Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone, I hope you all had a spooktacular day!!! It didn't seem like Halloween at all, the kids celebrated at school on Friday, and Trick-or-Treated on Sunday. They had a good time, they all looked soooo cute! Ted was a Ninja, Helen a kitty fairy, Robbie was Winnie the Pooh, Katie was Tinkerbell, Grace was Dorothy the Dinosaur(from the Wiggles), and Noah was the cutest little pirate I have ever seen!!! Evan, Sherry's son, was a detective, he came along with us since he didn't have Trick-or-Treating until tonight. We all went out for a little while and then I dropped off Katie(who was complaining), Helen, and Noah, with Sherry(she was passing out candy at my house). I was going to leave Grace behind too and just take the older boys, but she insisted on coming. There really is a science to Trick-or-Treating, you want to get as much candy as possible in the little amount of time you have. This was our second time going out in this neighborhood so I still didn't have a game plan. You really need to have some type of system to get a lot of candy, I don't have it, yet. The kids still got a lot of candy, just not as much as they could have. Well, there's always next year, and the year after, and the year after that.....

I am still fighting off this cold and sore throat, I am looking forward to relaxing in bed with a cup of hot tea. I still have three loads of laundry to fold before I can do that. I haven't really gotten the rest I need, the weather has been so nice that I have been outside cleaning up the yard. I have gotten everything ready for winter, which before we know it will be here. I planted tulip and daffodil bulbs the other day, it will be interesting in the spring to see what survives. My mom was going to help me, this was my first time doing it. She told me of a time when she had planted a lot of bulbs and was very excited when spring finally arrived to see the results of her hard work. She absolutely loved flowers, she would have preferred to be outside with her hands in dirt than inside with her hands in dishwater. Well, she was very disappointed when very few sprung up. The squirrels, something else she loved, had dug up the bulbs during the winter and ate them. I can remember the daffodils and tulips growing up, they were scattered, a few here, a few there, now I know why. I'm hoping the squirrels will leave mine alone, I'll just have to wait and see what happens in the spring.

We went to church tonight for all saints/all souls day. I miss Peter and my mom so much, they each have a candle lit on the altar, in memory of them. I will be going in the morning also, Robbie is reading one of the petitions in mass and asked me to come and listen to him. I would have skipped going tonight but felt it was important for all of us to go as a family. Helen won't be there in the morning because she goes to a different school, and I'm not sure if Katie's class will go. The kindergartner's don't always go to weekly mass because they don't all know how to behave in church. Robbie does a good job when he practices at home, I hope he will be fine at the altar in front of the microphone. I need my cup of tea, everyone have a good week.

Until next time-
Take Care,
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Monday, October 29, 2007

Commercial Web Sites - Like and Dislikes

Happy Monday!

This is a quick entry. It's really just a request for input from you. I've been working on our commercial web site design requirements lately. I want to make sure that I consider your preferences.

So, please either use the "comment" function below or email me at and let me know what you'd like to see included on our It'll Fit'll web site in the way of functionality, support, payment options, etc. Also, please tell me what you dislike on etail sites and want to be sure we don't include in ours.


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Friday, October 26, 2007

What I've Learned About the Weights and Heights of People with Down Syndome

At the DDC's Buddy Walk this year a mom asked me what I'd learned about the body measurements, weights, and heights of people with Down syndrome - based on my research and the measurement data that we'd collected to date. I shared my knowledge and observations to that point. I've recently been crunching numbers and analyzing graphs and because I enjoy this sort of thing I thought you guys might as well.

I've included four graphs in this posting, at the top. They're pretty simple, so it's easy to understand. They are the 50th percentile height and weight curves for boys and girls, with and without Down syndrome, from ages 2 through 18 years. These provide an interesting enough snapshot. The graphs of the wider bands - the 25th through 75th percentiles, and the extremes - the 5th through the 95th percentiles, are even more interesting. At any rate, the graphs are a bit hard to read in the body of the blog, but if you double click on a graph it will open in full screen mode. I'll share a few observations based on these graphs. At some later date I'll share additional insights, if anyone expresses interest.


- Comparing the 50th percentile data, girls with Down syndrome are always shorter than girls without Down syndrome. At age 2 the difference is just over 2 inches, but the difference increases gradually each year (age 4 = 4", age 5 = 4.5", age 6 = 5"...) At about age 12-13, the "No DS" curve becomes more steep while the "With DS" curve remains gradual (and soon after begins to level off.) At age 14, the height difference is 8.25".

- At age 18 the curves have pretty much leveled. At that age, the difference is 7 inches.

