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Approximately four years ago, while I was on a school trip with my daughter, I received a phone call from my mother who was watching my other two children. It wasn’t a simple boo-boo. Something was seriously wrong. My son, then 11 years old, was having a problem walking.

He had come home from a friend’s house and could barely make it up the stairs. His legs were in spasms. He was screaming in pain. He hadn’t fallen. He didn’t get hit and we couldn’t figure out why this came on so suddenly. He kept telling me his back hurt and you could watch his legs when they spasmed. It would start at his thighs and go down his legs and last for minutes, then release and start all over again.

I was on a bus on my way home, so I couldn’t get there any faster. I was thinking about what it could be and I thought about everything from ‘he probably didn’t tell me he was goofing off and got hurt’ to ‘lyme disease’ and even to the big boys — muscular dystrophy. Who knew what I was facing when I got home. My mom rushed him to the emergency room where they completed an MRI which showed nothing. No answers yet.

For the next TWO WEEKS, my son camped out on the couch writhing in pain. We went back and forth to Westchester Medical Center meeting with neurologists — the ride down to the Center was horrific for both of us as he cried all the way down — trying to figure out what was going on. He was put on a muscle relaxer just to try and ease his pain, but no explanation as to what was causing it.

I slept holding on to him and when he wasn’t looking I cried wondering if he had some sort of paralyzing condition that would soon render him helpless. He already couldn’t walk. Every step he took started the spasms again. He wasn’t eating very well and you could see he was losing weight. I seriously thought that I was going to lose him to something, but what???

I Googled, I talked to anyone who would listen and the pediatrician and I were on the phone every day. There were X-rays, more MRIs and a lot of waiting.

Then, one day, when I was helping him to the bathroom, he screamed that he didn’t want to ‘push’. Aha! At the risk of embarrassing my son, every child has moments when they can’t go to the bathroom. Could this be it? No way I thought…okay, so maybe he’s constipated, but could it REALLY be causing this? Nah…stupid thought.

As I put him on the toilet, he was in so much pain he was begging to get off and I could see his legs spasm in all different directions, but I forced him to sit down and stay there for just a few minutes. I knew he hadn’t gone in a bit and I thought maybe it would just make him feel a little better. He screamed more than I ever heard him scream and I almost took him off, but something inside of me said NO. I knew I needed to leave him there and make him go.

Thirty seconds later, my son walked off that toilet. Sound funny? My jaw dropped. Every kid gets slightly constipated, but what happened to my son was different and beyond the normal digestive issues. For some odd reason, and even the neurologists were baffled, his condition pressed on a nerve in his back and it locked and it sent him into a muscular shutdown. The pediatrician and the neurologist said they’ve never seen anything like it and one day they said they’d write him up for the medical journals.

He walked off that toilet! It was like something I’d never seen before in my life. It was over. Just like that. I cried for 20 minutes at least and was thankful that he was okay. He went and played video games. If I hadn’t listened to my instincts to keep him there, who knows how much worse the situation would’ve gotten. Listen to your instincts. They are truly real.

Look for our article on ‘Trusting your Gut Instinct’ in the  November issue of Hudson Valley Parent and for more examples of Hudson Valley moms who listened to their gut instinct. Do you have a story like this? Share it with us!

beamz_02_300My kids are into music. My son, 15, knows how to read music and plays several instruments. My daughter, 12, just started taking violin lessons and enjoys them. My oldest, 16, doesn’t know how to read music, but music is a huge part of her life (she is surgically attached to her Ipod). With The Beamz, anyone at any music level can play music.

The concept is simple. Plug it in, put the USB port into your computer — although it limits you from moving the toy from room to room — and download the software. Pick a song. The music will start to play. Then just wave your hand through where the laser beams will be and you’ll be making sounds. Go back and forth between the beams and you’ll start to make music. You can play with or without background music.

beamz (5)[1]My 12 year old enjoyed it because she really didn’t know how to read music and it gave her a way of being creative and making songs. My more advanced musician thought it was fun, but he wished there was more to it…ways to write and save your own pieces or change or add what was there. If there were ways to do that, we haven’t figured it out. He thought he might tire of it after awhile.

