Tag Archive | Mary Ann Filler

Take a SNOW DAY!

By Mary Ann Filler

Do you have the winter blues?  My advice is to take a snow day with your entire family!

Growing up, winter was one of my favorite seasons.  I remember major winter snowstorms.  At times it snowed so much that it covered the fence in our yard.  Our dog was delighted as he could walk up one side of the snow bank and down the other to get out.  My brother and I would stay outside, as much as humanly possible, playing in the snow, building forts and having snowball fights with the neighbor kids.  Our youth group went sledding at a nearby park where toboggans set the course for a speedy trip down the hill on our sleds.  There was nothing better than waking up to a school closing on a snowy winter day!

As I grew older, my love for winter began to dwindle.  Somewhere along the line, I began to dread winter.  Sure, I enjoyed a brief visit outside with my boys on the occasions that we got snow.   And, I’ll have to admit, the snow pictures I have taken of the boys over the years are the cutest shots ever!!

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OH…the snowsuits!

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Crinkled Nose and Chapped Lips…PRICELESS!!

…But, January and February (for me) were months to be dreaded.

Then, one year for Christmas, the boys received gift cards to our local ski resort.  The giver’s intent was for us to use the gift towards snow tubing (aka sliding down a snowy slope on an inner tube) since none of us were skiers.  That winter we had a beautiful snowfall on March 16.  The next day, Saint Patrick’s Day, we headed up to the ski resort, and I discovered a way to begin enjoying winter once again.

Snow tubing requires absolutely no experience but delivers big on fun!  This may sound funny to those who are “seasoned” skiers, but I thought that in order to go snow tubing there had to be natural snow on the ground.  Once we got there, we discovered another world!  As long as the temperatures cooperate, the ski resort can actually make snow.  I wish I had pictures of that first snow tubing adventure (camera batteries were dead).  It was certainly a memorable day for all!

After that first outing, it occurred to me that the reason that I stopped enjoying winter was that I was hibernating during the winter months.  I wasn’t outside enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air.  The next year, I learned to ski and the boys learned to snowboard.   We made time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the season!

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Ski Liberty!

I’ll be honest with you, skiing can be an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to be.   If you are new to skiing and snowboarding the “learn to” packages can’t be beat!  They allow you to try the sport without spending a lot of money.  Click here for SkiPA, a website that addresses the beginner skier.

Do you have a 4th or 5th grader?  College student?

Also from SkiPA:  “How about skiing or boarding for FREE this winter? Well here’s your chance! Your Pennsylvania 4th & 5th Grade Snowpass booklet offers you the privilege of skiing and boarding 21 Pennsylvania Ski Resorts for FREE this winter – Take mom or dad with you for the thrill of a lifetime – an experience you will never forget.”  Click here for more info on this great offer.

Our local ski resort, Ski Liberty, offers College Days on Wednesdays.   For $35 the student with a valid college ID can ski for 4 hours including rental equipment AND lessons if needed.

Look for the snowpack… as in packages:

There are also deals to be had on snow tubing packages–click here for an example from Ski Liberty.

And February 21 is our resort’s local appreciation day!  “All residents of Fairfield, Gettysburg, Orrtanna, Cashtown, Carroll Valley, and Emmitsburg, MD are eligible for this special discount! Must bring valid photo ID to show proof of residence. Liberty is open for skiing & snowboarding from 9am to 10pm, and from 4pm to 10pm for snow tubing on Community Appreciation Day.” For more info, click here.

The bottom line is that you can find less expensive ways to enjoy the slopes.  Search on-line for the slope closest to you, and look on their website to find the best times to visit.  Many slopes even have webcams so that you can see the conditions ahead of time.  Here is our local resort’s link for their webcams. 

Get in gear…

If your winter boots aren’t up to date, many snow tubing venues actually rent boots!  Also, don’t forget to check the consignment and thrift shops to outfit the kids (this is a great tip whether you’re planning on skiing or not;-).  In addition, if you discover that you would like to purchase ski or snowboarding equipment for yourself or the kids, the fall is a great time to buy second-hand equipment at local ski swaps.

