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January 31, 2011

Magnet strip for kitchen, and other time-saving items for moms and dads

Occasionally, I'll find an item that saves me so much time and frustration as a mom that I feel compelled to share it with you all on this blog.

We live a pretty chaotic existence, and I don't like wasting time at home searching for scissors, the bike pump needle and screwdrivers.

My life has improved significantly since I bought and installed the magnetic strip you see pictured here. It was less than $10. There are various sizes, and the strip can be installed vertically or horizontally. The magnet is incredibly powerful, as you can see.

It's made for cooks who want a knife strip. I'd always wanted a knife strip, because I can't stand looking for sharp knives, either, and the more stuff I can get off my counter (knife block), the better.

But I decided to use it to also hang items I'm constantly needing to run the house, and as you can see in this photo, it's getting lots of use.

There are a couple other must-have items I've blogged about, for parents of school-age kids. many of the items are school supplies. To refresh: In order to avoid a late-night dash to the store:
1. Always keep a piece of plain poster board on hand.
2. Buying a hot glue gun is well worth the investment.
3. Keep a glue stick and a bottle of old-fashioned Elmer's style glue in a convenient location at all times.
4. Buying a stapler is also well worth the investment. Throw in an old-fashioned pencil sharpener that can be attached to the wall, and you'll really be set.
5. Wait until a month or two after school starts, when the stores put deep discounts on folders and pencils and other supplies. Buy a lot of them, for the inevitable night your child tells you he absolutely must have a new folder to organize his papers or his teacher will give him an "F.''
6. If you spend the $25 dollars to buy one of those small helium tanks to blow up balloons, you'll probably want to hug yourself every time you get to use it to make a birthday present look better, or for a family member's party. No more wasting money on overpriced helium balloons.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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January 27, 2011

Baby girl clothes so complicated

I recently went shopping for my unborn baby girl’s newborn wardrobe. It sure was different than shopping for clothes for my son!

I think I’m pretty girly, and I appreciate good fashion, but the little girl clothes out there are a little over the top. There were so many pieces: leggings, pants, tights — really? tights for a baby? — plus accessories, like matching sandals, hair bows, bracelets, etc. One of the funniest things I saw was a spaghetti-strap onesie.

My son’s clothes were miniature versions of men’s clothes: polo shirts, cargo shorts, jeans. So simple. But the little girl clothes seem to be in a genre all their own. I can’t imagine any grown-up woman wearing big versions of anything I saw in the store, especially the headbands with the gigantic flowers.

Obviously the same rules don’t apply to little girls, so maybe I should just embrace the frilly, flowery clothes. After all, I’ve been told girls are harder and more complicated to raise than boys, so I guess it’s only appropriate that their clothing reflect that.

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January 26, 2011

Principals should pronounce kids' names correctly

Is it too much to ask school administrators to get students' names right during awards ceremonies?

I was at an honor roll ceremony last week and I almost had to cover my ears as I heard the names of kids I know. Alexa was "Alexis." Romero was "Romeo." Braden was "Brandon." Needless to say, last names got similarly brutal treatment.

I've seen this happen many times before and I always hope the administrators study up on the names before they announce them in public.

Maybe they do and still can't get them right. But I would hate to be the parent whose moment of pride was ruined when the school administrator mangled their family name.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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January 25, 2011

What South Florida teens are saying about MTV's "Skins"

As criticism of the ill-conceived MTV series "Skins" reaches a fever pitch, we asked the student reporters of Teen Link to share their thoughts. We figure the powers that be on MTV are not particularly interested in what the Moms & Dads page and TV critic Tom Jicha have to say about the raunchy program, but they should care very much about what their target audience thinks.