It’s a great way to kickstart some interest in music with any young child, but it comes with a $199 pricetag so this isn’t a product that should be considered a disposable toy. Honestly, it might be good for a special needs child who may not have the dexterity or the ability to play a traditional instrument. All they need to be able to do is wave their hand.

For more information, check out their website where you can download a starter demo.



            As editor of Hudson Valley Parent and Hudson Valley Life, I receive many products to test. Some are fun – a movie screener to watch, a video game to test, a toy to try out. Others, not so much. I don’t think we’ll be trying many organic foods soon since most have tasted like someone tried to flavor cardboard.

            Since I’m a kid at heart, and I have three kids who are always looking for something silly to do, the Marshmallow Fun Company’s shooter sounded like goofy fun and we were willing to give it a whirl.

            The idea is to load up your marshmallows into the shooter and send them 30 feet into the air! It doesn’t hurt when you’re shot and the game can be played inside on a rainy day.

            Okay first things first – parents you WILL be finding rock hard marshmallows shot into many crevices into your home weeks later after you thought they were all cleaned up. Also, if you have younger kids who are enjoying the toy outside, make sure they are cautioned against eating the marshmallows that have landed in a pile of dirt.

            The shooter is goofy fun, but in all seriousness I was very taken back by its color and look. The version I received, the Executive Marshmallow Blower, is black and silver. The directions used actual gun terminologies. Although there is an orange knob at the top of the shooter and a see-through tunnel to put the marshmallows on top, the gun resembled true gun colors. It’s not something I could let my children play with outside. From a distance it can be mistaken for a weapon, especially to those unfamiliar with what a real gun looks like or those who understand what it’s like to go through lock down at schools when a funny looking item is carried throughout the building. I doubt anyone walking through the school halls, or a train station, with this would get far without being questioned.

            The shooters do come in other neon colors, but this one was sent to me. When I called the company, I spoke with a higher-up, who I won’t name here. When he told me, “oh but you have the executive model,” I asked him if that meant it wasn’t targeted to children. He responded by telling me ‘oh no, this toy is good for ages 9 to 99.’ I just don’t see it that way. I wouldn’t let my children play with this outside. Maybe I’m just overprotective, but I heard one-too many stories of a child getting shot because he or she carried a water gun that looked like the real thing.

            I get the idea and I encourage the fun…I just don’t understand why one of the versions has to look like this. What do you think?

I was talking to a mom the other day who had an athletic 11-year-old daughter. The daughter, we’ll call her Jill, loved sports and wanted to play on the boys baseball team, but the rules in her league prevented her from doing so. At Jill’s age there was a boys and a girls baseball team, no co-ed teams. When I asked the mother what she thought about Jill wanting to play, she admitted that she was happy the rules of the league prevented her from playing. I asked her, ‘Why?’ and she told me that she didn’t want her girl getting hurt by the boys.

I played sports when I was younger and never would discourage my daughter from playing on the boys’ team if it’s a possibility that she can. If she tried out and was fast enough and strong enough to play with the boys, she should be allowed that chance. It was disappointing to hear this mother’s take on the situation.

What if your son came back and wanted to play on the only lacrosse team in the school and it’s a girls’ team? Would you let him? Would he be made fun of? How would he handle that? What would YOU do? Let me know.

Read our article, written by Angela Batchelor, on what the local rules when a boy wants to play on the girls team or vice versa.

We didn’t see this movie, but 12-year-old Sami wanted to play the video game and was actually impressed that it was harder than she thought!Here’s her review!

Aliens In The Attic DS Game – Review

Sami here. I was assigned to review the new DS video game for the new movie, Aliens In The Attic. Overall it was a good, fun game. But it is also hard. (I died on the first level, and I am good at video games!)


