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Saturday, February 22, 2014

GROWING UP LoBIONDO – Special Guest Blogger Orion



Hello, Humans!  My name is Orion LoBiondo, the youngest offspring of the LoBiondo Family.  I have been wanting to write a Guest Blog for my mom for a long time, I have so much to say!   I am what humans call a “dog,” although I prefer the term “canine offspring”.    I am half lab and half pointer, I was “bred” (can I tell you how offensive that terms is …. Ok, save it for a later Blog) to hunt.  I remember being a little puppy in a pet shop for a long time in Pennsylvania.  Many humans looked at me and said I was cute.  But no one bought me, so I was sent to a shelter in Pennsylvania.  I was scheduled for a Trip to Never Never Land, when someone said, “What a shame for this beautiful dog to be destroyed, let’s see if another shelter can take him.”  A nice lady made a lot of phone calls, and then they drove me to the Middletown Humane Society.

            That’s when I started sending messages to my REAL mom (you guys call her Mrs. Lo) by ESP.  “Come and get me, Momma, I want to come home,” I would mentally telegraph to her.  “I really want to come and snuggle with you guys and you really need me to protect the house from those evil, plotting squirrels.”   This was 35 years ago.  Oh sorry, right, I should use human time, this was 5 years ago in human time.  Finally, Momma came out to the Middletown Humane Society, she had searched for me on the “Splinter-Net” and had a printout of a photo of me. 
As soon as I saw my mom, I was delirious with happiness, “Momma, Mom, Mom, Momma, Mom, Momma,” I kept calling to her.  (To you guys it just sounds like Woof, Woof, Woof, but that’s because you only speak Human).  “Ohhh, you have such soulful eyes, I love you!” said Momma.  “Ok, let’s go,” I said, and I tried to get in the car with her.  But of course, she had to get Daddy’s permission to adopt me.  The next day, Daddy came out with my brother and BFF Christian.   I jumped right up on Christian and licked his face.  We were BONDED already.  He had already been dreaming about me.  He put his arms around me and refused to leave without me.  Daddy tried to be all stern and say, “Son, I know you really want a dog but you know you have allergies.  What if you’re allergic to dog hair?”  (He’s not)  “Plus, we like to go on vacation, who will watch the dog, let’s be practical, and blah blah blah.”  So, I knew I had to impress Daddy with my Skillz.  I peed all around the perimeter of the place and sniffed his butt real good.  Even though he said, “down, boy, down!” – you could just tell, he was really impressed. 
            So that’s how I became a LoBiondo.  All the other dogs around here are like, “Wow, what’s it like being a LoBiondo?  Does your mom really cook that much, is your dog bowl lined with gold, do they feed you meatballs all the time?”  Listen, it’s awesome being a LoBiondo, having a Mom, Dad and two great brothers, but I have a lot of work to do around here, it’s not like I just lie around and nap all day.  OK, maybe I do nap all day but I definitely have one eye open while I’m napping.  I have to -- it’s like the DMZ out here, Dude!   First of all, I have to protect my mom’s Garden at all times.  You humans call it a garden, but you know what the critters call it?  Yup – Lunch.  This neighborhood is infested with critters – groundhogs, raccoons, squirrels, woodpeckers.  Well, the other houses are, not My House, though.
When I first got here, my humans had a woodchuck living in a hole under the House.  Oh heck no, not in my house, Son!  I barked and barked and flushed that little Chubster right out of there.  He was so chubby from eating Momma’s vegetables, that he could barely run.  He was easy pickins.  I was bred to hunt, remember?  Don’t worry, he lived.  Why?  Because just when I had him in my mouth, Momma yelled at me and distracted me.  “No, no, Orion, don’t eat the woodchuck, no, Boy, no,” she was yelling from the porch in her fuzzy pink bathrobe.  OK, Momma, chillax, I was NOT going to dispatch him, I was going to bring you an early birthday present, but that was her loss.  Still, it is my sworn duty to protect this House and my humans, and I’ll be darned if any critters are going to get past me.  All day long, I bark at those evil, beady eyed squirrels.  And as soon as Momma comes home and lets me out, I chase them right to the end of my stupid electric fence (which I really dislike but I guess we can’t have everything). 