Anika Reed, Everglades High School, Miramar:

The pilot episode focuses on Tony, the lead character of the show and alpha dog within his group of friends, and his attempts to help his friend Stanley lose his virginity. The episode features lackluster acting by a few unknowns who are sure to become popular in the future because of their looks rather than their talent (or lack thereof).
The show creates no real excitement, and it certainly does not help to improve the image of the younger generation. At least the characters have room for growth and change as the show evolves.
Skins2.jpgI'm not that innocent. The cast of "Skins"
Personally, my group of friends and I do not participate in any of the activities that the characters in the show do. Maybe I'm just sheltered in my views, but I do not think that this show accurately portrays the majority of the youth of America.
However, many teenagers do engage in drugs and sex, and the issue should not be as delicate as parental groups are making it seem... People should realize that the show is just that-- a show. It does emphasize aspects of teenage culture that have always been shoved under the rug. Although I am not the biggest fan of the new MTV version, I believe that it does what MTV has always done-- it pushes the envelope and "goes there."
I shall continue to watch and see if the show gets better.

Lauren Kandell, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland
"Sex, drugs, and rock & roll" are the typical themes of any angsty teenage drama. Not unlike "Degrassi: The Next Generation," MTV's new series "Skins" shows an exaggerated glimpse into the lives of high school students. The pilot episode, which delves directly into the story of a few too many characters and their wild escapades, does not clearly differentiate between each personality, forming a hodgepodge of overly dramatic youths.
"Skins" utilizes an almost identical script to its British counterpart by the same title, sparking the question of why it was remade at all. Though the incessant party lifestyles of the characters provide can't-look-away entertainment, MTV would be better off following the path of Teen Nick and Canadian "Degrassi" by simply airing the original version.

For what it's worth, I asked my 18-year-old stepdaughter what she thinks of the show. She said it was, and I quote, "Whatever."


Keep reading for more teen input:

Shannen Mitchell, Coral Glades High School, Coral Springs

This is a show that America has been waiting for, a show that displays real things that happen to teens. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Skins USA is an exact remake of the original UK Skins. The plot is the same and characters are the same except for one character in which the writers changed from a gay boy to a lesbian girl.

This show is promoted as being real. But it is not real; it's showing the lives of British teens. I feel that if America truly wanted to have a show that represented teens' lives they could have used the idea of Skins, not the writting and plot. I understand [series creator] Bryan Elsley has helped to write the script for Skins USA and is also the writer of the original Skins. I just wished he had used his talents to help write a completely new script for America. Or MTV could have saved a lot of money and just broadcasted the UK Skins.

I have heard a lot of comments from my fellow peers who state this show is nothing like our lives, and I say back to them, no it's not. It's British teens' lives. I am happy Skins is on TV because now I don't have to watch the UK Skins on youtube. But I would have enjoyed it a lot better if the plot was different and not American actors portraying British people. I'm such a huge fan of Skins since two years ago when I came upon it, and I know I should be more supportive. I just wish the original Skins would be credited more.

Anthony Cave, Krop Senior High School, North Miami:
MTV is no stranger to controversy, from their production of the 2004 wardrobe malfunction, or rather Super Bowl Halftime show to award show interruptions (Kanye West) and punches (Snookie in “Jersey Shore.”). Skins takes it a step further.

Like most news, I found about ‘Skins’ through a website link and immediately scoffed at the idea. Teen Nickelodeon’s “Degrassi” already paints an unrealistic picture of teenage America and Skins is no different. Maybe their intent is to stir up controversy, but the idea of a streaking 17 year old is not funny, that’s child pornography.

While the issues of sex, drugs and the in-betweens are present in our society, there should be a limit to how far MTV can go. The show already has a “TV-MA” rating, but that will not stop those younger than 18 from watching.

The exposure factor needs to be wrapped up; fast. Skins is just another stereotypical teenage show that fosters the answer “well everyone’s doing it.” That mindset leads those who do not engage in those activities to be the minority and eventually give in.

There's hope yet.

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

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda 2011 (10), Teen (158)

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January 24, 2011

Broward schools over-do the annoying robo-calls

I had a real rude awakening as a parent when I got my first Broward County school system robo-call.

It's beyond impersonal. Even junk mail addresses me by name. But the Broward school system robo-calls say "This call is for the parent of ... (long pause where you assume your child's name is coming next) ... the student.''

Lately, whoever is in charge of sending out these annoying spam calls has been drinking too much caffeine. I'm getting two or more robo-calls a day.

On our Christmas vacation, we got a robo-call every single day to tell us that Lily owes 10 cents on her lunch account. I am not kidding you. A dime!

