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MORGANS

As the mountains of snow start to melt, it is finally starting to feel more like spring. This is the time of year we get outside more and watch everything spring to life again. Including winged creatures. Some are beautiful and some are down right annoying when they go buzzing by. But I bet everyone can agree that spotting a butterfly is a magical experience.

Magic wings bfly collage

That’s why we love our trips to the Magic Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, MA. No matter what the weather, there is a tropical greenhouse waiting just two and half hours away from Northern Ulster County. It is easily a fun day trip your family will enjoy. Magic Wings is a tranquil 8,000 square foot greenhouse filled with tropical plants, a Japanese Koi pond and water features and of course butterflies. In fact, hundreds of them. Once we paid our admission we were ready for our self guided tour of the green house.

magic wings collage

The exhibit and display area before entering the greenhouse offers educational videos, the history of the butterfly and a whole bunch of tropical creatures. Spoiler alert there are some of the biggest cockroaches you will ever see on display. But no worries, they are all behind glass. My kids loved the tree frogs, snakes and other reptilian beasts.

Upon entering the green house there are large fans blowing and little kids might find them noisy. This is simply to keep the butterflies from hitching a ride out on someone’s back. The rest of the tour is calm and pretty serene with classical music playing and the sounds of the waterfalls.

magic wings lizard

My kids were mesmerized by the packs of fluttering wings and spent hours trailing them and watching them. All the employees are well trained in the different types of animals living in the green house. They can easily rattle of details about the lizards, birds, fish and insects from what they eat, to what their usual habitat looks like.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

There is a community coat closet big enough to park a stroller (not permitted in the green house), or to leave bulky diaper bags and your family’s coats. The gift shop has a wide range of gift items and kids toys. Some are more expensive, but definitely some affordable fun things for family budgets. You enter through the gift shop before the tour begins, so we let the kids shop a little without purchasing so they would know what they wanted when we came back through.

Bring your camera because there are a few little fun photo op spots to take family photos. Not to mention you will really want to capture some beautiful shots of the lush greenery and colorful butterflies.

The cost for a family of four (two parents, two kids) is $52 and kids under 3 are free. You can save on meals by packing your own lunch instead of buying in the cafe, or restaurant. There is a covered out door picnic area available in the summer, and there are tables in the lobby near the fire place in the winter. Overall, you are going to pay less for this day trip filled with educational opportunities and hours of exploring than probably getting your family into a movie theater for two hours of entertainment. We love it so much we always leave planning our next trip back!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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I was not a confident child . As a matter of fact, when I was my oldest daughter’s age I was evaluated for speech therapy because I was very quiet in class. Turns out my speech was fine. It was my confidence that needed work.

Looking back, I can see that my mom wasn’t a very confident woman. I wish she had known just how awesome she was. Confidence was something I had to slowly build over the course of my life, but I knew I had to help my oldest daughter so that she wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as I did.

Hannah is my mini-me; quiet and thoughtful, smart, shy, and very hard on herself. I’ve learned so much about who I am and who I want to be by raising her. Naturally, I don’t want her to have the same hang-ups that held me back. I’ve kept a watchful eye over the years and I’ve done my best to help her build confidence.

Here are four things that have really helped.

1. Enlist Her Teacher’s Help – Sometimes no matter how much we reassure our children, they need to hear it from someone else. I walked into my daughter’s Kindergarten orientation and as soon as the presentation was over I made a bee-line for her teacher.

I told him that Hannah is extremely bright, but very sensitive and hard on herself. She could already read before the start of school and I knew she could be pushed to excel in school, but it would have to come in the form of many gentle nudges. I asked for his help in making her feel okay about making mistakes, and encouraging her to answer questions.

I didn’t raise my hand in class much as a kid, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I was afraid of being wrong. To his credit, he is an amazing teacher. He pointed out his own mistakes (like the time he accidentally wrote on the smart board with a permanent marker) so the kids would see that even teachers make mistakes. If she cried because she didn’t know the answer on a test, he reassured her it was fine.

At each parent/teacher conference, I made it my mission to find out more than the academic picture of my daughter’s development. I wanted to know how she interacted with the other kids, how her confidence was developing, if she cried at all, how she was overcoming the challenges of new material, and if she asked for help.

By the end of the year, her confidence was really starting to grow and it has continued to grow.  Every year, I always ask the same types of questions at every single parent/teacher conference.

2. Encourage Her in Math and Science – I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard my mother say she was bad at math. Most of the time she deferred to my step-dad to help me with any and all math homework.

