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I grew up in a game-playing family.  Every week, my parents and my brothers and I would either play poker (with pennies) or another game that required a board, and I think was called DelMonico — it was always a lot of laughs, and the conversations we had were precious.  Another game that my family played but which I just couldn’t grasp was pinochle, and I’d hear “whoops” and “hollers” from the table as someone yelled, “you tricked me, ” or some other game-playing term, like a “partner” wasn’t holding up their end, whatever.  It was, I can see now, a way for all of us to be together and leave the little annoyances of the day behind.  There was no nagging or scolding on their part, nor whining or back-talk on ours.  We were playing a game, with rules that no one could debate.    

This Thanksgiving as we gathered around the family house in Brooklyn, we did it again.  Though our parents are gone now, the games continue.  This day, we played something called, “Anybody’s Guess,” which entailed guessing a term, or an occupation, or a celebrity from clues that ranged from really obscure to super easy.  Everyone plays, from my teen to the oldest uncle, and round and round we go.  ?Throughout the year, we even get together for “family game night” usually hosted by niece.  It’s a schlep to their Queens neighborhood, but we go.  The torch has been passed.   

With that being said, here are a few games that have crossed my desk that are worth noting.  After all, if we don’t discuss these games, especially the  new ones, how do we know they’re out there? 

The perfect holiday stock stuffer, for any age is Lumps, “the Elf Coal game.”  A bunch of dice in various shapes come inside this red stocking.  But while it’s a very cute game and very seasonal-looking, it’s easy to learn.  Perfect for that “sitting around the table and you just want to play something easy” kind of thing.  The goal is to score the most points in three rolls by rolling pairs.  Roll a pair of 3’s and score 3 points.  A pair of 10’s scores 10 points.  What makes the game more challenging is how the different shapes come into play to give you more points.  There is even a solitaire version.  It retails for only $7.99 and was a winner of Creative Child Magazine’s Preferred Choice Award.

The next game we tried out was You’ve Been Sentenced!, which came with a timer, so you already can feel the frantic nature the game must come with.  In an egg-timer’s worth of time, players have to put a sentence together from the cards they were dealt. Each card has a circle of words, a variation of the same word, so the card can offer multiple opportunities.  It levels the playing field since I was playing with two teachers, and my sentences made just as much sense as theirs.  I think one of my sentences was something like:  “George Washington sat in the mud and then ran through a sprinkler.”  Now, you know things about George Washington are always true, which was my explanation for such a sentence.  Oh yea, I forgot to tell you that you have to explain to the other players how your sentence makes sense or not, and with a vote of a “thumbs up or thumbs down” players are awarded points.  Additional cards with specific themes like “sports” or “science fiction” can be purchased to keep the game going and going.  It’s a keeper.  It retails for 24.95, with extra cards priced at $7.99. This game is a winner of the Parent-Tested Parent-Approved Seal of Approval for 2011.

You’ve Been Sentenced is being given away on our contest page: — but to win your “Lumps” game, just write to MJ at, and write “lumps” in the subject line.  The first one I get, gets the game. 

If you have games to suggest, that are popular in your house, we’d love to know about them!!!

I love reading, and I am always on the lookout for a wonderful read. Recently I was online reading the BBC News and saw that Andy Mulligan won the Guardian Children’s prize for fiction for his newest book Return to Ribblestrop. I never heard of the award before but when I am on a mission to find great books I plow forward. It was worth the search.

Ribblestrop, his first book, was published in 2009 and will be part of a trilogy, with the last book being completed now.  Trash, published in 2010, tells the story of children who live under a military regime and survive by tramping throw mounds of trash to find anything saleable.

Getting his books in the US is not that easy. First I went to our library catalog and only found Trash. The other books I ordered online from Amazon.

His stories, at least the two I read, are told from the vantage point of children. All his kids are curious, bright and full of adventure. Not all succeed at what they try, but they persevere until they find satisfactory resolutions to seemingly impossible situations.

The stories show an appreciation of humor against a backdrop of some of the real problems that kids face. 

Millie, the only girl at Ribblestrop , breaks all the rules about hitch-hiking when she tries to return to school. “Rule number one is don’t hitch-hike, but Millie spent all her money one unbeatable bargains. Rule two states that if you have to hitch-hike, don’t do it on your own and if you broke rule one and two, then tell people where you are going, start early, take a phone, keep your door locked, and don’t every ever ever find yourself penniless, on the side of a deserted road…..  Millie broke all the rules.

