Moms & Dads

South Florida parents share their stories and advice


Category: Entertainment (114)

New Fantasyland celebrates grand opening


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From left, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White, ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”), pop star Jordin Sparks and Mickey Mouse cut the ribbon to officially open New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.


Walt Disney World celebrated its grand opening of the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland on Dec. 6 with flair, fireworks, fun and, of course, a huge dose of Disney magic. Guests can finally enjoy all the new attractions and dining they’ve been anxiously waiting for as part of the largest expansion in the Magic Kingdom’s history.

Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Snow White on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” Jordin Sparks, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Mickey Mouse officially cut the ribbon in front of Gaston’s Tavern, which serves up a roasted pork shank, sides of veggies, cinnamon rolls and LeFou’s Brew, a signature frozen apple juice beverage with toasted marshmallow and topped with a passion fruit/mango foam.

“Walt Disney once promised that Disneyland, and by extension all of our parks, would never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world,” Staggs said. “New Fantasyland is a spectacular addition to the Magic Kingdom that delivers on Walt’s promise. We’re thrilled to take guests beyond the walls of Cinderella Castle to discover new worlds featuring iconic Disney characters and stories in ways that are more imaginative, more interactive and more immersive than ever before.”

Fantasyland is now double the size and consists of the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.

Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” was present to experience the film come to life in the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride. Guests go “under the sea” in clamshells and watch the story play out amid colorful characters, scenery from the movie and favorite songs. While riders wait, they can check out Prince Eric’s Castle. After the ride, guests can meet Ariel in Ariel’s Grotto.

The classic “Beauty and the Beast” film also comes to life in New Fantasyland at the Enchanted Tales With Belle attraction. Guests are able to take part in a live storytelling experience with Lumiere and Belle that includes costumes, props and interactions.

A trip to New Fantasyland wouldn’t be complete without stopping for a meal in the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Sit under gorgeous chandeliers and see a magical “snowfall” in the ballroom, or venture into the Rose Gallery and West Wing of the Beast’s Castle. French-inspired cuisine is served, as is beer and wine, a first for the Magic Kingdom. Two items you must try are the Grey Stuff (it’s delicious) and the Lasseter wine, created by the director of Disney-Pixar’s “Cars,” John Lasseter, at his family’s winery in California. Be Our Guest Restaurant offers quick-serve meals during the day and full-service table dining at night. Don’t forget to make a reservation.

Other attractions that opened earlier this year include Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, now with two Dumbos and circus-themed queue activities, and the Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini, a family-style roller coaster.

Up next is Princess Fairytale Hall set to open in 2013. This will be the new home for the Disney princesses, who will be available for meet-and-greets and photos with guests in the Castle Courtyard at the center of Fantasyland. We got a sneak peak at the upcoming Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster, set to open in 2014. This will be a family-style coaster utilizing new technology in which the train cars will swing back and forth as well as take you through a storytelling ride experience.

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Splitsville set to open at Downtown Disney Dec. 19


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The wait is almost over for the opening of Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort. Set to open Dec. 19, Splitsville offers plenty of food, fun and games for both families and adults.

The upscale, two-story retro-style bowling venue is the largest of the brand’s locations. The 50,000-foot Splitsville boasts 30 lanes, billiards, live entertainment, a balcony bar and fine dining. Lanes and tables are nontraditionally divided up around the facility, which makes for a more social experience. There is plenty of room for large groups, as well as opportunities for a couple’s night out.

“Splitsville is a perfect fit for Downtown Disney,” said Keith Bradford, vice president of Downtown Disney. “From a new twist on a beloved sport to an impressive menu you’ve never expect to find in a bowling facility, Splitsville offers a great experience that complements our other unique offerings at Downtown Disney. I’m sure it will quickly become a guest favorite.”

For families and kids, Splitsville’s menu offers favorites such as pizza and burgers, and for those with more evolved tastes, there also is a variety of sushi, fish dishes, salads and steaks.

When it comes to bowling, there are accommodations for everyone. There are guides and gutter blockers for kids, plus shoes in all sizes. There are also lane concierges available each night to help maximize the bowling experience for guests. Splitsville will also offer adult-only evenings upstairs, which has several bars and stunning views of Downtown Disney.
The venue will also be available for birthday parties and corporate events.

For more information, visit www.splitsvillelanes.com.

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'Odd Life of Timothy Green' star Odeya Rush: Being different is beautiful


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Like her character, Joni Jerome, in Disney’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” out on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 4, Odeya Rush is wise, unique and insightful. She was born in Israel and moved to the United States when she was 9 years old. The talented, 15-year-old, up-and-coming star has always known she’s wanted to act. Her early days of performing include putting on plays to keep her two sets of younger twin brothers entertained.

In the film, Joni is a complex, somewhat estranged girl, who slowly begins to open up after meeting the strange but loveable Timothy Green, played by CJ Adams, and the two form a special bond. The movie embodies a lot of firsts — first loves, first losses, first-time parenting challenges, first mistakes. Everyone will be able to relate to something in the film that’s available just in time for the holidays.



First of all, your name is so beautiful. What were your parents’ inspirations when they were choosing your name?
It’s an interesting story, actually… I’m Jewish [and] … it’s from the [Old Testament].... They thought of many other names, but they couldn’t exactly agree. My dad just opened the book and the first sentence he saw, it was in Hebrew… My name, Odeya, means “Thank God.” So that’s where they found it.


How long have you known you wanted to be an actress?
Ever since I was very young. Ever since I could remember. I’ve always performed. I’ve done plays at home. I have four younger brothers; they’re actually two sets of twins. They’re one year apart. So we had four babies at home at one time. My mom just wanted me to do something with them …. go keep them occupied. So I would sit them on the steps — one set on one step and the other set on the step above — and I would put shows on, you know, do things that I saw from TV shows or whatever my teacher did at school or things that I’ve come up with myself, so I’ve always been a performer since a really young age.


Do you go to school?
I go to regular public school. And when I’m on set, I do school on set.


What’s your favorite subject?
Math or history.


How did you prepare for your role as Joni? Were there any particular personal experiences you drew from?
I think for the majority of the film, Joni feels estranged from her environment. And when Timothy comes in, he kind of … makes [her life] better because she doesn’t like … being different and strange. And there are things about me that kind of set me apart from the rest of the people I hang out with and people I know. So I drew that and installed it into my character, Joni. And just things that have happened in my life or things that I’ve seen happen to other people — I put that all into my interpretation of who Joni is.


How was having Timothy around comforting for Joni?
Joni [has a] birthmark; [it] is something she was born with, and it’s not something you can change about yourself. It’s … the way you enter the universe. She wants to hide it. She doesn’t like it. She thinks it makes her different and ugly, but Timothy encourages her to expose it and tells her that the thing that sets her apart actually makes her more beautiful. And you have to learn to accept those things about yourself because you cannot change them. And if you don’t learn to accept those things, then other people won’t accept you for them.


How has meeting Timothy changed Joni?
Throughout the film, Timothy opens Joni up and kind of makes her … sweeter and accepting and welcoming and warm, and I think now she’s going down much easier times becoming friends with … people. She’s going to be more approachable and nicer … and let people in more. I think that’s what Timothy did; he opened her up to the world and showed her that, you know, you don’t have to be so cold and mean and guarded.


Why does Timothy’s mother, Cindy (Jennifer Garner), think Joni is a bad influence on Timothy?
I think it’s a combination of things. Timothy is just entering Cindy’s life, and she doesn’t want suddenly for her child to be torn away and spending so much time with this other female. I think it’s a mixture of jealousy and also … really a lot of protection. … You have to think of it as Timothy is almost her newborn baby because this is the first time she’s ever had a child or been a parent, and she’s so protective and always thinking, ‘I wonder if this could hurt my child. I don’t want that to happen. I’d rather him be unhappy for this moment than for him to get hurt later on.’ So I think it’s a mixture of protection and jealousy. ... Joni was a little strange at first, but Cindy gets to know her… and then appreciates that her son is actually spending time with someone who’s so … special.


What was your most memorable moment from filming the movie?
Definitely filming the underwater scene; I thought that was really cool. I learned how to scuba dive. All the hand signals from under water and filming under water is just really insanely cool. And I want to do it again because, you know, it’s not something you get to do every day.


How does scuba diving help you film the underwater scene?
When you’re filming under water, between takes, I have the oxygen that I breathe from, and they say ‘action,’ and I give it to the guy who’s holding the tank, and then I do my scene really quickly, and then they say ‘cut,’ and I come back and get more air.


Do you remember how many takes that scene took?
I think from every angle we did about three or four. We took two days to do that scene because we had one day for the outdoor and the diving in and the birthday party, and then we did the whole other day just for under water.


Did you make any lasting friendships on set? Is there anyone you still keep in touch with or maybe hope to work with again?
Yes, many people. I think definitely Peter Hedges, the director; he’s very close to not just me but my entire family. His family, we hang out a lot now, so I developed a friendship with Peter and Jennifer [Garner] and Joel [Edgerton] and CJ [Adams] and also a lot of the crew. I have a lot of makeup artist and props and everyone, and we still stay in touch. … I’m very thankful for doing this movie because of the friendships that I formed.


What is your next upcoming acting role?
I’m doing movie called “Mary, Mother of Christ,” where I will be playing the title role, Mary. It’s with Ben Kingsley and Peter O’Toole, and I’m so psyched about that, and I cannot wait. Then I have another film called “The Locals” … and I’m playing the lead there, too, so those are some big things that are coming up.


Photo/Phil Bray ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Chris Pine: ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is like ‘The Avengers’ for kids


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Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman — we all know who they are, but what we didn’t know is that they’re part of an elite superhero-like force, the Guardians, who silently watch over and protect us during their off seasons.
At least that’s the premise for DreamWords Animation’s newest film, “Rise of the Guardians,” in theaters Nov. 21. Children’s imaginations, dreams and beliefs are at stake in this film, as evil spirit Pitch seeks to take over the world.
South Florida Parenting recently caught up with Chris Pine, who told us about his character in the movie, Jack Frost, whom the Guardians enlist to help defeat the enemy, Pitch. But it’s not all fun and games for Jack, who’s also seeking to figure out his place and purpose in life.


Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Well, I play a character named Jack Frost, who is the spirit of mischief and fun, and he’s the guy that brings snow days and snowball fights. And he’s been asked by the rest of the Guardians of childhood comprised of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny [and] Sandman, the bringer of dreams. He’s been asked to join them in order to fight off this enemy called Pitch, voiced by Jude Law, who is the bringer of nightmares and fear and anxiety. And really the story is about belief and the power of the imagination. And the power of the imagination … conquers all.


Jack Frost is commonly portrayed as sinister and a villain. How is he different in this movie, and what is it about him that the Guardians need to fight the enemy?
It’s a hard question because it’s kind of central to the story. I mean, Jack in our story is not the villain… He’s kind of the spirit of fun… It’s like he has a wink in his eye all the time. Jack is asked to come onboard as one of the Guardians, and Jack’s been a loner all of his existence, and he’s never really felt like he’s been part of a group. And he’s never really felt like he’s belonged, and he doesn’t remember where exactly he’s from. So Jack’s journey in this movie is wrapped up into all those questions of who am I, and what am I about, and what is my purpose? And it’s kind of really a central human question. So I think what people attach to, whether you are an adult or a kid, are these real pivotal questions that we all deal with…


People of all ages often are drawn to animated films, but what do you think children in particular will take away from this movie?
Well, I think what’s fun about it is that it’s all these characters and names we’ve grown up believing in. … I remember growing up myself that I believed ... Santa Claus, obviously, and the Tooth Fairy and Sandman... And, you know, even Jack Frost I remember from the Christmas carols. So I think what’s interesting is to have all these [discrete] characters from … childhood linked up and united as kind of one force and seeing them together. So I think the story is unique, and I think also visually it’s a lot different than what kids have seen. There is … a superhero element to this film… This is … “The Avengers” for young kids.


What got you excited about being part of this film and playing your character?
I guess really what excited me about the film was the opportunity to work with all these wonderful actors and film makers. I’m a huge fan of Alec [Baldwin] (North) and Hugh [Jackman] (E. Aster Bunnymund). And I know with [Co-Executive Producer] Guillermo’s [del Toro] involvement it sounded like it was going to be a different kind of film. And I loved the idea of all of these characters … we all knew as children and kind of grew up believing in — this idea that they all knew one another. … I thought it was a unique take on a universally shared series of stories. And the idea of linking them together I thought was very interesting.


This is your first time doing an animated movie. How does it compare to doing live action? Do you have a preference?
I don’t prefer one to the other. They are definitely different beasts, for sure. The big challenge that I had in animation … is that the only tool you have — the only instrument you have — is your voice. You have to really use and modulate your voice to paint the picture of the character because the rest is … up to the animators. So I learned a great deal watching and listening to Alec [Baldwin], who, as you can tell even from the trailer, has an incredible ability to control and shift and shape his own voice...


When you work on an animated movie, do you mostly do solitary work in the booth?
You know, it’s a really odd way to make a film. Film making is such a collaborative experience; usually, when you get on set, … you have all different kinds of film makers, and you have the … prop people and the camera men, the camera operators, the loaders, the costumers, the writers, the directors, the producers… The animated film is a lot more piecemeal. You rarely get a chance to meet everybody until … way far down the line. So most of the work was done in a booth by myself. You’re with the director, the producer and the creative team, and I only got one opportunity to work with another actor, which was Alec [Baldwin], which was great.


What is it about your family that made you who you are today? And what was the best advice you learned from your parents?
… I was lucky to have a strong family; [my parents have] been together for over 40 years, and so I was very lucky in that respect. … There is not one particular best piece of advice, but I think a lot of times actions speak louder than words, obviously, and I felt at least growing up a constant belief in me from my parents. So I always felt like no matter what I chose to do or who I ended up becoming, I would be loved regardless. And that implicit support is probably more important than anything.


You seem to have a natural knack for comedy. What’s your favorite kind of character to play? Do you like to play funny, romantic, tough, animated?
I think you’ve kind of hit them all. I think in acting you get a chance to do everything. … I love action, and … I used to pretend that I was a spy when I was a kid. … I love comedy; I like characters that don’t take themselves all that seriously and can be made fun of.


Photo/DreamWorks Animation

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Jam with Radio Disney this weekend at Zoo Miami


Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Take the whole family to Zoo Miami on Saturday for an event celebrating the release of “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” on Blu-ray and DVD, out today.

Jam out with Radio Disney from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and participate in games, activities and dancing.

Get there early because the first 100 kids will receive a free gift!

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Zoo Miami is at 12400 SW 152nd St. Miami. General zoo admission is $15.95 per adult and $11.95 per child ages 3 to 12 plus tax. Children 2 and younger, Zoological Society of Florida members and parking are free. For more information, visit zoomiami.org or call 305-251-0400.

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Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’ is electric


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Victor Frankenstein and Sparky in "Frankenweenie" directed by Tim Burton and presented by Walt Disney Pictures. Photo/Disney


It’s a film of opposites. Black and white. Good and evil. Fun and fright. But only one word comes to mind when summing it up: Magical.

Tim Burton’s creative genius has come back to life in his latest stop-motion Disney animated flick, “Frankenweenie.” This film about a boy and his dog will appeal to a wide range of ages and personalities. Dog lover or not, the story will pull at your heartstrings. Tender moments of love and affection create a sense of relateability to the quirky animated characters.

In the black-and-white film, a boy named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) uses his love for science to bring his dog, Sparky, back to life. Even though you already know Sparky’s fate based on the premise of the movie, the scene of him being hit by a car is capable of drawing tears — until Victor, a boy of few companions who takes solace in science experiments, brings Sparky back to life in his attic using lighting and electricity. The “Frankenstein”-esque scene is one of Burton’s references to horror classics; other nods include characters’ names, such as Elsa Van Helsing, Edgar “E” Gore and Mr. Burgemeister.