- Though not illustrated on the above graph at ages 13 through 18 the 95th percentile curve of girls with Down syndrome runs nearly concurrent with the 5th percentile curve of girls without Down syndrome. So, through the teens years the tallest girls with Down syndrome are about the same height as the shortest girls without Down syndrome.


- For ages 2 through 16, the curve for the girls with Down syndrome was below the curve for the girls without Down syndrome. However, at about age 14 the slope of the "No DS" curve decreases while the "With DS" curve stays the same. So, at 17 years old the weight is the same for both groups - 122 pounds. At that point the weight of the girls without Down syndrome has nearly leveled while the weight of girls with DS continues to rise - with no sign of leveling.

- Viewed together, the data indicate that by age 18 girls with Down syndrome were 7 inches shorter and weighed 4 pounds more than girls without Down syndrome.


- Along the entire age range - 2 through 18 years old - boys without Down syndrome were taller than boys with Down syndrome. The slope of the curves are similar for a number of years. Until age 13 boys with DS were generally about 5 inches shorter than boys without DS. At age 13 the differece jumps to 7 inches and the curves continue to diverge. By age 18, when both curves have begun to level, boys with DS are 9.5" shorter than boys without DS.

- Similar to the girls groups, in the teen years the 95th percentile curve of boys with DS are comparable to the 5th percentile of boys without DS. Though in this case the concurrence begins at age 15 (v. 13 years for the girls.)


- From ages 2 through 9, boys with DS weigh about 5-6 pounds less than boys without DS. Then, at age 10 the curves nearly meet; at that age boys without DS weigh just 1 pound less than boys without DS. The gap begins to widen again and the curve is steeper for boys without DS. So, by age 18 boys with DS weigh 12 pounds less than boys without DS.

- So, at age 18 boys with DS weigh less (12 pounds) than boys without DS. However, there is a corresponding height difference. At age 18 boys with DS are nearly 10 inches shorter than boys without DS.


- Height growth for all groups becomes gradual in the mid teen years and has nearly leveled off by age 18.

- Weight growth for both groups of boys and girls without DS becomes more gradual in the late teen years. Unfortunately, the weight curve for girls with DS continues to be steep and shows no sign of leveling off at age 18.

- All 4 of the DS growth curves we've looked at in this post are steady and gradual; there are no big leaps or dips in those curves. That's not the case with a couple of the more extreme percentiles.

- By contrast, the curves for the groups without DS - with the exception of Girls Weight - become more steep at some point in the early to mid teens. To that extent, the DS growth appears to be more predictable.

OK, that'll do it for now. That's enough fun for one Friday afternoon. (I'm really not kidding. I do enjoy looking at this stuff. That's why I created 20 slides for that file from which I pulled those 4 that I posted.) As I said earlier, I'd be happy to share more numbers and more observations in a later post if anyone's interested. Just let me know.

Hope everyone has a nice autumn weekend.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Critter Phobia

A few months ago I had my debit card information stolen, the person purchased airline tickets to Bangkok. I don't understand how you can purchase something like that with a stolen identity, don't you have to show identification in order to receive your tickets? I have been extremely careful ever since, I have added more security to my computer. Today I was trying to renew and upgrade (I think I'm a bit paranoid now!), it took me all day to figure it all out. I finally got it taken care of, I feel much safer now. It is such an icky feeling knowing someone was seeing my personal information, and pretending to be me. This program I have now surprised me when I tried to get onto Hollywood Farm Girl's blog (Tammy Etheridge, Melissa's wife), and it wouldn't let me. It told me I was blocked because of adult content but I could override it if I had the password. Let me tell you, it was definitely a pleasant surprise, I feel much better knowing the kids won't stumble on to anything. Ted and Robbie love to play computer games, they keep asking for a game cube. I think Santa might bring them a PlayStation instead, I have heard there are more games out there for that system. Along with that will come a lot of rules, I will not let them abuse it. I can picture Ted right now playing it non-stop, that is why they haven't gotten one yet. They have been such good kids, and it's something they really want and would make them extremely happy. I know it will be a Christmas they will never forget, a happy memory, they need more of those.

Sunday the youth group from the Greek church came over and got rid of lots of weeds in a corner of my yard. It took them one hour! I had been putting it off because I knew it would take me a long time to get it cleaned up. I am so happy it's done, and even more happier I didn't have to do it!! My yard looks so much cleaner now. I am so grateful to have such wonderful people looking out for me. I am hoping my kids will be involved with the group when they get older.

