Tag Archives: family time

I’m not a Jedi Knight

Yoda, in all his wisdom, stated, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

That may be true if you are a Jedi Knight, but for the rest of us, me specifically, not so much.

In February, I jumped feet first into uncharted territory after attending a board of education meeting. Our school district is in financial crisis. Many cuts are on the table.

I went home that night heartsick about our district and the financial trouble it is in. Some people blame the administration. Some people blame the school board. Some people blame the teachers (who at that time had been working without a contract for approximately two years). Some people blame the Michigan legislators.

I began to think. What if? What if people stopped complaining? What if people stopped placing blame and pointing fingers? What if people came together to make a difference in the lives of kids? What if we raised money to pay for one of the positions being cut?

I emailed the superintendent of the district first thing the next morning. He called me within 10 minutes.

For details and background on the position I was fighting to save, read this.

I proposed starting a fundraising campaign separate from the district to raise the funds. Was it legal? Was it something he’d be willing to let me try?

Let me just say quickly that the reasons I chose to fight for this particular cut are:

  • Safety of my children is paramount
  • This cut represented the lowest annual dollar amount ($29 per family in the district)
  • The position being cut impacts every student, teacher and staff member in the district.

Once I had the blessing of the superintendent, I contacted an acquaintance who I knew to be very passionate about this position and a very involved parent in the district to see what she thought.

She was in.

The next four weeks were a whirl wind. We met with the superintendent, the township supervisor, the local community foundation.

We received so much guidance and support from these people! It was truly remarkable.

On March 1, we attended the school board meeting and announced the launch of BSP CARES: Bedford Students Protected through Combining Area Resources for Educational Safety.

We worked our tails off and had much early success, raising $17,000 by the end of March. The media was very kind to us and covered every fundraiser we had, helping us spread the word. We definitely had the support of the local business community.

But over time it became clear that we lacked the financial support of parents and teachers-the two most important groups if this effort was going to succeed.

In the end, we raised over $38,000 against a goal of $80,000 and the position was cut December 6.

I guess Yoda would call that a “Do not.” I call it a “try.”

I learned a lot about people in our community, politics, my family and mostly myself.

  • Our community is filled with generous people! Generous with their time, their talent, their wisdom and their money.
  • People can take the well-meaning efforts of two moms and turn them into a political issue.
  • My family has a limit in how much of my time they are willing to allow me to give to others. (It’s a very high limit, but there is a limit.)
  • And myself—
    • I jump in quicker than I should sometimes.
    • I allow my priorities to get upended sometimes, putting other things ahead of my family.
    • I’m not bad on camera.
    • I place a lot of importance on my hair.
    • I can make a difference.

And I hope I am teaching my children:

  • Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Get involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to try.

So, no, I’m not a Jedi Knight. I’m a mom. A wife.  A community member. And so much more!

And, I’ll keep on trying!

Talk to me! Have you ever taken on a huge project that you were very passionate about only to fall short of your original goal? How did it feel?

You can take the girl out of retail…

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

-Courtesy Lars Ploughman

Black Friday.

I have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday. I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping on that day, but I worked in retail for 20 years and the thrill of seeing the sales figures rise so rapidly is hard to beat. I’ve been out of retail for 5 years and this weekend was reminded of just how fun it is to see the results of my Black Friday prep work pay off.

Cue the flashback music

It was supposed to be a 3 month summer gig after my freshman year in college.

But my hairdresser knew differently. Throughout the next three years when we’d talk about my job at a local department store:  “You’re going to be a retail queen. It’s in your blood!” I shrugged it off because that wasn’t what I was going to school for. Little did I know…

One of the best parts of my job was seeing a direct impact on sales through my actions. Because the company was still relatively small, I could call the buyers. If something was blowing out the door, I could call and say, “Get me more!” Or, if it wasn’t selling, “Transfer this out or let me mark it down!” I was also afforded great freedom and creativity when it came to merchandising my floor. I could move stuff around, make “shops,” be creative. Then I could watch the sales numbers. If they went up, I celebrated! If they went down or didn’t move, I made adjustments.

My career grew. The company grew. And I got pregnant. As I went about my job, and the pregnancy continued, I wondered, “How in the world am I going to be the kind of mom I want to be and work nights, weekends and 6 days at Christmas?” That thought began to take the fun out of the job.

