February 2024

Page 1

VOLUME 40, #12 FEBRUARY 2024


C abin Fever CURES

Choices INSIDE: Summer Camps • Choosing Childcare • Wellness February 2024 WNY Family 1

February 2024 • Volume 40 • Issue 12

EDITOR/PUBLISHER Paul M. Kline ADVERTISING SALES Paul M. Kline ADVERTISING DESIGN Karen Wawszczyk MAGAZINE LAYOUT/DESIGN Michelle Richter ONLINE EVENT CALENDAR EDITOR Michele Miller CONTRIBUTORS Barbara Blackburn • Donna Phillips Shannon Carpenter • Deborah Williams Mike Daugherty • Meagan Ruffing




Visit Our Web Site www.wnyfamilymagazine.com To Reach Us: Advertising Department advertising@wnyfamilymagazine.com Calendar Submissions calendar@wnyfamilymagazine.com Subscriptions subscriptions@wnyfamilymagazine.com Editorial Submissions editor@wnyfamilymagazine.com MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 1573 Buffalo, NY 14225 Phone: (716) 836-3486 PRINTED BY: Commercial Printing Division The Post-Journal, Jamestown WE ARE AN AUDITED PUBLICATION CIRCULATION (copies printed): 20,000 © 2024 Western New York Family, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without permission is strictly prohibited. Inclusion of an advertisement does not constitute an endorsement by the publisher. PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS: MAILED FIRST CLASS, IN AN ENVELOPE SAME DAY ISSUE IS DELIVERED FROM THE PRINTER: $28 one year, $52 two years, $75 three years. Phone & online orders accepted with credit cards. Gift subscriptions available. Single copies & back issues by mail, $2.50. IF YOU MOVE: Missed issues will not be replaced if we do not receive an address change before issue mailing date.

Where It’s At!

Cabin Fever Cures


Great Games and Indoor Activities: Spend Time Together and Fill Those Cold Winter Days with Fun by Rebecca Hastings 8 n Get Creative with Winter Weather Crafts by Pam Molnar 9 n How to Find Time for Reading with Little Ones in the House by Rebecca Hastings 11 n Creative Ways to Tell Your Child ‘I Love You’ - on Valentine’s Day or Any Day of the Year by Kimberly Blaker 14 n How To Have a Truly Lovely Valentine’s Day by Rebecca Hastings 6n


16 n Choosing Childcare 18 n Summer Camps 37 n Wellness Choices

30 n Tweens and Teens Experts Share How to Handle the Emotional Changes During the Tween Years by Cheryl Maguire

32 n Dear Teacher by Peggy Gisler & Marge Eberts

33 n Special Needs Navigating Social Situations When You or a Loved One Has a Disability by Julia Garstecki Derkovitz

35 n Single Parenting Simple Tips for those Who Feel Sad When the Holidays Come Around by Meagan Ruffing

36 n The Family Pet Why Spay or Neuter?

Regulars: 5

29 n Parent Previews by Kirsten Hawkes

n Web Finds / What’s New In The Kid Biz

20 n Pick of the Literature by Dr. Donna Phillips

22 n Family Travel: Romantic Inns by Deborah Williams

38 n Family Flavors 5 Cozy Ways to Add Warmth to Cold-Weather Meals

39 n The Kiddie Gourmet The Garage Bar and Restaurant by Barbara Blackburn

26 n Raising Digital Kids No Cap, Fam: Cracking the Code of Gen Z Communication by Mike Daugherty 28 n The Daddy Track Fatherhood is Loud by Shannon Carpenter You’ll find FREE courtesy copies of WNY Family at all Buffalo area Wegmans and 300 locations including Public Libraries, Doctors’ Offices, Child Care Centers and many of our advertisers. (Look for us INSIDE Wegmans on the racks where newspapers are sold, even though we are still FREE, or in some stores, on the FREE rack in the store foyer.)

Find this entire issue online at www.wnyfamilymagazine.com February 2024 WNY Family 3

4 WNY Family February 2024

web.finds Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Here are some fun creations that you and your children can make together to celebrate the holiday!

Valentine’s Day Butterfly Craft

Kami at “The Momma Dairies” shares this butterfly craft that will let your kids show their creativity this Valentine’s Day. These heart-shaped winged creatures are easy to make and take just some colorful paper and card stock, scissors, glue, glitter, and googly eyes. Step by step instructions and a template can be found at themommadiaries.com/diy-valentines-day-butterflycraft-for-kids/

Valentine’s Popsicle Flowers

Jenni at “The Bear and the Fox” provides this cute craft that kids can give to their classmates as a personalized card. Heart-shaped valentine’s flowers are made with just a few materials - a popsicle stick serving as the stem, with leaves and a heartshaped bud cut from construction paper. After it’s glued together, your little artist can write their own message to their Valentine on the flower. Check out the instructions at thebearandthefox.com/ valentines-popsicle-flowers/

Valentine’s Love Bug

Crystal, the creator of “Our Kid Things” is a crafty mom of four. You’ll be smitten by her Love Bug craft – an easy to assemble keepsake for Valentine’s Day. Cut out 12 hearts with a heart-shaped hole punch or scissors and glue 11 of them together. After gluing the line of hearts to two popsicle sticks, the bug is completed with googly eyes and pipe cleaner legs. Check out the specifics at ourkidthings.com/love-bugs-popsiclestick-valentine-craft/

Homemade Dark Chocolate Truffles

What would Valentine’s Day be without something sweet? Dark chocolate truffles may sound fancy but, believe it or not, they’re an easy treat that you can make with the kids! Sheryl from Lady Behind the Curtain shares her recipe at ladybehindthecurtain.com/dark-chocolate-truffle-recipe/.

What’s New... IN THE KIDBIZ

SHEA’S PRESENTS FREE FAMILY FILM SERIES Get ready for some free family entertainment! Shea’s Performing Arts Center’s Free Family Film Series, presented by Tompkins Bank, will feature diverse familyfriendly movies to unite families for a memorable theatre experience at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre and Shea’s 710 Theatre. Originally built as a movie house in 1926, Shea’s Performing Arts Center offers Free Family Films to allow patrons to experience Shea’s Buffalo Theatre as patrons did almost a hundred years ago. In addition to sharing the historic Shea’s Buffalo, patrons will have an opportunity to attend two films this season at Shea’s 710 Theatre. Upcoming screenings in the Free Family Film Series include: February 4th at 2pm Remember the Titans (Rated PG) Shea’s 710 Theatre February 18th at 2pm Disney/Pixar SOUL (Rated PG) Shea’s 710 Theatre March 3rd at 2pm The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Rated PG) Shea’s Buffalo Theatre April 21st at 2pm Disney’s Moana (Rated PG) Shea’s Buffalo Theatre The series is FREE to the public. Tickets will be available approximately three weeks before the performance at Shea’s Ticket Office, located at 650 Main Street, or by visiting sheas.org, Tompkins Bank, and various cultural organizations. Films, dates, and hours are subject to change. Doors open one hour before show time. Tickets/ seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. February 2024 WNY Family 5

— by Rebecca Hastings

Great Games and Indoor Activities:

Spend Time Together and Fill Those Cold Winter Days with Fun


y kids were bickering, again. It seemed like that was all they did. The only time they weren’t bickering was when they were separated, with everyone doing something on their own. I wanted to spend time together, doing fun things. But it seemed like all the things that would draw us together involved warm sunny days. The fun of the holidays and new toys has passed, but spring is still a long way off. How were we supposed to have fun and spend time together inside without driving one another crazy? After some trial and error, I found great games and indoor activities that fit the bill. Try these ideas with your family:

It’s Game Time!

For some reason, traditional board games usually bring out the cranky competitive nature of my kids. Instead of committing to a long board game with lots of pieces (and ways for things to go wrong), keep things simple. Play a game with three key characteristics: 1. It’s quick – More time equals more opportunities for things to fall apart or people to get bored. The faster the game, the easier it is to try again when things don’t go how they hope. 2. It evens the playing field – 6 WNY Family February 2024

Choose games that remove advantages of age or other skills to keep everyone engaged. 3. It’s easy to move on – The easier it is to move on, the easier it is to get over a loss (and prevent a meltdown!) The best games that fit the bill in our house are active and often collaborative. It is great when the game can span a wide range of ages so everyone can play together. And the real secret is for mom or dad to play too. Let kids see how you win or lose with grace. Show them how to have fun, and be together.

Games we love:

Spot It:

This rapid visual identification game has different versions that focus on everything from random shapes to letters and numbers. The goal is to be the first one to match something from your card to the card in the middle and shout it out. The game moves quickly and kids often have the advantage

over adults! (Amazon, $9.99)

Taco vs. Burrito:

A strategic card game for ages 6 and up, this game is full of surprises because things can change in a flash. The more you roll with it, the more fun it can be. (Amazon, $24.99)

Pop-Up Pirate:

A silly game of chance that everyone can enjoy. Push your swords into the barrel, just don’t let it be the one that sends the pirate flying. The best part? Even if you do send the pirate soaring, it’s sure to bring laughs for everyone! Plus, even little kids can play. (Amazon, $15.99)

Happy Little Dinosaurs: Great

for kids 8 and up, this card game is all about avoiding extinction. Play cards to keep your dinos in the game, but watch out for the hot lava. (Amazon, $20.00)

Blokus: This tactile game is

great for everyone 7 and up. It involves as much strategy as you want it to. Simply get all your oddly s h a p e d pieces on the board, but make sure you don’t get blocked. (Amazon, $29.99)

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game: Great

for young kids, this game doesn’t require any reading. Full of matching and quick thinking, be the first to fill your log with the right acorns to win. (Amazon, $22.99)

Get Moving! Just because it’s cold and you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t get moving. There are plenty of fun, indoor ways that you can play together and get some energy out in the process. Whatever you choose, make sure it is safe to play inside. Move the coffee table out of the way or put fragile things in another spot. Then have some fun together.

Things we love:



Twister Junior

$19.99) and (Amazon, $17.99): The perfect way to get some energy out indoors! The classic game gets everyone twisting their way into fun. Good for all ages.

Ring Toss Game:

Set up a simple ring toss. The sets you can buy make it easy, giving you everything you need. If you don’t want to buy a set, you can make your own ring toss with things you have around the house. (Amazon, $29.97)

Bean Bag Toss:

Grab an indoor bean bag toss for some quick and easy fun with your family. If you don’t have one, you can make one with some pots and pans and small stuffed animals. (Amazon, $26.99)

Keep Things Calm If you’re looking for a calmer way to have some fun on a cold winter day, there are plenty of great options. The secret is to join your kids. When you play with them you take the activity from something independent to a way to connect with one another. It also helps you keep tabs on how things are going, preventing issues along the way.