So I was very amused when I saw a dad on FOX and Friends the other day who said he got a school robo-call in the middle of the night. He returned the favor to each member of the school board.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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January 23, 2011

(UPDATED) A learning moment for parents: 12-year-old son on a driving lesson veers right into canal

UPDATED with death of the mom:
The mom whose 12-year-old son was being taught to drive with the whole family on board has died. I wanted to update my blog post about this, because this story is so incredibly tragic. Imagine the pain this 12-year-old will live with. I'll post the latest story, about the mom's death, from our partner at The Palm Beach Post, on the jump. My original blog post is below.

I once considered giving my son a driving lesson before he reached the legal age of 15-and-a-half and had his driver's permit.

Rather than go through a lot of hypothetical disasters my son could have rained upon our kiddriverPBPOST.jpg
neighborhood with his driving, I just alert you to this story in this morning's newspaper. It, and the photo here, are from our partner, the Palm Beach Post.

Click here to read about the tragedy involving a 12-year-old driver.

The dad let the 12-year-old son take the wheel, with his mom, 1-year-old sister and six-year-old brother in the back seat. The kid drove straight into a canal in Loxahatchee. His mom and siblings are in the hospital. His dad is OK, and so is he.

I greatly sympathize. It's a tragedy I cannot wrap my brain around. The impact is yet to be known. The mom was trapped in the SUV for a time span described as "between 10 and 30 minutes."

Aside from something disastrous like that happening, there's another good reason not to give kids an advance lesson in driving. Why make your child familiar with driving at an age when he is so lacking in good judgment he just might take off in your car the next time he's really angry?

For another real-life horror story, consider this one that ran in our paper not long ago. A 13-year-old autistic boy stole the family car, drove to Fort Lauderdale airport and flew across the country. His dad said he'd never driven before, but if we all taught our early-teens to drive, this would be happening all the time.

If you think the 87-year-old drivers are bad, just consider adding 13-year-olds to the mix. It's chilling.

Of course I wasn't about to tell my son that "you don't need to learn how to drive yet. Then you just might steal our car the next time you're mad at us.'' All Creed would have heard was "Steal our car the next time you're mad at us.'' So I just stick with good ol' "That's illegal.''

(Riding with a 15-and-a-half-year-old isn't that great, either. I'm getting a window into the workings of a male teen's mind. Creed thinks he has to catch up with any drivers that are ahead of him, an ambition he described, wrongly, as "keeping pace with other drivers'' and being "a harmonious driver.'')

The lesson to pick up here, I think, is to lock up the car keys until your kid is legal age, and then immediately push the kid to get a permit so he or she can get as much practice as possible before going out there alone.

Woman dies week after driving lesson ends in canal crash
By George Bennett, The Palm Beach Post

12:44 PM EST, January 23, 2011

A West Palm Beach mother has died from injuries she sustained last week when her 12-year-old son plunged an SUV into a canal during a driving lesson in Loxahatchee.

Martha Camarillo, 31, died Saturday, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's report.

She and two of her children were critically injured when her son Ernesto Paulino, 12, drove the Isuzu Rodeo into a canal off Collecting Canal Road in Loxahatchee on the afternoon of Jan. 16. The boy had just switched seats with his father, Gregorio Paulino-Ortega, to learn how to drive, a sheriff's report said.

The father and son were in the front seat and escaped harm, sheriff's Sgt. John Churchill said. Martha Camarillo was in the back seat with two children, Ashley Paulino, 1, and Alonzo Paulino, 6. All three were taken to Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee.

A sheriff's spokeswoman said the two young children remain in critical condition.

Deputies helped the father rescue the children, but it took rescuers between 10 and 30 minutes to extricate Camarillo, Churchill said.

The canal, on a rural dirt road, had no guard rail.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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January 21, 2011

Are your kids watching MTV's Skins?

MTV%20Skins.jpgMTV's "Skins"
I haven't seen the MTV series "Skins." Everything I know about it comes from the Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group that exists to be outraged. The group recently called Skins "the most dangerous program ever for children."

My gut tells me to agree with the PTC. Although I don't always agree with their dire, apocalyptic warnings about what will happen if my kids see something risque on television, I don't think they're always wrong, either. In this case, it seems the producers of Skins (developed by a father and his teenage son) are intentionally going for the gritty and controversial. Whether it's "pornography" or not, it's competing for your teenager's attention.

