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Mountainside Hospital is taking off the latex gloves and showing off its green thumb. The Mountainside Health Foundation, along with Glen Ridge master gardener Patrice Kelly, has created a new community garden on Mountainside Hospital property, directly across from the emergency room entrance.

The garden project, appropriately named, “A Lot to Grow,” will be used as a community learning center to teach nutrition and healthy eating habits. The pesticide-free garden will grow only organic produce, and employ low impact, sustainable garden practices. It will contain cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, lettuce, squash and zucchini. The garden is designed with raised beds, constructed from raw materials donated by local garden centers.

The produce will be distributed to local soup kitchens such as Bethel Rehoboth Meal Center in Bloomfield, The First Seventh Day Adventist Church of Montclair Soup Kitchen, The Salvation Army Soup Kitchen in Montclair, and Toni’s Kitchen, Montclair.

If you can dig it and would like to volunteer, please visit www.mshfoundation.org/garden. Regular volunteer summer hours will be Mondays from 6:00 p.m. until dusk and Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. While anyone can volunteer, the “A Lot to Grow” is not intended for people to grow their own vegetables.

(Photo courtesy of Virginia Citrano of MyVeronaNJ)


There is plenty of evidence that indicates children benefit from preschool.  In addition to getting a jump on academics, many educators, social scientists, and parents believe that one of the greatest benefits children derive from preschool is socialization, specifically social skills and good behavior management.  But is preschool the only place where children can be properly instilled with socialization? And what if a family cannot afford to pay for socialization? 

On a recent playdate, a fellow Montclair mom disclosed that her child will not be attending preschool in the fall, as a financial crisis had come upon her family.  To this admission, another friend responded, “Oh, but what are you going to do? She needs socialization!” 

The next morning, I observed my children at Edgemont Park. “Okay,” my three year old said to a friend he had just met, “you go first, then I’ll go.  How’s that?”  In an instant I realized that I had just witnessed communication, negotiation, and alternate dispute resolution; in short, socialization-simplified. 

When asked whether preschool is necessary for proper socialization of their children, here’s what some local moms had to say:

Mother of 3 & Montclair resident for 52 years

If you live in a town like Montclair, where people select their preschool with an eye to what college/university their children are going to attend, then yes, I suppose preschool is considered necessary. (Really! I could hear the parents interviewing the nursery school director in the next office.) In other situations, I’m not so sure. I think it depends upon the social proclivities of the parents, type of place you live in, whether you attend church or other social organizations, whether there is extended family around and so on. Many children are successfully home schooled and socialization comes from sources other than “school” or “preschool” and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

Mother of 3, ages 12, 10, and 4;  Montclair

Honestly, I do think pre-school is important not only to interact with a new set of kids (those that your mom doens’t pick out for you) but also with adults. Pre-school gives kids a beginning exposure to adult authorities — Teachers — which is in my opinion as important as friends (maybe more!).

Mother of 1, age 5; South Orange

Yes, it’s necessary unless you have a large family of sibilings/cousins that they spend a significant about of time with.Otherwise, children are often only relating to parents/caretaker where they get most of the attention, they don’t have to share and their needs are almost immediately met- very little wait time. Interacting with others shows children they are not the center of the universe. Children learn to share, be cordial and kind, wait their turn, have conversations with their peers, help each other, accept help from others, etc.

Mother of 2, ages 4 and 3, Livingston
Yes, preschool is important for socialization.  Kids have to be around other kids to learn empathy, negotiation skills, compromise, etc.  I can say from experience that parents alone cannot handle the task of teaching all these things, nor is it possible to do without a group of children around.  Preschool teachers have years of experience teaching coping and getting along skills that us untrained parents don’t have.  I am happy that my son’s teacher taught him this year, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”  That has made life a lot easier with both my boys!  There are other specific examples, but don’t have time to name them all.  Suffice it to say, even if you happen to have a lovely child (most likely a girl) who behaves wonderfully with other people, that is a lucky thing and there are tons of other kids out there who were not born with innate social skills or with parents who are capable of teaching socialization skills and therefore a trained teacher and a preschool class is essential to teach them socialization skills!

