5 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick

Our family’s unfortunate holiday tradition doesn’t revolve around lavish turkey dinners or cheery family togetherness.

‘Tis the season – instead – for retching up meals, dining on popsicles and shivering from fevers while buried under layers of blankets.

For my family, the stomach bug is like an old friend who returns to visit every year for turkey dinner. His Thanksgiving visit starts my family’s cycle of illness that takes us through Christmas and into the New Year.

But this year will be different.

My Resolution: Stop Getting Sick

During the stomach bug’s first Thanksgiving visit, my baby boy thankfully only suffered for a few hours. Mom and Dad, meanwhile, weren’t so lucky.

Whether it’s “the bug” or another illness, the steps to take to avoid getting sick are very obvious. But they’re not always easy to do – especially with kids.

Still, I’m tired of my family getting sick. So here is my game plan for those pesky bugs that typically inflict my family throughout the holiday and winter season.

Tip #1 – Flu Shot For Your Family

If you’re older than 6 months old, consider getting a flu shot. Last year, half of New Yorkers skipped the flu shot, and more than 65,000 people got the flu,  according to data analyzed by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

If you haven’t received your flu vaccination yet, it’s not too late! Talk to your doctor, or click HERE to find a list of clinics. On the fence? Read, Am I Selfish If I Don’t Get A Flu Shot?

Flu shots can be a torturous experience for a little one. Prep your child for that flu shot with Sid the Science Kid:

Here are more tips specific to kids:

  • Encourage your child to bring a favorite toy or comfort item to the appointment.
  • Be a good role model by staying positive and cheerful during the shot.
  • Remind your child (as well as yourself) that the shot is quick and will keep you healthy for a long time.

To be honest, these tips will probably work with my youngest child, but not my oldest. He. Hates. Shots. If you have any other ideas, please (please) share in the comments section below!

Tip #2 – “Catch” That Cough And Sneeze

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the crook of your arm (not into your hand!). This will help stop the germs from spreading to the rest of your family. It took me six years, but my eldest is finally doing this (kinda) most of the time. I can’t say the same for my 3-year-old. He’s a work in progress.

If you have a little one who just doesn’t get it, try telling him to “catch” his sneeze or cough in the crook of his arm.

Tip #3 – Stop Sharing That Fork

Don’t share food and eating utensils. As I’m writing this, that tip sounds overly obvious. Clearly, germs are easily spread this way.

But …. I may have a bad habit of sharing a plate of food with my preschooler. He’s not an adventurous foodie when we’re eating out. I usually just share a plate with him, knowing that he’d probably just waste a plate of food if I got him his own.

I may have to put an end to that bad habit!

Tip #4 – the ABCs And more Hand Washing Tips For Kids

Wash your hands – thoroughly. I’m a total #momfail with this one. Kids and adults need to scrub the entirety of their hands thoroughly with soap and wash with warm water. And they need to do this for more than just a few seconds!

Instead, my kids typically splash their hands through the water, maybe entertain the idea of grabbing a droplet of soap, before running on their way.

With my preschooler, I’m hoping this video from Elmo will help:

With my first grader, I plan to annoy him with reminders about singing the ABCs while washing!

Tip #5 – How To Avoid Pink Eye

I’m still scarred by what happened in February 2016. Both boys got sick twice, my husband was bed-ridden for a few days and I caught pink eye – in both eyes.

Avoiding pink eye is like avoiding any other sickness. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, and don’t touch your eyes with unwashed hands.

But what if you’re like me and first get pink eye in one eye, and it then spreads to the other? Here are tips to keep it from spreading:

  • Keep washing those hands! This is especially important before and after applying ointment to your eye.
  • Throw away (cotton balls) or thoroughly wash (washcloths) all the stuff you use to clean the infected eye.
  • Do not use the same eye drops for the infected eye with the healthy one.
  • Keep washing pillowcases, sheets, washcloths and other towels, and keep washing your hands after doing this.

As I write this, my family is off to a bad start to the holiday sickness season. The illnesses started earlier this year, and we’ve already had one bout of pneumonia and several colds. But with some targeted education (ie: nagging), I’m hopeful we’ll have a healthier, happier holiday season.

Battling Lead Poisoning in Herkimer and Oneida Counties

According to area health departments, an alarming percentage of children in Herkimer and Oneida counties are not screened for lead exposure.

Screening, however, is critical since the majority of homes in the area were built prior to 1978. That’s when lead paint was still commonly used. If children are exposed to lead, they’re at risk for major lifelong complications, including behavioral and social issues, learning disabilities and physical and psychiatric health issues.

