lohud.com

Sponsored by:

Archive for the 'Media' 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?

‘Coraline’ and the distant parent

August
5

Watching “Coraline” on DVD this past weekend, I cringed and even paused the movie to turn to my husband and say: “I hope that’s not how the Pumpkin sees me.” If you’ve watched the movie, you are familiar with the scene in the beginning when Coraline fails to wrest her mother’s attention from her computer screen. (Warning: If you haven’t seen <a href=”http://coraline.com/” target=”_blank”>”Coraline,”</a> stop reading now and go rent it. It was wonderful.)

I was speaking mostly in jest, of course. I’ve never shooed away the Pumpkin so harshly, but I have to admit that there are times when she knows that I’m working on the computer and can’t play with her. Given the amount of indulgence and love my daughter gets in general, I’m not worried about her. But Coraline does make you think about children who aren’t so cosseted and whose parents really do tell them they are too busy to make time for them much of the time.

The evil witch who preys on Coraline’s vulnerability isn’t just a fairy tale creation. There are those who prey on young children by offering them the love and companionship they are missing at home. Just as the “other mother” offers Coraline the homecooked meals and cozy surrounding she craves in hopes of stealing the child away, pedophiles and other criminals can weasel their way into youngsters’ hearts by exploiting their need for love. Children are vulnerable when their parents are absent or uninvolved. Even if they don’t encounter a witch who wants to steal their souls and replace their eyes with buttons, they will encounter peers with dubious morals who might offer the approval they aren’t getting at home.

While cast as a fairy tale (that would earn an R rating if it were a live-action picture)‚ “Coraline” teaches its younger audience about the dangers of believing in something that’s too good to be true. And it provides a reminder to the parents watching that if you aren’t there for your child, someone else (someone scary) might be.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 at 2:36 am |
| | Comments Off on ‘Coraline’ and the distant parent

Advertisement

Playground parenting and other issues

June
11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
| | Comments Off on Playground parenting and other issues

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 »

A dad’s place is…. on a blog

April
23

Leave it to a dad’s blog to make this case, but the Examiner’s fatherhood blog has put out a list of five reasons why dad blogs are worth keeping an eye one. You can read the post here.

(Kathy Gardner/The Journal News)

Obviously, Parents Place is a general parenting blog, with capable dads AND moms in the mix. So, we’re more inclusive and take a wider view of parenting.

But I’ve always felt that there’s a need out here for more of a voice from fathers, whether it’s dads in traditional homes like my co-bloggers Jon and Len, or myself,  a father building a blended family. So it’s reassuring to see a list like this out there, especially with more dads involved in hands-on parenting.

And remember, there’s no shortage of good dad blogs on our blogroll, including Crazy Computer Dad and David Mott’s Dad’s House.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 at 8:00 am |
| | 3 Comments »

National Provider Appreciation Day coming in May

April
16

The folks at Child Care Aware sent out a reminder that next month will bring National Provider Appreciation Day, when child care providers we entrust with our kids get honorable mention.

Not a bad idea, depending on the care the kids receive. We’ve been lucky that way, so I figured I would send CCA’s press release along for your consumption:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 11.3 million children under the age of 5 that spend some part of their week in child care. If this number includes your family, chances are you’ve added an extended family member or two to your daily routine. And you’ve selected a person that you feel will provide the best care for your child.

Child care providers put a lot of love and hard work into their careers, and they’re often rewarded with little hugs and a “thank you” every now and then. As your child spends time with his/her child care provider, a special bond begins to form. This person is an additional teacher, friend and trusted caregiver. Your child shares many special moments with the child care provider, and you enoy the benefits of these relationships on a daily basis.

This year, take some time to show your child care provider how much you appreciate what she does for your family. On Friday, May 8, 2009, the nation will celebrate National Provider Appreciation Day – a day set aside each year to honor those who are caring for our young children.

For more information on Provider Appreciation Day, go to www.providerappreciationday.org.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, April 16th, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
| | Comments Off on National Provider Appreciation Day coming in May

Advertisement

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 »

Study: More kids now homeless

March
11

Troubling report his week from The National Center on Family Homelessness, which released a study that found 1 in 50 children in the U.S. were without a home. That’s about 1.5 million kids, according to the study. And the troubling thing is that the figures were compiled in 2005-2006 — before the current economic downturn that has more and more parents without jobs.

(Angela Gaul/The Journal News)

The study ranks New York 38th overall in a national review of states. The Empire state was 39th in child well being, 31st in risk of child homelessness, and 22nd in extent of child homelessness. It also classified New York’s policy and planning on the issue as inadequate.

It’s just a reminder that as more folks end up out of work, there’s a whole generation of kids tagging along.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 11:39 am |
| | 2 Comments »

My cellular kid

February
13

I got my 11-year-old son a cell phone.

I know, why does an 11-year-old need a cell phone? I actually dwelled on this for a while, understanding that some of his schoolmates have had them for a couple of years. And I wondered why he would need one. The upside was that he would be able to reach out to us in an emergency or if there was a change in plans during afterschool activities or while at a friend’s house for the day. The downside was, well, why does he need it?

So, in the end I got him one, and I figured it was a good exercise in responsibility for him: Manage your  minutes, use it wisely and you’ll be able to keep it. As an aside, I also wanted him to have a way to keep in touch with his cousin, who he is very close with and who he is likely to see less off now that my ex’s mom — their grandmother — passed away at the end of last year. She was the glue that kep those kids in touch. Now they’re able to text and stay in touch regularly.

But I wondered about what it would cost. I have friends whose kids chalked up hundreds of dollars in cell phone bills after first getting one. So I waited for the “report card” — the first cell phone bill since we added him to our calling plan. Well, it came this week, and he’s well within his minutes. Phew.

Still, was it still a good idea? What age should we be hooking up our kids with telecommunication gadgets?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
| | 12 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 »

Is Spongebob killing our kids?

January
23

It seems this issue has been around forever. In 2006, a group of parents and advocacy groups threatened to sue Kelloggs and Viacom, Nickelodeon TV’s parent company, over the peddling of unhealthy food on commercials during shows like Spongebob Squarepants. In 2007, Kelloggs agreed to get more health-aware, and the suit was dropped.

But with Spongebob still flipping greasy crabby patties, and sugar-laced cereal still being plugged on the tube, it seems a lot of parents and advocates are still up in arms. The current issue of Best Life, put out by Men’s Health Magazine, takes issue with corporate cartoons and lists how to fight back. In October, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood took issue with the whole health thing as well. And I understand the concern, as kids’ waistlines are growing and growing. But aren’t we missing the point?

I mean, isn’t this whole thing about parenting? It seems to me the best thing I can do to make my son healthier is to buy him healthier foods to eat, and perhaps to eat healthier myself — something my girlfriend has had an incredibly positive influence on. If the kids want fruity-sugar cereal, you just say no. Am I off on this?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
| | 23 Comments »

Men in the Mix

January
9

The adoption mix, that is.

While the statistics continue to weigh heavily in favor of women, men are on the rise as single dads and adoptive fathers. In a recent report, CNN noted that a growing number of men “are becoming parents using surrogate mothers.”:http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/23/single.men.parenting/index.html

Also note that the national Centers for Disease Control reported in an Aug. 2007 study that “men were twice as likely to adopt as women.”:http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/PRESSROOM/08newsreleases/adoption.htm If nothing else, these are increasing indications that the traditional family is being constantly redefined.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 9th, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
| | 4 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