Thursday, December 16, 2010

cwru early application status: deferred

The only other time I've heard of deferment pertains to the draft during the Vietnam War.  Then I can imagine it was great news to some to hear that they had been deferred.

It's not such great news to hear from your first choice college.

It's like asking a guy to prom only to hear him say, "hmmm, I'm not sure.  I'll get back to you if I'm not asked by somebody a little better looking."  Any girl worth her salt would kick him in the tenders. 

Em's first choice school deferred her last night.  It seems that some more selective colleges don't say yes or no to all early applicants.  They say YES to the ones they are certain they want.  And NO to the ones they know won't be able to cut it.  To the ones that have the qualifications (3.9 GPA and 28 ACT) but they are just not sure about for one reason or other (but they don't tell you why)....they say WAIT AND WE'LL SEE.  We'll consider your application with the larger pool of applicants in the spring and see how you stack up to them.

Needless to say, for now, she's made her own mind up. 

Deferment sucks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

aspiring suvivor

I'm not sure that I could survive weeks on end without my better half so if he does get selected based on this audition, I will be auditioning contestants to fill a temporary manny/launderer/chauffeur/misc. odd job guy position in our home. (although no one could even begin to fill his shoes....)

Since I can't figure out how to embed the official video you have to follow this link:

don't eat the yellow snow

Video submitted by Kevin for Survivor Casting Call 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

george's ride on the polar express

Yesterday the Yellow Room took part in a rite of passage for most preschoolers since the publication of Chris van Allsburg's book The Polar Express.  They all wore their pajamas to school, drank hot chocolate, and spent time immersed in the story of a pajama clad boy who boards a mysterious train to the North Pole in the middle of the night.

All but George that is.   Under no circumstances and with no amount of cajoling could I convince him that is was appropriate and expected to wear pajamas to school.  He knows you are supposed to wear clothes to school and this particular son is very particular about rules.  

So I put them in his book bag hoping that he would change his mind after seeing all his friends and teachers in their PJ's.  He didn't. 

When Kevin picked him up, he asked him if he wore his pajamas.  "Not for a minute," was his reply.

Friday, December 10, 2010

oh, december

This is the first year in a long time I did not venture out on Black Friday.  I've done all my shopping so far online.  I just don't have the energy to face the crowds and the traffic.  This year has been one of such loss, combine that with the darkness that comes this time of year on the north coast and I'm not surprised at all at my lack of Christmas spirit.

I did manage to get the tree up and George and the daycare kids had fun decorating it.  Most of the ornaments are in the middle half of the tree, out of reach of the daycare baby, but none higher than they(George and the daycare kids) can reach.

Our pastor is preaching a series on an Uncommon Christmas.  That is so appropriate.  This is a very Uncommon December for me so far.

December is a month of birthdays in our house.  There's JESUS!! and then there's my dad, Kevin, Rachel, my mom, and Jacob.  With Em hot on their tails Jan. 2.

I got together with my sister to send an Edible Arrangement to my mom and dad.  Combo gift on the giving AND the receiving end.  They are both on Weight Watchers so they loved it.  It was just like the picture and so easy.  The store is less than a mile from their house so we had them pick it up to give them an excuse to get out of their cozy Villages cluster home and get some fresh air.

Rachel got her birthday dinner at Cici's Pizza a little early due to most of us being together and daycare clients canceling.   Em was the only one missing but she had been there a few days earlier on a date so she didn't miss too much.

Kevin had a nice steak dinner on his birthday.  Followed by white cake with homemade chocolate icing.  He was home late due to a community service project of Sherwin Williams.  They sponsor the kids at Barbara Booker Elementary School in Cleveland for Christmas.  Kevin helped deliver all the boxes of presents.

That's a lot of activity for December being only 10 days old.  There's lots of other changes in the works I'll get into soon. 


Monday, November 22, 2010

a walk in the woods to a 99th birthday party

Kevin innocently suggested taking a family hike in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park last Saturday.  We were going to Cuyahoga Falls to the 99th birthday party of his Uncle Clair.

This was MY view for the majority of the hike.
I learned that "family hike" has at least two definitions.

There is mine:  a family friendly stroll through the woods on a well marked path involving lots of discovery, swinging from vines, poking at mosses, rotting trees, and mushrooms, trying to identify various fauna, and looking for wildlife.

And then there is Kevin's:  a rigorous 5 mile workout where you go up and down many hills covered with leaves and mud, cross at least 4 streams on slippery rocks, are sure to get your feet wet and never stop long enough for your heart rate to drop below 80%.

I also learned that if I had been Maria von Trapp escaping over the Alps, the Nazi's would have caught up with me.

Uncle Clair didn't seem to mind that we were sweaty and covered with mud when we arrived late at his party.  He is an amazing specimen of a man.  His full head of hair has only recently gone gray.  At 99 he enjoys good health and still does most things on his own.  His sister Earline told a story about how he would hitchhike back to Lorain County from OSU about every 2 months when he was a student there.  Once he slept overnight inside a corn shock because it got late and there wasn't any traffic. 

I'd bet we'll be back next year for his 100th.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

kung zhu

When Zhu Zhu pets were introduced last year with their sweet pink noses and backs embroidered with stars or hearts or flowers, I thought they looked so fun.  You could buy darling purses to carry them around in or little bean bag chairs for them to sleep in.  When you pushed their noses, they let out darling little squeaks.  They had tons of accessories. 

But George was NOT interested.

Well, some marketing genius came up with the idea to rebrand them for boys.  They now come ready for battle.  Instead of purses or chairs, you buy armor and swords to pit them against one another in the ring. 

And George has been smitten. 

Because he doesn't spend his birthday and Christmas money with the lightning speed of his brothers and sisters, he still has an envelope with cash in the safe.  So when we were in the toy department picking up a gift for his friend Lydia's birthday I let him buy one.  I am hoping it will help him get over his infatuation before Christmas as there will be a season pass to Cedar Point under the tree and NOT more hamsters or a battle arena.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

almost speechless

I had an interview with the sweetest couple and their 7 week old son today.

And, I learned something new(always good).

Elimination Communication.

