Moms & Dads

South Florida parents share their stories and advice

Category: Toddler (127)

Holding Leo's Hand: Watching Little Brother

"How many autistic children do you have?"

The question stunned me. We had brought Leo, 3, and his brother Angelo, 1, to an event at Nova Southeastern University, where other autistic children and their parents had an opportunity to relax, play and mingle. Leo was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is on the Autism Spectrum, earlier this year. We enrolled him at the Baudhuin Preschool, where he's getting the kind of intensive educational treatment he needs to adapt to his condition and thrive. We're pleased at the progress he's been making so far. We know we have a long way to go.

"How many autistic children do you have?"

Why had it not occurred to me, before I was asked this question, to even wonder whether Leo's little brother might be facing the same challenge?

Angelo is now 18 months old. He's definitely talking more than Leo did at his age. In fact, there are times when it seems Angelo's brain moves faster than his mouth -- he wants to say things, to communicate things, but doesn't yet know the words or how to articulate them. He strikes us all as, dare we say it, "normal."

According to a recent study, the younger sibling of a child with autism has a little less than a 20 percent chance of developing the disorder. That's a higher number than I want to confront. I see my younger son laughing on a swing, running to hug me or his Mommy, saying "cheers!" whenever Mickey picks a mouse-ka-tool. I see him stacking blocks, seven, eight, nine high (Leo could barely do seven, even when he was older than that). I don't see Angelo lining up his toys, something Leo used to do with regularity.

Is Angelo going to develop PDD or some other form of autism? We do not know. We are not worried. We'll look for the signs. We'll talk to our pediatrician. We won't be afraid.

"How many autistic children do you have?"

As many as we can love.

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The gift of communication

By Jennifer Jhon

When my son was an infant, he made the cutest baby sounds, most starting with “da.”

One day, instead of crying in his crib, he wailed out a string of un-intelligible syllables, and I laughed. “He’s yelling at us,” I told my husband. “I can’t wait until he talks!”

My friends and acquaintances would smile when I talked about wanting my son to speak. “He’ll start soon, and then you won’t be able to shut him up” they all said.

That “soon” turned out to be further away than we expected.

At first, we didn’t think much of it. He used a few words: mommy, daddy, car, plane. He could identify the pictures in his bedtime stories: cat, dog, one, two, etc. So we thought his not talking might be a boy thing.

But after he turned 2, people started to comment. When I picked him up from Sunday school one day, my son said “mommy,” and a school worker who had been working with him for weeks said “Oh, he talks!”

As my son’s 3rd birthday approached, everyone was getting concerned. His preschool noted his speech and behavior issues and sent us off for testing, a lengthy process that we still have not completed.

But we made a vital discovery right away: My son had hearing loss due to a buildup of fluid in his ears.

It was good news. It explained why my son ignored most commands, and the fluid buildup was something that could be corrected.
Since we got tubes in his ears two months ago, my son’s progress has been dramatic. My husband and I have been thrown back into the “wow, look at my kid” phase that most parents experienced at age 1.

My husband asked my son a few weeks ago where his shoes were, and my son said “I don’t know.” My husband and I looked at each other and beamed. “Did you hear that!?”

We share those moments 2-3 times a week now, just amazed at what our son is able to communicate. He has even started singing in the house, which he rarely used to do.

His teacher shared her own joyful moment about a month after the surgery. “He said my name today for the first time!” she told me. “He is doing so well!”

She is right -- he really is a different kid.

We’ve gone from tense reports of time-outs and office visits to glowing reports of excellent listening skills and helpful behavior.

It is amazing what being able to hear clearly can do.

Now that my son can share what he is thinking, we have discovered that he is wildly imaginative, compassionate and creative -- things we only guessed at before.

Being able to know him on this level has been such a gift, one I think most parents take for granted.

While I feel fortunate to know him so much better now, I’m also a little sad. I have missed communicating with my son for years now. I have a lot to make up for.

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Do you regret your child's name?

A British survey found that more than 8 percent of parents regret the name they gave their child.

I can’t say I’m surprised. There are many among us who thought we had a one of a kind names picked out for our daughter or son only to learn the first day of school that there were three or four others in the same class!

Or worst yet, some celebrity with the same name as your precious little one surface, leaving big shoes to fill.

A mom recently posted in a Jamaican newspaper that she regretted naming her child Beyonce because it elicits raised eyebrows and smirks.

The survey on name regret was done by

According to the survey, girls names to avoid include: Apple, Chardonnay, Peaches and Madonna. Boys names included: Beckam, Axl, Kai, Kester, Jordan and Joaquin.

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Princess Envy

By Jennifer Jhon, Teenlink editor

Our little PrincessReading Joy’s post about her daughter’s Princess Phase, I have to admit I am jealous.

When I found out I was having a girl, I immediately started planning all the mom-daughter things we could do: crafts, baking, spa day, shopping….

But I’m not sure my girly-girl dreams are going to come true.

Despite having piles of adorable pink clothing and a closet full of frilly dresses, my daughter has shown no interest in clothes, except to get out of them. She hates her dresses, which hamper her crawling ability. And she protests every pair of shoes, no matter how cute they are.

Her preferred toys are cars. She actually sat up the other day, held up a car, and made a “zoom” sound while racing it through the air in front of her.

I blame my son.

She adores her older brother, and despite his occasional attempts at cross-dressing and mommy-shoe-wearing, he’s as far from “girl” as a boy can get. And I’m grateful for that.

But I’m hoping her love of all-things-brother will fade enough to let a Princess obsession – or at least an appreciation for tutus and tiaras – creep in.

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Hilarious must-read for parents of toddlers


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

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

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

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

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

Words To Use Often

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

Whatever you see is yours. Claim it.

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

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

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

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New car seat regulations: good for safety or inconvenient?


The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its new car seat guidelines for children. A “Today Moms” article summed up the changes:

• Children should ride rear-facing to age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. (The old policy from 2002 cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum for when to turn a seat around.)
• Children should use a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.
• Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.

I remember how happy I was the day I got to turn my 1-year-old son’s car seat around. I have a two-door car, which I have no plans of getting rid of because it’s paid off, and the bigger he got, the harder it was to lift him into a rear-facing seat. He is tall for his age, too, and I can’t imagine he would have been able to remain rear-facing until he turned 2. He’s just too tall, and his legs would have been crunched.

Some moms are having trouble accepting the guidelines. The “Today Moms” article quotes a mom of three who isn’t planning on following the new rules:

Carolyn Murray of West Milford, New Jersey, has already transitioned two of her three kids out of car seats. While Murray's 6-year-old son James still uses a booster, daughters, Samantha, 9, and Emily, 11, haven't had one for years.

Murray isn't planning on following the guidelines, saying that most of her driving is in town and not on highways, and she doesn't want the hassle of needing extra car seats when she drives her kids' friends.

Plus, she says she could never get her 11-year-old to comply: “She would fight it.”

"I agree it's probably safer with short children, since seatbelts can cut into their neck. But there's no way she is going to sit in a booster seat. It's an image thing."

Emily says sitting in a booster seat simply isn't cool. “My friends would laugh.”

Even though the guidelines seem inconvenient, I think it’s probably still better to follow them. I would never forgive myself I was in an accident, and my kids were injured because of my refusal to conform to rules that were created solely for their safety.

For more details about the guidelines, visit

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Mealtime battles


What is it with toddlers wanting to eat only white foods? White bread, white pasta, white cheese… I am beyond frustrated that my 3-year-old son who once ate myriad foods now refuses anything that isn't a white carbohydrate.

Well, that's not entirely true - he does eat yogurt, fruit and cereal. But a child can't possibly be as healthy as can be with a diet consisting of only five or six foods.

Green vegetables have always been an issue, but at least he used to eat things I could hide them in - mashed potatoes, rice, etc. Now he won't even eat those foods, so I'm just completely out of ideas.

I think it has something to do with the texture and look of something. My son eats pizza, which has sauce, but he won't eat pasta with the same sauce. And he loves pasta, but only bow-tie pasta. Give him spaghetti, and he has a meltdown. The exception is macaroni and cheese. He'll eat that no matter the shape of the pasta.

I recently tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but he didn't like the way it looked and wouldn't even touch it. I got him to eat some of it by tearing it up into pieces and hand-feeding him like I did when he was a baby. Every meal is like this. I have to chase him around with a bite of food because he refuses to eat it on his own. Sometimes he'll agree to take a bite of something but then chew it up and spit it out (usually with meat).

My pediatrician says to serve him his food and give no other options as to not create a monster. If he doesn't eat, then he goes to bed hungry. But it's hard for me to send him to bed hungry and say no to that sad little face when he asks for something else. I don't know if it's a control thing on his behalf or if he genuinely doesn't yet understand why he doesn't get the food he wants.

So what is a frustrated mother to do? Send him to bed hungry every night, send him to timeout, take away his favorite toy or give in and hope one day he outgrows his picky phase?

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Spring Break: What's a parent to do?

If you're just now thinking about what plans to make for your child's Spring Break - you're a little late.

In Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, public schools are in recess March 14 - March 18.

I was chatting with a co-worker who is still considering options - including taking the week off to be with her daughter and participate in a swimming program.

But for many parents, that's not a possibility.

In the past - I've enrolled my kid in tennis camp, martial arts and general park camps. He's spent school day holidays at a science museum; taking swimming lessons; and with family.

Depending on the child's age - parents of pre-K and early elementary age children might not want them in camps that go on field trips - or emphasize day-long outdoor activities.

But a half-day camp could be a problem for parents who lack transportation or flexibility with work and bosses.

Network with other parents of children who attend your child's pre-K/ elementary- or middle school. Ask where their kid is going to spend spring break. See if you can partner up on transportation and other resources.

South Florida has a wealth of venues and activities for kids of all ages.

Check out our own South Florida Parenting for its camp guide; and each issue is chockablock full of activities and resources for kids.

Admittedly, most people have moved on and are already planning on what to do with their kids for the summer break. And most camp ads are going to promote those programs.

So, are you still planning on planning what to do with you child for Spring Break? Then, what are you waiting for?

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Do you let your sons play with dolls?

I was so happy to walk into day care and see one of my 3-year-old son’s male classmates in an apron during dress-up time. As I surveyed the room, I noticed a bunch of the boys were wearing similar items. My son went straight for the bucket of baby dolls, and he wasn’t alone.

It was refreshing that the teachers let the boys play with what they want, even if the things they choose are typically labeled as girl toys.

Masculinity oftentimes excludes things like playing with babies, cooking and cleaning. But I think it’s time we challenge those notions. Why should a boy be discouraged from playing with dolls? Just from watching the toddler boys gravitate to the “girly” cooking toys and baby dolls makes it clear that they have the same interest in those types of activities as girls do. And if they’re allowed to experiment with them as kids, perhaps they will continue to show an interest in those activities as adults.

I came across an interesting article about a mom who bought her son a play kitchen. She said her husband cooks, and her son wants to be like daddy. She said people teased her about buying such a “girly” toy for her son, but I applaud her for not trying to mold her son into what mainstream culture says he should be. Read the article here.

The same should go for girls. I’m having my baby girl in two months, and I plan to let her play with whichever of my son’s toys she wants. Why not let her explore all that’s out there? She may not even like his trucks, but she’ll have the chance to find out for herself.

Do you let your sons play with girl toys and vice-versa? Do you think it’s healthy or harmful?

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The paradox of parenthood: Long days, short years

My toddler, Leo, has reached the stage where he hates sitting still. He hates sitting still for diaper changes. He hates sittting while we put clothes on him. He hates sitting still in his car seat (which he proves by removing his footwear). He struggles and wiggles and jiggles and won't sit still until Mommy or Daddy can't take it anymore. Like the other morning, when I threw my hands up in the air and yelled, "I can't wait until you can dress yourself!"

I regretted the words immediately.

One of my stepdaughters turns 18 this week. I only met her four and a half years ago. I missed her infant and toddler years. I missed the stages where she and her mom had the bonding experiences that defined her childhood. I missed the Barney stage, the Pokemon stage, the Pocahontas stage. I missed it all. By the time I met her, she was already transforming into a Borg. But I missed all the little girl stuff, and I'll never get it. Ever.

But I do get to watch my son grow up. I get to witness every stage. I watched him learn to walk. I'm a part of helping him learn to talk. I see him forming bonds with his mom and his sisters and his grandparents and his uncles and aunts and cousins. He throws a basketball into one of those Little Tykes hoops, and he makes the basket with impressive regularity.

It won't be long before Leo is potty trained. And can dress himself. And talk. And fight. And mope. And drive. And love. And...

"Enjoy parenthood," a friend told me shortly before Leo was born. "Remember, the days are long, but the years are short."

Right now, Leo still counts on us for absolutely everything. He needs us around as much as he wants us around. Someday, that will change.

I can wait.

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

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When will my toddler start to talk?

Rafael Olmeda
Did he just say "Do it again"?

He did. We're sure of it. Or at least, he meant to. When his mom tickled his belly, and when his big sister tossed him on the bed (gently, never exactly letting him go). "Dah-gin." We're sure it meant "Do it again." What else could it mean?

Leo is, at last, at the stage when the sounds coming out of his mouth are related to the thoughts, or at least the feelings, in his head. He'll hold a camera or a cell phone up and say "aaaaaah," which we all know is his way of taking a picture of himself (sigh) and saying "cheeeeeese."

He's fast approaching the age of 18 months. I don't know why, but I figured at this stage he and I would be having profound discussions about the role of government envisioned by the founders, the existence of God, or at least the benefits of going potty rather than waiting for a diaper change.


We're not sure what it means, but we're sure it means something. I'm hoping it means "Cancer cure! I've figured out a cancer cure!" Somehow I doubt it, unless the cure for cancer is related to throwing plastic balls out of the makeshift ball pit in our living room.

Everyone's telling me not to worry and not to rush Leo's speech development. For one thing, I'm being a tad unrealistic. I mean, really, who wants to talk about Benjamin Franklin's political philosophy with a toddler (or with anyone else, for that matter)? And for another, children learn to talk at different paces. Before I know it, I'm assured, my wife and I will be falling into the same pattern as so many parents before us.

You know the pattern: "you spend the first 18 months trying to get them to stand up and talk, and the next 18 years trying to get them to sit down and shut up."

I don't know who first said that, but whoever it was deserves a Pulitzer.

Leo, can you spell "Pulitzer"?


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Where have all the heroes gone?

Anyone else remember this one? Man, I loved this show...

My boys have recently become absolutely obsessed with superheroes, so we made sure that their recent birthday gifts were stacked accordingly. The best of the bunch proved to be the costumes from the grandparents. Before this gift, if the boys wanted to play dress-up they had to hit their sister's princess trunk. Now I come home to find them running up and down the hall with their capes flying behind them yelling, "Superheroes, to the rescue!" Priceless.

