Halloween Safety Tips from the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad


By Susan Baldani

Halloween is fun for all ages, but especially for children. What other day will people give them free candy just for saying Trick or Treat?

It’s also great watching all the ghosts, superheroes, witches and devils walking throughout the neighborhood. But on this day, just like any other, safety comes first.

Trick or treat while it’s still light out
Since it gets dark fairly early in the fall, right after school is prime time for trick or treating. The temperature is milder than it is at night, and there is still over an hour of sunlight left.

Don’t wear masks that block vision or hearing
It’s important for children to be able to see their surroundings and hear what’s happening around them. Many masks make that hard to do. Using makeup and other props like fake mustaches or noses are a safer way to let a child transform into someone or something else.

Never trick or treat alone
Make sure all children are accompanied by an adult. Even older kids need someone with them when knocking on strangers’ doors.

Stay on sidewalks; do not walk in the street
We often see groups of costumed kids walking in the streets. Just because it’s Halloween and kids are in a group doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do so. Drivers may be distracted and not see anyone until it’s too late to stop.

Look both ways before crossing the street
Kids have a tendency to run across the street when they see someone on the other side handing out candy. The same rules apply as they do on any other day. Remind them to look both ways and depending on their ages, have them cross with an adult.

Carry light sticks, or wear LED bracelets or necklaces, especially if wearing dark costumes
Once it gets dark, keep children safe by making them easily visible to drivers and bicyclists. With leaves on the roads at this time of year, it may take longer to stop.

As usual, all treats needs to be checked before eating
It’s very tempting to sample some of the goodies right away, but make sure children do not eat anything until it has been looked over by an adult.

Halloween is fun for all ages!


By Susan Baldani

Boo! Halloween is almost here. Ghosts, goblins, vampires and werewolves will be roaming the streets after dark. Jack-o’-lanterns will flicker on porches, as leaves are rustled and the scent of firewood wafts through the air. Doorbells will ring, and shouts of “Trick or Treat” will resound throughout neighborhoods.

I have such wonderful memories of celebrating Halloween as a child. Instead of store-bought costumes, my siblings and I mostly wore homemade costumes made by Mom or Grandma. These could be simple, such as a white sheet with holes cut out for the eyes. Instant ghost! Or a black leotard and tights, cat ears and drawn on whiskers. Meow!

Others though were pretty elaborate, such as my witch outfit. My mom painted my face green, put a long black wig on my head and long black dress on my body, and sent me to school for the Halloween parade. I was sure I was going to win for best costume.

Well, I never got to march in the parade. I was so scary that kids started crying when I walked into the classroom. The teacher made me take off the wig and wash off the makeup.

So much for getting the winning trophy. However, my mom redid it all when I got home so I could scare all the neighbors and get extra candy for my amazing costume.

These homemade costumes were always my favorite because no one ever had the same exact one. Every year, we would come up with something different and had great fun taking old ties and ripped shirts to make ourselves into hobos, or dressing all in red and putting on some devil’s horns. The ideas were endless.

Today, I love seeing all the kids out trick-or-treating in their costumes, whether store-bought or homemade. It’s a time for them to be whatever they want for one day; whether a princess, a superhero, or a dinosaur. And, getting free candy always brings out the smiles.

Also, many of my adult friends have Halloween parties and encourage their guests to dress up. After all, who doesn’t want to be a kid again, even for just a few hours? To laugh, play, and have fun; these are things we should always make time for in our busy lives.

So have a Happy Halloween, and don’t eat too much candy!

Written for The Country Register newspaper distributed throughout the US and Canada.

Be involved in your children’s education and watch them blossom

By Susan Baldani

Children are expected to be fully engaged in their education. One way parents can ensure this is happening is to lead by example.

According to the National Educational Association (NEA), “Research shows that family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”

So, what exactly does this mean? What can parents and guardians do to show they are invested in their children’s academic success? Here are some ideas:

• Form relationships with your child’s teacher.
Keep the lines of communication open and let the teacher know you are available. Volunteer for opportunities such as classroom helper, fundraising, and extracurricular activities.

• Attend back-to-school nights.
Show your child and his teacher that you are interested in what he and his classmates are working on and how the classroom is set up.

• Get involved in what your child is learning.
If the class is learning about fossils, take your child to a museum where she can view them and learn even more. Or, if she is learning about animals, go to a zoo where she can see, hear, and possibly touch them. Bring classroom lessons into real-world experiences to make them more meaningful. Every day, ask your child what his favorite new thing was that he learned that day and why.

• Set goals with your child.
If your child is struggling with a subject, such as reading or writing, come up with a set amount of time where you can both work on that skill together. Or, if you can’t do it, hire another student or private tutor.

