Category Archives: Life Stories

We’ve seen the “bad” of social media this week – here’s the good!

We’ve all read the disgusting story about Anthony Weiner and how social media can be used in a bad way but I was fortunate to receive a Tweet this morning from one of my followers that shows how social media can pass along uplifting and heroic messages.

The  Tweet read “Alice is 15 & has terminal cancer. One of her wishes is to trend on Twitter. #AliceBucketListhttp://bit.ly/mPxPLH  Please RT .”

Needless to say it caught my attention.  I’ll admit that sometimes I’m skeptical about these things and wonder if they’re legitimate but after reading this little girl’s blog there’s no way I can’t write about it.

Alice is indeed dying of cancer.  She’s writing a blog to document the time she has left with her friends and family.  She has also created a “bucket list” and that’s where it hit home for me personally.  One of Alice’s wishes is to swim with sharks.  Why did this one particular entry get to me?  Because my beautiful, healthy, wonderful eight year-old daughter is obsessed with sharks and would also love to do this.  And, hopefully, my daughter will have that chance someday whereas, most likely, Alice won’t.

My life has been stressful, chaotic and, at times, quite traumatic.   I’ve lost one child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome which has profoundly affected my life.  But to contemplate my daughter dying of cancer is unthinkable and makes me grateful for the amazing gifts – my children and stepchildren – that I have.

Alice does indeed want to “trend” on Twitter.  You can follow her @Alice_Pyne .  You can also follow her blog at http://alicepyne.blogspot.com/ .  She also talks about the importance of bone marrow donation, something everyone should be aware of.

The petty annoyances I woke up with this morning really seem so trivial now.  Thank you Alice!

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Using cooking as a learning tool for my special needs’ child (or my version of Eat, Pray, Love)

It’s been a week since I’ve started my “TV diet” experiment with my son and it’s been a learning experience for both of us.

After two more days of no school due to snow and me trying to work it was extremely difficult to find activities for him and not revert back to the electronic babysitter.

Weaning him off his favorite TV shows was truly like going through detox. He would plead, yell and try to sneak them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depriving him of all TV but I am trying to replace some of the shows that get him over-excited with other shows in which he can learn something and support a hobby.

Enter Food Network. It’s opened up a new world for him (one that I already enjoy!) It took him a while to get into it but now he’s cooking up a storm and was really excited about the “chocolate show” that was on last night.

I’m now strategizing with his teachers to work together and use this new found interest to learn math, science, geography and other skills. So far this week he’s made Baby Back Ribs, Meatballs, Chicken Cutlet and Shepard’s Pie. Next week we’re already planning pudding brownies, Steak Fajitas and Buffalo Wings!

So, now we eat, I pray that this will help him find a passion and I continue to love him with all my heart.

A few tips I’ve learned when cooking with a special needs’ child:

• Help select recipes with only a few ingredients
• Teach the importance of kitchen safety – understand their abilities when it comes to using the stove and knives
• Resist the urge to “take over.” The beauty of cooking (as opposed to baking) is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Even a sloppy pizza is delicious!
• Find some great teaching opportunities – measuring ingredients, understanding how water boils, etc.
• Be sure that they follow through with clean up
• Congratulate them on a job well done!!!!

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

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Can I help my special needs son find his passion and wean him of TV?

I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself. I know the people closest to me will tell me I’m too hard on myself but that’s not the case. This is about Spencer, my special needs’ son who I blog about often (although haven’t recently.) It depresses me beyond belief that he doesn’t seem to have a passion or even a hobby. He’s lost in a world of TV. I feel like he’s the kid from Willy Wonka who only watches TV. Some “experts” think he’s hearing voices because he’s frequently talking to himself. I know this isn’t true. As I constantly tell my readers, a mom knows her kids better than anyone else. He’s not hearing voices, he’s repeating lines he’s heard from his favorite TV shows and movies..Bonanza, Pirates of the Caribean, Star Wars.

I’ve tried to expose him to a variety of activities from karate to soccer to hip hop. He starts out interested but quickly becomes bored. I can’t even get him into video games because he doesn’t feel he’s good enough. All of the things “regular” boys should enjoy. The only thing he seems to enjoy is TV. So the debate constantly plays in my head – does he not have any interests because he watches too much TV or does he revert to TV because he hasn’t found anything else?

