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Archive for the 'Teenagers' Category

Recommended: Pacem in Terris


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 |

Shameless proud parent post


No, not from me. But this is something that really moved me and I felt it was worth sharing.

A co-worker today attended the Westchester County Women’s Hall of Fame Awards luncheon, at which his daughter was receiving the Merrill Lynch Westchester Leadership Award.

I think her words best relay why she was worthy of the honor and the scholarship it brings. These are excerpts from the essay she submitted as part of her application for the award:

“I have always been different. In books and movies, being different is always good. The hero and heroine are never ordinary people, they are special and gifted.
“But being different in real life is not always a good thing; most of the time it’s painful, lonely, and just plain hard. I have cerebral palsy and other learning disabilities including difficulty reading and writing.
“I would have to say that my disability, and more importantly people’s reaction to it, has had a big impact on my life and made me who I am today.
“It’s amazing how being different can be like holding a magnifying glass up to reveal those who are kind as well as those who are cruel. While I consider many of my ‘disabilities’ to be ‘abilities,’ I have had to spend much of my life learning how to be like others so I will be accepted.
“I hope to become a teacher, a special education teacher or maybe a social worker or an advocate for people with disabilities. I’d like to help other people like me get the help they deserve. Maybe I’ll even get a PhD.”

Wow. That’s some young lady.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, March 27th, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
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Teens under the knife


The surgeon’s knife, that is.

Statistics show that the number of teens undergoing cosmetic surgery continues to rise, with more than 244,000 American teens going under the knife for breast implants, nose jobs and other procedures in 2006, according to an MSNBC report in 2007. Also, USA Today reported a spike in breast-reduction operations among boys, with more than 14,000 a year.

This week, The Hastings Center, a bioethical think tank in Garrison, raised the alarm, announcing a series of essays in its current newsletter addressing the issue. The essays address, among other topics, the surgical procedure that “Westernizes” the eyes for Asian patients. Of course, with some 11.7 million cosmetic surgical procedures among all residents in 2007, it’s not hard to figure out who’s setting the example.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, January 29th, 2009 at 1:52 pm |


College disorientation


A couple of weeks ago I drove my oldest son out to Stony Brook University for freshman orientation. I’m not sure which of us was more excited.

It was a lot different from my college, the Brooklyn Center of Long Island University. That was a collection of buildings around a concerete yard, euphemistically described as “an urban campus.” This was in the early 1970s. when Brooklyn hadn’t recovered from the Dodgers leaving town and there was a dangerous scent of decay all around.

In contrast, Stony Brook is a big-league college campus that stretches out in all directions. This SUNY school won’t be confused with Georgetown, or Fordham or even NYU, however. There’s lots of utilitarian ’50s, ’60s and ’70s architecture, though Stony Brook seems to be compensating with lots of greenery and newer buildings that have a friendly and generous feeling.

My son went to his orientation session and I went mine. It was thorough and ran 6 1/2 hours. They told us about about academics, meal plans, campus jobs, and dorms that sometimes squeeze three incoming students into a room meant for two. They talked about campus security, and if my son didn’t get the message that the dorm room needs to be locked when he goes out, I did.

Then they told us that the bill  for tuition, room and board would be arriving soon. Oh, and it needs to be paid by Sept. 15.  But since it’s one-third the cost of a lot of private schools, I’m a big SUNY fan.   I told my neighbor, and now she’s teachng her 4-year-old to say SUNY – over and over.

At lunch a few of the parents wandered around the campus. We liked what we saw and we wanted to go back to school. As for our kids? Let them wait their turn. They probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much as we would.

Posted by Len Maniace on Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 12:40 am |
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How do you celebrate the Fourth?


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 »

The prom date … revisited


Remember the prom date? “In this earlier blog,”:http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2008/04/23/the-prom-date-debate I spoke about a mom who put her foot down when her 15-year-old son was asked to go to the prom by a senior girl in his high school. Her thinking was that he was too young, etc., etc. That sparked some lively debate.

Well, the prom came and went, and the 15-year-old did, indeed, attend with the older girl. It turns out that the boy’s mom ultimately had discussions with the girl’s mom, discussed it with her son, and they agreed to the ground rules. So she relented.

