Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pitching a Tent for Magnet Schools

In Cincinnati, parents have the choice about where their children attend school. In the public school system, children can default to attending their neighborhood schools, or apply for enrollment in one of the magnet schools. Many of these magnet schools are designed around a specific educational pedagogy--Montessori or Paideia, for example--or a certain focus of education--foreign language or fine arts, for example.

The competitive nature of enrollment in these magnet schools is understandable. First of all, Cincinnati magnet schools are free for city residents. And because they are sometimes much higher ranked in academics and a bit more culturally refined than neighborhood schools, these schools are a great option for parents who would consider private or parochial schools if it were not for the price.

There is a catch.
Some of these schools are so desirable that they attract too many families. To keep enrollment manageable, CPS has developed a system that requires some pretty serious dedication from the family.

A recent story in the Cincinnati Enquirer covers the phenomenon of the CPS magnet school enrollment process:
"The magnet schools, which generally have high academic ratings and focus on specialties like foreign language or the arts, accept students on a first-come first-served basis. At most schools there is no problem getting in. But at Fairview and a handful of others, lines form days in advance."

I have mixed feelings about this "first-come first-served" policy.

On the positive side, CPS can rest assured that only the most committed families will enroll their children in these highly competitive schools. This obviously contributes to the high academic achievement of such schools, as well as the shared commitment to success. This policy also gives parents the opportunity to provide the best education possible for their children, regardless of financial restraints.

On the negative side, it's not an equitable policy. "First-come first-served" policies like this take a lot for granted. First, that all parents have the possibility of taking 3-5 days out of their lives to camp out on the school's front yard. Second, it presupposes that a child's worthiness in not inherent, but is dependent upon their parents' willingness to go to such lengths.

Another major inequality built into the policy is the way it effects the neighborhood schools. In this system, the children privileged enough to have parents willing to sacrifice for their children are the only ones offered an option outside of their own neighborhoods. Where does that leave the rest?

So, if this system is not an equitable system, what other option do we have?

I do believe that committed parents should be rewarded for their commitment. And I also understand that any parent who wants the best for their child would (hopefully) do whatever necessary to make it happen--i.e. make certain they can be in line when they need to be to secure that spot in their desired school. So, completely tossing out the policy doesn't make sense.

I guess one simple question is this: Why doesn't CPS reserve a certain percentage of the open spots for those who are not able to make it to the front of the line? It seems like this would make everyone happy. The parents at the front of the line would get theirs spots. And the folks at the back of the line would be entered into a lottery for the remaining slots.

Is this already happening?
Am I missing something?

And maybe there is another question to ask:
What is the point of magnet schools?

According to Wikipedia's article on Magnet Schools:
"Districts started embracing the magnet school models in the hope that their geographically open admissions would end racial segregation in "good" schools, and decrease de facto segregation of schools in poorer areas. To encourage the voluntary desegregation, districts started developing magnet schools to draw students to specialized schools all across their districts. Each magnet school would have a specialized curriculum that would draw students based on their interests. One of the goals of magnet schools is to eliminate, reduce, and prevent minority group isolation while providing the students with a stronger knowledge of academic subjects and vocational skills. Magnet schools still continue to be models for school improvement plans and provide students with opportunities to succeed in a diverse learning environment."
Can someone with more personal experience in the Cincinnati magnet schools tell me if this is working? My fear is that instead of desegregating the more under-served and impoverished neighborhood schools, magnet schools actually pull the most opportunistic families out of all of the neighborhood schools and leave even mid-income neighborhood schools culturally impoverished. The children who end up in the magnet schools benefit; everyone else suffers.

I don't know that I can offer any better solution to the problems in our public schools. I can understand a parent's desire to provide the best opportunity for their children, so I'm not willing to fault those who stand line for days to secure those coveted kindergarten seats.

My last question:
What would happen if, instead of hand-picking the best regional opportunities for our children, we invested our time and energy in our own neighborhood and community institutions, whether they be educational, cultural, or religious? How would the most disadvantaged children in our city benefit from this local investment by the parents of the most privileged ?

