Giveaway: Jack Horner’s Dino Dig is Back at Liberty Science Center!

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017 2:30pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Staff members answer questions about the fossils.

Just in time to break up the second half of summer, the Liberty Science Center is once again hosting Jack Horner’s Dino Dig through September 4th, 2017. The Dino Dig includes more than 50 life-sized fossils buried in 35 tons of sand. Participants are given brushes to uncover their discoveries, and attentive and knowledgable staff members are at each station to answer questions and offer information about each uncovered fossil. Continue Reading

Day Trip: Sunrise Lake in Morris County

BY  |  Monday, Jul 17, 2017 9:00am

New Jersey summers may focus on the Jersey Shore, but that’s not the only option for sunning, picnicking, and cooling off when the heat is on. The Garden State is home to many county and municipal lakes that are open to the public. One particularly kid-friendly lake is Sunrise Lake in Morris County, less than an hour’s drive from Montclair.

With plenty of free parking, including stroller/accessible paths to the beach, families can bring all the gear and supplies they need to make it a full day of beach and park time. Entrance fees are $6/$7 for adults (weekday/weekend) and $5/$6 for children ages 5-15 and Seniors 65+. Children 4 and under are free. Sunrise Lake is open summer Tuesdays through Sundays, but it also opens on Mondays if they fall on a holiday.

The facilities include restrooms, changing rooms, and showers as well as a deck with picnic tables for lunching away from the sand. The beach house has several benches in the shade for a break from the sun. There are grilling areas and more tables farther from the beach house, including a grassy area and a covered area. We saw families utilizing these with quite a full picnic spread!

While the water and the sand are probably enough to entertain children, there is also a water slide flume on a grassy hill (included in the entrance fee) that makes for all ages fun. For children 7 and older, a 5-minute swim proficiency test and $3 will get 30 minutes on the Wibit (pronounced Wih-bit, not Wee-bit, I discovered) for sliding and bouncing and jumping fun. Want to get in a workout before taking another dip in the lake? Rent a paddleboat for between $5-$7 to check out the other side of the lake where cyclists and geese use the space.

photo from the Morris County Park Facebook Page

Sunrise Lake has attentive lifeguards who will give swim tests and answer questions in addition to their life-preserving duties. Several Adirondack-style chairs are set up on the beach and by the water for public use. The beach is clean, the water is welcoming, and there was a friendly, casual, and diverse clientele when we visited. Despite the parking lot filling up over the day, the beach never felt crowded.

Shallow and deep sections are separated by a rope line. Adults can swim in any area, but children must take a basic swim test with crawl or breast stroke to enter the deep area.

As a summer boon to families with very young children, Sunrise Lake opens every Tuesday just for children four years or younger and their parents or caretakers. For a discounted price of $3 (children 4 and younger are always free), caretakers can enjoy early morning beach time from 9 AM to 10:45 AM at Tiny Tot Tuesdays. Older siblings are asked to come after Sunrise Lake opens for regular business hours. For more information, call the Sunrise Lake Beach Club Office at 973-267-4351.

There is still one more Campout On The Beach day this summer for families who want to get the most out of Sunrise Lake. A bonfire, s’mores, and games are included. Pre-registration and pre-payment is necessary. See information here.

Sunrise Lake Beach Club is part of the Lewis Morris Park. Weekday hours are 10 AM – 5:30 PM (except for July Tuesdays, which begin at 11 AM). Weekend hours are 11 AM – 6:30 PM. Check with the website for changes and updates. For driving directions, use 270 Mendham Road, Morris, NJ 07962.

For an additional New Jersey Day Trip idea, check out this past post about Round Valley Recreation Area.

