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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

We've got a once-in-a-life astronomy event, as well as fun art shows and a free beach party returns to Treasure Island this week. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with your kids.

transitvenus.jpgAstronomy buffs are buzzing about the Transit of Venus, one of the rarest astronomical phenomena, coming Tuesday when Venus slips between the Earth and the sun, appearing like a distinct black dot crossing the sun as it sets. There are viewings planned around the bay area, with solar shields affixed to telescopes lest we burn our retinas (don’t try to look at the sun with the naked eye). The event comes with a historical tale: Scientists in 1761 and 1769 fanned the globe to use Venus and relatively simple math to calculate the distance from the Earth to the sun. You can see what they saw from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at free watch parties  at St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; on the deck of the Old Snack Shack, 15102 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; and on the roof of the Richard A. Beard parking garage at USF’s Tampa campus, 4202 E Fowler Ave. (There’s also a viewing at MOSI’s planetarium in Tampa, but it’ll cost $20.) You better catch it this time around because it won’t do it again until December 2117. If the weather is a washout, you can watch the transit through NASA’s live remote webcast from atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Visit sunearthday.nasa.gov/transitofvenus.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

We've got a once-in-a-life astronomy event, as well as fun art shows and a free beach party returns to Treasure Island this week. Read on for more free and cheap things to do with your kids.

transitvenus.jpgAstronomy buffs are buzzing about the Transit of Venus, one of the rarest astronomical phenomena, coming Tuesday when Venus slips between the Earth and the sun, appearing like a distinct black dot crossing the sun as it sets. There are viewings planned around the bay area, with solar shields affixed to telescopes lest we burn our retinas (don’t try to look at the sun with the naked eye). The event comes with a historical tale: Scientists in 1761 and 1769 fanned the globe to use Venus and relatively simple math to calculate the distance from the Earth to the sun. You can see what they saw from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at free watch parties  at St. Petersburg College, 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; on the deck of the Old Snack Shack, 15102 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach; and on the roof of the Richard A. Beard parking garage at USF’s Tampa campus, 4202 E Fowler Ave. (There’s also a viewing at MOSI’s planetarium in Tampa, but it’ll cost $20.) You better catch it this time around because it won’t do it again until December 2117. If the weather is a washout, you can watch the transit through NASA’s live remote webcast from atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Visit sunearthday.nasa.gov/transitofvenus.

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Are we there yet? A guide to the family road trip

postcard.jpgOur colleague Janet Keeler has written a good guide here to getting through a family road trip with your sanity intact. In addition it was paired with this intriguing list of suggestions for a family friendly destination.

Most of us have only seen a small fraction of the United States, Janet writes, a treasure chest of vacation possibilities. According to a Hotwire/Harris Interactive survey, 72 percent of adults haven't visited the Alamo, the site of an important battle in the Texas revolution against Mexico. And another 65 percent or so haven't visited the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge. The White House? More than half haven't seen where the president lives.

So there are plenty of places to go. The real issue — besides discretionary funds — is what to do in the car. Or how to keep the peace. Some ideas:

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Student collapses from asthma attack because school form isn't signed

inhaler.jpgYou may have missed this news in the long holiday weekend, but last week a school nurse in Deltona, near Orlando,  made headlines when she allowed a student to collapse in an asthma attack because his medical form allowing him to use his inhaler wasn't signed. What bothers me is that the school district seemed to go out of its way to stand by the nurse. I could forgive a nurse for panicking and reverting to her training but I just don't understand a school system not saying something along the lines of,  "Of course a child's life is more important than our rules." The 17-year-old  had a prescription inhaler with his name on it and she let him collapse because of no paperwork?  …

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Coming this summer: zip line, bumper boats and more

mummyheads.jpgWith Memorial Day rolling up as the official start of summer, all this week we will look at what's new in the area's theme parks and attractions. Here's what some of Tampa Bay’s non-theme park attractions are also rolling out  this summer:

