Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Vicki Stracensky - June 20

Happy Birthday Vicki Stracensky - June 20

I cannot remember another time that our weather in Ohio has been this strange.  We experienced record amounts of rainfall last year, had one of the mildest winters ever, and now we are in the midst of a dry spell that has not brought rain for over two weeks. The rain barrels I installed at the end of May were filled once and are now empty.  I have been checking the weather reports hoping for rain as much as I did when I was a kid, hoping for a snowstorm with the potential for a snow day.  Luckily, this week my family read the book, Wise on Weather! by Vicki Stracensky, that provided us with the information we needed to understand all different types of weather and how to be safe during times of extreme weather.

Vicki Stracensky worked at Fox 8 Cleveland television station for 21 years.  She was awarded two Emmy awards for directing the six o'clock news program and the Friday Night Touchdown show.  After her colleague, Dick Goddard, chief meteorologist at Fox 8, visited her child's school she had the idea to write a book about weather for children. She knew that her colleague, Mr. Goddard, a local celebrity, would be the perfect person to illustrate the book because before becoming a weatherman he had been approached to be a cartoonist for Walt Disney Studios.  Goddard agreed to work with Stracensky and when they completed the book it included poems about weather, weather safety tips, and 100 weather word definitions with funny twists!

Vicki Stracensky believed strongly that her book should include weather safety guidelines. She said in an interview with Meet Your Neighbor, "I hated seeing bad stories on the news that could have been prevented. I am a big proponent of safety. If you ask my kids what is the number one rule, they would say 'Safety First'."   Wise on Weather! has safety tips for each season of the year that sparked my children to ask questions and discuss their experiences with weather safety.  I realized while we were talking about the "Spring" safety tips that my two oldest children knew exactly what to do at school if there was a tornado, but tornado safety is something we have not talked about at home. We needed a plan -- a family Tornado Action Plan!

found instructions to make a Tornado in a Jar which I thought would make for a great introductory activity before discussing and developing our family Tornado Action Plan. First, we needed to find a container or jar that has a lid.  The instructions suggested an 8 oz. jar but we did not have one with that exact size.   So, we tried small plastic containers, sports drink bottles, 2-liter soda bottles, baby bottles, and mason jars.  Our most successful container was a large mason jar.
After choosing your container, fill it 2/3 - 3/4 full of water. Then, add 1 teaspoon of dish soap.  
Next, add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the water and dish soap -- preferably white vinegar . (We were out and had to use cider vinegar, but it worked!)
Make sure you tighten the lid.
Shake it up to get bubbles to form at the top.
Swirl the jar in a tight circle.  This was the most frustrating part for my children. They had a hard time getting a tornado they liked. Luckily, after some practice, I was able to get a pretty good twister. 
They were quite impressed with the Tornado in a Jar.  Our most successful tornado was in this mason jar which was filled 2/3 with water.  We added only 1 tsp of vinegar and 1 tsp of dish soap despite the large size of the container.
We were sitting around the table with our tornadoes in a jar and I asked my children what we would do if we were alerted that a tornado was spotted near our home.  They had so many ideas and questions -- "go downstairs in the basement, but maybe in the bathroom...What if we are outside?...We need flashlights..."  It was clear we needed a family Tornado Action Plan.

We decided on the place in our house to keep our family safe during a tornado.  We installed fresh batteries in a flashlight to keep at the location (this flashlight has a built in radio!).  Lastly, we decided on a family meeting place for after the storm in the event that we got separated.
We typed up our Tornado Action Plan and posted it at the location.  My children then insisted that we have practice tornado drills.  This idea ended up being very important because we weren't all on the same page after the first drill.  However, we addressed the problems and had a drill that got everyone to safety.  Thanks to this book and experience we now feel we are "Wise on Weather"!
I emailed Vicki to ask if she could share a birthday memory or tradition.  I am very happy to share with you her birthday thoughts:

Birthdays have never really been a favorite thing for me even though I remember growing up my mother made them special for my brothers and me (favorite foods, restaurant, cake, decorations, great gifts, parties and "King/Queen for the Day".)  Every time they would take me out and sing "Happy Birthday" to me, I would get embarrassed and cry. I'm not really good with being the center of attention.  So with my four children, I also try to make their birthdays special where they are prince or princess for the day and sometimes even the week and luckily, they love being the center of attention.  As for me, I started a tradition a while back for my birthdays that gives me a better feeling than being the main focus for the day.  My friend, Mary, told me about this once and I did it and loved it.  So what I do is on MY birthday, I send my mother flowers and a card that says, "Thank you for the gift of life!" Being able to partake in four miracles with the birth of my children, I can truly appreciate what a huge sacrifice it is being a mother and what unconditional love is all aboout. I just want my mom to know I "get it" and appreciate so much all she has done and continues to do for me and my family.

