Friday, April 13, 2012

Revisiting My Life

Today I did something I've wanted to do for a long time. I skimmed through everything I've written over the past four years. I wanted to read everything slowly, savoring each moment and trying to rememberwho that mother was back in 2008, but skimming will have to suffice for now.

I laughed out loud, I winced, and I even had some moments of pride in my writing. Many things have changed, but there's a lot that has remained constant over these years.

The kids have grown, of course. I loved reading about the funny things they said and did, things that I'd forgotten.

I'm amazed at the things I was accomplishing as a busy mom of three kids. Am I working as hard these days? My kids can do more things by themselves, but I'm running to more lessons, more sports activities than ever before and hobbies that I used to enjoy have fallen by the wayside. (Sorry, baby books and photo albums.)

I'm still interested in politics, and as we enter another election cycle, I found my posts about John McCain v. Barack Obama very interesting.

I'm glad I kept this online journal of sorts. I still keep a hand-written journal, but these entries seem to have captured my spirit better. I paid more attention to writing style (most of the time) and, at first, I wrote something every day (definitely not true about my hand-written journal).

I'll be revisiting my blog again, reminiscing about some of the most lively and interesting years in my life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hi, folks,

Maintaining a blog isn't an easy thing to do, and many distractions abound, namely social media websites. I may try to update my blog occasionally, but it definitely won't be a regular occurrence.

Monday, June 20, 2011


My little guy has been wearing a patch for two to three hours each day for more than six months now. He has complained very few times, thank goodness. Sometimes he'll even say, "Yay! I get to wear my patch!" and "I love wearing my patch, and I love not wearing my patch."

At his last appointment with the pediatric ophthamologist, the doctor said his vision had improved to 20/40 with glasses. At his first appointment, his vision was 20/200 unaided. My little man will continue to wear a patch until his vision reaches 20/20 with glasses or until he has three consecutive visits with no vision change.

He's getting there!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Playing Catch Up

Here's a picture from Easter Sunday. The kids had fun playing with their cousins at Great-Aunt Anita's house. We were happy to have Daddy off work for the day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Soccer Star

Sissy and Little Man's last soccer games are this Saturday. I've managed only to get a picture of Little Man in his uniform (from the first game!). They both seem to have enjoyed playing in this church league.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Come Save With Her

Looking for great deals, free sample offers, and coupon savings?

Check out Come Save With Me. Ashli, the site administrator, posts something every day. Thanks to her, I love checking my mailbox. I've received deodorant, laundry soap, and even mayonnaise samples because of the "heads up" she posts.

You can also "like" her Facebook page of the same name.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Changing for the Worse

Holiday parties at my kids' school are apparently kaput. According to several parents who attended the last PTO meeting, the principal announced the parties would be discontinued because of childhood obesity and religious preferences. In their places would be fall, winter, and spring festivals or carnivals. (I would imagine they wouldn't be near Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine's Day so as not to offend anyone.)


At the Halloween party, the treat is a cupcake. At Christmas, it's a cookie that the kids can decorate. At Valentine's Day, it's a (very small) ice cream sundae. Each child also receives a treat bag to take home which is filled with cups, straws, stickers, candy—whatever parents decide to send in. As a homeroom mom last year, I can attest that most of the treats were not candy.

Surely a one-hour celebration three times a year is not the cause of childhood obesity. (How then does the administration account for heavy preschoolers and kindergartners who didn't attend the school last year?) I guess parents aren't responsible.

Taking away these parties on account of "religious preferences" is also a bogus assertion in my opinion. Fewer than three percent of the children at our elementary leave school early on party days. Discontinue something because not everyone is willing to participate? Okay—let's get rid of the district's athletics programs then. After all, not everyone can participate on the golf or basketball team or be a cheerleader. There's a much, much higher rate of non-participation there. (These sports are very expensive to a district constantly making cuts, but that's a separate issue.)

How will the school pull off these carnivals? It sounds like a much bigger to-do than small classroom parties. Will there be enough help? (It wouldn't surprise me one bit if parents still take their kids out of school.)

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If we're going to take away the kids' parties because they are a "cause of childhood obesity," it only makes sense to get rid of the school's annual candy bar fundraiser. In addition, our young students shouldn't be watching movies on Thursday and Friday afternoons. As any dieter knows, trimming down isn't only about cutting calories, it's about exercising. On the "religious preference" front, it's important to note that most students who don't participate in holiday parties also don't recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Are we going to take that out of our schools too?

Where does it end?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rainy Days—Ugh!

Will it ever stop raining? It seems like after every four days of rain we get teased by a beautiful, sunny day. Or if it's partly sunny in the morning, it rains in the afternoon.

That happened today. It rained a little this morning and cleared up for the kids' soccer games at 11 & 12. But Big E's baseball game set for 2 p.m. was rained out. Pity—his grandma and grandpa were on hand to watch him hit a homer.

We'll try again next week.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More Diary of a Third Grader

May 6, 1983

Today I had a birthday party at McDonald's.

Boy! Such fun.

