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Friday, August 29, 2014

"I CAN'T WAIT FOR SCHOOL TO START!!!" -- By Special Guest Blogger Orion LoBiondo

 Hey, everybody, how was your Summer?  It’s me again, Orion, the only 4-legged member of the LoBiondo Family.  I am sooo excited to go back to school!  Who’s with me, raise your paw!  Don’t get me wrong, I loved having my humans around all summer but I like to be in a routine, and School is my favorite routine!

            We had a super busy summer.  First, we built a new deck in the backyard.  They could never have done it without me though.  You should have seen me!  The way I barked at everybody who came over to work on the deck.  I have never seen so many different people in my backyard!  My mom had every kid who ever had a slice of lasagna working on the deck but, like she said, “it’s time for them to pay back all the lasagna and the car rides!”  We have so much fun on our new deck -- barbecues, dinner outside, family parties, all that good stuff.  Although my mom drives us crazy with the deck furniture.  See, she bought all this really nice outdoor furniture and outdoor pillows and rugs.  But every night she makes my brothers roll up the rugs and put the pillows and the furniture inside.  It drives them crazy but mom is afraid of MILL-DOO.  I don’t know what that is but it sounds disgusting.
            Then my family and I took separate vacations.  I got to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s House.  My grandma takes really good care of me and reads me stories in Spanish.  I feel sorry for my family, since they didn’t get to come with me.  They got stuck going to the beach in MAY-UN, wherever that is.  That’s too bad, I got to have belly rubs and homemade adobo with my grandparents every night, I’m sooooo lucky.
            I was really enjoying sleeping in a little bit after vacation, but then my brother started Football Camp at his high school, Don Bosco Prep in New JOY-SEY, and that was the end of that!  Out the door by 7 am, yes Sirree!  Right after that, my younger brother Michael started rowing camp at the Newburgh Rowing Club.  My little buddy, Harvey (he’s one of the coach’s dogs), he’s always calling me on Paw-Chat and he’s like, “come on down, bro, it’s so much fun here,” but I’m like “nah, bro, it’s not like that.  I have to keep this place safe, dude, you have no idea how many squirrels and chipmunks would INVADE this place if I take my eyes off of it!”  Harvey’s my bud, though.
            After rowing camp, my brother Michael started Theatre Academy at Just Off Broadway, which was so much fun for me because he would come home and sing to me everyday.  Yesterday, he was in a play called “Musicville,” and Mom and Dad said he rocked it, all the kids did!  Yeah, Little Buddy, way to go!  I’m not gonna lie, I’m maybe a little tired of hearing the same songs over and over but a little dude has to practice!
            So now we go back to school next week, yeah, buddy!  I’m doing backflips!  Okay, I cannot actually do a backflip but if I could believe me I would.  I can’t wait to get in the back of the car and guard the backpacks!!!  Wait, what’s that you say, Mom?  I’m only guarding Michael’s backpack?  What about Christian?  He’s going to high school in Ramsey, NJ, you say.  Ok, but doesn’t he need a backpack?  What do you mean he’s taking the train???  By himself???   Yeah, OK, he’s going with other football players but they can’t guard his backpack the way I can!
            OK, so I guess there are some changes I’m gonna have to get used to.  But that’s OK, change is good.  Mom always said we need to be FLEX-A-BULL.  Hey, I’m flex-a-bull but I do like my routine.  School is a routine and routine is good.  Yeah, there’s homework and mom’s gotta make the lunches again but we are going to really good schools and we get to pray in school and play sports so it’s all worth it.  OK, I say “WE” but I mean my brothers.  And at the end of the day, we all snuggle up in the family room and do homework or read.  I snuggle up in my giant bed with them.  I may look comfy but I am ready to POUNCE on an intruder at any moment!
            Listen, I would love to stay and chat but – OH NO YOU DIDN’T!!! – you can’t believe the nerve of this chubby bubby groundhog, he is back and he is eating Mom’s basil!  Gotta go bark my head off, I have an HERB GARDEN TO PROTECT!!!  Have a great day, everybody – and Mom says remember to Count Your Blessings!  Signing off, <3 Orion


Friday, August 22, 2014


Yesterday, my longtime friend and mentor, the brilliant attorney, Bill Tendy, died after a long battle with ALS.  He was 60, with two great kids. 

            ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”), a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, is dreadful.  There is no cure, and those afflicted tend to become more and more paralyzed.  To anyone who thinks the ice bucket challenges are silly, or stupid, or disrespectful, I say:  they are helping to make progress.  To date, they have helped raise over $42 Million for research and raise awareness.  During the same time last year, $2 Million was raised. 
            Back to my friend.  In his prime, Bill was, bar none, one of the greatest trial attorneys who ever lived, no joke.  Yes, he handled many high profile cases and I’m sure if you google his name you’ll find them.  But the reason he was a great trial attorney is because he truly, truly cared about his clients and the outcome;  he loved the law;  he loved trying cases before a jury and took command of the courtroom;  he had a mind like a steel trap;  and he was like a bloodhound, he left no stone unturned.  That, and he had (CENSORED)s of Steel.  Really, he had the nerve to try stuff in court I wouldn’t even dream of and I’m pretty (CENSORED)y as a trial attorney.
            I’m thinking of the Iris Pyne trial.  Iris Pyne was a victim of domestic violence who suffered from Battered Woman’s Syndrome and shot her husband in what Bill asserted was self defense.  It was 1993.  The judge in the first trial refused to let in evidence of Mr. Pyne’s prior assault convictions or the orders of protection Iris had against him.  Basically, Bill knew his client was getting an unfair trial because the judge would not let in the evidence of domestic violence.  Bill employed a strategy that was geared toward what he knew would be an appeal:  he put on no case whatsoever.  He did not mount a defense, did not put on one witness or put in any evidence.  That, my friends, takes cojones, trust me.  Iris was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life, and Bill went to work on the appeal.
            He won the appeal, a grueling task in and of itself, and Iris was granted a new trial.  I don’t remember a lot of the details of the second trial other than that Bill was really, really at the top of his game.  This wasn’t Law and Order or CSI, this was real life, in Ulster County, NY, and you just felt like you were watching the Derek Jeter of the legal profession when Bill took command of the courtroom.  As in, a legend is passing through here.  The jury acquitted Iris Pyne of all counts.  She went on to live a life of relative anonymity.
            After being diagnosed with ALS, Bill decided to spend as much time with his beloved family as he could.
            This past Thursday night, August 22nd, at my request, Coach Kennedy had the kids at Newburgh Rowing Club practice put on an epic Ice Bucket Challenge.  (I had already donated to ALS the week before).  The plans might have been a little too epic, given the water conditions.  But, in the end, I have a video of a crew of kids lifting up an 8+ crew shell which already weighs over 300 pounds, filled with ice and water, and dumping it on themselves.  Out of a 3-minute video, I cut it down to 10 seconds, and mixed in some still photos and some music.  The rest of the video shows all of the mistakes and the mishaps.  The kids and parents running around like chickens with their heads cut off, laughing, hollering, possibly cussing.  But that’s what Life is, the stuff that happens when you’re busy making other plans.  The highly edited video is great, you just hear the ice falling, and the kids laughing, and the cheering.  I like to think that Bill would have loved it.
            The following morning, Friday, August 23rd, at 7:30 am, Bill entered the Kingdom of Heaven after a long, long, valiant battle with ALS.  Rest in peace, my dear friend, you battled to the end like the warrior that I knew you to be. 
            Life is a Gift, my friends, choose to embrace it, hug your kids a little tighter, be patient, make a mess, laugh a big belly laugh, and if you’re ever lucky enough to get the chance, dump a 60-foot long crew shell full of ice water on your head!  We are blessed, remember to count your blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo

POST SCRIPT:  to see the video of the Newburgh Rowing Club Ice Bucket Challenge, go to

Thursday, August 14, 2014


In 1987, I bought a ticket, which I could barely afford, for NYC’s “Comedy Cellar” because I heard that Robin Williams would be at the 9:00 p.m. show.  Back in the day at NYU, those kinds of things happened.  On occasion, Williams, or Eddie Murphy, or maybe Bill Murray, would randomly show up unannounced at the Comedy Cellar and do a show.  (“Wow, that must have been all over YouTube, Mom”) Actually, kids, there was no YouTube, Twitter, IG, or Facebook back then.  In fact, kids, there were no cell phones, and beepers were for surgeons and people who had to make really important “deals” -- we relied on something called word of mouth (that’s where people actually talk to each other without electronics devices).