When classmate Edgar learns of Victor’s “experiment,” he blackmails Victor into teaching him his method. They re-create the experiment on a dead goldfish, but the result was a more sinister, invisible monster fish. Victor seeks advice from his forward-thinking science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), who tells him that science can be used for good or evil, so he must be careful. He asks Victor if he loved the second experiment the way he loved the first. Since Victor says no, Mr. Rzykruski says the lack of love was a change in the variables, resulting in the disastrous second outcome. The lesson learned is that we are all capable of both good and evil, and it’s up to us to decide which path we take.

Edgar spills the beans to more children who then try to one-up him by conducting the experiment themselves but unintentionally create monsters that menace the town (which looks like it was plucked right out of “Edward Scissorhands”).

The movie also stars Burton veterans Winona Ryder (“Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands”), Catherine O’Hara (“Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”), Martin Short (“Mars Attacks!”) and Martin Landau (“Ed Wood,” Sleepy Hollow”).

Charged with just the right amount of positive and negative, “Frankenweenie” is the perfect movie for this time of year and one that Disney can add to its Halloween bag of tricks — and treats.

“Frankenweenie,” in theaters Oct. 5, is rated PG; some material may be too intense for the littlest of moviegoers, so parents should use their judgment. Go to disney.com/frankenweenie.

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Walt Disney World debuts its first Jack and Sally meet-and-greets this weekend at Downtown Disney


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As if Downtown Disney isn’t cool enough with all the Disney fun available without the price of a park ticket, now it’s even cooler with Walt Disney World’s first-ever Jack and Sally (from the “Nightmare Before Christmas”) character meet-and-greets during “Frankenweenie Weekend.”

To celebrate Disney’s new animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” directed by Tim Burton and opening in 3-D Oct. 5, Downtown Disney is hosting events and experiences inspired by the film, as well as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Alice in Wonderland.” The fun will all go down at Downtown Disney’s West Side from Sept. 28 to 30.

See special 3-D screenings of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Alice in Wonderland,” featuring a 3-D extended preview of “Frankenweenie,” at AMC Downtown Disney 24. Tickets cost $6. Show times are 4:15 and 8 p.m. for “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. for “Alice in Wonderland.”

After the movie, stop by the New Holland Pet Cemetery picture spot (between AMC Downtown Disney 24 and Something Silver boutique from 6 to 11 p.m.) and get a photo with “Frankenweenie” backgrounds.

Jack and Sally will be out also from 6 to 11 p.m. between AMC Downtown Disney 24 and Harley Davidson.

And, of course, there will be special “Frankenweenie” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” merchandise available, plus spooky treats, such as Franken Fusion Lemonade and “Frankenweenie” hot dogs.

For more information, go to disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/downtown-disney.

If you need a place to stay, the seven Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels are currently offering a 15 percent discount for Florida residents from now through Dec. 23. Make a reservation at DowntownDisneyHotels.com/deals/promotions.

Photo/Disney

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Does your child have the recipe for success?


Your kid could cook up his or her own college fund with a vegan dish.

Who knew a couple of peas and carrots could add up to $5,000?

Well, it can – if your kid has the right ingredients.

Check out this opportunity: South Florida high school seniors in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties can enter the It’s Vegalicious Vegan Recipe Scholarship contest to win a $5,000 scholarship towards their college education.

Read more about it in John Tanasychuk’s SUP blog.

I wish my son was a senior. I’d have him in the kitchen so fast. Actually, he’s a self-described foodie – and he enjoys the restaurant of contest sponsor, Sublime. Whole Foods is co-sponsor.

Fortunately, my son has a couple of years to practice before he qualifies to enter the contest: He’s already perfected a spaghetti sauce and he makes awesome black beans.

What’s your child’s culinary specialty?

Follow me on Twitter @mindingyourbiz

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Parents should support MTV's Skins


MRobbins%20Headshot.JPGGuest Writer
Micah Robbins
Guest writer Micah Robbins is executive director of Drug Free Youth In Town.

During the last couple of weeks, MTV’s new show “Skins” has earned some very negative attention among media and parental groups in the US. The original UK series has been airing for three years – and is even a BAFTA award winner – but its message hasn’t been well-received this side of the pond. Although they haven’t taken the time to watch even a full episode, the Parents Television Council (PTC) claims it is “the most dangerous show for teens.” Admittedly, there are moments when the show can make parents twinge. However, it is one of the most honest portrayals of the issues that teens are dealing with each and every day.

Let’s consider other shows that critics and parent groups have maligned in the past, including the 1990’s MTV animated TV series “Beavis and Butthead.” It's now considered a classic part of youth culture, but at the time the show was highly controversial.
More%20Skins.jpgDanny Flaherty and Britne Oldford on MTV's "Skins"
It provided social and political commentary – often in a very crude way – and though many didn’t like the delivery, the issues that they represented couldn’t be ignored.

It is the same situation with “Skins”. It may be uncomfortable subject matter for some viewers, but working with the number of students that we do at DFYIT (more than 7,000 across South Florida alone) and the honesty they share with us, these very are real issues these kids deal with on a daily basis. “Skins” is one of the first shows that confronts teen substance abuse, violence and sex in a very open manner, which is the main reason it is so controversial.

I work on the front line of prevention in youth – teaching youth about the dangers of risky behaviors, drugs and alcohol – and one of the first steps in education and empowering students to avoid these dangers is starting a conversation, an impossible first step when we are downplaying or censoring the issues.

Continue reading "Parents should support MTV's Skins" »

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


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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.
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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."

Whew.

Keep reading for more teen input:

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

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Are your kids watching MTV's Skins?


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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.

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Are superheroes making our kids too aggressive?


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Day care often sends home memos in my son’s lunchbox. “Need more diapers, please.” “Tomorrow is pizza day.” “Please do not dress your child in superhero attire for school.” Wait. What was that?

My son doesn’t have any superhero T-shirts, but I was curious, so I asked the director about it. She said it affects the children’s behavior on the playground and in the classroom. They are more rambunctious and try to copy the actions of the particular superhero on their T-shirt.

I thought superheroes were supposed to teach us to love good and fight evil, so why are they making our children “evil” on the playground?

I don’t know about you, but most superhero movies I’ve seen are pretty mature and seem like they were made for adults. I haven’t watched many superhero cartoons, but the new Iron Man and Batman movies are most definitely adult movies.

What are the kids who watch these movies taking away from them? If they’re too young to grasp themes and concepts put forth in the movies, they must just be focusing on the action and violence. And if that’s the case, why are kids being allowed to see these movies?

The end of the memo reads, “Jesus is our superhero.” Sounds like a much more gentle approach.

Do you let your kids watch superhero movies? If so, do you notice any changes in their behavior?

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Where did you hide the Christmas gifts?


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


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

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

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

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

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

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Harry Potter not for young kids


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lessons in pop culture


This week in pop culture:

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

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

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

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

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


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Win tickets to see Sesame Street Live at the Broward Center


Win a Family 4-pack to see Sesame Street Live! at the Broward Center for Performing Arts

Show runs from Saturday, 9/25 - Monday, 9/27

Just sign up for our Entertainment text alerts and you will be automatically entered to win.

 


You can also sign up for Entertainment text alerts by texting ENT to 23539

Standard messaging and data rates apply.

Click here for official rules.

(Text to win Sesame Street Live tickets)* *Defined as a family 4-pack of tickets to see the Sesame Street Live show at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter without sending a text message, just click here. Sweepstakes begins 09/15/10 and ends at 11:59 p.m. (ET) on 09/21/10. Standard text message rates apply to entries via text message. Other restrictions apply. Void where prohibited. Text STOP 2quit. HELP 4info. Odds depend on number of eligible entries. Sponsor: Sun Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

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Daily Poll: What is the worst TV show your kids watch?


We're starting a new feature on the blog where we ask our readers a variety of questions to spark conversation. Join us, and let us know your thoughts and other poll question ideas in the comments.

Obviously this question depends on the age of your kids, and you can tell that my oldest is only six...







<a href="http://buzzdash.com/polls/what-is-the-worst-tv-show-your-kids-watch-208978/">What is the worst TV show your kids watch?</a> | <a href="http://buzzdash.com">BuzzDash polls</a>



Concerned about what your kids are watching? Check out this site from the Parents Television Council

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Another birthday party option: Broward County's horse stables


Grassy plains, grazing horses, white wood fences. It almost looks like Kentucky. But it's Coconut Creek.

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Tradewinds Park horse stable is on the north side of
Sample Road, west of I-95. It's directly across Sample from the
entrance to Butterfly World, which is on the south side of
Tradewinds Park.

I paid a visit last week to the horse stables at Tradewinds Park, a county government property, and came away with another option for kids' birthday parties. The county is in the birthday party package business, unbeknownst to me.

For $10 per child, with a minimum of 10 children, a maximum of 20, you can give your child a horse party.

You get a tent near the playground. Five picnic tables, a grill, two pony ride tickets per child (kids have to be 52 inches or shorter), a barn tour and party invitations.

Food costs extra. So do jumps in the bounce house.

But it's an option.

Check out Tradewinds Farms birthday party packages online by clicking here. The county's website is confusing on this issue, so here's what you need to know: There are two options -- one is for a county-run party, and another is for a party run by a private entity.

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Love the way you lie video and domestic violence


Rafael Olmeda
"Oh my God, turn it up!"

One of my stepdaughters gets frantic when she hears Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" come on the radio. Me? I think Eminem is a talented artist, though I'm clearly not in his target audience and wouldn't want to touch one of his CD's without a pair of HazMat gloves.
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I know that for every "Real Slim Shady" and "Lose Yourself" there's another track laced not only with profanity but with profoundly disturbing imagery. He doesn't apologize for it, and I vote with my wallet: live and let live, right?

But just because I don't buy something doesn't mean it doesn't get into my house, or in my car, or in my family (as evidenced by the fact that at lease one daughter already knows the lyrics by heart and can recite them without notice, even knowing when to self-censor).

A friend recently asked on my Facebook page for my opinion of the the video for this song.

"How do you feel about this video?" my friend wrote. "Is it positive because teens are talking about dating violence or does it send a mixed msg? Let me know how you feel!"

The video features vocals by Eminem and singer Rihanna, famous not only for her talent but also for the violent turn taken in her relationship with Chris Brown. The actors in the central story are Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings) and Megan Fox (Transformers). Monaghan and Fox portray lovers locked in a violent relationship. See it for yourself.

(Warning: this video is uncensored and contains a couple of f-bombs).



At first I agreed that the video does send a mixed message: The fact that the story is told by a lying piece of garbage was, I thought, just a hint too subtle for a teenage audience that is more likely to absorb the "violent relationships are smoking HOT" visuals that accompany the music.

But I give them credit for the ending: the lovers and their home are consumed in flames, an obvious metaphor showing that the violence will end up destroying them both.

Our kids are going to hear this song in their bedrooms, on their iPods, and at school: we're not going to shield them from it, no matter how hard we try. And they will see the video, just as easily. So we need to, as parents, take control of the conversation.

Take it as a given that your kid is going to HEAR the song, but implore them to go a step further: make sure they LISTEN to it. Make sure they understand that Eminem (the narrator) is the villain of the piece, that he's not cool, that he's a liar and that the heat of passion is no substitute for the warmth of love.

And make sure they understand that ending.

UPDATE: The same friend who brought this video to my attention let me know that Megan Fox donated her appearance fee for the video to a shelter for abused women. Kudos! Find Sun Sentinel writer Rafael Olmeda on Facebook and Twitter.
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Forget school - how busy will your kids really be?


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With the new school year comes an increase in activities – sports, clubs, extra classes and more – all requiring commitment.

But commitment requires time and focus – often more than any of us – or our children have.

One thing my own parents have always stressed to me is to back off on over-booking my kids’ time. In fact, the more activities I’d say my kids were up to – the more concerned my dad would be.

“Are you sure it’s her that wants to do all those things?” he asks. I’d have my daughter booked in all kinds of activates so really his comment doubled as a warning. He’s right – Father [always] knows best!

A GeekDad blog post pleads with parents to let kids have kid-hang-out-doing-nothing-time. That’s what my dad always stresses.

My son who is entering 10th grade this year – he’s sticking to tae kwon do – it’s the single outside of school commitment. My dad approves of that.

It creates a focus – he’s not flitting about town rushing to do the next thing – and neither am I.

Scholastic offers up “12 Warning Signs That Your Child May Be Overscheduled.”

Whether it’s you or your kid that is clamoring for more things to do beyond their schooling - how will you balance providing “opportunities” for your child to grow into well-rounded leaders?

How do you manage your child’s time - which also means managing yours too.

Will you let your kid say enough is enough? Or will you be the one to push the too-much-is-too-much brakes?

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Jusin Bieber and the tween who looked the other way


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Pop prince Justin Bieber is in concert tonight at BankAtlantic Center, and I won't be there! Which is notable only because I have a 12 year old daughter --- who does not like Justin Bieber.

You read that right. We've been to several concerts together, she loves music, but has no interest in the Biebster.

Why would this chart-topper miss his mark with this small part of his target audience? I didn't quite get it, so I asked her what music she likes.

"I like the Beatles, U2 and Bruce." Who else? "Miley, Demi and Serena."

So you can see what's at work here: She likes the music her dad pumps into her head during their commute to school. And what Disney serves up on a continuous loop.

But what about the heartthrob factor? "I know of only one girl who likes him." Interesting.

Maybe it's because Erika still has puppy posters, but surely there's a pop star out there worthy of her bedroom wall. "Well, Zac Efron, but he doesn't count." (See, he's a movie star, not a pop star.)

I'm liking where this conversation is going. I'm appreciating her discerning taste. The fact that (Disney aside), the monster media hasn't gobbled her soul whole. That Justin Bieber doesn't have a hold on her.

But then there's this: "He has cool hair."

(Check out what my colleague Adam Eisenberg did with that 'do in our Justin Bieber photo gallery.)

Photo: Joshua C. Cruey, Orlando Sentinel

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Let kids see South Park


Rafael Olmeda
It's been a while since I sat down and watched a full episode of South Park. One was on the other night. Stan's father, Randy, was on "Wheel of Fortune." The category was "People Who Annoy You." Only one letter was missing. The first letter was "N." The last five letters were "GGERS."

Unfortunately, Randy did not give the correct answer, which would have been "naggers."

The answer he did give prompted the dumbfounded looks that have become a trademark of the series. It also served as a springboard for a devastating assault on political correctness and the culture of offense, apology, victimization and demonization.

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That's not why I kept watching. I kept watching because it was funny. Shockingly funny. "Oh-my-God-I-shouldn't-be-laughing-but-how-could-I-not" funny.

But should kids watch it?

Years ago, I refused to allow my nephew and niece to watch the South Park movie, despite the fact that I owned a copy and considered it a brilliant treatise on censorship and a powerful admonition aimed at parents who refuse to take responsibility for their children, instead finding blame in government, movies, television, society and Canada.

Their mom let them watch the movie anyway. And the kids lived. And I think part of it had to do with the fact that their mom was there. They were able to talk about what they saw. Personally, I think they were too young at the time (they were pre-teens). I'd have waited until they were teenagers. But that wasn't my call.

And it's not my call whether you let your kids watch it either. It's yours. And no one else's.

The point is moot in my household: I'm the only one who finds that particular brand of humor amusing, and even then it's only half the time. When it comes to this type of thing, I'm a committed member of the "if you don't like it, watch something else" camp. (Yes, you will catch me rumbling about the things that are said on certain news and commentary shows, but that's not what we're talking about here). I don't think South Park is always funny. That episode with Cartman's hand pretending to be Jennifer Lopez? Not funny. Towelie? Not funny. Tweak the caffeine addict and the Underpants Gnomes? Hysterical.

Disagree? Cool.