The trouble came when I wanted to show them their heroes in action. I started by turning on a recent Batman cartoon, that lasted about 10 seconds before it became so dark and violent that I had to turn it off. Why can't someone make a hero show for little kids? The bigger kids obviously have their shows with the guns and explosions and I'm OK with that, but what about something for the younger fans? Do I really have to resort to watching old Superfriends episodes on YouTube?

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Differences in parenting styles can end friendships

My wife and I had some friends over recently for a play date, and as usual the house was utter mayhem. The parents were enjoying some social time, while the kids were swimming and playing on the swing set. As the evening started to wind down, the mosquitoes came out and forced everyone inside. The crowd started to thin, and the one family of kids that was left wandered into my daughter's room. Her room is a bit small and she has a lofted bed, which always makes me nervous when friends come over to play. I decided to stay close to the door to make random checks on behavior. Good thing I did.

About the fourth peek into the room I witnessed some of her friends preparing to leap from the lofted bed into a pile of pillows on the tile floor. I gave them a nice warning, telling them calmly that this was not acceptable and if it happened again they would not be able to play in her room any more. I walked away thinking I had solved the potential disaster. No luck.

Upon my next peek into the room, I came across the same scene with the same kids. I made good on my threat and kicked them all out of her room.

Since the hour was getting late and bedtimes were fast approaching, this move was enough to have the parents call it a night. We said our goodbyes, and put the kids to bed.

A few weeks go by, and my wife realizes that the friends who children were leaping off of my daughter's bed had "unfriended" us on Facebook. After seeing them post on another friend's wall, my wife asked them what had happened. She later received a long email explaining that they were extremely upset with me for "yelling at and touching their children". Wow. Talk about a wake up call.

This was a couple who I considered to be pretty good friends. We had been camping with them, plus many birthday parties and dinner dates. This was really unexpected, especially since I was searching my mind to try and figure out what I had done wrong.

As I replayed the events of that night back in my head, I remember working with my friend to corral our kids out of my daughter's bedroom. At one point I remember my friend saying "don't touch my kid" as I was guiding his son out, and I honestly thought he was kidding.

As they were packing up to go, I was helping him gather his things and get the kids to their minivan. The kids were ignoring their dad and started banging on our piano on their way out. I once again thought I was helping by steering the boys out the front door. This time the "Don't touch my kid!" was more firm, and I realized he wasn't kidding. I apologized and we said our goodbyes.

I guess my offenses were enough to end our friendship, but I'm honestly at a loss here. We regularly have large gatherings in our house with many kids, and it is not uncommon for any of the parents to have to do a little crowd control. I guess this is where parenting methods can lead to determining who you're most compatible with as a parent.

Have you ever ended a friendship over parenting styles?

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Does the new car seat bill go too far?

Ever since moving to Florida five years ago, I have been amazed by the number of parents who don't use car seats. Heck, many don't even make their kids wear seat belts. This just blows me away. Are you really too busy to take 30 seconds to possibly save your child's life? My wife and I actually ended a close friendship because they would babysit our daughter and drive her around with no car seat. This was even after we told them how strongly we felt about it.

The new bill being floated around by Florida lawmakers would require children ages 4 to 7 and shorter than 4' 9" to ride in a booster seat. Senator Thad Altman, the senate bill's sponsor, says that children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in an accident than those just using seat belts.

This isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to pass this. Back in 2001, Jeb Bush vetoed a similar bill calling it a "de facto tax on families living paycheck to paycheck". However, Florida and Arizona are the only two states that do not have similar laws. Is it time for Floridians to pay up for the sake of our kids?

Personally, I have a tough time with this law. I support our current law which says all kids 3 and under must be in car seats, but once they turn 4 they can move into a seat belt. Now maybe 4 is a bit young to be without a seat, so I agree that maybe we should tweak the guidelines a bit. However, a 7 year-old who is almost 5 feet tall seems a bit large to me for a booster chair.

Share your thoughts with us.

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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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Are you ready for the terrible twos? No! No! No! No! No!

I like to think that I'm prepared for just about anything when it comes to parenting. My wife and I have already been through this legendary age with one girl and one boy, so we should know what we're up against. Right?

HA! As any child psychology expert will tell you, every child is unique, and our youngest is currently giving us a run for our money. He has even decided to get a head start and hit the famed "terrible twos" three months early. Just our luck.

Last weekend I took him to Costco with his big sister to do some shopping. He fell asleep in the car on the way to the store, so he was a bit groggy. When we got inside, he insisted on being held the entire time. If you've ever been to Costco on a weekend, then you know how hard it is to navigate the mayhem even with two hands on a cart—let alone when you're carrying a 25 pound kid. At one point I had to put him down in the cart, and that did it...complete public meltdown. Screaming, crying, kicking, the works. I never experienced this with my other two kids, and I must admit I was at a loss. I chose to ignore him and the disgusted looks from the other shoppers and finish our errand. After he calmed down a bit, I managed to bring him back to reality with the promise of pizza when we were done checking out. By the way he ate that slice I'm guessing hunger was the issue, but WOW was that ugly.

In an effort to bring back a bit of peace and quiet to our home (or at least less screaming), I did some poking around on other parenting blogs. Usually I don't find much of value on the big corporate sites, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised on this post I found on about discipline.

I will be trying some of these methods on our little hellion, and will report back in the comments if we have any luck. My poor wife is the one who has to deal with this all day while I'm at work, so I really hope this works for her sake.

What worked for you when your little one hit this stage? Share your stories with us.

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Talk to your kids, even if they can't talk back

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

maggiecary2.jpgOver the years she has mentored countless teachers and advised hundreds of parents. Cary has taught children from preschool through high school. She also offers classroom advice on website Classroom Talk.

Whether it be in the mall, on the beach, or on the sidewalk, I’m thrilled whenever I hear parents interacting and engaging their babies and toddlers in conversation. Even if children can’t talk back, speaking to them from the moment they pop out into the world (some say even before that) will enhance their vocabulary and ability to learn.

I grow concerned when I see parents simply pushing a stroller and not engaging their child. Children can understand vocabulary before they can verbalize it. When you have a baby, your communication with him or her might include simply describing what you are doing. With a toddler, you might seek more interaction, like asking questions, or describing your surroundings, situation or plans together. You might simply point to objects or actions and ask what they are called. You could provide names for new objects and actions, and reinforce those that may have been recently learned. When your child asks question after question, after question, after question ... even if it borders on annoyance, be patient and answer him. If you’re reading a book with an older child, stop and discuss and explain the meaning of unknown words.

The more you talk to your child, the faster his or her vocabulary will grow. The larger a vocabulary a child has when he or she enters school, the more able the child will be to decode and comprehend what is being read and said during class. If the teacher reads a story about someone, making haste to get away, the meaning will be lost on the child that doesn’t know what that means, and doesn’t have the experience to think to ask what it means.

I took a flight a few weeks ago and there was a very young mom sitting behind us with her daughter. This mother spent the entire flight reading, talking, and explaining words to her eighteen month old. I thought it was fantastic. I felt excited for this child who was going to be one up on many of the other children entering school. She would start her formal education with a rich vocabulary, a wealth of words and a history of being a successful learner. I imagined that one day this little girl might be a great author or statesman. It didn’t hurt one bit either, that she didn’t cry once during the flight.

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From baby to teen: Is each stage better than the last?

I can still feel my tiny sleeping newborn snuggling on my chest, his breath in rhythm with my own. There is really nothing better than that pure and blissful moment.

Until you walk in the door from a long day, and his little arms fly up in the air in greeting and a huge drooly smile spreads across the infant's face he's just so happy to see you.

And it just keeps getting better. From smiling to walking to talking. I've always thought that each phase of a child's life is better than the last -- more miraculous, more fun.

Even now, when I walk in the door from a long day and I'm greeted with something closer to a snarl and a grunt from the gangly adolescent. I'm awestruck that I created this, and that everything is working the way nature intended. He's supposed to be drawing away from me at this age, in preparation for the day he's out on his own. Isn't that cool?

When I recently interviewed Maria Bailey, of Mom Talk Radio and, she said she hears from lots of moms who don't think like I do, who don't think each stage is better than the last.

Maria loves the teen years -- she has three teens and an 11-year-old. "I love it when they make good decisions," she said. And she loves to see how she has rubbed off on them.

I, too, like to watch my kids figure things out, learn from their mistakes, develop into their own personality. That's what's so much fun.

They toddle and fall, pick themselves back up to try again, and soon they are running out the door to play. They babble and imitate to form words and soon they talking back with their own opinions, however illogical and hasty they may be.

No doubt some stages are less complicated than others. As I recall, age 3 is...hard. And my daughter, at age 11, is so easy, I wouldn't mind stretching that out awhile.

What about you? Do you have a favorite stage in your child's life? Or are you really looking forward to age 16?

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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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Baby bottles have left the building

Not quite as nice as being diaper free, but our first few days without having bottles around has really been liberating. Needless to say, this did not come without a price.

Let me set the stage a little. Both of our boys sleep in the same room, and both would go to bed with full bottles in hand. We know it's not a good habit, but this is where we ended up. Our routine would consist of filling up bottles to keep them happy during the night. Not good for any of us.

Giving up the bottle was not a big deal for our 19-month-old. We "lucked out" that he was cutting a few teeth at once and couldn't take the pacifier or bottle. Since that few days of screaming, we have not had to worry about him needing any accessories.

Now the two-and-a-half-year-old, that is a completely different story. Mind you, he only gets the bottle when he naps and goes to bed. I have been trying to convince my wife that we needed to pull the bottle and pacifier from him for some time, but she is of the "he'll do it when he's ready" school of thought. Since she is the one home with all three kiddos, she gets to make those calls. Her idea was to set him up with a date and give him fair warning when we would take the bottle from him, so we set our sights on the new year.

When the big day came, the bribe (sorry, "incentive") of a trip to the "Goo Goo" store was presented. Translation: Goo Goo = Choo Choo = Train = The Hobby Superstore. I let him know that he could pick out a really big toy if he agreed to no more bottles. He was very excited and agreed while jumping up and down. After a quick scare that the store might not be open on New Year's Day (thankfully it was), he decided on Cranky the Crane for his wooden Thomas the Train set. I told him that he couldn't take Cranky out of the box until he had taken a nap and gone to bed without his bottles. That was the easy part.

I've heard about what it is like to see someone go through heroin withdrawal, and it can't be much worse than this. "I want my baa baa!" was the cry which would come from his bed for the next hour before we gave up trying to have him nap. He was fine the rest of the day, despite not having his usual rest. However it was no surprise that the same "I want my baa baa!" cry would dominate our entire sleepless night. We gave up keeping Cranky in the box around 2am thinking it might give us a moment's peace — no luck. We all tossed and turned, but he made it through.

We celebrated his success by building a huge train track on the living room floor for his new toy. Since then the cries have died down, and we are all finally enjoying a full night's rest.

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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 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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So the kid is wailing, don't be such a cry baby

If your baby, toddler or child of any age is crying - you want to know why, right?

For instance, if your car were acting up, you might look under the hood before taking the vehicle to the mechanic. If your computer suddenly froze up - you're likely to push a few buttons or scoot the mouse around the pad.

So if your infant or baby is all red-faced, teary-eyed, fit-to-be-tied-bawling-his-or-her-eyes-out -- get over it - by checking it out the old-fashioned way: touch, hold, cuddle, sooth, coo, hug and in general assess the situation of said tiny being.

But wait, forget all that - don't trouble yourself - here's an App for that. I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you.

The Cry Translator, according to promotional verbiage is, "an easy to use iPhone app that quickly identifies the five distinct cries made by infants: hungry, sleepy,boohoo.jpgannoyed, stressed or bored. These five cries are universal to all babies regardless of culture or language."

Wow. I'm speechless. Don't get me wrong - there are a few apps I am a huge fan of - Paper Toss is my fav.

But just imagine, you hear the child cry and you approach gingerly. Finally, thinks baby, I'll get some food or be held [insert other need/want here]. Instead, Baby sees tiny microphone held to face area. The outstretched arm is merely a tease. Baby increases wailing.

How will the app translate that?

Well, once is does, there are some suggestions on how to care for the child - which means while the Baby continues to cry, you begin reading a paragraph or two on what to do next.

Frankly, you really need to just put down your gadgets and pick up the child. It's called communication. What ever happened to consulting with the co-parent; Neighbors, people at work, on play dates in the park, grandparents, etc?

A 16-second Saturday Night Live skit says it all. Gosh.

Please, if you have this app - don't tell me. It'll make me want to cry.

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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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The constant struggle that is potty training

Two down and one to go, or so we thought.

My wife and I were hoping that we would be one step closer to becoming a diaper-free household, but our little man has other plans.

Despite the fact that we have purchased the full array of Thomas the Tank Engine and Disney undies, he still will regress to "poo poo diaper!" when the chips are down.

We have watched all the videos. We have the Elmo doll that comes with his own potty chair and sings. We've made the potty chart and rewarded him with gifts when he does his business on the throne. We have gone through all of the same steps that were successful with our first child, but as we all know — no two kids are the same.

Some days are great, but lately he really seems to be fighting the transition. We don't want to pressure him and risk that he'll fear the process, but at the same time we want to keep the training moving forward.

All of the experts say to be patient and maybe take a break from training, but I'm not sure I buy into that. We're ready to try just about anything. Anyone have any suggestions? Anyone try this "3 Day Potty Training" method? Share your stories with us.

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What's so controversial about co sleeping?

A lot of things about being a first time parent made me nervous. In particular, Leo would howl in protest whenever we put him in his bassinet, and he would not let up. The notion that he would spend an entire night in there was laughable. It wasn’t going to happen. Sorry.

LeoNDad.jpgWe’re co sleepers. Leo sleeps with us, in the same bed. Yeah, I was nervous about it, but we got used to it. In this “controversial” practice, we are joined (if my limited research is any indication) by a little more than half of all parents around the world. I have to wonder why something practiced by half the human population is controversial, but apparently it is.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is opposed to co sleeping. At first, I wanted to know why this particular agency was weighing in. After all, my baby is not a consumer product. Then I realized the bed is, and that’s where the commission has standing. Fair enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs with the CPSC, concerned, apparently, with the possibility of people rolling over and accidentally suffocating their kids, among other risks.

But it seems a growing number of experts are touting co sleeping as normal and beneficial, and the identified risks, they say, are either overstated or easily addressed.

Noted expert Dr. William Sears outlines seven benefits of co sleeping. According to his research, with co sleeping:
Babies sleep better
Mothers sleep better
Breastfeeding is easier
It’s “contemporary parenting”
Babies thrive better
Parents and babies become more connected
The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced.

