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Celebrating Independence Day

July
3

What is your family’s unique way of celebrating the Fourth of July? For us, it’s a special day in more ways than one. Three years ago tomorrow, we brought Pumpkin home from the hospital — nine weeks to the day after she was born. So for us, it’s not just our nation’s independence we’re celebrating, but Pumpkin’s independence from the NICU. That said, I hope to start teaching her about the larger meaning of the holiday and why we are grateful to be living here in America. If you’re looking for ideas for family activities, here is a link to the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_independence” target=”_blank”>Wikipedia entry on Independence Day</a>. Here is the <a href=”http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html” target=”_blank”>Declaration of Independence</a> at the National Archives. Every year, National Public Radio offers an audio reading of the declaration. Here is a <a href=”http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11703583″ target=”_blank”>link to last year’s recital</a>.

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Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
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3 lbs. of bacon

June
24

One of the advantages of having shared custody of your child is that there’s a limit to the number torturous school assignments you have to do for the kid. Obviously, my ex ends up with half of them because of our 50-50 custody deal.

And I don’t mean arts & crafts for art projects, or books to complete assignments, or visits to museums or zoos to complete written research projects. Those are concrete tasks that you can justify as advancing your child’s education and creativity.

But what’s the educational benefit to cooking three pounds of bacon?

I’m talking about the extra-curricular events like class picnics and holiday celebrations. You know, when your child comes home and tells you he volunteered to make six dozen blintzes, or hard boil 96 eggs, or cook french fries for 40 kids and teachers. A co-worker told me this morning that his daughter committed him and his wife to make fruit salad for 30 kids. She neglected to mention this until this morning, the day of the event. So take a swing by Super Stop & Shop and look for a mom frantically buying up all the fruit.

On my end, my 10-year-old volunteered to cook bacon for the class breakfast today. I’ll give him credit for telling me three days ago, so there was no last-minute shopping. Of course, I made it clear that blueberry muffins or orange juice would’ve been preferred. But the kid likes bacon. And that’s a good thing, because he’ll be smelling it around the house for weeks to come.

Don’t get me wrong: My ex has shouldered her share of these tasks since our divorce. It’s just that the time-intensive — and smelly — ones always seem to land on the days our son is with me. And the thing is there’s more to come, because my girlfriend’s 4-year-old will have to cook up his own batch of bacon sooner or later. Ah, parenting.

But such are the pleasures of a blended family. And it does make us a family, with all the annoyances, burdens and hurdles that come with any family. And that makes it seem less torturous, even if there are a few pounds of bacon here and there.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 10:03 am |
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The prom date … revisited

June
12

Remember the prom date? “In this earlier blog,”:http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2008/04/23/the-prom-date-debate I spoke about a mom who put her foot down when her 15-year-old son was asked to go to the prom by a senior girl in his high school. Her thinking was that he was too young, etc., etc. That sparked some lively debate.

Well, the prom came and went, and the 15-year-old did, indeed, attend with the older girl. It turns out that the boy’s mom ultimately had discussions with the girl’s mom, discussed it with her son, and they agreed to the ground rules. So she relented.

How’d he do? Things went smoothly. He was a gentleman, there were no after-parties, and he was home at the agreed-to time. By all accounts, the two had a wonderful — and safe — time together.

So, does this make the concern some of you had moot? Or did the mom dodge a bullet?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

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Father’s Day odds and ends

June
10

Let’s call this one of my lazy blogs. But there are some good facts here, so I don’t feel that badly about it.

It’s basically a collection of tidbits sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau to mark Father’s Day this coming Sunday. Like many holidays, this one kind of snuck up on me because of a hectic work schedule of late. As it turns, out this coming weekend is my ex’s weekend with my son. But, as per our agreement, I’ll get the day with him and if the weather is anything like it is here right now, we’ll be spending a good chunk of it at some body of water or other. Unfortunately, my girlfriend’s little boy gets the day with his dad, so we won’t have both the boys to splash around with.

To be honest, what I’ve always looked forward to the most is whatever arts-and-crafts project my son puts together for me at school. As I sit here now, I’m looking at a pencil holder made from painted tongue depressors that he gave me several years ago. I treasure it almost as much as the mood ring he gave me last year.

