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Archive for the 'Summer' Category

Our blended family vacation

July
13

There’s always a unique kind of dynamic with these situations — in our case two parents, each with their own child. That’s our blended family.

Last week we all hauled ourselves upstate and settled into a lakeside cabin, and I came away with some observations.


The interesting dynamic is how a blended family operates in these situations. We did all of the family activities you would expect: Canoeing, swimming, toasting marshmallows, taking a hike to a waterfall, etc.

But, in the end, there’s always a bit of a division that happens at the end of the day. That’s not to say it’s in a bad way, necessarily. But, ultimately, I gravitate toward my son and my girlfriend towards hers. The inescapable fact is that I am ultimately responsible for my son and she for hers, much as we do generally function as a family.

Is that bad? As I said, not necessarily.

But it’s certainly a different component that you don’t find in your traditional family. The hope is that, with time, those divisions are minimized. But I suspect they’ll always be there in some capacity.

My question is does this happen in traditonal families also?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

Recommended: Pacem in Terris

June
22

Pretty unique and rewarding Father’s Day for me this year, and something I’d recommend.

We shelved the idea of a cookout or a ballgame this time out, and instead headed upstate to Warwick to visit Pacem in Terris — six acres of sculpture and meditation gardens along the Wawayanda River.

The gardens are the life work of Frederick Franck, a Dutch-born sculptor and author who spent nearly half a century adorning the land around his home with sculptures, artwork and meditation spaces. The NY Times did a nice piece on it three years ago.

Pacem in Terris essentially translates from Latin to mean Peace on Earth, and it’s in keeping with Franck’s spiritual outlook on life. Franck, who wrote more than 30 books on Buddhism and other subjects, died in 2006 at the age of 97, and the property is now maintained by his son, Lukas, as a nonprofit corporation.

Pacem is laced with Franck’s message, and immediately alerts visitors that it is “neither church, nor chapel, nor temple.” He cites his associations with Albert Schweitzer, Pope John XXIII and Buddhist scholar Daisetz Suzuki with helping shape his world view — and homages to them abound throughout.

Franck, a dental surgeon-turned artist, also has his work on display at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tokyo National Museum and St. John the Divine Church.

My girlfriend turned us on to the place, which she frequented in past during times when she sought solace and tranquility. It was also a hit for my son, who is 11.

I would note that younger children may not be as enthralled — the place is not a playground. But for older kids, it’s a worthwhile experience. My son was very taken by it and was very vocal about appreciating that he and I shared it on Father’s Day.

Anyway, Pacem in Terris is at 96 Covered Bridge Road in Warwick, and, while it’s a tad out of the way, it’s worth a trip. Most of it is literally in Franck’s back yard, so visitors are asked to be respectful.

However, it is also free, and opens to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 10:30 am |
| | 5 Comments »

Playing hooky: a parental judgement call

May
24

Well, I did it: I kept my son out of school on Friday even though he had two tests and a project due. And I hope I’m not getting him in trouble by posting on it.

Okay, so the truth is I arranged with his teachers to have him take both tests on Thursday, and hand in his portion of a team alegebra project the same day. So, the damage was minimal, if there was any at all.

But in the end I reasoned that he wouldn’t remember that day at school in years to come. He will, however, always remember our day: We went to the free Green Day concert at Central Park for the Good Morning American summer concert series.

Needless to say, it’s his favorite band, and pretty high on my list as well. And I can’t ask for a better day, nor a more fun outing for him (above). No, that’s not me on the right. I took the photo. (I still have a tad more “coverage” on my head — no offense to the man in the photo.)

Anyway, this has been a periodic judgement call for me, as it is for many parents, I suspect. I had the day off, so it was no issue on my end. But education is important, and occasionally parents may opt to keep the kid home. I handle it on a case-by-case basis, but it’s something I take seriously.

I spoke to a couple of other parents at the show who had done the same thing, and they had all made the same decision: That it was a treat worth cutting school for the day.

Is it something that can be abused? Certainly. I have friends who were periodically kept home from school for a “mental health day,” which I think is of limited value for most kids, depending on age and circumstances.

But the question is when do you think it’s okay to have your kid play hooky?