This is a practice where you closely monitor your infant for signs that he is ready to go potty. Then you take his pants off and put a receptacle underneath him to "catch" the product. In a nutshell(from someone who knows very little about it), the theory is that since no animal in nature does it's business where it lives, we should not train babies to do their business inside their diaper. And that they actually are born knowing that they shouldn't and struggle to communicate this to us. But we ignore them and are stuck later retraining them  that poop and pee belong in the toilet and not in their pants.


Monday, November 8, 2010

neighborhood serve

Please visit our virtual fundraiser for the Plas family.  Their oldest daughter is fighting cancer.  :(

Forward link to your family and friends.  Items have been donated for sale in support of this family.  MAKE OFFER!!!   All items have free local pickup.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

westward, ho

Emma is coming home tonight after being gone over a week.  Yes, you heard that correct.  I did allow my college bound daughter to take a 9 day vacation in the midst of her senior year.  It wasn't my idea but I went along with it.

This was her father's idea.  He tends to live in the moment and not focus so much on responsibilities and consequences.  Once upon a time, a (much) younger and (arguably) stupider me actually found that attractive.  The mature me would have said no immediately but the mature me also seeks input from my older, wiser husband who thought, if it was up to him, he would probably say "yes".

Her dad doesn't get to spend much time with her.  It started once she got a social life but now that she is working she rarely goes to his house.  With her leaving for college next fall, this is possibly the last good opportunity for them to spend some quality father-daughter time together.

Her adventure started the night before they left when she dropped her phone in the toilet.  Now I didn't have to worry that she would eat up all our minutes talking to her boyfriend of the moment.  The next morning they flew into Phoenix.

She called to tell me how big the cacti were.
She sent this when they reached Utah. 
And after long hours of this interesting scenery, stuffed in the cab of a U-Haul with her dad, his friend, and his son
they BOTH got out in Idaho.

Ah, the cooling pines of Oregon.
And now THIS is where she wants to go to school. 

It was a great experience and it's not something we would be able to do for her.  I'm thankful she got to go.  Now she had BETTER catch up on all her schoolwork.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gentle, Full of Love, yet Strong and Courageous

My company fitness center has a Friday morning Yoga class at 6:45 that I like to take. For me to participate, however, I need to be on the RTA Rapid that leaves the Brookpark station at 6:10 AM. Since the next one doesn't come along until 6:30, and it is about a 20 minute trip to Tower City.

Well this morning as I walked through the station, there was a young man jingling some change in his pocket. He told me he needed to buy a pass and was 50 cents short. I gave him a dollar. I proceeded to walk out onto the platform and notice that there was nobody there. My watch said 6:10 but the train must have been a few minutes early.

So no Yoga for me today. Knowing I had a long wait, I walked back into the (heated & well lit) train station.

Several minutes later, after a few more people had showed up, the guy who I gave the dollar to approached a woman and used the same story. He was still short 50 cents! Maybe he didn't recognize me when I walked out and back in?

Anyhow, I spoke up. "Dude, you were 50 cents short, and I gave you a dollar. How can you still be 50 cents short?" He looked at me and said, "My mistake."

"How many more people are you going to ask?" was my next question. "No one", he said. He stared at me for a couple minutes and I stared right back.

Then he walked away and a different woman said to me, "Thank you."

Once on the train, I was reading my daily Bible study verses. Today's verse for meditation is 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline". The prayer for today ended with, "Help us to be gentle and full of love, yet strong and courageous."

I felt I had already been "gentle and full of love", when I helped this brother in need by giving him a dollar. Then when I discerned his lying ways, I responded by being "strong and courageous."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

through the valley

I drove past a yard sign for a local large non-denominational church today.  It promised a free book authored by a current preacher of the "prosperity" gospel to every first time attender.   This did not surprise me.  That's the version most people are comfortable with.  It's a lot easier to grow a mega church by telling people what they want to hear.


Jesus promised us that we would suffer.  John 16:33: "In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

Jesus promised us that we would suffer, but he reminded us that it would only be temporary.  When I go through suffering I try to constantly remind myself of that.  And remind myself of what else I know to be true. 

I know God is unchanging.  I know He is all powerful and He loves me.   I know He is the only place I can put my trust and not be disappointed.

Even through the hard times.

Like last May when my obstetrician quietly explained 6 months into our pregnancy that our daughter wouldn't be joining our family as planned.  I was overwhelmed.  There was so much love and so many plans waiting for her.  A big a part of me wanted to put my fist through his ultrasound screen.  But through the tears that had already started rolling down my face, my response to him was calm.  "It's OK."

He seemed confused.

But he shouldn't have been.

Near the end of our first trimester we had faced some questionable test results.  I had told him at that time that we were prepared for whatever baby God had chosen to bless us with.  The news I heard that day shattered my heart but it did not change my mind.  For some reason He chose to bless us with a daughter who most likely wouldn't make it to the end of the pregnancy and if she did, she wouldn't live long enough to come home.

And that was OK.  I knew the heart of my Heavenly Father was breaking right along with mine.  And I knew He would hold me and shelter me through the storm that was coming.  And I trusted that there was a purpose in His allowing it to come.   

The story of Job was never my favorite but I find a lot of comfort there.  Job didn't just lose one infant daughter.  He lost every single one of his children, his livestock, his house and was afflicted with a horrible disease.  Although Job continually praise the Lord, he did want to know why??  God reminded him through a series of unanswerable questions what a great God He is and that there is never any way we will understand all of the whys. 

Particularly when they pertain to the tragic consequences of living in an fallen world.

Like imperfect kidneys in a little baby girl.

Should it be a goal for us as Christ Followers that when we are faced with suffering instead of asking the "Why?" that we are never going to understand, we can focus on the "Why not?"  Why should we not be blessed with suffering that is designed to bring us closer to and cause us to lean a little harder on Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end?  Why should we not be blessed with suffering that will glorify God?

Those are very hard questions.  Be comforted today by the promise that, in the life of the Christ Follower, God does work all things for our good and His glory. (Rm 8:28)

Friday, October 29, 2010

how do i talk my 4 year old out of

wanting me to sew him a transformer/vampire/skeleton costume at the last minute??

I pulled out the old costumes out of storage and it was easy.