Tracy got me a Sugar Plum doll and fun pad. Shelly got me 2.00. April got me 2.00. Kim- a jean purse. Kelly Garfield pencil, paper, and envelope. Brandy-Sticker and Ronald McDonald activity book. Minny Mouse-Mommy Daddy got me 2 Pairs of shorts and 1 top.

What A Nice Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Yesterday was opening day for my kids' baseball and soccer teams. Busy day!

Little Legs had his soccer game at 11, followed by his sister's game at 12. I picked up pizza and we ate at a nearby park then headed to Big E's baseball field for his 2 p.m. game.

Everything worked out fine with those rushed arrangements, but we were a little grossed out at the park. The kids were excited to see a kitty sitting in the picnic pavilion. Then they noticed one of his eyes was missing. Instead of eating their food, they kept looking at the cat. "Why does he have one eye green and one eye pink?" Little Legs asked. I felt bad for the cat, too. It looked like a nasty kid had shot out the cat's eye with a BB gun. (Aren't you glad you stopped by the blog today?)

The little ones seemed to have fun at their games, although Little Legs was feeling his cold. Sissy got right in the thick of things, trying to defend her goal. Big E had a great game. His Pirates beat the Indians 17-6. E had two triples, a home run, and he tagged a kid out at first.

Next up: Tuesday's baseball game against the Giants.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Fun Weekend

I love spur of the moment things.

I'm not a spur of the moment person, so it's especially sweet when these things work out.

Last Friday the kids were off school for Easter Break. We were sitting at the kitchen table discussing plans for the day. Hubby wanted to take the kids to an indoor swimming pool, while I wanted to take them to see Hop. "You know what I wanted to do this winter, and I forgot all about it?" I asked Hubby. "I wanted us all to stay overnight and Salt Fork Lodge."

"Why don't we go today?" Hubby replied.

"Um, okay...let's go!" I remembered seeing a deal on Salt Fork's website: Bring your child's report card and get $10 off for each "A" grade, up to $50 off. I made reservations for a room with two double beds and a bunk.

After hurriedly packing a few things, I took off for a 1:00 hair appointment. At 2:30, Big E called to say they were all waiting in the van. I made it back by 3:15 and we were on the road before 3:30.

What a great time we had! We spent lots of time in their indoor swimming pool, and the kids had fun doing the activities planned by the lodge staff. They each won cupcakes in the cupcake walk (extra large ones from Kennedy's Bakery, our favorite!) and Big E won a sack full of games and balls in the sack race. They also got to play a bit of Wii and made some crafts the next morning, supervised by my very first 4-H advisor who has worked there for 19 years.

We'll definitely be back, and I think we'll make a stay at Salt Fork an annual tradition.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Diary of A Third-Grader

April 13, 1983

Today Brandy, Kelly, Jason W. and Jody M. and me finish the zoo!

Mrs. Gildea said she'd ask Mrs. Rutter to look at it.

Brandy and me joined the same contest at the park on May 13. I can wear shorts.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Old Diary

I recently cleaned my closet and re-discovered my "diary" from second and third grade. Most of the pages are blank. Here's today's entry. I've left spelling and phrasing as is.

April 12, 1983

Today we had music at 10:50. Brandy Law and I are working on a zoo, it's fun.

Sometimes Brandy makes me mad!

Next is lunch. Then recese. I love recese.

On the Brady Bunch I love Christopher Knight. At school my teacher is Mrs. Gildea, 3th grade. The other teachers I had were
Mrs. Bond Kdergarten
Mrs. Schrader 1st
Miss Demko 2nd and
Mrs. Gildea 3rd

Bye Bye for now!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Great Freebie!

Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine is now free. Call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) for your free subscription. Read about the magazine here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tracing the Family Tree

Many (many!) years ago I filled in some of the holes in my family tree through a 4-H project. Most of the lineage had been traced by my mother and her brother and by my paternal aunt. I gathered birth and death certificates we didn't have and visited some cemeteries to prove that family members were actually buried there.

The NBC show Who Do You Think You Are has prompted my renewed interest in genealogy. Yesterday I visited the Guernsey County District Public Library's Finley Room which has a wealth of information. The one U.S. census report I was interested in, 1890, was missing.

I asked the clerk where that book was. "No one has it. There was a fire that destroyed the 1890 census, and only fragments of it exist," she said. Oh, no! I was interested to learn where my unmarried great-grandmother was living—with her son. That part of my genealogy fascinates me. These days, it's no big deal to have a baby out of wedlock (though I still think it is!) Back then, it would have been horribly scandalous. How did she provide for her son? How did she meet my great-grandfather 14 years later? Was he surprised by her past?

My grandmother is long deceased, and I only have one paternal aunt and uncle left. They say their grandmother refused to say who the boy's father was. Interesting.

I'm taking a class at our local library tonight to learn about the new ways to search family history, since it's been nearly 20 years since I've searched. I'm looking forward to it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A 4-H Honor

I love 4-H.

That happens to be our county's 4-H theme for 2011, and it's also true for me.