The good news? A new initiative is providing local healthcare providers with the technology to more easily screen toddlers at ages one and two. This is when it’s most important to identify and address lead exposure. Using grant funds from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Member and Community Health Improvement program and with support from the Lead-Free Mohawk Valley Coalition, Herkimer County HealthNet is distributing lead screening machines to area primary care offices.

Left: Tom Curnow, Executive Director of Herkimer County HealthNet, Inc.; Center: John Murphy of Magellan Diagnostics; and Right: Alison Swartz, Program Coordinator for Herkimer County HealthNet, Inc. with a Lead Care II machine.

Removing Barriers to Lead Testing

The Lead Care II machine provides an almost instant reading of blood lead levels from a finger-stick blood sample. Herkimer Family Nurse Practitioners, a primary care pediatric practice in Herkimer County, received one of the testing machines in early 2017.

“Before we got the machine, testing children at the appropriate age was a challenge,” said Michelle Gorski. Gorski, along with Charlene Macri, owns the practice.

Charlene Macri, co-owner of Herkimer Family Nurse Practitioners, PLLC., demonstrates how the Lead Care II machine is used on a young patient.

Previously, screening rates for their patients were between 70 and 80 percent. This range is not uncommon among practices without on-site testing capabilities.

Transportation issues and work schedules sometimes prevent parents from having their children tested at the lab. In some cases, parents lose their lab slips, or simply forget to get the test done. Now, with the ability to test for lead at a child’s routine checkup, the practice is on track to screen 100% of their patients at ages one and two.

Making Lead Testing Less Scary

Some parents are understandably hesitant to bring their infants to the lab to have their blood drawn at all.

In a lab, a technician usually tries to obtain a blood sample from a tiny vein in the child’s arm. That can be scary and uncomfortable, even for an adult. As a result, Gorski and Macri estimate that more than 25 percent of the children they refer to labs leave without a successful blood draw.

Alternatively, a finger stick in the familiar primary care office environment is much easier and less painful than a regular blood draw.

A Lead Care II machine.

“We’ve actually tried the LeadCare II lances (the instruments used to prick the child’s finger) on ourselves, and you can barely feel it. Most children don’t even cry when they’re poked. Sometimes, we give them a lollipop or a toy to distract them, and it’s fairly easy.”

Consequently, “we have a much higher success rate (for performing the test) and parents are happier,” she said.

Following Up To Find the Cause

The nurses follow up immediately if a child’s lead level is high. They refer the child to a lab or hospital for a regular blood draw. With the added urgency of a high blood-lead level reading, parents are much more likely to make sure they get the test done.

Based on the findings, Gorski and Macri work with the Herkimer County Health Department to provide appropriate recommendations and resources to the child’s family to eliminate or lessen the family’s exposure to lead.

“Testing is especially important where we live because it’s a high lead exposure area. With this technology, we can decrease the risk for developmental delays in children that lead exposure can cause,” Gorski said.

Why Lead Poisoning Is Dangerous

AHealthierUpstate.org interviewed Alison J. Swartz of Herkimer HealthNet Inc. about the dangers of lead poisoning.

How do children become exposed to lead?

Lead-based paint is the biggest concern. When lead-based paint or varnish is disrupted, paint dust or chips can contaminate a room. Opening and closing windows, for example, can disrupt lead-based paint.

There is potential for lead poisoning if a child breathes in the dust or puts a paint chip in their mouth. Other sources of lead exposure can include soil, old tools, lead pipes, antiques, pottery, children’s toys, certain makeup, spices and jewelry. Check the New York State Department of Health link to learn more about lead and safety recalls at www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/lead.

How can I lessen lead exposure?

No amount of lead is safe in a child’s system. Therefore, we urge parents to keep their children away from home repairs. Parents should also talk to their healthcare provider and local health department about proper cleaning methods to avoid lead paint dust exposure. Pregnant women should heed this advice, too.

Why is it so important to detect elevated blood lead levels early?

The earlier that lead in the blood is detected, the quicker the underlying cause can be addressed. By law, children must be tested at age one. Then, children must be tested a second time at age two. It’s important to remove the child from the environment or eliminate the lead source if lead levels are elevated. Other children in the same environment are also at risk for lead exposure and should receive follow-up care.