Mother of 2, ages 2 and 4; Califon

I think kids can be socialized without going to preschool: Gymboree, Gymnastics, LOTS of play dates — any activity that involves being with other children in an environment where they get to interact and play will help them develop social skills. Preschool does a good job of sharing and ABC’s ( and my daughter asks to go everyday) but I don’t think it’s necessary in order to develop social skills.

Mother of 2, ages 9 and 11; Montclair

I think they can of course be socialized w/out preschool if the parent is a social person and works on setting up get togethers, outings and interactions with kids they don’t know and aren’t “comfortable” with (random meetings at parks, etc).  The thing that preschool does that cannot be accomplished at home is the social interaction WITHOUT the mother hovering and “guiding” it. Let’s face it, we are always on some level aware of and influencing their interactions when they are with us. The school situation allows for others to play this role, and a different level of independence comes from that… the child realizes at an earlier age that although they love their mommy/daddy they don’t need to cling to them all the time, and are “okay” when not with them. I personally (of course if the school is a GOOD one!) think this makes our kids stronger socially and more comfortable when entering grade school.

So parents of Montclair (and Baristaville), is it absolutely necessary to purchase socialization? Or can it be found more casually, in supermarkets, on the playground, in the neighborhood, or even within the family? Does society abound with natural socialization?

Have the match.coms of the modern world turned love into a monster (.com)?   A night out in Montclair (a.k.a. Baristaville) revealed two  factors – location and money, that can be the final arbiter in the hunt for labor and  love? 

 I was joined for dinner by two female friends from law school; one friend was looking for a job, and the other was looking for a man.  Throughout our meal, my out-of-work friend and my out-of-love friend discussed some promising  prospects .  The fledgling ventures were then casually, yet strangely methodically, evaluated according to proximity and financial feasibility.   

Location, location, location; an obvious cross-genre criterion.  Both Monster.com and Match.com ask for your zip code immediately. In real life, and on craigslist too, it’s of prime importance.  One friend had just dumped a boyfriend who lived in Staten Island, because, well, he lived in Staten Island.  Too many bridges, I suppose. The other turned down employment in San Francisco, as she never thought herself a left-coaster.   

Following  “how far is the commute” or “where does he live,”  discussion turned to  monetary concerns.  My out-of-work friend was not trying to secure a job as a volunteer.   She wanted to be paid – and paid well. My out-of-love friend (similar to those single ladies of craigslist) was similarly troubled by financial issues and stated, rather point blank, that she would not consider dating a man with no sustainable cash flow.

When asked if location or money could make or break a relationship, here’s what these single locals had to say:

Single Female, 31, Newark

I think both can be relationship killers! I wouldn’t date a guy who lives more than an hour away unless he was completely amazing! I wouldn’t date a guy who can’t support himself because it would have a direct impact on the types of things I could enjoy (e.g. vacations, nice house, etc…). If I can support myself, I would expect my partner to be able to do the same. The only exception I can think of is if you are already in a relationship with someone and they lose their job.

Divorced Male, 52, Boonton

A simple answer is Yes. Women would qualify finance and location more than Men. Which I find ironic because women are the first to preach romance happily ever after, simple pleasures. But in reality if you can’t provide from the onset then you have no chance to be in the race. The color of love is green! . . . [A]nd honestly read some of the profiles at Match.com you will find the dramatic differences in age groups. Women will state financial priority 9 to one over men.  As a man money is a minor consideration in that you don’t want a gold digger, distance being in the tri-state area we are accustomed to traveling a bit longer distances just to go to the city or the shore. So basically a normal range would be an hour or so.  Deal breakers are more in the range of clingers, living in the past, bitterness, and defensiveness. These traits make even the most beautiful woman resistable.

Male, 31

Depends on how far is “far.”  My current girlfriend lives only 15 minutes away, but she is on Staten Island which means a $8 toll every time we see each other.  So distance isn’t really a dealbreaker, but it does put a damper on things.  As for me, unemployment would be a deal breaker.

Divorced Female, 29, Paramus

Yes he needs to be employed! I ain’t supporting his ass.  I need to be wined and dined – I ain’t wining and dining myself!   Unless they’re going to come to me all the time even NY is too frigin’ far.  This morning I went to Manhattan for coffee for a talk; that’s ridiculous.  I need to save my gas!

