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East County Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1 month ago

Mom's love prevails in the Lakewood Ranch area

Lakewood Ranch area moms talk about what it takes to be a good mother in 2021.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

With Mother's Day approaching May 9, the East County Observer asked moms what it takes to be a good mom in 2021.

Lakewood Ranch's Vicki Loukota

Loukota uses the same qualities her mom used when she was a child.

"I love doing things I did as a kid with (her 21-month-old daughter Mackenzie and 1-month-old Knox) like going to the playground, going to the zoo or going to the beach. We like to do fun activities to keep them entertained. If they're having fun, I'm having fun."


Lakewood Ranch's Jen Newman and her 8-year-old son, Drew.


Lakewood Ranch's Jen Newman

Newman said things are different than when she was a child. But many of the qualities remain the same.

"Patience. Flexibility. They are learning all the time," she said. "I am a single mom (of 8-year-old Drew) and when I was a kid, we could run all over the place. You can't do that now. You have to take them to all the music and sporting events. It's gotten better (during the pandemic), obviously, because before this we had to be at home all the home and I was trying to get him to entertain himself. School is back to normal now. 


Del Tierra's Erica McMillan and her son Zachary, 8 .

Del Tierra's Erica McMillin

Time management is at the top of the list for McMillin.

"Being a mom (she has two boys) definitely has its challenges, such as being a working mom and getting the kids everywhere," McMillin said. "But you have to give your kids opportunities. You always want your kids to have more than you had. I am very much like my mother, who was a good role model and very involved. (During the pandemic), I had to make the decision whether to send (8-year-old Zachary) back to school full-time. I never thought I would have to make that tough a decision."




Greenbrook's Kim Pinto has prioritized providing normal and fun experiences, such as riding bikes with friends or swimming at the pool, for her 4-year-old daughter Lively Pinto.

Greenbrook's Kim Pinto

Pinto said her biggest challenge as a mother during the pandemic has been teaching her children, 4-year-old daughter Lively Pinto and 8-year-old son Noble Pinto, the dos and don'ts of public health. That means everything from teaching them to wash their hands before meals to preventing them from playing with the shopping cart while buying groceries.

Pinto said she has prioritized giving her kids fun experiences during the pandemic, such as riding bikes with friends, swimming at the pool or going out to eat. She said her family has done so safely, washing hands consistently and wearing masks when necessary.

"They're our kids, and you just never know when your time is up," Pinto said. "I'm not going to not go out and live life, because we want them to enjoy each day."

Lakewood Ranch's Margaret Salza says although the pandemic has been hard because family couldn't visit, she's enjoyed spending time with her 20-month-old daughter Savana Salza.


Lakewood Ranch's Margaret Szala

Szala said the pandemic has meant her family can't help take care of her 20-month-old daughter Savana Szala and 4-year-old daughter Juliana Szala, but she's grateful for the time she has with them.

"They're babies now, and then you blink and the next thing you know they're talking and being independent," Szala said. "I'm counting the days until they're more grown up, but I also don't want that to happen. In a couple years, they don't need you anymore, so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can."

Szala said her family has been fortunate during the pandemic because her children aren't old enough to be in school, and they haven't had to make tough decisions such as whether to send their children to school full-time or participate in e-learning.


The pandemic has given River Club's Sherry Yu a lot more time to teach Mandarin to her 4-year-old daughter, Fanya Yu, pictured with 15-year-old chihuahua mix Barbie.

River Club's Sherry Yu

Yu said she has spent far more time with her family because of the pandemic. It has given her the opportunity to teach Mandarin to her 4-year-old daughter, Fanya Yu.

"Especially with Asia being such a global focus, it's important she learns the positives of our culture," Yu said. "In light of anti-Asian sentiment in other places, we're happy to live in Lakewood Ranch."

Yu said the early months of the pandemic felt like having two full-time jobs because she had to continue her job as a professor at New College of Florida while her daughter and 6-year-old son, Ethan Yu, attended virtual school.

Greyhawk Landing's Della Zajda loves seeing her son Luka Zajda, who is 2, grow up and learn new things.


GreyHawk's Della Zajda

As a stay-at-home mom, Zajda has been able to see her 2-year-old Luka Zajda and 3-year-old Jarek Zajda grow up and try new things all day, every day.

"I love seeing all the joy through them doing new things, learning new things and watching them grow," Della Zajda said. 

When the pandemic started last year, Zajda said the biggest challenge of being a mother was being isolated. She didn't have family to help her with the children, and she couldn't go out to socialize with other parents. 

Lake Vista's Jensen Aldrich loves taking her 1-year-old daughter Shayne Aldrich for walks around Lakewood Ranch, especially when they see gallinule birds.

Lake Vista's Jensen Aldrich

Aldrich said her 1-year-old daughter Shayne Aldrich, has had a difficult time getting used to people wearing masks but is now enjoying face-to-face interactions more as fewer people wear masks.

She loves taking walks with her daughter.

"I love getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and allowing her to discover the outdoors," Aldrich said.


— Brendan Lavell and Jay Heater contributed to this story


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