To this day I still think I’m bad at math, but honestly I was always a B student in math. That’s not really bad, but perhaps somewhere along the lines I made the association that too many girls do – that we’re just not good at math and science.

At my last parent-teacher conference with Hannah’s fourth grade teacher, she told me that Hannah is gifted. That’s not news to me. She was always reading a few grade levels ahead in school. What took me by surprise was the subject. She said Hannah’s state test scores in math were well above the district average and that she wanted to put Hannah in a special math group, which meets before school once a week and competes in math competitions. The group is primarily for 5th and 6th graders.

When I asked Hannah if she was interested I told her that she would probably see math problems she never had before and she had to be okay with that. She asked if they would teach her how to solve those problems and when I said yes she jumped at the opportunity.

I’m so glad she’s going to be challenged to excel in an area that many girls aren’t. I just know that when she has children of her own someday she’s not going to utter the phrase, “I’m no good at math.” That brings me to number 3.

3. Mind Your Words About Yourself – Like I said, the words my mother spoke over herself had an effect on me. I’m totally guilty of still saying things like, “I’m not very good at math,” but I still try to help her with her math homework whenever she asks. I know I’ve gotta watch what I say. My kids are always listening even if I think I’m just muttering something to myself.

My mom often said disparaging things about her looks too. I was very self-conscious of my own looks especially as a tween and teen. I’m not blaming it all on my mom, but I unconsciously learned to give a voice to my insecurities. I try really hard not to say bad things about myself or my looks in front of my daughter.

Girls look to their moms to understand their own self-worth. Be kind to yourself and they’ll learn to be kind to themselves too.

4. Encourage Leadership Skills – One of the best things I did was put Hannah in Girl Scouts. She’s gotten to meet with local business owners, our town judge and even our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. It’s great for the girls to meet influential women.

This year, they held mock elections to learn more about the election process. It was optional if the girls wanted to run for President and I was so proud that Hannah wanted to. Being in the spotlight was something I would have avoided as a kid.

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Hannah made campaign buttons for her Girl Scout Troop election.

She made campaign buttons and stood up in front of her peers and made a speech about why she would make a good President. My favorite part was when she said she wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t choose her.

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I’m so proud of Hannah and all the girls who went up to the podium to give speeches during her Girl Scout Troop election. The more girls practice leadership skills like public speaking when they’re younger, the less intimidating it will be when they get older.

I didn’t put any pressure on her, heck I didn’t even hear her speech until she delivered it to her troop on Election Day. To my surprise she won. She then had to run one of her troop meetings and pick a project they would work on.

I told her about Operation Christmas Cheer, a card writing project started by my fellow Hudson Valley Parent blogger Roxanne (aka The Whatever Mom) that sends holiday cards to kids who are very ill. She was all for it and that’s what her troop did during the meeting she had to run. I’m so proud of the girls.

It doesn’t have to be Girl Scouts. It could be sports or any activity that encourages your daughter to take a leadership role.

Hannah has already far surpassed me when I was her age. She’s taught me that confidence comes from practice. It’s slow and steady for some girls, but as long as we keep them moving in the right direction, we can help them reach their full potential. We are their moms, and we have more power than we know.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Photography 101

Like most kids today, my children don’t know what life is like without mommy snapping 50 million pictures of nearly every minute of their lives.  So it is only natural that they are curious about using my camera. A few summers ago, I picked up a small Fuji digital camera at a garage sale for around $50. It isn’t a great camera, but it is small and I didn’t invest too much money into it. So I handed it off to my kids and set them loose in the back yard. That might sound like a crazy idea, but part of photography is developing a natural instinct to capture a moment, or tell a story in one single frozen frame. That only happens with practice.

Some people have a natural spark or interest for photography and children are no exception. At first I sat back to watch what kinds of things my kids want to take pictures of. They seemed to want to take action shots of each other pretending to be animals in the wild, “now be a Cheetah and run at me!” Or they took close up shots of bugs and flowers. I tried to offer only a little guidance on how to hold the camera, using the strap for safety and how to use the zoom.

I have to say not every photo is worth a million bucks, but sometimes even a young kid can really nail a shot. It is simply amazing to see what they see through their lens.

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Photo Credit: My 5-year-old (No filter)

Here is how you can help your kids get comfortable behind the camera lens:

PHOTO GEAR

You don’t need a fancy camera, or invest money in a child specific camera they will outgrow. You can hand your child your cell phone, or a simple point and shoot camera. Starting with a digital camera makes the most sense as your child will take random crazy pictures of their toes and you can easily delete all of those. As your child matures in technique and style, learning to use an old school camera that requires film can be pretty cool.

