Saturday, December 22, 2012

School Safety

Hard to believe it's been a week. Although, for 20 parents in Newtown, Connecticut, I'm sure time has stood still.

I don't have anything profound to add to the conversation. I've read everything I can (but watched very little video coverage) trying to make sense of what happened. I don't have the answers. I do believe it was an act of pure evil, and no rational, normal human being can truly say what, if anything, would have deterred this from happening.
In the aftermath of a tragedy, it's expected that the government will do something about it. That's the kind of society we've become. Instead of asking ourselves how we might prevent this in the future and talking about what's wrong with us as a society, we look to the federal government. About that I will just say, you can't legislate evil.

The world is full of evil and the proof is every day on the news. Despite this, I make a concious decision five days a week to send my five-year-old son into the world. I entrust his teachers and bus drivers to keep him safe.

I was surprised when my son's elementary school didn't offer any communication regarding the event. Not only did I want some reassurance about security, I wondered if the event was discussed in the classrooms. Out of curiousity, I emailed our principal and she graciously provided this response:
I appreciate your email. As far as the tragedy goes, yesterday I instructed the staff to not discuss the issue with the students as a whole. I recognize that there are many parents who shielded this information from their children while others informed totally. In respect for family differences, the staff was instructed to not discuss the issue.

At the same time, we recognized that some students may want or need to discuss the tragedy. These students would be directed to our counselor. (We did not have any needing this.) Teachers were asked to speak privately and listen to any student. My staff informed me there were very few comments/questions and classes were held as normal.

 [Our school] is required to have a crisis plan in place and have it submitted to the state. We have done so and copies are given to staff members.

As far as drills, [our school] does follow the requirements to hold drills. We hold monthly fire drills, we hold tornado drills from March to June, and we do one crisis/lock down drill. We had our lock down drill in November. We also hold one fall tornado drill for students to practice. This drill requires notification to the police department. The  [township]police were here for our drill. Every December and June I am required to submit our drill record to the state fire marshal.

Our doors are always locked, except for the front outer door. Everyone must enter through the front office and sign in. We do have the ability to put the building into a lock down, locking all doors at once, if we needed. We also are able to contact the security system for emergencies quickly.

Tomorrow all administrators will be discussing our plan to see where we are and if any changes/adjustments are needed. I have also asked teachers to give me a list of any questions or concerns they feel need to be addressed regarding our crisis plan.

I hope I have answered your questions and concerns. If not, please feel to give me a call at xxx-xxxx.

  One of our friends attends a different elementary school and he brought home the letter pictured here.

I believe my son is too young to discuss the school shooting, in fact, I think he's oblivious and I plan to keep it that way. 

I hope your family will find peace this holiday season. Now is not the time to forget what Christmas is about.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Best bows and homemade gift wrap

What better way to gift wrap used books than with repurposed papers from around the house?

I didn't have any gift wrap (besides Christmas patterns) and the kids needed something to do. I took a large sheet of drawing paper off the easle and laid it out on the dining room table with crayons. Kids love knowing their art is a gift.

Meanwhile, I tried a new Pinterest project: making gift bows out of magazine pages. Here's a great pin to get started. The green bow pictured above was my first attempt and it didn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes once I had all the supplies:

  • colorful magazine pages

  • scissors

  • stapler (I used a lot of staples)

  • school glue

I used one magazine page per bow. I cut six strips from each page (trimming off the torn edge). I used three full-length strips, cut an inch off two strips, and used one for the center loop. Each strip is twisted to form a loop on each end, and stapled in the center. I stapled the layers together and then used one dot of glue to secure the center loop. If you are interested in step-by-step instructions, the pin I linked to above has great photos.

Here's my collection so far. Creating your own gift wrap really makes you consider the materials that go into the piles of wrapping and trimmings we toss out during the holidays. I tried to find video online of how gift bows are made, but instead I came up with hundreds of how-tos for DIY bows. Here is article on Earth911 about wrapping paper and it's impact.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The first day of school

When I saw the big yellow school bus come around the corner, I felt about four feet tall again. Granted, I haven’t grown all that much since I last rode a school bus. I felt a lump rise up in my throat and turn into a knot in my stomach.

