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Archive for the 'Activities' Category

Tips for that first Broadway play

August
21

On Wednesday night, we saw “The Little Mermaid” in New York. It was the Pumpkin’s first-ever Broadway play and it couldn’t have been a better introduction to the experience. Not only does she know the movie very well — having seen it, oh, a dozen times — but the colorful spectacle and cheerful songs were literally dazzling. There was some hiding of the eyes and cuddling up to mommy in the scenes with Ursula, the Sea Witch, but otherwise she was attentive and entranced. I came up with some suggestions based on our experience that might be helpful to other parents pondering whether their child is ready for the Great White Way:

• Pick a play that’s easy for your child to understand, preferably based on a story or movie that’s familiar. The action is fast and the figures on a stage are more abstract than those on a movie screen, so the younger the child, the more of a head-start he or she needs. We actually watched “The Little Mermaid” the day before the play to refresh my daughter’s memory.

• Make sure you have an aisle seat for your child. We were in the orchestra with an aisle seat, which was helpful because Pumpkin was able to see the stage well.

• Arrive early and ask for a booster seat. By the time I noticed an usher passing out booster seats, all the cushioned seats had been taken. We ended up with a plastic seat. It was fine, but a cushion obviously would have been more comfy.

• Try, if you can, to avoid spending money at the merchandise booth on things you can buy in the wider world for less. I was tempted by the cast recording, but daunted by the $25 price tag. Checking at home later, I found the original cast recording on Amazon.com for $14.99. I also managed to avoid spending $15 on a plastic toy “Dinglehopper.” I did, however, find the cost of a nice keepsake T-shirt for my teenage niece was well worth it. If only the children’s sizes hadn’t sold out, I would have bought one for Pumpkin, too.

• Find out what kind of discounts you can get through your work. As a Gannett employee, I saved $30 each on the four tickets I purchased, a $120 savings.

• Reserve a table at a kid-friendly restaurant. We had a 5:45 reservation at Ruby Foo’s on Broadway, just three blocks away from the theater. Energetic and dramatic but not so uptight that a booster seat and children’s menu were out of place, it was an ideal way to relax before the show. There were even training clips for the chopsticks!

• Wait at the stage door afterwards for autographs on your Playbill. The actors were charmed by the adoration of such a tiny young fan, with “King Triton” calling the Pumpkin “Precious.”

• Consider driving in. I know there are many people who hesitate to drive into Manhattan. But we had a great experience. We had a traffic-free and relaxing drive from Northern Westchester along the Saw Mill and Henry Hudson, turning off onto 50th Street and heading to a parking garage on 48th right near 7th. It took us less than an hour. When we stepped out, we had a short walk to the Build-A-Bear store on 5th and then to the restaurant. After the show, it was a short stroll through the bright lights and excitement of Times Square to our car. We left at 11:30 and were home by 12:20 a.m. I can’t imagine how tedious it would have been to schlep to Grand Central, stand around waiting for the train and then sitting on a 70-minute ride. I also found coupons online that cut the parking rate from $37 to $20 for up to 12 hours.

Please share your own Broadway tips and memories!

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, August 21st, 2009 at 12:19 am |
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Our blended family vacation

July
13

There’s always a unique kind of dynamic with these situations — in our case two parents, each with their own child. That’s our blended family.

Last week we all hauled ourselves upstate and settled into a lakeside cabin, and I came away with some observations.


The interesting dynamic is how a blended family operates in these situations. We did all of the family activities you would expect: Canoeing, swimming, toasting marshmallows, taking a hike to a waterfall, etc.

But, in the end, there’s always a bit of a division that happens at the end of the day. That’s not to say it’s in a bad way, necessarily. But, ultimately, I gravitate toward my son and my girlfriend towards hers. The inescapable fact is that I am ultimately responsible for my son and she for hers, much as we do generally function as a family.

Is that bad? As I said, not necessarily.

But it’s certainly a different component that you don’t find in your traditional family. The hope is that, with time, those divisions are minimized. But I suspect they’ll always be there in some capacity.

My question is does this happen in traditonal families also?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

Being there

June
27

Tonight was my daughter’s dance recital. This is an event we’ve been looking forward to for nine months. She’s taken lessons nearly every Saturday since mid-September, with a few exceptions for holidays and vacations. It’s been a journey of growth for her and for me. There was even a time early on when there was a question of whether she’d be able to continue with the class because she was so undisciplined her first day the teacher feared she’d be a bad influence on others.

