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Archive for the 'Relaxation' Category

Patience

January
11

No, not the kind we need as parents. We’ve all had a crash course in that if we have kids. I mean getting your children to be patient in impatient situations. Like, the long lines at Disneyworld.

In this case it was the long lines at the “Holiday Train Show”:http://www.nybg.org/hts at the New York Botanical Garden. We took the boys there last weekend for the show, which ends this weekend if you want to check it out. It was an awesome display which the kids loved — after a 90-minute wait on line because of obviously poor planning and management by the folks in charge.

Needless to say, we had a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old in tow, so it required some creative time management. Since there were two adults, we were able to split time between standing on line and taking the kids to run around somewhere or other. But this would’ve been a remarkably more trying situation for a single parent with no partner. I went through this a few years ago when I took by son to Disneyworld and the waits became difficult for him, and understandably so.

These days, I’m fortunate to have my girlfriend in the picture (add “line marker” to her lists of attributes). But it still leaves the question of managing patience in children in an impatient situation. The “University of Pittsburgh Medical Center”:http://www.upmc.com/AboutUPMC has one of many sites out there that discusses “how to teach children patience.”:http://www.upmc.com/HealthManagement/ManagingYourHealth/PersonalHealth/Children/?chunkiid=14355

Obviously, the article focuses on more significant benefits to teaching patience than just managing a child while you’re on a dreadfully long line. Those are, of course, valuable to successful parenting, and having patience during a long wait is much more mundane. But I was most struck by the suggestion that kept coming up as I was doing some research for this posting: Start by being patient yourself. To be honest, patience isn’t exactly my strength. And maybe I should teach myself first.

Besides, watching the kids roll down the hill during my time as “line marker” looked kinda fun.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, January 11th, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

Resolutions

January
1

Less ice cream. More exercise. Less stress. More sleep. Less procrastination. More patience. Yup, it’s that time again for New Year’s resolutions and reflections. It’s interesting to me that when I think about the ways I could change to become a better mom, most of them relate to just being a better me. If I am healthier, calmer, less harried and more rested, I know I’ll have more energy, patience and playfulness to make Pumpkin happier. Too often, we working parents put ourselves last on our to-do lists. How many times have I promised myself I’d go to bed earlier so I’d have time to exercise in the morning only to stay up late going online to research something for a story I’m writing? How many times have I put off making a healthy salad only to eat something quick and easy (but fattening) later? How many times have I delayed “me� time only to end up aggravated and impatient while I pay the bills or fetch the groceries or do the laundry? Everyone talks about “balancing� work and home life, and I think it’s not a bad analogy. If you picture a giant see-saw and work and home obligations sit heavily on one side, it’s easy to see why time to do what we need to for our own sanity and health slide off the scales altogether. The fact is, there really isn’t enough time for everything we need to do. But, for me, at least, I know that in the new year I plan to make time for some important obligations to myself that I’ve put off. And I believe Pumpkin will be happier, too, as a result.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
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Christmas debriefing

December
27

The holidays were a success at my place, with tons of food, lots of smiles and two spoiled kids. In fact, the boys each got more presents than I probably got my entire childhood. As I’m sure is the case with most single parent homes, my son had a stack of presents at our place, and another stack waiting at his mom’s house, where he went at the end of the day on Christmas Day so he could open some presents with is stepbrother.

The value to all this, of course, is that both our boys were able to have a happy and fulfilling Christmas despite having non-traditional homes. Our Christmas morning brunch included both my ex and my girlfriend’s ex, with the added treat for her boy that his grandparents were in from out of town and shared the day with us.

And despite all our efforts and all the feelers we put out there, my son continues to tease us and keep us guessing about his understanding — or lack of — the Santa myth. He proclaimed, tongue in cheek, that Christmas is “60 percent excellent presents from Santa, 39 percent lousy gifts from your parents, and 1 percent egg nog.”

So I think he might be playing us, the little wise guy. Who cares in the end.

Anyway, I hope all had a great time over the holidays, regardless of what it is you celebrate. And I hope most of all that the children enjoyed their inclusion in it. I would love to hear some recaps.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 10:55 am |
| | 2 Comments »

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A day for mom and daughter

December
21

Today I have a full day off with my Pumpkin. Just mama and baby. I cannot remember the last time it was just the two of us for a full day. Despite all the holiday chores I have to do, from wrapping gifts to cooking to cleaning the house to some last-minute shopping, I’m going to try and spend most of the day just playing with my little girl. It’s something I don’t do often enough. The week seems to fly by with work and chores, and often on the weekend we have a family activity planned. Sometimes, a week or more will go by and I’ll realize I haven’t just sat on the floor and played without trying to do something else at the same time. I think we’ll start the day with chocolate-chip pancakes, then do some drawing with crayons and maybe take a walk outside if it’s nice. I won’t even turn on this computer until she’s napping — and maybe not even then!