Activities we love: Puzzles:

Doing puzzles together is a great way to connect. Whether you do simple 10-piece block puzzles or elaborate 1000-piece masterpieces you can make into art like Jiggy puzzles (jiggypuzzles.com), you get to spend time together creating something beautiful.

Drawing: Try watching a

step-by-step drawing video together to learn new drawing skills. You’ll both learn something new and doing it together is extra fun.


There is nothing quite like playing with Play-Doh, even as an adult. You can buy some or make your salt dough with a few simple ingredients at home. Try using different household items, shapes, and designs to explore fun ways to make masterpieces.


We often use craft time to keep kids busy, but then we end up with a mess to clean up because things went off the rails. Instead, try doing craft time together. See what you can make without any rules. Or try a new craft idea with your kids. Look online for craft ideas for kids and enter your child’s age. The options are truly endless and you can do them all while staying cozy and warm.

The Key to Fun No matter what you decide to try, the key is to engage. That’s what it is all about. It may be tempting to get a game and send them on their way, but then you will miss out on the most important part. The more you engage with your kids in this process, the more fun they will have and the more connected you will feel. Rebecca Hastings is a former elementary teacher who traded the classroom for writing when she stayed home with her three children. Passionate about authenticity, faith, and family, you can find her at RebeccaHastings.net and on Amazon. In real life, she can often be found typing words, driving her kids places, or wherever there is chocolate. February 2024 WNY Family 7

ing on the size you want to make). Place cut side down on the surface. Spread a little frosting on the marshmallows like mortar as you build around the plastic.

Hot Cocoa cups

— by Pam Molnar

Get Creative with

Winter Weather Crafts


inter weather forces many of us inside for a few months and finding something to entertain our kids, that does not involve a screen, is not always an easy task. The colder days and longer nights of winter are the perfect time for children to experiment with their creative side. Crafting provides an outlet for their self-expression, as well as an environment to open conversation with your child. Why not try some of these winter weather crafts at your house?

Pinecone creatures

The holiday clearance rack is a great place to find pinecones if you do not have any in your area. Decorate pinecones with paint, felt, google eyes and pipe cleaners to make woodland creatures like owls, mice, rabbits, and foxes. These make a cute winter display on the fake snow blankets from your holiday decor.

Mason jar room lights

Decorate the outside of mason jars with a light layer of paint, clear stickers, glitter or colored tissue paper. To secure the tissue paper, first add a layer 8 WNY Family February 2024

of Mod Podge and place small squares of tissue paper on top. Seal with another layer of Mod Podge. Add a small strand of battery-operated lights inside the jar. Decorate the lid with a piece of wrapping paper or cloth. The jar makes a great bedside night light.

Shower Bombs

As cold and flu season drags on, shower bombs are a helpful way to clear your head while standing in the steam. You will need some silicone molds about 2” wide. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with 15—20 drops of essential oils. Try peppermint, cloves, cinnamon, eucalyptus or cedar wood. Blend well and slowly add water until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. Press into molds, filling 1/2 way and bake at 180 degrees for 5 minutes. Let cool and save in an airtight container.

Marshmallow igloos

If your family loves building gingerbread houses, try making an igloo out of marshmallows and frosting. The easiest way to build without the marshmallows collapsing is to cut the bottom from a plastic water bottle or 2 liters (depend-

Cut down the side of a disposable 3oz. cup. Place tape over the outside of the cup for easy removal. Coat the inside with a light layer of melted chocolate chips, pouring out the excess. Place in the refrigerator to set. Remove tape and paper cup. Fill the chocolate cup halfway with hot cocoa mix and fill the rest with marshmallows. Add a candy stick that is taller than the cup. Coat the top of the cup with melted chocolate, top with more marshmallows and sprinkles and put in the refrigerator again to set. When ready, add to a cup of hot milk and stir.

String art

Find a graphic online – sports logo, animal, word, etc. Print out and place on a piece of scrap wood or one from the craft store. Use small finishing nails to attach the paper to the wood in the corners. Then, use a hammer to place nails about 1/4” apart along the outline of the graphic. When all are in place, remove the paper by cutting it, careful not to disturb the nails. Use colorful string or yarn to go around the outside or fill in the graphic by wrapping it around and across the nails. Tie off and display your artwork or give it as a gift.

Sock animal warmers

These are great for comfort on a cold night. Mix uncooked long grain rice with a couple drops of your favorite essential oil. Fill an old sock and tie off the end. Use rubber bands to fashion ears on the top of the sock, moving the rice around to fill in. Create a tail by using excess material at the knot and braid it into a long strand. Add a face with a fabric marker. To use, place in the microwave for 45 seconds and when it’s cool enough for touching, give it to your child at naptime. This can be warmed up over and over. Pam Molnar is a mother of three who loves to pull out the crafts on a cold day and use her imagination.


watched my daughter longingly. She was happily snuggled up in the middle of the day with a stack of books. Blanket-wrapped, she was blissfully unaware of the real world around her, fully engrossed in the story in front of her. I was jealous. As parents, we hear a great deal about the importance of reading for our children. Some programs start your new bundle of joy off with a book right at the hospital and mail a new one each year until they are five. There are library programs challenging kids to read 1000 books before kindergarten or summer reading programs to encourage kids of all ages to keep their noses in a book. I could list reason after reason why kids need eyes on print. But what about us? I tried to read a novel after my second baby was born. I fell asleep by page three every single night. (Needless to say, I abandoned the book, freeing up nightstand space for a spit-up cloth and nipple cream.) There was far too much to do and reading just wasn’t a priority. But I desperately missed it. Soon after the abandoned book, I realized reading was important for more

How to Find Time for Reading with Little Ones in the House — by Rebecca Hastings

#1: Read small My first mistake after my second baby was thinking I could pick up a novel, turning pages late into the night. I needed to broaden the way I defined reading if I was going to make it work. Initially, magazines became my friend. With the easily consumable sections, I could leave them open on the table and come back to them whenever I had the chance. Finding short things that you

#2: Let them see you read This is the best way to let go of the guilt associated with sitting down and reading. Understanding that when your kids see you read sets a good example of being a reader and shows that mom can do things she loves too! Reading in front of your kids will help set them up for a lifelong love of words.

#3: Choose wisely I hinted at this above by starting small. You are tired. Time is limited. Your brain is on overload and the todo list is never done. None of this is a surprise. So you have to be very picky. Don’t waste your time reading things you don’t love. Put a lousy book down. Maybe you’ll come back to it someday when your kids are in college. Maybe you won’t. Either way, you deserve to love what you read. You don’t have time for reading that is less than great!

#4: Make it a choice than my kids. Reading was important for me, too. Finding ways to make it happen has involved trial and error and a lot of grace. Here are 7 ways to make reading work for you today.

can put down easily, and that are easily accessible, is key. Magazines, short stories, and blogs you love are great options. Don’t waste your precious time reading something you don’t love.

This is different than just choosing wisely. This is about being intentional with your time. Giving up even 10 minutes of social media scrolling gives you continued on page 10 February 2024 WNY Family 9

HOW TO FIND TIME FOR READING WITH LITTLE ONES IN THE HOUSE continued... 10 minutes with words that can feed your soul. I know mindless feels easier, but it’s like fast food — it won’t fill you up. Be intentional about how you use your time.

#5: Set a goal Sometimes we need a concrete goal to make something happen. Set a goal to read a certain number of books or for a certain amount of time each day. Make a list of books you’ve read this year. Make a To Be Read list. Make a sticker chart for your reading. Sometimes we all need a gold star. See how you can motivate yourself.

#6: Stay on topic


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If you’re struggling with making the time, start by choosing parenting books. You can justify the learning for helping you raise your little people. The only warning with this is not to stay in parenting books forever. Being a mom is a huge part of who you are, and it will forever define you, but it is not the only part. Think of this as a baby step back to reading.

#7 Bring it with you Keep a book in the car. Or your purse. Or the diaper bag. Or on your phone. It doesn’t matter what it is or where it is, as long as it travels with you. Take advantage of those five minutes at preschool pickup or the ten minutes in the waiting room. Anthologies and devotional-style books work well for reclaiming these lost minutes. You can find ways to make reading part of your life, even with little ones keeping you busy. Start with one thing and grow from there.

— by Kimberly Blaker

Creative Ways to Tell Your Child

‘I Love You’

- on Valentine’s Day or Any Day of the Year


alentine’s Day is a perfect reason to show your child just how much he or she is loved. Try these creative ideas to show how much you care on Valentine’s Day and throughout the entire year.

Edible Ideas A heart a day. Add a heart-shaped candy to your child’s lunch box every day of the school year. Be sure to stock up during after-Valentine’s Day clearances, so you don’t run out.

Heart-shaped lunch. Use a large, heart-shaped cookie cutter to make heart-shaped sandwiches, toast, and other treats. Your kids will love the shape and that you’ve eliminated the crust. A cupful of love. Give your child a “World’s Greatest Son/Daughter” or “I Love You” cup. Then use it whenever you serve hot cocoa or graham crackers and milk. Do lunch. Pick up your child from school for a surprise lunch date. Hit your child’s favorite fastfood joint, go on a picnic, or have lunch together in the school cafeteria. (If you choose the latter, make sure your child won’t mind or be embarrassed.)

The Written Word A poet and didn’t know it. You don’t have to be a poet to write a poem for your child. If poetry isn’t your thing, look up simple children’s

rhymes. Then make revisions, especially for your child. Poems can be serious or fun, but either way, your child will love them. A valentine’s welcome. Welcome your child home from school with a valentine banner across your front porch or entryway. Add cute sayings that remind your child why he’s the greatest son. Create fun sentences by clipping words from magazine ads, and adding some valentine doodles. Snail mail surprise. Kids love to get mail, so why not send your child a card, letter, or postcard? Don’t forget to let your child check the mail to discover the greeting. Say it with email. Send your child an email with a link to a fun website or a funny animated e-greeting. With the abundance of entertaining websites and free e-greetings, you can send your child something new every day of the year. continued on page 12

February 2024 WNY Family 11


Kids love to get mail, so why not send your child a card, letter, or postcard? Scrabble greetings. Wish your child a “Happy Valentine’s Day,” congratulate him on a great report card, or show how much you appreciate your child’s help with a scrabble message. For younger readers, spell out a simple phrase leaving a space between words. For older kids, make them figure out your greeting. Intersect the words as you would in playing Scrabble and see if they can solve the message.