But tonight, she shined. And I don’t have one photo of it or one minute of videotape. This was a choice made by a parent who has 17,000 photos on my Mac, 99 percent of which were taken since the Pumpkin was born four years ago.

Why did I choose not to record this precious memory? Because I wanted to live it. I didn’t want to see the Pumpkin dance through a viewfinder or a 3-inch LCD screen. I didn’t want to be distracted. I wanted to be present in the moment, enjoying every second. And I was. And I did. I cried. I smiled big. I held her father’s hand. I was *there*.

As a parent who watched her daughter blow out her birthday candles two years in a row from behind a camera, I can say that being there — truly there in the moment — beats the recorded memories.

I can only look at the pictures of that fourth birthday moment because I don’t have the images in my head to enjoy.

Tonight, I have something better than pixels. I have the afterglow of the feeling that welled up in me. I can only describe it as bliss.

I’m curious about the choices readers of this blog have made in similar circumstances. Have you, like me, been too willing to experience the milestones from behind the lens? What occasions have prompted you to just put down the camera and live? Or, do you derive such joy from rewatching the event that it’s worth it to be distracted by the filming of it?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Saturday, June 27th, 2009 at 12:39 am |
| | 1 Comment »

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Recommended: Pacem in Terris

June
22

Pretty unique and rewarding Father’s Day for me this year, and something I’d recommend.

We shelved the idea of a cookout or a ballgame this time out, and instead headed upstate to Warwick to visit Pacem in Terris — six acres of sculpture and meditation gardens along the Wawayanda River.

The gardens are the life work of Frederick Franck, a Dutch-born sculptor and author who spent nearly half a century adorning the land around his home with sculptures, artwork and meditation spaces. The NY Times did a nice piece on it three years ago.

Pacem in Terris essentially translates from Latin to mean Peace on Earth, and it’s in keeping with Franck’s spiritual outlook on life. Franck, who wrote more than 30 books on Buddhism and other subjects, died in 2006 at the age of 97, and the property is now maintained by his son, Lukas, as a nonprofit corporation.

Pacem is laced with Franck’s message, and immediately alerts visitors that it is “neither church, nor chapel, nor temple.” He cites his associations with Albert Schweitzer, Pope John XXIII and Buddhist scholar Daisetz Suzuki with helping shape his world view — and homages to them abound throughout.

Franck, a dental surgeon-turned artist, also has his work on display at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tokyo National Museum and St. John the Divine Church.

My girlfriend turned us on to the place, which she frequented in past during times when she sought solace and tranquility. It was also a hit for my son, who is 11.

I would note that younger children may not be as enthralled — the place is not a playground. But for older kids, it’s a worthwhile experience. My son was very taken by it and was very vocal about appreciating that he and I shared it on Father’s Day.

Anyway, Pacem in Terris is at 96 Covered Bridge Road in Warwick, and, while it’s a tad out of the way, it’s worth a trip. Most of it is literally in Franck’s back yard, so visitors are asked to be respectful.

However, it is also free, and opens to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfitzgibbon

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 10:30 am |
| | 5 Comments »

Father’s Day a little less bountiful this year – but not by much

June
15

Dads can expect a little less for Father’s Day this year, but we can still count on our fair share of neckties and dinners.

At least that’s what we’re getting from the National Retail Federation, which says the average Father’s Day spending will be about $90.89 this year, a slight dip from the $94.54 average spent last year.

Not too bad, considering the recession.

I guess no one is in any condition to complain. And if the breakdown on the expected expenditures is any indication, we’re more likely to get a gift card and a shirt or tie than the electronics we’re really hoping for.

Well, it is the thought that counts.

Anyway, here’s a portion of the report from the Retail Federation:

The survey found people will spend the most ($1.9 billion) on a special outing such as a dinner or even a sporting event, but clothing still ranks high among gift givers who are expected to shell out $1.3 billion on new socks, slacks and ties. Others will treat dad to a gift card ($1.2 billion), electronics ($1.0 billion), books or CDs ($548 million), home improvement items ($522 million) and sporting goods ($502 million).

Discount stores and department stores will be going head to head this Father’s Day as 33.9 percent of Americans plan on shopping at discounters and 33.7 percent will shop at department stores. Others will head to specialty stores like electronics and home improvement stores (26.8%), online (17.9%), at specialty clothing stores (6.1%) or through a catalog (2.8%).