When was the last time you had a day to spend with your child that didn’t also involve chores or errands or busy activities with other family members? And what did you do?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, December 21st, 2007 at 2:55 am |
| | 1 Comment »

The iguana video

December
3

There’s not much parenting advice coming out of this entry, nor am I going to share any single-parenting experiences or share the lessons I’ve learned as a divorced dad with a 10-year-old. But hopefully this will make you laugh, as it did my son.

The two of us spend time on the Internet, and part of that has involved tons of time on “youtube.com,”:http://www.youtube.com particularly as I share music videos from my youth with my son, and as we both whittle away time playing online games. It is part of our bonding experience.

Recently, a colleague of mine at The Journal News returned from a vacation trip to Costa Rica, where he shared with us a video he shot. It’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve come across in a while, and my son and I had a great laugh over it when I showed it to him. My colleague has now been so good as to put it up on youtube.com, so I’ll share “the iguana video”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhxrrieAfNg with you all and hope it gets a chuckle out of your kids as well. Enjoy.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, December 3rd, 2007 at 1:39 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

The Santa question

November
19

My girlfriend’s 3-year-old burst into tears this morning as I was about to take him to pre-K. When I asked him why he was crying, he said because he wanted Santa Claus to bring him presents. He knows Santa will show up while we’re all sleeping and deliver a bundle of toys for him to pay with. It’s just that, at his age, the notion that Christmas is still several weeks away is hazy, and he thought it would happen this morning and the next. I assured him Santa would come. But it reminded me of how beautiful that is for a child, and it struck me how he and my own son, who turns 10 on Saturday, are at such varying ends of the Santa myth.

I think it’s pretty obvious the cat is out of the hat for my son by now. He seems to be at the point where he knows the scoop on Santa, but figures he’d better not ‘fess up or there’ll be no presents. It’s sad to me, because nothing can ever replace the look on a child’s face on Christmas morning when the presents are “magically” there under the tree.

So I need to have the Santa Claus conversation with my son this weekend. First of all, I want to make sure he doesn’t ruin it for the younger boy. But I also want to bring my son up to speed on the whole Santa myth and its origins. Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas of Myra, a benevolent 4th Century man of the cloth who shared his inheritance with the needy through anonymous gifts. Legend has it that after he died locals would put out food for the saint and straw for his donkey, which St. Nick would turn into toys and treats. That’s kinda cool in its own right, and a pretty good tradition.

Corny as it sounds, I like to think that there is still some magic involved, and there’s an inherent beauty in Christmas that, to me, overshadows the ridiculous marketing blitz that has become part of the holiday season. I remain fond of the legendary 1897 column by New York Sun writer Francis Pharcellus Church, famously titled, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,”:http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia and expect that the discussion with my son will start with a reading of it. We will talk about the “Dear Santa” letter we’ll be picking up from the post office, and discuss some charity work to aid the less fortunate.

So, the Santa myth will continue for my son, even if the secret is out. Then we can all sit back and marvel at the look of wonderment on the 3-year-old’s face, and the magic he believes in — for now. Let’s hope it lasts.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, November 19th, 2007 at 1:08 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

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Holiday time… yet again?

November
16

Thank God for CVS pharmacy and its themed displays, or I might never know what holiday was up next. And since the Christmas decorations are already up, I gather we’re skipping Thanksgiving this year. In fact, there were a few Christmas trees on display at a few local department stores before Halloween even rolled around this year.

Well, not to skip over Thanksgiving, but I’ve had my first discussion with my ex over splitting the Christmas presents for my son, so it must be time to start thinking ahead. This is complicated by the fact that his birthday is at the end of this month. He does love books, so there’ll be a dose of those. And he’s rediscovered Hot Wheels cars recently, so there’ll be some of that.

But I’m hearing from some fellow parents that it might be a good time to consider a few alternatives, particularly since a few that I’ve spoken to are seriously concerned about buying toys this year given the seemingly never-ending list of recalls. Obviously, you can select safe toys if you pay attention to recall lists, which many toy stores have available.