One final note on the show, it really was a treat. I’ve blogged on the music element of it on The Listening Room, our music blog. But for those that didn’t see it, here’s a clip from GMA:

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Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Sunday, May 24th, 2009 at 11:57 am |
| | 3 Comments »

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The little bully

September
8

I wanted to beat up a 3-year-old this weekend. And boy, would he have had it coming.

Frankly, I would’ve been okay with my girlfriend’s 4-year-old taking the kid out. But that’s where she and I differed, and where it makes for an interesting discussion on bullying. It’s been on my mind lately anyway, since my 10-year-old son is now in middle school. In our district, the middle school is grades 6-8, and since he’s the youngest in his grade because of his late-November birthday, he’s also one of the smallest kids in the new school. So, it’s been on my mind.

Back to the weekend: Our blended family was out and about in the sunshine yesterday, and took time out to hit the playground at Croton Point Park. All is going well, until a 3-year-old boy (I’m guessing on the age) punches my son in the stomach. Now, he’s bigger, so he just laughed it off and let it go. But then the kid punches my girlfriend’s 4-year-old in the gut — three times over the span of maybe 5 minutes or so. Hmm.

So, our boy runs back and complains that the kid kept hitting him. One point: Our little guy is amazingly strong for his age. He has remarkable arm strength for a kid his age, and is big for his age. However, he’s also very, very mild mannered. In other words, he has the strength to be a bully, but nowhere near the demeanor. Therefore, he keeps trying to go back to the play ground but runs back in fear each time the little bully kid starts running towards him.

At one point the bully kid actually pulls down his pants and urinates on the playground equipment as if it was second nature. No, there was no sign of a parent. Anyway, my girlfriend takes matters into her own hands. She walks over, does official introductions for her son and the bully kid. They shake hands, and off they go to play like old buddies — until the smaller boy kicks our boy in the face.

My 10-year-old offered to take the little bully out, but, of course, we’re not going there. Now here’s where my girlfriend and I differed: Her solution was to just leave and to congratulate her son for not hitting back. I also commended him, but felt that, at that stage, we should have instructed our 4-year-old to, A) Tell the bully kid to stop and, B) If he didn’t stop, to clock him in the head. That’s me.

Years ago, when my son was in pre-K, he had a bigger kid push him around regularly. The kid was bigger and the staff at the place did little about it. I complained several times, and finally told them after a few weeks that if it happened again I would instruct my son to defend himself. They said they would do something. Needless to say, it happened again. My son got pushed down, got up and clocked the kid in the nose. The bigger kid went down, started crying and ran away. They ended up being friends after that.

Is that the best option? Maybe not. I saw it as a last resort. And I’m not sure how I’d handle it if he has a similar problem in middle school this year. My fingers are crossed that it doesn’t happen.

With my girlfriend’s 4-year-old, there’s another component: He is, as I said, a very strong kid, and we don’t want him to hurt anyone and we don’t want him to learn to solve his conflicts with his fists. But isn’t there a breaking point, where he should learn to stand his ground? When is that point?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 12:26 pm |
| | 6 Comments »

Vote in our poll on vacations!

August
1

What are you Parents’ Place readers doing this summer? Vote in our poll in the right column of the page to share your plans.

balloon.jpgWe’re heading to Sesame Place next week in what Pumpkin is already expecting will be the time of her life. We’ve been looking at the brochure and she keeps touching the picture of the Big Bird’s Balloon Race and saying, “I’ll be BIG happy when I’m on there.” Let’s just hope <a href=”http://www.sesameplace.com” target=”_blank”>Sesame Place</a> lives up to expectations.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
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How do you celebrate the Fourth?

July
5

If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to slip into habits when it comes to holidays. Warm-weather holidays mean cookouts with classic rock in the background; cold-weather holidays mean big meals indoors, music optional. Now I’m all for celebrating with food and family, but at a certain point the holidays can seem interchangeable, so long as you don’t confuse the summer ones with the winter ones.

I wanted a different Fourth of July this year, both for me and my immediate family. Instead of visiting my brother’s house for a cookout, why not connect directly to the meaning of Independence Day? It would be educational and inspirational! With my 18-year-old son away for the week and my wife in agreement, I only needed to get my 13-year-old on board. I’ll get to the bottom line: he insisted he wasn’t going. And he wasn’t moved when I said he would always remember the walking tour of “Revolutionary New York,” but wouldn’t remember just hanging out at home (nice try, right?)