I'm not sure what's going to happen in terms of MTV's programming schedule or the PTC's legal effort to shut the show down.

I'm more concerned with whether my teenage girls are going to watch it and think the characters (as described in reviews) are role models rather than walking warning labels.

Not long ago, I said I would let my teens see South Park if they wanted to (an academic admission, considering that they have no interest in the raunchy cartoon series). "Honestly, I think we need to stop pretending that our teens and pre-teens are these innocent, fragile-eared cherubim and start recognizing that when our backs are turned, they hear everything we try to shield them from. And often, they're the ones saying these things," I wrote then. "Yes, we need to worry about what our kids are picking up from television. But more importantly, we need to be sure that we're the ones passing on the values we find important. No television show can do that for us, and if we do our jobs right, no television show can take it away."

Have you seen this show? Have your kids? What are your thoughts? What are theirs?

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

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114), Rafael Olmeda 2011 (10), Teen (158)

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January 20, 2011

5 ways to read with your toddler

Try to read books with your child every day, even if it is only for a short time. Books can become a source of comfort and are a great way to wind down, share cuddle time and make the transition to bedtime or a nap. But don’t just rely on books; employ reading moments throughout the day. Here are five ways to increase and enhance your toddler’s reading experiences:

1. Point to the Picture. To help develop vocabulary, ask your child to point to a picture in a book or wherever you might find pictures, which he can identify with a word. “Can you point at the cow?” “Show me the dog.”

2. Discuss what’s happening in pictures. What or who are the items or characters? Where does the story take place? What do you think is happening?

3. If your child wants to hear the same story or book over and over (and over and over), make the best of it. Discuss details, ask lots of questions, delve deeper into the details, motives and meaning.

4. By the age of three, many children can begin learning letters and sounds. Begin with the letters in your child’s name and look for them in books, on signs, in advertisements, on products, etc.

5. Start reading environmental print together when you’re out walking or even driving. You’d be surprised how quickly children can read favorite restaurant, grocery store and department store signs.

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.

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Grading parents won't make them more accountable

Finally commenting Wednesday on her proposal to have teachers grade parents as part of students' report cards, Florida Rep. Kelli Stargel told the Orlando Sentinel that the measure is not supposed to be intrusive or punitive.

Not supposed to be. And we all know government plans always work the way they're supposed to. "It's not intended to be big government coming down on parents," she said. "It's just intended to hold parents accountable."

There's the buzzword. "Accountability." But it doesn't apply here. Not really. Because the only way for educators to hold parents accountable for failing to ensure student readiness is to grade the student accordingly. A parent doesn't get the kid to school in time? Mark the kid tardy. A parent doesn't get the kid to school at all? Mark the kid absent. A parent doesn't make sure the homework is done? Give the kid a zero for not having his homework. A parent doesn't make sure the kid is prepared for a test? Grade the kid according to how he performed on the test.

The notion that we can shame bad parents into becoming involved parents by giving them an unsatisfactory rating on their kids' report card is naive at best. It's not going to happen. Not that way. The bill being proposed IS intrusive, expecting the teacher to judge (based on what?) whether a student is getting enough sleep or proper nutrition at home. That's not a teacher's job.

Teachers are in no position to judge what goes on in my home. They can only judge how my child performs in the classroom, not how my family performs outside.

Lots of people are supporting this bill, though for the life of me I can't imagine why. My colleague Michael Mayo asks "what's the harm?" I ask "what's the good?" Because there's no objective in the bill that can't be handled under the status quo.

The bottom line is that Stargel and educators don't want parents to be "held accountable." If they did, they'd attach a penalty to an unsatisfactory grade. What they really want is for parents to get involved. And that can be encouraged without passing a feel-good-but-do-nothing gimmick through the legislature.

It's just a matter of giving teachers an opportunity to write: "Here's what we need from Johnny's parents/family." When parents respond, give them a space to write back: "What do you need from your child's teacher?"

This makes it clear that education is a partnership. It communicates with the parents without judging them. It solicits immediate feedback. And it creates a benchmark the teacher AND the parent can return to with the next report card.

