Google+ Badge

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mrs. Lo's Top Sports Highlights of the Week

My kids were on Spring Break this past week and, although we didn’t go on vacation, we had plenty of sports excitement.  Here are Mrs. Lo’s Top Sports Highlights for the past week:
#5:  WONERING IF MY SON PLAYED ENOUGH BASKETBALL.  Let’s see.  Christian had AAU basketball practice for the Newburgh Panthers three times this week, played pickup games at Gold’s Gym almost every day this week, played pickup at Chadwick, met his friend Jarrett on the courts in Washingtonville, and is in an AAU tournament in Kingston all weekend.  Let’s not forget that he now dribbles in the street and throughout the house (yes, we have given up on trying to stop him from dribbling in the House under the “Pick Your Battles” Theory of Parenting).    However, there is one place even he doesn’t dribble:  from the entrance of Gold’s to the basketball gym.  “Hey kid, you can’t dribble here, hold it til you get to the basketball gym.”  Where does he think he is, at Home?

#4:  HELD A MEETING AT THE NEWBURGH ROWING CLUB BOATHOUSE, about the future of the Boathouse and the Waterfront, that was attended by NRC parents, coaches and Board Members, and representatives from Congressman Maloney’s office, NYS Assemblyman Skartados' Office (who we thank for saving our season), and Shantal Riley, a reporter from the Mid Hudson Times.  I won’t steal Shantal’s thunder, she is doing a feature story on the whole topic.  However, I do believe it counts as a Sports Highlight.
#3:  PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT.  Mrs. Lo made it to the Boathouse for Recreational Rowing, where I did a Broken 10K on Tuesday and a Broken 10K on Thursday, which even Big Coach will admit is, for someone my age, “pretty good.”  (For those of you who don’t know how understated he is, this is the second highest compliment you can get from Big Coach.  The highest compliment is a tie between telling a rower they are a “Rowing Machine “ and telling them “You’re all right, I think I’ll keep you around.”)
#2:  I’M SORRY, IS THIS THE VARSITY FOOTBALL MEETING?  On Wednesday night, I attended what I understood to be a Freshman Football Parent Meeting at Don Bosco Prep, in Ramsey, NJ, where Christian is enrolled for Class of 2018.  The opening remarks from the coach started with:  “We know a lot of your kids are in California right now for the All American Bowl Game.”  I turned to the football mom next to me, and said, “Did I accidentally walk into the Varsity Football meeting?”  She laughed.  “Oh no, she said, this is Freshman Football.”  I started chatting with “Mrs. H,” whose son was in fact in California for the All American bowl game.  I googled her son after I got home.  He is 5’11” and 250 pounds at 14 years old and was one of the 2018 “Elite 101” high school football prospects.  The newspapers were following him, and reported as to which high school he would commit to.  When he committed to Don Bosco, there was a series of articles about him and the other Elite 101 players who committed to DBP. 
“If your son is not the most competitive kid you know, then this is not the school for him nor is it the Football program for him,” said the Coach.  “Oh yeah,” Mrs. H and I both nodded to each other, “our sons are at the right school, no doubts.”  There must be more competitive kids than my son, I just haven’t met them yet.  I’m sure he will meet them on his Freshman Football team.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the tailgating parties.  Although I will miss my fellow Goldbacks YFL Moms and Grandmas.

#1:  I’VE GOT ONE AT STROKE AND ONE AT COXSWAIN:  Finally, the top sports highlight of the week would be the America Rows Newburgh’s morning practice.  As you may know, Mr. Lo and I, and Mrs. Guerrero, are taking 6 rowers down to Baltimore next weekend for the America Rows Mid Atlantic Invitational inclusion Regatta.  Then to Washington DC, for a tour of Capitol Hill courtesy of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.  (My press release about the trip, and photos, were in Barbara Bedell’s Communities Page in the Times Herald Record on Thursday).  The 4+ will be Christian, Kelvin, Soup, and Richard, with Michael at coxswain.  Then Chico and Kelvin in a 2x.  We brought everyone down for morning practice 5:30 am Tuesday but the water was rough, so they had to erg instead.  We  came down 5:30 am Thursday for practice and the water was like glass.  Chico and Kelvin went out in their double.  Two female rowers, Natasha and Arianna, subbed in for Soup and Kelvin.  The coaches took me out in a motorboat so I could take pictures and see how the boat was doing.  Christian has been playing basketball and football and hasn’t rowed on a regular basis since football started in July of 2013, other than subbing at a few regattas.  The kids in the 4+ (pictured above) blended together beautifully, in every way.  Male rowers and female rowers, public school and private school, on scholarship and not on scholarship, a 4th grader, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.  On the water they melded together perfectly.  As I watched them row, and watched my rowing kids, Chico and Kelvin, fly by in their double, the majestic Hudson River seemed to speak to me, to all of us.  There were maybe 70 kids total on the Hudson River at the time, including the NFA High School team and NRC’s competitive rowing division. There is something magical about rowing, especially rowing on the Hudson River, and most especially at 5:30 am before the rest of the world is up. I can’t explain it.   Now add in the fact that your oldest kid is at stroke and your youngest is guiding them at coxswain, no cox box, just voice commands, his little hand on the rudder at all times.  It was such a feeling of Joy, of Maternal and Team Mom pride.  How many mothers across the world have ever had this experience, two kids in a crew shell, one at stroke, one at coxswain, the two bookends.  It gave me Joy and it gave me Hope.  I do not know what the future holds for the Newburgh Rowing Club, how long we will be in our current location, or where we will ultimately end up.  I do know this.  We will stick together and we will continue to bring the Joy and the Magic and the Pride of rowing to all in Newburgh who have the commitment even if not the funds.  None of the sports highlights of this week, not the basketball, the football, Don Bosco, or any of the rowing moments would have happened if it hadn’t been for the Newburgh Rowing Club.  This is where it all started for the LoBiondo Kids and America Rows Newburgh.  That’s why my new hashtag is #SavetheNewburghRowingClub.  Have a great day, everyone, and go Newburgh Panthers!  <3 Mrs. Lo – for more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit www.lobiondopage.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 19, 2014