Finally, If you’re lucky enough to have natural snow, get some inexpensive sleds or even inner tubes and hit a local hill. Even though the boys have learned to snowboard, they still enjoy sledding with friends!

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Sledding with the Toppers…luckily there’s a hill right behind our home;-)

How does your family celebrate winter?  Feel free to share your tips for family skiing, snow tubing, and other ways of enjoying the winter season, below.

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If the Shoe Fits… Organize it!

By  Mary Ann Filler

Am I the only one who thinks about organizing this time of year?

As a person who teaches people to think systematically, you might get the impression that organization comes easily to me.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to be organized, it’s just that I’m not a natural.  Before kids, I spent many hours keeping up with my “stuff.”  After kids, my “stuff” and their “stuff” took over!!! Ever since the “stuff” took over, I have been attempting to impose some sort of system of organization on it.

This may sound crazy, but one important area of organization for our family involves shoes.  As a family of five, we have a lot of them!  In addition, I have a son who feels like some women; one can never have enough shoes.  In fact, my son even photographs his shoes.

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

These shoes are getting their marching orders...

These shoes are getting their marching orders…

From the beginning, our boys have been trained to remove their shoes in the garage upon entering the house.  I’m not sure why, because neither my husband nor I removed our shoes prior to entering our homes of origin.  I will say that this habit has cut down on cleaning and the mal odors that tend to emanate from active boy’s foot ware. It has also help preserve the carpeted areas of our home.  But, this practice has also caused strife with having to nag the boys to take their shoes up to their bedrooms and then locate them again when it was time to go somewhere.

It was then that we decided that we should just store the shoes (other than their “Sunday” shoes) at the door leading from the garage in to the house.  When the boys were little, this was not that big of a problem as we were helping them on and off with their shoes, their feet were tiny, and they only owned two to three pairs of shoes in total.  As they grew, they each accrued many pairs of shoes, and we were no longer supervising them as they removed them.  This led to chaos in the entryway!

The quest to determine the best way of organizing all of these shoes was on.   We needed a system that would allow us to easily find and store each pair of shoes.

Initially, I used stackable plastic bins.

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I even labeled each bin thinking that it would help the boys remember to put their shoes in their individual bins when removing them.

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At first, the system was golden.  However, after the initial glow wore off and their feet grew (as well as the number of pairs of shoes), this is what our “shoe situation” typically looked like…

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Okay, I’ll admit that some of those shoes belong to my husband and I. We only keep a few pairs of shoes in the garage; the rest we store in our bedroom closet.

The bins were too small and the shoes became jumbled up, spilled out and difficult to locate.  At this point, I can’t tell you how many times I twisted my ankle attempting to enter or exit our home; not to mention the frustration in locating a pair of shoes when in a hurry.

I had to figure out a better system.  Some of the “systems” I considered wouldn’t work.  Width-wise we don’t have that big of an area at the doorway, and I didn’t want to “break the bank.”  I finally found a 4-tiered shoe rack that was affordable, durable and a perfect fit for the space!  We needed 3 to accommodate all of those shoes!

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack.  We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack. We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I really like that this rack has shelves.  Many of the affordable options that I had considered had open rods for shoe placement; I could envision shoes slipping off the rack and on to the floor.  I also appreciate how sturdy these units are, as some of the racks I looked at would not have held up to teen boys!  This system allows easy access and storage of each boy’s shoes with a few extra slots for my husband and I (although I did have to convince my husband that he didn’t need 3 pairs of back up mowing shoes;-).

I completed this project back in September, and I have to say that it’s the best solution I’ve come up with so far.  It’s so nice to be able to enter and exit our home without spraining my ankle!

Purchasing information for the shoe racks:  I purchased mine at Home Depot.  However, you can go to Amazon.com and search 4-tier shoe rack and quite a few options will appear with prices ranging from $12-$30 per rack.

