Essential Ramblings

These are the ramblings of a mother of two, wife of one, trainer to one dog, keeper of one cat, reluctant owner of a flock of chickens…driver, schedule keeper, cook, and when all goes well, work from home mom.

My older brother sent me this stating that it is his school’s new homework policy — I started laughing out loud when I read it and just can’t help but share it with all of you — a good back to school giggle for the moms and dads who might already be tired of the homework fun that goes on in houses across this great nation…I wish I could quote the person who took the time to write this, but for now it will have to go under anonymous parent and with a thanks for the laugh.


Dear Parents,

Here is an explanation of the school homework policy:
Students should not spend more than 90 minutes per night.
This time should be budgeted in the following manner:
15 minutes  —  looking for assignment;
11 minutes  —  calling a friend for the assignment;
23 minutes  —  explaining why the teacher is mean and just does not like children;
8 minutes  —  in the bathroom;
10 minutes  —  getting a snack;
7 minutes  —  checking for text messages;
6 minutes  —  telling parents that the teacher never explained the assignment clearly;
10 minutes  —  sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Mom or Dad to do the assignment.

These are given the night before they are due. This explains the name “long term”.  It is a long term commitment to time that begins at 9:30 P.M. and ends at 11:50 P.M. – or later.  It is important that the whole family is involved in the project. It is imperative that at least one family member races across town to Wal Mart/K Mart for posterboard, and that at least one family member ends up in tears (does not have to be the student).  One parent needs to stay up and complete the project. The other parent needs to call the school attendance clerk and leave a message on the answering machine that the student will be out sick.  Above all it’s not necessary to have the student’s name on the assignment, teachers are trained to guess which student did the work.


¿Habla Español?  The Westchester Library System needs you!  WLS runs a volunteer tutoring program for people preparing to take the General Educational Development (GED) exam, an alternative to the traditional high school diploma.  Some GED seekers take the test in Spanish and we need tutors with moderate to strong Spanish language skills to assist these students.  Tutors receive training and commit 3 hours a week to a drop in session at one of several area libraries (Mt. Kisco, White Plains, Elmsford, Port Chester, Yonkers, New Rochelle, or Peekskill).  Choose a time and location that’s convenient for you!  Please contact Robin Osborne (914-231-3237, or visit the “GED Connect” space in the WLS homepage ( for more information.  English-only tutors also needed!


I was speaking with a friend the other day and she asked — do you think it is it time for THE TALK?  Her daughter has started talking about crushes and boys and all of the giggling that 4th grade begins.  And it started me thinking about the topic in general, so as we begin the school year and head into the dangers of “playground talk” I thought I might as well share my thoughts with all of you as well.

When I say “playground talk” I am referring to the incredible misinformation that goes on on playgrounds throughout our fine nation — girls giggling and talking about boys, boys turning red while talking about girls, trash talking about crushes/dating/sex/homosexuality, using adult words that they have heard at home, or in movies — or from the dreaded older siblings…the worst kind of information.  I have to say whenever I hear my boys telling me something that someone said, I nearly always hear it from someone who is not the first in their family — second and third and more kids always know more than firsts and are all too happy to share (and yes, I know that this includes MY second).  That aside, there is always someone with the intel on the playground and the game is to either get ahead of it or to be alert from signs that your child has gotten the info and be ready to talk when it slips out.  And yes, it will slip out.

I have a pretty sensitive older child — and when I started hearing him talk about kids who were just BAD on the playground, my ears perked up.  What do you mean bad?  Kid: BAD mom, I can’t tell you why.  Mom: Like throwing rocks bad?  Kid: No, WORSE.  Mom: Hmmmmm…. And so the talk began.  With his hands clamped firmly over his ears, I wondered aloud whether they were maybe talking about “boy-girl” stuff?  Kid: gross mom, stop talking!  Mom: It’s totally normal, and what might sound gross to you may not be as bad as you think.  Kid: No way, it is definitely as bad as I think.  Mom: Let me tell you a little bit about it because I wonder if the kids are telling you some stuff that isn’t that accurate…Here I launch into a very watered down version of penises and vaginas and babies as this is the first “talk” that we have had…. Kid: Oh, that’s it?  Mom: Yup.  But when you hear kids talking about stuff, I need you to ask me or Dad about it so that you don’t just hear their possibly not totally correct and nice versions, ok?  Kid: Gross.  Mom to self: Ok, class dismissed.  But door opened.