It was my son’s turn to ride the school bus for the very first time. I could not be more proud, but still I was a bundle of nerves for the both of us. (Would he find his classroom? Would he get onto the right bus after school?) At five years old he’s a creature of habit and loves all things routine and consistent. This was a big change. Don’t get me wrong, he is excited about growing up and going to school. But he gets the first day jitters like the best of us.

Last week I showed him a video of my first (and only) skydiving experience. I pointed out how nervous I was to try something new, but how fun and exciting it turned out to be. The night before kindergarten, he told me he was scared like I was to jump out of the plane.

So pretty much everyone goes to kindergarten and it’s not a big deal, but I felt like the proudest mom on the planet when he put on his brave face and went to school for the first time. This was an important milestone in my son’s life. But it was also a reminder to this grown up that sometimes you have to face your fears and jump out of the plane—or get on the bus.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Teddy

The new movie “Ted” got me thinking about our own resident Teddy.
In five years, he’s been ran ragged from travel between mom’s, dad’s, grandma’s, grandpa’s and everywhere in between. He’s traveled via backseat across Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana and even flew to Florida once. He’s survived many dog encounters with eyes and paws intact and shared in an unknown number of Happy Meals. He’s also been party to countless hugs, kisses, cries and karate chops.
As a mom, I try to be a source of comfort and stability. But I can’t go everywhere with my son. Among the confusion and inconsistency every day seems to bring my son, it sure is nice for him to have something soft and cushy to cling to… something that fits in his little arms.
Some kids have a blanky and some have a teddy. My son’s Teddy is traveling less and less these days, which makes me wonder, where do old teddies go when they retire?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Repurposed Shopping Bags

I'm doing some housekeeping on my pinboards and I wanted to add this craft I did around Christmas last year. I don't do a lot of crafts... obviously since I'm recycling this idea from Christmas! This could of course, easily be parlayed into gift bags for any occasion.

I was wrapping a lot of small presents and inevitably wound up with some scraps of wrapping paper too small to use. Being the good conservative I am (I hate wasting ANYTHING) I was using the scraps to cut up for nametags, when I had this idea. I also have some shopping bags with handles (I think this one was from LOFT) because again, I hate wasting things. I started cutting the scrap wrap into shapes and pasting them onto the bags. On the other side of this bag I cut a round ornament shape from a red/gold wrapping paper.

For this project, this all you need:
  • Shopping bags with handles
  • Wrapping paper scrap (or newspaper, magazines, etc)
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
Do you have any spin-off ideas for this project?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Belated pig update

this year was my second run at the Flying Pig Half Marathon. I knew the next few days would be brutal since I really slacked in my training. I was right, unfortunately, but the race was good and I had more fun than I expected.

I don't like to take my running too seriously because I don't it to become not fun. But for those who are interested, I didn't get enough sleep. Pre-run I ate a peanut butter Cliff bar, a glass a Diet Mt. Dew, half of a banana and some "magic beans" my friend gave me. I put the rest of the beans in my shorts to eat during the race, but I didn't end up using them. Part of the reason is I've started chewing gum when I run and I didn't want to part with it!

I decided going into this race that I was going to have fun and not kill myself for a time since I didn't really train anyway. I took advantage of at least every other fluid station, and every high-five I could get. I'd like to give props to the young musician playing alone in Newport. That Foo Fighters song really pumped me up! I've always said the crowd is the best part of the Pig. I'm trying to find a picture of my favorite sign so I can add it.
UPDATE: found the sign and borrowed this pic from Good blog check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tough Mudder: the Aftermath

People keep asking "How did you do?" And I'm not sure how to answer. We survived it. We completed it. It's not a timed race, it's a challenge course.

The obstacles were challenging for me. Some of them actually gave me a sick feeling (the "electric eel," for example). But I did them anway. There were some bumps along the way and I have the bruises to prove it (see below). Tough Mudders don't whine, but I took these pictures as a reminder to myself before I sign up again. I also have an evil case of poison ivy.

It was a great time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Packing for Tough Mudder & Camping

I'm not sure why, but one of my best friends and I signed up for the Tough Mudder race, which is this weekend near Cleveland. Maybe I'd become bored with the challenges of being a single mother, or maybe I was just peer pressured into it... but either way it's almost go time.

Twelve miles plus 25 military style obstacles isn't challenging enough, so we're going to camp. You might want to avoid me on Sunday.

