Sponsored by:

Archive for the 'Summer' Category

Summertime and the living is, um, easy?


It’s summertime and the living is allegedly easy, right? Then why am I so stressed?

Because while my sons are taking it easy, I’m becoming unglued about keeping any semblance of a schedule together. My boys, ages 8 and 13, are in day camp this summer. My older son takes a school bus there and back and my husband or I drive our younger son to camp. I alternate afternoon pickups with another mom/friend. That part works pretty well.

Where it all seems to fall apart is at home. In the mornings, the boys get up — with much prodding from us — only after listening to the alarm clock blare incessantly. And then they plod slowly about the house, taking forever to wash up, dress and eat breakfast. The morning usually involves them getting their lunch or snack together too, since they’re not so diligent about preparing everything the night before.

So what happens? I end up fussing about them being late, which results in my rushing to get ready in less time and feeling stressed about it all. And today, my older son, in his haste to make the bus, left his keys at home. And guess who had to make a dash home this afternoon to let him in (and then return to work)? Moi.

My husband and I admit some fault in this. Because it’s summer, we’ve relaxed the rules somewhat: They can stay up later and we’ve been letting them play video games and watch TV during the week. They’ve been doing some reading for school and my younger son has been working in the summer workbook we got for him. My younger son is an avid reader, so he’s already finished about four books and his written two of the three book reports that will be due the first day of school. My older son isn’t as voracious a reader, so he’s moving a little more slowly, usually picking up a book in the few minutes before he falls off to sleep. But that’s about it for brain exercise.

I hate to swing the parental hammer on them, but I feel like I’ve got to restore some sense of order at home. How do you let your kids relax — but not too much — during the summer?

Posted by Gayle T. Williams on Thursday, July 19th, 2007 at 4:59 pm |

We’re off and running


The much awaited vacation is here: We hit the road tomorrow morning for a lengthy drive down south. We have everything pretty well mapped out and most of the details worked out. Only two things still worry me:

First, how to keep two active boys strapped into their seats for hour after hour on the road? Since we have my 9-year-old and my girlfriend’s 3-year-old, we decided to break the 14-hour trip into two days. Frankly, my son should be relatively ok, seeing as how he’s got technology on his side: A laptop, and an ipod.

He’s also got a ton of books which he loses himself in, so he can read while we use the laptop to play DVD’s to entertain the 3-year-old. Of course, being an active 3, we’re going to have to make several stops to let the little guy stretch his legs and burn off some energy. I’m open to ideas here.

The second issue is packing. I’m a horrible packer, and will err on the side of taking everything in case I need something I hadn’t thought of. So I have a bag for my son’s clothes, a larger bag for my clothes, another bag with shoes, swimsuits, towels, etc. Then there’s my son’s laptop bag, his backpack which will be stuffed with books, and another backpack of CDs, DVDs. That doesn’t include my girlfriend’s bags. And the thing is I know I’m bound to forget something despite my ridiculous overpacking.

Now, there is a ton of advice online on planning family vacations. There’s “this one”:http://www.familiesonlinemagazine.com/school/family-vacation-planning.html or “this one”:http://childparenting.about.com/cs/familytraveldest/a/familyvacation.htm or “this other one”:http://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=405&category=21. They all kind of run together in my mind, kind of like an online blurr. I even found “a packing list”:http://travelwithkids.about.com/cs/carplanetips/a/amusekids.htm that I sought out for help on some packing decisions for the kids. It basically told me to bring picture books for the 3-year-old. Duh.

So in the end, I think we’ll wing it. You have two intelligent parents with their hearts and instincts in the right place. That should be enough to get us to the beach well-stocked and in one piece. Still, I have this vision of pulling up, opening the doors and a pile of junk spills out. Then I’ll fish through it everytime I need something. As long as we’re at the beach for a stress-free week, who cares?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, July 13th, 2007 at 10:56 am |

What to do amid heat and pollution alert? Biking and basketball


Here’s another hot weather story. Amid air pollution alerts and soaring afternnoon temperatures Monday afternoon, my 17-year-old son set off on his bike for a 5-mile ride to play basketball. And not hoops with friends, but a competitive full-court game.

