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Archive for the 'Shopping' Category

Pharmacy gives candy to kids in pill bottles

June
24

Sometimes people just don’t get it, do they? Check out <a href=”http://consumerist.com/5299890/sams-club-giving-kids-candy-in-pill-bottles” target=”_blank”>this report on Consumerist</a> about a Sam’s Club in Maryland that is putting candy like Dots and Tootsie Rolls in prescription bottles labeled with an advertising message touting the pharmacy. Here is a link to the <a href=”http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/06/saturday-at-sams-club.html” target=”_blank”>original blog post</a>. And here is a photo of the offending “treats.”

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

Exploiting parents’ worst fear

June
3

Worry. This is a catch-all word for emotions that can range from mild to heart-pounding, depending on whether your child is merely testing her skills on the playground or pulling out of your hand to run toward traffic.

I’m what an earlier generation liked to call a “worrywart.” I worry about almost everything, but usually succeed in communicating none of that worry to my child. I encourage her to try new things, while taking appropriate care against hazards of course.

Probably most parents are worrywarts to some extent, which is why marketers are so effective at getting us to spend a fortune baby-proofing our homes and buying safety devices.

In my in-box today was a promo for a product called the <a href=”http://www.snuza.com/pages/en/home.php” target=”_blank”>Snuza</a>. It’s a baby monitor that clips to your infant’s diaper and monitors movement. If the device doesn’t sense a movement in 15 seconds, it stimulates the baby with a “pulsed vibration.” If no movement is sensed after another 5 seconds, an alarm goes off. On the Web site’s frequently-asked-questions page, the maker acknowledges this is not a medical device but is more akin to the heart monitors people wear while they exercise.

As I read all this over, I found myself getting angry at this company for exploiting parents’ fear of sudden infant death syndrome to sell a lifestyle gadget.

You see, my daughter, as readers of this blog know, was a preemie. When she was in the hospital for more than two months, she was hooked up to an actual medical monitor. Learning to interpret the sounds it made took a while. At first, I was worried every time it went off, but the nurses assured me that those weren’t the beeps to be concerned about. Then, one day, I was holding her when it went off with a new sound. Assuming it was one of those unimportant beeps, I ignored it. That was until a nurse quickly came up and started vigorously rubbing my baby’s back to remind her to breath. That wasn’t the only time I had that experience. I, too, learned to rub her back when the monitor went off a certain way.

Then, one day, it was time to take her home, to take her off the monitor where I could watch how fast her heart was beating, how many breaths she took a minute and how much oxygen was in her blood.

It was leap of faith. Faith in the doctors that they wouldn’t send her home before she was ready. Faith that she would be OK. And faith that I would at last get to be her mom in our own home.

I buried my worries and embraced a normal family life. If my daughter had needed a monitor, then the doctors would have sent her home with one. (As, indeed, they did for some preemies.)

What if I had given in to my darker fears and bought a contraption like the Snuza? It’s not a medical device, as the maker clearly states. If your child needed a monitor, wouldn’t you want a medical device that could actually save her life? So who is it for? The parents. To feed their worry. The Web site proclaims: “How did we cope before Snuza? It’s been a great relief to finally get a good night’s sleep.”

What kind of goodnight ritual is it when you attach a monitor to your baby’s diaper? Isn’t that saying, in effect, I don’t trust you to live until morning without this thing? Every new parent has this fear, and every new parent gets over it — except those who are reminded of it daily when they buy products like the Snuza, that is.

I am not minimizing the risk of SIDS. I can easily imagine the agony. But the American SIDS Institute does NOT list devices like the Snuza in its <a href=”http://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm” target=”_blank”>advice for parents</a>, which includes placing infants on their backs to sleep without any soft coverings that can suffocate. New research also shows that having a <a href=”http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-10-06-SIDS-fans_N.htm” target=”_blank”>fan in the room</a> can also lesson the risk of SIDS.

What do you think about devices like the Snuza? More harm than help or a useful addition to the nursery?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

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 »

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What’s in those backpacks anyway?

July
22

What is up with these backpacks that are so heavy that kids are being weighed down like mountaineers? At the risk of sounding like someone who should be leaning on a walker and eating dinner at 4 p.m., I’d like to point out that when I was a kid, we didn’t even carry backpacks! Somehow I managed to bring home all the materials I needed to do my homework without looking like I was ready to hike the Himalayas.

This is on my mind because it’s the time of year when, once again, the obligatory warnings about the dangers of the weight of these things are coming out. Consumer Reports, which is published in Yonkers, is way ahead on this issue. In their research, they found some sixth graders carried 18.4 pounds in the backpacks — about 17.2 percent of their body weight. Consumer Reports recommends staying closer to 10 percent of body weight.