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CAMERA PARTS

If you still have your camera manual, review it with your child. Teach them the parts of the camera from the lens, to the dial, to the flash. Once they learn the individual parts they can learn how they all contribute to creating a photo. Younger kids just need to know the parts they use the most like the toggle, the flash, the shutter release (button you press to take a photo), the lens and the on/off switch.

SCAVENGER HUNT

A scavenger hunt at any age is a great way for your child to look for photo ops. Create a scavenger hunt of about 10-20 things for your child to take a picture of. If you are out and about in the car they could snap pics of street signs, or mail boxes that they see out of the window. If you are hiking they could snap pics of leaves, sticks, something red, something blue, etc. Even a rainy day at home could produce some really fun photos.  For older children they could capture textures, colors, letters, signs, buildings and architecture, or even a self-portrait.

COMPOSITION

There are some rules or guidelines for creating a great photo. Show your child how to split the screen into three sections. When taking close up images help your child identify the foreground and background. These simple techniques will help them learn to fill the frame for a more interesting photo.

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LIGHT

Besides having a great subject, lighting is probably the most important way to create a great photo. Lighting can change the mood of a photo and how well your camera captures details. Have your child take photos in different areas of the house to compare how light effects their images. Then step outside to take photos to see how differently the light changes an image.

PHOTO DISPLAY

You can print out a few photos to display as art in your home, or create a photo book your child can show off to friends and family. You will be amazed how even kids can create some beautiful, frame worthy images. It could also be fun to host a family art show where you all show off your favorite prints.

The number one rule to remember is to let it be fun. Taking over the shot or telling your kid how to make the picture better takes away from their own creativity. Allowing kids to play with a camera and take photos on their own helps them develop their own creative instincts behind the lens.

Have you let your child unleash their inner photographer yet?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

old school tv

So here it is screen free week and I kicked it off by letting the kids watch TV while I cooked dinner. Ooops! In my defense we were screen free last week.  No,  I didn’t mix up my weeks. I just did not turn the TV on for a whole week. My kids also may be the only 4 1/2 year-olds without an iPad, iPod, iPhone or other digital device. The TV is their only screen.

As a mom working from home the TV is often the only helper I have while making business calls, trying to meet a deadline, or cooking dinner. So, instead of going screen free for a week, I just try to find a balance. We may spend an entire week in front of the TV,  and then go weeks without it. I have only one hard and fast rule about TV: the television is turned off one hour before bedtime.

So, how do you find balance in a world driven by the almighty screen?

 

 

Here are 8 Ways to Entertain Your Kids Without A TV:

1. Get Outside. This one is pretty much the go-to activity when the screens go black, right? I know with my family if we start our day outside we are more likely to stay outside. The kids will request a picnic outside for lunch, they will ask to paint or set up the water table outside. We often hit up a park for a several hours, or join friends for a hike. If I have to drive to a location that means even less time to be inside near a TV.

walkway hudson

2. Put On A Play. Get the whole family involved. Let the kids pick a story and put someone in charge of costumes and someone else in charge of props. My kids love to put on a show. Some nights we are princesses at a ball (picture Cinderella running through your living room falling out of her shoe), some nights we are pirates and some nights the kids just act out their favorite stories.

3. Go Out To Eat. Skip the chain restaurant where there are several giant TV’s hanging over your table. Instead, let the kids pick out your picnic menu, grab a blanket and select a location. Choose a new park, a play ground with picnic area, a favorite scenic spot or even your own back yard. You can enjoy the sounds of nature and each others conversation without having to shout over top of a sports cast.

4. Share Your Favorite Hobby. Why not share one of your passions with your kids? Maybe you love to craft, knit, fish, cook, garden or put together puzzles.  Let them ask you questions about it and tell them why you love it. You might get them hooked on a new hobby of their own, or just let them see the person behind the parent.

5. Just Watch Them Play. If you’re kids are old enough let them loose in the back yard, or at a safe area of a local park. Sit down on a nearby bench and enjoy reading your own book, knitting a blanket, or crocheting a gift. Modeling how to relax and connect with your own interests will show your kids the importance of taking time for themselves too.

