Life & Balance by Carolyn Serpe

Life & Balance by Carolyn Serpe

Carolyn Serpe is a Kenosha native who’s family owns The Lettering Machine in Downtown Kenosha. She has been manager for the shop since her parents purchased it from the previous owners back in 2002. Carolyn is a Mom to 3 beautiful girls and a wife for 10 years to her handsome husband Chris. Welcome to her crazy journey in life and read all about how she tries to balance it all.

Starting out the new year strong

   2022!!  It is here!!  How was your New Year’s Eve?  Did you do anything special?  I remember the days when we would get dressed up and go out to party till the sun came up the next day.  Although I miss those days sometimes and cherish all the memories, there is something about waking up in the new year without a hangover! LOL!  In adulthood we have had many different kinds of NYE celebrations.  From game night to kids running everywhere to our newest…balloon night.

    I am a pinterest fan and saw this idea to help make this NYE super fun for the kids…but made mommy exhausted!  This was the first year that all the girls understood what the holiday was so we wanted to make it fun and special.  Sooo, we blew up balloons and labeled them with random times and a little note inside each.  Unfortunately, I wrote all the times upside down and didn’t realize it till the second to last balloon…ugh!  But I love that our girls didn’t care.  They were just so excited to see what secret message each balloon held.  We had all types of fun things planned, like pick a name and dress that person in comfy clothes for the rest of the night.  They also got to make their own party hats and noisemakers, have a glow stick dance party, enjoy a picnic in the blow up tent and play a couple fun games.  Even though we only made it to 11:00, we had so much fun and it was a great way to close out 2021.

    From there the hard parts started.  In our home, we decided that the older girls were ready to get their rooms redone, repainted and reorganized into “Big Girl Rooms”.  TEAR! 🙁  That meant hours of cleaning, organizing, painting and decorating.   At this moment we are almost done, whew!  Then we tackle the basement and resetting calendars and chore lists and the addition of soccer, piano, gymnastics.  We got this!     

    Now on the business front, at The Lettering Machine, we like to start every year with fresh eyes, goals and hopes.  Goals that push us further each year with our growth.  This year we actually have “fresh eyes” with our new marketing intern who is already ROCKING it and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.  We put together a business plan for the year that breaks down into weeks, months and quarters.  This includes sales goals, production goals, marketing goals etc.  Planning has always been my favorite part of the year, but executing is the important part.  

    Needless to say we are very excited to get 2022 underway and see if we can make it an amazing year!

    What plans do you have for the new year?  Are you excited or dreading 2022?

Thanks for reading 🙂

-Carolyn-

 

Check out the webstore options at theletteringmachine.com
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 1/13/23 issue of Smart Reader)


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As We Come To An End

The year 2021 started with tons of hope, anticipation and goals.  Hope that this year will be better than the last.  Anticipation of all things wonderful happening.  Goals to get in better shape and stick to schedules and plans and commitments.  As we look back on 2021, we wonder if we made the best out of the trip around the sun that our bodies, hearts and souls took.  Did we make ourselves proud?   

I think that myself and my family did the best we could…and that is all we can ask for.  The best of ourselves.  Callie jumped into competitive soccer.  She was separated from her soccer friends and on a brand new team that was 1-2 years older than her.  Although nervous, she gave it her all, soaked in everything she could and excelled.  Clara started piano lessons and discovered a passion.  She practices 1-2 times per day and loves her instructor.  Her self-confidence has grown and she has truly succeeded in growing her talent.  Charlie excitedly sprinted into 3K at SJCA!  She is learning how to be a good friend and keeping up with the 4Kers wonderfully.
Chris and I made it through yet another difficult year of COVID, politics, stress, anxiety and some health issues; but also fun, love, happiness and excitement were very present.  Parenting through this pandemic and everything that goes with it is beyond difficult.  Choosing the right path for your family, standing strong and TOGETHER is the most important thing and the hardest.  There is so much information out there and all of it contradicts the others.  We pray that 2022 brings clarity and more and more growth towards a better “normal”.

Business wise, at The Lettering Machine, we have been beyond blessed.  Our wonderful loyal customers have stuck with us through growing pains and COVID pains.  Not only are they still with us, but they keep spreading the good word about our family owned shop.  WE COULDN’T BE MORE GRATEFUL for our hometown and the families that support us.  We have added to our team this year and couldn’t be happier with those that have joined us, but we are still looking for a couple more people to add to our full time crew!  Please keep an eye out for some super fun new things coming from our shop in the year to come.

    Looking forward to 2022, we each have our own personal goals and hopes, but we are also putting some family things together as well.  Sticking to a chore structure and habit for the kids, more intentional screen time, more books completed by all, more growth business wise for both of us.  New experiences mixed with getting back into habits of old experiences (ie. church).  Fingers crossed all goes according to plan.

Did you make it through 2021 ok?  Was it what you expected?  Are you proud of the year you had?  What are your new year expectations?  P.s. When do you start taking Christmas decorations down?  I kinda always want to do it the very next day! LOL!

Please share! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading about all my chaos and random thoughts this year & HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Carolyn 🙂

Check out the webstore options at theletteringmachine.com
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 12/30/21 issue of Smart Reader)

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Holiday Shopping & Gift Giving Traditions

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday: these are all days that get our excitement roaring.  Even after a full belly from all the wonderful food consumed from 2 Thanksgivings in 1 day, we still have the willpower to keep going and do a little shopping.  

I never really understood or noticed Black Friday shopping, until I met my sister-in-laws!  The first year I went out with them to actual stores, it was insane but fun to watch at the same time.  I was in no way, shape, or form prepared for the shopping that night.  I didn’t have a list of stores that I wanted to go to or deals that I wanted to take advantage of.  Honestly, I was just there to spend time with the 2 of them and take it all in.  It was so much fun, as it always is with those 2.  The past couple of years have been a little different though, as the stores have not been open on Thanksgiving night into Friday morning, so our traditions had to be altered to accommodate those changes. We started to gather at one of our homes and do some internet searching and purchasing, and then shopping super early in the morning.  The past couple years have been even more fun as drinks and conversation flow, and very little shopping is actually getting done!

When we started to have kids several years ago, we wanted to give them the world, as every parent does.  Unfortunately, we noticed the below pretty quickly: 

*physical space in our home was lacking

*we were spending WAY over our financial limit 

*we noticed a change in behavior with our girls

*they were getting gifts from others as well, not just us

So our Black Friday shopping habits had to change a little.

One day, I was reading a parenting blog and saw that they did a super cute gift rule with their kids.  They shopped out of 4 categories:

    Something to WEAR

Something to READ

Something they WANT

Something they NEED
Over the years, this has helped us tremendously to stay focused.  Now, I am not saying that I only get them one item per category, but I split my budget up and search for the deals and get what I can within those categories.  Here is what I mean: for something they want, which is the hardest because all kiddos want the world, they may get one item if it is expensive or a few smaller items.  Nintendo Switches are expensive, even when on sale.  So, that may be the only thing they get in the WANT category, and it may even spill into another category.  Maybe they are pretty set on clothes, so the overage from the WANT may come from the WEAR.

