5 Firework Safety Tips for Summer

As we approach the Fourth of July, I can’t help but notice the increase in road-side tents, filled to the edges with boxes and bags. And I don’t mean the garage sales. The tents are filled with fireworks.

You might be wondering about fireworks safety? If so, remember that the best way to stay safe with fireworks is to not use them at home. Watching a public fireworks display is much safer!

“Children should never play with fireworks and even sparklers should be discouraged,” said LouAnne Giangreco, M.D., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “It is better for everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals.”

Staying safe this holiday could even include starting other fun traditions, she added, with safer toys such as glow sticks, necklaces, fun hats and wind spinners!

But if fireworks are legal in your area, and you want to use them, here are five tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

1. Sparklers are Still Fireworks

You may think sparklers are safe for kids. But they do get very hot – hot enough to even burn some metals! – and can cause injury. Sparklers cause 19 percent of firework injuries, according to the  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. If using sparklers, be sure to follow the directions, use proper eye protection and maintain a safe distance. If a child is burned, remove clothing from the burned area and call your doctor immediately.

2. Reign in the Troops

With the excitement of the holidays, kids tend to goof off. Make sure the kids know the dangers of fireworks. Stress the importance of safety. Even pointing fireworks at others as a joke is dangerous. Establish “firework rules,” such as steering clear of the adults as they set off the fireworks. If an eye injury occurs, do not touch or rub it or flush the eye out with water. Get medical care right away.

3. Don’t Buy Illegal Fireworks

If you’re buying fireworks, make sure you’re buying the legal kind.  Legal fireworks show labels with the manufacturer’s name, as well as clear directions. Unlabeled fireworks are illegal, according to KidsHealth.org, and don’t be fooled by names like M-80, M100, blockbuster, or quarter-pounder.

4. Be Safe, Not Sorry

Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, this tends to be a sign it was made for a professional display, not a small backyard celebration.

Also, check that it is legal to purchase fireworks in your area. If you live in upstate New York, here’s more information from some local newspapers:

5. Don’t Skip the Small Stuff

Store fireworks in a cool, dry place. A wet firework could be harder to light, which can cause irregular explosions.

Never relight a firework. It can be disappointing not to see your favorite explosion go off, but it’s not worth the risk of a random explosion during an attempted relight.

Also, keep a bucket of water and a hose nearby, just in case.

The Last Word

But remember: 280 people visit the emergency room every day with firework-related issues in the month around July 4th, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

So as you consider the types of fun you can have on July 4th, don’t forget to check out local fireworks shows for a safer – and just as enjoyable – holiday alternative.

For more safety tips, visit the following sites:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission


American Academy of Pediatrics

Hidden Gems: Tinker Nature Park

Tinker Nature Park is magical! As a nanny, this is one of my favorite spots for the kids. It’s beautiful and the trails are wheelchair and stroller accessible so the baby can come along and enjoy the sun. The trails are well maintained and feature hidden treasures alongside every turn!

Among the trees and rocks along the trail, you and your kids can discover detailed and intricate fairy houses! Carved into trees, on top of stumps, between branches, everywhere you look there are tiny little houses. The homes are so detailed you just might have to knock to see if someone is home.

The look on a child’s face when they discover the charming little houses will make your world feel just as magical as theirs. My favorite part is when they ask me all about the magic of the forest. Seeing a child connecting with nature is just so heartwarming.

Take a closer look

Within the park, there is a small nature museum complete with rotating nature exhibits that display some of the animals that live within the park.

Each fairy house is unique and has an intricate design. Each one offers a great place to stop and take in the beautiful artistry that is perfectly integrated with the beautiful forest all around you. Make sure to stop at each fairy house along the trail to see the creative ways the artists crafted the nature around them into the tiny magical houses.

Don’t forget to stop at the nearby playground. There’s also a wildflower meadow and an observation blind to sit and see all the animals that walk by. Kids love the enchanting forest as well as the nature they can observe all around them (instead of being stuck indoors)!


