Post Easter Ponderings

It’s been quite a few months and I’ve fallen behind on my blogging (and a lot of other things recently).

Of course, the Christmas season is always hectic and my oldest son was home from college again for a few weeks. How strange it still is to only see him twice a year as he attends school 1,000 miles away from what I still think of as his home. He’ll be graduating in only a few months and we’re still uncertain what part of the country he’ll end up in. He’ll be receiving a degree in computer science, but his actual major is Video Game Design and Development.

Who would have thought, as we played our commodore 64 in college and wrote our reports on DOS based programs that our children would have such an amazing world of opportunities with computers. I still recall wanting to take Vo-Tech courses in data entry which involved punch cards. What a difference just over 20 years makes.

In January, my step-father was diagnosed with a new brain tumor and received surgery soon after. This is his second fight against a very relentless illness. It’s been quite a struggle for he and my mother and of course, we’ve been doing anything we can to help them. We’ll be celebrating his 65th birthday next week, one we weren’t sure we’d see a year ago and with each one we pray it won’t be his last.

Earlier this month, our 27-yr-old nephew committed suicide after a long battle with a Bi-Polar Disorder which kept him constantly at war with his demons. We still don’t know how to make sense of this, including the fact that his two young sons have lost their father, the youngest one as he grows won’t remember the sound of his voice or the glimmer in his eyes. We loved him and we may never come to terms with the fact that we couldn’t help him because he wouldn’t help himself, refusing to take the medication which kept the demons leashed. So frustrating when I’ve heard it from my own son “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.” We’ve lost him in body only, his spirit lives on in us and his children. We can only hope he’s found the peace that he so desparately searched for in vain while here on earth. Goodbye Randy, we love you, we miss you, I wish you hadn’t had to leave us, I hope you found what you were looking for and that you’re whole and well now. Our hearts are broken as we try to hold on to the good times we’ve each had with you.

When our nephew was stationed in Kuwait, he’d send emails periodically, often complaining about the taste of the sand as well as the difficulty sending email. Here’s a blurb that summed up his personality:

“The post I work on has set up a firewall that doesn’t allow me to get to my hotmail account. The only way I can get on hotmail is to drive for about an hour and a half and walk into a 5-star hotel like I own the place.”

That was his way, no matter what was going on, when he walked in the door, he’d yell, “alright I’m here, let’s get this thing started.” Wherever you are now Randy, I know you walked in like you owned the place.

Holiday Fire Safety

This content is provided by the Philadelphia Fire Department and is a reminder to all to prevent tragedies such as the one that took the life of local 2nd grader Amanda Shoenberger and her parents in a preventable Christmas Eve fire. The only smoke detector in the home had no battery.

Take a moment NOW to prevent a holiday fire tragedy. This is a timely reminder from the Fire Prevention Division which urges everyone to keep fire safety in mind when handling trees, lighting, decorations, wrapping, and gifts.

Here are some suggestions for keeping the Holidays “Happy.”

ELECTRICAL

  • Check light wiring and sockets for breaks and shorts; replace as necessary
  • Never connect more than three strands of lights to one extension cord.
  • Use only UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) listed decorations and cords
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to house, trees, or posts, with sockets pointing down to keep moisture from collecting. Don’t use indoor lights outside.
  • Do not use electric lights on metallic trees. Use spotlights instead for illumination.
  • Turn off electrical decorations when you leave home or go to bed.

CANDLES

  • Do not use candles near decorations in your home.
  • Avoid placing candles near drapes or curtains.
  • Place candles in a safe base to prevent tipover.
  • Keep candles out the reach of children, and where they won’t be knocked over by pets. Do not leave candles burning in unoccupied rooms.

TRIMMINGS

  • Live decorations such as evergreen boughs and wreaths, laurel and holly last longer and are less of a safety hazard when displayed outside. Indoors, place them in water if possible and keep them away from heat sources. Discard promptly when dry.
  • Make sure artificial decorations are labeled “flame resistant,” or “fire retardant.”
  • Apply artificial spray “snow” in well-ventilated areas and avoid using near ignition sources.

TREES

  • If you buy a natural grown tree, be sure it is fresh. When the tree is brought home, cut the trunk about one inch above the original cut. Place the tree in water and leave it outdoors, if possible, until you are ready to decorate it.
  • When you bring the tree into your home, place it in a sturdy stand with plenty of room for water. Check the water level and add as needed. Keep the tree away from stairs, doorways, and exits. Never run electric trains under the tree, a spark could set it on fire.
  • Take the tree down as soon as the needles start to fall off; place the tree, untied and free of decorations, outdoors in a safe area until rubbish removal day.

ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES

  • Overindulgence on holidays by those who drink, particularly if they also smoke, contributes to thousands of house fires and other accidents every year. Droppd cigarettes, often associated with drinking, are the nation’s leading cause of fire deaths.
  • Check ashtrays carefully, letting them stand overnight before emptying.
  • Check furniture, carpets, and wastebaskets for smoldering cigaretters after entertaining.
  • Keep alcohol and smoking materials out of the reach of children

HOLIDAY GIFTS

  • Having trouble finding a gift for a family member or friend? Lithium batter smoke alarms make thoughtful gifts. Escape ladders and carbon monoxide alarms show your concern for your loved ones and make Holiday shopping easier. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and plan a home fire drill.

Some other general holiday reminders include: keep children from playing under or near Holiday trees, to avoid the danger of it falling over; be especially careful with matches and smoking materials; and review the family’s home escape plan for quick exit in case of a fire emergency. Also, even with the pressure of last-minute shopping and errands, never leave children alone or without proper supervision.

If your family is financially unable to purchase smoke detectors for your home, please contact your local fire departments. Many fire departments offer programs to donate smoke detectors or provide them at greatly reduced rates.

Thanksgiving crafts and recipes

MomsBreak.com offers some cute printables, great to occupy kids while other work is going on.
Pilgrim Coloring Pages and Turkey Banner Making are a few of the items available.
http://www.momsbreak.com/

Send a friend a (Paper) Turkey
http://papertoys.com/turkey.htm – a fun project for older kids (or even grownups)

For moms with some last minute time and older children, here are some nice projects including wreaths and table decor
http://www.dotcomwomen.com/crafts/thanksgiving.shtml

Family Crafts is always a wealth of ideas and instructions for kids and parents
http://familycrafts.about.com/od/thanksgiving/

Making Friends is always a favorite for children
http://www.makingfriends.com/Thanksgiving.htm

Family Fun offers some kid friendly foods for the holiday’s as well as crafts
http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/kids/specialfeature/thanksgiving_kids_ms/

Of course, you’re welcome to visit our recipes section for new recipes to try.
Chocolate Eclair Cake is still one of our favorite desserts, but it needs a day in the refridgerator, so don’t wait til the last minute for this one.

Raymond Yeager Fund – Postcards or Baseball Caps Needed

Normally I don’t pass along this type of information, because by the time I receive it, the information is so outdated that the family is begging people to stop sending whatever it is that was initially requested. In this case, it’s quite current and there’s a blog where you can monitor the status to see if your support is still wanted.

This call is being sent out to truck drivers, but we can all reach out to help a child/young man in need of moral support during a very trying time fighting a terrible disease, neuroblastoma. Ray is going to feel much worse before he starts feeling better, so at the very least, say a prayer for the families dealing with cancer.

The information below can be found at www.operationroger.com‘s bulletin board

POSTCARDS OR BASEBALL CAPS ETC NEEDED
RAYMOND JONATHAN YEAGER, 14, went water skiing on Friday, July 6, 2007, woke up Saturday morning with a severe stomach ache, and was taken to the hospital. Exploratory surgery revealed an advance tumor called neuroblastoma, level 3, cancer. He is currently facing 5 – 6 months of chemotherapy followed by 6 months of radiation hoping to shrink the tumor so it can be removed. Surgery currently cannot be performed because the tumor is wrapped around blood vessels. Doctors stated Raymond will be hospitalized for approximately one YEAR!

His father, Raymond Yeager, Sr, is currently a team member with Operation Roger … Truckers Pet Transport and drives for Shaffer Trucking. Raymond, Sr., told his son truck drivers from all over the country would probably send him postcards or ball caps. At first Raymond, Jr. scoffed at the idea then after thinking about it, brightened, and said “That would be way cool.”

We, at Operation Roger, are asking everyone reading this to take a moment to send Raymond a postcard or whatever to show him your support at this trying time of his young life. His NEW address is:

Raymond J. Yeager, Jr.
Ronald McDonald House
621 Oak Street, S.E., Room 137
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Updates can be seen by clicking on the Form Name “POSTCARDS…”

If you wish to forward this on to someone else, please feel free to do so.

Classy Lady
Operation Roger … Truckers Pet Transport

For up to date information, visit http://www.operationroger.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=565

I joined a gym

My friends all consider me to be “thin” and laugh at the idea of me going to a gym, I’ve always been one of the lucky ones that could eat anything I wanted and not gain an ounce… but here’s how it happened. Last year, our receptionist got pregnant with her first baby. It’s a small office and we’re all pretty close and she was constantly bringing in goodies.. of course, she’s eating for two, but as she put it “If I’m going to get fat, I’m taking you all with me.” We thought it was funny. That was around May.

