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August 31, 2011

Public school: Not so free anymore

I have been tallying the costs of sending my kids to public schools. In the second week of classes, I have spent almost $1,000, not including school supplies or back-to-school clothing.

The main cost has been marching band at $800, which includes uniforms and music. But the little costs have also been irritating, including $5 for middle school locker, $10 for high school locker, $20 for p.e. uniform, $20 for language arts books, $40 for high school parking pass and $20 to support the high school science department. Some of these requests were framed as "optional," although most weren't.

We all know the state of Florida doesn't properly support its public schools. We are now seeing the results of this. A Palm Beach County school is so desperate for money it is offering to sell its name to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, this private support, including the money I am giving, is random and may not go to the places where it is really needed.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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August 25, 2011

Free Jewish book program? I’m there

By Lisa Huriash

I cannot wait to add to my 4-month-old daughter’s book collection with tales about gefilte fish, Yetta the Yiddish chicken and Hanukkah lore.

I signed my infant up today for PJ Library Jewish Bedtime Stories and Songs for Families, a Jewish library program that sends free books to children’s homes each month.

Once she hits the 6-month mark and the mailings begin, we’ll be reading about Ari the engineer and Tamar’s sukkah during our routine of bath-book-bed.

Registration begins today at
It’s for kiddies ages 6 months to 5 years.

This is actually a national book program started by a philanthropist who was inspired by Dolly Parton. Her Imagination Library free book program sends books to pre-school children.

In Broward, there are 1,380 spaces open and subscriptions are given first-come, first-served.

PJ Library is already in place in Miami-Dade County and northern Palm Beach County.

POSTED IN: Activities (143), Guest Post (79)

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The power of the pacifier

I forgot sometimes how dependent I am on things for my happiness. Take, for example, the lowly pacifier.

This is one of the simple joys of infanthood. But take away that joy at your own risk.
My weekend pacifier trials began early Friday morning, at 3 a.m., when my daughter awoke and started crying for her paci, which had somehow gotten lost in her crib sheet. Usually, she wakes, whimpers adorably, I pop her pacifier back in her mouth, and we both get to sleep another 2-3 hours.

I usually keep an extra paci on my nightstand for just this reason.

But this night, I forgot my backup, and I couldn’t find the paci in my desperate in-the-dark search of the crib. By now she was starting to wake up, and her cries were gaining volume quickly. So I picked her up in a tight, mama-bear grip and sprinted around the house, searching, searching for a fix.

We own at least 8 pacifiers. Eight. I found zero on my first sweep of the house.

Finally I found one in the bottom of the car seat, among the stale puff treats that had convinced her to pull the plug on her last trip outside.

She immediately quieted down and even went back to sleep right away. Meanwhile, I went back through the house, turning off all the lights I had turned on and restoring order to the diaper bag, which I had unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the living room during my quest.

Later that morning, I found the lost paci, so we now had 2 accounted for, but somehow neither one made it into the car or the diaper bag for our trip to the sitter. This was the first time I had forgotten a paci for the sitter. “What happened?” she asked? “You usually have 2 or 3 in this bag.”

“Don’t ask!” I said.

Unfortunately, my daughter and the sitter did not have a good day. Apparently she refuses to go to sleep without her Binky. We had never tried putting her to sleep without a paci before. And now it is official: It doesn’t work.

Fast forward to Saturday. We had a much better night. I had my backup paci back in place, and we didn’t even need it. Baby girl slept through straight on to morning, thanks to a lack of daytime naps…

About 10:30 a.m., I decided to take the kids over to a park near the house with fountains that children can play in. My son was off and running in the water as soon as we arrived, while baby girl and I watched from a safe, not-in-the-splash-zone distance. I was holding her on my hip so she could watch her brother when a man asked me if I had dropped a pacifier. Sure enough, the light blue Binky we had arrived with was gone.

A woman had asked the man if it belonged to his kids. “She’s right over there,” he pointed out.
I thanked him and approached the woman, grateful for the tip. With the run we were on, I couldn’t afford to lose any more pacis.

But when I asked the woman if she had found a pacifier, she gave me a blank look and shook her head. I told her a man had told me to talk to her, but she just shook her head again. No paci.

“Well,” I told her, “if you find a light-blue paci, could you please let me know?” Sure, sure.
I walked back to my post, dumbfounded. What happened there? Who takes a stranger’s paci? I mean, that’s worse than taking candy from a baby.

Even my 3-year-old son knows the value of a paci. He knows that if he hands over one of those, my daughter will drop whatever toy of his that she was playing with to get it. He’ll run through the house screaming “Paci! Paci!” so he can have something to trade in order to get back his favorite toy car or firetruck.

But about 5 minutes later, while I was considering whether it would just be better to go buy more pacifiers, because obviously you can never have enough, the woman I had talked to came up to me holding the paci in a paper towel. “We found it!” she said. “I washed it for you.”

