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Back to School

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I didn’t see a horrifying and preventable accident this morning. I didn’t see a little girl, let’s call her Erica, on her way to her first week of school.

Erica, who, in our story, is 10 years old, wants to be a veterinarian, and has pictures of animals all over her room. She begged her parents so long for a kitten that they relented. They saw how well she took care of the kitten, putting drops in her eyes when she needed them, making sure she got the correct shots and even holding her kitten in the office when they had to draw blood to test for feline leukemia, which, fortunately, her kitten didn’t have.

Two years after she got her kitten, Erica continued to ask for additional animals, adding a fish, a rabbit and a hamster to her collection. Each morning, Erica wakes up and checks on all the animals in her little zoo, well, that’s what her father calls it, to see how they’re doing.

Her mother is convinced that the animals respond to her voice, moving closer to the edge of the cage or to the door when they hear her coming. When mother leaves to pick up Erica from school, the animals become restless.

I didn’t see Erica walking with her best friend Jenna. Like Erica, Jenna has a dream. She wants to pitch for the United States in softball in the Olympics. Jenna is much taller than her best friend and has an incredible arm. Jenna hopes the Olympics decides to have softball when she’s old enough and strong enough to play. Jenna thinks bringing a gold medal to her father, who is in the Marines and has traveled the world protecting other people, would be the greatest accomplishment she could ever achieve.

I didn’t see a man, whom I’ll call Bob and who lives only four blocks from Erica and Jenna, put on his carefully pressed light-blue shirt with the matching tie that morning. I didn’t witness him kissing his wife Alicia, the way he does every morning before he rushes off to his important job. I didn’t see him climb into his sleek SUV and back quickly out of his driveway on the dead-end block he and Alicia chose more than a dozen years earlier.

I didn’t see Bob get the first indication from his iPhone 7 that he had several messages. I didn’t witness Bob rolling his eyes at the first few messages. I didn’t see him drive quickly toward the crosswalk where Erica and Jenna were walking. The girls had slowed down in the crosswalk because Jenna pointed out a deer she could see across the street in a backyard. Jenna knew Erica kept an animal diary and she was always on the lookout for anything her friend could include in her cherished book.

I didn’t see Bob — his attention diverted by a phone he had to extend to see clearly — roll too quickly into the crosswalk, sending both girls flying. I didn’t see the ambulances racing to the scene, the parents with heavy hearts getting the unimaginable phone calls, and the doctors doing everything they could to fix Jenna’s battered right arm — her pitching arm.

I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen. What I did see, however, was a man in an SUV, driving way too quickly through a crosswalk, staring at his phone instead of looking out for Erica, Jenna and everyone else’s children on his way to work.

It’s an old message that we should repeat every year: “School is open, drive carefully.”

This Column is reprinted from September 14, 2017 issue.

Setauket Elementary School students were ready for the first day of classes, Sept. 5. 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s back to school time, and we want to help you commemorate the occasion. If your child attends one of the following school districts and you’d like to submit a photo of their first day of school attire, them boarding or arriving home on the school bus, or waiting at the bus stop, we may publish it in the Sept. 6 issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Just include their name, district and a photo credit, and send them by 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 with the subject line “Back to school,” and then be sure to check Thursday’s paper.

Email The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country editor Rita J. Egan at rita@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Three Village School District
  • Middle Country School District

Email The Times of Huntington & Northports and The Times of Smithtown editor Sara-Megan Walsh at sara@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Huntington School District
  • Northport-East Northport School District
  • Harborfields School District
  • Elwood School District
  • Smithtown School District
  • Commack School District
  • Kings Park School District

Email The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record editor Alex Petroski at alex@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Port Jefferson School District
  • Comsewogue School District
  • Miller Place School District
  • Mount Sinai School District
  • Shoreham-Wading River School District
  • Rocky Point School District

Happy back to school!

Pencils, notebooks, batteries, calculators, binders, blah, blah, blah. The back-to-school shopping list, after more than a dozen years, becomes tedious. Or, maybe, it’s just that teenagers turn shopping for anything into a toxic brew of frustration, impatience, and we-know-better-but-we-still-want-you-to-get-involved-too experiences.