Still, I’ve heard some alternative suggestions. Homemade toys are a good idea, and, for older kids, donating to charity in their name is a worthy gift. Or consider tickets to an upcoming holiday event, such as “Willy Wonka”:http://tickets.tarrytownmusichall.org/eventperformances.asp?evt=725 at the Tarrytown Music Hall. Or “a candlelight tour”:http://www.hudsonvalley.org/component/option,com_jcalpro/Itemid,182/extmode,view/extid,71/date,2007-12-31 at historic Philipsburgh Manor in Sleepy Hollow. The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx “has several events,”:http://www.nybg.org/families_and_fun/family_events.php including the Gingerbread Adventures and the Holiday Train Show.

If all works out, I’m hoping to include tickets for one of the above in the kids’ stockings this year, although the ability to plan ahead has never been one of my strongest assets. I’d also like to check out the Westchester Toy & Train Christmas Show at the Westchester County Center, which has “a lengthy list of upcoming events.”:http://www.westchestergov.com/calendar/ccorgcalquery.asp Of course, that’s on Dec. 9, well before the holidays. So I’m thinking it might be a good place to get gift ideas. Besides, I think the cat’s out of the bag on the Santa thing by now. Then again, that’s a blog for another day.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, November 16th, 2007 at 3:50 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

Enough of Harry Potter already

November
14

Don’t get me wrong, I love that my son got so absorbed in J.K. Rowling’s book series about the boy wizard. It’s just that I want my son to read some of the classics as well.

Now, I love that he’s an avid reader, with a particular attraction to non-fiction and “fact books” like encyclopedias and atlases. He’s also read a number of childrens’ series, including Dan Gutman’s series of baseball biographies. When he was younger, he also read an abridged version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and enjoyed it.

But I think there’s great value for a child to read classic literature, and I’ve been nudging him and his mom for months to get him to try out some of those. Last week, he started to read Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, which I thought would tap into his interests in American history. Here’s the short follow-up list I put together for him:

• Call of the Wild by Jack London

• Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

• Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

I figure that’s a short enough list, and I’m waiting to assess how he does with Crane. I’d also like to hear some other suggestions out there, particularly from parents who have older children. Let me know.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007 at 3:37 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

Single-parent dating quiz

November
12

Every single parent has to make their own choice on when they’re ready to date. But why not test yourself?

I was surfing some Internet single-parent and parenting sites and came across this tidbit on the “About.com single-parent site,”:http://singleparents.about.com which I check out from time to time. And there I found this quick quiz, which apparently allows you to assess your readiness for dating if you’re a single parent. The test includes several levels of difficulty, which basically means you can control the number of questions you’re asked.

As I said, it’s a significant decision to make when you’re a parent and you’re starting to date again. But “take the quiz yourself”:http://singleparents.about.com/library/quiz/bl_online_dating_quiz.htm and see what you think. At the very minimum you’ll have some fun. And on the upside, it may help you make up your mind after all.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, November 12th, 2007 at 4:27 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

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Creating a musical child

October
24

My son’s trumpet blasts sounded like a wounded elephant writhing in pain when he first started playing an instrument in third grade. In fourth grade, he switched to the saxophone, and the elephant was healing. Now, in fifth, he’s developed quite a talent for it, and is visibly improving and enjoying his progress. It was all a matter of getting him over the initial hump of frustration — and continuing that progress. That’s kind of the problem.

The initial question for his mom and I was whether to let him give music a try in the first place. There are a number of tips lists online and in print, “including this one”:http://cnx.org/content/m11640/latest that serve as a guide for parents making the call. We didn’t consult a list at the time, although it would’ve been helpful. But my son had expressed an interest, and although we worried that he would decide not to stick with it, we let him go for it. I made it clear that he had to stick with it once he chose to do it, at least for the year. And some of his early practices took some prodding. But he stuck with it.

The problem is that practices are still an occasional hassle. He also started playing guitar last year, so there are two instruments to practice. I gave him the same speech for the guitar classes he takes, and he does practice. However, we have to force him to do so at times, and it makes me wonder if that defeats the purpose. I want him to want to practice, because I know the more he improves the more he will enjoy it. I’m going to start practicing guitar with him at least once a week, and perhaps that will help.

But is there a trick to this? Or do we just keep insisting on regular practices until it takes root as a regular routine?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 12:08 pm |
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On kids and baseball

October
3

This is a pet peeve for me every year: The late game times for the Major League Baseball playoffs. I mean, how do you get young kids to develop a passion for baseball with the games running ’til midnight?