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. "Kids are not nice, innocent, flower-loving little rainbow children," co-creator Matt Stone said in a 1999 interview with the BBC. "Kids are all little bastards; they don't have any kind of social tact or etiquette."

So what does it all mean?

It means that, 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.

By the way, do you like fishsticks?

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Rush Limbaugh's 'cracker' comment: No offense intended?


Rafael Olmeda
It took two tries, but it seems I got my point across with my last two entries exploring the dynamic of teaching politeness to your kids and developing a thick skin.

And not a moment too soon. Motherlode, the parenting blog at the New York Times, ventured into somewhat similar territory with a post on a Chicago writer who, in a very serious story, used the term "ghetto parenting" to describe a particular kind of neglectful childrearing that produces everything from kids with their belts at their knees to young adults bound for prison.

Question: is the term "ghetto parenting" racist? Does it affect your answer to that question to learn that the writer who coined the term is, herself, black?

limbaugh.jpgThe next day, talk show host Rush Limbaugh stepped in it (actually, he gleefully jumped in it with both feet) by describing the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as a "cracker" who made a lot of African Americans rich while firing a lot of white managers.

The comment seemed calculated to provoke outrage somewhere, somehow, from someone. Al Sharpton rose, or stooped, to the occasion by decrying the comment and suggesting an apology was in order.

Nonsense. The only thing that was offensive about Limbaugh's statement was that he neglected to mention the number of Hispanic millionaires Steinbrenner created. I hate when Latinos are left out of stories, especially when the stories are about millionaires.

I thought Limbaugh was rather clearly playing with people's perceptions of himself and making a serious point, too: while his detractors search vigorously for the smoking gun that proves his racism, he contends his real passion is not for white supremacy, but colorblind capitalism.

And it was funny. He calls it "illustrating absurdity by being absurd." Limbaugh calling someone a cracker is like me calling someone a hypersensitive p.c. cop (at least, according to MY critics).

My point is that we are bombarded daily by examples of people using words that provoke: sometimes they provoke pain, anger, hurt, or offense. Other times they provoke righteous indignation, resolve, determination and courage. At the very least, we can hope they provoke thought.

Did Rush Limbaugh go too far, using Steinbrenner's legacy to make a political point when the body wasn't even cold yet? Did Mary Mitchell go too far, coining the phrase "ghetto parenting" and not expecting race to overwhelm the ensuing discussion?

As parents, we are charged with the mission of teaching our kids right from wrong, good from bad, polite from rude. In doing so, we should also be able to see that intending offense is not always a matter of black or white.

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Happy Back to the Future Day? Not so fast


Now why would anyone make up a fact that could easily be refuted?

Some British website reported that July 5, 2010 was the date Doc Brown punched into the DeLorean as he planned to be the first human time traveler at the beginning of Back to the Future. About 30,000 twits (um, users of Twitter) passed on the bogus fact (and yes, I was one of them) before realizing that it wasn't true.

back-to-the-future-hoax-we-confess-00-420-75.jpg Even die hard fans of the franchise can be forgiven, somewhat, for blowing this one. At the beginning of the movie, Doc does say he's planning to travel 25 years into the future. And 25 years from 1985 is 2010. Doc also shows Marty McFly some key dates. Why wouldn't he have shown Marty the date he was planning to visit?

Well, he got distracted, it turns out. He punches in Nov. 5, 1955, gets lost in thought, and the rest is the rewritten history of Hill Valley.

So July 5, 2010 was not future day. And according to the movie's first sequel, Marty and Doc (and Marty's gal pal Jennifer) won't be arriving in the sky over Hill Valley, USA, until Oct. 21, 2015. Why the discrepancy between 2010 and 2015? Well, the events of the first film convinced Doc to travel 30 years into the future instead of 25. So we'll have to wait.

Me? I'd like to send my teens back to 1985. Wouldn't that be fun?

How many of our kids would:
* get arrested for indecent exposure, not for exposing too much skin, but too much underwear?

* freak about having to buy a newspaper to find out what time a movie is playing?

* know how to operate a Sony Walkman? Like, you have to actually fast forward the tape and guess where one song ended and the next one began!

* be horrified to turn on a radio station and hear nothing but 80s music? [oh, wait, they get that now].

* utterly panic about having to carry dimes to make calls to their friends' houses on public pay phones?

* go to the movies and choose between the Karate Kid and Nightmare on Elm Street [Just kidding. Everyone knows those movies were released in 2010. Oh, and 1984].

Well, sorry for helping spread the Back to the Future hoax to those who follow me on Twitter. But it was still a fun thought. Now, tech geeks, you've got five years to get me a hoverboard, a Mr. Fusion, and a World Series Champion Chicago Cubs team.

Such vivid imaginations in Hollywood. I mean, really? A flying car I can see, but the Cubs winning the World Series?

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Where the boys are


Does social media fit the gender – or does the gender find the social media?

Maybe online gaming isn’t so bad after all. I was resistant to the idea of my son playing games online when he first started earlier this year.

But then again I was resistant to him having a Facebook page and a cell phone!

Things have a way of working out. After maybe a month of Facebook – my son discontinued it. Facebook was too much work, he said.

His cell phone has become a tool – he doesn’t really over-use it. When he first started texting, there was a bit of an issue, but that’s "stale" now too.

His social media de jour is online games.
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My son can team up with friends – or play against them. All the while – he can chat with them – not in 140 characters or less, or through long Facebook missives, but actual talking.

With his headset on - he and his friends can go into “party” chat or one on one conversation. They advise, taunt and challenge one another. But they also encourage each other – and even make plans to meet up in person.

In my opinion, it’s the teenage boys’ version of girls talking on the phone. What do you think?

Photo: jwestcoast via Flickr

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

Continue reading "Where the boys are" »

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The Big Bang Theory


I still get a chuckle thinking about that great line in the Christmas Story movie – where the boy’s wish for a bb gun is insatiable.

He’s rebuffed with the comment: “You’ll shoot your eye out, Kid.”

It’s funny, but not really.

Just like fireworks – they’re awesome, but that doesn’t make them safe to be around.

July 4th isn’t the time to teach your kid how to light a match – torch a wick and throw it in the fireworks.jpgair – all in one smooth motion. In fact it’s downright dangerous – adults – professionals - have perished doing just that. (I’m still very cautious when I light the BBQ grill)

So remember safety first this July 4th – no matter your child’s age. Even picking up spent fireworks requires caution – make sure they are hosed down, or soak them in water, before touching if the kids are on clean-up duty to pick up the sparkler sticks and other small fireworks.

If you’re headed out for an evening of community fireworks (I don’t mean a homeowners association meeting, I really do mean the good old-fashioned fireworks) then there are still a few things to consider.

Some children hate the noise – it seems to truly hurt their ears. Be prepared to lay the blanket farther rather than closer to the source of the explosions. Another advantage to doing that is with some distance, you can avoid the raining debris fallout that some fireworks produce.

Check out KidHealth for lots of good no-nonsense common sense fireworks safety advice.

And check out our Crime & Safety blog on the topic.

photo credit: Sun Sentinel, Mark Randall

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

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Wii are loving our new family toy


I'm a PS3 guy. Plain and simple. I wanted the console so that I could play my Grand Theft Auto (obviously with no kids around) and to finally have a Blu-ray player in the entertainment center. However, I'm also a guy who tries to put his family first. Thus, when it came time for us to finally lay down our hard-earned money we decided upon the Wii.

I knew there was no way my 6, 3, and 2-year-olds would be able to handle a standard game controller, but the motion-controlled remotes for the Wii were perfect. Right out of the box my 6-year-old daughter was navigating through the menus with ease, and my 3-year-old was beating her at bowling. Even my wife—who HATES video games with a passion—became wrapped up in all the fun. Before long, we were rolling on the floor laughing and talking trash.

We've since added a few games just for the kids, but the other HUGE plus of our investment has been the addition of Netflix on demand. Have you heard of this? It has literally revolutionized the way I watch TV. I will NEVER sit through a network TV show again. The endless library of movies and TV shows available ensure you will never run out of stuff to watch, including great programs for the kids. This service is also available for Xbox and PS3, but then you'd miss out on watching your 2-year-old knock out your wife in boxing (fair and square).

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Booked for the summer


Summer can be a real page-turner. Even getting the kid to read can be a real adventure.

It’s that time of year, a field trip to shop for the dreaded Summer Reading list. That's the list of required reading his school requests from selected book titles.
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It’s my favorite thing to do – go to a book store and buy books for my son’s summer reading list.

He has to come with us. That’s part of the fun – because frankly, he dreads it and then by the time we’re leaving the store – he’s a happy camper. He even thanks us! It’s that transformation from dreary task to enthused reader that is fun to witness.

We usually make an evening of it, and he ends up exploring the entire store.

It’s on our schedule of things to do this week.

What about you – did you already get the books required? Or do your create your own summer reading list for your child.

Do you tap into local resources like the library – or do you make it a shopping spree?

photo credit: Les Bryant/flickr Undercover Reader AKA Secret Readers Original Oil Painting on 11 x 14 Hand Streached Canvas

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

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The summer agenda: Chill


If I left it up to our cats to teach our son a thing or two…. he’d have a PhD in Sleeping, (see photo) before the summer is over.

cat%20mentors2.jpgIt seems that when school’s out –sleeping is in: staying up until 3 a.m., and snoozing until noon the next day is my son’s idea of enjoying the summer.

Well – that’s just not going to happen – no lay-a-bouts here! And I’m inclined to nip it in the bud.

Yes, I’m going to let him have his late nights and sleep-in mornings.

Sometimes. We’ve told him, it’s the exception – not the rule.

He has to get out and ride his bike, do chores, keep up with martial arts and follow up on some volunteer stuff.

There is no doubt, hanging with friends is good – in fact, it’s important.

And they’re going to stay up late some nights and sleep in – which is fine, but not day in and day out – not on my watch.

I have to admit I am a little hard-pressed for an answer when he asks why he has to get up so early (8 a.m.-9 a.m.-ish.) After all – if I had the time, I might take advantage of a late night/ late morning myself–but only for a while.

Besides reminding him that as the parents we set the rules, I tell him I don’t want his schedule turning upside down – that it will be very difficult to get back on track for school.

I don’t think I’m too hard on him. He’s got more down time that planned time this summer – which is a first.

What are your kids up to this summer – are they over-booked? Hanging out? Or balancing their time with spurts of activities with nothing to do in between?

Photo credit: Cindy Kent/Houdini and Zoe demonstrate the art of chillaxing

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

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Listen up, mothers of inventions


Now that you have joined the ranks of momminess – you are the mother of a lot of ideas – aren’t you?

Well, Huggies thinks you are. The Kimberly-Clark brand is launching a grant program - Huggies MomInspired - to provide inventive %21.jpgmoms with the seed capital they need to help transform viable ideas into successful new businesses.

After all, Huggies says moms are “often creative problem-solvers that typically embody natural entrepreneur characteristics on a daily basis.”

To be considered for a grant moms, 21 years or older, residing in the United States, must submit an application online, outlining a unique baby or child care product idea that addresses an unmet parenting need.

Winners will be awarded with up to $15,000 per grant to help fund their product ideas.
Hurry up, the deadline is June 9.

Follow Cindy Kent on Twitter.com @mindingyourbiz

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You want to go to a sleep-over WHERE?


Would you let your child have- or go -to a sleep-over slumber party?

At what age do you consider your child too young or too old for sleep-overs?

What if your 15 year old child was invited to a co-ed sleepover? Yep, I mean the kind where boys and girls will sleep in the same house – would you let yours go?

A very unscientific survey I conducted at work resulted in a nearly 50/50 split of pros and cons; from a resounding “absolutely not,” to “it depends on who would be going,” and “I did let my son.”

On one hand, why would a group of just girls be more trustworthy than a bunch of just boys at a sleep-over? And if parents overseeing the group of snoozers are the issue – wouldn’t those concerns and trust in that parent (s) to handle any situation: to be there, be alert and be involved be the same regardless of the mix?

And on the other hand, for as long as time remembered, parents have been setting boundaries – so, it’s OK for parents to say “No,” as well.

When it comes to our kids, everything has risks--from curfews, to safety on the road and in the home; to whom your kid hangs out with; to where they spend their time.

There is one thing I do know – regardless if the kids are hanging at the mall, going to a party, the beach, or a sleep-over-- you have to have the conversation -with your child, with his or her friends and with the parents. Rules have to be clearly conveyed. Frankly, I’d be about as nervous, maybe more, with my kid at a beach party.

At this point, I am not dead set against the idea of a co-ed sleep-over – I know the kids that will be there. Really, I see more positives than negatives – but I’m still in the discovery phase.

The girls will sleep upstairs at an upcoming sleep-over to which my son was invited. The boys will sleep downstairs. The mom of the invitee will be there. I’ll be calling her soon so we can talk about it.

I’m still wondering too – how is she going to get comfortable sleeping on those steps!

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Storytime at the library — My favorite evening playdate


One of the biggest challenges for me as a parent is finding enough quality time to spend with the kids. I generally work from 8am-5:30pm, so by the time I get home it is almost 6 o'clock at night. After an awesome greeting from the kids, I usually have about 30 minutes to play with them before dinner — if I'm lucky. Then we might get an hour after dinner before it is time to start the nightly routine. With such a limited time frame, how can you make the most of it?

One of my favorite things to do with the kids (and it gives my wife a break) is to take them to the West Regional Library on Wednesday nights. They have an awesome storytime from 6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. which is followed by a quick craft project. The staff are great at keeping the children enchanted with the books, and provide much-needed help during the project time too.

Not sure if your library offers similar programs? Check out the Broward County Library website to see what they have in store. Do you have any good local events like this to share?

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"Glee" is no longer a family show


Last night, I regretted inviting my kids to watch "Glee" with me.

The Fox show about a high school glee club started out last year as a fun, funny musical comedy show with a subversive edge. But last night's show, ostensibly about Madonna and girl empowerment, was really about sex, which couples were going to have sex, which songs they would sing during foreplay, in front of the bed, on the bed, in the bathroom, etc.

I became increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable as the plot proceeded. After the cast sang Madonna's "Like A Virgin," I decided to attempt a teachable moment. "Do you know what a virgin is?" I asked.

"Yes, mom." It wasn't the right time to get into a whole conversation about sexual decisionmaking, so the teachable moment ended there.

Now that my kids are into the show, I'm not going to pull the plug. But I hope the plot lines get back to the competitiveness, intrigue, pettiness and popularity contests of high school that made the show an original sensation last year.

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Tap their inner-wild - and yours too


Get your little lions and tigers outdoors – after all - it’s National Wildlife Week, through March 21.

And since our children, by nature, are nature lovers – it’s also a good time to teach them the value of wildlife and enjoy the great outdoors.

That’s what the National Wildlife Federation -sponsored week is all about. This year’s theme: Be Out There At Home, School and Play

A few fun facts: The first National Wildlife Week observance took place more than 70 years ago.
Today’s average child spends only 4-7 minutes outside each day. Compare that to the 7 hours and 38 minutes per day the average kid spends engaged with electronic media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There are activities for all ages and links to resources here:

Get active: National Wildlife Week

Locate venues: NatureFind

For teachers: Educator Activity Guide

Now, go on, go outside! (Just like how Mom says)

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Flash mob video: Gotta Keep Reading


This is so much fun. Ocoee Middle School in Central Florida made this video -- based on the Oprah/Black Eyed Peas flash mob -- to inspire kids to read. It sure couldn't hurt.

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Flamingo Gardens in Davie a hit with kids



If all goes well for Harmony and her mate, Abe, a baby bald eagle will hatch on Wednesday. We stood within a few feet of the majestic eagles this weekend, at Flamingo Gardens in Davie.