What is in these backpacks, anyway? Pumpkin is several years away from homework assignments and all they entail, so I’m operating without first-hand knowledge. But I ask you other parents: Do kids really need to carry every book home, every night? Is that what makes up the load? Or, are your kids carrying mini survival kits on their backs? I know my daughter, given her druthers, would bring half the contents of her room with her in the car every time we leave the house for a half hour. So far, we’ve managed to keep it down to her Elmo doll (sometimes two Elmo dolls), a book, her sippy cup, a baggie of <a href=”http://www.annies.com/bunny_grahams” target=”_blank”>Annie’s Homegrown Chocolate Bunny Grahams</a> and her purple blanket. Are your third-graders carrying their own equivalent of this in their packs? Is that why they are so heavy?

If you are buying a new backpack this fall, Consumer Reports recommends looking for these features:

• Shoulder straps that are contoured and padded to soften the load of the pack on a child’s back.

• A waist belt to stabilize the pack and transfer weight to the hips.

• A padded or quilted back or one with mesh fabric to make the bag less sweaty on steamy days.

• Compression straps on the sides of the pack to tighten a partially-filled backpack.

• Reflective trim on the back and sides of the pack to add visibility in the fall and winter months, when kids may travel to and from school in near darkness.

Here is the special section on back-to-school at <a href=”http://www.consumerreports.org/backtoschool” target=”_blank”>Consumer Reports</a>.

I’m thinking about writing a story about the growth in backpack sales and how these have become a must-have back-to-school item. If anyone would like to lend their insight to the story, send me an e-mail at jalterio@lohud.com or call me at 914-666-6189.

Otherwise, comment here about what the heck is in your kids’ backpacks — unless you’ve been afraid to look!

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 12:49 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

3 lbs. of bacon

June
24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 10:03 am |
| | Comments Off on 3 lbs. of bacon

Kids’ clothes, what’s reasonable?

March
18

sunflower.jpgSo, last week I bought Pumpkin her first outfit of the spring: A darling sunflower dress with cute matching shoes and sweater at babyGap. My mom bought her the matching hat and purse. The price of all this cuteness? Let’s just say more than $100. Ah, but it’s her Easter outfit, you see. That’s how I can justify it. And because we aren’t seeing the whole family for Easter this year, I’ll be able to put her in it again a month and a half later for her birthday party. Such are my rationalizations. (And, in just three springs, it’s become a tradition to buy Pumpkin’s Easter dress at <a href=”http://www.gap.com/browse/division.do?cid=6344″ target=”_blank”> babyGap</a>.)

I know I have spent too much on Pumpkin’s clothes in the past, at least by my husband’s and mom’s measures. But I think my sin has been more in the quantity than the quality. (Does a toddler really need 14 outfits?) I think babyGap and Gymboree offer pretty reasonable prices for very well-made clothes that hold up in the wash. And I always look for sales when possible.

pink.jpgAt least I don’t shop at <a href=”http://www.bodenusa.com/” target=”_blank”>Boden</a>! That’s what got me on this topic in the first place. I have the Boden catalog in my house, and, it must be said: The clothes are just wonderful. But wow: $28 for a T-shirt for a toddler? $30 for twill shorts? I confess I am tempted by the “<a href=”http://www.bodenusa.com/col.asp?styid=%33%33%30%36%32&segname=%47%69%72%6C%73&segid=%35&gpname=%44%72%65%73%73%65%73%20%26%20%50%69%6E%61%66%6F%72%65%73&desname=%46%75%6E%20%41%70%70%6C%69%71%75%65%20%44%72%65%73%73&gpid=%37&gen=%31&col=%50%4E%4B#swatch” target=”_blank”>Fun Applique Dress</a>,” at right, which is nearly irresistible (and nearly affordable at $38). And, I really, really don’t shop at <a href=”http://www.jcrew.com/crewcuts_home.jhtml?_requestid=80774″ target=”_blank”>crewcuts</a>, where a seersucker wrap skirt is $48 and a madras dress is $78!

What are your secret shopping indulgences when it comes to your kids? And is this something unique to parents of daughters — or do moms of sons also go nuts for cute outfits for their little ones?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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Do you pay more to go ‘Green’?

March
17

I’m doing a report in time for Earth Day on the cost of going “Green.” I’m hoping to explore the choices consumers make to spend more money on environmentally friendly products even though there are cheaper conventional alternatives. This can include everything from organic milk to CFLs to chlorine-free bathtub cleaner to the Toyota Prius.