This year, in addition to all those standard school supplies, I’d like to shop for a collection of unconventional stickers or messages to put on the breakfast table — assuming the kids have breakfast — or in the bathroom, that they can read each day. How about:

“No, she doesn’t hate you.” Your teacher may have had a bad day and she may have a difference of opinion with you, but the chance that she hates you isn’t all that high.

“There is no such thing as ‘fake homework.’” It’d be nice not to have to do some subjects, but falling behind creates more work tomorrow, when you’ll be even more exhausted.

“Turn off your phone.” Yes, you might need the phone for homework, but you spend way too much time pretending to do homework on it while you’re killing virtual people or sending pictures of yourself to the world.

“Take a shower.” You smell, you’ll get away from your homework or job for a few minutes and you’ll make everyone else’s lives better after you no longer smell like a locker room.

“Smile, even if you don’t feel like it.” It’s amazing how much better you and everyone else will feel if and when you stop scowling.

“Don’t write in all CAPS!” It’s annoying and it makes you look like you want to shout.

“Yes, I’m sure he’s your brother.” We brought both of you home from the hospital and we intend to keep both of you.

“Neatness counts.” This is true at home and at school.

“Don’t waste too much time today.” Yeah, we all know that we won’t be efficient all the time. How about if we strive for less inefficiency today?

“Say something nice.” That is, to someone other than your best friend(s).

“Assume Santa Claus is watching you today.” Kids get presents regardless of whether they’ve been naughty or nice, which leads them to believe the song about Santa watching all the time is wrong. They may, however, suspect that he could focus on a few times or days. Today could be one of those days

“No, everyone is not an idiot.” Not even you.

“Laugh with someone more than at someone.”

“Clean up this crap.” You made a mess and you can clean it up, even if it’s more fun to watch a parent do it.

“Even if no one else knows, you’ll know.” Isn’t that enough?

“Everything might not matter, but something should.”

“Close the door and scream.” Shouting can release tension.

“Make more mistakes today.” Your errors present opportunities to learn.

“If you feel like you’re falling asleep when you shouldn’t, ask a question.” And no, it shouldn’t be, “Will this be on the test?”

“Your ideas are fine. Your breath could use improvement.”

“Yes, we have to have winter again.”

“Are you sure you want to cross that line again today?”

“Do you really believe your own argument?”

“Are you sharing more with strangers than family?”

“Try to say ‘please’ out loud as often as you send an instant message.”

“Yes, that clock is accurate, so move along.”

“Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true or false. It could be both.”

“Help someone other than yourself today.”

Maybe a few of these stickers will make a teenager’s world and those of us who live around it into something that smells better, is neater and contains a few extra social graces. Then again, perhaps aiming lower, a sticker could suggest:

“Try not to roll your eyes when you read this.”

File photo

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) will be collecting school supplies at her office, located at 306 Main St. in Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson Free Library, Comsewogue Public Library and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library through Aug. 14.

Coordinators of the drive are looking for notebooks, loose leaf paper, three-ring binders, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, calculators, rulers, backpacks, scissors and erasers.

Supplies will be distributed during the 11th annual Stand up for the Homeless event hosted by the Suffolk County Department of Social Services Aug. 29.

File photo

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police.

Police said a William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

NYSDMV on sharing the road with buses

  • When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, vehicles must stop before it reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
  • Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Then, decrease speed and be prepared to stop.
  • When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer signals the you can proceed.. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.
  • After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide additional support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in effort to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack Union-Free School District sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

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didn’t see a horrifying and preventable accident this morning. I didn’t see a little girl, let’s call her Erica, on her way to her first week of school.

Erica, who, in our story, is 10 years old, wants to be a veterinarian, and has pictures of animals all over her room. She begged her parents so long for a kitten that they relented. They saw how well she took care of the kitten, putting drops in her eyes when she needed them, making sure she got the correct shots and even holding her kitten in the office when they had to draw blood to test for feline leukemia, which, fortunately, her kitten didn’t have.

