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Friday, August 28, 2015

GROWING UP LoBIONDO: Summer 2015 – Special Guest Blogger Orion

Hello, Humans!  It’s me, Orion LoBiondo, the only 4-legged member of the LoBiondo Family.  Is it a little kooky around your house lately?  It’s really kooky over here.  My family apparently just realized it’s the last weekend before school starts and they’re trying to get Organ-Eyes-Id, whatever that means.  I’m just happy to be back in a routine again, this Summer was all over the place!

It started out pretty great, we had a lot of dinners out on our big deck and Dad barbecued a lot.  Momma loves to eat out on the back deck and she has a lot of furniture out there but she kind of drives us all crazy with that.   She makes us take the cushions and pillows in every night.  And she makes us bring all the furniture (and there’s a LOT) inside if it’s going to rain.  But we love to hang out, have barbecued chicken (I may just get fed a few pieces under the table) and listen to Dad play the guitar.  We had a lot of family parties out there and Momma even had some fundraisers back there.
But then I we got out of our routine when my so called “Family” -- and I use the term loosely here -- went to California and Hawaii -- and they left me in New York!  I mean, I had a great time with my grandma and grandpa and their dog, Wes.  But really, did Momma and Dad ever stop to think that maybe I might want to go to Hawaii, and go to a luau, do some surfing??!!  Apparently not.  That’s ok, I am a dog so I am programmed to forget all about it and just be happy to see my humans when they get home (not to be confused with cats, they can hold a grudge for years!).
We got back into a great routine -- my brother Michael was going to Summer Rowing Camp at the Newburgh Rowing Club and my older brother Christian was a camp counselor there.  I would have preferred that they stay home and pet me all day but I finally got used to the routine -- and then BAM, another vacation!  My family went off to Kennebunkport, Maine, like every year, and then Cape Cod.  Normally, I would express my dissatisfaction my pooping somewhere prominently.  But I was at grandma and grandpa’s house, I do have respect for my elders.  Then my Humans got home and I forgot all about being mad and licked them all over their faces.
Now they are running around getting the house ready for school to start.  This I never understood, why does the house have to get ready?  It’s a house, a place for us to snuggle and sleep.  A place to store all my tennis balls (who wants to play catch??!!) and my giant oversized dog bed.  That’s OK, I have to get in training for my big Job.  I have many jobs, one of the main ones is to guard the boys’ backpacks on the way to school.  Of course, Christian takes a train to his high school in NJ.  But Momma still drives Michael to school and if it were not for me standing watch and GUARDING that backpack who knows what might happen.  Sometimes, I’m not sure my humans fully appreciate how much I protect them from:  evil squirrels, the voracious groundhog under our house, even the mailman can’t be trusted and must be barked at constantly (not Bob, he gave me treats, but Bob seems to have another route now.  This makes me even more annoyed at the new postal carrier.  First, he is not Bob; and second, he refuses to give me any treats.  And he wonders why we all bark at him).  
My family is all “boo-hoo-hoo the summer’s over”, but I’m all “YAY bring on the fall!”  Fall is my favorite time of year, along with Winter, Summer and Spring.  I love when the leaves change and then fall off the trees because Dad makes big leaf piles for me to jump in!  And the rest of the family might like lying in the sand like lizards but let’s face it, I’m covered in hair and I get hot.  Fall is nice and cool, plus it means we go back to school.
I am pretty excited to be going back to school.  I’m especially excited to be in middle school, and wear a tie, and to get to perform in the play … wait, what’s that?  You’ve got to be kidding me, again?!  So the boys are going back to school but I’m staying home again this year?  
You’re right, Momma, someone has to guard the house.  Those evil squirrels are not going to guard themselves.  Hey, there goes one of those beady eyed little squirrel-rats now!  Sorry, gotta run, I have to go bark my head off!
Oh, and Happy National Dog Day!
Signed - Orion LoBiondo
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Our Summer Days in Maine


We just spent the past week in Kennebunkport, Maine for our 15th summer in a row.  I truly can’t believe it has been 15 years.  It seems like just yesterday we were packing Baby Christian into his carseat to come up here for the first time, but in fact, that was August of 2001. Neither of our kids can remember a time when they didn’t go to Maine during the Summer.  I often blog about the importance of creating and maintaining traditions for your kids and grandkids.  It’s more than just a fun thing to do, it’s actually a building block for raising happy and successful adults.  (A great read if you have time is "The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” by Dr. Edward Hallowell).

There have been a lot of changes over the years but some things about our trip to Maine have remain steadfast traditions.