Then, I was offered a demotion. Not because I wasn’t doing well, but because the regional director’s administrative assistant was leaving. I had to take a slight pay cut, but the job was Monday-Friday days.

No nights. No weekends. No stress.

I jumped on it!

I worked in that position for 9 years and for the majority of the time it was great! I worked in an office alone 3-4 days a week while the boss traveled. I made connections friends at the corporate offices, and in many of our stores throughout the company.

The company had grown so much that a lot of what I had considered fun…the merchandising, working with buyers to hone the inventory…was not part of the job anymore. It was cookie-cutter. I was glad I wasn’t in the trenches anymore.

But there was one day out of every year I missed it. Black Friday! As I said, I’ll never shop on Black Friday but to prep for it and be part of the fast-paced excitement was a rush! A favorite saying was, “Pile it high and let it fly!”  Watching the sales numbers shooting up (on a good year) was amazing!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Retirement Party. Betcha don't know many women who retire AND have a baby all in the same week!

Less than two months after my 20th anniversary, I “retired.” Not because I was ready for my AARP card or Medicare, but because I was about to have my 4th child. My boss and his wife hosted a lovely retirement party for me and colleagues friends came from miles away to wish me well. It meant the world to me!

That was five years ago. I still won’t shop on Black Friday. But, I do miss the people and the excitement that goes along with it.

This year, I was reminded just how much I miss watching those sales numbers rise. I’m a social media specialist working with Weaving Influence. One of the clients we’re working with is Dean Vollmar. His company, 1stFrame.com, is an online retailer. He creates beautiful, custom laser-engraved frames. Part of the work we’re doing for him revolves around this weekend: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame or use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

We used a photo from my summer vacation to design a frame for use in our Michigan Small Business Saturday Frame.

He kept us updated throughout the day yesterday as sales began to come in. Before 10:30 a.m., he had already sold as many frames as the year before. As of midnight, he had a 500% increase! Once again, I felt the rush of seeing incredible sales figures and knowing that my knowledge, my expertise, my actions created a direct impact on sales.

But this time, it was from the comfort of my own sofa!

So, you might be able to take the girl out of retail, but I don’t think you’ll ever take the retail out of this girl.

Let’s talk! Do you shop on Black Friday? Work on Black Friday? Have you retired or left a job and find that while you wouldn’t go back, there are aspects you miss?

Planning a trip to Disney World, Take 2

Just about this time, four years ago, I was beginning to plan our family’s first trip to Disney World in Florida. We planned on whisking our three children, who would have been 9, 7 and 4 at travel time, away on the last day of school for the most magical experience of their lives.

I had everything all mapped out and saved on the Disney site. I had 30 days to put down a deposit on the trip, or my planning wouldn’t be saved anymore.

My 30 days were almost up. I looked at the calendar, ready to make the deposit. A little voice inside me said, “Maybe you should wait a couple days.” I waited. The voice said, “Why don’t you give it a week?” I waited. I waited another week.

OK, I was two weeks late.

Our first three children had all been conceived through the help of fertility drugs. We didn’t use any birth control, other than the we-have-three-children-and-we’re-exhausted method. Chances of me getting pregnant were very slim.

Turns out, slim is enough.

Well, instead of going to Disney in June 2007, we welcomed our “Bonus Baby” in July.

Now that baby is 3 and we’re trying again. For the vacation!! Yeah, fool me once–we both got fixed!

So here’s where you come in. Usually when I blog, it’s because I have something to say and I hope at least a few people out there will want to read it. If not, that’s ok because the blog is creating a nice little diary of our life. But this time, I want you to tell me something!

I want to know your money saving and sanity saving tips for making the trip a success without needing to take a second mortgage on the house!

You should know our kids will be 13, 10, 8 and 4 when we travel and we’re coming from extreme southeast Michigan.

Some of my questions are:

  1. How many days do you really need?
  2. Where’s the best place to stay?
  3. Should we drive or fly?
  4. Is park hopper worth it?
  5. Is the dining package worth it?
  6. What is the one thing you wouldn’t want us to miss?
  7. What is the one thing we could skip?
  8. What else do you know that only comes with experience?

I recently read DonMartelli’s Parent’s Guide to Surviving a Disney World Vacation. He gives down and dirty practical advice which is just the kind of stuff I want to hear.

So, whatcha got? Go ahead…comment!