Faced with an immovable child, what should we do? We declared our own independence and went on the tour without him. Run by Big Onion Tours, the walk was fun and I learned things about Revolutionary New York that I didn’t know.

(Here’s one piece of Revolutionary lure, followed by book tip for more on Revolutionary New York: Inside City Hall Park, visible from Broadway, stands a tall flagpole that’s wrapped in a series of metal bands. What is it? A Liberty Pole, like the one that the anti-British Sons of Liberty installed on the site as a sign of defiance. After British troops repeatedly chopped the pole down, the Sons of Liberty wrapped a new one in iron for protection. For a deeper look at the Revolution in New York, check out The Battle for New York by Barnet Schecter. You may be amazed at New York’s role during the Revolution.

My son survived July Fourth. He watched a movie on DVD for the several hours we were gone. He wasn’t angry when we returned and later we told him about the tour. After dinner we went up on the roof and watched fireworks. What do you think, were we bad parents?

Posted by Len Maniace on Saturday, July 5th, 2008 at 11:36 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

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Ice cream on a stick

July
2

Like most kids, Pumpkin is far from immune to the joys of ice cream. This has always been fine with me. She doesn’t drink enough milk to begin with, and we’ve always tried to find ways to get extra healthy calories in her slender body. But this year, she has discovered the pleasure of a dubious treat: Ice cream bars, or as we call them in our house, “ice cream on a stick.”

good-humor-ad.jpgThis obsession started in April when I bought her an eclair-style ice cream bar on a whim after an energetic workout at Reis Park in Somers. There is always an ice cream truck parked near the playground there in the warm weather. Well, the tastiness of the treat and the novelty of visiting the truck and eating the ice cream in the car on the way home made quite the impression. And, if that wasn’t enough, she started asking us to read a cute little board book we have at home that’s shaped like an ice cream truck (before this, she didn’t quite get the point of the book).

Now, every time we go to Reis Park, Pumpkin begs for “ice cream on a stick.” Apart from the outrageous cost — $3 a bar — the fact is that these treats are far from ideal nutrionally. Back when she was content with the now-boring ice cream in dish, I bought all-natural ice cream that had ingredients I recognized. But just look at this list from the <a href=”http://www.icecreamusa.com/products/product.cfm?u=41000-05152&b=2″ target=”_blank”>Good Humor Chocolate Eclair</a>:

INGREDIENTS: ICE CREAM: NONFAT MILK, SUGAR, MILKFAT, CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WHEY, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, CELLULOSE GUM, GUAR GUM, POLYSORBATE 65 AND 80, CARRAGEENAN, ARTIFICIAL AND NATURAL FLAVORS. CHOCOLATE CORE: WATER, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), MODIFIED SOY PROTEIN, GUAR GUM, MODIFIED CELLULOSE, LOCUST BEAN GUM, POLYSORBATE 80. COATING: CAKE CRUNCH [BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, PALM OIL, SALT, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, BAKING SODA], SOYBEAN OIL, COCONUT OIL, SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, DRY WHOLE MILK, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

This does NOT make me happy. I pay more for organic milk and cheese. I buy natural eggs. We eat only whole wheat bread and whole-grain pancakes. I belong to a food co-op. But all of these strategies to avoid the overprocessed packaged foods at the supermarket are done in by the appeal of the ice cream on a stick.

Here is my question: Has anyone ever seen a “healthy” version of an ice cream bar? I did some nosing on the Web and found one company called Mister Cookie Face in Lakewood, N.J., that makes organic novelties under the <a href=”http://www.cookieface.com/woodlakefarms.html” target=”_blank”>Woodlake Farms</a> brand. But I’ve never seen them in local stores.

What do the rest of you parents do when it comes to dubious treats like these? And, before you all point out the obvious: Yes, I realize she is 3 years old. No, she doesn’t have her own money. Yes, I do in fact buy these for her. And, no, she couldn’t get them on her own. What, you say? Just stop? Well, it would take a tougher parent than I am to say no to her calls for “ice cream on a stick.” She just loves them too much. My goal is to find a manufacturer who makes these with, oh, let’s say five ingredients total, including milk, cream, sugar and chocolate — and without high fructose corn syrup.