One of the benefits to having an entourage of older brothers and sisters and a cheap frugal mother:

He can go as Darth Vader,

Buzz Lightyear,

Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum,

a lion,

a leopard ( hood not pictured),

or Sheriff Woody all from the comfort of his own home.
He decided on a lion at school, Pikachu at the mall, and Darth Vader in the neighborhood.

Now I don't need to learn how to sew a transformer/vampire/skeleton costume at the last minute.

And that makes me smile.

I hope the kids share more than just Mounds this year.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

academic m

Last night I had the honor of seeing my oldest daughter receive the most prestigious academic award our school district has to offer.  After 7 semesters of high school, she carries a 3.97 cumulative GPA and is ranked 11th in a class of almost 300 students.

Student who received the award had to pick  a teacher who has most influenced them.  Emma picked Señora Eastin who taught her Spanish II and Spanish III.  We had dinner together while waiting for the keynote speaker Bob Maxwell to begin.  I enjoyed being able to get to know her.

While learning Spanish, Emma has made up fantastic and colorful yarns about her own life for conversational projects and theme papers.  She expressed concern before hand that Sra. Eastin was going to see her made up fantasy life collide with reality.  So I found it incredibly funny when Sra. Eastin started talking about how she makes up outlandish tales (some which focus on her mother-in-law) to tell the class. I guess this keeps things interesting.   :)

Congratulations Emma and best wishes for a bright future!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

recreational soccer mom's primer

Today is the "Lorain County Fall Classic" (county tournament that has been renamed and de-competitivized) so I thought I would share a little of the knowledge I'm privy to from being married to a youth soccer coach/referee.  After listening to the parents at my step daughters last few soccer games, I think some parents could use a little more information about the rules of the game and the calls the referee may or may not be making. 

1. Subbing (non-injury)  I know it's frustrating.  The ref seems to be ignoring the subs your child's coach has waiting at mid field.   The other players are tired and you are hoping these subs can breathe life into the rest of the half.  Your child's coach can only put subs in when the game stops for his own throw in or his own goal kick or after a goal.  OR if the other team is subbing on their own throw in or goal kick.  As long as the other team is able to keep the play going without a score or sending the ball out of bounds, your subs will keep waiting.

2.  Injuries  If the injured player is not involved in the play the ref is not required to stop the game.  This only makes sense.   If your teams best player got a breakaway, one of the other teams players could just cry injured to stop the play and give his teammates more time to set up and stop the goal.   When the play does stop, the coach may send in one substitution for his injured player.

3.  Loose shoelaces  Ditto my last point.  Play will not be stopped to give somebody time to tie their shoes.  It's not the ref's responsibility to make sure your kid's shoes are tied.  Double knot them before they get out of your car.

4.  Goalie  SURPRISE!!!  The goalie is permitted to come out of the box.  Once the goalie is out of the box they are considered a regular player and may not use their hands in play.  She better be quick to get back though if she doesn't want to be running laps around the field after the game.

5.  Heckling  However the ref calls it, that's the way it is.  The ref is not going to change his call based on how mad or how loud you get.  No ref will see absolutely everything and make every call correctly.  You should know the referee is allowed to penalize your team based on too much heckling from parents.   This could  include banning the most vocal ones from the next game or the extreme of calling the game off.  If you think you can do that much better, take the class, buy the uniform, and have a go at it but give the ref a break.

6. Playing time  In most recreational leagues all players must have equal playing time.  The coach may not keep in his best players at the expense of playing time for the weaker ones.  My husband technique is to "hide" his weak players on offense.  Whatever your child's coach chooses to do, he has to give all players equal time. 


7.  Remember  Don't put too much emphasis on the win.  This is recreational youth soccer.  Yelling and negativity won't encourage the love of the game.  If your child shows a lot of talent maybe it's time to move on to a more competitive league.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do-a-Dot Printables

George came home from school with a letter P stamped in circles.  He was very excited to tell me all about "do-a-dot".   It's an activity they do at school to help with fine motor skills.  Since his teacher told me that is the only area of concern she has with George, we picked up our own pack at Michael's Crafts this morning. 

This is a super activity that doesn't create any mess whatsoever.  There is a complete set of uppercase letters at Tot School.  Two places to find pictures to Do-a-Dot are Making Learning Fun and DLTK Kids.  Or google "do a dot printables" or "bingo dauber art" to find your own.

Happy Dotting!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

child care: the exit

I recently started a new 13 month old day care boy.  His mom is very young and has a difficult time with separation.  She has to arrive at my house 30 minutes early so she has time to say goodbye. 

At first I thought it was just because she didn't know me and was a little unsure about leaving her baby with a stranger.  But it's been about a month now and it shows no sign of stopping. 

It's sad because the little boy loves it here and is always excited to come in the door.  At first he is oblivious to her but after she stands around begging him again and again to come "give mama loving, I got to go to work", he starts to realize she's sad and uncomfortable leaving and begins to feel like he should be upset too.

Tearful goodbyes are fun for no one.  This post goes into more detail but if the goal is to foster a healthy separation between you and your child, please don't linger.  Just give one kiss, say "I'll be back soon" and LEAVE!  

Friday, October 15, 2010

melt: the event

Melt Bar & Grilled opened in Lakewood in 2006. We didn't get there until May of 2010.

It was a Saturday and we were celebrating Emma's 17th birthday dinner. We arrived around 3 in the afternoon for an early dinner. We didn't know much except that it was a place the specialized in grilled cheese.

We ended up waiting about 3 hours to be seated.

It was loud and dark and had a unisex bathroom. The food was yummy but not knock-your-socks-off spectacular.

So I didn't jump for joy when my girlfriends suggested it for our pre-Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure meal. I mentioned we should be prepared for a very extensive wait. They were incredulous. They thought I was lying. Why would anyone wait that long to eat grilled cheese?

We had Indians tickets for the night but I wisely passed them on to some family friends. We were meeting at 5 so I knew we would never be out in time for the game.

The wait and the service both seemed a lot shorter this time around but it could've been the Las Vegas Lavender Mojito and the Raspberry UFO Patricia and I tried from the bar. Then it dawned on me...after sitting around for hours drinking an adult beverage or two, anything would taste fabulous.  Even more fabulous is getting to spend time catching up with friends. This may have a lot to do with Melt's reputation.