My son graduated High School and the real rush to secure his apartment for college 1,000 miles away, find a roomate, obtain financing to pay for college and apartment and all the stress involved in the move and sending my son off into the unknown…. This was June to September…. In June, I turned 37. (My mother warned me that after I hit 35, that eat anything you want and don’t worry about it won’t last much longer).

Around September, my pants started getting tight and I was unbuttoning them during the day to be “more confortable”. My son left for college and we had a whirlwind drive over 2 days, moving into an apartment, getting furniture (some was purchased in advance to be delivered the day after we arrived, the rest from our staple Wal-Mart to be assembled under less than optimal conditions (pop-pop was wonderful enough to donate a toolbox with all the bare essentials for on-your-own living), and the hunt for an affordable used vehicle for my son to get around town in (and the sticker shock of car insurance in a major metropolitan area prone to strong storms and hurricanes vs rural PA where an occassional blizzard or large hail is the extent of our weather catastrophes. Our receptionist is still force feeding us sugary sweets and my pants are getting even tighter.

In December, our world fell apart with my step-father (aka pop-pop) was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain cancer and needed almost immediate surgery, followed by a complication of blood clots in his lungs that hospitalized him a second time just a week before Christmas (the nurses and doctors were fabulous in working together to be able to discharge him on Christmas morning so we could be together as a family).

Late April… I get up and get ready for work, only to discover that the pants I’ve been unbuttoning to be more comfortable in… don’t fit AT ALL!! It was quite a mad panic as I went through my entire drawer to find a pair of pants that I could force myself into. I step on the scale showed I’d gained a good 20 pounds. Considering that my normal weight was 112-115 pounds, this was a substantial jump for me. I’d never gone up more than 5 pounds while not pregnant ever.

In May, I got sucked into watching an infomercial. I was watching TLC which I love for the Flip This House and Property Ladder series (and now The Real Deal as well). Anyway, they were showing this cool little contraption called a Jump Snap. It’s the coolest little computerized jump rope… without the rope. Of course I bought one LOL. I mean, all us girls jumped rope as kids, it was great fun, we could do it for hours, what fun, I’ll jump rope and lose weight. WOW, things sure change when you get older. The Jump Snap worked exactly like they said it did, it came with a great little workout video with a couple of perky girls doing the beginning 8 minute workout. Phfft. Eight minutes I thought, I could do 8 minutes standing on my head surely….. Well, I gotta tell you, jumping rope at my age wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The workout is broken down into 2 minutes sessions with water breaks. I won’t need water for just 8 minutes, how ridiculous…. ok, after two minutes, I’m gasping and heaving… pausing the video.. filling a water bottle to chug and I’m ready for the next 2 minutes….. they want us to do jumping jacks!! I think I’m going to die… pause video…. more water…. I made it almost 5 minutes on my first workout. Almost 6 on the second workout… 7 1/2 on the 3rd workout and on the 4th.. yeah for me, I made it through a whole 8 minutes. The Jump Snap itself will tell you exactly how long you’ve jumped and how many times you’ve jumped. So, I know when I’m tired and not jumping as many times as the workout before (I keep a spreadsheet of my progress… date, length of workout, and jumps… to keep myself committed and accountable for keeping up with a routine. I tried to keep up 4-5 times a week with the 8 minute program and was almost instantly gratified with losing an inch off my waist, and half an inch of my hips. I got back in to several of my pants that I couldn’t button just a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately, I’ve plateaued at point 🙁

In Late May, I had the opportunity to join a gym and a reduced rate for doing some freelance work for them. Now, while many people may not appreciate something that isn’t really costing them much, I’m taking as much advantage of it as I can, going to the gym 3-4 times a week for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. My routine is up to at least 5 miles on the stationary bike, “circuit” a series of 20 machines (I don’t do 2 of them because of previous back problems) that are designed for strengthening different groups of muscles, I’ve recently added at least 15 minutes (nearly 1 1/2 miles) on the cross trainer.. similar to a step machine or eliptical, and other 1 to 1 1/4 miles on the treadmill… I still haven’t dropped a pound, so it’s very discouraging, but the tell me it typically takes at least 3 months. I’m clinging to the fact that in just a month, I’ve more than doubled my workout stamina and my clothes are feeling better (I rarely unbutton my pants during the day now LOL). So, I’m entering a new phase of the.. watching everything I eat. I’m having a terrible time cutting out the snacking after years of.. don’t worry, you can eat it.. mentality, but, I’m getting there. Hopefully my friends will stop laughing at me soon (sigh).

