Sunday, October 28, 2007

Student of the Month

Found on our frig......
Congratulations, Julia. Science, even.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wildfire Update

My mom and Craig were able to return to their home, which was still in good shape. Three families in their ward unfortunately lost their homes. I hope that the resiliency that seemed to characterize many in that situation will carry them through the trying days ahead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Wildfires in California have caused about 300,000 people to evacuate and 1000 homes have been lost thus far. When I read the headlines online last night I called my mom and found out that she and my stepdad who live in Falbrook, an hour north of San Diego, had been evacuated. She is staying with a friend who lives about an hour from her. My stepdad was to meet her there last night. He had stayed to help a neighbor leave, pack up his important papers and his music equipment and water his roof.

They had got a call from the sheriff yesterday morning asking the whole town to evacuate, but by the afternoon the sheriff actually drove up their small road in the hills to tell them to go. By the time he left the fires had jumped the I-15 interstate and the other road South, and were closed. People were being told that they could go through the military base in convoys but the traffic had come to a stop miles before that so he went to my Uncle's house who also lives in Falbrook-- but farther from the danger. So they are both safe at the moment, though separated.

The winds are up to 108 miles an hour and carry embers that can easily drop on a roof and immediately set it in flames, and temperatures are supposed to be 100 degrees today. They are hoping that theirs will be one of the houses not touched when this is over.

It is interesting to note that the bishop of their ward (congregation) called the whole ward on Saturday (before the fires) and asked them each to practice an evacuation drill, and treat the situation as if there were a real fire. After the drill they realized that they would want their insurance papers. They added those to the backpacks of emergency things that they keep next to their door. It is impressive that this bishop was able to help prepare his members this way.

Though we don't have fires here in Maryland, there are other reasons we might be asked to evacuate. I think I will check my emergency supplies in my cars and my 3-day kit of food, clothing and emergency items so that we can be as prepared as possible for an emergency.

And I pray for those people who are suffering now with this fire and hope they will have the support and resources they need to help them get through it.

State Champions

Daniel and Julia came home as State Champions this weekend. Reservoir High School Marching Band took first place for the 4A division in the State competition at Century High School with a score of 85.15. Besides talent, they may have won by sheer endurance. They are gone on average of 12 hours on Saturdays, 2 1/2 hour rehearsals on Thursdays; they perform at all home games on Friday nights as well as practicing every day in class.
Congratulations! Next is the Marine Corps competition and then Nationals at the Ravens stadium.

To watch their competition, click here

Alonzo Stagg 50-mile hike

The official medal for those who complete 50 miles says "A Century of Physical Fitness" Amos Alonzo Stagg 1862-1962. The Alonzo Stagg hikes are held at various places around the country.

Last weekend was the annual Alonzo Stagg hike. My husband David hiked this with the boy scouts he was working with when we were first married. He went 37 1/2 miles the first year, and all 50 the second year--after learning some helpful tips like wearing boots at night when the hike begins along the C & O Canal at 9 pm, and changing into lighter tennis shoes at the half way mark in the morning. The hike can last up to 18-hours, and officially ends at 3 pm. The attendance is usually about 75 to over 100 with the average rate of people who finish being about 15%.

Since then David has been involved every year in running the hike. It takes several monitors like himself who are up all night driving from checkpoint to checkpoint or manning a checkpoint to making sure that people come in, to give water and snacks and record when people arrive.

Our oldest children have carried on the tradition. Kara (who said she didn't know how far she would go, but NOT 50), Erika, and James have all completed the 50 miles. Daniel runs cross country and would undoubtedly do well, but has had a band competition on the day of the hike for the past 2 years. Julia has gone to help monitor. Andrea and I have stayed home to have Chinese carryout and make sure the TV is working properly :)

Night at the Opera

Last week my husband and I attended the opera. And we only had to travel to Andrea's school. The school had received a grant to have a professional singer teach the children about opera for a week and have them perform excerpts. Andrea's fifth grade class performed Don Giovanni by Mozart and made their own masks. Andrea was also one of the lucky children who was asked to accompany on the xylophone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


One elementary school in our county has eliminated the celebration of Halloween in schools. They say it's because about 10% of the children and teachers don't celebrate the holiday. They have opted for a Fall celebration instead on November 1 that would have things like pumplin carving and apple cider.

