Mt. Olive Moms Offer Advice As Holiday Approaches

By Cheryl Conway

Cheryl Conway

Over spring break my daughter baked some of her yummy snicker-doodles, couple dozen at least to share with her five siblings and extra, of course, for my parents living in the next town over.

So we jumped in the car, with as many of my kids in tow I could find, to deliver the fresh baked cookies to my mom and dad. On the way, it struck me, and I said to them: “I hope when I’m older and stuck in the house, you bring your kids over with some delicious treats and smiles from time to time.”

I recall as a kid my parents would drag me and my three siblings to Brooklyn, N.Y., just about every Sunday to visit my grandmothers. There was no need for a special holiday, dinner or big meal, we just visited to bring groceries, eat deli and just spend time together.

While we don’t visit my parents as often as we should, nor my in-laws in Maryland- as our busy lives get in the way- we try to honor them, call them and be in their lives as much as we can. Most parents would agree that one of our biggest responsibilities is to serve as positive role models and teach and guide our kids how to be respectful, caring and loving individuals.

With Mother’s Day upon us, Sunday, May 13, many are planning to keep tradition by spending some time with their moms.

Celebrations of mothers can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and to the 19th century in the United States, when Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to teach local women proper child care, according to historical sites. When Ann Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

It has been 100 years since Anna- who was unmarried and childless- organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 at a Methodist church in Grafton, W. Va.  She made sure the holiday was added to the national calendar when she argued that American holidays were biased toward male achievements; she started a massive letter writing campaign urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.

By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday and in 1914, PresidentWoodrow Wilson signed a measure establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

While some use Mother’s Day to promote political or feminist causes, and hold marches, many moms spend the day with their children and grandchildren. It is a big day for cards, flowers and eating out.

Meet some moms of Mt. Olive

In Mt. Olive, families come in all shapes and sizes, from large families with nine children, to the average two children. There are single moms, new moms, expecting moms, grandmas and great-grandmas, mothers of twins, mothers as empty nesters, mothers of children with a disability or disease, working moms, stay-at-home moms and even women with no children.  But the one thing we all have in common, is we all have a mom somewhere, whether we know her or not, whether she is still on earth or in our hearts.

“Mt. Olive Life” wishes everyone a happy healthy Mother’s Day and may the tradition continue for the next 100 years.

The pages that follow will shine some light on just some of the moms of Mt. Olive. They each offer some insight on how they manage motherhood and what Mother’s Day means to them.

So far in 2018, there have been 48 births to women living in either Budd Lake or Flanders. According to Michele Doucette, secretary of the Mt. Olive Twp. Board of Health, there were 18 births in January, 11 births in February, and 19 births in March by female residents in Mt. Olive.


Mother of nine thankful for her blessings.

Fraida Shusterman with her son Zalmy


Fraida Shusterman of Flanders for the past 14 years has one of the newest arrivals in town, born March 12. But motherhood is nothing new to this 41-year old mother of nine. Shusterman’s kids range from 18 years old to newborn. With six boys and three girls they are 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 4, 2 and newborn.

While many moms would say juggling more than two kids is a challenge, raising nine takes a bit more strategy.

Many ask her how she does it? Shusterman’s response: “To prioritize and do what’s most important right now.

With the help of her husband, Rabbi Yaacov Shusterman, the two share in taking care of their kids’ needs.

They determine, “Who needs attention right now? Who needs private time right now? Who do we need to take care of right now? It’s impossible to take care of everything at once. I think about what’s important today; who needs me today, right now?”

While taking care of her family is significant, Shusterman points out that taking care of herself is just as necessary.

“I have to take care of myself first,” says Shusterman. “I need to eat a good breakfast,” with gluten free foods available since she is gluten free. She also makes sure to exercise, lift weights and set aside time for prayer.

“I always make time to pray,” says Shusterman. “I pray to have success in this role and be successful in my goals.”

It also helps to have “good peer support” such as parents, extended family and friends, research new ideas and approach each day with an “open mind” and “being flexible.”

Shusterman realizes, “Life is not going to be perfect. With us, life is hectic. You’re not going to have a perfect looking house.”

Married couples need to support each other in their childrearing and share in the responsibilities at home.

Being “on the same page, that’s very important,” says Shusterman about her husband.

“He is my backbone, he’s my support,” says Shusterman. “There’s nothing I don’t do without consulting him first. He’s an active participant,” if he has to cook, clean, help with homework.

Having a large family is not unusual to the Shustermans. She has 12 siblings, her husband has 10.

Fraida Shusterman with her daughters Esther and Mushka’s school play

 “We do just what our moms and dads have done,” she says, using strategies such as buying in bulk, having a laundry system, utilizing outside cleaning, assigning chores to the kids according to ability and cooking in advance.

She has to weigh what is more important, having kids smiling or having a neat house.

“When my kids are happy, that’s having a successful household,” and if that fails, “I know I have the next day to be successful,” she says.

“Having a large family is a tremendous blessing,” Shusterman realizes, and she is so thankful “for these wonderful children, these wonderful blessings.”

With all that is entailed in caring for a large family, Shusterman says “I enjoy being a mother. A mother’s natural makeup is to be a caregiver, to nurture. I really enjoy nurturing my children and taking care of their needs.”

Some of her fondest memories include babies’ first smile; that “flicker of recognition that I’m their mom;” and when her four year old, who likes to give her kisses and hugs, says she smells like “sugar coated strawberries.”

As far as celebrating Mother’s Day, Shusterman says “We have so many opportunities to celebrate a mother. Every day God commands us to honor thy parents.”