Tips for Not Driving Parents Crazy When Home for Winter Break

After reading my recent blog post, “4 Tips for Not Driving Your College Kids Crazy Over Thanksgiving Break”, my parents felt a little “picked on”. So, I thought it was only fair to ask them for their viewpoint from the other side. Between my mom saying it’s impossible to get me up before 10 a.m., and my sister telling me she can never fit herself into my schedule, I realized that there has to be give and take on both sides. For some students, balancing our own needs at home on breaks while making time for family can be touch and go.

To avoid missing out on anything, I asked my mom, dad, and other parents for their tips on making the most of our time while home on breaks.

1. Spend time with family

They miss us while we’re gone! This is the perfect time to catch up with our families. Thanksgiving break seemed too short to squeeze everything in, but thankfully, winter break is usually a month or longer. I know I have a lot to catch up on with my parents and two sisters. Besides immediate family – aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, too, want some face time. Let your grandparents spoil you with their love and food (mostly food).

2. Stay Active!

This one is courtesy of my dad, the personal trainer. You don’t have to go crazy, but you also don’t want to get into the habit of oversleeping and being lazy, because it will be that much harder to get back to a more structured schedule when you return to school. Keep up your routine- your body will thank you later. (And, you can burn off the holiday desserts and your grandparents’ food gifts.)

3. Make up for lost time

We all miss a certain place or activity from our hometown. Use this time to do the things you’ve been thinking about while away at school. If you’ve missed the movie theater and haven’t had time to go while at school, go now! Although it seems tempting to just hang out with high school friends you haven’t seen for weeks or even months, once in a while include your parents and/or brothers and sisters. And if it is a little rest you’ve been missing, set aside a few hours to do something relaxing and for yourself.

4. Purge your bedroom

It feels great to get rid of all your old junk and see the bottom of your closet again. I know no one wants to think about cleaning while on break, but it really is worth it, and again, you don’t need to go crazy. Over Thanksgiving break, I started going through and getting rid of some old stuff when I came across my high school yearbook. It was great reminiscing! You never know what memories you can stumble upon when you’re home. Believe me, your parents will appreciate your clean-up efforts, too.

So, although winter break is the prime time for relaxation and catching up on the latest Netflix binge, it should also be a time to feel productive (while you don’t have to worry about exams or papers). And for my piece of advice: if you can survive finals week, rest assured, you can survive a month at home!

Dad Diet Series: No Turkey Left Behind

I love Thanksgiving.  Period.  It’s beautiful chaos.  A random smattering of green beans, awkward family photos (see below), layered jello, gravy, epic games of Monopoly, turkey, warm rolls, child meltdowns, gravy, sweet potatoes, laughs, and gravy. But… that’s family.  We have such a great time.

Awkward family photo

When the dust settles… there are SO many leftovers.  I can only shove so much in before the big boy pants have to come out. Plus, turkey has got to be the most boring meat on the face of the earth (hence we drown it in gravy and surround it with a menagerie of flavor).  What to do?

Soup and sandwiches!  It’s getting cold out and the nice warm soup mixed with a healthy turkey melt is just the trick.

For this recipe you’re going to need sweet potatoes, but you may be able to supplement with squash. The soup is hearty and needs a sweet flavor to help balance the gamey flavor of white meat.  Also, you’ll want to grab some multi-grain bread. White bread with white meat is about as basic as you can get, plus there’s a lot of fiber in this kind of bread.  I highly recommend “marathon bread” from your local Wegman’s.

I figure the grill is out of commission for the holidays (but not the whole winter). Maybe it’s time to hit the stove again. Also, we’re reheating food and that’s better served with an oven or stove-top. So gear up, Dad-bod Heroes, you’re gonna strap on the apron and take to the kitchen like a boss.

Print Recipe
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes of stirring
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes of stirring
  1. Start by opening your web browser and Googling "dutch oven" like I had to do...
  2. Once you realize it's basically a large pot... Pour olive oil into the large pot, heat on medium.
  3. Take the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. One bonus tip... we usually bake our Thanksgiving turkey over rings of onions to allow heat to get underneath. If you do the same, save those suckers for this portion.
  4. Grab the curry powder and slowly sprinkle over the onions. Or just slam them in. Whatever you prefer. Stir and get the smells going!
  5. Add sweet potatoes, veggie broth, and turn up the heat.
  6. Once boiling... take the temp back down to medium/low and give those ingredients a nice bath. The mixture should reduce and become one nice looking soup!
  7. Take an immersion blender and give them a swirly. You can now add the moo moo juice (also known as milk).
  8. Spoon into a bowl, add greek yogurt and cilantro, and dip the sandwich melt into this sweet tasting goodness.
Print Recipe
Low-Fat Turkey Melt
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
  1. Easiest thing you'll ever do... First, preheat the oven (not the dutch oven) to 450 degrees.
  2. Put the sandwiches together. Lightly brush olive oil on the outside of the bread. Apparently,the word "lightly" means not the way I put condiments on anything. So don't over-saturate.
  3. Let the oven do the rest. Bake for 5-10 minutes (but check on the sandwich... it's marathon bread not marathon baking). Bread should be golden and cheese melted.
  4. Cut in half, or in our house we like to make dipping sticks, and serve immediately with the delicious soup!