I've added a poll here to get other people's input on this. I just researched the history of the holiday which originated with the Celtics 2000 years ago, and was replaced in the 800s by the Pope with All Saints Day, and then All Saints Eve. When immigrants (mainly from Ireland) brought their customs to America in the 1800s there was a movement to secularize the holiday and make it more a community event.

I understand that some people in good conscience don't want to celebrate the holiday and don't allow their children to participate. Does our tolerance of this difference mean that everyone should stop celebrating this American holiday?

Personally, I enjoy the unity that trick-or-treating brings to my neighborhood as families come with their children to our home to get candy, but I'm uncomfortable with costumes and events that are scary, haunted, and ghoulish, and I've tried to steer my own kids away from costumes "on the dark side". I decorate with fall leaves, pumpkins and Indian corn rather than witches and skeletons.

Our tradition is that we have always gone to the same farm to get our pumpkins and let each child pick his own from the patch. Then each child carves a jack-o-lantern for our porch that night. We have an early dinner of chili and get the kids ready to go out with their dad--getting their picture before they go-- and I give out the candy and cook pumpkin seeds for us to snack on that night along with their candy.

I'd like to hear your opinion on what Halloween represents to you, and what it's role should be in our community and schools.

For more on the history of Halloween,
click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Andrea started gymnastics last year. Though demanding, she learned alot from her Russian trainers. Because they said they would be relocating, I began looking for another gym. She was on a waiting list for 1/2 a year, and then started lessons somewhere else last year. Those classes are fine, but Andrea missed her old gym.

I found out recently that her previous gym never moved, so at Andrea's insistence we went today to see which class to sign up for. The owner worked with her a little one-on-one and thought she had great flexibility and potential for the team. He proposed to get her conditioned for a couple months and then put her on the preteam which meets 4 hours/week. That may conflict with other activities she has, but we'll see as we go how much we can commit to. I'm glad that she has something she really loves to do.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy B-day, Julia!

People had to wait in line tonight and call back to talk to Julia. Erika, Kara and Grandma Joyce all called to wish her a happy birthday and Grandma Varna sent a card.

Here she is after an exhausting day of seminary and school today --waiting for the requested lasagna dinner to be ready.

[Opening a favorite present]

Julia is a joy to have in our family, and old enough now to give me fashion advice and just talk and laugh with. She always has a smile, but at the same time knows how to say what she means.

My favorite classic Julia story is when she was 7. (I sort of have permission to retell this.) All eight of us were on a plane to California for our vacation. We were seated next to a very friendly young man who talked with all of us for alot of the trip about his tatoo shop. He had the most interestesting hair. It was long, blonde and hopelessly knarled like he had been surfing and swimming pretty much all the time. He had tattooes, an earring, and a very colorful appearance overall. As the plane landed, we all stood up to leave. He shook hands with each of us. When he extended his hand to Julia, she looked at him and said sweetly, "No thanks. I just washed my hands."

Here she is before and after blowing out her 15 candles.

Happy Birthday, Julia. I love you.

Special Editions

I just found out that my books have been picked up by two international publishers.

Nahdet Misr Printing and Publishing will be publishing the books in Egypt.
Sung Lim Publishing will publish some of the books in Korean.

In addition, the following publishers have published the books.

Imagine Nation --book club edition
Doubleday --book club edition
Scholastic Books--book club edition
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans- special client edition

Porto Editora-- Portuguese

Binarupa Aksara Publishers-- Indonesian

Jarir Bookstore of Saudia Arabia-- Arabic
(These pictures are reversed and the pages read from right to left.)

It's exciting to see them published in other languages. The world seems a little smaller when children from so many varied cultures are learning the same skills for getting along with others.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Spending and Splurging

I got this fun list idea from Mendy.

Ways I try to save money:

1. Shop for groceries and clothes that are on sale or out of season, and love to get a good find at a yard sale.

2. Cut my family's hair. The name of my 'shop' in the basement is ITTLEGROBAKK (pronounced "it'll grow back".)

3. Hire our children (or myself) to paint walls rather than hire a professional.

4. Make my own curtains, pillows, chair covers, etc.

5. Buy staple foods in bulk.

6. Buy plane tickets early and then check prices in the interim. I just saved future credit because Southwest's flights are now lower than when I bought the tickets.