How’d he do? Things went smoothly. He was a gentleman, there were no after-parties, and he was home at the agreed-to time. By all accounts, the two had a wonderful — and safe — time together.

So, does this make the concern some of you had moot? Or did the mom dodge a bullet?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 at 12:35 pm |


A beating in the ‘burbs


The video was striking: Four teenagers beating up a fifth teen during a violent encounter at a church parking lot in Ossining. At some point local cops said the kid taking the beating got a seven-inch gash across his neck. A 16-year-old girl is also punched in the face, and is threatened with more, at which point she walks away.

This was from a story we ran in recent days. Police said neither of the teens were seriously injured: The gash was apparently not very deep. The video itself, which was posted on YouTube by one of the kids later charged in the incident, has since been pulled off the Internet.

So, why is this on a parenting blog? Well, my very first thought when I saw it was, ‘Oh my God. What if that was my kid?’ It’s a horrifying thought. And what if it was one of our children doing the beating, since peer pressure can be a powerful draw?

To be fair, here’s what doesn’t worry me about this incident: It seems to be a “gang assault” in circumstance only. That is to say, it was a group, or “gang” of kids who are charged. They weren’t Bloods, or Latin Kings, or Hell’s Angels. They weren’t a real gang in the most frightening sense. It was just a group of kids seemingly beating another.

But that’s enough for me. It should be enough for all parents. Because regardless of how the criminal justice system deals with it, it is unacceptable, frightening and brutally dangerous. And it scares the heck out of me.

It doesn’t help when the act is downplayed, as seemed to be the case with a “New York Times column”:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/nyregion/02towns.html?ref=nyregion on this in yesterday’s papers. Was too much made of the incident by my own newspaper? Some might think so, but I don’t. Should the Times have spoken to the Ossining police and not just one of the arrested teens, his parents and his lawyer? Some might think not, but I do.

Because while I know that schoolyard fights are going to happen, it shouldn’t happen this way. We, as parents, should care about it.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, March 3rd, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

Sons and the silent treatment


My wife, oldest son and I visited Stony Brook University yesterday to check out the school that’s vaulted to first place on my son’s list of college choices.

It’s a big school; lecture halls are routine for most classes he’s going to take his first year. Also since its an NCAA Division One school, chances are just about zero that he will play for the school basketball team, something that occuppied a lot of his time in his last two years of high school. That’s not to say the school doesn’t have a lot going for it. There’s just a lot to sort through.

Asked what my son thought about the school, he answered: “Good.” What did he like in particular: “Nothing.” What didn’t you like: “Nothing.” And how it compared with other schools we’ve visited: “About the same.”

My son can make Humphrey Bogart seem absolutely chatty.

After the tour, as my son and I walked to get the car, I suggested that it’s OK to feel anxious about going to college. He immediately insisted he wasn’t. Is that exhibit number one that he is worried?

So how do I get him to talk a little more? I’m kind of at a loss.; talking about feelings is not something he is particulary good at.  I’ve told him some about my experiences at college. I guess I’ll tell him a more, especially the funny things. That can’t hurt.

Meanwhile last night, I made an offer: “I know you’re not worried about college, but anytime you want to talk about college with me you can.”

He gave a half smile-half laugh, a gesture that could have meant nearly anything. It could have meant “I’m not talking; it’s no big deal.” Or perhaps, “Thanks, dad.”  

Posted by Len Maniace on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 at 9:04 am |

Another fatherhood shock


Yesterday I wrote about my elder son getting his first college-acceptance letter. He’s growing up and this post documents one of the more surprising examples.

One workday a few months ago, I woke up to find my son ironing a dress shirt. Then he asked for help in knotting in his tie. This event  has repeated itself  on a weekly basis since then. Pretty shocking for a boy whose wardrobe from age seven consisted mainly of baggy jeans and t-shirts.

So what’s going on? The dress-up order came from my son’s high school basketball coach. Whenever the team visits another school for a basketball game, the players need to wear dress pants, shirt and tie.  An interesting idea, similar to what happened in the NBA some years back.

I’m certainly not complaining, even when it meant shopping with him shortly after Chrsitmas and buying him a some ties, dress shirts and dress pants. There are some surprises about parenthood that no one tells you about.