Perhaps what I'm suggesting is not the economic concept of the "redistribution of wealth" but, rather, the redistribution of educational opportunity.

As for our family, my husband and I have some crazy schemes for the education of our children. And I'm not ready to discuss them here. For now, I'm simply going to hope for good weather for those camped out on Clifton Ave, and pray for the welfare of the children whose parents won't show up, but who deserve something better than their neighborhoods can provide.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Things to Love: Finding Inspiration in Other People's Homes

To take a break from things particularly urban or related to parenting, check out my favorite house tours posted by Apartment Therapy in the past few months at the links below.
Steven Arroyo's "Think Tank."

Annie and Paul Build a Home in Sync.

Andrew and Kathleen's Inspired Home.

Stephen's Re-Imagined Rowhouse.

Mae and BJ's Chic Pet-Friendly Pad.

Drew's Fantastic Factory Conversion.
(A quick note about this tour: This home is in Norwood, Ohio. I lived in Norwood for almost two years and passed by this building about a million times, always curious what was inside. I often thought that it would make an awesome conversion to a home. Low-and-behold! I wasn't the only one with the thought. This renovation is well worth checking out. You can see more information and photos at Drew's blog, here.)

On a personal note:
Recently, I've been inspired to create a list of small design and organizing projects I can tackle during naptimes on days I don't work and on nights like tonight when I'm wide awake and everyone else is in bed. I'm hoping that some small projects will help transform our new home into something that really looks like us--rather than just a building to hold all of our stuff.

Because our time-frame for moving was so small and our schedules have been so hectic since our move, we haven't been able to do some of the most basic new-house projects. Because we--literally--moved in only hours after the previous owner was gone, cleaning was the only thing we had time for. And, now, I want to get started making this place feel like "home!"

One of the first things on our list has been a huge backyard renovation, tearing out three useless planting beds so we can till the soil, level the yard, and start fresh. Some photos of "Phase I" of the Backyard Reclamation Project, (basically just demolition) just for kicks:

After raised-bed planters were removed.

The steel, aluminum, and wood we tore out.

Pavers we dug out of the ground. Saved to re-use.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Go Play Outside: Recycled Playground

Check out Landezine's coverage of this awesome playground in the Netherlands made from recycled windmill wings. I've seen photos of this playground on various blogs, but this one seems like a good place to start. Check it out!

Designed by 2012 Architecten.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Opportunity Missed.

I'm disappointed that I just read about this event now, a few hours after it ended.

Urban Pioneers - The Cult of Personality

Did anyone go?
How was it?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Go Play Outside: Alone?

My son is not yet two years old, but I can already see that 1. he is a severe extrovert and 2. he loves being out of the house. So, what does this mean for his adolescent years, when the most natural expenditure of his energy will be to go outside and play with his friends--without my supervision?

I mean, seriously.
Am I willing to let my 10 year old son out in Over-the-Rhine to play, or to walk alone to library for that matter?

The issue of unsupervised youth has come up recently in the news, among friends, and in the parenting class we're involved with at our church. And now we're asking ourselves these same questions again.

When our son is ten years old, who will he play with?
Where will they play?
Will I let them play alone?

There is a lot of talk in parenting circles about the dangers of the modern world. And it's almost comical the steps some parents take to protect their children--everything from fairly benign re-designing of public playscapes to be "safer" for kids to the more ridiculous tracking their movements with GPS chips.

Thanks to some links from CityKin, I have been reading in on the conversations among radical parents across the nation who are defying the modern ideals of a "safe childhood" and are instead raising their children to be wise, independent, and self-reliant in the world. These particular folks call the movement "free-range kids," and have some great things to say about how ridiculous we've become in our quest to protect our children from the "dangers" of the modern world.

I am quick to admit that my husband and I do often question the wisdom of raising children in the city, mostly because of two issues: this apparent need for more supervision in an urban environment and the lack of greenspace and natural areas. But, we decided that the benefits of an urban lifestyle were worth combating these problems rather than allowing them to send us to the suburbs (where we know parents deal with the very same issues, anyway).