7. Grow my own tomatoes.

8 . I learned from our Easter bunny to reuse the baskets, plastic eggs and even 'grass'.

8. Pay attention to prices when I purchase things. Last week I got my grapes free PLUS the full purchase price for noting that they were not marked as advertised.

10. An obvious one: I always pay my bills in full and on time to avoid interest fees.

Ways I splurge:

1. My fitness club membership (but I try to go 5x/week to get my money's worth)

2. Pay Tithing, (1/10 of our earnings) as well as other offerings to the Church. This is not exactly a splurge, but the first place I spend my money. It's something I have always done since I received allowance as a child. It's a great way to feel that I'm helping others.

3. Little colorful decorations and accessories like candles, a serving dish, or decorator fabric.

4. Buy frozen pizza or rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for lazy Friday nights (which is most of them.)

5. Annual get-aways with my husband David, and weekly dates when it fits in our children's calendars. :)

I can just think of 5 here, but I'm pretty sure I save twice as much as I splurge! :)


Occasionally it's fun to see how the 'Learning to Get Along Series' is doing. I found these books on that reference the series.

Safe and Caring Schools, Grades PreK-2 by Katia Petersen (Paperback - Dec 2004)
Buy new: $29.95
Excerpt - page 65: "... Be Polite and Kind by Cheri J. Meiners. ..."

Reaching Out, Joining in: Teaching Social Skills to Young Children With Autism (Topics in Autism) by Mary Jane Weiss and Sandra L. Harris (Paperback - Jun 2001)
Buy new: $16.98
Excerpt - page 88: "... Cheri Meiners, author and mother of ..."

The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney (Paperback - Dec 1, 2005)
Buy new: $14.95
Excerpt - Back Matter: "... a valuable lesson on differences. Meiners, Cheri J. The Learning to Get ..."

Teaching Kids With Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom: How to Recognize, Understand, and Help Challenged (And Challenging) Students Succeed by Myles L. Cooley (Paperback - April 2007)
Buy new: $34.95
Excerpt - Back Matter: "... at home and at school. Meiners, Cheri J. When IFeelAfraid. Minneapolis: Free ..."

Learn More Now: 10 Simple Steps to Learning Better, Smarter, and Faster by Marcia L. Conner (Paperback - Feb 11, 2004)
Buy new: $14.95
Excerpt - page 219: "... Books, 2000. Listen and Learn. Cheri J. ..."

Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2007 (Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents) by Jeff Herman (Paperback - Sep 15, 2006)
Excerpt - page 207: "... Careful and Stay Safé by Cheri J. Meiners. Free Spirit's distribution is through ..."

Monday, October 1, 2007


To start Homecoming last Saturday, Julia and Daniel left before 8:00am to march with the Marching Band and Reservoir class floats in a parade around Maple Lawn. It was a fun community activity.

After lunch, the band played for the football game. Dave helped the pit crew run on with the band equipment and props. The band looked great. The football team looked great, too, but unfortunately they lost 14-7. :(

Then Julia had about a half hour to get ready to meet her friends for dinner before the dance. In an effort to find a modest dress, Julia realized that hers would be a bit different from the other dresses at the dance, but she found one that she liked and required little adjustment.

Here she is with her friends. They ate at Tomato Palace which overlooks the pretty lake in Columbia. It was a beautiful night to relax before the dance.

I didn't get pictures of Daniel, but he also went with a group of friends to dinner. Then about six of his friends came over here to watch a movie for their alternate Homecoming evening.

That night I attended a buffet dinner for 250 women at our church's Stake Center before our annual Worldwide Women's Conference was broadcast from Salt Lake. Many women had prepared dishes from various countries. Dave was one of the men who came to serve us. Kara and Erika attended the broadcast together in Idaho. Their Relief Society had a dinner before the broadcast since it's 6:00pm their time, and 8:00pm here. It's amazing to think of women all over the world who are watching the Conference at the same time.