Helen has the sniffles and I think I'm fighting them off. I am ready for my pj's and a cup of hot tea. Helen had a costume parade today at school, she was dressed as a sorceress and looked very cute. She is going to be a kitty princess for Halloween, the costume is too dainty and pink for her to wear to school. Helen is not the most graceful, I pictured the costume coming home ripped and covered with chocolate! She goes to Roosevelt Elementary School, they were celebrating his birthday today. When she came home she took the costume off and about ten minutes later wanted it back on! She has the next four days off, my other kids had last Thursday and Friday off, it would have been nice if they were on the same schedule, we could sleep in!!:0)

Last week after the kids went to bed I was folding clothes in my bedroom, my bed is the best place to lay out the clothes. They had been in bed at least 45 min., I had been folding for about 30min.. I stepped closer to my bed at one point and felt something soft. I have a phobia with mice, I don't know if there is a name for it, maybe Critter Phobia, whatever it may be, I have it, BIG TIME! My mind started racing, what the heck is under my bed, I hope it's not a critter! If it is, did I squish it? Is it dead now? What should I do, should I look, do I really have to? What am I going to do with it, how am I going to get rid of it? I don't think I have any more latex gloves, I know, I'll use my Playtex gloves. I can't believe I have a critter!! What if it's still alive!!?! Oh my gosh, I hop on the bed, what to do, what to do!!!! Okay, I'll feel with my foot again and see if it's still there, it is! It feels a lot bigger than before, what is under my bed? Maybe a bigger critter, a monster of some sort! I move the bed ruffle out of the way to get a better look, I see...........a tiny little hand, a hand that resembles his father's so much it warms my heart. Noah had climbed out of his bed, something he does all the time. On this night he thought he would hide from me by going under my bed. Little did he know the sandman would find him before I did.

Until next time-
Take Care,
PS- I don't know what's up with the font and layout of this blog, I made no changes to my format! Sorry if it's hard to read, I'll check it again tomorrow (after a good night's sleep) and see if I can fix it.

****UPDATE: I have tried to make this blog entry similar to my others. Like I said last night, I did nothing different and can't figure out why it so much smaller and harder to read. I have made the font larger, so it's a little easier to tolerate, sorry I couldn't fix it.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

A Great New Pattern Maker and A Bad Shoe Day

Late last week I flew out west to meet with a new pattern maker. If you've read our blog in the past, you'll know that our initial pattern maker left that business and stymied our progress for weeks. The meeting with Jeff - the new pattern maker - was great and very productive. I feel completely confident in his ability and reliability. In addition to his capabilities he taught me a number of things while I was there. He has over twenty years of experience in pattern making, a deep understanding of manufacturing operations, and a real knack for sharing knowledge in an easy, accessible way. I left our meeting exhilarated and optimistic. I think It'll Fit'll has turned a corner and is moving in a good direction.

I have written often enough about the challenge of getting measurements to create a database for sizing. Then, on the basis of those measurements the sizing system/grading rules are developed. Well, Jeff is expert at grading too. And, he's an engineer by education - so he's the perfect person to help me figure out the grading rules. Also, he designs markers. A marker is the layout of the pattern pieces from which the pieces of garments are cut for production. So, a consultant/teacher, pattern maker, grader, marker maker - and really nice guy - all rolled into one. I feel like I hit the jackpot! It'll Fit'll will be so much the better for working with someone this very, very good.

I am a believer in the ideas of karma and a yin/yang sort of balance in the universe. And, so, the positive experience of the meeting with Jeff was balanced with a less positive experience. All of the negative counterbalance for the day was absorbed by my loyal and valiant shoes.

When I worked in Corporate America I wore heeled shoes (pointy toes, mules, strappy sandals - you name it...) like a second skin. They were never uncomfortable; I was always sure footed; I enjoy a nice pair of heels, frankly. I also enjoyed flip flops in those days, but they were relegated to weekends and then only if I couldn't go barefoot. However, since I left that world, my flip flop to fancy/heeled shoes ratio is inversed. And I'm no longer so adept at wearing heeled shoes as I once was.

As I headed out of the house for my flight to meet with Jeff, I slipped on one of my favorite pair of "work shoes" - burnt sienna colored Anne Klein heels, moderately pointed toes, a little brown purely decorative "T" strap near the toes. Given my lack of recent practice wearing such shoes, combined with a very long walk from the parking garage to the gate, I had quite a blister once on the plane. I asked the flight attendant for a band-aid and moaned about my shoes having given me a blister. She kindly offered me four band-aids - "two for each foot." I told her "I hope to be back in my flip flops before I can go through four band-aids."

