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

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South Florida parents share their stories and advice

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April 27, 2011

Spoiled by cars, my kids don't want to walk

My kids are so used to being driven everywhere that any walking they have to do is a hardship.

A walking tour of the University of Florida last weekend spurred lots of whining and complaints. And if we go to Publix and I don't park in the closest spot to the store, I hear groans and sighs. They may actually have to take a few extra steps!

I have been wondering how I got in this situation, and what I can do to get them out of it. Living in car-dependent South Florida has not helped. Most of my kids' friends live in neighborhoods a few miles away; I wouldn't expect them to walk there.

But I love to walk, and often intentionally pick a faraway parking spot to get some extra exercise. At the moment, I plan to keep emphasizing how exercise is a good thing and hope that rubs off on them, even if they won't acknowledge it.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 20, 2011

Traveling with kids

It’s that time of year when many of us are starting to plan our summer vacations. Families with children need to make special preparations to be sure everyone has a stress free fun filled time. Here are a few tips for a successful journey.

1. If your child has a favorite comfort toy (stuffed animal, blanket etc.) pack it. Even if it takes up precious room when packing the entire family will get a better night’s sleep if your little one feels more secure in a new environment.

2. Let your kids take their own mini suitcase or backpack with essentials (toys, games, books) that will occupy them when you have down time.

3. If you’re flying or traveling by train be considerate of other passengers. Most people aren’t able to bock out the sound of video games being played the way you are so bring headphones so your child can play quietly.

4. Expect your child to behave appropriately when using public transportation. When possible try to schedule flights during a baby or toddlers nap time. Your fellow passengers will silently thank you.

5. Check out public parks and playgrounds in the area you are traveling to before you go. Allow for plenty of down time for the kids where they can play and explore.

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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Passover lunches: Can my kids live without bread?

Panic in our household: No turkey subs for lunch this week!matzo.jpg

I love bread and so do my kids. It's an unfortunate and unhealthy trait I have passed along to them. So when Passover comes each year, they freak out over what they will eat for lunch at school, since we do not eat bread for the eight days of the holiday.

I set out to look for some creative ideas. This site offered a healthful approach which I know my kids will reject, including egg salad wrapped in lettuce leaves and cheese chunks and fruit on skewers.

I usually make them a salad with a hard-boiled egg and a container of grapes. Today I added in a handful of chocolate chips for dessert. I usually avoid giving them matzo because they eat it for breakfast, and how much of it can you eat? In a few days, I expect the complaints to start rolling in about how bored they are with my offerings.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 19, 2011

The challenges and rewards of teaching autistic students

In researching an article that appears online today and in the newspaper this week, I had the opportunity to speak to several teachers responsible for the education of autistic students in the public school system.

It is one of the most challenging jobs an educator will face. And they often need help. Many times, autistic students will be accompanied from class to class by a teacher's aide, someone who is not terribly well-paid and not necessarily highly educated (I say that without judgment: college graduates won't take a full-time job that pays them $13,000 a year).

The issue came to our attention recently because of a lawsuit: a teacher's aide was accused of throwing a chair at the autistic student she was assigned to accompany. As horrible as that sounds, it should be noted that the aide claimed self-defense. On the surface, the defense is plausible: whether it's true is for lawyers to present and a judge/jury to decide. But without knowing the specific facts, those who work with autistic children acknowledge that their behavios can be unpredictable.

The problem with any article or post on the subject of educating the autistic, including this one, is that it is bound to give short-shrift to complicated issues. How much training is offered to teacher's aides? How much is required of them? Should we place such poorly-paid employees in a position of such sensitive responsibility? What's the alternative? Should autistic students be clustered or integrated in mainstream classrooms? What's better for them? What's better for the rest of the student body? How do you balance conflicting needs?

The teachers I spoke with agreed that educating the autistic comes with a kind of job satisfaction that is difficult to measure. You get a kid to stack a bunch of blocks or just tell you what he wants, and you celebrate the achievement with as much joy as an ivy league college acceptance letter. (Not that all autistic students are slow achievers: many are brilliant).

We're very interested in hearing from teachers, parents and aides of autistic children: what are the biggest challenges you face? And what are the biggest rewards?

Keep up with the Sun Sentinel’s Education Team on Facebook and Twitter.


