Monthly Archives: May 2010

Wishing You and Your Family…

a happy, safe and fun Memorial Day weekend! We’d love to hear what you are up to and what the highlight of your weekend was.

We are taking our 2 1/2 year old to her first circus performance tonight!


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Keep Your Kid From Being Victimized Online

Study uncovers solutions that may help kids be less likely to be victimized online

Just mention two words: “Online Predator” to a parent and be prepared for a full-blown panic attack. Few things are more terrifying than envisioning our kids being recruited for sexual relationships by some unseen force. Though we can ever fully protect our kids, one study gives parents critical information that just may help us stop the unthinkable.

The recent study was conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The researchers extensively interviewed 3,000 kids 10 to 17 years old who are Internet users as well as 612 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The data was analyzed uncovering surprising data that every parent needs to know. The study provides insightful information on how we can protect our children. Though no child is one hundred percent safe from online stalking, it appears that some children appear to be – at least from this study– far more at risk.

  • Biggest surprise: For the most part it appears online predators target specific children.
  • Prime on an online predator’s list: Kids who are more vulnerable. (Reread that last line carefully).
  • The most vulnerable youth to online predators are those with lower-self esteem. It appears that predators specifically prey on kids who lack strong identity or have a weaker social network of their own. (Which is what research also shows about offline bullying).
  • The predator looks for kids already vulnerable and then entices them by offering a romantic relationship.

7 traits of youth found to be most at risk by an online predator

Here are some of the highlights from the study and a few recommendations as to how we can take a more preventative approach to stopping this horrific crime against our children. Children who are most vulnerable:

  1. Have past histories of sexual or physical abuse
  2. Engage in patterns of risky off- or online behavior
  3. Frequent chatrooms
  4. Talk online about sex
  5. Divulge personal information online
  6. Do not have strong, healthy relationships with their parents
  7. Are boys who are gay or questioning their sexual orientations

Using those social networks like Facebook or MySpace does not make kids more susceptible to online predators.

What does increase a child’s danger: Frequenting chatrooms, giving out personal information and talking online to unknown people about sex. (I know you’ve heard that over and over again…but if you haven’t reminded your child about that rule, PLEASE put it on your “to do” list for today…and tomorrow..and the next …)

5 important take aways from this research

  • Watch out for those chatrooms. Tell your child that if you ever walk by that computer and see him cover up that screen, the computer plug will be pulled and he loses the privilege–end of argument. Tips to Keep Kids Safer Online]

These are scarier times to be raising kids, but if we stay a bit more computer savvy, set clear rules about that computer, and more involved in our kids lives we can reduce the online predator risk and our parent panic. Perhaps the most important take away: Though there are no guarantees, the more involved you are in your child’s life, the less likely (according to this research) your child will be victimized.

Now go talk to your kid!

Taken from

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Bringing Better Food to Public Schools, One Farm at a Time

At the last Farm to Cafeteria Conference held in Detroit, Michigan last week, keynote speaker Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Agriculture reassured America that the health of our children is a top priority. Obesity prevention is a legitimate undertaking of the Obama Administration (specifically the cause of our First Lady) and it all starts with what you put on their plates in that multi-purpose room.

THIS, a typical school lunch in America vs...

According to the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Project, the trailblazing most-successful program of its kind, enthusiastic food service and education is the key. Cooking and bringing enthusiasm to fresh produce  should be the bridge that makes these children want to eat their veggies instead of loathe them. If there are willing sources of good nutrition, and schools in need, than what’s the problem? How come farm-to-cafeteria programs haven’t been institutionalized to a greater degree?

Delving into the National School Lunch Program and common school district policy may reveal answers. Consider the following truths (of which I’m sure many readers can think back to and remember): Lunch periods, especially in elementary schools, are usually limited to approximately twenty-five minutes. Labor is the largest expense in the food service industry.

Consequently, schools can only afford to buy pre-packed, frozen meals (fun fact: most school district vegetable plans include only ready-to-eat peas, sliced carrot pieces and shredded lettuce) instead of procuring fresh produce and actually cooking meals.healthy-school-lunch

However, there are plenty of people championing for the cause. Take Chef Ann Cooper, dubbed fondly by the media as the Renegade Lunch Lady. She keeps up an amazing blog about her work to change the school lunches. Her dedication to what she calls the Food, Family, and Farm program have resulted in transforming Berkeley, California’s public school system from 95 percent processed foods to 95 percent hot meals made from scratch! In her latest blog entry she writes, “Might as well say it straight up: Kids don’t like vegetables…The chefs in Berkeley are sneaky. They load 125 pounds of fresh onions, carrots and celery into every batch of marinara sauce they make for their pizza and pasta. Could the solution to our national angst over getting kids to eat more vegetables possibly be mirepoix?”

The pairing is a win-win situation. What it starts with are two negative situations: the dying industry of individual/family based farms as well as the sub-par and often times unhealthy nutrition offered to children in America. Farm-to-school programs help alleviate both of these issues. Obviously, farm products are fresher, and you know what you’re getting which isn’t alwasy the case with processed foodstuffs. It also benefits these farms by giving them a new market and a connection to the communities. Also interesting to note is the atmosphere of equality high-quality food brings to these public schools. Families of all incomes and all backgrounds attend public schools and being able to have access to the same food every school day is a considerable form of social justice.

If you serve it, they will come.

To read the full Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Report, funded by the USDA as well as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, click here.