Do It Together

A class connection. As kids grow, together-time becomes increasingly rare. Decide with your adolescent on an activity or hobby the two of you would enjoy together. Sign up for a class or set a regular schedule for the activity. Then mark it on your calendar. Treat it as you would any other commitment, not letting daily life interfere. A trip down memory lane. Flip through photo albums or watch family videos together, and reminisce about favorite holidays, vacations, and family times you’ve had together.

Love is silly. One thing kids love and do best is act silly, so loosen up, and join in the fun. If being silly isn’t your style, take a few lessons from your child, and practice up. Letting loose is a great way to reduce stress and to let your children know they’re fun to be around.

Eventful gifts. Buy tickets to a concert, ice show, or sporting event your kids have been dying to see. But keep it a surprise. On the day of the event, just say you’re all going out for dinner or some other concoction. Then catch your kids by surprise when you arrive at your actual destination.

A gift of time. For today’s busy parents, finding time to read to or play with your child isn’t always easy. Fortunately, quality, rather than quantity, is what matters most. Show your child you care by setting aside a few minutes each day to talk, read, or play together. You’ll both reap the rewards.

Make a date. Plan a regular date with your child for one-on-one time. This works exceptionally well for families with more than one child. Each parent should take a turn with each child. You can go out for lunch or supper, play putt-putt golf, take in a movie, go roller-skating, or spend

C is for….. Make a poster portraying your child’s characteristics. Put your child’s name at the top. Then list as many positive descriptive words as you can that begin with your child’s initial. Use a thesaurus to find oodles of words. (Example: Cassandra, cute, caring, creative, crafty, curious.) When you finish, laminate or frame it, and hang it in your child’s room. Poetry praise. Give your child a poetry book written especially for sons or daughters such as To My Son with Love or To My Daughter with Love on the Important Things in Life, written by Susan Polis Schultz. These books offer encouragement and a new understanding of your love for and commitment to your child. Don’t forget to add your personal inscription inside. 12 WNY Family February 2024

Experts in Fine Children’s Clothing

Don’t wait for a special occasion to give your child a gift.

Gifts From The Heart Flowers for her. Cut fresh flowers for your daughter, to brighten her room and her day. Race cars for him. Clip sports cars from magazines for your son, and post them on a bulletin board in his room.

Van Gogh in the making. Sift through your child’s art collection, and select a piece to display. Then matte, frame, and hang it in a room, other than your child’s, for everyone to see. Photos say a thousand words. Choose several pictures of your child from infancy through the present. Then use paper-edgers and trim

c Special Occasions

them into different sizes and shapes. Overlap and tape them to the backing of a frame using double-sided tape. Then add matting and frame the collage. It’s in the wrapping. Don’t wait for a special occasion to give your child a gift. Kids love presents, so the next time you pick up something for your child, wrap it as a surprise. Don’t forget the ribbon (so it takes longer to unwrap), and include a small gift card that says how much you appreciate her. Scrapbookin’ fun. Put together a memory scrapbook of your child. Use photos, locks of hair, vacation postcards, and ticket stubs. Dedicate each page to a special holiday, event, or theme. Include dates and any details you remember, along with cute sayings and stickers to fit the themes.

Kimberly Blaker is a mother of two and grandmother. She is also a published author, award-winning research writer, professional freelance writer, and former columnist. Her articles, editorials, and content have appeared in more than 300 magazines, newspapers, and websites.

c Christening and First Communion Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 11am - 5pm Thursday • 11am - 7p m 5520 Main Street at Cayuga WilliaMSville, ny 14221

716-632-2246 Small School. Big Impact.



Engrave your thoughts. Have a necklace or bracelet engraved for your child. Be sure to include his name, your sentiments, and who it’s from.

c Spring Holidays


an afternoon at the park. Set a regular schedule so your child can look forward to your dates together.

An elegant, tasteful selection of special occasion attire.


(716) 597-4373 Primary Hall Preparatory Charter School 2408 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14214

www.primaryhall.org • February 2024 WNY Family 13

— by Rebecca Hastings


How To Have a Truly Lovely Valentine’s Day

alentine’s Day is coming!” my daughter exclaimed surrounded by pink and red hearts at the store. “Yup,” I replied, swiftly pushing my cart past the displays. Valentine’s Day has long been a holiday that caused an inner battle for me. On one hand, I spout that it’s a silly Hallmark holiday and we should show people we love them every day. Of course, while I’m saying this I secretly long for sweet declarations of everlasting love, preferably with a heart-shaped box of chocolates and flowers. And therein lies the problem. I hate it and love it all at once, so maintaining my expectations is precarious, to say the least. Especially for my husband. None of this is ideal for a day all about love. Instead of letting the war rage, I’ve decided to be honest, embrace the best of it, and let the rest go. Here’s how. First, I’m reminding myself where love comes from. When I remember that God is love and Valentine’s Day is about 14 WNY Family February 2024

love, it takes the pressure off creating some magical greeting card holiday and shifts the focus to loving those around me well. To do that I’ve divided things into two main categories because, well, there’s love with kids and there’s love with the hubby. Ready to get started?

Kid and Family Ideas Simple Kid Craft

I’m not talking about Pinterest here. Well, okay, you can find it on Pinterest, but it needs to be simple. An hour or less from start to finish. No crying, no wishing you had never started, and preferably no glitter. Here are a few ideas to keep your sanity and spread the love: • Heart Butterfly Craft: bit.ly/48klEpP • Fruit Loop Heart Bird Feeder: bit.ly/3RPVPqz • Heart-Shaped Ninja Turtle:

• •

bit.ly/41TpfbR Super Easy Heart Wreath: bit.ly/41Odq6B Teddy Bear Graham Cookies Holding Conversation Hearts: bit.ly/3TJ3dGM


The most important part of Valentines is to know what you’re dealing with. Know the rules, get the class list, and know if your kid needs a special box or if a grocery bag will do. Knowing what is required ahead of time saves you from a massive headache later. Next is to get them early and work on a few each day instead of a tear-filled cram session the night before. This makes a big difference, especially for the little ones. Finally, remember you are not trying to outdo anyone else. Do what works for you and move on. No one remembers who gave the Valentine with the best sticker.

An hour or less from start to finish.


Use this time to remember what is important. Be together, and my favorite way to do that is with extra snuggle time and books.

Serve Someone

Thinking about others is a great way to show love outside your family. Work together and color pictures or grab some premade cookie dough and bake. It’s always a good time to remember people who are important to you like school staff, police, fire and EMS workers, library staff, and homeless shelters. You can even bring some dog treats to the animal shelter. The point is spreading the love together!

Romantic Ideas

Think about what you want from your spouse and be honest.

Be Honest

Think about what you want from your spouse and be honest. Saying you don’t want anything if you want to be surprised with a dozen long-stemmed roses is a no-win situation. It is okay, even preferred, to communicate what would make you feel special. And don’t forget to give your partner the same opportunity.

Think Ahead

If going out is important, plan ahead and get a sitter on the calendar. It’s a popular night to go out so make sure you book early and pay well. If you want a certain type of flower, order them ahead of time. If you want to eat at a certain restaurant, make a reservation. You’ll be glad you did.

Think Outside the Box

Be flexible with what you do and when you do it. If you can get away for a Valentine’s breakfast or lunch while the kids are at school, go for it! If you want to celebrate the day after, decide on the details and make it happen. Whatever you do, make your plan so you don’t feel like you both forgot.

Celebrate at Home

This is my favorite. Grab a special dessert and a bottle of bubbly to have at home after the kids are asleep. Light candles and enjoy being together in the peace of your own home.

Remember When

Take a few minutes and go down memory lane. Look at old pictures or even your wedding video. Tell funny stories, visit a favorite place, or do something you used to do when you were first together. For a bonus, you can look at how to love other people in your circle. How can you show the cashier love today? What about the secretary at the kid’s school or the person in the next cubicle? Sharing love doesn’t have to happen on February 14th, but it’s a great reminder to love others well. The best way to enjoy Valentine’s Day is to do what works for you! Be purposeful about celebrating this day devoted to love.

February 2024 WNY Family 15

Your Guide to

Choosing Childcare A Special Section Dedicated To Helping Parents Find Quality C are To Fit Their Family’s Unique Needs


Did you know…


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16 WNY Family February 2024

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ost families use a combination of care arrangements to meet all of their needs; the best child care arrangements are those that work best for you, your child, and your family. Types of care arrangements can include: • • •

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Parent only care Care by a relative Non-relative care by nannies, friends, or neighbors (in the child’s home or a licensed family child care home) Child care centers Specialized child care for children with special health needs

Why is it important to have high quality child care? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of a child’s early experiences, whether at home, in child care, or in other preschool settings are educational. The indicators of high quality child care have been studied and are available in many formats. When care is consistent, emotionally supportive, and appropriate to the child’s age, development, and temperament, there is a positive effect on children and families.


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Locally, you can visit the Child Care Resource Network at wnychildren. org/ or call them at 716-877-6666 for resources. Visit childcareaware.org for additional information on making your childcare decision. You can download their comprehensive guide at childcareaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ Eng_121m.pdf entitled “Is This The Right Place For My Child: 38 ResearchBased Indicators of Quality Child Care” which includes a checklist you can copy to take with you to each childcare facility you visit.

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Making The Right Camp Choice

Special Advertising Section

18 WNY Family February 2024

Summer camps have become an absolute necessity for many working parents who need coverage during the weeks when school is no longer in session, but camp has always been an important experience for children. Summer camp provides numerous benefits, many of which last a lifetime. Camp experiences allow children to make new friends, relate to adult supervisors other than their parents, develop a sense of independence and self-confidence, as well as the ability to work with others as a team. In today’s technology-oriented world, summer camp gets kids away from their screens and outdoors to interact with the natural world. Sports and physical activities get kids moving — literally — toward increased fitness levels. Camp is a natural extension of the classroom — today’s camps offer many traditional activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, and hikes, but there are many creative and exciting opportunities to explore specific areas such as performing in a theater production, learning to dance, riding a horse, or trying gymnastics. Choosing a camp is a very individual decision based on many factors. Some important questions to ask are: 1) How does the camp recruit its staff? What type of training do the camp counselors have? How old are they? Are background checks done? Do they have first aid training? 2) What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Day camp guidelines call for 1:8 for children ages 6-8; 1:10 for children ages 9-14; and 1:12 for ages 15-18. 3) Ask about return rates. How many staff members return each year? How many campers return? Ask for references — talk to some parents who have recently sent their children to the camp. Visit the American Camping Association’s website at www.aca.org for more complete parent checklists to help you determine if your child is ready for a summer camp experience and the questions to ask when “interviewing” a camp to see if it’s a good fit for your child and your family.

