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When tragedy hits I turn to “The Fourth Estate”….the news media. That’s what I have always relied on to find out the “real” story.  I get my local daily newspaper delivered every day. I go online to check news sources such as National Public Radio (NPR), The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS news online and more.

I love watching the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men” where Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein forced President Richard Nixon to resign through dogged research and fact checking. That is the strength of the news media. Good investigative reporting keeps our society honest.

But as the internet changes the way we gather information, the news media seems to be changing the rules of good reporting. The media cries out that we should pay for their online services in order for them to maintain a high reporting standard. They keep telling us that they should be our reliable source for news information. They assure us that they hire reporters who get the “true” facts that keep our system honest.

With the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy reporting “The Fourth Estate” certainly did not live up to any journalism standards. In their rush to get online first, all the biggest names in the media business, including The New York Times, National Public Radio and CBS News, faltered in the rush.

Wrong facts. Wrong names. It’s all wrong.  If the big guys get it wrong on these emerging stories, how can we believe anything they print?

Last night at 6pm I traveled through Newtown to attend my grandson’s winter concert at the Trumbull middle school. I saw police cars and media vans travelling the roads in and around Newtown as people tried to deal with the hand they were dealt. At 9pm, as we made our way back home through Newtown, the media vans were still there “reporting” from the front lawn of town hall.

What is the story they are going after? State police told the media that all information will be posted on the state police website and that there will only be one spokesperson for the team. The rules have been laid out but the media continues to get quotes from less than reliable sources like a former babysitter living in California.

Has the media become less reliable because we want the breaking news as it happens?  Are we demanding “play-by-play” reporting regardless of whether it is accurate?

Is the media giving us what we want because they need the ratings and the numbers in order to stay in business?

Whatever the answers, we need to be more discerning in what we consider “truth” in reporting. “The fourth Estate” is just another business not necessarily worthy of our trust.

There are no words that will wipe away the grief for the families in Newton, Connecticut right now. They are in the depths of a loss so great most of us cannot possibly imagine. And yet here I am, just one more person in a sea of people deep in prayer for moms and dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends of those who lost precious lives of children and staff in a most horrific way.

I’m not a religious person, but I have prayed for these families whose names I don’t know and whom I have never met. I know there is nothing that anyone can do to make things right, to bring back what is lost so I offer up only this totally feeble attempt at comfort – Thank you for your children.

There is no justice that would suffice taking every moment of loving them, nurturing them, watching them grow, and worrying about them. It is no one’s right to take that which you have made from not just your bodies, but your hearts and souls as well. I know it will not bring you comfort, that doesn’t exist is this moment right now, but hopefully one day you will find comfort in knowing that you gave the world these amazing human beings. In our children’s laughs we will hear yours. We will tuck them into bed at night along with our own. They have changed us. I have always felt that children are the mirror we hold up to the world. They show us who we are and who we can be. Your children have made us better parents and they have made us better human beings. How will we ever be able to forget the precious gift of life now?

I have spent the better part of my adolescence and adulthood dealing with the loss of parents, both mine and my husband’s and I spend way more time than I care to really admit thinking about all the many ways life can slip away so easily. But when I lost my first pregnancy the most horrible part to me was that nobody really knew I had lost anything at all. How can you lose what has barely begun to live? To the world I was not a mother and to the world nothing had changed for me. But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I knew in that moment that parenthood begins in the heart first. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world sees you and feels your agony. In some measure your children have become ours. We have never met, but we know what lives in a parent’s heart, we feel that unending ache and we wish beyond anything that we could replace it with something else, anything else. I’d like to think that maybe one day we can replace that ache with hope.

We tend to think that we can’t change the world. It is just too daunting to imagine for one human being. But that is precisely what your children did – they changed the world. They made us care for strangers as strongly as our own flesh and blood. Despite the darkness that threatened to crush us, they have given us back our humanity. So again I say with the most humility I can muster- Thank you for your children.

Paul Schwartz web

When talking about kids and psychology Hudson Valley Parent turns to its expert,  Dr. Paul Schwartz, professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.

He started off by saying, “There is not really a lot to tell. The reality of the situation for kids is not the same as it is for adults.”

Kids are more concerned with their immediate world

According to Dr. Schwartz, most kids are more involved with their world and the world immediately around them, especially during this time of year. “Kids are busy making their Christmas lists and thinking about what they may get this holiday season,” he says.

