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Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

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 »

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 »

Cool T-shirts for Father’s Day

June
5

I love Junk Food T-shirts. They are fun and hip without being too edgy. That makes them perfect for Father’s Day for guys who are more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt than a dress shirt and tie. (And, let’s face it, a 40-year-old man in an Affliction T-shirt is just kind of sad.)

For the wives out there shopping, <a href=”http://www.junkfoodclothing.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_10052_10051_-1_10551_Y_10551″ target=”_blank”>Junk Food</a> T’s allow you to indulge your husband’s love for “Star Trek,” “Batman” or the Beatles while also giving him a shirt that will make him cool to your teenagers. My pick for dads of little ones has one of the Wild Things from “Where the Wild Things Are.” There is also a shirt with the “Cat in the Hat” that’s cute for dads of toddlers in particular. Some even have a double entendre that’s appropriate for the wife to bestow, like the one with the Lucky Charms leprechaun and the phrase “Magically Delicious.”

A couple of years ago, I gave Pumpkin’s father a shirt that said, “Property of My Little Girl” that I loved to see him wear. (Hint.)

I have to admit: I keep buying Father’s Day stuff that’s the analog of what I’d like to receive on Mother’s Day. Pumpkin has at least two T-shirts that say “Daddy’s Girl,” but none that say anything about mommy. Hmm.

So, dads out there: Would these shirts be a fun gift for you? What do you really crave on your big day?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Nine questions to ask your father (and answer if you are a dad)

May
27

I received this list today in a press release, and I thought it was pretty neat. It came from a company called <a href=”http://www.pricelesslegacy.com/” target=”_blank”>Priceless Legacy</a> that sells “life story” books. I’m not advocating the company by any means, but I thought this list of questions to ask your dad at Father’s Day was worth sharing.

The fathers reading this just might want to answer these questions for their own youngsters. They are written in the past tense because I think the idea is for adult children to pose them to their dads, but I think they can just as well be answered by fathers of young children. (I’m talking to you, Michael.)

1. What did you enjoy most about being a dad? Least?

2. Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father?

3. In what ways are we alike and in what ways are we different?

4. Why did you marry my mother?

5. Is there anything you every wanted to tell us (me) but have not?

6. What is the secret to raising good kids?

7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents (my grandparents)?

8. Do you think today’s fathers have it harder, easier or just different?

9. What do you want to make sure that my children and grandchildren will remember about you?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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 »

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 »

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The idea of ‘strangers’

April
20

When did you teach your children about the dangers of “strangers”? We started earlier this year and have approached the topic in a measured fashion, trying not to freak her out but also hoping to instill caution.

This is on my mind this morning thanks to my colleague <a href=”http://www.lohud.com/article/20090420/NEWS02/904200322″ target=”_blank”>Janie Rosman’s article</a> about a seminar on “stranger danger” held in Scarsdale. It’s well worth a read. I particularly liked the advice about helping children find “safe” strangers if they get lost. Telling your child to go up to a mom with children and ask for help is a great idea.

The Scarsdale mom who organized the workshop was inspired by a scare in a store when she lost track of her 5-year-old for a moment.

I’ve always kept pretty close tabs on the Pumpkin while we shop — which won’t surprise any of my friends and family who know my protective parenting style. But I have to admit that I used to relax some of my vigilance when we shopped in kids’ stores like Baby Gap and Gymboree, letting her wander around a bit while I browsed.

An experience I had in December put an end to that casual attitude.

I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Danbury mall with my daughter one evening just a few days before the holiday. It was a special trip just to buy her daddy’s presents. We first went to Lord & Taylor and spent about 45 minutes at the men’s fragrance counter with a very patient saleswoman who helped us pick out a shower gel and deodorant. Pumpkin must have smelled a dozen scents. Then we stopped at Pottery Barn to pick up two more place settings of our flatware to have enough for an upcoming party. Then we went to Jos. A. Bank to pick out a tie. Because my husband is tall, we asked where the long ties were displayed in the back of the store. I put down my Pottery Barn bag, which had the Lord & Taylor bag tucked inside, and both Pumpkin and I talked with the salesman. They were having a “buy one, get one” promotion, so we picked out two ties. Then we found out there was the same deal for dress shirts, so we picked out two of those as well, moving perhaps a total of eight feet from where the ties were displayed.