New Articles

As summer approaches quickly, we’re gearing up toward more home makeover projects. Our top priority will be our bathroom which we started last year but were waylayed when my husband suffered several bouts with large kidney stones which required medical assistance in breaking up, followed soon after by long overdue hernia surgery. Hopefully we’re back on track this year. Hopefully we still like the color we picked LOL.

To assist with your color selections, we’ve featured an article on color selection. You can find this in our Helpful Articles section under Decorating/Remodeling/Home Repairs

This year, my second child is now driving age. Even through we’ve gone through this teaching experience once, it’s still a process which requires a lot of planning and patience. The accident statistics for young drivers can be quite frightening as we send our new drivers out on the road, so it’s very important that we prepare them for the unexpected. A new article has been added to our safety section. Safety Tips For Teen Drivers.

Our state, Pennsylvania pass legislation several years ago requiring young drivers to use their permit for at least 6 months and drive a minimum of 50 hours under adult supervision. With our older son, I spent many hours driving around in circles at our local elementary school parking lot which was very well laid our for stop signs, left and right turns and smooth turns as well as parking. Living in a very rural area, it was also quite easy to drive for some time without encountering another vehicle (although little furry pedestrians abound). As we both felt more confident with the skills that were being learned, we graduated onto real roads and even Pennsylvania Turnpike driving to visit family on a weekly basis. We also had the luxury of allowing him to help drive on a family trip to Florida where he simply had to drive straight and watch for people merging and passing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had more than 100 hours in by the time he felt ready to take his driver’s license test, (just 2 days before the permit expired).

We were fortunate enough to run into many unexpected learning experiences (some were actually frightening). We encountered an ambulance with lights and sirens behind us on a very narrow side street as we were at the intersection waiting to turn into traffic. That we a tough situation even for me as we tried to determine quickly if the ambulance could actually pass us where we sat or if we needed to make our the turn to clear the path for the ambulance (it ended up being the latter, we made our turn and immediately pulled to the shoulder).

In another instance, waiting to cross a very busy highway, we sat, waiting for traffic to clear when a car pulled up on the other side of the intersection and was waiting to turn across our path. The polite young woman at the wheel of the vehicle waved my son ahead and he immediately started to pull into the intersection, directly into the path of a speeding sports car (it was obvious he was going well over the 45 mph speed limit). I admit that I was not very calm and immediately started screaming for my son to stop (I actually called him by my husband’s name and flung my arm across the seat in that mom seat belt move even though we were both tightly belted). My son did stop in time, we did make it through the intersection safely a few moments later and we had a great opportunity to discuss what someone waving you out REALLY means (it means they’re letting you go ahead of them, but not necessary that they’re assuring it’s safe to proceed right then). I’m certainly glad this lesson wasn’t learned the hard way.

My friends laughed when I told them that Friday and Saturday driving lessons included watching for Yard Sale signs. Around here, that typically means that someone will slam on their brakes in front of you to
a) see where the sale is and if it’s on a street they’re just about to pass
b) the yard sale is directly beside them and they’d rather stop in the middle of the street before committing to actually pulling over to see if there is anything good
or c) people who’ve already stopped pull suddenly into traffic to quickly move to the next sale.

These rules also apply for the many farmer’s markets in our area where there have been several fatalities as drivers pull across into oncoming traffic at the sign of ripe watermelon and fresh corn.

Driving in our area is also a challenge of watching for deer crossing, duck crossing (across a main highway through the center of town square where a quaint park with spring and fountain are located and ducks find it quite restful to sleep in the middle of the street in front of the fire hall). Skunks present an interesting night time obstacle course (anyone who has ever hit one will know how desparately you NEVER want to do that again under any circumstance short of physical damage to yourself or your vehicle).

So, we’re looking forward to another interesting summer with son number 2 as he ventures into the realm of driving teenagers under parental supervision. He’s still studying for his permit, but the lessons have already begun as we talk about what we look for as a good defensive driver.

I hope you all have a safe and healthy summer season.