IS THE CITY OF NEWBURGH TOO DANGEROUS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS?

  To answer this complicated question, first you have to listen to my story about the Fish Cop.  I swore I wouldn’t tell this story until our kids had all graduated but everyone involved has given me their consent so here goes.  The Fish Cop story, like most of my best stories, starts out in the Team Mom mobile.  It was September 2013, and I was taking 5 rowers up to Mystic, CT for the Coastweeks Regatta.  All of the rowers, except for Little Michael, were persons of color, resided in the City of Newburgh, and were also scholar-athletes, who know how to handle themselves in a “street situation.” 

Now, once upon a time, a very long time ago, Mrs. Lo also knew how to handle herself in a street situation.  As a young, reasonably attractive female at NYU, I often got followed in the streets of NYC, but not by police officers (unless they were trying to get my phone number).  I developed a different set of “street instincts”.  Street Instincts are what have kept many of us urban dwellers alive in many situations.  A country girl will unknowingly be followed through the streets of New York City for blocks and possibly be accosted.  A street savvy girl will pick her moment, turn around, look the stalker in the face and say, “Stop following me you one-eyed freak or I’m calling 911.”
            Back to Coastweeks.  We were meeting the rest of the 45-member Newburgh Rowing Club up in Mystic, CT and Big Coach made a really big deal about us getting to the trailer, helping unload the boats, and going over the course map.  However, we got to Mystic way later than everyone else because we had stopped to watch my older son Christian’s Goldbacks YFL football game.  It’s impossible to keep in touch at a Regatta when Coach is unloading so what had happened, although we didn’t know it, was that he and the other rowers unloaded from about 5 pm – 7 pm.  We arrived in Mystic at about 7 pm.  We went to the only location we knew of, the same place we had been setting up the trailer for the past 3 years. 
            This was at the Mystic Seaport.  We all had our Newburgh Rowing Club windbreakers on, with the hoodies up because it was cold.  We tried to get into the gate but it was locked.  Kelvin received a text from a rower who said, “You guys just passed us, come on over to the trailer now.”  It turns out the trailer was 2 blocks away but of course we didn’t know that. 
            “How did everybody else get in?” said Michael.  I figured Big Coach had a key to the gate or there was some entrance we couldn’t see in the dark.  “Let’s just hop the fence and see if we can find them,” said one of the rowers.  At the time, it sounded like a good idea.  After all, there was a rower who could see us and was calling us over.  Everyone hopped the fence one-handed like the teenage athletes that they are.  Michael and I had to be helped over.  We looked around and the place was eerily empty.  Did I go to the wrong Regatta?  Do I have the wrong date?  These things do happen.
            The rowers wanted to keep looking for our coach but I said no, let’s leave, we tried our best, they will get the boats unloaded and I will go over the course map with you, let’s get some sleep.
            We all started walking the 5 blocks to our car.  At about T minus 5, Soup said to me, “We’re being followed, Mrs. Lo.”  I looked around, the sleepy village  streets were deserted.  Michael was singing the Lion King song.  Don’t be silly, I told Dajour, there’s no one here.  At about T minus 4, Kelvin said to me in Spanish, “I can take Michael on my back and run, Soup will take you, Kayla, and Richard and you guys run in the other direction, whoever is following us doesn’t like us.” 
            Kelvin, I said, you poor, sweet misguided child, it is so nice of you to try to protect us, but I tell you there’s no one following us.  Little did I know that, just on instinct alone, he could not only sense we were being followed he could sense the dislike.
“It’s a cop, Mrs. Lo, with a flashlight and a badge,” said Soup.  Oh, well, that’s good then, we’re safe, guys, I said.
            That’s when the Fish Cop yelled, “Halt where you are people!”  I instinctively grabbed Michael, and I told the rowers NOT to run.  We had our backs to the Fish Cop and, for the first time since I left New York City, where I was once attacked on the subway, I was legit scared.  Because the tone of that voice told me that Fish Cop didn’t see a Team Mom, a 9 year old boy, and 4 rowers on the honor roll in private school, she saw people of color with hoodies up.  Even though I was a 48-year-old trial attorney, pillar of the community, and mother of 2, the instinct to run was overwhelming.  However, I was afraid we would all be shot in the back.  I just wished overwhelmingly that my husband was there.  Or Coach Kennedy.  But it was all on me.  Dear Lord, I prayed, Please send an archangel to protect us.
            Finally, my long dormant, almost dead street instincts from 20 plus years ago kicked in.  There was nothing to do but calmly turn around and face the situation head on.  Listen guys, no one is going to run, I said.  You are going to slowly take your hoods down, turn your palms up to show they’re empty and slowly turn around but stay where you are. I am the only one who is going to walk forward and talk to this officer.  I should add that these varsity athletes, even if they had to pickup Michael, could have sprinted to Hartford in no time if they wanted to -- but they are good kids and they listened to me.
            I turned around to see who I was facing.  An older, angry woman who did not have the benefit of getting to Waters Edge Salon and Spa every Friday like I did glowered at me.  And that’s when the Lawyer in me kicked in.  First, identify yourself and diffuse the situation.
            “Good evening, Officer, my name is Juliana LoBiondo, I’m the Team Mom for the Newburgh Rowing Club and these youngsters are some of our top rowers, we are delighted to be here in historic Mystic Seaport for …”
            “Shut it, Blondie!” she snapped angrily.   Blondie? Did she just call me Blondie?  What the heck, I’m not blond, I mean I had to start highlighting my hair once it went gray but … FOCUS, I must stay focused.  “I have you on tape, Blondie, you were all trespassing on Museum property and I am the officer who patrols the museum and protects Mystic River!”  Lawyers affectionately refer to the DEC officers as “Fish Cops” so I immediately downgraded the whole thing to a teachable moment.  She might force us to eat worms but she was not carrying a weapon other than a nightstick.
            “With all due respect, Officer, we were not committing the act of Trespass.  We are invitees and as invitees we cannot, as a matter of law be trespassing.  Nor did we have any  malevolent mens rea, in fact, our team is spending thousands of dollars to be in town for the Regatta, we were invited here and we were trying to reach our Coach and our boats.”
