Archive for July, 2011

The Accidental Hostess

Hosting the Ocean

Loved July!  It was jam-packed from the get-go and is wrapping up just the same.  Most of what was planned was, well, planned.  Whether that was our huge annual 4th of July celebration and family reunion, an extended stay of my niece from Arizona, or one of the several rehearsals and/or productions my kids were in…all on the schedule. One thing that wasn’t, our families cultural immersion with a young lady from Lyon, France named Océane.  Read More…

Late last month, a fairly new acquaintance had shot me an email asking whether I knew of any girl teenagers that she could hook up with a foreign exchange student that she was hosting for 3 weeks in July.  Of course, I do…I told her I’d just check with them (my 14 and 16 year old daughters).  Being as though it was our crazy fun-filled month, I thought I should give them a heads up, we’d/they’d be doing a bit of entertaining for a stranger from a faraway land.

Océane is a beautiful, dark long-haired and olive skinned, quiet and polite petite girl…skinny and stylish.  Ready, willing and excited to experience life in the United States.  Though well-traveled throughout Europe, this was her first trip to the U.S.

Two days after her arrival, she met the girls and off they went: a day at Six Flags Great America!  How’s that for immersing her into our culture?  Where else can you meet a bunch of superheros (Batman, Superman….) plus,  Bugs Bunny and the gang; eat way overpriced “fair” food; go surfing; witness unique fashions; ride extreme amusement rides.  ‘Tis America at it’s greatest!

She hung out with the girls on occasion.  My thought was that we would entertain her, perhaps a couple times a week.  Granted, the host family consisted of a married couple and their two young children, plus one on the way, though, it became apparent to me about halfway through her visit that we pretty much were  her only access to entertainment.  With the extreme hot weather, pregnant mom, small kids, plus a working dad, venturing out of the host family’s home was not much of an option.  I guess I was free to be a surrogate host mom as much as I could around our obligations.

While we didn’t venture any further west than Oconomowoc (fun day of boating, swimming and tubing), or north than Milwaukee (jamming in a crash tour of the city via the beautiful lakefront), she did get to experience crewing for a race on a large sail boat, and watch the series of Harry Potter movies and taste my incredible stovetop popcorn!  And what could be more exciting than riding shotgun in our old rusted minivan with my new 16 year old driver in the house , picking up and dropping off her younger siblings?

Truth is, I have had the fleeting thought of perhaps taking in a foster child or a foreign exchange student.  I may have mentioned it once or twice, probably not too seriously, to my husband.  I think we both concluded we really wouldn’t feel comfortable with a stranger in our home.  Our house is “strange” enough! Could anyone even tolerate our crazy family antics?  Swear, it is NEVER quiet around here.

I found myself, kids, (and neices) bonding with Océane.  I loved listening to my nieces (both having taken French class) attempt to dialog in French with her. Océane’s passion for photography was intense.  Her photos are amazing.  My kids loved the fact that Océane desired to eat at  McDonald’s, a lot!  We indulged her in Big Mac’s and Coca-Cola’s!  Of course, my kiddos benefited, as well.  My stomach didn’t.  Apparently, the cost of eating at the golden arches in France is a bit more expensive than other fast food restaurants.  One she mentioned was called Kebab.  I will Google that.  That’s where she and her friends frequently dine.

So I guess I got a taste of hosting and by accident, quite enjoyed it. Océane was the perfect guest in our house, on a limited basis, as this wasn’t her home base. It’s too bad you can’t test drive potential guests? What if the calm ocean became turbulent seas?

Either way, our Océane experience was awesome and memorable.  We miss her, though hope to relive our fun when we see her pictures posted on Facebook.  Oh yeah, we’re all friends there now.  My first French friend!

Are you interested in making friends with a French gal?  Or perhaps providing a home for a boy from Poland for the school year? There are kids coming to the U.S. in need of host families on a short-term basis, others, a bit longer.  Here are a couple of companies that coordinate these experiences:

CCI Center for Cultural Interchange

ACES – American Cultural Exchange Service


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**it Happens

When the SHTF*

I somewhat pride myself on being a resourceful, knowledgeable woman.  I am alert to the potential of dangerous situations and plan accordingly.  For instance, I ensure that my kids (and their friends, when they are under my watch) wear their helmets when riding their bikes.  I maintain a keen awareness on the weather, especially when the risk of severe conditions are present, and again plan appropriately.  So as always, I heeded the warnings of the dangers of the hot weather this week, yet, my 9 year old daughter became a victim of it.  Read More…

You always dread the call from school indicating your child is sick and needs to be picked up, but when it’s approaching 100, and you’re told your child has passed out in class (but doing okay), you review in your head how it could have been avoided.

Of course, I new about the impending hot hot hot weather.  So off to her theater class I sent her with her hair up, lightweight loose fitting woven cotton tank top, skort, and flip flops.  “Hey, grab your water bottle”, I directed both my kids as they hopped out of the car.  What could go wrong?

Well, as she described, speckled color and black filled her eyes, she lost her hearing for a moment, and when her instructor approached her, she could hear her talking as if into a echoing microphone.  They quickly got her to the air conditioned office, and cooled her down with water and a couple of ice packs.  She was fine, though disheveled a bit, when I got to the school to pick her up.