In the game you get to play as 3 different characters, each whenever you want. There is Tom, Jake, and Hannah, each with their own special abilities. For example: Jake can push large blocks out of the way and Hannah can double jump.


You get to use all sorts of gismos and gadgets, like laser guns and stun rays. Some weapons you get from boss battles at the end of each level. Some Tom will build, he being the brains of the operation, or battle, so to say. You can collect upgrades along the path of the levels to make your guns, stun rays, etc, better.


When you are going through the levels you have to fight the alien robots and, occasionally, heal a citizen/friend/neighbor/enemy from a weapon the robot aliens have unleashed on them.


Even though I have NOT beat this game yet, there are still many hard bosses you have to face at the end of each level. You could face the aliens (turned giant) or maybe a robot ship. Either way, they are hard and take clever skill to figure out how to beat them. (Psst: The characters talk about how to in the beginning. Tee hee.)


I give it a 7/10. Even though it is hard, it is still fun to play. 🙂


Looking for more games to play or things to do with the kids? Check out the Hudson Valley event calendar!

I took my kid to school today (duh duh duh duh dah)

She was excited to go (duh duh duh duh dah)

But on the first day of school (duh duh duh duh dah)

Will she scream NO!

She’s got the back-to-school bluuuuueeeessssss

Today was orientation day for my youngest. She is starting junior high school. Last night she told me she was excited about getting her schedule and seeing her friends again after a long summer. This morning, she bounced out of bed pretty quickly on a summer morning for an early orientation. She crossed her arms walking in, which is a sign I know — she’s nervous. Of course she is. It’s a new transition from elementary school to junior high and she’s worried about finding classes, opening lockers and making new friends.

It took me back to when my kids were younger. My oldest daughter, now 16, took to preschool very easily. There were no tears (unless you count mine when I sat in the car screaming at the air that these teachers better take care of my baby!) and she wasn’t hiding behind me reluctant to go in.

My son, on the other hand, was wrapped around my leg screaming no mommy, don’t leave me (oh, even remembering that hurts the heart! LOL). We worked through that and he eventually adjusted. My youngest was a mix…there were some days she didn’t want to go and others she bounced into the classroom eager to have fun and learn.

Today, they are pretty much the same personality. The oldest loves school, my son adjusted, but if you told him tomorrow that he never had to go again, I think he’d be okay with that even though he was excited to get his schedule (he loves music and he has two music courses this year, so it’s a step forward!). Samantha likes school, but there are some days she wishes she didn’t have to go, which sounds like most of us when it comes to anything.

What about your kids? Do they love school or hate it? For us, it depends on the year, the courses and the teachers, of course. There have been days I’ve heard “I hate school!” being screamed in my house by someone.

What do you do when they scream that? How do you react? What if you have a child that wakes up and says “I’m NOT going???” My neighbor’s son struggled with this over the last year and would NOT get on the bus no matter what anyone did. How do you get past this? Give him a day off? Put him on the bus kicking and screaming? Let me know how you would handle this and if your child likes school.

Can you tell what my favorite subjects were? It was English and Creative Writing, of course.

I’m always looking for ways to get my kids involved in reading and writing more and expressing their creativity. As a professional writer, it’s really important to me that my kids enjoy the arts.

All three of my kids are pretty creative. My 16-year-old daughter Nicole runs her own book blog where she reviews books for teens.  My 15-year-old son, Travis, is a musician, playing tuba, trumpet, clarinet and now electric guitar. Samantha, 12, is a very good artist and freehand sketches are better than anything I’ve done at her age (I loved to draw too). Yesterday she attended a cartooning workshop at the Grinnell Library in Wappingers Falls. She really enjoyed that.

So when I have an opportunity to have them do something ‘fun’ that also requires them to read and write, I’m on it. With my new position as editor of Hudson Valley Parent, I receive products — LOTS of products — that need review or are for giveaways. Some we’ll give away, some we’ll decide to review. And who best to review a CD of the kids’ show Wizards of Waverly Place than a kid? So here she is, with no further ado, my daughter Sami’s review of the Disney CD featuring Selena Gomez. From a parent’s perspective, it’s a cute show considering I’ve only seen a few episodes.