            Throw a little Latin at people and it always buys you some time. 
            “Then why did you jump the fence when there is a buzzer to open the gate?” she said.  “And what the hell’s with that Little Kid -- is he retarded or something?”
            I looked behind me.  My Sweet Little Michael had his palms up and he was looking up the the night sky, swaying and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.  He later explained that when we go to Church and say the Lord’s Prayer during Mass we turn our palms up to the air and that’s what he thought I wanted him to do.  Plus it was making him feel better.
            So she’s bitter and mean to kids, and uses the “R” word, OK, I don’t need to be that nice.  Gloves Off.  Check.  Lawyer Brain in Hyper Drive.  Check. 
            “No, ma’am, he is not retarded.  Does Mystic have an ordinance prohibiting Developmentally Challenged people from walking around, or from praying in public?  In fact, does the Village of Mystic know that you are harassin paying tourists and you are scaring little children?  Is this even within your scope of duties?  Who is your supervisor and are they appointed or elected?  Under whose authority were you issued a badge?  I would like to have the name and phone number of your supervisor and I would like to know under what circumstances you are …”
            “The buzzer doesn’t work, Mommy,” interrupted Michael who was all of a sudden was standing next to me.  “I tried the buzzer -- I remembered it from last year and it doesn’t work.” 
            The Fish Cop looked down at Little Michael, then age 9, with his chubby cheeks, his big blue eyes and the thick eyelashes and a small piece of her grinchy heart melted.  Then she looked at the other kids, all clearly rowers, fit, athletic, handsome and beautiful.  Standing there politely waiting for this Crazy Fish Cop Lady to be done. 
            She realized she had read the situation all wrong and started to wilt.
            “Since you seem like a nice lady, I won’t file Harassment charges,” I said.
            “This time,” said Little Michael.
            And we turned and walked away.  “Michael, how did you know about the buzzer?”  I said.  “I’m a coxy, Mommy, I have to watch out for my rowers and I have to test out all the equipment.”  I was liking my kid’s instincts.
            “How come you didn’t tell her you were a Lawyer and show her your Attorney ID,” the kids all asked me.  Because, I told them, I wanted you to see that you don’t have to be a Lawyer, you can just be an ordinary citizen and you don’t have to be scared.
            Mrs. Lo and the Student Ambassadors and my own kids have all bonded in so many ways and the Loyalty runs so deep.  But this was a big one.  Squelching the instinct to run, and listening to me. 
            What does this have to do with have my the schools in Newburgh?  I am proud of my long dormant street instincts.  My rower kids are proud of being from Newburgh and have street instincts that would blow away anybody I ever knew in Manhattan, the 10 years I lived there.  And guess what, both of my kids have a touch of street instincts.  Christian has walked from our house to the Boys and Girls Club on 285 Liberty and has slept over his friends’ houses in the City of Newburgh many times.  Our rule is to walk the streets in pairs.  One person alone is a problem and a big group can be a problem of a different nature.  Michael not so much but he is in the car when I drive all over the City of Newburgh, to his school, the Boathouse, the Boys and Girls Club, Delano Hitch, NFA and now our office.  He rows with kids, ages 10 and up, who often walk down from their residences in the City of Newburgh to the Boathouse.  Although nobody walks home at night -- either a parent, a coach or Mrs. Lo drives them.
            I hope all the streets of Newburgh are crime free some day, not just the ones near schools.  But what can be done to make the streets surrounding our schools in the City of Newburgh safer?
·       Bring back the School Crossing Guards.  We should have school crossing guards for the many kids who walk to school and have to cross the street.  They are employees of the City.  The City used to have them but then ran out of money.  Instead of spending money to tear down the Newburgh Rowing Boathouse, why don’t we invest in school crossing guards?
·       School Safety Zones.  At one time, there were safety zones created around schools in Newburgh.  I believe the idea was that the Police would give top priority to any place where there were school children.  It would be a great idea to bring that back, for Head Start, Horizons, GAMS, Bishop Dunn, and for the middle schools (South, Nora Cronin and San Miguel) and the high school. 
·       Create School Safety Booster Groups.  I realize the City doesn’t have money for anything.  But let’s not do stupid things with what money we do have  like tearing down the Newburgh Rowing Boathouse.  Why not work with the community and parents and local businesses to start School Safety Booster Groups.  When a high school team needs extra money for their uniforms or athletic banquet or what have you, they have a Parent Booster Group.  They raise money, whether it’s selling candy bars or seeking donations, to help the team.  Why not create Booster Groups to at least get back the School Crossing Guards.  That would be a great way to create jobs and it’s a job we really need to have here in the City of Newburgh.
In the meantime, there is no Bubble we can put over our kids to keep them 100% safe.  Look at me, I grew up in bucolic Fishkill but hated the country life; I got a full scholarship to NYU and lived in NYC for 10 years.  Instead of trying to build a wall between myself and Newburgh, I made it my life’s work to really getting involved. You can too:  Volunteer at the Newburgh Rowing Club or the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh or the many other organizations helping kids.  We could live anywhere.  We chose to live in Town of Newburgh, send our kids to school in the City of Newburgh and have an office in the City of Newburgh.   Because as Big Coach says:  “If you’re not doing Something, then you’re doing Nothing.”
            Have a great day everyone! And, as always Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo
EPILOGUE – At Coastweeks 2013, Michael’s boat took first place in their event.  The Student Ambassadors took Silver in their event, the only boat that was faster than them was the US Coast Guard Academy.  And Mr. Lo and Christian surprised us all by driving up after the Football Game (they won, Christian had a Touchdown), and joining us for dinner just in time to hear the Fish Cop story.  And we lived Happily Ever After.  In Newburgh <3