 With that, Shusterman says she is always getting surprises from her kids such as flowers, cards, hugs.

“When Mother’s Day comes around my kids will make me a card, maybe some flowers,” she says, and even a coupon book from her daughter claiming chores to be done. “My kids will let me nap. They do it all the time. When Hashem (God) is commanding them to do it, it’s in the Ten Commandments; here it’s coming from a higher source, not because mom and dad said so. It’s mother’s day and father’s day all the time. Every day we are supposed to honor thy parents.”

Shusterman offers some advice to new moms or moms-to-be: “Your baby is going to cry; it might be tough sometimes but it’s all going to be worth it. When that baby smiles at you, you’re going to melt away. The hard times will pass, you will have a beautiful loving child.”

She also shares a thought of what her grandmother passed on to her.

“The children you have- it’s your beautiful flower garden. My grandma always used to call us her flower garden. We always felt so loved.

“You have different flowers-they all bring something different into the family.” One can be in a bad mood, “and give you a grouchy look; but someone else might be smiling. Think about the good things; think about the blessing you will have. It’s all part of my flower garden.”

Part of her goals in being a mother is to “lay the foundation for the children,” she says. A “Jewish mother is the most important person in the house. She’s charged with the mission of preserving Judaism,” by carrying on traditions, prayer, morals, peace.

Being a positive role model is also key.

“Kids watch everything we do as parents,” says Shusterman. “They remember everything; values are caught, not taught.”

While “We try, no one’s perfect, parents have to be role models; how we speak, what we speak about. Kids are smart.”

Raising her family in Mt. Olive has also been a blessing.

Shusterman, who grew up in the city, appreciates the quiet, clean air and nature that surrounds her.

“Living in Mt. Olive is so full of nature,” with its mountains, hills, forests and lakes. “It brings such an added peace to the family.”

The Shustermans, who like to go hiking, get to “experience nature and more of God’s handiwork,” she says. “It’s cleaner air; there are parks,” that are cleaner, free of litter and a lot emptier than urban parks. “It’s so much more relaxed with open space; the kids are raised more relaxed.”

As Chabad Hassidim, the Shustermans “are committed to Chabad’s mission to look for a place that’s not thriving in Jewish life. We wanted to come here,” says Shusterman who recently returned to her part-time job as a fourth grade English teacher at the Rabbinical College in Morristown, a job she has had for the past 15 years.

With three away at school, six still live at home and the two little ones attend day care at her work.

During her spare time, Shusterman helps her husband run a Hebrew school through the Chabad, teaches a Torah class for women and organizes holiday programs in the community as well as Shabbat dinners.

“I help my husband in his role as rabbi to energize, enrich, enlighten other Jewish souls,” she says.


New mom looks forward to first Mother’s Day.

Alyson Sunyak and her daughter Gretchen Ross

Almost six months ago, Alyson Sunyak, 30, of Budd Lake became a mom when her daughter Gretchen Ross was born Nov. 16, 2017.

For Mother’s Day she is looking forward to carrying on the tradition she has shared with her mom.

“Every year we go to this plant farm in Mansfield,” says Sunyak. “We’ve been doing this every year since I was little.”

When they visit, they pick out 20 different annuals to plant at her mom’s house.

“We all do” the planting, she says. “The guys don’t like to but you can make them do whatever you want for Mother’s Day.”

This year, she will bring her new baby to join in the fun.

A year ago, this Mother’s Day, Sunyak announced to her parents that she was going to be a mom.

“It was a very exciting time,” she recalls. “Last year was very nice; I knew I was going to be a mom so I had a new appreciation of my mom.”

Born and raised in Budd Lake, Sunyak just moved back to her parents’ house- Ronald and Doria Klypka- after being away for five years.

Alyson and Stephen Sunyak

After getting her bachelor’s in psychology from Montclair, she moved out to California.

“I wanted to explore,” she says, “but I missed my mom so I wanted to come back.”

That was when she started dating Stephen, also a life-long resident of Mt. Olive, who she had reconnected with at a Morristown club three years ago. They both graduated Mt. Olive High School in 2006 but were not friends.

“I knew him,” says Sunyak, but “he was part of the popular crowd.”

This August she will be married two years to Stephen.

“My husband is definitely a big help,” says Sunyak. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.” She says they are “always splitting everything 50/50,” especially since she returned in March to work in a human resources department for an appliance manufacturing company in Parsippany. “We are both cooking and cleaning.” He has also been her emotional support.

“The beginning weeks were very hard,” she admits, when it came to learning how to take care of a newborn and not sleeping.

Using her instincts, looking things up and “letting nature take its course has been helpful and not stressing out over the little things,” she adds.

When asked what she has enjoyed the most so far as a new mom, she replies: “Everything. I like seeing her every day, seeing her grow and learn everything. She likes being outside, I like being outside. It’s just so innocent how she looks at the world; it makes you appreciate life.”

Her fondest moment so far with her baby is “she just started to learn how to hug. She’ll just kind of hug me to feel safe when someone approaches me. She’s starting to learn who I am.”

Sunyak’s mother-in-law, Debbie Sunyak of Randolph, has been watching her baby since Sunyak returned to work, along with her 5-year old grandson and 3-year old granddaughter.

“She’s getting to know her cousins which is really nice,” says Sunyak.

Her advice to new moms is to “go with the flow” especially with breast feeding. “Just be patient with everything; everything will happen eventually.”

Also, “enjoy every moment. They say it goes by fast, but it really does.”

While she is not involved too much locally, Sunyak is part of a Mt. Olive moms group on Facebook which has been helpful.

