You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2014.

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In an effort to summon spring, Madison and her friend, Jamie, attended the Children’s Gardening Program at the Orange County Arboretum.  This was the Arboretum’s first class in their 2014 children’s program, and they will continue with one every month focusing on gardening and the outdoors for children.  Madison and Jamie attended the Composting for Kids.  They had a great time, and we all took home tips on how to compost in addition to an unexpected new pet.

The class was an hour and a half and began with the story Yucky Worms.  Then the instructor, a master gardener, taught the kids what a compost pile was, the necessary ingredients, and what the soil could then be used for.  After the demonstration, each child was given a large glass jar to create their own compost pile complete with live worms.  Madison and Jamie loved creating their own little environment and welcomed their new pet without fear or reservation.  The instructor taught the class how to take care of their new friends and even gave them an official adoption certificate.

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Madison learned a lot in her class which is evident especially when it comes time to clear the table, pointing out what should be recycled and what should be composted.  She is also taking her pet ownership responsibilities very seriously: watering Mr. Wiggles everyday with just the right amount of water, feeding him a teaspoon of organic table scraps daily, and keeping him in a dark place.

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The classes are held once a month on Saturdays at the Arboretum located within Thomas Bull Memorial Park.  The monthly classes range in price from $2 to $10, and the age minimum varies between five and seven years old.  Class size is limited and pre-registration is required, so call today to reserve your child’s spot.  I’m hoping the next time we attend for April’s Building a Fairy Garden class the snow will be long gone, and the tulips will have taken it’s place adding a walk through the gardens to our trip.

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One of my favorite places to visit in all of the Hudson Valley is Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for their beautiful grounds but especially for the Museum at Bethel Woods.  Whether you are a music fan, history buff, or a tourist of your own community, this museum will appeal to you.  It is  highly interactive with plenty of audio/visual displays and exhibits making it interesting to adults and children alike.  Fully immersing yourself, the museum could take about two hours to go through, with kids who like to run from exhibit to exhibit, a little less.

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Bethel Woods is known to most as Woodstock, the iconic  music festival of 1969 that epitomizes the hippie movement and all things peace, love, and music.  And while the museum is based on this moment in history, it also covers the decade of the 1960’s and the historical events that led up to Woodstock.  The 60’s was a time of civil rights, the counterculture, and the space race, a time of great change that has had lasting effects on our nation.  Bethel also hosts special exhibits and will be reopening on April 5th with  America Meets the Beatles, which will include photographs by Life photographer, Bill Eppridge.

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I have visited this museum many times since it opened in 2008.  My brother, a curator for the museum before it opened,  was able to invite his family for the grand opening.  Most recently, my husband and I brought the girls for a visit.  Because the museum is interactive including an old Volkswagen bus turned into a mini movie theater (Madison’s favorite), my girls had a great time.   Our favorite exhibit is set up as if you are at Woodstock, surrounded by the sound stage with the sky overhead changing from day to night,  sun to rain, complete with bean bag chairs to relax in, making us feel like we were actually there but without the mud (and LSD).  The girls cozied right up and watched for several minutes.

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When the weather is nice, definitely walk the grounds.  They are open to the public on nice days and are meticulously manicured (and stroller friendly) with expansive views of the Catskills.  Also, trek down to the original site of the concert and take a picture of the monument-it’s iconic and makes a great Instagram too!  The museum reopens on April 5th and is worth the visit.  It’s a piece of history unique to us; of all the things to be known for I’ll take peace, love, and music any day.

This week my kids’ school has been plastered all over the news and not for something good like academic achievement or getting a grant. No, my kids school – The Benjamin Cosor Elementary School in Fallsburg is the subject of a drug investigation after school officials found heroin and hypodermic needles in the faculty bathroom.

http://news.yahoo.com/six-teachers-lawyer-heroin-found-elementary-school-bathroom-162530501.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory

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Parents Not Notified Till It Hits The Fan

That’s right folks, we’re talking about a drug addicted teacher in the elementary school, not a wayward teen in the high school. We were informed via a generic letter from the superintendent on Monday, just about the time the story was breaking on all the local and some national media outlets. This is the second incident of drugs being found in the school. The first of which happened in December and the parents weren’t informed till the proverbial poop hit the fan.

The Drug Talk For Preschoolers?