Now, my son is not an avid athlete, but does love to play baseball. As a fan, he roots for the Yanks and the football Jets, largely because his mom and dad do. And as an avid fan myself, sharing the game is a strong bonding tool with my son. It brings me back to baseball championships from when I was a kid, an experience that provided one of the few bonding times with my own father. So, naturally, I want to share the experience with my son as well.

This year, we’ll catch a break in the first round of playoffs, the division series, which begin today. Of the 20 potential games in those four series, 12 start at 6:30 p.m. or earlier. All of the scheduled Yankees games — our rooting interest — are at 6:30 or earlier.

But by the time the World Series rolls around, all scheduled seven games are slotted for nighttime. My 9-year-old will be lucky to catch the end of the fifth inning. We all know the why: There’s advertising dollars at stake, so the games cater to TV.

But it would be nice if someone in Major League Baseball threw us parents a bone sometime.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 2:12 pm |
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More apples — with recipes

October
3

holdingupapple.jpgYes, you would think after our adventure of two weeks ago at Mead Orchards in Tivoli (<a href=”http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2007/09/18/apples-for-a-pumpkin/” target=”_blank”>chronicled here</a>) that we would be done with apple-picking for the season. But we went again this past weekend! That’s because the Journal News invited employees for an apple-picking outing at <a href=”http://www.wilkensfarm.com/” target=”_blank”>Wilkens Farm</a> in Yorktown Heights. We all received a half-bushel bag to fill. (Thanks, boss!) We also enjoyed some sugared doughnuts and cider (and had to flee from the very active late-season bees while we were at it).

The good news: We have consumed or given away about three-quarters of the apples we picked on our first outing. Even better news: I found a bunch of great apple recipes that I’ll share. Also: Here are some tips for storing apples that I found in my research:

• Don’t wash them before you store them.
• The key to preserving apples for storage is choosing to save only perfect apples. If there are any bruises or nicks, put them in the fridge to eat right away.
• After sorting, wrap the apples individually in newspaper to prevent the gas of death (otherwise known as ethylene gas) to spread among the apples. Yes, it’s true: One bad apple can spoil the rest. Also: Don’t use the colored pages of the newspaper for food.
• We put our apples in a big diaper box in our foyer, which is on the ground level and stays much cooler than the rest of the house. We hope that will be a good place to keep them for a while.
• If you haven’t gone picking yet, you’re actually in luck because the late-ripening varieties of apples actually store the best. (That means I’ll just have to go again!)

Once again, Pumpkin was the chief apple picker on our outing. She had a lot of fun. “Me pick apple,” was heard frequently. We met a couple of other families with small children, including a couple from the Bronx who had a month-old baby in a sling happily sleeping as the family gathered apples. Here is a photo of Pumpkin busy with the apple trees:

violet4.jpg

As lovely as the orchard was, I do have to say that <a href=”http://www.meadorchards.com/” target=”_blank”>Mead</a> probably has the edge if you have a mixed party of tiny tots and older folks. The dwarf trees were easy to reach for people whose height still hasn’t reached 3 feet, and the level lanes were easy to traverse for my mother-in-law, who was recovering from foot surgery. It was definitely hilly and bumpy at Wilkens Farm and took a bit more stamina. Pumpkin, for instance, was saying “Up” by the end of the outing.

Now, for the recipes:

Julie’s Apple Pie

7-8 apples, peeled and sliced
Lemon, halved (to rub on peeled apples to preserve color before slicing — it also adds a brightness to the flavor of the pie)
1 cup sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the apples)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch allspice
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger (my secret ingredient!)
Pie crust (Your favorite homemade recipe or Pillsbury)

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees. Combine apples and other ingredients in a big bowl. Place bottom crust in 9-inch pie pan (I like Pyrex), pour in apple mixture, cover with second crust and pinch edges. Cut away a leaf pattern in center to let steam escape. Cover edges either with tin foil or a crust protector. (I cannot emphasize enough what a good investment this is. If you’ve never seen one, <a href=”http://www.thebakersplace.com/mrsanpiecrus.html” target=”_blank”>click on this link</a>.) Bake for one hour or until golden brown and bubbly.