So, although we adults are trying to understand the senseless school shooting in Newtown, CT., kids are more involved with their day-to-day activities, whether it’s birthday parties or shopping or just playing outside.

 “My grandkids live several towns over from Newtown,” says Hudson Valley Parent publisher Terrie Goldstein. “I was really concerned about my grandkids reaction to hearing about the shooting since they are less than 10 minutes away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School. And they have friends who live in that school district.”  Her grandkids are seven and ten years old.

“My son told them about the incident when he picked them up from school on Friday afternoon. According to my son Paul, Robert didn’t say much, but my seven-year-old granddaughter, Lia,  said ‘He was probably on drugs.’”  Her granddaughter came up with a solution that satisfied her.

“I spoke to my grandkids early Saturday morning, to see how they were processing what was going on around them, says Terrie. “My grandson had a birthday party that afternoon and that’s all we talked about. You can’t beat a Laser Tag Birthday Party.  “

Keep the explanation simple

Although we adults try to review every piece of information about the incident, most kids are interested in the simplest explanation. Start there and then see their reaction. Wait until they ask questions so that you will understand their concerns.  “Respond to how your kids are processing the information,” advises Dr. Schwartz.

“I remember when my son was seven-years-old he asked me where babies came from,” comments Hudson Valley Parent’s publisher. “I was all set with this very involved description of sex and mommies and daddies.  And I started by saying that babies grow in a mommy’s belly. ‘Great’, he says as he walked away. “

When talking with children use the old advertising adage KISS…Keep It Simple Stupid.

Children sense your tension

Be careful about showing your own anxiety because kids sense your tension and react accordingly.  “Children model adult reactions,” says Dr. Schwartz.  “So if you show anxiety, your children will pick up on that.”  

Remember there are not easy answers to why this incident occurred. According to Dr. Schwartz we are all looking for answers but there is no pat solution. He feels it is all about easy access to firearms.  He says bullies don’t bring guns into schools. And if we are looking at kids who remain alone remember that creative kids are loners and inherent in their creative energies is their desire to be alone and aloof.  

Provided by Newtown Bee

This morning a masked gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  27 people were killed including 18 children. Several others are being treated for wounds.

I’m not exactly sure what to say right now, but I feel the need to say something.

Although I do not know anyone directly affected by the shooting, I have this unwavering desire to break down and cry.  I read story after story today of students recounting what went on during the shooting.

One student said he and his classmates got sick to their stomachs after hearing police officers on roof. In interview with WABC television, Brendan Murray, a student at Sandy Hook Elementary, said he was in the gym when he heard a banging sound. He first thought a custodian had knocked something over, but then he heard a scream.

“Then a police came in and was like, ‘Is he in here?’ Then he ran out,” Murray said. “And then somebody yelled, ‘Get to a safe place!’ So we went to the closet in the gym.”

No child should ever have to go though something so horrific.

Parents send their children to school with the notion that they are going to be safe. How dare this gunman come in and kill these innocent children that are just trying to get a solid education… Why is that fair? Children should not have to fear for their lives each day they go to school.

Nothing drains your wallet like the holiday season.  There are of course gifts, holiday feasts, holiday parties to attend, decorating the house, booking travel arrangements, and on and on.  Here are some easy tips to help you spend less and give more this year.  I hope it helps you and if you have more tips please feel free to share.