Two years after she got her kitten, Erica continued to ask for additional animals, adding a fish, a rabbit and a hamster to her collection. Each morning, Erica wakes up and checks on all the animals in her little zoo, well, that’s what her father calls it, to see how they’re doing.

Her mother is convinced that the animals respond to her voice, moving closer to the edge of the cage or to the door when they hear her coming. When mother leaves to pick up Erica from school, the animals become restless.

I didn’t see Erica walking with her best friend Jenna. Like Erica, Jenna has a dream. She wants to pitch for the United States in softball in the Olympics. Jenna is much taller than her best friend and has an incredible arm. Jenna hopes the Olympics decides to have softball when she’s old enough and strong enough to play. Jenna thinks bringing a gold medal to her father, who is in the Marines and has traveled the world protecting other people, would be the greatest accomplishment she could ever achieve.

I didn’t see a man, whom I’ll call Bob and who lives only four blocks from Erica and Jenna, put on his carefully pressed light-blue shirt with the matching tie that morning. I didn’t witness him kissing his wife Alicia, the way he does every morning before he rushes off to his important job. I didn’t see him climb into his sleek SUV and back quickly out of his driveway on the dead-end block he and Alicia chose more than a dozen years earlier.

I didn’t see Bob get the first indication from his iPhone 7 that he had several messages. I didn’t witness Bob rolling his eyes at the first few messages. I didn’t see him drive quickly toward the crosswalk where Erica and Jenna were walking. The girls had slowed down in the crosswalk because Jenna pointed out a deer she could see across the street in a backyard. Jenna knew Erica kept an animal diary and she was always on the lookout for anything her friend could include in her cherished book.

I didn’t see Bob — his attention diverted by a phone he had to extend to see clearly — roll too quickly into the crosswalk, sending both girls flying. I didn’t see the ambulances racing to the scene, the parents with heavy hearts getting the unimaginable phone calls, and the doctors doing everything they could to fix Jenna’s battered right arm — her pitching arm.

I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen. What I did see, however, was a man in an SUV, driving way too quickly through a crosswalk, staring at his phone instead of looking out for Erica, Jenna and everyone else’s children on his way to work.

It’s an old message that we should repeat every year: “School is open, drive carefully.”

Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken. Stock photo

As summer comes to an end and the reality of back-to-school season sets in, it can be challenging to get organized and jump back into your day-to-day routine. But even as things get hectic, it’s still possible to create delicious dishes — such as Pan-Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken and Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes — that leave you plenty of time to savor meals together as a family.

Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes

Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes. Stock photo
Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes

YIELD: Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint cherry tomatoes

pepper

kosher salt

olive oil

4 chicken thighs (skin-on, bone-in)

1 cup white wine

1 clove garlic

1 lemon, juice only

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 400 F. In cast iron skillet, toss tomatoes with pinch of pepper, kosher salt and light drizzle of olive oil and place in oven. Roast tomatoes for 20 minutes. Set aside. Heat skillet on stove top. Once hot, sear chicken thighs. Flip chicken and sear bottom side for about 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. With pan still hot, pour in white wine. Once wine has settled, add minced garlic. Add juice of one lemon. Return chicken thighs and tomatoes to skillet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes and serve.

Source: Edna Valley Vineyard

Pan-Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken. Stock photo
Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken

YIELD: Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken thighs

4 chicken drumsticks

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

16 Brussels sprouts (about 8 ounces), bottom trimmed, outer leaves removed and halved

2 cups diced (1/2 inch) butternut squash

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: In saute pan large enough to hold chicken in single layer, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, skin side down, and saute about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is browned. Remove chicken from pan and reserve. In same pan, add butter. Allow butter to melt over medium heat. Add sprouts and squash to pan and saute, tossing occasionally, until outsides are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan and hold separately from chicken.

