Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Village Green

starting a new venture

The Village Green of Maplewood South Orange is a new venture by Mary Barr Mann and Carolyn Maynard-Parisi. Both women are experienced journalists who I got to know while doing freelance photography for  After Patch took a different turn with their local reporting, both of them decided it was time for them to leave .  Mary told me that after leaving both she and Carolyn were continually approached by folks begging them to start something new, bring back the old Patch, etc.  Carolyn agreed saying, “Many local news ventures don’t succeed, but I think we have a great chance making a go at this because the community knows and trusts us and has already shown such support – and we have been up and running less than a month!”

A few months ago, they approached me asking if I’d be interested in doing some more photography with a “new website they were starting.”  I was excited for them and enthusiastically told them yes!  I could not wait to hear more about their new project. Earlier this month, I got an email asking if I could do Fourth of July photos for the new site.  Of course I agreed!  I had taken photos at community events for years while working for Patch.  It was always so much fun to do.  I got the chance to be out and about in the community celebrating our two towns and reporting happy news.  It is what I loved to do and I loved seeing the photos up on  I was sad when that job ended so I am really looking forward to doing it again.

I loved when was about neighborhood events and small town news.  I loved that I could go to maplewoodpatch or southorangepatch and see local freelance writers and photographers reporting about the community, but after it changed, it was missing that home town feel that it used to have.  The Village Green wants to bring that back and I am all for it!

The Village Green provides day-to-day, granular news coverage of the issues that matter to the people of Maplewood, South Orange, and environs — including education, redevelopment, taxes, public safety, governance, local business, the arts and culture, and lifestyle — with fairness, thoroughness, humanity and a distinct voice.

The photography job doesn’t pay a lot, but I call it my “lunch money” or “manicure money.”  Truthfully for me, it isn’t so much about the money.  I have written about how much I love my community many times on my blog, and promoting it through photography, my favorite hobby, is a pleasure!  Getting paid for it is just a bonus!

I am so excited to start working for them!  I wish them all the success in the world!  Locals, check out their site.  I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

Summer Camp


All weekend, my Facebook feed has been filled with photos of friends’ children who are leaving for sleepaway camp.  They all look so happy!  Neither of my boys ever had the desire to go.  They are kind of homebodies.  DJ especially! Drew toyed with it a bit last year.  We even went and looked at a sleepaway camp and he seemed excited about it, but in the end, he chose to play summer ball and stay home instead.

Dave went to boyscout camp and soccer camps that were sleepaway, but I never went to sleepaway camp . The first time I slept away from home was college!  Since the boys never really showed any interest, we never really pursued it.  If it is something they really want to do, we will research it more, but for them, day camps just seemed to be a better fit.  Both of them have still attended day camps nearly every summer.  They have loved the sports camps and town camps.  DJ was a junior counselor for a few years but this year, instead of camp, he will work part time at my father’s store and continue to umpire.

Drew is going to be taking classes at The Adult School summer camp.  He is so excited to do a TV Production Workshop for four weeks.  DJ has been taking TV Production classes in high school since he was a freshman and Drew has heard him talk about it for years. DJ loves it so much that he is looking at colleges where he can continue to pursue it.  This has made Drew very enthusiastic about taking the course.

My summer job is working at Camp Maple.  My sixth year working there.  It is a camp for students who have special needs but don’t require the extended year program that the schools offer.  It is a place where the children to go where they are  provided with a creative, nurturing environment to help develop key life skills, build confidence but most of all, to have fun!

I will often hear how awesome it is to be a teacher because we “get summers off.”  What most people don’t realize is that most teachers aren’t paid in the summer and have to get other jobs to keep up with the bills!  Luckily, I get to work  with a great staff, great kids and the half day program still gives me time to enjoy summer vacation.

Whatever camp or summer activities you have planned, I hope you have a safe, happy and healthy time!

Moving On!

love of a family

This afternoon, I had some free time and I decided that I would go and see if I could visit with Zach for a little while.  Zach is a former student of mine who has been very sick with MRSA and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).  He has been in the pediatric ICU for three weeks.  I have visited with him and his family twice before today.  The first time, he was completely sedated and I was there mostly to offer my love and support to his parents Marnie and Joe.  The second time I visited, he had just been weaned off of the paralytic and was beginning to wake up. That day, I sat with him and talked to him for a little while.  He was nodding his head and making some lip movements like he was trying to speak to us.  Though his parents’ emails, we learned that they could not even take it day by day because each time they took two steps forward, it seemed that there would be a set back, making them fall one step back.