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February 2024 WNY Family 19

PICK OF THE LITERATURE — by Dr. Donna Phillips


ow appropriate that February houses the coldest weather and the warmest holiday — Valentine’s Day! It is a time for staying warm, enjoying the outdoor winter activities, and appreciating those we love. Time together adventuring out into the woods, ski slopes, parks, and even your neighborhood can all lead back to your house for some cozy refreshments and conversations. Of course, these conversations can lead to some books to share. Young ones and older ones all enjoy a good story at the end of the day and there are so many books out there from which you can select. Here are some of my favorites. If you like playing with language, this book is meant for you. There’s Snow One Like You (Sourcebooks Kids, Naperville, $8.99, 2023) written by Rose Rossner and adorably illustrated by Chiara Fiorentino is a clever way to express love and connection through puns! This sturdy board book will see loving use as you visit the characters in our winter adventure. Enjoy the “winter punderland” as the penguins “freeze the day” with the sleds, “make each day so ice” with the skates, celebrate the season of love with mittens, polar bears, snuggly socks, sweaters who “woolly care,” and the other adorable characters. Learning the nuances of language at a young age and sharing the humor is a loving gift that you and your child will 20 WNY Family February 2024

both cherish. Do you have young ones just waiting for snow to fall? The little foxes in Snow? (Salariya Publishing Company, UK, 2023, $12.95) written and illustrated by Jo Surman, will delight you as you journey through the adventures of two little cubs on their quest to learn about what to expect from their first snow. Each animal they meet has a different perspective. Squirrel says it “makes food disappear.” Owl tells them “It is very cold.” Hedgehog says it “falls from the sky,” the mice tell them it “covers the ground,” mole tells them it “makes the ground hard,” frog says “it turns water to ice,” rabbit tells them “It is white and on the way and fun to play in.” The almost magical illustrations draw us into the story until we are as excited as the foxes for their first snow. In the end they are not disappointed, and neither are we. There is always room for a classic and cherished book that is worth revisiting. The Snowy Day (Viking Press, New York, 1962, $18.99) written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats is just such a book. One of the first illustrators to feature a black child as

the main character, Keats captures the world of young children as they begin to explore their curiosity and independence. As Peter wakes to find his neighborhood covered in a deep blanket of snow, he ventures out to discover. From making footprints in the snow, to making a snowman and angels in the snow, he completes his day by watching the older boys have a snowball fight and sliding down a big heap of snow. But before he goes into the house, he makes a snowball to take with him and slips it in his pocket. His mother greets him with a warm bath and, as she helps him undress from his dripping clothes, she listens to the stories of his adventures. With the thoughts of his day, Peter drifts off to sleep only to wake up to find the snowball has melted. But he is undaunted as new adventures lie ahead of him, as he once more ventures out into another snowy day. If all of this talk of cold and snow has made you cold, I Love You, My Cuddle Bug (Silver Dolphin, San Diego, 2023, $14.99) written by Nicola Edwards and illustrated by Natalie Marshall is the perfect book to warm your body and melt your heart. Full of Valentine hearts, love, and appreciation, we spend time with Mother Lady Bug as she guides and assures her child that it is capable and valued. Even if it is not able to spin a web like the spider or does not have beautiful wings like a butterfly, it has gifts to share and lessons to inspire others. The beautiful and gentle rhyming words of this story are as comforting as the message it conveys. Whether

we are young or old, we still need to hear that “we can” and this is just the book to do it! February is the month to go outside and to go inside, literally, and figuratively. “Wintering,” as it is often called, refers to this time of year to allow yourself to be still and quiet. Give yourself permission to “hibernate” and replenish your body, mind, and soul. Savor mindful walks outside, reading or listening to books and stories, cherish reflective time with family and friends, and know that soon you will be renewed and ready to spring forth as the days grow longer and the weather begins to warm. Dr. Donna Phillips is an associate professor in the College of Education at Niagara University where her specialty is literacy and children’s literature. She lives on Grand Island, NY and is the mother of two adult children and the grandmother of one.

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— by Deborah Williams


ver dreamed of spending the night in a castle? It’s possible and very little travel is needed. February is a month for romance with Valentine’s Day in the middle. This February is special since this is a leap year and the month has an extra day.

The Belhurst Castle occupies a prime location on Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes. The story begins on May 13, 1885, when Mrs. Carrie M. Young Harron came to Geneva from New York City, inspected the property, and purchased it the same day.

What better to do in February than to spend an overnight in a close to home romantic getaway without the kids? It can be a perfect present for a special birthday or anniversary. Even if schedules do not permit a getaway this month, plan for a future weekend. Anticipation can be part of the joy of travel. Hotel rates are often lower in the winter and some have special Valentine’s Day packages.

Soon after purchasing “Bellehurst” (beautiful forest) she moved to Geneva accompanied by her manager Capt. Louis Dell Collins. She then divorced her husband and married Captain Collins.

This year’s hotels have some remarkable similarities. Buffalo’s Richardson Hotel and Geneva’s Belhurst Castle are imposing castle-like structures, and both are built of Medina sandstone from the quarries in Medina and were brought to the building sites on the Erie Canal. They are two of the most unique, distinctive hotels in the entire state and have garnered multiple awards. They are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places and had storied histories before their current incarnations. Both have tales of hauntings and are popular as wedding venues. Entering the hotels feels much like entering another world and certainly another era. 22 WNY Family February 2024

She hired noted architect Albert W. Fuller to design a castle complete with turrets. Fifty craftsmen labored six days a week for four years to create her fantasy which boasts turrets, gargoyles, and decorative terra cotta. Mrs. Collins, her husband, and twenty-two servants lived in the Romanesque mansion for nearly forty years. Many of the items in the castle were imported from Europe and there are more stained-glass windows than in some churches. There is carved oak, cherry, and mahogany everywhere. After her death in 1926, her grandson inherited the house and lived there for a short time and later sold it to Cornelius J. Dwyer. Thus began the most colorful time in the castle’s history when “Red” Dwyer opened it as a restaurant, gambling casino, and speakeasy. By all accounts he was a character with his red hair, bowties, and big cigars.

Belhurst Castle During prohibition, liquor was transported from Canada on Lake Ontario and then to Geneva through the canal system. In 1952, the Kefauver Commission convinced Dwyer to “stop or be stopped” and the gambling days at Belhurst were over. He lived upstairs and continued to operate his well-regarded restaurant until 1975. That year Robert and Nancy Golden purchased the property. They continued to operate the restaurant and converted the rooms on the second and third floors into a most distinctive hotel. They opened the doors in 1984. It was a hotel like no other. Duane and Deborah Reeder have owned the property since 1992 and their arrival heralded a new era in the property’s history. In 2004, they opened the connecting 20 room Vinifera Inn with lake views, Jacuzzis, fireplaces, and elevators, a second ballroom, a restaurant and bar named Stonecutters and the Belhurst Estate Winery and Gift Shop. Be sure to stop in the winery for wine tastings. If you are lucky, your host will be Chrissy who is enjoying her post retirement career as a wine host. She is full of stories about the hotel, wine, and life in Geneva. During the summer she often travels to work on her Jet ski. The Isabella Spa opened to the public in 2010 offering massages, facials, and other spa services. Edgar’s Restaurant in the Castle

Next door is the Tower Suite, the castle’s premier suite and largest room with a 20-foot ceiling, a grand four-posted King bed, and a separate sitting area with sofa bed. The staircase leads up the tower to a balcony where the original residents would often watch the sunrise.

Belhurst Lake is the hotel’s elegant dining room with fireplaces, carved wood, and even a suit of armor. The Chambers in the Castle are the eleven original guestrooms—each one is unique and named after a piece of the castle’s past. There are no elevators and the rooms are on the second and third floors. A silver spigot on the secondfloor landing dispenses area wine to hotel guests. Our room was the Billiard Room, home to a Victorian Burled Walnut King bed that required steps to get onto the bed. There are stairs to the balcony with views of the property and lake and a fireplace.

Deborah Reeder is proud that Belhurst has been voted One of the Most Romantic Places in New York State.

“We have many guests who have come here for their marriage proposal, wedding, and then return again and again for their anniversaries,” she said. “With our two ballrooms we have had as many as five weddings on a single day.” Be sure to stop at the Finger Lakes Welcome Center, 35 Lakefront Dr., on Seneca Lake in Geneva. There are hot and cold lunch options and a wine bar selling local wine, beer, and cider. A deck outside overlooking the lake offers the perfect spot for relaxing. The playground boasts grape vines for climbing and a model paddle wheel boat.

It occupies three of the buildings that today make up the Richardson Olmsted Campus. The buildings began their life in 1880 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. It was the creation of great minds: architect Henry Hobson Richardson; Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux, famed landscape architects who created Buffalo’s Park system; and Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Dr. Kirkbride’s psychiatric treatment plan advanced the use of natural light, wide hallways, fresh air, and the opportunity to do productive work. The campus was a shining example of his ideas and included a working farm that is now the campus of Buffalo State University. The iconic towers that have become one of the city’s most distinctive structures were designed by Richardson, considered the first American architect who gained an international reputation. The campus was the largest commission of his career, and his style became known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Sadly, he died before the completion of the second phase of the campus.

Buffalo’s Richardson Hotel has had a storied and complicated history.

Patients were moved out of the buildings in the mid 1970s, but the central administration building was used for offices until 1994. The buildings were then abandoned and left to deteriorate. In 1986, the former hospital was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of eight in Buffalo. There continued on page 24

Belhurst Room

Belhurst Armor February 2024 WNY Family 23

FAMILY TRAVEL continued...