We are very budgeted in our home when it comes to Christmas gifts.  Thank goodness we are, otherwise I would overspend for sure!  We start out with a grand total and break it down per person.  This has helped a ton with the actual shopping.  Now, I am the type of person that tries to get the most gifts per allowance.  By that I mean we look for sales on items that we really like, or we homemake items.  My favorite thing is trying to see how many gifts we can purchase within the budget.  It’s like a fun game to me.   This has allowed us to plan throughout the year and pay cash for Christmas instead of maxing out credit cards.  

Do you budget, or just go with the flow? What do you do for the special holiday shopping days?  How do you handle gifts for your kids?  Please share! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂
(This article first appeared in the 12/2/21 Smart Reader)

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It’s Picture Time!

Fall marks the time of the year where things get colder, leaves and snow begin to fall and all the families come out for those traditional photo shoots for the Christmas cards.  Our family is definitely one of them.  It is so important to document as much as we can of our little family as we know that time is fleeting and things don’t last forever.  Our little girls are growing faster than we ever could have imagined and we just want to hold onto these moments.

Honestly, we do take tons of photos and videos on a day to day basis, but having some photos that we are ALL in together is just as important.  These are the “pretty” photos that get blown up and framed for the walls.  The photos that you post on social media for others to “heart emoji” and “thumbs up emoji” the crap out of.   The ones that make your family look picture perfect on the front of your Christmas card.  But here is what you are missing…

Behind the scenes, there is the mom that caves to the lack of enthusiasm this year and allows everyone to dress in hoodies instead of color coordinating everyone in matching festive outfits.  You miss the little girl that didn’t want to wear jeans and stormed out of the house screaming that she just wanted to wear her sweatpants.  The toddler that demanded to bring the 1 ½ year old dog with for his first photos…a wonderful way to add to the stress that is a family photo shoot.  The weather which was super cold, rainy, muddy and damp that made EVERYONE want to stay home in jammies curled up on the couch with some premature Christmas movies playing.  You miss the husband and wife silently arguing over the need for photos and that they HAD to be done that very day.  The oldest daughter just wanting to get this all over with, but secretly excited to be in the spotlight.
Even with all of this backstory going on, you get to the outdoor location, look at your photographer, and instantly feel at ease.  For us this happens almost every time.  The drama that happens prior is put to rest, the smiles come out and the ride home is back to happy.  Not sure if this happens with everyone else, or just us.  We have been very lucky to have a special connection with our photographers…considering they are family!  My sister, Samantha Vaughn with Bird of Paradox Studios, has been taking photos of us since our little family started.  And now her partner in crime, Stephanie Maack, takes photos of us as well.  They both understand that life is chaotic and dramatic and how much work it takes to get the whole family put together.  They have patience and grace and see your family in a beautiful light from the outside perspective.  They show you what you don’t or can’t see because you are in the middle of it all.These are moments that we won’t forget and are beyond thankful for the talent that our photographers have.  We love you Sammy and Steph!

Have a favorite photographer?  Does your family look like this before the shoot?  Please share! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

birdofparadoxstudios.com


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Will You Remember Me?

         Do you wake up in the morning and know where you are?  Do you recognize your loved ones?  Do you remember how to use a spoon to eat your oatmeal?  I do.  But unfortunately, some people are not as lucky.  One of these people is very near and dear to my heart…my Grandmother.  

    I consider myself, and my children for that matter, beyond blessed that we still have all of my Grandparents with us.  I have written about them all in a past article about the foundation of a family.  This time we are talking about a disease that is affecting one of my wonderful Grandmothers.  Alzheimers dementia.  “Alzheimers’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life” – Alzheimer’s Association.  And boy has it affected her daily life.  

    In a nutshell, about 5 years ago, my Grandmother fell and hit her head.  This triggered a couple brain aneurysms and accelerated her Alz.  She regressed slowly at first, but then very fast.  Everyday that we call or visit, we pose the question, “Will she remember me today?”  “Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias” (Alzheimer’s Association), so what she is going through is not uncommon.  There are many support groups to help those with the disease as well as their family members.  In town here there are ADRC and KAFSI to name a few.  Both groups offer many options for help and support, from therapy/coping groups to events that you can take your loved one to that helps trigger memories and works on their motor skills.  

    The hardest part we have found is getting my Grandma the proper care she needs.  Working with the ADRC and KAFSI as well as some other organizations help, but it is ultimately up to you to make sure that the facility/program is what you are wanting for your loved one.  A memory care wing is very important when you have a family member suffering from Alz.  They focus on keeping them occupied and stimulated.  They also understand how horrible this disease is and have loving compassion for their patients.

Unfortunately, this degenerative brain disease runs in our family.  But fortunate for us, there is early testing to see if we have the gene that carries Alz.  It is not incredibly accurate, but it may be able to help us prepare as best as we can, although that doesn’t take away the emotional pain of this disease.  For the person that has to go through this, waking up everyday with less and less memory, understanding and functionality is the hardest.  Watching a loved one completely change in front of you and eventually not know who you are is also the hardest.  My Grandmother went from incredibly independent, bubbly, interested and involved, to lethargic, complacent, contained, bored and frustrated over such a short time.  Remembering that they were respected members of society during their lives and are now just a shell of the person they used to be, is extremely important.  Continuing to respect them as people is just one thing that we can do to help them through this transition in life.

There are MANY other parts of Alzheimer’s dementia that we haven’t touched on, like financially preparing or things that you can do to slow down the effects of the disease, but those will have to be for another time…when we actually figure them out ourselves and can fully discuss.

Do you have a loved one that is suffering from this horrible disease?  Please share any tips/tricks you’ve got. (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

www.alz.org/
kenoshacounty.org/155/Aging-Disability-Resource-Center
kafasi.org/home-page.html

Check out the webstore options at theletteringmachine.com
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 10/21/21 issue of Smart Reader)

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Webstores, Are You Utilizing Them?

     Back in 2017 my parents and I decided that it was time to test the waters of “ecommerce” at The Lettering Machine.  It was very exciting, yet nerve racking and scary.  At that point in time, our only presence online was email and coming up on Google search.  So this was a HUGE step, and it paid off!

    After tons of research, we decided to first create a general website.  If you do not have one of these…START HERE!  This is a must in the business world.  It gives people an idea of what kind of business you have: big or small, what your specialties are and general information about your location (ie phone, address, hours of operation).  Now, none of us knew the first thing about creating a website, and it scared us because we thought that we needed to know “code” to create one, BUT we found a site that we didn’t need to know much in order to make a pretty good looking website.  What we used is called WIX.com, but there are many different, free options out there.  WIX has great and easy templates to use and gives you the opportunity to grow with your platform.