Since we’re on the topic of ice cream, I thought you all might enjoy some links I found in my research. Here is a discussion of the <a href=”http://inventors.about.com/od/foodrelatedinventions/a/ice_cream.htm” target=”_blank”>history of ice cream</a>, which has been enjoyed in this country since the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — making it an especially fitting treat for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. And here is a link to an article in the National Archives on the <a href=”http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/popsicle-1.html” target=”_blank”>origins of Good Humor and Popsicle novelties</a>, originally called “ice cream suckers” and billed as a more convenient way to eat ice cream. Pumpkin would certainly agree.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 at 1:41 am |
| | 6 Comments »

Father’s Day odds and ends

June
10

Let’s call this one of my lazy blogs. But there are some good facts here, so I don’t feel that badly about it.

It’s basically a collection of tidbits sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau to mark Father’s Day this coming Sunday. Like many holidays, this one kind of snuck up on me because of a hectic work schedule of late. As it turns, out this coming weekend is my ex’s weekend with my son. But, as per our agreement, I’ll get the day with him and if the weather is anything like it is here right now, we’ll be spending a good chunk of it at some body of water or other. Unfortunately, my girlfriend’s little boy gets the day with his dad, so we won’t have both the boys to splash around with.

To be honest, what I’ve always looked forward to the most is whatever arts-and-crafts project my son puts together for me at school. As I sit here now, I’m looking at a pencil holder made from painted tongue depressors that he gave me several years ago. I treasure it almost as much as the mood ring he gave me last year.

Anyway, here’s the Census stuff. Thanks for reading and enjoy:

The idea of Father’s Day was conceived by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., hile she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration — June 19, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth. The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Father’s Day as been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

64.3 million
Estimated number of fathers across the nation. Source: unpublished data from the Survey of Income and Program articipation

A good place to buy dad a tie or a shirt might be one of 8,685 men’s clothing stores around the country (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

Other items high on the list of Father’s Day gifts are tools such as hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers. You could buy some of these items for dad at one of the nation’s 14,257 hardware stores or 5,925 home centers (as of 2005). Source: County Business Patterns

23,195
Number of sporting goods stores in 2005. These stores are good places to purchase traditional gifts for dad, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Source: County Business Patterns

More than 74 million Americans participated in a barbecue in the last year — it’s probably safe to assume many of these barbecues took place on Father’s Day. Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008

159,000
Estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2006. These married fathers with children younger than 15 have remained out of the labor force for at least one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home. These fathers cared for 283,000 children. Among these stay-at-home dads, 60 percent had two or more children, and 40 percent had an annual family income of $50,000 or more. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

25%
Among the nation’s 11.3 million preschoolers whose mothers are employed, the percentage who are regularly cared for by their father during their mother’s working hours. This amounted to 2.9 million children. Source: Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2005

26.5 million
Number of fathers who are part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2006.

– 22 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18 (among married-couple family households only).

– 2 percent live in someone else’s home.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

2.5 million
Number of single fathers in 2006, up from 400,000 in 1970. Currently, among single parents living with their children, 19 percent are men.

– 8 percent are raising three or more children younger than 18.

– About 42 percent are divorced, 38 percent are never married, 16 percent are separated and 4 percent are widowed. (There is no significant difference between the percentages of single fathers who are divorced or never married.)

– 16 percent live in someone else’s home.

– 27 percent have an annual family income of $50,000 or more.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2006

85%
Among the 30.2 million fathers living with children younger than 18, the percentage who lived with their biological children only. In addition, 11 percent lived with stepchildren, 4 percent with adopted children and fewer than 1 percent with foster children. Source: Living Arrangements of Children: 2004

31%
Percentage of custodial fathers who were due child support. They numbered 678,000. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

$2.4 billion
Amount of child support received by custodial fathers in 2005; they were due $3.3 billion. In contrast, custodial mothers received $22.4 billion of the $34.7 billion in support that was due. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

43%
Percentage of custodial fathers who received all child support that was due, not significantly different from the corresponding percentage for custodial mothers. Fathers received an average of $6,210 in child support in 2005, compared with $5,981 for mothers. (These figures are not statistically different from one another.) Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

36%
Percentage of custodial fathers with child support agreements or awards. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