Well, that was it: the beginning of the bad shoe karma. As I was heading out of the Denver airport I stepped onto a down escalator. I didn't realize it, but my foot was too close to the next step which was about to rise up from the loop/belt. Sure enough, the jagged metal stair rose and sliced the back of my shoe as the escalator descended. It left a big slice and a couple of small gashes in the leather. I tried to smooth it back (you know how a mother's spit can work magic on a child's unruly hair or smudge or what-have-you...) Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it. Later in day, I scraped the other shoe on the concrete step at Jeff's - rubbing the top layer of leather off a couple spots on that shoe.

I began to wonder whether the shoe repairman could work enough magic to make them pretty and presentable again. As if to answer those doubts, the shoe fates sent me one more message. It was past 10 pm. I was back at O'Hare and nearly home. I'd awakened at 3 am that day and was ready for a good night's sleep. I'd just missed the elevator to the parking garage area, so I was at the front of the crowd waiting for the elevator to come back up for the next batch of us. The doors opened and I stepped forward toward the empty elevator - but I found myself frozen in mid-stride. I couldn't lift my left foot. I had to step out of my shoe to free myself. Then I turned and grabbed for the shoe. It was stuck in a channel in the elevator's metal threshhold. I finally pulled the shoe free, but the little black rubber piece at the bottom of the heel was still stuck in that channel. I bent over and tried deperately to pull that out - and felt close to success a couple of times. I couldn't quite pull it out and while I struggled I felt the strong will of an ocean of people who wanted to get on the elevator but were blocked by my shoe escapade. I tried a couple more times and finally surrendered - leaving the rubber heel protector behind. The crowd was pleased, but I was chagrined.

I didn't want to put my weight on the unprotected heel lest the leather on the heel be destroyed too. So, I hobbled through the underground corridors finally making it to elevator center 3, then up to my car, and then - at about 11:30 pm - home. I slept soundly for over 10 hours!

Anyway, tomorrow I will take those shoes to the local shoe repair shop - despite what the fates may have planned. I'll be happy with whatever results the shoemaker can achieve. And when I wear those shoes in the future and spot the blemishes from this trip, I'll be reminded of the positive momentum that It'll Fit'll picked up on this trip. And I'll remember that everyone and everything suffers bumps and bruises and setbacks now and then. But as long as I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I can keep us moving forward.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Getting Staples Out

It has been a crazy busy day, I can't believe the day is almost over. I took Grace to get her staples out, it did not go well. Her hair was caught in the staples so it was hard for the nurse to remove them. We tried holding her still but that didn't work. She was moving so much the nurses had to restrain her, it was awful. After a lot of crying they finally got them out. Our first stop after that was Dairy Queen, for a chocolate dilly bar! Every now and then she would start to cry and tell me her "bleed" was hurting. Once we got home and had some lunch, all was fine.

Last Thursday we went to the Cub Scout Halloween party, the boys had a good time. Robbie is going to be Winnie The Pooh and Ted is going to be a Ninja. When they were getting their costumes on Ted said to Robbie, "I wouldn't wear that costume, everyone is going to make fun of you!" Robbie said, "So, I don't care, I want to be Winnie The Pooh!" I was so proud of him, he definitely has Peter's confidence. I never did hear anyone comment on his costume, maybe because he looks so darn cute in it!! One of the activities was to fish, with your mouth, for gummy worms buried in cool whip, not using your hands. The kids had a blast, Robbie had cool whip from head to toe! Then it was the adults turn. Ted came and asked me if I would do it, I couldn't turn down that face. I won! I was blowing out cool whip from my nose for two days!!!

Helen is still having a hard time listening to her teachers when it's time to get off the playground. She has had a couple of days where she did listen, she got a special treat for it.(thanks DonnaJean for the suggestion) Let's hope she will start to listen all the time!!

We had a good time at Gigi Fest on Sunday, the kids loved getting popcorn, cotton candy, taffy apples and juice all by themselves. I don't think I saw half of what they ate that day!! We stopped for hamburgers on the way home, Ted didn't finish his. I can't remember the last time he didn't finish his hamburger, he is the hamburger king! Thank you Lily for watching Katie, Grace, and Noah, and bringing them to the party. While I was putting things in my car, Helen found the pit with balls that you jump into. I looked over in her direction and no longer saw her so I automatically started looking for her. I looked all around and didn't see her anywhere, I asked Sherry if she saw her and she said no. I walked closer to the balls, there she was, buried up to her neck! She was in Heaven!! Lily and Sherry both tried to get her out, she would have no part of that. There was another little girl Helen's age who was giving her mom a hard time too. They both just laid there, the little girl had her head resting on Helen's legs, and they were content. The other mom lifted her daughter out of the balls, and I did the same. Helen wasn't very happy with me, she grunted and tried to work her way back into them. I was working up a sweat! I finally got her away from them and into the car. We weren't even in the car for 2 minutes when I had four sleeping kids.

