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The grocery stores are already filling up with bags and bags of candy, which signals to most parents that it’s time to get ready for Halloween.  Buying the treats is usually the easy part.  It’s figuring out what your child is going to be for Halloween that can be a real nightmare.  Here are 5 tips to keep the cost of costumes in check.

1. Set up a costume swap with friends, family or neighbors.
My neighbor Allison and I have already agreed to get together with our kids and sort through all our costumes from prior years and let the kids pick out what they want to be this year.  Since her daughter Jordyn is Hannah’s age and her son Avery is Jayden’s age, there’s bound to be plenty of things to choose from.  Getting new costumes for all the kids free of charge; nothing scary about that at all. You can also check with your local library or school to see if they are hosting one. Our library here in Fallsburg is hosting one in October.  So check to see if you can find one in your town and you could score a new costume for FREE.

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2. Buy it second-hand.
Local consignment shops, especially those that cater to kids, are a great source for cute costumes at a fraction of the retail price.  Don’t forget to check for chocolate stains from last year, but don’t let that scare you away. Instead negotiate a better deal and get out the stain remover. Get online and start browsing Craigslist and E-bay early while there are still plenty of bargains to be had.

3. Don’t be married to a specific costume or character.
My kids are still little and only care about getting candy so I pretty much suggest/tell them what they are going to be.  If your kids like specific characters, try to steer them to generic versions of their favorites. Say they love Jake from the Neverland Pirates, a specific character costume is going to cost twice as much as a generic pirate costume. There are plenty of fantastic deals to be had for parents when their kids aren’t picky about a specific costume.

4. Use dress up clothes or objects from around the house.
If you still have little ones, chances are that you already have a plethora of dress up clothes just ready and waiting for a special outing like Halloween. Take my advice and “shop” through the stuff you already have at home and you could pay absolutely nothing for a costume this year. Also inventory what household objects you have on hand. One year when I was a kid, my neighbor dressed her daughter up as a Lipton tea bag using a clear garbage bag, fall leaves courtesy of her lawn, a piece of string and a piece of oak tag.  It was simple, frugal, and obviously memorable because I still think of it some 20 plus years later.

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5. If you’re going to make your child’s costume, make sure it’s actually worth it.

There are some Martha Stewart-type moms out there who live to spend hours hand-crafting their child’s Halloween costume.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m not one of them.  Make sure you check the price of fabrics and other materials, and try to gauge how much time it’s going to take you to make a costume yourself. If it costs more to make it, then to buy it second-hand then it  might not be worth it.  Ok, so if you want to do it for the sheer joy of it and have the time then by all means go for it.  There are some cute costume ideas out there that don’t require much more than household items and a great imagination. Pinterest has some cute ideas.

Check out Hudson Valley Parent for more great money-saving ideas! What’s the most memorable and least expensive costume your child ever had for Halloween? Share your photos here.

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Sara has a great team of doctors at NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. Her doctors suggested she may be a candidate for an implanted device to help control her seizures called a “Vagus Nerve Stimulator” or VNS. I researched this option after Sara failed to benefit from multiple trials of seizure medications. The Epilepsy center also screened Sara for brain surgery for the third time. Sara proved not to be a candidate. The Vagus Nerve Stimulator is expected to reduce the frequency of seizures, reduce the length of the event, and some patients may go on less medication.

When I considered this treatment I needed Sara to have the maturity to understand what the device was going to do, understand the risks of surgery, and then have Sara have the device implanted. The neurosurgeon, Dr. Werner Doyle, performed the surgery. Sara went to all the pre-operative appointments with her sister Melissa, a huge source of strength for both of us. Dr. Doyle did an amazing job answering questions and explaining how VNS worked. The VNS is implanted as an outpatient surgery. It is placed under the pectoral muscle, similar to where a pace maker is placed. The device has a lead wire of titanium steel that leaves the device and is wrapped around the patient’s vagus nerve. The device releases a small electrical charge every five minutes. This electric charges travels up the vagus nerve to the brain and helps the brain stay in rhythm, preventing seizures.

Sara has an aura to her seizures and can feel them coming on. Sara wears a bracelet with a strong magnet. She or one of her caretakers can place the magnet over the device for two seconds. This will activate the device. Once the device goes off, it can stop the seizure just as it occurs, or shorten an event that has already started. There are multiple setting options which be changed at the doctor’s office. Varying the setting can often help the patients gain better seizure control.

