Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Cookie" is here!

The first story I have to share about "Cookie" our current foster is a good (but kind-of long) one.  I think you'll enjoy it though.

My mother-in-law is getting older and is in need of some assisted living care.  This is a recent event for her and needless to say, she is not having an easy transition.  One of the things that has helped to ease her mind about the change is the promise of foster grand children.  Well, she didn't have to wait long.  "Cookie" arrived on Tuesday and very quickly Johnnie was asking if we could get her to a store so she could buy her a "big, fussy doll".  We stopped by her apartment last night for dinner and then she insisted we go to a store for that doll!  The closest store was TJ Max and right inside the door was a display of Halloween decorations and costumes.  We three ladies lost our minds at the beautiful girl's dresses on display.  "Cookie", a huge Frozen fan,  spotted a blue number that had ME drooling.  It was a long, hoop-style skirt with opera gloves, a white "fur" stole and many more extras.  It truly sparkled!  "Cookie" gushed and Johnnie fell hard.  After we tried it on, Johnnie said in a firm voice, "I'm getting this for her."  I am glad she said that, 'cause it was such a perfect dress, that if she didn't get it, I would have.

Now the two of them are walking up to the checkout stand.  "Cookie" leading the way in a very expert fashion holding onto the front of the gown.  She was going slow because she realized that Johnnie needed her to take slower steps.  Johnnie saw that "Cookie" was dragging the bottom of the gown a little, so she picked up the bottom and carried it for her, following close.  I followed at a small distance, and could hear the two of them chatting about princesses and Johnnie explaining that this was how royalty really walked, with a commoner carrying the train of their dress.  As I followed them, I was smiling and giggling at the sheer cuteness of the scene.  But what was even better, was watching the reactions of all the people they passed.  It is easy to say that these two made almost the entire store happier that evening!

And, in case you are wondering, "Cookie" found a "fussy" set of Frozen dolls that also made it home with us courtesy of a recent, spoiling-type of foster grandma!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

RIP sweet Ginger...

Ginger came to our home as a rescue.
Ginger was tied up to a telephone pole with a note that read, "I have seizures.  Find me a good home."
Ginger found a good home.  One she shared with us for over 11 years.
Ginger suffered from grand mal seizure clusters at least four times a year.  Usually every six hours anywhere from one to twelve days in a row.
Ginger was on three different anti-seizure drugs, twice daily.  One made her forever hungry.
Ginger was well known at both our vets office and the emergency vets.
Ginger got lost from our home in Tampa twice.  Once was the most amazing event I've ever lived through.
Ginger had a number for surgeries.  Two of them were VERY close calls.
Ginger was known by many as "the miracle dog".

Ginger was the sweetest little girl ever.
Ginger loved to sit on her Mommy's lap.  Mommy loved that too.
Ginger would sit with Daddy in an emergency - like if Mommy was busy.

Ginger was the best at helping foster children get through troubled sleep.
Ginger was the best at helping her worried daddy get to sleep.  He just rubbed her belly.
Ginger loved to run, but only for short distances.  
Ginger loved to walk in very tall grass.
Ginger loved moving from room to room to sit in the sun spots.
Ginger loved mommy's home cooked dog food.  VERY much.

Ginger barked only if there was food around.
Ginger loved to play tug of war with her favorite Bill Clinton doll.
Ginger wasn't a fan of snow, but was a trooper when we moved up north.
Ginger could usually be found in any room her mom was in.
Ginger loved sleeping in too-big-for-her dog beds.
Ginger shivered a lot.
Ginger never figured out how to burrow under covers.
Ginger wore sweaters from October to March while living in Pennsylvania.

Ginger started getting sick on a Sunday.  On Monday our vet told us that she had cancer.
Ginger had too many complications with seizures to make surgery or treatment an good option.
                         Ginger left this world sitting on her Mommy's lap.                                          

Ginger's spirit is missed every day.
Ginger's absence can be felt in the house.
Ginger's Mommy and Daddy are heartbroken.

Ginger...We miss you terribly.  Wait for us or find a way back.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

George the Housewife

The following is taken from a GREAT book that Stacey gave me one year called George the Housewife, published in 1964.