     Pretty quickly after we set up our website, we discovered how to create individual webstores for our customers to purchase items from.  We asked a few of them to be our guinea pigs and before we knew it, the idea exploded into 20+ webstores within a year!  We outgrew this platform (WIX) quickly and moved to a company that was strictly for our industry.  

    On these webstores, we allow the customer to choose the items they want represented with their logos/designs.  They can then choose if they would like to make a profit on the sales or not.  Once the webstore is set up and approved by the customer, it goes live and is ready to be promoted.  Once orders get placed through the site, they come to our shop to be produced and distributed.

     Little did we know back in 2017, that online purchasing was going to soar as much as it did.  As of today, we have over 100 webstores set up for our customers and more in line to be created.  Those that are promoted are very profitable.  We have fundraiser sites that have raised up to $14,000 and businesses that are turning a monthly profit of around $500.  This way of purchasing became a major necessity to keep a business alive when COVID hit back in March of 2020.  Customers could not come into shops, but were sitting at home, on their phones, bored and ready to purchase.  We were excited that we already had our webstores in motion and were able to help others work to survive this pandemic.  Everyone banned together to help keep the economy going and the small businesses came to light.  Now that we are no longer under strict quarantine, it is still a great option to have both in store and online shopping available for customers.

    Not only has moving to online webstore purchasing helped our customers grow and survive, it has, in turn, kept our shop humming.  

    Do you have a business that made the ecommerce jump recently?  We would love to hear about your experience. (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

Check out the webstore options at theletteringmachine.com
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!

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To Live or to Die…for the sake of a Uterus

Endometriosis.  Adenomyosis.  Fibroids.  Cysts.  Chronic Pain.  Chronic Bleeding.  Tilted Uterus.  HYSTERECTOMY.

  Let’s just get all those words out in the open…even though they might make our readers uncomfortable.  But these are important words that need to surface at some point.  For many women, some of those words have affected their lives.  For some, ALL of them are an issue.  And yet for the lucky ones, none.  I unfortunately am not one of the lucky ones.  Each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 women get hysterectomies

   Female issues run in our family, so it wasn’t a shock that the same was in store for me.  They all started when I was 18 and had to have a fallopian tube removed due to cysts.  From there, symptoms of endometriosis set in.  Chris and I lost our first child when we were 17 weeks into our pregnancy, but were then blessed with 3 beautiful and healthy little girls in the years to come.  Fortunately the pain and symptoms subside during pregnancy, but about a year or two after, they come back with a vengeance.  That brings us to today.  Today I sit here, on doctor’s orders, recovering from yet another surgery.  Hopefully my last.  On August 25th at 37 years old, I had a hysterectomy.

    A good friend of mine, with the same problems, gave me hope and the info for Dr. Park with Aurora.  One appointment with him and the procedure was scheduled.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Because I was unable to carry anymore children, surgery to remove the uterus was the best possible option to relieve the pain I was in, to give me a better quality of life and longevity for my family.  As the anticipation of relief was exciting and hopeful, the sadness of losing that part of me was very present.  Talking with family and friends about my emotions helped me realize that this was important to keep my life moving forward and to focus on all the good that is in my life.   

    Now, recovery for a hysterectomy is 4-6 weeks and as a working mom and wife, it is very difficult to be out of commission for that long.  Thankfully the help and love that surrounded us was unthinkable.  From everyone at The Lettering Machine, including my Mom, that supported this even though it meant that their work loads would be heavier till I came back; to my Dad, Mother-in-law and Grandma who helped out TREMENDOUSLY with the kids, they made it possible for us to focus on my recovery.  Even more support came from friends and family.  There were flowers delivered by Summer’s Garden, a fruit basket, an awesome care box with all my favorites, a notebook to log my thoughts and life stories, cards, texts, phone calls, and an extremely thoughtful meal train that we appreciated beyond words.  Boy was I spoiled!  Yet behind the scenes was a super helpful husband, and kids, that stepped up and filled in for me on top of everything else he had going on.  

    I can’t express how thankful I am for everything.  Have you gone through this before?  We would love to hear about your experience. (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

A Summers Garden

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Marketing in a Small Business World

        Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok on top of email, print and word of mouth…there are so many options to get your business name out there, but what is the best?  

        This is a constant dilemma with small businesses.  How do you start?  How much is too much?  These are just some of the many questions we ask ourselves as we figure out how to eliminate the “Oh my gosh!  I didn’t know you were here?” statements.  Personally, I know of a great handful of businesses that are ROCKING at promoting themselves and others.  I asked them a couple questions about their success and wanted to share them with y’all!

        Let’s talk about Fancy Snacks Charcuterie.  Emily is an old friend of mine and I couldn’t be prouder of all that she has accomplished in life.  From “Rock Girl” to Radio DJ to Mom and now business owner.  Even Though “Mom” is her favorite and most important job, her new endeavor is just as exciting!  While working at 95.1 Will Rock, Emily found a passion, and talent, in making fun charcuterie boards for her kiddos.  This developed into creating beautiful, and yummy, boards for family and friends.  Word of mouth started her business and social media took it to the next level!  She was able to leave her last job and pursue a new passion.  

        So what is she doing that is making her grow so quickly?  Posting!  “I use Facebook, Instagram and TikTok the most…in that order,” she says.  Her posts are enough to make you salivate and order one immediately!  She posts as she pleases, but still pays attention to the social media algorithms.  These are stats that tell you when people are viewing your posts the most, or the least, and you can gage when the best time is to post to get the most exposure.

          By monitoring this, she has seen a ton of success.  “In one year I have over 28K followers between the three platforms I use!” Emily states.  Look for her on social media, give her a follow and be prepared to see what amazing things she can do with some veggies, meat and so much more!

        Another business that rocks marketing as a small business, is Blue House Books!  Samantha Jacquest is the proud owner of this independently owned bookstore.   She started as a small pop up shop at the markets and events, but found such love and support from the community that she was able to move into the incubator space at the Kensha Creative Space building.  She has outgrown this space…in 10 months…and on July 1st Sam announced that she will be moving into a larger area!

        Besides the fact that when you walk in her shop you get a HUGE smile, a great amount of help and a cool bookshop vibe, what else is she doing to market herself?  “Facebook is my most used, then Instagram.  We also make sure we’re connecting with local media outlets for events and big announcements.  The Visit Kenosha visitors bureau is a great help with that.” says Samantha.

        Like Emily, Sam posts as she can on social media, but also likes to plan them as well.  Analytics are also something that she, and her events coordinator Kelsey, monitor so they know high traffic times to get their messages out.    

I know that our family has done some shifting and have been ordering books through BHB and supporting local, and hope that you try to do the same.  We are very excited to see her succeed and continue to grow!

        What local small businesses do you see nailing the marketing game?  Share them with us! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

https://www.fancysnackboards.com/

https://www.blue-house-books.com/

https://www.visitkenosha.com/

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!