I have seen little recognition in our community about this device. I know three young adults, like Sara who have added this device for improved health. Cyberonics the company that makes the device reports there are over 30,000 Vagus Nerve Stimulators being used in this country now. We have spoken to local police, fireman and ambulance workers. None of them have heard about the device and would not know how to help someone who uses this therapy.  Let’s get some more awareness out there. For more information check them out on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VNSTherapyforEpileps1012111401y.1017111003

I’m not sure if you know it, but you own land in Dutchess County. To be more specific, we all do. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Estate in Hyde Park is a National Park, which means we all own a little piece of it. If you haven’t been, a trip is in order. The FDR Estate was our 32nd President’s childhood home, and a visit there brings you back to a quainter, more industrious time. There are beautiful walking trails and gardens for the outdoor folk, facts and trivia for the history buff, and educational tours and museums for the kids (in all of us). Recently I had the pleasure of visiting twice with my daughters and a local homeschooling group, and we had an incredible time. No matter your age, your interest, or your background, there is something for everyone on the FDR grounds.

Exploring one of the ground's beautiful streams

Exploring one of the ground’s beautiful streams

Peeking into FDR's stable

Peeking into FDR’s stable

The kitchen allows a glimpse of the Roosevelt lifestyle

The kitchen allows a glimpse of the Roosevelt lifestyle

A Roosevelt view of the Hudson Valley, with the Hudson River rushing by

A Roosevelt view of the Hudson Valley, with the Hudson River rushing by

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My girls and I love to craft, but I do not consider myself to be a particularly creative person, and I have a strong aversion to messes.  While Pinterest certainly helps me in the creativity department, it still leaves me lacking in skill and cleanup.  So, when I heard about Come Craft with Me in Monroe, I thought it would be something different for us to try.

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Come Craft with Me is a sun filled kid crafter’s dream.  Messes are encouraged, and they have an array of projects to pick from that I would never have thought of.  Madison was immediately drawn to the little cardboard menagerie.  There were so many options to choose from, but Madison is a daddy’s girl through and through, so I knew instantly she would choose the elephant, her daddy’s favorite animal.  And, without a moment’s hesitation, she reached for that elephant and sat down to Decopatch (similar to decoupage but a finer finish).  With Trish’s (the owner) gentle guidance, Madison got down to business.

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Sophie was along for the ride and enjoyed dipping her brush in the glue and painting for about five minutes.  Thankfully, Come Craft with Me has a play area filled with toys that kept her entertained as Madison painstakingly worked on her project.

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Going to a crafting studio was a great change of pace for us.  Unlike our usual trips to the park or gymnastics where we immediately head in different directions, this brought us together.  We got to sit around the table and learn a new craft together.  The best part: Madison was so proud to give her Daddy her handmade present.  It truly looks like a piece of art, and we have it proudly displayed on our bookshelf along with Sophie’s artwork. The second best part: not having to clean up the mess!

We really enjoyed trying something new and are eager to do it again.  Do you know of a center, activity, or event that is off the beaten path?  I would love to hear your suggestions!

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It’s that time of year again… school back in session, cool blue skies contrasted with changing leaves, and that crunch of foliage underfoot. Not to be missed… apple picking. We’ve gone every year since my oldest was a toddler, but one of my best apple picking memories is actually from when as a child. I once went with a friend and her family, and I still remember the hayride, the cider, and the donut.

Meadowbrook Farms in Wappingers Falls is one of our favorite orchards. Although there are other great ones nearby that we also return to again and again, there is something quaint and familiar about the small, cozy orchard on the hill. Each year we make a late-September visit there, and leave full of spicy cider and applecious memories.

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One of the fun aspects of Meadowbrook is not just their orchard, but the variety of animals on the farm, and photo opportunities. One of our traditions is the picture with the scarecrow (to see how much the girls have grown!), a photo full of pumpkins, and silly ones amongst the rows of apples.

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Afterwards, we stop in the farm shop to stock up on homegrown produce, like lots of zucchini, and snap a picture of the scarecrow who perennially falls out of the barn window. No matter where you live or which orchard you chose, don’t miss out on this fun family memory.

Falling Man

The 2013 Soccer season kicked off for Beautiful People this last Saturday and I have to say it was pretty awesome.  I don’t know about you, but I love to see success for those who give the effort. This is the second year my son Luke has participated in the Beautiful People soccer program and he had a blast.