            

Saturday, April 12, 2014

MOMMY, WHAT IS AUTISM?

Michael, my 10 yo asked me this recently.  He had heard me on the phone with Big Coach, discussing the fundraiser we are doing with Parents Run AMOC (Autism Move a thon Orange County).  I used the word “autism” quite a few times and when I was done with the call, Michael asked me his question.  And, even though I know several parents of autistic children, and I have read several magazine articles and blogs on the topic, I couldn’t answer the question.  Here I was lighting up my facebook page blue and posting all the “April is Autism awareness month” fliers and I was clueless.

            All I could think of was my friend Patty's tattoo.  She recently got a tattoo for her son, who has autism, which is a colorful jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing.  All I could think of was the missing piece.  I told him I needed to check the Encyclopedia but that I believed Autism is when a chromosome is missing.  “No, Mommy, you’re thinking of Down Syndrome,” said my 10 yo.  “But in Down syndrome, the person has an EXTRA chromosome.”  I quickly googled it on my phone.  He was right, as usual.  “Mom, you didn’t know what Down Syndrome is,” said Christian, my 12 yo.  I hate when they make me feel stupid.  The truth is there are just so many things I don’t know but I am always willing to learn.
            So we looked it up on the internet.  According to Autism Speaks:   “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”  I looked up hopefully from the computer and asked Michael if that explained things.  “That was just a lot of big words,” he said.  And he was right, that was about as clear as mud.
            Well, I said, do you know anyone who is autistic?  “How would I know, Mommy, if I don’t know autism is,” he said.  If this were cross examination and I were his witness, he would have nailed that one.
            I feel really duty bound to make the most out of these teachable moments.  My kids won’t always be coming to me with the “Why and How” questions, and I do my best to answer them in a way that will teach them something.  I went to my friend Laura’s Blog, which is about special needs parenting, specifically, her journey with her oldest son, who has autism.  And who Michael met at a “Photo shoot” at the Boathouse recently.  “I liked Jack, he was really nice,” said Michael, “he really liked the Resolute,” which is our flagship crew shell, our newest 8+, a 60-foot long crew shell which was in the slings.  He’s got good taste, that’s for sure.  We read some of the Blog entries.
            I asked Michael if reading the blogs was helpful.  “Yes,” he said.  “So autism just means you think differently?”  That sounded right. “It’s OK, mommy, I know you can’t explain everything.  I just don’t understand why that’s a fundraiser, don’t we all think differently?”
            Yes, Little Michael, we do all think differently.  If only we could all see the world through a child’s eyes. 
            Do join us for the Zumba Fundraiser we will be having for the Newburgh Rowing Club and the Parents Run AMOC, at the Stewart Gym, Saturday May 24th at 6 pm.  Tickets are $15.00 each and there will be refreshments and raffles as well.  Zumba superstar Kattya Fernandez (who has a son that coaches at NRC) and friends have generously donated their time to these great causes.  For more info, contact Mrs. Lo at juliana@lobiondolaw.com.  All proceeds will be split equally between the two groups.