Their last few emails have been much more positive which is why I was hoping it would be a good day to visit.  When I got to his room, the curtains were drawn and the room was dark.  I assumed Zach was asleep and decided that I’d wait in the waiting room for Marnie and just visit with her for awhile.  One of the nurses told me that Marnie was in the room and that I should just go in.  I tiptoed in, hoping to not disturb Zach.  What I saw brought tears to my eyes.  Zach was awake, watching television and gave me a huge smile.  I sat with him and Marnie for awhile and it was so good to hear him talk and to see his smile – which still lights up the room!  I had brought him some mini cupcakes from a local bakery, hoping that it might be something he’d like to eat because I know he is still does not have much of an appetite.

Zach is still in pain and he still has months of recovery ahead of him, but while I was there, a nurse came in and told them that he is “stepping down.”  He will be leaving the PICU and heading to another room to continue his recovery.  Sometime next week, he will leave the hospital and go to a rehabilitation facility where he will stay until he is strong enough to go home.  Baby steps, but they are headed in the right direction!

Soon after I arrived, his aunt and uncle did too.  After that, the room was just filled with laughter.  Marnie said it was the happiest she had seen him in weeks.  When his grandparents arrived a few minutes later, the room was bursting with joy. I figured it was time for me to go.  I gave Marnie a big hug and let her know that I could not wait to write my blog tonight knowing that it was going to be such a happy one!

A Day in the City


Today was my annual trip into New York City for my eye doctor appointment.  Nine years ago I had Lasik eye surgery, (the best money I EVER spent) and now I continue to go to the same practice, even though it means going into the city for the appointment.  I don’t mind.  It actually gives me an excuse to go to the city.  There is so much to do in New York and we live so close yet we rarely take the opportunity to go there!

Last year, for my appointment,  I took the boys with me and while we were there, we did the All Star Game tour of the city.  This year, the boys were spending the day with our cousins so it was just Dave and me.  A date day! They boys left early this morning and still aren’t home.  Rarely is there a day where Dave and I are alone.  It is kind of a strange feeling!  A whole day with no work, no kids and no responsibilities!  I wasn’t exactly sure what to do or how to feel!!

My morning was so different than usual!  I took a morning Barre Class, came home, showered and ate breakfast before heading into the city. It felt so leisurely! I kept thinking there was somewhere I should be or something I needed to be doing!

Driving in NYC is not for the faint of heart!  Neither is walking on some days!!  Whenever we go, we prefer to take the forty minute train ride.  Then a quick subway trip uptown to 61st and Fifth which is right in the heart of the fashion district.  There is so much to see there!  I can’t afford to shop in any of the stores but browsing and people watching is almost as much fun!

Once again, I was overwhelmed by the city.  I love it so much but the homelessness leaves a pit in my stomach and the crowds tend to make me a bit claustrophobic!  Despite that, it was a gorgeous day so we walked around, just the two of us, (and a million strangers) and found a cute restaurant that our boys would NEVER agree to eat at, and had a nice, quiet lunch.

Since we weren’t on any time schedule, we walked the thirty blocks back to Penn Station.  We hopped back on a train to Maplewood and were back home before five o’clock.  Just a few hours away, but it almost felt like a vacation!  My summer job begins Monday so it was the perfect way to spend the day off!

Swimsuit Time Again

don't judge

It is that time of year again. Time to brave the bathing suit and get out to the community pool.  More than once I have blogged about my insecurities and bathing suit season brings it all back.  I could lose another ten pounds and I will still NEVER wear a bikini and reveal more skin than I need to!  Ugh!

It’s really true, we’re more concerned with ourselves than anyone else. I never see other women at the beach and judge them in my mind, never! We need to all chill. – See more at:
It’s really true, we’re more concerned with ourselves than anyone else. I never see other women at the beach and judge them in my mind, never! We need to all chill. – See more at:

I know I am not the only one who feels this way and today that was confirmed when I found this great, (and quite funny)  article on

10 Things Every Mom Needs To Remember This Summer

And so, I do what I always do.  I put on my suit, brave my insecurities and head out there anyway.  Sure I am going to see most of my students…and their parents… BUT everyone else there is in a bathing suit too.  Maybe a lot of them are feeling just like me.  It is summer.  It is hot.  It is humid.  I will never be able to cover up all of my insecurities so instead, I will just follow #10 and get over it.