She is happy she came back home to settle her new family. Her parents’ house sits on a lot of acres, with nature and a stream to raise her kids.

“I do like the lake,” she says. “I have a boat; I did grow up on the lake.” She also likes Turkey Brook Park and she “knows the schools are very good.”

Single mom succeeds through hard work.

Doreen Serpico with her daughters Alzalia, on left, and Madison, in center

Raising her two girls as a single mom has been challenging at times, but Doreen Serpico of Budd Lake cherishes her role and is most pleased so far by the outcome.

Serpico, 50, and her two teenage girls- Azalia, 18, and Madison, 16- have lived in Mt. Olive for 18 years. The past six years have been in their current home in Budd Lake; and the 12 years prior were in Flanders. The father of her girls, who she never married, lived with them for five years and now resides in Pennsylvania.

On her own for the past 14 years, Serpico has been happy raising her kids in Mt. Olive.

“I loved the lake when it was open and I met so many people when I first moved here,” says Serpico. “Budd Lake is just so beautiful; I can see the lake from my house. I’m so proud of where I live. I get so surprised when people say they know the lake.”

The parks are great too.

“I absolutely love Turkey Brook Park,” says Serpico. “I wish I had [young] kids to take to the Splash Pad. The park is gorgeous. The football stadium [at Mt. Olive High School] is awesome.”

Doreen Serpico

Serpico explains, “As a mom taking my kids to the park, to the lake, it’s really nice to have a place to go to conversate and meet other moms and other kids. I’m so proud to say ‘I live here.’ I live in a beautiful town.”

Just as pleased with the schools, Serpico says, “The schools have wonderful programs,” such as the Rock-N-Roll Academy that Azalia was involved in before  graduating, top-notch robotics program and supportive teachers.

Having helpful neighbors and resources she could count on in the township and county has been beneficial.

“Don’t be too proud to ask for help,” Serpico advises other moms, “so many people out there who are willing to help. If you’re having a hard time, ask for help. My church helped me, my mom helped me. At times I took it on by myself. There are so many people out there, so many resources out there.”

When needed, she has counted on the Mt. Olive Food Pantry when she was unemployed , municipal building for Christmas presents and Arms Around Morris County for presents as well as backpacks filled with school supplies.

“It’s been challenging,” says Serpico who has worked full-time for the past five years as a staff assistant for children with special needs at Morris Hills High School in Rockaway during the school year.

On top of that, Serpico waitresses part-time every weekend at the Holiday Inn in Budd Lake, and as a camp counselor in the summer teaching arts and crafts for the past eight years at Warren Twp. Playground Camp.

Doreen’s daughters Azalia and Madison

What’s been great about the six week camp is Serpico’s girls got to attend the camp for free, and get to work there as paid counselors now that they are older. Azalia’s been a counselor there for the past three years, and this summer Madison will be promoted as a counselor-in-training to a paid counselor.

Having support from her mom, MaryAnn McKenzie in Long Branch, has been priceless.

“My mom has always been my rock,” says Serpico. “She’s always been there for me,” whether financially or for advice. “Having that support system is huge.”

For Mother’s Day, Serpico likes to spend the day with her girls or visit her mom.

“Our tradition has been to go out to dinner,” she says, or she may “bring up an old tradition that my father and I used to do. We used to go to The Bronx Zoo. I love going to the zoo; I like doing anything outside.”

Whatever she decides, she will not repeat last year’s Mother’s Day.

“I got yelled at last year because I worked,” she says. “I most definitely am not going to work this year.”

While her zealous ways are sometimes frowned upon, Serpico has been the perfect role model for her girls.

“Being that I worked two jobs, both my girls help me,” says Serpico. “They both clean. I have help from very two responsible kids. Maddie dusts; Azalia vacuums. They both do their own laundry; Azalia’s been doing that since she’s seven.”

To add to her plate, Serpico was diagnosed in 2006 at the age of 38 with fibromyalgia, which causes pain in the nerve endings. “There’s no cure; it’s very painful. My whole body shut down,” she recalls as she was unable to do laundry, carry groceries when Azalia was 7 and Madison was 4.

 “I was having to cook sitting on a stool in the kitchen,” she describes. “I couldn’t walk. My kids had to be very independent since they were little. Having very responsible, mature children at a young age has helped me and has helped them. Showing your kids responsibility and a good work ethic,” pays off in the end. “My girls both have very good work ethics because they see it in me.”

As other advice, Serpico suggests that moms “Take it day by day and enjoy your time with the kids. Don’t rush it. They grow up way too fast. You can’t take life too seriously; you really have to smell the roses because life is too short. Enjoy the time as a mom with your kids. When they go off to college, there’s no feeling like those heart strings being pulled,” how she felt last year  when Azalia left for Monmouth University in West Long Branch.

“I have that emptiness,” she admits. “I’m ok in my own skin but I have a hard time being by myself. It’s really scary how fast the time has gone. Enjoy the time; live life to the fullest even when they’re grown. Spend time with them. I love being with my kids. I’ll spend the night playing games with them and even with their friends. I still go to Dorney Park with my kids every summer. We still do things together; I’m a big kid.”

In fact, one of her fondest memories was when her mom surprised her and the girls and took them to Disney World for the week.

Other enjoyable times have been the car rides, “the singing in the car; us singing Hannah Montana; I know all the words.”

Out of all her jobs, Serpico says “being a mom is my favorite job. Seeing my children experience life and their accomplishments; I love seeing their accomplishments; I love seeing them grow up; I love seeing them grow into young beautiful ladies. Yes, it’s extremely stressful, but it’s the most rewarding.”