So, I go to the register to pay, and I realize I don’t have my bag. I head to the back where I left it, and it’s nowhere to be found. Now, this is a *very* small store that’s long and narrow. Even just days before Christmas, it had less than a half dozen customers in the store the whole time I was there. I proceeded to hunt for my bag, but it was nowhere to be found. I made the manager call mall security to report the theft. It took them 45 minutes to show up and they didn’t even write anything down. They were completely uninterested. I thought to myself that it was amazing that my bag could disappear in the few minutes that we were picking out ties and dress shirts. Maybe it was a customer who I hadn’t noticed in the very back of the store. But it seems hard to believe that the one or two customers in the vicinity just happened to be a thief. I’ll leave the reader of the blog to come to the other obvious conclusion about who else was in the vicinity, as my husband did when I told him the story.

After I left the store, and after I went back to Lord & Taylor to re-buy the bath stuff (we skipped a return trip to Pottery Barn, too depressing), I realized how lucky I was: Someone stole a bag with maybe $140 in merchandise inside. But holding my hand was my most precious person. If a bag can be stolen in a few minutes, so can a child.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, April 20th, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

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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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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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>.

flag.jpg

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
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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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It’s vacation negotiation time….again

May
14

Is it that time of year already?

Seems to me that every year my ex and I do this vacation juggling act with our son: Who gets him which week, who has to compromise their plans, who put in for a particular week first, and so on and so on. Frankly, it’s when our amicable custodial agreement is most tested.

This year, my girlfriend and I have plans to head south to spend a week at a beach resort with our two boys, although our departure is delayed one day because of a scheduling conflict with my ex. My ex, meanwhile, has to interrupt her week away to drive back and drop my son off for my scheduled weekend with him. Well, it happens. We’ll work around it. The real tricky part comes with the bartering for weekends. It’s inevitable that we have to swap our weekends for this or that three-day getaway: I want to fly out and see my brother and my nephews on her weekend; she wants to extend her vacation by keeping our son over my weekend.

Let the negotiations begin!

We always end up working it out, and have somehow managed to keep our post-divorce friendship intact. But it leaves me wondering if there isn’t a system we could put into play, or some process that would make this whole juggling act function more smoothly in years to come, particularly as it’s not just the two of us that are affected by our scheduling: There’s her husband and his son, and my girlfriend and her little boy — our blended family. Everyone is potentially inconvenienced if it tips the wrong way.

So, does anyone have a fool-proof formula for this stuff?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

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A dad on Mother’s Day

May
6

 Mother’s Day can be a tad hectic for me. That’s simply because of all the mother’s around me, from my girlfriend, to my mom, to my ex, to my girlfriend’s mom, who will be visiting this weekend. I think I can skate with a phone call on a couple, but will have to put up on at least two of them. Heck, we may even want to get flowers for our neighbor, who we have become friendly with.

But I consider myself lucky, with all those moms around me. And it made my thoughts wander a bit to the single dads out there. The assumption might be that divorced dads with shared custody give up the weekend to their ex’s, much as you would expect a divorced mom to do the same on Father’s Day. Then I figure there are truly single dads raising the kids solo. What do they do?

No surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one tossing this around in my head. I came across a blog post on, of all places, the “AdoptionBlogs.com”:http://www.adoptionblogs.com website that addressed this very thing. In this case, the writer simply put the question to several dads “and came up with this”:http://fost-adopt.adoptionblogs.com/weblogs/mother-s-day-as-a-dad entry. It hardly addresses all scenarios, but it highlights my thinking that, based on their individual circumstances, Mother’s Day can be a radically different experience for the dads out there.