I’m not en expert on either side of this (especially that last item: a year ago the experts were warning us that co sleeping increases the risk of SIDS). All I know is that the best professionals on parenting have been giving conflicting advice on all sorts of issues for generations. Maybe, like me, you were told “thou shalt not share thy bed with thy baby.” And maybe that was good advice.

And maybe it wasn’t.

So here's a good resource: The March of Dimes has an information page that points out the risks and how to address them.

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Got a problem with topless toddlers?

Should toddlers cover up in public?

My wife and I discussed the issue the other day after a snorkeling trip in Key West. A little girl on the boat with us, no more than 4 years old, was with her father on the same excursion, and she wasn’t wearing a top.

Coppertone.jpgI’ve never raised a toddler daughter; my stepkids are in their teens, and the younger of the two was 11 when I met them. But I did ask my wife whether she ever allowed them to be in public without a top, and until what age. Her response: no way. Not in public.

Clearly, the issue has a cultural component. I heard the toddler’s dad speaking a language I didn’t recognize, so it’s likely they were from someplace less inhibited than the United States can be. But still, this trip was in the United States. Should this dad have recognized that? You know, put the other half of the bathing suit on the kid?

Topless toddlers raise a slew of questions, of course. Like why did I think she should have a top on when I wasn’t wearing one? Why is it okay for little boys, and big boys, but not big girls? And when is a little girl big enough that a top becomes a necessity?

Paranoia about pedophiles comes into play as well, but that doesn’t address the gender imbalance here. I mean, do pedophiles really distinguish between a topless boy and a topless girl?

Would you have said something to the dad? None of us did, and we all survived the “trauma” of being on the same boat as a topless toddler. I’m really just raising the question for conversation’s sake. At what point do we need to tell our little girls to cover up in public?

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Breastfeeding doll sparks debate among parents

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a controversial doll that allows children to breastfeed.

Released by Spanish toymaker Berjuan, the doll “bebe Gloton,’’ which means gluttonous baby, comes with a pink and green halter that kids can strap to their chests.

The halter has flowers in the place of nipples and when the child presses the doll’s mouth against the fake nipple, the doll makes a sucking sound.

I came across this doll in an article in the New York Daily News. There is video demonstrationg how to use the doll.
Debates about this doll are lighting up the parenting blogosphere.

A lot of parents have been on the attack, saying the doll will promote teenage pregnancy and is too mature for little kids.

My immediate reaction to this doll was: how creepy. But now I can’t help but wonder if parents are taking their criticism of the doll too far.

For one thing, it seems kind of hypocritical to me that in a society that promotes breastfeeding as the best option for babies, we slam a doll that actually gives kids some sense of how it’s done.

Children like to pretend. Having a doll, no matter what method you use to feed it, is already introducing kids to the grown-up concept of becoming a parent.

And there is a lot of fascination around the whole concept of breastfeeding. So what’s the big deal?

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Kids' music that Mom likes: Why I created a toddler iPod playlist

smbushouse.pngGuest blogger Kathy Bushouse is a mother to one rambunctious toddler who turns 2 on Saturday. In her spare time, she covers schools for the Sun Sentinel and contributes to two Sun Sentinel blogs.

To show my son I loved him, I made him a mix tape.

Well, it’s sort of a mix tape. My son Andrew has his own playlist on my iPod.

While I made it for him, it’s also a playlist for me. We spend at least 35 minutes in the car together each day, and honestly, some of the music on my iPod is not appropriate for 2-year-old ears.

We have some children’s CDs, but I either forget to bring them or they’re stashed in my husband’s car. And truth be told, there’s only so much children’s music I can stomach.

Thus, the iPod playlist. A kid-friendly playlist gives me peace of mind that he won’t hear songs with wildly inappropriate lyrics. (I’ll save those for when he’s not in the car) And since I always carry my iPod, I’ll always have mom-approved music at the ready.

I know a kid playlist is not a novel idea – I’m sure other parents have done this long before me – but I decided to do it after our commute home one day, when I caught Andrew grooving to They Might Be Giants’ “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” When we got home, I pulled out the CD and played the track for him, and he danced.

Little did I know that the group I loved in high school and college was now a kids’ act.

I downloaded some new TMBG and combed through the music already on our iTunes to assemble Andrew’s playlist. (I use the iPod, but feel free to substitute your own MP3 player)

I’ve got 54 songs on there, and while I haven’t tried them all on Andrew yet, I already know he has some favorites.

This is Andrew’s top 5, by my best estimation (which is the amount of kicking and cheering that goes on during and after the song). Feel free to try them out on your kids:

No. 5: Anything by Jason Mraz. Really, any Jason Mraz song will do. Andrew loves him. He’s actually cried a few times when I tried to flip through a Jason Mraz song. If anyone reading this knows Jason Mraz or one of his people, please pass along my thanks for making such catchy songs that don’t contain curse words.

"Wordplay" is one of his favorites:

More songs (and videos) after the jump.

Continue reading "Kids' music that Mom likes: Why I created a toddler iPod playlist" »

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Water safety is your life line

It’s not just a summer thing.

However, any excuse to highlight the dangers of children around water is good enough.

Growing up – my parents had me and all of my siblings on swimming teams when we were very young.
I passed on my love of water – and my respect for it – making sure my children could each swim before they were five years old.

None of the above guarantees a child’s safety 100 percent.

In fact, a little bit of exposure and a few swimming lessons can create over-confidence.

Parents should never let their guard down with children, around pools, lakes, etc.

Look at some safety tips in this South Florida Parenting article: Keeping baby afloat.

And here is one of our picture galleries. A safety tip accompanies each photo.

And happy swimming, or sailing or water polo!

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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:


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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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: Ideas for Easter baskets for toddlers

A tisket, a tasket, a bountiful Easter basket.

Here are some ideas for filling baskets for children younger than 5.

11 Great Non-Food Items

Peeps bubbles (found at discount stores such as Dollar Store)

Balls such as tennis balls, small Nerf balls.

Toddler-sized utensils, cups and bowls

Board books play-doh.jpg

Minature Doodle-Pro

Seed packets of flowers or vegetable that can be seeded indoors and replanted outdoors.

Deck of cards such as Hasbro's Go Fish! card game

Bottle of bubble bath


Beach shovel or rake


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An oh-so-cute chubby baby could lead to obesity at 3

My daughter Ana Isabel was one of those chunky babies. She weighed 20 pounds at six months.


If I would've read this story back then, it would have worried me. It basically says that infants who gain weight rapidly in the first months of life have a greater chance of being obese by the time they turn 3. This story is based on a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics, a medical journal.

I'm glad to report Ana, now 3 1/2, is not obese. She weighs about 35 pounds now, which is normal for her age.

Nonetheless, the study goes against the common perception that a heavier baby is a healthier baby. It also comes at a time when many experts worry about childhood obesity.

So now what are we supposed to do now put infants on a diet? What do you think?

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Stride Rite cuts prices on select shoes for kids


Baby needs a brand-new pair of shoes. Always. Put can you afford to fork over $40 for a pair of leather sandles or sneakers that your child will outgrow in months?

Heck yeah with this deal!

Shoe retailer Stride Rite is rolling back prices to what they were in 1999. The strings attached include the deal being good only for online purchases, the first 1,999 buyers, shoes in stock and those purchased through

At checkout, enter the promotional code: 1999.

For more details, visit the Stimulus Sale page.

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When is your child old enough for sleep overs

This issue came up recently with my daughter who is three and a half years old.

We recently let Ana Isabel spend an afternoon at a friend's house without either of us there. It was the first time we did that. We don't have family in the area. So we don't get to drop her off at grandma's or abuelita's house.

My wife was more comfortable with the idea of letting Ana spend the night elsewhere. Me, not so much. Of course, my wife had a lot of sleepovers in her childhood. In my immigrant family, it wasn't something we did.

We concluded that Ana is too young yet. But I know the day's coming sooner than I would want.

Here's what an expert says about sleepovers. And if you're ready to take the plunge here's some advice on how to organize a sleepover for the pre-school set.

How old where you when you had your first sleep over?

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My daughter is allergic to the cat; He has to go

Mac, our gold tabby, was there when I started dating my wife, Carrie Ann. He saw us bring home Ana Isabel and then Lucas Emilio.
Ana, 3-1/2 years old, loves the cat. We keep close tabs on Lucas when he's near Mac since he's just 10 months old and likes to grab fur.

Mac has always been part of the family. But this week we found out Ana's allergic to him.

A few weeks back, Ana had an emergency visit to the pediatrician when she was having trouble breathing. After two more visits to the doctor and a specialist there's no way around it.

Mac has got to go.

For some time, my daughter has had the classic symptoms of an allergy sufferer. We thought it was a recurring cold. The specialist is now treating her.

The American College of Asthma, Allergies & Immunology has this brochure that gives tips on controlling allergens in the house. We found out we were doing many of the wrong things.

After we get over the parent guilt of having exposed our children to an allergen, we have to deal with finding a new home for a 12-year-old cat. We've posted fliers, hit up Facebook friends and checked with other cat lovers. We'll look at rescue organization as well. But if we can't find the cat a new home, he has go either way. That's the hard part.

Anybody want a warm, lovable lap cat?

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Mom on the Go: What to do this weekend

It's going to be another beauty this weekend. Start making plans with this weekend guide plucked from South Florida Parenting:

Saturday, March 14

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.

Coversations in the Hut. Resident artist Chisseko of Kenya offers families the wisdom of village Africa through conversations in the hut, workshops, a drum circle, exchanges in Swahili, mankala contests and more. 1 - 3 p.m., Young at Art Children’s Museum, 11584 W. State Road 84, Davie. Free with museum admission of $8. 954-424-0085.

Naruto Challenge. The latest addition to the world of TCG games, Naruto helps kids with their math skills and captures their imaginations in a ninja card game. A judge conducts the tournaments and teaches children to play the game. 2 p.m., Florida Sportscards, 4681 N. University Drive, Coral Springs. $8 entrance fee includes one booster pack. 954-345-4407.

Surfside Bicycle Ride. An 11-mile family-paced ride through county, city and state parks. The ride ends with music and a bounce house. Participants are encouraged to wear creative costumes. Helmets are required, and participants must bring their own bicycles. Rain date is March 15. 8 a.m., Hollywood North Beach Park, 3601 North Ocean Drive , Hollywood. $20 per family, $10 per individual, $5 per individual on a team of five or more participants. 954-926-2480.

City of Sunrise: Bicycle Rodeo. Participants will be divided in three divisions: tricycles, training wheels and two-wheelers as they are challenged in a bicycle obstacle course. Participants will compete for the most creatively decorated bicycle, too. Ages 2 and up. 9 - 10:30 a.m., Sunrise Athletic Complex, 11501 NW 44th St., Sunrise. Free. 954-747-4642.

Family Bicycle Rally. This event will include a family bicycle route and an enthusiast’s bicycle route. Both routes will take their riders through police-controlled intersections, and tree-lined streets in Miramar. Both routes begin and end at the Miramar Town Center, where there will be bicycle safety inspections and a children’s bicycle rodeo. Refreshments will be available for purchase. 9 a.m., Miramar Town Center, 2300 Civic Center Place, Miramar. Free. 954-704-1631.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Bicycle Ride. The whole family can participate in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade by riding and showcasing decorated bikes. 9 - 11 a.m., Sunview Park, 1500 SW 42nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Free. 954-791-1040.

Story Time Theatre. Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre presents Story Time at Whole Foods Lifestyle Center in Fort Lauderdale. Join in for storybook reading, imagination games, crafts and snacks. Ages 3 to 10. 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Whole Foods Market, 2000 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. $5. 954-565-5655.

IMACS Hi-Tech Camp Open House: Weston. Get a glimpse of the IMACS Hi-Tech Summer Camp at free open houses. The Open House offers talented children a unique opportunity to explore and expand their intellectual world. Students are immersed in fun-filled academic pursuits such as computer programming and virtual robotics, electronics, and logic puzzles. Full-day and partial-day camp programs are available for children entering first through 12th grades. RSVP online for the open house at 3 - 4:30 p.m., Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science, 2585 Glades Circle, Weston. Free. 954-791-2333.

Keep reading for listings in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties

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

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Getting Ana into volunatary pre-K is no simple feat

Who knew it would be such work getting Ana Isabel into voluntary pre-kindergarten.

Broward County this week started handing out vouchers for the state-paid voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds. It's done on a first-come, first-serve basis. And the more popular VPK programs generally have waiting lists.

So on Monday when I got to the Southwest Regional Library to get a voucher, the line wrapped around the building. I knew beforehand that there would be a wait. But I didn't expect to stand around for four hours for a piece of paper that says my daughter is eligible to start her schooling come August.

Afterward, I went to one of the three schools we had picked as our top choices to enroll Ana. All three have had waiting lists in the past. My intent was to drop off the voucher and get her on a list. Simple, I thought. Not exactly. Administrators there haven't even started to create their waiting list, they told me. And they didn't want to take my voucher until they had created it. So why did I wait for four hours?

Next, we call our second choice school. They, too, haven't figured out the waiting list. OK. We want to make sure Ana gets in somewhere, so my wife visited the third school on our list.

Guess what? No waiting list, yet. Administrators there said last year the list didn't start forming until May. But at least they're taking applications and vouchers. So all we need to do is apply and Ana should be in.

I'm still sore about the four-hour wait. All the rush to get a voucher and then on a list apparently wasn't needed.

Vouchers are scheduled to be distributed throughout the county in March. Here's a schedule. The same thing is happening in Palm Beach County.

Can't wait for Ana to start applying for colleges. That should be even more fun.

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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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Mom on the Go: Celebrating Dr. Seuss

One fish, two fish, happy birthday wise fish! seuss-big.jpg

Dr. Seuss would have been 105 years old today. Parents and libraries across the world are marking the day with readings and parties for the man behind some of the most-beloved children's books.

In our house, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a favorite. As a graduation gift for high-schoolers I love giving the book Oh, The Places You'll Go.

Today at 3 p.m., Greenacres will have a special reading of Dr. Seuss books for children ages 7 and older. The kids will also be able to create Seuss-inspired crafts.

For other events marking Dr. Suess' birthday this week, click here.

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book, and why?

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Does my toddler have asthma?

My daughter Ana Isabel had a cold last week. She seemed to be getting better but she had this persistent cough. Ana, at three and half, has had these cough before at the tail end of a cold.


But this was different. From one day to the next, the cough seemed to get worse.

At one point, she was coughing almost nonstop. My wife called the pediatricians' office. They told her they couldn't do anything for a cough. Don't bring her in. Give her cough syrup. We had already done that.

When my wife put Ana in the bath, she gasped for air. "Mommy, I can't breathe," Ana said. It hurts just writing that sentence. Her breaths were shallow and short.

We raced her to the doctor's office. They saw her immediately, examined her, took X-rays and put her on a nebulizer treatment. She improved right away. The color came back to her face.