            Also, it is my sworn duty to retrieve the newspaper.   Dad trained me to fetch the newspaper every morning and bring it in the house.  This is especially important, so that my parents don’t have to go out in the snow and the rain to get the paper, and my mom doesn’t have to be seen in her pink bathrobe (are you noticing a trend here?)  However, I got really confused a while back because the newspaper stopped coming.  I was a little depressed to be honest with you.  I mean, this was like taking away my stripes when I did nothing wrong.  Dad said he couldn’t stand that newspaper, it was too “Lib-A-Rull” whatever that means.  So I communicated to my Mom with a soulful look in my eyes and she got the message.  “Please, Momma, make the newspaper come back.”  So Momma made some phone calls and now the newspaper comes once a week on Sundays.  The newspaper carrier likes to make my life difficult and throws it in a big snowdrift every time there is a snowstorm.  But that doesn’t stop me.  If that paper is out there, I will find it, pick it up in my teeth and bring it in the house with my tail wagging like nobody’s business.  Daddy promptly throws everything except the comics in the recycling bin and says something about “Paw-La-Ticks.”  Momma doesn’t like any news – newspapers or TV news because it’s always bad news.  She only reads the Sentinel and the Mid Hudson Times and the Hudson Valley Press but they all come in the mailbox.  Don’t even get me started on the new Postal carrier.  Bob used to bring me milkbones but the new guy only brings mail!  So I bark at him, of course.  And he’s afraid of dogs, which just makes me nervous and I bark at him more.  I really wish Bob would come back.
            But my most important job is just being here for my family.  Especially Christian.  There is nothing like a boy and his dog.  I love all my family equally.  OK, humans say that, that’s not actually true.  I love Christian the best because he is my soul-human.  He really understands me.  We were meant to be together and he loves me so much my heart almost bursts everytime he comes in the door.  I show him this by licking his face and dancing in a circle with my tennis ball. The first thing he does in the morning is come down and feed me, pet me, and throw me the ball outside, even if it’s raining or snowing.  It’s the first thing he does when he comes home from school too.  I am awesome at catching the ball and bringing it back.  When Christian was 8 years old, he could throw the ball OK but every year he gets bigger and stronger.  Now, when we go to the park he can throw that tennis ball super far.  Momma and I always thought he could be a Quarterback but the football people said he doesn’t have the “Tail-Lent” to be QB.  I don’t think they know what they’re talking about but he likes being a Receiver.  It’s kind of like what I do but instead of catching the ball and bringing it back to the QB, he tried to get it to the End Zone.  This makes absolutely no sense to me, but my family loves this game anyway.
And at night, after sports practices and homework, Christian lays down next to me and we watch sports together.  My mom had to get a special order extra large dog bed so my brother could fit on it with me.  Sometimes we pray together.  I can hear the prayers of all my family.  We all thank God for bringing us all together.  My family prays for a lot of different people and causes.  But, after I count my blessings, like Momma taught me, I always pray for the same thing, “Dear Lord, please let all the dogs in shelters find a home that’s even half as happy as mine, that is all I ask for.”
            Oh man, I would tell you more, but right now there is an evil squirrel thinking about coming on my property.  I have to go bark my head off.  “How many times do I have to tell you, not in My House, Son??!!”
-        WOOF!!!
For more information on the Middletown Humane Society, visit: http://www.middletownhumanesociety.com/
For more of Mrs. Lo’s Blog, visit: www.lobiondopage.blogpsot.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ALL SPORTS PARENTS HAVE THEIR “HOOSIERS MOMENTS” – THIS IS MINE

All across America, every day, sports parents take their children to dance, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, cheer and lacrosse practices, to name a few.  Starting at maybe age 5 or 6 ,on average.  We are the faithful, faceless, hopeful masses in the crowd.  Ever present, ever supportive, win lose or draw, hoping only that our child will look up into the stands and catch our eye. 

