbie), and in 1960, she got promoted to fashion editor (OK, she’s trying). While she added executive to her resume in 1963, it wasn’t until the 1980s that she ventured into careers traditionally dominated by men.


Culture probably had something to do with that, but in the past 10 years, her list of careers has really expanded. Highlights include presidential candidate, race car driver, computer engineer, news anchor and dentist. It seems Barbie is trying to change her message — that girls should strive to be all they can be — and it doesn’t hurt to look pretty along the way. (Why do women have to wear masculine-looking suits to be taken seriously, anyway?) Or maybe she’s just trying to get people to see her for the career woman she is.


But I wonder if I’m just an ignorant consumer letting a good marketing campaign fool me. Or maybe I should give Barbie another chance. Do you think Barbie is becoming a better influence on our young ones?

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231)

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2011 Highlander's anti-family commercial. Really?

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OK, I'm calm. Not really. I'm upset. Every time I see that obnoxious, materialistic, anti-family piece of garbage stupid insulting Toyota Highlander commercial I just want to...


OK, I'm calm. Really. I'll be all right.

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I am just losing patience with the Borg assimilation of America, starting in my own household, starting with myself. I'm sick of the two cell phones, one for work, one for personal use, both with unlimited messaging and data plans that allow practically unlimited Internet access. I'm sick of the fact that our teens have an even harder time detaching themselves from their phones than I do. I'm sick of having to say things twice while we're driving, once to get their attention so they can pull the electronic gizmo receptors (aka, Borg implants) out of their ears, and a second time to elicit a halfhearted reply to whatever question we dared ask to interrupt their effort to shut us out of their lives (or at least their immediate presence).


And then some brilliant ad exec decides to make a commercial mocking the fact that a dad would rather check his phone than play with his kid, or with his sex-starved wife. Hilarious. Except the ad is for a phone. Really? Who are they kidding?

There's no phone that can save us from our phones. You know what can save us from our phones? A hammer, maybe. But not another phone. Really.

But the Highlander commercial is where I draw the line. That's where it's not funny anymore.

If you haven't seen it, a kid in the back seat of a Highlander pulls up beside a friend in the back seat of a sedan. Sedan boy's parents are in the front seat singing at the top of their lungs, with unabashed delight, "Just call me angel of the morning..."

"Help me," sedan boy mouths.

Highlander boy just plugs his Borg implant into the console and blissfully ignores the presence of his clueless, joyless parents, who are probably on their Windows 7 phones ignoring each other in the front seat.

Then, almost as if he's asking to be smacked, Highlander boy looks at the camera and says, "Just because you're a parent doesn't mean you have to be lame."

Oh yeah? Well 30 years from now, Highlander boy, you're not going to remember the stupid cartoon you were watching in the backseat that day, but your buddy is going to be telling his kids about how goofy his grandparents used to be, singing in the front seat. And he'll remember the song, too. And he'll be happy about it. And he'll feel sorry for you.

That's right, Highlander boy, just because you think it's a good idea to detach yourself from the people around you doesn't make you cool. It means your parents would rather stupefy you into silence than engage you in conversation. That's right, buddy, the gizmo isn't there to shut your parents out. It's there to shut you up.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going out to rip the DVD player out of our minivan.

Resistance is NOT futile!






POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42), Step-parenting (59), Technology (3), Teen (158)

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November 10, 2010

Should middle schools sponsor fancy trips abroad?

My eighth-grader has been invited by her school to Europe, Costa Rica and the Galapagos.

Her teachers are organizing these "educational tours" in June, when school gets out. The Costa Rica trip is $2,017, the Galapagos tour, $3,549. I tossed out the flier for the Europe trip a few weeks ago because I knew it was not in our price range.

I guess there are families who can afford these trips. But I'm getting tired of having to tell my daughter, each time a new flier comes home with her, that it will not be possible for us.

I can see the schools organizing trips to Disney or Universal. But when did they get in the business of becoming deluxe tour operators?

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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November 9, 2010

Teens who text too much more likely to have sex and drink booze

We parents have enough to worry about than a silly study that says teens who text more than 120 times a day and spend 3 hours on Facebook are more likely to have had sex, had alcohol or used drugs.