While it's not really a place I'd recommend taking hungry children to, it's definitely an "event" you should experience.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Make sure your life insurance is paid up before you read it this book because it will blow your mind and break your heart at the same time. 

Referencing Mark 10:21, David Platt challenges us to take a look at our lives and to forsake everything for the Gospel.

Monday, October 11, 2010

if your van has to break down there is no better spot than our church parking lot

One of the pitfalls of a large church is that it can often take a long time to get connected. The regular attenders have no idea who is new unless they speak up. And even when they do, unfortunately it may always seem like someone else's job to make sure they continue to feel welcomed and accepted, and find a spot that is a good fit for them.

But the upsides are huge.

Like when you have car troubles in the parking lot.

Yesterday, due to Kevin's marathon and a slew of non-communication from my daycare moms, it was only George and I in the van. One block from the church I noticed a bunch of smoke coming out from underneath and an engine running so hot the needle was touching red. I turned the heat on high to cool it off but it was really smoking as I pulled into a parking spot.

I texted my neighbor (who was already at church) that George and I would most likely need a lift home.

After making sure it wasn't on fire, I dropped George off at Sunday school. Jeff, a member of my Life Group, was helping in the kindergarten room. When I mentioned the car issue, he said it was probably just a radiator gone dry and to fill it with water after it cooled off.

After the service I went out to do just that but there was a huge puddle of watery tan stuff which I knew was not good. Jeff came out and confirmed that it looked like transmission fluid and I should get a tow. He and his wife would take me home if my neighbor didn't see the text I sent.

While waiting for the tow truck (AAA to the rescue investment we make) a young mom I didn't know came over to offer assistance. She had a vanful of toddlers and was on her way out. She wanted to know what she could do to help. She offered me her mechanic husband's phone number and made sure I had a ride home.

When I stopped in to let George's teachers know what was going on, I was also offered a ride home if I could wait til after the second service. He just promoted to this class a couple of weeks ago so this woman didn't know me. I live in the complete opposite direction, at least a one hour detour for her after a full morning at church, yet she was still offering to help us out.

My neighbor eventually delivered George and I safely to our front porch. (Thanks Michelle for checking your phone!) And thankfully, all those growing boys (and girl) I left home unattended for the entire morning did not trash the house or eat all the food.

I was not surprised at the multitude of offers of help I got from people I am already acquainted with and those I call friends. And I don't think surprised is the right word to describe my happily confirmed suspicion that a stranger in obvious need would be offered assistance at our church.

It's the strangers not in OBVIOUS need I worry about.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

giant eagle deal of the week

I don't normally shop at Giant Eagle because it's so far away but Kevin won a $200 gift card for increased support of the United Way. Since step-families more than most families need to stretch their dollars, I thought I would pass this on here.

This week at Giant Eagle you can get Totino's Pizza Rolls for only $.50 a bag. Store price 10 for $10. Use the coupon from the paper on 9-12-10 (save your coupons!!!) and save $1 on 2 bags and it will bring your price to $.50 each. Makes a nice quick after school snack.

You can also pick up General Mills Cereal for $2.06 a box . The store has the cereal on sale for 4 for $10. Using the online coupons to save $1 off 3 and $.75 off 1 brings your price down to just $8.25. Just $2.06 a box.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

refrigerator shopping

Our new refrigerator arrived the end of last month and I really like it!! Our old one was almost 10 years old and dying a slow death. Not only was it struggling to maintain the CACFP mandated 40 degrees, the dispensers had not supplied ice or water for over a year, it had sagging baskets in the freezer section, a stolen ice storage compartment, a meat drawer you could not pull out all the way without it falling, and door storage bins that fell off at will. After yet another storage area was lost when the plastic shelf support pegs gave out, we decided it was time to go shopping.

My uber busy spouse had less than zero time to help so this task ended up in my lap. I shop for major purchases just the way my dad does. First you decide what you need and then you research your best options. All before setting foot in the store.

I married into our current model, a side by side. I never preferred this type but it came with a real prize of a husband, so I settled for it. This time around I knew I wanted to replace it with a freezer on the bottom style, the kind with the drawer on the bottom.

After picking out a couple of options based on the most recent reviews in Consumer Reports, I googled the models for individual reviews. The LG I preferred (only very slightly due to the alarm that went off when the door is left open too long) seemed to have some issues with the ice maker being too prolific. I also came across a few who had issues with the seal in between the fridge and the freezer. I decided to be happy with the very close second choice, a Whirlpool Gold.

George and I went around a few stores to price the fridge out. The local independent family owned appliance store was our first stop. The price was hundreds more than I had seen online, they gave no financing options and no discounts for cash. Also they charged to haul away your old one.

The big box home store was next. The salesman was knowledgeable but pushy. The prices were right and haul away was included. They also had financing 6 months same as cash.

Sears was the last stop. Their price was a little higher and you got to pick from 18 months financing OR delivery/haul away. I got bold and asked the unassuming saleswoman if they would match the big box deal. She did that and more with an additional 10% off price matching guarantee, free delivery/haul away and an extension on the financing from 6 months to the 18 months Sears was offering.

The only glitch came when the delivery guys pushed the fridge into the hole. I had measured at the edge and knew there was only 1/8 inch clearance at the top. I did not know the upper cabinet was bowed in the middle, just enough so that the fridge would not go under. The Sears guys left it there and Kevin stopped home between sports commitments to sand the cabinet down enough to slide the fridge under.

And now everyone is super happy to have automatic ice once again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

oval sticker overload

I'm getting very tired of trying to figure out what all those ovals on the back of your cars stand for.

The earliest one I recall is OBX but according to Mike Rudeen, it all started at the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic in 1949.

This morning on the way to the orthodontist, an SUV in front of me had one for French Bulldogs and Bulldogs. Easy enough...he's a Bulldog guy. But then there was one with tiny colored Bulldogs lined up in rainbow order. Does that mean he is for gay Bulldogs too?

This is too much for me to think about in traffic.