            It was a great show, but Robin Williams was not there and I had spent $30.00 I could not afford, and that meant I would have to drink cafeteria coffee instead of Deli Coffee for about 2 weeks, ugh!  Even worse, I forgot my student ID at the club.  What a stinker of a night.   Using common sense, I knew I had to grab a male student to walk me back over to the club at midnight to find my ID.  I asked my friend “Pete,” who  was on the NYU Basketball team and the Fencing team, to come with me.  When we got to the club, it was crazy crowded.  “What’s going on?” asked Pete,  ready to grab me and run.  “You’re not going to believe this, man, Robin Williams is on stage!”  Let’s just say that, while being a pretty NYU girl got you behind the velvet rope at most clubs, this wasn’t one of them.  However, being a star basketball player on NYU’s then-championship basketball team, did.  Of course, we had about $10.00 between us, but Williams insisted that no one had to pay for the show.  There was, of course, the issue of the two-drink minimum.  But guess what?  Williams paid for everybody’s drinks too.  So, OK, technically he didn’t buy ME a drink, he paid so the patrons wouldn’t have to have purchase drinks if they didn’t want to. We opted for one beer each (Varsity athletes back then didn’t get hammered the night before practice -- at least my friend didn’t).
            The Comedy Cellar seated, maybe, 100 people back then.  At first, it was terrifying, being so close to someone you loved and admired so much.  And, of course, live shows at comedy clubs are always terrifying if you don’t want to get “picked on,”  but of course, that’s why the comedians do these live shows for 100 when they can pack a stadium --  for the up close and personal audience interaction.  I would love to say that Robin Williams interacted with me and made jokes about me and based the whole show on me.  In fact, he did not.  But he did hone in on my friend “Pete”.  Especially when he got wind of the fact that Pete was an African-American fencer.  Williams went into character, pretending to be an Olympic Fencing Coache who sees an African-American fencer and keeps insisting that this must be a mixup, that this athlete was supposed to be on the basketball or track team.  Honestly, I can’t remember much else beyond that – and the fact that I was half on the floor laughing the whole time.  My friend and I laughed so hard we cried, laughed so hard we thought we would need an oxygen tank.  And then it was over.  And we were stunned.  Did that just happen?
            We went back to the dorms and we actually TOLD our story to people without the benefit of social media and I WROTE about it for the School Newspaper because there was no Blogging back then.  I would love to go back to the NYU Library and find a copy of that article almost 30 years ago.
            I was leaving Zumba Class at Gold’s Gym Monday night when I saw the news of Robin Williams’ death on Facebook and I prayed it was one of those hoax articles.  It was not.  When I got home, Little Michael asked me why I was crying;  why Daddy and I were hugging each other so hard.  (We haven’t had TV news on in our house since 9/11, so Michael never knows what’s going on, and Christian reads the news online). 
“A great man, a great actor, and a man who made a lot of people laugh died today,” I told him.
            “Was he your friend?” said Michael.  “He was not literally my friend,” I answered carefully, “but he lived his life in a way that Daddy and I felt like we knew him.  It feels like we lost a friend.”
            “He was the voice of Genie,” offered Christian to his brother.
            “Genie died??!!” said Michael, his lip quivering. 
“The man who played his voice is gone, yes,” I said.  “But we can watch his movies over and over.  And we can try to remember his Life and find a way to honor all the good that he did.”
            “How do we do that?” asked my sons.  I thought of all the Comic Relief shows that Williams did over the years, to benefit the Homeless. 
            “By doubling how much food we bring to church on Sunday for the Food Pantry, and by choosing a charity for the homeless and supporting it,” I said.
            Last Sunday at Mass, there was a particularly stirring homily.  Father Ed said, “when I get to the gates of Heaven, I have to answer to God directly, when he asks what I have done to help his people.  My parishioners won’t be there to say what a great priest I was;  my priest won’t be there to answer for me; my parents and grandparents won’t be there to talk about me.  When God says to me, ‘What have you don’t to help my flock?”, I  must stand alone and tell Him what I have done to help his people.’  I will tell Him I tried my best and I tried every day.  When you stand before the Lord and he asks you what you have done to help his people, the most downtrodden of society, are you OK with that?  Can you say, ‘Lord, I did my best every day to help your flock?’ Because your car and your house and your bank account will be irrelevant.  You need to be able to say, yes, Lord, I helped your people every day. “
            I would like to think that, yes, I can stand before the Pearly Gates and say, I did my best to help people, including the most downtrodden.  I am OK with that.  And I know in my heart that Robin Williams, when he arrived at the Pearly Gates, after he got done making St. Peter laugh harder than he had in a few thousand years, could stand up straight and proud and say, “Yes, I did my best, everyday, to help the people.  I brought them laughter and joy, I worked hard to raise money for charities and help the homeless.  I was a good husband and father and I tried just as hard as I could for just as long as I could.”  And I like to picture in my mind, St. Peter putting an arm around Robin Williams and welcoming him home, with a little “Nanoo-Nanoo.”