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April 14, 2011

TMI: Vivid birth photos on Facebook


One of my Facebook “friends” recently posted an album with photos depicting a timeline of her labor and the birth of her baby. I wouldn’t call this person an actual friend of mine; she’s the sister of a college friend whom I rarely speak to anymore.

I have no idea what compelled me to look at these photos. Once I clicked on the album and saw the thumbnails, it was like a car accident. I didn’t want to look, but something wouldn’t let me not look. I was even more intrigued when I noticed she was at home and had some type of portable bathtub.

Home and water births are great for some people, but I need a hospital with my doctor, a bunch of nurses, an operating room and NICU (just in case), and a nursery.

I don’t know if I was mortified because I’m only a few weeks away from delivering my own baby or if I would be mortified even if I wasn’t pregnant.

The pictures showed her walking around outside her house trying to make the contractions speed up; gripping onto her kitchen counter in crazy pain; sitting in the water-filled, plastic-lined bathtub wearing nothing but a sports bra; squatting in the tub with her husband with captions like, “12:24 a.m., crowning” and “the last push”; and finally, her and the husband holding the baby. I’m just glad the photos were that antique black-and-white color so I couldn’t clearly see the water.

Don’t get me wrong; these are all wonderful moments, but sharing them in such vivid detail on the Internet was a little much. True, I didn’t have to look at them, but they are still there for the world to see. I can only imagine a future employer checking out her page after interviewing her for a job and seeing those photos… I doubt the photos would prevent her from getting hired, but the images will forever be burned in her future boss’ mind.

Didn’t Facebook used to have guidelines? I thought partial nudity and graphic images used to be banned. Some of the pictures I saw would be traumatic for a young child.

I don’t want anyone even imagining me giving birth, let alone see it chronicled in a photo album. I don’t mind friends posting photos of my baby after birth, but the ones with me should stay with me and whoever I choose to share them with.

The problem with sites like Facebook is the fuzzy line between what should be personal business and what should be for the eyes of the public.

Would you post graphic birth photos on Facebook?


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April 13, 2011

Who lets an infant cry?

A coworker came back from a trip to the coffee shop steaming mad. Here's Sarah's story:

I'm meeting my husband at Starbucks today for a quick coffee and while in line I smile and coo at a 5-month-old boy in line ahead of me who was with his father and brother, a toddler.

When I get to the concession stand I hear the baby start to make those familiar hunger sounds, that “eh eh eh” sound I know all too well because I have a 4-month-old and 2-year-old.

cryingbaby400.jpgBy the time I am mixing my fifth sugar packet into the coffee the baby is crying. I turn to see that the father is done mixing his own drink well and he is in business discussion with an associate. He’s holding his happy toddler but not even acknowledging the crying baby in the stroller.

I sit down with my husband and the cry escalates to a blood-curdling scream. As a mom I can’t stand to hear the cry. All I can think about is walking over and swooping the baby into my arms. My husband is even wincing, not because the scream is painful but because we know it could have been prevented if the dad was just paying attention.

A man sitting beside us hears what we're talking about it so he joins in. He tells us he is thinking of calling the police because he’s not sure what else will break the father’s attention from his conversation. He says this loudly, hoping the father will hear. He doesn’t.

My husband suggests I do something, so I walk over to offer help. I ask if the baby needs food. The dad takes me up on the offer by handing me his toddler and he starts to make a bottle for the baby. As he does this he continues his conversation with his associate and is distracted so much that even when he’s done making the bottle he doesn’t give it to the baby.

His associate steps in, picks up the bottle and says “are we going to do this?”

The father gives the baby a couple sucks at it, but then takes the bottle away because he decides he doesn’t want to feed him at Starbucks and says to the baby: “You’re not going to like this but let’s go upstairs.”

I hand the toddler back and watch them leave as the baby begins to scream again. I hope he didn’t have to wait much longer, poor thing.

Scenes like this drive me crazy and I’ve witnessed it way too often. An infant cries to communicate and that's even a last resort communication. If you pay attention, infants give you clues as to what they need before the crying begins. Letting a baby cry that long just teaches them that crying is the only form of communication that works and as a result you just get more crying.

In my opinion an infant does not cry to manipulate and it certainly isn’t spoiling to respond to her needs. It’s not the same as when my 2-year-old cries because I won’t let her have ice cream for breakfast.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Dads, do you have a regular guys night out?