It seems the greatest conflicts arise around TV, whether it’s getting into a fight with his sisters over the remote, his defiance of doing his homework because he’s watching his favorite show or his obsession with a particular character. This afternoon capped off a week of me telling him that TV needed to be dialed back. I was trying to have a conference call with a client and I heard Spencer getting into an argument with his babysitter Josh. I tried my best to ignore it and let Josh deal with it but Spencer ended up coming running into my home office and having a massive temper tantrum on the floor. The cause? Josh was following my instructions and prohibiting TV. He had options – Wii, playing outside or reading. Spencer refused all and was extremely disrespectful. So, Josh disconnected the TV and took it down to the basement. I respect Josh for it and support him but now what? Part of me feels like this is the only thing that my son enjoys and I feel bad about depriving him of it. The other part of me says that if he’s ever going to find something else I need to help him.

So… the great experiment begins. Can I explore various activities this weekend until I can find something that sparks my son’s interest? I know he enjoys cooking and he can do several things by himself but when he asks me whether he can help me make dinner I at first say no. It’s already 6P and the girls are getting hungry and, after all, I can do it much faster by myself. But, I stopped. This is an opportunity. So, I take a few deep breaths, pour myself a glass of wine and tell him yes, he can help me. Here he is making chicken cutlets. If this is what gets him excited I can use this for a variety of things – math for measuring, research skills for looking up recipes and science for learning about heat, freezing and evaporation.

So, stay tuned… not sure what this weekend will bring but it’s a TV diet for both of us!

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Listen up girls – forget about the “mean girls” because the new America’s Top Model just proved they don’t matter!

Photo: Fredrico De Angelis/Pottle Productions Inc ©2010 Pottle Productions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So I’m in the midst of a crazy week of travelling and spending way too much time in hotel rooms.  I don’t often watch a lot of TV but sitting by myself in a hotel room isn’t much fun so I actually turned on America’s Next Top Model last night, a show I have never seen.  I guess it was the night to be watching it since it was the season finale and the crowning of America’s Next Top Model.  I must admit, I’m not a big fan of these sort of reality shows and never watch them but an interesting message came out of this one last night.

 

Ann Ward, the girl who won, talked about how she was constantly teased when she was in school.  She was actually in tears as she discussed how kids would make fun of her because she was so tall and “didn’t fit in.”  OK, so I guess there are some redeeming qualities in these shows.  This girl just walked off with a major modeling contract, money and an opportunity of a lifetime!  And now she can laugh at all of those mean kids who used to make fun of her!  Bravo Ann!

 

I’m hoping that a lot of young girls watched this show last night.  So many girls think they have to conform to a certain look to be accepted and heaven forbid if they don’t fit that mold.  It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter what a bunch of petty little girls think of you in junior high or high school.  Anyone can soar and make their dreams come true.  Most of the “mean girls” from school will end up with sad, unfulfilled lives anyway. 

 

So girls, tough it out!  Hang in there!  Have the courage to believe in yourself and ignore criticism and nastiness.  Because someday you will shine and realize all of your dreams!

 

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.  Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant. 

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I’m teaching my kids that it’s not about being a Republican or Democrat by Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom

My kids have been asking me a lot of questions since they see all of the signs around town and hear the ads on TV.  It seems as if all they hear is how bad the “other guy” is.  It’s hard to explain to them what anyone really stands for because it’s spun, manipulated and distorted.  I’m also tired of reading what the “profile” is for a Democrat, liberal, Republical or Tea Party.  Here are some fairly simple beliefs that I would hope most parents believe:

           Treat everyone with respect regardless of their physical, religious, sexual or political differences.

           Be kind to people and don’t hold a grudge

           Help people who aren’t as fortunate as you

           All kids should have access to medical care

           We should be able to provide our children with the best education possible

It really is that simple.  Maybe that makes me an idealist (as my fiancee suggested) but I believe that if moms would start teaching their children these core principals at an early age many of the problems we face today would be eliminated.  It doesn’t seem that any political party is getting it completely right.  I pray that the next generation might change that. 

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant. 

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Simplifying my life and becoming empowered by Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom

This week marks a year since I moved out of my house and started my new life as a single mom. In some ways it’s flown by but, when I think back on everything that’s happened since, it seems as if I’ve lived a lifetime. The kids were on a week-long vacation with their dad this past week and it gave me time to do some “house-cleaning” both literally and figuratively.