            Rest in Peace, Robin Williams, thanks for making this world a better place  <3 Mrs. Lo 

Friday, August 8, 2014


This time last year, I was scared out of my mind.  I was scared of youth football, and the fact that my then 13-year-old would be playing in a fairly tough youth league for the first time, for a fairly tough team (“OMG, you’re putting him on the Newburgh team, why not sign him up for INSERT SUBURBAN TOWN NAME HERE?”)  I was scared of the unknown, scared of injuries, scared of the coaches, scared of starting all over again.  So what did I do?  I blogged about it, of course.

            And now here I am a year later, no longer a Rookie football mom.  My kid enjoyed every minute of his year with the Goldbacks Youth Football League team, and after the initial horror of the first scrimmage (“but the coach is yelling at my son!” – “Welcome to Football, Ma’am, the ballet tryouts are down the road”), it all started clicking.  Christian loved the game, loved the players, loved every minute of football season.  He played both offense and defense and pretty much never sat down.  He played through cracked ribs, a broken finger, and a broken nose.  Oh wait, the nose might have been from basketball, I get mixed up.
            And now, Christian is on the Freshman Football team for his high school, Don Bosco Prep.  I’m not allowed to stay for practices (it could be worse, one of the moms can’t stay for games, her son thinks she might be bad luck).  I know the program is very, very rigorous, and he could eat a whole tray of lasagna when he’s done.  I know that going from crew to football to running up and down the court for basketball from December until now has made him comfortable with wind sprints.  I know there are 3 – 4 teams within Freshman Football (first team, second team, etc) and my son will not make first team.  Those kids are playing at a different level (they have reporters call them when they signed with DBP, it made MaxPreps).  My son will be happy to make third team, giddy to make second team. 
            “Isn’t this all a big waste of your time?” said a non-football DBP mom to me recently, “spending all of this time and all of this money and your son may not even play in a football game?”  I just smiled sweetly.  How can I explain?
            Let us review what it really means to Count Your Blessings.  How do I explain to this Mom that I feel blessed to have children -- much less kids who can play sports?  That I am thankful my kids have arms and legs -- much less that they can finish wind sprints?  That I am thankful my kids love sports -- and don’t sit around doing video games all day?  That I am thankful my kids have fully functioning brains -- much less the fact that my kid memorized over 100 plays last year without a playbook?
            I guess I should rewind a big and give a brief overview of where this whole “Count your Blessings” thing came from.  I was raised by parents who suffered a lot of hardships and saw a lot of death even at a young age.  My father was a little boy during WWII in the Philippines and saw his father taken away to a POW camp because he wouldn’t give the Japanese soldiers the locations of the US soldiers.  He watched the Japanese soldiers burn his home down.  My father went from being a prominent doctor’s son to being homeless.  His playground was a battlefield.  He looked up and saw WWII plane dogfights overhead.  He looked down and saw the Japanese soldiers pack families into a house, throw gasoline on it and torch it.  That’s how my father learned to run for his life.  He was 8 year old. 
My mother was raised by parents whose parents had the deep pain of the Irish potato famine running through their veins.  She had three siblings, they all died in childhood.  One baby boy, Michael, died as a newborn in the hospital.  A nurse was swabbing his throat with cotton and accidentally choked him, causing his death.  Her beloved sister Janie died at the age of 6 from childhood mumps, something we know vaccinate our kids for.   (“Mom, they are saying this vaccine can cause Autism.”  “That’s wonderful, dear.  I would much rather have an autistic grandson than a dead grandson.”)  Worst of all, her younger brother, Jimmy, died at age 16 in a tragic car accident.
The legacy of tragedy runs deep.  So when you are raised by parents with that kind of background, you don’t sweat the small stuff.  How do you complain about something as stupid as the fact that your forehead broke out in pimples the day before Prom when you know your grandfather suffered for years in a concentration camp, then crawled home when the war was over so he could die in his wife’s arms?  Short answer:  you don’t.
Back to the mom I am smiling at sweetly, who asks me how I can bear the fact that I am spending time and money on Football when my kid will not be a starter.  How do I explain to her:  Wake up!  Our kids are healthy!  Our kids are athletic.  Our kids are smart.  Who are we to impose our stupid grown-up ideas of Cost-Value-Ratio on them. 
Most importantly, how do I explain to this non-football mom that my kid just loves the game?  He is happy to be on the team and go to practices.  He has less expectations than I do.  He has made 52 friends.  By the end of the season, they will have created a brotherhood.  They will watch out for each other and high five each other for years to come.  And I will do my part, I have been and will continue to fundraise.  We will be at every game and I will cheer wildly and take photographs regardless of who is on the field. 
In the imminent words of Coach Brad, who made me cry the first time I heard him yell at my kid (“Mrs. Lo, it’s when the coach doesn’t yell at your kid, because he doesn’t care if your kid gets better, that you have to worry”), and who I know consider to be a friend and mentor:  “In the end, football is a game.  It is the greatest game in the world, but it is a game.  No matter how well we coach and how hard your kids play, the Good Lord is going to end our season the way he sees fit.”
Testify, Coach, Testify.
Off to the DBP Football Kickoff, Walkathon, Mass, and Barbecue today.  That’s how we roll.  Have a great day, everyone, remember to TRULY count your blessings, and GO IRONMEN!!!  <3 Mrs. Lo
For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to