As a mom, I find myself thinking a lot about this issue because I worry about the cumulative exposure to toxins, pesticides and chemicals I can help Pumpkin avoid by doing my part to shop Green. But, there is no way around it, some of these options are pricier. I wonder if the cost is enough to limit the spread of this trend to people with more disposable income. (I know I find myself shying away from buying all organic produce because of the cost.)

Give me a call at 914-666-6189 if you want to be interviewed for my story. (I’d love your thoughts on this!) You can also e-mail me at jalterio@lohud.com. I need to hear from you this week to make my deadline.

Also, in my research on this topic, I came across this <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/WholeFoodsMarket” target=”_blank”>neat contest</a> that Whole Foods is running. They are urging young people to create a video about making the planet “a greener place.” So, if you have a preteen or teenage videophile, this might be a fun way to channel his or her energy.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, March 17th, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Holiday lights

February
13

cat.jpgOn a holiday shopping trip at Target in December, I just happened to look up on a high shelf and spot a really, really cute purple glitter Christmas tree that was just 2 feet tall. Purple happens to be Pumpkin’s favorite color — by far. Her room is purple, so that may be what triggered the obsession, but obsession it is.

“What color are mama’s eyes?”
“Purple.”

“What color is the sky?”
“Purple”

Me, singing: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.”
Pumpkin: “… when skies are purple.”

So, the purple tree was irresistible. I thought it might be a fun novelty for the holidays. But then a wonderful thing happened. A spur-of-the-minute gift turned into a tradition. Every night before bed, we turned on the tree’s lights before reading books. Then we turned off the lamp and sang peaceful Christmas carols to the soft glow of the tree. Over the course of a month, we got used to the ritual. When it came time to put away the holiday decor, we all missed the tree.

So, I started thinking about finding another kind of light, one that would be appropriate the whole year around. Taking my cue from Pumpkin’s other obsession — cats — I found the Siamese cat lamp by Offi (pictured above) at <a href=”http://www.oompa.com/” target=”_blank”>Oompa toys</a>.

It’s in a box waiting for Pumpkin to open tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. I am very excited to see her reaction. My only concern is that she’ll hug the lamp too much! You should have seen how crumpled the tree got!

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 at 6:37 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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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How ‘Green’ is your holiday?

December
11

As a reporter, I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Often their perspectives can get me thinking about my own views and habits. That happened this month when I talked to local folks about the ways they are making sure their holiday celebrations aren’t an environmental burden on the Earth.

I talked to people who are buying outdoor lights powered by the Sun, people who are making their own wrapping paper, even people who are giving away renewable energy credits as gifts. Here is a <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090341/1066″ target=”_blank”>link to the main story</a> on making your holiday “Green.” Here is a <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090338/1066″ target=”_blank”>link to a sidebar full of tips</a>. (My favorite: Save this year’s holiday cards to make tags for next year’s presents.) And <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090340/1066″ target=”_blank”>here is a link</a> to a story on the lead risks of plastic holiday decor, such as lights, and the popularity of real Christmas trees among the environmentally savvy.

Doing this package made me think a little guiltily about my own environmental footprint during the holidays. I get a lot of catalogs. A LOT. I tend to burn my Christmas tree lights all day long when I’m home. Worst of all: I am a glutton when it comes to giving presents and wrapping them in fancy paper. This photo from last year’s Christmas kind of tells the whole story of my environmentally un-friendly habits:

1211-presents.jpg
And yet, if you asked me about other ways I try and do my part, I’d point to my (mostly) diligent recycling, my effort to turn off lights when I’m not in the room, my habit of combining errands in one trip, etc. I think the holidays can make us all go nuts in the consumption department. Last year was Pumpkin’s second Christmas — and the first she really was able to participate in by unwrapping her own gifts, eating cookies, etc. So, I went crazy. So crazy, in fact, that we were still unwrapping after dinner. That’s how long it took to get through the presents!

I was inspired this year to change some of my ways by the stories I heard from local parents. We bought some Philips outdoor lights with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. They use just a tiny fraction of the electricity of incandescent bulbs. I bought some environmentally friendly gifts. I shopped locally when I could. Next year, with more time to plan, we’ll do more. I love the Pratt family’s wrapping solution. Randy Pratt, who runs the Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights, told me the family shops after the holiday for discount Christmas fabric and makes their own long-lasting gift bags. What a great idea!