Today, one of my co-advisors and I accepted a state 4-H award for community service on behalf of our 4-H club. Last summer, our Cloverbuds collected pledges and read, and read, and read. Our club donated $641 to the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. The library director purchased a number of books for the Cloverbud age group (5-8 years)—and when the book company found out the money for the books had been donated by a 4-H club, they donated some additional items!

The awards banquet was just part of the state 4-H conference in which advisors receive training in variety of areas. I was surprised to see that one of the workshop presenters was a fellow Communication Arts major who was a year behind me in college. I also ran into several advisors from my home county whom I knew well 15+ years ago. They knew me, even with my married name!

Our 4-H club held its first meeting earlier this month, and I can't wait for things to get into full swing. What a worthwhile endeavor!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

School Ends With a Bang

Tuesday's school day ended with a bang.

I was sitting in the school cafeteria at the PTO meeting when the kindergarten teacher ran in and said, "Mrs. Fritz! There's smoke in the hallway!" In under a minute, there was an announcement to evacuate the building.

Indeed, the hall was filled with acrid smoke. I saw it pouring out of the furnace room as I left.

Since it was the end of the day, two of the buses pulled in shortly, and by the time I made it to my car with the kids, Bloomingdale's fire truck was pulling behind the school and Harrison Hills' ambulance was speeding toward the building as we headed out of town.

According to news reports, there was a gas build up in the furnace which caused an explosion, or backfire. Parents waiting outside the school heard a loud boom and saw black smoke pouring from the chimney. A custodian was injured when debris hit her in the head but was expected to return to work on Thursday.

School was canceled yesterday so the furnace could be repaired. It's canceled again today, as the power was out for part of the day and work couldn't be completed. (That's probably a good thing for the kids...maybe by the time school is back in session some of the excitement will have worn off.)

A few of my second-grader's classmates were visibly shaken. None of them had their backpacks. I overheard one student fretting about that. My guy said to him, "Would you rather save your backpack or save your life?" Always practical, that one.

You can read more here and watch the news report here.

Thankfully, the furnace can be repaired and no one was seriously injured.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Challenger, 25 Years Later

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Everyone knew about this particular shuttle mission. Christa McAuliffe would be onboard, the first teacher.

I was in sixth grade, Mrs. Evancho's class, when it happened. My buddy Brandy and I had given up our recess for computer time. The little television in the corner of the classroom was turned on when we walked into class, which was unusual. Over and over, we'd see a white cloud of smoke followed by an explosion. We had no idea what had happened until recess was over, the rest of the class joined us, and Mrs. Evancho explained the tragedy. We were all stunned.

I remember the day being snowy and cold and talking about it with my parents when I got home. Workers were putting steel beams against the basement walls for extra stability and I heard them talking to Dad about it, too. We watched it on the news that day and for the next several days. I remember writing down the crew names in my little pink diary, which unfortunately, is in the attic. It was also the same day that a boy who had had a crush on me asked me to return the heart necklace he gave me for Christmas. Ha!!

For my generation, that was probably the first "Where were you when..." moment. It was a big one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meadowbrook's Superbowl Connection

I'm not a Steeler fan.

I'm not even a football fan.

But I will be rooting for Green Bay.

The Packers' defensive coordinator is Dom Capers, who hails from the tiny town of Buffalo in Guernsey County. He played football for Meadowbrook High School, my alma mater. He's also a member of the Rolling Hills Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

I first heard of Mr. Capers when he became head coach of the Carolina Panthers in the 1990s. Buffalo put a sign that read "Home of Dom Capers," and as a newspaper reporter, I was dispatched to take a picture of his mom Jeanette standing by the sign wearing her Carolina gear. She was a sweet lady, rightly proud of her son.

I love these local connections. Go Packers!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Publishing Success!

At the end of 2009, rather than waiting until the start of 2010, I set some goals for myself. As usual, my main was goal was to be published somewhere in the next year. Since I was 15, I've only missed out on two years. (I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write alumni profiles for Franciscan University's alumni magazine again.) I had a larger goal in mind: to publish an inspirational story in a national publication.

I was so blessed to have a story picked up by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Devotional Stories for Mothers, published in October. I also learned I'd have three devotions published in Heavenly Humor for the Chocolate Lover's Soul! That book official came out Jan. 1, 2011.

I'm looking forward to writing more this year and finding even more new outlets.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Best Christmas Ever!

This was our Christmas card picture this year. The truck was my dad's, who purchased it from my uncle many years ago. This was the best one—Sister wasn't very cooperative that day.

All of us agreed this was the best Christmas ever. After Christmas day, I wished we had more holiday parties and activities to attend!

We began our Christmas celebration with an overnight stay at Fort Rapids Waterpark in Columbus. The next day we had a Christmas gathering with my sister's family and my mom. We got home late that night—and the next day was Christmas Eve already! Needless to say, I didn't accomplish much baking before Christmas. As usual, we attended church with Hubby's family, and after opening gifts at home, went to his parents' for lunch where the kids opened up even more gifts.