Friday, August 1, 2014

"I Bully You Because I love you"

“I BULLY YOU BECAUSE I LOVE YOU” – this is what I overheard my older son saying to my younger son one day about a year ago.  Basically, Christian, my oldest, was explaining to my then 9 year old, that he was giving his younger brother a hard time because the Little Guy was so nice and so sweet that he would be easy pickins’ for bullies.  Unless his older brother “prepped” him first. I’m not talking about anything physical, my kids don’t get into fist fights (yet), but there’s plenty of “jawin’” as my grandmother would call it.

Some psychologists talk about “Sibling Bullying”.  I’m pretty well trained, as a former Law Guardian, and a current Family Law Attorney and Family Mediator, and I officially deem it Sibling Rivalry, the same age-old bickering that has long been a rite of passage for all siblings.

I found my older son’s “strategy” interesting.  Of course, I’m not sure if Christian thought his brother would be attending Cooley High some day (very old after-school special reference for those 40 and over).  In fact, they attend a very peaceful Catholic School, where everyone gets along and is not even a little bit like my public school experience.  To date, our only experience with “bullying” was with a large girl in pre-K who was constantly knocking Christian down.  And who said to the pre-K teacher, “but how else am I supposed to show him that I like him?”  Yeah, we’re sheltered at our parochial school.

I have always thought of Christian as the “Alpha,” the born leader, the one who is so driven to lead and to win that it’s almost a character flaw.  Michael has always been the sweet one, with the chubby cheeks and the cherub-like disposition.

Christian was always a natural in the coxy (coxswain)  seat at rowing. (SEE BELOW FOR DEFINITION OF ''COXSWAIN"). He was coxy for much older high school boys and motivated them to many a win, some of the championships, starting at the age of 10.  And just when he was converting from coxy to rower, he kind of jumped ship and went off to pursue football and basketball.