It's going to be a loooooong week-end, Ted, Robbie, and Katie are off from school until Monday! Hopefully the weathermen are wrong and we will have blue skies so they can play outside!

Until next time-
Take Care,

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Two Universally Appealing Clothing Features?

Susie and I (and Evan, Ted, Helen, Robbie, Katie, Grace, Noah and Susie's sister-in-law Lily) spent Sunday at the Fourth Anniversary Celebration of GiGi's Playhouse - a Down Syndrome Awareness Center in Hoffman Estates. I'll write a post about GiGi's on Friday.

On Sunday we had an opportunity to take measurements and talk about It'll Fit'll and the pants we'll be launching in early 2008. As we talked to parents - mostly moms, though plenty of dads - I realized that two primary features of our jeans and chinos have universal appeal. The features are as appealing to me as someone who wanders into and out of periods of deep infatuation with frozen custard as they are appealing from a children's clothing design perspective.

Those features are: adjustable elastic in the pants' waistband and fabric with 3% spandex blend. The spandex in fabric provides a perfect amount of stretch and give to provide breathing room when that's necessary.

The adjustable elastic is even better! First, the waistband doesn't look like the standard elastic waistband that one would expect on toddler pants. Instead, the styling looks like standard waisted pants. But there is indeed an elastic band, with buttonholes, that threads through most of the interior of the waistband. The tightness or looseness of the waist fit is determined by adjusting that length of elastic. Such adjustments are easy; the elastic is simply buttoned at a different point (or two different points since there is a button at each end of the pocket through which the elastic runs.) The adjustable waist extends the period of time that a growing child can wear the garment. The waist can be tightened when the pants are first purchased. And the elastic can be loosened over time as the child grows. The beauty part though, at least from my perspective, is that the flexibility exists on a day-to-day basis too. So, on those days that there's been a bit too much frozen custard consumption (or a healthier counterpart) the waistband can be let out a little - again, by just two buttons - and changed back again if the effect is temporary. And, no one's the wiser because the pants look just the same.

In my estimation those two features that are universally appealing. I would love to have a pair of pants or two that give me the stretch and flexibility that the It'll Fit'll pants will provide. In the meantime, I noticed when I picked up Blythe from school today that the flavor of the day at Main Street Frozen Custard is chocolate covered cherries....

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No More Monkeys Jumping On The...Couch!!

We had some excitement here last night, Grace and I made a trip to the ER. It was seven o'clock in the evening, the older kids were watching the new game show Spelling Bee. I had just got done impressing them with my knowledge of words to songs they had never heard before and then headed towards the bathroom to get Helen and Noah in the tub. Grace came screaming and crying(a cry that you know as a mom means she is hurt), down the hallway. I asked her what happened but she was in too much pain to answer. She was holding the back of her head so I put my hand back there to "rub away" the pain when I felt the hot and wet of blood. I scooted her into the bathroom for a better look and to clean it as best I could. It was obvious to me we were headed to the ER. Now the dilemma of who to call!! My first pick was my closest brother who is about 25 minutes away which was fine because I had put Helen and Noah in the bathtub and they needed to get washed. I also put Katie in there with them because she needed a bath also and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it when we got back from the hospital. Did I mention the kids had picture day today at school!!?! That's why the importance of baths! Well, my brother John couldn't do it so I called the next closest brother who is about 30 minutes away, I got their answering machine. Rick called me right back and said he needed to finish his dinner and then he would be right over. It had suddenly occurred to me, and I don't know why this didn't come to mind from the start, my father-in-law is 5 minutes away from me. I told Rick I was going to call Jimmy, and if he couldn't do it I would be calling him back for his services. I got a hold of Jimmy and he said he was on his way. I called Rick back to thank him anyway and he reminded me it was his wedding anniversary. I knew it was, and in fact had thought of them earlier in the day, but now too much had happened and I forgot. How nice of him to have planned on coming and helping me out on his special night, thank goodness all worked out. By this time Grace had calmed down enough to let me know what happened. She had been jumping on the couch and hit her head on the arm rest(it is made of wood). No one else was involved, which was my next question. I wanted to scream!! Do you know how many times I have told all of them not to jump on the couch?, I'm sure you can imagine. I used this injury as a perfect example of what can happen when you jump on the couch! Lucky me to have visual effects!! I was able to get the three kids in the tub washed and in their pj's by the time Papou(Grandpa) arrived. Grace and I left for the hospital and got there by eight o'clock. We were there for two hours!!! When we got back into a room the nurse put numbing jell on the wound and we waited. Grace fell asleep. It was about 45 minutes after they put the jell on, Grace received FIVE staples. She slept through most of it, waking up at the end and then falling right back to sleep. We got home at 10:10pm, Grace went right to bed. I thanked Jimmy for coming and looking after the kids for me, and then he was on his way. I then had to do everything I normally do in the evening, get all the clothes ironed and laid out for the kids, pack snack for Katie, run the dishwasher, and on this particular evening, fill out the paper work and write checks for the pictures. When all of that was done, I climbed into bed around midnight. This morning I had to give Grace a bath and wash her hair because of picture day. She didn't complain all that much, and still hasn't needed any Tylenol, what a little trouper!!