MOSI The Tampa science museum landed a gem by getting the Mummies of the World exhibit to make Tampa its only Florida stop. And this summer MOSI will add a new state-of-the-art zip line as an outdoor feature. The mummies exhibit, running now through Labor Day, is the largest collection of human and animal mummies ever assembled. There are some 150 specimens and objects from around the globe from more than 20 museums. Through modern science and engaging interactive and multi-media exhibits, the exhibition reveals how the scientific study of mummies provides a window into the lives of ancient people. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

cubansandwich.jpgWe've got sandwich wars and Safari Nights, as well as a European-style circus and lots of free concerts and even fireworks for Memorial Day weekend. Check out our weekly guide to getting out of the house without going into debt:

There’s been a lot of smack talk lately between Tampa and Miami over who owns the “true” Cuban sandwich. Maybe Saturday’s Cuban Sandwich Festival will put the feud between slices of crusty bread to settle it. Celebrate Tampa’s Cuban history in Ybor’s Centennial Park with a day of food, upbeat music, a kids fun zone and friendly competition to find the best Cuban sandwich in the bay area. Among the entries to the competition are Tampa’s Alessi Bakery, Mata Monchies, Mr. Empanada, La Teresita, Stone Soup Company, Gaspar’s Grotto and more. And there is one brave South Florida entry: Hialeah’s Cuban Guys. Will Miami’s sandwich (sans salami) win this sandwich smackdown? It runs from  10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Centennial Park, 1800 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. (Meanwhile, we eagerly await a throwdown over which city owns those tasty deviled crabs.) …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

cubansandwich.jpgWe've got sandwich wars and Safari Nights, as well as a European-style circus and lots of free concerts and even fireworks for Memorial Day weekend. Check out our weekly guide to getting out of the house without going into debt:

There’s been a lot of smack talk lately between Tampa and Miami over who owns the “true” Cuban sandwich. Maybe Saturday’s Cuban Sandwich Festival will put the feud between slices of crusty bread to settle it. Celebrate Tampa’s Cuban history in Ybor’s Centennial Park with a day of food, upbeat music, a kids fun zone and friendly competition to find the best Cuban sandwich in the bay area. Among the entries to the competition are Tampa’s Alessi Bakery, Mata Monchies, Mr. Empanada, La Teresita, Stone Soup Company, Gaspar’s Grotto and more. And there is one brave South Florida entry: Hialeah’s Cuban Guys. Will Miami’s sandwich (sans salami) win this sandwich smackdown? It runs from  10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Centennial Park, 1800 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. (Meanwhile, we eagerly await a throwdown over which city owns those tasty deviled crabs.) …

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Young race car driver dies

racecar.jpgUPDATE: Youth race car driver Tyler Morr, 12, who lived in Arcadia, has died.

On news of a 12 year old critically injured in a stock car race, parents are defending their choice to let kids as young as 5 get behind the wheel of a racecar. As our colleagues Laura C. Morel and Lane DeGregory report here, driver Tyler Morr, 12, had been traveling about 40 mph along the oval in Winter Haven Saturday night when his No. 17 black stock race car crumpled against the wall, just past the second turn in the track.  Monday night, Morr, who lives in Arcadia, was in critical condition at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Parents of other youth race car drivers seemed eager to defend the growing sport, even as they acknowledged the risks.

"Naturally, when my boys' father talked to them about racing, I was scared to death," said Charlene Lively, 35, whose 13- and 15-year-old sons have been driving for eight years. "But I went to the training facility, I saw all the safety devices they would wear, and I kind of relaxed.

"I don't think it's any more dangerous than any other sport," added Lively, a stay-home mom who lives in Riverview. "Football, to me, is much more dangerous." …

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Kid afraid of rollercoasters? Here's some tips

cheetahride.jpgWe've got Memorial Day weekend coming up, the unofficial start of summer. So the next few days on this blog we will be looking at what's new this year at theme parks and attractions that you might want to check out with your kids.

And for parents hoping that this is the year their child musters the courage to take that first roller coaster adventure, it’s a tough call: Do you encourage, bribe or shame the kids into facing their fears? Or do you let them decide for themselves?

Legoland in Winter Haven sent out an interesting guide they’ve come up with to help families deal with veloxrotaphobia, or fear of roller coasters.