If that doesn't spur parental involvement, neither will an "unsatisfactory" grade.

I will say this much for Rep. Stargel's proposal: I hope this proposal means she recognizes that teachers are not singlehandedly responsible for student performance, something she should keep in mind when so-called "merit pay" bills return to the legislature for consideration.

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

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2011 (10)

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Expensive strollers: good investment or luxury?


When I was pregnant the first time, registering for baby items was a nightmare. I specifically remember encountering the vast assortment of bottles and the subsequent feelings of anxiety and cluelessness.

Some of that has gone away when it comes to preparing for the second child, but I find myself facing a new challenge: double strollers. Do I really need one? Why are they so darn expensive? Which is better: side by side or one seat in front of the other? Does brand matter?

I wonder if I’m going to use it often enough to get a nice one. My son will have been 3 for two months after my daughter is born, and after getting used to carrying all 35 pounds of him around, I think carrying a baby will be a cinch, so maybe I can just wear her in a carrier or trade on and off with the stroller. (Side note: I remember thinking my son was heavy to carry around when he was a baby, but I had no idea what I was in for!)

I had sticker shock when I went testing out different doubles. The cheapest one at one store was $400. That store had higher-end brands, but still. My friends are split on whether a better quality brand really matters. I’m leaning toward a cheaper one, but what if it’s so uncomfortable that the baby hates it and refuses to sit peacefully?

Any opinions on whether it’s worth it to go all out on a really nice double?

POSTED IN: General (185), Newborn (39), Shopping (28)

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January 19, 2011

Throw away your television

No TVMy wife used to tell me that I had a problem hearing her when the TV was on. I mostly blew it off that she was exaggerating, until I observed the same behavior in my father shortly thereafter. Now I'm starting to see it in my daughter, and she is only seven. Yikes.

The morning routine in our house usually involves my wife and I taking turns getting up with the early risers, and the first step when we hit the couch is to turn on the TV. I have no problem with morning cartoons, but what I do have a problem with is how my daughter seems to be unable to focus on anything else while the TV is on. The constant "Payton! Put your shoes on!" and "Listen, please! Brush your hair!" has become such an issue for us that my wife and I are going to start banning TV in our morning routine.

I was glad to see this article today where a mother made her teens go 6 months without Internet, cell, iPod or TV as an experiment. Things went well for her, so I hope they will go equally well for us! I'll update on our progress soon. Have you tried this with your family?

Photo by Mykl Roventine

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Clothing retailers need to get with Florida styles

There is a very specific style of shorts that my 14-year-old needs to comply with her middle school dress code and still be fashionable. And unfortunately, few stores are selling them at the moment.jeanshorts.jpg

They are similar to this photo, but more school-appropriate: Jeans, just above the knee, low-waisted and form-fitting.

Unfortunately, retailers in South Florida seem to follow trends in northern climes and don't carry these until their "spring collections" come in. This is the pattern I've found when I've asked at several chain stores over the past couple of weeks.

My daughter is in a growth spurt and desperately needed the new shorts. So we resorted to something I was hesitant to do: We bought jeans and cut them. I hated to waste the money but we couldn't wait for spring. Don't these stores realize South Floridians have different needs from the rest of the country?

Photo by Cam Switzer/Flickr

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January 18, 2011

Should my high school student leap into college?

We all know how time flies.

Fast forward, and our youth is but a blur, compared to our daily lives now full of responsibilities.

So why rush it, right?

But my son has the opportunity to participate in a dual enrollment program: College Academy – when he graduates high school, he will also have completed his first two years of college and graduate with an Associates of Arts college degree.

The program begins when he enters 11th grade. He'll be on a college campus where he will finish up high school and be a college student at the same time.

I think that’s awesome. I see more advantages than disadvantages.

I’m not pushing him either way on this decision. That’s because it will be on him to continue his good grades and be successful.

I’m not pushing him on the decision because he’ll be the one leaving some friends behind. Sure, he’ll make new ones: and some of his friends will also join the academy.

I’m not pushing him on the decision because still, there is that voice inside me that says he shouldn’t give up what he knows. He’ll give up becoming the big man on campus, and having the opportunity to mentor younger students… in addition to hanging with friends.