Fire Safety Tips for Families

Every second counts when there’s a fire. Using those seconds wisely to get yourself and your loved ones out could make the difference between escaping safely and suffering an injury.

Marc Stogran, a software engineer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, is a big proponent of the National Fire Protection Association’s “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out” public education campaign.

“People genuinely believe that a fire can’t happen to them in the safety of their home,” said Stogran, a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Manlius Fire Department. “But the truth is that it can.”

Marc Stogran

Set an escape plan AND a meeting place

Developing an escape plan is critical. All you have, on average, is between two and three minutes to escape your house safely during a fire, he continued.

Stogran encourages families to follow the NFPA’s advice and identify two ways to escape their home in the event of a fire. He also recommends that families frequently practice home fire drills to quickly get out of the house and gather at a previously established meeting place.

Families can make the drills fun by planning to treat themselves to ice cream when everyone makes it out of the house in two minutes, noted Stogran. “If the exercise goes well, celebrate the accomplishment,” he said. “If not, take the time to talk about what went wrong, and what everyone can do to get out more quickly next time.”

Should a fire ever actually occur, experts advise getting out as quickly as possible. Once out of the house, stay out and call for help. “It’s never a good idea to re-enter a burning building,” said Stogran.

Make sure your home has working smoke alarms

In addition to forming a home fire escape plan, Stogran also advises having working smoke alarms on every floor of your home. “What’s even better is to have a smoke alarm in every bedroom and hallway,” he said.

“Smoke detectors can be the first line of defense when fires occur,” continued Stogran. “Having them in multiple rooms of the house can detect a tragedy sooner rather than later.”

NFPA data show that in 2011-2015, almost all U.S. homes had at least one smoke alarm. Even so, three out of five deaths from home fires were in homes with no smoke alarms, or none that worked.

The Manlius Fire Department is one of many fire departments that offers free home installation of smoke detectors and in-home training within its fire district. Stogran often joins the department’s two-person teams charged with installing alarms. They also counsel homeowners regarding escape plans, meeting places and fire drills.

The American Red Cross, Western and Central New York Region, works with organizations such as the Manlius Fire Department to install free smoke alarms and replace batteries in existing alarms. In addition, the organization educates residents about home fire safety through its Home Fire Campaign.

Since 2014, the campaign has resulted in 8,637 smoke alarms being installed in Western and Central New York. Click here to join the American Red Cross’s Home Fire Campaign.

Household fire safety tips

Home fires can start and spread quickly. Just a little bit of planning can make a big difference for you and your family. In addition to establishing a fire escape plan and making sure you have working smoke detectors in your home, the American Red Cross recommends taking these additional precautions to help minimize the risk of fire:

Go to the National Fire Protection Association’s website for more information about fire prevention. Click here more information regarding the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.

What Parents Need to Know About Concussions

Playing sports may be a milestone in your child’s life, but it also may be another notch in the worry belt for you. You can handle bruised egos, sprains and strains and an occasional broken bone. But what about a blow to the head? What if your child suffers a concussion?

A concussion is a “mild traumatic brain injury that usually happens after a blow to the head.” And, unfortunately, more kids seem to be getting them.

Concussion diagnoses among teenagers spiked in the U.S. from 2010 through 2015, according to a study released in 2016. In addition to head injuries during sports, concussions can result from bumping your head when you fall, being violently shaken, and motor vehicle accidents.

You don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion.

Suspect a Concussion?

Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be removed from play immediately, said Nicholas Massa, M.D., Medical Director for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

“This will help reduce the risk of a worse injury,” he said, adding, “Your child should then be evaluated by a medical provider trained to diagnose and manage concussions.”

Nicholas Massa, M.D., Medical Director for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Until cleared by a medical provider, your child also should not participate in other activities that are associated with an increased risk of head injury, such as biking, skateboarding or climbing playground equipment, Massa said.