1211-paper.jpgI was also inspired by Laura Barkat of Ossining. Here, at right, is some really cute homemade holiday paper created last year by her girls, who are now 10 and 8. Laura gives the girls just three gifts between the two of them, one shared and one each. Last year, the eldest mended her younger sister’s favorite pajamas as a holiday gift. “She saw that her sister was about to lose her favorite pajamas. They were unwearable. She put patches on the knees and mended them and there they were Christmas morning,” Laura told me. When I asked Laura to sum up her feelings on the topic, she sent me an e-mail. Here is what she wrote:

“First, I wanted to say that being green is sometimes framed as a list of do’s and don’ts. But in our family it’s more about restoring our lives and the life of our community and world. By ‘restoring,’ I mean ‘refilling’ or ‘restocking.’ So, being green is about what we add to our lives that makes them more precious and less full of negative impact. On this note, being green is also about ‘re-storying’ our lives. Picking a different life narrative than the Climb to Success, finding a different identity or character than Consumer. We choose, instead, to weave a narrative of Love, to discover and encourage our ingenuity and intense potential for human creativity. On a practical level, this means we focus on meaningful ritual, tradition, sharing, and memory-making, rather than on ‘stuff’ (the consuming of stuff, the provision of stuff by others, and the pursuit of stuff as a ‘right’ to the exclusion of the health of family, community and environment). This is a year-round goal, to change our focus from buying stuff to ritual, but at Christmas it takes a particular shape.”

Like Laura, I feel it’s important for my holiday habits to reflect our own values. And I’ll admit my habits need a bit of a makeover. But I plan to do it because I want Pumpkin to share in the awe and wonder of the holiday’s true message rather than the message I might inadvertently send by spoiling her with too many presents and not eliminating my own wasteful ways. What do the rest of you parents think? Are you feeling the urge to go “Green” this holiday? What lessons do you try and teach your kids about the environment through your habits — in December and all year long?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 at 12:01 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Santa letters

November
23

As a single parent, I think I always tried harder to make my son happy at Christmas.

Deep down, I wanted to compensate for the fact that his mom and I weren’t together, and whatever guilty feelings that carries as a parent. So he got extra presents and things like that. I always wanted to make his Christmas as “normal” as possible.

And we’ve always had a shared Christmas. By that I mean that his mom comes over first thing on Christmas morning. Our custody deal stipulates that my son is with me every Christmas. His mom is Jewish and was willing to allow that Christmas would always be celebrated in my home. But she has made it a point to celebrate with us, and is there first thing.

Anyway, Christmas has always been a time of plenty for my son, as it should for any kid. And I don’t necessarily want that to change entirely. But I do want him to appreciate what he has a bit more. That’s why we’re doing a different kind of Santa letter this year.

This year, he’s going to be involved in filling a Santa letter from a needy kid at the local post office, his first experience doing it. Now, we do want to make sure it’s from a child in need, not a kid who simply wants extra toys. If you’re doing this for the first time yourself, check with your post office to ensure they’re weeding out the right ones.

The way I see it, there are kids right down the street who don’t have a proper coat or shoes, let alone a toy or two. If my son has two coats, he should give one up to someone in need. Because my son isn’t the only kid who should have a “normal” a Christmas as possible.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, November 23rd, 2007 at 5:08 pm |
| | 5 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 »

Are you giving gift cards this holiday?

November
15

More than half of consumers will be giving at least one gift card this holiday. They are particularly popular options among aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., who might not know the personal preferences of the recipient. I’m planning a story on the pitfalls and pluses of gift cards. <a href=”http://www.consumerreports.org” target=”_blank”>Consumer Reports</a>, the Yonkers-based consumer watchdog, has a lot to say on the topic to educate shoppers about the cards’ pros and cons, and I’m talking with them for the story. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with the cards. If you’ve received gift cards, have you used them or did you leave them in your wallet? Has a store ever given you a hard time about redeeming one? What are your nieces, nephews and grandchildren telling you about their feelings on gift cards? Give me a call at 914-666-6189 or e-mail me at jalterio@lohud.com if you’d like to be part of the story.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, November 15th, 2007 at 3:49 am |
| | 1 Comment »

This makes holiday shopping difficult…

October
26

With yet another toy recall in the news, I began wondering: What exactly will I be buying for holiday gifts for my nephews, who live in North Carolina?

Sure, I can be the “un-fun” auntie and get them clothes, but they’re 9 and 6! And Old Navy box probably won’t get the joint jumping. But with all the recalls, I don’t know what’s safe and what’s not, particularly when I’m buying online. I suppose I can consult some Web sites to find out which toys manufacturers are likely to use safe paints and parts, but I would bet that severely limit my choices.

My own kids, who are 13 and 9, are stuck on video games, clothes and a board game here and there, so I’m not as concerned. Plus, when I buy for them, I can look at the item, touch it, smell it and feel it, so I feel like I might make a better — and hopefully — safer choice. But when I’m buying online, I’m buying somewhat blindly.

What are you planning to buy for the children in your life? And have the many toy recalls affected your choices?

Posted by Gayle T. Williams on Friday, October 26th, 2007 at 4:52 pm |
| | 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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