This is taken from the household tips section:

Here are a few facts that bear study by women both married and unmarried.
Four out of ten girls now in high school will go to college.
Nine out of ten girls now in high school or college will work for for a government or in business sometime in their lives.  One out of eight people in the United States now works for city, county, state or the federal government.
Nine out of ten girls in high school or college will marry.
Eight out of ten girls in high school or college will have children.
A woman today married or unmarried has a great choice of work that she can follow.
The higher education a woman has, the less chance there is that her children will drop out of high school or college.
Women marry younger than they used to and usually work until they have their first child.
One in five women with preschool children hold full-time jobs.
Four out of ten women whose children are in school hold full-time jobs.
Six million women past 45 have full-time jobs.  This is a nine times increase in the past twenty years.
Many of these facts prove, beyond any doubt, that if you learn how to do your housework, cooking and washing correctly with the fastest possible methods, you can have time to spare for a full-time or part-time job.

Hey ladies!  Glad for that tip, huh?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Try the Opposite

Sadly my mom had some serious problems that impacted her life everyday.  For her own reasons, she chose not to get help for these problems and ended up suffering with them her whole life.  At least for all the years that I knew of.  One of the things she suffered with is agoraphobia.  This is what the Mayo Clinic says about it's symptoms:

Typical agoraphobia symptoms include:

Fear of being alone in any situation

Fear of being in crowded places

Fear of losing control in a public place

Fear of being in places where it may be hard to leave, such as an elevator or train

Inability to leave your house for long periods (housebound)

Sense of helplessness

Overdependence on others

A sense that your body is unreal

In addition, you may also have signs and symptoms similar to a panic attack, including:


Trouble breathing


Excessive sweating

Rapid heart rate



Upset stomach or diarrhea

Chest pain

Feeling a loss of control

Trouble swallowing

I can tell you that my mother showed every one of these symptoms.  One or more of these everyday.  As a child I had no idea what was going on.  As I grew up, since my folks were of a different generation, we simply didn't talk about mom's "ailment".  So I didn't realize that driving over a bridge wasn't a bad thing, shopping in a mall wasn't terrifying, being alone in public was really OK.  It was totally normal when we took stairs instead of the elevator, my grandma and/or great aunt had to go with us everywhere, you never went to a restroom alone and we never drove on an interstate.

My mom was also the ultimate "say" in all situations.  If any of us (dad included) would have a different opinion, feeling, thought, whatever and you expressed that to mom, she would freak out.  She wouldn't yell or anything, she would simply ignore you, quit talking to you and when that didn't work start in on the guilt.  One of her ideas of "guilting" someone was to respond as if she was physically stricken with "breathing troubles".  I have sat in the middle of countless restaurants when my mom wasn't getting her way that she would gasp loudly, clutch her chest or throat and breathe so heavily that anyone around us would ask if we needed help.  She would continue this until someone apologized or made things right for her.  (One time, I swear, it was over the fact that there was too much baking soda in the pancakes.  All of us tasted them and couldn't taste anything wrong, so the gasping started.  It ended when I called the waitress over, sent them back and ordered her something different.)  Sometimes she acted so impulsively or irrationally that, in the moment, you just stood quietly hoping that she would quit.  Knowing that anything you said or did would just make it worse.

My mom's agoraphobia "taught" us to panic when we drove over bridges and railroad tracks, to never be alone in public, driving on interstates were too dangerous to risk, the familiar was so much better than new, staying home was better than going out and don't do anything to draw attention to yourself.    

My personal "ah-ha" moment happened over, of all things, iced tea...  