When it comes to who is getting gifts this year, the majority of people said they will only buy for their father/stepfather (51.1%). Husbands (28.6%), sons (7.6%), grandfathers (4.7%) and brothers (5.1%) will also see gifts from family members.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfitzgibbon

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, June 15th, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

Playground parenting and other issues

June
11

I made an observation at the playground when my son was very young. Namely, parents seem to hover.

The problem with this is that it seems to me that kids aren’t allowed to learn a very basic life skill at the playground: Conflict resolution. If two kids have a beef at the monkey bars, there’s always a parent or two coming in to mediate or, more likely, to separate the kids and force them to play at opposite ends of the playground.

That’s kind of the type of thing that Lenore Skenazy has been talking about for a while now.

Skenazy is a Big Apple colunmist and blogger who made waves in 2007 by letting her then-9-year-old son take the subway and bus home on his own. She peddled the experience into a book, Free Range Kids, and a blog by the same title.

“Amid the cacophony of terrifying Amber Alerts and safety tips for every holiday,” Salon.com said in its review, “Skenazy is a chipper alternative, arguing that raising children in the United States now isn’t more dangerous than it was when today’s generation of parents were young. And back then, it was reasonably safe, too. So why does shooing the kids outside and telling them to have fun and be home by dark seem irresponsible to so many middle-class parents today?”

We’ve taken up similar issues here in the past. Admittedly, I’ve tended to err on the side of smothering my own son, relying more on that gene that says I should protect him. And, personally, I would not have let my 9-year-old ride the subway home alone.

But that’s just me, and I am likely very much guilty of the type of over-parenting Skenazy warns about.

Nonetheless, there is a lesson in it all, regardless of your personal feelings on it: Sometimes you do have to let the reins loose a bit.

Perhaps it is a matter of degrees. And I at least give myself credit for letting him work out his playground scuffles.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jfitzgibbon

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
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Playing hooky: a parental judgement call

May
24

Well, I did it: I kept my son out of school on Friday even though he had two tests and a project due. And I hope I’m not getting him in trouble by posting on it.

Okay, so the truth is I arranged with his teachers to have him take both tests on Thursday, and hand in his portion of a team alegebra project the same day. So, the damage was minimal, if there was any at all.

But in the end I reasoned that he wouldn’t remember that day at school in years to come. He will, however, always remember our day: We went to the free Green Day concert at Central Park for the Good Morning American summer concert series.

Needless to say, it’s his favorite band, and pretty high on my list as well. And I can’t ask for a better day, nor a more fun outing for him (above). No, that’s not me on the right. I took the photo. (I still have a tad more “coverage” on my head — no offense to the man in the photo.)

Anyway, this has been a periodic judgement call for me, as it is for many parents, I suspect. I had the day off, so it was no issue on my end. But education is important, and occasionally parents may opt to keep the kid home. I handle it on a case-by-case basis, but it’s something I take seriously.

I spoke to a couple of other parents at the show who had done the same thing, and they had all made the same decision: That it was a treat worth cutting school for the day.

Is it something that can be abused? Certainly. I have friends who were periodically kept home from school for a “mental health day,” which I think is of limited value for most kids, depending on age and circumstances.

But the question is when do you think it’s okay to have your kid play hooky?

One final note on the show, it really was a treat. I’ve blogged on the music element of it on The Listening Room, our music blog. But for those that didn’t see it, here’s a clip from GMA:

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Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 at 11:57 am |
| | 3 Comments »

My son and the icy little “planet”

May
18

I remember one of my son’s first trips to the Museum of Natural History years ago. He was at the height of his interest in astronomy — one of those rites of passage evey kid seems to go through. It’s like the interest all kids develop at one time or another in dinosaurs.

So there we were in the parking garage entrance area, where the ticket booths are. Along the far wall are models of the planets, and we followed them from the start: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on. We followed the line down until we hit Neptune, then kept walking and wound up inside an adjacent gift shop.

“May I help you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, we’re looking for Pluto,” I said.

“It’s not a planet,” she said.

My son and I were greatly disappointed, to say the least.

Little did I realize at the time that we were at the height of controversy surrounding Pluto, which has since been officially demoted from planet status.

I’m actually in the midst of finishing a book about it all, titled the Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson, head man at the museum’s Haydn Planetarium. Turns out the museum started an uproar when it refurbished the planetarium without Pluto among the planets.

Anyway, it’s a story that, as they say in my business, has legs. Just last week, our neighbors had a dinner party which they dubbed “astronomy night” for all the kids, and we pulled out a couple of telescopes to see Saturn in the southern sky.

