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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Tips on buying a cell phone for a kid

cellphones.jpgI know, I know, I'm about to get pummeled with outrage from readers telling me that no 12 year old needs a cell phone. I get it. You lived through your childhood without a cell phone, and kids these days can do the same. But the truth is, about 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have phones, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project study. It's not just that kids want one, a lot of us parents want them to have them so we can reach them more easily.

They also are excellent discipline tools. Got a kid getting acting up? Threaten to take away his cell phone and watch him turn into an angel. Want to teach a kid money skills? Let her earn the money she needs to pay for her cell phone or those extra texting minutes she wants.

Metro PCS recently sent me these four tips for parents to consider when buying a cell phone:

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Autistic boy's success at sailing leads to new summer camp

sailing.jpgThere's a very heart-warming story you can read here from TampaBay.com on one autistic boy's great experiece at the Clearwater Sailing Center that led to a new summer camp this year, Camp Awesome, aimed at helping children with disabilities. There's a fundraiser tonight (April 27) to raise money for the camp.

Last year, Bonnie Monroe searched tirelessly for a summer camp that would enroll her autistic son, Mark,12, who has high functioning autism. She found Clearwater Community Sailing Center and Rich White, an instructor who taught Mark to sail.

The kid really took to it and the encounter changed Mark's life forever, his mother said. By the end of last summer, not only had he learned to sail and paddleboard by himself, he had joined the Sailing Center's regular summer camp activities.

"Seeing Mark sail, I was in tears," she said. "He was usually hanging out in the corner playing video games. It was amazing how learning to sail helped change my son."

Since last summer, CARD, or Florida's Center for Autism Related Disabilities, has trained sailing instructors and other Sailing Center staffers so they have a better working knowledge of how to assist children with special needs.
  …

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Teen journalists take on bullying

tbtwo.jpgThe teenage journalists at our "little sister" newspaper tb-two have done some really incredible reporting this week about bullying It's a must-read for both parents and kids since they have the kids themselves talking about what they have seen and experienced.

If you aren't aware of it, tb2 is published by the Tampa Bay Times and is staffed by students in Hillsbourgh and Pinellas high schools, where the paper is also distributed.

They have multiple angles on the subject of bullying but the most heartbreaking is this one by a gay student who has survived years of bullying. He twice tried to take his own life before he got some perspective. He writes:

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

dragonboat.jpgWe've got dragons in Garrison Channel and mummies at MOSI, not to mention the lead up to Star Wars Day by camping out with Darth Vader. Read on for not-so-scary ways to spend time -- and not much money -- with your kids.

Dragons will be lurking in Garrison Channel this weekend. Dragon boats that are the stuff of legend will be zipping through Channelside-area waters as paddlers from across the U.S. and Canada compete to be Tampa’s top team. It’s free for spectators to cheer on their favorite teams as they aim to paddle in synch in what is essentially a long canoe with a dragon head. This race is 450 meters with a fully buoyed five-lane course. Each team races three times, and heats run every 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the Asia Fest will run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at nearby Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park. Enjoy the tastes, sights and sounds of 15 Asian countries. There will be colorful dance performances, traditional music and a Miss Asia Fest competition. The park is at 601 Old Water St., and the dragon boats will be cruising down Garrison Channel starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday behind the Marriott Tampa Waterside, 700 S Florida Ave., Tampa.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

dragonboat.jpgWe've got dragons in Garrison Channel and mummies at MOSI, not to mention the lead up to Star Wars Day by camping out with Darth Vader. Read on for not-so-scary ways to spend time -- and not much money -- with your kids.

Dragons will be lurking in Garrison Channel this weekend. Dragon boats that are the stuff of legend will be zipping through Channelside-area waters as paddlers from across the U.S. and Canada compete to be Tampa’s top team. It’s free for spectators to cheer on their favorite teams as they aim to paddle in synch in what is essentially a long canoe with a dragon head. This race is 450 meters with a fully buoyed five-lane course. Each team races three times, and heats run every 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the Asia Fest will run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at nearby Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park. Enjoy the tastes, sights and sounds of 15 Asian countries. There will be colorful dance performances, traditional music and a Miss Asia Fest competition. The park is at 601 Old Water St., and the dragon boats will be cruising down Garrison Channel starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday behind the Marriott Tampa Waterside, 700 S Florida Ave., Tampa.