We were a VERY southern family.  Southern Baptist church twice a week.  Show manners to your elders.  Be hospitable to those around you.  Collard greens, ham hocks, grits, red eye gravy and it wasn't iced tea we drank it was sweet tea!  Tea brewed from Lipton tea bags with just enough sugar to make you smack your lips.  There simply wasn't any other kind of tea in our house.  Well our neighbors, the Sain's, drank instant tea with lemon.  When I visited them I would get that "treat" and I liked it.  Not better than sweet tea, but as well as sweet tea.  I asked my mom if she would pick me some up the next time she was at Winn Dixie.  Well, let me tell you, it was as if I asked her to pick me up a jar of polio at the store.  Simple answer, "No".  As any good teenager, I wondered why and was told we just didn't have THAT kind of tea in our house.  The psychology of this moment has confounded me to this day, but it was a seminal moment in my life.  It was the moment that I decided that my mom was flat out WRONG about most things.  That her basic view of life was not for me.  Now I know that her "ailment" stemmed for some very real and some very ignored trauma, but it wasn't MY trauma, so I didn't need to act on it as if it was.   It is what I would later come to call my "George Constanza Moment" - that moment when he decided that in order to be happy and successful in life, he had to do the opposite of what he would normally do/feel most comfortable doing.  Well, this was long before Seinfeld, and I my personal mantra became, "What would mom do?  I'll do the opposite!"    

Starting in my teen years, when faced with big or everyday decisions I would ask myself that question and then plan on action...

Mom says to stop shaving at the knees - up the razor went.
In a new town, out of groceries, home alone, staying put - I think I remember a Publix up the road.
Mom wears clip on earrings - hello Piercing Pagoda.
How would mom act with a new boyfriend? - where is the closest Planned Parenthood?
If dad had to change jobs how would mom react? - "Charles, I don't care where we move!"
Would mom stand on a stage and perform? - Dancing, singing, acting, selling stuff live on-air to millions of people...I'll try it all!
How does mom handle conflict? - "Hey.  We need to talk about this."
"Too scary!" - "Where does the line start?!"  

This philosophy has served me well over the last few decades and I am pretty sure I can attribute my life view and personal happiness & contentment to that George Costanza Moment.  I don't really think about doing the opposite anymore, it is just an organic part of me, but every now and again, I'll get an odd panic-ey feeling that I can't understand and have to work my way through it.  But yesterday I had a big in-your-face moment during a conversation with Charles.  One where I ended up being pretty dad-gum proud of myself.  Charles has been out of town for the last three nights.  He flew to South Carolina for a business trip and his co-worker who originally took him to the airport wasn't able to bring him home.  This was not told to me before the trip, it was sprung on me last night that today I'd have to pick Charles up at the Philly airport at 11:30 pm.  *gulp*  Driving into the BIG city alone?  Driving into the BIG, SCARY city alone in the middle of the night?!  Driving into the BIG, SCARY city alone, in the middle of the night to a NEW destination?!!  *double gulp*  But here is the thing, I DIDN'T think *gulp*, DIDN'T react *double gulp*, DIDN'T say simply, "No."  I asked, "What airline and flight number?"    

Old habits DO die.  Sometimes you just have to push them over the edge of the highest bridge you can find!         

Cinnamon Ice Cream

A few years ago I gave into an impulse while shopping at Walmart.  Not really anything new, but it turned out to be a great purchase.  I got a bright red, electric ice cream maker when they were running a summer sale on them.  I got a couple of bags of rock salt to go along with it so I'd be ready to make ice cream the moment I got home.  And, boy oh boy, did I make some ice cream!  I experimented with base recipes and then worked on adding in different ingredients.  The below is my very favorite base recipe.  It is thick, rich and custardy.  Just lovely!  It is great plain, but when I channeled my inner Ben & Jerry, I added caramelized bananas, pecans and crushed heath bars.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  That was fabulous ice cream!


Cinnamon Ice Cream

1 cup white sugar

1 ½ cups half and half cream

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the sugar and half-and-half. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat, and whisk half of the mixture into the eggs. Whisk quickly so that the eggs do not scramble. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, and stir in the heavy cream. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside to cool.

Pour cooled mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Making New Friends

I'm sitting here in my new house in King of Prussia, feeling a little sad that I don't have any local friends.  It's been about 2 months since moving here and I am having a bit of trouble "hooking up" as it were.  I came across this photo that I took of one of the good friends that I had to leave behind in Covington and thought that I might cheer myself up with a blog post about how we became friends. 