Giveaway: Family 4-Pack to See Opus Cactus From MOMIX at the Joyce Theater

BY  |  Monday, Jul 03, 2017 2:00pm

MOMIX is back at Chelsea’s The Joyce Theater through July 16th, 2017 to showcase Opus Cactus, a collection of spectacular desert-inspired performances that defy simple categorization. At once playful, haunting, sexy, and vibrant, MOMIX uses lighting, costumes, acrobatics, and a variety of clever props to create an otherworldly journey for the audience throughout the two acts. Whether you’re looking for a date night or want to introduce the entire family to modern dance, seeing this revival of Opus Cactus from MOMIX at The Joyce Theater will entertain and amaze. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Teen Joins Sandy Hook Ride on Washington

BY  |  Sunday, May 07, 2017 1:41pm

The Sandy Hook Ride on Washington (SHROW) is in its 5th year of raising awareness about gun violence and pointing a spotlight on the inaction of the US Congress regarding sensible firearm legislation. This year, Benjamin Douglas of Bloomfield, NJ joined the #Team26 riders who are symbolically turning their backs on Washington D.C.’s inaction and riding from the U.S. Capitol to Newtown. This year, the team is focusing especially on the Campaign to Keep Guns of College Campuses.

The 400 mile ride began Thursday May 4th, 2017 in D.C. and finishes on Sunday, May 7th in Newtown, CT with a Welcome Home rally. At 15 years old, Montclair Bikery’s Benjamin is the youngest rider, but it hasn’t slowed him down one bit. Benjamin is the latest bicyclist associated with the Montclair Bikery to join the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington. Herb Jimenez rode with the team more than once, and owner, Dave Adornato, rode with Team 26 last year. This year, in addition to Benjamin Douglas, Montclair Bikery member Bill Brunner of Fairfield, NJ joined the ride. Continue Reading

Montclair Film Festival Local Spotlight: Liz Samuel’s MOMTRESS

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 1:15pm

Local actor Liz Samuel can now add screenwriter and film producer to her credits with the Montclair Film Festival (MFF) premiere of MOMTRESS, a short film wholly made in Montclair. Inspired by last year’s MFF NJ Shorts screening, Samuel decided to take the leap into writing, producing, and acting in her own short film instead of waiting for the perfect role to appear.

Samuel’s film reflects her own experience trying to juggle an acting career with raising a family. Trips into New York City for auditions and film shoots end up sandwiched between school hours and activities, all the while memorizing lines and trying to remain “present” for her family. With a spouse who often travels, it becomes a “crazy balance” dependent on smooth commutes and appointments fitting neatly into place. Most Montclair residents know those expectations doesn’t always resolve themselves easily, even for the most well-organized commuters.

As a long-time actor, Liz Samuel knew a lot about what to expect from her first writing/producing experience, but the amount of time it took to edit the short film surprised her. What began as an expected six-week editing session took almost three months. It all came down to the details, Samuel explained, “We had so many edits to the project to get the right moments, the right music, the right tone, the right feel.” Continue Reading

Review: Fascinating Facts (not Fiction) from Columnist Dave Astor

BY  |  Monday, Apr 10, 2017 12:30pm

Trivia, quirks, political connections, surprising coincidences, and lots of Aha! moments fill the pages of Dave Astor’s new book of literary curiosities. With a title like Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time, the pun-loving Astor has promised a lot — and he delivers with details about over 100 authors as varied as Dorothy Parker, Miguel de Cervantes, Alex Haley, Aldous Huxley, Shirley Jackson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Each of the short, readable chapters focuses on one obscure or quirky fact, sometimes paired with a related detail, that ties in to an author’s life or work. Even those well-versed in literary history will find lots of new trivia to contemplate and enjoy. Dave Astor has been working on this entertaining collection since 2011, discovering the details by reading biographies and scouring websites devoted to the featured authors.

One of the side-benefits of the many interesting chapters is a reminder of all the works of fiction you’ve read and have yet to read. Mentions of The Yearling, Kindred, The Quiet American, Faust, A Confederacy of Dunces, and Native Son will both whet readers’ appetites and remind us that great literature remains consistently relevant to our lives.

Astor introduces the book as an “escape” into facts, and promises readers will be entranced by “great trivia, anecdotes, oddities, coincidences” and peculiar connections between different authors. For those familiar with Dave Astor’s literature blog, Dave Astor on Literature, and his weekly op-ed column, MontClairVoyant, you’ll recognize his signature twists, allusions, and puns throughout the chapters. The Fascinating Facts are decidedly PG, so it makes for an appropriate gift to all ages of friends, acquaintances, and it’s a fun gift for all literature lovers and teachers.