I did about 90 percent of my shopping on I didn't feel like messing with crowds and I appreciated the comfort of shopping in my pajamas and not having to pay sales tax or shipping costs. Got some great gifts for Hubby online: a GPS and an MP3 player.

Sister's birthday was the 28th, so we took the kids to see Yogi Bear in the $3 theater. It wasn't the cleanest or nicest place, but you can't beat the price! We might make that trip a birthday tradition!

Today it was back to the grind. Awesome Hubby took the kids to school, though I have the tumbling and basketball transportation still ahead. Looking forward to a great 2011!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reasons to be Thankful

There are so many reasons for me to be thankful this year—and every year. I've been humming the hymn "Count Your Blessings," and I've realized I can't count that high.

Most recently, I've been extremely thankful for public preschool in our county. Had I chosen not to send my little guy to school this year, I'd have never know he needs to wear glasses.

My little guy had his vision tested at preschool screening. The sheet I was given with the results said "retest." When I asked what that meant, the school psychologist said that his answers were inconsistent and that the school nurse would test him again.

Earlier this month, the school nurse called and said she suspected Little Guy has uneven vision. The pediatric ophthamologist confirmed this, describing the vision in his left eye as "abysmal." Poor kid couldn't name the pictures that were less than a foot from his face. To strengthen that "bad" eye, we'll have to patch his good eye for two hours each day. (That'll be fun. Ugh!)

I was completely blindsided (no pun intended) by his vision problems. He is such a cheerful fellow and gave us no indication that he couldn't see properly. He probably didn't know any different. At any rate, I'm relieved that we'll be able to help him soon. I'll be picking up his glasses tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall Sports Extravaganza

Father and Son had the opportunity to attend the Oct. 23 Ohio State v. Purdue football game. Though it was a blowout, both guys had a great day. They left home around 5:30 a.m., stopped in New Concord to pick up relatives (who had better seats!), and made it to the Skull Session. Son played lots of vendors' games and won a hat.

It was the best sporting event Father had attended...until his cousin took him to the Browns v. Patriots game—third row seats on the visitors' 20-yard line.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Interesting Read

I've been reading the blog of a former Amish woman who grew up in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. It's very sweet and fun to read. If you'd like to check it out, click here. She's offering a book giveaway...just post a comment her blog.

I enjoy visiting Ohio's Amish country—it's less than an hour away—and also read Beverly Lewis's Amish novels. There are many Amish families living in my county as well. (It still surprises me to see them in Walmart.) :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Malone's Homecoming

Showing off his funny choice for a tatoo.

The bungee jumping king.

Painted all over!

With two cousins, one the Homecoming queen!

Last Saturday after an early soccer game, we headed to Canton for Malone University's Homecoming activities.

I was disappointed by the scarcity of attendees from my era. I can't figure out why more people my age don't come. Are they too busy with young children? Had other plans? Just didn't care?

For whatever reason, they missed a good time. There were plenty of activities for the kids: an inflatable bounce house, giant slide, and bungee "air mattress" jump, face painting, and creative balloon "sculptures" from a talented balloon artist. The kids were also invited to the barn where they could pose for "student ID cards." The cafeteria featured international cuisine that was tasty. There was even steel drum music! The face painter and balloon artist brought their talents to the football game. Maxamoose, Malone's mascot, visited with the kids on campus and at the game as well. Little Brother asked him, "Where's your pants?"

If you didn't go, what's holding you back? Maybe I'll see you there next year—for our 15th reunion.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Last night was Parent-Teacher conferences at my children's school. Thankfully, my kids are all doing well. But there are a few things that concern me, particularly about second grade.

Why are second graders learning about Venn Diagrams? I fail to see the purpose of those, unless you're headed for a career in philosophy. I learned about Venn Diagrams in my "Critical and Creative Thinking" class at Malone. I actually kind of liked them, but then again, I was a COLLEGE SOPHOMORE! Honestly, for second graders, free time to read would be a better use of time.

My second grader brought home an "F" the other day on a worksheet about research methods. The questions were about which he would use to find particular types of information: an online encyclopedia, an online dictionary, or Internet Search (apparently meaning Google or another search engine.) This is a subject we've never broached with him...and what kind of research is a second grader doing anyway?

He has also done lots of "cube circling"...circling groups of tens and ones. I think it's overkill. Why can't the curriculum just teach kids how to add in columns? Is it that hard? I think not. In the quest to make education "interesting," I fear we're losing out on learning the basics--and hurting our students in the process.

As research shows, test scores have remained stagnant since the 1970s, so all these new-fangled styles of learning aren't helping. What would help? How about fewer after school activities, fewer hours playing videogames, and more parental involvement.

In the meantime, I wish educators would fix this mess. Venn Diagrams my eye!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waiting for Improved Schools

Why are our schools failing our children?

That was the main topic of last week's Time and Newsweek. A new documentary, Waiting for Superman, has ignited the discussion once again. According to the reports, test scores have not increased since the early 1970s and our kids only place first in one area: self-confidence.