I’m assuming all my fellow parents can imagine how I’m feeling right now – irate, fearful, sad, disappointed, and distrustful. You expect that when you send your kids off to school they’ll be safe. You expect to have to teach your kids about drugs before they hit high school, but how about in pre-school, did you see that coming? I didn’t and a lot of the parents in our district are outraged with the lack of action taking place right now.

The Board Response Gets An “F”

I attended my first ever school board meeting last night and we were told that the school couldn’t inform us about the first incident because it was part of a police investigation and intellectually I get it, but not putting any safety measures in place while the perpetrator was being “smoked out” is inexcusable.

I’m ashamed of my district for treating our children as expendable casualties in the war on drugs. I think it’s absolutely criminal that the teacher’s union forced good teachers who were willing to submit to drug testing to refuse testing in order to protect a very ill and unstable teacher who continues to teach our kids as we speak. I wonder how I live in a world that would rather protect a person’s job than a child’s life. What happened to the damn village raising the child?

I’m not the public speaker, that would be my husband. He stood up with quavering voice and demanded answers, protection and resolution to this problem. I think it can all be summed up with his introduction, “I have two children in this district and they are my world.” I don’t know a parent alive who doesn’t share this sentiment. It’s one of the ties that binds us inextricably to one another; the desire to protect that which we love most in this world – our kids. You might have caught his interview on YNN this week.

This first speaker is my amazing husband. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-GSaG0ETIM

Yours, Mine or Ours?

What do we do now as parents? I know what you’re probably doing right now. Feeling outraged, yet sending up a silent prayer of thanks that this didn’t happen in your school. But that feeling of “Thank God it wasn’t me or mine” can’t continue anymore. Look at what happened in Newtown, when one community’s tragedy pushed an entire nation to reform it’s gun control laws.

I think the same thing needs to happen with teachers having to submit to random drug testing. Why are they exempt when we charge them with protecting, teaching and influencing our children? If you work at ShopRite or Wal-Mart you are subject to random testing and so are bus drives who deliver our children to and from school, so why aren’t our teachers?

Parents Have More Political Power Than We Realize

I’m not “into politics.” I usually avoid them at all costs, but this incident has made me reconsider what that really means. If I sit on the sidelines, if I only hang my head in shame, or say “Glad it wasn’t me” the next time another incident occurs on the news then I’m not changing anything. The days of “one for me, and all for none” have got to stop. We have to bring back the village. We have to fight for all kids, not just those with our DNA. Because if we don’t, who will?

If you’re with me, sign the petition to institute random drug testing for teachers – http://www.change.org/petitions/new-york-governor-aileen-gunther-john-bonacic-change-the-laws-to-make-random-drug-testing-for-teachers-and-immediately-terminate-their-position-if-they-refuse#.

When leaving Luke’s basketball game with the organization Beautiful People last week, I had a thought that crossed my mind for the first time. Why do I do certain things for Luke that I don’t do for my other sons? I am like a walking advertisement for Beautiful People. I talk about it all the time, I blog about it, I raise money for it. I don’t do that for Shane’s basketball league. I mean, I rolled my eyes when I had to sell raffle tickets for this travel soccer!

I started thinking about further down the line and comparing youth sports for these two brothers to possible career scenarios. The word that kept coming to mind was opportunity. Luke will most likely not have as many opportunities as Shane or Cole.

I posted links to a couple of stories involving kids with special needs and sports. I love watching these stories. No matter how they come into my life, I always stop what I am doing and watch. They pull my emotions in different directions, but I love them. They force me to visualize my son scoring that basket, then cry to think he would be in that scenario, but I love them. If you look beyond the stories, you will look at the origins of what transpired. Like I mentioned in a previous post, it starts at home. Your kids are an extension of you. Teach them to be caring and that’s what they will be. Ignore them and teach them to be little you know what’s, and that’s what they will be.

In the first video, I would like to think that there are more kids in this world like the boy at the end of the clip. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but one could hope.
The second clip just gets me for obvious reasons. Recently, my son Shane wrote a letter to the Atlanta Hawks, basically just saying he loves watching them play and how he loves basketball. He wrote about his brother Luke and his disability and how he feels he plays ball for the two of them. We can’t control the cards we were dealt, but we can control how we choose to play them. When I hear my kids talk like that, I know we played a “Cool Hand”.