Don't even get me started on all those stick figures on the rear window of your minivans....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

stepfamily traditions

A common recommendation found in step family books is to create and plan your own step family traditions. We come together with two sets of separate traditions. While we can include the new family members in our established traditions, it never feels like it's "ours". Even worse, sometimes the timing of these traditions conflict and difficult choices have to be made.

Like our first fourth of July celebration.

Kevin always watched the Elyria fireworks with his kids, took them to the parade in Rochester, and then to a picnic on his family farm. I always got together with my college friends with children in tow on Catawba Island. Due to how many of us traveled from out of town, having an additional day off work helped make this happen. Through negotiation and communication, we have usually been able to work everything out but I do remember a wee bit of conflict that first year.

For many years our family had little time and even less money to plan any sort of elaborate tradition, so I started thinking smaller. We seemed to settle on birthday dinners. Not thrilling, especially when you have to wait 3 hours to eat grilled cheese(can't believe I didn't blog about it) but at least we had something.


After a long awaited for trip to Kalahari Resort last fall that coincided with the soccer convention and the discounted room prices it brought with it, I mentioned how nice it would be if something like that could be our annual step family tradition. Kevin had some sort of non-committal response. So I wasn't counting on it.


This summer one of the prizes in the adult summer reading game was an overnight trip for 6 to the same resort! So as they say, I put all my eggs(coupons for the drawing) in one basket(overstuffed box) and this time it worked out! We are having and second annual autumn resort trip courtesy in part(2/3) to the Friends of the North Ridgeville Library. Maybe this can be our annual step family tradition after all. (fingers crossed)

Disappointing side note: After doing the math(6 free passes, 9 people), my 3 stepchildren were actually concerned they were being left out. That made me sad. :( It wouldn't be a step family tradition without all the members of the step family now, would it??

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

child care: safe sleep practices

I recently participated in my first online training: Reducing the risk of SIDS. If you are expecting, or if you currently or MAY care for an infant, I highly recommend this FREE online training.

I wanted to pass on the most important thing I learned. This point was brought up because infants die more frequently in childcare from SIDS in the first few weeks of attendance.

Unaccustomed tummy sleeping increases the risk of SIDS. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs and are placed by childcare providers to sleep on their tummies are 18 times more likely to die from SIDS.

Please, please, please make sure you put your infants "Back to Sleep" unless you have a signed wavier from the pediatrician.

It's not only SIDS providers need to be concerned about during nap time. This summer two local families have suffered similar horrible tragedies. In North Ridgeville in June, after being left unsupervised, a 2 year old went out the window and drown in a neighbors swimming pool. In August in Medina County, two sisters wandered off from a grandfather who thought they were asleep. They both died from heat stroke after being trapped inside a neighbor's car.

Stay alert during naps, use baby monitors, perform timely visual checks, and make sure your safety gates are in place to keep children contained. These practices will go a long way toward preventing these kinds of tragedies.

Sleep can be dangerous. Do your part to keep our kids safe. Sleep practices for childcare providers are covered HERE in the Ohio Administrative Code.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

counting to one hundred

Don't look at me.

I had nothing to do with this.

When it comes to cognitive development of a preschooler, I'm firmly in the Montessori camp. I design the environment, provide the materials, demonstrate, and resolve behavior issues. I don't use worksheets or formal lesson plans. Yes, I've had complaints from daycare parents that their 2 year olds aren't recognizing letters but darn it, I just don't think it's developmentally appropriate for a 2 year old to be "taught" to recognize letters.

My own 4 year old boy does not have the letter recognition skills that some of his peers have but WOW....he can count to one hundred!!!

And that's pretty cool.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Early education professionals are taught how difficult transition times can be for the preschooler. It's hard on parents too. On your youngest child's very first FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, which is most likely the last very first FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL you will have, is it too much to ask for a masseuse or a frozen margarita machine in the parent resource room?

He did GREAT! But I wept in the parking lot for 15 minutes after dropping George off at preschool Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't because I was worried about him. It was sad and unfamiliar knowing that I'm entering the next phase of my life where I no longer have any little ones at home with me all day.

Then I spent 2.5 lovely hours swimming laps and grocery shopping in solitude. Ahhhh.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

child care: interview hints and tips

A provider friend of mine is interviewing this week for one opening. She has multiple families to pick from for the one spot. I thought I would pass along some information for helping you to stand out from other applicants when interviewing with a highly qualified and recommended home childcare professional. Providers are just as busy as you are and our time is just as precious so we appreciate clients who demonstrate that they understand this from the get-go.

Most importantly; Keep your appointment. Nothing sets off more of a red flag than a no show/no call for an interview. At worse, it shows us how little respect you have for us and for our time. At best, you reveal yourself as a disorganized person who is unable to keep track of her own obligations. Keep in mind that many local providers maintain some type of contact so the news of your bad behavior is likely to spread.

Ask if there is a link to a parent handbook you can review before the appointment. If there is a policy or procedure in the handbook you have a strong objection to, it may be helpful to have a phone conversation ahead of time to clarify it. You don't want to waste your time and ours by interviewing in spite of objections you can't overcome. For example, if the childcare provider serves only vegetarian meals and you want your child eating chicken for lunch, you probably want to pass on the interview.

Come prepared with a list of questions. Nothing should be assumed. Nothing will shock us. We are the one who will spend the majority of your child's waking hours with her. You are entitled to the information.

If your child is going to be a distraction because he can't play quietly while you interview the provider, you will want to leave him at home for the initial interview. It is important to see how your child interacts with the provider, but it's more important to discover if the childcare is a good fit for your family.

If you see anything markedly objectionable or dangerous in the home, (a provider caring for more than 6 children, smoking, filth, signs of drug use etc.) you need to report the provider to the county job and family services childcare division. You can do this confidentially. Please do it to protect the kids. They can't do it themselves.

FOLLOW UP with the provider within a week. Even if it is only to say you are still deciding. If you have chosen another provider and feel a phone conversation would be akward, just send email to the others you were considering to say, "Thanks for your time but we have found another provider who is a better fit for our needs."

Following these simple guidelines is the first step to a long and mutually respectful relationship with your new provider.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

beach day

Ignoring my to-do list spending the day at the beach makes me feel naughty.

