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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Disney unfolding biggest expansion ever

dumbo.jpgOur colleague Mark Albright reports here that Walt Disney World is starting to unfold many of the new features coming out of its largest expansion ever.

Already unveiled this month is the new retro-style Dumbo, a spinning ride that opened at Walt Disney World that sports lighted fountains, Dumbo's mom's adoring face and golden storks delivering the flying cartoon elephant. Soon, Disney will open a second Dumbo ride next door to shorten the notoriously long lines. And parents will find some relief once the lines move inside a new air-conditioned tent outfitted with a themed play area to occupy their young kids.

It's just the start of the biggest-ever expansion of the 142-acre Magic Kingdom park, which will double the size of Fantasyland with a 26-acre addition. By adding multiple rides, restaurants and gift shops in one swoop, the project dwarfs $90 million Splash Mountain, the last major Magic Kingdom ride addition that debuted two decades ago. Already the budget is headed toward $400 million, topping what rival Universal Orlando lavished on its blockbuster Harry Potter attractions two years ago. …

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Need some April Fool's Day pranks for kids?

potpie.jpgPssst, let's pull a prank on the kids Sunday, OK? Share your ideas here, we'll just keep it between us moms. That chicken pot pie photo you see at left? That's actually a dessert. It's among the dozen or so food pranks assembled by Food.com. If that's too fussy and involved for your taste, check out this idea of making red Jell-O in clear juice cups with a bendy straw and letting them set in the fridge. Kids will turn blue as they suck on the straw, mom will turn red laughing.

A couple years ago I offered my own pranks on kids in a blog post called We're Not Your Real Parents (and other April Fool's pranks)  I don't recommend telling your kids they were bought on eBay, but I do like the idea of freezing the milk in their cereal bowls or the reader suggestion of putting clear wrap over a doorway and calling them to come quickly.

What's really fun is to get the kids involved in playing a prank on Dad. My personal fave: Tape a big sign on the trunk that says "My family is playing an April Fool's Day joke on me. Honk at me!"

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Webcams let you peep on bird nests and hatchlings

birdcam.jpgHow weird is it that I can't stop watching the Eagle Cam? I'm sure your kids will love this too. My latest obsession is all the fault of our colleague Patty Ryan who wrote this story about the pastime of nest-watching made possible by increasingly affordable and sophisticated webcams, better broadband access and the rise of live hosting sites such as Ustream. The first of three eggs in a Dunedin osprey nest was seen hatching earlier this week, an event witnessed by anyone watching a Web camera trained on the nest.

One egg finally hatched on Tuesday and it was captured on screens as far away as Finland. The moms (and dads, in some cases) continue to sit on the young to keep them warm and to keep warming the remaining eggs. You see a half dozen different bird nest cameras our editors have collected links for here. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

egghunt.jpgWhat a week! We've got eggs to find, two good museum deals to choose from and don't even get us started on this picture-perfect weather for giving us wallet-friendly reasons to get out of the house with kids. Read on for this week's finds: …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

egghunt.jpgWhat a week! We've got eggs to find, two good museum deals to choose from and don't even get us started on this picture-perfect weather for giving us wallet-friendly reasons to get out of the house with kids. Read on for this week's finds: …

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Is birth order destiny?

pregnantbelly.jpgI have a friend who is looking forward to having her third child but fretting that this will now sentence her current baby to Middle Child Syndrome. Having been a middle child herself who felt bossed around by the oldest and neglected in favor of the baby, she worries about the baggage that comes with the middle.

Obviously there will be exceptions  to any of these birth order rules, but I have noticed that in general first borns can be bossy (and most CEOs and most of our presidents were first borns or only children). Middle kids do tend to be the people pleasers who mediate disputes (and tend to be entrepreneurs because of their ability to read people). And the babies of the families, well it's no surprise that most comedians were the youngest.