This video sums up my life pretty well, although I haven't had a "guys night out" in quite a long time.

I am lucky to have a great group of local friends, but so far only the ladies in our circle have a "girls night out". The dads stay home and watch the kids while the moms go out and hit ladies night somewhere. My wife always looks and acts more refreshed after one of her girls nights, and I like to think it helps make her a better parent in the long run.

Many experts agree that time away is not only a good thing, but downright necessary. Fellow parenting blogger Shelly Phillips makes the case is the post "The importance of time away from your kids" from last June.

Does your family have scheduled nights for either parent to get away for awhile?


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Do middle schoolers need end-of-year trips?

OK, I can accept that my eighth grader will take an end-of-the-year trip with her grade to Universal Studios. After all, she is ending an era, three years in middle school, and her high school years are about to begin.

But do sixth graders also need an end-of-the-year trip? My sixth grader is scheduled to go to Sea World with her grade in the coming weeks. I am going to guess that the seventh graders at our school are taking a trip too.

School trips are getting out of hand. My eighth grader is going not only to Universal soon but to Disney with the school band. To top it off, eighth grade social studies classes are going to St. Augustine overnight; we declined that one.

In high school, the trips get even more complicated, and expensive. Our high school offers the kids teacher-led vacations to exotic places such as Australia and New Zealand, China and Europe. Obviously there is a market for the trips because they are offered every year. But I have told my kids we cannot afford to be part of this market.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 8, 2011

Getting ready for exercise

In a recent conversation with fellow runners of the Disney Princess Half Marathon, (and after hearing the amazing Jeff Galloway talk about tips for running and avoiding injury), I foolishly admitted that I had escaped any truly serious injury over the course of the last few years, thousands of miles and 20+ marathons. In response from the running gods, of course I developed terrible pain in my foot that wouldn’t relent, regardless of days and even weeks of rest (i.e. no running!). Off to the doctor I went with what I was sure amounted to plantar fasciitis (I have had that) but turned out to be a broken bone in my foot! Luckily, the recuperation didn’t require a cast or boot, just flat shoes (easy to wear flip flops in Florida) and no running (not so easy).

Of course, as the doctor and I started talking about our careers, family and exercise, I thought of the many moms who want to start an exercise routine but don’t know where to start. Because my doctor was so friendly and approachable, I asked her if she’d answer a few questions to share with my readers. So here is the Q & A from Dr. Sarah Gibson, of Meli Orthopedics in Fort Lauderdale.

1. What do moms need to consider first physically?

Being “physically fit” is often a misconstrued idea – many people, like runners, think only in terms of endurance, while others, like weight lifters think only in terms of strength. True physical fitness; however, blends a mix of endurance, strength and flexibility. There is also a difference between “general physical fitness” and “sport specific fitness,” which can be illustrated by the fact that a mother who has been a runner, may have some muscle soreness in her arms and shoulders after playing tennis if she has not been playing tennis regularly.

In general, everyone should aim for a total of at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. Also, as another general rule, women should aim to maintain a healthy body weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25. The BMI takes height into account in calculating normal values for body weight and there are numerous sites on the internet that will calculate your BMI for free.

2. How important is stretching? It adds time to an already busy schedule for moms-

There is an on-going debate about stretching – whether to do it before or after you exercise, or whether to even do it at all. Scientific studies have yielded conflicting results, thus failing to lead to any kind of decisive conclusion on the matter, but many still advocate stretching as a way to improve flexibility, improve performance and decrease injury rates. Conversely, studies have been much more conclusive about the benefits of warming-up before exercising. Warm-up exercises should be done gradually and should focus on the main muscles and motions that your sport or activity will involve. Generally a warm-up of as little as 3-5 minutes can be beneficial and stretching can even be incorporated into this time.

3. How do I protect my knees or other body parts from injury?

Proper equipment and a gradual increase in intensity and duration of exercise are paramount to preventing injury. It is important to have new equipment fit by someone who is both knowledgeable and experienced with that type of equipment – whether it is the proper running shoes, the correct size handle on a tennis racquet or the right length of golf clubs – improper equipment will increase the risk of both traumatic and overuse injuries.