  • Location: 1525 Calkins Road, Pittsford, NY 14534
  • Hours: 7 am – Sunset
  • Price: FREE

For more information:




10 Pool Safety Tips for Summer

I find a reason every year to delay the opening of our backyard pool.

I declared last spring, for example, that the pool was to stay closed until we finished cleaning up the yard and mulching. Since I live on a big lot with too many gardens, the pool remained closed until mid-July.

I’ll continue with the rule this year. Maybe I can think of a way to delay until August?

Why am I so reluctant to jump into a quintessential part of summer? The reason is named Matthew. He’s a feistily independent 3-year-old whom I fear will find a way into the pool one day when I’m not looking.

Pool safety tips

In case I run out of excuses, and we do open our pool before fall, I did a little research on pool safety tips to help lessen my neurosis. Here’s what I found:

  1. An adult should always watch the child when he’s in the pool. But I have a preschooler who climbs bookshelves or runs out of buildings when you turn your back for like three seconds.  What if he tries to get into the pool when I’m not looking? If that happens, hopefully, this pool safety checklist will prevent anything bad from happening:
  2. Teach children how to swim. I’m one for two on this one. The big brother can swim, but the little 3-year-old can’t. Your local YMCA and/or Parks and Recreation department may offer swim lessons. Remember: Just because a kid can swim doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch them in the pool.
  3. Install a fence around the pool that is at least four feet in height. It shouldn’t be climbable and there shouldn’t be more than 4 inches between the vertical slats. In addition to installing a non-climbable fence, there should not be anything alongside the fence, like lawn furniture, that could be used to climb it. Kids are very good problem solvers.
  4. Have a self-closing, self-latching gateAnd for those with above ground pools, when the pool is not in use, lock or remove ladders and steps to prevent access.
  5. Keep pool covers in working order. Hmmm. Need to check this one. Our cover is looking a little shabby.
  6. Know how to perform CPR on children and adults. I took a CPR class last year for this very reason. But I’m not good in emergencies. I’m doubtful I’ll be any help if my worst fears come true.
  7. Establish pool “rules” – such as “no running on the pool deck” and “no diving in a pool that’s not deep enough.” Another suggested rule is to keep toys away from the pool when the pool is not in use, so kids aren’t tempted to go play with them. I like the rules. I’ll adopt them immediately.
  8. Pool alarms. I want one. Now. I’m adding this to the list of “requirements” needed to open the pool. A pool alarm may offer some benefit, but keep in mind that it’s not to replace proper fencing.
  9. Make pool safety interesting. Try showing your child this video:

    Or have them interact with this app. Get the app in the app store or google play.

  10. Convey to your child that the wrath of mom and dad will reign down on him if he’s found in the pool area without an adult. This is my very own rule. Maybe it’s a bit extreme.

But I’m hoping my threats, combined with these tips, will help me keep my sometimes disobedient son safe this summer.

Life after College: How to Ease a Graduate’s Biggest Fear

I’m graduating.

I’ve been saying those words a lot lately…mostly in my head. For the past couple of months, it’s been difficult to wrap my head around that concept. I’ve been a student for the past 16 years; I’m not quite sure I know how to be anything else.

The Fears of a Graduate

Like most college seniors, I’ve gone through the appropriate motions. I’m on the home stretch to graduate, I’m trying not to get a bad case of senioritis and I’m applying for jobs. With a lot of hard work and pleasant persistence, I hope to land a job—but what if I don’t?

Most, if not all 22-year-olds are impatient to hit the ground running with a job related to their college major. We want it and we want it now.

As I fight my impatience to snag my first real job, my family has my back 100 percent of the time. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t obsess over these questions:

When will I have a job?   Where will it be? What will I be doing? Do I want to live in my hometown or move away? When I get a job, will I be able to have a nice place to live, pay off student loans, afford a car?

“We’ll always be here if you need us”

As I ponder what could happen, I took the direct approach and asked my mom and dad how they’re feeling about another child venturing into the adult world. After all, they’ve raised four children over a span of 36 years—each with their own trials and tribulations after college.

Sophia with her parents.

What my parents said provided me with the confidence needed to take the next step. Susan Morris, my mother, possibly the toughest woman I know, has never doubted her children.