For families like us who believe that urban living is inherently better than a sub-urban lifestyle (for multiple reasons which I am always willing to defend, but cannot go into here) and want to know how to keep your children safe without going bonkers about every possible danger, I have a few suggestions:

1. Be realistic about danger.

We all know that life is dangerous, and that there are people and ideas and places that can hurt us lurking around every corner. But, the only real way your children will learn to combat danger is to face it with wisdom and discernment. And if your children are never exposed to uncomfortable or seemingly dangerous situations when they are young and are never forced to navigate their world alone as they grow older, they will never gain the skills in problem-solving and adaptation that will make adult dangers much easier to navigate.

2. Let go. Slowly.

Children who are locked in child-proofed homes or fenced in manicured backyards are given no opportunities to practice the art of trial and error. It is normal and healthy for children--even very young children--to make mistakes. Without falls and bumps and bruises, children never learn to navigate dangers or to correct their mistakes.

Now, there are obvious limits to the dangers we should allow our children to confront at a young age. This is why I say, "Let go. Slowly." But, let common sense be the guild as you allow your child's environment to get a little more risky all the time. Watch them closely for their first few years and you'll see how they naturally adapt to their surroundings and learn skills to confront new problems as they grow.

3. Let kids solve their own problems.

Some examples:
Once your child can climb up and down the stairs, let him. Even if it takes longer.
Once your child can open the door, ask him to open it for you.
Let your son get his own shoes. And put them on, if he can.
Let him figure out where he left his toy, instead of finding it for him.
Give directions and be patient as he tries to follow them. Don't help if he doesn't need help.
Let your child solve petty conflicts with friends on their own, without your mediation.

Allowing young children to clean up their own messes, entertain themselves, do their own work, and solve their own problems will pay off in dividends as they grow older. A child who is competent in his own little world will have an easier time navigating the world outside his front door. He will be more resourceful, more resilient, and more responsible. And since you have watched how competent he is at home, you will be more likely to trust this competence to help him outside of the home.

4. Have a lot of kids.

Now, I understand that most people don't want a dozen children, but hear me out on this. Having multiple children--i.e. built-in playmates--is great for urban living because if your 7 year-old daughter has two older brothers to take her to the park, she doesn't need you to do it.

And if having multiple children is not your cup of tea, you could simply make an effort to get to know other families in the immediate, walkable area. And if there are no other children nearby, or if you don't trust the other families nearby to be with your kids, then you could always start an intentional community. (I'm totally, 100%, serious about this, by the way. No creepy cult-talk intended.)

Basically, the "safety in numbers" scenario is a great way to calm a parent's worry and keep children safe.

5. Get outside.

By "get outside" I mean you should physically leave the house and get outside with your young children to explore your neighborhood. This is helpful for two reasons. First, the best way to decrease "stranger danger" is to have fewer strangers. If your child knows and is known by the local grocer, the woman at the bank, the postal worker, the librarian, and the guy who is always begging for change outside the library, then there will be five more sets of eyes watching him venture out into the neighborhood by himself some day. Stop worrying that everyone in your neighborhood might secretly be a pedophile and get to know them. Learn their names. Introduce your children. And learn what it means to actually be a community.

Secondly, this principle remains true for strange places, not just strange people. If you know your neighborhood, and spend time in and around your neighborhood with your children when they are young, they will know their way around as well as you do. They will know which intersections are busiest, which streets to avoid, which coffeeshops serve the best hot chocolate, and where to buy tissues when they get a bloody nose playing in the park. Teach them how to get to the police or fire station, the library, and the grocery store. Make your environment familiar to your children and they will be a million times more secure and discerning when on their own.

At our home, we are lucky to have a small backyard which will provide at least some opportunity for our young children to play alone outside in a confined environment. But, our small backyard will not be enough for a young boy who wants to ride his bike or organize an ad-hoc baseball game. So, I hope that by the time our son is old enough to venture out of the house by himself, we are ready to let him. And, even if I'm not ready, I want to make sure that he is.