What do you think? Should kids stick with their high school programs? Should they leave college to the big boys and girls? Will it stunt his social growth? Will it short-change his youth?

It’s a wonderful crossroads to be at: it’s nice to be able to mull over opportunities.

We’ll be attending an open house, question and answers session next week. And some of his friends have already encouraged him to go for it.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Cindy Kent (78), Family Issues (231), General (185), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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January 14, 2011

Where to eat with the kids

On really good days, we cook dinner at home with the nearly-4-year-old sous chef helping out. This week we were on the ball and ate at home three nights, went out one night.

Our favorite places to eat as a family are casual, cozy and make our daughter feel like she's a star. And of course they serve good food. Our neighborhood Flanigan's has a server with the same name as my daughter, and the server goes out of her way to say hullo and sing out their name as she walks past our seat. How sweet is that?

El Tamarindo Cafe, a place I reviewed for the Sun Sentinel's Food section, has all the qualities we look for plus yummy food. It's a great spot if you have kids who want to practice their Spanish as the servers will gladly play along. And the portions, generally, are shareable.

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January 13, 2011

Does the lockdown in Davie have you worried?

UPDATE: The standoff and the lockdown of Davie schools are over.

Five public schools and four Nova schools are under lockdown as police investigate a Davie neighborhood.

If you're a parent who has a child at one of these schools we'd like to hear from you. How worried are you? How did you hear about the lockdown? Have you been in contact with your kid by cell?

Let us know. We'll have the latest updates on the police investigation and lockdown on

One parent at a Davie school voices his frustration with the lack of communication between the school and parents.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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When did Prime Time ditch our kids?

My colleague Tom Jicha recently answered a reader's question about why there are so few child characters in network prime time. "It seems every movie or TV show that has kids or teens in it makes you just want to scream," lamented D.K., of Pembroke Pines.

Jicha's response was disheartening: a network-by-network examination of a nearly childless landscape (missing a couple of spots, but mostly nailing the fact that network television no longer finds children very entertaining).

Raymond.jpgWeren't there children on this show?
When did that happen? When I was growing up, lots of good shows were about good kids trying to stay good. Off the top of my head: Little House on the Prarie, Diff'rent Strokes, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Growing Pains, Happy Days, Eight is Enough.

And that's just off the top of my head. Each of these shows proved that you can have good, wholesome stories about kids who confront challenges with the help of strong convictions and supportive parents.

Have all those stories been told? Are they really so dull that they must now be exiled to the overeager emoters of cable?

Then came Married With Children, the anti-Cosby clan, which made it cool to be dysfunctional. And Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran for nine seasons without creating a single memorable episode for the three children on the show. Seriously, think about it. You could put the Barone kids on a milk carton and his parents wouldn't recognize them, they got so little airtime.

Then you had Beverly Hills 90210 (the original), which ignored the parents to such an extent that they eventually moved away and no one noticed.

I wonder if 7th Heaven is in reruns anywhere.

Quick update: I neglected to mention NBC's Parenthood, which is more about the adults than the kids but nonetheless features an interesting variety of characters under 21. Mea culpa.

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

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‘Western mothers’ too concerned with self-esteem?

Whether you find it controversial or revolutionary, the recent talk about the Chinese mother vs. the Western mother, fueled by the recent “Wall Street Journal” article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” and a “Today Show” segment on the topic, has been getting a lot of mothers — and fathers — talking.

Amy Chua, the article’s author, refers to “the term ‘Chinese mother’ loosely.” She includes mothers from other countries, such as Korea, India, Jamaica, Ireland and Ghana, as well. The same goes for Western mothers.

The claim is that Western mothers aren’t as strict as Chinese mothers — that they believe pushing their children academically isn’t good for their children, while Chinese mothers believe pushing their children is exactly what they need because children inherently don’t want to work on their own. Chinese mothers believe that something is not fun until success is achieved and that praise should not be given until this point. Chinese mothers believe that learning does not have to be fun.

Chua also claims that Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Her example was when her father called her “garbage” when she showed disrespect. Where Western mothers would be concerned this would damage their child’s self-esteem, Chua claims it did nothing of the sort. It instead made her feel shame for her actions.