Ho Ho Ho (LOL LOL LOL)

By Mary Ann Filler

Who doesn’t get a bit stressed during the holiday season?  Of course, all of the stress we experience is not bad, but stress is stress.  A chronicle of all of the types of stress we deal with this time of year is not needed; we can easily identify what makes us crazy.  What we really need is a remedy.  USA Today recently published a quiz related to handling holiday stress.  The bottom line was that experts say to calm yourself during the holiday rush by eating well, getting enough sleep and making time for walking or meditation.  (Kelly Bothum, Wilmington News-Journal)

I think all of those suggestions are great, but I think they are overlooking one amazing remedy for stress: HUMOR!  I don’t want to spend my 800 words telling you how beneficial it is to laugh; I would rather attempt to actually make you laugh.  Today’s post will hopefully offer you all some much needed comic relief.

Everyone’s view of what is humorous varies greatly.  There are those that enjoy a “dirty joke” while others have a more simplistic sense of humor.  A good play-on-words might tickle your funny bone, or maybe a real life funny story.  In any event, my hope is that at least one thing in this post will appeal to your sense of humor and that you will enjoy uncontrollable laughter at some point.  There are times when I find something so funny that I laugh uncontrollably.  If I could give you that gift this holiday season, I would!  It’s a real blessing to see the humor in life particularly as it relates to…

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May your holidays be JOLLY and bright!!!!  AND if you’ve heard any good jokes lately, share them here!!!!

And for more stress relief, click on the previous blog post “The Reason for the Season” by Ruth Topper. Jesus is the ultimate stress-reliever!

The Inexact Science of Parenting

By:  Mary Ann Filler

“Parenting Wordle” created at wordle.net

Have you ever noticed that family members, friends and even complete strangers have very strong opinions about the parenting process?

From the moment the “baby bump” appears, the advice begins to flow about how to best accommodate the little tyke.  All of the “should” and “should not’s” can seem overwhelming for any parent.  Should you nurse or formula feed?  Should you allow a pacifier?  Should your angel be cloaked in cloth or disposable diapers?  Should you leave the house with a new baby or stay cloistered?  Should you make our own baby food or rely on store bought?  When should you begin toilet training? Should your toddler watch TV?  On and on the dilemmas of parenthood go…

When I think back 17 years to those early decisions, I remember wondering if my husband and I were making the “right” decisions for our first-born.  I decided to nurse, but it was difficult.  No one in my family had nursed and there really wasn’t support in our area for nursing mothers.  In addition, my son had colic.  At the time, I remember my very well meaning grandmother saying that I was probably contributing to that condition.  Now, I loved my grandmother, God rest her soul, but the pediatrician stated otherwise.  In fact, the pediatrician said that the colic could actually get worse if we put our son on formula.

My husband and I made other parenting decisions that were, in some circles, frowned upon.  We frequently allowed our son to sleep with us as a result of difficulty he had getting to sleep and staying asleep.  If it weren’t for that decision, I don’t think I would have survived his first year of life!  Still, it was difficult knowing that others did not approve.  Would we ruin his ability to get himself to sleep as some of the “experts” warned?  We also allowed a pacifier to help soothe himself.  Would his teeth be crooked or his speech affected due to this decision?

When it comes down to it, there isn’t one set of “correct” decisions for every parent to follow.  Parenting is NOT an exact science.  Every child is unique as is every parent.  I wish I had been able to smile and nod at the well-meaning advice givers, but many times I became internally defensive and full of doubts as to whether we were making the correct choices.

Parenting in the early years was not a perfect process.  We made mistakes to be sure.  Despite the mistakes, however, I’m happy to report, that our son thrived as he continues to do today.  He gained weight, learned to go to sleep on his own, and gave up the pacifier before it could affect his teeth or speech.  Oh, and despite waiting to potty train until he was close to 3, he learned to use the potty and stay dry day and night.

As our second and third children were born (after gaining perspective from the decision-making process we had experienced with our first born), we were able to relax a bit with those early decisions and realize that we were making the best decisions for OUR children.

BUT, when I think about where we are today with our first son, age 17, I continue to remind myself that every child is unique as is every parent.  We are still making parenting decisions, albeit on a different level.  Should our son be required to work a part-time job?  Should we allow him to drive to school?  How much work should he be required to do around the house?  What are our expectations for his grades?