One thing I know for sure is that parents of children with disabilities worry more than most. When I try to cope, I like to plan for things ahead of time, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. When it came to approaching my daughter’s second semester of college at a new campus I tried to ease my worries as well as my daughter’s.

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Sara started her second college class last month with Successful Learning, a program for students with intellectual disabilities. Prior to the start of class we took a road trip up to the new campus.  Though it was beneficial for Sara to see the campus, it benefitted me in more ways. If she had a seizure at school I already would know how to get there, where to park, and then only have to worry about how Sara is doing. In 2011 my daughter Sara received an implanted device that helps with her own seizures. Though it doesn’t mean she’ll be 100% after a seizure or be able to completely stop one, she knows how the device works and what it does.

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Sara really enjoyed the first semester at college and showed enthusiasm in trying a different class the following semester. Her new class also meant a new teacher, and though the staff at her day program has been trained to use the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, it meant Sara would have to be comfortable in her knowledge of her device. The day program director had told the parents that staff would drive the students to campus and accompany the students to the program.  I asked Sara if she knew what to do if the staff wasn’t in her class. She assured me she would alert the teacher and give a short training on how to use the device if she were to have a seizure.

Sara came home from her new class, excited about the new material, and willing to answer my questions about the first day. When I asked her about the staff from the day program she informed me that, no, the staff never went into the classroom and never spoke to the teacher. I had nothing to worry about because Sara assured me the teacher was fine with the explanation she gave about the device and how it operates.

I called the program director of Successful Learning Center. Sherry, the director, was very pleased to see Sara’s independent streak and she assured me she would check with the teacher on whether she had more questions. The director was sure Sara did a fine job explaining the device. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I think it’s time for this mom to give her daughter a little more room to advocate for herself about her health care needs. However, I will be here if she needs me.

Learn more about Sara’s classes at www.successfullearning.com  . Lisa Bock

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Everyone has days like today, at least that’s what I remind myself while my husband battles the leaky sink that morphed into minor flooding, while my daughter fights off strep for the second time in the last two weeks, and joy of all joys the morning sickness that was on vacation for the last 7 weeks is definitely back.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

There are always going to be days like this, filled with problems that twist my stomach into knots. I used to think that if I had enough money, all my problems would go away.  Course I started believing that back when I was a recent grad in my first entry-level job, when even routine troubles like my car needing all four new tires was cause for a breakdown.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wised up. Life has a way of smacking some sense into you. Having children will do that. When my daughter was two she got really sick. She wouldn’t eat or drink hardly anything and wouldn’t get off the couch all day.

The Mother of ALL Problems

My husband and I took her to the doctor and were told that she could have a virus or Leukemia. In that moment I felt my world just shake to the foundations. How do you listen to someone tell you that your baby girl, who’s just toddling around in diapers could have a life-threatening illness. Most people in my life, save my mom and step dad didn’t even knew about her potential illness. That’s because the truly scary things in this world CAN’T even be uttered out loud.

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For two weeks we took my sweet little Hannah to get her blood drawn, and get IV fluids for severe dehydration. Nothing sucks worse than looking into the tear-soaked eyes of your child while you are holding down their arms so a nurse can stick a needle in her.

The True Call to Protect and Serve

You are supposed to protect your child from pain not be complicit in causing it. After the second time she needed an IV I did everything I could think of to get fluid in her so she didn’t have to go through that again. The two weeks of waiting, not knowing if she was going to be ok was the worst time of my life. There was nothing I could do and as a parent nothing is as terrible and feels as unforgivable as doing nothing, even when you have no choice.

It turned out that she just had a bad virus and I know how blessed we are that she didn’t have cancer. But there are many families who don’t get that happy news. They struggle and suffer right along with their kids. So on crazy days like today, I try to remind myself that the problems that can be solved with money are really the little ones.

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When asked what they want to be when they grow up, a child’s answer can range from astronaut to garbage collector and change minute to minute.  Most of the time they pick their chosen field of the day based on what they have seen or experienced.  My girls love to watch the garbage collectors go by our house and soon after are declaring their intention of becoming one of them when they grow up.  At night, we look out the window and count the stars and follow the moon’s changing phases and  astronauts have been born.  Whatever the chosen profession is whether realistic or not, I think it’s important to expose kids and teens to an array of career choices, especially those that break traditional barriers.  Women can be garbage collectors; men can be nurses.