When all is said and done, the count of children participating this season will be around 80. 60 took part in week one. Each child received a soccer ball, courtesy of Tony, the owner of the Soccer Shop, located at 9 E Main St in Washingtonville. Tony is an example of someone stepping up to help a cause. Emily Gerbehy, a Warwick Valley HS graduate, organized a soccer clinic for members of Beautiful People. After seeing an article about the clinic, Tony contacted Jan Brunkorst at Beautiful People and wanted to help out the program. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? That’s because it is!

Donating is the easy part, but what’s not so simple is organizing these events where time is a factor. I don’t want to play favorites, but this was the most well organized day to date. A special thanks to Evan Fox, Keith Eckerson and Neil Sinclair for getting things going Saturday. As always Coaches John Hogan and John Ferdinansen do an excellent job on the field. Again, there are a lot of kids and not a lot of time, but both coaches keep things moving in an organized fashion where I feel the kids get as much as they can out of the time we are given.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are so many others who help keep things rolling, but I want to single out Jim Sutton. Jim was the Grounds Manager at the high school.  He is also Co-chair for Beautiful People’s Sports Development Task Force and the father to Shannen (also a big help with distributing the uniforms). Jim and his wife Jennifer were key to the fundraising and build-out of Sally’s Dream Playground, which is a safe-surface playground in Thomas Bull Park. One minute Jim was handing out soccer balls and uniforms with Shannen, the next he was recruiting a couple of us to set up goals for the kids.

Day starts off with a warm up 
Day starts off with a warm up
Luke w/ his volunteer buddy Uncle T.J.

Luke w/ his volunteer buddy Uncle T.J.

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A day wouldn't be complete without brothers wrestling

A day wouldn’t be complete without brothers wrestling

It was an overall good day. I know this because Luke told me it was. He told me the next day and the day after that and the day after that…

If you are interested, there are plenty of ways to get involved either by making a donation or donating your time. We’re always looking for fun, energetic volunteers!  Of course like anything in life there is a goal. That goal is to build these children a place of their own.  You can see more on this here http://www.beautiful-people.us/bp-sports-park/

Beautiful People Soccer takes place on Saturdays from 9/14 thru 10/26 at Middletown HS from 1-2pm. Sign-ups at 12:30pm.

For more on Beautiful People visit http://www.beautiful-people.us/

Also take a look at Emily’s Soccer Clinic in this video put together by Emily’s sister Rachel

For more on Sally’s Dream see Bethanne513’s blog https://hudsonvalleyparentblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/sallys-dream-at-orange-county-park/

I normally focus my posts on saving money, but being frugal is about more than just money.  It’s about focusing one’s appreciation on the things in life that really matter; things that can’t be bought; things that are priceless and precious like our children and their health.

Today, I had the enormous privilege of going to my friend Julie’s son Ryan’s Kiss Cancer Goodbye party.  Not only was it special because I got to witness all these people come together in love and celebration that this 6-year-old boy overcame cancer, Leukemia if we want to get specific, but it was special because I remember vividly the day Ryan was diagnosed. His mom Julie and I worked together and we were on a staff retreat when she got the call. The word devastation does not seem to go far enough for the moment you hear your child has cancer.

One thing that never entered Julie and her husband’s vocabulary was defeat. They amaze and inspire me.  What has caused some families to succumb to brokenness has instead in their family created healing for their son.

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One day after Julie heard the diagnosis, she was feeling torn and sad that she couldn’t spend more time with her infant daughter because of frequent trips to the hospital for her son’s treatment.  Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote for her called Triage On The Parenthood Battlefield. I wrote it for her and mothers everywhere who must watch their children hurt without being able to take the pain away, who feel helpless when their very nature is to help, to fix and mend, and kiss away the tears.

When one child is sick the choice may seem easy. You go to the child who is sick first. But life and motherhood are not so simple. Just because one child may need you a lot more, you still must tend to the other or others. My heart goes out to women who face impossible choices every day; who carry guilt that they can not untangle from their love and devotion. 

I guess all we can do is remind them, remind ourselves, to look up from our medical kits and our bandages and our checklists to see that there are other nurses and doctors in this triage tent of ours. Love can come from more places than we can possibly imagine and though the feeling of responsibility seems so overwhelmingly ours alone, it simply is not. Our children get love and guidance from our close and extended family, friends, friends of family, co-workers and neighbors. 