But I have another twist on this birth order theory, and it points to us parents.  I think what we call Middle Child Syndrome should be called Middle Parenting Syndrome. Look at this way:

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Pretty pastel deviled eggs for Easter

deviled_eggs.jpgOur friends at Orange Blossom Catering posted the prettiest picture on their Twitter feed recently. It's from the FOODjimoto blog and it's so darned clever I can't believe I never thought of this.

I've always loved dyeing Easter eggs with the kids, but then once they are done, you can't display them on the kitchen table if you plan to eat them. So they end up looking pretty in my fridge until I get around to making egg salad or deviled eggs.

Their idea is to make 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs, then peel them and cut them in half as neatly as possible, dump the yolks in a bowl to make the filling. Meanwhile using a few drops of food coloring, you can make the colors just as you would Easter egg dye and color the egg whites.

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Taking the stress out of FCAT

fcat.jpgOur friends on the Gradebook blog shared here what was probably a well-intentioned effort to reduce students' stress with April's FCAT testing approaching (April 16-27), but I expect students will not be calmed by this.

The Florida Department of Education's Florida School Speak blog put up a post recently offering teachers some ideas to "help encourage your students and reduce their anxiety levels." Gee, you don't think that such a kit coming from teachers, whose performance is measured in part through their students' learning gains, will come off as a little desperate?

They offered this

Test Taking Survival Kit:

Place these items in a bag and attach a note explaining each one…

1 Starburst… Shine like a STAR today   

1  Eraser… to get rid of those brain freezes!

2 Pencils… to record all the knowledge you have learned!

1 stick of gum… to remind you to stick with it!

1 highlighter… to highlight all you have learned!

1 Hershey’s Hug.. for all your hard work!


Umm, nice thought, but that only makes it clearer to students how stressed out their teachers are about this high-stakes test. …

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Student art will be on display at Republican convention in Tampa

rnc.jpgHave an artsy student who's also got a patriotic streak?  Local students who have an artistic flair will get a chance to display their work to thousands of visitors attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. 

The 2012 Republican National Convention is now accepting entries for its “Elephants on Parade” art competition.  The competition is open to middle and high school students throughout the Tampa Bay area.  Participants must submit a project that answers the question: What does being an American mean to me?

 All qualifying works of art will be displayed in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which will host the convention Aug. 27-30. The top five finalists will also receive a private tour of the Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center, where an expected 15,000 credentialed media will be based for the convention.

The first-place recipient will get a pair of tickets to the Republican presidential nominee’s acceptance speech, something they can tell their kids about one day.  Their winning entry also will be displayed in the nominee’s private suite in the Times Forum. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

fireworks.jpgWhile we try to hear ourselves over the buzzing of race cars at the Grand Prix, we find there's lots of free and cheap family fun to be found this week. But don't forget tonight's Illuminated Night Parade in downtown St. Pete that kicks off race weekend. There will be floats and beads and it will be followed by fireworks. The parade starts at 7:30 p.m. at Central Avenue and Fifth Street N.

And here's more wallet-friendly things to do:

Check the Campfires in the Park, where you bring lawn chairs and blankets and find a spot by the campfire for a family-friendly night Friday at Largo Central Park. At dusk, they’ll be showing the inspirational movie Soul Surfer, based on a true story about a teenage surfer girl who goes back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack. Drinks and concessions will be available for purchase at the park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. Free.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

fireworks.jpgWhile we try to hear ourselves over the buzzing of race cars at the Grand Prix, we find there's lots of free and cheap family fun to be found this week. But don't forget tonight's Illuminated Night Parade in downtown St. Pete that kicks off race weekend. There will be floats and beads and it will be followed by fireworks. The parade starts at 7:30 p.m. at Central Avenue and Fifth Street N.

And here's more wallet-friendly things to do:

Check the Campfires in the Park, where you bring lawn chairs and blankets and find a spot by the campfire for a family-friendly night Friday at Largo Central Park. At dusk, they’ll be showing the inspirational movie Soul Surfer, based on a true story about a teenage surfer girl who goes back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack. Drinks and concessions will be available for purchase at the park, 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. Free.