Julie’s Apple and Carrot Soup

2 pounds carrots
2 apples, diced
1 onion, diced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup Arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 32-ounce can chicken broth
2-3 cups water
Salt and white pepper to taste

Heat oils in large soup pot. (I like to use an enamel-covered cast iron Dutch oven from Le Creuset because you never have to worry about your soup or sauce burning on the bottom.) Sauté onion and ginger for about five minutes, until soft and slightly translucent. Add carrots and apples and sauté for a few minutes more. Add broth, rice, soy sauce and water. Simmer on low heat for about a half hour, until the carrots are very tender. Blend until smooth using an immersion blender or a traditional blender. You may need to add more water if the soup is too thick. Enjoy!

Note: I adapted this recipe from a great book titled “<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Saved-Soup-Delicious-Low-Fat-Soups/dp/0688153003″ target=”_blank”>Saved by Soup</a>.” The book gave me the idea for the Arborio rice as a thickener. I added the Asian touches, like the sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce. I also like this soup with a half-cup or so of orange juice in place of the apples.

Pork chops with spiced sweet potatoes and apples

This is a great main course from Bon Appétit’s March 1999 issue that I found on Epicurious.com. Here’s a <a href=”http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/100951″ target=”_blank”>link to the original recipe</a>, which I modified slightly.

6 thin-sliced boneless pork chops
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yams, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced into rings
2 apples, peeled and thickly sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté pork chops until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Add onion and potato to pan. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until onion is golden and softening, about 7 minutes. Mix in apple and cinnamon. Place pork chops among the vegetables. Add water. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Watch it closely because the potatoes can get overcooked easily. Salt and pepper to taste.

I’ve made this three times now, including once for dinner guests, and it was a big hit with everyone. (Except my mom, who dislikes sweet with her savory dishes.)

Apple Meat Loaf

OK, you’re thinking, “What?!” That’s what I thought, too, when I saw this recipe from the <a href=”http://www.nyapplecountry.com/recipes.htm” target=”_blank”>New York Apple Association</a>. But, I’m nothing if not adventurous in the kitchen, and decided to give it a try. It was pretty good! Very moist, as you’d except. It was a BIG hit with Pumpkin, who normally isn’t too fond of ground beef. I think it might even be better with a mix of beef and ground lamb and some nutmeg, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. One warning: I was lazy and didn’t chop the apples finely enough and my meatloaf was slightly crumbly. I would recommend giving them a quick turn in the food processor (just don’t make applesauce).

2 cups apples, finely chopped (really, really finely)
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 cups stuffing mix
1 large onion, minced
3 tablespoons horseradish (to be honest, I thought this was too overpowering — I’d use two next time)
3 eggs
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Shape into loaf on greased baking pan. (Don’t go right to the edges because this gives off a fair amount of juice.) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I served it with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. It was very nice.

And if you need another reason to go pick apples — besides family camaraderie and a feeling of connection to the harvest — food scientists at Cornell University have found that apples can actually <a href=”http://www.news.cornell.edu/Stories/March05/apples.cancer.ssl.html” target=”_blank”>ward off breast cancer</a>. If that’s not a family friendly reason to go apple-picking, I don’t know what is.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 1:10 am |
| | 2 Comments »

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Dating again

September
28

One of the key questions for a single parent who wants to date is “when.”

Most single parents I know are dating for the first time in years, and now have to juggle time with the kids and all the issues that brings. I’ve found many of them are more comfortable with online dating, simply because the traditional dating places and rituals just aren’t appealing. They’ve just matured since they first met their ex — the last time most have dated.

The answer to the “when” to date question varies, simply because there are nuances to every single-parent situation, and you know our emotional readiness best. Parents also differ on the other “when” question of when to introduce your children to a dating partner. Obviously, it depends largely on the seriousness — and future potential — of the relationship. But it varies. I have one friend who dated someone of two years and never introduced him to her son. (There are issues there for another discussion).

Personally, I think you have to start by asking yourself some questions, about why you want to date again, how willing or able you are to discuss it with your children, and how prepared you think they are for a new relationship in your life. In general, I think you need to ask yourself what you hope for in a relationship first.