Order your copy of Dave Astor’s Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time in Kindle or paperback today!

YES! A Workshop About How To Talk to Teens & Tweens About Sex

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 05, 2017 10:10am

Isy Abraham-Raveson, a Montclair native and graduate of Montclair High School, wants to give back to Montclair. That’s why she is bringing her expertise in sexuality wellness education to local parents and caretakers. Isy, with a group of fellow Montclair friends, founded YES! Your Empowered Sexuality to run workshops and a website that focus on high-quality, sex-positive, consent-based education to youth about every aspect of sexuality.

Talking to Teens and Tweens About Sex, offered this Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair, aims to help adults clarify their own values about sexuality so that they can take advantage of teachable moments without the awkwardness sometimes associated with “sex talks.” Parents and caretakers with children of all ages will benefit from this interactive workshop that seeks to overcome any discomfort or shame associated with discussing and responding to sexuality.

Striving to be inclusive with language, responses, and empathy for discomfort and questions is one area the workshop will focus on. Helping attendees to become comfortable with validating curiosity and using it to create teachable moments based on their own values is another workshop goal. The underlying belief is that open, honest discussions will help young people make healthier, safer, and more positive decisions about their own sexuality. In addition to values discussions, topics will include current topics like consent, how to be queer- and trans-inclusive, how to normalize young people’s bodies and desires, and how to counteract rape culture. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Stone Heart Keeps Middle Readers on the Edge of their Seats

BY  |  Monday, Apr 03, 2017 11:45am

Whether your family has been waiting for the next graphic novel in Faith Erin Hicks’ The Nameless City series, or if this is the first you’ve heard of it, THE STONE HEART will captivate your middle-readers (and everyone else in the household) with its action, character development, drama, and gorgeous full-color illustrations.

The main story features Kaidu and Rat, two children who have formed a friendship despite being from very different backgrounds. Their adventures are exciting, filled with danger, and the youngsters remain the heroes throughout. Rat’s background is developed, as she reveals details about her painful past, and Kaidu struggles with not fitting in to the expectations of his war-like people. They depend on each other and learn from each other as their friendship grows.

THE STONE HEART continues adding characters rich in diverse backgrounds and personalities. The place names, traditions, clothing, and setting is based in the Yuan Dynasty and the Silk Road, but there is a fantastical aspect that will pique each reader’s interests and imaginations as well.

The twists and turns in the plot and the detailed discovery about various background characters will keep readers captivated through multiple readings. It is not necessary to have read the first book in the series, The Nameless City, but it makes the story feel even more epic to know how Rat and Kaidu met and how they first began their adventures.

As with most books in a series, THE STONE HEART ends with a cliffhanger that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. To take the edge off the anticipation, the author’s note and concept drawings at the end of the book highlight both the writing process and the research used in developing The Nameless City’s world. It also lets readers know that the final book in the series is already in the works.

Recommended for ages 9-13, THE STONE HEART includes some fighting scenes, and an instance of patricide that may especially upset younger readers.

THE STONE HEART by Faith Erin Hicks is available on April 4th, 2017.

Books To Jumpstart Healthy Conversations With Kids and Teens About Sex, Body Image and Relationships

BY  |  Thursday, Mar 09, 2017 11:30am


Whether it’s a five-year-old asking where babies come from, a 3rd grader wondering if his penis is normal, a 7th grader asking about tampons or what a French Kiss means, or a teenager getting up the courage to share something intensely personal with a parent, eventually, all parents and caregivers should be prepared to discuss some version of the birds and the bees and all associated details.

While children receive some instruction in schools, the information often depends on which school or which staff member is teaching the Family Life curriculum. To help supplement, or jumpstart, those conversations, Baristanet has compiled some resources for parents and caregivers looking for guidance and support. As a bonus, Watchung Booksellers will give a 10% discount if you mention Baristanet when purchasing any of the books mentioned in this post!

