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Yes. One on four kids report being sexually abused.

But the real discussion should not be about who is on the sex offender registry, the REAL issue is who is this sexual predator that we are all afraid of?  Read Hudson Valley Parent’s series of stories written by Gloria Smith.

We talk among ourselves – adult to adult – about reports in the media, most recently the Times Herald Record, of sexual abuse. So much of this talk revolves about sports figures, whether it’s the coach at Syracuse University or the Penn State scandal.

But, I think we, as parents, have not yet figured out how to deal with this topic relative to our kids. According to Eve Waltermauer, associate professor at SUNY New Paltz, “We need to teach our kids how to handle abuse when it is someone they know. Someone they think is our friend or a family member.”

Waltermauer says, if your kids feel uncomfortable with an adult, they need to know they can come to you to discuss it without thinking you won’t believe them or that you will feel angry. After all, the perpetrator is someone who is known to the family…a family member, a friend, a coach, a day care provider.

“We tend to focus on this whole notion of ‘stranger danger,’” say Waltermauer. “We fail to teach kids what to when someone close to the family is a potential predator.

How have you handled this issue of sexual abuse? Do you find it a difficult topic to discuss?


Nature deficit disorder.  I have been reading about that over the last few years.  It’s defined as a disconnect between our children and their natural world.  In his book of a few years ago, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the phrase and suggests that the result can be attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

In a new book on the subject, The Truly Alive Child: For Those Who Seek A Grander Vision For Our Children, educator Simon Paul Harrison continues the dialog and says “Because the focus of our education system is almost solely on the rote memorization of information there’s so little room for a deep and meaningful relationship with nature to develop, and we should be deeply concerned about the long-term impact this will have on our children. Time outside in nature is so healthy for our children on every level; body, mind and soul. There are numerous scientific studies, and we can see with our own eyes what happens to children when they don’t value playing outside. Children develop obesity, suffer from a lack of creativity and even happiness.”

When Caroline and I were in South Africa, we couldn’t help but notice the connection with nature we saw around us, whether it was from the rangers who took us out on drives or in conversations with the various drivers who took us to and fro.  In many areas outside the big cities, the people live on the land, and dependent on the land, and have to understand it.  Very few of the children we saw had a cell phone, or a playstation, or a computer.  Their playground was their neighborhood, and their toys were whatever they could find.  Some rolled car tires using a stick to move it along, some played with worn out Barbie dolls on their front step.  Their delight with seeing their photo in our digital camera was amusing.

In South Africa, knowledge about the environment is critical since it’s still very much dependent on farming, and in other areas, critical for survival.  What I hope is that our society, for all its dependency on being plugged in, to set aside every day to be outside.  To make sure that our children get time outside.  It’s a challenge for parents, who are already caught in a frazzled day with appointments, and shopping, and meal planning, and working either inside the home or out.  But when you think of all the things we are told that we should do to improve our health:  eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, the one task that seems the simplest, the easiest and cheapest one to do:  GET OUTSIDE IN NATURE, should be the one we should try to do the most.

Here are five places to visit that will bring you back into nature.

(Below are pictures my daughter took on our trip.  She was the one who used to hunt for earthworms and lizards, and the one who wanted to learn how to fish.  She still shows a side that is very connected to the natural world.)


Send your ideas on how you and your family get out into nature here in the Hudson Valley!  Write to me at


Every once in a while I go back to reading science fiction. (I am a mystery lover.) This genre fascinates me because I consider sci fi writers to be on the cutting edge of our possible future. And like all readers of mystery I want to know how riddles get solved. Sci fi writers answer the riddle of who we will become at some future date.

This week I pulled a paperback version of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game off my bookshelf. I don’t remember when I bought it, but it must be some time ago because the pages are yellowing.  He writes about world politics, living on other planets and mind control.

But one simple image fascinates me…the desk you can write on. Kid’s write on their desks. They use this instrument to send messages. And they carry their desktops around to write on, study with and to do their homework. Doesn’t this sound like the wildly popular tablets we are so fascinated with? This book was written in 1977.

I don’t know about you, but I got my first computer in 1983. It was an IBM machine with no hard drive and two floppy 5-1/4″ drives and definitely not portable. I thought I was in the forefront of modern technology. Who would dream that 29 years later I would write my stories on my Android tablet or my IPad?

What are your best sci fi reads?