So cancel summer school at Racine Unified Wednesday and Thursday?  You bet.  Good call.  It avoided other parents getting the “another child down” call.

Time to chill out, crank up the air and/or hit the high button the fan.

**it Hits The Fan

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Purpose Driven Wives

Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Lesley Redman. I live in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin with my husband Tike, and two daughters, Jalyn and Imani. Our oldest, Jalyn, is our cancer surviving hero. From the day that Jalyn was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) our life changed forever. Through the struggle my own family went through, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. It never even occurred to me what a family actually goes through when their child is diagnosed with cancer. I always thought “getting chemo” meant you go to the hospital for an appointment and then you go on with your day.  Read More…I never realized that it is a life altering experience. I spent sleepless nights in the hospital watching over my daughter as the doctors would try to find the right medication to sooth her little body. As a parent, it is a full time job to be your child’s best advocate and comforter.  Over the course of Jalyn’s eleven month treatment plan, we would spend two weeks in the hospital and another two weeks at home while her body recovered. Our experience pales in comparison to what other families go through. Having a child with cancer affects the entire family. The last thing I wanted to worry about were our finances when my little girl was fighting for her life….but that was not reality. With more time being spent away from work and bills increasing due to extra needs, it is estimated that as many as fifty percent of families with children battling cancer will be forced to file bankruptcy.

That statement is not a statistic to me, rather a reality to families that I learn about on a daily basis.

Since Jalyn’s journey fighting cancer, I have turned over a new page in my own life. It is important to me to turn a negative situation into a positive one. I believe that through my family’s journey, I now have a passion to reach out to families in need and make a difference. In March of 2010, I was given the opportunity to open a local chapter of a national non- profit organization, Foundation for Children with Cancer. I am very proud to be the Executive Director of Jalyn’s Chapter, here in Wisconsin.

The mission of Foundation for Children with Cancer is to provide financial assistance for the families of children with pediatric cancer. By providing tangible and direct financial support, such as mortgage payments, insurance premiums and utility bills, families are given a greater opportunity to focus on their child’s treatment and recovery.

We are honored to have the Milwaukee Brewers Wives host the 2011 Grand Slam Golden Mixer this summer!

The Grand Slam Golden Mixer will be an event to remember in Wauwatosa on Sunday, July 31st 2011, 5PM-8PM. Brewer’s Wives will welcome guests with a  red carpet entrance beginning. The community support given by this group of women, has now been extended to help raise awareness and funding for Foundation for Children with Cancer. Guests will enjoy various food buffets, unlimited video game play, and above all a possible opportunity to mingle and play games with participating Milwaukee Brewers players. There will be many more activities along with a great selection of silent auction items! Come out to Dave & Buster’s for  a Grand Slam of a time while helping out an essential cause!

Please visit our event website at

Tickets are limited and available now!

 If you cannot attend, we appreciate any gift of a donation to help ensure a successful event. Our tax id # is 43-1688473

We invite you to learn more about Foundation for Children with Cancer at  Families in our communities where we live and work are in need of our help. Together we can make a difference in their lives. We thank you in advance for your support and willingness to help us help others.

See you on July 31st!

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Best Laid Plans

Seems like the theme for this past week has been improvisation.  Things just haven’t gone as planned, starting with last Thursday’s freak storm/power outage and following through today, including this week’s JAK Happenings!  Oh well, the show must go on.

Without detailing each day, I’ll enlighten you with today’s challenge.  Read more…

Let’s start with right now.  Sluggish, frozen, unresponsive….that describes this 5 year old well-used laptop I am working on.  It has taken me probably 4 times the amount of time it would normally take for me to complete a work task.  Augh!  But alas, this morning as I started my on again, off again work day, I found that my work laptop somehow got infected with some crazy mean virus.  Off to my IT gal, The Nerd Cave, and onto the good ‘ole standby.

While working from home has it’s benefits, it also comes with challenges.  You cannot totally separate from what’s going on, or what needs to be going on which can only be pushed forward if you step in and move it forward.   So interject a few mom tasks and commutes layered on top of the molasses movin’ computer and wala! it’s evening and we’ve got family dinner plans.  Can’t miss that!  Tomorrow it’s  flying back to Phoenix and West Palm day for some of the left over 4th of July family visitors.

Having most of the components for this week’s JAK Happenings e-newsletter, I wasn’t in too bad of shape to take in the Chancery, then another kid commute.  I returned back to “Mr. Molasses” only to realize an ad sent to me today says “June” instead of “July” and the guest blogger’s text is being held hostage as a docx file as opposed to the word doc (2003 version) I need.  Really, too late to call anyone to help.  I was so looking forward to sharing with you the story of our guest blogger, Lesley Redman, mother and advocate for her daughter, Jalyn, who is currently winning a great fight with cancer.   Plus a great event that she and the Milwaukee Brewers player’s wives are bringing to town.

So here you go.  This poor excuse of a commentary and an incorrect ad.  Enjoy!

I am really fine with this.  There are more things in life to get upset over.

I invite you to please come back during the week and I’ll post Lesley’s blog.

And by the way, Pleasant Prairie Family Days is taking place JULY 23rd and 24th.  Looks like someone else might’ve had a challenging day, too?!  I’ll be calling the graphic artist in the mornin’.

Stay tuned….

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