Kindergarten has become the new first grade, and each grade has been adjusted accordingly. Has it helped? Apparently not. And what schools—or at least our school district—are expecting kindergartners to know before entering school is astounding. I know because I received the list at the end of preschool last year.

Sister was expected to know her name, address, phone number and birthday; the shapes, including a crescent, octagon, sphere, cube, cylinder, and cone; the letters of the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes; the value of coins; how to count to at least 20; heads and tails; left and right; days of the week; opposites; short and long vowel sounds; a few sight words; and to perform addition and subtraction. Thankfully, she knew most of this already.

Did I know all that when I entered kindergarten? That's doubtful. Did I learn all those things when I was in kindergarten? Again, that's doubtful. I remember kindergarten quite well. We colored, played with puzzles and the red cardboard bricks, watched Sesame Street, and put our heads down on our tables for a short period of rest time every day. Also, Mrs. Bond advised us we had to learn to cross the indoor monkey bars by the end of the year. We learned about a different letter of the alphabet each class day and did a writing worksheet. Every few weeks we took a test worth twelve points that was recorded on our report card.

Could we have learned more? Probably. But did it hurt us not to? I think not. And there's another important factor to mention: I went to kindergarten every other day, alternating Monday, Wednesday, Friday weeks with Tuesday, Thursday weeks. Full-day kindergarten makes for a long day. After all, these kids are still little.

What has changed? Why, if we expect so much from kindergartners, haven't our kids grown "smarter?"

Could it have anything to do with parenting?

With both parents working, is there much time available to go over kids' homework, eat dinner together, or just talk about the day? And when parents are home, are they paying attention to their children or are they texting friends, surfing the Web, or watching TV? Maybe a single mom has to work long hours just to make ends meet while her child attends daycare and passes the time playing instead of studying?

Could it have anything to do with the proliferation of entertainment?

Are the kids playing Wii or Playstation instead of studying? Are they texting or surfing the Web themselves? The same goes for kids 20-30 years ago: Did they play too much Atari and watch too much TV?

Could it have anything to do with lousy teachers?

I remember watching Major League in Government and Blind Date and Die Hard in Algebra I. Yep.

What else is a cause? What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Quiet Afternoon

I can't get used to these quiet afternoons...and with the gloomy weather outside today I don't feel like accomplishing much.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually looking forward to the kids coming home from school today. I love it when Sister goes through her folder, showing me every little coloring page and math worksheet she did (all perfectly!). Little Brother can't wait to open up his folder to see whether he earned a star for good behavior. Big Brother is quite as excited as the two little ones, but he occasionally adds a fun story to the mix—or complains that one of his classmates made fun of his hair (he has several cowlicks). It's all good, regardless!

Fall ball has ended and there's no soccer practice this week so we won't be quite as busy, though Sister has tumbling and and Big Brother has piano lessons. We're excited that Daddy only has to work four days this week!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Write!

I enjoy reading Writer's Digest magazine. This quote from Mary Higgins Clark hits the nail on the head and gives me a kick in the pants to get moving:

A writer should write—it sounds silly, but it’s true. “I’m going to write my novel as soon as: 1) the kids grow up; 2) I quit my job; 3) I retire….” Excuses replace excuses. Start now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Revisiting Vacation Pictures

In June we traveled to Hilton Head Island. It was unseasonably hot for early June. To get off the beach, we took a day trip to Savannah, Georgia. We all took a tour of the town on an open-air trolley, which let us off near the Savannah Roundhouse Railroad Museum. What an interesting place! My boys love Thomas the Tank Engine, so this stop was a lot of fun for them. Unfortunately, we arrived 10 minutes too late to take a train ride and change directions on the turntable, but we did get to see inside two antique conductor cars and we got to try out this handcar. Even Sister had fun pumping!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My New Find

All morning I've been hanging out at AR Bookfinder and making trips to the kids' bedrooms to take a look at what's on our bookshelves. Somehow I hadn't heard about this website until yesterday when I had a meeting at the school to be a volunteer tutor.

I'm fascinated so far...who would've known Guess How Much I Love You has an AR level of 2.8? It's a board book! Or that Fancy Nancy books are in the 2.0-2.6 range?

Big Brother can read a book at home and then take a test on it at school. The books he's reading now earn him .5 points. Apparently, the kids need to reach a certain point level per grading period. Looks like we'll be doing lots of reading over the weekends.

I can't wait to get Sister reading too. She is so ready to learn; I just haven't had the time. She loves to ask me to spell words then writes them over and over in her notebook. It doesn't always make sense, but it sure is cute!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Little Brother's Hospital Visit

Nothing like the changing weather to keep me on my toes...

Little Brother was a little congested for a few days, but it didn't affect his mood. But yesterday, he was exhausted, wouldn't eat, and just reclined on the couch all morning. Pretty soon, he started to grunt when he breathed, as if it were a huge effort. I called the doctor and got an appointment.

Dr. Ray sent us straight to the hospital. He order three breathing treatments, 20 minutes apart, followed by a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia. After the X-ray, Little Brother had another breathing treatment.