The not-for-profit botanical garden and animal sanctuary is a great Plan B when you get tired of taking your kids to the beach. It's in Davie, at 3750 S. Flamingo Road in southwest Broward County.

Adults, you'll probably like it, too. Who wouldn't want to stand a few feet from a bald eagle? How many times have I tried unsuccessfully in the Everglades to spot a Florida panther? Where else could I have purchased a cricket and larva embedded in candy "amber" and considered edible?

This place has snakes, ducks, turtles, talking parrots, a historic home and gorgeous native plants and towering trees. Check out my video to see some of the highlights, including the bald eagle, Harmony, flapping her wings. Read the jump to find out more about Harmony and her Abe, both injured eagles, and their attempts to become parents. Also, admission info is on the jump.

When we visited this weekend, a little girl was having her birthday party there. Not a bad idea. Also, teen-agers 16 and older can volunteer, a good way to earn some of those service hours they need to graduate.

Click here to check out the website.


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Stinky, icky "Grossology" returns to MODS


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EWWWWWWW..... The Museum of Discory and Science will be up to its eyeballs in mucus and vomit and all sorts of stinky things when "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" returns for a second engagement on Saturday.

This is the popular traveling exhibit that explains how the human body works in ways that kids can understand. Since "Grossology" last visited MODS in 2001, they've added to and refreshed the whole exhibit.

Kids can help Burp-Man expel gas in his stomach, play a pinball game that shows how foods cause gas, take a tour of a slimy nose and climb a large replica of human skin to learn about blemishes -- warts and all. It's all very disgusting, so kids will love it.

There will be special activities Saturday and Sunday.

At the teddy bear clinic, staff from Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospital will teach kids about medical equipment and basic anatomy. (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday)

Watch a cow eyeball dissection (1:30 p.m.), participate in a burbing contest (2:30 p.m.), watch a shark feeding (3:30) and more.

The exhibit runs through May 2 at the museum, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $16 adults, $15 seniors, $12 children 2 to 12. Info: 954-467-6637; mods.org.

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When you know all the words to every Wiggles song


OK. I admit it. I have a problem.

Not exactly shocking news to anyone who reads this blog, but I figured I'd provide more details. On the way to work yesterday morning I found myself singing along to "Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car". I had already dropped my daughter off at school, and when I got back in the car I didn't even react to change the music. Yikes.

Now as far as kids music goes, The Wiggles are actually a group I can tolerate. Probably more from the fact that my kids genuinely love them rather than it being good music. They have a staying power that is undeniable. Heck, I remember when we took my daughter to see them live at Bank Atlantic Center and Greg wasn't on the tour! That was shortly after his retirement for health reasons. Is it sad that I know all of this Wiggles trivia?

Studies have shown that children who study music learn at a faster rate than kids that don't. That helps me feel less like a moron when I'm hopping up and down in my living room.

Music has always been a big part of my life, and I want to instill that into my children as well. I have vivid memories from my childhood of my mother singing songs to us while playing her guitar. She was a camp counselor in her youth, so she knows more songs than you can imagine. Seeing my kids' faces light up when they hear grandma sing or when they hear a Wiggles song is absolutely priceless, but should I be trying to expand their musical horizons more?

I've tried listening to Disney soundtracks, Raffi, and a few others (Barney is not allowed in our house - had to draw the line somewhere), and attempts to listen to music from my iTunes library have resulted in a few profanities being repeated. That, and my 2-year-old's Red Hot Chili Peppers version of the ABC song which he performed for us (actually, that was priceless). So like I said, I need help. I need some new tunes for the kiddies. Help! Who do you play for your kids?

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Autism Society hosts special screenings of Alvin and the Chipmunks on Saturday


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The Autism Society and AMC theaters have planned movie opportunities for children with autism or other special needs.

They are called Sensory Friendly Films, and the first one -- Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel -- is at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Theaters for these special showings will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families can bring their own snacks, and no previews or advertisments will be shown before the movie. And people will be welcome to dance, walk, shout or sing. This is a time for kids and their families to feel comfortable.

Tickets are $4-$6 depending on location and can be purchased on Saturday at the theaters:

AMC Coral Ridge 10, 3401 NE 26th Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
AMC Aventura 24, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura
AMC Sunset 24, 5701 Sunset Drive, South Miami.

Next up is The Tooth Fairy on Feb. 6.

For more information, go to www.autism-society.org/sensoryfilms


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Miley and me: That girl has a hold on me


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In my concert-going prime, I saw everyone from Willie Nelson to Public Enemy, The Cure to Chick Corea. Even Wendy O Williams (true story...I cried it was so awful and scary). And there are a handful of artists I've seen more than once -- Springsteen, REM, U2 (several times).

Now, add to that multiples list: Miley Cyrus.

I really am having a hard time grasping this, what I've become. Not one Miley Cyrus concert, but two. And it gets worse.

This sounds like a bad Jeff Foxworthy joke, but, you know you're an indulgent mom when you let your daughter skip school to go to Orlando for a Hannah/Miley concert, which is what happened during the pop star's first tour. Remember the frenzy over those tickets? I actually didn't even try. But, my friend got four tickets and invited us along, and it was a one-time adventure, and we spent a day at Universal, and ...Oh, I don't know how I rationalized it at the time. It was nuts. In my house, we don't skip school for anything, not even a runny nose.

So I don't really understand what got into me when I ordered four tickets months ago for Miley's concert tonight in Miami. On a school night, no less.

And the thing is, Erika is not a crazy fan. She may be a pre-teen, but she's no teenybopper. Sure, she likes Miley, likes the TV show, has the CDs. But there are no posters on her wall. No stickers on her school folders. No Miley-brand clothes in her closet. Whether or not Miley is a good role model is sort of irrelevant in our house because, bless her heart, Erika is not much of a stargazer. She just likes the music.

I'm sure we'll have a good time tonight, with another friend and her daughter. We'll sing along and hold up our cell phones in the darkened arena.

But I draw the line at buying a t-shirt. No really...I mean it.

P.S. Here's the set list for tonight's concert.


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What makes children laugh?


There is nothing quite as enlightening as the full belly laugh from a small child. Honestly the best sound I have ever heard. Lately around our house, my six year old has taken to telling jokes. This began slowly last year when she started Pre-K, and I would hear her telling knock-knock jokes to her friends. Usually the punchline would make no sense at all, and yet they would laugh uncontrollably anyway.

All of this girlie giggling got me thinking — at what age do kids "get it"? I really feel that at 6 she is still too young to honestly understand many of the jokes I tell her (granted, I don't know that many). So I decided to do a little research, and I found this very cool article on LaughterRemedy.com which explains what makes children laugh. The article is a bit long, but offers some great insight and ideas for giving your kids a good chuckle—it even replayed the scenario with my daughter verbatim. Wild.

Now that I understand a little more about what makes kids laugh, I need some material. Once again I turn to Google and I'm handsomely rewarded with a great site on Yahoo! Kids. Now I'm ready to start my career as a comic. Share some of your favorite kid friendly jokes with us in the comments.

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Sesame Street still educating our kids 40 years later


As much as I try to avoid turning on the TV in our house, you can be assured that PBS is on for a least a few shows a day. The same held true at my house when I was growing up in the 70s. The amazing thing about Sesame Street is that I think you could say that it has touched almost every American's life in some way since it began on November 10th, 1969. Even Google is giving a shout out to Big Bird and the gang today.



One of the most incredible things about the show for me is how it has adapted to each new generation without losing its identity. Wish I could say the same thing for the Electric Company. Anyone see that show lately? Yikes. Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman wouldn't be caught dead on that piece of garbage. Thanks to my sister, I at least have all the original shows on DVD for my kids to enjoy—and they love 'em.

What has made Sesame Street so magical? Needless to say, the genius of Jim Henson had lots to do with it. I can't imagine that the show would've been half as successful if Oscar and the Count had been marionettes. Add to it the beautiful way that learning was snuck into the show without the kids even realizing that they were watching something educational, and you've got the longest running children's program on US television.

Congrats to creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morisett for giving children something fun and educational to watch, and giving parents 40 years of 30 minute breaks.

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Baby Einstein refunds should set parents straight


Recently Baby Einstein announced that it is extending refunds to some parents who purchased the company’s DVDs.

According to reports a group had threatened Disney, Baby Einstein’s parent company with a class-action lawsuit over what the group called, implied claims that the videos are educational.

On Baby Einstein’s website it states that the company makes no such claim. It also states that they’ve always had a refund policy in place.

I’m no Einstein, but I can’t fathom how any parent would think sitting their baby in front of a television for any extended period of time would make them a genius.

Yes, children can learn from television. But if any one program or CD could create an Einstein it would be flying off the shelves.

What’s sad to me is that some parents are so determined to have “the smartest,’’ baby that they spend time and money on products they think will get them on the fast track rather than fully enjoying their child’s development.

I have friends who used to listen to all sorts of music but now play nothing but classical at home because they want their baby's mind to be stimulated.

Some have latched on to companies promising to have children reading at two. Others have their toddlers in so many enrichment classes you would think they were a full time student.

Oh Please. There’s nothing wrong with introducing your child to educational tools, but let a child be a child. Let a baby be a baby.
After all, in some way or the other, we all have a Little Einstein.

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Holiday spending: It more than just pinching pennies - It's about survival


The holidays are right around the corner. Of course, that's not breaking news to moms and dads. The kids also are quite aware.

But continuing economic challenges might cause familiesnomoney.jpg to re-evaluate the idea of giving and receiving gifts.

Of course every day is a good day to spend money wisely, if you have to spend it on something. And every day is is a good day to remember priorities - what's important in the big picture of life and love and family and friends.

As an aside, my son makes homemade cards for family on special occasions - it's a tradition we've all come to expect - and anticipate! It costs him more in time than anything else. But it comes from a place you can't buy - the heart. So it's also invaluable.

Don't get me wrong, we give and get stuff too.

But families are struggling, many, just to keep a roof over their heads. The idea of spending money on decorations or gifts pale compared to the need to pay a medical bill, the electricity or buy food.

Watching budgets will undoubtedly be a part of everyone's holiday spending plan.

What things will you do to celebrate the holidays, but because of the economy, a lost job and other challenges, your plan is different from past years?


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Kanye, Serena, Joe Wilson: Are their apologies enough?


I have always been fascinated as I've watched my kids and other kids apologize. Because you can tell when it's heartfelt and when they are just mouthing the words to please their parents or teachers.
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Those same feelings came up as I've watched the insincere apologies of three public figures in the past few days: Congressman Joe Wilson, for yelling "You lie!" to the President during a session of Congress; Serena Williams, for threatening a lineswoman during the US Open; and Kanye West, for telling singer Taylor Swift during MTV's Video Music Awards that Beyonce was more deserving of the award she had just received.

They all "apologized," but I believe their actions could have been prevented with some self-control. They know they are in the public eye and are being scrutinized. Perhaps they are enjoying this negative publicity?

As this article in USA Today details, many see their actions as part of a collapse of civility. What do you think? Have manners and self-discipline disappeared from our society?

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Free family night at Schoolhouse Children's Museum in Boynton Beach


The Schoolhouse Children's Museum and Learning Center in Boynton Beach opens its doors for its monthly Free Family Night tonight.

Your kids can explore the museum's intereactive exhibits while learning about Florida's past. There's a 15 foot replica of the Jupiter Lighthouse, a Family Farms exhibit to play in, child-sized replicas of neighborhood businesses. They can even deliver mail with the Barefoot Mailman. Also, kids can learn about "How Money Works."

Family hours are 5 to 8 p.m. at the museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach. Call 561- 742-6780 or go to schoolhousemuseum.org for more information.


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The post card says "Wish you were here"


Yep - the Kid has been traveling for almost two weeks.

He's with relatives. They're traipsing through several states.

Adventures include cabin dwelling, fishing, visiting a farm, visiting small towns, visiting ontheroad.jpgbig towns, river floating. There have been deer and bat sightings.

There is more on their agenda, before they get back to their starting point.

Each day The Kid calls to check in. We call him too, but not as often. We don't want to cling.

But I did finally catch a "I'm homesick" tone in the most recent conversation.

I was going to ignore it, but then I just out and out asked if he was feeling a bit homesick.

"Yes," he said.
It was total relief. I could hear that in his voice too!

I said we missed him too and that we were really looking forward to his coming home. I told him that we were also very happy he was having these experiences.

Though I am keeping a positive upbeat conversation, I have to admit, I'm going to smother him in kisses when he gets home.

I'm glad he's there, but I kind of wish he was here.

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Everglades 101: Take an airboat ride


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There ought to be a law: Every child who grows up in South Florida is required to go to the Everglades at least once. Period.

The importance of the great River of Grass will probably escape most young kids, but it doesn't hurt to plant that seed early and often.

So we headed west to take an airboat ride over the weekend. This is about as easy an introducation to the Everglades as you can get. Including drive time, you can do it in two and a half or three hours. Our 11-year-old daughter really enjoyed the outing, but we left our grumpy teenager behind. ("That's boring." Whatever.)

We went to Everglades Holiday Park, but there are other options.

This campground/tourist attraction is just west of Weston on Griffin Road, past U.S. 27. (Be sure to go to the website to print out a coupon.) There's a snack stand (gator bites!), a kitschy gift shop and, after the hourlong airboat ride, an alligator wrestling show.

The gator handler gives a little history lesson, and explains why the Seminoles no longer have to resort to wrestling (blackjack, anyone?). Then he demonstrates a few different ways of subduing the very big gator. And, for an extra $5, you can hold a baby alligator and snap a picture. Awwww.

The main event, though, is the airboat ride. Boats go out every 20 minutes or so, and carry 20 or 30 people for an hourlong tour. The biggest surprise? No mosquitoes! And it wasn't too hot either, especially when we were moving over the water. Our driver, Deborah, took off with a blast -- "zoom, zoom, zoom." (Bring earplugs if you are very sensitive.) She slowed down to gives us ecological lessons. We saw vultures and gators and plenty of birds.

This is Everglades 101. It doesn't take the energy or time of a canoe ride out of Flamingo or a bike ride through Shark Valley. We've done that, too, but it's been years. In fact, Erika doesn't even remember Shark Valley (we took the very-informative tram ride and saw TONS of alligators), so we really have to put that back on our list of things to do.

PHOTO: Sun Sentinel/Michael Laughlin

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Staying busy might be the hardest job


Do you have a teenager that got a job for the summer?

Don't get me wrong help2058031199_c271d2213e_m.jpg - every kid is entitled to his or her summer fun and some down time.

But kids that are 16 years old to 18 years old are probably anxious for some work experience, extra money and independence.

In this tough economy - those traditional teen jobs aren't coming easily. One of my son's friends applied to several places that aren't hiring.

Did your teenager line up volunteer work or extra chores instead?

If not, what is he or she doing?

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Kid Tested: The Monopoly Deal card game


Once upon a time there was a board game that families played until the cows came home. Not so much because they enjoyed playing Monopoly, but because that's how long it took to crown a winner.

Now there's a version of the classic Parker Brothers game that can be played in 15 minutes.

monopoly.jpgMy savvy 12-year-old neighbor, Chabella, recently tested out the card game with three other preteen friends (two boys and a girl) here are her impressions on Monopoly Deal card game:

First impression: "This looks like a confusing game to play."

What's cool: The game doesn't last as long as other Monopoly games.

What needs improving: Nothing.

Would you recommend it: "Yes, it's easy to play and you can play it anywhere." No need to collect teeny board pieces.

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School's Out!


Take a big deep breath - and a bow - you survived another year of school.

You helped the kid with their homework.

You drove them everywhere getting the kids to and from.

You behaved during teacher conferences.
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You were the science project cheerleader. You fed the kids, made sure they had clean clothes to wear to school.

Let the fun begin.

We started last night with a huge cookout and sleepover.

It is a great way to say "good job," to the kids and pat ourselves on the back too. (We always like a party!)

