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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Mummies exhibit coming to a close

mummyheads.jpgIf you haven't checked out the Mummies of the World exhibit yet at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, time is running out as the exhibit gets ready to pack up the bandages after a successful stay at its only Florida stop. If you go tonight (Friday) there is also a food truck rally going on at MOSI from 7 to 11 p.m., so you can catch up with this hot foodie trend as well.

Some people have asked me if this might be too scary for kids, with haunting images of shriveled flesh and sunken stares. I certainly had that concern when I escorted a group of third graders to the exhibit when it first arrived four months ago I wondered if the thought of these being actual human beings would have creeped the kids out. But it wasn't really an issue with our group. 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.

And their favorite was a kiosk on decay that had pictures of a plate of strawberries, a Halloween pumpkin and a dead rabbit and the kids turn a dial to see them get moldy, shrivel up, and a dead rabbit's belly slow extending and then deflating as the flesh whithers away. It was extremely gross ... and they LOVED it.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

geckostiltwalker.jpgSummer is officially over after this Labor Day weekend coming up, so put away your white shoes. Or kick them off entirely and enjoy yourself now that things are finally quieting down in Tampa Bay. We've got Labor Day fun, slick cars at the Pier, fun festivals and a gecko-meets-Hollywood parade in this week's list of free and cheep things to do with your kids.

Gulfport’s annual Gecko Fest returns Saturday at 10 a.m. just as all the RNC frenzy is leaving town. This whimsical family street festival and the “Mardi Gras Meets the Renaissance” walking parade — da Vinci meets Bourbon Street? — celebrates Labor Day weekend and the end of summer. The bigger evening events include a walking parade of colorful, noisy costumed revelers. Staging begins at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Gulfport Casino, and the parade starts at 6. Registration is not required. Just join in at the casino or anywhere along the Beach Boulevard parade route. At 6:30 is the infamous costume contest; base your getup this year on the “Hooray for Geckowood!” theme. And at 8 p.m., there’s a street dance featuring the Urban Gypsies. For more info, see geckofest.com.

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

geckostiltwalker.jpgSummer is officially over after this Labor Day weekend coming up, so put away your white shoes. Or kick them off entirely and enjoy yourself now that things are finally quieting down in Tampa Bay. We've got Labor Day fun, slick cars at the Pier, fun festivals and a gecko-meets-Hollywood parade in this week's list of free and cheep things to do with your kids.

Gulfport’s annual Gecko Fest returns Saturday at 10 a.m. just as all the RNC frenzy is leaving town. This whimsical family street festival and the “Mardi Gras Meets the Renaissance” walking parade — da Vinci meets Bourbon Street? — celebrates Labor Day weekend and the end of summer. The bigger evening events include a walking parade of colorful, noisy costumed revelers. Staging begins at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Gulfport Casino, and the parade starts at 6. Registration is not required. Just join in at the casino or anywhere along the Beach Boulevard parade route. At 6:30 is the infamous costume contest; base your getup this year on the “Hooray for Geckowood!” theme. And at 8 p.m., there’s a street dance featuring the Urban Gypsies. For more info, see geckofest.com.

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School stops parents from walking kids to class in the morning

school.jpgThere's a lively debate going on over at the Gradebook education blog where some schools, complaining of disruption and safety concerns, are discouraging parents from walking their elementary students to their classroom in the morning. I find that incredibly sad that some schools would try to squelch such a sweet practice.

As our colleague Jeff Solochek notes, Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel this week started heading parents off with a sign by the fence saying, "Parents will no longer be permitted to walk students to class in the morning." But at many other schools across Tampa Bay, parents pour onto campus first thing in the morning and are greeted warmly. Which is the more welcoming image?

One of the reasons given is that they are trying to get a better handle on what adults are on campus. I find this incredibly paranoid thinking. Has this even been a problem? Have roving bands of strange men been showing up at elementary classrooms that are teeming with other adults and children and causing trouble? No. It's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

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Could you live without the Internet on Sept. 2?

librarybooks.jpgI have a little boy who stumps me all the time with questions like, "If Pluto is now a dwarf planet why isn't it still a planet-planet?" or "How many miles is it across the country?" or any number of endless ENDLESS questions that little boys and girls typically pester their parents with. These are often knowable answers but I personally don't know off the top of my head so I will sheepishly admit I started keeping my iPhone handy at dinnertime so I wouldn't have to say, "I don't know," yet again and we could move on to another topic.