“You kids never worried us. Your dad and I are reminded every day how great you all are” she said.

I’ve always envisioned myself in a big city after college; I’ve made it a point to let my parents know this. Not because I want to get away from my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., but because my parents have raised me to feel confident enough to tackle anything.

“If you want to stay here, that’s great. If you want to move halfway across the world, that’s your decision, but we’ll always be here if you need us,” Mom said.

At this point in the conversation, I had to fight back the tears.

For my dad, Kevin Morris, having his children move away is hard for him to accept. My sister, who is married with two kids, lives on Long Island. One brother lives locally; the other is still in college.

“You say you’ve been a student for 16 years, but we’ve been parents for double that time. We’re never going to stop being your parents,” he said. “As you move onto this chapter of your life, we have to let go and let you take the reins.”

Disappointed? OK. Discouraged? No Way!

From as early as I can remember, my parents have drilled this piece of advice into their children’s heads:

“It is OK to be disappointed—but it’s never OK to be discouraged.”

If the last four years of college taught me anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. But I’m ready to take the reins. I don’t know if it’s college, or my parents’ confidence in me or life, in general, that’s taught me:

In life, you can work the hardest you’ve ever worked and still not get what you want, but you keep trying anyway. That’s the point.



You’ll Never Guess Where the Best Playground Is…

I’d been in the car seven hours with a cranky toddler, fussy first grader, and tired hubby. Even I was out of sorts. But then I turned into a new rest stop on the New York Thruway and all was right with the world.

This rest stop was unlike any others I’d ever seen. It was hidden from the highway, so no blaring fast food signs alerting you to the chance to fuel up, grab a burger or hit the restroom. I turned down the winding road, and then the seas parted to reveal exactly what my family needed at that very moment.


We had stumbled upon the best playground ever in the most unlikely spot, the Mohawk Valley Welcome Center (formerly the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area). It opened earlier this year. You can find this hidden gem westbound on the Thruway between exit 28 in Fultonville and exit 29 in Canajoharie.

As a Thruway veteran, I declare it’s by far the swankiest rest stop I’ve ever seen. The center features local food and beverages, interactive kiosks promoting the state’s tourism industry and, of course, a very cool playground.

Inside the rest stop.

Why it’s the best playground

Here’s why a rest area might be my new go-to stop on the Thruway:

  1. An actual playground along the Thruway? I can break up long trips and let my kids release pent-up energy without having to leave I-90? Enough said.
  2. It’s designed with kids in mind—from the best soft and bouncy playing surface to the quality materials and design of the play equipment. My kids loved the playground’s canal theme (see photos.) As my youngest climbed through a boat, my husband echoed what I was thinking. “This is the best playground ever.”

3. The playground was set against the beautiful backdrop of the Erie Canal and Mohawk River. (Plus, my kids got to see a boat go through the lock!)

4. There’s lots of space for kids to run along a path that ran along the canal.

Not for kids only

Adults can have a lot of fun, too. The scenic area is the perfect place to take a stroll, and read the markers along the way that highlight the area’s historical past. In addition, there’s also electric vehicle charging stations, a covered porch overlooking the canal and pet comfort areas.


A place for people with disabilities

Finally, the playground is ADA compliant. Also, people with disabilities make up some of the rest stop employees. For example, Liberty ARC, a not-for-profit serving people with disabilities, provides some of the staff.

Where is your favorite playground?

My oldest son agreed that the rest stop playground was pretty cool – but that there was another he loved more. His ultimate, all-time favorite place to play? The new Jack’s Place playground at Rothfuss Park in Penfield in Monroe County. He loved the playground’s dinosaur theme.

Where is your favorite playground? Share in the comments section below.

What You Need to Know Before Buying Sunglasses for Your Kid

Sunglasses for kids come in all sorts of fun sizes, shapes and characters. What young kid wouldn’t want police dog Chase from Paw Patrol or Anna and Elsa from Frozen plastered on the side of their shades?