Anyway, here’s the Census stuff. Thanks for reading and enjoy:

The idea of Father’s Day was conceived by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., hile she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration — June 19, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth. The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Father’s Day as been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

64.3 million
Estimated number of fathers across the nation. Source: unpublished data from the Survey of Income and Program articipation

A good place to buy dad a tie or a shirt might be one of 8,685 men’s clothing stores around the country (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

Other items high on the list of Father’s Day gifts are tools such as hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers. You could buy some of these items for dad at one of the nation’s 14,257 hardware stores or 5,925 home centers (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

23,195
Number of sporting goods stores in 2005. These stores are good places to purchase traditional gifts for dad, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Source: County Business Patterns

More than 74 million Americans participated in a barbecue in the last year — it’s probably safe to assume many of these barbecues took place on Father’s Day. Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008

159,000
Estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2006. These married fathers with children younger than 15 have remained out of the labor force for at least one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home. These fathers cared for 283,000 children. Among these stay-at-home dads, 60 percent had two or more children, and 40 percent had an annual family income of $50,000 or more. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

25%
Among the nation’s 11.3 million preschoolers whose mothers are employed, the percentage who are regularly cared for by their father during their mother’s working hours. This amounted to 2.9 million children. Source: Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005

26.5 million
Number of fathers who are part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2006.

– 22 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18 (among married-couple family households only).

– 2 percent live in someone else’s home.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

2.5 million
Number of single fathers in 2006, up from 400,000 in 1970. Currently, among single parents living with their children, 19 percent are men.

– 8 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18.

– About 42 percent are divorced, 38 percent are never married, 16 percent are separated and 4 percent are widowed. (There is no significant difference between the percentages of single fathers who are divorced or never married.)

– 16 percent live in someone else’s home.

– 27 percent have an annual family income of $50,000 or more.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

85%
Among the 30.2 million fathers living with children younger than 18, the percentage who lived with their biological children only. In addition, 11 percent lived with stepchildren, 4 percent with adopted children and fewer than 1 percent with foster children. Source: Living Arrangements of Children: 2004

31%
Percentage of custodial fathers who were due child support. They numbered 678,000. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

$2.4 billion
Amount of child support received by custodial fathers in 2005; they were due $3.3 billion. In contrast, custodial mothers received $22.4 billion of the $34.7 billion in support that was due. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

43%
Percentage of custodial fathers who received all child support that was due, not significantly different from the corresponding percentage for custodial mothers. Fathers received an average of $6,210 in child support in 2005, compared with $5,981 for mothers. (These figures are not statistically different from one another.) Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

36%
Percentage of custodial fathers with child support agreements or awards. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

72%
Percentage of custodial fathers receiving noncash support, such as gifts or coverage of expenses, on behalf of their children. The corresponding proportion for mothers was 59 percent. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

30%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents in 2003 who ate breakfast with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 41 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

64%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who ate dinner with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 66 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

63%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 57 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
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The first rock concert

May
23

Bring it on. My kid’s 10 and I figure it’s high time he got his first rock concert under his belt. After all he’s a little metal head like his dad, and is pretty crazy about Green Day and My Chemical Romance. I’ve even gotten him into Black Sabbath and Radiohead.

But, aside from his recording-artist uncle, he hasn’t really been to a live show yet. We’re changing that.

How to start? My first criteria was that he fare better than I did for my first concert. I was in seventh grade and they gave out promotional tickets for the old Westchester Premier Theater. The performer was country-crooner-turned-casino-act “Mac Davis,”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZNWz00R3Ng&feature=related with comedian Gabe Kaplan — in his pre-Welcome Back Kotter days — as the opening act.

It got better after that. Linda Ronstadt was next, and before you knew it it was Santana, the Allman Brothers, Kiss, etc. By my last year of high school, we were at the old Palladium on 14th Street almost every weekend, watching everyone from Van Halen to Twisted Sister, and whoever else showed up to play that day.

Now it’s my son’s turn. And it’s just going to be our own thing, as the other half of our blending family — my girlfriend and her little boy — will hold down the homefront for the night. For the two of us, I think it’s good bonding time in a “coming-of-age” kind of way, although I suspect other divorced and single parents do these kinds of things as some sort of compensation for time lost or something. To me, it’s really just a great thing to share with my son.