While she learned to ask for help along the way, Serpico finds time to give back, like when she volunteered with the PTA and did face painting at the Mt. Olive Public Library, as well as in Mendham and Montville.

“Kids would come in and I would come as a face painter,” for their summer reading kick off program. She called her business: Reen’s Fun Faces. She used to offer her service for free then started charging at schools and camps.

Creative by profession, Serpico had worked as an art director for 25 years after earning her bachelor’s in package design from Fashion Institute of Technology. She then went on to get her education certification from Centenary College.

As far as good qualities moms should possess, patience, open communication and honesty top her list.

“I am so blessed that I have kids that have shared with me; that we do have open lines of communication. It scares me what’s out here today.”

Serpico continues to set goals for herself as a mom.

“I’m hard on my kids,” Serpico admits, as “my father has been hard on me. I try not to push them too hard; you want to coddle them, but you don’t want to coddle them too much.”

She hopes for “an easier balance, to understand their limits and listen to them more; to let them achieve their goals and their limits. I want them to grow to their abilities and not push them too much as I know they have it in them. Both of them have a little bit of me; both of them have a little bit of their dad.”

When children leave the nest, a mom’s work never ends.

Gloria Andrich, with her son Pete and daughter Jamie

As a mother of two, Gloria Andrich of Budd Lake for the past 18 years, manages to stay in touch with her grown kids. Pete is now 23 and works full time and Jamie is 20 and in her second year of college.

“I take an interest in my kids’ everyday life by engaging in conversation with them,” says Andrich, 51. “Pete works in NYC, at JP Morgan Chase, and his days are long. But, I always ask him about his day, every day; same with Jamie. She is away at college but, we connect every day…even if it’s just for a few minutes.”

Although they are pretty much out of the house as young adults, Andrich says “I have definitely modified my role, as mom, over the years, as they have grown. With the kids a little older and more independent I have free time to create a better version of myself. I’ve done this by exercising regularly and by further educating myself with regards to my profession. In addition, I have some free time do nice things for others. Just recently, I planned a wedding shower for a friend.”

When Andrich’s oldest left for college, she found a way to stay in his life.

“When Pete left for college the summer of 2013, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and cried,” she describes. “Thinking four years is a long time. But, the time flew by. Pete’s school and wrestling schedule allowed him some free time on Wednesday’s. So, I would venture into Hoboken and we would have lunch together. We dined at some pretty fun places in Hoboken, over the years, plus it gave me the chance to give him a hug. Then, when it was time for Jamie to go away to college, the experience with Pete, made for an easier send off with Jamie. My best advice is, deal with the college transition in your own way. Everyone has a different way of coping with things, so don’t be afraid to do what makes you feel good. If visiting, calling or face-timing is what you need to do, then do it. Your kids will understand!”

As life changes, so does her busy role as a mom, but Andrich enjoys being a mom, past and present, and is happy she raised them with her husband, Jimmy, in Mt. Olive.

“It’s a safe town, schools are stellar and it’s been an overall nice experience raising our kids here,” says Andrich, who works as an insurance/financial professional selling, Life, Long Term Care & Disability Insurance & Annuities.

“I have truly enjoyed all of it,” says Andrich “Sports fill my mind with a lot of fond and happy memories. Pete’s wrestling days and Jamie’s soccer days are, without a doubt, very memorable.”

Even today, “I enjoy hearing about their successes, accomplishments and just things they do every day,” says Andrich. “It excites me when Jamie face-times me or when she includes me in a conversation with her friends, or when Pete fills me in on his work day or commute. Little things like that, just make my day and make me smile.

She offers advice to other moms: “Don’t just go through the motions. Enjoy it, take it all in, love life and pay attention to them. Have a sit down dinner as often as you can, put down the cell phone and just listen to what the kids have to say.

Also get involved.

“Over the years I’ve gotten involved with soccer clubs/groups and wrestling clubs,” she says. “It’s fun to join in and get involved in whatever your kids are doing at that time in their life. Don’t sit on the sidelines and just watch. It’s so much more rewarding when you’re actively involved. It’s something you will always be glad you did! And, if you have a little time in the evening, to take care of yourself, the Mt. Olive Exercise program/class is where you will find me, just about every night of the week. You will definitely meet a lot of great mom’s there, so try it out.”

Andrich also offers her strategy on raising respectful responsible kids, as well as an organized household.

“Our world is rapidly changing – it’s easy to raise spoiled children,” says Andrich. “It’s not so easy to raise children who turn into responsible, respectful adults because that takes time, effort and a lot of hard work. I would suggest, moms, let the kids help around the house. Encourage them to get a summer job so they feel what it’s like to earn something, this way they learn a sense of accomplishment. Both Pete and Jamie had jobs at 14. Pete saved enough money to buy his car at the age of 17, as did Jamie.

“I keep things in check and real by teaching my kids the value of a dollar,” she adds. “I’ve always been a big a big bargain hunter and a few years back I got into estate sales. Pete sometimes tags along as he likes to collect sports memorabilia. But most importantly, he has learned the value of money. He sees what it’s like to get nice things at a reasonable price.”

Andrich is looking forward to spending time with her kids and mom this Mother’s Day.

“I usually invite my mom and dad over for a late morning breakfast,” she says. “My kids always surprise me with my favorite flowers or a lovely gift accompanied by a hand written card. Then I spend the remainder of the day relaxing.”

While she says one of her favorite Mother’s Days from years past was when she dined at Carmine’s in NYC, she typically hangs around the house while enjoying the beautiful spring weather.