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Marriage…10 years later

    That’s right, 10 years!  August 12th, 2021, Chris and I celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss.  LOL!  Well, it is not quite bliss every day.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way!

     This entry Chris is joining me to discuss how the heck we have made it this long, so we should start from the beginning.  In my third entry, we talked about how Chris and I originally met and re-met and how our relationship evolved.  The road to marriage was fun, exciting and challenging.  We started working on our communication early, by reading relationship books and attending seminars focused on all aspects of a successful life.  We were in love and knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and were trying to make sure that was going to happen.  It did work and we ended up walking down that aisle and committed to spending the rest of our lives together.

    The day of our wedding was beautiful.  It was a courthouse wedding with our immediate family present.  They mean the world to us and we couldn’t imagine the day without them.  The actual ceremony was supposed to be inside, but to my surprise, Chris called the courthouse and arranged for us to get married in Civic Center Park just outside.  That just made the day perfect!  After our intimate wedding, we went around downtown with my sister, Samantha Vaughn (Bird of Paradox Studios) to take photos while our family went to my parents to prepare the reception dinner.  We went to WineKnot, the harbor and the museums for some great photo ops.

Upon walking around the corner of my parent’s driveway, we were shocked to see that they had decorated the backyard into a beautiful wedding reception backyard barbeque for us!  Not only did they make sure that we had a custom cake to cut, courtesy of Chris’s sister Jenni, but we also got our first dance and danced with our parents.  The actual day was perfect and we would never change a thing.

    Now fast forward 10 years.  4 pregnancies.  3 beautiful healthy girls.  1 dog.  Our own home.  Full time jobs.   A worldwide pandemic.  Stress and joy.

    “Never quit on the same day” says Chris.  This as well as “Keep the bigger picture in mind” are 2 things that he says have kept us trucking along this long.  Yes we argue and banter, but if we keep these things in mind we can make it through those hard times.   “Communicate, communicate, communicate” is one thing that I feel we are very good at as well.   As long as we are open and hash things out we can only grow from there.  We try to pick and choose our battles also, which is WAY easier said than done.

We have so many goals and aspirations for the rest of our lives together and can’t wait to continue dreaming and planning and doing this thing called life together.

Have you found that forever someone?  We would love to hear your story and what advice you have for a strong, forever lasting relationship.  (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

Bird of Paradox Studios:birdofparoxstudios.com

Wine Knot: wine-knot.com

Kenosha Public Museum: Museums.kenosha.org/public

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
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The Foundation

I honestly believe that one of the true foundations of a great childhood lies with the Grandparents.  They have been down the parenting road before and seem to have a world full of patience for the second time around.  In my mind, they are the icing on the cake of life.

I am beyond lucky to have all my Grandparents with me today.  That means I have 7 people still guiding me through this crazy thing we call life.  Out of the 7, there is my Grandpa and Grandma Swartz (Chuck and Julie), bonus Grandpa and Grandma Chovan (Joe and Becky), Grandpa and bonus Grandma Chatmon (Bill and Patritica) and last but not least, my Grandmother-in-law Serpe (Alice).   They ALL mean the world to me and I look to them constantly for guidance and hope in this interesting world of life, parenting and marriage.  The only thing they ever ask in return is to love them, talk with them and spend as much time with them before they leave me to do life on my own.

Now, those of you that know me well, know that I have no issues talking!  Get me going and we can be there for hours!  Personally, I try my best to at least give my Grandparents a ring once a week to check in, tell them how much I love them and do what I do best, talk.  The best part about them is that they know the craziness that is my life.  So when I think that they will be upset that I have missed our phone call for a week or two, they never are.  They just soak up the 20 minute conversation of “Charlie did this” or “Callie said that” and “Clara is amazing”.

Their support is something that I cherish also, and don’t ever want to live without.  My Grandpa and Grandma Chovan help out with the girls as much as they can.  They pick them up from school and watch them once a week to help relieve childcare costs.  Grandpa and Grandma Swartz also see the financial crisis that is going on in this world, and are trying their best to make sure all their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have some help in that area. Grandpa Chatmon constantly fuels my passion for family history with stories and memorabilia.  Fun fact, all of our girls are named after their ancestors.  These bonds that myself and our girls are forming with them, will stick forever.  I know this because all my Grandparents did the same for myself and my sisters as we were growing up.  Those were some of the best times of my life.  I remember my Grandma Swartz singing to 50’s and 60’s music on the way home from school, or watching Fraggle Rock with my Grandpa Chatmon on the summer days that we got to spend with him.  Grandma Chovan used to take us to all her fun work events and played games with us all the time.  These memories, amongst many others,  will stick with me and are ones that I share with my girls and will share with their children.

Not only have I gotten to form these bonds with my Grandparents, but my Great-Grandparents also made a huge impact on my life.  It was a short but very meaningful time that I had with them.  The last Great-Grandparent passed away when I was 30 years old.  This is why I push my girls to spend time and bond with their Great-Grandparents.  Family means the world to me and I want them to have the same values.

Were you one of the lucky ones to get to know your grandparents, or maybe even great-grandparents?  Tell us all your good stories! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 7/2/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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When a group comes together

Well, it is 11:30pm and I can’t sleep.  You know why?  I am still super excited about the event I just participated in!  Let’s talk about the first ever Downtown Kenosha Wine Walk!

I have worked many events in my life and each one has had its ups and downs, failures and successes, rants and raves.  This event was no different.   The Downtown Kenosha Inc board members crafted this amazing idea to bring downtown back together after a VERY trying year:  to bring the people back downtown and show them that everyone is open and ready to serve them.

Unfortunately, our director resigned t-minus two weeks to the event date.  Although we wished her the best, and the groundwork was laid, there was quite a bit more work that needed to be done for everything to be successful.  The board came together quickly, brought in some heavy hitters that have put on some great events in the past, and got to work.  As an outsider coming into these meetings to help where needed, it was a sense of relief seeing how well this group worked together.  They all wanted this event to be successful, memorable and hopefully able to be the first of many events to come.

This was such a fun time, I want to walk you through the event.  Check in was at The Vault where you received rules, were carded, given a lanyard with your sample punch card and a sweet gift bag!  From there, attendees were directed to either the streets or the street car, thanks to the Kenosha Area Transit for creating a special route for the walkers.  They proceeded to visit 27 different downtown locations to sample and learn about different wines.  At each location you receive a one ounce pour of the selected wine they chose to offer, and get to enjoy the shop or restaurant environment.  Maybe you chose to start at places you already had been to, or explore those you had no clue existed.  This event brought all different types of businesses to the table, The Lettering Machine being one of them.

Our shop has always been more for production.  Not until recently (about 4 years) have we had a proper showroom where we can display our staff’s creativity with fun Kenosha apparel and other novelty items.  We have so much to offer, but this is not known.  So we were super excited that we could participate in this event and gain some exposure.  We had many people come into our shop saying that they had no clue we were there.  It has been a goal of ours to hear this less and less.  We were able to showcase our apparel as well as our beautiful shop and the amazing musical talent of Violet Wilder.