I think that because mothers are responsible for our children from the moment of conception a part of us never lets go of the ENORMITY of that responsibility but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s ok to allow ourselves to step back and let someone else take over. It’s ENORMOUSLY important for us to relinquish the responsibility to our spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, friend or anyone who loves us enough to take some of the responsibility off our plate. We, as mothers, can not afford to look up from our checklists one day to see that it is no longer our children on the triage cot, but ourselves.

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This party was the culmination of thousands of answered prayers and awesome does not begin to describe it. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month so let us never forget the most priceless thing – the precious gift of life.

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The Hudson Valley is famous for its beautiful fall foliage.  People travel from all over to experience what we are surrounded with everyday.  Because this beauty is ours to see, it’s easy to take it for granted.  One way to remember why we are so lucky to live here is to enjoy the view through our children’s eyes and the easiest way to do that is to check out one of the many harvest festivals going on over the next few weekends.

Do you have a favorite fall event or one that is a must that I missed?  Please let us know so we can check it out too!

Madison circa 2011
Madison circa 2011

September 22, 10-5pm  Rain date September 29th

Hudson Valley Parent Magazine’s 2nd Annual Hurds Family Farm Day

Hurds Family Farm: Modena, NY

Join other Hudson Valley parents for a day on this beautiful 6th generation apple farm!  Just stop by the HVP magazine table and receive wristbands, and your admission is free.  Your family will enjoy apple picking, hay rides ($4), the cornfield maze, cow train ($4) and feeding the farm pets.   This event has all the makings of what a harvest festival should be!

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September 29, 11-4pm

Harvest Festival at Bethel Woods: Bethel, NY

If you have not made your way up to Bethel yet, this is your last chance for the year.  The theme for this event is rustic crafts and all artisans are local to the area.  As always, there will be food, music, children’s activities, a farmer’s market, and the breathtaking views.  $2 to park.

This is not at Applefest, but Madison is wearing her apple hat from Applefest!
This is not at Applefest, but Madison is wearing her apple hat from Applefest!

October 6, 10-5pm

Applefest: Warwick, NY

Voted top 100 events in the country, Applefest is something you have to experience at least once.  The Village of Warwick fills its streets with vendors and becomes Applefest.  There will be food, over 200 craft vendors, music and entertainment, a children’s carnival, farmer’s market, and an apple pie bake off.  Admission is free.

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October 13, 8-5pm

Manza Family Farm Fall Festival: Montgomery, NY

Every weekend for the month of October, Manza Family Farm is hosting their annual fall festival.  They feature over 20 acres of pick your own pumpkins, tractor drawn hayrides, pony rides, a straw maze, and farm animals.  Admission is free.

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October 20, 11-3pm

Fall Festival at Greenburgh Nature Center: Scarsdale, NY

This center is about an hour away from Goshen but is worth the drive.  For the fall festival, they will have scarecrow building ($2), pumpkin carving or painting ($5), cider making, petting zoo, scavenger hunts, and tractor rides.  They also happen to have an awesome playground!  Admission is $8 if you preregister, $10 the day of.

October 26, 12-3pm

SUNY Orange Family Day: Middletown, NY

Ok, this does not have a fall theme but sounds fun and is outside.  There will be children’s activities including face painting, sports clinics, games, and contests.  The new childcare facility will be open for tours and will have obstacle courses set up for the kids.  Visitors can also take a tour through the century old Morrison Mansion.  Cider and doughnuts will be provided.  Admission is free, and if you are thinking of becoming a student, the application fee will be waived to any who apply during Family Day.

My name is Lisa. I have a daughter with special needs, Sara, who is 25. When Sara was four she caught a virus. This virus attacked her brain, gave her encephalitis, and the subsequent brain injury left her with a hard to control seizure disorder and global delays. Right now our family is exploring what it is like to have an adult with special needs in the Hudson Valley. Hope you can come along for the ride.