What about you?
Where do you live?
Do you feel safe letting your children out alone to play?
Why or why not?

Food for thought:
Read this
story about a radical "holiday" for kids.
Could you do it?

And check this out. Adventure Playgrounds.
Wow. I plan to write more about this, eventually.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shopping Downtown

Some folks think that "there is no place to shop downtown."

I'll admit that our city does not have the best example of a downtown shopping district--at least not anymore. But at one point, I've been told, people flocked to the Central Business District to do their shopping. What happened? (Maybe someone who knows more about the history of downtown could fill me in?)

This is a case of the "chicken or the egg."
Did the shopping district die because residents stopped coming downtown to shop, or did residents stop coming downtown because the shopping district died? Either way, I believe that a vibrant shopping district is directly related to a thriving residential presence in downtown.

Cincinnati is very decentralized. It may be due to the large hills or due to intentional urban planning but, either way, residency in Cincinnati centers around neighborhoods rather than downtown. But, even in our "best" neighborhoods, there are few truly thriving shopping districts. Most everyone in Cincinnati who needs to buy the basics--underwear, toilet paper, duct tape--must either get on a bus or get in a car to find the nearest place to buy them. And even in areas where stores are nearby, they are not designed for pedestrians; most of America's new, expensive shopping districts are designed for shoppers traveling by car via the highway, not by foot via the sidewalk.

In the past two years, I've re-adjusted my habits of shopping to reflect a pedestrian life. And, contrary to popular belief, it appears that downtown residents have plenty of places to shop.

Just a sampling of the stores (that I frequent) within a 15-minute walk of my home:
TJ Maxx
Findlay Market
Avril & Bleh Market
Park + Vine
Mica 12/V
If I am smart about my shopping, I can go days or weeks without needing to drive to nearby shopping center. Believe me, I love a trip to Target just as much as the next mom and I still stop in at large grocery stores for the occasional hard-to-find item. But, it's awesome to see my trips out of downtown become less and less frequent.

As far as prices are concerned, the extra money I may spend by purchasing what's available nearby rather than comparing prices is saving me a ton of gas and car maintenance costs. No more chasing cheap prices around town.

At this point, I honestly can't understand how some people find car rides, parking spots, and 10,000 sq ft stores to be more practical than a five-minute walk to a smaller store. Sure, I can't do a month's worth of grocery shopping at once (that is, until I buy one of those fancy bike trailers I've been eying...), but shopping in the neighborhood keeps me on my feet and out where I can meet my neighbors and see all of the exciting things that are happening in our city. I love how this adjustment in my shopping habits has changed my perspective on my neighborhood.

I know that it won't always be so easy, depending on how many children we end up with. And I know that I won't be so excited to run errands on foot when there is snow on the ground. But, for now, the pedestrian life is grand. (And I'll just need to buy a good pair of snow boots.)

As a sidenote:

In my "perfect Cincinnati," where our center city trumps the suburbs as a shopping destination, the Tower Place Mall (or the new Banks development) would be developed to include a few more large clothing and shoe stores (a la Gap or DSW), Patagonia would open up shop, there would be an Apple store, Joseph Beth would re-locate to the neighborhood, an REI would move into town, and a small-ish grocer like Fresh Market or Trader Joe's would settle in, too.

Heck, then I'd never have to leave downtown.

What would your "perfect Cincinnati" include?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just Your Typical CityKin

Our friend and neighbor over at CityKin just posted a great summary of a typical weekend for a family living in downtown Cincinnati.

Visit it here and then scroll through the rest of his blog for proof that the city really is a great place to live as a family.

On a personal note: It was great to finally meet this neighbors in person while walking home from dinner Friday night. (I met Mrs. CityKin briefly, a year ago, when I answered their providential call on the blog for someone interested in taking their used cloth diapers.) And many thanks to CityKin's wonderful children who sent my son home with two glow-in-the-dark bracelets when we left. He wore them to bed that night and I could see them still glowing early in the morning.

Ahh... the beauty of the pedestrian life and the friends you meet along the way...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting Around: Do I Really NEED a Stroller?