Turn heat to high and add stock, syrup and mustard. Stir and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up brown bits on bottom of pan. Add chicken back to pan, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook over medium-low heat 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken registers 170 F with instant read thermometer. Add vegetables back to pan, cover again and cook another 8 to 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Move chicken and vegetables to serving platter, placing vegetables around chicken. Turn heat to high and boil sauce until it is reduced and slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

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Black Cherokee “Hermina” Fashion Boots ($27.99) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Summer is mostly over, and according to most retail stores, that means fall (and Christmas) is right around the corner.  While you do still have ample time to go back-to-school shopping, you might as well beat the rush and stock up on these style essentials before you have to race another customer to grab the last purple backpack off the shelf.

1 Statement backpack. A backpack is an obvious back-to-school essential, and I recommend it over a one-shoulder book-bag because two straps provide better weight distribution and make carrying tons of books less of a huge cramp-in-one-shoulder situation and more of a slight-overall-cramp situation (which, trust me, is preferable). Because a backpack is something that will be carried everywhere, in any weather, paired with any outfit, make sure to choose something durable and versatile. Neutral colors like black, white, beige and brown usually lend themselves to interesting patterns that won’t look out of place with most outfits, while solid bright bold colors can add a fun pop to your style without overwhelming the eye.

2 Something black, something blue, something white (condition: new). Unlike the old wedding rhyme, these items don’t really symbolize anything more extensive than a fresh start to a new school year, but hey, that’s still pretty significant. You’d be surprised by how far a few new basics will go. Black and white clothing items go great with any everyday outfit and come in handy for school concerts and formal events, while a standard pair of comfortable blue jeans will become your literal other half when you can’t find anything simple enough to offset a bold shirt.

3 Vest for success. You may be wondering, what’s so functional about a clothing item that covers approximately half of someone’s torso and leaves appendages to freeze in the cold?  First of all, you know all those long-sleeved shirts that you spilled coffee down the front of, the ones that now live in the back of your closet? Well now they can see the light of day again because a vest is perfect for selectively covering unfashionable areas of fashionable shirts. Also, just like fall, a vest represents that not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather, easy to take off and put on again and possible to layer over almost anything. It’s a true fashion essential.

Coral peaches Trans by Jansport backpack with built-in laptop sleeve ($34.24) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Coral peaches Trans by Jansport backpack with built-in laptop sleeve ($34.24) at Target. Photo by Talia Amorosano

4 The best boots. Give your flip-flops the actual boot by investing in a functional pair of boots.  Sturdy boots made from quality leather come in all shapes and sizes, at least one of which is sure to match your personal style. From cowboy to combat, ankle to knee-high, quality boots keep feet warm and dry, whether they’re accompanied by a dress or denim jeans. In this instance, quality beats quantity. These shoes are a worthwhile investment.

5 Nice sweats. This phrase may sound like an oxymoron, but contrary to popular belief, it is possible to roll out of bed and look like you didn’t just roll out of bed. A pair of nice, comfortable sweats can look stylish if done right.  Sweatpants called Joggers usually have an adjustable drawstring waist, are loose-fitting, tighten around the ankle area and come in many different styles and colors. And a long, cotton maxi-skirt is just as comfortable as old sweatpants but looks dressed up.  Finally, instead of a typical pullover hoodie, opt for a zip-up sweatshirt and pair it with any T-shirt or tank.  With nice sweats like these, you can keep yourself warm and still look cool.

If you’re not sure about what your personal style is or want to change your look, check out the “What should you wear on your first day back to school?” quiz at www.seventeen.com or the “Fall Fashion Guide” on www.Refinery29.com. Happy shopping!

Brookhaven’s Youth Bureau is collecting school supplies. File photo

The start of school is right around the corner, and the Brookhaven Town Youth Bureau is making sure no student goes back empty-handed.

Through Aug. 24, the bureau is collecting back-to-school supplies at locations throughout the town, including Town Hall in Farmingville, the Highway Department in Coram, the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai and all Astoria Bank branch locations.

Pens, calculators, backpacks, notebooks, lunch boxes, folders, glue and binders are among the items needed and that will be distributed to needy families. Last year, the bureau collected enough supplies to help more than 1,500 children, according to a press release from the town.

For more information or to find additional collection bin locations, visit www.brookhaven.org or call 631-451-8014.

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