We welcome Ashlie Blake, artist and Hudson Valley parent, who will be showing us how to create terrific arts and crafts projects using simple items around the house.  Just for

Ashlie Blake is a mixed media artist and blogger living in the Minisink area of our beautiful Hudson Valley N.Y.. Ashlie loves life with her husband and three young boys aged almost 2 to almost 7. Working out of her home studio while the children play and create right along with her, she loves having the ability of being a stay at home mom as well as a working artist. Ashlie hopes from sharing children/parent craft tutorials that it will encourage parents to spend more time with their children and have fun doing so. Creating is a time to explore and increase self-confidence… praise from a parent to a child can be one of the things that stays and builds character for the rest of a child’s life. In a world where creativity reigns, Ashlie hopes to guide parents into making, doing, and painting up a whole storm of projects!

This is a craft for ages 18-months and up… a beautiful canvas painted by your little one and a hand full of marbles!

{{Marble Rolled Canvas Art }}

Recommended for children ages 18 months and up

Prepare to get messy and have fun too!

Your kids will love this project with it’s bright colors.

Get ready to hear giggles as paint covered marbles glide across a kid driven canvas!



Bag of Marbles

Liquid Acrylics (found in the wood section of your local craft store)


Packaging Tape

Paper Plates, water and bowls

Special Note: Liquid acrylics will stain clothing, please dress your child accordingly. In our house I let my boys create in their underwear, this way it’s straight to the tub when they have completed their projects.

#Step 1 : Cut several long strips of cardboard about 2 inches wide, attach pieces together with packaging tape. Wrap strip around canvas creating a rim (This rim will protect your marble from falling off of the canvas while your children roll)

#Step 2: After forming rim and securing with tape,  flip canvas over and tape vertically/horizontally pulling tension tight (see image below). Cardboard should be secure yet removable.

#Step 3 : Cover your dining room table with a twin sized fitted sheet. Corners will hold onto the table preventing slippage while also keeping your surface clean. Offer bowls of water for rinsing marbles between colors and paper towels for drying them as well as wiping hands.

#Step 4 : Squirt paint onto paper plates. Let children coat marbles one by one and place in the center of their canvas. Once you have placed your marbles and are ready, let your child pick up and roll the marbles in any direction they want.

The more you roll, the more you paint… when marbles appear to have lost their paint, coat again and keep creating. Repeat as much as you want! layer after layer your child’s canvas becomes a modern piece of art to be shared!

Also, the more the marbles – the more fun rolling them!

This project being an absolutely hands project provides a child with fun and enjoyment. Parent’s work one on one with the child/children offering plenty of quality time and smiles. Finished projects create confidence and build esteem.

Be sure to offer lots of praise to your child/children, they soak it up like sunshine.

I don’t know about your family, but mine comes home starving every day from school and work.  We tend to eat dinner early (typically 5 or 5:30) so an after-school snack at 4 pm could easily ruin dinner.  However, it’s hard to keep my daughters (and husband) out of the kitchen, and I can’t help but feel annoyed to see them snacking as I’m making dinner.  I’ve found putting out a plate of veggies or fruits and dip satisfies their snack cravings and is something I don’t mind them eating.  If you enter the house at the same time as your hungry spouse and kids (or if you are that hungry spouse!) it can be made the evening before and taken out of the fridge as you walk in the door.

Veggie platter

Quite simply, I fill this sectioned tray with veggies or fruit, and put salad dressing or yogurt in the middle.  On this occasion it was snap peas, red peppers, carrots, celery, zucchini, and cucumbers; but other times it’s baby spinach, cantaloupe, grapes, watermelon, or whatever my family enjoys.  Cover it with plastic wrap and have it ready for whenever your family needs it.  Even if the kids don’t eat their vegetables with dinner, they’ll have gotten a head start.  In fact, many kids are more likely to eat fruits or veggies as a snack than if it was on their dinner plate.

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy (gluten-free) cooking!

This is the tree house I stayed in on my last night.  Caroline stayed securely locked up in the stone hut, looking more to sleep than to be kept awake by the nocturnal animals roaming around, growling and searching for food.

I bunked down in the left bed, kept the plastic sides rolled up so I could feel the wind and not miss a sound.  Before drifting off for my first interval of sleep, I heard lions roaring in the distance, creating a flicker of panic in my gut, but not enough to have me run out in the night.  I actually couldn’t if I wanted to.  I had no radio, and the guides were in their own huts too far away, and it was not advisable for me to leave on my own.  So, I contained my fear, remembering the guide’s assurance that I’d be safe.

I awoke to cackling in the distance, which then came closer, but I was too sleepy by that time to really let it worry me.  I’d heard that hyenas came through the camp (see footprints), which happens frequently, and they just go on, and only will attack if threatened.   Even though, on our safari’s, we were only a few feet from a herd of elephants, we stayed still, didn’t make a sound, and all was well.