World Cup

world cup enthusiasm

I don’t know if it is the same for everyone, but we are totally caught up in the World Cup frenzy!  Everyone is talking about The World Cup. I don’t mean just at my home.  Everywhere I go!  Even my Kindergarteners were bantering about who is the best player, Messi, Ronaldo or van Persie?  That led to quite an interesting conversation between them!

Last Sunday’s match between USA and Portugal reportedly had more viewers than the Superbowl!  Tomorrow’s match between The USA and Germany ought to be more challenging to watch, as it falls right in the middle of the work week.  News channels are jokingly reporting tips for “how to get out of work to watch the game.”  Local restaurants are offering World Cup specials to come in and watch during lunch hour.  My own family is using up our data usage on their phones trying to keep up with all of the games when they aren’t at home.

Dave has been following soccer for as long as I have known him.  His soccer team went on a trip when he was in high school to watch Manchester United play and he’s been hooked ever since.  Now our boys are obsessed with it too.  Several years ago, Dave took DJ and they went to England and saw Man Utd play again.  A trip I hope DJ will always remember.

For me, not only has it has been fun to watch the games, but I am loving the excitement it is generating.  Watching and listening to the cheers during the game on Sunday was thrilling.  You could hear neighbors cheering along with the game and the steady stream of posts on Facebook just kept going!

Getting behind the World Cup and cheering on your country, (whoever you are rooting for,) is creating camaraderie – a fraternity of sorts and for a few weeks in June, it seems to be bringing together the world.

Last Day of Kindergarten

goodbye kdg

Today was the last day of school.  “We are 180 days smarter” we said, as we kissed our brains before leaving today.   It is always a bittersweet day ending the school year.  I have spent so much time with these children. It is their second home. 180 days spent together, and it has suddenly come to an end.  They are ready to move on, First Graders now.

We sat around in a circle today and ended the day like we always do.  We talk about our favorite part of the day.  I like doing this with them as a recap of their day.  Today, we changed it and ended with our favorite part of Kindergarten.  It was so much fun listening to what they remembered most.  Magic Playdough, Pajama Day, our pizza party, the 100th day of school, our Kindergarten show, the ant farm, making new friends… the list went on and on.  I told them all that for me, my favorite part of kindergarten was meeting 23 new friends.

Every year, it is hard to say goodbye to my class.  I will still see them next year.  Many of them come back to visit and to read to the new Kindergarteners.  As we said goodbye and they went off to their families at dismissal today, a few of them were crying.  I imagine it is just as hard for them to say goodbye.  I gave them each a big hug, wished them a safe and happy summer and they were off.  Saying goodbye only takes a moment, but those goodbyes are filled with so many wonderful memories.





My siblings and our spouses share a secret…well I guess it is not much of a secret if you’ve been in my dad’s house.  He saves EVERYTHING!!!  Not quite at the point of getting on the show “Hoarders” yet, but the stacks of papers in his office are probably taller than Drew!  He knows what’s in each of those piles though and anytime we have offered to help him go through it or get organized he says no.  He tells us, he might need something so he can’t get rid of it!! I think he has receipts from the 1970’s in the stacks! Fortunately, most of it is contained to that one room.  He saves Parade magazines, and The Barrons newspapers too.  It has become a joke at this point.

Today, when I began organizing a file cabinet in my classroom, I realized, there is a bit of my dad in me!!  I have assessments and parent notes from my first class at Tuscan.  I kept saving them, just in case. Some of those kids are going into seventh grade now, which means they are from eight years ago.  At this point, I highly doubt that someone is going to come back and ask me to see the assessments they took in Kindergarten.  My file cabinet was so stuffed, I didn’t have room for my current class so I decided it was time to weed through them.

Well, I got through two of those files.  Yes, two.  Not two file cabinets, two folders.  UGH!  What is wrong with me!? I got so caught up in the memories.  I sat and read sweet parent notes, and looked at the art work and their Kindergarten spelling and remembered when they were little.  This morning, three of the fifth graders who were “moving up” today, stopped by my classroom to give me sentimental letters that they wrote to me.  Of course they made me weepy.  Maybe that’s why I got nostalgic while going through those files.

Tomorrow, that huge stack of folders, (which I put into a pile… yup, just like my dad,) will have to be dealt with.  None of them have any personal information so they don’t need to be shredded or disposed of any special way.  It can all be recycled.  I cannot spend these last valuable hours of packing up my class for the summer, just going through folders so I have to “bite the bullet” and just do it.