It’s natural to look left and right to see how our parenting peers are handling these decisions.  In fact, some of our peers may even give us advice, solicited or not.  However, just because a decision is “right” for another family doesn’t mean it’s “right” for yours.  In fact, I’ve discovered that some decisions were appropriate for our oldest son that have not been appropriate for our younger sons.  In the end, the children that we are raising are our responsibility, and we know and love them more than anyone else.

In summary, I leave you with a quote by one very wise Bill Cosby:

“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.” 

Change Your Perspective

(Photo Credit: AP) Absorbing the impact of Hurricane Sandy

By Mary Ann Filler

I am thankful!  I am thankful for many things, including the love of an amazing family, a roof over my head, clothing and food.  I am thankful that we live in a country that allows its citizens to vote for our leaders and worship freely.  I hope that you have a thankful spirit as well.  If not, then consider changing your perspective…

As I sat down to put the finishing touches on what I thought would be my next blog, I just couldn’t bring myself to complete it.  I was writing about meal planning and preparation. However, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and an election that has divided our great country seemingly right down the middle, it just didn’t seem fitting or proper to blog on such a mundane topic.  Instead, I thought that we all might benefit from gaining some perspective.

While reading news items online regarding the hurricane victims, I saw an image of two elderly people rooting through a dumpster for food and was brought to tears.   How humbling of an experience that must have been.  Perhaps there was a time just a few short weeks ago that they had plenty or even an abundance of food to eat.  Then, I got to thinking that for some of our fellow Americans this is indeed a normal occurrence.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Vigliotti, Twitter) Desperate families in East Village dumpster dive for discarded groceries.

(Photo Credit: Reuters) Hurricane Sandy victims are helped by a volunteer to load food and other items from a FEMA and American Red Cross aid and disaster relief station in the hard-hit Staten Island section of New York City November 2, 2012.

(Photo Credit: KatieCouric.com) Jon Bon Jovi makes sandwiches for hurricane victims at his soup kitchen in Red Bank, NJ.

Admittedly, there are times when I struggle to prepare meals.  Not because my family lacks resources, but because we’re spoiled.  Our children have had the luxury of picking and choosing what they “like” to eat rather than eating because they are hungry.  Of course, they will tell you that they are “starving” and want to know when dinner will be ready.  But, in truth, they do not know what it is to go hungry; nor do I for that matter.

Seeing people in these hurricane ravaged areas who have perhaps never gone hungry a day in their life, has given me something to consider as I catch myself “complaining” about food preparation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but my biggest dilemma is what to have for dinner.  Now that seems so trivial and ridiculous.

When considering others who are less fortunate, there are other domestic duties that can be thought of with a new perspective.  For example, when I go into my laundry room and the laundry is piled to the ceiling, I can look at that pile in a new light.  My family is well clothed.  If any one of the members of my family was no longer with us, I would not have as much laundry, but would that be better?  I have the resources of clean water and a washer and dryer.  For many in our country and world, these basic needs are not met.

Photo Credit: David Handschuh, New York Daily News. Photographer David Handschuh explains just how devastating this storm has been for the New York City community. “I’ve covered earthquakes, hurricanes and a slew of disasters both man made and natural around the world for the Daily News over the last 25 years, but the level of damage and the amount of destruction I witnessed in Breezy Point, the Rockaways and along Cross Bay Blvd. is of unbelievable proportion.” Here, some of that damage is seen in Breezy Point on Nov. 1, 2012.

There is another area that I believe we all might benefit from some perspective.  How about the recent election?  Did your “man” win?  As I’m writing this, our country does not yet know who will be our president the next four years.  Regardless of the outcome, I hope that all of you will consider that there are countries in our world that don’t have the right to vote.  Recently, I read that the Chinese delight in speculating whether President Barack Obama will fend off Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but they are more captivated by Americans’ ability to vote for their leader. Their own leaders are distant figures whom they have no way of replacing.” (US Election Fascinates Chinese; some envy voters, 11/5/12, Didi Tang, Associated Press).  We have the right to vote for the leader of our country, and if we don’t like the outcome we have another opportunity to make a change in four years.

Before I close, I just want to mention that one of the greatest ways to change your perspective is to take action.  This time of year presents many opportunities to reach out to others who are less fortunate by giving of your time, talent or resources.  Please consider doing what you can to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings.  For example, to donate to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, via the Red Cross, click here.