How is your family celebrating the end of the school year and the beginning of summer?

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Five ways to save money on birthday parties


The next birthday party I need to plan is months away, but I'm already starting to think about the theme and I was gravitating toward something grand like a morning at the movies, or a spa day at Le Petite Youth Spa or a tea party at The Breakers. (I jest, sort of.) balloons.jpg

Then comes a story about how to reduce the cost of hosting a birthday party. And another about parents hosting parties during the week instead of on weekends because the rates at places like Chuck E. Cheese are cheaper.

I'm all for making sure the birthday party is about the KID and not pleasing the adults so the tips make sense:

1. Limit the number of guests.

2. Skip the goodie bags. (Whoa, pump the brakes! No goodie bags, really?)

3. Have a plan. (A good resource is PBS.)

4. Have age-appropriate games.

5. Don't go overboard. No limos or red-carpets.

What do you think? Are this tips on-point, or is the writer off her rocker saying parents should ditch the goodie bags?

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Parents, let's meet!


Time to put some faces to our Tweets, blogs and comments.

Let's meet - in person.

We're in the planning stages and are hopeful that our first Moms & Dad's event will be held in June at the Young at Art Children's Museum, in Davie.

For future events, we want to blend the best of networking, seminars and mingling with guest speakers and activities.

Let us know when it would be a good time for you to attend.

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Rainy-day activities


It's raining, it's storming, the kids are going batty.

rainyday.jpgHere are four fab things to do:

Go out. Head to Chuck E. Cheese (just don't forget your headache-busting pills). There are games suitable for children as young as 2. Entry is free. Most games require one token at 25 cents a turn. Go bowling, window-shopping at the mall or to an arcade such as Boomers.

Get baking. Dig the frozen bananas out of the freezer and make banana bread. Or whip up a batch of cookies. Recipes for peanut butter, chocolate chip and sugar cookies.

Bond. Create a wacky story. One person starts a sentence, the next person finishes fills in a verb or adjective; the next person completes the sentence. Break out the board games, such as Apples to Apples.

Break the rules. Hand one of the kids a can of whipped cream and send him/her off to start a food fight in the bathroom or on the patio.


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Mom on the Go: Stuff to do with the kids this weekend


When it's not raining this weekend, the kid will be in a body of water or with her blades of grass between her toes.

Funtastic Fridays in Hollywood is on our to-do list. It's a free party just for kids.

marlins.jpgSaturday is looking good for a Florida Marlins game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Salsa great Oscar D'Leon is performing a free concert after the last run.

Another good bet for your budding movie critic, is the Delray Beach Film Festival, which is showing five films for FREE. One of the showings is a collection of puppet shorts by the daughter of master puppeteer Jim Henson. reel300.jpg


Here's a round-up of things to do with the kids this weekend:


BROWARD COUNTY

Free Math Trial Class: Weston. This hour-long class for ages 6 to 11 is an opportunity for parents to observe their children in a real classroom setting. Parents will see firsthand how their children perform, think and respond to new ideas. To register, call 954-791-2333 or visit www.imacs.org. 4 p.m. IMACS, 2585 Glades Circle, Weston.

Funtastic Fridays for Kids. Music, magic and more are in store for youngsters and their families. Every Friday from 5-9 p.m. Anniversary Park, 20th Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood. 954-921-3016. Free.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

Pre-K Make and Take: World Turtle Day. Did you know that there are 25 types of turtles in Florida? Pre-k kids and their families will learn more about our shelled friends while making a paper turtle craft. Loggerhead Marinelife Center will be joining us with a special presentation. 6-9 p.m. Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach. 561-742-6780. $2.50 fee per child in addition to admission; members receive 10 percent off.

Science Club: Airplanes. Make paper airplanes and watch them fly. Age 8 and older. Register. 3 p.m. Wellington Branch Library, 1951 Royal Fern Drive, Wellington. 561-790-6070.

The Commedia Cinderella. May 22-23. The players Arlequin, Columbine, Punchin and Rosetta will infuse new life and energy into the classic tale of Cinderella using the theater art form commedia dell’arte. The troupe’s players will thrill audiences from young to not-so-young with acrobatics, dance, music and quick wit. May 22 at 7 p.m. May 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sol Children Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. 561-447-8829 or www.solchildrentheatretroupe.org.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Greynolds Park: Creatures of the Night Hike. Come learn about the mysteries of the night and what lurks around the park when the lights go out. A naturalist will take you on a night hike through the park in search of its nocturnal residents. A walk through the park will follow a presentation. 7:30-9 p.m. Greynolds Park Boathouse, 17530 W. Dixie Highway, Miami. 305-948-2891. $6 per person.

Read on for Saturday and Sunday happenings.

Continue reading "Mom on the Go: Stuff to do with the kids this weekend" »

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iPod applications every Mom should have


In April I wrote about three iPod applications that every parents should have: one for the kids (KidArt); one for the home (AllRecipes.com); one for the couple (FS5 Air Hockey).

iphone-apps.jpgAnd then there was the uproar over the inappropriate iPod app that allowed users to shake babies. (WTHeck, indeed.)

This week blogger Mama Sass at MomsMiami came up with apps that SHOULD be created just for moms, including "an app that provides an answer to some of those killer kid questions like "Mom, did you ever smoke pot?"

What's on your wish list of "must-have" apps for parents?

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Mom on the Go: Kid-stuff to do this weekend


blog-peace.jpgMake this weekend all about peace, love and happiness at the Greynolds Park Love-In in North Miami Beach on Sunday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Or take the little ones to see a movie in the park. For a buck per head! Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton will show Finding Nemo Sunday at 11 a.m.

On Saturday, there's the Haitian festival Al Compas in Lauderhill, a robot-building workshop in Fort Lauderdale and an interactive planetarium show in West Palm Beach.

More stuff to do with the kids this weekend:

Saturday, May 16

BROWARD COUNTY

Al Compas Festival. A Haitian festival for all ages. Call the park for more information. Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill. 954-321-1170.

Aquarium: Behind the Scenes. Learn about the inhabitants of the aquarium in the exhibit hall and observe them feeding. Every Saturday and Sunday. 2-3 p.m. Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood. 954-926-2480. $1 per person.

ArtWalk. Visitors to downtown Hollywood’s monthly ArtWalk will be treated to a free concert by Anthology, “South Florida’s Beatles Party Band.” In keeping with the spirit of the event, concertgoers are encouraged to dress in ’60s-style attire. 7-10 p.m. Balcony of Harrison Court, 2028 Harrison St., Hollywood. 954-921-3016. Free.

Build-a-Bot. Bring the youngsters over to the Build-a-Bot activity to construct robots out of paper and recycled products. Kids can design their own robot and take it home after it’s assembled. Also on May 17. The Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. 954-467-6637.

Family Movie Day: Speed Racer. Rated PG. Live-action version of the famed Japanese animated series. Free refreshments will be available, or you may bring your own. Sponsored by the Weston Friends of the Library. 2-4:15 p.m. Weston Branch Library, 4205 Bonaventure Blvd., Weston. 954-389-2098.

Mark Twain’s Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Smiley, the gambler, bets his frog can out-jump the frog in Calaveras County but the mysterious stranger has something up his sleeve! The story is told through Mark Twain’s prose, bluegrass and country music, colorful costumes and high-jumping dance movement. 2 p.m. Nova Southeastern University Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. 954-262-4600. Free.

Robo-History. This presentation will give visitors a glimpse at the history of robots. Learn what a robot is, why we need them and what the future has in store for the world of robotics. 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. The Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second Street, Fort Lauderdale. 954-467-6637.

Under the Sea. The underwater world is full of interesting animals. Learn about some these fascinating creatures through displays and crafts. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood. 954-926-2480. $1 per person.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

Auditions: West Side Story. Auditions for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Conservatory of Performing Arts Summer Camp production of “West Side Story.” Students must audition in order to register for production. Ages 13-20. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter. 561-575-2672, ext. 2.

Girls’ Day Out. Bring your mom or grandma along and decorate a keepsake, wooden handle purse and enjoy some girl time. Materials provided. Age 8 and older. Register. 2 p.m. Hagen Ranch Road Branch Library, 14350 Hagen Ranch Road, Delray Beach. 561-894-7500.

Giselle and Art Comes Alive. May 16. First act is the ballet, Giselle and second act is the dance concert, Art Comes Alive where famous works of art are interpreted through jazz, tap and hip-hop. 7 p.m. at the Maltz Jupiter Theater, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter. 561-575-4422. $20.

Spirit of America. Joining the Symphonic Band will be “the world’s oldest musician,” historical artist Scott Shelsta who portrays 1890s Americana. Experience a real old-fashioned Sousa concert -- a simpler time of concerts in the park and toe-tapping, hand-clapping patriotic music. 7:30 p.m. Duncan Theater, 4200 Congress Ave., Lake Worth. 561-832-3115. $15.

The Friendly Stars. Meet Sol, the sun, in this all-digital, interactive planetarium show for ages 3 to 6. Get to know the “star” and meet some new ones. Every Saturday at noon. South Florida Science Museum, Planetarium, 4801 Dreher Trail N., West Palm Beach. 561-832-1988. Adults, $4; Children, $2.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

‘Miss Nelson Is Missing’. Actor’s Playhouse will present a live preview performance. 11 a.m. Kendall Branch, 9101 SW 97th Ave., Miami. 305-279-0520. Free.

International Museum Day: Family Fun at the Bass Museum. This fun-filled afternoon will focus on the museum as a public space and resource, encouraging children to observe the structure, content and public function of an art museum, and drawing parallels between museums and other public spaces such as parks and libraries. 2-4 p.m. Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach. 305-673-7530. Free.

Super Saturday: Florida Marlins. Get your photo taken with Billy the Marlin. First 15,000 fans will receive a Marlin’s pompom. Special guests include Freestyle Flashback with Stevie B and TKA. First pitch against the LA Dodgers is at 6:10 p.m. Dolphin Stadium, 2267 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami. 305-626-7378. $12 and up.


Read on for stuff to do on Sunday, May 17

Continue reading "Mom on the Go: Kid-stuff to do this weekend" »

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Moms deserve a day off!


Comedian Jeff Dunham posted a series of Mother's Day E-cards on his YouTube page. This isn't my favorite of the six, but it's the one I feel most comfortable posting here.

Oh, and that thing is Peanut. And, well, I don't know what he is.

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Mom on the Go: What to do with the kids this weekend


I cast my vote for throwing an impromptu Kentucky Derby party for your kids and a few of their friends. The race is 6:04 p.m. Saturday.

You could have the kids make derby hats, the more outlandish the better, and parade around the backyard. Have them race to a finish line to burn off energy.

For things to do beyond your yard, there's the SunTrust Jazz Brunch on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale along the riverwalk from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., and the staging of Sleeping Beauty by Boca Ballet this weekend at FAU.

For more things to do this weekend, keep reading.

Continue reading "Mom on the Go: What to do with the kids this weekend" »

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Make Mother's Day simple


Mother’s Day is around the corner – May 10 – which gives us this weekend to plan and shop.

Ducks.jpgI’m a simple gal, so I really don’t want anything. Really.

A nice little kiss on the cheek from each kid, a hug – and I’m happy. Seriously, honest.

For my own mom, I’ll roll out the red carpet – it’s her day. It’s whatever she wants, whatever she wants to do. Typically, I make dinner – whatever she’s in the mood for!

Plants, hand-made cards and family time – all top the list of my favorite gifts I've received.
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Come next Sunday, we’ll be with my parents for some good inter-generational fun! Sure it’s Mother’s Day, and I suppose I could sit one meal preparation out. But frankly, I love to cook! That’s what I want to do and anyway, it’s all about us moms that day.

This year, what’s in your gift bag to Mom?

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Need a new children's book?


Check out “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee” by Chris Van Dusen.

This is a household favorite these days. Our boys, ages 17 months and 3, delight in it. It’s about an adventurous boat ride of Mr. Magee and his “little dog Dee.” As I write, I hear the first lines in my head:

magee3.jpg

Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee
Loved spending time
In their boat on the sea
So early one morning at 6:32
They made a decision:
That’s just what they’d do!

Our 17-month-old Rowan is a bit young for the book, but he still loves mimicking the whale sounds described in this tale. Alexander can follow along, and has even memorized a couple of lines. This is his first mastery of rhyming – aside from the line of “Rapper’s Delight” detailed in my post last week.

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Free "family fun'' day at Fort Lauderdale pool on Saturday


The city of Fort Lauderdale is holding an open house at the beach aquatic complex, also known as the International Swimming Hall of Fame complex, for city residents.
familyfunday.jpg

Address: 501 Seabreeze Blvd.

Date: Saturday, May 2.

They're suggesting you bring a swimsuit. You can sign up for junior lifeguard training, swim or dive team, or just swim laps.

Here's a link for more info.

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Jill Scott has a boy


Mystery solved: It's a boy for Jill Scott.

jill%20scott.jpg The singer and actress in the The No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency on HBO welcomed Jett Hamilton Roberts on April 20, People.com reports.

The singer is engaged to drummer Lil John Roberts.

This is the first child for both.

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Listen to Hannah Montana movie tunes, for free


I know I'm not the only somewhat normal person who enjoyed the new Hannah Montana movie. Am I?!

Here's a link my colleague found where you can legally, and without cost, listen to the soundtrack of the movie. The songs are great.

Of course, my favorite show ever was the live performance of Barbie Fairytopia at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. So that's where I'm coming from.

Click here to listen.

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Hannah Montana movie surprisingly good


I put it off as long as I could. My 7-year-old started talking about the Hannah Montana movie long ago. She knew the date it would open in theaters (April 10), and she begged me to take her. It seemed unavoidable so I said yes and started dreading it.

The big day came, and we had other plans. Couldn't take her. She cried. Next day, same story. We don't practice "consensual parenting'' in our house, by the way. So what we say goes, and Lily doesn't control the schedule. Life is full of disappointments, and now she has a fresh example of that.

Anyway, last night I finally took her to the movie. I know the reviews are mixed, but I tend to agree with this one I saw on the Rotten Tomatoes website: "I'm almost embarrassed at how entertained I was.''

Now, I do admit I like cheesy music, like Abba and John Denver. So I really liked that this movie has a lot of music in it. Believe me, I've seen many an episode of her TV show. The movie was definitely better, and worth the money.

Oh, and Lily liked it, too.

My only beef with the movie was that the person Lily identified as "the bad guy'' was a reporter. Sigh.

Click here for movie times.

p.s. If you search online for "Hannah Montana coloring pages'' you can print out some pretty cool looking stuff for your kid to get creative with.

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Is child really acting?


At what cost was this child acting? Or was he?

The controversy surrounding this anti smoking ad has brought a great deal of attention to the issue of smoking.

But also it has many questioning if this child was truly acting.

Let's say he was. As the commercial director stated, he was coached. The piece was shot in one take. Is this tremendous acting at such a young age?

How many films and shows have we all watched where the child's emotions move us to tears? Why is this so different?

What's your take?

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Mom on the Go: April Fool's Day tricks


I'm not into playing tricks on friends and family members on April Fool's Day, but I came across a couple of cute ideas from Whoa, Momma! blog about tricking the kids and Dad if you're into that thing.

Including, making meatloaf cupcakes, "frosting" them with mashed potatoes and serving them to the kids.

Or moving Dad's car while he's a work and watching him search for it. (The cruelty! The laughs you'll share years from now. Like light years from now.)

Here's Whoa, Momma's full list. And if you need more idea, pluck one from this gallery of movie pranks.