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Things To Do In NJ

Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange, NJ
Sheep Shearing

Monday, May 31
11 am – 2 pm
Join the farm

at the zoo as the sheep welcome in the summer by losing their wool coats. Professional shearer will be doing continual demonstrations at the petting zoo area.

Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Upper Montclair, NJ
Annual Family Garden Party

Saturday, May 29
10:00 am  – 3 pm

Bring the family and enjoy live music, refreshments, a student iris art exhibit, the bloom season raffle and meet/learn about local environmental organizations.

Wildwoods Convention Center

Wildwoods International Kite Festival

Friday, May 28 – Monday, May 31

The 25th annual event begins on Friday at noon with the Unlocking of the Ocean media event on the beach behind the Wildwoods Convention Center. Festivities follow at 9 p.m. with an illuminated night kite fly with spotlighted kites and cool music on the beach at Rio Grande Avenue. Saturday and Sunday will feature the East Coast Stunt Kite Championships on the beach, as well as kite exhibits, workshops and indoor flying inside the Wildwoods Convention Center. Monday will feature the World Indoor Kite Competition inside the Wildwoods Convention Center.

Monmouth Park Parking Area
The Lions’ Strawberry Fair

Friday, May 28
6 pm – 11 pm

This official State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture event incorporates educational displays and programs with rides, games, attractions, and food—including strawberry shortcake. Feed farm animals in the petting zoo, and see llamas, kangaroos, large panthers, and reptiles.

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Tasty Thursday: Pepperoni Pizza Pockets

Making your own meet and cheese pockets cost a whopping 35 cents each, where the store bought is over $1.00 each. Prep-time is minimal and you don’t need a lot of filling to make them work. In fact, too much filling can cause leakage and soggy crusts.pepperoni pizza pockets

Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Yield: Serves 10

1 cup unsalted butter or shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 Tablespoons ice water
4 ounces sliced pepperoni (or chicken, sausage, ground beef, etc.)
1 cup pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut butter into small cubes and set aside. Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add to butter and cut in until crumbly.
  3. Sprinkle ice water over crumbs and blend with fingers until a smooth dough forms. Let rest briefly.
  4. Roll dough into a rectangle 25 inches by 10 inches. Cut into 10 equal squares 5 inches x 5 inches each.
  5. Spread one side of each square with a tablespoon of sauce. Top with cheese and pepperoni so that all squares contain the same amount.
  6. Fold over the other side of the dough and pinch edges to seal.
  7. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle each pocket with a bit more cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes longer.
See all recipes from Anne Coleman’s “Short Order Mom” blog.

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Create Your Own Summer Reading Program

Every summer the kids and I trek to our local library to sign up for our summer reading program. It’s been a great incentive to keep the kids reading all summer long. Over the years we’ve earned books, coupons to our favorite places to eat, games, CD’s and other small prizes.

For the kids it’s a way to be rewarded for keeping up on their reading during a time when most kids will toss aside the books in exchange for vacations, trips to the pool, and other activities. For me, it’s a way to keep them learning. Here are some tips to making your own personalized summer reading program.

Design it to your family’s schedule – For us, we do summer sports, day trips to my dad’s house, and this year, we’ll be adding day camp so it’s going to be a busy summer! Your summer reading program shouldn’t feel like work. Set up a time during the week or in the evening when it’s “down time”. Use that time to encourage everyone to get their reading in. Ask your kids when they’d prefer to have “down time” and try to adhere to that schedule.

Make a reading list – If your child likes certain genres (the boys are fantasy and sci-fi buffs), then help them create a list of books that they can check off as they read through the list. My kids will often hear of a book and then forget the title by the time we make a trip to the library. If you create a list that includes titles and authors, the kids can then request the books on their own and have continuous books available throughout the summer. This is also a great way to keep tracks of books that are a part of a series (such as Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events).

Even the newspaper counts – Don’t limit your kids to just reading books. Magazines are filled with informative and fun articles. Comic books bring stories to life through detailed pictures and newspapers put kids in touch with both the world around them and in their own backyard. By not limiting your children in what they can read, you’re giving them the freedom to explore other interests and topics and helping them find ways to make reading more enjoyable.

Build a reward system – Much like the libraries use, a reward system can be a great incentive to keep up on reading. Create a chart with each child’s name and record either the number of books they’ve read or the number of hours they’ve spent reading. For younger children (early readers and even toddlers) you can shorten that time down to minutes. If you’re reading to them, it still counts.

Once you have a chart created, work together as a family to come up with the rewards they’d like; maybe a sweet treat, a new book, or a coupon for special time with mom and dad alone. Be imaginative but set limits as to what you feel is an acceptable reward. If a reward option is not in your budget, say so but offer an alternative.

You’ll find that as your kids get into your summer reading program, they may keep track of one another’s reading time as well or compete for who can read more books. Don’t forget to be a part of the summer reading program you’ve created! This is your chance for some guilty chick-lit reading or to dive into the next murder mystery that just made the best seller list.

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Grab Some Cool (& Free!) Letter Worksheets has a great series of alphabet worksheets. A-Z right there for you to download and use, for free!

Learn all about the letter A! Color the apples that have fallen from the tree. Then connect the dots to practice writing capital A’s, and then try doing it on your own! This worksheet helps your preschooler develop fine motor skills, which are an important part of learning to write.

Click HERE for link to pages.

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