More importantly, just like with adults, sunglasses can save their skin and eyes by blocking the sun’s powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Children under age 10 are at a high risk for skin and eye damage from ultraviolet rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The skin on their eyelids and around their eyes is more delicate and vulnerable than adult skin, according to the Foundation.

Try to keep a child who is less than 6 months old out of the sun. Those ages 6 months and older should wear sunglasses when playing outside. If your child wears prescription glasses, don’t forget to also get those prescription sunglasses!

Here are seven tips for buying sunglasses for children from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  1. UV rating. Buy glasses that offer 99-100 percent protection from two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Large, wraparound shades. The larger the sunglasses, the lesser the risk of the sun damaging your kid’s eyes.
  3. Playground-proof. It’s way too easy for a kid to break glass lenses! Consider plastic lenses (unless, of course, your doctor asks you to use glass ones instead). Impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that don’t pop out of the frames are best for young kids. Glasses should fit snugly on the face and the frames should be bendable, and not breakable.
  4. It’s their choice. Kids, especially finicky teens, are more likely to actually wear the glasses if they helped pick them out.
  5. Check for scratches. If the glasses have any flaws, it might distort their vision. Young kids, for example, might not be able to say what is wrong if the glasses are warped.
  6. Don’t forget the big hat. Sunglasses only prevent rays that come in from the lenses. Sun can still enter from the side or top of the glasses. You might want to purchase a wide-brimmed hat for your kid when you’re buying those shades.
  7. Finally – find a tree. Retreating to a shady spot when the sun is intense – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – provides great protection from the sun.

Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival

For the last 10 years, my family has not missed the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. It is a great FREE, community event. You can check it out on Saturday, April 28, 2018, from 10 am to 5 pm.

Performance art, nitrogen ice cream and more!

First up this year is the announcement of the winner of the student performance art challenge. Other highlights on the schedule include seeing how ukuleles can be made from a 3D printer. My son wants to eat nitrogen ice cream and my daughter is excited about making paper with recycled content.

There are favorite exhibits every year, such as climbing through oobleck, bicycle-powered smoothies, and learning about wetland wildlife. But we always stumble upon something surprising.

Photo Credit: RIT

Last year we tried “Rip the Page,” where we made our own poetry by drawing on pages of books and cutting or ripping them apart. At first, my kids looked horrified about ripping books, but quickly really got into the idea of taking something and making it their own.

We learned how to “upcycle” by taking an empty plastic bottle and turning it into a planter. We also sat in a wheelchair and navigated a typical room to see how hard it is to accomplish many everyday tasks this way and how new innovations can help. And of course, we visited my husband’s astronomy students to learn how telescopes work. From learning about forces using a dunk tank, to using blocks to visualize chemicals there are lots of hands-on math and science experiments to explore that never disappoint.

For our family, Imagine RIT is the first spring festival in Rochester and it is always great to see so many people enjoying the outdoors. About 30,000 people come to the festival each year, but it never feels crowded and we have always been able to park and move about easily.

Have you visited Imagine RIT? Tell us about your favorite exhibit in the comments section below.

A Mom’s Guide: Enjoying Winter in Upstate NY

I’ve recently dragged my family on a multitude of wintery adventures. Winter in upstate New York is frigid, endless and very snowy. I wanted to find ways to enjoy this time of year, not loathe it!

All of our adventures revolved (mostly) around getting outside and moving. I’m happy to report that all of our escapades were (mostly) successful at getting us to enjoy the frozen tundra of upstate New York!

Favorite winter hike

We’ve embarked on several hikes at the historic Fort Hill at Ganondagan in Victor, Ontario County.

Fort Hill at Ganondagan

On the hikes, my boys love to run ahead and sneak behind trees, trying to scare us once my husband and I catch up to them.

Setting out on one of our hikes.

On a hike during an unusually warm Saturday in January, we hiked all the way from Fort Hill to Dryer Road Park! It took us at least 30 minutes, but the reward of the playground at Dryer Road kept them going.

My youngest, spotting the playground at Dryer Road Park.

(Just a warning that dad did have to run back through the trails to fetch the car while the boys played with mom at the playground.)