In the middle of it all, my son decided to poll everyone at the party on whether Pluto really was a planet. Needless to say, the results were inconclusive. But I couldn’t help but sense that a lot of the kids really miss Pluto as a full-fledged planet. My son certainly does.

The experience heightened my realization that our kids are growing up with some different realities than we had as kids.

These aren’t necessarily life-changing situations or ideals. It’s just different. When I was a kid T. Rex was supposed to have been a slow, lumbering creature that walked like Godzilla in the Japanese monster flicks, and there were a few less elements in the periodic table that I had to memorize.

But I’ve come to see it as a positive thing. Parents are traditionally supposed to help educate kids on the world around them. Now it seems my son and I are learning a thing or two together. And that’s kinda cool.

Even if I had one more planet than him.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Fun things for kids, free

April
14

YMCAs across the nation will hold free and fun activities for kids on Saturday as part of Healthy Kids Day. The event “celebrates making fitness fun, and  introduces kids to an array of YMCA programs and tools that teach healthy behaviors and healthy ways to play,” according to the group.

In Rockland, events will be held at two sites. Activities will start at the Y’s Beginnings Nursery School, 18 Parkside Drive, Suffern at 10 a.m.

At noon, the main YMCA center at 35 South Broadway in downtown Nyack will host Jeffrey Friedberg of the Bossy Frog Band. A  one-mile fun walk starts at 1 p.m., all youth walkers will receive a free t-shirt.

Other activities planned include: sports and games, a family boot camp, arts & crafts,  healthy snacks, face painting and a  2-hour family swim that begins at 2:45 p.m.

Admission is free, but YMCA staff will be collecting non-perishable food items for donation to People to People.

Call your local Y to see if it is participating.

Posted by Jane Lerner on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 11:48 am |
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My metal-head kid

February
9

Last year I took my son to his first “concert:” a performance by Ringo Starr and his all star band at Radio City Music Hall. This time we turned it up a notch.

The truth is my 11-year-old is a metal-head with a guitar teacher who is a Metallica nut. So I bit: Two weeks ago I took him to see Metallica at the Prudential Center in Newark, with ear-plugs in tow. Now, I think we’re fortunate to be in a situation where it’s common for my generation to have similar musical tastes with our children, simply because we grew up on rock. And, let’s face it, Metallica has been around long enough that it they were a big deal in my college and post-college days.

So we were able to share the experience. To me, it was a great bonding experience, similar to my view on video games. He and I play X-Box together all the time, which I enjoy as long as his schoolwork is done and we still put aside time to do more traditional recreational activities.

Still, I’ve had other parents express surprise that I would take my son to a heavy metal show and that I would devote so much time to playing video games with him. Is there a viewpoint out there that those things either cut into traditional parent-child relationships or are prematurely exposing kids to “older kid” activities?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Halloween and my long absence

October
31

Actually, there’s no link between the two, but the Internet overlords here pointed out today that I’ve been incredibly bad about posting regularly here — and it does happen to be Halloween.

First, on my shoddy blogging habits: Guilty as charged. Work has been busy, life has been busier, but there are certainly no shortage of issues to blog about. Either way, I’m told today that the site will be “on hiatus” for the time being, largely because of inactivity. I’ve argued that we still get more hits than other blogs on here, and that we can recommit to posting more. But it proved not to be a convincing argument. Hopefully we’ll get some renewed interest after Election Day and can come back or reshape it. It can’t hurt if you guys make some noise, and I also intend to get more active with my single-parent network folks on Facebook.

Anyway, as for Halloween, my son is 10 now and, while clearly still into it, his interest is starting to fade as far as the traditional trick-or-treat ritual with us. We’re entering the hang-out-with-friends to do it stage. Nonetheless, we’re doing what we did last year: Getting our two blended families together and hitting the neighborhood. This year we’re in my ex’s neighborhood, as we alternate year-to-year. It’ll be my son, my ex and I, my girlfriend, her little boy and her ex, plus my ex’s husband and his son. That’s some crew.

And while we’re at it, here are some Halloween facts thrown my way by my colleague Cathey O’Donnell, who does a lot of the data number-crunching here at the paper. Enjoy:

The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts, devils and hobgoblins. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have changed dramatically. Today, many of the young and young at heart take a more light-spirited approach. They don scary disguises or ones that may bring on smiles when they go door to door for treats, or attend or host a Halloween party.