This was the first thing that came to mind for me when I read about The Reconnect Project that hopes to get us to take one day to step away from the computer and create something, or simply "engage in reality."

What is this reality you speak of? How fast will it upload?

Their promotional video, that you can see here, invites you to,"Paint, sing, write, film, photograph," under the premise that the art of "creating" is in danger because of the amount of retweeting and reposting we do. …

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School hurricane closings send working parents into chaos

isaactrack.jpgSo this was the Hurricane Isaac track on Sunday, at left, several hours after Pinellas and Hillsborough County schools had announced schools would be closed Monday. St. Petersburg College waited until later in the day Sunday to indicate they saw "no need" to cancel classes based on the current forecast and when they took one last look at 5 p.m. Sunday, the college said there was little reason to cancel classes because of rain.

But if you look at their Facebook page here you can see many of their students and staff are furious, some because of the perceived danger but many because schools would be closed and they were left stranded with no day care. One poster said, "This is exceptionally inconsiderate of the administration of this school to do to both its students and faculty. All other schools in the area are closed. That means that every parent that attends or works for SPC now has to find emergency child care or live with an absence." 

Should the college, which has a high percentage of students who are older and have kids, taken this into account?

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Mom uses website to connect with classmates

backpack.jpgOur colleague Marlene Sokol has found an ingenious mom who did one of those "Why didn't we think of this?" creations to help kids connect with classmates over the summer and help parents connect with each other.

Back in (our) old days, parents waited for that paper letter with the names of their children’s new teachers. They’d pick up the phone and ask each other: “Who does your son have?” They might or might not be pleased by the news. At Westchase Elementary School, it’s different.

A mother there has developed a website that lets parents log in their children’s teacher assignments and connect with classmates before the first box of crayons has been opened. It’s called Are You In My Class and it’s hugely popular. You can see what it looks like here (It will be erased Aug. 31)

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Back to school breakfast ideas

mom_healthysnacks.jpgDo your kids hate breakfast and hate it even more since they have to wake up earlier to eat it now that school has started? Our colleage, food editor Janet Keeler, suggests that this school year, offer some new foods that might get them more excited about breakfast. If they hate eggs, don’t force them. If they are fans of grilled cheese sandwiches, get out the skillet and make them but use whole-wheat bread and tuck a few thin slices of apple between the slices.

Here are some of her deas for back-to-school breakfasts:

Leftovers Seriously, heat up that chicken noodle soup, spaghetti or lasagna from last night. Who said breakfast has to be bacon and eggs?

Oatmeal It’s a turnoff for a lot of kids, especially young Floridians who’ve never had a need for a warm, rib-sticking breakfast. But try the accompanying recipe I've posted at the end of this post for for Almond Joy Oatmeal and they might just get hooked. Yes, it calls for a smattering of chocolate chips but it’s not much more than a tablespoon per person. …

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School sued after boy's Easter invitation blocked

A little boy in Tampa brought 20 invitations to school asking his friends to join him on an Easter egg hunt where they "would have fun and learn the true meaning of Easter." His principal put a stop to it and sent a note home to his parents that said, "We are not allowed to pass out fliers related to religious events or activities."

According to this story by our colleague William Levesque, a federal judge in Tampa on Wednesday heard arguments about whether the school's refusal to allow those invitations to be distributed violated the boy's First Amendment right to free speech and religious expression. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins is being asked to grant an injunction ordering the school to let the boy distribute such materials in the future.

I think the kid has a case. Courts have previously ruled that handing out such literature in noninstructional time is permissible as long as the school activity is not substantially disrupted.

Even though the ACLU is often used as a boogey man by people who want prayer in school, the civil liberties group has actually gone to court quite a lot -- and won -- defending students' right to practice their religion in school. Public schools, according to these court cases,  can't tell kids not to wear rosaries or that they can't write about Easter or their baptism as an essay or keep the 10 Commandments or a Bible with them. Kids are free to pray in school, it just can't be led by the teacher.