He must have gotten heat exhaustion because he wound up vomiting at the end of the game and laid down alongside the court to recover. He later told me that he felt like closing his eyes, but was afraid that if he did so he would wake up in a hospital.

Of course I only pieced together this story, with some details coming from my wife, near midnight – after watching “The Bronx is Burning” (see my previous entry). Like many kids, my son gives out information on a “what-a-teen-thinks-a-parent-needs-to-know basis. So he slept through dinner after telling me only that he had felt sick while playing basketball and now wanted to rest.

Not that I would have been especially alarmed. He seemed to have gotten enough water to drink since the episode. I suspect the combinations of bad air and heat, biking and basketball andd perhaps not enough water caused his problem.

It’s not like I never did anythig like that. I celebrated my last day of undergraduate school on a mid-August afternoon playing tennis on a day when the temperature hit 102 F. Must have been dry heat. I guess all we can do is provide a little guidance and hope our kids will survive to adulthood when, with any luck, they may learn to come out of the mid-day sun.

Posted by Len Maniace on Thursday, July 12th, 2007 at 11:49 am |


Baby, it’s hot outside


Good post by Julie, and I’m anxious to see what parents are doing out there to keep the kids cool in the hot weather. My son’s camp has issued an advisory, and have come up with my favorite option: An extra swim in the pool every day and tons of water and ice cubes throughout the camp. Poor babies!

Seriously, there are very real health risks associated with the hot temperatures, particularly for children and the elderly. I’ve taken to freezing bottled water and sticking it in my son’s backpack along with his lunch. My theory is he can never have enough cold water on hand. Kids, after all, will be kids, and can be easily distracted while playing a game or running around in the heat.

I’ve also scrolled around for health tips, and came upon a few basic but important ones. This falls into the category of obvious but necessary.

One good list comes from “Children’s Memorial Hospital”:http://www.childrensmemorial.org/kids_doc/advice/topic.asp?tID=128&catID=1 in Chicago. Area hospitals have similar health tip links and brochures, and it’s worth seeking those out as well. The simple recipe is water, water, water and shade. Parents are also cautioned not to give their children salt tablets, which some parents apparently tend to do, from what I’ve read.

Of course, an additional stint in the pool creates its own level of safety risks, so keep that in mind. Always be on alert when your children are around a pool or at the beach. Westchester County says drownings are the second leading cause of accidental deaths for kids under 14. That’s one story I certainly don’t want to have to write this summer.

With that in mind, the county provides some “pool safety tips”:http://www.westchestergov.com/printerfriendly/news_4599.htm  that are worth reading. There is also a good link on that page to a pool safety brochure. Print it out and keep it handy.

Personally, my top pool safety tip is to jump in with my son. Now if only I could convince my boss to give me the day off.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 at 9:27 am |

Keeping cool


sprinkler.jpgThe editors at LoHud.com are inviting everyone to submit their “keeping cool” photos by <a href=”http://jukebox.lohud.com/Photo_Editor/Photo_Uploader/Photo_Uploader.php3″ target=”_blank”>clicking on this link</a>. You can <a href=”http://jukebox.lohud.com/photos/index.php?source=citj” target=”_blank”>see all the pictures here</a>, including great pics of kids in pools. (I happen to be reporting a story about high-tech sunscreen products — that means I get to go to the pool tomorrow for work, right boss?) Pumpkin also tried to keep cool today by playing in her sand table, pool and sprinkler and by eating (a lot of) ice cream with her Grandma:


What are your strategies for keeping the kids cool?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, July 9th, 2007 at 6:10 pm |

Playing hardball


This week, my sons are in a daily basketball camp, which is good in many ways: They’re both in the same place; they have to wear a uniform shirt every day (no last-minute wardrobe changes in the morning!); and the camp serves lunch. There’s also no swimming, so I don’t have a load of towels and swimsuits to wash.