Anyway, here's my packing list so far:
1. Ibuprofen
2. Acetaminophen (in case the ibuprofen doesn't work)
3. cooler
4. beer
5. koozies
6. Oh yeah, my old running shoes
7. Dry shoes
8. extra socks and underwear
9. towel
10. tent
11. sleeping bags
12. extra blankets
13. garbage bags
14. snacks
15. bandanna
16. gloves (for climbing ropes, monkey bars, etc.)
17. sweats
18. toothbrush
19. toothpaste
20. extra contacts
21. What am I missing?

Hopefully I don't break any limbs, because the Flying Pig is right around the corner. If I do, at least it's the name of a good cause, the Wounded Warrior Project.

Wish us luck.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our favorite storybooks

It's National Reading Month, and my son is learning how to read. I can't think of a better time to share some of our favorite storybooks.

I'm proud that I have instilled in my son a love for books, but it will be a challenge as video games, movies and sports are gaining influence on his radar. His top requests for his fifth birthday are a Nintendo DS and an Xbox. Somehow I don't think he is going to be over the moon about the Dr. Seuss book I've already purchased.

That said, we always (ALWAYS) read at least one story before we say our prayers and turn off the lights at bedtime. This has been a part of our routine since he was a baby. Here are some of our favorites from the past five years.

This was one of my son's favorite board books and it was a hand-me-down. As many of us know, it's not as much about the story at is it is the storytelling. Here's a video of my son at nine months old squealing with laughter as his dad reads one of his favorites.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle and Bill Martin

I suspect this is a favorite for many families (along with Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?) It has all the makings of a great story for toddlers: bright illustrations, repetition and and recognizable characters. I think I can still recite this one by heart.

Counting Kisses by Karen Katz

I stapled the pages of this one together until there were hardly pages left to staple. Counting is a great excuse for sneaking snuggles and kisses from my little guy.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

This book is more for the moms. Someone gave me this book as a gift when my son was a newborn and I will keep it forever.

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey

Timeless. There is not much I can add about this classic. It was one of my favorites more than 25 years ago.

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Another title that has stood the test of time. First published 50 years ago, it's still read regularly at our house.

Just One More Swim by Caroline Pitcher (Illustrated by Jenny Jones)

Just One More Swim I picked up this hardcover at a Borders store closing and was taken by the illustrations. I gave it to my son for Christmas a few years ago. The story is about young polar bear cubs conquering their fear of the ocean and learning to swim.

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

"A four-footed lion's not much of a beast. The one in my zoo will have ten feet, at least!"

You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano LoveThis is not one of my son's favorites, but it is one of mine so it's on the list. One of my closest friends recommended it. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Speaking of hearts

Meet Anna (Barnett) Newby (1921-1983)

Anna Barnett was raised in East Bernstedt, Kentucky and moved to Hamilton, Ohio in her twenties with her sister Louise. She worked at the American Laundry company washing linens and also at the Estate Stove Company, which produced shell and cartridge containers, anti-tank mines and parts for tanks and airplanes during World War II. She married Robert Newby 1945.

Ronnie was born in 1952, followed soon by Kathy and Cindy. While raising her three children, Anna washed and mended laundry at her home. In her free time, she enjoyed crocheting afghans watching her soaps (Guiding Light and As The World Turns). She also loved going for rides but she never got her driver's license.

Later in life, as a grandmother to five kids, Anna got her ears pierced. She also discovered and enjoyed watching a little MTV.

I wish I could share more about my Grandma Newby, but she passed away when I was only two years old. I understand we spent quite a bit of time together while my mom worked. She even potty trained me, and for that I am grateful. I can tell by the way my mom speaks of her that I would have missed her, too.

For two weeks leading up to her death, Anna suffered from classic signs of a heart attack, including difficulty breathing and chest discomfort, which also resulted in trouble sleeping. The doctors said the scar tissue on her heart indicated she had suffered several mild heart attacks.

These days many of us realize that a heart attack is not always a dramatic "movie" heart attack. But we also take for granted the role that genetics and lifestyle play in our heart health.