This event in our minds was a HUGE success that would have never happened without all the hard work of the DKI board and members of the community.  I have to gush a little and hold my amazing Mom, Tina Chatmon, on a pedestal really quick.  She saw what this event could do for our downtown and jumped right in to help make it happen.  From early morning phone calls and late night meetings, she put all she had into preparation and execution.  Props to her for stepping out of the box!  Super proud daughter here.

Quick shout out to the Copy Center for being so speedy and wonderful with all the last minute printing.  As well as, Ken with Avanti Brothers Wine Co. for going above and beyond.

Were you able to attend the Wine Walk?  What did you think of the event?  Would you attend a similar event in the future? Talk to us! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

www.violetwilderband.com

www.downtownkenosha.org
Thanks for reading – Carolyn

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 7/2/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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How Young is Too Young

Back in the day when we were younger, sports and extracurriculars didn’t really start untill 5th grade.  Now, it seems to start as soon as the toddler starts to walk.  Is that too young?  Are you behind if you start later in childhood?  How young is too young?

These are all questions that my husband Chris and I discuss almost daily.  We see talent in our girls everyday and in every way.  We would never want to hinder their growth and opportunities.  But then you have the question of: Are we not letting them be tiny without the stress of sports or extras?  We have quite a few friends that are either coaches for sports, run clubs or still play actively in adult competitive leagues.  Most of them say the earlier the better.

Callie has been playing soccer with KASL since she was 4 years old.  It was so cute, funny, and stressful watching her and her teammates running after the ball like herding baby kittens.  The coaches, bless their hearts, were outstanding and truly wanted them to just learn the basics and have fun.  This is now the new normal for starting kiddos in sports. For Callie, it was a struggle at the start.  We worried that we were pushing her too hard, that our ‘tough love’ was going to traumatize her and prevent her from pursuing something that she enjoyed.  Thank God we followed our gut and pulled her from her kindergarten season.  For her, she just wasn’t ready that early.  Call it stage fright or being babied by Momma, either way, Callie would start the game fine and play well, but would end up curled up in a ball at my feet crying.  Then something clicked, and her second session in kindergarten she played, and played well!  She will now start playing Rush competitive soccer with her friends and under her current coach, Andrew Wolf, who works hard to teach her the basics she needs to succeed in the sport.  

On top of soccer, Callie is very talented in many other areas.  We tend to classify her as our ‘sporty child’ and at the same time try not to box her into that mentality.  We would love to get her into a wide variety of activities and see what she enjoys and what sticks.  This August, she will be attending her first volleyball camp, which makes Mommy really excited!  She has a natural talent for it and we are excited she is going to try something new.  In talking with Casey Price of Wisconsin Juniors Volleyball Club, Callie will be about 2 years behind some of the other kids her age.  Fortunately, that doesn’t rule her out for opportunities, but it does mean that she will have to work harder to catch up in her skill level.

Another thing that gets both Chris and I is the number of extra curricular activities  these kids are in — all at the same time.  Not only do we worry about wearing them out, but these sports are not cheap, especially when you have three kiddos to pay for. Balancing our usual budget and their ‘activity plate’ is super hard.  You don’t want to deprive one over the other and don’t want to wear them out, but want them to experience as much as possible. Plus as a parent, it is super fun to watch your kiddos doing things that make them happy.

Bottom line is that we need to follow our guts and our hearts and do what is best for each child individually.   The hardest part  is keeping our own personal emotions at bay.

At what age did you get your kiddos started with sports? (cserpe. blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn.

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 6/3/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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Priorities and Anticipation

Thank you to all my family and friends that reached out asking
where my articles were in the last couple issues. Prioritizing is EXTREMELY hard in general, but for me, seems like it is the hardest part about life. What comes first, what can be put off? I have said this before…I only put in my schedule what I/my family wants/needs to do. But balancing is still a huge obstacle to navigate through.

The past month, May, is always one of the busiest with the end of school activities, so something had to give. Teacher appreciation is one of my favorite times of the year. Our classes get to spoil our teachers that work so hard throughout the year to help enrich our children. This year we were blessed with 2 amazing teachers at St. Joseph Catholic Academy. It was the most fun because Clara and Callie were old enough to help pick things out and make things. Their growth this past year was outstanding; even through a pandemic, those teachers stood their ground and made sure the Children were not suffering. They embraced the short amount of virtual class we had to do and tried to make it as easy as possible for us working parents. Callie’s teacher even had a powerpoint presentation for our parent-teacher conferences! We were so blessed to have Ms. Owens and Ms. Parkkonen this past year and are excited to see what the new school year brings about.

But now that school is over, we can focus on some much needed family time! Two years ago we purchased a camper from my Aunt and Uncle. We are very blessed that they took such great care of the camper
while they had it and prepped it with so many great family memories for us to build off of. This camper has been a dream of mine since I was little camping with my family and Aunt/Uncle. Those are some of the best memories I have and I couldn’t wait to create some great moments with Chris and our girls (and Chase of course!). Let me tell you though, I do NOT recall all the hard work it was to prep and camp! My parents did a great job at masking all the hard with all the fun we were having! My Uncle did the best he could to prepare us with the main essential information for the camper, but I had to dive head first into Pinterest and Blogs to figure the rest out for myself.

On top of the technical information, the first question he asked was if BOTH Chris and I were wanting this commitment, responsibility and financial burden that came along with owning a camper and going camping all the time. Our family is very tight knit and cares about each other so very much. We use our past experiences and knowledge to offer advice. He was looking out for us and wanted to make sure that it didn’t cause issues down the road. But honestly, whoever has backed anything up with their spouse, knows that words are had no matter what! LOL!
Needless to say “Ginger the Jayco” joined our family in Aug of 2019 and it took us till the next summer to get her to a campsite. We wanted to make sure we had everything that we needed to camp with 3 little girls and a puppy. And that we chose a campground that was the perfect distance away so if we needed anything, we had help close by. We did a couple trips that year and felt safe and like we were at home in our camper.
Do you love to camp? Please share your favorite spots with us! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 6/3/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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It Takes a Village, & an AMAZING Daycare!

The second week of April marks what is called, “The Week of the Young Child”. It is honestly my favorite week of the year! Chris and I get to wear a lapel pin that showcases our little one/s and the a mazing daycare center they go to. What exactly is this special week you may ask? It is a week long celebration that recognizes the importance of quality child care in our community. And boy oh boy is quality child care important!

Chris and I lucked out when we found Here We Grow Academy. A long time friend from grade school, Tiffany (Kresal) Vasquez, and her Mom, Cheryl Leiting-Ruegger, were opening a child care center in Library Park downtown. The location was perfect! Nice and close to our family shop, The Lettering Machine, and on the way to work.