Inform Yourself About Concussions

Your child’s first defense against brain injury is your becoming an informed parent. And the time to do that is now, because, let’s face it, kids are going to be kids and get hurt, even outside the sports arena.

Take Morgan Tubolino of Mexico, New York. She and her brother were horsing around one Halloween about three years ago. Morgan fell and hit her head really hard.

Morgan Tubolino

Or, take my son, Andy, whose head hit the windshield when the car he was riding in was in an accident. (And, yes, I was adamant that he ALWAYS wear a seatbelt, but he didn’t that day.)

Both Morgan and Andy were diagnosed with concussions.

Although most people recover after a concussion, how quickly they improve depends on many factors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Factors include:

  • the severity of the concussion.
  • the child’s age.
  • how healthy the child is before the concussion.
  • how they take care of themselves after hitting their heads.

Concussion: The Aftermath

Morgan, who was 14 at the time of injury, complained of constant headaches, said her mother, BetsyTubolino.

“Her vision would get blurry when she read. Her thinking was not clear, and she confused words.”

Andy was a soon-to-be Marcellus, New York, high school senior when his accident occurred. He would also be starting football practice that summer. Although rest is very important after a concussion to help the brain heal, I wasn’t confident that the discharge instructions to “take it easy” for a few weeks were enough, given the diagnosis.

Morgan’s doctor referred her to the Upstate Concussion Center at Upstate Medical Center. Andy ended up there, too.

The author’s son, Andy, playing football.

Upstate Concussion Center

Brian P. Rieger, Ph.D., is the center’s Program Director. He is also Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation Psychology in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Upstate Medical University.

The clinic’s team focuses first on education. It’s important to let the parent and child know what they should and should not be concerned about, Rieger said.

There is no sure test to determine if a child has had a concussion. In most cases, the brain looks normal on a CT scan or MRI, he said.

“We know it’s injured because it’s not working properly,” Rieger said.

“Likewise, we know the brain is recovered when the child can engage in both physical and mental activity without triggering a headache or other symptoms. Return to risky activities is only allowed when the patient is symptom free at rest and during exertion, such as running or doing school work.”

Signs of a Concussion

Most children will recover from a concussion in a week or two, but others take longer. .

“In some cases, symptoms can last for weeks or months or longer than a year,” Rieger said.

Brian P. Rieger, Ph.D., of Upstate Concussion Center

Your child, for example, may feel dizzy, light-headed and have balance problems. Their head and neck may hurt, and they may have problems sleeping.

Or, your child may get easily confused, distracted or lose track of time. He or she may have difficulty concentrating, paying attention and have trouble with learning and memory.

Changes can still go on in the brain even when the child appears to have recovered from a concussion. These changes can affect your child not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally, Rieger said.

Recovering From a Concussion

Betsy credits the center team’s commitment for her daughter’s return to health. “They took everything very seriously and explained everything they did and why.”

After a thorough exam, Morgan was prescribed occupational and physical therapy to help her vision and balance. She attended clinic/therapy sessions three times a week for six months and was followed for about a year. Treatment also included heat and stimulation to her head and neck to relieve pain.

The clinic also contacted the school about Morgan’s need for frequent breaks, extra time to complete tests, and a quiet, dark place where she could rest, if needed.

Morgan still gets headaches occasionally. She’s learned to manage side effects that pop up from time to time. Although she played volleyball pre-concussion, she wasn’t cleared to play her sophomore year. Now a senior, she prefers to work out in the school fitness center and concentrate on her studies. Her grades have returned to high honor status. She’s also studying to become a physician’s assistant through a Citi BOCES, SUNY Oswego and Oswego Health collaborative allied health program.

Concussions May Affect Schoolwork

“We now know that we should pay as much attention to the child’s return to the classroom as to sports,” said Rieger.

Good thing for Andy. Although I was concerned about Andy’s too soon return to football, I hadn’t considered how a concussion would affect his schoolwork.

At the center, Andy went through several exercises to evaluate his hand-eye coordination, balance, and memory. The clinic notified Marcellus High School that Andy might need more time to finish his Regents exams. They advised the school’s coach that Andy should delay the start of football practice for a couple of weeks and then ease into a modified practice.

Fortunately, he’s not had any long-term side effects from the concussion other than he ALWAYS wears his seatbelt now.

“It’s important that a child not re-enter contact sports too soon as there is an increased chance of re-injury and worse symptoms if a child suffers another concussion before recovery from a previous one,” said Rieger, noting that increased awareness and recognition of concussion could be responsible for the increased number of concussions reported.