Trick or Treat!
36 million
The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2007 — children 5 to 13 — across the United States. This number is down about 38,000 from a year earlier. Of course, many other children — older than 13, and younger than 5 — also go trick-or-treating.

110.3 million
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2007 — all potential stops for trick-or-treaters.

93%
Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.

Jack-o’-Lanterns and Pumpkin Pies
1.1 billion pounds

Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.

Where to Spend Halloween?
Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:

— Transylvania County, N.C. (29,984 residents).

— Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562).

— Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307).

— Cape Fear in New Hanover County, N.C. (15,711); and Cape Fear in Chatham County, N.C. (1,170).

— Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274).

Candy and Costumes
1,170

Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people and shipping $13.9 billion worth of goods. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 128, followed by Pennsylvania, with 116.

473
Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured nonchocolate confectionary products in 2006. These establishments employed 18,733 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year. California led the nation in this category, with 72 establishments.

24.5 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2007.

2,077
Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2006.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
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The working-parent dilemma….and a single-mom victim of it

October
15

Don’t people work? You would assume with all the working parents out there and the growing number of single parents around that you’d find more after-school activities for your kids that accommodate a busy work schedule. But try to find a broad range of after-school activities that fit that criteria and see what happens.

My girlfriend recently got an education in this. She sought new weeknight activities for her energetic 4-year-old, only to find that many after school programs run roughly from 2 to 5 in the afternoon — hardly designed for working parents. He already plays soccer on weekends, but extensive weekend activities are difficult because she splits those days with her ex as part of the custody agreement. So, a weeknight activity was the goal. She ultimately settled on a gymnastics program that runs from 6:30 to 7:30 once a week. She would have preferred something a tad earlier in the evening that fit both her schedule and met her desired goals for a program. And this place is hardly around the corner from our home. But she was lucky: It’s a good program despite the long day it results in.

I had a minor taste of this myself with my son. He’s in sixth grade now and, as he did last year, he plays the saxophone in the school band. Also like last year, he was invited to join the jazz band, which practices after school. Normally, there’s a late bus to take him right to his after-school program. Only that doesn’t start until the end of this month, which means that either his mom or I would have to pick him up by 4:15 p.m. or he takes the early bus and  misses band practice. Well, we have jobs.

The end of the world? Not by a stretch, especially with what’s going on in the world these days. But if you’re a working parent who wants an active, involved kid, it’s certainly frustrating — and occasionally unfair. It’s also proving costly for at least one single mom.

Here’s her story: Seeking a martial arts program for her young child, this working single mom signed up for a late class in Pleasantville, N.Y. The child has auditory processing delays, so he is occasionally unable to follow some verbal commands. She met with the martial arts instructor, explained this and was assured that the classes would be small in size — no more than five kids — and that his teaching method was designed to accommodate children with mild to moderate development issues. He required a contract and would not accept cash or checks: Only a credit card number. So, they were off.

Well, the class quickly rose from three kids to 12, and the teaching method changed by the second class, with the instructor suddenly facing away from the children and using increasingly complicated commands, moves and sequences that the kids were require to quickly learn and replicate. Needless to say, the single mom’s child was unable to keep up. It became a very frustrating and difficult process, and was certainly not going to build up the self-esteem she felt her child needed and would gain from the classes. So, she phoned and told the instructor she would no longer be able to attend because her child would have difficulty continuing, coupled with a change in her work schedule that made attending the classes on time very difficult. She said she received a follow-up online newsletter from the instructor, and thanked him for it but reiterated that the child could not continue.

This particular martial arts program stipulates that you must give notice if the contract is to be terminated. Nonetheless, the instructor billed the mom for an entire first month of lessons two weeks later, although her child only attended three classes. To make matters worse, when she politely asked if he could halt the billing, he mailed her a statement announcing his intent to bill her more than $700 for a three-month set of classes which she initially signed up for but, as he was now aware, the child would not be attending — not to mention that he had already billed her for an entire month’s worth of classes for just three actual sessions.

This borders on criminal. Obviously, the mom needs to take action to halt payment and report the school for misrepresentation or even fraud. But I think what irked her most — and what most bothers me about it — is the idea that she is being taken advantage of, if not outright being robbed. She had limited options for martial arts programs because of her work schedule and her child’s developmental needs. And, as a single mom, she is limited financially as well, and plopping down that much money is an indication of the sacrifice she was willing to make for her child’s wellbeing and happiness. And then this.