      Nobody wins all the time, usually you are lucky to be on a team that is better than average.  And then, just a few times in a Lifetime, there is that “Hoosiers Moment,” that makes every damn practice, game, road trip, regatta, clinic, fundraiser, coin drop, banquet, check, and press release worth it.  For Mrs. Lo, that moment occurred during Christian’s BDMS varsity basketball team’s last regular season home game, against The Other Team (we’ll call them “TOT”).  The name of the team is unimportant because in the end, our boys didn’t battle back against another team, they battled against their own fears and insecurities, dug down deep and came up with Thee Win in overtime, after being down by 20 points at the half -- in what their varsity coach called the most exciting game he had ever coached in his career.  It must have been the Pot Roast.
            The day started much like any other.  I woke up thinking about what to feed my kids.  It was Wednesday, and Christian and Danny were scheduled to go to BDMS Drama practice, which is very physical, until 4:30 pm, and have their last home game of the season, which would be the 8th graders’ last home game EVER, at 5:00 pm.  The first thing I did was call Coach Kennedy to consult about what I could feed them.  “At 4:30 pm?  You cannot give them pot roast, Mrs. Lo, you’re not building muscle over the course of 30 minutes.  You can give them bananas, oranges and water.  Or you can get them earlier and feed them a light meal.”  It was 8 am, I was putting the pot roast in the crock pot for dinner and I methodically began an email campaign to get the Varsity Boys excused from Drama so they could come home and eat.  It worked.  The Drama Coach excused them, and I picked up all 3 kids at 2:30pm, and fed them pot roast, vegetables, and noodles at exactly 3:00 pm.  Only one small serving though, not the usual 2 or 3 giant helpings.  And made them drink lots of water.
            We got to the St. Mary’s gym at 5 pm and the game started out pretty badly for us.  Before we knew it, TOT was up by 20 points.  That’s not how we want to go out I said to myself.  They had a nice little presentation for the “seniors” at halftime and that’s when it hit me that this was Christian’s last game here at BDMS.  He had only started playing 2 months ago but still, who wants to go out like this.  Our games tend to be relatively quiet, compared to say a typical local JV game or even my high school’s JV games.  For one thing, we have no cheerleaders.  And so, at one point, when there was dead silence in the gym, I screamed out what I have heard Christian, as a coxswain, yell at his rowers hundreds of times:  “I CAN’T WANT THIS FOR YOU – YOU HAVE TO WANT THIS MORE THAN ME!”  This is not patented by him, lots of coxys say this.  But somebody woke up.
            What happened next is nothing short of a minor Basketball Miracle, the kind that gets played out on gym floors and in stadiums across smalltown and urban America every day.  But when it’s your kids, it’s your very own Hossier Moment.  According to Coach McLoughlin, “Your son just looked up at the scoreboard and went on a tear.  He singlehandedly sparked the team and brought us to within 10 points.  Then when I brought them in, Christian was pumping his fist and telling the players, ‘I refuse to lose.  We all have to refuse to lose.  We are going to win this thing.’  I almost had Christian start coaching the team.”
            Really, all of the players stepped it up.  Everyone contributed.  Jarrett, our star player (affectionately called “Money” by his parents when he is on the floor)  pulled himself back together, although he had not had one moment of rest.  Most importantly, he had gone to Drama practice, and had not come over for pot roast.  But he continued to drive to the basket and make shot after shot.  Danny, who did have the pot roast, was poise under pressure.  He is our workhorse, dependable and unflappable.  All of our seniors were out there getting the job done.  They got to within 5, then 3, then tied it at the buzzer to go into overtime. 
            All of a sudden, the gym wasn’t so quiet.  All of a sudden, the parents realized what was happening here.  And when we looked over at the bench, all of the players, our entire secondary, including Christian, who had fouled out, had spontaneously bowed their heads, folded their hands and were praying.  “I didn’t know what else to do,” said Christian, “I couldn’t help them on the floor since I fouled out, so I just started to pray.”  All the parents noticed it.  And suddenly, we were even more moved and more invested in this game.  Our sleepy little gymnasium wasn’t so quiet anymore.  There was foot stomping and loud cheering and screaming. 
            Overtime was only 4 minutes but it felt like 40 minutes.  It was excruciating.  At first, we were up, then TOT battled back and they were ahead.  And with the game on the line, and both everything and nothing to lose, we all wanted only one person to take the shot.  Only one person had the exquisite poise and nerve.  Money took his shot, we went up by 2 with 10 seconds left.  TOT had the ball and tried valiantly but, although they too are a Catholic school, I did not see any players or coaches praying openly.  But God had certainly heard our players’ prayers, because when TOT threw up the attempted buzzer beater,  it narrowly missed.  The gym erupted in joyous cheers and tears.  For 8 families, it was our child’s last regular season home game, our last time together as a family in this special way. 
As I looked around the gym, I saw the faces of families that we started school with 10 years ago in pre-K.  That’s how long these kids have been together.  Heck, I saw the faces of kids we started with 11 years ago, a lot of us have been together since Union Nursery School.  What a way for these kids to go out.  They will be going to different schools.  Christian and Jarrett and two other boys will be going on to Don Bosco Prep together.  The others will go on to public high schools, Lourdes and some other Catholic high schools. 
But in that moment, although it was time to go, and the air was waiting outside to bite us, for a few more moments, we parents all hung back and let the boys bask in the Glow.  The glow of a victory they worked their tails off for, the glow of youth, the glow of basketball, the glow of friendship, but most of all, the Glow of a fellowship and a bond that can only be had when you are willing to get down on your knees before an entire stadium and pray for your team and your friends.  In that moment, the $100K plus we had paid for Catholic school tuition for 2 boys seemed to be not enough, you can never put a price on an experience that instills such love of God, love of friends, and commitment to excellence.  In that moment, I would have gladly paid double.
            And then I realized what a role we sports parents all have in this game called Raising Our Children.  It’s not just about writing the check, it’s not just about showing up, it’s not just about being invested.  Really, it’s about the Pot Roast.  And on that note, my Dear Readers, I must attend to my Lasagna.