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My oldest daughter, Madison, has expressed a desire to be so many things,  but the one career choice she remains steadfast about is being a pilot.  Madison has been preoccupied with flying since she was a toddler and shares her pilot grandfather’s love of aviation.  She can name almost every type of plane she comes across, has maps all over her walls, and tracks my husband’s flights when he travels for work.  Her dream is be a Blue Angel Pilot.

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This is not a typical female occupation, but I don’t want that to get in Madison’s way.  So, when I came across an article in this month’s Orange Magazine about Heather Howley and her private business, Independent Helicopters at Stewart, I knew Madison had to meet her.  I sent her an email that day, and she quickly responded with open arms.

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Not only is Heather a female helicopter pilot and the  owner of her own business teaching students how to fly and taking aerial photography, but she is also a member of Whirly-Girls, advocating for women’s advancement in aviation.  I knew she would be a great role model for Madison.  When we arrived, Heather was very friendly and invited us into the hanger to see the helicopters.  She let Madison sit in them and discussed several aspects of flying with her.  Madison was starstruck and extremely shy, but the smile glued to her face let me know she was loving it, and she may not have said a word but she definitely absorbed everything Heather said.

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Independent Helicopters is a great place to begin for any aviation enthusiast.  There is no age limit to begin flying lessons, although you must be 16 before flying alone and at least 17 before acquiring your pilot’s license.  It may be a few years before Madison begins flying lessons, but now we know a great place to start.

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No matter what your child’s passion: let them dream, expose them to an array of fields, and break those barriers.  In the Hudson Valley alone we have so many professionals who would gladly open their doors to visitors from the more popular choices of policeman and doctor to the more diverse artist or chef.  I even know a blogger or two who would be happy to meet you and your child and talk about what their job is like 😉 .  Tomorrow Madison may decide she wants to be a mail woman, and if that’s the case, our next trip will be to the post office.  I can pick up some stamps while I’m there.

To celebrate the recent anniversary of Facebook I will start with this…

My name is Jason and I have been Facebook free for 771 days. I say this admission out loud like I am an addict, because that is what Facebook can be to some people. I was there. I looked up old friends, posted unnecessary photos of my kids without their approval, had heated arguments with family members and became “friends” with people I didn’t even know. I did it all. Once that was all out of my system I started looking into what other people’s kids were doing and benchmarking their accomplishments at their age, then of course comparing them to my kids. “Wow, look at what this kid is doing and he’s only 6”! I haven’t uttered those words to my wife in a while and it feels so good. When this conversation would take place, my wife would always get the same response…”Does their child have special needs?!” I could not answer that question because, well, I only had a photo to go by. It seemed that all people would do is use the platform as bragging rights. Look where I went on vacation or look what my son is doing.

Photos are a great way to catch up but they can paint a skewed version of reality. Take my Luke for instance. I have photos of him with his electric guitar (the only sound he makes is the strumming of all 6 open strings). Just because you see a photo of little Johnny, the son of some girl who didn’t give you the time of day in HS standing on a snow board, that doesn’t mean you should go into complete panic mode and throw your kids down a mountain.

People get so comfortable viewing your life through photos and posts that they lose track of just how long it has been since they have seen you. I look at it this way, it may bring you closer to people you haven’t seen in a long time, but it pulls you further apart from those closest to you.

Sometimes I wish I could live life like my parents did. They didn’t have YouTube. They waited for Sunday night to see who was on ‘That’s Incredible!’ Or the 5 O’clock News to see what was going on in the world. I guess the irony here is they are now on Facebook.

Now I understand that many of you may have come across the link to what you are reading right now through Facebook, and that is ok. I like to have a beer once in a while,it just doesn’t run my life.

I guess all I am saying is keep your kids out of the competition. At least until they are willing to compete by their own free will. When that time comes, that will be a whole other story.

PS – For those who are unsure of what they would do without their Facebook friends…after I deactivated my account, I stayed in touch with 1 out 270 of mine and all is well.

According to my husband I have committed a cardinal sin – I bought one-ply toilet paper instead of two-ply. He assumed this was another one of my Budgeting OCD decisions to save money, when in fact it was really just an accident. It got me thinking about limits, and how everybody draws the line somewhere. For my husband, he can deal with A LOT of my frugal money methods, but this is his line in the sand.