72%
Percentage of custodial fathers receiving noncash support, such as gifts or coverage of expenses, on behalf of their children. The corresponding proportion for mothers was 59 percent. Source: Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support

30%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents in 2003 who ate breakfast with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 41 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

64%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who ate dinner with their fathers every day. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 66 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

63%
Percentage of children younger than 6 living with married parents who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers. The corresponding number for children living with unmarried fathers was 57 percent. Source: A Child’s Day

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
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The first rock concert

May
23

Bring it on. My kid’s 10 and I figure it’s high time he got his first rock concert under his belt. After all he’s a little metal head like his dad, and is pretty crazy about Green Day and My Chemical Romance. I’ve even gotten him into Black Sabbath and Radiohead.

But, aside from his recording-artist uncle, he hasn’t really been to a live show yet. We’re changing that.

How to start? My first criteria was that he fare better than I did for my first concert. I was in seventh grade and they gave out promotional tickets for the old Westchester Premier Theater. The performer was country-crooner-turned-casino-act “Mac Davis,”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZNWz00R3Ng&feature=related with comedian Gabe Kaplan — in his pre-Welcome Back Kotter days — as the opening act.

It got better after that. Linda Ronstadt was next, and before you knew it it was Santana, the Allman Brothers, Kiss, etc. By my last year of high school, we were at the old Palladium on 14th Street almost every weekend, watching everyone from Van Halen to Twisted Sister, and whoever else showed up to play that day.

Now it’s my son’s turn. And it’s just going to be our own thing, as the other half of our blending family — my girlfriend and her little boy — will hold down the homefront for the night. For the two of us, I think it’s good bonding time in a “coming-of-age” kind of way, although I suspect other divorced and single parents do these kinds of things as some sort of compensation for time lost or something. To me, it’s really just a great thing to share with my son.

So, the first thing I sought in planning it was advice. The “Family Education”:http://www.familyeducation.com/home website offered a list of suggestions on “what to keep in mind”:http://fun.familyeducation.com/music-performances/family-time/36505.html in such a situation. Some of it was common sense, some of it was silly. But it was advice nonetheless.

The next step was, where to go? I actually considered the Van Halen show at Madison Square Garden tonight. But the Garden was never great on acoustics, is kinda big, and it’s hard to get close to the stage. Besides, decent tickets for this show would’ve run me about $300 a pop. So, that was out. As it is, I had just missed a golden opportunity to take my boy to the Garden: My Chemical Romance wrapped up their tour there on May 9, about one week before I got the rock concert bug in my head. Smaller venues were okay, but they’re mostly just glorified bars which are fine for me, but not for a 10-year-old.

Ultimately, I narrowed it to three sites, including the Beacon Theater and the Jones Beach Theater. The third was “Radio City Music Hall,”:http://www.radiocity.com and that’s where we’re headed. That’s not to say that we may not pick up additional shows at Jones Beach or the Beacon later this summer.

Finally, what show to catch? Here’s what we picked: “Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band”:http://www.radiocity.com/events/ringo-starr.html at the end of next month. I mean, the guy’s a former Beatle, has fun on stage, and puts together a fun group of musicians every time he comes around. This year he’s playing with, among others, Edgar Winter, Billy Squier and Colin Hays from Men at Work. My son loves Winter’s classic, “Frankenstein,” and the rest of it will be kind of a trip for me, since I listened to some of those guys in my teens and 20s.

There are still all these tiny worries dancing around my head, from the show running too late, to someone blowing smoke in his face all night, to drunken behavior around us — all relatively minor issues to me in the larger scope of things. Mostly, I’m kind of excited myself to see any kind of show after several years without one.

So, how’d I do? I gotta think it’s gonna be a thrill for him to just be at a show, let alone for someone legendary like Ringo. I still have it in me to take him to something more hard-edged down the line, and particular would love one guitar hero or another, as my son is learning to play. But, for now, we’ll see how it goes with the Beatle.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
| | 9 Comments »

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It’s vacation negotiation time….again

May
14

Is it that time of year already?

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

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

Let the negotiations begin!

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

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

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

Take me out to the ball park……………… before we can’t afford to go

April
1

The opening days for New York’s new baseball parks are still a year off, but one thing is obvious when you get past the gorgeous renderings – the stadiums are too small. For the sake of all New York baseball fans, construction needs to stop and new plans drawn up for bigger stadiums.