I thanked her profusely and tucked it into my diaper bag. One hot sanitizing wash, and it would be as good as new.

A Binky might not look like much, but I know better. That little piece of plastic is worth its weight in gold.

Jennifer Jhon is the youth editor of Teenlink.

POSTED IN: Guest Post (79)

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August 23, 2011

Public schools: Overcrowded classrooms, again

Despite our state's severe budget problems, I voted in the last election, along with the majority of Floridians, to keep the class-size limits voters had approved in 2002.

But legislators decided to relax those rules despite our vote, and now we are paying the price. My kids' high school classes consistently have 30-plus kids, some with close to 40.

Although most of these are Advanced Placement classes my senior takes, some are core classes, such as science, that my freshman takes, and that are not exempt from the law. I will assume this is a first-week-of-school glitch and the administration will take care of it quickly.

However, our high school does not have a principal at the moment. How's that for good planning by the school district? At first I thought it didn't matter because there are so many assistant principals. But now, with no coordination at the top, I fear problems such as crowding will fester from lack of leadership.

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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August 22, 2011

School is back, and so are the annoying robo-calls

The summer was long enough for me to forget the most annoying part about school. For my kids, it's probably the homework. For me, it's the annoying automated phone calls we get from the schools.

In the past week, we got nine of them.

This brings back back memories of the calls I got during my vacation last year, every single day, to tell me my daughter owed 10 cents on her lunch account. (Click here for a memory refresher on my blog post about the man who called school board members in the middle of the night, he was so angry about robo-calls.)

A teacher last year gave me this phone number, 754-321-0800, where you can listen to the messages you've gotten from the system, Parentlink.

That number is handy if your child deletes the message, because the message could be telling you that your child was absent from a class, or tardy.

I called the number and re-listened to the nine messages I got.

I'll post them on the jump page. But for an example, I got one call to tell me that my son's bus stop is at such-and-such address, which happens to be about as far from our house as his school is, and what time the bus would drop him off after school. And then I got a second message telling me the same information, but it told me what time it would depart in the morning.

Here are the calls we got, and I'm paraphrasing what they told me:

Sunday, 8:11 p.m.: From Plantation Park Elementary: Tomorrow is the first day of school, and the Broward Million Father March day.

Sunday, 5 p.m.: From South Plantation High School, a notice that you can pay your child's lunch bill online.

Saturday, 5:15 p.m.: From South Plantation: The school board has proclaimed August and September as Take Your Parents to School month.

Saturday, 1 p.m.: From South: The meal benefit office free and reduced lunch forms are online, and the dress code is in full effect Monday.

Friday, 6 p.m.: From South. Your son has a new bus route. Bus # 4,128 will drop him off at 2:47 p.m. at such-and-such address.

Friday at 6 p.m.: From South: Your son's bus, # 4,096, will pick him up in the mornings at such-and-such address at 6:42 a.m.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.:
From South: Monday is the first day of school, and it's the Broward Million Father March day

Thursday, 9 30 a.m.: From Plantation Park Elementary: The class lists are posted Friday, and there's a meet-and-greet that day.

Monday, 5 p.m.: From South: Student drivers can pay online for parking decals. Seniors get first dibs.

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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August 18, 2011

Bras: How much bra is OK to show?

It has become increasingly acceptable to display your underwear in our society. But there's something about a bra strap showing that drives me crazy.bra.jpg

In my teens' latest fashion craze, they are wearing racerback sleeveless shirts, which on the back side show the shoulders and go down the middle of the back, with regular bras. So their bra straps are clearly visible, from shoulder to mid-back.

Are they making a fashion statement or too lazy to find the right bra? I need to buy them clips so the bra doesn't show. But I doubt they will use them; I think they enjoy the sexiness.

Photo: Flickr/lululemon

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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August 10, 2011

Disney theme park rudeness, anyone?

I love Disney theme parks. We go every year. Leo, who is now 2, lights up when he sees Mickey Mouse at Epcot and Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom. Angelo, all of three months old, is blissfully unaware of the controlled chaos around him. It's terrific.

Well, mostly.

"Would you not do that? I know you don't mean to come off as rude, but that's how you're coming off."

My wife was right. But I was indignant. When you see someone walking with a double stroller, a child in each seat and a diaper bag hanging precariously from the back, your instinct should NOT be to walk right in front of that stroller and stop. It kills me when people do that.

Actually, it kills me whenever people are walking anywhere and just stop. Mall shoppers are notorious for this. They know it's crowded, they know people are moving all around them, they know they are not the only ones shopping, yet they think nothing of stopping in their tracks without warning and without any effort at clearing a path for other human beings.

So I say, "EXCUSE ME." Sometimes I say it with a smile. Often I don't. Often, my "EXCUSE ME" bears more than a passing resemblance to someone else's "GET THE BLEEP OUT OF MY WAY, YOU CLASS-A MORON!"