We left early so a portable breakfast of potatoes seemed like a good option.

Sun, sand and soccer wore them out.

The stack of shirts needing ironed, the steps that need vaccumed, the bathroom floors, the lawn and the grocery shopping can wait. Summer is almost over! :(

Friday, August 27, 2010

working on monsters

George went for his preschool assessment on Tuesday. While he did very well in most of the assessed areas, my mom was distraught that he does not yet know how to skip or recognize all 24 letters.

I spent the day shopping for lingerie with her listening to, "You have your own day care and your kid can't skip!" (How skipping and day care are connected was never clearly explained.)

I enlisted the aid of big brother Nathan and cousin Diana to help with the skipping and stopped at Marc's Deep Discount Store for a dry erase board for the letters.

Wednesday I wrote his name out and told him to work on his letters while I got a quick shower. After toweling off, I found him smiling in my bedroom. There was somewhat of a "G" on the board but the rest was covered with scribbles.

"What's all this?", I asked him. "Oh...I was working on monsters," was his reply.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

google maps review

Comedian Anita Renfroe has a chapter in her book Don't say I didn't warn you:kids, carbs, and the coming hormonal apocalypse about how she is concerned her husband is considering leaving her for the GPS. She compares her loud and bossy back seat driving to the GPS's calm voice making suggestions or "recalculating" the route. I found it hilarious.

Growing up, we spent a lot of our vacation time driving around. Hours spent studying the AAA trip tiks made me into an adept map reader. In my life as a mom, I don't venture too far but when I do I depend on old fashioned maps to find my way. It wasn't until earlier this month when Kevin and I drove to the Jersey shore that I had my very first experience with computer assisted navigation. He recently upgraded to the Droid so we used the Google Maps Navigation App.

The first leg of our trip was from home to my friends house in Robinson Township PA. The app did not recognize her address as being there and kept defaulting to Corapolis PA. We dutifully followed all "her" instructions until we were told cheerfully at the dead end of a city street, "You have arrived at your destination."

I had already seen my friend's recently purchased "landmark property" and I knew darn well we were NOT there. We were close, but that only counts in horseshoes and....what else???

A quick call to her husband got us routed in the right direction. We arrived at her house a few minutes later.

The second leg was from her house to a park near Reading PA. Hubby was supposed to have run a marathon there in early June. He wanted to stop at the park for a run on our way to NJ. Same result. Close but no cigar.

She was successful in getting me to the downtown Reading YMCA. Did she know about the three strikes and you're out rule??

We continued to Atlantic City without incident.

I did OK without her on Thursday when I took the rental and drove down to Ocean City for the afternoon. My innate sense of direction and a doodled map from Kevin's boss were all I took with me. A friendly biker helped me out when I deadended at the ocean after being distracted by the fancy houses in Margate.

Coming home Friday, she routed us north in Philadelphia. It's not the way we would have chosen due to the traffic and we somehow ended up at the end of the turnpike without a ticket, but we did make it home before dawn.

Final verdict: Not too impressed. There is no substitute for being able to read a map, knowing which direction you are going in, and friendly locals to help you out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

pampering time

and I don't mean diapers.

It's common for cash to be a little less easy to come by in a step family but everybody can benefit when we step moms enjoy a bit of "me time" at the spa. Hopefully we come back less frazzled and more willing to deal with issues that come up with a smile on our face.

Cosmetology students to the rescue! I've discovered I can get the same basic services for much less at the local Aveda Institute. Services are discounted and because they are students and not employees you are not permitted to tip them. Students do get rewarded based on successful recommendation of the product line to the customer so I usually pick up a little something if I can afford it.

So far I've had a hair color & cut session (highlight/lowlight/retouch) that lasted 7 hours, a relaxation massage and a facial. Brown Aveda is just about 30 minutes away and they can easily fit me in any Saturday morning as early as 8:30 a.m. And no, the "financial aid" link on the hompage is not for clients. I was bummed too. :(

Search HERE to find your own local budget spa experience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today's words of wisdom...

1. An entire box of prunes eaten in one day is really just too much of a good thing. Trust me. ;)

2. When you leave for vacation and hide your external hard drive from potential thieves, write down where you put it. It's really no fun to come back from vacation and have to tear the house apart looking for it.

3. Participate in your local public library's summer reading program for a chance to win big prizes. Like the overnight trip for 6 to Kalahari Resorts that I just won!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I realize the green movement has gained a lot of ground in the last decade but now there is an entire movie on the fight for the right to have a clothesline in your yard. Drying for Freedom is a film about the politics and restrictions on how Americans dry their laundry. It was much simpler and environmentally friendly when everybody used a clothesline but then the public was wowed by the introduction of the electric dryer and all the convenience that seemed to come with it. Now some people are waking up to the wisdom of the old ways to find that clotheslines aren't an option because they live in a planned community that doesn't welcome them.

My first encounter with this was during the short time I lived in Magnolia TX. We had just moved in and our dryer was not set up yet. I strung a rope in between two tree trunks in our back yard. The hot Texas sun baked my laundry dry in about 15 minutes. A few days later there was an envelope in our mailbox with the return address of our homeowners association. I imagined it was a welcome to the neighborhood greeting. I was a little put out when I opened it to find a warning about forthcoming fines and legal action regarding the Little Tikes picnic table next to the garage and the "gasp" clothesline I had hung in the back yard.

I swore I'd never buy another property with deed restrictions again but I few years later I married into one. This time I read all the fine print in the homeowners' agreement my new husband had neatly filed away in a box in our basement. In my new community, not only was I not permitted to hang a clothesline, I was not even allowed to hang items over my front porch railing to dry. I was full of newly wedded bliss at the time so I couldn't be disappointed. A gas clothes dryer was part of my dowry and hubby came with two drying racks so even with the 6 kids between us I figured we'd be all right.

I will admit it would be nice to have the option of an outdoor clothesline. Dryers do use energy and that costs money. Money that could be better spent on a new handbag or some school supplies. Line drying also saves you money because your clothes stay nicer looking for a longer time. And those clothes just smell so darn good after drying in the sunshine. Until we move, I'll just have to compromise with the same Lehman's Best Floor Clothes Dryer from Lehman's Hardware that my sister-in-law uses.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When hosting a bereaved friend...