If you are a fan of the Montessori or Waldorf methods of education you will love meeting the staff and kids at Ribblestrop. Kids set the tone for their school days and decide what they will learn and when. Each child seems to surpass my expectations of what kids are capable of. Kids as young as five are dissecting rats. One rate was pregnant and Sanjay separated out the fetus.  Oli built a remote controlled submarine from old parts he found. And Tomaz creates an apartment within an underground tunnel.

Both you and your kids can have some fun and explore new worlds with Andy Mulligan.

Let me know what you think of this author and his approach to children’s literature.

When things change in the computer world we all hear about it. Amazon sells a Fire tablet for less than it costs to manufacture it. Steve Jobs, the top dog at Apple, dies and the whole world mourns.

When it comes to local healthcare news involving our pediatricians and obstetricians and heart surgeons, we don’t really hear about it.   

Did you know, for instance, that the Hudson Valley will be facing a big doctor shortage?  Or that larger medical groups are gobbling up smaller medical practices?

I called Dr. Seth Levin from Hudson Gastroenterology Associates. The office staff answered, “Horizon Family Medical Group.”  The Children’s & Women’s Physicians of Westchester group has new alliances with Washingtonville Pediatrics as well as other medical groups. Groups like Mid-Hudson Medical Group can’t acquire medical practices fast enough.  The world of local medicine is changing and we hear very little about it.

What does it mean for us?  Well, as these groups get larger they now offer services once exclusively the domain of hospitals. At one time, we went to the hospital for mammograms.  No longer. We also had our colonoscopy procedures at the hospital. Not anymore. 

What does that mean for our hospitals?  They’re losing money left and right every time a medical group takes over a procedure. 

David Ping, Health Quest's strategic planner

I went to the chief architect for strategic planning for Health Quest, David Ping, to find out how their hospital group, which includes Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Northern Dutchess Hospital and Putnam Hospital Center, is handling these changes.

  1. What should Hudson Valley residents know about the state of our medical services?

First, people don’t realize that locally we are absolutely being impacted by doctor shortages. Every three years we look at the number of doctors we have in the region and what the needs are.  We also look at the aging of physicians. The fact is that within five years we will have a need for 102 additional physicians including internists, obstetricians and gynecologists, family practitioners and general surgeons.

We are part of a national trend of too few physicians.  We might feel a greater impact because we are close to large metropolitan areas that are attractive to physicians and their families.

We find that physicians are not going into some of these fields because the specialties are not well-paid based on what they do. For other specialties the medical malpractice insurance rates are so high that it discourages doctors from entering the field.

        2.  How is your group trying to meet those need

We are developing medical practices under Health Quest to help bring more doctors to areas that have a need.  We have 150 practitioners; 60 primary care practitioners alone who practice out of 13 offices.

Angela Keleher, MD, FACS

We also are bringing in specialists like Angela Keleher, MD, FACS. She joined Health Quest in 2007 as the director of Breast Cancer Services. She is highly respected in the field of breast surgical oncology. We now have three certified fellowship trained breast surgeons on staff.
In coming blogs I reveal David Ping’s vision about hospitals using alternative modalities, offering cutting edge medicine and what will be the new hospital’s role.



(Guest blogger, Laura Pink)

Yes, I am one of those moms.  You know the ones that I am talking about – the ones that always have their phone in their hand.  I admit, it’s like an extension of me.  The few times that I have forgotten it, I felt like part of me was missing

When I got my first smart phone a couple of years ago, it was more like a shiny new toy.  As my life has gotten busier between my kids, my husband, my job, and writing, it’s become more like a lifesaver.  Ok, that’s exaggerating some, but it really does help me every day in many different ways.

Here is a list of ways that it helps me to keep things together at least a little bit.  

1.    Calendar:  I put EVERYTHING in the calendar in my phone.  If there is any question as to if we have anything going on, I can quickly check it no matter where we are.  I also set it up to send me reminders of appointments and such so that I don’t forget them if I am out and about.

2.    Notes:  I have used the notes function on my phone for many different things.  I have typed in the number of the fields my girls’ soccer games are so I don’t forget when we get there.  I have typed in my license plate number that I had to turn into the state park when we were camping.  I think you get the idea – pretty much anything I need to remember I have put in the notes so that I have it with me.

3.    Blogging:  It’s hard sometimes to find the time to sit down at my laptop and get a post out.  I love that I get publish a quick post from my phone.  Just this morning I wrote a quick blog post while I was waiting for the kids to be able to go into school.  It’s so easy to blog on the go.

4.    Email:  It’s so easy to shoot off a quick email from my phone no matter where I am.  I can send an email to my mom, my husband, or a potential writing client.  If I am waiting for an important email from a client, I don’t have to sit at home at the laptop.  I always have my email with me. 