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Mom on the Go: What to do with the kids this weekend


This weather should be brilliant this weekend with highs in the mid-80s and a burst of showers on Sunday.

momongo.jpgSo lather on the sunblock and pack an umbrella. Here are some things to do with the kids this weekend -- from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach counties:

BROWARD COUNTY
Pony Rides. Enjoy the outdoors with a guided pony ride. Ages 1 to 6. The park’s regular weekend and holiday gate entrance fee of $1.50 per person, children 5 and under, free, will be in effect. Every Saturday and Sunday. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tree Tops Park, 3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie. $1.50 per round or $5 for four rounds. 954-475-8650.
Exercise for the Brain. Kids age 4 to 10 will have fun doing indoor activities that benefit all systems of the body and increase focus and attention span. Please call ahead to reserve a spot. 10 - 11:30 a.m., Broadway Kids Studio, 9042 West State Road 84, Davie. $15 per class. 954-475-2627.
ArtWORKSHOPS. Explore a variety of art forms through hands-on experiences for the whole family. Today’s theme is “Happy Birthday to You, Sensory Cake ‘Baking’.” 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Young at Art Children’s Museum, 11584 W. State Road 84, Davie. Free with paid admission. 954-424-0085.
Disney On Ice. Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy. Audiences will enter the wondrous world of Pixie Hollow to meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends, speed through Radiator Springs with Lightning McQueen, Mater and the crew, and relive classic Disney favorites “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.” From wheels to waves, Pride Lands to pixie dust, Worlds of Fantasy offers excitement for everyone. March 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m.; March 28 at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; March 29 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. BankAtlantic Center, 2555 NW 136th Ave., Sunrise. $16-$48. 954-835-7000.
Reach for the Stars. Story time for children with disabilities. Ages 3 to 10. Call for details. Northwest Regional Library, 3151 University Drive, Coral Springs. Free. 954-341-3900.
Eggstravaganza 2009. Hop into spring with the arrival of Peter Cottontail. More than 12,000 eggs will line the field for an egg hunt. After the egg hunt, take a picture with Peter Cottontail. Please bring your own egg basket and camera. Ages 12 and under. 9:30 a.m., Forzano Field, 2001 Douglas Road, Miramar. Free. 954-704-1631.
Family Trail Hike. This is a leisurely, guided stroll on the Lake Observation Trail. Get an up-close look at some of the unique elements of the Mangrove Swamp. 10 - 11 a.m., Anne Kolb Nature Center, 751 Sheridan St., West Lake Park, Hollywood. $3 per person. 954-926-2480.
Potty Training the Easy Way. Potty train the easy way by using the Baby Signs program. For parents and their children ages 1 to 3 years. Register at the Youth Services desk, 954-341-3900, then press 4. 10 - 10:30 a.m., Northwest Regional Library, 3151 University Drive, Coral Springs. Free. 954-797-7777.


Read on for events in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Continue reading "Mom on the Go: What to do with the kids this weekend " »

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The big dis-connect, Turning off Television and tuning into family


We did what any parent must eventually do – we cut the cord.

Only in this case, we canceled the cable service for television. It’s very liberating - we aren’t tethered to it anymore.

Admittedly, it’s more of an adjustment for us rather than The Kid. We adults had become lay-a-bouts. We’d be the ones to mostly say, “wait, after this show I’ll [fill in the blank: help you with your homework; cook dinner; clean the house; put out the fire, etc.]

The Kid does lots of other things already. His withdrawal symptoms will be much less than ours. He plays video and board games, card games; he reads and practices Tae Kwon Do; hangs out with his friends and does his homework.

But I think us big people will survive too. This week, one of us focused more on graduate course homework and the other did more housecleaning.

Though the true catalyst for disconnecting from pay television and switching to rabbit ears was driven by cutting expenses, we’ll gain so much more than loose change. We already have, we’re re-connecting with each other.

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Must everyone grow up?


All children, except fake ones, grow up.

Dora.jpgFake ones, like Charlie Brown and Richie Rich, don't have to. They can be children forever. I think that's what we like about them. Calvin will always be a 6-year-old boy testing the boundaries of imagination with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. The Family Circus will always comprise two adults and four children (and PJ will never, ever talk).

In real life, you can't trap someone in childhood, no matter what. Time ultimately catches up: the 13-year-old and 11-year-old I met a few years ago, the ones who went with me and their mom to Busch Gardens to brave the 90-degree drop of Shiekra, they remain 13 and 11 only in memories and photographs.

And fictional characters aren't immune to aging. Arnold and Willis Jackson eventually become Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. It's inescapable. No one cared much what the Beaver did as an adult, or who the Brady Girls married, or where Zack and Slater went to college. And don't even get me started on what happened to the Little Rascals!

Now Mattel and Nickelodeon want to prepare us for a pre-teen Dora the Explorer. Forget the hysteria of the blogosphere on this one: she's not Dora the Tramp or Dora the Streetwalker. She's a 10-year-old girl now, in a new incarnation that will be available in toy stores this fall.

Sometimes the aging of comic or fictional characters can be delightful. I loved the idea of Peter Pan growing up to become Robin Williams. And it was great watching the kids of For Better Or For Worse go from toddlers to spouses.

So is this new Dora a good idea? I don't know. Some marketing guru somewhere thought it was a good idea. And marketing gurus never make mistakes, do they?

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Dangerous mix: Spring break, drinking and under-age kids


What’s wrong with a few drinks during Spring Break? Plenty if you’re under-age.

And youth ages 14 to 20 have lots to say about it in the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s 2009 “Why Not?” Spring Break Video Contest.

Participants submitted videos on why they choose not to make alcohol a part of spring break plans: It’s unsafe, is the prevalent theme.

Using YouTube.com and SchoolTube.com, the initiative provided peer-to-peer communication through the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco’s education and prevention efforts. The partnership also incorporated the Department of Education that encouraged educators throughout the state to share the contest with students.

The emphasis is a good year-round topic: after all, we have holidays, weekends and summers too!

Make it a family time moment when you check out the 30-second spots at MyFloridaLicense.com.

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Mom on the Go: Share your Barbie story


We all have a Barbie story.

Maybe your story is the same as a co-worker's (we'll call her GiGi): As a young girl she took her middle sister's prized Barbie with her on a trip downtown with her mom.

It was cold and snowy outside, so GiGi burrowed Barbie in her winter coat to keep her warm. Somehow, she slipped away. Tears ensued.

GiGi's mother filed a missing Barbie report with the town's radio station. The doll was never found.

Or maybe Barbie was never allowed to escape your lips, much less enter the home.barbie-blog.bmp

I had Barbie, and Ken, and the black Barbie, and the pink remote-control Cadillac, and her townhome with a bubbling spa (add water and press the pump to create bubbles!!).

What's your Barbie story?

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Mom on the Go: Get discount tickets for Playhouse Disney


Mickey and Minnie are on road trip.

The Disney characters will be in town for a Playhouse Disney Live! show March 13.

BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise is offering discount tickets for one-day only, with savings of up to $11 per ticket.

Other Playhouse Disney neighbors Handy Manny, Tigger, Pooh, Little Einsteins will also be at the show.

This offer is valid on Club and Upper Level seats for shows March 13 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The regularly $26 tickets have the most value, but will be the first to go.

Get more details, here.

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Chris Brown and Rihanna reunited?


The news breaking today is that Chris Brown and Rihanna have reunited. That's according to People magazine.

Chris%20Brown%20Rihanna.jpgOnce again, the two superstars are, whether they intend to or not, sending messages to teens about what's proper behavior and what's acceptable. That's the price that comes with being a role model.

I think my stepdaughters are pretty sharp about what they would allow, but I also think some pretty sharp people have nonetheless been the victims of domestic violence. So we intend to have another talk with the girls about the boundaries they should set in their lives.

In the meantime, I don't envy Chris Brown or Rihanna. They're private pain is a public discussion, and that is one of the prices of fame.

By taking Chris Brown back, Rihanna has told the world either that he's innocent or that she's forgiven him. If he's innocent, that's great. If she's forgiven him, then she's taken a huge risk. It's a risk that's hers to take, and hers alone. I can't judge her for it.

I'm not an expert on domestic violence. I just interview them from time to time. And they tell me that episodes of violence are often followed by apologies and promises to change, and then by an attempt at reconciliation. After that, it can only go one of two ways: either the violence doesn't happen again, or it does - and worse.

If this was indeed an abuse case, then for Rihanna's sake, I can only pray that Chris Brown proves himself worthy of her trust and forgiveness.

Anyway, that's what I plan to tell my kids. What do you plan to tell yours?

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Teens learning the wrong thing from the Chris Brown and Rihanna fight



Chris%20Brown%20Rihanna.jpgA coworker sent me this link to a Chicago Tribune article with a disturbing observation. Remember the accusation that entertainer Chris Brown beat his girlfriend Rihanna? Well, it turns out some teens think she had it coming. I’m not kidding. Here’s the beginning of the Tribune article:

Ed Loos, a junior at Lake Forest High School, said a common reaction among students to Chris Brown's alleged attack on Rihanna goes something like this: "Ha! She probably did something to provoke it."

In Chicago, Sullivan High School sophomore Adeola Matanmi has heard the same.

"People said, 'I would have punched her around too,' " Matanmi said. "And these were girls!"

As allegations of battery swirl around the famous couple, experts on domestic violence say the response from teenagers just a few years younger shows the desperate need to educate this age group about dating violence.

Their acceptance, or even approval, of abuse in romantic relationships is not a universal reaction. But it comes at a time when 1 in 10 teenagers has suffered such abuse and females ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of any age group, research shows.

***

I heard the rumors, too. It didn’t take long for them to pop up. My stepdaughter came home from school the day after the allegations were made public and let my wife and me know exactly why Chris Brown beat Rihanna (a talented entertainer in her own right). And while she didn’t say Rihanna deserved it, she might as well have. After all, so the rumor went, what Rihanna gave Chris Brown was worse than the beating he gave her, wink wink.

First, my wife and I explained that schoolyard rumors are usually best left in the schoolyard. Only two people witnessed whatever happened, and it’s not likely that one of them called up a friend at Cypress Bay High School to spread the word.

But the bigger lesson, the one we hope stuck, was that violence in romantic relationships is unacceptable. I could tell my stepdaughter with near certainty that Rihanna didn’t deserve it because no one deserves to be beaten like that. I don’t care what she did. If you’re a man, you don’t hit her. Maybe you'll yell or scream or get loud in the heat of the moment. But you do not get physical (unless self-defense is an issue, which may happen but is certainly not representative of abuse cases).

I know some men (and some women) can explode if the wrong buttons are pushed, and without a doubt, it’s unwise to intentionally push those buttons. But I want my teenage stepdaughters to know that it is never, ever right to let a man strike them.

Erica Herman, director of social change at Women in Distress, succinctly shot down the notion that victims of domestic violence provoke the attacks against them. "Domestic violence is about power and control," she said, addressing a different rumor about the Brown-Rihanna altercation. "He didn't hit her because he was angry. He hit her to gain control."

We don’t know what happened. In our family, we hope Chris Brown is innocent, and we hope those pictures of Rihanna that surfaced on the Internet were faked. But if they’re authentic, then someone hurt this woman. And if it was Chris Brown, then he should pay. The shame of this whole thing is that our family is fond of this talented singer, dancer and actor. He’s a heck of an entertainer – I’d bet he could get a standing ovation at a cemetery.

But if this charge sticks, then he’ll have gone from Chris Brown to Bobby Brown, from undeniable talent to disgraced has-been (if only in my eyes). No, I wasn’t expecting perfection out of him. But I was expecting him to refrain from beating his girlfriend. I don’t think that’s much to ask at all.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence or of violence in a romantic relationship, you didn’t have it coming. You didn’t ask for it. It's not normal and it's not your fault. And there are places you can turn to for help. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911. If you need counseling in Broward County, call Women in Distress at 954-761-1133. In Palm Beach County, call Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse at 1-800-355-8547.

Elsewhere, call the Florida Domestic Violence Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or the National Domestic Violence Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Coraline: a horror flick for the young set?




At last, they've made a children's movie that adults will actually enjoy. On the flip side, after your kids see it, they'll have nightmares until they're 30.

The movie is Coraline, which seems to be a horror movie that we're supposed to take little Johnny to because the murderer in the film is animated instead of real.

The animation is beautiful, really, and the movie got great reviews.

200px-Coraline_poster.jpg

It was rated PG, for Parental Guidance. I figured that was OK to take my almost-7-year-old to. No?

Here are some snippets of Lily's review: "Why did you take me to this movie?'' "Cover my eyes!'' "Can I sleep in your room tonight?''

Meanwhile my son was across town watching the latest Friday the 13th movie, which he was also too young to see. Is he going to butcher me in my sleep now?

One cool thing about Coraline is it's the first time I've seen animated characters ignoring their kids by typing on their laptop computers. Poor Coraline is drawn into the world of the "other'' parents by her boredom with her own life and her own parents. They just sit there typing on their computers when she's trying to talk to them. Can you imagine?

The moral of the story, though, is good: No matter how much your own parents suck, it's better than being murdered.

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Got Art?


What’s on your refrigerator?

Those drawings, homemade cards and magnets, yep - it's art. Our refrigerators serve as that hallowed Wall of Fame, the Living Museum for our child's creations. Every one of us has kids - and our kids are naturally gifted artists!

We alone possess their unique, original art - drawings of the family pet, a sunset, monsters and dinosaurs, fantastical worlds and perfect profiles. Masterpieces all.

Yet, we want all the world to see. It's time to share with the rest of us Moms and Dads.

Honor your toddler or teen: From the humorous to the serious; the whimsical to the introspective, bring it on - "hang" it up on our virtual family kitchen refrigerator.

We'll shuffle through those treasured toddler drawings and scribbles and the sophisticated draftings and renderings your teenagers create.

Then we'll post photos of their work each week. Here's how:

Take a photo of your child's art work and upload it to Refrigerator Art.

Once submitted, approval of the art can take up to 12 hours.

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Mom on the Go: Weekend plans


skatepark.jpg

It's going to be nippy weekend, with low temps expected in the mid-50s and highs just over 70. But don't let that keep you and rugrats indoors.

Take the knee-high ones to Miami Children's Museum, which has free admission on the third Friday of each month.

Or check out the Fairy Fun at Tequesta's library, where children 3 and older can locate fairies in books, sing songs and create fairy crafts. The 45-minute program starts at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.

Take the hip-high ones to see what it's like in an aquarium at Hollywood's Anne Kolb Nature Center. It'll set you back $1 per person for the Saturday and Sunday tours from 2 - 3 p.m.

And for the ones who are nearly as tall as you and love to skateboard -- check out Deerfield Beach's skate park. Our reporter Liz Doup did a photo-feature on the skate park.

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Mom on the Go: A quaint fair


If you want to venture off the zoo/park path this weekend, then check out St. Bernadette Family Festival in Hollywood.

This folksy church fair, which started Thursday, has the usual rides and fair food coupled with retro games such as the bean-bag toss.

The fair is open through Feb. 15 at 7450 Stirling Road. Entry will cost you zip, zilch, zero. Rides are $25 for an all-day pass.

The hours: Friday 6 - 11 p.m.; Saturday from 1 p.m. - midnight followed by a midnight Mass; and Sunday noon - 10 p.m.

For more info, call 954-432-5313.

And if this fair isn't your cup of tea, there's the Coconut Grove Art Festival and the Delray Beach Garlic Festival. See our listing of weekend events, here.

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Mom on the Go: Indoor activities


If it's too cold to head to the park this weekend, indulge in these home-made activities:

Dust off the classics

Parcheesi.jpg
Teach the kids a thing or two about real games. Pull out the Parcheesi, Sorry or Bogle. Replace missing game pieces with buttons or coins.

Knock 'em down

Set up a bowling lane in the hallway. For pins, use empty liter bottles or soda cans and get ready to strike.

Hide in plain view

This game is from FamilyFun.com and is best played with young children. While everyone else is out of the room, one player places the object somewhere unexpected but in plain sight. The other players then return to search. Whenever a player sees the object, he sits down where he is -- being careful not to give away the object's location.

