lohud.com

Sponsored by:

Archive for the 'Entertainment' 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 |
| | Comments Off on Tips for that first Broadway play

How do you rate the movie ratings system?

August
14

When we went to see “Wall-E” last summer, my daughter, then 3, cried piteously when Wall-E’s cockroach buddy was left behind as the spaceship blasted off. She was so sensitive — and she loves bugs — that the emotional impact hit her hard. “Wall-E” was rated G.

Being big movie fans, we’ve since taken the Pumpkin to many kids’ movies. And we haven’t had any more tears. I think it’s mostly due to her greater sophistication in responding to filmed entertainment.  We don’t watch much TV at home and the shows she sees don’t have the heightened intensity of a movie. “Planet Earth” DVDs, “Sesame Street” and “Miffy” aren’t exactly edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

But now that she’s used to movies, we don’t necessarily go by the ratings when we determine whether it’s suitable. For instance, “Bolt” and “Madagascar 2” were both rated PG, but neither seemed too scary or intense. We’ve shunned “G-Force,” perhaps unfairly, because I don’t like the idea of weapon packs on cute little animals.

One place a lot of parents go for advice is <a href=”http://www.commonsensemedia.org” target=”_blank”>Common Sense Media</a>, a nonprofit organization that rates everything from movies to TV shows to books to music to Web sites. It’s a good site, and I can recommend it. I do think they are way too conservative when it comes to ratings. For instance, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and “Up” were both suggested for ages 6 plus. My daughter, who is now 4, loved both of them.

On the opposite end of the age scale, my 17-year-old niece is coming to visit for a few days and we hope to watch a movie with her after the Pumpkin is in bed. We already know we don’t want to watch something with an R rating because we certainly don’t want to confront any sexual scene or foul language. We’ll have to figure out what might be a good compromise on the PG front.

I’d love to hear what other parents do when it comes to ratings. Do you keep your preschoolers away from PG flicks or do you judge each one individually? What’s your strategy for evaluating their worth?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
| | Comments Off on How do you rate the movie ratings system?

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 »

Advertisement

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 »

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:

<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BcznS8hYe8g&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BcznS8hYe8g&hl=en&fs=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

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 »

Advertisement

When is Blended Family Day?

May
13

Here’s a built-in problem in blended families: You never have the whole family together for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

There’s a simple reason for it. Namely, my son will always be with his mom on Mother’s Day (as he was earlier this month) and my girlfriend’s son will be with his dad on Father’s Day. So, we’re inevitably incomplete when celebrating our respective parenting days.

Kinda makes it hard to have the ideal family day.

Or does it?

Bethany Grey, editor at eHow.com, offered a list of suggestions for dads and stepdads to celebrate Father’s Day in a blog titled “How to Celebrate Father’s Day in a Blended Family.” I don’t agree with all of it, but some of Grey’s suggestions make sense, including the idea to shop for Father’s Day cards with the child. It’s a good stepdad experience to share.

Mostly, I like the idea of doing something the day before, something Grey didn’t hit on. This year, we grilled hot dogs and steak the day before Mother’s Day and had a picnic outside. It was fun and we did the family thing. I’m thinking we’ll do the same with my girlfriend’s son the day before Father’s Day next month.

One thing I’ve never wanted to do is give my girlfriend’s son the notion that I’m replacing his dad, at least not that way. This makes for something of a juggling act at times. But that’s a blog for another day.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 10:35 am |
| | 2 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 |
| | Comments Off on Fun things for kids, free

My bigtime movie goof

March
24

Sure, I should’ve paid more attention. But I didn’t.

So, here I was taking my 11-year-old son to see Watchmen at the theater, not having done enough legwork to know that there was heavily graphic violence, sex and nudity. Whoops.

Well, he knows enough to cover his eyes during certain moments (aided by me, of course). But I did stay the course and we sat through the whole movie. Yes, I considered walking out, but I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: This wasn’t Last Tango in Paris, nor was it Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was just a tad over the top.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t take him to see it had I known the extent of it all. But I also reason with myself that you can’t shelter a kid from everything. My philosophy on cursing, for instance, is that he is in no way allowed to use foul language. However, I know he hears it in the course of his day and has to simply censor himself.

I see this movie experience similarly. Of course, now he figures if we saw that he can go see Slumdog Millionaire and it would be okay. Not sure I’m ready to make that leap.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

Advertisement

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 »

Lost memories

July
22

There are only so many memorable moments in a child’s life, and only so many “firsts:” The first time mastering a two-wheeler, the first fireworks display, the first time on a plane, and so on. The hardest part of being a dual-custody parent is losing some of these moments. The child’s time — and thereby, his firsts — are routinely divided between the two parents.

My ex and I generally break even in that regard, since our custody situation is a 50-50 split. But how many moments have I lost out on? I got the first trip to Disney World and his first pro baseball game; She got his first trip overseas and, last month, his first visit to Niagara Falls, which, while it’s no Disney World, was a huge success with our son. And there are other, smaller moments that I’ve been able to share with him: I took him to his first rock concert and made it to his school talent show, where he played Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” on guitar. My ex has her share of those moments she was able to share with him.

This whole concept came up on our recent vacation, when my girlfriend stood back and observed as her little boy, clutched to her own mother, watched the July 4th fireworks display overhead down in the Carolinas. At 4, it wasn’t his first view of fireworks, but it was certainly a memorable moment. He covered his ears and looked up with a mixture of wonderment and fear. She later told me that she was hit with the notion in that instance that she was missing that moment, so she walked over to her mom and asked to hold her boy. She both soothed him and shared the display with him for the remainder of the show. It was a shared moment she’ll certainly remember, as will he. And it made us think of the firsts and the moments we’ll inevitably miss with both our boys.

Ultimately, the boys benefit from having the experience at all, whether it’s with their mom or their dad. That’s comforting. But it carries a tinge of sadness, that there are times when we won’t be the ones to share the memory. It makes me hope that those parents out there who share all those moment appreciate the value of it.

For me, there’s no doubt how much it’s worth.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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 »

Advertisement
Advertisement

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.


Subscribe

Daily Email Newsletter:






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



Poll