Break the silence: Seek out options to treat depression

Katie Stokes

Katie Stokes

I’ve suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder every winter since I moved to Northern New York. Because I figured out pretty quickly that I can’t just hibernate and cry all winter, I actively seek out methods to curb my depression well before it gets to the point of crisis. [Read more...]

Long car rides with kids require creative strategies

Katie Stokes

Katie Stokes

Last year, my family and I met up with my sister and her family in Indianapolis, a midway point between Northern New York and Oklahoma. We rented a house and cooked our own turkey dinner with groceries we brought from our own homes.

But to get there, we had to first endure a 14-hour cross-country road trip. My kids were three and six, and inexperienced at sitting for long intervals in a car. We’ve flown many, many times, but the thought of having them strapped in for longer than the hour ride to Syracuse, or even the nearly three-hour trip to Rochester, was intimidating.

As is my way, I fretted and planned for several weeks before the road trip. I read articles and blogs for tips, downloaded books and games on our Kindle, rented DVDs and audiobook CDs from the library, created an entire Pinterest board of ideas on how to keep young kids occupied during the 14-hour trip and assembled personalized binders for the kids with age-appropriate printable games, coloring sheets and puzzles. [Read more...]

For most Okies, tornadoes are just part of being home

Katie Stokes

My daughter and I were visiting my family in Oklahoma in May when those tornadoes went through the state.

Were we hurt? Not a bit. Were we scared? Uh, you know the expletive I want to write here. Diva and I — along with my Oklahoma family — had a close shave with a storm that could have produced a tornado basically within spitting distance of my parents’ house at the same time the city of Moore was getting clobbered just north of us.

When I told folks here in Watertown that I was visiting my home state during one of the most violent tornado outbreaks in history, I was shocked by how many times I heard: “Who would live there?”

Let me try to answer that, starting with this tidbit: what happened in May was completely unprecedented. The scale of those storms was unprecedented. The fact that there were three deadly category EF3 to category EF5 tornadoes within the same month was unprecedented. These storms were not only measured by how fast the wind was churning, but also their miles-long width. The storm that killed the National Geographic storm chasers may have been two miles wide. That just isn’t something that has happened very often. Or ever. Unless that’s what killed the dinosaurs. [Read more...]

Yes, Diva, they do have birthday cards in heaven

Katie Stokes

This spring we suffered a Stokes family first: a death in the family. We had to euthanize our beloved 11-year-old standard poodle, Sophie, just a week before what would have been her 12th Easter.

I found Sophie listed as “Free Standard Poodle Puppy” in a March 2002 Watertown Daily Times classified ad. I didn’t just rescue Sophie from a flea-infested house in Theresa, I adopted her in every sense of the word. Our Christmas cards bore her picture. She shared our bed. She had her own couch. For all intents and purposes, Sophie was my first child. [Read more...]

If you build it, would they really come to use it?

Katie Stokes

Recently, I posed this question to NNY Life Facebook page fans: “In a perfect world, where we all had unlimited financial resources, what would you build to improve the Watertown area and why?”

That simple question drew nearly 1,000 views and more than 40 responses within three hours during the middle of the day in the last half of a work week. In short, people are interested in the topic. [Read more...]

Peeling back the curtain takes a very gentle hand

Katie Stokes

My daughter and I went with friends recently to see a “Disney on Ice” performance in Syracuse. It was wonderful, as you can expect from pretty much anything Disney. But, as with many things these days that have to do with delighting my children, being surrounded by happy kids made me inexplicably sad, too. [Read more...]

While bittersweet, moms grow up with kids, too

Katie Stokes

It’s such a cliché, but where has the time gone? My babies are no longer really babies and, because we’re planning on sticking with the “two-kid plan,” I find that we are aging out of things that were once daily, integral parts of our lives.

[Read more...]

Create your own north country family traditions

It was somewhere between jotting “tablecloth” and “koozies” on this year’s Old Forge Enchanted Forest trip packing list that I knew we had perfected that particular annual family outing.

Each year since we started taking the kids on an annual trip to Enchanted Forest, I’ve culled new tidbits from other water park-goers that I shaped into this year’s ultimate — or over the top, depending on whether you ask my husband or me — Enchanted Forest packing list. After three years and three attempts, I got it right: we got there early on a Friday morning and had our pick of my pre-screened shaded spots. We ate a picnic lunch under shade trees on a blue-and-white cotton table cloth. I remembered the right number of plates, napkins and utensils. I even packed a couple of ice-cold beers for mommy and daddy to enjoy right before leaving the park for the day to head over to our hotel across the street. Perfect day. All around.

[Read more...]

Like high-plains weather, parenting delivers surprises

Having grown up in Oklahoma, I’ve been through my fair share of nature-related close calls: thunder loud enough to make my ears pop; lightning bright enough to make me believe the world was being sucked up into heaven; hail that left pock-marks deep enough to stop a billiard ball from rolling down the hood of my car. I even saw a tornado up close once. The panic it induced was so wretched and thick, I glanced at the dancing tendril only long enough to get the impression that it was really, truly there before I peeled off in the other direction in my hail-ruined Toyota. Never could I have guessed that a life spent with the imminent threat of tornadoes would prepare me in any way for parenting. But, in certain situations, parenting and life in “Tornado Alley” have at least two things in common: terror and luck.

[Read more...]

The winter that wasn’t and the year that could be

Katie Stokes

This year’s historically mild weather was a bizarre wake-up call. There was little snow or ice to contend with and for my little family that made it, crazy enough, a harder winter.

Why? No snow in the depths of winter means fewer opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation.
Our cabin fever tipping point came in February during what I like to call “Worthless Winter Break.” This series of days off from school in the second-coldest month of the year seems like an inexplicably mean trick. There we were, like most middle-class American citizens, limping along, catching up from holiday frivolity and travel. We were finally getting back into our family routine. Then BAM! The crutch was kicked out from under us. [Read more...]