Elementary School Aged Children: Body Parts, Birds & Bees, Privacy, and Different Kinds of Families

We are big fans of starting early with body recognition, and there are few books more accessible and comprehensive than The Human Body Book. While it’s not a children’s book, the illustrations and matter-of-fact descriptions of conception, the growth of a fetus, and male and female anatomy will bring up questions and discussions organically and smoothly.

For books that address body issues and where babies come from, we highly suggest options like  It’s So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and FamiliesMy Body is Private, and Before You Were Born. Each is very different in its approach, and each is appropriate for elementary school age.

Over the last several years, there has been wonderful development in storybooks about and including LGBTQ topics. If you or family members are uncomfortable discussing these topics, or if you are unsure of appropriate language, these books are especially helpful.

A quick search will bring many suggestions for books that introduce the idea of feeling like you’re different or families with two Moms or two Dads. One especially accessible book is The Family Book which details families of many combinations in a fun and engaging way.

There are some wonderful books for the younger set that can help families with language and discussion points around LGBTQ topics in an age-appropriate and welcoming manner.

You’re Different and That’s Super, And Tango Makes ThreeRed: A Crayon’s StoryI Am Jazz, and My Princess Boy have all gotten rave reviews for their approach to gay families and transgender topics. Unfortunately, a lovely book called Goblinheart, by Brett Axel, is out of print. If you find it, buy it!

Remember, the goal in these books is to expose children to a variety of realities, bolster self-esteem and a sense of self, and to help children empathize with others who may feel out of place. Even if some of these books may feel too “young” for your elementary school child, it’s important that the reading level and story line isn’t too complicated when you are broaching a new topic.

Tween Puberty & Human Sexuality Books

The Care and Keeping of US: A Sharing Collection for Girls & Their Moms is a dual set of books that helps facilitate discussions between girls and trusted female caregivers. It comes from the American Girl Publishing company, that is also responsible for one of the most highly recommended books on the list: American Girl: The Care & Keeping of You, which has a younger girl version and an older girl version. There is also the handy and direct American Girl: Is This Normal? (hint: The answer is almost always YES.)

Boys have questions too! And we’ve got books to help caregivers and children deal with them. This title says it all: What’s Going on Down There?: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask. And also direct and accessible is The Boy’s Body Book: 3rd Edition – Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU.

Once bodies and the changes they may be (or soon will be) experiencing is covered, we recommend tweens and caregivers sit down with this gem: Let’s Talk About S-E-X: A Guide for Kids 9 to 12 and Their Parents. The information is direct, and the language is simple enough that after a family discussion, children can return to the book on their own to reread and form new questions.

LGBTQ books for Tweens and Teens

Whether your child has questions about family friends, school friends, themselves, or other community members, it’s important to provide open-minded and reliable resources when it comes to LGBTQ topics. With rapidly changing and sometimes unfamiliar language, resources like the books listed here can be a lifesaver in more ways than one.

Guides are a go-to resources, and we recommend this one for family discussions: LGBTQ Families: The Ultimate Teen Guide. Teens who are more reticent to discuss intimate issues surrounding their own or friends sexuality will find this guide helpful and informative: Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens.

So Hard to Say is a novel that addresses awareness of others and self regarding coming out as gay. George and Parrotfish (fiction) and Being Jazz (memoir) are books that focus on the experience of children as they assert their gender identity to family and friends.

For further reading suggestions, TOP 250 LGBTQ Books for Teens is a great resource.

Teen Human Sexuality Resources

Broaching not just topics about sex and the human body, but the reality of participating in intimate acts is important before children are faced with choices regarding sex. Sharing family values is key, but we must also provide the tools to make confident decisions for themselves and a significant other in a world where values and expectations vary widely.

We recommend that parents and caregivers read these books for themselves, and then share them with the teens in their lives.