5.    Entertainment for my kids:  We were in the car for a bit the other day unexpectedly, and I just handed over my phone to my 5 year old so she could play a game of Angry Birds and then watch some cartoons on Netflix.  This is not something that I do often, but it’s nice to have the option sometimes. 

6.    Camera:  My phone has a great camera and since I always have it with me, I can take pictures of my kids (or whatever) anytime.  I can even upload them online so that my dad in Florida can see what we are up to at all times.

7.    Reading:  I have the Kindle app on my phone.  If I am waiting somewhere, I can pull up the current book I am reading and sneak in a few pages.  As a busy mom, I have to read  when and where I can.

8.    Cloud computing:  I use various apps such as Evernote and Dropbox so I always have my important documents with me if I have a minute to do some writing or need to reference something.  It’s so convenient to have that right at my fingertips.

9.    Social networking:  I can check Facebook quick or even Twitter.  I don’t have a ton of time to spend on these things, so it’s nice to be able to check them quickly from my phone if I am waiting at the doctor’s office or for my girls to get done with school.

10.  The Internet:  I don’t do a lot of browsing online from my phone, but it’s nice to have the option if I want to look something up quickly.

Honestly, I would so lost without my phone.  I don’t know how I functioned without it.  As a busy mom of two girls who works full time and is also trying to manage a freelance writing career, it’s seriously a lifesaver.

Guest blogger, Laura Pink is a writer/editor at Not Just 9 to 5 and blogs at the Working Mother magazine mom blogs.  She will have a piece published soon at Liberating Working Moms.


Because that’s its name: The Amadeus’ Bride room.  It’s just one of the wonderfully wacky rooms at the Roxbury Motel in nearby Delaware County.  I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the Roxbury this past weekend along with three other ladies: my 16-year old daughter and her girlfriend, plus that friend’s Mom, KC.  We were just in the mood for a change of scenery, and fun scenery at that. 

The Roxbury Motel opened up around 2005 by former Manhattanites Gregory Henderson and Joseph Massa.  Both were in the advertising world, and when 911 hit, decided to make permanent roots in this sleepy town about two hours north of the city.  They have used their contacts in the design world here in the US and around the world to create this truly, and I mean truly (because it’s a word that’s used way too much) unique “must-see.”  I’d been there a few years ago and stayed in the “I Dream of Jeannie” room — yes, some of their rooms feature a TV-sitcom theme.  (Another example is their “Flintstones” room where you feel like you’re living in a cave with lopsided windows.) 

But our room was just as over the top, and we loved every inch of it.  The girls were wowed by the spiral staircase, painted murals on the walls featuring an 18th century fashion-diva (probably THE bride herself) and the sparkling chandeliers, tile work, and artwork.  They grabbed the pullout couch and immediately searched for the WiFi so they could share their excitement.  KC and I checked out the refrigerator, complementary water bottles, and grabbed the Godiva chocolates beside the nighttables before the teens could.  Featuring two king bedrooms, there was plenty of space to spread out and not be in other faces.  We bunked down for the night, ready to take advantage of the motel’s new spa in the morning.

After  restful night, we woke to bright sunshine and mild temperatures.  The moms headed to the spa, on the floor above us, and like a visit to the shore, enjoyed the cool blue decor.  A goodies’ table featured iced lemon water,  and plates of nuts, raisins and rice crisps.  Magazines lined the shelves if you wanted to just chill by the panoramic windows and read, or just look out into the expanse of sky and distant mountains.  There are private massage rooms for various treatments, and a steam and sauna rooms to just escape in — no reservation required.  The Roxbury gives you that “queen for a day” feeling by loaning each guest a plush bathroom and brand new flip flops. (Yes guys, you’d enjoy your own king for a day feeling, too.)

A community kitchen features muffins, croissants, cereals, coffee, tea and various juices, plus a “make your own deli sandwich” platter that gives you all you need to get started for a day’s sightseeing.  We sat by the outdoor gas-powered firepit for a bit to take in the blue skies and hot coffee.  The moms brought treats back for the girls because, well, they’re teenagers, so they slept in.  Bidding so-long to the Roxbury, we headed out to our destintion for the day: a visit to Woodstock. What more could we ask for?

For more information on the Roxbury, and see some of their creative room themes, visit them at

 Every once in a while something sticks in my craw, and I feel like I have to shout about it. It’s like that itch you can’t scratch but you keep trying.

                                                   Wal-Mart is a mass marketer
                                          that is not really concerned about us! 