It doesn’t help when your schedule as a working single parent limits the extra-curricular activities you can treat your kid to in the first place. It helps even less when someone finds a way to make an extra buck from it.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
| | 13 Comments »

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Vote in our poll on vacations!

August
1

What are you Parents’ Place readers doing this summer? Vote in our poll in the right column of the page to share your plans.

balloon.jpgWe’re heading to Sesame Place next week in what Pumpkin is already expecting will be the time of her life. We’ve been looking at the brochure and she keeps touching the picture of the Big Bird’s Balloon Race and saying, “I’ll be BIG happy when I’m on there.” Let’s just hope <a href=”http://www.sesameplace.com” target=”_blank”>Sesame Place</a> lives up to expectations.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
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Visit the dentist or scrub the sink?

July
28

I vote sink. While few of us are probably fond of dusting, vacuuming or cleaning up the kitchen crud, I infinitely prefer working around the house to taking a trip to the dentist. But, apparently, not everyone agrees. A new poll from iVillage’s <a href=”http://www.momtourage.com” target=”_blank”>Momtourage</a> site found that more than one in four people (27 percent!) would rather have a tooth drilled than clean their homes. Another 13 percent would rather get in trouble with their boss than tackle the home chores!

This wasn’t just an unscientific Internet poll, either. The results were based on telephone interviews of about 1,000 people and had a margin of error of just 3 percent.

So, what about you: How much do you hate or love cleaning in relation to other chores?

I figure with cleaning, at least you get a big reward at the end: A tidy home that everyone can enjoy. Though we’ve become a bit lax on the tidy front since becoming parents — our living room is Pumpkin’s playroom, after all — we have tried not to compromise on the clean front. Keeping a clean home was a value instilled in me by my mother and grandmother. I learned to dust and vacuum as early as junior high age, when I was assigned those duties as chores. By high school, I was often cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, too. I am fortunate, I know, because my husband does a big share of the household chores. We divide tasks not by gender, but by ability (for instance, I have allergies and he takes on the vacuuming).

The thing that’s unfortunate about polls like the one from iVillage is that they perpetuate the idea that a clean house is something that can happen only with odious labor. We’ve gone in a generation from being ashamed of having a dirty house to having to make apologetic sounds about having a clean one. Whenever someone comments on my house being clean, I feel like I have to say, “Oh, I have alleriges. We HAVE to keep it this way.” Keeping a clean house is definitely a value I hope Pumpkin will inherit. And I must make a note to myself: Stop grumbling about cleaning or else she will end up thinking I’d rather be doing anything else — even having my tooth drilled!

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, July 28th, 2008 at 12:00 pm |
| | Comments Off on Visit the dentist or scrub the sink?

How do you celebrate the Fourth?

July
5

If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to slip into habits when it comes to holidays. Warm-weather holidays mean cookouts with classic rock in the background; cold-weather holidays mean big meals indoors, music optional. Now I’m all for celebrating with food and family, but at a certain point the holidays can seem interchangeable, so long as you don’t confuse the summer ones with the winter ones.

I wanted a different Fourth of July this year, both for me and my immediate family. Instead of visiting my brother’s house for a cookout, why not connect directly to the meaning of Independence Day? It would be educational and inspirational! With my 18-year-old son away for the week and my wife in agreement, I only needed to get my 13-year-old on board. I’ll get to the bottom line: he insisted he wasn’t going. And he wasn’t moved when I said he would always remember the walking tour of “Revolutionary New York,” but wouldn’t remember just hanging out at home (nice try, right?)

Faced with an immovable child, what should we do? We declared our own independence and went on the tour without him. Run by Big Onion Tours, the walk was fun and I learned things about Revolutionary New York that I didn’t know.

(Here’s one piece of Revolutionary lure, followed by book tip for more on Revolutionary New York: Inside City Hall Park, visible from Broadway, stands a tall flagpole that’s wrapped in a series of metal bands. What is it? A Liberty Pole, like the one that the anti-British Sons of Liberty installed on the site as a sign of defiance. After British troops repeatedly chopped the pole down, the Sons of Liberty wrapped a new one in iron for protection. For a deeper look at the Revolution in New York, check out The Battle for New York by Barnet Schecter. You may be amazed at New York’s role during the Revolution.

My son survived July Fourth. He watched a movie on DVD for the several hours we were gone. He wasn’t angry when we returned and later we told him about the tour. After dinner we went up on the roof and watched fireworks. What do you think, were we bad parents?

Posted by Len Maniace on Saturday, July 5th, 2008 at 11:36 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE



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