Mother’s Day

While we’re bringing you more seasonal links, we’ve also added Firecracker Poops for Independence Day picnics and parties and New Parent Poops (fun little items for your next baby shower)

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and the little ones will be eager to make personal gifts for mom. Here are some great sites for young children

Register for Free at Crayola.com for these free crafts

For us “bigger” kids, here are more advanced projects:

Lessons to teach

My son is away at college, 1,000 miles away. We went over a lot of critical skills that he needed to learn before he went: how to be responsible with his debit card, managing his account online, how to do laundry, and all the finer points of life. There were a lot of humorous spots along the way. Yesterday, it became clear that the fine art of mailing was not gone over well enough. My son needed to send me some documents for his next round of student loans. The first time, luckily I was still with him setting up his first apartment when the documents arrived needing both our signatures, this time, he needed to print them, sign them and send them to me… his first question… where do I get an envelope that will fit them (about 14 pages). I had to laugh, apparently it wasn’t obvious that any stationery store (Walmart, Staples, even the Post Office itself might be a source of these mysterious envelopes). To make things simple on his since he has a very difficult school schedule (they actually attend class 40 hours a week)., I suggested he just get one at the Post Office since he’d need to stop there anyway (at least, this was assumed). Yesterday, the package arrived in the mail… 12-14 pages, in a large padded envelope (wouldn’t want them to break I suppose LOL), with a single stamp attached… and accompanied by an envelope from the mail carrier requesting an additional 72 cents. Obviously, it never once occurred to my son that the post office looked at different sized packages different.. I mean, they did have to get to my house anyway didn’t they 🙂

So.. this will be our next life lesson.. not everything that fits in an envelop can be sent with a single stamp LOL.

Over the past year, probably one of our most humorous moments (OK, maybe it was only funny for me), was when he told me that he couldn’t use his debit card. He tried it at two different gas stations and the ATM. So, on our next trip to Walmart, we went to the ATM and I had him show me what he was doing, assuming it was something obvious like putting in the card backwards or upside down.. nope.. he had it perfect… read the instructions to the letter. “Push in and pull out quickly”. You’d have thought the boy was sticking his hand in the mouth of an alligator.. he pushed and pulled the card so fast it didn’t stand a chance. I started laughing immediately. It is quite easy to misunderstand those innocent instructions if you think about it. So, we learned that the push in was soft, the pull out was smooth and not even close to as fast as he was trying to do it… and success was found LOL. I look back and try to remember if my new-found adulthood was this difficult. I’m sure he’s laughing at me too, trying to figure out new things (like how to use my MySpace account.. I finally managed to post a few pictures) and pronounce chatspeak works (somehow I don’t think I’ll ever past p*wn LOL), but we’re both learning how to function in the world (real and cyber). It’ll continue to be a grand adventure for both of us I’m sure.

Easter Fun

Register at Crayola.com for access to lots of seasonal projects for young children through teens. Current featured project include:

  • Flower-Top Box
  • Irresistible Egg Centerpiece
  • Flock of Feathery Friends
  • Eggs in a Basket
  • Freckled Frog
  • Passover Seder Plate
  • String-Painted Basket

Signup to receive their newsletter for notices when new seasonal projects are available.

Looking for new ideas on making spectular and fun Easter Eggs? Visit FabulousFoods.com for instructions to create a fun assortment for any basket:

  • Abstract Eggs
  • Dinosaur Eggs
  • Marbled Eggs
  • Spatter Eggs
  • Help from Stickers Eggs
  • Banded Eggs
  • All Natural Onion Skin Dyed Eggs

Looking for something a little less messy, have fun decoring these online Easter Eggs. My only wish list item for this one is that you could reuse the designs. You can also paint an egg while you’re there. Just print and cut out when you’re done.

The M&M’s website is among my season favorites too. For those with a bit of time and patience, you can create these fabulous centerpiece in plenty of time for the big family dinner.
Egg Tree Topiary or simply have fun in the kitchen with younger decorators with Baby Animal Cupcakes.

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

225_10401_shamcookie.jpgShamrock Sugar Cookies from McCormick’s

Bring a touch of the Emerald Isle to your home with these dazzling Shamrock Sugar Cookies, decorated with icing tinted with McCormick® Green Food Color.
Makes about 4 dozen or 22 (2 cookie) servings.

Allrecipes.com has a variety of Irish recipes for your authentic meal.

Children’s Games
Hide the Shamrock 9 (preschool)
Green construction paper
Scissors

Cut a shamrock out of green construction paper. Choose a child to be “it.” While the other children hide their eyes, “it” hides the shamrock within a designated area. Everyone then opens their eyes and tries to find the shamrock. The finder gets to be “it” for the next round.

Try this for more games to play all year: Preschooler’s Busy Book: 365 Creative Games & Activities To Occupy 3-6 Year Olds

Crafty moms offers a wide selection of kids crafts for St. Patty’s day.
http://www.crafty-moms.com

Kids Domain is always one of my favorite sites for kids crafts any time of the year
http://www.kidsdomain.com

More sites for St. Patrick’s Day Projects, recipes and crafts.