            Have a wonderful day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

THE BACKLASH AGAINST BOYS -- AND FOOTBALL

 WHO’S GOING TO RUN THE WORLD IF YOU WATER DOWN ALL THE ALPHAS?    There is something known as the “Backlash Against Boys,” which I have been reading about since my oldest (now 13) was born.  I started with the book entitled, “Raising Cain;” my favorite is “The Trouble with Boys;” and the most recent is “The War Against Boys.”  The theory in sum:  the “Feminist Revolution” mostly had an impact on education.  Back in the day, the curriculum and the world were heavily stacked so that boys would succeed.  No one ever called on a girl if she had her hand raised along with the boys.  Then, through the “Feminist Movement”, the tables slowly began to turn.  Most teachers are now female, which has meant less male role models in the classroom for boys.  The literary curriculum is said to be dominated by girl-oriented books.  According to these books, (this was definitely not my experience at BDMS) teachers tend to call on girls more than boys in class;  boys who naturally have more energy and can’t sit still on a mat endlessly are labeled early on as inattentive or worse, as having ADHD as early as pre-school. 


       As the mother of two boys at BDMS, this was not my experience at all, but how could these books be so wrong?  I guess you could say, having my boys at BDMS, we were sheltered from “the storm.”  This has both its advantages and its disadvantages.
            Thus, it was important to me that my boys get out into the “real world” by participating in something like the Newburgh Rowing Club, where the 100+ registered rowers are from all walks of life, from public schools in Newburgh, and other public school districts, to our Catholic schools and private schools.  And lo and behold, my boys came away with an even better experience about participating in a sport.  Rowing and having a stake in the Boathouse has taught them to clean up after themselves and be responsible for their own things, like doing their laundry.  They carry tools around, like a 3/16 wrench.  Having to Save the NFA Crew Team and going to countless coin drop-style fundraisers 2 years ago taught Christian at an early age that nothing good comes easy, to hold the door open for everyone, to look adults in the eye, shake their hands and say “Thank you.” 
            Thus, until recently, I did not experience this whole “Backlash Against Boys” and started to think it was an urban myth -- until Christian started playing youth football.  Initially, there were people who tried to convince him, as well as Anthony and myself, not to let him play football.  Some of the comments I got from people before I began to identify myself as a “football mom” were:  “Those kids are animals, you’re going to let your son turn into an animal too?” and “I hate football, just a bunch of Neandertals smashing into each other, how could you let your son do that?”  and “Football is such a sexist sport.”   And there it was.  For a dozen years, we were sheltered from the Backlash Against Boys, and then we entered its very Vortex.  Just as people feel completely free to bash Catholics, there is a segment of the population that feels completely free to bash youth football and the boys who become football players.  (I’m not talking about the NFL or even college ball in this Blog, but youth football players -- kids).
            Recently, a local agency that supports crime victims and other victims, and that I have always supported, posted an image on Facebook of a football and part of a football field, superimposed upon which was a statistic about the average age that girls enter into prostitution.  I wished to point out that  YOUTH football players, of whom my son is one, had nothing to do with this disturbing statistic. I posted a comment that basically said,  “Love your organization, but WTH does this have to do with football?” and signed off as Mrs. Lo, Proud Football Mom. 
