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My grandson is nine and we have taken him trick or treating since he was a baby. As you can imagine, at five months old he could have cared less that he was dressed in a pumpkin pull-up with a pumpkin hat on his head. It was cold that year, and he was being wheeled in his carriage so he was well protected. We, on the other hand, froze as we walked from house to house.

My son and daughter-in-law had lived on this cul-de-sac with about 10 houses on their road for about two years.

Four adults (including the 2 parents and 2 grandparents) and one baby went from house to house that year.  We were welcomed with this new baby. My grandson, Robert, is the youngest kid on the block.  At all but one house we are greeted by older couples who had spent time decorating the outside of their homes and buying some candy and a toy for this newest resident on their block.

We had fun talking to the neighbors and Robert smiled with very little prompting.

Some years we visit the local mall and race around like crazy kids. One year we visited a neighborhood where all the residents dressed up in costumes for Halloween.

But every year we go around the cul-de-sac close to home.

This coming Monday, the same four adults will go out with two kids. Robert, 9, and Lia 6. The neighbors have watched my grandkids grow up, and they have always given them special treasures…besides the chocolate and gummy bears.  A silver dollar. A small stuffed animal. A special candy that they knew the kids would love. Just something to show they care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Spirits of past residents are reported to exist at Boscobel.)

Ghosts and things that go bump in the night.  It’s that season again, and if you know me, you know I love a good ghost hunt.  I was invited to tag along with famed HudsonValley Ghost Hunter, Linda Zimmermann last night at Boscobel.  Now, Boscobel, the estate on the Hudson, near Cold Spring on 9D, has all the ingredients for being attractive to spirits who haven’t passed over.  It’s age alone, built in the mid-1800’s, the early death of the builder, stories of sadness, and financial distress, plus, the fact that the house itself was moved from its original Montrose site to its present location. 

After a slide show of past haunting experiences, Linda took a portion of the audience along on a ghost hunt.  Two other ghosty experts, Barbara Bleitzhofer psychometrist and Michael Worden, ghost investigator and a detective from Port Jervis, took two other groups.  Linda’s events are always well attended; tonight there were at least 45 people in the bunch. 

Linda moved us along the mansion, in near darkness, except for some electric candles placed about the small rooms.  Linda held her EMF meter which detects electricity in the air.  Five lights, from pale yellow to bright red, will light when in the presence of an unexplainable force of electricity.  When the lights flicker and then go dark, one can assume that a spirit has passed by.  There would be no other earthly reason for such an occurrence.  Tonight, on two occasions, the lights blazed widely.  One time, just after Linda asked if anyone (in the spirit world, that is) wanted to let their presence be known.  Goosebumps all around, and some of us experienced an odd fluttering in our ears, something experienced at other times on such a hunt. 

At one point, near the grand staircase, where spirits have been felt and seen, the EMF meter flashed its colors but closer to the floor.  We had already been told that the spirit of a dog is wandering the mansion, as well as two children.  Why the EMF meter was blazing bright towards the floor (the height of perhaps a child or a pet), remains to be determined.  Perhaps a child ran by, or the dog sped passed.

The spooky halls and formally painted portraits in Boscobel create the perfect ambience for such an event.  The home’s builder died two years before the home was completed, he had also been a British supporter — something that could have aroused ill feelings from neighbors and family.  Elizabeth, the owner’s wife, died at jsut 47; someone named Peter (a son, perhaps), died at just 27.   At another point, Barbara (who has the power to feel history by just touching items), put on a cotton glove to “feel” one of the mansion’s tables.  She immediately had to kneel down, said she felt like she was a on ship, and a  member of the Boscobel staff explained that that piece had come across from England.   And, on a side note, upon entering the hall, Barbara asked about someone named “Tom.”  But there had been no one in the family so named.  Later, on the tour, Linda had been observing a member of her group, he seemed to be near whenever the EMF meter went off.  She asked if he had any connection to the house, and he said, no, he’d just come along with a friend.  Then, Barbara came along, and when she and Tom met, the EMF meter went off again.  When Tom introduced  himself, Barbara said that the spirits are trying to come through to give him a message. 

“Is there anything going on with you about construction?” Barbara asked, sensing that he might be working at building something with concrete.  “No,” Tom replied.  “Well, maybe we’ll talk later,” she said.  Obviously, there may have been something more going on, and as she said to the crowd, “like a doctor, there is a confidentiality aspect to what I do.” 