Beyond the Big Talk: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens from Middle School to High School and Beyond

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape

Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy

There are some amazing websites that can serve as excellent resources for family discussions. One caveat is that children with unfettered access to internet resources will have seen a very wide variety of images and information. It is not recommended to start a conversation with your teen with “Let’s search the Internet for some topics together.” However, having a frank discussion about images and information they may have encountered is also important.   (Trust me when I say that in researching this post, there was a lot to weed through.)

The Rutgers ANSWER: Sex Ed, honestly organization has a comprehensive site with information, a comprehensive resource guide, and even a communication tool to get the conversation started. Topics range from masturbation to birth control to consent to STDs to body image. the site is directed to teens (13-19) with access to varied opinions and answers. There is even a video about Sex Myths that definitely do NOT prevent pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood has a fantastic YouTube channel with an entire section on Parenting Tips. They also have a series of videos focused on CONSENT, another channel with loads of videos all about contraception. In Spanish too! This video about how to properly put on a condom is matter-of-fact and informative. Since NJ has seen a six year spike in STD transmission, making the condom great again should be a goal for our teens.

For presentations to groups or classes, there are resources available as well. The highly recommended Unitarian Universalist Association has the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program, which meets the National Sex Ed Standards, and it can be easily adapted for alternate or non-religious purposes. See more information here, including how to bring the program to your organization. The OWL resources are available to purchase here.

Local non-profit group Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (S.O.F.I.A.)* has presented programs focused on healthy relationships and recognizing the signs of dating violence to Girl Scout Troops, school classrooms, parent groups, college groups, and other community groups.

Love Is Respect is a great resource for teens wondering about how to help themselves or a friend who may be in an abusive relationship. With quizzes, helplines, and a focus on preventing and ending abusive relationships, the site can be invaluable and private way for both teens and parents to seek help.

The National Council of Jewish Women has a teen dating abuse program that has been used in schools and with community programs.

Most important for healthy discussions between parents/caregivers and teens is that there is an openness and non-judgmental trust. School SACs and school nurses are reliable resources for the community, and many in the district have been working to elevate the Family Life program (based on NJ standards) in our public schools. Family pediatricians can also help facilitate discussions surrounding body awareness, sexual health, and choices regarding sexual activity. If you have discomfort or are unsure about appropriate or well-meaning language, you are not alone! Browse these resources and discuss the issues with friends and neighbors.

* Full disclosure: The author is on the board of S.O.F.I.A. and volunteers as a presenter for these workshops.

Let’s Talk About Sex…Earlier and More Consistently

BY  |  Monday, Feb 27, 2017 10:15am

The idea of discussing sexual education, or even puberty, with their children makes some parents cringe. Relying on the schools to broach the topic “at the right time” is a fallback for many parents. Happily, New Jersey gets top marks for its sexual education, which falls under what is termed “Family Life” curriculum. However, those top marks are graded on a bell curve in comparison to other states, and too many of those states are failing their students when it comes to learning about their bodies, sexuality, preventing pregnancy and STDs, and forging healthy relationships.

Many parents and caregivers remain unsure of what goes on in Montclair’s Family Life classes. They have reported that questions about sexual education curriculum in their schools have been met with a range of reticence, discomfort, and vague answers, making it difficult for parents to find out what is being shared with their children during the school day. Asking their children can be somewhat enlightening, but with inconsistent reliability. So what kinds of results do those “top marks” give Montclair students when it comes to Sexuality Education?

Montclair parent Sarah Blaine wants to find out. Her daughter, now in 6th grade, has received no puberty or sex education at all in the Montclair Public Schools. Blaine acknowledges that different elementary and middle schools around town may approach health education differently, but the state mandate is the same for the entire district. In addition, separate from simply fulfilling state mandates, this seeming lack of health education concerns her because many students begin their menstrual cycles and mature physical development while still in elementary school.

It was heartening to hear from both high school students and parents that the 9th Grade Family Life classes cover a variety of in-depth topics ranging from physical changes to sexual health to consent to healthy dating and family relationships. There is even lore of styrofoam tools to assist with prophylactic instruction. But 9th grade is too late to begin comprehensive sexual and relationship education.

NJ Standards for what middle school students should have learned by the end of 6th and 8th grade. Click to enlarge.

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