So, the first thing I sought in planning it was advice. The “Family Education”:http://www.familyeducation.com/home website offered a list of suggestions on “what to keep in mind”:http://fun.familyeducation.com/music-performances/family-time/36505.html in such a situation. Some of it was common sense, some of it was silly. But it was advice nonetheless.

The next step was, where to go? I actually considered the Van Halen show at Madison Square Garden tonight. But the Garden was never great on acoustics, is kinda big, and it’s hard to get close to the stage. Besides, decent tickets for this show would’ve run me about $300 a pop. So, that was out. As it is, I had just missed a golden opportunity to take my boy to the Garden: My Chemical Romance wrapped up their tour there on May 9, about one week before I got the rock concert bug in my head. Smaller venues were okay, but they’re mostly just glorified bars which are fine for me, but not for a 10-year-old.

Ultimately, I narrowed it to three sites, including the Beacon Theater and the Jones Beach Theater. The third was “Radio City Music Hall,”:http://www.radiocity.com and that’s where we’re headed. That’s not to say that we may not pick up additional shows at Jones Beach or the Beacon later this summer.

Finally, what show to catch? Here’s what we picked: “Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band”:http://www.radiocity.com/events/ringo-starr.html at the end of next month. I mean, the guy’s a former Beatle, has fun on stage, and puts together a fun group of musicians every time he comes around. This year he’s playing with, among others, Edgar Winter, Billy Squier and Colin Hays from Men at Work. My son loves Winter’s classic, “Frankenstein,” and the rest of it will be kind of a trip for me, since I listened to some of those guys in my teens and 20s.

There are still all these tiny worries dancing around my head, from the show running too late, to someone blowing smoke in his face all night, to drunken behavior around us — all relatively minor issues to me in the larger scope of things. Mostly, I’m kind of excited myself to see any kind of show after several years without one.

So, how’d I do? I gotta think it’s gonna be a thrill for him to just be at a show, let alone for someone legendary like Ringo. I still have it in me to take him to something more hard-edged down the line, and particular would love one guitar hero or another, as my son is learning to play. But, for now, we’ll see how it goes with the Beatle.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
| | 9 Comments »

The school dance

May
20

Friday was the big night out for my son — his school dance.

This was my son’s second dance, coming on the heels of last year’s fourth grade gala. The fifth-grade version wasn’t much different, except that I have learned to be less intrusive. That is to say, the first time around my ex and I were both there, and she kept prodding him to go and pick a girl to dance with. Not sure what we were thinking, because I wasn’t exactly love-struck at his age.

This time around I was on my own, so I backed off and let him do his thing. I noticed that I was one of the few solo parents there, and actually felt like something of an outcast being a single parent. That’s something that rarely happens with me, so it was an odd sensation. One of the other parents — who I actually went to school with years and years ago — spent a bit of time telling me about his storybook marriage and the splitting of parenting duties he and his wife are able to do: His wife took their son to a Boy Scout event the same night, so he escorted his daughter to the dance. I didn’t take offense, but I wondered why he felt it necessary.

Either way, I did my own thing, and watched from the wings with great amusement. My son, to his credit, stood in the crowd and danced his butt off pretty much  all night. At that age, they’re not necessarily looking for girls to dance with. The girls themselves nearly all dance — again on their own or with other girls. There’s just a real gender divide at this age.

Looking around that room, I wondered when that will start to change. He had his first kiss in kindergarten, and was quite popular with two girls in first grade. By second, he showed less interest, to the degree that now he couldn’t care less if a girl showed interest. So when does that change? I’m sure by high school it’ll be THE issue, over what girl or other he likes or likes him.

In the meantime, I’m good with standing in the wings and watching him do his own thing. As for being one of the few solo parents in the crowd, I’m good with that too. My boy seems okay with it.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at 10:13 am |
| | 2 Comments »

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The prom date debate

April
23

Looking for input on this one.

This is an issue that came up in a friend’s family, and I differ with my girlfriend and others on it. The scenario is this:  A 15-year-old boy was asked to go to the Senior Prom by a senior at the school. The parents know each other and the kid’s a good kid. He’s never been in trouble, very mature and the whole bit. The girl asked him, and he said yes.