It was a howling success over at Boscobel, and it’s worth a visit even on a bright sunny day to enjoy the views, the history, and maybe even in the daylight, a spirit will stop by to say “hello.”

 

 

 

 

(Hawks Nest)

What a great Fall season we are having here in the Hudson Valley.  A break from nature’s wrath, I suspect.  We had such a tough August and this grand weather has made it easy for us to get out and breathe again. 

I needed to breathe a bit today because last night, I innocently decided to revise our TV viewing set-up in the downstairs den.  “Dear!” I called to my technically-savvy husband, “How can I stream Netflix down here?” 

“You can go through the accessory outputs of the cable box,” I think was his response.  “Huh?” I replied. 

“Or, you can go through the Wii.”  

“But, dear,” I replied in my most sweetest voice because while I was annoyed since I had no idea what he was saying, I needed to stay on his good side.  “I don’t know what that means.”

He came into the room, not too happy to have been taken from his computer solitaire game.  We spent the next hour or so, switching plugs from here and there, setting up the Wii, looking up instructions on the computer on how to set up the Netflix movie stream on the Wii, turning the TV off and on to see if our struggles were successful.  Then, when we thought we had it, we turned on the TV, switched to Wii mode, then clicked on Netflix, but nothing.  Dumbfounded, we stared at the TV. 

Then, my husband had his V8 moment.  “Stupid us,” he said, “We don’t have the sensor bar.”   I thought smoke was going to come out of my ears.  The WHAT?

Now by this time, I had had it with modern technology and my ignorance of it.  Plus, that it allows us so many options, but with a price.  It’s easy, they say, to stream on your computer, if only you have the blah, blah, blah with the ABCD cable connection, and the XYC cable outputs with the blue, white and red wires.

I sighed, trying to keep my voice light.  “What is a sensor bar?” 

“The bar that was on the upstairs TV for years that the girls used to play their Wii games.” 

“Oh, that flimsy thing that sat on the TV that I dusted off now and then?”

“Uh huh,” he said.

“Do we have one?”

“It should be on the upstairs TV,” he said.
But it wasn’t.  We looked around for it, go out the flashlight, looked under the TV stand, in boxes where I put electronic things I have no clue about.

“Where would it have gone?” asked my husband, truly perplexed.

I was now a woman possessed, and was on the phone with my local electronics store, trying to explain what we were looking for.

“Hold a minute,” the sales rep said. “Yes, we have one, but it’s battery operated.”

I called to my husband, “Dear, do we want the one that’s battery operated?”

“Not unless you want to change the batteries every time you use it.”

“No,” I told the sales rep.  “Sorry,” he replied.

Next call.

The local game outlet had one, refurbished, but it was both wireless and would take batteries.

“Dear?”  I called.  “How about I make dinner while you go and get that sensor-bar thing.  This way, if there are questions about it you know what to say.” I was still my sweet-self.

And he went, and came home from his “hunt,” with the sensor bar, complete with instructions for set-up.  

I ripped it out of his hands. 

Throughout this ordeal, I lamented the days when you could plug in a TV, and just watch a show.  With knobs you could see without bending and squinting, the phrase “remote control” was was heard more in Jetson cartoons than in every day conversation, and no  cable reception necessary.  And, most of what was on was family-friendly. 

That’s why on this gorgeous Fall day, I took a drive to Hawks Nest.  There’d be plenty of days when we’d be in, wanting out of the cold, to watch a Netflix movie or whatever.  But, not today. 

Learn the secrets from a professional. One of a two part series

Meet author Karen Kaufman Orloff.  With four children’s picture books under her belt she has enough experience to give those of us who dream about being published authors the inside scoop. After graduating college with a degree in English, journalism and publishing, Orloff became an editor for a Manhattan magazine group. She currently is a columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Orloff. “Since my children were babies.

“I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking I could write stories for kids. But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Iguana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

“It was a fluke,” says Orloff.  She went to a conference armed with her manuscript.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator’s offered one-on-one sessions with editors. The rest is history. Then and there, the editor was interested in acquiring the story.  “That was the best money I ever spent,” says Orloff.  I Wanna Iguana has been nominated for 16 awards since it was first published in 2004. In fact, she was given an all expense trip to Nebraska to make a presentation about her book.

5  common misconceptions writers have?

  1. If I write a good story it will get published
  2. It is easy to get published
  3. Must use rhyming for easy reader children’s books
  4. Writing is a great way to earn a living.
  5. You must get an agent to get published.