Noah and I were out running errands when I received a phone call from the school principal. They were having a hard time taking Katie's picture, she was teary-eyed and wouldn't look up at the camera. Can I just tell you right now how much I love parochial school, I don't think they would have called me if it were Helen who wouldn't smile.(Helen goes to public school). I went over to the school after Noah and I came home and unloaded the car. I took Katie up to the gym for her picture. Ted's class was lined up waiting their turn. From what I could see I think he took a good picture. We saw Robbie while we were there too, his classroom is directly across from the gym, Noah was in heaven. He really misses everyone during the day, he is always asking where they are. Katie was last in line, which worked out perfectly because there was nobody else around. She didn't smile, but she did look into the camera. I'll take anything I can get when it comes to her picture, you should see the one from last year, anything is better than that one! I have all of the kids 8x10's lined on one wall in my bedroom, a wall of smiles, all but one. Katie is pouting in her picture!

Helen is getting into trouble at school, she will not get off the playground when it is time to go back inside. I don't know what to do, I talk to her every morning before school, when she gets home from school, and at bedtime about the importance of listening to her teachers. I talk to her about getting off the playground when the teachers tell her to and why it's so important. Nothing has seemed to work, so if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share. Click on the word comment at the bottom of my post and it will guide you from there.

Grace has just complained of her stitches hurting so I'm off to get Tylenol!

Until next time-
Take Care,

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Mini Photo Gallery

Susie's Family: Clockwise from Susie (the adult): Katie, Noah (on Susie's lap), Grace, Robbie, Ted, Helen.

My Children: left to right: Blythe, Alex, Evan.

I've been meaning to post this picture of Susie and her children for a couple of weeks - since I read Susie's post "Jilted By The Tooth Fairy", where she'd written about Katie getting lost at Helen's open house. Susie wrote of her relief that Katie greeted her with a smile when Susie showed up at the office to retrieve Katie. I smiled myself when I read that because I could envision Katie's radiant smile. And, I wished that you could all see Katie's smile as well. So, I borrowed this family picture from Susie so that I could scan and post it. Isn't this a happy, handsome family?

And as a proud mother I can't post a picture of nieces and nephews without posting a photo of my own wonderful children. So, there they are - in the second photo. I took this picture in St. Paul, Minnesota in June. Our summer vacation this year was to Minneapolis. I wasn't up to a huge extravaganza sort of vacation this summer, so I chose someplace interesting and relatively close to home (about a 6 hour drive.) Minneapolis and St. Paul were great! There was plenty to do - lots of museums and parks and a cool downtown in Minneapolis and the capital in St. Paul and the U. of Minnesota campus and a surprise festival we hadn't known about and - yes - the Mall of America. A number of charming bronze Peanuts characters are scattered among a couple of parks in St. Paul. Charles Schulz, who created Charlie Brown and his friends, was born in Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul. I just love how Evan is offering some of his ice cream to Linus. It was a very hot and sunny day. That's why Linus's ice cream is melting, Alex is wearing sunglasses, and Blythe is squinting with one eye. I love this picture because I'm so crazy about my children and this was a happy time in the midst of my grief over Mom.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Our Web Solution: Volusion


We have finally chosen our web site service (shopping cart and hosting service) and feel very good about it. We are going to be using Volusion. They've got a large number of off-the-shelf web site templates with a large variety of looks and functionality. Some are free, some must be purchased, all are customizable. We've chosen the template that looks like it was developed specifically with us in mind. It's a nearly perfect fit. It's designed for a retail operation. It's a stripes and dots design - integrates seamlessly with the It'll Fit'll artmark. We're having it customized to change the colors so that they're compatible with our artmark. Also, the layout will be modified a bit to incorporate our vertical artmark. All of the templates are designed for a horizontal logo.