The comments I got back were from the agency and a female lawyer, telling me to check out how much human sex trafficking occurs at major sporting events like football.  Slavery, human sex trafficking, kidnappings, are horrible.  How would I know?  In fact, I have done a lot more to quietly battle for these victims in my career than just put up a facebook post.  I have been part of the pro bono panel of lawyers for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, VA for almost 2 decades.  I have donated well over $100,000.00 in free legal fees to represent victims of international kidnappings, as well as domestic violence victims, and am one of the few attorneys in the area on the U.S. State Department’s list of attorneys capable of handling International Hague Convention cases, and have been honored in Washington, DC for my work.  But I let it go and, as always, decided to Blog about it.
            Our youth football players are good boys and they don’t deserve to be associated with this disturbing statistic.  It basically is giving the message that football and prostitution go together.  Youth Football is not the Enemy, people.  Our players are such good boys, they are the ones who hold doors, say, “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir”, are scholar-athletes, protect their moms and sisters, and work their tails off. 
So, is there a backlash against boys?  Yes, there certainly is in some corners of the country.  But the bigger question is: why?  Here is why:  Society is systematically trying to dismantle the concept of the Alpha (the born leader).  The education system on a whole does not reward anyone for being a leader, but rather fitting in to a one size fits all, Common Core taking student (not talking about BDMS).  Not all Alphas are boys and most boys are not Alphas.  I’m an Alpha, my husband is an Alpha, my grandmother was an Alpha, my oldest son is an Alpha.  Coach Kennedy is an Alpha.  My youngest son is a happy, unique, brilliant, charming individual.  Not an Alpha, though, and that’s OK.   The World has tried to squish the Alpha out of me for decades and it hasn’t worked.  I won’t let anyone squish the Alpha out of my son and if your child has those qualities, please continue to cherish and encourage them.   There is a place in the world for all our children’s different rainbow personalities.  My prayer is for this country to start accepting kids in all their natural forms, whether it’s Hippie Chick or Alpha male or female or Quiet Scholar.
            Football is a great youth sport, it has changed and shaped my son into a better person in every way. One of the last places in America where Boys are rewarded for being an Alpha male is the football field.   Some of my proudest moments were when Christian did not catch the ball, but when he tried anyway, in his effort to help the team he loved so much.  Toward the end of the season, he was playing with fractured ribs, although he had been diagnosed with bruised ribs, and it was getting harder and harder for him to turn and run his route with his usual speed.  Sometimes he could still catch the ball, sometimes he just couldn’t get there but he was willing to try, over and over again, for the betterment of his team.  And on the football field, that quality in him, and so many others, which allows them to force themselves through the pain to take a chance, in order to make something good happen for their team, that quality is rewarded on the football field; but in few other locations throughout America.  Youth Football’s not the enemy, people, extreme views are.
So here’s an idea.  Since some Alpha males and females are going to  be needed to run our towns and villages, our families, and our nation in the future:  how about we adults cut the (CENSORED) with this generation, check our extreme views at the door, and just let kids be kids, whoever they may naturally be. 
            And that’s how Mrs. Lo sees it (for all you Glee fans out there).  Have a great day, everyone, and as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo(Photo of my son, Christian, No. 56, on the field with Coach Tompkins)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