As for a favorite birthday memory, I have a story that I shared at my baby shower in 2001.  A Dream Come True...Last August, my Gramma vividly appeared to me in a dream. She was wearing her favorite green coat and we were in a small room at my grade school church. She told John, "TAKE CARE OF THE THREE OF YOU IN THIS ROOM!" He said, "THERE'S ONLY VICKI AND ME." She pointed to my belly and said, "NO, THERE'S THREE OF YOU." We cried and hugged.  Then I woke up and shared my dream with John and we thought that would be so cool if I was pregnant since we had been trying for some time.  Well, the months passed and still no luck.  Then I thought, well we had winter coats on, so maybe in winter, but still no luck.  So the tests and the surgeries continued, the emotional roller coaster continued, the faith tried to continue.  Then, on March 18th, "THE EVENT" occured. I woke up singing the song "Morning Has Broken".  We started getting ready for church. It was a sunny day seeing as it had snowed the day before.  We sat up front in church, since I had to distribute communion at that mass. The opening hymn was "Morning Has Broken" of all the songs...that one...we just looked at each other like, HMMMMM...during the homilies for the 9am masses, the children go off into another room for their lesson on the gospel.  The reading and the homily had something to do with figs.  So when it ended we could see the little ones (certificates in hand and some dressed in their Sunday best, wandering aimlessly trying to find their parents). The priest said, "PARENTS, COME GET YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE FIGS." It was so sweet.  After mass, we head to the cemetery to see Gramma on what would have been her 83rd birthday. On the way, we talked about how cute the little ones were and how "I WANTED A PRECIOUS LITTLE FIG!" Praying in front of Gramma's entombment, I broke down crying (which seemed to be a steady reoccurrence during the past two years).  John held me and said, "DON'T WORRY, IT WILL ALL WORK OUT."  That night (Gramma's birthday, the day after the snowy St. Patrick's Day (green coat) the dream came true.  We found out that I was pregnant!!! A coincidence? A fluke? A deeper, special sign? We choose to believe the latter and from that moment on, our lives revolved around "PRESH"...short for "PRECIOUS LITTLE FIG" since we wanted to be surprised if PRESH was a boy or girl.  From seeing PRESH for the first time on the ultrasound to hearing PRESH for the first time with a heartbeat, we believe that dreams do come true and we are thankful for this awesome miracle.  May all your dreams come true!!!

We named our PRESH, Matthew which means "Gift of the Lord" and yes, he truly is an awesome gift.  He was born on St. Barbara's feast day. My mom's name is Barbara and St. Barbara is the patron saint of lightning. My next son was born on the anniversary of when the Titanic struck the iceberg. My daughter (Yeah, a girl I finally got to name after my Gramma!!!) was born on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. My youngest son was born on the first day of Spring. They all have a special story to tell for their birthdays.  So as I turn 45 this year, I don't need any "Happy Birthday" songs or gifts. I was blessed with the gift that keeps on giving....the best gift I could ever have dreamed of...the gift of Motherhood and it is a gift I cherish and am thankful for every day of my life!!!

Wise on Weather is available on


1. Wise on Weather Website
2. Radio Interview with Vicki Stracensky

Check out this video interview with Vicki Stracensky:


  1. Great minds think alike! I have a tornado in a jar post ready to go for Tuesday and we loved doing it! We didn't do the action plan though - I think we better!

    1. I stopped by Reading Confetti to check it out, but it wasn't up yet! I totally agree -- Great Minds :)

      The action plan worked out really well. I think we have to do a Fire Safety Action Plan next!

  2. I'm going to try that tornado in a jar! I just love the picture of your son looking at it!

    1. Thank you Iza! It was quite fun -- once we figured out the best container!

  3. VERY COOL!! My kids love doing stuff like this! My b-day is June 20th too!!! =)

    1. Happy Birthday!!! Hope you, too have an awesome day!

    2. Happy Birthday Kristin! Hope you have a great day!


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