My little party planner

I just love to throw kids parties! Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, tea parties…FUN! FUN! FUN!

I have never done a Valentine’s party.

Last week during our snow days, Leah decided to plan one. The kids will sometimes set up a club, store, game room, dance party, etc., in their bedrooms and the rest of the family attends. I figured that’s what she was doing. Actually, she invited several friends from school. Unfortunately, the inviting was one of those things where first graders make all the plans but the parents aren’t really in sync…nobody knows a time or place…

When I broke the news to her that her friends were not likely to come, she was heartbroken. I promised that the entire family would participate and that helped a little. One of her friends actually did come over for awhile in the evening (only because her mom was here to pick up Girl Scout cookies, but she didn’t care why) and that helped a lot.

After her friend left, she asked if we could have the party. Our 11 year old son had a friend over and the boys were playing. I asked (ok, insisted on) their involvement for a mere 5 minutes. They all went along with it enthusiastically, staying for another activity even after I told them they could leave.

I have to say, she did an amazing job planning and executing this party!

She planned games, activities and snacks:

Pin the Heart on the Donkey–She drew and cut out a donkey and several hearts. She taped them all to the wall in her bedroom.

Heart Potato–She used a heart shaped pillow and sang a song for the music while we sat in a circle and passed the heart.100_2708

Valentine Storytime–She spread out her heart blanket on the floor and read Clifford’s First Valentine’s Day to us.

Snacks–She baked cookies yesterday (Pillsbury Simply Cookies ready made chocolate chip cookie dough dressed up with pink sprinkles prior to baking).

She even had heart stickers and drawings she had made as prizes for the games.

A perfect little party completely planned by a six year old!

She did her mama proud!

Snow much fun!

I really can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m thankful for the snow we had this week.

It didn’t come without its down side…three snow days with all six of us cooped up in the house, treacherous roads, cold temperatures, etc., but snow brings out a desire to play outside that my children don’t seem to have in the hot summer.

Zach and friends

Zach and friends

I would bet they spent more time outside the last three days running, playing, using their imaginations and being creative than any three consecutive summer days I could put together.

Our kids range in age from 11 to 2 years old. The two year old believes whole-heartedly in the ‘no child left behind’ act. If the older ones are going out, by golly, she is too! And of course, if she’s going out, either my husband or I also have to go out.

Therefore, I would bet we’ve spent more time outside the last three days running, playing, using our imaginations and being creative than any three consecutive summer days I could put together.

This all may sound like I love the cold, the snow and winter. None of that is true! In fact, the older I get, the more appealing being a Florida snow bird sounds. But I do like variety and a break in the normal routine.

Snow provides that a few days every winter so I’m thankful for it.

The obligatory ‘fun in the snow’ wintertime post

It’s almost mid-February. We live in Michigan. It’s supposed to be cold and we’re supposed to get snow.

While it has been cold here, we have dodged snow bullet after snow bullet this season. We’ve empathized with (ok, laughed at) our friends and family from places like North Carolina who were getting dumped on while we escaped with only a dusting.

Last week, when the nation’s capital was covered in a record snowfall, we only got a couple inches. Normally, even a couple inches would sour my mood, especially this late in the season. But I found myself feeling a little left out.

We haven’t had a snowball fight.

We haven’t built a snowman.

We haven’t gotten any pictures of our 2 year old really playing in the snow.

We haven’t had any snow days.

We’re gettin’ it now! About 5 inches so far and another 4-6 to come tonight. That still pales in comparison to what some areas of the country saw last week.

We got our snow day (and I think we’ll get one tomorrow, too).

We got the pictures of the two year old.

She made snow angels, was pulled on the sled, crawled around in it and even ate it. As she stepped her first booted foot into it, she exclaimed, “Oh, gee!”

"Oh, Gee!"

"Oh, Gee!"

Do I have to share this with him?

Do I have to share this with him?

This is hard to walk in!

This is hard to walk in!

This is YUMMY!

This is YUMMY!

The kids shoveled extra snow onto the steps to make a sledding hill. (Hey, we live in the flat midwest. You learn to improvise.)

100_2672Wheeee! See the video!

The dog thought it snowed just for her, she ran, she jumped, she ate it, too.

Woof!

Woof!

It’s not good for packing so no snowball fights or snowmen.