My little guy was such a trooper. We were at the hospital, in the pediatric outpatient room, for nearly five hours. Only during the last half hour did he say, "I'm ready to go home." I was frustrated we had to wait so long—especially when it took an hour for the doctor to call the ward to hear an update. (But I understand that he has a family, too.)

Our orders were to give Little Brother breathing treatments every four hours, so I set the alarm for 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. The 3 a.m. one was fun—he woke up after a few minutes and started screaming. Now I'm to call the doctor's office with an update, and he'll call in a prescription steroid to help keep the airways open and clear.

Sure didn't see all that coming yesterday. I'm relieved he's doing better and almost back to his old self.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Radio Critics

My radio interview today went well; it wasn't nearly as hard as I'd imagined, though my heart was beating a little more quickly than usual. :)

Hubby and the kids were listening to the interview in another room. Little Brother told me, "That not you." And Big Brother had advice for future interviews: "Raise your voice and use more excitement."

The book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers, comes out Oct. 5.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Air

Tomorrow I have a radio date.

I'm to be interviewed on 95.9 (The Light), a radio station in the New Philadelphia/Canton market, about my story in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul's Devotional Stories for Mothers.

Earlier this year I submitted a story that I never suspected would be published. Back in April I received the news that my story was in the final round of judging—and that only 5 percent of the stories submitted make it that far. I was shocked! In August I learned my story would indeed be published. Hooray!

I'm a much better writer than speaker, so I hope my nerves don't get the best of me tomorrow. Wish me luck! :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Flashback

In August we made our annual trek to Idlewild, a trip we've been making since Ethan was about 16 months old. I love that place, especially Storybook Forest. My parents took my sister and I to Storybook Forest twice when we were young, and I've tried to recreate some of their photos with my own kids. (I'll have to look those up!)

This picture makes me smile. Caleb always winds up in the "Steeler" car. Hubby loathes the Steelers. :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Talent Show Winner!

Big Brother started taking piano lessons in last February when he was still in first grade—and the fruits of his labor were on display at the county fair's talent show. He was thrilled to receive a ribbon for winning first in the piano category and even more excited to win a trophy for first place overall beginner. He played "Ode to Joy" (and I thought he did a better job than some of the older kids). Unfortunately, Piano Man played first, so he had to wait until 10:30 p.m. to find out if he won.

Will he try again next year? He's said he wants to play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Now THAT would be a treat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Day(s) of School

First day of second grade

First day of kindergarten.

First day of preschool. (I uploaded the wrong picture. Too much trouble to change it, but this is funny.
His backpack is nearly as big as he is.)

Big Brother started school first, last Wednesday. Sister started the next day, and Little Brother began the next Monday.

Big Brother's first day of second grade was uneventful until the end. His teacher called about 10 minutes before he was to get off the bus. "He says he rides Bus X, but I don't know whether to believe these kids," she said. So...she went with "the list," which was wrong.

Mrs. Teacher said she took him to that (wrong) bus where he said again that it wasn't his bus or bus driver. I told her that Big Brother wouldn't get home for another hour on that bus. She said she'd call the bus back to the school and that I'd have to come pick him up. I took off to get him and passed the bus a few miles from home, turned around, and sped back home. I didn't expect the bus driver to go so far out of his way to bring Big Brother home. (I'm sure he wasn't very happy.)

Sister loves kindergarten, despite starting out on a bad note as well. Sister is good friends with our next door neighbor boy who hadn't been home all summer. They finally got to play together on the playground but two second grade girls taunted them and said, "We won't leave you alone until you two dance together." Big Brother, who has recess at the same time, tried to come to her rescue. Long story short, I wrote a note to the teacher—and when the girls pestered them on the second day, her teacher put a stop to it.

Little Brother seems to like preschool. He didn't have much to say about his first day, other than he played on the playground and with Play-Doh. He is singing a song that spells out his name and sings "Days of the Week" to the Addams Family tune. His preschool is in the afternoon, which stinks because he will sometimes still take a nap. Effective the start of the school year, he has been going to bed about an hour earlier than usual.

It'll be interesting to see how this school year plays out. So far, Little Brother has had the most homework. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Summer Hiatus

This photo sums up our summer: exhausting. We were so busy, in fact, that I took an unintentional hiatus from my blog.

Perhaps we were overcompensating for the lack of family time during the past three summers. In 2007, we found out my dad had surgery to remove his brain tumor and spent several months in a rehabilitation hospital, so there were lots of visits to Columbus. In 2008, Dad was living his last few months, so again there were lots of visits to show our love. Finally, in 2009, I cleaned out Mom and Dad's house in preparation for last October's auction.

The summer of 2010 included swimming lessons, a trip to Hilton Head, a camping trip at East Harbor State Park and a stay at nearby Great Wolf Lodge, a few days of camping at Mohican State Park, Idlewild, the wave pool, lazy days in our neighbor's pool, and various other summer activities. Right now, I don't miss the snow we had last winter—at least it kept us home!