The people who run the Yankees and the Mets are smart people, so how they came up with these schemes is beyond me. Baseball draws more people every year, while New York City and its suburbs are growing. So what do our baseball teams (with the approval of New York City and state officials) do? They shrink the size of the ball parks.

The new Yankee Stadium will hold about 52,000, down from the current 57,500. The Mets’ new Citi Field will hold 44,000 people compared with Shea Stadium’s 55,700. This is a bad for baseball fans and terrible for parents, kids and grandparents, too.

A baseball stadium is a place where lasting family memories are made. I won’t forget the first time my father took me to the stadium in the Bronx one sweltering August night when I was seven. The Yankees beat the Kansas City Athletics 4-0 in a game that didn’t last two hours. And then there was the first game I took my oldest son to: He chanted “Let’s Go Mets” so loud I feared he had been permanently imprinted a fan of the city’s National League team rather than the Yankees.

Not only will these ball parks have fewer seats, but the ticket prices will be shocking. If you are planning a game or two next year, start saving up by skipping lunch now. A low-cost ticket will go for about  the price of Broadway show ticket.  A top-priced field-level seat at Yankee Stadium will cost $2,500,  about the price of a used car. Ouch.

Don’t get me wrong. The new ball parks look beautiful, especially Citi Field. They will be better places to watch games – much better than the upper deck seats at Shea. Pilots landing at LaGuardia are closer to home plate than my seat near the foul pole a few years ago.

Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost recently told our sport writer Sam Borden that the new stadium could have had more seats, but they would have been further from the field. “We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to make sure that each fan had a great view and could truly enjoy the new park as much as possible.”

No disrespect meant, Mr. Trost, but Yankees fans – and Mets fans, too – won’t be able to enjoy their new stadiums if there are too few seats and if the tickets are priced far beyond their means.

Do you think you’ll take your kids to see the Yankees or the Mets as often in their new stadiums? Do you remember first game with a parent, or with your own child? If so, tell us about your memories.


Posted by Len Maniace on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 at 9:15 am |
| | 2 Comments »

Family survives vacation-planning dinner

August
6

We conducted an experiment in family planning Friday. No, not that kind of family planning. My family planned its vacation for the last two weeks of August. The agenda now calls for a drive across New York State to Niagara Falls and then to Toronto. This is how we did; How do you handle your vacation planning?

My sons, 12 and 17, and I met my wife at her office in Manhattan, stopped at a bookstore to pick up travel books and then went to a diner for dinner and vacation discussion. Everyone looked at a books, and perhaps even read a little about our destinations and we even talked about it briefly. We didn’t actually plan the vacation, but it was a start in getting the kids on board with the trip.

The kids would have liked a trip to California with visits to LA, San Francisco and the country in between. And so would I, but my wife has real problems with flying these days, which limits the trip. Eliminating the cities and towns we’ve already visited, and considering my wife’s interest in seeing Niagara Falls, we came up with this trip. There’s also an added bonus for traveling to Canada this summer by car – you don’t need a passport, though you probably will sometime next year.

The trip could include a stop in the Finger Lakes and a visit to a state college for my older son who will be entering his senior year in high school next month. So for the next two weeks I’ll be checking out our tour books, scouting baseball schedules in Toronto and minor league cities along the way. We survived our vacation planning and, with any luck, we’ll survive our vacation.

Posted by Len Maniace on Monday, August 6th, 2007 at 11:35 am |
| | 1 Comment »

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Protecting kids from the sun

July
30

beach1.jpgIf you have kids who love the outdoors — but need some prodding to apply sunscreen — check out my <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007707240360″ target=”_blank”>story about new strategies to avoid skin damage</a>.

In my reporting, I learned that one of the most effective ways to protect your skin is to wear clothing with sun block built in. In Australia, where skin cancer is an even bigger health threat than here, clothing is more popular than sunscreen. Here in the United States, it’s just catching on. I became intrigued by the topic when I looked for a swimsuit for my daughter. I decided to buy one from <a href=”http://www.llbean.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?page=wave-bodysuit&categoryId=45507&storeId=1&catalogId=1&langId=-1&parentCategory=8138&cat4=8137&shop_method=pp&feat=8138-tn” target=”_blank”>L.L. Bean</a> that covers up a good 75 percent of her body and features SPF 40 protection. Even so, and despite liberal and frequent applications of SPF 50 sunscreen on the exposed parts, Pumpkin finished last week’s vacation on the beach with tanned arms and legs. Her head, thankfully, was completely protected by a white hat with flaps that my sister-in-law bought from her dermatologist.