Any stories of your own?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 at 10:20 am |
| | 5 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 |
| | Comments Off on The Easter that almost wasn’t

Valentine’s Day in the world of parenting

February
14

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a big holiday for a lot of moms and dads out there — and not because they are celebrating a romantic occasion. In <a href=”http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2008/02/06/who-is-getting-your-valentine-love/” target=”_blank”>an earlier post</a> on Valentine’s Day, I mentioned that I was writing a story for today’s paper about how the holiday is breaking out of the old definition of romantic love and into a broader sense of love among friends and family. <a href=”http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080214/BUSINESS01/802140335/1066″ target=”_blank”>Here’s a link to today’s story</a>. To report this story, I sent out a raft of e-mails to the great people I’ve met as a reporter and blogger. I heard back from quite a few of you, and many people had an interesting story on the topic. Here are some of them that I wasn’t able to fit into my story for the paper:

The dog ate my Valentine: That was the case at the home of Eleanor Petigrow of Goldens Bridge, a mother of three daughters ages 7, 10 and 13. Knowing her daughters like to give presents to their friends, Eleanor planned ahead and right after Christmas bought a bunch of presents, including a huge chocolate heart and jellybeans. The only problem was she stored them behind the TV set in her office — a location reachable by the family’s 90-pound yellow lab. “I got a call at work. The dog had eaten everything and was really sick. We had to take him to the hospital and have his stomach pumped. They had never seen so much chocolate in a dog,” said Petigrow, who was scrambling earlier this week to replace the gifts with homemade chocolate lollypops.

Romance, what’s that?:
Just ask Anne Colluci of White Plains, who nixed the idea of a fancy night out when she considered the cost and logistics of being a mom. “My husband and I had a fleeting thought of going to dinner at our club, Westchester Hills Golf Club, on Valentine’s Day. They are having a special dinner with a band and all. However, after thinking about how much money I would spend on a sitter and the work involved in coordinating it all on a school night, I quickly dismissed the idea!” she said. Anne did, however, buy red bookmarks and pencils for her children to give as class gifts. And, when I talked to her earlier this week, she was planning a trip to the mall to buy red attire for the kids to wear to school today.

Staying home is the best Valentine: Scott van Niekerk, who runs Wholistic Physical Therapy in Brewster, is fittingly scornful of the material side of the holiday, given his line of work. He and his wife were planning to spend a family day with their “2-year-old bundle of joy and a 3-month-old bump in the tummy.” “We will do a ‘stay home from work’ day to spend with each other and our beloved first born — the BEST family gift ever,” Scott wrote in an e-mail to me.

Baby comes first: Sasha Oxman Solow, who runs Sasha’s in Rye, put together a Valentine’s gift for her son, Michael, including a stuffed animal, a book about love and a red Slinky. Michael — really Sasha, of course — is giving a box of Valentine’s Day goodies to his daddy, who will be away on business today. Sasha also bought cards from her son to his grandparents and great-grandparents. “In my store, I sell a lot of Valentines Day gifts from parents to their kids. The most popular gifts are Valentines Day pajamas with hearts on them. Moms also purchase a lot of jewelry as Valentine’s gifts. We also sell Valentines day novelties like heart-shaped lipgloss, rubber heart rings, red & white Rubik’s Cubes, Valentine-themed stuffed animals, band-aids with hearts on them and heart-shaped playing cards,” she said. Among the customers: young boys coming in for Valentine’s Day gifts for their “girlfriends.”

No ideas for the hubbie:
Like me, Pound Ridge resident Lisa Brotmann, a mom of two, was behind earlier this week on the buying-for-the-husband front. But she had already lined up something for her parents and the kids. “I think that for people who are married with children, the holiday becomes more of a family holiday. For single people I am sure it is still all about the romance and flowers. I can’t imagine at this stage of my life taking time out on a Thursday night to get a sitter and go out to a romantic dinner with my husband. In fact, I was already thinking about what meal I could make that was festive for the holiday, perhaps heart-shaped pancakes or heart-shaped mini meatloaves,” she said.

Big day for busy moms:
This e-mail from Gretchen Menzies of Bedford says it all: “I have spent the last two weeks decorating shoe boxes, turning them into fabulous Valentine mailboxes, working on class Valentines and planning the kindergarten class Valentine’s party (I am the crazy mom who signed up to be class parent), a festivity full of cupcakes, pink icing, games and knick knacks. I am usually not one for over-doing Valentine’s day for the family, but the kids’ school life seems to require making this the momentous occasion of the year. By the time I have iced, mailed, crafted and discussed with the kids, what’s left for romance? And to be honest, this body? Not gonna wear any lingerie any time soon.”

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 10:19 am |
| | 3 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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