Before our son was born, my husband and I avoided much of the pre-baby purchasing craze. We purchased only a small percentage of those "must-have" toys, gadgets, and pieces of furniture and picked up the rest of what we actually needed when we discovered that we did, indeed, need it. Because we were prudent in our purchasing, we saved a lot of money and have less (comparatively) to store in the crawlspace until we decide it's time for baby #2.

But, all prudence aside, there was one item that I obsessed about for months: a stroller.

Up until the point I actually purchased our stroller (a month or so after our son's birth), I obsessed about which stroller to buy. I no longer noticed the cheery grins on the faces of babies in passing. Instead, I noticed only their stroller--the brand, the color, the style. And, I took mental notes of each stroller I'd actually seen in person, weighing the size and shape. And, of course, the price.

Some friends told me that a stroller was not a big deal: "Just get a cheap one; I barely use mine," they said. For some, that might be true. If you only intend to use a stroller at the mall, or for the occasional walk to the park, it really doesn't matter too much which stroller you get. But, for a parent who lives in a city and plans on walking a few miles a day, a stroller is a big deal. And because I didn't have a thousand dollar stroller budget like some parents in Park Slope or LA, I couldn't just order the latest hip-mamma stroller spotted in a magazine.

Like any niche market, the world of strollers is vast and becomes quickly overwhelming.

Things to consider:

Price- Is your budget $200 or $2000?

Age Range- Do you need a stroller that adapts to hold an infant carseat? Do you want a cot or full recline for a newborn? Do you want to be able to use it when your child is three years old? Do you need a stroller that can become a double stroller for the next child?

Size and Weight- Will it fit in your trunk? Can you lift it with your child in it if you need to navigate stairs? Can it maneuver on the sidewalk/between store aisles?

Other considerations- Is it practical for where you will use it? Where is it made? Are the tires better for flat surfaces or uneven surfaces? Does it fold up easily/quickly/with one hand? How well is it constructed? With what materials is it made? How large is the storage compartment? It the seat wide enough for your child? Does the seat seem comfortable for long walks? Does it have a warranty? Does it come with accessories or will you need to purchase other pieces separately? Can you use it with the infant carseat you've already purchased or registered for? Is the color scheme gender neutral to use with future children?

You may be thinking: Seriously? Does it really matter that much what stroller I purchase?

Take this into consideration: For the past 18 months, I've taken an average of 3 walks a week around downtown to run errands, grocery shop, visit the bank, etc. And if each of these walks averages about 3 miles, that's roughly 700 miles I've logged on my stroller so far. And, I intend to use it up until we have another baby, which adds many more miles to its lifespan.

Basically, my stroller is a tool that I will have used almost every day for 2-3 years. So, I'm thankful that I took my time picking out a stroller that was exactly what I needed, for what I could afford to spend.

On a personal note:

I ended up purchasing the Baby Jogger City Mini stroller and the infant car seat adapter, which allows the stroller to hold many of the most popular infant car seats. (I found a Maxi Cosi car seat at a discounted price online because it was in a discontinued color!)

The stroller is everything I'd hoped for. It's lightweight, sturdy, sleek, super easy to manuveur, and my whole "travel system" (stroller, adapter, car seat) only cost a total of $425. This might seem like a lot, but when you compare it to a moderately priced "travel system stroller" you can purchase at Babies R Us for $325, you're only paying $100 more for something that is about a million pounds lighter and a million times easier to use and travel with. (And a lot more attractive, if you ask me.) I'd say I made a heck of a purchase, especially considering the stroller I was really lusting after would have set me back an easy $900 for the entire "travel system."

For parents who don't have $1000+ to spend on a fancy stroller, I highly recommend the Baby Jogger series. Baby Jogger makes everything from hip, urban fashion strollers like their City Select (starting at about $500), to bonafide jogging strollers like their Performance Jogger which runs about $450. Mine is their mid-priced urban-use stroller. They have recently released a Bassinet/Pram accessory and a Glider Board for an older sibling to ride along, giving their single strollers an extended life. Many of their strollers can be purchased as a double stroller, and their City Select is a multi-use stroller for infants or toddlers and can be adapted to be a double stroller.