“Normally, my mother’s day is pretty low key.”

Mother of two manages on her own.

Marilyn Foushee

With two in college, Marilyn Foushee of Budd Lake hopes her kids are home in time to spend Mother’s Day with her. Her 21-year old daughter Brittany attends Boston University as a junior and her son Brandon, 18, is in his first year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

While relaxing or a massage is always a treat for this 48 year old, Foushee says she will probably venture into the city to visit her mom, Mireya, in Manhattan.

“We will most likely cook a home cooked meal” at her mom’s, says Foushee. “She would rather have her family there on Mother’s Day. I know that makes her happy.

 I’ll make her a special cake, something unique and special for her.”

Her kids typically “like to take me out to eat and most likely take me to the mall to buy me clothing.” But “I think this year because my grandmother passed we might spend some time with my mom.”

Her maternal grandma of Manhattan died last October at the age of 94; her fraternal grandma is 95, living in the Dominican Republic.

Marilyn Foushee’s kids, Brittany and Brandon

Foushee has lived in Budd Lake for the past 20 years; when she divorced her husband 13 years ago after ten years of marriage, he moved down the street three houses down and they had shared custody. When their son graduated high school last year, her ex moved to Georgia.

“Dad was always involved in their lives,” says Foushee.

While she had to manage her own household and her kids, Foushee says she never really considered herself a single mom.

“I don’t really think about it as being a single mom,” says Foushee. “It’s about being a mother; it isn’t any different than being married. Your job as a mom never ends. You just do it.” Mothers “always sacrifice yourselves.”

Mowing or plowing the driveway was a non-issue as she always had a landscape person and her son helped.

It was some of the smaller stuff like internet glitches, grilling or changing a light bulb or an alarm. “Ugh I got to get a ladder?” she’d think to herself.

Having shared custody did have a benefit as “you got a break,” she says. “I could sign up for a class,” like the baking one she did 10 years ago at Michaels that led to her own business: Expressions by Marilyn, specializing in gourmet cakes and cupcakes.

She had signed her kids up for a craft class there, and became friendly with the instructor who motivated her to sign up for a cake decorating course.

“I said ‘You don’t understand, I don’t even cook,’” recalls Foushee. “She said ‘You got to do this.’” So Foushee did, made some friends and signed up for three more classes, once a week for four weeks.

“I like the cake baking class,” she realizes.

Her cousin made her Facebook page, her sister got her business cards and a magnet on the side of her car and Foushee was on her way as an entrepreneur, in addition to her full time career as a compliance analyst for Chubb Insurance and a mom, of course.

Thinking back to Mother’s Days from earlier years, Foushee’s favorite moments was “when the kids would try to make me breakfast in bed. They’d say ‘no, don’t get out of bed.’”

Brittany, Marilyn and Brandon

She also enjoyed the handcrafted cards and special gifts they would make.

One of her most memorable moments was when her son wrote on her card: “You are the third best mom in the world.”

As her heart sank, “I was like ‘huh?’” She had just gone through the divorce and was thinking her son chose his dad’s girlfriend over her.

She soon learned that the “mind of a second grader’ came into play: “You have your mom and your grandmas, that’s why I’m like the third mom.”

Foushee laughs, “We still tease him til this day; he was counting my grandma, then his grandma and then me. I just thought I lost rank.”

Having patience, faith and love has guided Foushee in her success as a mom.

“It’s the most important job in the world,” she says. “Love comes naturally; it’s unconditional love.”

Moms need a lot of patience, especially having a baby who is just learning everything, to a toddler- “they don’t know how to tie their shoes yet.”

They also need faith in themselves as mothers. “It comes so fast,” she says. “You are holding them and you hope you are doing it right.” Moms need to have faith “that you are raising them to be responsible citizens of the community and the world at large.”

Seeing where they are in their lives now, Foushee is proud.

“Watching the fruits of my labor grow into young adults, you sit back and realize you did good,” she says. “At this stage of my life, they’re in college, you can breathe, look back” at all of the activities she brought them too, karate for Brandon, gymnastics for Brittany, story-times at the Mt. Olive Public Library, swimming lessons at Budd Lake Beach, and help with homework.

She thinks of where they are now, “it’s kind of scary,” she says, since “they’re in big cities.” Although she does not know “how they get from point A to point B, she has faith: “They’ll figure it out.”

She recognizes her lower food bills, quiet house, has cereal when cooking is out and goes to bed without the “buzzing” when they are home, yet looks forward when they return.

“That first month,” after her son left for college, “you could hear a creek in the attic; then you get used to the quietness.”

Although they are away, she realizes her goals as a mom continues: “Keep them alive, healthy and feed them: to make sure they are healthy and happy.  I want to see them flourish and prosper; to see them successful in life and whatever paths they choose.”

Brandon is studying photography and Brittany neuroscience with plans to continue to grad school.

Foushee offers advice to other moms.

She says, “live in the present,” and “never be afraid to ask for help whether you need some time or don’t understand something. As moms we think we can do it all.”

She says it is good to take advice from other moms, but at the same time “take it all in with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, you know what’s best for you.”

Set a good example.

“You have to be the example,” says Foushee, to teach them honesty, respect of others and “have moral compass” as well as religion.

“I was never one of those moms to put a calendar up, but because I always worked, I had to be respectful of time. “Great organization skills transferred from my career to running a successful household. I run my household just like I run my projects, on time and under budget.”

Local mom supports March of Dimes

Lisa Frangione

Lisa Frangione, 40, of Budd Lake for the past 11 years, has two children: Benjamin, 11, and Sam 12.