It's too soon to know if the diagnosis is asthma, the doctors said. But we got the drugs and equipment to treat someone with asthma.

It's common. The American Lung Association says asthma is the leading serious chronic illness in children.
Here's an article about toddlers and asthma.

It runs in the family. So we're not surprised. Still, it's been my scariest parenting episode so far.

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Mom on the Go: The Best Goodie-Bag Gifts?

I have the Crayola-colored streamers, the Curious George plates and the menu.

But I'm stumped as to what to give 13 kids as party favors. I'm looking for something 2 year olds would get a kick out of that won't break my bank.

I'm toying with stuffing the bags with bubbles, Play-Doh and a Goldfish-shaped snack box. goldfish%20crackers.bmp

But should I scrape it all for a board book about Curious George? I'm desperate for some gift ideas.

The gift (or gifts) should be suitable for a 2 year old that still stuffs small objects in the mouth.

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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


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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Entering the world of pre-kindergarten

We're starting to talk up school to my daughter, Ana Isabel, who turns four in August. Just in time to enroll in pre-kindergarten.


Aside from getting her ready, it seems her parents have a lot to do to get ready. I have to take a day off of work so that we can go get a Voluntary Pre-K voucher. Then we need to bring it to our first choice of three programs that we've think fit Ana best out of hundreds in the county. Of course, we whittled the list down by asking for recommendations from friends.

After that, we wait and see if she gets in. If not, then we have to take the voucher to our second choice and pray she gets in there.

My wife already has gotten her medical records. But Ana won't have all her shots until after her birthday, which gives us very little time to get that information to whatever program has room for her. And we haven't even gotten to school supplies yet.

This is just the beginning, I know. But to me, it seems like we're not ready. I'm not ready! Ana just got here and already she's off to school.

Check the Broward County Early Learning Coalition for a list of all the sites and information on voluntary pre-K, which by the way, is paid for by the government.

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Parents really do make all the difference in the World

I can vouch for the influence parents have over their communities.

When I was way too young to remember, my dad was on the front lines of the civil rights movement. He represented white people pushing for change, he represented his faith as a Presbyterian minister, and ultimately, he simply represented his family.

Recently, one of my brothers found this clip about him from an old 1961 edition of Jet Magazine. He was quoted, “Let me tell you of several incidents when Jesus was caught in the act of sitting-in,” said Henry Warren Kunce. I cannot begin to express my pride!

So it’s not a stretch for me to see the value in National Parent Leadership Month that honors and celebrates parents for the vital roles they fill in their homes and communities.

But, not everyone has the opportunity to take on a mission like the one my dad did.

Still, child%20and%20parents.jpgother issues are just as noble, like Prevent Child Abuse Florida. For many, it’s a cause way too close to home.

The organization engages parent leaders in developing program strategies and public awareness materials through its Florida Circle of Parents program, to prevent child abuse and neglect through mutual, self-help parent support groups.

Based on shared leadership, mutual respect, and inclusiveness, the free, confidential and non-judgmental groups are open to anyone in a parenting or care-giving role.

There are 54 groups throughout Florida.

Find a Florida Circle of Parents support group in your area.

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Mom on the Go: How to get dinner to the table fast

At the end of a long work day, the last thing I want to do is make a nutrious meal for my 23 month old.

On those days, I usually rely on party foods to make a meal without making a meal. The crackers come out its sleeve, the block of cheddar gets sliced and topped with pre-sliced, bagged apples.

But the other day I rediscovered how to get a fuller meal to the table without lifting a finger: have hubbie make a casserole.

We've eaten severals meals from the one-dish wonder of chicken/rice/broccoli. And I've committed myself to making TWO casseroles this weekend to serve during the week when energy is in short supply.

If you want the recipe, click below. Otherwise, share a link to your favorite casserole recipe for other time-strapped parents to use.

Continue reading "Mom on the Go: How to get dinner to the table fast" »

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Confederate flag on our bookshelf?

We had an interesting dilemma this week. Our son, who’s almost 3, wanted to take his new truck book to school. He got it from the Broward County Library.

It’s your normal truck book, filled with all kinds of vehicles to marvel at, except for one thing: a page with an illustration of a Confederate flag atop a monster truck. The flag has a skull and bones in it, and above it words to the effect of, “Look at the flag fly.”


First things first. I’m not looking to ban anything here. Parents are free to put whatever book they want – or don’t want – on their shelves. In fact, this book seems accurate enough in its depiction of monster truck culture. I’ve seen a few Confederate flags atop monster trucks in my day. The point is whether we wanted to make Confederate flags seem normal in our house. We’re all familiar with the debate about the flag’s meaning. To me, it’s like global warming: the research has spoken. It’s impossible to sever ties between the Confederate flag and slavery. Could it represent something else? I suppose, but I don’t see how it’s not tied to slavery.

Still, is this something I can explain to a toddler? Would reading the book prompt a helpful conversation about the flag and its meaning for America? Or would it make something I find objectionable seem acceptable?

In the end, we decided to remove the book from the house for now. I need to answer those questions for myself before bringing it back.

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Mother of octuplets needs a nanny

The California mother of six who recently had eight children is perfect for a cause celebre.

Let's hope Angelina Jolie swoops in and sends this woman a few nannies to give her a hand. angelinajolie-family.bmp

As a mother of half-a-dozen kids, Angelina knows what it's like to juggle bottles, potty-training and bedtime stories. Right?

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It's about choosing child care, not shopping for shoes

Priority #1: Safety. Hands down, when it comes to our children. But somehow, we let our guard down in the process of making child care decisions.

Parents of children under the age of 6 are most concerned about safety when choosing child care, according to a recent survey. The report, Parents' Perceptions of Child Care j0438799.jpg in the United States, highlights other top issues: learning environments with trained child care providers, and cost. Zogby International conducted the telephone poll of 1,004 parents in November for the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.

The report also revealed that parents assume a lot: that there is governmental oversight to ensure child care safety; that background checks are conducted and employees do get training on child development, CPR, child guidance and discipline, and can recognize signs of child abuse.

Sometimes, we parents are naive, just like our children. We place complete trust and faith in the system, just as our children do us. The report went on to say parents believe that state governments license and inspect all child care programs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The NACCRRA reports that only about half of the states inspect child care settings only once a year or less.

The report details its findings on cost and other child care issues. The NACCRRA provides links, facts and score cards.

If you had been asked - and other than safety – what is your biggest child care concern?

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Best parks in South Florida

South Florida's winter is best spent outdoors in the parks, the Everglades, on the water. In places that are hostile in the summer because of the mosquitos and heat.

I'm partial to parks that cater to the under 5 set, which meet the needs of my 23 month old.

There's the newly expanded Hardy Park in Fort Lauderdale, which has cool chair-like swings for kids at heart.

The ground cover is artificial grass and crumbled tires.

We also like the Riverland Park that has two playground sets, a swing set and a nearby bathroom. The ground cover is mulch.

But I'm always on the hunt for another park that has a (reasonably) clean playset, a bathroom in close promixity and a covered pavilion or trees with shade.

What's your favorite kiddie park?

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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:


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

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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.


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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Santa Claus in the digital world

Taking a (digital) page from kids these days, the man in red is accepting e-mailed Christmas lists.

Have your kid e-mail in his/her list and we'll publish it online, and possibly, in the paper.


Oh, and tell us what's the craziest gift your kid lobbied for (a Rolex, a pony??)

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Getting ready for Voluntary Pre-K, Aaaargh!

We just started researching pre-K for my three-year-old Ana Isabel.

Talk about daunting. There's hundreds of programs out there. So we've started by asking for recommendations from friends. We plan to visit some sites. And then we turned to the Internet.

That's when I came across the State of Florida Department of Education Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program Provider Kindergarten Readiness Rate Website.

A mouthful, for sure. But basically it rates VPK programs. It measures how well VPK providers prepare children for kindergarten using state standards.

You can check out one program, all providers in a city or the entire state for that matter.

I did a quick check of those that were recommended to us. It raised a question or two about one. But we'll still visit, ask those question and then make a decision.

Just for fun, I downloaded all the VPK providers in Broward and Palm Beach counties and then did a quick ranking.

The top score, or readiness rate, is 300, That means 100 percent of the students in that program were deemed ready for kindergarten. Those programs with low scores are required to provide an improvement plan to the state. And some programs, while listed, didn't have enough students for the state to measure.

Take a look. See how the program where you send your kid, or want to send or kid, did.

Broward County Palm Beach County

If nothing else, it's a starting point for questions for your VPK provider.

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My three year old daughter the princess. Thanks Disney.

Every time Ana Isabel comes home she quickly changes into her princess pajamas.

On most nights, she insists I read her a story that's usually connected to a princess. Her latest favorite, Sleeping Beauty. She even has coined her own song called "Ana Princess Rock Star." She sings it around the house.

All very cute. But it got me thinking. Why does she always want to emulate a princess? And it's one that's usually saved by a prince.

I know my niece, now six, went through the same phase. And my daughter went to a birthday party recently where all the little girls dressed in their best princess outfits. So she's not alone.

Naively, I asked my wife why all the princess stuff with little girls this age. Her answer: "Thank Disney."

Since Ana's birth, generous family and friends have given us Disney DVDs and books with stories like "The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella."

It all indoctrinates little girls into this Prince Charming myth that many carry into adult. I never really thought about, of course, until I saw it my daughter.

Don't get me wrong. Disney's not going dictate my daughter's view of the world as she grows. As parents, my wife and I will. Nonetheless, I can see how a corporation like Disney can have a real impact.

What are your thoughts?

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Taking my three-year daughter to the potty in the men's room

We celebrated my daughter finally learning to use the potty. She did it the week before her third birthday. What a relief.


Then came a wrinkle I really didn't think of until, well, my daughter had to go potty and her mommy wasn't around.

I went with Ana Isabel to the beach just us two for a little papi and daughter time. She loves the ocean. She played in the sand. And we had a ball in the small waves. Then came the moment: "Papi, I have to go potty!" she says.

After a brief second of panic, I blurted out: "We're at the beach, go right here." She looked at me with a blank stare and said it again. "Papi, potty." OK. That wasn't the best idea.

I picked her up and headed to the bathrooms, the public men's room. As I'm racing with Ana in my arms, I'm thinking: "Do I take her in the women's room?"

I know what most public men's rooms look like. I'd rather not take my daughter in there. As we approached the two bathrooms doors, a scraggly looking man walked out of the men's room.

"Anybody else in there?" I blurted out. He quickly answered, I think one other person. At least, it was not a public restroom full of grown men standing in front of urinals. We raced into the large wheelchair accessible stall. No one else in site.

Ana peed. I probably was more relieved than she was. Later in the day, we used a unisex bathroom at a restaurant. That was better.

I make it a point to do things with my daughter alone, especially since the arrival of Lucas Emilio four months ago. So I guess I'm going to be dealing with this dilemma for a while.

Any other suggestions for taking my daughter potty in public when mommy's not around?

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What's an appropriate birthday celebration for a 3 year old?

Today is Ana Isabel's third birthday. Hard to believe. Seems to me like she just got here.
Funny thing with birthdays. For the third year in a row, my wife and I talked about an appropriate way to celebrate our daughter's annual milestone.

We discussed a party but decided against it. That to me seems, well, like a waste of time and money. I know that for many people it's the only way to go.

But here's what we're doing: Ana, her little brother and my wife went shopping for the ingredients to make her birthday cupcakes. They'll plan to spend today baking.

Tomorrow, they'll take the cupcakes to a monthly book club/playdate. And next week, I'm off of work and plan to spend time with her on my own and together as a family, going to the beach and maybe even a trip to Wannado City. And she's already received a ton of presents from family and friends.

We think all those activities are fun memorable ways to celebrate. Still, my wife said to me the other day that she feels funny when she tells others that we're not having a birthday party.

Maybe we'll have one next year when it'll mean more to my daughter. But for this year, I'm really looking forward to cupcakes, the beach, Wannado City and just spending time with Ana.

Is that so wrong?

An update: Last week, I blogged about Ana's reluctance to go on the potty. Well, two days later, she decided it was time. She went on the potty. We've had a few accidents. But there's progress. Thanks to those who gave us many tips. We have used some and it has helped.

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We're about to get militant on the potty training

My daughter turns 3 next week. And we have been turning up the heat on the potty talk, using different tactics to get Ana Isabel to use it. But nothing so far.

We've had a plain potty in the bathroom for about a year. A few months ago, we started pushing the issue. We bought another one, this time a Dora potty. We've adorned it with stickers.

My wife bought an Elmo potty training DVD. We have potty training books for children, even one that flushes. Nothing.

Ana has gone as far as sitting on the potty and saying her "China" is broken. (That's her version of vagina.)

As Ana's birthday approaches, we fill a bit more pressure because she's now old enough to enroll in programs we'd like for her to take, such as gymnastics. But she has to be potty trained.

Up until now, we've operated under the premise that Ana will go on the potty when she's ready. But now, we're not so sure.

My wife's thinking of taking a harder-line. She's talking about letting Ana spend a day without a diapers or pants. That way, she'll poop and pee on herself. The hope is that it will make her uncomfortable enough so that the potty looks good. Of course, we'll be cleaning some major messes that day.

Are we just being impatient at this point or should we get militant with the potty training?

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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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Knotted, tangled mess of a head

Following up on my colleagues post below about hair, my nearly 3-year-old daughter, Ana Isabel, wakes up most mornings with her hair looking like a rats nest.


I mean it's bad. Really bad. So bad my wife and I have had to cut out knots in her hair.

We're perplexed on how to prevent it.

Ana has this beautiful long light-brown, almost blond, hair. It's thin and wispy. We don't shampoo it every night at bath time and we use gentle baby hair products.

My guess is that Ana is a thrasher as she sleeps. She whips her head back and forth on the pillow, which makes a mess of her hair overnight.

For the most part, the problem comes when it's time to comb her hair. She hates it. It become this long drawn out process to get her ready to go out of the house.

For me, this falls under the I-know-nothing-about-this aspect of being a dad to a little girl. I didn't anticipate it and I'm at a complete loss for what to do. Is it even something I should worry about?

Any suggestions?

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Are Dora bikes for boys?

My son wanted a Dora bike. So what if it’s a “girls bicycle”?


Still, I hesitated. Couldn’t he just make this easy and choose the Hot Wheels bike? But why should he? The Dora bike was colorful, much livelier than the muted blue-and-orange Diego bike next to it. Should I tell him that adults have categories of “girls” and “boys” that we generally follow? When is it appropriate -- or offensive -- to reinforce gender identity?

The same thing happened at Target last week. He wanted the pink Dora pull-ups. Reflexively, we said they were “for girls,” but then we asked ourselves why it should matter.