In a little over two weeks’ time we will be gathering around the Thanksgiving table and reflecting on that for which we are thankful.   My hope is that you won’t wait until that time to think about all of the blessings in your life.  Change your perspective and remember, “someone else is happy with less than what you have.” (author unknown).

Surviving and Thriving as a New Mom!

By MA Filler

First my disclaimers:  I’m a bit nervous about writing this first blog post.  I have a science and math degree and no writing experience other than the papers that I wrote in college.  In addition, I want to make it clear that I am by no means an authority on the issues of parenting.  But, I hope that I can be of help to you in whatever stage of parenting you find yourself.  In fact, I’m hoping to learn from you as well!  Finally, I am aware that not everyone has or desires the privilege of “jumping off the merry-go-round.”  Our differences in approach and circumstance are what make life interesting!

I blame my dominant left lobe for my inclination to view all sorts of things in chronological order.  So, let’s begin with the new mom stage.  What are some of the challenges that new mothers face, and how can those challenges be addressed?

“The first day of the rest of my life” – my husband and I with our first son, David

My first son was born one day after his due date and just about 12 hours after I got home from my last day of full-time teaching.  I planned to work until my due date as I thought statistics showed that first time babies are generally late.  I thought I might even have a week or two to rest and get mentally prepared.  The bottom line is that babies will come when they are ready.  Unfortunately, I was exhausted going in to the parenting process for the first time.

When boy wonder number one was born, I was immediately overcome with intense feelings of love and, surprisingly, being overwhelmed.  I cried in the hospital while a nurse comforted me saying that “it” would be all right.

What was wrong with me?  Why did I feel so under-prepared to assume this new role?  Perhaps it was the physical pain I was in from giving birth or the reality that I didn’t have a very big support system once I got home.  My mom came for a few days to help out but lived two states away and was unable to stay beyond that.  We were new to our community, and I knew very few people.  I went from knowing exactly what I was going to do every day to having no idea what I was doing day to day.  I had chosen to nurse, and no one in my family had ever done that nor was there support in our area for nursing mothers. On top of that, my son had colic and didn’t sleep day or night.

How did I survive that phase of parenting?  Well, it wasn’t easy, and it is a wonder that I went on to have two more babies after that!

When I reflect back, here are some things I did to not only survive but to thrive during that first year.

  1. Take one day at a time. I remember thinking that I would NEVER get sleep again.  Try to keep perspective and know that all children do eventually learn to sleep (that’s a topic for another blog post).
  2. Make friends with other new moms.  I was blessed to meet two of my fellow bloggers, Karen and Ruth, in a Sunday school class for parents.  In addition, I attended a stay-at-home Bible study group that met during the week.  From those relationships, we formed a much needed playgroup for “the moms!”
  3. Make friends with moms who are ahead of you “in the game.”  Fortunately, just before my first son was born, I moved across the street from a mom with two girls, ages 7 and 10 at the time.  Her wisdom has and continues to be priceless.
  4. Go for a walk or get some other form of exercise.  The exercise piece is critical in mood lifting!  If weather permits, get that stroller out and walk. The sunlight alone will lift your spirits.   If you have to stay inside, the baby swing can be your best friend while you get in a quick 30-minute workout.
  5. Accept help when it’s offered.  For some reason, it’s not only difficult to ask for help, but it’s also difficult to accept help when being offered.  I remember friends and family offering to keep the baby.  News flash…there are people out there who ADORE babies and would LOVE to help you out at this stage!
  6. Take Time for Yourself.  Take a bath, read a great work of fiction or sleep!  Also, for future perspective, read Jen A’s blog post from 10/5/12, The Importance of Girlfriend Getaways. 
  7. Laugh!  Look in the mirror at your unkempt, pajama-wearing self and laugh.  Try to find humor in the stream of urine that was sprayed on the nursery wall (you know I have boys) and the other day-to-day mishaps that are likely.

Note:   If you have a colicky baby, make a recording of the hair dryer or some other form of white noise and play it back for your baby.  It works wonders!

Cherish every moment you have with that newborn baby!  In the blink of an eye, you’ll be moving on to the next stage!