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Taking kids to Grand Prix race? We've got tips

grandprix.jpgThe Honda Grand Prix roars into St. Petersburg this weekend with Indy cars, Mazdas, Acuras and other fast cars whipping through the streets of downtown. The course is 1.8 miles long and contains 14 turns, with cars reaching 130 mph. If you plan to check it out with kids, we've got some tips for you.

Your first stop should be Thursday's Illuminated Night Parade, which is the nighttime Festival of States parade. It kicks things off Thursday at 7 p.m. with floats, bands, beads and fireworks. This year will feature the always-daring Indianapolis Motorcycle Drill Team, the Budweiser Clydesdales and many of the Grand Prix drivers including Simon Pagenaud, Katherine Legge and Jay Howard. The parade starting point is Central Avenue and Fifth Street N in downtown St. Petersburg. Free.

But then comes the races. We asks some veteran racegoers how to enjoy this with kids in tow and here's their suggestions: …

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Fishing clubs are a hit with school kids

fishing.jpgThis is a very interesting story by our colleague Terry Tomalin on the huge interest in fishing clubs at local high schools. Competitive fishing is hit with the kids, who knew? The burgeoning fishing club program is in 13 of Pinellas County's 17 public high schools, and already has more than 1,000 students participating.

"Just picture thousands of schoolchildren coming here every year to learn about the culture and history of a sport that has helped make the Tampa Bay area what it is," said Jim Simons, who introduced fishing clubs to Pinellas County's school system.

Simons is a former accountant who built the international World Billfish Series into one of the most prestigious big game fishing tournament tours. When he heard an old Gulf Coast Museum of Art property was available, he immediately saw it as a place where anglers could gather. …

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Parents vote for uniforms at high school

schooluniform.jpgWhat do you think of the news that Clearwater High School has become the first Pinellas high school to approve a dress code that requires polo shirts and forbids concert tees, short skirts and jean shorts? Our colleague Dan Sullivan reports that other local high schools are also considering the change and are watching the effects at Clearwater High.

The new policy requires students to wear long- or short-sleeved polo or dress shirts in the school's colors — red, white, gray or black. Students may also wear black or khaki pants, knee-length shorts or skirts, blue jeans, plain sweatshirts or sweaters in the school's colors, and Clearwater High T-shirts. Students must also wear a belt with shorts, pants and jeans. 

Among the items that students may no longer wear are oversized and undersized shirts, items that expose midriffs or cleavage, jeans shorts and hoodies. 

Parents met at a forum last week to discuss the changes. Some embraced the idea, saying it helps teach kids proper decorum and better behavior.  Others spoke out against it, expressing concerns about costs and the limits to students' freedom of expression.

So what do you think, parents? Good idea or window dressing? …

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Spring break ideas for kids

fortdesoto.jpgThe month of March has been seen a crush of visitors to Florida for spring break, and now it's finally Pinellas kids' turn for a week off, followed by Pasco kids the first week of April. The kids want to play on the sand as much as the college coeds do. But where to find the best kid-friendly beaches for spring break?  Where can we go that won't cost us a mortgage payment? And how about some cool camp ideas for those of us who can't get the week off work? We have you covered, Mommas. Read on for some ways to cure spring fever:

Be an old-school tourist 

Forget the high-priced theme parks. Instead, check out some of these down-market attractions: 

Gatorland, Kissimmee: How can you resist a swamp full of 125 alligators? You can buy turkey dogs to feed them by hand (from a safe distance, naturally). There's also an aviary, petting zoo and four new residents: rare giant leucistic alligators, known for their ivory skin and piercing blue eyes. Gatorland is off I-4 at 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail near Orlando. Admission is $24.99 for adults and $16.99 for children ages 3 to 12, but you can save $3 if you buy tickets online at gatorland.com.  …

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