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Dream Day

Today is the day I've been waiting for...for nearly 10 years. New carpet in the sunken living room! The installers are here right now, laying "Toasted Almond" frieze carpet. Oh, happy day!

In other news:

• My birthday and Mother's Day fell on the same weekend. Lindsey picked out a huge, sun-blocking turquoise (!!) hat for me and Dwayne bought me a new set of pots and pans, though I really only needed a few frying pans. But they're beautiful. A laptop is still on my "want" list; I'm doing some research to find the best one to meet my writing needs.

• Ethan's baseball team beat the undefeated Phillies Saturday, 10-6, improving to a 3-2 record. Linds actually kicked the ball a few times and kept up with the bigger girls at her soccer game.

• We visited with my mom and sister and her two kids on Mother's Day. The assisted living center had a Mother's Day tea with lots of Chinese Tea cookies from Kennedy's Bakery (YUM!)

• Lindsey graduates from preschool on Thursday!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrating 50 Years

Last Sunday we celebrated my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary at the home of Dwayne's brother, David. Here are some highlights:

Gene and Rita with a scrumptious cake from Kennedy's Bakery.

The Gene and Rita Zifzal Family with children David, Regina, and Dwayne.

Zifzal Grandchildren: Amber, Korah, Eli, Caleb, Ethan, Lindsey, Zach, and Levi.

Uncle David and Aunt Kim had a surprise waiting in their garage: baby chicks. Lindsey was in heaven.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring Sports Updates

Sister, right before her very first soccer game.

The first-ever Upward soccer games in Wintersville were held today, and Lindsey played in the first-ever game, bright and early at 9 a.m. Her team, the Lady Cardinals, took on the Lady Jayhawks. (No one keeps score.)

Princess Lindsey skipped around the field and usually kept right up with the other girls, but when she got near the ball, she didn't know what to do. She's the youngest on her team, and one of the smallest, so she'll get better as the season progresses. She was very proud of the blue star she earned for best effort. "I don't know if I like it yet," she exclaimed when I asked what she thought of her first game.

Ethan played his third baseball game today, against the Giants. He had two hits and a strike-out. Surprisingly, his team won 11-4. His next game is slated for Friday.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Baseball Time

Baseball days are here.

For whatever reason, Ethan doesn't like baseball. It does seem to be the most difficult sport for a young child to learn because it requires a tremendous amount of hand-eye coordination and strength to swing the bat hard enough to get the ball to travel any distance. I can't do it, for sure.

His team, the Cubs, have played two games. The first game resulted in an 11-9 loss, while last night's game ended in a 10-5 loss. In both games, Ethan made it to first base each of the three times he was up to bat. In the first game, he sat out two innings instead of playing outfield and yesterday he sat out three innings. With 12 kids on the team, it seems like no child should sit out more than one inning per game. (Perhaps I'm just used to Upward sports in which all kids get an equal amount of playing time. How else will they learn if they're not given a chance to play?) The upside, though, is that Ethan can't be held accountable for errors if he's not on the field!

I joke with Dwayne that our baseball league needs a woman in charge. After all, last week's game began 30 minutes late—one of the coaches groomed the field and they gave the kids a lot of warm-up time. (Honestly, at these kids' ages does it help that much?) The rain kept getting steadier and most likely prevented the teams after us from playing. We also seem to find out about things at the last minute.

Lindsey's first soccer game was rained out, so hopefully the weather will cooperate this Saturday. Thankfully, none of Lindsey's and Ethan's games overlap.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Easter 2010

Easter Sunday—the best dressed you'll see my kids unless it's another Sunday.

Lindsey picked out her own Easter dress. I'm sure she chose this one because of the matching doll dress.

I'm back...finally! My computer had a nasty virus, but so far the fix seems to have worked.

We had a bright, beautiful Easter. The kids and I attended our own church for Easter services, the first time in about 10 years. . My mom went to my sister's house for the holiday, and Dwayne was at work, so I seized the opportunity to stay home. It was nice seeing the church so crowded, but I wish it were like that every Sunday.

After church we headed to Dwayne's aunt's house for Easter dinner, followed by an egg hunt for the kids. Ethan hopes next year to be part of the "big kid" egg hunt—they get money for their eggs. Still, he was pleased with his prizes, including a soccer goal. Caleb broke his play golf clubs on the first few swings. Linds received some beads and immediately set to work making a necklace for one of her cousins.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beverly Cleary D.E.A.R Day

My favorite childhood author, Beverly Cleary, will turn 94 on April 12. The date also marks D.E.A.R. Day—Drop Everything and Read!

If you're like me, you read lots of her books in grade school: The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beezus and Ramona, Ribsy, Henry Huggins, and many, many more. I especially loved the Ramona Quimby books. Remember when Ramona sat in the basement and took just one bite out of every apple down there? Or when she told her dad to turn on the dawnzer? (It gives a lee light.) Or how about her herculean efforts to convince her dad to stop smoking?

I checked out The Mouse and the Motorcycle from the library yesterday, in hopes of instilling in my children a love for Cleary's books. Ethan and Lindsey were enthralled with the first chapter, all we've read so far. Cleary has also published two memoirs, which I'm adding to my reading list.