When I was a kid it was easy to make friends.  You had lots of great "pools" available for you to meet and pick your friends from.  The neighborhood, school, sports, family, church, summer camps, dance class, etc.  It was pretty easy to have a good group of kids to hang out with.  When I think back to my childhood I believe that one of the reasons it was such a happy one was because I had TONS of friends.  Growing up?  Same places to meet friends.  Add in jobs & parties.
Once I became an adult, married Charles and jobs took us to different cities, I had friends that I had to leave.  I didn't realized how hard that would be.  And ultimately how much I needed to have friends in my life.  I love having the friend who can just walk into your house anytime she wants to visit or knows that a half sweet tea/lemonade from Chick Fil A will make my day.  I am just a happier human when I can call up a bud and meet for lunch or a "quick" trip to Michael's.  I am a really happy human when I have regular friends who meet for Girl's Night Outs and weekends away!  Let me tell you, it is harder to make friends as an adult than it was as a kid.  I mean, using a pick up line like, "Do you wanna come over and play Barbies?" just won't work today.  Even if I replaced 'Barbies' with, lets say, 'Bocce Ball' I can't see me walking up to a what looks like a nice lady, laying down my line and then her saying, "Sure."  The closest I got to actually using a "line" to try to find a friend was this nice girl who I worked with at Michael's-Dawn.  I was doing some work in her office soon after we both started working there and I said (being new to the area), "Do you know anywhere to join a raquetball league or anyone who plays raquetball?"  Thankfully, she was looking for a friend too, and replied, "I've never played, but I would love to learn."  Thus our friendship was born and my new Tampa-friend network began. 

Again we had to pull up our stakes and headed out of Tampa.  I miss those guys and as much as I love keeping in touch on FaceBook, it just isn't the same as being in the same town.  So, I was faced with making friends in a VERY small town in Pennsylvania.  This was a town where everyone knew something about just about everyone and I was really worried about fitting in or finding friends to take to this odd "flatlander".  I think I got lucky this time, because Charles lived in the area for about 9 months before I moved and being an outgoing sort of fellow, he made friends.  Friends that he was excited to introduce me to.  One of them was Linda Bovaird.  Linda....

Charles moved to Mansfield from Tampa.  He lived alone with his Chihuahua.  He took his Chihuahua all around town.  He would even take her into the local bars.  The normal men's fashion around Mansfield is camo, Carhart, jeans and plaid.  Charles' normal fashion was khakis, oxford button-ups and his ever-present Bluetooth.  To say that he stood out would be an understatement.  To also say that his wife's gender was in question would also be true.  (Did I mention that he refers to Kiwi's dog-carrying tote as her "Diva Bag")  So when he told all of his new friends that his wife was moving up soon,  a number of people were kind-of waiting to see what I was like...

One day Charles sent me some really beautiful barn star Christmas tree ornaments that he had picked up from Bearly Enough (a local shop that sells gifts, country decor, etc.).  He told me that I was going to love the owners Heather and Linda.  A mother and daughter duo who he would spend a good deal of time chatting with.  I believe it was the last part of the first week that I had officially moved north, that Charles insisted that we go meet Heather and Linda.  He was sure that I would love Heather, a woman who was close to my age, was super sweet, had a nice family and was a teacher.  We walked into their shop, with our dogs in tow, and met the ladies.  It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes into the introduction that Linda starts telling funny stories about folks around town and she pulls me aside to show me her new, very folksy looking, stitched sayings that she was making for the shop.  There were different sayings-cute, inspirational, classic, but she holds up one to me that she is sure I will love.  It reads, "For my next trick I'll need a volunteer and a condom."  I look at her, she looks at me, I am sure for that split second we were both sizing each other up and then we both just started laughing.  Ta-da!  New friend!  We talked that day for almost an hour about everything, about nothing.  It was fun.  She was fun.  As we were leaving, she walked to the car with us and she confided in me, "You know when you were in Florida and as Charles was visiting and describing you to us, just have to tell you that...YOU'RE NORMAL!!  Thank goodness you are normal!"  I stood for a few moments wondering what she meant and then, "Charles and his dog.  You and your dog.  The stuff he says about some of the stuff you do.  I was a little worried-but you are just fine.  Normal."  I smiled and realized that I liked my new friend.  The mother of the lady who is actually my age.  A little weird, but it worked.