6. Practice Being Still. This is a hard concept for kids to master (and some of us adults). Sitting still and observing what’s around them helps kids see things from new perspectives, and see things they may miss while focused on a screen. Try introducing yoga, or cloud watching during the day, or staring at the stars at night. Even taking time to snuggle on the couch, or under a tree is a great way to slow down and connect with your kids.

7. Choose Your Own Adventure. Take a long (or a short) drive to a new town and go for a walk. Walk by the shops on Main Street, or stop in for a treat at a small mom and pop shop. Point out how different the buildings are from your own town. Help your kids notice the small things like fresh flowers growing in the window boxes, or the scent of the coffee wafting out of a store front.

Man's hand pointing on street map

8. Turn Off Your Own Devices. If you have a hard time limiting your own screen time, then your kids will have a hard time too. My kids have already said to me a few times, “mom can you stop looking at your phone?” I converted to a smart phone less than 10 months ago and already I can be too attached. (I just HAVE to know what readers think of my recent post!). To avoid the temptation of picking up my phone I keep it in another room, in my pocket book or just turn it off. “I’ll be on for just a minute,” can easily turn into just one hour of my time.

 

How do you find balance between the digital world and life in real time?

 

Being an aunt is so awesome. I never feel pressure to dress my nieces and nephews perfectly, or feed them organic stuff. Everything I say seems so wise. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten angry or impatient. When they were little it was so easy picking up my little cherubs to play pretend parent for an afternoon. Then, I’d hand them back and go home to sleep for the next 20 hours brainwashed into thinking THIS is why I should have kids!

Some days I feel my upgrade to Mom is a scam. Sleep deprivation. Bodily functions gone awry. The yelling. The screaming. None of it could be real. Could it? What happened to all the cute baby coos and the fun toddler trips to the pumpkin farm? What happened to those doe eyed little pudgy faced kids following me around telling me they want to be my best friend forever?

Ohhhhhh. Those moments only happen in between the butt wiping, disciplining, no sleeping roller coaster ride called parenting. Can you tell this was a rough week at the casa de Whatever Mom? After doling out my millionth time out and reminding my child for the one hundredth time why we DO NOT open the toilet seat with our mouth, I wondered where did this all go wrong? I miss the days I can just hang with a kid and listen to their laugh vs. breaking up their sibling discord. I miss just getting into the car without a one hour go-round about socks. I miss how easy it is being the aunt. The fun one.

So here are my top 10 reasons why being an aunt is easier than being a mom:

Dear Ryan, Jeremy, Ashley, Lillian and Nathan,

Almost the whole gang out for a hike

10. I was always happy to change the one wet diaper you made in our four hours together, because I didn’t just change the last 3,654 wet diapers you made. I’d even squish your cute little tush and giggle over the “toot” you just made.

9. I don’t have to keep track of what foods you eat. You want 10 cheese sticks, 4 donuts and a gallon of blue juice. Sure! I won’t be there to watch your mom huddled in the fetal position pulling her hair out and cursing my name while you ride the “blue demon” back to being her precious little baby.

8. You never ruined any of my stuff with markers or crayons. Ever. Thank you!

My niece Ashley today. We had some good times getting girly!

7. I never had to wash any of your poop off my hands. Again, thank you!

6. It was the 90’s.  Organic wasn’t even a thing yet.

5. Yes was our favorite word! “Can I have a balloon?” YES! “Can I have two chocolate bars?” YES! “Can you buy me that toy with really loud bells and whistles?” YES!

4. You made me look like mom of the year! People used to think you were my kid since we look so much alike and get along so well (possibly because I never said no). Other parents would ask me for tips on how to get their kids to “behave so well?!” There were even parents who wanted to give me money to treat you to a toy because you were the epitome of angelic existence.

My niece Lilly. Oh we've had some serious laughs!

3. I didn’t need coffee to keep up with you. I was a young, spry woman with boundless energy. I carried 3 of you at a time on my back and could still breath after walking several feet.

Me as a first time aunt at the tender age of 20

2. You never spit food at me. Thankfully, you always directed that toward your dad.

1. Any time you publicly drop an F-bomb it is automatically not my fault. It is totally feasible the kids parents said it first.

My nephew Ryan way too cool for me now.

 

Being a parent is dirty, messy hard work. It is a roller coaster ride with crazy twists and turns you can’t see. It’s more than just see you on the weekends and at birthday parties. It’s deeper. It’s sharing the best and the worst of myself. My lovely nieces and nephews only got the best of me. The cleaned up, well rested and patient part of me. My kids see the whole me. The un-showered, emotional chaotic mess of me. They see my passions and watch me live out my dreams. We are on this journey through life together. Every day.