Wal-Mart set me off. What’s with Wal-Mart? As a huge corporate monolith, I know they feel they can do just about anything, and they may be right. But at some point I have to stand up and scratch my head in wonder. Just 6 weeks ago they announced they were increasing premium sharing costs for employees subscribing to their health insurance plans and cutting the benefits for part-timers. And then this past week they announced they are planning to offer medical services through their Wal-Mart Centers.

They offer us poor folks healthcare, just not their employees. What’s up with that? Is it safe to say that money is the bottom line not their employees health. Keep that in mind as you track their progress or shop in their stores. 

                              Target needs to offer healthy food alternatives

Then I turn to Target. You must understand that my daughter-in-law just loves that store, especially since they have Starbucks at the entrance to most (or all) of their stores. I am not sure she can start her day without a good strong drink.

So why do I have a bone to pick with them?  It started in September when Target unveiled their “Missoni for Target” fashion line with everything from sheets to boots to bikes. The interest was so high, that the stores sold out within hours, which caused shoppers to scramble online to buy these hot items. So many visited the Target site that it crashed. Now people used their phones to place orders but Target could not keep up with the demand. And I understand that another hot designer is unleashing his wares in February…Jason Wu.

So what’s my problem? Let’s move out of the general merchandise isles of Target and walk over to food. I am shopping for peanut butter. A simple enough commodity, but is it?  They have about six to ten different labels and I look at them all. What’s the one ingredient they all share…SUGAR!! How healthy is that?

I ask you, if Target executives can get top designers to create clothes we all clamor for, why can’t they encourage food companies to give us healthy alternatives on their grocery shelves?

Maybe I am crazy. People have suggested that before but I keep plugging along.  What are your pet peeves? Maybe we can do something about it together.

(No, I’m not doing a soft-shoe routine — sans shoes — but enjoying a Kimoodo routine with Master Mikhail A. Kuns.)

I love to try out new things, and I’ve had a curiosity about Kimoodo for awhile.  This Martial Arts practice promotes relaxation, health and movement.  I’ve done the yoga, and the pilates, and the aerobics, and the step classes, and wanted to give it a go and Master Kuns of Iron Dragon Fitness & Self Defense in Middletown made it happen on a recent Monday night.  

Another HVParent staffer, Roanne, joined me and the two of us stood at attention at 6:30pm for the start of class.  Master Kuns greeted the group, and explained the exercise regimen involves gentle power stretching, increased mind power, with an emphasis on power breathing.  First, we raised our hands up and back, stretching our shoulders, and made a conscious effort to continue breathing slow and steady, but after a few moves, we were instructed to exhale with power, releasing the breath from deep within our lungs.  It felt good. 

He led us through a series of moves, slow and evenly paced.  We breathed in, we breathed out, and occasionally, let out a big “UGH!” to signify our power and control.  What I noticed about the routine was its ease and flow.  All of it was done standing up, but moving back and forth, to the side, arms up and out. I felt a sort of immediate gratification that I could do this, that at my age (50 something), I could start a new routine and not feel so totally out of shape and out of control. Throughout the class we chanted positive affirmations that, I’m sure, created my feeling of success and satisfaction.  Not only is Kimoodo meant to promote health, you actually FEEL it.  

The pace quickened just a bit because the moves are easy to learn, and once you do a few sets at a slow pace, one move flows into the other.  After 45 minutes (without looking at the clock, like I do during other exercise regimens), we raised our hands and we were done.  During that time, Master Kuns had also explained the physical benefits of positive thinking, that it does affect on the body’s cells, and how they translate positive energy to the brain.  Our thinking patterns do, in fact, impact our overall sense of well-being; think positive and your body responds. 

Best of all, Master Kuns, said, “you got the same body workout someone might get at the gym without the pain in your muscles and joints.” OK..I’m sold.  Thank you Master Kuns!

Kimoodo Classes are held Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm.  For more information, call 845-342-3413.

I had the opportunity to take a long train ride on Saturday which provided valuable reading time.  This day I took the book, Ivan! A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love, and Leashes, by Tim McHugh.  I love dog stories, am a sucker for dog stories, and know that at the end I will cry.  (Much like knowing there’s a tearful scene in every Disney movie!)