The 88-room hotel immediately received widespread accolades including Time Magazine naming the hotel to its 100 Greatest Places in the World in 2018. Hotel Richardson corridor 24 WNY Family February 2024

Hotel Richardson are only 2,600 National Historic Landmarks in the entire country. After a lawsuit and $100 million in state funds, the buildings were stabilized and the Hotel Henry was opened in 2017 to great fanfare. The 88-room hotel immediately received widespread accolades including Time Magazine naming the hotel to its 100 Greatest Places in the World in 2018. The hotel’s rooms and suites are in the two buildings connected to the towers by curved second-floor hallways. Three former patient hospital rooms have been combined into one comfortable, contemporary room with original 18-foot ceilings and 14-foot windows that now boast electronic window shades. Despite the awards and popularity, the hotel closed four years later, a victim of the pandemic. Developer Douglas Jemal came to the rescue, and the hotel had a grand reopening last September

Hotel Richardson room under the Hotel Richardson name. Jemal gave new life to the hotel, moving the front desk and adding much needed signage that makes navigating the unique structures much easier. Cucina, an upscale Northern Italian restaurant, occupies two rooms on the first floor. The Calvert Café and Vaux Bar are nearby. There are meeting rooms and a ballroom on the top floor. Large historical and contemporary photographs of Buffalo’s buildings, grain elevators, marinas, lighthouse, and other distinctive area highlights line the wide light filled hallways. On the ground floor is an attraction likely unique in hotels. It is a museum called the Lipsey Architecture Center Buffalo which explores in displays, photos and models the extraordinary history of the area’s architecture. Just a short walk down Elmwood Avenue is Buffalo’s newest example of

architectural excellence—the Buffalo AKG Museum (formerly the AlbrightKnox Art Gallery). The expanded museum reopened last June. Across the street is the Burchfield Penney Art Center and just a block away is the Buffalo History Museum. Travel Tip of the Month: For the Belhurst Castle, 4069 West Lake Rd., Geneva, visit www.belhurst.com or call 315-781-0201. For the Hotel Richardson, 444 Forest Ave., Buffalo, visit therichardsonhotelbuffalo.com or call 716-4932610. Both hotels include breakfast for overnight guests. Deborah Williams lives in Holland, NY and is a veteran travel writer whose work has appeared in national and international publications. She is the recipient of the Society of American Travel Writers’ Lowell Thomas Gold Travel Writing Award.

Hotel Richardson February 2024 WNY Family 25

RAISING DIGITAL KIDS — by Mike Daugherty

No Cap, Fam:

Cracking the Code of Gen Z Communication


emember the days of bulky beepers and waiting for a lengthy message to scroll by? Well, in just 30 years, communication has undergone a revolutionary shift. Today, a staggering 26 billion text messages fly across the globe daily, and that’s just counting traditional SMS messages. When you add in popular apps like Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, the number jumps to an estimated 92 billion messages, making texting the dominant communication method for many adults and even more so for our children. As parents, it can be hard to keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape our children navigate. But understanding their preferred communication channels is crucial to fostering open and healthy relationships. So, next time you hear the familiar “ping” of a new text, remember the incredible journey communication technology has taken and take a moment to connect with your child in their world. Generation Z thrives on a constant stream of communication through their mobile device. Subsequently, they have developed their own slang words made up of acronyms and phrases to describe their interactions with the world. Slang is not a new concept though. Every generation has developed its own unique 26 WNY Family February 2024

style of conversation. The most important aspect to keep in mind is that the crazy words and acronyms your kids are using were not created as a way to keep adults out of the loop. It is about this generation finding their identity. Modern slang can be more confusing than previous generations, requiring parents to be almost bilingual. While capturing all the jargon in use is impossible, I’ve created a list of popular terms sorted by their level of concern for parents.


The terms listed here are friendly or comical. There is nothing to be worried about if you see these show up in a text message, online comment, or virtual conversation. 4eae — For Ever and Ever Fam — Short for “family”, it’s used to refer to one’s close friends or group of friends. Flex — To show off or brag about something. Highkey — Very obvious or public; the opposite of lowkey. IKR — I know right? IYKWIM — If you know what I mean Lowkey — Something understated

or wanting to keep it quiet. NMU — Not much, you? No Cap — No lie, or telling the truth. On fleek — On point or to do something very well RAK — Random Act of Kindness Slay — Doing really well or “killing it” Truss — I agree Woke — Highly Aware of Social Issues YAS — Enthusiastic Version of Yes Yeet — An exclamation of approval or excitement often related to dancing or throwing something.


The words and phrases listed below are something that all parents should know. They are not necessarily bad; however, some of these deal with dating which could be concerning depending on the age of your child. Basic — Typically used as a criticism, this refers to a person who only likes things that are popular or trendy. Benching — This means someone is being put on the sideline while a person explores their other romantic options. Clout — Influence or power, especially in social media or fame contexts. Curve — Curving means to shut down or reject a person’s expression of interest in you. Deeplike — When someone goes on a social network and likes/ favorites posts from several weeks or months back. Ghost — When all communication with a friend, or more likely, a love interest suddenly stops (as if the person was now a ghost). Haunt — When a person who ghosted you begins to reappear in your life. IANAL — I am not a lawyer PTB — Please text back QQ — To cry or crying SUS — Suspicious or untrustworthy. Thirsty — Desperate, particularly for attention or validation.


This last set of slang should be considered red flags. These words refer to sex, drugs, and other activities that are potentially problematic for young adults. 53X — Sex. The 5 looks like an S, the 3 like an E. 9 / P911 / P999 / CD9 / MOS — All of these are used to let the person they are messaging know that a parent or adult is nearby. It serves as a warning to not say anything inappropriate. ASL — Age, sex, location. This is often used when someone is new to a conversation or chat room. Other users will ask “ASL?” as a way to better understand the context of who is chatting. This information can easily be used by predators to coerce, convince, or threaten a child. Teens and young adults should know that sharing your age, sex, and location online is recipe for disaster. CU46 — See you for sex F2F / FTF — Face to face. This infers that two people need to meet up to see each out. GNOC / NIFOC — Get naked on camera or naked in front of camera. IRL / MIRL / LMIRL — This refers to in real life or meeting up in real life. IWSN — I want sex now KPC — Keep Parents Clueless Turnt — Looking to get drunk or high Wavey — To be drunk or high WYRN — What’s Your Real Name? We’ve looked at oversharing information online in the past. Here’s another example of where an innocent conversation can turn toward trouble. See ASL.

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While teenage slang might sound alarming at first glance, parents should proceed with caution and communication before jumping to conclusions. Analyzing the terms listed here can offer valuable insight into your teen’s life and provide context for potential conversations about concerning messages. Remember, open communication with your child is key to assessing the situation and determining the appropriate next steps. This list represents just a fraction of the vast vocabulary used by Gen Z. For parents seeking deeper understanding, a simple Google search for “slang parents should know 2024” will reveal similar lists online. Additionally, UrbanDictionary. com serves as a comprehensive resource for specific word definitions. However, be advised that UrbanDictionary contains NSFW content, so exercise caution while browsing. Mike Daugherty is a husband, father of three young children, author, speaker, Google Innovator, and possible Starbucks addict. He is a certified educational technology leader who has served in a variety of roles through his twenty-year career in public education. Currently, Mike is the Director of Technology for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School district in Northeast Ohio. As an IT director he has developed creative, well thought out solutions that positively impact teaching and learning.


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Family 21

February 2024 WNY Family 27


y d d Da Track

– by Shannon Carpenter

Fatherhood is Loud


hen my daughter was three years old, I taught her to scream “Man down!” when her little brother fell. He was just learning to walk, and I found it handy to have an extra set of eyes on him as he explored his world.

couldn’t find the last piece of a puzzle or the latest virtual assignment on her computer. It felt like a time when we needed to just let everything out as relatives or friends got sick and went to the hospital and there was nothing we could do but scream.

When she was four, I taught her to yell like Tarzan. She was already loud at this point in her life, so it really just made sense. At least this way there was a possibility that she could learn to call her jungle friends as she grew in life.

And then, for some reason, during the rest of her teenage years, there wasn’t any yelling at all. There were questions that pushed me, that made me question my own beliefs. But the only yelling I did was in my head. She could take care of herself at this point but parenting somehow seemed harder. It felt like there were more things at stake. When she went out, the two sides of fatherhood yelled at each other in my head.

At age seven, we learned to scream “You’ve gotta make that play!” It didn’t matter what sporting event we were watching; the phrase is always applicable. From hockey to football, you gotta make that play. It’s an excellent catchphrase. If I made a mistake helping her with her homework, it’s what she would say to me. When she was ten, she learned how to talk like Golem from the Lord of the Ring movies. My precious didn’t do that for too long because she ended up creeping herself out. The louder it was, the freakier it got. So, we decided not to scream that anymore.

“She has to grow up and experience life,” one side said. “The world is dangerous,” said the other. It was very loud in my mind as we went through this together.

Then the preteens came and there was a lot of yelling. Yelling about how all her friends had a phone. That eventually turned into her yelling that all of her friends had Instagram. And of course, when she went behind my back and got Instagram, that made me scream a little bit.

And now, that same girl that used to yell “Beep Beep” while she was in the stroller and we were making our way through the crowd, has just been accepted to college. When she got notified that she was accepted to her first-choice school, we yelled “Congratulations!” I screamed that I was so proud of her. I yelled at everyone I met about how my daughter was going to college. I wrote in large letters “SHE’S GOING!” in articles that I wrote.

She started her teenage years during Covid, and that led to quiet yelling in the house. Whisper yelling as we

She’s ready to go. She’s ready to yell at the world without me next to her. I’m busy yelling any and all lessons

28 WNY Family February 2024

“She has to grow up and experience life,” one side said. “The world is dangerous,” said the other. that I can think of before she leaves my house. The two dads in my head, the ones that used to yell at each other, are now screaming everything that I think I forgot. Does she understand credit card rates? No reds should be put in white loads in the washing machine. When you attach jumper cables to a car battery, start with the negative first. There will be more screaming, yelling, and chaos when she leaves. My friends are worried about empty nest syndrome as if the silence will be too loud. They shouldn’t because my nest won’t be empty. Her bed is still here. Big Fat Ted, her favorite stuffed animal, will be around the house. My home won’t be empty at all. The echoes of our victory cries will be in every room and, just for fun, I will call her like Tarzan and see if she will answer. Shannon Carpenter is the father of three and has been a stay-at-home dad since 2008. He’s the author of the book “Stay-at-Home Dad: Your Essential Manual for Being an Awesome FullTime Father.” as well as the co-host of Dadhouse Pod. In addition to his writing on parenting, he is also a humor writer trained through the famous Second City. And we all know that having a sense of humor is essential to surviving parenthood!