But come next week, they’ll return to their regular day camps, where the biggest problem for me is that there is no lunch. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if my boys liked homemade lunch, but they are pretty boring when it comes to sandwiches. They limit themselves to turkey bologna, salami or turkey. They don’t like standbys like PB&J or cheese or tuna.  (No, they’re not allergic, just picky!) They don’t like condiments. And forget those ideas of giving them pita and hummus or anything “fancy.”

Last week, my 13-year-old didn’t make his sandwich (this is his job) the night before and a few minutes before the bus came, he was throwing Rice Krispie treats and applesauce into his lunchbag for a snack. When I asked him about his sandwich, he said he didn’t have time to make it. As a veteran sandwich-maker, I started to hustle into the kitchen to make him something, because after all, he was going to be out in the sun all day and he would be hungry and what if he passes out and the nurse calls me and it will be all because he didn’t have a sandwich?

My husband, bless his heart, stopped me and said, “Don’t make him anything. I used to do the same thing, when I was his age. And I’m still here, right?” His reasoning was that if my son was hungry that day, he would remember to make his own lunch the night before, as we’ve asked him to do.

I’m not sure yet whether playing hardball has worked; my son hasn’t had to make his lunch again yet. But he did mention that he was a little hungry that day. And he apologized for not doing what we asked him to do. So maybe it worked?

Tell me some of the ways you play tough with your kids. And if anyone has any lunch ideas for my finicky sons, I’m open to them.

Posted by Gayle T. Williams on Monday, July 9th, 2007 at 2:24 pm |


Summer reads for the young


Many kids are waiting for release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book on July 21, but the boy-wizard saga isn’t for all young readers. J.K. Rowling packs hundreds of pages between the covers of her books, a length that not every kid can handle.

Last summer my youngest son, then 11, discovered Avi, a Brooklyn native who has written dozens of books. His books are a less intimidating length, but at least as rich in imagination and insight.

The first we read together was The Fighting Ground, a Newberry Medal winner about a 13-year-old boy eager to battle the British in the American Revolution. The book covers the day he gets his chance and how he is changed by the experience. The paperback is 157 pages and might provide a good way for your kids to get inside the Independence Day holiday just passed.

Next was The Good Dog, a book we enjoyed even more. It’s a tale seen through the eyes of McKinley, a malamute and good dog, living in the mountains of Colorado, who must resolve the conflict between his loyalty to the human family he lives with and his desire to live wild in nature. McKinley and his fellow canines know a lot more about humans than their keepers know about them. The dogs refer to the people they live with as “their humans� and children as “human pups.� Newspapers are “staring papers� and televisions are “glow boxes.� Once finished with this 243-page paperback, your child might not look at his or her pet dog in quite the same way again.

We are nearly finished with a third Avi book, The Man Who was Poe, a fictional acount of a 12-year-old boy’s encounter with the famed author as the youngster tries to solve the mysterious disappearance of his mother and sister. The book is rich in detail about life in a mid-19th Century seaport, Providence, R.I. My son ranks this 200-page book highly, though I don’t think it’s quite up with “The Fighting Groundâ€? or “The Good Dog.â€?

Please tell us about your favorite books for middle school kids.

Posted by Len Maniace on Thursday, July 5th, 2007 at 10:17 am |

Anticipating a vacation: the ups and downs


I’m taking my two sons on a little vacation trip up to a friend’s country house in northwestestern Connecticut tomorrow. It’s just the boys and me through the weekend – some much-heralded, male-bonding – because my wife can’t get away from work.

I’m eager to take to the open road. Come to think of it, though, Connecticut doesn’t seem to figure prominently in many road movies, and it’s perhaps the only state Jack Kerouac skips in his frenetic national tour, “On the Road.” (Let me know if I’m wrong.)

And once we get there we’ll play catch, throw a football, swim, maybe even fish, see a minor league ball game and a movie. And then there’s making pancakes for breakfast and cooking dinner on an outdoor grill, and for me, spending an hour or so at the end of each day reading a fascinating about Theodore Roosevelt, “Rising Like a Rocket” – if I have the energy left. Pretty idyllic.