The park asked psychologist and author Dr. Susan Bartell to offer some suggestions. To make that first plunge a positive experience for the entire family, Bartell says, there are a host of mistakes parents commonly make.

“Dismissing a child’s fear, comparing them to a sibling or friend, bribing them with gifts and money, or labeling a child with a negative name based on their reluctance won’t make them any braver,” says Bartell.  “In fact those strategies often cause greater anxiety, and resentment and make them more reluctant, not to mention ruin what should be a great day for the family.”

Here’s her suggestions on how to manage a melt-down and celebrate at the end of the day:

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Would you let your kid play football?

brainfootball.jpgI have to admit, I'm kind of glad my kid broke his arm.

After years of playing flag football, he'd been begging me to let him play "real" football with tackling and pads and helmets. I finally relented when he was 12 and wanted to play in a city league. But then, just a couple weeks in, he broke his arm trying to catch his fall off a tackling dummy. It took him out for the season and I was quietly gleeful because he'd experienced the worst of football -- practice in 98-degree weather every night for hours. He was sore every night and the fun part hadn't started yet. They had only just started the tackling drills when he broke his arm.

So now that it's been all over the news how damaging football turns out to be for the players who suffer multiple concussions, I'm starting to feel like a real  hypocrite because I love to watch football but I don't want anyone I love to play it. Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has said he doesn't want his kids to play football, either.

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We found ticket deals for theme parks, attractions

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, we took a look at the deals you can get, particularly the ones offered only to Florida residents. You'll notice Disney is absent from this list but that's because time has run our on their "Wild for 3" of three days in its theme parks for $99. The tickets must be purchased by today (May 21) and used by May 24.

Still, there's lots of other theme parks offering deals this year. And being a Florida resident gets you a price break at most attractions if you jump on the Internet early and use your tickets before the height of vacation season. Here's some of the best: …

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Disney closes scary (really scary!) Snow White ride

snow-white.jpgI really liked our colleague Sean Daly's take on the closing of Walt Disney World's Snow White ride on May 31, which you can read here.  Like so many folks who grew up in Florida, that's the ride that scared the poop out of me as a kid.

But I hadn't thought about it the way Daly puts it as a rite of passage:

For 41 years, the Snow White ride has been a Sunshine State rite of passage. Both of my daughters unleashed big fat tears on the ride. They exited red-eyed, stunned, hitting me with the same what-just-happened look I no doubt flashed my parents: betrayal, anger and, beneath all that, a tingling pride at joining the club.

So true. It's the only ride in the Disney universe that by design is intended to make you jump a foot when that wicked queen turns around.

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Parent complaints about early school days grow

Our friends on the Gradebook blog report here that the Manatee School Board is considering ending its experiment with an early release day to give teacher's planning time. With more demands on teachers to prepare and meet together, many Florida school districts have adopted early release days to give educators that time together. Hillsborough uses Mondays. Pinellas does it on Wednesdays.

But in Manatee County, parents have inundated the School Board with complaints about it. So much so that the board is considering whether to return to five full days of instruction. Board members note that a change could help parents while adding to student learning time, but also realize that time for teacher training and planning still must be provided. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

beachpool_2.jpgGet those kids to unplug and get outside this week because we have lots of free and cheap things to do on the go, from a kids biathlon to a nifty planetarium show followed by telescope viewing or they can take the dog on a play date. We have that and more in this week's roundup:

It’s a biathlon for kids! The St. Pete Beach Community Center is hosting Splash and Dash, a pool swim and fun run through the park for ages 5 to 12. Stick around for the post-race Splash Bash with music, games, water slides, contests and prizes. It costs $5 on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. St. Pete Beach Community Center and Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. …

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

beachpool_2.jpgGet those kids to unplug and get outside this week because we have lots of free and cheap things to do on the go, from a kids biathlon to a nifty planetarium show followed by telescope viewing or they can take the dog on a play date. We have that and more in this week's roundup:

It’s a biathlon for kids! The St. Pete Beach Community Center is hosting Splash and Dash, a pool swim and fun run through the park for ages 5 to 12. Stick around for the post-race Splash Bash with music, games, water slides, contests and prizes. It costs $5 on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. St. Pete Beach Community Center and Horan Park, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. …

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