I will still save the folders for all of my students who are in grades 1-5.  I don’t think I have ever been asked for anything from them past first grade, but I save them anyway.  You never know….I just might need something from one of them some day!  Yup – I sound just like my dad!

One Day at a Time

one day at a time

I haven’t posted about Zach in a few days. The last two weeks have been crazy for his family.  They have been on an emotional roller coaster and their strength and love for their son could not have been more evident.  His mother hasn’t left his side and everyday she sends out an email letting everyone know about how he is doing.  Her emails go from being extremely positive and uplifting to depressed and sorrowful.  Every time he seemed to make a turn for the better, he would fall back a step. I know this was hard for his parents to witness.

On Monday, when he was weaned off of the paralytic and woke up for the first time in nine days, I got to see him with his eyes open and to talk to him and let him know just how much he was loved by everyone. I don’t know how aware he was of what was going on at that point, but I knew he could understand me, and the pure joy in his mom’s face was an expression I will never forget. Unfortunately, with him waking up, he was also now in pain and Marnie’s email the next day was heartbreaking. She wrote,

We wished and wished for Zach to wake up – well, be careful what you wish for.  He was awake on and off in a sleepy, dazed kind of way.  He tried to communicate, but we could not possibly understand him.  He can’t make any sound and it is hard to read his lips with the tube in his mouth.  He is too drugged and weak to write.  We were able to understand a few things though.  He was hungry, thirsty, cold and in pain.  As we could not give him food, drink, covers or control his pain – we felt painfully helpless.  Zach was frustrated and we were frustrated.  Now that Zach was awake, all I wanted the nurses to do was to put him back to sleep.  He seemed so much more peaceful sleeping.

After such a happy Monday night, to read that email, my heart ached for him.  My heart ached for all of them.  The emails since that day have been mixed with highs and lows.  His lung infection is improving and he is no longer on a ventilator but now, he needs to go through painful respiratory treatments which are torture for his parents to watch.  There are still a few surgeries for him to face, one of them is today and I have been praying that it goes smoothly and that Zach is resting comfortably after it.

He is such a compassionate kid and his mom wrote that even while he is as sick as he is, he is actually that same old sensitive boy, thanking the nurses and trying to smile through his pain when visitors come to see him.  I know that he still has a very long way to go in his recovery, and I hope as each day passes the pain lessens for him.

Someone wrote on his mother’s Facebook page that the love for him could fill a stadium, so perfect for a boy that loves sports so much.  It is so evident.  His mother’s email are going out to hundreds of people.  His parent’s Facebook pages are filled with messages of love and support.  I know I am not alone when I say I have people emailing me asking about him on a daily basis.  Even strangers have reached out after reading his story on my blog.  I figured giving an update would be a good thing and continue the prayers and love for him and for his family as he continues on his long and difficult recovery.  We all love you Zach!


Getting Muddy Again

embrace the dirt

It is that time of year again, The Muckfest!  Today, was an amazing day.  A day spent with coworkers, teachers, neighbors and a few parents from our school, Mucking it up” at “The Muck Fest”.  This was my third Muck Fest, and my fifth mud race.  Each year, as the build up to the race happens, I think it will be my last, and then I do it and cannot wait till the next one!

Last year my goal was to overcome my fear of a few of the high obstacles and I did it!  This year, my goal was to run the whole thing, which is why I began training with the C25k program.  It worked!  I was able to keep up and run pretty much the entire race and I kept up with two of my coworkers who left me in their dust last year!

We had thirteen people on our “Mudketeers Team” this year.  The best part of all, was that in the end, we raised nearly $2000 that will go to The National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Last year we ran in honor of Lee Sacket, the husband of one of our coworkers.  This year, it was in his memory, as he lost his battle with MS in November.  I am sure today was a bittersweet day for her and her sons who ran with us.

It was amazing to see so many people out on this beautiful day running and having fun all while raising money for such a good cause.  From wikipedia:

For MuckFest MS, runners are called “muckers.” MuckFest MS attracts an almost even split of men and women across a broad range of age groups. The event is self-timed and the course and obstacles are designed to allow for a wide range of abilities, from top tri-athletes and marathoners to beginning athletes and groups from exercise boot camps and gyms. Because of its affiliation with National MS Society, every event includes runners who are living with multiple sclerosis, some of whom complete the course using a cane for stability. Many runners dedicate their participation to family members or friends living with multiple sclerosis.

I am sure I will be mucking it up again next year with my fellow “Muckers.”  The popularity of these races is growing – maybe more friends will be inspired to join and get dirty with us next year!