Michael has been sculling and coxying for the Newburgh Rowing Club since he was 8.  He can now scull in a single, double or quad and sweep in a large crew shell, as well as be a coxswain.  He was one of the original summer campers in 2012, and he returned to Newburgh Rowing summer camp in 2013 and again this year, when he was put into the “most experienced” group of summer campers.  That kid rowed more in 4 weeks of summer camp than some kids row all season.

But I was still in protective – OK, I’ll say it OVERprotective mode – coming down at lunchtime every day as I did when he was 8 years old, to sunscreen him and check on him.
If Big Coach and I are there at the same time, I go out in the motorboat with him, it’s kind of our thing.  He took me out one day and I watched Michael sculling in a middle school quad.  And he took me out this week and I watched Michael as a coxswain of an 8+.

While he was coxy, he lost his voice from yelling so much.  I heard one of the youngsters in the boat say, “Hey coxy, speak up I can’t hear you,” -- just your generic good natured teasing.  I of course, wanted to swim out and hug Michael and tell him it was Okay, teasing is a part of life, and Mommy would …

“Hey, why don’t you zip it, 4-seat.  Actually, why don’t you just learn to feather your oar so you can stop catching crabs so much,” said Michael, “then I won’t have to yell and I wouldn’t have to lose my voice.  Now sit ready and get ready for a hard 10!”

I looked at Big Coach, my mouth hanging open.  “Oh wait, you didn’t know Michael is an even tougher coxy than your other son?” he said.  No, I thought Michael was a sweet little cherub who would fall to pieces and cry if criticized.  At that, Big Coach started laughing so hard he had to put his megaphone down.

“Oh my gosh – he is the toughest coxy in Summer Camp,” said Coach Kennedy. “When we had the battle of the genders, the girls’ boat was winning for 90% of the race, and Michael started yelling at the boys, ‘Get your oars moving, what’s the matter with you, we are not going to let a bunch of girls beat us!’”

“Wait,” I said, “My Michael said that?  Michael LoBiondo?”

“Oh yes,” said Big Coach.  “I mean, he gets so caught up in his speeches that he forgets to use the rudder sometimes -- but you know, he’s only 10.  This kid’s going to tear up the water.  He’s a natural coxswain and a natural rower, just give it some time.”

“So he doesn’t get bullied?” I ventured.
“Are you kidding me?” said Big Coach, “are you that out of touch with your kids?”

Well, you could call it out of touch.  You could also call it pleasantly surprised.  So maybe, just maybe, Christian’s strategy worked.  Perhaps he toughened up his little brother a little bit.
But in the end, it is that all important coxy seat, showing you what your kid is made of.  It has been said about Football:  Football doesn’t build character, it reveals character.  That is how I feel about the 9th seat (where the coxswain sits).  It doesn’t build character but instead reveals it.

I guess you could say the same thing about Sibling Rivalry.

Have a great day, everyone, wish us luck as the Newburgh Rowing Club provides a kayak escort for the swimmers at the Great Newburgh to Beacon Swim to benefit River Pool today, Splash In is at Unico Park at 12:35 pm.  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo
(Photo of the LoBiondo Boys in Maine, 2007).  For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to
COXSWAIN:  From Urban Dictionary:
"characteristics of the coxswain:
-stands around 5 ft 2 in
-weighs no more than 110 lbs.
-directs and steers the boat for crew
-sits normally in the stern but in certain 4 person crews in the bow
-has a voice that can be heard for miles
-is seen toting around water bottles, shoes, socks, and the ever popular cox box "
-has a mysterious tan line in the middle of his or her forehead from the strap attached to the microphone on the cox box
-upon winning a race, the coxswain is thrown into the (often very dirty) water
-he or she is in charge of directing practices, calling races, and making certain that the $30,000 boat does not hit any other objects such as a bridge, floating log, another boat, or a dock

Common calls of the coxswain:
-"LET IT RUN" (used to stop the boat)
-"WEIGH 'NUFF" (used to stop the boat)
-"PORT/STARBOARD PRESSURE" (to direct the boat)
-"POWER TEN in TWO, ONE, TWO" (used in races to make the boat go faster, often at the dismay of the crew)
and the ever popular:
Man...that coxswain sure is tiny but she has a very loud mouth, her crew wouldn't be able to survive without her."