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Free and cheap things to do with your kids

whitehousesand.jpgCheck out the huge sand sculptures going up on Treasure Island for the next week's Republican National Convention or you can check out the preparations before it gets crazy in downtown Tampa while you take advantage of free admission to a museum. Or you can go in the opposite direction and take your dog to swim at a city pool or take the kids fishing a  free tournament. We've got that and more in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with kids this week

There's a giant Sand Sculpture Display almost finished and if the weather is kind will be up through the week with replicas of President Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House behind the Bilmar Beach Resort, 10650 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. …

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Students get a price break at Adventure Island through Oct. 14

adventureisland.jpgLabor Day will come and go and it will still be hot here, no doubt. So it might be a good time to take advantage of the deal Adventure Island is offering students: a $15 break on single-day tickets, good now through Oct. 14 at the Busch Gardens water park.

Students from elementary through college need only show their student ID to get in for $29.99, available at any Adventure Island ticket window and online at AdventureIsland.com. Adventure Island is open daily through Labor Day, Sept. 3, then weekends only Sept. 8 through Oct. 14. For nonstudents, single-day admission tickets are regularly $44.99 for adults and $40.99 for children ages 3 to 9. Ages 2 and younger get in free.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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How to use RNC as teaching tool for your kids

rnc.jpgAs Tampa prepares to host the Republican National Convention next week, now is a good time to teach your kids about the political process. Scholastic has this quick guide to political conventions, but how about heading over to Tampa this week to show your kids the preparations that are under way? Here's our map of where you can park, where you can drive and even where you can walk.

This can be a good time to teach your kids media literacy. Show them all networks setting up lavish sets, about the money that media companies make on advertising and how to be a smart consumer of news.

This is also a good time to talk about the political process and maybe even try to spot some of the politicians from the news on the streets of Tampa.

One fun stop in all this is our Conventional Wisdom page where we've assembled a fun collection of zany facts and guides to the area, and the protestors, the work it took to makeover Tampa for the RNC.

 

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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School starts this week (boo-hoo or yahoo?)

back2school.jpgIt’s back to school time, kids! Public school students in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties file in Monday, and Hillsborough schools open Tuesday.

I have friends with kids starting kindergarten who are tearing up already, but so is my friend with a child about to start middle school and my friend sending her son off to college says she's a basket case. My baby boy starts high school on Monday and I just can't get over it. I swear I just had that baby shower a month ago.

I wish I was one of those moms who faithfully kept a photo album with every year's first day of school picture carefully saved. I'm sure I'd be going through that mythical album right now if I had one. There's something about these transitions that are so bittersweet. We are so proud yet so fearful that time is passing too quickly, no?

So how do you greet the new school year, with joy or a boo-hoo breakfast?

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

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Catch a baseball game at the beach

Sometimes you have to admit there's some nice perks about living here. One of them is watching a Rays game on a jumbo screen on the beach Sunday behind the TradeWinds resort in St. Pete Beach. If it doesn't rain, you can't beat if for cheering on the team with a crowd of fans with zinc on their noses.

Radio station 620-AM WDAE  will broadcast live starting with their pre-game show at about 3 p.m. The Rays Street Team will also be on hand with giveaways. Get a coupon for unlimited sliding on the giant slide for $10 (normally $30). Proceeds benefit the Rays Foundation. It's free but there's $10 parking on site.

Here's some tips from the last time I went:

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Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week

cubansandwich.jpgWe've got disco-loving babies, free entry into a children's museum this week, cupcake tastings, the world's largest Cuban sandwich and more wallet-friendly fun in store in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids:

The family-friendly dance party known as Baby Loves Disco features real DJs spinning G-rated dance tunes while parents, grandparents and kids dance, make sock puppets or a family tree, get a temporary tattoo and win prizes. 5-8 p.m. Friday. $15 per person. Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa, 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. (727) 360-1881.

Remember all that hullabaloo about who makes the best Cuban sandwich, Tampa or Miami? Well, maybe making the world’s largest Cuban will settle things. Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, Tampa’s signature sandwich will be the center of an attempt to make the world’s largest pressed sandwich with shredded pork, ham, salami, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on white Cuban bread. (That Genoa salami on there is what Miami considers subversive.) Elsewhere at Taste of the Cuban Sandwich, restaurants will be selling their sandwiches, and there will be music, a kids zone and a cigar area. Free admission, charge for food at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor campus, on 14th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

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