            Have a great Saturday, everyone and remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo (thank you for longtime friend Patty Donnelly for use of the photo of her new tattoo) 

Friday, April 11, 2014

ARE THE BAD GUYS WINNING IN NEWBURGH?

What a week.  First, we found out that the Powers That Be in Newburgh and Beyond have a Plan to make the Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse go bye-bye, for no good reason; and second, we found out there have been gunshots fired and vehicles hit very close to our kids’ school during school hours.  I will be honest, the only thing that has made me feel better has been sitting online looking at real estate in Sarasota, Florida.  And when one of Newburgh’s biggest cheerleaders is thinking about moving to the Sunshine State, you have to wonder, are the Bad Guys winning?   


First, we have to identify who the Bad Guys are.  I have a few facts but mostly I am left with questions.  Here goes.  FACT:  Steelways did not win any of its bids for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding project.  Sad for Newburgh because that would have brought in a lot of jobs for the City of Newburgh.  But that should be good news for the Newburgh Rowing Club, because we don’t have to move our Boathouse out to New Windsor, or to downsize to a smaller spot on the river, right?  Wrong.  The Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse was built by volunteers over the course of 10 years and is now a beautiful 6,000 square foot facility with boat storage bays that house multiple 60-foot long 8-man crew shells and a total of over 75 vessels from kayaks, canoes, gig boats, motor boats and crew shells; a boat repair bay; large meeting room; 2 locker rooms; 3 bathrooms; upstairs workout facility with more than 30 ergometers (indoor rowing machines); and a weight room.  

FACT:  our Boathouse has been valued at One Million Dollars.  We are the envy of many rowing clubs, not only for our beautiful location on the majestic Hudson River, but because most clubs with big Boathouses are severely in debt.  Our Boathouse is fully paid off.  We sit on land owned by the City of Newburgh.  We are the licensees of a city park called the Ward Brothers Memorial Park, that is the only open park land in Newburgh that isn’t adjacent to restaurants and commercial activity.  We have docks that can launch both crew shells for a Major Regatta (our biggest brings in 1,000 people and is the largest athletic event in the City of Newburgh) and can host kayakers, who consider the Newburgh Rowing Club a major destination.  We have park benches and picnic tables, a fully electric Picnic pavilion, and fisherman, kayakers and families love to come down to fish, picnic, and barbecue.  We ARE the backyard for much of the City of Newburgh.  Where else can you walk down from the City of Newburgh and have a picnic and have the same view that FDR and the Vanderbilts enjoyed?

As for walking down to the park, we service almost 80 Student Ambassadors through “America Rows Newburgh”, an official affiliate of USRowing, a scholarship-based inclusion rowing program.  Many of the kids walk down to the Boathouse.  Where does the money for the scholarships come from?  Grants that Mrs. Lo and Big Coach’s sister have written, which are based on granting access to the Hudson River to city residents.  If there is no Hudson River park, there is no funding for the most amazing program for kids in the City of Newburgh.  On any given summer night, you can see dozens of young student ambassadors kayaking during practice, while the older kids row in crew shells, the type of boats you would see in the Olympics; fisherman dangling a line off the rocks; and families picnicking at our many picnic tables.  Parents love to come down and sit on the park benches and watch their kids on the water.  

In addition to the scholarship based program, the Boathouse leases space to the NFA High School Crew team, with about 70 high school kids, and the Storm King Crew Team, both of which are sources of income.  We also have tuition paying members, which helps defray our costs.  Our program offerings range from After School Fitness, Recreational Rowing, and Learn to Row, to Middle School Sculling and Competitive Rowing for the more advanced rowers.  In addition, we have a very active and lucrative Summer Rowing Camp, which will run for 4 weeks this Summer, and hosts upward of 200 summer campers from all over the Hudson Valley.  They have so much fun, kayaking, canoeing, doing arts and crafts and having Pirate Days.  Everyone loves it. Having to move our Boathouse to New Windsor -- Brown’s Pond, which is a reservoir owned by the City -- would have changed all that but the Board of the Newburgh Rowing Club didn’t want to stand in the way of progress for Newburgh.  That was back when there was talk of Steelways maybe winning the Tappan Zee bid.  But they did not win any bids.