If you read the articles, hear the experts, etc. they will all tell you not to have THE TALK.  Rather, use every day discussions to relay your values, to normalize sexuality, and to educate your children in a way that is open, age appropriate and healthy.  Jump in when you get an opening, hang back when they’ve heard enough, and model healthy relationships for them.

Sounds easy, but I personally think it’s the absolute hardest, most constant job we have other than protecting them in general.  As a parent to boys, it’s about making them GOOD men, teaching them feelings, helping them understand the difference between boys and girls and how, without patronizing women, you need to also protect them.  The difference between understanding how to treat a woman as a strong, capable person, while also giving the message that ultimately women are to be coveted, never to hit, never to hurt.  The difference between teaching a girl to have strong positive feelings about her body and her sexuality, but telling her not to use them by having sex too early or with the wrong person.  The dilemma of wanting them to talk to you about sex, or friendship or dating, but to not be their friend, but rather their guide.

All of this is tough, and you are probably as grossed out as they are, but if you educate yourself and think about it all BEFORE you are faced with the questions, maybe, just maybe, you won’t visibly recoil when they ask.  Below are some resources, from the ultimate resource, Planned Parenthood — because who better to talk about sex than the experts…

Sex & Talking to your kids: click here

Puberty: click here

Books & Resources: click here

Some books we have on hand here at my house….not that the boys would even open them at this point (not ready, totally gross) but available none-the-less…just in case they want to peek.

Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle.  The most beginner of the three, this is a cursory beginning to the question.  And while it definitely has large pictures of male and female bodies and does cover the topic of sexual intercourse, it is in a “tickly” discussion of feelings with a watered down, but accurate description of intercourse.

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris.  A more in-depth look at body parts, sexual activity, puberty, and the like.  Covers the full range from sex, to bodies, to puberty, to heterosexual vs homosexual, to masturbation, to babies and healthy choices.  The illustrations are good and not terrifyingly large and the content is based at a slightly younger level, but definitely for those entering the first stages of puberty.

Understanding the Facts of Life, by S. Meredith & R. Gee (Usborne Publishing).  A very comprehensive guide to “the facts of life” from growing up and body changes — including puberty, sexuality, healthy choices and taking care of the body, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, all the way to babies and the science of how a baby is formed, grows, and is delivered.

Happy Reading and TALKING!


Did you know that Westchester Land Trust’s Sugar Hill Farm headquarters and its surrounding land are known to have been farmed all the way back to the founding of Bedford in 1680?   With this in mind, we are so proud to be back in agricultural production. Last year, through a partnership with the Food Bank of Westchester and the efforts of local farmer (and Food Bank staffer) Doug DeCandia, fresh produce from Sugar Hill Farm was distributed to over 200 area hunger relief agencies. As one of five area properties that Doug manages, Sugar Hill Farm helped contribute over 18,000 servings of local organic vegetables to Westchester residents in need.  BUT DOUG NEEDS YOUR HELP!   Sugar Hill Farm is a demanding venture requiring a great deal of work to keep it maintained and productive. We’re looking for volunteers on an ongoing basis to weed, plant, dig, water and harvest. If you are curious about organic farming, looking for a meaningful service project, or itching to put your green thumb to work, please join us on the 4th Thursday of every month from now through the end of October – rain or shine! – between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm. And if you only have an hour to spare – that’s fine too!   Save these dates: Thursday, Aug 23,  Thursday, Sept. 27, Thursday, Oct. 25.  If you can help on on any or all of these days, please RSVP to in advance so we can plan our tasks accordingly. Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you a summary of the jobs for that day – all you have to do is bring your gardening gloves!  (sturdy shoes are also recommended)   You will join a team of several workers who are helping Doug that day.  You may leave a bit dirty and a bit tired, but you will have benefited from making a significant contribution to those families in our community who lack access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food.  To find out more about the Westchester Land Trust, visit


Bedford Village Elementary School (BVES) is looking for some great teachers for their after school program.
Can you make 1147 different types of friendship bracelets, a volcano out of a toothpick, yarn and 1 match, a short film that is Oscar worthy?
If so, we want you!
Instructors in all areas needed including the arts, computers, science, sports and academics.
Kindly email Lynn Witz at or Linda Dare at


See below for a great piece submitted by the Ossining Children’s Center — focusing on how best to help your child transition to school or child care.

Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Adjust to Day Care or Preschool, By Terry Becker, LMSW, Director of Family and Children’s Services, Ossining Children’s Center,

Separation anxiety is a normal healthy response to experiences that require us to give up the familiar and face the unknown. These are normal difficulties and should not be confused with mental health issues.  Here are some suggestions for parents that can help to reduce a child’s separation anxiety:

  • By the time your child is six months of age, occasionally have a trusted friend, relative or babysitter care for him or her for short periods of time. By 12 months, your child should begin to be exposed to other young children in the form of family/friend get-togethers or a playgroup.
  • Be sure to make arrangements for child care that you feel confident about. Your anxiety about child care arrangements or guilt about leaving may add to your child’s distress.
  • Prepare your child by telling him about the experience, but not too far in advance, because young children’s concept of time is different from adults’. For three and four year olds, begin describing his program about two weeks in advance.  For toddlers, it is best to wait until you make an actual visit shortly before he begins (see below).
  • Help your child become familiar with new surroundings and people before actually leaving him there by touring the facility and meeting the teacher.
  • Read books with your child about going to preschool and actually role play the event with him.
  • Take your child shopping for special items for school, e.g. backpack, school clothes, etc.
  • If possible, find out if there is a child in the class with whom you can schedule a play date in advance.  This can be especially helpful with preschoolers.
  • Allow your child (particularly if a toddler) to bring a “transitional object”—a beloved stuffed animal, blanket, or pacifier—to school.  This will comfort him, especially at nap time.
  • When school starts, a transition period of shorter initial stays with a parent spending some time there is helpful, and often a standard part of a school’s/daycare’s introductory program for very young children.
  • When leaving, give a quick kiss and hug and cheerfully say good-bye. Tell your child when you will be back, linking it to something concrete like “after nap” or “after snack.” Make sure you are, in fact, returning at this time. Never sneak out, as this undermines your child’s sense of trust.
  • Don’t prolong your departure or come back several times.

If your child is experiencing intense separation anxiety

  • Tell him or her that you understand that it can be hard at first to be away from those that he loves. You want to provide empathy and acceptance, but not excessive sympathy.
  • Never make fun or reprimand a child for his struggles with separation
  • Recall with your child previous challenges that he has dealt with by being brave. You can also reference a fictional character’s bravery from a movie or book that your child is familiar with.
  • Role playing the experience of going to school, parting, and reuniting can be fun and reassuring.
  • Provide a photo of Mom and/or Dad for your child to keep with him for extra comfort.
  • If your child is in full-time day care, consider shortening his number of hours there until he makes a full adjustment.


If you don’t already know Teatown, you might want to consider a little summer adventure trip to get acquainted:
Teatown Lake Reservation’s 875-acre nature preserve spans into three towns (Yorktown, Cortlandt and New Castle) located in the northwest section of Westchester County.  The property provides a unique glimpse of the biological diversity and fragile ecosystem of the entire Hudson Hills and Highlands bioregion. Visitors are awed by the beauty of the preserve, which includes streams, hardwood swamps, mixed forests, meadows, hemlock forests, laurel groves and a scenic gorge. There are nearly 15 miles of hiking trails marked throughout Teatown’s preserve for visitors to traverse and enjoy.  The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.  Teatown’s Nature Center houses nature education exhibits and a live animal collection of a variety of amphibians, reptiles, birds of prey, and mammals.  The Nature Center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. 

And along with all there is to do there, they also host a variety of great workshops and educational events!  Here’s a glimpse at what’s coming up:

Saturday, August 4, 7:30pm-9:00pm, Gone Batty.  Bats are amazing little mammals that help keep insect populations in check. Sadly New York’s bat populations are in peril.  Come learn about bats and the white-nose syndrome.  We’ll head outside at dusk to listen for bats with our bat-detector device. Please note this program is for families with children over 6-years-old. Free for members; $5pp for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Saturday, August 5, 10:00am-11:30am, Animals Incognito.  Camouflage plays an important role in nature, and for some animals it is their best defense against predators. Come meet some of Teatown’s most elusive critters. Afterwards we’ll take a short hike outside to play a game to test your cryptic capabilities! Free for members; $5pp for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Plein Air Painting Workshop.  August 6-10, 9:30am-12:30pm.  Spend a day or all week working alongside Teatown’s artist-in-residence, Melanie Kozol. Open to all students who have some familiarity with either oil painting, watercolors, pastels or drawing, this workshop uses the beautiful backdrop of Teatown as inspiration. Participants can choose to register for the day or the entire week. Class fees are $20/day or $75 for the week. Registration is open until July 30, 2012.
Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Crow Play.  Saturday August 18, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm.  Did you know that crows are so intelligent that some refer to them as “flying monkeys?”  Come learn what makes these feathered bird brains tick by making crow enrichment toys with us. We’ll then take our creative inventions to their enclosure and watch how the crows interact with them. Free for members; $5pp for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Sunday, August 19, 1:00pm-2:30pm, Unbeatable Beaks.  A bird is a bird is a bird–right? Find out about the adaptations of some local birds by looking at what they eat and how they do it. This interactive program will have you skimming like a duck, sipping like a hummingbird, and pounding like a woodpecker. Free for members; $5pp for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Saturday, August 25, 10:00-11:30am, It’s Turtle Time!  Come meet Teatown’s turtle ambassadors, and all that’s involved in proper turtle care from enclosure size, design, heat, lights, diet etc. Come with questions or curiosity.  We’ll even head outdoors together for some enrichment with Clifford the tortoise. Free for members; $5pp for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Animal Adventures: Scavengers and Decomposers.  Sunday, August 26, 1:00–2:00pm.  Meet a few of Teatown’s animal ambassadors in this program featuring local scavengers. Free for members; $5 per child for non-members. Call 914-762-2912 x110 to make a reservation.

Visit for more information.


Summer is already underway and with camp in session just seven weeks of the year, now is the time to research sleepaway camps for next season.  Noting that a child could potentially spend the next 10+ years at a camp – a substantial period in a child’s life – parents should invest the time and energy for this serious commitment.  To experience some of the best summer camps in America, here are the “why” and “how” for visiting and selecting the right camp now.  WHY VISIT?  You cannot replicate what you observe and experience at summer camp versus watching a video, reading a brochure, receiving information by phone or meeting with a director in your home.  A significant number of families do this due diligence.  If you take time to visit, you have a longer planning cycle to get your child (and you) ready for camp. Families can wisely explore the area that they and their children may be spending the next several years – especially if there are siblings – and assess vacation destination possibilities…not to mention memories they will create!  WHY NOW?  Visiting summer camps is a time sensitive process.  Families can only see camp in operation seven weeks (and often opening and final weeks are closed to visits) – now is the time to book by phone or email and go!  Families should decide in the prior summer which camp they will choose so they are ready to book once enrollment periods open.  Many age groups fill by middle-to-end of September.  Some camps may offer added value benefits for touring and booking early.  HOW?  Ideally take a private – not group – tour so you can see as much of the camp as possible in action and get to clearly assess the camp and director(s).  Observe and chat with campers one-on-one who are close in age to your child now as well as those who are five+ years older since that’s whom your child may emulate and grow to resemble later.  Look at where your child will live.  You should overlook some bunk messiness but not poorly maintained facilities.  Learn about the quality and type of activities, instruction and programming.  Ascertain if programming is scheduled by the camp, chosen by the camper, or a mixture of the two.   Advice and tips are provided by Maine Camp Experience, a community of nearly 30 premier Maine Camps that have been dedicated to providing children with the highest quality summer camp experiences in the country for generations.  The website,, is the one-stop shopping resource for all things camp and Maine – complete with a “personal guide” to assist you – where parents can learn about summer camps, and find everything they need to plan a fun and memorable visit to Maine with their children. Maine Camp Experience:, 877 92 MAINE / 877-926-2463,


Looking for a bucolic weekend getaway with friends and family this summer?
Two of the cottages on Glynwood’s property are available for weekend rentals from noon on Friday until Sunday at 6pm.  Take a hike on our beautiful 225 acres, visit our animals, see the gardens growing at Glynwood Farm, and enjoy the local sites and restaurants.   Appledore comfortably accommodates 5 people [$850 for the weekend] while the Old Farmhouse sleeps up to 12 [$2500 for the weekend] . Glynwood’s mission is to save farming by strengthening farm communities and regional food systems. Our goal is for small- and mid-sized farmers to thrive, on the land and in the marketplace.  For more information, availability and to make reservations, contact Michael Smith or by telephone 845-265-3338  x131.
Check it out at