Camp out

pop-up-tent.jpg
Create a forest in the living room with all the container plants brought indoors earlier this week to avoid the cold snap. Plop down sleeping bags, or open the pop-up tent. Have S'mores and Vienna sausages, or get a special delivery from the local pizza joint.

See the big picture

Choose a DVD that's a family favorite, or find something on Comcast's On Demand channel. Designate a person to man the ticket booth, concession stand (aka microwave) and theater entry. Then settle down on the sofa, floor or ottoman for a great flick.

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Warm(er) weather activities


The sun is out. The temperature is rising.

Frigid mamas, papas and babes can come out of hibneration and get back outside. (I know I can't be the only one who was COLD this week)

Baby and I will be heading to the recently renovated Hardy Park in Fort Lauderdale at 8th St. and Andrews Ave.

It has two playstations -- one for the big kids and one for the tots. But the best part are the big-people swings that look like suspended lounge chairs.

The "grass" is that hybrid of artificial turf and crumbled rubber tires. It's squishy goodness.

Where's your favorite park to hang out with the kids? Let us know and we'll compile a list of the Best Parks Cause Mom/Dad Said So.

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What to do with the kids this week


You can re-enact the joys of winter: roasting marshmallows, sipping cocoa; or you could escape the cold at one of these weekend events as compiled by South Florida Parenting:

READ ON FOR THIS WEEKEND'S BEST BETS

Continue reading "What to do with the kids this week" »

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The secret misgivings of an American stepfather


The first time I heard of Amy Juergens, she was speaking directly to me about the need for parents and children to be open when it comes to talking about sex.

Amy is the protagonist of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” an ABC Family series (Monday nights, 8 p.m.) about those crazy, promiscuous kids and all the trouble they get into – including 15-year-old Amy’s unplanned pregnancy. My younger stepdaughter, 13, has started to get into the show.

secretlife.jpgTacked onto the end of each episode is a PSA featuring Amy, lead actress Shailene Woodley, telling parents not to assume their kids are having sex just because they ask about it (and telling teens not to assume their parents don’t care if they don’t bring up the subject). Teen pregnancy is preventable, she reminds viewers.

Splendid.

I don’t know yet what to make of this show. Its creator is Brenda Hampton, who was also responsible for the long-running, family-friendly WB series “Seventh Heaven.” I’ve seen two episodes of “Secret Life,” not enough to form an opinion, but enough to form an impression – it’s making teen pregnancy into bad sitcom fodder, and it’s sugar-coating what happens next in a way that can’t be undone with a well-meaning PSA.

In last Monday night’s season premiere, Amy married her boyfriend, who is not the baby’s father. Now, I’m not going to say that such things never happen. I’m sure they do. But it’s not reality for most teen mothers. In fact, according to stayteen.org (the Web site Amy sends kids to at the end of each episode), fewer than 8% of teen mothers end up marrying the baby’s father. I doubt a statistic even exists for the infinitesimal number of teen mothers who marry someone other than the baby’s father before the child is born.

When parents split, Dad doesn’t smugly set up an apartment in the garage. One parent actually leaves the house. Divorce is ugly. Teen pregnancy is agonizing. People get hurt. True friends reveal themselves and, unfortunately, so do false friends. And most of the time, it’s not funny.

And yet, there’s something about this production that keeps me from dismissing it or selling it short.

Continue reading "The secret misgivings of an American stepfather" »

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Weekend with the kids


In the B.K. years (Before Kids) weekend plans were concocted a couple of hours before said event after chatting with friends about what we could get into THAT night.

Now, those last-minute outings have been replaced by play dates with the children of other moms and dads that must be made weeks in advance.

However, if you're the kind of parent who still relishes making last-minute plans, read on for a look at the best of what's going on for kids this weekend as compiled by South Florida Parenting:

Continue reading "Weekend with the kids" »

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Beware, Internet music pirates!


Do your kids download music from the Internet? Looks like they're not likely to get sued anymore, but trouble still might be brewing for them (and us).ipod.jpg

The Recording Industry Association of America is trying a new tack to get people to stop illegally downloading music they are supposed to pay for. Instead of suing the pirates, the RIAA is working with unnamed Internet service providers to slow down or possibly cut off service to people who illegally download music.

You could get a polite e-mail asking you to stop, or another possibility, according to Ben Patterson, a Yahoo! tech blogger: a charge on your cable bill, similar to an I-tunes bill.

I can see why kids (and adults) can't resist downloading music when there appears to be no penalty. But I sympathize with the music industry too: The Wall Street Journal says record companies sold 500 million CDS and albums in 2007, down from 656 million in 2003.

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How young is too young for children's theater?


Continuing on Rafael's earlier holiday-themed post, I'm thinking it would be nice to do something special with the family for the season.

beast.jpg

But what to do that's not terribly expensive, but still fun for the kids?

I'm thinking about going to see a production of Beauty and the Beast, Max & Ruby or something else at a local children's theater.

I would probably end up going with my Ana Isabel alone since Lucas Emilio is only seven months old. She's three. I can't imagine Lucas would enjoy it.

But I'm not sure how Ana would handle it either. When's the first time you took your children to a theatrical production? And how did it go?

I open to suggestions on other family holiday activities.

What's you favorite?

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Thanksgiving Day activities for kids


If you don't want to referee fights over the TV, the PSP2, the dolls while putting the finishing touches on that bird, direct the rugrats to entertain themselves (quietly) with the following:

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Have them create a wacky Thanksgiving tale in the style of Mad-Lib

Let them watch tiki huts catch fire and other cooking disasters.

Have them pick which TV marathon the family will watch (after the feast).

Let them figure out how much exercise will need to be done after eating the stuffing and pie with our calorie calculator (Note: If beer is chosen, the recommended exercise is of a mature nature.)

Have them vote on the Worst Holiday Album Covers.

And for an old-school treat: Have them write on index cards what they are most grateful for this year. The thank-ful notes can be read just before dessert.


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Grease v. High School Musical: A parent's view


Say this for the wholesome teens of Disney’s “High School Musical” franchise: there are worse things they could do.

HSM.bmp At first glance, there’s not much difference between the halls of East Side High and those of Rydell High, the school attended by the students of “Grease.” Each school has impossibly bubbly teens who break out into song with little warning. And somehow, everyone knows the words to every song, along with the accompanying dance moves.

But the similarities pretty much end there, especially if you’re a parent. I think if my mom and dad had really listened to the lyrics of the “Grease” soundtrack, they would have banned it from my house. Oh, sure, “Summer Nights” was harmless enough on the surface (although when Danny said “She was good, you know what I mean,” I didn’t). But did you ever listen to the lyrics of “Greased Lightning”? How on earth did we get away with playing that song and dancing to it in the presence of our parents?

Grease.jpg Ah, but in the late 1970s, Grease really was the word, wasn’t it? It had groove. It had feeling. It had… well, it had a little bit more than young children should see and hear, no? Because Grease really wasn’t a high school musical. It strikes me that Grease was produced in the 1970s for people in their 30s who were in high school during the 1950s. With a wink and a nod, it mocked truly clueless adults along with the unrealistic expectations of wholesome perfection. We all knew what Troy Donahue wanted to do. And when Rizzo was in trouble, we worried with her.

What was the message of Grease, anyway? Was it that you need to be a floozie (or just look like one) to get your man or to fit in? Or was it that you need not be ashamed of your sexuality?

And what is the message of High School Musical? Looks to me like the message is to be true to yourself and to your friends, and have a little fun in the process. They are a wholesome bunch, aren’t they? Even the villainess of the piece, Sharpay, ends up being so darned nice when all is sung and done.

The world of High School Musical is an innocent one, a world free of cynicism, a world that almost screams, “please, let kids be kids just a little while longer!”

Here’s the big difference: HSM is for people looking forward to high school. Grease is for people looking back on it.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too hard. As a stepparent to two teenage girls, I hope you'll forgive me forgive me for applauding HSM a little more than Grease. At least while my girls are still kids.

Go Wildcats!

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Magic Kingdom not so magical for this mom


I'm just back from a trip to Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Someone please remind me why it's worth $150 for a parent and child to ride four or five rides disney.jpg
and spend the rest of the time fighting over what souvenirs to purchase.

One of my sisters spent a fortune flying here from Oklahoma to take her three-year-old to Disney World. But he didn't feel well and screamed his head off most of the time. He even threw himself on the ground and kicked his legs while flailing his arms. That's something I thought was made up by TV actors.

He wanted to buy a plastic sword, and then he wanted to buy a gun instead. And then it was something else. He wanted to be carried, he didn't want his cousins to share the stroller with him. Etcetera etcetera.

He's really cute, so I found the whole thing amusing. But I felt sorry for my sis who spent all that money.

You can't really count on kids to actually enjoy the place. That's the problem.

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Long Key Nature Center: site for birthday parties


Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center in Davie is offering a birthday party package for children 6 to 12.

The bad news: it's $450. The good news, if you haven't been to Long Key, it rivals Anne Kolb as a nature center.

It's at 3501 S.W. 130th Ave., Davie, across from Flamingo Gardens Call 954-327-8797.


Parents can choose from four theme options, according to a county press release:

Continue reading "Long Key Nature Center: site for birthday parties" »

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Webkinz comes to Lily's rescue!


Today I got a call from the Ganz folks up in Canada who make Webkinz stuffed animals and their accompanying virtual world website.

They were feeling sorry for Lily because she was the victim of a home invasion robbery in Webkinz world. See my post on that by clicking here. They wanted to know if there was something they could do to help.

Awww, isn't that nice?

To bring you up to date, I very stupidly published Lily's logon and password on this blog, (see the post here) and joked about someone stealing the "furniture'' in her bunny's bedroom.

Surprise, surprise! Someone did just that. Yes, it's true, one of you readers is THAT MEAN!

The cyber burglar also cleaned out Lily's Webkinz virtual bank account. Lily was devastated.

But I told the Webkinz spokeswoman that Lily is already rebuilding from this life tragedy. She got a new job, has a fresh infusion of cash to pay her veterinary bills, and has almost gotten over the mental anguish she suffered.

Susan McVeigh, a spokeswoman for the company, advised me that many a child has had the "learning experience'' Lily had.

"We say never share your password. Never,'' she said.

Kids can learn "safe Internet practices'' at a young age on Webkinz.com, she noted. And many a child has given out a password to a friend who is no longer a friend, or to a sibling, and been victimized like Lily was.

However, not many kids are victimized by their own parent publishing the password on the Internet, McVeigh noted. Not very smart.

"Send me the link when you do one with your bank account logon and password,'' McVeigh said and laughed.

Touche!

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Burglar strikes Lily's Webkinz world; was it you?


Lily is only 6, and already she's been the victim of a major crime. A burglar broke into her home, stole all her furniture and all her money. And, inexplicably, left four new chairs in her bedroom.

All of this occurred in cyberspace, in Lily's beloved Webkinz world.

She came to me crying hysterically, and told me of the invasion. Real tears were streaming down her cheeks. She'd earned $24 doing Webkinz "jobs,'' and it was gone.

"I went to get my pet some medicine,'' she told me, "and $1 came up. And then, sadness,'' she told me.

She wept openly as she told me that making this tragedy even worse was the fact that "my bunny is so SICK!'' And she had no money to take him to the vet.

In Webkinz world, which I told you about in a previous post, you earn "money'' working "jobs,'' and then you can "buy'' special beds and nightstands and such and furnish your pet's room. Lily had carefully done so. I specifically remember a cute little pink love seat. And a pink bed. A pink phone.

All of it, now gone.

"And they left four chairs in my room. Why would I need that many chairs?!'' she cried.

I tell you all of this to warn of the danger of sharing your logon and password with any friends or cousins. Or newspaper readers.

I shouldn't have published Lily's logon information, huh?

Did one of you make Lily cry?

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MTV, purity, politics and a step in the right direction


I love it when obnoxious, virtually unknown, foreign, painfully unfunny music awards show hosts tell me how to vote. Love it even more when they tastelessly mock the Jonas Brothers for the unspeakable crime of being virgins, especially when my stepkids are watching.

So you can imagine my wife and I had a blast watching the MTV Video Music Awards last night. My first thought when I saw the host, British comedian Russell Brand, was, "Who the devil is British comedian Russell Brand?"

russell_brand_280_373293a.jpg Then the nitwit started talking, representing himself as a member of the global community and begging the U.S. to elect Barack Obama president. Now, I'm not going to declare my political leanings here, but I am going to recall something I observed four years ago: U.S. Americans really, really don't like it when foreigners tell them how to vote. If they did, President Kerry would be seeking his second term right now. In urging a vote for Obama, Russell Brand did as much to further the cause of John McCain as 10 Alaskan governors could hope to do.

Not content to have one foot in his mouth, Brand actually did the unthinkable. He kept talking. He targeted VP nominee Sarah Palin and her future son-in-law (in a bit that could have been a lot funnier than it was), then the Jonas Brothers (in a bit that wasn't even mildly amusing). Somehow, he worked a couple of "master of your domain" jokes in there, just to make sure parents were as uncomfortable as possible if they were watching with their younger teens.

"He's making me mad," my 13-year-old stepdaughter said. "He's making fun of the Jonas Brothers."

My wife and I looked at each other with a hint of relief. Turns out a 13-year-old girl, admiring the talent and wholesomeness of a trio of young men, actually proved to be smarter than a self-appointed representative of the global community. Bravo, kid.

Continue reading "MTV, purity, politics and a step in the right direction" »

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Who will miss Mr. Rogers?


It is with heavy heart that I report, two months after everyone else reported it, that PBS is drastically cutting its offerings of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.''mrrogers.bmp

Goodbye, King Friday. Henrietta Pussycat, we sure did love you. Queen Sara, we admired your community involvement.

Here's what the Associated Press reported in June:

"PBS says it will no longer offer episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" to its member stations each weekday, but will instead send stations just one episode per week to air starting in the fall. PBS says it is making the decision because the show is no longer in production, and because its menu of other programming continues to expand.''

That means a station would have to pre-record all the episodes of the show over the summer if they wanted to try showing the tennis-shoe tossing Mr. Rogers every day.

Somehow I missed this news and only heard it on the radio this week, in August.

It's one of those things you feel you have to talk through, so I told a cashier yesterday and she was pretty broken up, also.

One guy is so upset about losing the "special nurturing voice'' of Mr. Rogers that he created this website, SaveMisterRogers.com.

As we try to absorb this devastating news, let's pay tribute to the late Mr. Rogers (he died in 2003 of stomach cancer) by reading the lyrics of one of his special songs. It's good to know that Mr. Rogers even loved our internal organs:

I think you're a special person And I like your ins and outsides. Everybody's fancy. Everybody's fine. Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Goodbye, neighbor.

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Charlie bit my finger: Kids do the darndest thing


Big brother sticks his finger in baby Charlie's mouth and is surprised by the resulting pain.

This YouTube video was posted May 22, 2007 and has gotten nearly 43 million hits. Thanks to the co-worker who alerted me to this funny video.

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Parents, need a laugh?


Watch Knocked Up this weekend.

Knockedup.jpg

Perhaps you’ve already seen it. I had. And, frankly, it didn’t do much for me the first time. Funny, sure, but I found some of the performances uneven -- even flat.

Now it’s on the HBO rotation, and I’ve stumbled upon it a couple of times. How much I missed! There are all these hilarious asides, mostly from Ben Stone (played by Seth Rogen).

Here’s one I caught last night. Ben and Alison (Katherine Heigl) are shopping for a crib with Alison’s sister Debbie. One catches their fancy, but then they note the hefty price tag. Alison suggests they borrow Debbie’s. Then Ben counters that there’s one in an alley behind his house. “We could just grab that. Just rub Purell all over it.”