“I see many well written stories,” says Orloff. “But they are stories that have been around forever. It is critical that the story be unique. Some stories are way too long, or too adult in their theme or use of language.

According to Orloff, you must have a thick skin to get published. And even now that she is a published author, Orloff still gets rejection letters. “Putnam rejected the manuscript for If My Mom Had Three Arms. The book finally found a home at Sterling Publishing and was published in 2004. Good luck follows Orloff. Sterling was bought by Barnes & Noble and now she has the benefit of their extensive distribution network.

In terms of rhyme, the author says that good rhyme is very hard to create. That is one of reason she suggests only using that technique if you a really good. She sees lines that don’t rhyme or meters that are off.  She emphasizes that rhyme must be good rhyme to work.

According to Orloff, you shouldn’t count on quitting your current job if you need this money to pay your rent and put food on your table. Advances can run between $3,000 to $5,000 but getting two books published a year is considered good.  Even with royalties the money accumulates very slowly.

Orloff does not have an agent and even as a published author she would have a hard time finding one.

There are so many writers now writing for the young market that it is very hard to capture the attention of an agent. So learn the industry and go it on your own.

Her one word of advice? Persevere!

Want to learn more from this seasoned professional? Attend her upcoming 5-week sessions now forming.

I remember those days like they were yesterday.  It was this time of year, in 1992, and I’d just given birth to my firstborn, a girl.  The nurses at the Long Island hospital immediately checked her out, cleaned her off, wrapped her up, put a beanie on top, and presented her to me like a fine gift.  A gift she was.  

For the next day and a half I felt like a queen, albeit a sore one.  And a little tired.  The staff would bring me breakfast, lunch and dinner, and whoever was on shift would bring Emily to me for feedings throughout the day.  They taught me how to breastfeed, and change a diaper.  Most of the time, Em had already been changed, and my job was to feed her a few ounces during our time together.  Then, the nurse would take her back for a nap.  Em, I remember, was always swaddled up in the hospital-themed-striped blanket, and smelled great.  There was not much for me to do. 

And by the middle of the next day, we were discharged.  I packed up my few belongings, stepped up on the wheelchair, and they placed Em in my arms.  Her Daddy was behind me, glad that all he had to do was push me along the hallways.  When we got to the car, I felt the transition, the responsibility was now passing from the hospital to us.  The nurse wished us luck, and wheeled the chair away, heading back to the swarm of new mothers-to-be waiting in the maternity ward.

My husband had set up the car seat in the back, and we positioned Em as best we could.  She was so little, so fragile, and now it was up to us to take over and somehow make this work.  The ride home was nerve-wracking. I sat in the back, watching each breath Em took, and made sure the car seat straps weren’t too tight.  Every turn and stop seemed to magnify when you’re watching an eight-pound creature; the head shifts, the body moves this way and that. 

Finally, home, to unbuckle us both, and climb out.  Into the house, and gingerly, I placed her on the dressing table, and let out a sigh of relief.  My husband had to sit down.  What to do now?  There were no more nurses to bring Emily back and forth to me and be at my side for every question, or demonstration.  No one to take Em back and forth in between feedings, and swaddle her.  Panic began to crawl up my arms, into my neck, and I took a deep breath.  I looked down at Emily, and she smiled.  Maybe it was a burp, or gas, or whatever.  But that smile meant the world to me.  If she  after all she’d been through, could look so calm and trusting, then I’d be the same.  I felt she was telling me that we were in this together. 

Our first ever Hudson Valley Baby Guide, coming out this month, is meant to be just that.  A reminder that we’re all in this together.  We’ve made sure to cover some issues a brand new parent will have to consider, like getting the house ready for the baby’s coming home day, how to create a lasting friendship between your pet cat and your new baby, and how to take great photos during that newborn phase; some long term planning like the “529” account, and how to take terrific newborn photos.  We hope for this to be the starting point of how you view us here at the magazine.  Not only as a guide for summer camps and after school activities, but as a place to come to for parenting help, a place to bring your questions.  If we don’t know, we’ll find out.  You can always write to me at editor@excitingread.com and let me know how you’re doing as a new parent, or tell us on facebook. 

It’s about 19 years since that fall afternoon we brought Emily home, and right now, she’s in her second year of college. Her sister, now in 11th grade, is right on her heels.  So, we got this far, and so will you. If there is one thing about parenting I know for sure is that goes so darn fast.  So, in the meantime, enjoy every burp, and every diaper change and every smile they give you.

TTYL,

MJ

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