But I’m also anticipating disputes between my two sons, ages 17 and 12, that can turn the outing sour – confrontations that would set Supernanny’s stiff upper lip aquiver and send her fleeing the premises in her black British-made auto.

Without pointing blame in this public forum, one of them is usually the instigator. I’m trying to get him on board in advance. In fact, I’ve been trying to get both on board by asking them what they would like to do during our trip – a suggestion that has not yet elicited a response.

And then there is the question of helping out on the trip. As in packing, shopping and other chores that need to get done. I think kids need to share these jobs. If today is any sign, I’m wary. One of my sons (not the instigator of the aforementioned confrontations) has been more interested in playing his Nintendo DS than walking over to his doctor’s office to pick up his medical form that he needs for his summer camp. The 11 a.m. deadline went, as did the noon deadline, and now they are closed for lunch at 1 p.m. He says he’ll go at 2 p.m. We’ll see.

So, obviously I’m a horrible parent. That said, I’m forgetting all those expectations in the preceding paragraphs and just going to play as it comes. Here’s hoping that your summer vacation provides the recharge of spirit that every parent needs.

Posted by Len Maniace on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

The kids of summer


I’m getting up earlier these days and sticking my son on a bus for his daily trek upstate to day camp. Summer must be here.

Truth is he loves his day camp, and he comes home happy and tired. That’s all a parent can really ask for at the end of the day. I do envy stay-at-home parents during the summer, however, because of all the activities they have time for and their freedom to waste away the days with the kids.

But there’s still plenty you can do. Take a look at this list I came upon. It’s a list of things to do with your kids over the summer, put out by the L.A.-based Celerity Educational Group.

Personally, I think these are all good projects to do with your kids throughout the year. But summer is a particularly important time to keep a young brain active and “expand on the classroom knowledge they gained during the year,” said the group’s founder and CEO, Vielka McFarlane. The idea, she said, is to “motivate and stimulate their minds and bodies.”

Take a look:

6 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Busy During the Summer

Build – Have them build a kite, a bird house, a boat or even a Lego structure. Building accesses spatial temporal reasoning and improves fine motor skills. More importantly, most kids get absorbed in the process of creation.

Cook – Have kids help in the kitchen or become Chefs for the day. Cooking utilizes reading skills, math skills and basic judgment. The finished product will produce pride and self-confidence. It also gives the parent a mini-vacation.

Chess and Scrabble – Chess accesses math and sequencing skills. It is an excellent way of keeping your child’s mind active and quick. Also, many public libraries have chess clubs that meet so your child will have the opportunity to compete. Additionally, Scrabble is an excellent way of building your child’s vocabulary and perfecting their dictionary skills. You can also compete with your child to keep their skills agile.

Art – Summer art projects can be great for keeping your kids busy. Get them outside have them work on landscapes paintings or drawings. Or have them work on a found art project. Looking for components for their project can become a treasure hunt. The art supplies you provide can be minimal. The point is to give them ideas for their creation.

Write – Activate your child’s story telling abilities by reading them a portion of a story and having them finish the story in their own words. Younger children can also illustrate their stories. Writing flexes the entire brain and is beneficial for a child’s development and success in school.

Take A Tour – Taking tours can be fun and educational for you and your children. Contact your local newspaper or TV station and ask about arranging a tour. Learn about the inner workings of the media industry. Go to a museum or see an art exhibit find out exactly how art imitates life. Take a trip to the zoo and take in the sites and sounds of the wildlife. Spend a day in another world while experiencing life first hand.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 12:29 pm |


A berry fun day


strawberries.jpgSomeone had a berry-juice stained face this Saturday, and her name is Pumpkin. Yup, we went strawberry picking. And we let her eat berries in the field — it was our primary way of entertaining her! (That and letting her play with a miniature Ernie from “Sesame Street” — who didn’t make it back, by the way.)

I haven’t gone strawberry picking since I was a teenager, but I remember enjoying it (despite once ruining a new pair of Keds my mom warned me against wearing). I didn’t know if Pumpkin was too young, so I asked a mom with more experience, fellow blogger Gayle Williams. She told me she has very early memories of strawberry picking with her family. “I remember sitting in a patch of strawberries, stuffing them into my mouth, and my family cracking up at me. It was a great day.” She gave me sage advice to put Pumpkin in clothes that can take a splatter of strawberry juice.