Family Movie Options: In Theaters and Streaming Online Migration


Rating PG

Overall A

Violence B

Sex A

Profanity A

Alcohol/Drugs A

Anxious and cautious, Mack doesn’t want to risk his family’s safety, but mama duck Pam wants to follow a flock of migrating ducks to warmer climes. Pam prevails, and the feathered family head off, only to wind up lost in the streets of New York. Stunning landscapes, quality animation, fast action scenes, funny jokes, and solid messages about trust, courage, determination and love make this charming movie a win for families. Photo ©Universal Pictures

The Boys in the Boat


Rating PG-13

Overall B

Violence B+

Sex A-

Profanity C

Alcohol/Drugs C-

In the depths of the Great Depression, Joe Rantz tries out for the University of Washington’s rowing team, primarily as a way of obtaining a place to sleep. He winds up with likeminded teammates, all determined to win the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This is a standard underdog sports film, celebrating grit, courage and teamwork. There are some scenes of jovial intoxication and just over 20 mild and moderate profanities in the script but it remains a good choice for teens. Photo ©Amazon MGM Studios

Mean Girls


Rating PG-13

Overall C

Violence B

Sex C+

Profanity D

Alcohol/Drugs D

After moving from Kenya to Illinois, Cady is befriended and then betrayed by her new school’s queen bee, Regina, prompting her to band together with two artsy outcasts to seek revenge. Viewers of teen dramas won’t find anything new here, but the themes of honesty, kindness, self-assessment, and change are relevant to adolescents. The film raises the issue of the sexualization of teenage girls and the dangerous ubiquity of social media and also contains negative content around teen drinking and sexual activity. Photo ©Paramount Pictures

Night Swim


Rating PG-13

Overall D

Violence C

Sex A

Profanity B+

Alcohol/Drugs A-

The Wallers’ new home comes with a backyard pool fed by natural springs. Now able to swim every day, dad Ray is finding welcome relief for his multiple sclerosis – but others are having supernatural experiences in the water. Based off a five-minute YouTube clip, this movie is waterlogged, filled with ridiculous plot points and poor choices. On the flip side, negative content is comparatively light for a horror movie, but that doesn’t make it good. Photo ©Universal Pictures

The Book of Clarence














Deeply in debt to Jedediah the Terrible, Clarence needs two things: safety and cash. He figures he can find both by following Jesus of Nazareth’s example and becoming another Messiah. Staging fake healings and delivering sermons, the skeptic soon finds the coins rolling in – but Clarence’s problems are only beginning. Depending on your perspective, this is either a dark comedy, a redemption tale, or a blasphemous misuse of a sacred text. In any case, it’s an overlong, violent film with abundant drug use. Photo ©TriStar Pictures Detailed reviews available at www.parentpreviews.com February 2024 WNY Family 29


hen my daughter turned 11, she changed from an agreeable rule-follower into someone who only knew the word “no.” It didn’t matter what I asked her to do, she refused to do any of it. “Do you want a hug?” “No.” “Are you coming out of your bedroom anytime today?” “No.” Just when I thought she would be a grump forever, she sometimes reverted back to her more pleasant self. According to experts, my daughter’s tween behavior was not at all unusual, and neither was my reaction to them. Swinging emotions like hers are typical for tweens and they’re not always easy to live with. Volatile moods are bound to affect family dynamics, as are any sudden changes. Here’s what experts say is going on with your tween’s emotional development and some advice for how you can successfully navigate through it.

Expected Adolescent Changes In Development Your tween will push you away one minute, then pull you in the next. Ken Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, the founding director of The Center for Parent and Teen Communication in Philadelphia and author of “Congrats― You’re Having a Teen!: Strengthen Your Family and Raise a Good Person” says raising a child through their tween years can be challenging. Ginsburg says tweens pushing away from their parents is a normal stage of adolescent development when kids practice doing things on their own. Still, at this stage, it’s only practice. Your tween isn’t ready for independence, yet. Ginsburg reminds us that even when your tween is pushing you away, it’s important to remember that “you remain the most important human being in their life, even if they’re not willing to say that out loud.”

TWEENS & TEENS — by Cheryl Maguire

Experts Share How to Handle the Emotional Changes During the Tween Years

worry too much if they want to dress differently from the rest of the family, change their hairstyle, or even act a little strange because, according to experts, experimentation with personality and appearance during the tween years is normal. Ginsburg says, “This is an age of trying on many different hats to imagine who you might be. And sometimes, it’s about really underscoring how you’re different from the people who are closest to you, including siblings and family members.” Maria Sanders, a licensed clinical social worker and certified parent coach, says the tween years are when kids typically begin experimenting with identification. “It’s a time of trying on things, figuring out where you belong, and discovering who you really are.”

Tweens try out personalities like they’re trying on different styles of clothing.

One day, your tween plays with toys. The next day, they declare toys are for babies.

Unless you suspect your tween is signaling that something is wrong, don’t

Tweens may also switch between different developmental stages. They

30 WNY Family February 2024

might act young one minute, then like an adult the next, which can be confusing to other family members. Sanders provides this example: “One day your tween is playing with their Barbie dolls with their siblings, and the next minute, they want nothing to do with them.” They may even call their younger sibling a baby for wanting to play with those same Barbies they played with the day before. Tweens don’t consciously flip back and forth from one stage to another; they don’t even know why they switch from wanting to play one day and then all of a sudden not wanting to. “They’re not doing this on purpose,” Sanders says.

Think your tween tells you everything? Guess again. Sanders and Ginsburg both say that at this age tweens begin caring about peer relationships, and then prioritizing them over relationships with their family members. They’ll often start holding back information from their parents and instead turn to their peers for advice.

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If your tween suddenly seems oppositional or isn’t sharing as much information with you, Sanders says it’s important not to take it personally and to remember that it’s normal and healthy behavior for your tween to build relationships outside of the nuclear home.

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Your child’s middle school experience is probably not the same as yours.

asking your tween questions, like:

If you had a difficult time in middle school, you might feel compelled to step in to help fix your tween’s problem so they don’t experience the same kind of discomfort or pain that you went through. But Sanders cautions against going into protective mode. She says it’s important for parents to recognize that their kid’s middle school experience is separate and distinct from the one you had. Even if it’s difficult to see our tweens suffer through middle school challenges, we need to remember that those same challenges provide opportunities for our kids to learn and grow. She wants parents to see these difficult moments as opportunities instead of a struggle, and she recommends that parents stand back to allow their kids to develop coping strategies instead of swooping in to save the day.

Do you want to talk about your day?

Are you able to talk for five minutes?

Do you need some time alone?

If your tween doesn’t want to talk, try giving them space. But also, remind them that they can depend on you. Sanders says tweens are going to tell you, verbally or physically, that they need some space. They might tell you, “I don’t want to talk about it.” They might close their bedroom door. Speaking of closed doors, Sanders uses “knocking on the door” as a metaphor for how to communicate with your tween. She says, “If you fling that door wide open and start grilling them with questions, they are going to quickly want to shut that door.” Instead of forcing a conversation, you might try inviting a conversation by starting with a question that “knocks.” Try

If your tween doesn’t want to have a conversation right now, Sanders says you can try waiting for a time when they’re willing to talk. Or, you can try reframing your question. For example, if your child feels like you’re interrogating them, you can say something like, “I don’t mean to come across that way. How can I change the way I ask questions so it doesn’t feel like I’m interrogating you?” You might also use other forms of communication, like sharing over text messages. Tween years can be volatile and confusing and even put a strain on familial relationships. But we can all take heart that this stage is only temporary. Our job as parents is to keep reminding our tweens that we’re not going anywhere. Whether they’re pushing us out of their rooms or closing their doors on us, we’ll continue to be present and by their side to lend support. Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine and many other publications. February 2024 WNY Family 31

DEAR TEACHER – by Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts

Helping all parents make their children’s educational experience as successful as possible

It’s Rapidly Becoming the Computer Homework World


arents: Pencil and paper homework is becoming extinct for students as early as second grade. The computer is rapidly becoming the major tool for doing homework. By sixth grade, almost all homework is being done on the computer in many schools. One thing that hasn’t changed about homework is students’ view that homework isn’t fun. And another is all the time that students have to spend on doing homework even if they are doing it on the computer.

The Right Amount of Homework The accepted guideline approved by the National PTA and National Education Association and researchers in this area is spending 10 minutes a night per each grade level. Thus, the second grader should be spending no more than 20 minutes and up to two hours for a high school senior. If your children are going wildly over these suggested time limits, it is time for a talk with their teachers. Is a teacher making too time-consuming assignments? Are the assignments too difficult for your children? What help is needed to get homework time to a reasonable level? We have just discovered an interesting fact — around the world, 15-year-olds spend about an hour a day less on homework than students in our country. And surprisingly students in Finland and Singapore at this age will only spend two to three hours a week on homework while scoring higher on international tests of achievement. 32 WNY Family February 2024

The Pros and Cons of Homework In the primary grades, especially, and even in elementary school, homework shows very little benefit. According to many studies, the students who get the biggest benefit from homework are highschoolers, and there are some benefits for middle schoolers. The pros of homework include promoting higher achievement and better study skills. Plus, homework can give parents an insight into what their children are learning through conversations as well as observing some of their work. There are definitely cons to homework. It turns some children away from academics. It also can limit the time children have with their families as well as the time children have for activities and just leisure.

The Benefits of Online Assignments A great number of you experienced having your children doing all their schoolwork online during the Pandemic. The younger your children were, the more likely it was close to an educational disaster which put them behind in their learning. It is not the same story for children who are now in class and doing much of their homework on computers. One minor benefit is that students no longer have to lug around a lot of books and notebooks. There are several major benefits. One, of course, is having access to just about anything that they want to know about on the web. Solid

help is also available when they write essays or reports through the grammar and spelling programs all computers have. Other helpful features are all the practice worksheets that let them strengthen basic math skills. And when students are completely baffled about how to handle an assignment, good help is available at reliable websites. Plus, students can often receive immediate and personal feedback from their teachers on the assignments that they complete online instead of waiting for papers to be returned or a general class discussion of homework assignments. There also is the added benefit of enhancing their computer skills giving them an easier transition into today’s work world. Benefits of computer homework accrue to both teachers and parents. On the practical side, teachers no longer have to print reams of worksheets for their students, and teachers can expand the range of activities beyond those that can be given on paper. They also can vary assignments to meet the needs of individual students. And they can see at once where students have problems and give them immediate feedback. Teachers can share their students’ online homework assignments with parents letting them see exactly how well their children are handling them. Parents can also easily communicate their concerns about problems their children are having with homework and expect quick feedback.