Tie on your canvas hats and take the family on a summer safari at the Bronx Zoo. Journey to the Wild Forest to check out giant LEGO sculptures of tigers, flamingos, gorillas, and other exotic wildlife, then visit their real-life counterparts around the zoo. View new LEGO sculptures built especially for the Bronx Zoo, on view just outside Zoo Center’s rhinoceros exhibit in our Wild Forest area. Information on the featured animals and the work to conserve them is included in the displays. LEGO Build Zone: With thousands of colorful LEGO bricks to choose from, kids can create their own sculptures of animals and help complete a vibrant Mystery Mural display at Dancing Crane Plaza. We will also display visitors’ own LEGO creations on bookshelves for all to see.  LEGO Family Challenge: How long will it take you to build your favorite animal out of LEGO bricks? Join LEGO Master Builder Dan Steininger as you compete with other families to find out who is fastest! Dan will offer tips and challenge participants to build wild animals including poison dart frogs, giraffes, and more.  Dates & Times: July 21, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.; August 11, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Location: World of Reptiles lawn.  Find out more at


What is a summer without a trip to Red Rooster?! If you haven’t been, Red Rooster is a great “fast food” stop in Brewster (1566 Route 22, Brewster) — serving old fashioned burgers, hotdogs, fries, milk shakes, soft serve ice cream, etc. Red Rooster is a Westchester staple.  Not a “healthy” option if that’s what you are looking for — but yummy and a whole bunch of fun.  Sit outside at their picnic tables and enjoy a round of fun and silly mini-golf when you’re done.  Perfect for the 4 – 9 year old crowd.  Meet up with friends, play outside, and maybe even feel like you’ve spent the day somewhere totally new and just different.  The perfect recipe for a nutty little person looking to get out of the house.  Have fun!



Looking for good summer reading? Want to meet your favorite authors and hear about their creative process? Want to learn more about the time period in which the story is set? Reading into History is a book club for young historians.   Each month families read a historical fiction book and participate in on-line discussions with authors, educators, and other families. Get ideas for discussion, ask authors questions, and respond to other book club members’ posts! At the end of each month families can attend a Book Wrap event, where they will share reactions to the book, see cool museum objects and documents related to the story, and meet other historical fiction fans! Ages 9-12. E-mail or click here  for more information.


Today we picked up the best new travel toy — it’s small, easy to pack and can be used inside and out.  Pack it in your purse, take it on a trip, or just use it for some rainy day fun. A simple concept, the Pocket Disc, is a soft crocheted disc for throwing — Frisbee style — but it is soft, so no worries about breaking things if throw in your house (or hotel room), packs up to nothing for throwing in your purse to take to the park or a friend’s party, and is easy to catch (no fears of it whacking someone in the nose and breaking it).  The perfect item for kids of all ages (or siblings who might get aggressive and throw it bit hard at their little brother’s head).  Check it out at The Pocket Disc, (some great ideas of games to play or alternate uses), or grab one right at Kelloggs & Lawrence, 26 Parkway, Katonah, NY 10536, (914) 232-3351,  Enjoy!


Working on a recap of all of the AMAZING information that we collected over the past month from our Promo contest and will get it all out to you in as short order as I can.  We had a great night last night — talking about parenting, Westchester, and life in general, as well as sharing ideas, things to do, advice, and more.  Thanks to all of the lovely ladies who came out for the goodies and company.  More to follow for those who want to get their information from the comfort of their lap-tops — we promise to share it all!



Jessica Inglis in FIRST place for a prize of $250 — with a whopping 73 shares!
Heidi Cambareri in Second place for a prize of $150 — with 42 shares
Roberta Lasky in Third place for a prize of $100 — with 36 shares

Thanks to all of our participants — in the end we gathered a total of 215 bits of information — new classes, things to do, places to go and events galore to share with all of you.  AND we still get a night out Tuesday with the ladies.  Genius all around.  If anyone still wants in on the Ladies’ Night out on Tuesday, just let me know and I’ll get more wine!   You can give me your four bits of information at the door…