The longevity of various pieces of equipment varies as well, but is directly related to how often and how intensely a piece of equipment is used. In general, for running shoes – most are designed to provide good support and shock absorption for about 300-500 miles. High-level endurance runners may reach this milestone in a few months, while lower-mileage runners may take more than six months to achieve this. The cushioning materials in shoes deteriorates over time, regardless of mileage, so runners should get new shoes every 6 months or 300-500 miles – whichever comes first.

4. I feel a twinge of pain? How do I know if it’s just newness to the sport vs an injury?

Some muscle soreness is not uncommon, especially after a hard work out, but if there is a traumatic event, such as a fall, that results in significant swelling, pain and/or difficulty either weight-bearing or moving a joint, then you should be evaluated by a medical professional. Additionally, even without a traumatic injury – other things that should warrant medical evaluation include recurrent or worsening pain during physical activity, pain that persists at rest or pain that persists for longer than 5-7 days.

5. What if I get injured, then what?

If you are concerned about a broken bone, needing stitches, have any neurologic concerns (altered mental status, weakness or tingling in a limb etc.) or concerns about infection – then you should seek medical care immediately, usually through a hospital Emergency Department. If you simply have pain and/or swelling, then you can usually wait and see your primary care physician or sports medicine physician in clinic.

Sarah R. Gibson, MD specializes in the non-operative treatment of musculoskeletal and sports-related injuries at Meli Orthopedics in Fort Lauderdale. She is fellowship trained in sports medicine through multiple Harvard Medical School affiliated programs. She has served as a physician for the Boston Ballet, the Boston Marathon, Division I college hockey and basketball, the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials and the Staples Champions Cup Tennis Tournament, among numerous other events.

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

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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Tina Fey is going to be a Baby Mama, again

Tina Fey is pregnant. Stop. The. Presses.

41024061%5B1%5D.jpgI know it's not major news but I admire moms who have more than one child -- in a wow-she-must-be-on-good-drugs-way. (The 40-year-old comedian and her hubby have a 5-year-old daughter, Alice.)

Here's a clip from "Baby Mama."

Cutline: Tina Fey at the happiest place in the world with her daughter in 2008. (AP file photo/Disney/Gene Duncan)

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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April 7, 2011

Hilarious must-read for parents of toddlers


If you have or ever have had a toddler, this book I recently came across is absolutely a must-read. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a book.

"The World According to Toddlers" brings to light all the funny little behaviors you experience every day as the parent of a 2- to 3-year-old but don’t really think about. It helps you view the terrible 2s and 3s as more of a humorous laugh-filled adventure rather than a stressful, painful experience.

I also realized a lot of my toddler’s behaviors are universal — quite a relief actually!

The books features include hilarious cartoons, advice and wisdom from toddlers, diagrams, and takes on tantrums, potty training, mealtime and more.

Here’s a little excerpt from one of my favorite features in the book, “The Toddler Handbook”:

Words To Use Often

“Airplane! Look!”
Parents are notoriously oblivious to the miracles of aviation. Any time you see a plane it is your duty to make sure they see it and appreciate it with a “Yay!” or light applause. This goes for helicopters as well.”

Whatever you see is yours. Claim it.

This powerful word is appropriate at any time, in any setting. In fact, you can keep repeating “No!” even as you are performing the task that was requested of you. This will let your parents know that your body may be obeying, but your mind is rebelling.”

“The Trash Truck”
Trash trucks are, in a word, incredible. Possibly more incredible than airplanes. Anytime you hear one, drop what you are doing, yell “The trash truck!” and take off for the front door. Watch the truck until it turns the corner and drives out of sight. Then insist on following it.

I recommend reading this book after you’ve put Junior to bed (for the fifth time) and want to unwind and have a good laugh. It will help you appreciate this stage in your toddler’s life!


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April 6, 2011

Jackie Fame: Social Media network for kids

ambulanceI've always been a bit squeamish about allowing my daughter (who is only 7) to have a Facebook page. She has never really asked about it, although two of her close friends already have pages.

In comes Jackie Fame. The brainchild of two brothers, Zachary Swauger (age 12) and Joshua Swauger’s (age 10), Jackie Fame is a social media network designed for kids but monitored by parents. Every single upload is monitored by the parent administrators, and there are over 3600 obscene and bullying words that are automatically prohibited.