I searched online for nearby farms and found <a href=”http://www.jonesfamilyfarms.com/” target=”_blank”>Jones Family Farms</a> in Shelton, Conn., which is about 35 miles from my house in northern Westchester. The closest New York farms I could find are in northern Dutchess and Orange. If anyone knows of a strawberry field in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland or southern Dutchess, please post it here!

We rode on the outside of a truck to the field. (Pumpkin sat in my lap. I had one hand gripping the railing to hang on myself and another wrapped tight around her. My husband pointed out that it was her first ride out of a carseat and in a conveyance other than a stroller):


She was very well behaved in the fields and even picked a few berries herself. (I say this to encourage other parents of toddlers to give it a go!) We picked almost 9 pounds of berries in about an hour: in-the-field.jpg

After stuffing ourselves on fresh berries and freezing a big bagful, there were still plenty left over to make crumble. (Here’s a <a href=”http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/dessert-recipes/strawberry-crumble-dessert.htm” target=”_blank”>link to the recipe</a>. It was delish!):

I was so glad we went, especially after I saw how many toddlers (and even a couple of babies) were out. It was a blissful day. I said to my husband as we were riding the truck out to the field, “So, the living room will be dusty this week. So what?” I’d love to hear from other moms and dads about what day trips you have planned for the summer — and talk about the joy of playing hooky from weekend chores and heading to the farm.


Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 3:48 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

Free-form or planned – How should kids spend summer?


Today is the first day of summer and I’ve finally gotten my kids’ summers set. Funny, I don’t think my parents worried too much about that. Somehow summers just unfolded: two weeks at a cottage by a lake and, back in the city, hour after hour playing baseball or one of its variations – stick ball, punch ball or slap ball. OK, and lots of TV watching, too.

My 12-year-old will attend a summer camp at a nearby college that offers academic but fun-sounding classes in the morning, and afternoons full of sports. Sounds so good, I’d like to register.

More complicated is my 17-year-old son’s summer. He’s finishing his junior year in high school and will be doing a series of things: a two-week art program at the Parsons School of Design; four weeks of classes preparing him for the college-application process; and finally a basketball program.

I’m happy with the Parsons program for which we’ve just gotten him registered. It’s all-day classes in illustration at Parsons in the Village. I’ve always been impressed by his creativity, especially when it comes to drawing, painting, or, when he was much younger, making toys out of household scraps.

This program also fits my view of how kids should spend the summer, that is, experiencing things they don’t normally get during the school year – be it sports, unusual academic courses or wilderness adventure. And just so I’m clear, I’m not suggesting that their entire summer should be programmed.

I’m less certain about the college-application course, though. It’s at his own high school and is free, but does he really need to spend every morning for four weeks learning how to write a personal essay and filling out college applications. This comes after he just finished taking an SAT-prep class every Saturday morning this past spring semester.

Though these courses are supposed to improve his odds of getting into the college of his choice, they strike me as having less to do with learning, and more to do developing skills that have little usefullness other than getting into college.

He will also be playing basketball in a program that will get him playing with kids from around New York City and the metro area. I think that’s great. I was shocked by his improvement playing basketball this past year. He finshed the year as his high school team’s top scorerer, rebounder and free-throw shooter. Yes, his high school is small, but who knows, perhaps maybe he could get a partial college scholarship from his basketball. And that’s something that clearly interests me.

Considering that a parent’s influence and leverage is clearily on the decline when a son is 17, I guess I’m satisfied with how his summer is shaping up. There may even be time for a cottage by a lake and hours playing baseball.

How do you think high school kids should spend the summer? I got my first job, part-time at a supermarket, the summer before my senior year in high school, leading me to wonder where do summer jobs fit in the picture for today’s kids?

Posted by Len Maniace on Thursday, June 21st, 2007 at 12:32 am |


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.


Daily Email Newsletter:

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