The Downsides of Computer Homework Unfortunately, there are some downsides to computer homework. Many students cannot resist the temptation to see what their friends and classmates are doing on popular social media while on the computer. Others can be tempted to play games. These actions can definitely disrupt the time they should be spending on their homework assignments. Another very unfortunate aspect to doing homework on the computer is the ability students have to get answers to almost any homework question. While some websites and tutors provide a helpcontinued on page 37

— by Julia Garstecki Derkovitz

Navigating Social Situations When You or a Loved One Has a Disability


onsider all the socializing you do each month: family gatherings, trips to the store, maybe a recital of some kind. Each with different social norms and constructs. We have to navigate the sarcastic cousin or aunt we barely know, the cranky customer or too friendly clerk, rules about not taking photographs yet everyone seems to be taking pictures anyhow. Each location has its own social norms, some that make sense and some that don’t. Now imagine if you are significantly impacted by bright lights, unable to differentiate sounds, or have a communication disorder making the ability to hear or form words a challenge. Would that change how you interact? If you are the parent of a child with autism, an intellectual disability, or an auditory processing disorder among countless others, you likely know social situations can be an exhausting experience. People with neurotypicals often have no idea how lighting (the sight and/ or the buzzing of the bulbs), simple small talk (do we really need to talk about the weather again?), and even seating charts at parties (who uses this glass?) can be massive hurdles to our children. Still, it’s important that we caregivers continue to encourage, model, and support our children as they learn to take part in these behaviors. Children with autism, anxiety, or processing disorders grow up to be adults with autism, anxiety, or processing disorders. And, those with disabilities, specifically autism, are often socially isolated more than other groups of people, so sharing social experiences

is important. Having them engage in everyday activities is important for increased quality of life and general overall functioning. There are some simple strategies you can use to help your child navigate social situations. And, if you are a neurotypical, there are easy ways to help others that are not.

appropriate food behaviors. Help your child practice taking one or two items at a time in a buffet line. Practice using tongs and spoons to scoop. Again, patient, calm direction instruction of these skills is important; our kids don’t pick up social cues like others, so don’t assume they will here either!


If it’s possible to talk to doctors, hosts, hotel attendants, and church members to explain your child’s disability, do it — especially if your child’s disability isn’t easily recognizable. Have your child meet with anybody they might encounter. It provides the opportunity to educate others, and allows others the ability to assist in your child’s experience. Most people don’t mean to be offensive and impatient, and we cannot expect them to understand what has taken us time to learn.

As the caregiver, set your own expectations of what can be accomplished and the time it will take. If running errands, be sure to prioritize your stops in case the trip needs to be cut short. Consider creating a travel bag that includes items that will help your child, which may include headphones, fidget spinners, or any comfort item it might take for your child to have success in the environment. Articulate the ‘rules’ of shopping because research shows us these behaviors are learned through direct, explicit instruction. We watch where we are walking and move to the side to let other shoppers pass. We apologize if we bump into someone. We stand in line, even if the line is long, and we certainly don’t scream about it. Holiday parties do only happen once a year, but you can ‘practice’ by getting together with family or large social groups on a regular basis. Practice before attending. Role play saying hello and asking questions. Practice how to answer questions such as “How are you?” and “What’s up?” And, discuss

Another important consideration is finding support groups and events specific to the disability / disabilities your child may have. Our children need to have peers that ‘get it’ and a place in which they can socialize in a way that feels natural to them.

SUGGESTIONS FOR NEUROTYPICALS TO HELP OTHERS I am grateful my son has so many abilities, and I know I (and he) am lucky for all he can do. But there were, and still are, times when I wish his disabilities were obvious to strangers. Invisible continued on page 34

February 2024 WNY Family 33

SPECIAL NEEDS continued... disabilities can be a challenge because it is harder for people to understand why he may act a certain way. I was often torn (and still am) as to when to tell people about my child’s disabilities in hopes it would make them more patient, a bit kinder, or at the very least, respond when he attempts to connect. Here are a few things you can do if you interact daily with people with disabilities or families with a person with a disability: 1. Ask questions. If hosting a party, could you make a hot dog or other sensory friendly food? Or place food in a certain location? Should you have a quieter space available? Should hallways and rooms be cleared for assisted devices? If there is a speech issue, is it better to allow the person to complete sentences or assist them with communication? Should pets be introduced slowly, or perhaps put in another room?

2. Do some research on the disability of loved ones to get a general understanding of the disability, but don’t assume everyone with Autism or anxiety acts the same. 3. Still address the person with the disability as you would anyone else. Make eye contact and say hello, offer food/drinks, let them know what options they have as to toys/places to sit. If the caregiver needs to interpret, they will. However, they will be grateful you saw their child as a human individual person. If you see a stranger with a disability, consider these suggestions: 1. If the person is struggling and you are comfortable offering help, do so. 2. Be patient. Many stores (thankfully!) now employ more people with disabilities. In a local grocery store one employee walks aisles stocking shelves, but loves to tell customers to enjoy their shopping experience. You might hear it ten times in a trip, but that’s okay! This is a great time to engage in short con-


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versation, especially if you have neurotypical children with you. Model that all people deserve respect and gratitude for jobs well done. 3. If your child discusses the ‘weird’ kid at a store or social gathering, talk about it. Discuss how they can be kind, patient, and inclusive. We parents of children with disabilities are working with our children to navigate social situations, so should those of neurotypicals teach their children. After all, we are in this community together and everybody has value. The following resources provide tips and strategies for assisting your loved one in social situations: Autismspeaks.org (bit.ly/47scEO7) Ldonline.org (bit.ly/3vr3iou) Julia Garstecki Derkovitz is an author of dozens of children’s books and is a teacher at Bryant & Stratton. She has years of experience working with children and adults with special needs.

Does your business, agency or organization serve children with special needs in our community? Their parents are looking for your services all year long. Advertise in conjunction with this informative column and let our readership of 55,000 WNY parents know about your important programs and services each and every month. For more information, call

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Simple Tips for those Who Feel Sad When the Holidays Come Around SINGLE PARENTING — by Meagan Ruffing


olidays are known for bringing a lot of joy to the world, but they can also be a challenge for those who may be going through hard times. How do you celebrate events like Valentine’s Day and act joyous, when you feel like you’re barely making it inside? It’s normal to feel lonely at times and to think you’re the only one going through difficult things but the truth is, there are so many other people who are feeling the same way. Oftentimes, we don’t talk about it except for with a handful of people or no one at all. Sometimes, you might reach out to a therapist if you have established an alliance with one, but for many, having to do one more thing like finding a professional to talk to can feel exhausting. As a licensed mental health professional, I hear many of my clients report feeling sad and ‘down’ over the holidays. Sometimes they know exactly why and other times, they wonder why they’re so depressed when they have so much to be thankful for. I’m happy to report that both sides of this are normal. Here are some simple ways to validate your feelings while acknowledging the sadness that may be hanging around.

Journal. Journaling helps you get things out of your head and onto paper. This is a great way to get clarity about what you’re feeling so it’s not just hanging out in your mind with nowhere to go. I encourage my clients to get a new journal if they can, to help with the

intentionality of creating a new habit or building on an old one.

Identify your support system. Write your name in the middle of

a piece of paper and draw a couple of circles around it (each circle being larger than the previous one). Write the names down of those closest to you in the circle nearest to your name. Move to the next circle and identify people who you are close to but may not feel as close to as the ones you already wrote down. Continue this exercise to help identify who you have in your life that might be able to provide some support when you need it. Different people can provide different types of support. This tool can help you figure out what you need and who in your life can help you get that.

Get moving. I know the holidays

are not the ideal time to get outside and run or to sign up for an exercise class when you haven’t been to the gym in years but stick with me for a minute. Exercising is essential for brain health and if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety, it’s even more important that you get those endorphins going. Think about how you want to feel next week, next month, or even this time next year. Work backwards and figure out what you must do to get to where you want to be. This can help with motivation and determination.

Do something nice for someone else. When we do nice

things for others, it has the power to take the focus off ourselves. This is important

when we’re feeling down and hopeless. Mustering up the energy to donate, volunteer, or do a random act of kindness can be the shift we need to get out of our own way and appreciate the things we do have. I know it’s not easy and I know it takes a certain amount of something to do this, but I’ve been where you are, and I know this can help.

Read or listen to a new audio book. I still haven’t been able

to read a book from cover to cover since my divorce. My mind seems to wander when it’s idle for too long and I get antsy. I recently started listening to audio books and that has helped me get through a couple of new titles that I’d been wanting to read for a while now. One of these days I will attempt to read a book that I can hold in my hands. For now, listening to them and going on long walks has been somewhat of a healing time for me. What is something you haven’t been able to do since your divorce but would really like to get back to? Hang in there this month. It’s a New Year and doing something nice for yourself will remind you that there is only one you in this world. Take hope in knowing that tomorrow is a new day and seasons change, both literally and figuratively. Meagan Ruffing is a licensed mental health therapist and marriage and family counselor. She plans on doing all the things on this list to help her get through Valentine’s Day and enjoy what the month of February has to offer. February 2024 WNY Family 35


— Courtesy of the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society

OVER POPULATION Everyone loves cute and cuddly puppies and kittens. Why wouldn’t the world want more? The reality is there are only so many people who want to have a pet and most animal shelters have, especially after Covid, already reached their capacity to care for homeless pets. By spaying or neutering your pet, you are helping to reduce overpopulation in these shelters and giving other animals a chance to find their forever homes.

Why Spay or Neuter? Sadly, every year, millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized, neglected, or die of disease.

life-threatening infection of the uterus. Typically, middle-aged or older females get it about six weeks after a heat cycle. The treatment is an emergency spay.

Cats can have approximately six litters a year and, if you go by the estimate of six kittens per litter, one cat can produce about 36 kittens per year. And that is not only dangerous for a cat’s health; it’s also dangerous for an ecosystem. One unfixed male and one unfixed female will leave you with an out-of-control cat population within one year.


BEHAVIORS There are many benefits a spayed or neutered pet enjoys. Spay/Neuter neutralizes the many bothersome behaviors of pets in heat, such as howling/crying, spraying, fighting, and the urge to roam and the risk of not coming home. Cats are seasonal breeders and will continually go in and out of heat from March to September. Dogs go into heat every six months. Animals who have been spayed or neutered are typically less aggressive since their instinct to mate has been eliminated.