Next, he told his mom, who said he could not go because he is too young to go to a Senior Prom. The boy never shared this with the girl, and told her he would be going. When the parents ran into each other, the boy’s mom found out he had not declined as she told him. So, he got grounded and will not be going to the prom either way.

The two issues are this: Is a 15-year-old boy too young to go to a Senior Prom? Secondly, should he have been grounded for defying his mother’s wishes and not telling the girl he wouldn’t be allowed to go? Frankly, I’m not sure how he would’ve pulled it off when the prom day comes around, but perhaps he hoped to convince his mother before then.

For the record, the parent here is in a traditional two-parent home, so it’s not a single-parenting issue. Of course, I always think of these situations as they would apply to single-parent or blended family homes, and I think that adds other potential elements. So, my third question is, does your answer to the first two questions change if I apply the situation to a single-parent household?

Anyway, what do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 10:12 am |
| | 15 Comments »

Daddypalooza

April
15

Sometimes dad needs a helping hand. Well, here it comes, thanks to the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, and Family Services of Westchester. They’re sponsoring the New York Father’s Conference in White Plains on April 26th. It’s long overdue, I say.

The idea is to bring together dads from all walks of life — be they happily married, divorced, single, etc. — for a day-long program to provide advice, guidance and referrals. It features guest speakers that include Hugh Price, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former president of the National Urban League, as well as former NY Jet offensive back Bruce Harper, who is the co-founding director of the youth program “Heroes and Cool Kids.”

Russell Ross, senior vice president of community initiatives for the United Way, told me they’ve had similar conferences elsewhere in the past, including in Rockland County. But this is the first in Westchester County — and he hopes not the last.

“One of the things that we’ve seen in our research and talking to a lot of folks that are working with families is that dads don’t really have an opportunity to interact with each other and learn and kind of share,” he said. “Women and moms, they have their groups.”

Scheduled workshops are to address a number of issues, including wise discipline, balancing work, helping kids succeed in school, and staying connected as a non-custodial parent. You can check out the entire list and get more details “on the United Way link”:http://www.uwwp.org/father.htm for the program.

If you can’t get to a computer, call the United Way at 914-997-6700, ext. 702. But think about checking it out.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
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The ex-family unit

April
4

My son wants to make it to a Yankee game this year before they shut down the historic Bronx stadium for good and move next door. No problem there. I’m a longtime and avid fan, and took him to his first game there years ago. I myself have been going to games since 1970, when my dad and uncle took us to the old stadium to see the Bombers get demolished by the Orioles. I also had partial season tickets for years, when I worked out of the Bronx County Courthouse during my stint at the Daily News.

Here’s the catch: My son wants to go with just me and his mom — the former family unit.

I have some mixed feelings on this, and it makes for some awkwardness. I’ve always felt fortunate that my ex and I were able to maintain a friendship, and that we are all able to get along. My girlfriend and I had my ex and her husband over for Christmas Eve dinner (it’s a feast we call Noche Buena in Cuban culture, and it’s a big deal for us), and I had Easter brunch with my ex, her family and her husband last month. As I’ve blogged before, we all went trick-or-treating together last year as well.

To be fair, I can see how my son might simply view an outing to a Yankee game as an extension of the friendship his mom and I maintain. But at the same time, I feel like excluding his mom’s husband and his dad’s new partner is a sign that he may be clinging to something. Obviously, he wouldn’t be the first child to want his parents together, even if it is just for a baseball game.

But are we letting him mislead himself if we go along? Or is it just his wish to have an outing with his parents?

Or am I just making too much out of it?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, April 4th, 2008 at 1:06 pm |
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Take me out to the ball park……………… before we can’t afford to go

April
1

The opening days for New York’s new baseball parks are still a year off, but one thing is obvious when you get past the gorgeous renderings – the stadiums are too small. For the sake of all New York baseball fans, construction needs to stop and new plans drawn up for bigger stadiums.

The people who run the Yankees and the Mets are smart people, so how they came up with these schemes is beyond me. Baseball draws more people every year, while New York City and its suburbs are growing. So what do our baseball teams (with the approval of New York City and state officials) do? They shrink the size of the ball parks.