How could these behaviors correlate with hyper-texting and spending a few hours a day on Facebook?

texting-blog.jpgThis study has to be skewed by people who don't understand the new social network has moved from sleepovers and notes passed in class to text-messaging and Facebooking.

I think we'd be better off making sure our kids know how we feel about underage drinking in the age of Four Loko, as my fellow mommy-blogger Brittany talks about, and homecoming parties hosted by negligent parents.

Photo: Iowa high school sophomores use their cell phones during a pre-test in their science class. Larry Fisher/Associated Press.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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November 8, 2010

Teen-agers attracted to potent alcoholic energy drink, Four Loko

I'm not saying that your teen-ager got drunk this weekend. But chances are, if your child is in the mid-teens, he or she has heard of a drink called Four Loko, and knows someone who has tried it. And maybe your own child has tried it.

If you haven't heard of Four Loko, now is a good time to read up on it.

Four Loko is a new alcohol drink, introduced two years ago. It has a very high alcohol content (12 percent!), and a lot of caffeine. It's an energy drink that gets you trashed.

Four Loko and its allure for teens has been a huge national story lately.

It's been called "blackout in a can.'' Teens have been hospitalized after guzzling it. And many are complaining that teens are the target audience of this canned drink. Well, let's see. They're grape and orange, lemonade, blue raspberry and other kid friendly flavors. The can is brightly colored, and the cost is low, $2.

The Food and Drug Administration is studying whether caffeine and alcohol make a safe mixture. And New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is complaining about the packaging.

A couple days ago, it was banned from being sold in Michigan.

The company denies marketing to teens, saying on its website that "Four Loko’s can colors are no brighter or more appealing than the blue, red, and green labels of established beer brands like Budweiser and Heineken.''

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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November 5, 2010

When the kid is sick does Dad step up to the plate?

Last week our girl got sick and was moaning and whining throughout the night. Who heard her? A groggy me. Who got up with her? A groggy me.

My husband and I split the parenting duties well, and it's never an issue about who will feed her or bathe her or teach her how to dress herself. But when she gets sick I seem to get stuck with the late-night soothing and someone wakes up refreshed and someone else wakes up cranky and bleary-eyed; I'm not calling any names.

What happens in your happy home? Cast your vote.


POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Cross-dressing kids on Halloween

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Lots of buzz yesterday and today about a Missouri mom who confronted the Gender Role Enforcement Squad when her 5-year-old son decided to dress up as the Scooby Doo character Daphne for Halloween.

I wish I'd thought of it first. We dressed Leo as Scooby Doo, but I ended up just putting on a striped prisoner's shirt as my costume. I would joke that I was dressing as a Broward County elected official, but that would be cheap. And I'm above that.

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Anyway, back to Missouri: she didn't have a problem with her son dressing as a girl (read her account here). But he, wise as he was, realized some other people might. What would they think?

Well, what do you think?

Me? I respect the mom and the kid. I understand there are gender roles that are natural, and there are others that are imposed by society. And for the most part, I'm okay with both. What's a cosutme got to do with it? There are roles for species, too, but I'm not worried that Leo's going to grow up to be a canine with a speech impediment (though my friend Alicia warns me that if he lifts his leg to do number one, I'll only have myself to blame). Whatever. Missouri mom makes an important point. If her boy were a girl and had chosen to dress as Batman, she points out, no one would have said a word.


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She's right. But let's expand on that. If it's NOT Halloween and little girls dress like boys and do boyish things routinely, the worst we think is that they're tomboys and will grow out of it. And they usually do.


This wasn't a Sunday. It was Halloween. This wasn't an outfit he wore to church. It was a costume he wore to a costume party.


Here's where I think the well-meaning made a wrong turn: they assume that the little boy is trying to make a complicated statement about his gender identity by choosing a Daphne costume. No doubt, these are the same people who thought Katy Perry should have covered up when she was on Dancing with the Muppets... I mean, Sesame Street. We adults like staring at Katy Perry's revealing outfits (did I say that out loud?), so we project our lechery onto our kids and assume they'll see her as we do.


Well, they don't. A pretty lady singing to a muppet is, to them, a pretty lady singing to a muppet. Nothing more complicated than that.