This book covers the life of this mixed breed – whatever – that had a rough beginning, i.e.,abandonment, having his face almost ripped off by another dog, and if that wasn’t enough, being stepped on.  That gave him a bit of insecurity as well as a funny-shaped head and an misaligned jaw.  Discovered by a passerby, and then brought to a shelter, we hear Ivan tell us what he’s thinking and feeling, and it all seems to work.  Author and Ivan’s pet owner, McHugh, wrote this work of “creative, non-fiction” to delve into what our furry canine friends might actually be thinking as they go about their lives in a family, with kids, a cat, and relatives who come and go.  It all seems very believable, and as dog owner, I felt that in many cases, what Ivan thought could easily be believed.  When we live with an animal, we can almost (or we can almost for sure) understand their intentions by their body language.

I have a Mini-Schnauzer named Tuscany.  She is a peach of a dog, and I can tell what she’s thinking the moment I get into the house.  She jumps around (obviously, she is happy), she wanders around at my feet (still happy), and then the minute I sit, she is on my lap (she is thrilled beyond words.).  I look her straight in her little brown eyes and say, “out?”  and she jumps down to the floor (delirious).  I get my coat, her leash, and a few treats for my pocket.  At the door, I just have to look at her, and she knows to sit.  Her little body is trembling with great joy.  I open the door, and her body trembles all the more.  I open the automatic garage door opener, and still she waits, listening for me to say, “go.” 

When I do, she is out the door in a flash, jumping and spinning in circles, and heads for our play area.  She never runs off to chase anything, even if a critter is nearby, since this playtime is just the most wonderful thing.  Even more wonderful than a squirrel.  It’s my most favorite part of the day because it’s total pantomime, and there’s not many opportunities I get to bring such pure joy to a living thing.  (Except when I ask my teen if she wants to go to the mall, and even that is sort of iffy.)

What I learned from reading Ivan, which I enjoyed very much, by the way, is this: it was a quick read, filled with comic misadventures that most dogs get into, but hearing it from their point of view is interesting, and most times — at least in Ivan’s case — they are done with the most innocent of intentions.  Ivan enjoys a long life, although at one point, he loses a leg to cancer, but continues on, and actually learns to run and play on three legs.  We are reminded about the adaptabilty of dogs, and how they don’t fault the whole human race for a few that mistreat their kind.  Of course, at the end, Ivan gives a glimpse into the time that dog’s soul moves on, and how they even accept that as another life adventure.

Read about one family’s volunteer time at a Hudson Valley animal shelter.   Read Joan Siegel’s story here.

(The beautiful campus of Mount St. Mary’s, Newburgh)

I regret not going to college right from high school.  But at the time, my parents were practical blue collar workers who didn’t think college was meant for a girl. Their three sons were all expected to go, but as long as their daughter (me) learned dictation and typing, I’d be able to get a job.  I can’t fault them for that kind of thinking — that was their generation.  Truthfully, I was just as happy to leave the school life behind and start making money.  And having a college degree for a secretarial job wasn’t required — a high school diploma and knowing your way around a typewriter (yes, a typewriter!) pretty much got you in.  

I did get a job as a file clerk, and eventually moved up the ladder without that degree. But, then the mid-80’s hit, and there seemed to be a boom on the amount of workers looking for jobs, and the one way personnel managers could weed out resumes was to look for those with college degrees. 

By that time, though, I’d done pretty well in my career.  I’d moved up from the secretarial pool into a public relations spot at a New York City radio station.  But, I’d reached the end of that gravy train.  Any promotion or job change would require at least a Bachelor’s Degree.  I decided to return to school at night and on Saturdays, to earn at least an Associates Degree (two-year) with the idea of moving on to a four-year school for the Bachelor’s.  That was interrupted when I got married and had babies.  But I did get the AA degree, and it later helped me get a job as a teaching assistant in my local school district years later.  And just life experience (after years of freelance writer)  had something to do with my present position as an editor.  I was very, very lucky.

I’ve had this conversation with my two teens for many years now:  While they endure the dramas of high school and the increasing pressure of difficult courses, I tell them that it’s all a process to ensure a healthy future, one with the skills to get a job, and to live a comfortable life.  What more can a parent want for their child?   I remind them about trade schools available for those who have a real definitive job in mind, i.e. cosmetologist, medical transcriptionist, auto mechanic, whatever.  But, just like my parents counselled me (and they did what they thought best), parents need to counsel their older children about the real, down to earth reason for higher education, beyond high school.  It’s just as much required as a social security number and birth certificate.  But you also might tell them to brush up on their typing skills while you’re at it.  

This is my way of introducing our handy-dandy printable listing of public and private colleges in area.  Included are the amenities of our great local colleges, with info on meal plans, security, and tours.  This will help get the conversation started.  Going local can save considerable dollars in dorming fees, and when you attend a state school, tuitions are dramatically reduced.

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