You can see the big screen adaption of Beezus and Ramona this summer. Ramona and Beezus (the title is reversed) will hit theaters July 23.

Read more about Beverly Cleary here and more about D.E.A.R. Day here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Joy of Potty Training

Little Caleb is finally learning how to use the potty, though he often doesn't like to stop playing. I convinced him to try, by taking the potty outside. A typical boy, now he loves to go potty outside. "I pee on rocks?" he asks. At Grandma's house he can't wait to "pee off the porch." A few days ago, the dog was resting at the bottom and got a little wet. Definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Caleb's treat for accomplishing #1 is a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's. #2 is the challenge now. Caleb has decided he wants to go see Thomas the Tank Engine if he is successful. (Groan!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lindsey's Smiley Pizza

Sister loves to help in the kitchen. She loves to put the ingredients in macaroni and cheese, her favorite, and she runs to the kitchen whenever she hears I'm making pizza. She helps spread the crust (notice the unevenness) and came up with her own pepperoni design.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ethan is 7!

My big guy is 7! Last month he had a birthday party in between snowstorms. The weather was still a little questionable, so not as many friends were able to come. I accidentally ordered a half sheet cake instead of a quarter, but we were all able to finish it off within a few days. With some of his birthday money he bought the new Super Mario Bros. game and Sonic and the Secret Rings for Wii. He also received several Lego sets, his favorite!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Books and Money

I heard it from a friend (who heard it from a friend who...oh, never mind!): Millionaires have one thing in common: On average, they read a non-fiction book each month.

In the interest of financial security, I've decided to test the theory. Here's what I've read so far:

1. A Simple Christmas by Mike Huckabee
2. Open by Andre Agassi
3. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
4. Have a Little Faith

I'm also nearly finished with Superfreakonomics and Game Change.

At the end of this month I will have made $320. Hmmm. Maybe I should read 10 non-fiction books a month.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

4-H Gets Underway

Last Saturday I attended the annual 4-H Volunteers Conference in Columbus. This is my second year as an advisor, so I'm always looking for new ideas to share with my club.

I wasn't disappointed in the variety of workshops. I was, however, disappointed in the number of attendees from my county—just five total. You'd think advisors would want to know how to make their clubs better or what new 4-H curriculum is coming, and so on.

At any rate, I learned a lot of activities to keep my Cloverbuds busy. I also learned some new songs. My favorite, and I'll know you'll be singing this all day, was singing nursery rhymes to the tune of "We Will Rock You." It starts out with "I'm A Little Teapot" words sung to the "Buddy, you're an old man..." part. The chorus, the "We will, we will rock you," part goes, "I'm a Little Teapot (echo: teapot) teapot (echo: teapot)." You can sing just about any nursery rhyme to this tune. The chorus is always "I'm a Little Teapot (echo: teapot) teapot (echo: teapot)."

It took days to get this out of my head. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Personal Is Political

Back in 1985, a board member had a problem with a school principal. (I don't know if this board member was a man or woman. My guess is it was a woman, since men seem more likely to let things roll of their shoulders. So I'll use "her.")

This board member didn't take her child out that particular school and move on with her life. Nope. Instead, she changed the school of residence for her household and the surrounding area. Students in that area, even though they lived closer to the original school, were now required to be bused to a bigger elementary school with twice as many students.

I thought it was all just a story. After all, it seemed so petty and selfish. How could someone be so angry to make a decision that would uproot dozens of children and families and decimate the school's population?

Turns out it's true.

Since that time, many families in the affected area chose to send their students to the original school. Their parents filled out intra-district enrollment forms and were granted permission. However, busing was offered only at the convenience of the bus garage schedule, meaning children would be picked up an hour and a half before the start of school and dropped off that long after school—unless you can figure out the logistics of random special needs buses.

We are one of the many families affected by that ridiculous argument 25 years ago. And now, because there could be upward of 30 children who will be starting kindergarten in the fall, which is too big of a class, my kids might not get to attend this school—because we live eight-tenths of a mile from the so-called dividing line.

We share the same town and township as the school my kids attend and have the same phone exchange. Plus, my oldest has already been there for four years. Basically, it makes no sense that we would be required to switch. Apparently the school is having budget problems and by refusing entrance to these kids, they'll save money by not hiring a second teacher. BUT, won't placing 10-12 kids at the other school, whose classes number around 25, require the addition of an extra teacher anyway? Plus, Gov. Strickland wants K-3 classes to be no bigger than 19 students beginning this fall—though education budgets are being slashed. The one temporary bright light is the availability of federal stimulus funds. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2011, our school district will receive an increase of 3.62 percent in state aid. I found this information here. (Click on the "State Aid for Schools" link to download a spreadsheet listing every Ohio school district's state and federal aid for FY 2009-2011.) I haven't heard how our district will be spending this money.

Now, I'm playing a waiting game to see how this all ends up. I'm frustrated that the long ago school board member took her personal frustrations out on others. She made the personal political.