Back in college, it was easy to “deconstruct” gender categories, to dismiss the “hegemony” of how they falsely shape our world. Then we had kids. And we realized that gender helps order their world. Alexander also loves trucks, and I’m sure that’s not an accident. Somehow, he figured out that boys like trucks. But it’s a fine line, of course. I’m not looking to raise intolerant boys.

OK, so you want to know, right? He ended up with a Thomas the Tank Engine bike. I told him he could get the Dora bike if he liked. But he chose the train instead.

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To Pre-K 3 or not? That is the question

Ana Isabel turns three next month. And all the talk among the parents of the three-year-old set is whether to send their children to Pre-K 3.


First off, Ana seems a bit young to me to be going to school. For Pete's sake, she's not even potty trained yet. (But that's a question for another post).

I don't see the benefit of sending Ana to what's essentially glorified day care. She's a bright child already reciting the alphabet and counting up to 12 in English and Spanish. She gets to 20 with a little prodding. She speaks in full sentences, albeit short ones she repeats all the time like "I don't want to!"

I know there's an argument to be made for socializing children at this age. Ana gets along well with other children, shares and plays well with others.

The certified teacher that runs the Mommy-and-Me program that Ana attends told my wife that everything Ana would learn in Pre-K 3, can be taught at home with simple lessons.

So can someone please explain to me the benefits to sending my child to Pre-K 3?

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Apple sauce for everyone!

Alexander, our 2-year-old, has launched a battle for the household’s hearts and minds. His strategy is clear: small victories will change the parenting landscape. What, mom says no apple sauce until I finish lunch? Well then, head over to dad on the couch and ask in that adorable 2-year-old voice, “Daddy, can I have some apple sauce?” Who can resist that? His ostensible target is one plastic cup of applesauce, but the campaign is more sweeping: to be greeted by apple sauce at every meal. To be, indeed, the apple sauce king of Fort Lauderdale.

Why stop there? If that trip to the potty seems intimidating, ask oh-so-nicely that “mommy take you.” She is, after all, in the bedroom dressing for work, buying you several key minutes with Henry, your new Thomas the Tank Engine piece. Who knows, you think to yourself, maybe they’ll forget. Sure, there’s a slightly wounded parental ego to consider, but the prize is much bigger: spending the entire day in pajamas with trains. This is, after all, the side of good.

But sometimes it doesn’t work. Parents get stubborn. In that case, remember you are a big brother. Get mom and dad to focus on Rowan while you repeatedly jump off the couch. Victory at last.

And how does this play out with your little ones?

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Gosh, my daughter is getting heavy

There's nothing better than when I walk into the house after work and Ana Isabel runs up to me yelling "papa."

I usually pick her up and give her a kiss. I ask her if she has been a good girl and ask about the day's activities. It's usually a short conversation, aside from the fact that she's not even 3 yet, I usually arrive just before bedtime.

There are other times when I pick her up and carry her around. At the mall, during walks to the store or when she wakes in the morning. But since her brother, Lucas Emilio, arrived two months ago Ana wants me to carry her all the time. She was 35 pounds at her last doctor's visit. So my arm hurts after a while.

My wife says Ana has me wrapped around her little fingers. Maybe so. But I see the time when I'm going to have to stop just because my arm is about to be pulled out of its socket.

Any suggestions on how to encourage my daughter from making that same request over and over and over. My arm would sure appreciate it.

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Best free events for kids

In this week's installment of free stuff to do. transparent.jpg

Take your budding car expert to check out the classics at Lake Worth's Evening on the Avenues.

If your kid is interested in making things explode, the free science museum at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton is a good bet.

Good (free) times can also be had at:

Today: Summer Games exhibit at Miami Children's Museum, 980 MacArthur Causeway. If you don't make it today, save the date for the third Friday in July when its free admission.

Musical performances from 7 - 9 p.m. at Hollywood's Young Circle Park at U.S. 1 and Hollywood Blvd. Bring a blanket or lawn chair for seating.

Saturday: Asian Pacific Festival at the Alvin Sherman Library in Fort Lauderdale. Learn about traditional Chinese music and dance, Thai traditional dance and see a Korean Hapkido martial arts demo. Plus there will be food and craft projects. From 1 - 4 p.m.

Storytime for kids ages 3 - 6 at 10:30 a.m. Barnes and Noble, Broward Mall, 591 S. University Dr., Plantation.

Continue reading "Best free events for kids" »

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The language of toddler Neanderthals

Got a toddler? If so, it’s worth picking up Dr. Harvey Karp’s book on them. We went right out and bought it after reading the New York Times story on it.

Karp’s earlier book, Happiest Baby on the Block, was hugely influential for us. We were religious with our oldest, Alexander, about using Karp’s soothing techniques. They worked, and they worked again with Rowan, although I probably pulled back a bit from the constant swaddling the second time around. (Hey, that swaddle gets hot in Florida!)

Karp’s theory is that a toddler’s development mirrors human evolution, but he rockets through evolutionary stages that took millions of years for our ancestors. So toddlers go from “charming chimp-child” to “knee-high Neanderthal” to “clever cave-kid,” and then “versatile villager” from 12 to 48 months. He writes: “Once you learn how your toddler is similar to a caveman, your true job will become clear – you must think of yourself as an ambassador from the 21st century to the Neanderthal people!”

Then Karp offers a key piece of advice: how to talk a primitive language your toddler will understand. There are a few steps to speaking “toddler-ese”: short phrases, repetition, tone and facial expressions and body gestures. Here’s where it gets funny. It really comes down to embracing those silly moments when you manage to distract your toddler from some pending meltdown. So I tried it with Alexander, our 2-year-old: He woke up one morning and starting banging on the refrigerator for juice. His frustration was growing. So I went over and joined him. I got to his level and started saying “juice, juice, juice.” I smiled and laughed, and looked like a fool. But, as Karp would say, Alexander was happy because I understood him, so he calmed down.

You need to be a bit dramatic, Karp says, and don’t be surprised if you feel uncomfortable, or even weird. Still, it shouldn’t be that foreign. Lots of people naturally speak toddler-ese; they’re people we compliment as “good with kids.” They don’t mind looking silly if it makes the kid happy.

It’s not a cure-all, but the beauty of Karp’s writing is that he reminds us of self-evident parenting skills. He didn’t invent swaddling; he just reminded us how to do it. The same goes for toddler-ese. So give it a try. And then post to tell us if it works.

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When is Ana going to go on the potty?

We now have a newborn and my 33-month-old daughter in diapers.


The only good thing about that is that we have races to see who can get their diaper changed faster, Ana or Lucas. He's three weeks old. That way Ana won't fuss about a diaper change as she often does.

But we think it's time that she starts learning to go on the potty. We have two: A plain one and a Dora one. But so far, no interest.

Ana says she's scared of the flush.

A friend of my wife let us borrow a couple of potty books. My mother-in-law got her big-girl underwear. And we talk about the using the potty often.

I know there's a school of thought that says she'll go on the potty when she's ready and to push her only invites a lot of cleaning up little accidents.

But I got think there's more we can do to encourage her using the potty. Any suggestions?

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Now I'm in a time-out

Elias will be 3 next month. I'm hoping the Terrible Twos will end, miraculously, when he's no longer two.

When he doesn't get his way, he has recently started to put me into a time-out. He does this with as much authority as he thinks he has, ordering his brother, his father, and even his grandma into a time-out as well.

I also hear echoes of my own admonishments when he responds, "Didn't I tell you to go to your room?" Something tells me I've been doing a little too much yelling.

So I have to try to dial it back. But I still don't know what the appropriate response is when he tells me I've been put in time-out. Any suggestions?

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Chilling out with the kids: How to beat the summer heat

Summer has arrived in South Florida.

Last weekend we spent the steamy evening at the beach with dozens of other families with young kids looking to cool off.

This weekend promises to be another scorcher.

So we'll probably head to Croissant Park for a dip in its kiddie pool to cool off. (Note: infants must wear swim pants)

Or just turn on the sprinkler and set up a bootleg slip 'n' slide.

Where is your favorite place to take the kids to cool off?

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Albuterol? What's that?


We have a new member of the household: a nebulizer. It arrived a couple of weeks ago after our baby, Rowan, got bronchiolitis.

He takes his medicine, albuterol, two or three times a day through the nebulizer, which allows him to breathe it through a mist.

Our 2-year-old, Alexander, was at first scared by the apparatus, but now finds the chicken design on the mask funny and announces that it’s time for “Rowan’s medicine” when he hears the machine’s loud humming kick on.

Bronchioloitis appears among babies at day care, which Rowan started at 3 months. But I’m curious about other people’s experience with albuterol. Rowan seems to be OK with taking it, but I doubt that will last. I gather that bronchioloitis can last up to age 2. Our good friends talked about getting to the point of having to hold their daughter down in order to use the nebulizer.

Have people found it worked? What’s been your experience? Any side effects from the medicine?

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Training child to use the bathroom

I'm starting to get Baby to tell us when she has to use the bathroom, but am finding that I'm the one who needs training.

I get restless sitting on the bathroom floor while waiting for her to go.


Plus, I don't think at 14 months that she's grasping the concept. Right now we rush her to the bathroom at the times when we know she's due for a delivery.

What has worked for you?

Is it potty-training videos? Patience? Books?

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What's a child to do while mommy is in the hospital having another child?

Everything in our lives right now revolves around the pending birth of Lucas Emilio. He's scheduled to arrive via C-section next week.


My wife, Carrie Ann, is at that point where she can't get comfortable in any position. I worry about having all the last minute errands done.

My daughter, Ana Isabel, well she seems to be the least worried. Of course, she'll be three in August. So her focus is playing with mommy or papi or a best friend she makes that day. Still, Ana knows she's going to become a big sister next week.

My biggest worry is how will Ana handle her mommy being in the hospital for a few days. My mother-in-law is flying in to help. And I'll be off of work. So hopefully, we'll keep her busy. But still, the hospital can be a traumatic place for adults. And it's the first time Ana and momma won't be sleeping under the same roof overnight.

So what do you suggest for keeping a nearly three-year-old child from being traumatized by a hospital experience?

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Toddler toothbrushing tantrums

Why, oh why, must the toothbrushing ritual be such a pain?

Elias, who is almost 3, recoils in horror twice a day during toothbrushing time. He flails, he cries, he grabs my hand, he twists, his head moves away from me with a strength that I didn't know he had.

I have tried everything. Giving him the toothbrush first so that he can do it himself. Singing silly songs as I brush his teeth. Explaining to him rationally (as if he can understand) that he is going to have big boo-boos in his teeth if he doesn't let me brush. Cheerfully telling him we've got to get the "sugar bugs." Getting his older brother to show him how it's painless to brush teeth. Buying him one of those Spin toothbrushes with Thomas the Train on it.

But everyday, it's an ordeal. He works himself up to the point sometimes where he's crying uncontrollably and I want to give up. But every time I want to throw up my hands, I think of the dentist experience that Evan had. Suffice it to say he had more than one cavity. More than two, even. It was a horrific experience, one that Evan ever-so-helpfully tells Elias about.

I'm wondering how other parents deal with their toddler who are violently unwilling to have their teeth brushed, and I'm also wondering what age your kids were when they first went to the dentist, and what you did to make them comfortable. Confession: Elias hasn't gone yet. Gulp.

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School pictures

Baby's daycare is holding picture day later this month.

For a mere $35 or $60, 1-year-olds can appear as hula girls or sailor boys. camera.jpg

I was not prepared for the onslaught of school portraits to begin in daycare.

What has been your experience?

Did your child's daycare offer professional photo shoots? How did you handle it?

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Baby Lucas arrives in three weeks

We're in the final countdown for my son, Lucas Emilio, to arrive. We're all very excited, including my daughter, Ana Isabel.


My wife and I are scrambling. I'm finishing up house projects to get everything ready. My wife is pulling out all the baby stuff. And family members have booked their flights since Carrie Ann has a C-section scheduled.

That brings me to Ana. We have been telling her for months about Lucas' arrival. She's two and a half years old and seems to get it that there will be a new addition to the family.

Still, I don't want her to feel left out. I'm planning on doing more daughter and papi things with her. And we've put aside a few presents for her as well from our generous family, friends and colleagues.

Any other suggestions for keeping the jealous-sibling syndrome at bay? Or should we just be prepared to face it?

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The great shoe debate

Ana Isabel is two and half and hates shoes.


It doesn't help that my wife, who is nine months pregnant, often has swollen ankles and feet at this point. So she often ends up either barefoot or putting on sandals.

I'm the one always insisting that Ana put on her slippers or shoes. And it's not just about dirty feet either.

The other day Ana was walking with a noticeable limp. She favored her right leg.

Of course, I feared the worst. I worry that her bare feet hitting the cold, hard tiles in the house could have a detrimental effect on their development. I know that when I walk barefoot for too long, it hurts my feet.

We later realized that when Ana slipped trying to climb onto our bed in the morning she banged her ankle against the bed frame. It swelled for two days, but it's better now.

Still, it seems to me that Ana sometimes has a misstep in her walk.

Am I crazy or is it only natural for a toddler to reject the restrictions of footwear? Should papa stop being a fuddy duddy and just let Ana run wild bare foot?

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Can birthday parties actually be fun?

Question of the day: How do you create a successful birthday party?

We’ve got one Saturday for Alexander, who’s turning 2. In recent days, Shola and I have turned to one another and said, “How many people are coming to this thing?” We then both shrug and say, “Not sure.” We didn’t set out to throw a big party; it just seems to have grown with each day-care/church/park/family/neighbor friend we invited. And in some cases, we needed to reciprocate invitations. Invitations seem to go out en masse for kids’ birthday parties. Parents don’t know which kid to invite from day care, so they just invite the whole class. It’s a good idea for kids, but sort of makes it hard to plan a party.

But I digress. The real issue is what to do with these kiddies. We thought about a musician, but couldn’t find anyone suitable. A clown was forbidden after our baby, Rowan, reacted with utter terror to a clown at another party. Face painting requires patience, and that’s antithetical to the idea of two dozen 2-years-olds (remember: we don’t know if this is the real number of attendees) at a birthday party. So we’ve settled on the idea of singing some songs, letting them run around the playground and eating pizza and cupcakes.

But I’m on the hunt for ideas. Got any good games? Activities? Food?

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Body parts, China and a two and half year old

This falls into the category of something I never thought about on my way to parenthood. But it happened one day a few weeks ago.


Sometime back, my wife and I agreed on teaching our children the anatomical correct name for their body parts. It wasn't a big discussion, just something we sort of agreed on almost in passing.

Of course, most of this teaching goes on while I am at work. So I never really have given it that much thought until my daughter caught me off guard.