MRS. LO'S CONTEST FOR FANS OF THE FACEBOOK PAGE: Win a $100 Gift Card

It's that time again!  Time for a Mrs. Lo's Reader Rewards Contest, this is the Valentine's Day Edition.  This contest is open to all existing fans of the LoBiondo Page as of today's date.  Tell us who you would LOVE to take to the River Grill at the Newburgh Waterfront for Valentine's Day.  It could be your spouse, your sweetheart, your family member or friend.  One randomly chosen winner will receive a $100.00 gift card to the River Grill, courtesy of LoBiondo Law Offices.  The winner will be announced February 12, just in time for Valentine's Day.  Must be able to pickup the gift card in person at the Law Office, located at 36 North Plank Road, Newburgh, and pose for a photo, to be posted on the LoBiondo Page.  Must be age 13 or older to enter, minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.  Contest ends midnight February 11th.  It's Mrs. Lo's way of saying Thank You for reading the Page. Good luck and have fun! <3 Mrs. Lo 
DISCLAIMER:  All contest participants agree to hold harmless and completely release Facebook from any liability.  This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

https://apps.facebook.com/my-contests/liqyr

Saturday, February 1, 2014

SECOND HONEYMOON JITTERS

Older married couples, like myself, will remember the feeling of jitters right before their long awaited honeymoon.  The excitement of it all, the nerves.  How does my hair look?  Do these jeans make me look pudgy?  Did I remember the airline tickets?  For our Honeymoon, in 1998, we traveled to Greece and had 2 adventurous weeks of Greek Island hopping, from Santorini to Mykonos and Delphi.  It was paradise.  We have always loved to travel, but the last time we traveled without the kids was late 1999, when I was pregnant with Christian (now age 13).  By the time this is published (yes, I wrote this ahead of time), Anthony and I will be on our “Second Honeymoon,” in Vero Beach, Florida.  Just a long weekend but we are having plenty of Second Honeymoon Jitters, of a different sort. 

            My in laws have been kind enough to take care of the kids and the dog but I still get nervous.  Did I pre-pack all the lunches and snacks?  Is there someone to take them to soccer?  Are all their school uniforms clean?  What about Christian’s basketball jersey?  And Michael’s Irish step shoes?  I have 36 trays of frozen trays of food in the deep freezer, will that be enough?  Ok, yes, my readers all know I’m a little neurotic about getting my kids fed and to their activities but hey, with a schedule like ours, you have to be.  The whole concept of “letting go” isn’t really in my vocabulary. 
            Sooo, yes, Anthony and I are right now at Disney Vacation Club’s Vero Beach Resort, without the kids, for a romantic long weekend.  We have very little planned, so that we can just enjoy the beach and the dining and maybe swing by Downtown Disney, to enjoy shopping and dining without kids, and hit the jazz and blues clubs we always pass by wistfully.  I hope we can actually enjoy ourselves, and not talk about the kids the whole time, or worry about them the whole time. 
We have been wanting to do this for the longest time.  We used to go away a lot in the brief time we had before children.  We went to Florida many times, the Caribbean, and we went to bed and breakfasts all over New England, from Saratoga to Vermont.  We really enjoyed our time together.
            I will never forget when I was pregnant with Christian, and one of my friends said to me, “how does it feel, knowing you’ll never be alone with your husband again?”  The thought had never occurred to me and I felt a little panicky, truth be told.  She saw the look on my face and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll never regret it, having a family is the best feeling in the world, and you can always take little getaways with your husband.”  It really is important to nourish your relationship with your spouse or life partner, and spend some time alone, whether it’s movie night or a trip to Sonic’s.  We try to go to a nice lunch together every couple of weeks, one of the perks of owning your own business together.  In the end, you are making yourselves happier and therefore making the kids happier. 
            It’s been almost 14 years, but we are finally taking the plunge and going away without the kids.  Sure, I feel guilty.  A little bit.  Then I look at the snow on the ground, and the forecast for Vero Beach.  And I looked through our honeymoon photo album (yes, I was taking pictures even back then).  The last page in my honeymoon scrapbook is the following line, which I penned in haste:  “the trip to Greece may be over, but the honeymoon has just begun.”  And now, let the Second Honeymoon begin.

            Have a great day, everyone!  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo (photo of DVC's Vero Beach Resort)