My NaNoWriMo Journey

It’s Halloween. On a day where I should be getting the candy ready to go for trick-or-treat, I’m actually prepping for my NaNoWriMo journey. If you’re online at all in…

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Raising Teens and Tweens

Using humor with teens: It’s not what you say, but HOW you say it

When it comes to having tweens and teens, you never know when or where you’ll find a teachable moment.

I take them where I can get them, even if it isn’t the most…conventional way of getting my point across.

Here’s a lesson I keep trying to drill into the adolescent brains in my house:

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told them this. It just doesn’t stick around for the long haul. So, I get into broken record mode and the girls, inevitably, shut down.

Sound familiar?

Parent vs. Teen Debate: Taboo Tattoos

My 16-year-old wants a tattoo. Sort of.

She’s deathly afraid of needles, so I’m not exactly losing sleep over the thought of her sneaking into some seedy strip mall shop to permanently brand herself.

Still, Miss C. won’t let something as trivial as fear stand in her way. Her creativity finds ways of working around these kinds of problems.

Around 6:40 this morning, I bounded dragged my tired ass down the stairs and Jon tells me he thinks our oldest stayed awake until some ungodly hour to draw on her feet. I could hear the annoyance in his voice.

I think I managed a “Hmmph” as I dropped on the couch to watch the local news. She’s drawn on herself before. Most of the time, I think she does it because she knows we don’t like it. Usually, it’s sort of a half-assed doodle or something. All I know is that it’s too early to make a federal case, so I pretty much ignore it.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

Disney World Tips

10 Walt Disney World Freebies

It really is possible to get something for nothing at the Walt Disney World Parks.

It really is possible to get something for nothing at the Walt Disney World Parks.

Finding free things and activities at Walt Disney World is not a fairy tale. In fact, Walt Disney World offers its guests many opportunities to enjoy something for nothing. And, while many of these things may seem like small potatoes compared to the price of a family vacation, all of them are priceless in their own way.

Top 10 WDW Freebies

  1. Free ice water: Many people don’t know that you can go to any counter service restaurant in the Walt Disney World Parks and ask for a cup of ice water. They may not be huge, but you can get them as often as you like and it’s often just enough to satisfy your thirsty crowd!Water bottles cost at least $2.50 each at Walt Disney World. Even in the cooler months, your family needs to stay hydrated and for a family of four, 2 bottles of water a day for each person will run you $20. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be on vacation and that takes a big bite out of your budget.

Writing (process, tips, published works)

My NaNoWriMo Journey

It’s Halloween. On a day where I should be getting the candy ready to go for trick-or-treat, I’m actually prepping for my NaNoWriMo journey.

If you’re online at all in November, in addition to seeing all sorts of posts about Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays (*sticking my fingers in my ears and humming loudly*), you will also probably see talk about NaNoWriMo? And, you may wonder:

Jump Rope team attracts moviemakers

About five years ago, film producer Joseph Greco watched an online video that captured his heart and imagination: a halftime performance by a southwest Ohio performance jump-rope team known as the Kings Firecrackers.

“I was one of the millions of people who saw a viral video, and as soon as saw their performance, I started to smile,” Greco said. “I then watched it again — and again. Each time I still smiled, and I started to think, ‘Why is this so enjoyable?’ I saw the impact they had on me, on a large audience, and I wanted to know more about them.”

So, Greco decided to dig deeper into the Kings Firecrackers’ history: this talented group of fourth- through eighth-grade girls who grew out of a simple but out of the box idea from Lynne Kelly, a physical education teacher looking to do more than teach ordinary sports skills. As a veteran film producer, Greco knew he hit on something special.

“I became a huge fan, and I believed there was a story there,” he said. “I came up with a basic story line. Then, it was a matter of ‘how do we make this a film.’ ”

Greco’s research, including three trips to the Cincinnati area, led to a script, closed-door meetings and the green light for a feature film telling the team’s inspirational story. In early August, he brought a filming crew to a special Kings Firecrackers kick-off event for the team’s upcoming 20th season. Current and past team members came together to perform and celebrate their accomplishments and friendships. The footage shot during the event is the first steps to making the movie a reality.

“Making a movie takes time,” he said. “But, we want to make sure we make everyone proud when we tell the Firecrackers story.”

‘It’s a story about the girls’

kings firecrackers, todays pulse, jump rope

Tiffany Alcorn, 12, practices one of her jump-rope tricks during Kings Firecrackers team practice. Photo by Marie Rossiter.

Nearly 25 years ago, South Lebanon physical education teacher Lynn Kelley saw an old jump-rope among her sports equipment and found an answer to problem that had been troubling her.

“I wanted to find something where the students could not only show off their physical skills, but their creativity, too,” Kelley said. “I wanted to have variety so all kids could feel included. When I saw that jump-rope, I came up with an idea to have some of them do a choreographed routine to music.”

The students embraced the idea and after their first performance, others wanted to jump in and the newly created team started making appearances at local basketball games. What started as a handful of students quickly grew into an organized team of girls from the Kings District.

“We practice five days a week, two hours a day,” Kelley said. “We offer clinics to teach new skills, which get more difficult each year a girl is on the team. We tell the girls, ‘if you really want it, then you can do it.’ Hard work equals success. Our motto is: work will win when wishing won’t.”

As the team celebrates its 20th season, the Kings Firecrackers has seen its talent and reputation allow them to leap from local high school games, to college auditoriums, onto NCAA halftime shows, then into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (three times) and David Letterman’s talk show. Now, as Hollywood comes calling, Kelley admits a little reluctance to taking the next step.

“I don’t mind the Firecrackers story being told,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s done right. But, this is not about what I’ve done. This story is about the girls. It’s always been about them.”

‘It’s fun seeing all the smiling faces’

As the Kings Firecrackers wrap up an evening practice session, there is no talk about movies or anything remotely related to Hollywood. Each girl holds a list of skills to master and eagerly runs to Kelley and the other coaches to demonstrate their progress. The new season starts soon and the team will move from practice drills to working on their new seven-minute routine soon. The performances keep driving the girls to move forward, work harder and return each year.

“It’s fun seeing all the smiling faces in the audience,” said Tiffany Alcorn, age 12, who is in her third year with the Firecrackers. “Performing in places like the University of Kentucky, with 29,000 people, it’s a lot and I do get nervous. But, seeing them smile makes it all worthwhile. It’s an amazing experience”

Alcorn added how she’s not only developed her jump0roping skills but also how the team has made her a better person.

“My self-esteem wasn’t … I wasn’t very confident,” she said. “But, over the years, I’ve learned I can do anything if I work hard.”

For Kelley, this is the core of the Firecrackers’ success and her greatest source of pride.

“The Firecrackers aren’t just about the skills,” said Kelley. “We focus on self-esteem, take the girls to classes in public speaking and manners, teach time management and more. It’s about developing young ladies who will go on and do bigger and better things. ”

‘A community coming together’

Back in California, Greco said he hopes to return to southwest Ohio next year to begin filming with the cast and looks forward to everything the area has to offer.

“What is so wonderful about all of this is a community coming together,” he said. “The Firecrackers are all about bringing people together, and when we’re here to shoot the movie, we want it to be a community experience. We feel a great deal of gratitude to everyone there.”

Greco could not give a specific filming schedule or release date, but said he plans to keep fans updated on the latest film news via and the team’s Twitter account @firecrackersthe.

Note: originally published this story on August 30, 2014.