Her mother was at the doctor. And we were playing in the living room. She opened her mouth wide. I did the same. We did the aahhhh thing, each of us getting louder by the moment. Finally, I stopped and pointed in her mouth and said: "What's that in there? Is that China?"

That stopped Ana Isabel. "No, papa. That's not my China. This is my China," she said while doing a full-on Michael Jackson crotch grab. Vagina, China. It's all the same to a two and half year old. I just about fell out of the chair trying not to laugh.

I relayed the story to my wife. We laughed. It's better than the name her grandmother used to for the same body part, Carrie Ann said. Tootie. It confused her as a little girl when the sitcom "The Facts of Life" had a character with the same name.

So, how do you handle teaching your children about their body?

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Is my kid bored in my car?

So how do you keep your kid entertained in the car?

Here’s why I ask. Alexander, who is 2, started his new school this month in Boca Raton, near my Sun-Sentinel office. It’s also close to my wife’s office in Boca. But there’s a catch: We live in Fort Lauderdale. So I take him to school each day, and she picks him up before heading to get Rowan at his day care in Fort Lauderdale.

For two weeks we’ve had these drives up Interstate 95 to Boca, about 40 minutes. I decided early on that I was not going to listen to NPR in the car. This was for two reasons. First, a colleague and a friend both recently struck the fear of God in me about leaving your kid in the car. They both recounted hearing about cases of perfectly well-meaning people just forgetting about their kid in the back seat. They got so wrapped up in their routine that the kid faded into the background.

Then there was my desire to actually make these trips meaningful for the two of us. I knew that listening to the news would mean I was not listening to Alexander. He’s not really fascinated by coverage of the presidential race. So I figured shutting the radio off was a way to focus on him, talk to him.

But I discovered a problem: We run out of things to talk about. I mean, he’s only 2. And I get a bit bored pointing out trucks -- “tractor-trailer truck,” “tanker truck” – for the entire ride. The other morning I tired coming up with stories behind what the trucks were carrying. That worked well with a refrigerated meat truck. He started pointing to trucks afterward and saying, “Take meat to the store,” and “cook it.” But that only goes so far.

My colleague, Daniel Vasquez, made me wish l that I could find a way to take a train or bike on this long ride, even just for a week as he did. So what do you think? A kid’s book on CD? A game? Is NPR the way to go after all?

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Easter candy and baby teeth

This week, the daycare my child attends celebrated St. Patrick's Day and Easter by asking parents to bring in plates, cheese, juice boxes and SWEETS: cupcakes, candies, cookies.

candy.jpgWhat the heck do children ages 1-2 need with candy???

Baby teeth are temporary, and can be difficult to clean if the baby is like mine and squirms and wails during the cleanings.

I was instructed via a note to bring candy for the Easter party. I brought grapes, lovingly divided into baby bite sizes, for the kids.

As a compromise, I brought in treat bags of candy and gum for the teachers.

How do you deal with your daycare provider plying your child with sweets?

Continue reading "Easter candy and baby teeth" »

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Things to do with Baby

A couple of weeks ago I was agonizing about the enrichment possibilities for a babe in South Florida.

And the response was helpful: go to the beach, Quiet Waters and Tradewind parks and story time.


Since then, I've found some great things to do with an infant or toddler. The educational-training powerhouse Nova offers classes for babes and parents.

And now that we're entering spring, there's always a fair or fest to check out.

But I think we're going to put our eggs in the South Florida Parenting Extravaganza which will have a petting zoo, pony rides, a firehouse, face-painting and more.

If you've got something cool to do with your rugrat this weekend ... please tell me. I could always use good ideas.

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Saving money at age 3

This week, my three-year-old began to learn the value of a dollar. Better said, he’s learning the value of a penny, nickel, dime and quarter.

And I can thank a "Curious George" cartoon on PBS. My son and I caught a few minutes of an episode the other morning that involved the scheming monkey using a piggy bank to save money to buy a toy.

My son immediately wanted a piggy bank. A blue one.

That afternoon when I picked him up from pre-school, I opened up a gift given to me at one of my baby showers before my son was born – a porcelain piggy bank. It wasn’t blue, but my son’s face lit up regardless.

“Mommy, I need coins,” he said. “I need coins like Curious George.”

I grabbed some spare change and attempted to explain its value. That was way too complex. So, we settled on learning the names and attributes: A penny is copper in color; a dime is the smallest coin; a quarter is the biggest. (I haven’t yet introduced the Susan B. Anthony coin.)

He loved it. My husband I explained to our son that if he helps pick up -- say his toys or the dinner table -- we’ll give him some money for his piggy bank. It has become such a successful tool. I’ve used it to get him to brush his teeth.

Some parents use stickers. We use pennies.

My next step is to help my son realize the choices he can make with his money: Spend it quickly, and buy one small toy or book. Or save more, and buy a bigger toy or more books. I’m not quite sure he’ll get the concept entirely, but at least I’ll have some extra help with chores around the house. And he'll be on his way to saving later in life, I hope.

Tell us what you've done to teach your kids about money and saving.

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Napping away with our wallet


When did nap mats get so expensive? Do I really need to spend $49 for a mat complete with an “all-in-one pillow, comforter and attached blanket” and an ABC-123 design? Well yes, I suppose so, mostly because we didn’t really know any better. Here’s what we bought from

And this one was relatively affordable, at least according to our hasty Internet searches last night as the school deadline approached. Another site we considered, Siesta Sacks made me wonder whether Alexander needed a 1-inch or 2-inch foam padded vinyl mat below the cover. Of course, the more padding the better, right? Looks like other parents had the same thought because the 2-inch mat took longer to arrive. The mats and covers had fancy designs and handy carrying devices, among other features.

As I conducted this search, I recalled sleeping on a thinly padded, uncomfortable mat years ago in some kindergarten class. Maybe that’s why I hated naptime. I’m sure Alexander won’t think back to such trying times when he’s older. Childhood really has gotten easier with time, hasn’t it? We just have better everything now: strollers, bottles, diapers, car seats? Or at least they cost more. But the creator of makes a good point on her Web site: “The things that make life a little easier, give us more time for our kids.”

If you have advice on nap mats, please share.

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The Miseducation of Baby

The Baby has eaten and is free to play with her electronic book, congo drums, truck or puzzle.


Yet, she decides to pace the living room with a puzzle piece clamped between her lips.

Back and forth she goes, muttering all the way.

It's clear that this evening Baby is suffering from intellectual stimulation.

Which is why I've hatched a plan to launch the Baby Enrichment Series -- weekend jaunts to mind-stimulating venues in South Florida.

But where to start?

We've been to the Palm Beach Zoo, where she was more enamored with the pigeons than the animals behind moats. And she's too young for story time at area libraries.

Where have you taken your infant, just shy of 12 months, for some good old educational fun?

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Fighting in front of Ana

My wife, Carrie Ann, and I have disagreements like any married couple. But most often we're careful not to get into heated debates in front of our daughter, now two and half.
We've never had a yelling match in front of her. (Fortunately, those are rare.) Still, even when we are having a serious discussion; not a fight, with a lot of back and forth, Ana interrupts.

At times, it seems to me that it's more than her just wanting all the attention. She has even told us to stop. I've thought that maybe we should not have these talks in front of Ana. But sometimes they're hard to avoid.

It turns out, according to this piece on CNN and, that it's OK to fight in front of the kids. It's even healthy. So long as you're not nasty with each other. Interesting.

How do you handle fighting or having adult conversations in front of your children?

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Parents ready for the big time in potty training

My husband and I are finally ready. After two months of accidents, emergency wardrobe changes and extra loads of laundry, we are finally ready to send our 3-year-old son to school in “big boy” underwear, as we call it at home.

Yes, we’re finally ready.

We’ve held off because we have wanted to spare our son the possible embarrassment of wetting his pants in front of his friends. Thanksgiving weekend, he had an accident in front of his cousins and the memory stuck with him.

But since then, our son has progressively improved in the bladder-control department: He now goes to the bathroom on his own (though he still likes to announce it to everyone within an earshot, including our dog). He prefers to wear underwear than pull-ups at home and on the weekends. And the four-times-an-hour accidents have disappeared.

His teachers have been nudging my husband and I to just do it. So this weekend, I will stock up on extra Buzz Lightyear and Nemo underwear, shorts, socks and even buy an extra pair of shoes to send to school. And I’ll just pray for the best.

Am I nuts for taking this step too seriously and postponing it until I thought my son had a real chance at success?

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My daughter's first bad cold

Ana Isabel has been an incredibly healthy child. She's had one bout of the sniffles with a runny nose before last week.
We figure since Carrie Ann works from home and watches Ana, my daughter, now two and half, has had limited exposure to other children and germs. So she has been able to avoid a bad cold, up until now.

And now with all the news about cold and cough medicine not being good for you child, I'm not sure what we should do to try and relieve her symptoms. I suggested taking Ana to the doctor. But my wife says that while Ana has a cold she's mostly in good spirits. So a doctors visit may be premature at this point, since we'd rather not start dosing Ana with antibiotics just yet.

She had a slight fever the other day, nothing serious. We gave her Motrin for that and it seemed to work.

I just wonder what else we can do besides trying to find some contraband cough and cold medicine that was taken off the shelves for children. I figure if Ana's cold gets worse or is not getting better by next week, we're off to the pediatrician.

Meanwhile, what works for a stuffy head, cough and runny nose so that Ana can sleep through the night.

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The big girl bed dilemma

Ana Isabel, now almost 2 and a half, has finally made the move to the "big girl" bed.


My wife and I worked on the transition for months. (I'll admit it was mostly my wife. But I did paint and move furniture.) We wanted to get it done before my wife's pregnant belly got too big to lift my little 32-pounder in and out of a crib.

One day just before Christmas, Ana blurted out she wanted to sleep in the "big girl" bed in her "big girl" room, once the guest bedroom. So that's how it happened. There were a few nights of Ana walking out of her room and into our room, waking everyone up. Even the cat didn't sleep through the commotion.

We had to revert to the old cry-it-out technique that got Ana to sleep through the night when she was six months old. We locked her in her room and let her cry. It took two nights of her crying for a few minutes before she fell back asleep. It worked, for the most part. Except once a night usually around 10:30 p.m. Ana wakes.

My wife is usually fast asleep and, depending on my schedule, I may be sleeping as well. We hesitate to lock her in her room again for the full night or to make that the permanent solution. But I'm afraid this may be the only way that we'll get uninterrupted sleep.

What do you suggest for getting a toddler to sleep in her "big girl" bed and to stay in her room when she does wake?

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Quick thinking, patience pays off on Halloween

In the end, he was a baseball player.

Halloween in the Vasquez household played out pretty much as expected. When it came time to get dressed to go trick-or-treating, my son would have none of it.

Big tears. Lots of screaming (“Take it off!”) when I tried to slip on the “scurvy” pirate costume he had been talking about for weeks. I managed to get the pants on. But that was it. The shirt might as well have been laced with shards of glass. The painful screams persisted long after the shirt was removed and shoved into a distant corner. Our back-up fireman costume didn’t even make it out of the closet.

The crying eventually subsided, and, amazingly, my son still wanted to go trick-or-treating. So my husband and I improvised and searched the house for some semblance of a costume:

Mickey Mouse Club member. Costume: Mickey Mouse shirt and Mickey ears. My son’s response: “I don’t want the ears. I don’t like it!”

Harry Potter. Costume: Pair of round glasses. My son’s response: “I don’t want glasses!”

Then came one last idea: Baseball player. Costume: Aforementioned pirate pants, San Francisco Giants jersey and plastic bat. My son’s initial response: “No shirt! No shirt!”

At that point, I realized he just wanted to say no to everything –- not exactly unusual for a three-year-old. So I told him if he wanted to go outside to see his friends and go trick-or-treating, he needed to wear a jacket (a.k.a. baseball jersey) because it was cold. (OK, technically, it was just breezy.)

He agreed. He smiled. And the rest is one for the baby book.

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It's a scary world for Ana Isabel

OK. Let's go down the list. There seems to be a toy recall every other week now a days.
Fortunately, my Ana Isabel, 2, only has had one or two of the recalled toys in her toy box.

Then there's the scare that cough and cold medicines for infants and toddlers are not safe. That sent us scurrying through the medicine cabinet. Again, we're fortunate Ana hasn't had anything worse than pain-in-the-gums teething so far.

And, of course, there's the nightly horror on the evening news or the morning scare in the newspapers of the latest crime against a small child.

We could just shut off the TV, not get the newspaper and take a stick-our-heads-in-the-sand approach. But both my wife and I are in the news business. So that's not really an option.

It's enough to give a father a full head of gray hairs to put it midly. What do you suggest to deal with the scary-world anxieties that come with parenthood?

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Toddlers sleeping with their parents

Last night, we heard my two-year-old daughter whimpering over the monitor. She wasn't wailing, but she was upset.


I rolled over and thought: "Ana Isabel will go back to sleep." However, my wife, Carrie Ann, had another thought. She went into the room to comfort her and decided to sleep with her in the guest bed.

We talked about it a bit this morning, but we really didn't come to a conclusion. Of course, the fear is that while letting Ana sleep with one of us makes for a better night sleep now, it could come back and haunt us in the future.

So what do you think about letting a toddler sleep in mama's or papa's bed?

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Please. Help me stop my furniture-climbing daughter.

I know small children, like my two-year-old Ana Isabel, can be rambunctious. They like to run around, jump from here to there and climb on things, especially the furniture. climbing.jpg

Ana likes to hop up on the end tables. She'll jump up on down on the couch or love seat. She flings herself across the bed. It can all be a heart-pounding experience. I can't tell how many times I've held my breath thinking: That's it, my daughter is going to break her neck.

My wife and I end up hollering at her to stop. And we have given her plenty of timeouts for her scaling abilities. Of course, we worry she'll hurt herself way worse than the standard bruised knee if she keeps it up.

Any suggestions for handling toddlers seemingly innate drive to go higher and higher? If nothing else, you can help her parent's long-term heart health.

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Another toy recall? What's a mother to do?

All I can say is thank goodness my girls have outgrown Barbie and Polly Pocket, because I would be in a major fury over this latest Mattel recall if they were still young enough to play with those toys.

CHINA%20TOY%20RECALL.jpg"How many little kids are going to understand that?" my daughter Beth said. "They're just going to think you're mean to take away all their toys. They're going to wonder what they did wrong."

You can't let children play with lead-tainted toys. Young children are most vulnerable, because their brains and nervous system are still being formed. According to the National Safety Council, "even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage."

No Barbie accessory -- and no toddler tantrum -- is worth that. But it has to be a delicate matter to collect and dispose of toys that your child enjoys. Beth is right. It's not going to be easy to explain to a 3-year-old why she can't play with her Barbie Dream Puppy House or her Barbie kitchen chairs. Sure, it's going to feel like a punishment even though she did nothing wrong. And it's not like you can just go out and get something new -- although some parents will. Not every family is going to have money to replace the bad toys.