But, more important than the aesthetics - this web site builder and hosting service offers strong bones. Most important for customers: it has SSL security for safe credit card transactions, it's got the requisite certifications, 24/7 technical support, reliable hosting, great training videos for us (to teach us how to build and modify our site)

I visited nearly all of the web sites in Volusion's current customer gallery. I was struck by the fact that they did not appear to be cookie-cutter sites. Most of the sites seemed to have their own feel/design/sensibility. I also "shopped" on many sites and the experience was smooth and easy. Since I didn't complete my transactions, I can't speak to the totality of the experience. But, I expect that the order completion, notification, etc. would be smooth and professional as well.

There are plenty of web design and hosting services. Big, recognizable names like Yahoo, GoDaddy and smaller entities who must hope to be household names someday - like StartLogic and MouseWorks. So, there's a lot to evaluate and compare. And, every ecommerce business has their own needs and priorities. I am confident that Volusion is the right answer for us. I can't wait to have our template customized, and then to begin building the site, and then to have you guys come visit us on-line.

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Friday, October 5, 2007

No Patterns, So No Jeans in December

It appears that we will not have blue jeans in December after all. I am disappointed, but wiser from the experience. I have also learned, first hand, the criticality of the pattern maker in the apparel production process.

In the spring, I began working with a very nice woman who was just beginning to do pattern making as a side business. She had worked for several years as a pattern maker for major apparel makers - East Coast-based national brands who evoke a classic, preppy mental picture. That seemed the perfect background for our company, which is beginning with jeans and chinos - also classics. And, as I mentioned, she is a very nice woman willing to counsel and teach me as I began this odyssey. She's in Pennsylvania and I'm in Illinois. But thanks to modern day technology and Priority Mail, geographical distance should pose no problem in this situation.

It's probably obvious that a pattern maker is critically important in the apparel making process. The obvious reasons are the fashion/aesthetic factors. The pattern is the starting point for the look, the fit, the drape of the clothing, the fabric matching (i.e. stripes, plaid, motif matching) The pattern also influences, to a large extent, the quality of construction. But there are other factors that make the pattern maker so important in clothing production. The pattern influences the cost of an item. Since it determines the ease (or difficulty) of sewing/production the pattern effects the amount of time required to sew the garment. Likewise, the amount of fabric use, and therefore a key raw material cost component, is determined by the pattern. A good pattern maker is key to quality clothing production and a good pattern maker is hard to find.

The patterns are critical in another way as well. Until patterns are in hand, development is stalled. The production samples can't be made until the pattern is completed. So, costing can't be finalized, the production can't be scheduled, the fabric could be ordered without knowing the usage quantities - but the order is just an estimate. Having either too much or too little fabric can be costly, just in different ways. The pattern can't be graded (i.e. modified for the smaller and larger sizes) until the initial pattern is completed. Patterns can really hold up the show.

Anyway, the pattern maker came highly recommended and when we first talked, she had just begun to take on projects in addition to her full-time work - which was not pattern making. In light of the difficulty in finding a good pattern maker and this woman's sterling reputation she picked up many other new clients at about the same time. This was also the time that my Mom was hospitalized and then recuperating and then died. So I was, admittedly, distracted and sad and floundering. Also, thanks to my recently diagnosed hypothyroidism, I was lethargic and bone-weary and when I wasn't napping or sleeping I felt like I should be. So, I was certainly not aggressively managing the timing and progress of the pattern development. Also, since she and I had hit it off so well, I just trusted that she'd be doing the work that she committed to do. We'd exchange emails now and then, but the patterns were not delivered.

As turns out, at least one of her other new clients was difficult and time consuming and even discouraging and demoralizing to her. She decided to stop pattern making. She notified all of her clients and began wrapping up her projects. She told me that my patterns were just about done and she'd be sending them and my original samples soon. Those patterns would be used for the first jeans and pants production - and that dress inspired by the one I found in Paris in the Spring. So we'd still be able to have jeans before the end of the year, and still have time to find a new pattern maker for the next product line.

Unfortunately it was a month ago that our patterns were at the top of the priority list and only awaiting the tie up of some loose ends. If I got the patterns on Monday morning, I might be able to manage the project well enough (and by that I mean grovel and beg enough) to have product in December. But, I have finally realized that I'm not going to have the patterns on Monday - or even on Thursday, the date by which I've requested at least the original samples back. It's highly unlikely that we'll have jeans in December. Now I'm shooting for January and stunned that 2007 will have passed before we've got a product to sell. I have learned a thing or two about perspective, given the events of the past 15 months (Susie's husband's illness and death, Mom's illness and death, my health issues.) So I know that missing our launch by a handful of weeks may sting right now but in the grand scheme, it's a hiccup.