She had tried for a third five years ago, but lost the fetus during her second trimester at 20 weeks when her water broke.

“By the time I got to the hospital, there was no heartbeat,” says Frangione.

“Everything was fine. There was no sign of anything wrong.” She was even at the doctor’s the day before. Frangione was diagnosed with Fifth disease at the time but that was not determined to have caused the miscarriage. She had found out the sex, a girl, and she named her Sophia.

Following her loss, Frangione did try again but two early miscarriages followed.

To cope, Frangione’s 8-year old daughter at the time “wanted to do something” as she “thought when people die you have a funeral.”

Frangione came up with the idea to form a team and walk for the March of Dimes to support women having full-term births and healthy babies. As team captain and member of the Family Planning Committee for the walk, Frangione has been walking in The Skylands March For Babies in Sussex County for the past four years.

In the last one just held April 29, Frangione and her family raised more than $3,000 and at least $2,000 to $3,000 every year. With 10 members on her team, they raise even more dollars.

Frangione, who used to collect donations through Facebook, switched to fundraisers two years ago.

Frangione Family

“We like it better,” says Frangione, “it’s turned into a community thing. It’s an overwhelming response.”

She just held her second annual Egg My House this past Easter, a fundraiser in which eggs are stuffed with candy and toys and then hidden on designated properties. People pay $50 for 100 eggs, or $25 for 50 eggs.

“This year we had 40 people come to stuff eggs,” says Frangione, on St. Patrick’s Day. Seven families came out the night before to put the eggs out on about 100 homes in mostly Mt. Olive, as well as in Long Valley and Hackettstown.

“It’s really fun delivering,” she says. They go out about 8:30 p.m. Saturday night before Easter to hide the eggs on the properties.

“We get so many donations; we pay if forward,” she says. This year they stuffed 6,000 eggs and raised $2,500.

When she realized she was 1,400 eggs short, the mayor posted on his Facebook page the need for more eggs.

Within one hour two strangers went out and came to her house to drop off 1,500 eggs. One lady bought out all the eggs from CVS, and a man bought out Walmart.

Candy for the eggs this year was also donated.

“Everyday people would just show up at my house with candy,” she says. “Some are friends, some are strangers.”

 Overwhelmed by the generosity of the community and Mt. Olive, Frangione  donates the extra. This year she was able to make Easter baskets for 10 families “who need extra cheer.”

She even has extra eggs for next year after an anonymous person dropped off another 1,500 new eggs in cases at her door post one day after the event, and another 1,000 eggs the next day.

“The part of giving back is what is amazing,” she says. “So many generous people that were able to give back and help others.”

People had asked, on Facebook prior to the event: “Who is the egg lady” When is the egg lady doing her thing?”

Groups in town, such as her daughter’s volleyball team, as well as Girl Scouts have offered to help out.

It is this community that is “always generous and willing to help out,” that Frangione likes about Mt. Olive. She also applauds the recreation department and all its family events, as well as the “top notch” facilities and parks.

One may see her on the soccer field in the afternoon this Mother’s Day at her son’s game, followed by dinner.

“In general, I like to be relaxed on Mother’s Day with my mom,” rather than doing anything too extravagant. “The past couple of years, my life’s been dictated by sports,” she laughs.

Her favorite Mother’s Day was about seven years ago when she hosted a barbecue for her whole family and husband’s family with grandparents and grandchildren.

“It was a really nice Mother’s Day to have,” she says. “It was a lot of work for me” but “it was a really great day.”

She credits her success as a mom by “having support,” which used to be her parents when the kids were younger; “now it’s my neighbors.”

She says the “advice and support from other moms and support from your husband helps in your success as a mother.”

At the same time, “You have to do what works for your family; it doesn’t matter what other people are doing,” stay at home mom or working mom, breast feeding or formula. “Trust your gut and do what’s best for your family. Sleep when baby sleeps; hire a cleaning lady if you can afford it. There’s no right or wrong.”

She advises other moms to “lead by example; don’t let teachable moments pass you by; listen to your kids.” She suggests when they come forth with a problem; guide them to make the right choice.

To help manage the household, she does delegate chores. “Mom does not do everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you can’t do it all.”

She and her family use the Cozi calendar app on their phones which helps them organize everything from weekly activities, to meal planning and even grocery lists.

Her goals moving forward: “I want to raise my kids to be successful, respectful, kind and independent adults. Give them the tools so they can succeed in the world.”

She enjoys most “The pride in seeing them successful, seeing them be happy and doing what they love. Growing up I always wanted to be a mom and have kids.”

And it’s not always about taking them to the “extravagant” places. “Disney is awesome,” she says, “but going on a hike or roasting marshmallows in the backyard, sitting by the fire, those are some of my favorite moments.”

Outside of being a mom, Frangione works as a pediatric physical therapist treating kids privately in her home through age three in her business Motion Matters, LLC. She treats kids born prematurely or have been diagnosed with conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or are blind. She also works full time as a supervisor for an early intervention agency, has served on parent associations at her kids’ schools, is a member of the Mt. Olive Chamber of Commerce and hopes get more involved in township groups.

Being involved with what the kids are involved in and local groups is a “good way to network,” with other moms.

Carry your mom in your heart, even when she is gone.

Mary Lalama, Joe Nicastro With her mom Rose Bernhard

That is what Mary Lalama of Flanders is doing since losing her mom about six months ago at the age of 84.

 As a resident of Mt. Olive for the past 14 years, Lalama’s parents had moved to town the same time as she did and lived in a house around the corner from her.