I'd love to hear how you're all handling this. What works? What doesn't?

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The trials and tribulations of toddler tummies

She's cranky this morning because she's hungry. Ana Isabel is so distracted with everything going on around her, she doesn't realize she's hungry. She just acts up.


Some days she eats only pasta. Some days she eats only meat. Other days, it's fruit that she
wants. Once in a while, she'll have a day where she eats a combination of the above.

My wife will often load up on snacks (a purse full of fruit, granola and yogurt) when where going on out for an hour or two. And then the kid doesn't want anything.

It all makes for a confusing diet, not to mention confused parents.

Do anybody else have any tricks for dealing with toddler tummies?

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It's her birthday. What tradition to follow?

My wife and I come from quite different backgrounds. And that's reflected in our family traditions when it comes to celebrations like holidays and birthdays.


So as Ana Isabel's second birthday comes up next week, we work to find a balance that fits our family.

Growing up, my siblings and I didn't have birthday parties. My parents immigrated to this country when my sister and I were under three. My brother was born here. So our birthday celebrations mostly consisted of sharing a cake, a card, maybe a present and a gathering of immediate family.

Comparatively, Carrie Ann's family preferred a bigger splash. Parties with lots of children. A home made birthday cake. A big sign celebrating the yearly milestone. And gifts from two sets of grandparents.

Now, we're away from our extended family with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles all in other parts of the country.

For Ana's first birthday, we spent it with my in-laws who put together a huge party for our daughter. While it was very much appreciated, it wasn't our style.

So for this birthday, we're staying home and planning on celebrating with just us. No big party. No bounce house full of screaming children. No sleepless hours worrying about planning it just right.

I don't know that one is better than the other. But I like it this way better.

How have you created your own family traditions?

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My 2-year-old daughter is beating the cat

OK. So maybe she's too young to pummel Mac. But Ana Isabel, who's weeks away from 2, likes to take her toy spatula to the kitty's head.
She often goes up to the cat and yells. She'll start petting him and then smack him. She chases him around the house and tells the cat that he's getting a timeout.

Mac is a good cat and often just runs away . But everyone once in a while, he'll swat at her with his paw. (Yes. He has his claws.)

Unfortunately, I'm afraid Ana mimics some her parents' behavior. We yell at the cat when he's scratching the furniture, that's less than a year old, instead of his scratching post.

We had a second cat, Xander, that attacked me twice (once while I was holding Ana) within a year after she was born. I still have scars from the last attack. Xander's gone.

So we're extra careful (and a bit paranoid) when Mac and Ana are interacting.

Much of the time Ana acts appropriately, treats the cat with respect and eveyone seems to get along. But at other times, it's a bit of a war between Ana and Mac.

Any suggestions to keep the peace in the Perez household, cat and all.

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'Baby Einstein' study misses the mark

What Einstein said educational videos are bad for babies? Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

I must respectfully disagree with his study, released this week, which says those ubiquitous “Baby Einstein” educational videos have a negative effect on a baby’s language development. Apparently, it made no distinction between parents who plop their kids in front of the tube and walk away and those who actually use videos to engage with their children.

My almost-3-year-old son is an Einstein in his own right. His vocabulary has always surpassed those of his peers. He made a five-word sentence (“I need more yogurt raisins.”) long before his friends could put together two words. He uses pronouns correctly. (“Mommy, carry me.” “I can’t hear you, Mommy.”) He picks up complicated words the first time he hears them. (“Scrumptious.” “California.”) He counts up to 20, granted skipping some numbers occasionally, in both English and Spanish. (“Twelve; doce.” “Thirteen; trece.” “Fourteen; catorce.”) In the Vasquez household, we have a library of “Baby Einstein” videos. We even used one to teach our son some sign language!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months and very limited viewing for older toddlers. But without TV, my son would not have been able to accomplish his latest feat: Telling me a bedtime story.

I thank the educational program “The Wonder Pets,” a trio of heroes made up of a duck (Ming-Ming), guinea pig (Winnie) and turtle (Tuck). The three rescue fellow animals in need. There’s music, foreshadowing and plenty of lessons in vocabulary. When I ask my son to tell me a story, he now recounts me some of his favorite episodes.

Our conversation usually goes something like this:

Continue reading "'Baby Einstein' study misses the mark" »

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Me. Me. Me.

So guess what my daughter's new favorite words are? Yes. It's me or mine.
Everything seems to be about her or hers nowadays. Ana Isabel's second birthday is a few weeks away. And I'm told it's all part of the terrible two's.

I gotta admit I've always been skeptical about this idea of kids hitting this magic number and then becoming little monsters. I've figured it's the parents who are somehow teaching kids this type of behavior. And I could still be right about that.

But I know my wife and I try to teach her to share. Not to throw things. We ignore her little tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants. And we try to teach her patience. I guess it will take time and going through a period of bad behavior.

So what do you think. Are the terrible two's a self-fulfilled fallacy or is it real?

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A chocolate chip cookie for breakfast

cookie.jpg Ana Isabel woke up cranky. Who knows what ailed her.

She wanted nothing to do with her morning juice. Milk? That got the wave off. Maybe a banana that she normally devours. Ana would have nothing to do with it. A bit of mommy's oatmeal? No. No. No.

She poked her right index finger into the palm of her left hand, as she often does when she's hungry, and said "cookie." We normally don't buy snacks like cookies, chips or ice cream. Mainly because Ana's parents have little will power. But here we are, early one morning and our 2-year-old says she's hungry and wants nothing but a cookie. And this time, we have a box of cookies in the cabinet.

So what would you do?

Click continue below to see how my wife and I handled our little morning mini-dilemma.

Continue reading "A chocolate chip cookie for breakfast" »

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Is there a Harry Potter out there for my 2-year-old?

potter.jpg I watch in amazement as Harry Potter mania engulfs parents and kids all around me.

Ana Isabel, 2, is a few years to young to get us personally involved in that, which is fine. But I heard on National Public Radio this morning that there are other children's series out there for younger readers.

Something tells me Ana will be a reader, considering her two parents are writers. Her mother reads to her every day, and Ana often picks out the books. As she gets older, I think it would be great to get her hooked on reading series and NPR says there are other series out there for younger children.

I'm sure some day my wife will turn Ana onto Nancy Drew. But until then, do you have any suggestions for toddlers and book series?

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I don't need a play-by-play, but a little feedback would be nice ...

I'd love to hear from parents about their preschool experiences and the level of feedback that they get.

Because while my son is not technically in preschool yet, he has spent the last several weeks in a part-time summer camp program that has a great reputation and is quite popular in the Boynton area.

He's quite tall and he'll be four in September, so he's probably bigger and a little more mature than most of the kids in his class. Yet, he has been a stay-at-home kid for most of his life and being dropped off at school has been a huge adjustment for him.

To that end, I've been a little inquisitive of his teacher. How'd he do, I ask. Fine, she says. Ohhh. Fine, huh? You know, I understand that she has 16 kids in her classroom, but she's got two other teachers there as well. Going to school is huge for Evan, and short of surreptitiously installing a nanny-cam in a cubby to spy on my son, I'm depending on her to let me know how my son is doing. Is he interacting with the kids? Is he hanging out by himself? Does he sing along with the other kids? Is he going potty while he's there? Things like that.

I try to ask specific questions but I get this vague answer about how he's doing just great. So I'm wondering if the lack of feedback is because this is considered summer camp? For his part, Evan says his time there is sometimes fun, sometimes just okay, and sometimes he only likes it "a little bit."

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My daughter, nearly 2, discovers her nipples

My wife was undressing Ana Isabel the other day readying her for a bath when the baby looked down at her chest.
Pointing to her nipples, she asked in her little girl voice: "What's this?"

Carrie Ann responded: "Those are your nipples."

"Nipples?" Ana said. "Nipples, good."

My little girl then proceeded to walk around the house repeating the name of her newly-discovered body part and pulling on them.

Carrie didn't stop the baby. "I didn't slap her hands down and say nice girls don't do that," Carrie said. She doesn't want our daughter to get the impression that her body is something to be ashamed of, or for Ana to grow up with self-esteem or body-image problems. So we figure it's best to be honest with our daughter.

Throw-in my mother-in-law's knowing comment. "What until she discovers her vagina." And it all makes me uncomfortable.

I know it's natural and normal. And I support my wife's approach. But my tendency would have been to tell my daughter to stop it and say good girls don't do that.

So I wonder how other's handle a chid's natural curiosity about their bodies and an inclination to pass down our own insecurities.

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From crib to bed

Ana Isabel is nearly two. She's a big girl that loves her crib.
But we know the day is coming when she'll either climb out of it or just get to be to big to sleep in it.

The question is when is it time to make the transition. Other parents we know made the change when their children starting climbing out of the crib. That's not Ana. She's not a climber.

And wouldn't you know it, Ana seem to hate going in the crib when she was younger. Now we have a hard time imagining her out of it.

Any suggestion to smooth the transition from her crib to a real bed?

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Potty training can be as simple as a high five

Who knew a high five from Dad could be so effective?

That’s all my 2 ½ year-old son needed to reinforce his recent breakthrough with toilet training. Apparently, the “toilet learning” class I took in January, the repeated attempts to coax my son with books and toys, and the ever-stylish Blue’s Clues toilet seat can't compete with a good 'ol high five.

The potty training product industry has really taken off as parents continue to push back the time at which they start training their children. Books, videos, dolls, charts --everything a desperate parent needs to get their child out of diapers.

By far, the high five is the cheapest.

My son had become quite the expert at peeing anywhere except in the toilet: on his bedroom floor, while brushing his teeth (must have been the running water), in the bathtub (again, the water) and on the floor next to the toilet.

The heartbreak came during those times he sat on or stood in front of the toilet without success.

“It’s not working,” he’d say in his tiny voice. “It’s not working, Mommy.”

“It’s OK, baby. Maybe you don’t have to go to the bathroom,” I’d respond, certain the experience was shattering his self-confidence.

He still has a long way to go to be completely potty trained, but all of us in the Vasquez household are absolutely giddy about the most basic of bodily functions. Every parenting book will tell you that positive reinforcement is key to successful potty training. So when my son marked his first potty training milestone, I hugged him, kissed him, told him what a big boy he was. Then I told him we should go run and tell Dad. Enter the high five:

“I did pee-pee in the toilet,” my son mumbled with a wide grin.

“You did? Give me a high five!” my husband said.

Since then, every time my son goes to the bathroom, he seeks out high fives –- from Dad, our beagle Chico and even the big Mickey Mouse that sits in my son’s room.

What has worked for your kids?

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R.I.P. Pacifier

My son this week is saying goodbye to a trusted friend –- his pacifier.

For two-and-a-half years, his “tete,” as we call it in the Vasquez household, has guided him through some difficult times. It has been there every night, without fail, to help him fall asleep. It helped him nurse some bad colds and his first earache. It magically appeared at those critical moments to fend off temper tantrums. It eventually multiplied to three at night in his crib so that he would find one in the dark with ease.

My husband and I knew this day would come, and in many ways, it’s just as hard for us to let the pacifier go. In the short term, it means no easy fixes to helping calm down our son. It means that for the past three nights, I’ve had to lie on the floor in my son’s room to help comfort him to sleep. It means my son now thinks his room is too dark at night.

His pacifier was his security blanket.

If you’re a parent, you typically fall into one of two camps: Pro-pacifier or Anti-pacifier. There’s much debate about what a pacifier does to a child’s teeth and speech. Some consider it cruel, likening it to popping a plug in a kid’s mouth.

But there’s one area on which many of us can agree: Those crystal encrusted “bling” pacifiers are a bad idea. The public’s enamor with everything celebrity has parents putting potentially hazardous pacifiers in the mouths of their little ones. Federal investigators are looking into the product, fearing the tiny crystals can come loose and put babies at risk of choking and suffocation, according to a story in Sunday’s Sun-Sentinel.

Fortunately for my son, his pacifier wasn’t a fashion statement. It was his friend.

What's your take on pacifiers? Tell us by posting a comment.

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High anxiety

My 2-½-year-old son is a seasoned traveler. By the time he was 14 months old, he had flown cross-country three times.

My husband and I had the routine down to a science; we even traveled with our beagle as a carry-on. We called it Airport Olympics: By the time we made it through security and hobbled our way to the gate with baby, dog, stroller, car seat and an assortment of carry-on bags, we felt we deserved a gold medal.

So getting on an airplane yet again should be a piece of cake, right? Well, a lot has changed in 18 months -– like my son’s mobility.

He’s a great kid. He has not given me any reason to believe our latest airplane excursion will be a difficult one. But I worry. Most of his mornings involve dancing in the family room, racing his shopping cart down the hallway (I get the lawn mower), and playing a Fisher Price piano while singing a very loud version of the “ABC” song. Not quite the stuff of cramped airplanes.

As we enter the busy summer travel season, parents should do their homework before embarking on a long trip. I did.

1) I picked early-morning flights to create the least disruption to my son’s schedule as we change time zones.

2) I’ve made a list of all the key essentials I’ll need to pack to make sure my son is as comfortable as possible when we arrive in California. (I made another list of groceries I will need to buy immediately when we arrive. Think chicken nuggets and oatmeal.)

3) I’ve stashed away a few new toys that I will magically introduce when the novelty of being on an airplane has worn off.

4) When I arrive at the airport, I’m going to ask to pre-board and request bulkhead seats. The hope being it would prevent my son from possibly spending 6 hours kicking the back of a chair of some innocent passenger.

5) I’ll pray.

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Leaps and bounds.

I'm still in awe watching my 21-month-old daughter grow and learn and become a little person. It's an amazing privilege for parents, I think.


The other day, my wife and I stepped outside to check on the grill at lunch time. Ana Isabel was already eating in her high chair when I walked into the house from the backyard. Anita noticed.

Papa, where's mama? she said. It was clear. Pronunciation and inflection were right on. And it was the first time I had heard her so clearly ask a question.

I stopped, looked at her, squinted my eyes and said to myself: What did you just say? Probably not the answer Ana Isabel was looking for, but I was caught off guard.

Seconds later my wife walked in. I relayed the little story to her. Carrie Ann replied: Oh, yea. she does that all the time now. Of course, most of that happens while I'm at work. (Some parents get all the luck.)

Nonetheless, it was a neat little moment that I'm sure parents everywhere experience. And it made me think: This parenting thing is not so bad after all. I can do it.

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To train or not to train.

Here's the down and dirty. My daughter has a routine when she has to go, especially for number two.


At 21-months now, she goes and finds a hiding spot most often behind papi's recliner (she needs her privacy you know) and does her business. If mommy or papi encroach, she gives a vociferous bye, bye and wave. Of course, we give her her space and then change her diaper.