• Use the school’s technology to your advantage.
Most schools have portals where you can see assignments and make sure your child is getting everything done. You may also be able to see grades and report cards. Keep track so you can note any difficulties before they become too severe.

• Attend school plays, sports, and other special events your child is involved with.
Support your child’s extracurricular activities and be there to cheer when she’s winning and to offer comfort when she’s losing. Show your support by rehearsing lines with your child or practicing hitting a ball.

• Advocate for better educational materials or courses.
If your school is struggling to buy certain materials, get together with other parents to find ways to raise money or get donations to fill any gaps. Teachers often use their own money to buy basic necessities. Ask them to make a list of items that are in short supply.

• Continue to be involved even as your children get older and more independent.
Older children need and want their parents to be involved in their education, too, even if they won’t admit it. “The U.S. Department of Education reports that the rate of parent involvement drops to 55 percent by the time children reach age 14, and it continues to drop as children progress through high school.”

In the article “The Enduring Importance of Parental Involvement,” by Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, and Otha Thornton, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, they mention that “[t]he most significant type of involvement is what parents do at home. By monitoring, supporting and advocating, parents can be engaged in ways that ensure that their children have every opportunity for success.”

All of this involvement takes time. What is a parent to do if he or she works full-time or has other demanding responsibilities?

One solution is sharing the load. Mom can go to back-to-school night and Dad can go on the next field trip. Grandparents can also help by attending school plays or the next football game, and aunts and uncles can help with homework. Engage the whole family in your child’s education.

If family is not close by, ask best friends and good neighbors to pick up some of the slack. Children want to know that people are interested in what they’re doing, and if it can’t be Mom and Dad, other people they know can sometimes fill in.

Explain to your child why you can’t be there — for example, if you will be away on a business trip — and help them understand that as they have a responsibility to their education and teachers, you also have a responsibility to your job and your boss. Make it clear that you will be there when you can, and you will miss seeing them in their play or competition. If possible, ask the person attending if they can record at least some of it so you can share it with your child at a later time.

Of course, schools also have to encourage parental involvement and present opportunities for interaction between parents, teachers, and administrators. Everyone in the educational community has to be on board and recognize that a team effort will offer the best solution for creating a positive and open learning environment for students.

“Schools must do their part to encourage parent involvement in education. Key activities include making parents feel welcome at school, involving parents in decision-making, and implementing programs to provide information about parenting skills and community resources,” said Linda Hinkle, a writer and educator who spent 29 years teaching mathematics in public high schools.

If you feel the need to do even more, consider joining the PTA (Parent Teacher Association), which provides programs on strengthening family-school partnerships, or run for a spot on your local Board of Education. Both of these will give you the opportunity to gain more insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of your town’s educational community. The more understanding parents have of the educational process, the more they can help their children achieve academic success.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine, in Roanoke, Virginia.

Vinings Gallery by Denard

serenade by Denard Stalling

Art that tells a story

By Susan Baldani

After graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design, Denard Stalling moved to Atlanta in 1989 and started working at a gallery. There, he met Gary Handler. He had no idea that 10 years later they would be opening their own gallery together.

Today, Vinings Gallery has three locations – two in Roswell and the framing operations in Vinings, where Stallings’ studio is also located. He recalls when they first set out to find a location. They chose the nicest building in an up-and-coming area that they felt had the potential for strong growth. Today, Vinings is a neighborhood brimming with energy from the numerous restaurants, boutiques, and galleries.

“People love coming to the area and hanging out,” says Stalling.

When people visit the galleries, he doesn’t want them to feel like they’re in a museum. “We have a totally different vibe; we want you to have a great experience when you come in. Our sales staff is also very friendly.”

The galleries have been carrying Thomas Arvid’s realistic wine compositions for almost 20 years. “We represent great artists and wine is a big backdrop to what we do,” says Stalling.

Another featured artist is Simon Kenevan. They’ve been selling his seascapes for four years and he’s one of their top selling artists.

Each gallery in Roswell has a different flavor. The Elizabeth Way location has many original and limited editions, whereas the Canton Street gallery is more upbeat and where buyers can find top artists who they’ve been carrying for years.

“We’re a decorative art market. We make beautiful images. But, there is some investment potential with the original and limited edition art as well,” says Stalling.

Stalling’s art is well-represented and he will be holding his own show this fall. An illustrator and saxophone player, he is now focused on musical compositions.

“Within that illustration I try to tell a story so it’s not just a still life. There’s some movement,” says Stalling. “I combine my love of music and the appreciation for the styling of the instruments and combine that with a pretty realistic technique.”

To learn more about the galleries and artists, go to http://viningsgallery.com/.

Written for Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle magazine in Smyrna-Vinings, Georgia.