  1. Shop with your eyes shut at Aldi – Aldi is a supermarket diamond in the rough.  I can’t tell you how many years I’ve driven right passed it, barely noticing its existence.  The building admittedly looks drab and the sign is not really bright.  Nothing about its appearance screams shop here, but if you do I promise you won’t be sorry.  The selection is far smaller, but on the plus side so are the prices.  If I told you that you could walk out of the grocery store with twice as much food for half as much money would you do it?  The food packaging is nothing spectacular and 95% are Aldi brands you’ve never heard of before, but try shopping with your eyes shut (ok not literally) but suspend your need to search for those brand names you’ve been trained to buy.  In other words, stop looking at the brand and look instead at the item.  Don’t expect to find Wonder bread, but look at the price of $1 a loaf at Aldi and you can see the real value.  I regularly save a ton of money on staple items like cereal (never more than $1.99 a box, 4 cup packages of cheese – $2.99, milk – $2.99 a gallon, bread – $.99 a loaf, juice from concentrate – $.99 just to name a few.)An unexpected bonus of shopping at Aldi is you can find some brand name toys and household items that make great gifts.  You never know what you’ll find- Christmas lights, cappuccino makers, steam mops.  Great gifts do not have to cost a fortune.  If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking for the holidays, Aldi has the ingredients you need for less.  Two tips to remember are – ALWAYS bring a quarter and reusable bags.  One of the ways they keep their costs down is to not hire people to return carts to the corral outside the store.  You put your quarter in the cart and get it back when you return your cart when you’re done.  Also, they don’t bag your stuff and don’t provide free bags.  They do sell bags for .05 a piece, but if you bring your reusable bags from home it’s simpler.  You can also collect empty boxes throughout the store to load up your groceries.  They have super fast checkers, but you bag your own stuff at a long counter.  I actually find myself less aggravated with shopping because I can put things where I want them and my reusable bags carry more and save several trips bringing things in from the car since other grocery stores usually pack plastic bags so lightly because they fear ripping.  Not to mention its better for the planet and reduces clutter in my house.
  2. Volunteer as a family – How does this save you money?  Well not only do charities need an extra helping hand this time of year, but it keeps you out of the malls and gives your family some perspective.  It gives you a chance to help people who have less and perhaps your children will pare down their Christmas lists afterwards or at the very least stop adding new items.  If you can’t find a charity to help, look around in your neighborhood.  There’s always someone who could use a helping hand like an elderly or disabled neighbor, an overwhelmed mom who could really use a day out.  Giving of yourself can be simple and remind you about how lucky most of us already are, without the plethora of gifts under the tree.
  3. Shop Strategically – Ok, for those who love shopping out there repeat after me – Shopping is not a leisure activity.  Don’t shop to de-stress or just for fun.  If you do, you wind up paying way more than you should.   In many ways I shop like I’m on a mission – to get what I need at a good price and then get the heck out of there as quickly as possible.  There are whole studies out there about mood music in shopping malls and strategically placed treats.  Why you ask?  Because the longer they can keep you in the stores, the more money you spend.  Check your prices twice, once when you’re choosing an item and again at the register.  Often times registers and cashiers make mistakes and a sale price doesn’t ring up properly.  Such is the case when my husband and I went to Toys ‘R Us a few weeks ago.  Four rounds of price checks ended up saving about $30 in incorrect charges.  Also, if a toy comes with a free bonus item and you can’t find it on the shelf ask for help.  If they don’t have it, ask if they can give you a similar item with the same price or see if they can give you a rain check.  Use coupons only on items you would have bought anyway.  I made my husband put back an item he wanted to buy because it was on clearance.  Clearance or not, if my son or daughter isn’t going to play with it, it’s a waste of money period.  Also, use your store rewards cards.  Many times you’ll earn coupons for future purchases.  I plan to use the $21 in coupons I earned on my Toys ‘R Us rewards card to buy presents after the holidays for family I won’t be seeing during the holiday season.
  4. &  5. Limit Gift Giving and Give of Yourself – I know this is both obvious and yet easier said than done.  The bottom line is that times are tough for almost everyone nowadays and we simply can’t buy gifts for everyone so set some real limits before you start.  A few years ago my sister-in-laws and I decided to only buy gifts for the kids.  Giving each couple in your family a gift really starts to add up and the more family you have the harder it is to foot the bill for all that gift giving.  If you really want to give them something, give of yourself, your time and your talent.  If you love to knit or sew, bake or craft almost anything can become a homemade gift from the heart.  Even just a coupon for mowing their lawn in the spring or babysitting can be a very thoughtful gift.  Co-workers in my opinion don’t really need store-bought gifts.  How about some homemade cookies and a card?  Or if you really like the coupon thing –how about an IOU for fixing the paper jam in the copier next time it happens to them because if you work in an office, nobody likes searching all those drawers of paper looking for the jam.

    Cash in Your Credit Card Rewards –If you have a credit card with reward points, now is the time to redeem them for gifts or gift cards for the holidays.  They usually have free shipping so even one present bought with rewards you’ve earned means more money in your pocket for something else.  A word of caution: Try not to pay for presents on credit card.  Nothing takes the joy out of the season like realizing you still owe money on your credit card for presents you bought last year.Stay tuned for more tips and please feel free to share your own.

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