So my wife and I started talking about whether she's ready for potty training. Especially since she gives off strong signals when she has to go. She tells us she has poo-poo in her diaper and needs to be cleaned up. We figure she gets it.

So we wonder, when is it time to start potty training? I think now. My wife talks to others who say it's too soon.

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Mom and Dad parenting styles worlds apart

It never fails: Just when I’ve managed to get my 2 ½ year-old son to wind down after a long day, there comes Dad, as rambunctious as, well, a 2 ½- year old.

“Eeek,” my husband will come up from behind to tickle my son.
“No, Daddy no!” screams my son at the top of his lungs.

The two proceed to run around the house, and it’s fast approaching 8 p.m. Of course, Daddy doesn’t have to get a kicking and screaming toddler into the bathtub. Nope, that’s Mom’s job. Apparently, Dads get to break all the rules and be the “fun” parent.

Schedule? Routine? Limits?

If my husband had his way, my son would live in a diaper (Who needs to dress a toddler at home if he’s just going to get into a mess?); go to bed somewhere between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. (Bed time would vary depending on whether said husband is particularly tired that day.); and eat dinner while watching TV (It’d make eating vegetables sooo much easier.)

The Vasquez household experience is far from unique, an article in the June issue of Parenting magazine reminds me.

The different parenting styles of moms and dads are as universal as a dirty diaper. That’s life – and sometimes it stinks. And as the article points out, it’s not all bad. Kids need the balance of feeling unencumbered and structured at the same time.

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Smiling Biter

One of my daughters newest two-word phrases: "That's funny."
At 20-months old, it's adorable to hear her say those words and then let out a hearty little-girl laugh.

What's not so funny: When my wife Carrie Ann tries to discpline her and she blurts out a "That's funny."

During a time out for bad behavior, she bit my wife and out it came: "That's funny," followed by a chortle. Oh boy, now she's getting time outs for bad behavior during time outs.

We don't want her to stifle her funny bone, but there's nothing funny about our little girl biting her mother and laughing. Actually, it's a little scary.

I'd like to hear what other parents suggest to deal with a situation like this.

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While personally I think Elias has a very handsome, boyish face, that still doesn't stop some clueless folks from commenting on what a cute little girl he is.

I guess it's the curls. He's almost two years old and hasn't gotten a real haircut yet (just a trim of the bangs once). So his hair is a little long. But I can't bear to cut those adorable curls. What if they are gone permanently once I give him a haircut?

I'm thinking I might have to do it, though. The back of his hair looks like a bird's nest whenever he wakes up or gets out his carseat and his yelping while I try to comb through it is not all that pleasant.

And while I'm on the topic of hair, what is up with the fact that he's still got a bit of cradle cap? I thought that was a newborn thing. I've tried shampoos that specifically say they are for cradle cap, and I've tried scrubbing with baby oil, but NOTHING works. Any suggestions?

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Milk Tastes the Same From a Cup!!!

What do I have to do, beg? When my son Evan turned 1, the transition from bottle to sippy cup was seamless. Not a peep out of Evan. As long as he got his milk or his water-juice combo, he was happy.

Not so with Elias, now 22 months. It's nows been 10 months since the time that he ideally should have made the switch. He drinks juice and water from a sippy cup with no complaints, but God forbid you try to put his precious milk in a cup. No sir, he wants that in a baba.

Oh, and he wants chocolate milk in the mornings and the milk must be warm at night. Once I tried to give him his milk lukewarm, trying to phase in to cold milk gradually, and he took one sip and gave it back.

"Too. Cold." he told me, looking at the microwave expectantly.

Anything else, your highness?

Sure, we've tried not giving him a choice. Many times. I relent more easily than my husband, who pours the milk in a cup and just walks away. But it's so much easier to give in, so much nicer not to hear screams of anguish when you're still groggy in the morning or at the end of a long day.

It'll happen. Eventually. I mean, I'm sure he's not going to be in kindergarten still drinking from a bottle.


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Please, let this phase end NOW!

Experts say separation anxiety can be at its worst when babies are between 12 and 18 months old. Well, Elias is about 22 months old, and I guess his separation anxiety phase was a little delayed, because it's in full swing now. So much so that when my husband and I are in the same room and one of us leaves, Elias wails out for the one that has left. Even though the other parent is still there.

It's getting old, people.

But what to do? You walk away, the wail sometimes turns into a scream. MOMMY! Or, "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" And when you're in a public place, it can be a little embarrassing. WHEN WILL IT END?

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Too Much Boob Tube?

Here's a bit of a confession. The television in our house gets tuned to the Disney Channel or some other children's channel in the morning. It stays on for a good part of the day.

TV.jpgBut it's really more like background noise. My 19-month old daughter watches in spurts. She rarely watches a full program before she moves onto the next thing. She spends time coloring with her new set of crayons, sometimes even on the oversized pad we bought her. She loves playing in the yard. We read to her every night. She has an amazing vocabulary for a kid her age. She even likes broccoli. And on, and on and on.

I know what the so called experts say about minimizing TV watching. But I think my daughter actually learns a lot from some of the programs. Still, sometimes I feel guilty that maybe she's getting too much TV exposure.

My gut tells me it's all about finding a balance. Our struggle: Where exactly is that balance?

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Blame it on the kid

Here I am about to start a training session (something my boss had to approve and the newspaper pays for) and RING, RING, RING.

blame.jpgThe cell. It's my wife. She knows what I'm up to, so I know it has to be important. I answer.

She sounds frantic. It's not about my 20-month-old daughter Ana Isabel; it's the cat. Wait! It is Ana Isabel.

My daughter locked Mac in the spare bedroom. Worse! My toolbox is in the same room (since I'm working on a house project nearby). Oh, I say, the cat will survive in there for a few hours. But my wife worries about Mac peeing everwhere if he can't get to the litter box.

We map out a game plan, sort of. I'll call her during my first break with an answer. Two hours later, I call. My crafty wife has already figured out a way to undo the door knob without a screwdriver. Great. Crisis over. I think we have to do something so that Ana Isabel doesn't lock the cat in a room again.

A couple days later, I check that door knob. Hmmm. It seems to stick in the lock position. And with the windows open, a strong breeze often blows the door shut.

How often have you blamed the kid when he/she didn't do it?

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Forcing the Hug

Growing up in Panama, surrounded by a large extended family, the Kiss and Half Hug was obligatory. Don't know what I'm talking about? It's what you do whenever you arrive at your aunt's house, or whenever your cousins came over, and you immediately planted a kiss on their cheek along with sort of a sideways embrace. Then when they left you did it all over again. Even if it was just a 15-minute visit. That's just the way things were.

Now twice in the last couple of weeks, I've wondered what to do about the fact that my own boys aren't showing that sort of physical affection with family members.

Granted, my sons have never met my aunt and grandmother, the victims of the non-kisses. On separate occasions (and they are from different sides of the family), both of these fine ladies wanted kisses from my kids as we were ending visits. And both times, my kids turned their cheeks.

In our household, we show a lot of affection. But my kids aren't used to being around family, as only my mom and brother live locally. I'm not sure that I want to force them to kiss and hug people that they just met, but at the same time I want my kids to be courteous and respectful.

I'm just wondering how to accomplish that, and whether my expectations are too high. My oldest is not even 4 years old, and I can't remember when my manners began to kick in. I would welcome any suggestions on how to tell my boys that proper greetings, especially for visiting family members, are a good thing.

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The Kid and The Cat

Mac, the gold tabby cat, has been with my wife longer than I, and much longer than Ana Isabel, who hit the the 19-month mark the other day.


Mac likes to scratch at the furniture now and then, which usually garners him a holler. Or he'll jump on the counter or do what cats like to do. He's a cat, after all.

Ana also likes to push her limits. And sometimes it's with Mac. Like the other day when I turned around and she was starting to play drums with a wooden spoon -- on the cat. Of course, Mac lifted his paw and gave her a quick swat. She cried. He ran. There was no harm, therefore, no foul, right? However, we decided to discipline both the cat and the kid.

So as Ana gets older and more assertive with Mac, what steps should we take to keep her from hurting the cat? Or worse, Mac hurting her?

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Too sleepy to argue

Show of hands here: Who lets their kid sleep in their bed? Nothing wrong with it, I say. Nothing too wrong, anyway. Sure, you get kicked and whacked by a toddler who packs more wallop than you knew he had when he's in a sleeping state. But you get to sleep. Eight hours, even.

I know. I should make my kids sleep in their beds. But we didn't let them cry it out when they were babies, and we're paying the price now.

Neither child can fall asleep on their own. The youngest sleeps in our bed; the oldest sleeps in his own bed and does a pretty good job of staying there all night unless he wakes up and realizes that Mommy or Daddy didn't stay next to him all night. Then he climbs into our bed. Good thing we have a king-sized model.

I was greatly relieved when I read a story in Sunday's Sun-Sentinel about this very phenomenon.

Continue reading "Too sleepy to argue" »

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To spank or not to spank?

That is the question.

My son, Ashton, has thrown himself full force into the "terrible twos." I've never had to deal with this question before. I became a mom when I married my husband, Marc. When we tied the knot, Marc's two children, Austen and Dalton, were well past their terrible twos.

I'm torn: My mother never spanked me as I was growing up. She instead preferred to pinch to let me know she meant business. It was discrete but painful enough to get my attention and to modify my bad behavior.

Now I'm torn between different methods of discipline: Corporal punishment, time-out or spanking. Most times, I just pull my hair out when Ashton throws himself onto the floor, screaming in a high-pitched voice in a public place. I'm ashamed to admit that I have spanked my son two times -- on the hand. I regretted it both times.

I've since placed a self-imposed moratorium on spanking until I'm convinced that it works. What works for you? Let me know. I'm the mom without any hair.

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Dance. Dance. Dance.


Ana Isabel is going on 19 months and already she's a dancing queen.

She twirls in the living room, arms flailing, singing a version of la la la la la. She bends at her waist slightly and shakes her little behind. Often, she insists mommy or papi join her, pointing her little finger to a spot on the dance floor, which doubles as the rug. And we do.

I can just imagine our neighbors walking by the front of the house and seeing through the windows two adults, arms gesticulating and going in circles. No matter. It's a lot of fun.

But it does bring me to this: At what point does a child's passing fancy turn into something more?

Do we have the next Ginger Rogers grooving in our living room? Probably not. But one never knows.

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Sooner or later ...

Our oldest child, Evan, will be turning 4 in September. He's past the Sept. 1 cutoff, so he won't be eligible yet for the state's voluntary Pre-K program. But we are considering some sort of summer camp program to get his feet wet.

Aside from a three-month stint late last summer, he hasn't really been in any daycare or preschool situation yet. We did enroll him into a part-time program last year, but it wasn't the right place. The staff there was not very attentive and since he didn't have to be there, we pulled him out. No sense in having him miserable when there is a caregiver at home.

I'm now wondering, however, if we should have persisted in finding an alternate program that we were comfortable in, just to prepare him for pre-K? How is he going to adjust? Is it going to be a heartbreaking experience? This is not a kid who is immediately comfortable with other kids, much less adults that he doesn't know and must now trust. Of course, back in the day, pre-K or kindergarten was the first time most kids entered a school setting.

Any suggestions on preparing my son for this new world?

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En Español

spanish.jpgIt seems like my year-and-half old daughter learns a new word daily.

The other day at dusk I carried her in the backyard and she pointed to the sky. Mooooon, she said clear as day. One recent morning she repeated after my wife, Maaccc. That's the cat's name. It's really amazing to watch her learn.

But the more I hear her speak new words, the guiltier I feel none of them are in Spanish.

I grew up speaking Spanish with my parents and family. I consider it a blessing to be bilingual. And I want to pass the language on to my daughter. Since my wife speaks little Spanish, the responsibility falls to me. I'm making an effort to speak to her more in Spanish. And my wife and I have talked about getting her enrolled into a bilingual program soon.

Still, I wonder if that's enough and what else we could to do short of having abuelita move from New Jersey to Florida.

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Little boys play with cars and kitchens

My two-year-old son loves to play with cars, especially Hot Wheels. I loved toy cars too when I was a child and now proudly watch him play with them. He also loves to push around his toy shopping cart, which I never thought twice about until recently when a neighborhood kid, who is at least five years older than my son, asked me why my boy pushed a shopping cart around.

toy shopping cart.jpg
He didn't say it, but I could tell he was thinking shopping carts were better suited for little girls.

I reacted without thinking and tried to explain how the shopping cart helped my son practice walking and running. I didn't want to over do it, but I hoped the kid understood how those skills would come in handy one day, you know, when my son begins playing baseball or basketball. Later, my wife teased me for being defensive. Then I remembered that for Christmas, she bought my son a toy kitchen set, complete with cooking utensils, microwave oven and sink. toy kitchen.jpg

I have to admit, I contemplated asking her to get rid of the shopping cart and kitchen and replace them with more manly stuff, like a toy tank or bazooka. I mean, boys should play with boy toys, right? When I was just a little older than my son, I played mostly with Hot Wheels and G.I. Joe dolls. Wait, that's right, I played with dolls ...

The next morning I woke up groggily as my son begged me to get out of bed to play with him. I followed, half-hoping he'd pull out his toy lowrider or ambulance. Instead, he took me to his kitchen where he pretended to make me a hamburger breakfast, replete with corn and a pizza slice.

It was the most fun breakfast I ever had. It even kept me in a great mood later that day, when I chased my son - and his shopping cart - around the house.

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No. She didn't just say that

Oh, yes she did.
Well, that's my fear: One day we'll turn around and my 18-month daughter will spew out a foul four-letter word she learned from some adult somewhere. That adult would most likley be her mommy or daddy. But we have really worked hard on cleaning up our language since well before the baby came. Not that we had a trucker's vocabulary. But an F or S or B bomb would fly now and then.

So my real worry comes when an uncle's or a grandparent's lips let loose a naughty one without even realizing it. I have had to tell my childless brother to tone it down. Other family members who vist have done it. No one does on purpose. But still, I don't want her hearing it, especially at this age.

So what can I do beside scolding them to try to clean up our family's potty mouths?

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Terrible Two's at 18 months??

My 18-month old daughter is absolutely adorble, fun and -- most of the time -- well behaved.

crying.jpgBut lately, she has begun throwing little tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants. My wife does most of the disciplining since she is at home with the baby while I'm at work. That's fine. But when it's my turn, I have a hard time with it.

Yes, I know we have to present a united front. And, yes, I try to be mad when my wife gets mad (Or at least not undermine her by cracking a joke. I made that mistake once). And, I know, I can't leave all the disciplining to her.

But I have a hard time getting mad or raising my voice at my daughter, especially since my schedule allows me few precious hours with her during the week. With the "terrible two's" still to come, I wonder: How I can better cope with disciplining my child?

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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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