36 WNY Family February 2024

Spay/neuter surgery helps keep your pet healthier. A spayed or neutered pet is protected from certain cancers. According to a USA Today report, a neutered dog lives 18 percent longer than an un-neutered dog. And a spayed dog lives 23 percent longer than an un-spayed dog. Additionally, spaying females prevents breast cancer and eliminates both uterine infections and cancer. For males, neutering reduces the chance of testicular cancer and prostate problems. Spaying prevents pyometra, a common,

Puppies can usually be spayed or neutered any time after eight weeks of age. However, many people wait until just before or immediately after the dog becomes sexually mature — sometime around six to nine months of age, depending on the breed. Female dogs gain additional health benefits if they’re spayed before their first heat cycle. You can spay or neuter your cat at any age, but it’s recommended when your kitten is anywhere from 12 weeks to 6 months old. Kittens typically recover quickly, and usually get back to romping with a minimum of fuss. The procedure has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt. Some pets tend to be better behaved following the surgical procedure. Spaying or neutering your pet is a significant way that you can make a big impact on a societal challenge that affects both animals and humans. The Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society is a 501(c)3 organization comprised of more than 75 small animal hospitals and more than 225 practitioners in Erie and Niagara Counties. It exists to advance public awareness and understanding of appropriate and compassionate pet health care, veterinary services and the veterinary profession.

DEAR TEACHER continued...

s s e n l l e W Choices

Teaching Mindfulness to Children

If your child tends to experience feelings of stress or anxiety, you may want to consider teaching them about mindfulness.

tional regulation and reduce conflict with peers. Dr. Mudd said mindfulness methods can differ based on age. For little kids, you can teach them how to focus on their breathing.

It’s an easy skill to adopt and offers many benefits.

And for older kids, they can try a method that uses all five of their senses.

“Mindfulness is a simple concept of just being in the here and now, and thinking about what’s happening in the present moment and not worry about the past or the future,” explained Emily Mudd, PhD, child psychologist for Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “And for talking to children, I often say it’s as simple as thinking about one thing at a time that’s in front of you.”

“I really like the five senses rule where you focus on five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste,” said Dr. Mudd. “So, as you can imagine, this really just gets the child immersed in the environment around them.”

Dr. Mudd said studies have shown how practicing mindfulness can help improve a child’s well-being, like reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Mindfulness has also been found to improve their attention in school, emo-

ful road to doing an assignment, others will simply do the work for the students. One area where this is becoming a serious problem is that students can find sites where reports and essays and even projects can be done for them.

Parental Awareness Is Important If parents have their children do their computerized homework assignments in an area where they can observe the screens, they have a better chance of seeing that their children are staying on task. And they also need to take a look at their children’s online homework from time-to-time to ensure it is truly their children’s work. Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher. com, and visit the dearteacher.com website to learn more about helping their children succeed in school.

Dr. Mudd said it’s best to talk to your child about mindfulness when they’re not upset, that way they can process what you’re saying. She encourages parents to practice mindfulness too. Source: Cleveland Clinic

Health & Wellness

is of utmost importance to today’s families. Promote your services to 55,000 WNY families in our section.

s s e n l l We Choices

Appearing monthly in print and online!

To Advertise In This Section, Call 716-836-3486 February 2024 WNY Family 37

5 Cozy Ways to Add Warmth to Cold-Weather Meals


(Family Features) hen the winds howl and the chill of changing seasons brings a crispness to the air, one way to warm up from the inside out is with favorite foods. Filling up on comforting recipes like hearty soups and stews can be the solution you need to fight off cold temperatures. Consider quick and easy ingredients that add a little warmth to your plate as the cravings for comfort kick in. Cheese A family favorite in recipes yearround, ooey-gooey cheese is a hallmark of cool-weather recipes. Consider creamy mac and cheese mixed with your preferred protein, homemade Mexican cuisine topped with melted chile con queso or an appetizer plate with options like brie, Manchego, aged cheddar, Parmesan and more. Rice If you’re craving a meal that’s big on flavor but short on prep time, it’s hard to top the classic comfort food combo of chicken and rice. This Parmesan Chicken and Rice with Spinach and Artichoke starts with the homestyle taste of fully cooked Minute Chicken & Herb Seasoned Rice Cups with carrots, onion and garlic. The BPA-free cups offer a quick and flavorful option for an on-the-go power-up loaded with chicken, vegetables and herbs paired with hearty rice. Ready in only 1 minute, you can enjoy the flavored rice right out of the cup or prepare it as part of this 5-minute recipe on a busy weeknight. Pasta Whether you prefer spaghetti or penne, bowtie or stuffed shells, pasta provides a simple base for delicious meals loaded with comforting ingredients. For an easy weeknight meal, just choose a type of pasta, sauce and protein to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less. 38 WNY Family February 2024

Curry Paste Available in many varieties, curry paste is a common ingredient in South Asian dishes. It typically consists of ingredients like garlic, chiles or peppers, ginger and lemongrass. When you’d like to add some spice to your menu without bothering with takeout, this Thai Chicken and Rice Soup calls for green curry paste, which is generally spicier than red or yellow versions, but any can be substituted based on your heat tolerance. You can take the dish up a level with lightly seasoned Minute Cilantro & Lime Jasmine Rice for zesty flavor in a BPA-free, microwaveable cup for a simple solution when life gets hectic and preparing a time-consuming meal becomes challenging. Cayenne Serving up a touch of spice in a wide variety of favorite recipes can be as easy as adding ground cayenne. Made of dried cayenne peppers finely ground to a powder, it’s commonly used in dishes ranging from deviled eggs and pastas to shrimp and barbecue as an easy way to add a warming kick to cold-weather meals. Find more comfort food recipes at MinuteRice.com.

PARMESAN CHICKEN AND RICE WITH SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Servings: 1 1 Minute Chicken & Herb Seasoned Rice Cup 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 cup spinach, stems removed 2 ounces chicken, cooked and shredded 1/4 cup canned artichokes, drained and quartered 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Parmesan Chicken and Rice with Spinach and Artichoke Heat rice according to package directions. In medium saute pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add spinach and saute 1 minute. Add chicken and artichokes; saute 2 minutes, or until heated through. Add cheese and rice; stir to combine until heated through.

THAI CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP Prep time: 2 minutes Cook time: 5 minutes Servings: 1 1 Minute Ready to Serve Cilantro & Lime Jasmine Rice Cup 1/2 cup (3 ounces) cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped 1/2 cup chicken broth 1/2 cup coconut milk 1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste 3 small shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced 1 green onion, thinly sliced Heat rice according to package directions. In medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine chicken, broth, coconut milk, curry paste and mushrooms. Microwave on high 3 minutes. Stir in rice and garnish with green onion. Source: Minute Rice

Thai Chicken and Rice Soup



— by Barbara Blackburn

hat a cute old restaurant The Garage is! It is a place where friends and family gather, boasting its brunch, dine-in or take out. We were introduced to it by an article in the News, featuring the Tom and Jerry holiday drink.

The Garage Bar and Restaurant 1127 Hertel Ave. Buffalo, NY 14216




Salad, pairing mixed greens, strawberries, dried cranberries, goat cheese, candied pecans, with balsamic dressing ($15.00). The Chopped BBQ Salad doesn’t mention meat. It’s mixed greens, black beans, corn, shredded Cheddar, tomato, crushed tortilla chips, pickled onions, BBQ drizzle, with ranch dressing ($15.00). Some other choices include the Cadillac Panini, the Buick Panini, the Chevy Panini, and the Ferrari.

Celebrate these

F U N D A YS during the month of

It’s a place for kids as SERVICE 5/5 well as adults. They can make themselves comfortable in a booster, high chair, or regular seat and then color FAMILY FRIENDLY 4.5/5 the pictures and play tic tac toe on the kid’s menu. Kids The simple and the 12 and under can order the sublime meet here. Case in following (drink not inpoint would be the simple cluded). Grilled Ham and Cheese: Cheese Pepperoni Pizza ($18.99) Sahlen’s ham served with chips and the sublime Mushroom and dip ($8.00); Grilled Goat Cheese Pizza ($19.99). Cheese: American cheese This pizza is also served on on white bread with chips the late-night menu, 9-11 and dip ($7,00); Grilled p.m. on the weekend (still Nutella Fluff: Nutella on $19.99), when the kiddies white bread with chips and are nestled in their beds. A dip ($7.00); Lil’ Fingers: 2 cauliflower crust is available. chicken fingers with chips and dip ($7.00); Lil’ Garden: Mixed The homemade desserts for that Greens, tomato, cucumbers, Cheddar, evening were S’mores Cheesecake and grilled chicken ($7.00); or Lil’ Fruit the famous Cinnamon Roll. These rolls Cup: Seasonal Fruit Salad ($4.00). The can steal the show during brunch. After kids brunch lowers the age to 8. all, this is the “home of the best cinnamon buns in town.” Along with the Our good looking, obliging, and well-stocked libations are coffee drinks, spirited server brought the flavorful fare such as Skewed Up Irish Coffee and in good time. I savored my “Garage” Spanish Coffee, superbly suitable for special: Angus burger, American cheese, adult desserts (each $9.00). potato pancake, bacon, fried egg on Fo-

Salads and wraps display the culinary camaraderie of well-matched combo ingredients. Take the Pecan Berry

February 5th

Take Your Child to the Library Day

February 13th Pancake Day

February 17th Random Acts of Kindness Day

Whatever movable vehicle you drive, the garage is a worthy destination. Just park yourself, your family, and your friends, and “rev up” for some flavor and fun. Barb has been happily doing the Kiddie Gourmet for over 35 years. She has two children and four grandchildren, all living in Florida. She is a home instructor and community education cooking instructor for Williamsville Central Schools. She is the 2023 recipient of Buffalo State Alumni Association Senior Service Award.

February 26th Tell a Fairy Tale Day

ent ine’s Da




The sandwiches sport an automotive focus. Dad selected the Triumph Panini: Applewood bacon, Provolone, Grannv Smith apples, arugula, Italian mayo on bread, with chips ($13.00). We both agreed it was a winner and gave it an on-the-spot rave review.

Friend’s Day

Va l

caccia roll, with fries ($18.00). The potato pancake somewhat folded into the burger. Three other burgers with cute names share this category: Bel Aire, Wrecker, and Mac Attack.

February 4th

February 2024 WNY Family 39

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