The new Yankee Stadium will hold about 52,000, down from the current 57,500. The Mets’ new Citi Field will hold 44,000 people compared with Shea Stadium’s 55,700. This is a bad for baseball fans and terrible for parents, kids and grandparents, too.

A baseball stadium is a place where lasting family memories are made. I won’t forget the first time my father took me to the stadium in the Bronx one sweltering August night when I was seven. The Yankees beat the Kansas City Athletics 4-0 in a game that didn’t last two hours. And then there was the first game I took my oldest son to: He chanted “Let’s Go Mets” so loud I feared he had been permanently imprinted a fan of the city’s National League team rather than the Yankees.

Not only will these ball parks have fewer seats, but the ticket prices will be shocking. If you are planning a game or two next year, start saving up by skipping lunch now. A low-cost ticket will go for about  the price of Broadway show ticket.  A top-priced field-level seat at Yankee Stadium will cost $2,500,  about the price of a used car. Ouch.

Don’t get me wrong. The new ball parks look beautiful, especially Citi Field. They will be better places to watch games – much better than the upper deck seats at Shea. Pilots landing at LaGuardia are closer to home plate than my seat near the foul pole a few years ago.

Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost recently told our sport writer Sam Borden that the new stadium could have had more seats, but they would have been further from the field. “We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to make sure that each fan had a great view and could truly enjoy the new park as much as possible.”

No disrespect meant, Mr. Trost, but Yankees fans – and Mets fans, too – won’t be able to enjoy their new stadiums if there are too few seats and if the tickets are priced far beyond their means.

Do you think you’ll take your kids to see the Yankees or the Mets as often in their new stadiums? Do you remember first game with a parent, or with your own child? If so, tell us about your memories.


Posted by Len Maniace on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 at 9:15 am |
| | 2 Comments »

The Easter that almost wasn’t

March
31

This is a belated post about Easter. We’ve had a busy week in our family. My mom went into the hospital in New York on Wednesday for surgery and I’ve been down there every day. But I wanted to put my thoughts out here on Easter and our traditions because this year they were tested — and stood up to the test.

We learned last month that my mom would be having surgery in March, but we didn’t know which date. This immediately put our usual plans for Easter in flux. For the past three years, my mom and my husband’s two sisters and parents have gathered at our house. The first time was the year I was pregnant with the Pumpkin. It was a wonderful day. We were so joyful with anticipation of the baby. And I was so excited to share my family’s traditional Polish Easter recipes with my husband’s Italian family. (Even if I had to keep going outside to get fresh air to clear up my morning sickness.) The next year was even more special. Pumpkin, who was born three months early, had been forbidden from contact with other kids until she was 15 pounds — a milestone she had just reached around Easter. Easter 2006 was the first time she met her cousins. Last year was special, too, as Pumpkin participated in an egg hunt for the first time, and enjoyed chocolate Easter bunny for the first time.

So, when the complication of the surgery came up this year, I was initially reluctant to cancel Easter. We hoped my mom would be a few weeks past her surgery and ready to celebrate. Then, a series of events put those hopes on hold. Her surgery ended up moving to the end of March. My mother-in-law got sick with a condition she’s still recovering from. And my sister-in-law’s family had some troubles of their own. No one was up for a big Easter celebration outside their own homes. My first reaction to the breakup of our usually big party of nine adults and six kids was to wonder whether it would be worth the trouble of cooking for the smaller gathering of my husband, my mom, myself and Pumpkin. We contemplated going out to a brunch, but in the end, I decided to make the feast.

Last Saturday, the Pumpkin and I went down to the Yonkers Miasarnia on Lockwood Avenue and bought a WHOLE Polish ham and a kielbasa as well as a poppy-seed coffee cake and a babka. That night, we dyed Easter eggs and I baked the cake part of our annual bunny cake. (My mom made the boiled frosting the next morning and applied the coconut and licorice whiskers and jellybean eyes.)  I got up early on Easter and got the ham in the oven and peeled and chopped potatoes. I prepped the asparagus for roasting in the oven while the ham rested. Shortly before the ham was ready, I started boiling the sauage for the traditional Barscz, or white Polish Easter soup. It’s a cream soup made with the broth of Polish sausage that I’ve eaten nearly every Easter of my life since childhood. Making it for Pumpkin got me thinking about how tradition-bound we become when we become parents. It’s not Easter for me without Barscz — and it makes me happy to imagine that one day Pumpkin will feel the same way.