And a costume? Just a costume. He is not making a statement about his sexuality any more than my wife and I made a statement about religion four years ago when she dressed as a priest and I dressed as a nun. He was having fun on Halloween. Lighten up.


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


Here's Missouri mom on CNN:


POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), Holidays (49), Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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What's brewing in the minds of quiet teens?

It's father-daughter campout weekend. That means it's mother-son at home alone.

It's going to be very quiet.

Because at 15, my son has apparently lost his ability (desire?) to converse with me, except if he's asking about food ("why don't we have anything good?"), money ("I need some money," which is not technically a question) and transportation ("Can you take me right now to (fill in the blank)?" asked usually at the most inconvenient time).

But his reticence is OK with me, really. I know he's got a lot going on in his head. What teen doesn't? I know that lurking inside is the little boy who thought I was the greatest thing ever. And if he's anything like his father, he will be a very talkative adult.

So I'll be patient and continue to leap on any gifts he offers me. Usually all I get is a "ughmph" to my cheery "have a great day" as he flies out of the car when I drop him off at school. But today, we actually had a conversation on the mile-long drive! That he initiated! It was not a profound conversation -- something about money (again!) falling out of his pocket. But it was something.

POSTED IN: Gretchen Day Bryant (5), Teen (158)

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November 4, 2010

One way to save $50,000 a year in college costs

Parents of high school students can save thousands of dollars in college costs if their child takes AP (advanced placement) courses in high school. If your child has the ability to take an AP class and pass the national subject area AP exam, they should go for it. Besides the fact that colleges like to admit students that have taken challenging high school course work, many colleges offer earned credits and even advanced standing to students entering with several AP classes. For many families this can add up to huge savings.

Say that your child attends a private college that accepts AP credits. Room, board and tuition at such a school can cost over $50,000 a year. If that college accepts AP credits, they may offer your student advanced standing as they treat those credits as if they were earned in college. Consequently, your child could enter his first year of college as a sophomore. Even if your child doesn’t have quite enough AP credits for an entire year’s advancement, he can take an extra course or two (for free as usually no extra charge is imposed for extra classes in a semester) over his attendance to make up the missing credits. The result is that he’ll only need three years of college to graduate. Even if he doesn’t have enough AP credits for an entire year, he might graduate in three and a half years and cut out the cost of one semester ($25,000).

If your student still wants the four year college experience after his third year, he could take Master’s Degree level courses. If he wants to continue in the undergraduate world, he’ll have the time to double his major or minor, making himself more marketable to future employers. In almost any scenario, not only will your child be better educated, but you or he will reap financial rewards from his hard work and the minimal costs of AP exams.

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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Simple pleasure: watching my son play basketball

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It was last Saturday morning.

Nothing unusual. When Leo gets up, he wants to play. He walks over to me, grabs me by the hand, and leads me to our outside patio, where we've set up his slide and his basketball hoop.

Nothing unusual. I've taken a billion pictures with my cell phone. Leo shoots! He scores! Hooray Leo!

Then, last Saturday, I remembered that I could take a video. I love the look on his face at the 49 second mark.

There's nothing dramatic here (other than his seeming inability to miss the basket). Just the simple pleasure of watching my kid play ball.

Guess what I'll be doing this Saturday morning.

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2010 (42)

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November 3, 2010

Halloween candy buy back program benefits our troops

Halloween Candy Buy-Back ProgramI don't know about the rest of the parents out there, but I'm already at the end of my Halloween candy tolerance. Our family tries not to indulge too much in sugary treats, but when this holiday rolls around we always bend the rules for awhile. My usual routine is to take all of the leftovers and bring them into the office. Around the newsroom, candy seems to disappear pretty quickly. Then I heard on the radio about a local dentist who was collecting candy to send to our troops overseas. BRILLIANT! After a little research, I found the Halloween Buy-Back Program website. The video below is from last year, but you get the point.


I can't think of a much better cause, and I'm really anxious to get the crazy pile of sugar out of my house! What do you do with all of your candy leftovers?

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

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Schools: Too many days off in the middle of the week

I know school and voting officials think it was really great that Broward and Palm Beach schools were closed on Election Day. But as a working parent, I take a different view of the many times schools are closed in the middle of the week.