1. Remember they can be extremely forgetful so have things like extra can openers and cork screws handy for when they leave their own at home.

2. Feed them delicious meals with lots of protein choices for rebuilding their broken hearts.

3. Wear them out with a "brisk" after dinner walk over 2 miles of "gently" rolling hills in 85 degree heat.

4. Leave a night light at the top of the stairs for when they are wandering around after being woken by the nightmares.

5. Keep a large box of tissues nearby.

6. Be prepared for tear stained pillow cases so don't put out your best linens.

7. Warn your spouse that when he is surprised in the bathroom by your friend's red and tear streaked face, a fresh cold washcloth would be just the thing to help.

8. Remember that there is not anything you can say that can possibly help. The ONLY thing even remotely appropriate is "I am so sorry." Because they know you mean it with your entire being. It's best to be quiet. All your friend really needs right now is your presence.

If you are blessed enough to have one good friend in your life, you understand what I mean when I say I wouldn't trade her for all the riches on the face of the earth.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Making the switch: A young person's pocket guide to surviving transition times with divorced parents

I'm the kid! Dealing with Parent Drama

Even though we are all taught in the court mandated parenting class that it is in your best interests for us to refrain from exposing you to our arguments, unfortunately there are some parents who will never learn to get along. And sometimes you get drawn into the conflicts. It's helpful to have a response ready when this stuff happens. Something simple like, "Please don't involve me in this stuff. I have enough to deal with of my own." (Parents reading this, please hire a therapist to dump your insecurities and issues on, don't do it to your children.)

Where's my stuff?

Constantly moving between two households can make it hard to keep track of your favorite things. I've found that a large duffel bag can come in very handy. The super size kind they sell in the sporting goods stores. The bag itself is very light and can fit a ton or just a little bit. Whatever you happen to need. If you keep your things in this when they aren't in use, it is much easier to keep track of them. An added bonus is that you don't have to spend so much time packing things up for each switch.

Sorry, I can't make it. Missed activities

This becomes more of an issue the older you get. You have to spend time with both parents but friends are becoming more important. When parents live any distance from one another, getting to things like sporting events, birthday parties and sleepovers can be a challenge. If you don't have parents who are willing to sacrifice, there isn't much you can do about this. Make sure your parents understand how this makes you feel. Maybe you can negotiate at least one activity a month. Social networking (facebook and myspace) and texting can make staying in touch with friends a little easier but doesn't make up for the missed events IRL.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Explore: South Central Park Splash Pad, North Ridgeville

The Splash Pad provides free summer fun for all ages. Open from 10am-9pm Memorial Day thru Labor Day. The park was recently improved with updated drainage and a shaded sitting area. Adjacent playground area has equipment suitable for toddlers through school age. Facilities include picnic tables and flushable toilets.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Now I've seen everything

Spending money on this type of stuff may be one of the reasons you need two incomes. Believe it or not, the Peter Potty Toddler Urinal is SOLD OUT all over the web.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gimme 5 Recycling: another reason to love Whole Foods Markets

We have a large blended family AND I run a home business taking care of additional children. Saying we produce more trash than the average household would be an understatement. I try to recycle as much as I can. While most of us agree that this is beneficial, many community collection efforts only accept plastics labeled 1 or 2. That's a great start, but leaves me feeling guilty about what to do with all my 5's. Products like yogurt, cottage cheese, pudding and the ready-to-eat BBQ pulled pork I served for dinner last night all come in 5.

Leave it to Whole Foods to come to my rescue with their "Gimme 5" program. You can bring clean 5's to the store and they will mail them to Preserve. Preserve makes toothbrushes and razors out of them. This started in 2009 as a pilot program at a few stores and is slowly expanding to additional locations. Check this link to see if your local Whole Foods is participating.

While I'm on the subject, it really blows my mind when one of my kids tosses their Gatorade bottle in the trash. One would think all Al Gore's efforts to indoctrinate our young people about the coming environmental Apocalypse would have been a little more successful. All I got when I was young was the crying Indian on a hill and I was SOLD.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Child Care: Fall Zone Options in the State of Ohio

The Ohio Administrative Code contains the full text of outdoor play requirements for Type B Childcare Providers. You can find it HERE.

Paragraph F states that "Outdoor play equipment designated for climbing, swings, teeter-totters and slides shall have a fall zone of protective resilient material on the ground under and around the equipment. The material shall include, but not limited to, washed pea gravel, mulch, sand, wood chips, or synthetic material such as rubber mats or tiles manufactured for this purpose. Equipment shall not be placed over concrete, asphalt, blacktop, dirt, rocks, or any other hard surface. Synthetic surfaces shall follow manufacturer’s guidelines for depth."

In going through the process of certification, I had many questions about this vague language. How wide does the fall zone need to be? How deep does the material need to go? Which is the best option? Is grass considered a "protective resilient material?" Do we excavate and back fill with material or would it be better to establish some sort of barrier to hold the material back? And most importantly, how were we going to pay for all this?

I thought I would include our experience here to help new providers with their own decision making.

Transition area: to edge or not to edge??

I am still on the fence about this one. We are trying to make the area safer and erecting a barrier with plastic timbers or concrete bricks creates a tripping hazard. If you make the fall zone wide enough, this may not be an issue. But most home providers do not have the resources to pay for more "protective resilient material" than they actually need. The barrier also creates another area you need to tend with the electric edger. This may not be an issue for you if, like me, there is a collection of strong teen boys living in your house who love playing with power tools. The barrier DOES do a great job of keeping the material out of the lawn while also creating a vivid reminder for your little clients as to how far they are allowed to roam without incurring your wrath.

If you opt for excavation like we did you may be in for some unpleasant surprises. Underneath a very shallow layer of topsoil (about 1/2 inch) we found what Gilfeather Construction(no wonder they went belly up) used to level out our back yard. Pieces of broken drain tile, broken cement, large rocks, cigarette butts, aluminum cans and a plethora of other construction refuse. That debris combined with the rock hard clay led two contractors to quit on us before we found someone willing to finish the job. So depending on where you live and how difficult the soil is going to be to dig out, excavation may end up costing much more than a barrier system.