“It is great to see everyone enjoying the site, and seeing our network becoming such a popular online destination where our users are interacting and having fun” said Joshua. “And it’s really great to see the growth of Jackie Fame being driven mainly by member’s word of mouth across the country” added Zachary.

The Company believes opportunities are unlimited, as its Jackie Fame product brand launch is planned for later this year, along with the addition of a number of new network channels, including “Fame America!” – The online original music contest for kids ages 8-18 where their songs will be voted on by the FAME members. Finalists of Fame America win cash, prizes, and a trip to Hollywood to perform live, plus studio time to professionally record their original song.

I'm not sold that this will be big hit. In fact, they're jumping the gun a bit with all of the hats, t-shirts, watches, backpacks, and even shoes for fans to purchase before their product even has 5,000 members. These boys have a tough mountain to climb against the other giants in the social media world. However, as a parent I'm happy to see a network taking the necessary steps to make online communities safer for our kids.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Chris Tiedje (51), Pre-Teen (57), Technology (3)

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"Race To Nowhere": Must-see viewing for South Florida parents


Stop the madness!

Parents in South Florida load their kids up with extracurricular activities and push them to do well in school so everyone can see how successful they are. For the most part, the kids follow their parents' wishes. But are they happy?

"Race To Nowhere," a new documentary to be shown in five locations in Broward and Palm Beach counties over the next few weeks, explores how the pressure we put on our kids can lead to severe physical problems, ranging from headaches to depression to self-mutilation. The pressure also frustrates teachers and leads to high school graduates who are not prepared for college.

Parents are not the only source of the stress: Schools can also shoulder their share of the blame for putting too many kids in Advanced Placement classes and forcing memorization over critical thinking.

In my house, I've started making some shifts to place less pressure on the kids. My eighth-grader is not going to take any AP classes next year, although our high school offers two to freshmen. And I've stopped asking my kids about how their tests went and how much homework they have. I am trusting them to succeed without my constant questioning.

Photo courtesy Reel Like Films

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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April 5, 2011

Teens would probably take full advantage of the list of "Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play''

Please don't tell my teen-ager about the the news came out the other day about the deadly choking game.

You would foil my effort to shield him from the a website about Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play.

Now that he's almost 16, and he's going through changes, my husband and I are going through changes, too. Namely, we're trying to wrap our minds around the fact that this creature living in a teen habitat in our house (I actually saw a lizard crawling on his wall this morning, and it had to scurry past a cobweb), is the same being that was our darling and obedient son not too long ago.

I think of it like a science fiction film, in which an adorable, little robot that likes to nod its head and carry out instructions gets huge, to where it towers over its owner, then goes haywire, sprouting random hairs, wrecking the house and shooting laser beams out of its eye sockets.

Of course real life is more complicated than that. Our son still is a great kid, and we really do enjoy him when he allows us to be around him.

But I find that it's a good exercise to drag out old home videos, so you can fill your mind with cute images of the now-teen when he used to stay in the same room with you for ages, and would allow himself to be caught on film, performing even! You'll see proof that once upon a time, you were permitted close to this child with a pair of scissors, to cut his hair. You picked out his clothes, and you could buy them second-hand, convincing him easily that Salvation Army is a sister store to Old Navy.

I snapped out of that haze this week long enough to realize that showing this child, now my teen-ager, a convenient set of instructions about a dangerous game is just not wise. Because I do love him and want to protect him, even when he's doing that crazy, haywire robot thing.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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April 1, 2011

Can you sit with a child at a bar?

So we decide to go to brunch at a popular Miami restaurant. I'm worried that we won't get a seat for hours, so I drop my husband off at the front door with instructions to get the first available seat and then I go park the car.

When my daughter and I meet up with him, the hubby says he couldn't get the first available because the restaurant won't seat us at the bar with a kid. Really??

bloodymary.jpgNow let me tell you that this a 90% restaurant with a small bar and seating indoors and out. And we're there at 11 a.m. to eat, not just sidle up on a bar stool and have a breakfast of Bloody Marys.

I tell you I was outraged. Out.Raged. My husband wasn't bothered and thought it was a reasonable request.

We did end up getting great seats at the chef's table, which is a bar that looks into the kitchen. We weren't banned from ordering alcoholic drinks so I couldn't figure out what the difference was from eating at the bar with our daughter and ordering drinks, and eating at the chef's table with our daughter and ordering drinks.

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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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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