While most children who have had multiple concussions will not complain and appear to be acting perfectly normal, some may end up with more frequent headaches, trouble sleeping, memory problems, an inability to concentrate or even depression symptoms.

“The risk of these kinds of problems seems to increase with an increasing number of concussions,” said Rieger.

CTE link?

Parents may be worried that their child who has had a concussion will develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The debilitating, chronic brain condition has gained media attention as more and more football players, boxers and other professional players in contact sports are diagnosed.

There is still a lot we don’t know about CTE, said Rieger.

“The jury’s still out whether concussion or just multiple blows to the head–even without concussion–is a greater risk factor for CTE,” he said.

“Until we know more, parents should be cautious and do all they can to prevent brain injury in the first place and seek immediate attention if it does happen.”

Rieger stressed that the culture of concussion must change, with coaches having zero tolerance for injured players not divulging their own symptoms or when players don’t report a teammate who talks about having headaches, feeling dizzy, etc.

“I don’t want to overly alarm parents,” he added. “Sports are good for kids, as long as we do what we can to keep them safe!”

Want more?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a video library of topics related to concussions.

Pumpkin Picking at Chase Farms

My boys know the drill. Every Saturday, on our way to the grocery store, we’d first stop at Chase Farms, a small farm in Monroe County, to fill up on locally-grown fruits and veggies.

As I made a beeline for the freshly picked peaches, my boys would rummage through a bin filled with discarded corn husks. They’d grab an armful of husks to feed their favorite friends on the farm. Three goats, eager to amuse young children, would munch on the husks they got from my boys’ fingers.

During our last visit to the Fairport farm, however, my boys had lots more to do while I shopped for produce.

Pumpkin picking time at Chase Farms!

Rows of mums and orange and white pumpkins lined a side of the farm. My boys ran through the rows, marveling at the pumpkins, while I bought some garlic, sweet corn, apples, peppers, and cucumbers.

My littlest boy marveled at the tractor that was waiting to bring guests to the pumpkin patch. Crunched for time, we did not jump on the tractor’s wagon for a ride to get pumpkins. (But I did have to pinky swear that we’d do so next time!)

Chase Farms’ pumpkin wagon rides run from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The cost is $2 a person if you don’t want a pumpkin and $9 if you do.

Fall fun: Corn mazing

We did take the time to wander through the farm’s (free!) corn maze. My oldest son took charge and led us through various dead ends to eventually emerge from the maze. He ran over to admire the big hay bale turned ghost, while my youngest (who is afraid of ghosts, by the way) ran in the opposite direction to pose for a pic next to a giant cut-out pumpkin.


I love these goats. I’m no longer met with groans by my boys when I announce our trek to the grocery store. Why? It’s because they know they get to stop at Chase Farms and feed the goats!

The goats seem like a cross between a dog and a horse. They’re friendly like a dog, but BIG … almost like a small horse. And they love their corn husks.

What else?

Oh, and there’s the fruits and vegetables. Throughout the summer, I gorged on their peaches, buying pints at a time. I was surprised during my last visit to see that they also grew apples! I bought a few and have been munching on them all week.

There’s also a shortcake and sundae bar if you’re looking for a treat while at the farm.

Like raspberries?

I really (really) don’t like raspberries. But if you do, you can pick this fruit at the farm. The farm has 10 acres of raspberries, both summer and fall varieties. You can pick them now. Call (315) 986-3691 for more details.

The details

Chase Farms
459 Pannell Road|
Fairport, NY 14450|
(315) 986-3691

It’s located in Monroe County, but it’s not too far from the borders of Wayne and Ontario counties.

Is My Child a Bully? Part 2

In a previous article, I discussed: Is My Child a Bully? (7 Tips for Parents of Bullies). This article picks up where the other one left off. NOTE: These articles are not intended to replace a physician’s or counselor’s advice.

Josh was playing basketball very well. Josh’s mom and dad watched him proudly as he was the most valuable player game after game. But his mom also noticed he was losing his cool and using his elbows more aggressively.

She recalled previous bullying allegations against her son, but the thoughts disappeared as the crowd cheered.

Despite this, the next day she was still feeling unsettled. At dinner, she brought up a time in the game where Josh roughly fouled another player.

“Josh, it seemed like you were playing kind of rough and dirty yesterday.”

Her husband replied, “Honey, he’s a guy. His adrenaline was pumping, and it was a tough opponent.”