The first summer we came up to Kennebunkport, we only stayed for a long weekend, and we couldn’t afford a suite so we took the door off the closet and created a “nursery” for Christian (we put it back on before we left).  Somehow, that will forever be known to our kids as the year we “put Christian in the closet on vacation.”  We were still building our careers and I was only working part-time as a young lawyer, so it was a financial stretch for us to stay in such a “fancy” place.   

We made it work and we ended up falling in love with the six beautiful, pristine beaches of Kennebunkport, with our favorite being “Mother’s Beach,” and the sleepy, quaint New England village where cars actually STOP when you're in the crosswalk and life moves at about the pace of fictional Mayberry.  We vowed to come back every year.  We came home, learned to cut coupons, collected our loose change and started a vacation club account.

By the time Michael was born, in 2004, we were able to rent a house by the beach.  Michael was just 5 months old when he first came to Maine.  Four year old Christian towed him around in a little red flexible flyer wagon, which we continued to use as “beach transportation” for many years.  Yes, that was the year that I forgot to pack Michael’s clothes and had to run out to the mall for baby clothes (hey, everybody makes mistakes, don’t judge me!).

Over the past 15 years, we founded our own law firm, a Mediation Center,  and some other businesses, all of which are quite successful.  We have both worked very hard, and we live relatively modest lives, save for our passion for travel and our desire to send our kids to the best Catholic schools around.  Over the years, God has blessed us with success.  We now go on several vacations a year, with our time in Kennebunkport being my very favorite.  The first thing we do when we arrive is park the car, pile out and head straight to the ocean just to feel the waves at our feet and our toes in the sand.  We have been to many beaches from Hawaii to the Carribean but there's nothing quite like your favorite New England beach.  

Every summer, the first thing I do is make a grocery run, which is necessary with all rental houses.  I started out being able to walk into town to the village grocery store with the red wagon and haul back enough food for the week.  At some point, I had to start driving to the local supermarket.  Now, I take Michael and head for the giant Hannaford and we fill two carts; it's 20 minutes away, but it’s well worth the trip. Anthony grills just about every evening and then I pack up sandwiches to take to the beach the next day in my little cooler.  Some evenings  we will walk into town after dinner for ice cream but usually we play board games or read or watch funny movies on -- yes, it’s true -- the VCR in the house.

Our days are pretty simple -- we spend them at the beach.  I do like to get in a few of our other favorite activities -- the rides and the Boardwalk in Old Orchard Beach; kayaking the Kennebuk River; hiking the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve; and of course the intown narrated Trolley Ride (I often know more than the trolley driver and don’t hesitate to correct him -- much to my children’s chagrin).  The kids spend pretty much the whole day boogie boarding, body surfing and building sand castles.  The first time Christian was able to boogie board on his own was a major victory, complete with hundreds of photos and videos.  Anthony and I used to go in the waves to “lifeguard” him.  Now both of our kids can entertain themselves in the water or out.  One summer, my heart was in my throat as I watched Michael go INTO a wave and not come out right away; I didn’t see my older son either.  But that was because Christian had gone in to retrieve him.  Michael was able to swim back on his own with Christian kind of pushing him from behind.  Five minutes later they were both back boogie boarding like nothing had happened.  

For 15 years, we only went out to eat at one restaurant -- Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant, which not only had the best lobster in town, they accepted us with open arms when we first came in with babies.  Of course they were best known for being a favorite eatery of the Bush Family, which has a compound here in Kennebunkport.  We were pretty disappointed to come up this year and find out that the real estate had been sold to a restauranter from Booth Bay Harbor and had been replaced with an upscale Italian place.  We haven’t the heart to go out to dinner all week,  although we have had lobster roll for lunch in quite a few locales. (Hint:  the best food in town is often found at a food truck and Kennebunkport is no exception.  Check out “Ocean Rolls,” the oldest working food truck in the US -- dating back to 1961 -- currently it can be found at the corner of Ross Road and Route 1 in Kennebunk.  Great prices and delicious lobster rolls!)  We also made a new discovery, Smitty’s, a Dine-In Movie Theater in Biddeford, Maine, where we saw Mission Impossible and had quesadillas.  (Wouldn’t it be great to have a Dine in Movie Theater in Newburgh??)

Of course, time will march on when we get back -- Christian’s prep school crew team in NJ starts up August 31st, and I will be busy getting ready for Michael's return to Bishop Dunn and Christian's sophomore year of high school.  We make the most of our time together; we spent two weeks in California and Hawaii in July, and we have vacations planned this winter in the Dominican Republic and Vero Beach, Florida, all thanks to the Disney Vacation Club.  