Knowing the owners of the center was huge. We knew that they would pour their hearts and souls into making sure this facility was the best of the best. Even better were the Teachers and staff that they brought into HWG. I can’t help but to name a few that had a huge impact on our children, but please know that this daycare operates as a team and there were many hands in each classroom that helped raise our little ones. When the girls ask me, “why can’t you cook like Ms. Laura?” Or demand to give Ms. Rachel a huge hug before they leave, you know this is the right place for your family.

From Ms. Glenda (& Ms. Angie) in the Glow Worm Room helping to make sure your babies get all the love they need and hit the milestones recommended, to Ms. Alice (& Ms. Kara) in the Firefly Room priming our talkers and walkers. Then you have the mighty and amazing Ms. Jen in the Ladybug Room. This lady has had all 3 of our girls (the “Serps” as she calls them) and was the first teacher we had the pleasure to experience for our girls. She is patient and kind with some Grateful Dead thrown in the mix! In the Caterpillar Room your kiddos get to play with Ms. Fallen and Ms. Journey (Ms. Sylvi was another fav). These ladies, bless their hearts, work with the 2 year olds. Tantrums and potty training…I honestly don’t know how they do it!

Right now Charlie is in the Butterfly Room with Ms. Victoria (The big girls had Ms. Amy!). It really says something when your child gets excited to see her teacher everyday. Victoria is amazing with the kiddos. She works closely with parents and works hard to teach kiddos the basics they need to move onto 3K.


 

Upstairs are the Grasshopper, Cricket, Hornet and Dragonfly Rooms. Here the children are paired with Ms. Terry, and both Ms. Amandas! They all work their hardest to make sure the kiddos are not only learning, but having a blast while they are there. They also run the summer camp for the older ones, which is super cool too! Field trips every week, swimming and fun activities as well.

Bottom line is that we have been with Here We Grow Academy for about 7 1/2 years and have loved every aspect of our time there. The transition Clara and Callie had from daycare to school was seamless due to the structured setting and curriculum the center offers. They even do parent/teacher conferences to make sure communication is open and that the children are on track with growing! We are sure that Charlie’s transition will be just the same. The only thing, is that they always miss their teachers and the comfort of Here We Grow. This was our last “Week of the Young Child” as Charlie will be headed to SJCA in the fall this year. Of course I got emotional the moment I put my pin on for the last time.

We cannot express the importance of LOVING the daycare your most prized possessions attend. Have you found a center that you connect with and trust with your children?

Tell us all about it! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

Please check out Here We Grow Academy and all that it has to offer!
6032 8th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53143
(262) 652-0700
Herewegrowacademy.com

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 4/22/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

 

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Our Quarantine Puppy

“In April near the beginning of the pandemic, it (Shelter Animals Count) saw the national pet adoption rate jump 34 percent over the same time a year earlier, according to the group’s ‘Covid-19 Impact Report.’” – The Washington Post. Yes…we were one of those families that adopted a puppy amidst the lock down…even though it took a while to find one.

Chris and I have both grown up with dogs and it was no doubt we would have one added to our family eventually. I was the one that kept putting off the addition for many years, till I came across our little cutie, Chase! Why were we looking now? Well the same reason everyone else was, someone was home all the time and it was a great opportunity to get a puppy aquatinted and trained. We were looking for a specific breed/s of puppy, but every time we found one through the shelters, they were gone in a heart beat. An application would go in and the waiting game would start. Every single one we requested was taken, and it was heart breaking. NEVER did we think that we could get attached to a puppy by looking at their photo online! But we did…many times.

Finally, June came around and we decided to reach out to the coordinator, Stephanie, at Hoovers Hause All Dog Rescue. We were inquiring about a couple puppies from a litter and, once again, they were already adopted. But there was one more male from the litter that was available, so she suggested our Chase. We jumped on the opportunity to take this spunky little guy home with us. Working with this rescue was super easy and a great experience. We got to meet the foster family and learn as much as we could about the puppy and get all the tips and tricks from them. They even gave him a going away gift!


As much as we love him, raising a puppy is never easy, no matter the breed. Thankfully, my parents got us the best Christmas gift ever…dog training! LOL! They hooked us up with Sarah, owner of Brainy K9 Dog Training. She was a amazing! She coached us on how to get Chase to stop jumping on everyone (except for our buddy Roy), how to follow simple commands (sit, stay, leave it) and how to walk better on the leash, just to name a few. Sarah also did a great job working with our girls and teaching them how to train Chase. If you ever need help or guidance with your furry one, look her up!

This month Chase turns 1. We can’t believe that he has been with us for almost a year already! He is such a good pup, except when he gets bored and eats the couch :(. He is such a big lover and lets Mommy snuggle and give him way too many kisses. He even deals with the torture from 3 little girls on the daily! He loves his walks with Daddy and playing with his doggy bestie Emmit. We couldn’t imagine our lives without him in it. He is one of the positive things that came out of this pandemic.

Did you add a 4 legged family member? We would love to hear about it!

Shoot us an email and share your story! (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

Please check out

Brainy K9 Dog Training: http://www.brainyk9dogtraining.com/

Like Hoovers Hause All Dog Rescue on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HooversHauseAllDogRescue

Hoovershausealldogrescue.com

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 4/08/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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Cookies, Cookies & More Cookies

It is that time of the year that we all get super excited for…Girl Scout Cookies!! That is right…those cute little girls that sit outside of the grocery stores and ask you, “would you like to buy any Girl Scout cookies?” are back. You feel obligated to purchase to help support the troop and show them that the hard work they are doing pays off. Either you are the type of person where you take a box and throw it in the freezer or the back of the cabinet, to only find it STILL there a year later when you go to add to the collection. Or, you are the eat-them-all-in-one-sitting type of person. Me, I am both!

I am actually one of the lucky ones that gets to help with not 1, but 2 little troops. Our youngest Charlie is not quite of age yet, but Clara (9) is a Brownie and Callie (7) is a Daisy.

Now, running a Girl Scout troop is not an easy feat and would be beyond hard if you had to do it on your own, but I have the absolute privilege of leading with some lovely Ladies. Tiffany Vasquez, Jennifer Limbach and Stephanie Maack. On top of leading the troops, all of us work full time and have 0-4 kids at home, so balancing can get tricky and leaning on each other is a MUST!

Cookie sales in the past have been something that the troops really look forward to. We gear up the ladies and teach them how to talk to customers, how to work with money, how to goal set, how to manage the money afterwards and what to do with what we raise. For our troop we get to use some of the profits towards signing each of the girls up for the next year, so the fee isn’t a burden on our families and can keep the girls active with our troop. It also goes toward supplies for the meetings and the girls get to decide what community activity they would like to do the following year. For instance, one of our troops earned their money patches by “shopping” our pretend store for school supplies. They each filled a small backpack with supplies and brought them to the the K.H.D.S office for the kiddos in foster/respite care. Not only did they learn about how to handle money, but also about how fortunate they are.