Wizards Of Waverly Place: The Soundtrack REVIEW:
I listened to this soundtrack with my friend Jayme. We both love the show and have similar taste in music. So, I shall write what we thought of each song.

1: Disappear (Selena Gomez) – We both loved this song. And not just because Selena Gomez was singing it, but because it was an upbeat, fun, sing-along song.

2: Magical (Selena Gomez) – The 2nd song by Selena Gomez on here, me and Jayme liked it. It’s a slower, more romantic song, about a relationship that didn’t work out. Selena wishes she could put a spell on him too “make you feel the same way that I do”.
3: Magic (Selena Gomez) – This song is based off the one originally recorded by Pilot. Ever since we saw that she was singing this on Disney Channel, we wanted to hear it. Even though we knew the old version, we still loved her version.
4: Strange Magic (Steve Rushton) – First off, Jayme and I were wondering who this guy was. Apparently he is just a really crappy songwriter. They repeated the same line, and it was slow and boring. We give it thumbs down.
5: Magic (Honor Society) – Well, we were talking while listening to this, but what we heard was pretty good. We didn’t know who this band was either, but they had a good voice. This was based off the one recorded by The Cars.
6: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (Mitchell Musso) – We don’t like Mitchell Musso. We think he can’t sing FOR HIS LIFE. But the song lyrics were good (originally by The Police), and any Mitchell fan would like this song.
7: Magic Carpet Ride (KSM) – We really liked this song. It was a fast, fun, rocking song. We actually started singing along to the refrain once we knew it. We give it thumbs up.
8: Magic (Meaghan Martin) –  You could just chill and do homework or something while listening to this song. This was based off the one recorded by Olivia Newton-John.
9: You Can Do Magic (Drew Seeley) – Not a fan of Drew Seeley, but I wouldn’t say we HATED the song. We just wouldn’t listen to it for fun again.
10: Some Call It Magic (Raven Symone) – We actually heard this song before, so we just skipped it. It’s a nice song. Not great. On a scale, we give it a 7/10.
11: Do You Believe In Magic (Aly & AJ) – We liked this song. We had heard it before, like Some Call It Magic, but we listened to it anyway. It’s a nice song, one to soon be on my iPod.
12: Everything Is Not As It Seems (Series Theme Song) (Selena Gomez) – We have heard this song MANY times before, and we love it. We had a little argument over the lyrics though. 😉

So on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the greatest, we give it an 8-1/2.


Newburgh pastel artist, Clayton Buchanan, recently had the opportunity to give hands-on art advice to children when he visited the River Valley Artist Guild in Port Jervis.  Buchanan had visited the Guild last year where he taught the youngsters about Impressionism. This year, the children, ages 8 to 12, concentrated on lining up features when drawing  a portrait.

Clayton Buchanan visits River Valley Artist Guide

Clayton Buchanan visits River Valley Artist Guide









Buchanan’s works are in private and corporate collections in Canada, England, and, locally, at the Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck.  He was thrilled to be at the event, working with fellow contributor Joan Kehlenbeck, president of the River Valley Artist Guild, especially at a time when arts programs in schools are lacking funding and attention.  “Artists should get interested in helping schools,” he urges. “and show the children how art is incorporated in life.”

Clayton Buchanan gives drawing advice to students

Clayton Buchanan gives drawing advice to students









“For example, in science class kids are taught about atmosphere and filtration,” he says. “What my expertise could teach them is how filtering light affects color. You can see that if you hang a sheet on a clothesline. The white sheet looks like a light orange by the end of the day because the molecular structure in the atmosphere changes the colors.”

Kids learn about drawing and color

Kids learn about drawing and color

Buchanan says the most important part about teaching kids is that they have a good time. “If they aren’t interested, it doesn’t go anywhere,” he says.