Anyway, it’s important to talk this through, particularly with other single parents. I found a pretty good piece on the subject from The Hartford Courant that was carried on the newswire. See what you think:

By Kathleen Megan

The Hartford Courant

The cell-phone calls would start a couple hours after she left. “Mom, it’s 10 o’clock, when are you coming home?�
And later, “Mom, where are you now, Mom?�
When Anita Garvey started dating a couple years after her divorce, her teen daughters said they were happy for her, but even so, it wasn’t easy on the kids — or Garvey.
“It was almost like I was a teenager. It was like a role reversal,� said Garvey, who was divorced four years ago. It was perhaps made harder, she said, because she had been an at-home mom for most of her children’s lives, leaving the house to work only six years ago.
“They were used to having me 24/7,� said Garvey, of South Windsor, Conn . “Working was a little hard for them to digest, and then divorce was hard for them, and then when I started dating, I could sense they felt me pulling away.�
Finally, one of her daughters said, “Mom, you know, I’m not liking this too much.�
For parents who are navigating the dating scene in search of a new partner, the process of parenting while on the prowl is delicate at best.
The challenges for a single parent range from the practical — finding the time, a sitter and a date — to the complex: gauging whether you are ready for a relationship, what your child’s emotional reaction is, whether the date has long-term potential. All of this may make it seem easier to simply wait until the kids are out of the house.
But even then there can be problems — twentysomethings have been known to dislike mom’s boyfriend as much as 12-year-olds — so it’s probably worth proceeding when you feel you’re ready, experts say. With 25 percent of families with children in homes run by single parents, according to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau figures, you’ll have plenty of company.
Here is some advice from experts and parents who have been there.
First, make sure you are ready to date, said Donna Ferber, a licensed professional counselor in Farmington, Conn., with a specialty in life transitions and author of “From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce.� When a marriage has ended in divorce, Ferber said, “It’s good to take the time to learn what went wrong before anesthetizing with a new relationship.�
Priscilla Dunstan, an Australia-based specialist on communication with children — known internationally as the “baby listenerâ€? — and a single mother herself, suggests setting up social and recreational times with friends from the beginning. This gives you social support, while also getting your children used to the idea that you need time for a social life, too. This way, Dunstan said, “when you start dating … your children won’t feel that your date is taking up their time with you, it’s just a regular night out.â€?
If there’s one mistake that gets made too often, according to Ferber, it’s introducing children to a partner before the child is ready or before the parent knows whether the person has much potential for a stable relationship.
“The child may not be through grieving,� Ferber said . “The parent may feel like this is something new and exciting, but their child may not be on the same page.�
“Secondly, if you do connect and then break up, the child experiences a loss all over again,� Ferber said .
Dale Macken, who was divorced 14 years ago when his children were 4 and 1, said that over the years he’d never introduce a new girlfriend to his daughters until he was fairly certain the relationship would be long-term.
And when he did introduce a date to his daughter, he’d call the woman simply a “friend.�
“But Dad, they are ‘girls,’ and they are ‘friends,’ so they are your ‘girlfriends,�’ he recalls his daughter once saying to him. “No, honey,� he’d tell her, “they are friends who are girls.�
Macken, who lives in Bristol, Conn., joined a singles group at his church. He liked it because he could get to know a woman first in a group setting before thinking about a romantic involvement. Macken and Garvey are now dating.
It’s “a slippery slope� deciding when to introduce kids to a potential mate, Ferber said.
A Bristol mother, who did not want her name published, said she probably introduced her two young sons too early to one boyfriend. “In the beginning you are naive about dating, at least I was,� she said. “This boyfriend, he made promises and then basically walked out. My children were kind of soured on me dating after that.�
That was two years ago, and the Bristol mom has been more careful since then about whom she introduces to her sons. She said she senses that her sons, ages 17 and 14 now, “are comfortable with the way things are. … They don’t want to meet anyone unless it’s serious, and they probably would prefer no one at all.â€?
Dunstan said in an e-mail, “Your family home is a sanctuary, not only for you, but especially for your children. It is therefore extremely important that you are guarded with whom you let into that sanctuary.�
If you’re not sure where the relationship is headed, Dunstan suggests seeing the person when the children are not home or going somewhere else.
Jeff Palitz, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego, said he knew of some parents who wouldn’t introduce the kids to a love interest until the relationship had lasted six months or longer. “I’m not sure that extreme is really necessary,� Palitz said .
Therapists advise against inviting a date to sleep over when the kids are home. “This is their house, and they shouldn’t be intruded upon,� Garvey said . “I try to put myself in their shoes.�
But what if, after all the conversations, your child doesn’t want you to date or doesn’t particularly like the person you are dating?
Usually this is less about the person and more about the child’s grief about the divorce or a parent’s death.
Palitz encourages parents to keep talking to children. It’s natural for a child to act out or start to regress if they are going through a difficult time, he said. Keep open the possibility of getting therapy for the child.
There are some parents who say “if my kid doesn’t like you, you’re out,� Palitz said . In general, most experts say that approach gives the child too much power.
Palitz said some parents talk about waiting until the child is “healed� from a divorce or a death before they begin to date.
“They could be waiting forever,� he said. “So they may need to make a decision that they are going to start dating — and that may actually help the child move forward.�
If a child continues to hate the boyfriend or girlfriend, Palitz said, “parents have to be very careful to be respectful of children’s feelings, to hear them and acknowledge them, but the child is also expected to treat the significant other with respect. They don’t have to like them, but they need to be respectful.�
However, if a child persists in disliking your love interest, Palitz said, it’s worth looking closely at the relationship to make sure the child isn’t picking up on something you’ve overlooked.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, September 28th, 2007 at 2:03 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Apples for a Pumpkin