Over our years in our little "hometown" we quickly lost our "flatlander" status and became "honorary ridgerunners" and our circle of friends grew.  But the times that I spent with Linda were priceless.  She has a very bawdy sense of humor.  Visiting her shop was like walking onto the set of the Steel Magnolias beauty parlor-complete with all the neighborhood "news".  Hearing her call out her nickname for me when I walked into the store.  ("Shitty Pants" - I guess from my love of hearing and telling goofy stories about people pooping themselves.  Oddly, working in retail you see A LOT of that!)  Learning from her some truly northern ways of doing things helped me navigate my new lifestyle.  But most of all I value our talks.  Always filled with laughter, the repeat stories that we'd forgotten that we'd shared and our true love of life. 

So, I've been working and wondering on the KoP friend-meeting strategy.  But mostly I've been feeling homesick, just missing the company of my friends.        

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You think that the dryer is bad...?!

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a toddler teacher more than hearing the words, "Where are so-and-so's socks?"  You may wonder why, but when socks go missing, it is our job to locate them.  If we don't before the day is over, we have parents showing up wanting to take their child home WITH the socks they came with. 
(Go figure...)

We spend quite a lot of time talking about darned socks in our classroom:
    -What did you do with your socks?
    -Did she have on pink socks today?
    -Were they ALL pink or just pink on the toes?
    -Where is  your other sock?
    -Please don't play with your socks.
    -Where did your socks go?
    -Who's one sock is that in the middle of the floor?
    -Are these your socks?
    -How did we end up with extra socks at the end of the day? 
    -Please put your socks in your cubby.
It seems never ending.

We've tried making the kids keep their shoes and socks on at all times. 
Yeah.  That worked really well...

We've tried repeating over and over to the kids for them to remember to put their shoes and socks in cubbies when they come off of feet. 
That generally works for the older kids only.  When they're in a good mood...

We've tried only allowing kids to take off shoes and socks upon arrival,  time out if we catch anyone with shoes and socks off, praise and/or treats for kids who find and return lost socks in the room...but still there seems to be lost socks every day!! 

It is so embarrassing at the end of the day when you have to tell a parent that we cannot find so-and-so's sock(s).  Honestly, we feel like terrible teachers for not being able to keep track of something as common as socks.  To any parent out there who has had to hear from their child's teacher that they cannot find their socks, trust me-we've looked!  High and low.  Possibly all day long.  More than likely all the teachers have looked.  We've also probably offered some kind of reward treat to any child who locates the missing sock(s).   We may try to offer you a pair from our  "emergency sock" stash to try to appease you that we simply cannot locate that special pair of socks that said "Saturday" on them.   And know for certain that we have asked both ourselves and each other numerous times, "Honestly. Why can't so-and-so just keep their socks on their feet?!!"

The Sock Hunts in our Toddler Room are legendary.  Sometimes they last for days.  Most socks are found, but sadly, we have lost some good socks through the years.  When the calls goes out that there is a sock missing, we all know to start at the cubbies.  Usually a child will have good intentions of putting their socks in their own cubby, but they simply miss.  So the cubbies on either side of so-and-so's cubby is checked.  Then the cubby search expands.  Once we've looked through each cubby, including all bags, totes, shoes and bedding we move into the room.  We check out the dress up area next-it is really easy to scoop up a sock with a fairy costume or a construction worker vest.  Just last week I found a pair of socks put on the feet of one of the doll babies.  If no sock shows up, we'll enlist the help of other teachers or  the kids themselves.  The climbing rainbow is another spot that socks get stuck in.  We will run our hands down in the creases of the steps.  If we only pull out puzzle pieces and the missing wheel from the 'Mater truck, then the search continues.  If a quick glance through all the shelves doesn't produce the missing sock, then we have to empty out all the toys.  No luck?  We then have to open up all the doors of cars, doors in the play kitchen, lift lids, open drawers and cabinets in all the play stuff.  We have been surprised many times at how kids and will stuff socks into the smallest holes. 

I am sharing this story because today, after sending a little so-and-so home without her socks for the second day in a row and after having our second attempt to find her last pink sock, on a massive Sock Hunt, Miss Gail opened up the doors of the doll house sink and 'viola!  There, all tucked away was that blasted sock!

In a toddler room that is full of crazy fun, we teachers will take our victories, however small, wherever we can!!