Here’s another example from the article:

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chua says Western parents have to deal with “their own conflicted feelings about achievement” and are “extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem.”

As a mother of very young children, I have yet to experience the joys and trials of success in school and extracurricular activities, but the self-esteem issue has not been out of my sight. This is an issue for most Western mothers from the time their children are babies — not knowing how much praise to give infants for sitting up, clapping, eating and walking. I, for one, gushed over my son’s every new move as a baby; I just couldn’t help it. But self-esteem overload in children and teens is a different matter I have yet to tap into.

Chua says pushing your children past the “I just can’t do it” moments is key:

But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

What do you think? Is the Chinese method better, is the Western method better, or are there values in both?

POSTED IN: Child Care (26), Family Issues (231), General (185), School Issues (135), Teen (158)

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January 12, 2011

Our losing soccer team


My daughter's soccer team has lost all six of the games it has played so far this season.

This is the source of much discussion in our house, especially as the weekend approaches and another potentially disappointing matchup looms.

On an adult level, the league probably could have distributed the players, who are rated by skill, more evenly. To my daughter, I try to de-emphasize winning, talking about the friendly girls on the team, the much-needed exercise she is getting, the excellent coaches, etc.

But who plays soccer and doesn't care about winning? I'm finding there isn't much I can say as a consolation.

Photo: KG Sand Soccer/Flickr

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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January 10, 2011

Censoring the news from our young ones

This might seem strange coming from a news addict, but I think it's time to censor the news from my daughter.

This weekend's horrific tragedy in Arizona, with the congresswoman and her constituents and staff being shot, played on our televisions every second we were awake. As a reporter who covers a lot of politicians, I just couldn't get enough of this story and all its awful details. But my daughter overhead talk of the 9-year-old who was murdered.

Lily will be 9 in March. She's met a congressman. She's come along with me on an assignment or two. Naturally, she seized on it, wanting to know what happened to the girl, why she was there, how she was killed, etcetera.

Just like we as parents shield our kids from graphic movies or television shows, I think we also have to consider shielding them from news. With news reporting being geared toward coverage of the worst in our society, I think we run the danger of giving our young ones the impression this world is riskier than it really is.

I've already fielded a lot of questions from her about crime, the safety of our neighborhood, and other news-related "reporting'' she does. This time I answered Lily's questions truthfully, as I always do (do parents still lie to their kids?). But I quickly followed up by telling her that "this almost never happens. This was extremely rare. That's why there's so much coverage of it.''

She accepted that. But she came crying into our room in the middle of the night, saying she'd heard a scary noise. Related? Perhaps.

On the other side of the coin, I over-expose our 15-year-old son to news of teen-age drivers getting into car accidents. He probably thinks it happens about every minute. Maybe it does.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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January 7, 2011

JumpinJammerz should just be for kids

Some things should just be for kids: bottles, whining, cartoons. And these footed pajamas I've seen at Target and online are one of those things.

If you're grown you don't need to pad through the house in pajamas with "drop-seats."

Really, what is next? Bounce houses for adults? Although, I do make exceptions for corn dogs, which I've seen in various forms (some stuffed with lobster instead of hot dogs) on menus.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Death of a father: How do teens cope

I went to a funeral this week that was sudden and awful and beautiful, all at the same time.

Robert was just 48. He left a wonderful wife and 15 year old daughter who is poised beyond her years.

At the viewing and at the funeral, young Hailey's friends -- so many! -- came with open arms for the grieving family. They were so respectful.

Hailey spoke with wisdom. Her close friends and cousins overcame their nerves to share very poignant thoughts about her father.

None of it was right. Kids shouldn't have to stand before a room of teary-eyed adults and help them understand their pain.

But there they were, these young men and women. Strong and articulate and genuine.

Robert must be so proud.

POSTED IN: Family Issues (231), General (185), Gretchen Day Bryant (5)

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January 6, 2011

10 ways to tick off your child’s teacher

If you want to start the new year right, avoid doing the following:

1. Ask about how your child is doing at pick-up in front of other parents, instead of scheduling a conference.

2. Send your child to school without a jacket when it’s below 60 degrees.

3. Assume that just because you can skip breakfast once in a while, it’s ok for your child to do the same.

4. Think that a donut or any other sugary breakfast is a good way to start the school day.

5. Encourage your child to keep a cell phone on in their backpack in case you need to reach them.

6. Be late for pickup.

7. Forget to check your child’s homework, backpack or folder.

8. Force the teacher to send you several reminders before you remember to send back in permission slips or other important papers.