September
18

0918-apples.jpgIt turns out that picking apples is really, really easy. Too easy. I have a whole bushel’s worth in my foyer to prove it. And do you know who picked the majority of those apples? Pumpkin! Yup, a 2-year-old can be an able apple-picker, especially at a kid-friendly orchard planted with dwarf trees. This Sunday, we went up to <a href=”http://www.meadorchards.com/” target=”_blank”>Mead Orchards</a> in Dutchess County with my husband’s two sisters, their children and one of their husband’s and my mother- and father-in-law. One sister lives up in the Albany area, so Tivoli was a nice halfway point. It was a sunny day, the apples were red and cheerful and it was just so darn easy to keep filling those bags!

We also had a great picnic lunch on tables steps away from the trees — I got to try out this recipe for “<a href=”http://www.cookiemag.com/food/2007/06/recipeCoolerSandwiches” target=”_blank”>Cooler-Pressed Sandwiches</a>” I’d been saving from the July issue of Cookie magazine. I made all three: Tuna and Artichoke; Mozzarella and Peppers; and Ham and Corn Relish. They were easy to make and the flavor combination gave the sandwiches the feeling of a special treat. The only fault was my own. I used ciabatta instead of the recommended baguette and the sandwiches didn’t get as “pressed” as they might have with a squishier loaf. My favorite was the tuna fish and artichoke. I made it with tuna packed in olive oil and squeezed a whole fresh lemon. The flavors were so bright.

In short, it was a terrific family day. I highly recommend apple picking with kids of all ages. And there’s no need to drive all the way up to Dutchess. Check out this site from the <a href=”http://www.nyapplecountry.com/” target=”_blank”>New York Apple Association</a>. You can click on a county and see listings for “pick your own” farms. Local farms with Web sites include <a href=”http://www.salingersorchard.com/” target=”_blank”>Salingers Orchard</a> in Brewster, <a href=”http://www.drdaviesfarm.com/” target=”_blank”>Dr. Davies Farm</a> in Congers and <a href=”http://www.wilkensfarm.com/” target=”_blank”>Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm</a> in Yorktown Heights. So, get picking! Just don’t come home with a bushel if you don’t know what you’re going to do with them! (My colleague and food editor extraordinaire, Liz Johnson, has kindly <a href=”http://lizjohnson.lohudblogs.com/2007/09/17/apples/” target=”_blank”>posted a notice on her Small Bites blog</a> asking for helpful recipes. I already made a pie and a Waldorf salad. I bought pork chops for tonight’s dinner and will be scanning the Web for a good apple and pork recipe. I only have about 60 apples to go!)

Here are some photos of our day of fun to inspire you to get out and pick your own apples!

Here is Pumpkin picking her first apples:

picking-1.jpg

She even put them in the bag herself:
0916-bagging.jpg
There’s nothing like the taste of an apple right off the tree. Here is my niece, Samantha, sampling a Cortland:
0918-sam.jpg

My sister-in-law, Stephanie, relaxes around the picnic table while her daughter, Rachel, enjoys a fresh-picked apple:

0918-steph.jpg

One of the best parts of a day in the country? Taking the time to smell the clover:

0918-clover.jpg

Here’s the haul in the trunk ready to come home:

0919-trunk.jpg

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 at 1:56 am |
| | 4 Comments »

It’s good to be a single parent

September
17

Single parents are as happy, if not more so, than married folks. At least that’s what Yahoo! Personals says in a new survey timed to coincide with the start of National Singles Week today.

Now, keep in mind that the survey was conducted by an online dating site, so the results may mirror that. (Note the Yahoo! plug at the end of the article). But I’m a big believer in making the most of what you’re dealt, and taking an optimistic view of life. So this may provide a boost for single parents who occasionally feel overburdened and down on life.