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Best free events for kids (and one for adults)


You're more likely to squeeze water from a rock than stumble across a money tree. That's why I'm designating Fridays as Freebie Fridays.

free-stuff.jpg

Each Friday, in this space, I'll present a list of free stuff to do with the kids -- and without the ankle-bitters/teen-demons.

If you have any good ideas about free events to be enjoyed over a weekend, please share.

Drum roll please . . . Freebie Friday for the weekend of May 30 - June 1:

Continue reading "Best free events for kids (and one for adults)" »

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So Miley Cyrus is showing us her ribcage. So what?


I did the unthinkable for the purposes of this blog. I showed my kindergartener the Vanity Fair photo of Miley Cyrus wrapped in a sheet.

"Where is she?'' Lily asked while looking at my computer screen, the only image visible being the photo of Miley Cyrus.cyress.jpg


"She's right there. That's Miley Cypress,'' I said.

"It's Cyrus, not Cypress,'' the 6-year-old corrected. I asked her how she knows Miley and she said, "It's Hannah Malltana.''

Hellooo little Miss Correcter!! Her name is Hannah MONTANA!!!

I let her get away with the "Malltana'' error. That was too far from the point.

"What do you think of this picture?'' I quizzed.

"Umm, what do you think of it?'' she asked.

Ahh, I see. She doesn't care and wants to know if she should. Well, I for one was not traumatized by looking at Miley's ribcage from the back. Put some heels on her and this is the kind of dress these Hollyweird people wear to galas.

Granted I didn't think Annie Leibovitz capture the essence of the young lady we know from TV, but she probably did capture a glimpse of the beautiful woman Miley is becoming.

Big deal. I was much more grossed out by the video that Vanity Fair released of the photo shoot, where she snuggled up to her (pretty handsome) dad like they were a couple. (See the video here, on our Watch This Now blog.)

I am also much more disgusted by the fact that teen Jamie Lynn Spears is preggers, and Lily might find out since she's a fan of Zoe 101.

I don't give much of a crap about celebrities' personal lives; I think they're entitled to privacy. I give even less of a crap about a celebrity teen's artistic photo. Miley should use one of those backbones that are showing and tell everyone to shut up.

If by chance you've missed this manufactured controversy and want to taint your brain with senseless mush, click here.

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Kid fest may be fun for some, but not for us


I took the boys on Saturday to the 6th Annual Our Kids World at the South Florida Fairgrounds Americraft Expo Center, billed as "the perfect place for the entire family!" With that kind of a marketing line, I have high expectations.

When I think perfect, I think of a nice, inexpensive, pleasant afternoon with the kids with no stress. Of course, I'm not sure that's such an easy feat.

We left the house in the early afternoon and headed up to the fairgrounds near West Palm Beach. The boys were excited at the prospect of seeing Diego, Dora and SpongeBob. The parking lot was jam-packed, and the line was not too long to get in. Bonus point goes to the lady at the ticket counter who gave me a free pass for one of my kids (I already had one coupon, so I just paid the $5 for myself).

Once inside the Expo Center, it was loud. Really loud hip-hop music that my little ones did not appreciate. Granted, the event was geared toward anyone under 12, but I'd be willing to bet my kids were not the only ones bothered by the blaring, repetitive, hip-hop music.

The line to get a picture taken with Dora and Diego was miles long. OK, not a mile long, but it definitely snaked around and around and I can say without hesitation that it would have taken at least 45 minutes to get to the front and have an up-close moment with Diego. Needless to say we didn't, although the kids were at least a little excited to get to see Diego and Dora. Why not separate those crazy cousins, put Dora in one line, where mostly girls will want to go, and put Diego in another line, and perhaps minimize the wait?

There were dozens of inflatables -- slides, obstacle courses, bounce houses, etc. It just cost $10 per child for them to play on the inflatables as much as they wanted. I thought that was a bit much, and I know those companies made a bundle, judging from the lines of barefooted kids waiting to jump.

Don't forget the pony rides, which also cost money, and the opportunity to look at the "world's smallest horse" for $1. Whatever it was, it was behind a curtain. I didn't pay.

So, for me, it was a bust. I should have known better. These kinds of things are basically one huge advertisement for other companies that have booths set up, ready for you to sign up for a chance to win this or that. I'm sure hundreds of kids had a great time. Maybe mine are too young. Next weekend we'll just hit a free playground.

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Soulja Boy off in this house


Are your kids doing the Soulja Boy dance?souljaboy.jpg

The hip hop rap has a great danceable beat, and my three kids, ages 9 to 13, are all doing the dance, which has instructions on YouTube.

My 13-year-old asked me if I knew what the lyrics meant, and of course, I had no idea. She told me to go to UrbanDictionary.com.

I did and I got quite an education. It starts off "Soulja boy off in this hoe," and gets much, much worse from there. It's all about sex, masturbation and mistreatment of women.

So now, what to do? My nine- and 11-year-olds have no idea what the song is really about and probably don't care. But I do.

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Looking for this video game?


My son has been driving us nuts looking for Action Replay for Nintendo DS. Action Replay provides the "cheats" for Pokemon games ... i.e., the techniques that help you beat the game, according to my son. Apparently it also helps you crack codes in other games, too.

51NV2GWM01L._SS500_.jpg
We hit Target, Game Stop and a couple of specialty stores in malls. We could have ordered it on-line, but we're into immediacy.

Anyway, Best Buy near Sawgrass Mills had SEVENTEEN of them in stock. Now they have 16.

Now I'm debating the ethics of helping my son use workarounds to beat a video game. Sinking into an abyss...

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Sweet deal from Sesame Street on iTunes


I hide my iPhone from my son. Sometimes.

Not yet 3, he's already an iPod and iPhone fan. He knows those shiny black and silver gadgets show some of his favorite cartoons, including Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and Go, Diego, Go!

At $3 bucks a pop on iTunes, those cartoon costs add up quickly. That's why I was happily stunned when I realized iTunes offers no less than 6 free Sesame Street TV show videos. Did you catch that? For free! No cost. No check needed.

The selection is great too, including the episodes "Music Works Wonders," "Happy, Healthy, Ready for School," and "A is for Asthma." And we're not talking five-minute clips. Some episodes are 20 to 40 minutes long. (On iTunes, click the TV shows tab, then the Free on iTunes tab.)

Now my son has more reasons to covet my iPhone.

My wife won't let me install DVD players in our family SUV because she doesn't want him to get hooked on watching TV screens everytime we go for a drive. I get that. Then again, sometimes a tiny screen can really calm a tiny kid, especially on long, boring car rides.

So, when I can, I slip my iPhone to my boy in the car. That is, when I'm not hiding it from him.

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High School Musical 2 breaks cable records


Apparently Gretchen (see below) and our house wasn't the only one watching Friday night. A record for basic cable.

I thought the first one was much better, but my son, the one who believes the hype, calls this movie "the best ever." Just so you know, he also liked Norbit.

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High School Musical 2 breaks cable records


Apparently Gretchen (see below) and our house wasn't the only one watching Friday night. A record for basic cable.

I thought the first one was much better, but my son, the one who believes the hype, calls this movie "the best ever." Just so you know, he also liked Norbit.

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Mickey gets a raise


castle2.jpg

Good gosh. Did you see this story about how Walt Disney World has raised its rates for adults to a whopping $70 per day?

That means that for a family of four, just one day at a park will cost you more than $200. Add that to the price of gas it now takes to get from So. Fla to Orlando (two tankfuls in my Honda Pilot is easily $120), and the never cheap hotel rates (last time we stayed at the Swan & Dolphin and got the DISCOUNT Florida resident rate of $150 per night).

Rough grand total for a one day, one night stay puts you in the ballpark of around $500! (And who really only goes for a day; you really need atleast two days to make it worth the time and energy.)

Since I don't care for the Disney experience (I go for the sake of my kids), I can think of many other fun things to do/places to go for $500. (A round-trip ticket to Paris, anyone?)

But Disney fans, what in Mickey's name are you going to do?

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"The Simpsons Movie" has full frontal nudity!


My five-year-old saw Bart Simpson's private parts.
We didn't think twice about bringing Lily along to see The Simpsons Movie. I didn't bother to look at the rating, which advises she needs 8 more years of maturing before she's ready to watch it. It warns about "mature humor,' but it fails to mention the FULL FRONTAL NUDITY!!!!bartimage.jpg

Lily has watched the television version for years. We watched old home videos this weekend, and you could hear Bart and Homer in the background in a few of them. It's a staple of our household.
But here's a warning for parents of the younger set. The movie includes all the cliche elements of a real action thriller, including a flash of Bart from the front when he's skateboarding naked.
It wasn't very anatomically accurate. It's a cartoon, after all.
Lily didn't even mention it afterwards. But when I got to her daycare after work yesterday, the first mom I saw said that Lily had just told her and her daughter that she saw Bart Simpson naked. When I walked into the classroom, both teachers immediately let me know that Lily had been telling them about the movie all day.
On the way home, I asked her about it. Was that your favorite part, I inquired?
She laughed sheepishly.
"Yes. ... But don't tell Dad!!!''
I guess I could have used it as an entree into a deep discussion about the differences between males and females.
Nah.
...
Unrelated strange Lily comment of the day, yesterday:
"I know if you eat a whole airplane, you can die from that.''


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Transformers movie a blast from the past


-- By Reporting Assistant Cindy Kent

Movies are a great way to connect with others.

So, chatting in the office about the release of the Transformers movie led me and another mother to discuss why we would be interested in the tale. Our sons, when they were younger, played with the Transformers toys.

When I heard a Transformer movie was being released, my first thought was: "It's about time." And apparently others think the same, according to Fandango, the movie ticket-seller Web site.

Opening weekend, Fandango reported that Transformer showings were sold out. And their survey of why folks were buying tickets indicated that 75% had watched the cartoons when they were kids; 65% had played with the actual toys; and 24% had read the comic books.

There wasn't a category on how many were parents of those whose kids played with Transformers almost two decades ago. But not to worry, I bought my tickets -- some things never transform, or is that change....

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Of bee I sing


I pride myself in knowing the lyrics of all the pop songs from the 1970s, the era of my teenage years and to me, the golden age of American music.

Nothing written after 1990 can compete with that era, which I make sure to tell my 13-year-old daughter all the time. So I enjoyed watching NBC's The Singing Bee with her last night and showing off my knowledge of pop lyrics.

Singingbee.jpg

The show asks contestants to finish the lyrics of pop songs from the past 40 or so years. These contestants also sing and dance without inhibition. They couldn't care less that their voices cracked or their coordination lacked, which made them even more endearing.

ZZ Top, Bananarama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Dog Night: The contestants had to know songs from all these classic groups last night.

To my great surprise, my teenager knew almost as many 30-year-old songs as I did, which reinforced for me the everlasting quality of '70s and '80s music. Lately, she's been singing Living On A Prayer (Bon Jovi) and Hooked On A Feeling (Ouga Chaka Ouga!), songs she learned in camp, reinforcing my greatest-era-of-music philosophy.

Have your kids been discovering music from your childhood, or are they hooked on the feeling that only music post-2000 rocks?

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Finally, the Diego show ...


Or ... How Baby Jaguar Got His Growl Back.

Sunday finally arrived. It was time to go see Diego (otherwise known as Dora the Explorer's cousin), the lovable animal rescuer of Nick Jr. fame.

We packed up the kids and headed to Fort Lauderdale, where we immediately encountered a traffic jam at the parking lot not seen by me since I saw the Dave Matthews Band in West Palm. Jeez, that many parents fell for this? Of course, my husband said. Kids entertainment is scarce around here.

My sons and I were suffering from a cold, but I wasn't about to let a few sniffles and coughs stop us from this. Besides, I'm supposed to just let $130 go to waste?

I must say, the show delivered -- at least for Evan. I don't know that Elias is too young, since there were other kids younger than him clearly enjoying themselves. But it could be a combination of the fact that he wasn't feeling great and he hates loud noises. So hundreds of kids screaming for Diego and growling at the top of their lungs was not a good thing.

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The anti-role model


Weekly Reader Research released this finding in its latest survey of 6- to 18-year-olds:

Lindsay Lohan is not a role model, according to 75.7 percent of kids surveyed. Amen, my children. And thank goodness you understand that her behavior is abominable and not to be emulated. 52.3 percent of the kids said they don't even like her.
lindsay_lohan001.jpg

The Lindsay loathing didn't differ much with age, either, although the youngest group of girls, ages 6-9, were more likely to say they liked her a little. Boys that age, on the other hand, were the largest group of Lindsay-haters: almost 78 percent of them don't like her. I'm a little sad, myself, to see how she turned out. Where oh where is that cute kid who played the twins in The Parent Trap?

The research didn't ask, but I'm willing to bet that Paris Hilton would have even lower numbers.

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How About Rescuing My Bank Account?


If you have a toddler, particularly a boy (or two), you're probably familiar with Diego. You know, Dora's cousin? While Dora's out there exploring, doing her thing crossing bridges and scaling mountains with her buddy Boots, Diego is rescuing animals. A noble mission, people.

Both my sons LOVE Diego. I don't mind Diego either. The music on the show is great, the animals are cute, and who could quibble with a show that teaches kids about being kind to animals? I could live without Diego's grating and nearly monotone delivery, but hey ...


If you've read this blog before, you might know that we took our son Evan to see the Wiggles. Well, now Diego is coming to town.

Continue reading "How About Rescuing My Bank Account?" »

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Buh-Bye Sanjaya


Finally!

Not to be Simonesque, but it was long past time for Sanjaya to go. I don’t think I could have stood another week of dissecting the reasons he was not voted off already.

It was sad. How could a 17-year-old kid take being ridiculed week after week in the national media? It’s obvious he doesn’t sing as well as the other contestants, but really, he’s not as miserable as everyone says he is. He’s just a kid. And he definitely sings better than most of us.

sanjaya.jpgI couldn’t help looking at him like a mom. It just made me cringe. If that was my son, I’d be so relieved right now I couldn’t even speak. (And maybe I wouldn’t want to. What mother wants her son voted off American Idol?) Still, listening to him week after week, witnessing the weird hairstyles, reading and hearing the mean things people wrote and said about the poor boy … what mother could take that?

How did Sanjaya survive as long as he did?

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Lessons from the Princesses


princesses.jpgReading Anne Vasquez’s entry about her son’s love of Cars and what he’s learned from that movie made me think about my own decade of raising daughters on Disney movies.

They have learned much from the revered Disney Princesses, including a few lessons you might not expect.

snowwhite.jpg1. If a short, grumpy guy tells you not to open the door for “nothing or nobody,” do not open the door for a scary, ugly woman selling apples. Especially not if you already know that someone with magical powers is trying to kill you. This is stupid. It is good to be smart and take care of yourself. It is not good to open the door to strangers. My girls don’t want to be like Snow White, because she is not smart.

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It's showtime! Now sit down and learn


My vote for the Academy Award for Best Film of the Year? Disney’s "Cars", the humorously sweet animated film about a race car's journey of self discovery.

OK, it’s not nominated in the overall Best Picture category, but it should be, if only for the surprisingly positive impact it has had on my two-year-old son. The movie has taught him valuable lessons about acts of kindness and just plain greed.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television for children ages two and younger, I’ll admit that my husband and I break the rule for certain educational shows and for "Cars." We’ve sat on the couch together countless times and talked about the things we see on the screen. (It helps that the film is laced with a humor that adults can appreciate; otherwise, we’d be bored silly.)

My son has grown particularly fond of the movie’s characters -- Lightning McQueen, “Tow” Mater, Doc, Sally –- and calls them by name. He even adds McQueen’s signature “Ke-pow” “Ke-chow” to practically any car that may pass through his little hands.

What movies does your family credit for teaching your children valuable lessons? Here are just a few my husband and I have McQueen and his friends to thank for:


Continue reading "It's showtime! Now sit down and learn" »

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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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