By the time dessert rolled around, my job-seeking friend decided that if she were unable to procure employment, she’d be satisfied with a man, so long as that man had a job – a very good one.  

So, is the search for love really that much like labor?  Does the male perspective vary that much from the female?  When did the search for love become so empirical?

Ever feel like a “poor” parent? During the latest playdate, a mom disclosed that her child will not be attending preschool in the fall, as a financial crisis had come upon her family.  To this admission, another friend responded, “Oh, but what are you going to do? She needs the socialization!”  That afternoon, my friend became the proverbial “poor” parent.

There is plenty of evidence that indicates children benefit from preschool.  In addition to getting an early jump on academics, educators, social scientists, and parents believe that the one of the greatest benefits children derive from preschool is socialization, specifically social skills and good behavior management. 

The next morning, still thinking about my friend, the “poor” parent, I observed my children at Edgemont Park. “Okay,” my three year old said to a friend he had just met, “you go first, then I’ll go. How’s that?”  In an instant I realized that I had just witnessed communication, negotiation, and alternate dispute resolution; in short, socialization-simplified. 

If we are active participants in society, shouldn’t socialization be there as well?  It’s a simple question and concept, but the answer doesn’t appear so evident in Baristaville.  How much socialization can be had free of cost, and how much “needs” to be bought?  For me, socialization is there for the taking.  What about you?

If you’ve ever thrown a birthday party for your child, you know it’s complicated.  Not because children are complicated – but because adults are complicated.  For a child, it’s simple: get your friends, get a cake, and voila!  Get a present!

But for parents, the jig is up; we know it’s not all balloons and bozo.  The birthday party maelstrom is full of etiquette complications, often finding the vortex swirling around the guest list. 

Primarily this complication arrives when the party planning parent has a friend, and that friend has a child.  If both children get along, then things are peachy.  However, this is not always the case.  Complications and disagreements occur when the birthday child is adamantly, and unabashedly unfriendly with the child of your friend.  So, what to do?  Do you respect the wishes of your child, already heavily tripped out on the concept of “it’s MY birthday,” and do not invite so and so?   Thereby running the risk that your friend finds out? What is proper etiquette?  

The second complication involves the older siblings of invitees.   When a sibling is younger, the child is most likely an innocuous threat.  Some older siblings however, have the uncanny ability raise the bodily harm quotient just enough that a party planning parent may have to consider qualifying the invite.  But how?  One cannot write, no older siblings please, as they may intimidate, maim, or otherwise injure the younger children in attendance? How is the “non-invitation” executed?  What is proper etiquette?

In early spring parents of Baristaville become abuzz with the perennial question, “So, what camps are you doing?”  Yes, “camps,” with an “s.” It seems that in Baristaville, summers have become nearly as regimented as the rest of the year.  Some Baristaville parents even print calendars, one to each child, accompanied by an addendum family calendar that tracks to comings and goings of each individual family member.

All this got me to thinking a bit.  Long before becoming a Montclairite, in the far away land of Bergen County, we too had serious business from September through June;  hours, days, and marking periods passed strictly controlled  by school, homework and extracurricular activities.  But in the summer time, freedom rang.  

There were no camps to get to, no classes to take; blissful unaccountability. Kids were free to play outside with neighborhood friends, siblings, or cousins from eight in the morning, until eight at night.  Boredom never entered the scope; we rode bikes, built forts, played kickball, got ice cream, went to the park, and indulged a plethora of activities exclusive to childhood.  No one was texting, multi-tasking, or taxi-ing children.  It was summer time, and the living was easy. 

But, the times they are a-changin’ I suppose.  And when I hear a parent say, “My kids just need something during the summer,” I can’t help but wonder why they have changed so much, and why kids need so much more than they used to.   So I put it to Baristaville to answer the questions: Are camps and summer schedules the natural consequence of a dual income households? Or have camps become a lifestyle preference?  And if so, is it the preference of the child or the preference of parents?    So where do you think the lazy days of summer have gone?  And do you miss those lazy days?

Buckeye Belle Peony

Tomorrow is another day! “
-Scarlett O’Hara