Here’s a newswire article with some of the details:

SUNNYVALE, Calif—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Sep. 17, 2007—Contrary to popular opinion, married (1) people don’t have the edge over singles when it comes to happiness. Just in time for National Singles Week (September 17 -21), a new survey commissioned by Yahoo! Personals and conducted by Harris Interactive(R) reveals that singles, including single parents, view themselves as more so or just as happy, financially secure, and adventurous as their married counterparts. Almost nine out of 10 singles (88 percent) say they are just as, if not more, happy than their married counterparts.
The survey also found that while single parents list finding someone as the most challenging aspect of dating, they face a unique test when deciding how to introduce a date to their children. Twenty eight percent of single parents wait until they envision a future with their significant other before introducing him/her to their children. At the other end of the spectrum, 19 percent bite the bullet and make the introductions when they first start dating.
“It has never been a better time to be a single parent and looking for that special someone,” said Anna Zornosa, vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Personals, the most visited online dating service. “Single parents are typically in a social circle filled with married parents. Online dating expands the dating pool, helping single parents find potential dates who are open to dating someone with children more easily.”
Single and Enjoying Life
The survey results about singles’ lives add context to a U.S. Census Bureau announcement earlier this year that more American women were living without husbands than with them, and a 2005 finding that for the first time, married couples had become a minority of all U.S. households.
When asked about how they perceive themselves in relation to their married friends:
• 88 percent of all singles surveyed say they are just as, if not more, happy;
• 81 percent feel they are just as, or more, successful in their career;
• 72 percent feel they are just as, or more, financially secure;
• 84 percent say they are just as, or more, open to new experiences; and
• 78 percent feel that they are just as, or more, physically fit.
The survey also showed that only 30 percent of singles feel that they are more self-indulgent than their married counterparts. In contrast, 39 percent of married respondents feel that they are just as, or more, self-indulgent than their single friends.
“Compared with their married friends, singles see themselves as getting more out of life,” says Caroline Presno, a psychotherapist, and author of “Profiling Your Date, A Smart Woman’s Guide to Evaluating a Man. “This study suggests that singles are seeing their lives as an adventure, and that they perceive no ’happiness gap’ compared to married friends.”
Bruce Willis: Most Admired Single Parent
Yahoo! Personals also asked single parents which single celebrity parent they most admire. Topping the list was Bruce Willis with 28 percent of the vote. The father of three received more than double the amount of votes as Reese Witherspoon, who came in with 12 percent. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline came in with an extremely low percentage of votes, with Britney receiving 2 percent and Kevin receiving 1 percent. Also on the list was Diane Keaton (6 percent), P. Diddy (5 percent), and Sheryl Crow (4 percent).
Sexy Sells! Singles Reveal Their Celebrity Favorites
Yahoo! Personals also asked singles which celebrity they would most want to date, and topping the lists were some of the sexiest celebrities in America. Out of the single celebrity males, People’s 2006 “Sexiest Man Alive,” George Clooney, received 20 percent of the single female vote for who they would most want to date. People’s 2005 “Sexiest Man Alive,” Matthew McConaughey, was not far behind on the list with 13 percent of the vote. Also included on the list: Andy Roddick (5 percent), Derek Jeter (4 percent), and Ricky Martin (3 percent).
When single males were asked which single celebrity female they would most like to date, FHM’s 2007 “Sexiest Woman,” Jessica Alba, topped the list with 28 percent of the vote. Jennifer Aniston was not far behind with 11 percent of the vote, Queen Latifah got 7 percent of the vote, and Jessica Simpson finished with only 6 percent of the vote. Also included on the list: Maria Sharapova (3 percent), Sandra Oh (1 percent), and Padma Lakshmi (1 percent), host of Top Chef.
About Yahoo! Personals
Yahoo! Personals was first introduced in the U.S. in 1997 and has grown to become one of the leading and most popular online dating services available. The service offers a large, dynamic dating scene where users can search for, meet and communicate with a variety of people. For more information, visit http://personals.yahoo.com.
About the survey:
The Yahoo! Personals Singles survey was conducted by telephone within the United States between August 16 and August 19 among 1,005 U.S. adults ages 18+. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region, and race where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.
Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100 percent response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
(1) For the purposes of this study “married adults” are defined as U.S. adults ages 18+ who are married or living as a married.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, September 17th, 2007 at 10:58 am |
| | 6 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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