The good news is that I'm meeting with a new pattern maker the week after next. Pattern making is his full time endeavor. He's been at it for 20 years. He was direct and upfront about delivery timing. I'm not first in the queue; he's got a pretty steady business so there are a number of projects ahead of mine. I choose to see the upside of that. I know what to expect, what to plan for. No surprises. He also does the grading and marker making. He sounds ideal. He's in Colorado and I'm still in Illinois. I still think working together long distance is no problem. This time, though, we'll meet face-to-face. I'm flying to Denver. I think there's a lot to be gained by meeting in person the first time, looking someone in the eye, shaking his hand, having a frame of reference for that person - not just a disembodied voice. I feel confident and optimistic about this turn of events.

I do believe that there's a reason for everything; things turn out the way they're meant to. So, in the long run this pattern maker interruption will have been a good thing. For now, though, I'm sorry that we won't be delivering jeans in December after all. Please stick with us. It'll not just Fit'll, it'll be worth the wait!

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

All Helen Wants For Christmas Are Her Two Front Teeth


I am going to try something new today, I am going to write this post during the day instead of after the kids go to bed. I have more time during the day since the kids have gone back to school. My train of thought is clearer now versus ten o'clock at night!

I am waiting patiently for a new dryer to be delivered, my old one came with the house, so I have no idea how old it is. My washer and dryer see a lot of action, so I'm sure it died before it's time. My washer is a year old, someone donated it through the church, I wanted to get the dryer that matched at the same time but my funds wouldn't let me do it. My new dryer is the same model as the washer, but looks different. I don't care at this point, as long as it dries the clothes, that's all I care about. It is now the same size capacity as the washer, SUPER!! It really doesn't matter anyhow, I am still always doing laundry! When my mom was staying with me, she would ask me what my plans were for the day, besides doing laundry. She had a front row seat as to what my days are filled with. I told her she was my witness whenever someone asked me why I hadn't called them lately and I told them there weren't enough hours in the day!

Helen is on a field trip today, they went on a nature walk and are also picnicking at a forest preserve. I know she will have a good time, she loves to be outside! The other day it was gloomy outside, it looked like the skies were going to open any minute and pour rain. Helen didn't care, she wanted to go outside and was so mad at me when I wouldn't let her. Thank goodness I had some laundry that needed to be folded, she soon forgot all about going outside. The tooth fairy made another stop at our house, Helen lost her other tooth Monday morning. She had been playing with it all day Sunday, I was afraid she would pull it out then, we were at a Baptism. Monday morning when she was eating her cereal she was very cranky and pulling at her tooth. I asked her if she wanted me to pull it, she said yes. I have never pulled someone else's tooth before and thought I would not be able to do it. She had played with it so much that it definitely was ready, so it was pretty easy to pull out. Now, all she wants for Christmas are her two front teeth!!!! She looks so cute when you ask her to show you where she lost her teeth. Along with a huge smile, she scrunches up her face.

We had a good time at the Baptism, it was for Peter's side of the family. I think it is so important for us to go to their celebrations, that is where my kids are going to be exposed to family traditions. They were all standing by the dance floor watching the Greek dancing, at one point Grace was trying to do the foot work. All the Greek school in the world won't teach them what they saw at the Baptism. As they get older I'm hoping the family will share their stories of Peter with them. I really enjoy the stories my Uncle Brian shares with us about my dad, they are priceless. It's too bad more of Peter's family doesn't include us in their festivities. I'm not talking about his sister's, they have been wonderful to us (I just wanted to make that clear). They had two clowns, one of them face painted while the other made balloon characters. The kids absolutely loved them, Grace had a butterfly painted on her face, it was gorgeous. These clowns are well known around town, they do many appearances. Cuddles and Billy Boy are their names. Cuddles does the face painting, she makes it look so easy. Her finished product looks flawless, like a real painting. Billy Boy can make anything you can imagine out of balloons, he too is amazing at what he does. They are so good with kids also, Noah was using his balloon sword on Billy Boy, using his boy "sounds". Billy Boy just smiled at him and kept at his balloon making. I asked him if the little blond boy (thinking he wouldn't know his name) was bothering him, he said, "Who? Noah?, not at all!" Noah was hanging out by him for so long, Billy Boy got his name! Those two people truly found their calling in life.

We are heading to the doctor's office in the morning so all of the kids can receive their flu shots. Ever since Helen had pneumonia I have gotten the shots for the kids, I swear by it. I have noticed such a huge change in the kids health during the winter. They don't get sick as often, and when they do, it's not as bad. The doctor suggested we do it since Helen is more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. She used to be on antibiotics from October thru April for infections, sinus included, now she gets maybe two during the whole winter.

Well, my dryer was just delivered, time to get caught up on laundry!!

Until next time-
Take Care,

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