Although we are in the 12th week of school in Palm Beach County, there have only been five uninterrupted weeks of school. For seven weeks, there has been either a Teacher Work Day, a Professional Development Day, a Holiday or some other reason to break up a full week of school.

And now the Palm Beach County School District wants to start closing the schools for Veterans' Day, too. Is this good for kids' education? Is anyone going to take their kids to a Veterans Day ceremony on that day off?

My kids are out of elementary school now, but I remember the days when I had to search frantically for child care on these days off when they were too young to take care of themselves. I sympathize with you, working parents of little ones.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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November 2, 2010

Thanksgiving: Grace under pressure?

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

I'm researching for an article about saying grace on Thanksgiving. Wondering if people get butterflies speaking in front of their loved ones, or if you're one of those people that kind of ducks in a corner when they scan the room looking for an orator.

Gratuitous film clip: Maybe you have a fear of being like Ben Stiller in "Meet the Parents"?

If you have any thoughts or anecdotes, e-mail me at nsortal@sun-sentinel.com. Include your name and day time phone number.

POSTED IN: Holidays (49)

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Embrace change

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How will you be celebrating the time change?

That’s right – don’t forget – this year set clocks back one hour on Sunday, Nov. 7th.

Since a kid, I’ve remembered the phrase, "Spring forward, Fall back." It keeps me on track and on time.

Only, if “Fall back,” means 6 a.m. will become 5 a.m. – I can shut the alarm off and fall back into bed – right? And if I oversleep an hour, I really won’t be late to work, will I?

My son won’t have to rush to catch the bus – and he’ll have an extra hour for homework and chores! Not really, but I know it will seem like it to me at least for a while.

Getting littler ones to bed or getting them up and out might be more of a challenge.


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Most of us, including our children, are creatures of habit. You might notice they get hungry or sleep “earlier.”

In fact, if your child is at that “learning to tell time,” stage – this is a great opportunity to teach them how to tell time. Start with a nice big image of an analog clock.

Showing them how the “big hand” and “little hand” rotate around helps them to relate to the concept of time moving. (Don’t worry, they’ll pick up on the idea that “time flies,” soon enough, when they’re about our age.)

Be patient. You know that other saying: “What goes around comes around.”

Just when we’re getting in sync with our internal clocks, we’ll be resetting our external clocks again before you know it.

You can read more time change facts at About.com

There are a lot of resources for teaching/learning to tell time. Search the web for clock images to download and print for your child to color.

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

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November 1, 2010

"Halloweenagers'' swarm neighborhood for free candy

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I carried a Halloween bucket
last night while trick-or-treating
with Lily, but I sure as heck
didn't ask anyone to give
me candy, at this age.


I heard a new word today: Halloweenager. That's a teenager who doesn't dress up for Halloween, but still shows up at your doorstep begging for candy.

I saw quite a few Halloweenagers last night, as my 8-year-old daughter and I traversed the neighborhood in the rain, trick-or-treating.

And now I have to admit something: My own son was one of them. He's 15. And when he came home from hanging out with his friends, he had a sack of candy.

"Did you dress up?'' I asked him with a scowl on my face.

"No,'' he said, sitting there in shorts and a blue T-shirt. The blue T-shirt has a Monster energy drink logo on it, which looks like slash marks from claws. "I said I was a warrior,'' he said, touching the logo.

Sigh.

I think 12 is about the oldest a trick-or-treater should be. Anyone with hairy armpits should be disqualified.

I guess that means I disagree with my colleague, Rafael Olmeda, who came to accept the idea of his teen daughters trick-or-treating. Personally I see too much evidence of teens not wanting to grow up.

On a related note, check out the jump for my tips on carving pumpkins so they look like works of art.

My best advice for carving cool pumpkins is to go ahead and break with tradition, and use a stencil.

Last year we stenciled for the first time, and the results were great. This year we tried it again, and you'll see the pumpkins below. The second one of the cat with its hair standing on end was tricky to carve, and I accidentally chopped off one of the cat's ears.

But most stencils are really easy.

You can print them out online or buy them. You tape the stencil to the pumpkin and trace it with a marker, then carve. Voila! It's too late for this year, but go ahead and print some out now for next year. Read my colleague Doreen Christensen's tips on finding free pumpkin stencils online.
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POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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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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