This year’s Maine trip also includes a few days in Cape Cod, which the boys have never been to, and maybe Plymouth Rock.  Wherever we are this Summer, whether it’s Hawaii, Maine, or on our back deck -- all the hard work, all the long hours and idiot lawyers (and occasionally idiot judges) we have to deal with, it will all be worth it, as long our family can be together.

Have lots of fun this summer creating your own Summer traditions, whether it’s time at the beach, camping, backyard campfires, or outings at the park.  And, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Mrs. Lo's Top 10 HAWAII Must Do's!

Mrs. Lo’s Top 10 Hawaii Must-Do's

These are my Top 10 Must Do's for Oahu, Hawaii, in no particular order.  Actually, they are in the order of when we visited them, during our trip last month.  If you click on my blog (here is the link), I have posted photos from every spot.  We stayed at the Disney Vacation Club’s Aulani Resort, which was magnificent, but my top advice if you stay there is: enjoy the resort for a few days and then get OUT and explore this beautiful island!  We were very fortunate, my first cousin, Nestor, is the former Parks and Recreation Commissioner for Honolulu, which included the entire island of Oahu; and he acted as our tour director all week.  It was literally like traveling around with the mayor, he knew everyone (including the mayor).  His best advice to any Parks Director:  “Be nice to everyone, especially the ‘little people’, they are the ones who will tell you what is really going on.”  Great advice, Cousin Nestor.  Enjoy! <3 Mrs. Lo

10.  DVC Aulani/ Character breakfast at Mahakiki.  A Disney character breakfast is a breakfast buffet, which must be secured many months advance, wherein various Disney characters come over and greet you as well as pose for a photo and an autograph.  

We have now been to all of them, from Orlando to California to Hawaii; there are quite a few. The character breakfast at Aulani is by far the most unique.  In addition to the usual breakfast fare like the Mickey waffles, you will also get traditional Hawaiian food and even Japanese breakfast food which includes marinated meats. 
 And of course, you will have your picture taken with Hawaiian Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy!

9.  Hike Diamond Head.  Oahu's Diamond Head volcanic crater is one of Hawaii's most recognized symbols and is totally worth the hike. Warning: this is for those who consider themselves physically fit. 

 My oldest son jogged up to the peak and back, twice, and barely broke a sweat. However, Mrs. Lo and Michael got up to the 99 stairs and decided it was time to take a shaved ice break. 
 Definitely go at your own pace.  This extinct volcanic crater is more than 3500 m wide and 760 feet high. 

The panoramic view from the top is extraordinary.  
There is also a State Park and Monument at the site.

8.  The Iolani Royal Palace.  Nestor took us here, as the Palace is a national historic landmark.  Interesting fact: Iolani is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. 

 It was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani (1882-1993).  The palace is absolutely magnificent and there is a wonderful museum there, it is a must do!

7.  Hanu’ama Bay/ Snorkel - Nestor also took us to the Gorgeous and historic Hanu'ama Bay, also a State Park, where we were able to snorkel all day.   Hanauma Bay was The playground for the royalty of Hawaii, as well as the setting for the Elvis movie "Blue Hawaii."

Hanu'ama Bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967.  Formed within a volcanic cone, today Hanauma Bay offers a pristine marine Eco system.  First time visitors watch a video before entering the park so they can learn about the marine life, preservation, conservation, and safety rules.  After watching this video, which is quite informative, can you take a tram down to the bay. 

There, you can swim, rent snorkel equipment and enjoy one of the most pristine and beautiful snorkeling spots in the world!

6.  Luau.  Be sure to attend a Hawaiian luau while you are there. We went to the Paradise Cove Luau, which I would highly recommend.  We were seated with other families at long benches and then went up to get the Hawaiian food buffet style. 

 The traditional Hawaiian dances were beautiful and we also were thrilled by the "chief" from Samoa who was a fire dancer and, yes, he both danced with the flaming sticks and swallowed the fire!  I couldn't help but think of Lilo and Stitch the whole time.

5.  Swap Meet at Ahola Stadium.  Nestor took us here as well.  He saw me picking up souvenirs every which Way but loose and said Cousin, you are overpaying let me take you to the swap meet.  
It is held at the famous aloha Stadium, where the pro bowl is played.  It is Hawaii’s largest open air flea market, with the best deals in town. 

Be prepared to negotiate - for me it was the most fun part.  That and saving money on Beautiful handmade  jewelry and art items, as well as picking up some beautiful dresses super cheap. The most I paid for any dress was $10!

4.  Macadamia Plantation/ Pineapple Plantation.  Nestor also took us to the macadamia plantation outlet, on the North Shore, and we toured the Dole pineapple plantation. 

