If you're a parent of a small child or even a parent-to-be, chances are you know all about Dr. Cindy and her Mommy & Me brand name. What started out as a series of classes for parents and children more than two decades ago has grown into a multimedia mini-empire -- all built around a curriculum that teaches parents to encourage their children's development through interactive play.

The Mommy & Me phenomenon really started to take off after Nurik became a mother herself: She and her husband, Marc, adopted Kacey as an infant nearly 12 years ago, during Nurik's ultimately successful battle with breast cancer. "Becoming a parent has been the most incredible experience of my life," the Plantation resident declares. "I've always been involved in parenting clinically, but when I personally became a parent... when they put Kacey into my arms, I really got it."

When Cindy is asked whether she has to restrain her professional impulses while parenting Kacey, both mother and daughter giggle. "Sometimes I do need to step back and not play that role," says Nurik, who has a doctorate in early-childhood development and is also a licensed marriage and family therapist. "Here at home, I'm not Dr. Cindy; I'm Mommy Cindy." Still, being an educator is part of being a parent. "Some parents tend not to want to touch that [aspect of parenting] with a ten-foot pole," she says. "There needs to be a balance. I try to keep those lines between doctor, parent, and friend, but sometimes I catch myself crossing them -- or she'll let me know."

Kacey says she enjoys helping her mom out with the entrepreneurial side of her professional life. "I help her do art projects; I help her with the lyrics of the songs," she offers.

"[Kacey] is a great mother's helper," Cindy gushes. "She's the 'Me' in 'Mommy & Me'!"

As far as Kacey is concerned, she has gotten the best end of that deal. "My mom has taught me to be myself," she says. "And when kids pressure you to do things, don't get upset about it."

After a pause, Cindy declares, "You know, that was never something I would have thought she would have said." She chuckles. "They always surprise you."

Though the Owls had made some noise in other sports in recent years, 2001-02 will always be remembered as the season that FAU exploded into the big-time. Schnellenberger's football squad scratched and clawed its way to a 4-6 record in its first year of intercollegiate competition, while Green's team made the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. And though the two men don't work together directly, each says the other has made his job easier.

Schnellenberger's pedigree -- including his 1983 national championship as coach of the Miami Hurricanes -- is not lost on Green. "I tell you, I look at it as a major advantage for the whole department, and the whole school, to have someone here of the stature of Coach Schnellenberger," Green says.

Though he's played under some of the best basketball coaches in both college and professional ranks, Green says he's learned plenty from Schnellenberger: "His professionalism, his work ethic, his honesty, the people he's been able to attract around him.

"The only unfortunate part is that my office isn't right next to his," he adds. If it were? "I'd be in that office every day; I'd be a sponge, trying to get as much knowledge as I can about how to run an intercollegiate athletics program."

Schnellenberger says his first impression of Green was the same as everybody else's: He sure wouldn't want to have to guard the ex-power forward in the low post. "But what was more impressive was that he's an intelligent, articulate young man, with great knowledge of basketball, as player and coach," Schnellenberger says. "It's absolutely remarkable what he has been able to accomplish."

When it is suggested that Green's team's feat must make Schnellenberger feel like he did when he took over at basketball powerhouse Louisville, the veteran football coach lets out a rumbling chortle. He points out that the success of one of the university's teams can only help all the others. "It's immeasurable how significant that achievement was," Schnellenberger says. "That team brought the three letters F-A-U to the national scene. We're all really proud of Sidney."

From the outset, these two chefs knew where their combined destinies lay. "On our first date, we talked about opening a restaurant," Montella-Smith remembers. More than 20 years later, the inspired Southwestern cuisine of their Armadillo Café continues to please the palates of South Florida diners. With their long-awaited new location on University Drive in Davie up and running, they need look no further than each other for the reasons they were able to succeed.

"I'm gonna brag on him for a while now," Montella-Smith announces, referring to McCarthy. "He's a fantastically talented technical chef. I was kinda mad about this at first -- technically, I'm not even in his league, but I have my talents too -- and there was a lot of friction."

Of course, combining a romantic relationship and a business partnership brought challenges. "I wouldn't recommend that," Montella-Smith notes dryly, pointing out that they broke up for good in 1993 and are now married to different people. (McCarthy has four children; Montella-Smith has one.) Still, she says, "Kevin and I have a bond that can't be broken. We really watch out for each other, because this business is tough -- physically, emotionally, and financially. But when you're a force of two against the world, that makes a huge difference."

Though he looks back with a mixture of fondness and resentment on the old days (the resentment being reserved mostly for the incessant road construction that plagued the now-closed Griffin Road location), McCarthy is gratified that he and Montella-Smith have remained business partners even after they split up. "It's easy to start in a small place, where we just threw everything we had into it," McCarthy remembers. "We didn't have any money; there was no place to go. It was a nothing-to-lose kind of thing: You take the rear-view mirror off the car and go forward and get better."

Now that they're in a bigger location, with a regular Sunday brunch and lunch service in the planning stages, McCarthy declares, "We've been through the rough years, and now we're seeing the light."

In the nine years they've worked together at the Caldwell, the members of this behind-the-scenes tag team have held various titles, but essentially, Bennett designs the sets and Salzman does the lighting. Their combined efforts have created disparate looks ranging from the lighting-driven textures and fabric backdrops of last year's production of The Laramie Project to the tangible, recognizable details of a bed-and-breakfast in the recent Out of Season.

When asked to describe the mechanics of their work together, both men seem relieved to be acknowledged as a team. "It works best as a total collaboration between all of us," Bennett says, stressing that writers and directors play a significant role in shaping his and Salzman's creations. "When I design scenery, since we've worked together a lot, I know how Tom's going to light it. And when I do something kinda weird, he knows why," he adds with a laugh.

For The Laramie Project, which tells the tale of the Matthew Shepard killing in Wyoming, the inspiration came from an unexpected source. After the creative team brainstormed for a few days without deciding on a visual vocabulary for the show, "we were all at a loss, and then the director [Michael Hall] pulled out this sweater that he'd brought back from a fact-finding mission to Laramie," Salzman recalls. "In this sweater was a color palette, a feeling. Tim went away and designed a new set, and the lighting palette all changed -- based on this sweater.

"In the theater, unlike films, people want to use their imagination in order to be taken to another place," Salzman points out. "Tim and I go for the essence of what a play needs: Sometimes we need to do virtually nothing but stay out of the actors' way; other times, we superimpose ourselves so the sets and lighting almost become another character. But you never know if it's going to work until you do it," Salzman cautions.

"We think we know," Bennett adds. But even full dress rehearsals, he stresses, aren't enough.

"We can't really know until we hear the audience's reaction," Salzman concludes.

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