But Josh’s mom couldn’t shake the image of the player that Josh knocked down.

A side of her son she didn’t like

The following Sunday, she drove by the court where Josh played pick-up basketball with neighborhood kids.

She saw him knock a much weaker player to the ground. The younger player didn’t get up right away, and Josh didn’t offer a hand up or an apology. The downed player got up, rubbed blood off his elbow, picked up his jacket and left the game.

No one acknowledged his injury or departure. Josh’s mom felt her mouth fall open in shock.

Here was a side of her son she didn’t like.

Good at sports without being a bully

To get to the bottom of the story, she invited Josh to his favorite restaurant. She brought up the subject that had been nagging at her.

“Josh, I happened to be driving by the court yesterday and saw you knock down a smaller kid. He was bleeding when he left. What’s going on? Why do you play so roughly?”

Josh replied, “What, what are you talking about? That kid had no business playing in our pick-up game. And, being pushy is part of the game. I thought you liked how good I am at basketball.”

Mom paused before she spoke.

“Yes, but you can be good and not hurt people. Remember there was that thing earlier in the year about you being a bully…and….”

Josh interrupted.

”That’s all over. Remember, nothing came of it. ”

“Josh, I’m just concerned,” his mom replied. ”Basketball is only one part of becoming a man.”

Josh defended his actions.

“Mom, it’s the only part that is going to get me into a college. Enough. I’m going to leave now and get a ride home with my friends.”

With that, Josh stalked out.

The reason behind the bullying

Josh’s mom went home and began to search online about bullying.

At first, what she found was terrifying. Some linked bullying to substance use and sociopathic behavior.

Then she stumbled on a website that made sense.

The site suggested that parents look at changes in life circumstances. She recalled that Josh’s grandfather had died about six months ago. He and Josh would go fishing together and out for ice cream. He came to Josh’s games.

After his grandfather died, Josh and his dad began doing more things together. They watched basketball and action blockbuster movies. As a reward for a great season, Josh got an Xbox. He spent hours playing Halo and World of Warcraft. Life had become basketball, school and what his mother jokingly called “killing games.”

Confronting your child, the bully

Josh’s mom talked to her husband. They agreed to talk to Josh together, using a recent photo of Josh and his grandfather. They discussed how Grandpa’s passing had affected them all.

Josh cried as he felt the pain of missing his grandfather. He said basketball had become like a job and how responsible he felt for getting a scholarship and his team’s success. He really had wanted to do some art classes this semester, but there was no time.

Josh’s parents suggested he skip intramural games during the off-season or pick-up basketball. He’d have more time to take a community art class.

Josh continued to play basketball as a dominant force on the team, but not as aggressively. And, now he has more balance in his life. He still plays Xbox, but only for a couple of hours a week.

Apologizing to the kids he had bullied

Josh’s mom asked him to do one more thing: Apologize to the kids he had bullied.

At first, Josh was angered by the suggestion. Then, a couple of days later, he spoke up.

”Remember that kid, the one whose mom complained about me? I talked to him. I said I was a jerk and I was sorry. He invited me to his house to shoot a few hoops. Guess what? He’s getting a lot better. I gave him some pointers, like a better way to hit a three-point shot. I know you don’t want me to do a lot of extra basketball stuff, but I told him I would show him a couple of defense moves next week. Is that OK?”

Josh’s mom nodded as she gave him a hug.

Tips for parents

It’s sometimes not clear if your child is a bully. Read “7 tips if your child is the bully” for help navigating uncertain situations. Another good resource is stopbullying.gov. Cyberbullying is also an issue; check out nobullying.com.

If your child is a bully, remember to:

  1. Acknowledge the problem. Explain that the behavior must stop.
  2. Consider asking your child’s school, doctor or local mental health association for help, For example, The Mental Health Association in Rochester, New York, offers parents suggestions and support.
  3. Talk to your child about the behavior, why it bothers you and strategize different ways of reacting.
  4. Don’t be afraid to limit or curtail activities that are fueling the fire of aggression.
  5. Praise your child’s desirable behaviors. There is good in everyone.

Finding Undetected Vision Issues in Kids

“Mark,” a preschooler, always seemed to be getting in trouble, acting out and having a hard time learning. Turns out, there was good reason. He had double vision. Until the McGraw Lions Club screened him as a part of their “see” program, his condition had gone undetected.