 Tropical Farms is the name of the macadamia plantation outlet. There, you can take macadamias and put them on a tree trunk and split them open with a rock. 

You can sample flavored macadamia nuts from mocha to salted to chocolate.  The setting is beautiful, with lush mountains in the background and roosters running around the farm.

3.  North Shore/ Food Trucks.  The North Shore is where surfing legends  have been made, with over 7 miles of pristine beaches and many important surfing championships taking place here.  

Waimea Bay is probably the most famous, said to be the birthplace of big wave surfing. It is Also a beautiful place to relax and take pictures.  The other must do on the North Shore is the food trucks, which is where you will find the best food. 

We loved the Shrimp truck, absolutely positively the best garlic shrimp  ever!

2.  Visit Pearl Harbor.  Pearl harbor is a national historic landmark.  It actually includes four different sites that you can visit: the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation museum.

 It is also an active naval base, so it is busy place and it's not really possible to do everything in one day. Everyone who has visited Pearl Harbor will tell you it is a truly really moving experience.  
See as much as you can, it is an important and very moving part of our history.

  1. GO SURFING!  Definitely try surfing and definitely try it with professionals. We took surfing lessons and the teachers were outstanding. 

     The kids were able to surf right away, they were both naturals.  
    They started out on the smaller waves but we can't wait to come back again and try the bigger waves!

Kids grow up so fast, it's important to spend family time together. For us, Hawaii  was the perfect vacation. We stayed at DVC Aulani for free and got our Disney fix, we got to see family, we learned about history, and we were able to be very active -- which is great for our kids, as well as relax -- which is great for us parents.  If you choose Hawaii, I hope you have a great vacation!  <3 Mrs. Lo 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mrs. Lo asks: What is a Free Range Kid?

A couple of years ago, someone raised the issue of “free range parenting” in a professional context.  As in, an attorney identified their client as a “free range parent” and expected me to know what they were talking about.
“What the heck is a ‘free range parent?’” I asked.  I mean, really, I have been a family law attorney and mediator for 25 years and I thought I had heard it all.

“Google it,” the other attorney commanded.  It’s days like this when I want to just hang up my hard earned law license and become a professional trolley driver in Hanuama Beach, Honolulu.  But I had a job to do, so I went ahead and googled it.  The problem was:  what kept coming up instead was “free range chickens.”  Apparently, it wasn’t quite as popular of a search term as this attorney thought it was.
“A free range parent is someone who lets their kids play outside by themselves,” is more or less what the other attorney came back with.   
“Doesn’t that make everybody a free range parent?” I asked.
“No, no, they let their kids ride the subway at age 9 by themselves and play in the park all day by themselves and do oil changes by themselves,” is more or less what I heard them say.
Well, that’s just stupid, is what I was really thinking. I mean, I get it.  Parents often feel their kids are overscheduled and/or have no sense of responsibility.  When my brother and I were growing up, during summers, we left the house in the morning with our friends, rode our bikes to the playground or the lake and played jacks, hopscotch, basketball, or swam all day.  I guess you would call us free range kids.  But that was pre-social media and a whole different time in general.
I asked myself:  isn’t there something in between the Helicopter parents and the Set Your Children Loose on the Subway parents?
This week my parenting paradigm was challenged.  Christian, my oldest, attended sleep away rowing camp at Princeton University for a week and Michael attended Theater Camp at the Beacon Theater in Beacon, NY (as opposed to the other one) all day.
I was more or less okay with my oldest being away until the last day.  I woke up and I felt like someone had ripped by newborn out of my arms.  Too dramatic?  Sorry, that’s how I felt.  I had enough, I was ready to pickup my son.  Wouldn’t it make a great blog if I could say my son told me he had a great time but he really missed being with his family.  Well, he had a great time.  But he didn’t really miss us.  Maybe a smidge.  In fact, he had the time of his life and probably would have stayed there for the rest of the summer if the camp were still going on.  He wasn’t free -- they rowed 20 miles a day; and his range was the Princeton campus.  But he had a lot more freedom than he was accustomed to and he loved it.
I feel fortunate.  My kids and I all row.  We are together.  Not in the same boat but the same location.  We are outdoors on the Hudson River, enjoying nature, sometimes battling the elements.  They are free to range as far as their oars and their legs will take them.  As long as they stick with the motorboat and get back before practice ends.
Would I let my 11 year old ride the subway alone or sit in a public park all by himself all day?  I would not.  If that’s your thing, more power to you.  We all have to make choices.  I choose a messy, disorganized house in favor of spending more time rowing or sailing or reading or basically doing anything with my family.  There will be plenty of time for cleaning the house.  Some day …
Have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo.  For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, go to