My story also talks about cute fish-shaped stickers from Huggies that sense how long you’ve been in the sun. When they change color, it’s time to apply more sunscreen. I brought them with us on vacation, but didn’t end up using them. I think they would be ideal for an older child who needs a gimmick to accept a second application of sunscreen.

sensor.jpgI did take along Oregon Scientific’s Personal UV Monitor with Exposure Timer (pictured here at right). It is a pretty cool little gadget. I had to take some good-natured ribbing from my brother-in-law about using it. (“What’s the UV index, Julie?”) It seemed to work pretty well. On a cloudy day, it reported the UV index was low to medium. On a bright day, it was high. The only problem is that we weren’t that affected by these reports. After all, when you go on a week-long beach vacation, you tend to … go to the beach. And since I’m a sunscreen nut to begin with, I slathered us all up equally on the cloudy and sunny days.

The results from our poll on the topic found that most of you (82 percent) rely on sunscreen to protect your kids from the sun. Just two people said they use hats, long sleeves and other gear. Just one person admitted being a sun-worshipper who doesn’t worry about the topic.

Any thoughts? Have you invested in sun gear? What’s your sun-protection strategy?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, July 30th, 2007 at 11:48 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

A blur of activity to get to the beach

July
30

So, here is a post I wrote a week ago Saturday morning, just before we left on our annual <a href=”http://www.longbeachisland.com/beach_haven.html” target=”_blank”>beach vacation</a>. (I ended up not posting it that morning because I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t advertise that we are going on vacation! Some crackpot could use this as an excuse to steal our vast horde of … well, not pricey electronic goods … but stuff. Definitely stuff.â€? Think I was being too paranoid?)

Hi Parents’ Place readers! Pumpkin, her dad and I are heading off to the beach any minute now. Really. As soon as we pack the car. (At the last minute. My sister-in-law, who is going, too, packed Thursday night!) And as soon as we take showers, get Pumpkin up and dressed. (And finish that last load of wash. Find my beach towel. Get the diaper bag ready. You see a trend here.)

Why is it that some parents are the kind with lunches packed the night before and I have to be the kind that says, “Oh well, that’s what rest stops are for?” My mom sent me an e-mail quiz this week that asked, “<a href=”http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess%20humor/martha-maxine.htm” target=”_blank”>Are you a Martha or a Maxine</a>?” alluding to the famous homemaking icon from Bedford and the comic crank of greeting card fame. You had to pick whether you were the type to make a cake from scratch or stop at the bakery, use an apple to keep potatoes fresh or buy instant and, well, you get the idea. I scanned it and said to myself, “I am a Martha!” Ha! Good one, Julie.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, July 30th, 2007 at 11:39 pm |
| | Comments Off on A blur of activity to get to the beach

Summer – Going, going, gone

July
24

Back-to-school sale. Those four words fill kids with an icy dread and the hollow pain of loss – the loss of a summer that has barely begun. With just four weeks of summer vacation gone and another six remaining, my oldest son spotted a back-to-school sale at a local store this weekend past. And tonight we saw our first back-to-school ad on TV, a commercial that prompted a mix of disgust and outrage in my youngest son: “Why don’t they just start the ads before we start vacation.”

I know parents are supposed to love the idea of kids going back to school, but on this issue, I side with the kids. Summer should feel endless, even if a kid’s day camp includes not only sports but school work because he is dealing with a learning disability, or the teen is taking an art class and participating in a college-prep program.

I side with the kids on snow storms, too. I love them. Not the two-inch frosting that scare suburban schools int shutting, but the foot-and-a-half storms that cause television and radio to hyperventilate about the latest threat to the region’s survival. Of course, newspapers (and our websites) are guilty, too. How many times do people need to read about shoppers rushing to hardware stores to buy salt and shovels in anticipation of the storm. But now who’s rushing the seasons.

Posted by Len Maniace on Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 at 10:11 pm |
| | 3 Comments »

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About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE



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