“She was always a walk away,” says Lalama. “Her house was behind mine.”

When her father died, Lalama invited her mom to move in with her and her family.

“My mom moved in with us when my dad’s cancer spread and he was hospitalized, six years ago,” she says. “My mom never wanted to be alone and was afraid to live in the house by herself. I had promised my dad that I would always take care of her if anything happened to him. In the end we were able to care for her and be there with her.”

Their time together was well spent.

“My mother always had us laughing,” says Lalama. “We have so many funny stories.”

As this will be Lalama’s first Mother’s Day without her mom, she is going in with a strong heart.

“I will go to the cemetery and bring her flowers and just remember how she loved every holiday and lived every day to its fullest,” says Lalama. “We will celebrate our life.”

Her advice for those who lose their moms:  “Remember all the good times, and the bond you shared,” says Lalama. “Talk about her every chance you get and know they are still alive in your heart and nothing or no one can change that.”

As for spending time with her own kids this Mother’s Day, Lalama says “I love to spend mother’s day with my children at home. This year, like the last few years we will spend it by my daughter’s house.”

She has three children: Frank 33, Kearstin 31, Michael, 21; and two step children: Amanda, 27 and Samantha, 25.

Although they are grown, she has some favorite moments: “When my children were young and they would make things in school for me, most of which I have saved,” says Lalama. “Some of the things that were made for me from my kids were macaroni necklaces, planters/flowers in milk cartons, and the best were the handmade cards.”

Just being a mom and sharing in their lives, like “watching them in school plays, playing sports, marching band,” are so many moments she cherishes. “Singing songs in the car, telling jokes; we take a family vacation (we have a blended family) every year and we have so many great memories, funny stories and a strong bond.”

Lalama adds, “I just love everything about being a mom. I was a single mom for many years, working two jobs to support my children and I love who they have become-hardworking, caring, loving adults. It’s a rewarding experience.”

For new moms or those who are expecting, Lalama offers her advice: “I feel being able to communicate with your children is so important. Letting them know that you are always there for them and will love them unconditionally. Be available at any time, as a friend and a parent, and knowing when to be the friend and when to be the parent.”

Also important, says Lalama is to “Enjoy the little moments as well as the big ones. Spend time with your children. It may seem like you can’t handle all the stress of motherhood, but you will get through it and you will miss those times. Love your children unconditionally and be there for them. Stay constant; guide them and direct them.”

Getting involved in their children’s school association or be a class mom can have its benefits, she says, and even the community such as Mt. Olive with all it has to offer.

“We have so much for children in this town from an amazing sports programs, a rec department that always has something going on, and the best schools in N.J., says Lalama who works as graphic artist and co-owner with her husband, Joe Nicastro, of New View Media, LLC. in Mt. Olive.

When she’s not working, Lalama volunteers her time on the board of the Mt. Olive Child Care & Learning Center, is a member of the Town Pride Committee in Mt. Olive and also reaches out to the community: “My family and I do an annual Thanksgiving dinner in Mt. Olive for anyone less fortunate and for all those who have no one to spend the holiday with. I also do a Christmas Toy drive. I collect toys from area residents and donate them to families in town in need.”

With her youngest heading off to grad school in Texas, Lalama will soon be an empty nester, but her role as a mom will remain.

“My goal as a mom has always been to raise my children as respectful, loving, caring adults, guiding them to be successful in their career choices,” says Lalama. “It will be different, kinda sad. Although I am proud he is continuing on his path to be a chiropractor, I will miss him a lot. My role as a mom will change because they are not physically with me, but will not change the love I have for them. I speak to/text my daughter at least once a day, and my older son every other day, and plan to do the same with Michael.”

Great great grandma looks forward to 71st Mother’s Day

Mary ” Libby” Hildebrant

Born and raised in Mt. Olive, Mary Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Hildebrant of Flanders for the past 98 years, has raised two daughters in town and has enjoyed being surrounded by family all these years.

Born inside the Roadside Rest Hotel on Park Ave. in Flanders on Nov. 20, 1919- now a rental property- Hildebrant is the daughter of John Henry McClain and Claira Ester Wack McClain, both of whom were born inside their houses in Flanders in 1883 and 1887 respectively. McClain owned the old Mill on Route 206 and married Claire on Feb.17, 1909.

Hildebrant met her husband, Gordon Lewis Hildebrant, in K-8th grammar school, which at that time was located inside the fire house until it moved across the street inside the red brick school on Main Street, which today is Arc Morris.

While she went on to high school in Roxbury, as Mt. Olive High School did not yet exist, and then onto Syracuse University in 1942 for a degree in home economics followed by a teaching degree, her future husband had to quit school to support his family.

Mr. and Mrs. Hildebrant

Gordon Hildebrant worked with powder explosives at Hercules with his brother Elmer. An explosion in 1942 killed Elmer who was outside the building, while Gordon was inside.

Gordon joined the army, 36th Calvary, to serve with Gen. George Patton during WWII and later became a Mt. Olive police sergeant, just like his father, George.

They married on Sept. 7, 1946, at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Flanders, now called the Flanders Methodist Church.

Mary Hildebrant worked at a nursery school in East Orange before teaching at the Flanders School. She worked for 23 years as a teacher in the Mt. Olive school system, grades kindergarten through six; she taught third grade at Mt. View Elementary before retiring in 1979.

She also volunteered at the Thrift Shop at the Flanders Methodist Church for 75 years, where her parents were founding church members.