Where: Fort Hill at Ganondogan is off County Road 41 in Victor

What to know: Watch out for the mountain bikers! The Ganondogan trails intersect with the Dryer Road trails. The latter is known for its mountain biking.

For more information: https://parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/attachments/GanondaganTrailMap.pdf

Learning to ski

My husband is the only pro skier amongst us. Dreaming of weekends spent skiing as a family, I signed my oldest son and me up for lessons at Powder Mills Park, in Pittsford, Monroe County. Swain Ski Resort and Monroe County Parks teamed up to bring downhill skiing at that park, which has a gradual hill that’s perfect for beginners.

My son enrolled in a ski camp at the park during winter break from school. (The park also offers another camp during Presidents’ Week in February.) I also took a one-hour “open group lesson” on a Sunday in January.

My oldest, at the ski camp at Powder Mills Park.

We’re not about to tackle a Black Diamond trail anytime soon. But I’m happy to report that my son and I are A LOT more comfortable on skis and can kinda ski down a hill without falling (too much!).

Where: Powder Mills Park, 154 Park Road in Pittsford

What to know: There’s a tow rope. A dreaded tow rope.

For more information: https://www2.monroecounty.gov/files/parks/Powdermills%20Park%202018%20Trifold.pdf

For more on skiing, read 18 Places to Ski & Snowboard in Upstate New York


You’ll need some kind of hill in your yard for this one. But for the second year in a row, my husband has dug a sledding “luge” course around our yard after every major snow. A lot of great outdoor time is spent racing down the course.

What to know: We found that digging out an actual sledding or “luge” course is essential if you want to avoid crashing into things in my yard – like trees, the pool, and the creek.


I signed my son up for a beginner skating/hockey class. He hated it. Enough said.

What’s next?

Snowshoeing! I can’t wait to rent or buy snowshoes and take our outdoor adventures to the next level. I’ll make sure to consult When In Snow Country, Snowshoe before taking the plunge.

Get a Flu Shot for Your Grandkid’s Sake!

When I was about to become a grandma for the first time, I did many of the typical things prospective grandparents do.  I bought baby furniture so my new little one would be comfortable in our home, and practiced referring to myself as “Grandma” (I had to get used to my new title). I even bought a new phone with a better camera and more storage for all those photos I knew I would be taking.

Then, I also did something I had never done before:  I got a flu shot.

The author with her grandson.

For years, I had avoided the flu shot. I don’t get the flu and I don’t work in a hospital with vulnerable patients or with the public where I would be exposed to their germs.  I ignored the recommendations that almost everyone should get vaccinated.

Babies: At High Risk For Flu Complications

Then I learned that young children who catch the flu are more likely to get really sick, land in the hospital or even die.  Children are more likely to get the flu. They have a weaker immune system and are often exposed to germs. Babies less than six months old are too young to even get a flu vaccine. During the last flu season in New York state, 1 in 9 children who got the flu was hospitalized and eight children died from getting the flu.

It’s not just young children who are at high risk of getting really sick from the flu. Others at risk include:

  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with medical conditions including asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system

The first step in protecting yourself and others from the flu? Get a flu shot, according to advice from the CDC. The flu shot can keep you from catching the flu. While the effectiveness of the shot can vary from year-to-year, the flu shot may also prevent serious complications from the flu.

Am I Selfish If I Don’t Get A Flu Shot?

I may think that I won’t catch the flu. But there are people, including my grandchild, who could become seriously ill if I passed the flu to them. When you have the flu, you can pass it on to others even before you start to feel sick.

This caused me to think: Am I selfish if I don’t get a flu shot? What kind of a grandma would I be if I didn’t protect my grandchild?

So, I went to my doctor and rolled up my sleeve.

A Check-Up For Future Grandparents

At my doctor visit, I learned that in addition to the flu vaccine, new grandparents should also talk to their doctor about getting other immunizations as well. Vaccines for new grandparents can include:

  • Whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine
  • Shingles vaccine (for adults 60+)
  • Pneumococcal vaccine

Whether you’re a grandparent or parent, caregiver or child, consider getting the shot to protect your loved one from getting seriously sick from the flu this winter.


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.