He recommends that all artists — visual, performing and creative look into sharing their expertise with students.

In an August Hudson Valley Life column, Carole Wolf, the executive director of the Mill Street Loft writes, “the arts uplift the human spirit and nourish the soul. Especially during these challenging and difficult times, the arts bring us joy and help us better communicate and express ourselves.”

For more information on Clayton Buchanan, visit

I didn’t inherit much from my mom — we don’t really look alike. I’m brunette, she’s blonde. She’s a petite build and I’m…not. And I definitely can’t cook like she can, although I’d love to say “I whipped up a beef bourguignon!” or a…..well, I can’t think of any other recipe off the top of my head that sounds yummy, so that should tell you about my culinary skills, although I can make a few edible dishes. But in the kitchen, mom winds hands down. And don’t get me started on her baking skills. People add themselves to our “cookie” list each year just to get samples of how good my mom’s cookies are.

Me? I can create a great birthday cake though. No, I don’t just go buy it at the supermarket and squirt “happy birthday” in red gel across the top. I know you were thinking that! I recently molded a guitar for my son’s 15th birthday. For my daughter’s sweet 16, I created a Wicked cake based on the Broadway show. In the past, I’ve made a cake that looks like a wrestling ring (equipped with wrestlers) and I made awesome Elmo, Pooh, Barney cakes when my kids were little. I’m not as good as the Ace of Cakes on The Food Channel — I can’t take my eyes away from his creations — but when one of my kids’ friends says, “that’s a cool cake!” I’m happy. I’d much rather make a cake creation than a fancy dinner (on Top Chef, they boggle my mind how they can come up with so many incredible concoctions!).

On Saturday, I went to the movies and saw Julie & Julia, a movie that intertwines two true-life stories — one of Julie, an office worker who is looking for something meaningful in her life and she decides to make every recipe in Julia child’s cookbook. At the same time, we flashback to the life of chef extraordinaire Julia Child, who changed the face of cooking. Amy Adams and Meryl Streep play the parts respectively and they both do a wonderful job — Streep nails down Julia’s mannerisms so perfectly and is absolutely hiliarious. The movie is filled with many funny moments and I don’t want to take anything away from Stanley Tucci, who is delicious (see how I use food terms???) in his role as Julia’s husband!

I remember when Julie wrote her blog — fellow writers couldn’t believe that someone finally got a book contract off a blog. Okay, maybe we were a bit jealous, but happy that it was opening doors!

You MUST go see this movie. It’s absolutely delightful.

What can YOU cook?

I’m a movie buff. If it’s a Friday night and I’m done with work for the week I get an urge to see a movie. I rent them, watch them on, as well as spend the money, depending on the movie, at the full-priced cinemas. It’s one of my favorite places to spend my time.

I love romance movies, comedies and dramas. I won’t watch horror — okay, the closest I got to horror recently was Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. LOVED it and OWN it. But I won’t watch the other horror movies. One of my favorite movies to watch is musicals. My favorites are Singin’ in the Rain, Grease, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Rent, A Chorus Line and most of the old-time musicals from the Gene Kelly days. I had the biggest crush on Gene Kelly when I was a kid. He was suave and debonair and I couldn’t get enough of watching him dance on television when they showed his musicals. Today, I can ‘you tube’ him and watch him as much as I want. yay! That’s a great thing about today’s Internet. It’s a great way to combine today and yesterday.

On this year’s reality show So You Think You Can Dance, dancer Evan Kasprzak and his brother Ryan auditioned and danced tap and old Gene Kelly style. They were magnificent and I’ve been rooting for Evan to win ever since. It made me want to watch another musical. If you want to enjoy some great musicals and dancing, look for movies with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Donald O’Connor, some of my favorites. While we’re enjoying today’s fun movies, we should never forget the great musicals that once were. Rent one, pop popcorn and show your kids what dancing is really all about!

What’s YOUR favorite movie musical and why??????? Maybe I’ll find a new one to watch!

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