I don’t love my nieces and nephews any more or any less than my own kids. They were my first kids who showed me how much fun life is. They were the ones that let me believe I could do this parenting thing. Some days I miss how easy it was to have someone else do the dirty work of parenting while I enjoy the best parts of childhood.

As much as I miss the ease of being an aunt, I still wouldn’t trade it for the difficult journey of parenthood. I had to share my nieces and nephews, my kids I can call my own.

Me as an aunt at nearly 40

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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.

My mom, me and dad playing in the snow!

My mom, me and dad playing in the snow!

I don’t want to brag or anything, but I was the nicest kid anyone could ever meet… until (DUH DUH DUH) middle school. In middle school, I think  the devil possessed my body (not literally, but my parents may disagree). If there was an argument to be had… oh boy did we have it.

When high school rolled around, I stopped fighting with my parents so much and started focusing on sports and my education, but couldn’t wait to get out of the house! Then it was time to go to college. I chose a University that was two hours away and planned on living on campus, but by the second week of classes I was a full blown commuting student. I missed my parents!

I love my life here in the Hudson Valley, but I’m not going to lie, I had a very difficult time when I first moved here. I would cry at least once a day because I felt guilty for leaving my family and because I just needed a “Morgan Hug” from my parents. Honestly, sometimes I just wanted to hear someone else say “y’all.”

I was making all these major life changes at one time (life-changing weight loss, moving away, renting my first apartment, getting my first real world job) it was difficult. Not a day goes by that I don’t speak to them either by text, phone, email or skype. I’m a true only child! My parents really do mean everything to me and although we talk constantly… nothing can compare to seeing them in person.

So, over the holidays I was lucky enough to be able to travel back to my hometown of Monroe, North Carolina to visit my family.  I haven’t seen my family in almost a year, so my mini family vacation was just what the doctor ordered! It’s so  funny… no matter how old I get, when I’m with my parents I still feel like a kid. It seems I’ll always be my daddy’s “sweet pea” and my mom’s “Velcro baby.”

I invited my parents and aunt to come back to New York to see my new place. They ended up staying for two weeks. We had a blast! We explored the Hudson Valley and even went to NYC on New Years’ eve…  We ended up in White Plains to see their ball drop because all the streets in Manhattan were closed by the time we got there, but we still had fun! Being snowed in a couple days and the close quarters didn’t help with a little bout of cabin fever, but in the end we all enjoyed ourselves.

I can’t wait for them to come back so we can go exploring the Hudson Valley again. Homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday courtesy of my mom doesn’t hurt either!

I guess the purpose of this blog is to let all you parents out there know that even if you’re going through tough times with your teens, tween or even toddlers, it will get better. In my case, mother and father know best. It just takes time for us to all figure that out.

Hello readers, as boring as it may be, I’m going to start out by introducing myself to you all…

I’m Brittany and I’m the newest addition to the Hudson Valley Parent family. About 4 months ago, I was hired as the Editorial Assistant. I must say, I really love working here at HVParent.  Our entire staff is great and so much fun to be around.

Since I came on board, I’ve worked a lot with our social media sites. If you’re not already our friend on facebook, I hope you’ll take a moment to join us (shameless plug… I know).

Now for some boring background about me… I’m originally from North Carolina. I moved to New York 6 months ago to be with my boyfriend, Bill.  Bill and I met through my baseball-focused, radio show I used to host called “A Show of Their Own.”  The show is now archived online, but I’ll spare you the shameless plug.

Prior to HVP, I worked as a high school basketball, softball and volleyball coach… which transitioned me to sports-talk radio and now logically to working for a parenting publication! Working for HV Parent is a combination of everything I love: writing, editing, interviewing, videos, photography, social media, even some graphic design! Not to mention, I get to think up crazy ideas for new things to offer our readers!

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been putting off blogging for a while. I have several blogs of my own, but couldn’t decided on an angle for this new HVParent blog of mine. BUT I finally figured it out.

Since, I made you read this long blog all about me, I guess it’s time for me to unveil my new blog and what exactly it will be about (drum roll please….)

Gym Class Hero will focus on living a healthy lifestyle. I’ll discuss everything from sports, weight loss, activities for the kids, nutrition… anything. I recently lost 120 pounds… yep 120! I’m still 30 pounds away from my goal weight and cannot wait to share my journey with all of you.  I’m a sports nut and have had some great experiences I want to share with (y’all) you all. My goal for this blog is to have something for everyone… mom, dad, kids, grandparents, etc.  I hope you’ll continue reading my musings and comment away!