“At that age, he was still not verbal enough to perform an eye chart test. We performed a vision screening for him and found he needed to be referred for further assessment by an eye doctor,” said Cathi Bernardo, president of the McGraw Lions Club.

Mark’s parents took him for a comprehensive eye exam. His eye doctor diagnosed him with double vision and prescribed glasses. Once his double vision was corrected, he not only did better in preschool, but behaved better, too.

“In one year, this small change made a huge difference in his life. Now he can start kindergarten on time rather than be held back,” said Bernardo

“If the diagnosis had been delayed, he might have struggled more. But the camera caught that something was going on.”

A Camera of Their Own.

The McGraw Lions Club bought a screening camera in the spring of 2017, thanks to funds from an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Community Health Award. Before, they had used a camera shared among 30 other Lions Clubs throughout the state. With their own camera, the McGraw Lions have dramatically increased the number of screenings they perform. With more screenings, they can identify eye disorders in more area children and help them get treatment.

Bernardo says current camera technology is a major improvement for screening children for vision problems. In the past, the screening consisted of the child covering one eye and identifying letters and numbers on a chart. The test was geared for older children who knew how to read, talk, and sit still during the test.

Now, the Lions simply take a picture of the child’s eye from about a meter away using their special camera. The camera can detect amblyopic disorders, where vision in one eye is reduced because the eye and brain are not working together properly. The camera can also detect nearsightedness, farsightedness, and other irregularities. Capturing the image takes less than 10 seconds and requires no action from the child. Even restless or non-verbal children can be screened fairly easily.

The camera produces a report that categorizes the result as either a “pass” or a “refer.” If a child gets a “refer,” the Lions recommend that the parents take the child to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. The Lions do not diagnose disorders or recommend treatment.

 When Should I Check My Child’s Vision?

Children should have comprehensive eye exams early and often, starting at 6 months of age, according to the American Optometric Association.

Many parents, especially those juggling work schedules and transportation issues, struggle to get their child to the eye doctor or may put it off entirely. By providing free screenings, the Lions draw parents’ attention to the importance of eye health, helping ensure children who need professional examination get it. The Lions also help with the cost of glasses for children whose families may have trouble affording them.

McGraw Lions Club members perform eye screenings for children in schools, preschools and churches throughout Cortland County. They screen youth up to the twelfth grade, but primarily focus on children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years. The earlier in life an eye disorder is discovered and treated, the better the outcome for a child’s vision.

“About 10 percent of kids from birth to 6 are going to have something that needs to be treated. We want to detect those children and get them in to the health care system for proper treatment,” said optometrist Dr. Edward Cordes, national chairman of the Lions KidSight Foundation and past International Lions Club director.

Screenings have even proven to be life-saving, helping uncover two cases of a rare childhood cancer of the eye, retinoblastoma. Without the screening, the cancer may have advanced without the parents’ knowledge.

Knights of the Blind

In their earliest days, Lions clubs throughout the world adopted eye and vision health as a central cause. Speaking at a convention in 1925, Helen Keller, who was a Lion, challenged International Lions Club members to “become knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

From then on, the Lions committed themselves to preventing blindness and improving the lives of those who are blind and hearing impaired.

At the McGraw Lions Club in Cortland County, the 35 members work on a variety of local community service projects. Their biggest project by far is their “See” vision screening program.

Learning at full potential

Because as much as 80 percent of children’s learning is through vision, the need for early screening is especially urgent.

“If a child is visually impaired, like Helen Keller was, that does not mean that they can’t learn or that they won’t be successful. They absolutely can. It’s just a lot more challenging. If unaddressed, it makes it more difficult for them to reach their full potential,” said Cordes.

Bernardo agrees, “That’s why we do it. We want to help these kids do better in school and catch it early.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Preventive Services Task Force, instrument-based screening is a valid method for screening very young children. For more information about vision screening, contact your child’s pediatrician or family physician.

Back To School For Kids With Anxiety Or Special Needs

Returning to school in the fall can be a tricky task for children who suffer from anxiety, autism, developmental disabilities or special needs.

Dr. Ann Griepp, M.D., a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, offers the following tips for parents who want to lessen the stress this school year.

Helping kids with anxiety return to school

Dr. Griepp had a child who suffered from anxiety. What helped? A sparkly, pink backpack.

Watch the following video to learn more about the backpack and other tips, including the importance of discussing last year’s successes with your child.

Back-to-school routine for kids with special needs

The more you rehearse your back-to-school routine, the better the first days are likely to go for kids with autism, developmental disabilities and special needs.

For more tips, click on the following video.