I remember last year as I was packing up to move out I made my first purchase on my own without having to check with anyone else. It was a vacuum cleaner. Something incidental but, in my mind, it was monumental. I didn’t have to explain to someone else why this was the right vacuum for me. I didn’t have to debate whether to “shop around” to find another. I just was able to do it and, let me tell you, it was the best feeling in the world!! Renting a house on my own was certainly another big step. I negotiated the lease, dealt with the paperwork, dealt with the utility and cable companies, coordinated the move…everything. It seemed overwhelming and exhausting but I remember the first night I was here I toasted myself for having done it. Now this past week I did the one thing I never thought I would be able to do on my own – I bought a car. I really do think of myself as a successful and intelligent business woman but, when it comes to dealing with cars, I feel completely naïve. I was completely stressed out this week because I knew I had to handle it and I was dreading it. But, once again, I rose to the occasion, quickly and efficiently found a car, negotiated the price and bought a car! The sense of accomplishment I felt can’t be described. Now I know I can do things on my own!

My life has changed dramatically in the past year. I went from owning a home, where I had to worry about repairing whatever broke and maintaining it, to renting a home where I could call the landlord to fix it. I turned in a leased vehicle, for which I was making monthly payments, to a car I bought outright and got rid of one big monthly payment. That’s when it occurred to me – not only do I feel empowered by accomplishing these things on my own but, by changing my lifestyle and not being burdened by certain financial responsibilities, I feel so much more less stressed!

And that’s when it occurred to me. One of the lessons I didn’t even realize I learned this year was that by getting rid of the material “stuff” in my life and simplifying I feel even more free! And so, I’m taking stock of everything around me and deciding what really needs to stay and what can go. This includes my kids toys, clothes I haven’t worn in years and yes, even some people who have filled my life with negativity rather than support. My new life is filled with less stuff but also less stress and more happiness and peace. I intend to keep it that way.

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

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Thoughts on how to help grieving parents by Alison Rhodes, The Safety Mom

By The Safety Mom

Today is the 13th anniversary of my beautiful baby boy Connor leaving earth and going back to heaven. On August 5th, 1997 he died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). I was explaining to someone yesterday that, while it gets easier, it changes you forever. His anniversary sometimes creeps up on me and then I wake up and realize why I’m feeling a bit strange. The weather today is exactly like it was the day he died. There are some minutes of that day that I can remember exactly and others that I think, out of self-preservation, my mind has chosen to forget.

Ironically I spoke with two sets of parents yesterday who also lost their children – both under very different circumstances. Yesterday on my radio show, Keeping It Together With Alison, The Safety Mom, my guest was Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas. Polly was the young girl who was abducted from her own home in 1993 and brutally raped and murdered. I can’t even imagine the torment that man went through as he had to sit in the same court room with the monster that killed his child and refrain from lunging at him. Marc went on, however, to start KlaasKids http://www.klaaskids.org , an organization dedicated to keeping kids safe from abductions. He’s an amazing man and I was so honored to have him on my show.

Then, last night, we had some new friends over for dinner. I learned that their college-aged daughter died in a horrific car crash the same year I lost Connor. Our friends had four other children at the time and she explained to me how it affected each of them in different ways.

While all of our losses are different they are equally as painful. The grief of a parent is all-consuming. After Connor died I became very involved in the SIDS community and sat on the board of directors for First Candle – http://www.firstcandle.org . The group’s support was invaluable in helping me work through my grief. In those first few days, family and friends were constantly asking what they could do to help – I had no idea. They felt completely helpless and, to be honest, they were. But, over the years I’ve been able to help other parents and friends of grieving families with some ideas on what they can do and say when a child dies:

• Parents are in shock when their child’s death first occurs. A suggestion that they might not consider is saving a lock of their child’s hair. For some this provides enormous comfort.

• LISTEN! Many people avoid talking to the parents about the child because they feel it will make them more upset. Actually it’s just the opposite. Ask them to share special memories of their child and let them talk.

• In the first few days after the death there is tremendous commotion. But then, after a week or two, everyone goes back to their daily lives and the parents are left with the realization that they can never go back to “normal.” It’s then that parents will appreciate the phone calls and even a surprise dinner brought over. The quiet, simple gestures mean everything.

• A change of scenery helps. If they have other children, offer to babysit so that they can go out – even if it’s just a quick dinner or a movie. If they don’t consider getting a group of people together to chip in for theater tickets or some other event. They’ll just be going through the motions but it distracts their thoughts, even for just a brief time.

• Don’t forget birthdays and anniversaries. Even thirteen years later I so appreciate getting calls from family and friends just saying that they remembered the day and they were thinking of us. Some people think that by “reminding” the parents it makes them sad. Trust me, we never forget and the thought that other people also remember makes us happy.

I miss you Connor, love Mommy.

Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.

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