Have you noticed a similar transformation in your high school student? 

Posted by Len Maniace on Thursday, February 7th, 2008 at 8:36 am |
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A late-winter rite: the college-acceptance letter


An oversized envelope from SUNY Stony Brook arrived at my house this week. It’s appearance had been heralded by a phone call from the elder of my two sons who told me that he had something to show me when I got home from work.

Stuffed with a colorful brochure touting the advantages of this state school, the envelope contained an acceptance letter. So now I know – it’s those skinny little envelopes that bring the bad news. One down, eight more to go. 

As a parent it’s reassuring to know that a college actually wants your child. It’s a relief because, like most parents, I have had occasion to mutter under my breath that I no longer want him. Please, tell me I’m not the only one.

The interesting thing is, that’s happened less frequently in recent months. He seems to have finally figured out that his parents, while they love him, are not his unpaid servants. He actually helps out around the house without much of a fuss now: He goes to the supermarket once a week and vacuums nearly as often, among other chores. This son is growing up. One down, one more to go.

Please write and tell us how your family is handling the wait for college-acceptance letters.

Posted by Len Maniace on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 7:11 am |
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Lateness, genetics and college-application deadlines


Yesterday was the deadline for many college applications. So my eldest son was at his school until 10 p.m. last night finishing his applications. I know that because at 8 p.m. he called to ask for an example of his stubborness, something he needed for his college essay.

“An example of your stubborness? How about waiting until the last minute to finish you college applications, even though we told you to do it months ago,” I said.

“I can’t use that in this essay,” he said.

That leads me to the following question: Is procrastination genetic? I once had a tendency for lateness that led a friend to come up with the concept of Maniace time – a time zone that’s somewhere to the left of the Eastern zone. I think the final straw was when I arrived a half hour late to drive him to his wedding. 

But procrastination had nothing to do with that. It was love. Before arriving at his house I gave my then-girlfriend some tips on driving my car, which she would need to get to the reception hall  since I would be in a wedding-party limo. It was love. I treasured that gleeming, cream-colored 1972 Super Beetle.

Eventually my wife cured me of my procrastination (This may come as a surprise to my editors; not the part about my wife, but that I’ve been cured). While I could be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour late, my wife topped me by orders of magnitude. When it came to leaving on vacation trips, this meant we’ve been anywhere from three to six hours late. My reaction to her lateness was to reform; I’m now semi-punctual. That has allowed me to name a time zone after her.

Hence my original question: Is procrastination genetic? If so, my kids are going to be world champs.  

Posted by Len Maniace on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 at 8:40 am |
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In case you missed it….


Interesting business story today about “changes to MySpace”:http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080115/BUSINESS01/801150324 to increase monitoring of the site. I’m sure we’re all familiar with MySpace, and the concerns many parents have with the unfiltered access some kids and teens have to it. So, this move would put in some changes to target sexual predators who may frequent the site.

According to the story, 49 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the changes for the site, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Apparently, only one state, Texas, has failed to back the measure. What’s up with that?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 at 11:04 am |
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The dreaded teen years


Okay, this is way premature: My son is just 10.

But I’ve always accepted that my time with him is limited. We buddy around now and go on treks together, share movies and even joust in X-Box contests now and again. But what happens when he hits the teen years? That’s when dad has to drop him off around the corner so his friends won’t see him with me. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?

This came to mind this week when a colleague of mine told me the latest news about his 15-year-old. Both our sons take guitar lessons and fool around with the six-strings, so we’re always checking in on their progress. This week he tells me his boy has turned in his guitar for text-messaging. In other words, he has a girlfriend.

Now, my girlfriend’s 3-year-old has a girlfriend too. Of course, in pre-K it’s a slightly different dynamic. My son is in fifth grade, and had his first kiss in kindergarten. He has had a girl or two chasing him over the years. He’s still at that age where he blushes at the mere mention of that first kiss, but two girls in particular always come up year after year.