Julie’s Barscz

1 loop of traditional kielbasa
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, room temperature
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup cider vinegar
horseradish to taste
hard-boiled eggs
roasted Polish ham slices

Slice kielbasa into 2-inch pieces and boil until skin starts to pop. Remove from water. Add flour to cold water in a separate cup until it’s smooth. Add to the boiling sausage broth and cook for a few minutes. In a Pyrex cup or similar vessel, place eggs and beat. Start adding broth a few teaspoons at a time, beating all the while in order to “temper” the eggs. The idea is to get them to a warm temperature without cooking or curdling them. Add eggs to broth. Add heavy cream. Bring near a boil, but don’t boil. Add vinegar to taste. Add salt and white pepper to taste. At this point, we were done. We would then slice up the eggs and sausage and ham in a bowl, pour on the Barscz and throw in a dollop of horseradish. Yum! You might, however, opt to add the horseradish to the pot of soup for a less strong flavor. Either way, this is what the final result looks like:

soup.jpg

And, to put the passage of time in perspective for us parents, here is Pumpkin’s first Easter and her most recent:

peep-1.jpg

peep-2.jpg

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 12:33 am |
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The stress factor

March
28

Heck, everybody’s got stress. It’s just that the most stressed people I know happen to be parents in single-parent or blended family situations. So, I figured I would share this story that I came across on the newswire from Woman’s Day magazine.

I added the emphasis in the text below for effect. I mean, we certainly don’t have a monopoly on stress. My colleague and friend, Noreen O’Donnell, says she’s written on this, and that there’s a direct correlation between stress and the amount of control you have in your life — not necessarily the number of stressors you have to grapple with.

Fair enough. But it seems to me that parents have additional worries — and are more likely to feel less in control — than your average citizen. More so for single or divorced parents, who have that and more stressors to boot. That’s just me.

But see what you think:

From the editors of Woman’s Day magazine
According to the annual Stress in America report from the American Psychological Association, extreme stress strikes a third of Americans regularly, with one in five getting hit a whopping 15 days out of the month.
Of course, there’s the everyday anxiety that’s caused by a looming work deadline or too-busy schedule, and then there’s the big-time stress that comes with a major life-changing event — like divorce or dealing with a chronic illness. Coping with both requires similar techniques and habits. Woman’s Day magazine outlines a plan that will reduce stress in your life now — and help you prep for the big stuff later.
• Pinpoint your biggest stressor: Go through a day or two with a pen and paper handy, and jot down everything that stresses you out as it happens. OR sit back (when you’re relaxed) and visualize your typical day; make a list of all the things you dread doing. Part of what gets people about stress is that it feels uncontrollable. When you get specific and have a concrete list, life starts to feel manageable. Decide what really gets your adrenaline going, and focus on changing that first.
• Cut back on one thing: If your issue is that you’ve got too much to do around the house between the cooking, cleaning, taking caring of the dog, and shuttling kids to school and activities, choose one night (or two or three) that you’ll order dinner out or pick up a prepared meal at the grocery store. In many cases, being overscheduled is the culprit so figure out what you can say no to.
• Prioritize: Make a list of what has to be done by this morning, the end of the day and the end of the week. Focus on what needs to be finished fist, then move down the list. Often what makes us panic is the big picture – not the three things we have to get done by today, but the 17 things we have to do by the end of the week.
With four steps down you can make these anti-stress moves part of your everyday schedule.
• Move: Regular daily exercise can lower levels of stress hormones
• Pop on headphones: Any music lover knows that listening to your favorite tunes can make you less tense almost immediately
• Chat on the phone with a friend: It keeps your social bonds strong, which gives you an overall feeling of support and belonging.
• Take a deep belly breath: Abdominal breathing increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, triggering the brain to decrease the concentration of stress hormones.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 11:50 am |
| | 4 Comments »