9. Make excuses for your child’s inappropriate behavior.

10. Let your child stay up as late as he wants.

Maggie Cary, a national board certified teacher has been an educator for more than 17 years. She is certified in secondary education and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education.

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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I love shows made for kids and teens


My husband made fun of me for wanting to watch the “Pretty Little Liars” season premier on Monday. I don’t know why, but I just love watching kid and teen TV shows. Sure, they’re cheesy, dramatic and unrealistic, but there’s something about them that makes it hard for me to resist.

In some ways, they remind me of a time when I was dramatic and unrealistic, and partially, I just like watching it for laughs. But I honestly just enjoy them, even if it’s completely realistic how the actors’ hair and makeup are still perfect even after falling into a tomb where vampires have been trapped for hundreds of years (Vampire Diaries, anyone?). OK, so nothing about that is realistic.

I’ve even read all the Twilight books and own all the movies. And I reread the Chronicles of Narnia every now and again. I wonder if other adults/parents enjoy this stuff, too.

I’m glad my son is too young to tease me about it. I wonder if in 10 years I’ll still be as easily sucked in.

When it comes to cartoons, however, I draw the line. I honestly can’t stand the cartoons coming out nowadays. For example, what happened to Mickey Mouse and friends? Now they’re so nice and patient, and everything is a learning opportunity. I miss the good-old cartoons where Donald throws temper tantrums because things don’t go his way or because Chip and Dale are plotting against him.

I can’t decide if the educational direction of cartoons is really all that beneficial. “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” used to be my son’s favorite show — until I introduced him to the classics. Now when he watches cartoons, he laughs, sings and dances, and enjoys them for what they are: entertainment. I’m glad he likes them so much because I’d much rather be watching cartoons I find entertaining, as well.

Photo: Paul Wesley as Stefan and Nina Dobrev as Katherine in “The Vampire Diaries” episode “Memory Lane.”
(Bob Mahoney/The CW)

POSTED IN: General (185)

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January 5, 2011

Winter break is too long

After a vacation of more than two weeks, the kids are finally back in school. The kids are not complaining about the length of the break. But I am.

Many school systems around the country end right before Christmas and come back right after New Year's Day. But in Palm Beach and Broward counties, the last day of school was Dec. 17. In Palm Beach, kids didn't go back until Tuesday.

A two-week break means more time for kids to forget what they've learned. In Broward, students take semester exams after the break, making the lengthy vacation extra stressful.

The long vacation is hard on working parents, who have to find child care, and for stay at home parents, who have to keep the kids busy during a time when friends are out of town and lots of places are closed. I vote for a shorter vacation the next time our school boards design their calendars.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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January 3, 2011

Chalkboard paint a fun option for parents

Sometimes the best way to get a message across to your kids is to speak to them in a method they understand: By writing it on a chalkboard.

I let my 8-year-old pick the wall
color in our kitchen, and we painted the room
over Christmas break. I added this chalkboard
area around the wall phone (yes, they still
make wall phones, but I bought the last one I think.)

The great thing is that you can do this without buying a chalkboard. You can actually purchase chalkboard paint. It's one of those discoveries I made that I feel should be shared with the world because it's so cool.

You can buy chalkboard paint in many different colors, including pink.

I've used it to paint a concrete surface in my backyard that once was a shuffleboard court. I've used it to paint a portion of a wall in my garage (that the kids use as a playroom.)

And this week I painted it on the kitchen wall around the phone. (See photo.)

Even though it's a fun option, I will use it for messages that aren't fun at all, like today's "Back to school!'' note. I scrawl a note when I'm leaving to run an errand ("B.R.B. -- Mom"). I think I could post reminders like "If you didn't make your bed, get your rear end back in your room and do it.''

And of course, the kids can use it to tell us their requests and complaints. That's what the eraser is for.

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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