FACT:  There are no commercial backers for a “Port of Newburgh.”  Remember all those press conferences?  Right, well with Steelways not getting the Tappan Zee bids, there is no one left who could pay for the tearing down and re-building of a Million Dollar Boathouse.  FACT:  the Powers That Be have reached out to the rowing club to say they still want to “plan” a Port of Newburgh and seek grants for the planning phase.  And cross their fingers and hope they can find some money to build it.  OK, that’ nice but, is there a very real possibility that the Boathouse will get torn down, the Park will be “moved” somewhere and the Powers That Be will not find the money to build a Port of Newburgh?  And that there will no no money to re-build our Million Dollar Boathouse? Umm, yeah, that’s possible.  Very possible.

FACT:  I can’t fit 80 kids in my car to truck them up to New Windsor and they can’t walk there.  FACT:  there have been no public hearings on any of this. FACT:  in Cortlandt Manor, where Big Coach is helping the Cortlandt Community Rowing Association start a new rowing club, their town is so completely behind them that the town has gifted them the land on the Hudson River as well as on a lake, and has bought them docks.  FACT:  Newburgh is not Cortlandt Manor.

The same week that the parents got the news that the Powers That Be would still like to plan a Port where the Newburgh Rowing Club is, the Bishop Dunn parents also got a series of emails about shots fired very near the school during the school day, with vehicles being hit.  In other words, crossfire between the Street Version Of The “Powers That Be” in their war for control of the streets.  So what’s a parent to do, when we are caught in the crossfire between the different Powers That Be?  The ones that wear suits and the ones that answer to gang names are both Powers That Be, just in different arenas of Newburgh.

FACT:  the Newburgh Rowing Club doesn’t own the land, just the Boathouse, and like any tenant farmer in Jolly Old England, if the gentried Landowner says, take your cows and get out, we’re out.  But while cows can be moved down the road, moving a Million Dollar Boathouse is not so easy.  What is easy:  playing basketball, all you need is a hoop, some plywood, and a nail.  Also, playing baseball, football, soccer.  Having a rowing club is hard in a place where the Powers That Be don’t value fishing, kayaking, picnicking, Learn to Row, hosting Regattas, and Summer Camp.  The Powers That Be would say, hey there is the possibility of a big payday down the line for a Port.  But that’s the thing, it’s just a possibility.  There is not one single commercial backer.

Sarasota isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.  Honestly, if I were going to pick up and move, I’d probably go someplace where everybody would love to have a Team Mom that can help them fundraise and a place where the town is thrilled to have a brand new rowing club.  Cortland Manor is looking pretty good.  They even have a Feral Cat program, and that’s the sign of a friendly town.

So what’s a mother to do?  In the meantime, we will do what we always do, pray for our family and friends, pray for the City of Newburgh, pray for the Newburgh Rowing Club, and yes, pray for the Powers That Be, both the ones in suits and the ones running the Streets.

The more uplifting Mrs. Lo Blog will be back Saturday morning.  In the meantime, that’s how Mrs. Lo sees it <3 Mrs. Lo

Saturday, April 5, 2014

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? A FEW LESSONS FROM THE MULTI-BILLION YOUTH SPORTS INDUSTRY

Youth sports has become a Five Billion Dollar per year ($5,000,000.00) industry in America, according to Forbes magazine.  And yet most youth sports coaches are volunteers.  Virtually every parent in America is going to spend some time and money on the youth sports industry, with varying hopes, expectations, and results -- whether it’s travel soccer, Little League, Pop Warner or the myriad club sports out there.  To people from my generation (I was born in 1965, my brother in 1967), the whole concept of paying to play sports would have seemed bizarre when we were growing up. 