And I'm wrong. It's rude. Just as rude, if not more so, than the thoughtless (but malice-free) behavior of someone trying to figure out how to get to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride from the Haunted Mansion.

I don't suppose there's a solution here, except maybe to vent and offer this public apology for my role in adding to the rudeness at theme parks. And maybe give you guys a chance to vent a little, too. What ticks you off about theme park crowds?

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

POSTED IN: Rafael Olmeda 2011 (10)

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August 9, 2011

"Planet of the Apes": Still creepy to me, 30 years later

I have always been creeped out by the "Planet of the Apes" movies, ever since I saw my first one in the 1970s.planetofapes.jpg

So you can be sure I have not been to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," which was released last weekend to sellout crowds.

There is something so real to me about apes, with their high level of intelligence, rising up against us. So many animals get abused in our society; why wouldn't they take their revenge? This possibility has terrified me since I saw my first apes movie and has stayed with me my whole life.

I urged my kids not to see "Rise," but they weren't interested anyway. My husband went without me; he said the theater was filled with men whose wives also stayed home. So I guess I am not the only female steering clear of the coming revolution.

Photo: Flickr/popculturegeek

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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August 8, 2011

Are people who hate kids just jerks?

I know our bodies go through some changes as we progress through life. Women have hot flashes and all that. Men go bald, among other things. But when will we start hating kids?

I've noticed it happens to some people in their 40s. And I've seen a rare few make it through life still enjoying children and their laughter, their frivolity, and their temper tantrums.

My mother-in-law lives in one of those senior communities where most of the people hate kids. That is why they live there. (She's not one of them. How could anyone hate my kids?) My son jumped into the pool there, and was promptly attacked by a senior citizen, who said if he jumped in the pool again he would be kicked out. Nice to meet you, too!

A friend of mine sent me this news article about a restaurant that was going to ban kids ages 6 and younger, because they're rowdy and bother the customers. The news piece goes on to talk about such bans on airplanes.

Why are all these people so grouchy? And why do they expect parents to be able to keep their kids from crying?

If I were sitting next to one of these geezers on an airplane, and I began sobbing, runny nose and all, I'll bet I'd get some sympathy and a Kleenex. What's the difference?

POSTED IN: Brittany Wallman (160)

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August 3, 2011

Study: Your child's car seat may be toxic

Another study has been released that will scare the bejesus out of many parents. This one -- filled with a few ums, ifs and buts -- says that the chemicals that make sure the car seat won't be engulfed in flames could cause disabilities.

car%20seat.jpgGreat. Now what?

Well the brains behind the study offers this reassurance: "Parents should use a car seat regardless of what our tests show, said Jeff Gearhart. "None of the results of our findings mean you shouldn't have a car seat, even if that car seat is the poorest one we tested."

POSTED IN: Joy Oglesby (134)

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Marching band practice: Cruel in this heat?

I was all for my high school freshman joining the marching band this year. I thought it would be a great way to meet kids with a common interest as she navigates a new school.marchingband2.jpg

But as our temperatures climb well into the 90s, I'm having second thoughts. In these weeks before school starts, practice is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, although the kids are not out on the football field the whole time.

I've always sympathized with kids who have to practice under our brutal Florida sun, especially tennis and football players. We hear periodically about kids who collapse. I'm on the opposite end of the heat-toleration spectrum; the only time I'm outside in this weather is when I'm going in and out of my car and my house.

Photo: Zoetnet/Flickr

POSTED IN: Lois Solomon (211)

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August 2, 2011

Broward school district rats out students who skip classes

For any of you who are raising teen-agers, you are so old that back when you were in high school, you were able to skip classes undetected. You might also have been able to skip an entire day of school.

Here in the Broward County School District, that kind of miscreant deed is made much more difficult.

The school system actually calls parents to tell them which classes their child skipped, or whether their was absent for the entire day.

Yes, even in a school system this humongous, the parents get this kind of individual treatment.

It's not a human being who calls, mind you. But as our society has learned in the past decade or so, some jobs are just too difficult for a mere human being, and robots are a better choice.

I got a lot of calls last school year from the robo-watchdog that said things like "your child was absent today in third period.''

My son always had some kind of explanation, like, "I was five minutes late because I had to use the bathroom, and the teacher had already sent the list to the office.''

If your child is the type who might delete phone messages before you have a chance to hear them, look on your caller ID for this phone number: 754 321 0800.

If you call it, you can ask the robot to repeat the messages you missed.

Here's more information about the service, called Parentlink. Some schools apparently don't offer the period-by-period notices. If yours doesn't and you think it should, do something about it by contacting your school board member using these phone numbers.


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August 1, 2011

When good parents do bad things

There are parents who have a great sense of humor and do the coolest things with their kids. These are not those parents.

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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