Tiffany and I had moms that were leaders as well, and those were moments we will always remember. We couldn’t wait to spend that time with our girls and hopefully embarrass them to the fullest! But, scouts is way more involved than we remember it being when we were younger. It is not just arts and crafts anymore. Each petal or badge or patch, has many components to earn them. We work hard to make sure our meetings are fun and they learn as much as possible.

But it all boils down the to the cookies. They have always been the symbol for the Girl Scouts. This year we thought that selling would be too hard with the COVID restrictions, but our community came out to support and the response was overwhelming.

Thank you so much for your continued support in helping these young girls…and keep eating those cookies!

Our girls would love to know…What is your favorite cookie? Shoot me an email and let us know (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 3/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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COMING UP ON A YEAR

March 13, 2020 is when our world came to a halt. We received the dreaded email from our school, SJCA, stating that they were closing the doors, due to the pandemic, immediately. I remember EXACTLY where I was and what I was doing when I received this message, very much like how I remember 9/11. My heart sank and fear set in. I had to pull my “mom van” over to compose myself. I must state, that I am an extremely emotional person to start with. They do say that motherhood can make you that way, but honestly, I think it just boosted an emotion factory that was already in overdrive! I called my husband in tears as we tried to figure out how on Earth we were going to explain to an 8 and 6 year old that they were going to be in lockdown for God knows how long. That they wouldn’t be able to see their extended family and friends in person.

This flipped their worlds upside down. But, Chris and I saw first hand, just how resilient children can be.

Let me tell you, these Teachers, ALL TEACHERS, truly stepped up for our children. In the drop of a dime, they had to change everything they knew and try to navigate uncharted waters. They even had to put their own children aside at times to make sure that ours were taken care of. They tried to keep as much normalcy as they could. From 3K-12th grade SJCA, specifically, rocked virtual teaching! Yes, there were some hiccups, but they put their hearts and souls into making this the best experience they could. We could not have asked for a better school to be a part of during this historical time.

I would not do this blog justice without citing the 2 most important teachers in my life. My sister, Jessica Bednarek (Kindergarten Teacher at Berlin Elementary-Berlin, WI), and my Aunt, Kelly Maack (Second grade Teacher at Jane Vernon-Kenosha, WI). I saw first hand how difficult this past year has been for teachers and how they took it with grace and understanding. They dove right in, learned what they needed to do, focused on the kids and truly dominated! Both of these teachers are very high risk for COVID, but that didn’t stop them from delivering school supplies to families’ doorsteps and keeping themselves safe so they could be there for their students. I couldn’t be prouder to call them family.

 

The first person our kiddos got to see in person, outside of Chris and I, was their Aunt Sammy. She, and her Husband Josh Vaughn, own Bird of Paradox Studios. As a small, non-essential business, they were shut down. Not knowing how long this was going to last, they got creative. While Josh took to commissioning his drawing talent, Sammy thought of the idea of “Quarantine Photo Sessions” and we were her guinea pigs! Getting to document a time that is bound for history books, was very cool, and we couldn’t thank her enough for capturing how that point in time looked for us.

There is so much more to the story of this past year, and I hope to share more with you in the future. But for now…how did you handle the pandemic? How did your kids take the news? Did you do anything special to document the historic times?

Shoot me an email and tell me all about it (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

P.S. Those of you who know me well, YES, I did cry through this whole writing lol

The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 3/11/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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We LOVE to travel… don’t you?

Traveling is one of our favorite things to do. We want to see the world and all that it has to offer. We want to educate our children while we experience it. How wonderful would it be to jump on a plane right now and fly somewhere else? Take a break from the cold, snow and stress that may encompass our lives and rest for once.

Well, if you travel with young kiddos, you and I both know that relaxing isn’t quite the right description of a trip with them. Rewarding, exciting and memorable are better words. We have had the pleasure of traveling a little bit with our girls. In their young life so far, they have been to the Dells, “up north” to Redgranite area to visit family/stay at a friend’s cabin, as well as some fun camping trips. These trips are filled with the joy of swimming, hiking, exploring, eating and snuggling with loved ones. These are our favorite low key trips. Those that don’t take a ton of planning and provide a quick release from the everyday grind. Do you have somewhere that you can escape to like that?

But our most memorable, so far, was our first trip to Disney World. Boy oh boy! To see the faces on these little girls…our hearts exploded and we felt so proud that we could provide this experience for them. In 2018 we took Clara and Callie to see the Castle. At that time they were 6 and 4 and the magic just radiated from them. Even though our trip was nothing short of amazing, we completely missed the opportunity to work with an experienced travel agent. This was a concept that we knew nothing about. But we learned, and wished we had known.

Companies like Looking Glass Travel and LaMacchia Travel are right in our backyards! Just before COVID hit our continent at the start of 2020, the use of agents was on the rise and already up 18% from 2019. Then, travel, came to a screeching halt. All our dreams of becoming tourists, were put on hold while the world worked hard to stop a pandemic. But our travel agents never stopped. They were busier than ever working to salvage travel plans by re-booking or even re-funding. Watching the world news and guidelines non-stop for their clients.

Personally, I LOVE to plan events and trips. I felt that I didn’t need an agent to help nor did I want them to take the joy away from the planning process. But what I didn’t realize, was how beneficial they truly are. They don’t take the fun away! They help guide and do all the hard work! Searching for, not only some of the same deals that we can get on our own, but they know EXACTLY where to find the best ones, or even the secret ones only they can snag. One of my besties, Katherine Hill, is a local agent with Looking Glass Travel. She states that “the ‘deal’ you get by using a Travel Agent, is not having to worry about your vacation! We plan everything, and make sure your trip is everything you want, while you count down the days till you take off.”

Whether it is another family trip to Disney to introduce Charlie to her favorite character, Minnie Mouse, for the first time, or Chris and I going on a 10 year anniversary trip to Europe, we can not wait to get back in the sky

and out on the road. And you can bet your bottom dollar that we will use an agent from here on out!

What was your most memorable trip? Did you use a Travel Agent/ Agency? Shoot me an email and tell me all about it (cserpe.blogger@gmail.com)

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

https://www.lookingglasstravel.com/katherine-hill.html

https://www.lamacchiatravel.com/

Carolyn Serpe
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 2/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
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Do you believe in fate?

February is considered the month of love, so for this post I thought I would share our love story. I’ll try to keep this “mush” free…but I can’t guarantee it!

Our story starts when we were both young, Chris was 8 and I was 6. My Dad, Dave, was the coach of a boys team for Kenosha Small Fry. Now, if you are not familiar with this organization, you should be! Small Fry is an international organization with a franchise right here in Kenosha! It provides an opportunity for shorter boys and girls to excel in the game of basketball competitively, while making life long friends at the same time. My Dad was a player back in the “dinosaur times”, and when I was 6 he was asked to return and coach a team for the organization. He jumped at the chance to make a difference in the community and be a part of the game once again.