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Most people probably view frugal living like dieting and that’s probably why they don’t bother trying it at all. Here the three cardinal sins of being frugal and how to avoid making them.

1. Saying NO ALL THE TIME – Being frugal does NOT mean saying no to everything you want. It’s about making choices. Budgeting can be a lot like dieting and if you cut out everything you love, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Instead you should look at your spending as an “if then” statement – “If I go out to eat with the girls on Saturday, then I’m not going to buy myself that new outfit.” I try to find ways to say “yes” to at least some of my kids wants, otherwise I think they’ll be binge spenders when they grow up. When I take them to the mall, I tell them we aren’t going to buy any clothes or toys, but they can have a small treat. We’re usually just killing time there anyway, since I’m not into shopping just for fun.

2. Trying To Do EVERYTHING At Once – Just like you don’t wake up one morning and get on the scale and find out you gained 50 pounds overnight, the same goes for debt or financial troubles. You didn’t get yourself into trouble overnight and you aren’t going to get out of it that quickly either. As much as we pray for a winning lottery ticket, the odds aren’t in our favor. Instead try to change a few manageable things at a time like making your coffee at home and bringing it to work in a reusable thermos instead of buying that pricy coffee drink at Starbucks or my fav – Dunkin Donuts.

I was looking through my budget spread sheets for 2012, 2013 and 2014 and marveling at all the changes we were able to make in the last few years.  It’s great to see the progress we’ve made, but we probably still have years before we get to where I’d like us to be. Frugal living is a marathon, NOT a sprint.

3. Thinking “Frugal” Means “Cheap” – I would never NOT bring a gift to a birthday party, fail to tip at a restaurant, or not buy my kids something I know they need. People are worth more than money and that’s the cardinal rule extraordinaire in my book. It’s at the heart of every decision (financial or otherwise) that I make. I’ll choose time with my family over fancy clothes or a new car any day of the week. TV shows like “Extreme Couponing” or “Extreme Cheapskates” would have you believe that stockpiling items you won’t ever use, living with practically no furniture, or paying your restaurant bill in change is what being frugal is and that couldn’t be more WRONG.

Living a life completely obsessed with money (either spending it or saving it) is not what I hope most people want. We don’t want to alienate our friends and family in our effort to get ahead financially. If we do, we could find ourselves up poop’s creek with only one-ply.

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An all too frequent complaint I hear from parents and one I am guilty of as well is the fact that our kids have too many toys.  They take over the home, create battles at cleanup time, and are quickly neglected for the bigger and better.  To say it drives me nuts is an understatement.  My children are blessed with a big extended family who love to give to my children, so Christmas and birthdays are big events with lots of presents.

My oldest daughter, Madison, has a January birthday, and by the time her birthday comes around not only doesn’t she need anything but there isn’t a place to put anything.  Last year, my husband and I sat Madison down and discussed using her birthday party with her friends as a chance to give back to our community instead of asking her friends for presents. Madison was a bit hesitant, but when we offered her some charity choices, she immediately became excited about helping out the animals at our local Humane Society.

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It is now a birthday tradition for the second year in a row.  Instead of a pile of presents at her party, she has a pile of cat and dog food along with other items listed on our Humane Society’s wish list like bleach and old towels.  After her party, we head over to drop off the gifts.  Once there, the volunteers thank Madison profusely and allow her into the free roam cat room.  Madison loves cats and plays in there with them for quite some time.  The volunteer explains how Madison and her friends have made a difference in these animals’ lives.  Then we try to leave without a pet or two which is always very difficult.  I’ve still got my mind set on Little Fry, a sweet older cat.  (We have an aging dog that would not be appreciative of a new addition at this time.  She’s still mad we had kids.)

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While there, we discovered that the Humane Society is a great place for kids to volunteer.  There are things even a five year old can help out with as long as they have a parent with them.  It’s great for older kids too who need community service for school or scouts, or for kids that just love animals and want to help out.  We plan on taking Madison once a month to help take care of the cats, to feed them and spend time with them.  I know she will love it, and my hope is that she learns at a young age that helping others less fortunate is not only the right thing to do, but that it feels really good too.  Take a trip down to your local Humane Society and see what a difference your child can make and what a difference it could make to your child.

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