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.