My brother and his best friend played stick ball, wall ball, and kick ball at the school yard in their free time, eventually graduating to the hoops at the schoolyard, which were probably not “regulation” size and only occasionally had nets on them.  They didn’t have Air Jordans and there was no Footlocker.  My brother went on to wrestle for middle school and John Jay High School, where he was co captain of the Wrestling team.  His best friend, Roger, went on to be captain of the John Jay Varsity Basketball team, after which he went on to play College Basketball for Auburn University.  Other than Little League, which according to my parents was $15.00 per year, they didn’t do any organized youth sports.  No travel soccer, no travel basketball, no sports clinics, no sports camp.  And yet if the 17-year-old version of my brother were to wrestle off against today’s generation, or 17-year-old Roger (God rest his soul) were to take to the hoops against any kid out there, I guarantee they would be just as competitive, if not more so. 
            So why are we (and yes, I include myself), as parents, obsessed about enrolling our kids in organized youth sports, which now takes up so much of our time and money.  And if we are going to insist on this lifestyle, how is it affecting our kids?  What can we do to make sure they’re getting something out of all this running around?  Mrs. Lo decided to put on her little reporter hat for a while and take to the streets for some input from coaches, parents and kids.  Here’s a roundup of what I learned, the good, the bad, and the ugly:
1.     NEVER, EVER FORCE A KID TO PLAY A SPORT HE/SHE DOESN’T WANT TO PLAY.  Every coach I talked to said this.  Said Coach Kennedy, the senior rowing coach in the Hudson Valley, who has coached crew, swimming, football, volleyball, track and Sumo Wrestling (OK, I made up the last one, I wanted to see if you’re paying attention):  “I don’t care if you were the varsity quarterback of your State Champion football team.  Your son may want to be a figure skater.  And if he does, you need to retire the helmet and pads and get yourself a parka.”  Maybe your grandkids will take up football, you never know.
2.    PARENTS, REMEMBER THAT THE COACHES ARE VOLUNTEERS AND THAT YOU NEED TO VOLUNTEER AS WELL.  Not only are they not getting paid, youth sports coaches are spending their own money to do much of what they are doing.  Football coaches are driving to basketball courts in the City of Newburgh to pick up players and take them to  practice and rowing coaches are buying boats with their own money.  They view their “job” as preparing your kid for the next level in their sport, be it travel soccer, junior varsity football or high school rowing, etc.  They are not paid professional coaches, nor are they babysitters.  If coaches and other parents are volunteering their time and money to make this club happen, you should be too.  As Team Mom, one of the things that irks me most is the parent who will message me to say, “can you give me an idea of what time my child’s race will go off, so I can run in and see it and then go do my own thing?”  No, Lady, I can’t do that, because the rest of us are going to be down here at 5:30 am working the meet and will be here pretty much all day.  It’s all in or all out.
3.    KIDS NEED TO LEARN HOW TO LOSE A GAME.  I have heard this from coaches and parents alike.  Losing is part of the sport and there truly is nothing worse than a young athlete who is a sore loser, except for a coach who is a sore loser or worse, will try to win at any cost.  This is not Texas and we’re not on national television.  It’s just a game, people.  No, really, I assure you, it is not the reason your kid was born, it is just a game.  The sooner we all realize that, the better.
4.    “IF YOU SIGNED UP FOR A TEAM, YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO IT AND SEE IT THROUGH” DOES NOT ALWAYS APPLY IN YOUTH SPORTS.  This is one of the hardest lessons for parents of my generation to accept. Many years ago, Christian really started to dislike his travel soccer experience.  We were raised to believe that if you make a commitment, you stick to it.  And yes, if you committed to the Varsity Football team and the State Championship depends on your kid, you should stick out the season. But that doesn’t apply to youth sports.  Sometimes, you have to get your kid out of there.  We agonized over the decision, but my husband and I pulled him off the team and organized a neighborhood pickup soccer game.  He played with his friends, had a blast, didn’t have to keep to a schedule and, of course, it was free.  Was he harmed in any way?  No, he loves sports with a passion.
5.    PARENTS, DON’T REQUEST POSTITIONS FOR YOUR PLAYERS.  This is in the Goldbacks Youth Football League handbook and it’s one of Coach Brad’s golden rules.  And here’s what I was told about private high school football:  “We don’t care if someone’s kid was the star running back for their Pee Wee League, or the winningest QB in state history.  If we say he’s a slot receiver, he’s a slot receiver.  Any questions?”  Nope.
6.    COACHES, ARE YOU CUT OUT TO BE A YOUTH SPORTS COACH?:  None of the following hard-to-believe but true stories relate to me or my kids but there is a sordid underbelly to youth sports.  While writing the Blog, I talked to parents and guardians who told me the following: 
·       a guardian who heard the coach on the other team yelling, “take him out, you’ve got to hurt  Number (__) and get him out of the game” and she realized that was her grandson’s number.  She overheard a coach instructing his players to hurt her grandson.  RESULT:  the athlete got kicked out of the game for asking the opposing coach why he was instructing his players to hurt him, but on the up side, the athlete wasn’t injured; he is still active in the sport; 
·       a coach who gave every athlete positive support but singled out this parent’s daughter, a gifted athlete, for negative treatment.  The mom found it heartbreaking.  RESULT:  the girl stopped her sport but has since come back.
·       A coach who refused to get medical treatment for a player who broke his finger and for a player injured on the field. RESULT:  parents had to intervene and seek medical treatment.
·       A coach who told the players to bring in all their First Place trophies, earned before he became a coach.  He then confiscated their trophies saying they “didn’t deserve them.”  RESULT:  the parent pulled the athlete from the team and, although he is a gifted athlete, he no longer participates in the sport.
·       A soccer coach who, after the players lost a game, made them get into a freezing cold swimming pool in cold weather, up to their waists and stay there for 30 minutes as “punishment” for losing the game.  RESULT:  parents pulled their kids from the team but this coach is still coaching.
We give a lot of control over our kids to sports programs but always remember -- this is voluntary.  If your child is experiencing physical, mental or emotional abuse, do not hesitate to pull your kid and report the coach to the League authorities.  There is some crazy (CENSORED) that goes on out there.
7.    FINALLY: IS YOUR KID HAVING FUN?  No really, is he or she having fun? If your answer contains things like, well, he would if we had a different coach, or if she got more playing time, or if he just tried harder, then check yourself for a minute.  Because if your kid is not having fun in YOUTH sports, then maybe this sport you’re doing is not for your kid.  Or this program isn’t for your kid.  Or maybe, just maybe, your kid doesn’t need to be doing sports at all.  Yes, Team Mom, did just say that.  It’s Ok to play outside with your friends, to concentrate on musical theatre, or photography, or basket weaving for that matter.  There will be plenty of time for grinding schedules and hard work later in life.  It’s called being an adult and having a job.  Childhood is a time for fun.  My oldest loves competitive sports and would wither away if I took it away from him.  My youngest loves recreational sports, from rowing to swimming, but has no interest at this time in competing.  And that’s just fine. 
Because in the end, all they really need is a hoop, a stick, a ball.  Maybe some blacktop and some chalk.  The day it stops being fun is the day you need to step up, be a parent, and say thanks for the memories, you can find us on the black top playing hopscotch, in the backyard  catching fireflies, going to the library, making pancakes, and just generally enjoying childhood.
      And that’s how Mrs. Lo sees it.  Have a great day, everyone, and Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo

            

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When He Becomes a Man - By Laura Licata Sullivan

By Laura Licata Sullivan, Special Guest Blogger

I don't know if he's been hearing it in school this year, but since September, my teenage son with autism has been asking for me to "shave his mustache." In the recent past, he's obsessed on this notion several times a day, and I have caught him a few times looking for the shaving cream. I have hidden all the razors and scissors since he's already taken them to his hair and eyebrows, and I've been terrified he would hurt himself in a bad way.


 Yes, he is 14, but I was hoping to wait at least another year to go down this road. He's been doing really well with the other obvious changes taking place but I've truthfully had many mixed emotions with this. Specifically, I am a female trying to educate a maturing male with a severe developmental disability on appropriate male behaviors and needs. I have become very grateful for those "family-style" restrooms that are popping up here and there, but there are not enough of them in existence, so going out in public is still a real challenge. All of the sudden maturity occurring in my son's body has caused me to re-examine some of my previous held beliefs and notions about adulthood. 

And with our booming population of young adults with autism, the world at large is going to have to change its thought patterns too. For a mature looking person on the outside, may, in fact, see the world very differently from a person of similar age because of their makeup on the inside. 

So, what makes a man anyway? It cannot just be body hair and a deep voice. In the world as we know it, a real man is responsible for himself and potentially any others that may come into his life. He can hold down a job and communicate with other humans in a mature fashion. But here is my autistic child who certainly resembles a young man, and needs around the clock supervision and care. 

Biologically, he is still destined to change, as we all age and appear different on the outside at various points in our lives. The difference between another person and Jack is that emotional and mental metamorphosis happen alongside the physical. Peter Pan gets to physically remain a boy and play forever. Young men like Jack can act in this fashion but still mature in the manly sense. It's becoming a bit complicated... 

A few days ago a mentor took Jack roller skating but had to remove him from the ring because he kept skating up to girls and grabbing their hands. He is not a big guy, but knows nothing of boundaries, and in his innocence, just wants to skate with them. I've seen him turn his head more than once looking at pretty young things on a beach or at the mall, and we have joked about his love of women. And this is because somewhere he is a man in the making. So, on one hand I am happy about this maturity he is displaying, and on the other hand I am crushed, when the young ladies walk away laughing. 

Teenage girls are often cruel and a few times now I have felt the need to interject by saying, "He is autistic...he thinks you are pretty." And with my husband's piercing eyes and my father's million-dollar smile, those girls would have been crazy for him, I know, if things were different. And so, it goes on... 

Not too long ago, my husband came home with an electric shaver, as a gift for Jack. Right before the big moment, I found him sitting in our master bathroom and he said again, "Please shave my mustache." And so, it was done, as I held up his chin and looked deeply into his eyes. “Good Man,” I said to my Man-Boy, and I held up the mirror so he could see his new face. The young man who just shaved his mustache for the first time still needed help in the shower and afterwards I lovingly put him in the tub and washed his hair. 

We called my father and my brother to share the news. I am sitting alone now, days later, writing this article, while my kids and husband are doing their thing while Sunday Dinner is cooking. And, I will admit, I am having those mixed emotions again...but this time they are accompanied by a little bit of hope, because it finally dawned on me what makes a man.

A real man is a good man. A real man is an honest man too. And when Jack stands before God one day, hopefully a long time from now, God will say, "You have been a real man, Jack. Enter into My Kingdom." And so, my prayer now will be that Jack will be the best man he can be, the man he was designed to be, always loving, always gentle, always REAL. That is a dream guy enough for me. And it is a blessing.

Note from Mrs. Lo:  Thank you to Laura Licata Sullivan, one of my favorite writers to be a Guest Blogger, in honor of World Autism Day.  Laura also writes for Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.  For more of her blog, check out the link below:


http://welcometomyspecialneedsmomdiary.blogspot.com/2013/01/welcome-to-my-special-needs-mom-diary.html