Next month, I'm running the Cincinnati Heart Mini Marathon (15k) to raise money for the American Heart Association. I would be honored to have your donation to promote healthier lifestyles and support research. You can also click here to learn more about heart disease.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Change of course

Sometimes, no matter how much we plan and prepare, life happens.

Monday was beautiful. I rushed home from work and into my running shoes, anxious for a few miles of crisp, evening air. Before heading out, I popped a frozen lasagna in the oven and then hesitated at the door when I realized I didn't have a pocket for my house key. I was in a hurry, and decided I'd just use the spare at my parents' house, since I would be there anyway to pick up my son.

Things don't always go as planned.

My run was quick and refreshing. I arrived at my parents' just in time so they could head out for their evening plans. Just one small problem (literally). My parents couldn't find the spare key!

Immediately, I began berating myself for turning the oven on and knowingly leaving the house without my own key. Not only did I ruin my parents' plans for the evening, I've potentially burned down a 150 year old house.

My parents, for their part, could not be any cooler about it. Just like they are about every stupid decision I make. They adjusted their plans, and searched high and low and until the spare key was found.

I've learned, especially in the past few years, to accept that things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes, we make bad decisions. Sometimes, no matter how much we plan and prepare, life happens.

And by the way, the lasagna turned out just fine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mom's the word

At almost-five years old, I have no doubt my son’s favorite word is mom, second only to mommy. From the time we get home in the evening until he finally gives in to sleep, I am beholden to an endless stream of requests.

“Mom, I’m hungry.”

“Mom, I’m thirsty.”

“Mommy! I need help in the potty.”

“Mom, where are you?”

Last night, as I read quietly in bed, I heard one last, “Mommy?” from the next room.

“What, buddy?” I try not to sound too exasperated.

“I love you.”

With my heart melting into a puddle, I could no longer concentrate on the book I was reading.

“I love you, too. Go to sleep.”

What a great way to end the day.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recently Read: Room by Emma Donoghue

Before the holidays, some of my sorority sisters organized an online book club of sorts. I was pretty excited about this because I’ve always wanted to join a book club and the online discussion fits perfectly in my schedule. We’ll take turns choosing the book and post a new question each day of the discussion week. This will be great preparation for when I’m retired and have more time for a “real” book club.

I had some reservations about the first book, Room by Emma Donoghue. First, I was reluctant for the same reason I avoid watching Dateline, The First 48, or any of the other real-life CSI shows that I love… because they keep me up a night.

I decided to read Room anyway, and after cracking the cover, I realized the story is told through the eyes of Jack, a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother. I thumbed a few chapters ahead to see if the point of view was alternated by chapter. Surely we were not going to read 300-plus pages through the eyes of a five-year-old.

It wasn’t long before I was engrossed in Jack’s little room, looking up at Skylight, reading on Rocker, falling asleep in Wardrobe but waking with Ma in Bed. Although you wouldn’t think much could happen in one little Room, Donoghue explores the complex relationship between mother and son, complicated even more so by the fact that Jack has never known anyone but Ma. It’s not exactly a “normal” relationship, but then, neither is their situation. It is, however, quite beautiful how a mother’s love transcends the ugly circumstances in which they are bound.

The other readers in our group agreed that Donoghue succeeded in imaginatively depicting what Jack sees and thinks. For an adult woman to convey the mind-set of a young boy is an enormous task. But a young boy who has never felt the wind in his face or grass beneath his feet… it’s hard to conceive.

I have read about two cases in recent years where women have been held prisoner and even raised children in captivity. I wonder how they would respond to this book. Donoghue has said the Fritzl case gave her inspiration for the story, but nothing more. She also researched extensively the subject of feral children.

Donoghue also points out that she never intended Room to be a Thriller. While it’s not a Thriller in the horror sense, it is absolutely a thrilling read. I recall one night, barely skimming the pages and turning them frantically because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mom's back in the kitchen

I’m putting my apron back on, so to speak. I’m ready to start banging on my pots and pans and making a mess in the kitchen.

I’ve neglected my blog for almost a year. That has to be some kind of record. And yes, I’m back because it’s that time of year; this is when we are supposed to get back on the proverbial horse and do what needs to be done to get the mind or body back in shape.

I might also be a little motivated by the fact that it’s an election year. Although, I am resolved to write more than my political opining, as my life’s become so much more than that. Come back to my kitchen and you’ll see.