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Wet 'n Wild adding major expansion this summer

The state's first water park, Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, has announced it is adding a major expansion that will include a huge sandcastle and a playground that covers an acre of space with slides, soakers, jets and waterfalls. Called Blastaway Beach, it is set to open in June of this year and for parents of little tots, note that it's designed especially for families with a single entrance/exit, "creating a secluded environment that is family-friendly and family-safe," a press release says.

Billed as the largest of its kind in Florida, this will be Wet ‘n Wild’s first new attraction in more than four years.

Built around a sandcastle rising 60-feet high, the new attraction will feature 17 slides, expand across two pools and have more than 160 soakers, jets, waterfalls and water cannons. 

Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, a Universal theme park, invented the waterpark concept in 1977 when it was founded by Sea World creator George Millay, and now has more than 15 themed rides and attractions.  …

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As vaccine fears rise, so does whooping cough

needle.jpgOn the news that whooping cough is on the rise in Hillsborough County, the question inevitably comes up: Are the anti-vaccine forces to blame? 

Seven families, spread throughout the Hillsborough County, are responsible for a large portion of the cases, Hillsborough County reports. Among them was one family that does not believe in immunizations, health officials said.

You can't blame all this on the anti-vax folks though. Children receive the vaccine that protects them against pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus in five stages — at two months, four months, six months, between 15 and 18 months and between 4 and 6 years.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults — particularly those who come in contact with infants and small children — receive a vaccine booster dose every 10 years.

But we've also had news stories of measles cases on the rise, and the rising numbers of people who opt out of vaccines citing religions exemptions.

Medical experts say they think the real issue often is not religion, but unfounded fears of a connection between vaccines and autism.

--Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Kids trash a classroom: What would you do?

trashedclass.jpgEditors at TampaBay.com report here that over the weekend, three boys between the ages of 8 and 12 were caught vandalizing a school's portable classrooms. Vandalizing is too mild a word. They trashed the place.

In three portable classrooms, Winter Haven police said, furniture and electronics were found overturned, books and papers strewn across the floor and paint sprayed across walls, whiteboards, televisions and furniture.

The three boys' parents were called to the school, and police said all three were taken into custody by Winter Haven Police and taken to the Polk County Juvenile Assessment Center. The boys were charged with four counts of burglary and felony criminal mischief, authorities said in a news release.

OK, it's worst nightmare time: What would you do if this were your child? Do the police have to be involved or is this something the parents and the school can handle?

My first instinct would be to set the boy to work cleaning up the mess and then work out a schedule with the school every day before and after school when he could do chores there to work off the cost of the damage.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Teens join battle to save environment

brazillianpepper.jpgThe Pinellas County Youth Advisory Committee will join the battle against invasive plant species, like this Brazilian pepper plant shown at left,by digging into a community service project at Fort De Soto Park on Saturday (April 28) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students are invited to join the high school members of the Youth Advisory Committee as they remove invasive plants from the park, a task that is "vitally important to keep the area vibrant, healthy and ecologically friendly for native vegetation and wildlife," a county press release says.

Participating students will earn community service hours while contributing to the maintenance of the largest park in the Pinellas County parks system. The 1,136-acre park is made up of five interconnected islands, home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.

Work clothes, gloves and a bagged lunch are recommended for this community service project. To register, go to the event's website  or call (727) 582-2656. …

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Mummies exhibit too scary for kids?

mummyheads.jpgWith haunting images of shriveled flesh and sunken stares, mummies are the stuff of nightmares. So is the new Mummies of the World exhibit coming to MOSI on Friday for a four-month stay too scary for kids? I certainly had that concern when the Bodies exhibit was at MOSI. The thought of those being actual human beings on display just creeped me out.