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Family photo project

March
21

Imagine taking a picture of each person in your family once a year in the same pose. Now imagine doing it for 25 years. That’s what Diego Goldberg of Buenos Aires, Argentina, did in an amazing photo essay. It starts in 1976 with Diego and his wife, Susy. In 1977, Nicolás comes into the world. And the next year comes Matías. Sebastián is born in 1983. The photos continue to the present so you can see both parents and all three young men, now grown. It’s breathtaking in its simplicity (all the photos are black-and-white face-forward head-and-shoulders pictures) and poignancy. Check it out <a href=”http://www.zonezero.com/magazine/essays/diegotime/time.html#” target=”_blank”>through this link</a>.

I have taken, conservatively, at least 8,000 pictures since Pumpkin was born in 2005. But I haven’t began a project as ambitious as this. I am thinking about it now, though. (Hopefully the photos of me in the future will show me getting thinner and thinner!)

Thanks to <a href=”http://photojojo.com/” target=”_blank”>Photojojo!</a> for the tip.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, March 21st, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Competition

February
15

Here’s the scenario: A group of kids in a pre-K class were given a homework assignment that required them to make a snowman. It was part of an arts & crafts project. Sounds good, right? Fun for the kids; some creative input from the parents.

This was at the pre-K where my girlfriend’s son goes, and she had fun helping him put together a snowman made from paper plates, glue, glitter, markers and some fluffy stuff. He was way proud, and should’ve been.

Now, we all know what happens in these situations. Some parents do the project for their kids so the kid will have the best one in the class. As if that’s the point. Anyway, it certainly was the case here. But that’s not the issue.

When they presented these things in the class, they actually gave awards for the best ones. That is to say, only two or three of the kids got rewarded, and most of the kids didn’t win an award, and got a certificate for doing it. Our little guy was heartbroken.

That strikes me as wrong. I’m all for teaching kids to be competitive and all. But at 3 and 4, I’d opt to give all the kids some kind of award, just to reward their efforts on the arts & crafts project.

What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 15th, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Who is having the play date?

February
12

So, I did it. I made a play date for today with a neighbor down the block who has a really cute 18-month-old son named Ethan. This might not seem remarkable to people who know me well and think of me as pretty outgoing, but the fact is: I have been very shy when it comes to making playmates. Pumpkin and I can count on one hand the number of play dates we’d had so far — OK, to be perfectly honest — two fingers. (And yes, I feel very guilty about this.) But there’s something about asking another mom if she wants to get together that brings out the insecure junior high school kid in me. After all, at this age, it’s not like I’m dropping Pumpkin off at the curb. A play date means the mom has to spend the time with me. “But, you’re a reporter! You should be good at talking to people!” I can hear you saying this. And, it’s true, I can pretty much walk up to anyone and interview them. But, the thing is, I don’t know if these skills carry over into the world of women’s friendships. (It doesn’t help when your play date skills get rejected. After one play date that I thought was successful, I didn’t get a second invite.)

Despite this, I got bold about today because we’re going to do something very active together — taking the kids to <a href=”http://www.leaplizards.com/” target=”_blank”>Leapin’ Lizards</a> in Port Chester. Also, we won’t be tête-à-tête because it turns out Ethan already had a play date today and his buddy (and mom) will be coming along, too. Between the chaos of keeping track of three toddlers at the giant indoor play center, I think we’ll all have a good time.

I bring this topic up because I think about how much a parent’s social skills affect their children’s lives. Growing up, my mom worked, so she was never the classroom mom. She wasn’t a big joiner, either, so we didn’t have a network of community contacts. Looking back, it would have been kind of nice to have a mom involved in the school, sitting in the back of the table at bake sales, hanging around the auditorium during school plays, etc. I aspire to be that kind of mom for my daughter, but then I think to myself, “You can’t even arrange a play date without getting the willies!”

What about the rest of you parents? Are you rolling your eyes and saying, “Get over it!” Or, have you had similar qualms? Those of you with active play date schedules: How do you do it? Do you just say to a friendly face at library story hour: “Say, do you want to get these two hooligans together sometime?” Or what?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 at 12:58 am |
| | 5 Comments »

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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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