Anyway, the girlfriend isn’t even the ultimate point. It’s more a matter of losing some part of that father-son bond when my boy hits the teens. I know of cases where it hasn’t worked that way, but a lot more where it has. For instance, I have one cousin who remained close with her boys during those years, largely by staying current on the latest video games and playing with them frequently. Another cousin left home early in his teen years due to his inability to relate in any way to his parents.

Will my son be one or the other extreme? Or somewhere in the middle? I bring this up to him now and again, and he tells me that’ll never happen. He’ll always be my buddy. God bless his little heart for saying so.

But, as much as it as a rite of passage of sorts, I do dread it. I mean, isn’t it just a matter of time?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 at 5:53 pm |

A (tedious) solution to my e-mail disaster…


Yesterday, I told the story of how, through a computer glitch, <a href=”http://parentsplace.lohudblogs.com/2008/01/02/cherished-memories-lost-maybe-forever/” target=”_blank”>I lost several years worth of e-mail </a> that includes notes telling the story of Pumpkin’s life in all its little details and big milestone moments. This was pretty upsetting, as you can imagine. Well, I found a solution that has me somewhat relieved, but a little daunted.

I knew there was a chance the files were saved somewhere on my computer, since I don’t have the option of leaving e-mail permanently on the Internet service provider’s server. The problem is that Mac Mail saves the e-mail in a format that’s designed for the program to retrieve, but not for the user to find by searching through the library. But I was determined, particularly after neither Optimum Online nor Apple tech support could find a way to restore the messages. I found a folder embedded deep in my computer that contained about 8,700 files, all named with “elmx” and a number. I opened one, and it was a sent e-mail message. I was so happy — here were the missing messages! But I was also intimidated by the task. There is no way to do a text search on the files and their file names give no hint as to their contents. The dates on the files also do not correspond to the dates inside the e-mails.

So, yes, I have to open up all 8,700 files individually, scan their contents and save the ones that relate to Pumpkin as text files. It’s a big job, but at least I have a solution. It will be worth the effort, I know, based on a few of the e-mail messages I’ve read so far that put a date on how many ounces of milk she was drinking and when she smiled her first smile. Good luck to me! I also hope that all the messages are saved because there are some odd leaps in time between them.

I am sharing this tale because I am hoping it will be a lesson to all of us. We parents sometimes need a reminder to backup our precious memories stored on our computers. Do you still have holiday photos on your hard drive that haven’t been saved anywhere else? Get them backed up! And think about unconventional sources of memories, like e-mail. Those e-mails or instant message logs from your son or daughter spending a first year at college, for instance, would be a treasure if you saved them to read again in 10 years. Do the rest of you have any backup tips to share? Or any tales of lost (or found) data?

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 at 9:08 am |
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When teens act like teens, watch out


In the last two weeks, my two sons have gone from being healthy teens to walking wounded. First my youngest son, 13, fractured two toes. Then last week, my eldest son, 17, tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

How did they do it? By acting like teens.

My youngest son got into a tussle with his oldest brother, who was attempting to push open the door to his brother’s bedroom. In what was not a brilliant response, the little guy attempted to kick the door closed. Ouch!

Then it was the oldest son’s turn, or as the younger one said, karma. The elder one joined a gym last June to get ready for his senior year on his high school basektball team. He’s been pretty committed to working out, but evidently went to far. He had a little pain Wednesday night after the gym, but returned on Thursday, injuring his shoulder more. Then he played the first game of the season Friday. The result was more pain.

So far I’ve avoided using the phrase, I told you so, even though I had warned him about that hazards of using weights and the need for a day or two off between workouts. I thought he had gotten the message, but he’s stubborn.

Then he went to basketball practice last night night, saying he didn’t shoot from the right side. And that he hopes to play in Friday’s game if he’s not in pain.  I told him absolutely not, but he is stubborn. So my strategy is consult with his doctor today and then talk to his basketball coach.

I know teens have judgment issues. When I was 13, I spent weeks walking atop a narrow fence fantasizing that I was a tight rope walker in a circus. As I improved I walked the fence faster and even at night. I finally stopped after losing my balance one night, landing across the top of the unforgiving iron fence and spending a week in the hospital.

It’s nice when kids don’t need to be hospitalized to learn a lesson.

Posted by Len Maniace on Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 at 12:34 am |
| | 1 Comment »


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