I slept on and off, and before first light, I heard a call from below.  “Breakfast!”  I’d made it.  I survived a night in the tree house.  I suggested they create tee-shirts to sell, which made the guide, Rein (pronounced “Ryan”) smile.

About a half hour later, we climbed aboard the van which took us further into the jungle to find the creatures waking up for their morning drink, or just to move to another spot for the day.  It was an awesome feeling to be walking along paths that have been unchanged for centuries: the rocks, the trees, the watering holes, all have been here since time began.  Tracks upon tracks we saw, and soon I could tell the fresh ones from the older ones, I could tell that an elephant herd had been through by the freshness of the dung.  I learned that even the nastiest of creatures had a purpose, whether adding nutrients to the ground, or keeping the population balanced.

I guess the one creature I’ll remember the most is the magnificent elephant.  We had a chance to visit with some at a rehab facility for ones who’d been traumatized, and the handlers made so much progress that the animals we saw allowed us to touch and feel them.  They also laid down for us, which is not the most comfortable position for an elephant since tons of weight are then pushing into their internal organs: it’s okay for awhile, but they had their limits.

The mother of the herd is a toughie, and protective of their babies. They allow the girls in their family to remain as long as they want, but they kick out the boys so they can start their own herd.  To keep them in the family would create inbreeding, and that’s not good for their survival.

And yet, they can be so delicate, like that morning they smelled us in the wind and over 30 elephants stopped moving, silently creeping into the bush to become as invisible as they could, and not even a tusk was seen; they became deathly quiet. Rein suggested that since they were aware of our presence, and their actions proved they were unsure of our intentions, that we should slowly walk away.  Even he with his rifle, wouldn’t be able to protect us from a herd of stampeding elephants.

If asked what I came away with on this trip, it’d be that global travel is not as scary as I thought, that South Africa is a very welcoming place for tourists and they will go out of their way to show you the best their country has to offer.  The meals were top notch, the hotel staff (even with an annoying American asking what time it was because she didn’t bring a watch) was patient and helpful, and I learned to live for a bit on South African time:  while there is a schedule, life move as a slower pace.

And, the best part?  That I went with my daughter to show her a bit of the world before she goes off in it.  I hoped she learned that cultures very different from our own are made up of people, just like us.  That even if we don’t speak the same language, there’s always a way to communicate.  And one can survive without electricity, and internet, and cell phones.  That being together and hearing the sounds of the jungle, seeing the Southern Cross in the sky, and eating some of the best foods we’ve ever had can be the best entertainment yet.

(Here, you can see a bit of Caroline as we viewed one of most scenic spots in the country:  Blyde River Canyon.) 

If your kids will eat soup, it can be a great way to get almost anything into them.  With a blender, food processor, or stick blender, you can puree veggies, fruits, proteins, or beans, and they’ll literally disappear into the broth.  Even if your kids will eat their dinner without disguise (as mine will), soup is still a fun way to help the vegetables go down, no spoonful of sugar necessary.  If your kids tend to be picky, get creative and rename the soup something fun.  Transformer soup, martian soup, princess and the pea soup, or whatever will get them smiling.  Provide an interesting garnish– shredded cheese, tortilla strips, whole grain goldfish– and the fun will go even further.

Green soup

Broccoli is one vegetable that gets a bad rap.  My kids love it, but I know many children (and grown-ups!) who do not.  Soup is a great way to serve broccoli, as no one will ever see past the “fun” green color.  I found this recipe a while back in Parents magazine.  Its base is stock, not milk or cream, which is healthier, and dairy-free; both of which are important to many families.  I made it as a first course on Easter, and it was the perfect elegant, simple, tasty soup that “looked like Spring.”  Even my 92 year old Grandpa (who does not like broccoli, as it turns out) scraped the bowl clean. Later it occurred to me that I could’ve also tossed in a handful of steamed spinach before pureeing, so I’ll try that next time.

To make, heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large stockpot.  Sauté ½ an onion (chopped) over medium heat.  Add one medium potato (peeled and chopped), three cups broccoli (chopped), and three cups vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer, covered, 12-15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  Stir occasionally.  Allow to cool slightly, puree in small batches or using a stick blender.  Stir in one cup of shredded cheese, if desired.  Serves four.

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook. Happy (gluten-free) cooking!

MJ here, in Mpumpalanga, and tomorrow we go on safari.  It’s been a great, and busy time, and the people we are meeting, both natives and tourists have been genuinely friendly.  We are in an agricultural area, and so are seeing lots of banana trees, avacodo trees, nut trees, and many farms in our tour rides.  Weather is mild, though they are headed into their winter; we’ve had a lot of rain, but not enough to interfere with our day’s plans.