The first practice came around and I decided to join my Dad to see what this was all about. That is when I met my future Husband. From the moment I saw him, I was crushing! Because I was only 6, I had no clue that was what I was feeling, but it was brought to my attention quickly by Chris’ sisters Jenni and Sarah. Those two teased me that whole season and he had no clue that I even existed. Girls were still “yucky” at his ripe age of 8! So the only thing I could do was sit on the sidelines and swoon!

After that season, Chris and I never saw each other.

Time passed and we both grew up. I went to St. Marks for grade school, St. Joes for jr. high and Tremper for high school. Chris attended Holy Rosary, Lance and then Tremper. What is odd, is that we NEVER ran into each other. We grew to have many of the same friends, and I still guarantee that we were at some of the same events, but we happened to miss each other every time we could have had an interaction. The only “sign” that I got was my sophomore year. Every February, the student council put together a fundraiser for Valentine’s Day. You had to pay a dollar and you filled out a survey of likes and dislikes. Later, you received

a print out that showed you who in the school you were most and least compatible with. That was the year the #1 most compatible person listed for me was…Chris Serpe. I couldn’t believe it! All the feels came running back! That was the only slip I kept during the 4 years I played that game (I am known as a hoarder, so that is impressive for me).

Our lives grew apart even further the years after that. Chris went off to college in MN and I went to Milwaukee. We lived, grew, made mistakes and had victories. But I truly feel that God, and fate, put us on different paths so we could grow to the point where we could meet once again.

In 2008, our family friend lost her Grandfather, and after the funeral, her and I went for some drinks. We chose a place that, we thought, wouldn’t be busy and we could sit and wallow together. Denny’s Sports Den on Washington Road, seemed like a good cozy place to go. So we arrived in jeans and hoodies and looking like a mess from crying all day. One drink in and…BOOM! A large group of Tremper grads (class of 2000) came barreling in. Amongst those was…him…Chris Serpe. I was shocked and butterflies entered the tummy!

As I was explaining to my friend who this handsome man was, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned and it was him! “Weren’t you going to say hi to me?” he asked. “You know who I am?” I responded sheepishly. “Of course I do! How could I ever forget you.” From that short, but amazing conversation, we were inseparable. A week later Chris told me he loved me, 3 years later we were married, and this year, 2021, we are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary with 3 little girls and a puppy in tow!

Now, weather or not you believe in fate, this story, to me is God working through fate. He joined us so we could create a wonderful life together at just the right time.

How did you meet “the one”? Did fate play a factor for you?

Thanks for reading – Carolyn 🙂

Denny’s Sports Den
Smallfrybasketball.com

 

Carolyn Serpe
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!
(This article first appeared in the 2/11/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

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How much is too much?

In my first entry with The Reader, I mentioned that I am all over the place. And this is a reason why. How much is too much? This is a question that I ask myself, and get asked, almost on a daily basis. I could sit and list everything that I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, but I won’t. Like every other person I know, there is always lot on my plate. I TRY not to put things in my schedule, and life, that I don’t enjoy or that are not family related. But how do we fit everything in?

Thankfully I was blessed with great work ethic. My parents and grandparents worked their tails off for everything that they have/had, and accomplished so much. They taught me that there is a difference between being a workaholic and someone that does what they love and takes pride in their work. The definition of a workaholic, is a person who works compulsively. This is NOT to be confused with a hard worker… as long as there is balance.

Now, as we start a new year, it is a great time to re-set our lives. Re- organize. Purge. Re-evaluate. Take a look at our calendars and see what truly needs to be in there. Take a gander at what we want our priorities to be and if we are living a life that reflects those. What do you value the most in your life? Where do you want to spend most of your time? Make your activities revolve around that!

Sometimes this is hard to do on our own. Sometimes we need to call in reinforcements and ask for guidance on how to balance everything out. I have a few friends that help in this field.

As a family of 5, we have a TON of STUFF in our home. Not going to lie, most is from me…mini hoarder…ugh. How much is too much…stuff? My husband and I banter on this topic frequently. He is a minimalist, and finding a happy medium between that and my “mini hoarding” can be difficult. If you follow Earnest Organizing on facebook, you can get tons of ideas on how to reorganize your life. Elizabeth focuses on the physical reorganization of your life. She will come in, take your clutter and put it in its place and teach you how to continue the process. Not only does she work with individuals, but she also offers these services up to businesses.

How much is too much…in your calendar? Recently I took a webinar through the YLINK, that the local company Boldly & Co. presented. It was extremely informational and helpful. Nina Ferraro and Mary Manthei have devised a system that will help dissect, guide and organize your life, business, goals and dreams. They teach you to truly balance your time, so that what used to be “too much” is now just right and manageable

Needless to say…in my mind…as long as you can keep your life organized to the point that it is manageable, and your priorities are in line with your life goals, you are right on track. This is something that I personally am always educating my self on and working on daily. What have you done so far in this new year to reorganize your life so that you don’t have “too much”

Learn more about Earnest Organizing at www.earnestorganizing.com
and Boldly & Co.

Carolyn Serpe
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!

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Excited to Join the Team!

Happy New Year Kenosha!! I am super excited to be joining this great group of bloggers for the year. Hope you find some entertainment, and maybe comfort, in the randomness that you will find here as I am literally all over the place 🙂

Where do I even begin…

I am Carolyn (Chatmon) Serpe. Mother to Clara (9), Callie (7), Charlie (3) and our puppy, Chase (1). I have a wonderful Husband, Chris, and we have been married for 10 years, this year!

I have always loved Kenosha, but like many of us, didn’t realize it till I went away for a while. After high school, I moved to Milwaukee for 6 years, went to College and worked. Once I re-met Chris (that is a super cute story for another post), I moved back to my roots and fell in love with my hometown.

Here in Kenosha, I work for The Lettering Machine. My parents, Dave & Tina Chatmon, have owned the shop since 2002, and I started full time with them back in 2007. My time with the shop has put me through all types of responsibilities and roles. Right now as manager, I get to be a part of everything. Even though I love being involved, working with my Mom and Dad is by far the best part of my job.

Our shop has grown so much over the past 19 years and continues to grow with each year. It amazes us how the shop can bring people together and help in so many ways. We have met a variety of different people, some of which have become our closest friends. Kenosha is such a place of belonging, family, community and love.

Throughout my blog posts, expect to be thrown all over the place. I am interested in such a plethora of things and I can’t wait to spew thoughts and stories and photos! From sports, to camping, to family time and work, oh yea…don’t forget fitting that friend time in there. My family supports

local and loves local, so some of our favorite places in town will pop up as well.

So sit down with a glass of wine and lets see what 2021 brings us!

– Carolyn Serpe
The Lettering Machine is located at 720 – 56th Street in Kenosha, WI
262-652-4177
tlmonlineorders@gmail.com
See more on their website theletteringmachine.com
Check out their Facebook Click Here!

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