Just good family fun. And exercise. Oy! Pulling that sled and trying to run in the snow.

Faster, Dad!

Faster, Dad!

Ok. We got it. We had fun. I’m done now.

Is someone gonna pull me on this thing or what?

Is someone gonna pull me on this thing or what?

Bring on spring!

We go together

like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong…

Danny and Sandy may have made it famous in Grease, but it fits my husband and I so well.

After nearly 21 years together (oh my gosh, does that make me feel old) we’ve got a system. Especially when it comes to parenting.

There’s stuff I’m good at…potty training, birthday parties, picking out clothes that match…

There’s stuff he’s good at…installing car seats, cleaning up after them when they’re sick, teaching them how to swing a bat, …

We agree on discipline 99% of the time.

When one of us is about to strangle one or several of our children, the other is always. always. calm. There has never been one time when we both thought we would lose it.

When our world turned upside down 17 months, 1 week and 7 hours ago (but who’s counting) by him being laid off we began spending all day and all night together every day. He now works from home and I am a stay at home mom.

That kind of togetherness is usually reserved for retirement. A time in life when, if you’re lucky, you have some financial and other freedoms that allow you to get out and enjoy life together. It’s a different experience when you’re broke and still have four young children at home.

So how has all of this togetherness impacted us? You’ve heard the expression “familiarity breeds contempt?” I wouldn’t go that far. We still get along very well. We still love each other. We still have faith there are brighter days ahead.

But, a break would be nice. I don’t mean the kind of break Ross and Rachel took on Friends.

I just mean a little time away from each other.

We got that this week. Rather unexpectedly. He left yesterday at noon for Chicago and is on his way back now. I’m sure he enjoyed the drive–time for thinking, music, quiet, maybe prayer. I know I enjoyed yesterday! Our youngest went down for her nap just before he left and slept until after the other kids came home from school.

I had lunch, watched TV, listened to some music, played a couple video games, did some housework…for three hours yesterday it was all about ME ME ME ME ME!

Today was different. Well first, I overslept (hearing the alarm would be another thing he’s good at). But, I still managed to get three kids up and out the door in 15 minutes. They brushed their teeth and had breakfast. I’m not sure they put on clean underwear, though.

So they left. It was just Sarah and me. I was BORED BORED BORED! I played with Sarah, did some housework, watched Elmo in Grouchland…

I missed him!

So you’ve also heard, “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” Yup!

Hurry home, honey! 100_9655

So many books, so little time.

Nature vs. nurture. It’s the age old question when it comes to parenting. Our children love to read. Personally, I think they were born with an affinity for books–nature. But, My husband and I have encouraged that affinity at every turn–nurture.

100_4612We began reading to our children when they were just weeks old.

Once our oldest son was crawling, he would crawl to the bookshelf before he would crawl to the toys.

I remember our oldest daughter sitting on the floor with a book when she was 3. She started crying. When I asked her why, she said, “I don’t know what the words say.” Another time, I remember her looking at the title of the book and declaring the letters were all mixed up. (She had realized for the first time that they weren’t in ABC order like the song.)

Our youngest son, was a little harder to motivate. Once he got in school, he was expected to read books that challenged him. The trouble was, in order to challenge his reading ability, the content was too mature. He was in first grade. He still wanted pictures and large-print. Eventually, he found some books he loved and it was like flipping a switch.

Our youngest, now 2, amazed us months ago with her first sentence, “I’ll read!”

Our nightly routine includes family story time before bedtime.reading together cropped for blog

If you can’t read, someone will read to you.

If you’re learning to read, you’ll read to someone.

If you are an established reader, you’ll read to yourself.

Occasionally, we’ll read a book together.

100_1435While many parents struggle to get their kids to read, we often have to tell them, “Put the book down and go outside.” or “No, you can’t read just one more page–it’s time for bed.” A fact we’re really not complaining about.

One of our fondest Christmas traditions is sitting in front of the tree on Christmas Eve reading The Night Before Christmas. I used to read it. Now, I mostly listen.100_2210

We have more than 1,000 books in our collection of children’s books–including little board books to classic novels and everything in between. So it seems fitting that we share our love of books with others. Thus, a new category begins on My Chaotic Bliss: “Books We Love.” Future posts will highlight some of our favorite authors and titles.

We hope you’ll find something here to share with your children and that you’ll suggest your favorites to us.