At this stage of our family life we are watching Sara as she is growing and learning more about who she is, what is going on in her life, and how she wants to fully participate in her community. As parents we have the responsibility of helping Sara manage her medical needs, social, housing, and financial needs. We have not dictated to her what she needs to do. We share out thoughts and discuss together what options are out there for Sara to pursue. When we get stuck on something Sara’s sister Melissa is able to review the issue, and Sara respects her opinion. I feel my role as Sara’s mother is to help create opportunities so Sara can explore her strengths and grow as a person. We are building a bridge to the adult community and don’t have any directions, and sometimes we not even sure what kind of bridge it is. So far though I think our bridge is amazing and I can’t wait to see what we build next.

Jumping out of high school into the post high school adult world was a big leap for our family. Sara left school at the age of twenty-one in 2009. It was a rough year to be looking for work but eventually she found amazing employers. Sara has been working for Santer Fitness in Washingtonville helping to keep the gym clean. At her job Sara continues to see old friends from school and our neighborhood. At the same time she has made new friends. It’s a great gym if you haven’t been there you should really check it out. Our next focus would be her social interests and medical. Social success is measured by Sara’s smile. When Beautiful People in Warwick, a recreation program, added a young adult athletic program Sara joined and her smile has never stopped. We love everything they do and are so grateful for the invitation to join. Sara participates in Beautiful People soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. What a great way to improve her medical condition by being happy and active. Sara loves going to soccer and every week she is meeting new people and making new friends. It doesn’t get better than that.

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The greatest gift you can give a child with special needs is a sibling. For Luke, that gift was Shane, followed up with his little brother Cole. This journey with Luke calls for much of our time and I have to say things would be so much more difficult if it wasn’t for Shane.

This past summer, we decided to do something that would show our appreciation. Shane loves Basketball. I had recently read a book entitled “The Contract” by Pat Forde, which is the story of the Fredette family, in particular, the youngest member Jimmer Fredette and his journey to the NBA. Last winter, I had seen a posting online stating that Jimmer would be hosting a basketball camp in Saratoga, NY. I immediately thought Shane will be a part of this. I won’t go into a full blown book review, but the Fredette family story was one of love, support, understanding and just living life the right way. What stood out most was the relationship between Jimmer and his older brother T.J. and the sacrifices and dedication that was made towards Jimmer achieving his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. In addition, Shane has never met a professional basketball player and I knew this first experience could be life altering. Jimmer and his family did not disappoint.

Since really taking a liking to basketball, this Jimmer Jam Camp was the first time Shane was in a position to play with kids his own age. I have to say Shane made the most of this opportunity. I am smiling just thinking about all the compliments he received, from instructors working at the camp, to parents of children we’ve never met before. Watching Shane trying to get Jimmer’s attention was priceless. As a father, I was so excited to see Shane not only make a shot in Jimmer’s presence, but also receive a high five from the former NCAA Player of the Year and leading scorer at Brigham Young University.

Shane's jumper

Shane’s jumper

Jimmer showing the campers his shooting technique and range

Jimmer showing the campers his shooting technique and range

The camp was not all about improving your basketball skills. We also had the opportunity of meeting Coach Rich Johns who runs a program called Act with Respect Always. The camp would frequently break for talks by Jimmer and his dad, Al, as well as Coach Johns. At this time the kids would hear about character building, treating others with respect (starting with your parents) and paying things forward. At one point Coach Johns used an act of Shane’s as an example.

Shane w/Coach Rich John's of Act With Respect Always (Photo is courtesy of the Sartogian newspaper)

Shane w/Coach Rich Johns of Act With Respect Always (Photo is courtesy of the Saratogian.com)

Shane, Luke, myself with Jimmer Fredette

Shane, Luke, myself with Jimmer Fredette

Jimmer Fredette might not be a household name like LeBron or Kobe, but he will always be the first NBA player that watched Shane play basketball. As a parent I will always be grateful for not only his time, but the kindness and conversations we had with his parents Al and Kay, as well as Jimmer’s siblings, T.J & Lindsay and all of the instructors involved. At the time, there was no way of any of them knowing exactly what all this meant to Shane. I’m not sure Shane knew, but I’ve never seen him as appreciative of anything as he was for being a part of Jimmer Jam. Shane is a key part to the engine that helps us go on. This was just one way of thanking him.

I could go on forever about this camp experience, but I want to hear from you. Was there an experience that you felt changed your family for the better?

For more on the Fredette Family and The Fredette Family Foundation, as well as Coach Rich Johns’s program, check out these sites:

https://twitter.com/Jimmerosity

http://www.jimmerjamcamp.com/

http://actwithrespectalways.com/

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