Thanks for reading,

Brit

Usually I write about coupons. Not today. Something happened at my house yesterday and you moms need to know about this stuff. I know a lot of our readers out there have younger kids. For those of you with kids in the middle schools, I have something to tell you. I overheard my son last night (he’s 14), talking to a buddy on the phone. He told his friend he was going to try the Cinnamon Challenge.

My son thinks he wants to take a challenge where he attempts to swallow a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon. My first reaction is to tell him it will chemically burn his mouth. My fiance tells him it will cause convulsions (not so sure on that one) and my older son tells me it will cause vomiting. Joy. I looked up some videos on YouTube just to see. They look harmless to start with. Some folks cough it out right away. Lots of folks don’t. The one I saw showed the last person over a toilet bowl very sick.

Needless to say, both jars of cinnamon are in my purse today. My son tells me he is not stupid, so I ask why does he say he wants to do these things. Just to be cool is my guess. His answer was silence and hostility (typical teen behavior). We will be having more and more discussions on what we watch on YouTube and peer pressure.

Have you heard of this? Know anyone who has done it? I would love to hear from you. Until then, the cinnamon at my house lives in my purse. The things we do to keep our kids safe.

(editor’s note: We at HV Parent magazine hope parents with teens, or who know teens, will have them read this blog.  It’s an important message to teens from one of their own.)

Hello, I’m Chris, the summer editorial assistant at HV Parent. I also write for the website and was given an article to write on Texting while Driving. New York State recently passed a law increasing the fine to $150 (this is without the court charge) and three points on your license. Even as a teenager, and an avid text-fiend, I admit this is long overdue.

When I was younger and in the car with an older friend, I would be shaking in my seat when he sent a text, evidently he had decided that a miscellaneous girl was more important than my life, and his. I admit I  didn’t stop him from texting though; I was happy just to be in the car with the kid and wasn’t about to scold him.  But that makes me just as guilty. That’s something I think is important to tell your kids. If you’re in a car and the driver starts to text,  it’s your job to stop it!

It’s not enough to have your kid know not to do it because, like it or not, their lives will be in the hands of others.

I don’t expect a kid to scold an older friend, though; I would expect them to act like me. However, there is a way to prevent it without sounding like a nag. Tell your child just to offer to text for the kid. I do this now and ask my friends to text for me when I drive. This is a much more practical solution because it keeps the driver from texting and most important to your kid, doesn’t put the kid into an uncomfortable position. They won’t encounter any resistance either because texting while driving isn’t done for a cheap thrill, it is done because people feel the need to respond. Therefore, your kid is actually helping the driver instead of bothering them about their awful habit. Telling them to stop might not work because (I’m sure you know this by now) teenagers HATE being told what to do, yet if you ask them and are reasonable they might actually respond, you just have to watch out for that rebellious urge that kicks in when you yell at them or tell them not to do something. A simple “Hey, I’ll just answer that for you,” can help save lives.

Now when you’re driving alone and you get a text it’s quite simple, don’t answer it! I’m sure your kid has seen those commercials about the incomplete text that killed a car full of people, but what they usually watch on TV is probably more violent. We associate TV with violence and exaggerations making those realistic PSAs virtually meaningless. The important thing to do is to talk to your kids about it, sit them down and explain to them what a crash is like. The second you say some vague line used on commercials and preached to us in school, your kids will tune you out, that’s what I would have done. It’s important to make the dangers real to your kids, share a personal story of an accident (caused by texting or not) or maybe a friend’s story, just some way to drive home the reality of car crashes.

The new law doesn’t just apply to texting either, the fine is for “using handheld electronic devices while a vehicle is in motion” so that means no mid-drive iPod selections. That can be just as bad as texting, yet I’ve seen it done much more often, and a playlist of songs you like to hear while driving can fix that problem so easily.

One more thing I feel is important to mention is that in a crash, it’s not just you or the people in your car that get hurt. You might walk out with a few scrapes but the poor mother you hit could be seriously injured, or worse. Also, if something awful happens to you, then you’re hurting your parents, family, and friends as well. If you just get hurt it will take them a long time to recover, and your death, well they will never recover from that. So make your kids realize what driving a car means, what getting into a crash means, and how texting while driving is the dumbest way to ruin or maybe even end your life.

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