Size: Under and Around
Some states do regulate the placement and size of the fall zone in a home childcare facility. Ohio is not one of them. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has created guidelines for home playground equipment. They can be found in entirety HERE. The section on placement of the fall zone(page 8) states:
Proper placement and maintenance of protective surfacing is essential.
Be sure to;
· Extend surfacing at least 6 feet from the equipment in all directions.
· For to-fro swings, extend protective surfacing in front of and behind the swing to a distance equal to twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is suspended.
· For tire swings, extend surfacing in a circle whose radius is equal to the height of the suspending chain or rope, plus 6 feet in all directions.

There are charts for figuring those formulas on their web site. For the mathematically challenged OR the more adventurous, you can end up with almost the same result if you have your tallest child swing as high as he can and then jump off. (WARNING: Use your own offspring for this method of measurement NOT A DAYCARE CLIENT. Using a daycare client could make this whole process moot.) Have your insurance card handy because there is a small chance this could result in an unplanned trip to the nearest hospital. Mark the grass a foot past where he lands. Measure the distance from the swing set and mark off the same distance in the rear. Viola! You have perfect placement for your fall zone.

Material Choices
1. Wood Chips/Mulch: This is the first material we tried out. Mulch can be inexpensive or even FREE if you can get it from your local street department or utility provider. If you don't have any luck there, check your local Craigslist or freecycle for more sources. The downside to this cheap mulch is that it is not screened for inorganic material(read GARBAGE). It also may contain very large pieces as it is usually just shredded once.

You can also contact your local landscape supply center for a mulch quote. They will supply you with beautiful freshly shredded playground mulch. You should opt for a single shred as mulch that has been shredded 2 or 3 times tends to grab onto the clothing and decomposes much more quickly. Also make sure it is NOT dyed. The dye will rub off on the children's skin and clothes. This mulch will run around $25-$30 a cubic yard.

The major issue with using wood chips or mulch is that it quickly starts to decompose. You will have to add more each year. Even if you are getting it at low/no cost, this can become a hassle.

2. Synthetic Material: The first product that comes to mind when one considers synthetics is shredded rubber. The local playgrounds recently replaced their wood mulch with rubber. It is a good choice because it provides a nice cushion, it warms up nicely in the sun, and it does not need to be resupplied every year. When it is newly laid or gets hot it does tend to release an odor. On VERY hot days it may even burn your bare feet. For the typical home provider the cost of this option is going to be prohibitive.

3. Sand: While your little clients may love this idea, I would not recommend using sand. It will retain water. It will get in their eyes when they throw it at each other. Not to mention how much sand burns your feet when it gets hot. As you can see from the illustration, sand is hard to contain and will end up EVERYWHERE, including all over the inside of your house.

4. Washed Pea Gravel: After opting for mulch during the initial installation of our fall zone, we switched to pea gravel when the landscapers demanded another $600 to replenish our mulch to the correct depth only one year later. I had no idea that the mulch would decompose so quickly. Our current landscaper assured us that once we put the washed pea gravel in, we would be done. While it would settle a bit, he could guarantee we would not patronize him again for playground surfacing.

Your clients may well end up throwing this at each other. Just make the price for that behavior more than they want to pay. I warned all of them when we got it installed that outdoor play would be done for them (time limit intentionally not stipulated) the first time they threw the gravel. It hasn't happened yet.

One warning about the washed pea have to do the washing yourself. Or wait on Mother Nature to send the rain. The gravel will arrive covered with fine dust/dirt. Since we all know how much parents love picking up children who look like Pigpen, I'd advise a thorough washing with your hose before letting them play.

Washed pea gravel is priced by the ton. Cost will be similar to mulch at $27-29 a ton.

Here is how ours looked before I washed it.

I hope this information has been of help to you. I highly recommend Dave from Grafton Topsoil for all your landscaping needs. He can be reached at 216-408-8770. Sorry I can't be of help in answering the question of how to pay for this. Just remember one of the most important rules of running a home business in childcare: Save your receipts and DEDUCT, DEDUCT, DEDUCT!

Best of luck in your new endeavor as a home childcare provider. This can be a challenging path but it is also very rewarding.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Windmill for Macy

Last Saturday I took George to the local flea market to get some local produce. One Asian vendor has a spot with over 50 boxes of various dollar junk. No tables, just boxes on the ground. George was attracted to the ones with the windmills. Samples were set up and they were spinning in the breeze. The sign read "WINDMELL 3.00 2 for 5.00". I smiled at the misspelling and agreed he could pick one out. It would be nice to put up near Macy's special spot.

Falling asleep on the drive out.

His first attempt at staking it in. He wasn't happy with the result so...

he tried again.

Great job George!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Only in America

Yesterday I ventured into the room of my house I go the least often: The children's bathroom. The room many mothers avoid at all costs. It gets pretty gross. They drip toothpaste on the counter and the sink. The mirror gets very splotchy. Once in a while they "miss". They leave empty bottles of product and wet rags in the bottom of the tub. And despite the fact that there are 6 of them occasionally assigned to clean the tub, it never gets REALLY clean. I should probably spend more time in there but that has not yet become a burden on my heart.

Back to those bottles of product... Six of our children regularly shower in that bathroom. And yesterday there were 22 bottles of DIFFERENT product on the shelves. Shampoos, conditioners, body washes (both the female and male brands), all-in-one washes, shaving cream and bubbles. I have no idea how this has and continues to accumulate because I only buy them a bottle of Head and Shoulders now and then. The gross excess that this signifies leaves me more than a little embarrassed. Especially once I checked my own shower. Do I really need the hair masque AND the conditioner?

When my husband was growing up he had a bar of soap and ONE bottle of Head and Shoulders in the tub. When his younger sister reached her teen years a bottle of conditioner got added. How did we allow the ad men with their mad marketing skills to evolve us so quickly from people who shampooed twice a month into people who need 4-5 separate products to get clean?

Among the books I am currently reading is Amish Peace. There are a lot of tips in there to help simplify your life. Amish people only keep in their homes things they really need. I doubt there is more than a bar of soap and one bottle of 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner in their showers.