Hildebrant has two daughters: Mary Bonner, 71 of Flanders; and Linda Hackenberg, 68, of Flanders. Both women married men from Mt. Olive and taught for 30 years at the Mt. Olive Child Care & Learning Center.

Mary Hildebrant’s birth place

Up to three months ago, she lived in her homestead by herself since Gordon passed on November 16, 1979, from a heart attack at the age of 62. She now lives with her daughter Linda after she fell and broke her shoulder.

“It’s time for her to rest; it’s time to take care of mom,” says Bonner who married Robert John Bonner 50 years ago after meeting him in grammar school, which was called Flanders School then.

To pass the historic Hildebrant homestead to the next generation, Bonner’s daughter Amy Elizabeth Langdo, also a native of Flanders, is purchasing her grandmother’s house and already moved in with her husband and three boys.

With so many memories as life-long residents, Hildebrant and her girls have so many stories to share.

As the founder of the Flanders Fire House, Gordon Hildebrant served as fire chief several times.

“I remember him going there to start the fire trucks,” recalls Bonner as one of her childhood memories. “He would get up in the night-time to make sure the trucks would start in case there was a fire.”

Hackenberg adds, “My mother would have to sound the alarm for the fire truck.”

At the age of 98, Hildebrant has three grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild with another one expected in October.

Mary Hildebrant’s parents Joh and Claira McClain

Hildebrant looks forward to another Mother’s Day with her close-knit family.

“Our whole family gets together for all the holidays,” says Bonner. “We’re all close with the kids and everything.”

The plan this year is to probably gather at Hildebrant’s homestead.

When asked about her favorite Mother’s Day, Hildebrant says “They’ve all been.”

“Family holidays are really important to us,” says Hackenberg, who married Robert Hackenberg, also a Flanders native, 25 years ago. Second marriages for both, she has one child and he has two from previous marriages. She owned Mt. Olive School of Dance for nine years.

Hildebrant is pleased with the family she has raised.

“They had a mother who was a teacher and a father who was a policeman; they didn’t stand a chance.”

Hackenberg agrees, “We all learned to be honest.”

Bonner says the community helped in their positive upbringing.

“The community was very close,” says Bonner, “fire house was a hub, our church was really important. They had dinners all the time. We were a family community; everybody knew everybody. Community was small; we all took care of one another; everybody knew us. That’s the way the community was a long time ago. Our families have always been first.”

Turkey dinners were held at the firehouse during the fall, and were organized by Hildebrant and her husband.

“They would open the doors and carve turkeys,” says Bonner. They would have bingo, huge Halloween parties, parades and dances, all for the children. Girls were in Girl Scouts, boys were in Boy Scouts.

Education played a part too.

“Education was so important,” says Hildebrant.

“School was fun,” says Hackenberg. “You played, you took naps, you did projects. Everything you did was a big deal. Teachers were friends with mothers and fathers.”

Although it has changed, Mt. Olive is where their roots lie and continue to grow.

“We still have friends here we grew up with,” says Bonner. “We’ve grown up as one small community that’s now big.”

Says Hildebrant, “Mt. Olive has grown, it’s a different town.” But, “it’s my home.”

She stays involved by attending the Mt. Olive Baptist Church with her daughter Linda as her husband is friends with the minister; larger printed words on the screen also aid in her participation.

Hildebrant stays active with the Dirty Dozen. As a founding member since 1980,  women meet once monthly to bake, knit blankets and caps for preemies and fill shoeboxes with pencils, mittens, socks and hats for children in need.

Hildebrant’s response in her joy of being a mom and grandmother: “What was there not to enjoy? I raised good children and grandchildren. We were involved in everything; we just loved it.” She ran the church choir and Girl Scouts.

“It’s good that our children saw our grandparents,” as grandparents always lived with their children to also teach them good values like love and respect.

“We loved and respected our parents,” says Hildebrant. “You didn’t want to let your parents down.”

Bonner adds: “We respected our grandparents, let me tell you.”

Adds Hackenberg: “You listened.”

Having family around, “It was important to us,” says Hildebrant. “They never went home to an empty house.” She always had someone to help her.

Adds Hackenberg, “We all lived across the street from each other; we are all here,” including her mother-in-law, Emily Hackenberg, who is 96 and also lives in town.

Hackenberg points out how her parents were always supportive.

“No matter what we did or what we tried, she always backed us up,” says Hackenberg. “There was always encouragement” and support to their friends too.

“My kitchen table, most popular place,” says Hildebrant. “Everyone who had a problem came to my kitchen table. We always had an open house; everyone was invited to the table,” or to their screened-in porch.”

Agrees Hackenberg: “All the problems were solved around the table.”

The Hildebrants ran their household as a team.

“My mom worked; my dad cooked because he liked to,” says Bonner. “We cooked together and they worked together as parents.”

The eldest helped.

“I had to do the ice cubes,” says Bonner. “I just hated it, I don’t know why.”

Adds Hackenberg: “You did such a fine job. I didn’t do anything” as the baby except “run around a lot,” says Bonner.

As one of her greatest loves is flowers, Hildebrant hopes to get some flowers for Mother’s Day.

“Her flower garden was very important to her,” says Bonner, especially orchids.

  “That’s all she wanted for her wedding was an orchid from my father,” says Hackenberg. Her wedding veil adorned wax orange blossoms.

A tradition it became, each woman in her family chain who married since has taken a wax orange blossom off of Hildebrant’s veil to carry the day of her wedding.

“I had it on my bouquet,” says Bonner. “Linda had it on her dress. Each girl that married had a piece of the bouquet. I had a good marriage; they had a good marriage.”

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