Yesterday, we had a grand time with the elephants, learning about them, petting them, feeding them, and even having our picture taken underneath the largest of them.  A tall guy named Timber.  He snorted all about us, and when we were done, the tour leader made sure we washed up since “there was a lot of snot blown around.”  It didn’t faze me a bit since, as I said to Caroline (who was grossed out, bug time), “it’s just like working in the kindergarten class.”

But, let me run, I am trying to put a picture on facebook, but pictures are slow to download and it may not take before my internet runs out.

More as time allows, but geez, this week is going awfully fast.  TTYL.

That’s not exactly the message of this blog, but it sets the stage for what’s to come.

There we were, heading towards the Cape of Good Hope.  Now, if you didn’t fall asleep like I did in 4th grade social studies, you probably understand the importance finding this point on the African continent had on the world.  In fact it was big.  But I did drift off and the whole Dutch Indies Trading stuff is sort of a dreamy memory.  But, I LOVE tea, and since that was a big part of the deal, I am sincerely grateful to all those guys.

We drove along very flat land towards the cape where nothing much grows, we were told, because the heavy winter storms wreak havoc with the landscape and not one tree could be seen.  The seas beyond were also rough and tough, and many boats were tossed into the massive rocks that only peek up over the waves, and went under.

We were just about at the Cape when we saw that sign, and I thought, How cool, we might actually see baboons, as I carefully made sure I cleaned out any crumbs from my energy bar – didn’t want a scene with a baboon.

After pictures of the actual Cape point, we took a cable car up to the summit of this one really high peak, took more pictures of the lighthouse and the dramatic and awesome vistas.  On the way down towards the parking lot, to the van for our departure, we saw them.

The baboons.

Now, this one is big poppa.  He crept up right behind what we believe to be momma and her baby, clinging for dear life, on her back.  We figured that momma knew it was closing time, and it was prime garbage-hunting time, and tugging at the black bag inside the trash container, pulling at plastic containers, empty coffee cups, wrappings from cookies and whatever.  We were seeing how feisty these creatures could get about food. (Did you know these guys can open a car door?  Yep.)

So, poppa stood watch.  Momma wasn’t getting anywhere, and then poppa came over to the trash can and began to rummage himself.  Something fell, momma grabbed it, and scooted over to the side with her little one, and then poppa probably got the leftovers.

We watched as long as we could; our tour driver was waving to us.  And we piled back into the van, but in the space of about 15 minutes we witnessed this amazing South African moment.  And it was truly something everyone in the group can relate to.  You gotta feed the family!

And, as we left, momma and baby (hugging mom’s belly — you have to look really hard) were enjoying their evening dinner.

We had a great day — saw an ostrich family and penguins sunning themselves beside the Indian Ocean.  Yes, you read that right…PENGUINS.  They aren’t always in ice and snow.

Tomorrow, we are off to Kruger National Park for our safari adventure and I’m hearing that wifi isn’t guaranteed.  I’ll check in as soon as I’m able.

But all is well.  TTYL

 This is Vicky’s B & B, called South Africa’s smallest hotel.  It’s made the local papers, and while we didn’t meet Vicky herself, we met her daughter.

This hotel is in one of the townships outside Capetown called Khayelitsha.  This, as well as the others we visited on yesterday’s tour are dirt poor, with shanty’s for homes, and rampant unemployment. The children, most of all suffer, since parents may work long hours (and walk miles to and from their jobs in Capetown), or have given up and rely on alcohol to get through the day.

But then you hear about Vicky, a woman I wish I could’ve met, who began this hotel to help the children. Once inside, we were grouped into the common room, and given a little history of the hotel, and then of Vicky’s mission: to bring the children into the city to see the museums and give them a view of the world outside their poor community.  How does she do this?

By inviting tourists into her hotel to visit, take pictures, see the view of town from the second story deck, and to place whatever the guest can afford into a box.  That money is used, her daughter explained, to bring the children on trips to places like Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was kept prisoner for a time (he supposedly was kept at three area prisons over his long incarceration).

How does Vicky decide which children go?  By reviewing the children’s school report cards.  And while this may have seemed like a ploy to work on the sympathies of us visitors, I didn’t mind, and neither did any of the others in my group since we all responded with donations.  I took a business card from the daughter; I asked her if she is going to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and she said “No” without blinking.  “I am going to be a doctor.”

(Area children pose willingly for tourists, probably since it’s an every day occurence, and they gleefully run towards the camera to see the result.  These children may live in a 8 X 6 shanty with as many as 4 or 5 other families.

The government is slowly trying to replace these shantys — which number in the thousands — but it’s a slow process and we were told, “will take years.”)

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