Marc Corwin, president of American Exhibition, producer of the Mummies of the World exhibit, said they took kids into account and made pains to emphasize the science of mummification and play down the scare factor. (I'm not sure they can play down the creepy factor if they tried)  Of the 200,00 visitors at the exhibition’s first stop in Los Angeles, half of them were families with young children, Corwin said.

It helps that there are several interactive kiosks where kids can find out what a mummy feels like or see 3D images of the high-tech scans scientists used to find out what the mummies died of or how old they were.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

glazer.jpgUPDATE: Because of the weather forecasts for the weekend, the Erase the Hate Festival Saturday has been postponed and the Brandon Skate Park Grand opening is postponed

The deals are rolling in, and not just on wheels like the free admission the rest of this month at t a new skatepark. We've got Earth Day, dogs at the ballpark, an orchestra on the beach and a baby show that wants to break a Guinness world record for diaper changing. Read on for family friendly deals.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

glazer.jpgUPDATE: Because of the weather forecasts for the weekend, the Erase the Hate Festival Saturday has been postponed and the Brandon Skate Park Grand opening is postponed

The deals are rolling in, and not just on wheels like the free admission the rest of this month at t a new skatepark. We've got Earth Day, dogs at the ballpark, an orchestra on the beach and a baby show that wants to break a Guinness world record for diaper changing. Read on for family friendly deals.

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Win a Mother's Day makeover

godmother.jpgJust like Cinderella, we could all use a fairy godmother to give us a makeover and remember what it was like before we lived in yoga pants and pony tails. Our friends on the Deal Divas blog found this contest for a Mother's Day makeover by Classy Consignment of Lutz that will award one winner a full haircut and color from Shanna Young of HairStyle Salon, a makeover from Mary Kay's Annette Antinori-Hall, a new outfit from Classy Consignment, an airbrush tan from Tropic Tan and dinner for two at Benedetto's Ristorante Italiano.

And now comes news that the Buccaneers are accepting nominations for Mother's Day makeovers for military mothers and their families

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Third Annual "Mother's Day Makeover" program is giving away a "nce-in-a-lifetime experience" to 10 mothers from Central Florida in honor of Mother's Day. New for 2012, the Buccaneers are looking forward to helping military moms who go above and beyond.

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Celebrate Earth Day with your kids

earth.jpgThe first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, with protests around the nation urging Congress to do something about air and water pollution. It achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from all political stripes  to create the political movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. It drew participation from more than 10,000 high schools and grade schools.

It has since become a lot less political, more of a feel-good time to remember what we love about nature and why. Some environmentalists complain about that, especially as it becomes an excuse to sell stuff. But kids are still interested in how they can shape their planet.

Our colleague, environmental reporter Craig Pittman, offered these tips on how to use Earth Day as a chance to teach kids how they can help the environment. And below I offer some local events going on this weekend where you can bring along the kids to clean up a waterway, learn about our local environment or learn something new.

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Legoland adds water to the bricks

legowater.jpgLess than two months until the Legoland Water Park opens on May 26, and the attraction is getting its middle name – water! More than a half a million gallons of H2O were pumped into the Lego Wave Pool by friendof the LegoCity Volunteer Fire Department. The first wave pool in any Legoland  Water Park will be home to gently rolling waves. Meanwhile, the rest of the water park attraction is currently under construction from Duplo Splash Safari to Joker Soaker.

From a park press release,  the new attractions include:

Lego Wave Pool – Families can catch a gentle wave or simply cool off in this perfectly sized wave pool where the waves are just big enough for all ages to enjoy.

Build-A-Raft River - Families can imagine, design and build a unique LEGO vessel and set afloat on a maiden voyage around the 1000-foot-long lazy river, set amongst playful LEGO Friends, flowering vegetation and palm trees

Twin Chasers – Friends ride tubes 375 feet down an intertwining pair of enclosed water slides before plunging into a refreshing pool below …

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