One large caveat is that big-box baby stores like Babies R Us don't sell many high-quality strollers, at least not in-store. So, in a Midwestern city like Cincinnati, it's hard to find floor models to test drive. My advice: visit every high-end baby store you can find within a reasonable distance and look at everything. Seeing a $1200 stroller in-person will tell you whether or not it's really worth your hard earned money. Likewise, test-driving a cheaper stroller that the manufacturer is trying to pass off as high-end may convince you that it's worth paying the extra $100-200 for the better stroller. (Hint: 3-wheels does not equal high quality.)

When you can't find floor models, you can make up the difference by doing a lot of online research. Read reviews. Read parenting blogs. And don't be embarrassed to stop a parent on the street and ask about their stroller. Chances are, if you see a parent using a high-end stroller, they would be happy to tell you about it and give a quick review.

In short, if you are not going to use your stroller a lot, then maybe a $100 stroller is a good idea.

But, if you live in the city and would rather enjoy your walks downtown, maybe reconsidering your priorities is a good idea. For us, it was a choice between purchasing "baby furniture" or a nice, attractive, high-functioning stroller.

I am very glad I chose the stroller.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Things to Love: Bento for a Better Lunch!

I've always been a fan of eating smaller portions of many things as a single meal, rather than the one-burrito-to-hold-it-all meal philosophy. So, it's only natural that I often prepare my son's meals that way. A normal child's lunch in the McEwan household: A teeny sandwich, a few small pieces of cheese, a handful of grapes, shredded carrots (because his teeth are not quite ready for chomping on full bites yet), a couple pretzel sticks, and sometimes a cookie (though my son, funny enough, usually skips on the sweets).

Enter: Bento. (or Obento--choose your poison)

photo courtesy My Life as a Gaijin blog

In short, Bento is the artful presentation of a meal, but if you're familiar with the concept you know that it isn't quite that simple. I have been familiar with Bento since the summer I spent in Guam a million years back and saw the Japanese culinary phenomenon firsthand. I didn't really understand the breadth of the phenomenon until much later, when I discovered the obsessive side of Bento. (And, man, people take their Bento very seriously, collecting oodles and globs of Bento supplies, entering contests for the best Bento, and I can only imagine having serious anxiety over your average "sack lunch" meals.)

All obsessions aside, Bento is awesome for many reasons:

1. It is potentially waste-free. Not only will parents save on plastic baggies and paper lunch bags by purchasing reusable bento boxes, but the meal itself is free of wrapping and often made from scratch. (i.e. serious Bento parents don't toss a single-serving twix bar in the lunch for good measure)

2. It is a clever way to encourage hearty and healthy meals. So the philosophy goes: when food looks fun, kids are more likely to eat it. Even if a parent doesn't go all-out Bento crazy and make a freaking aquarium for their child's school lunch, some simple Bento tricks can turn a healthy meal into something colorful and inviting. ("Eat me," basically.)

3. It takes less time to eat. Rather than navigating a half dozen ziploc bags during their 15 minutes of lunch, your children can open their box, survey the food in one take, and eat it all up. As our local paper recently pointed out, kids are being given less and less time to eat their meals at school, which leads to lots of waste and (I would assume) a lot of kids skipping to dessert so they don't have to mess with their 1/2lb peanut butter and jelly sandwich that's been wrapped in a yard of tin foil.

4. It's a way to expend some creative energy while loving your family. If you're anything like me, you worry that parenthood has stripped you of your pazazz. I know, I know, a few attractive Bento lunches won't jump start my music career, but they could remind me that I still have that creativity lurking inside me. And, they will remind my children that I love them at the same time. Seriously, who wouldn't feel like a million bucks when they opened their lunch to find this:

photo courtesy O'Bento Lunch 4 Kidz blog

If you're interested in adapting a little bit of the Bento philosophy into feeding your family, you can find some tips, tricks, and advice at the following links.

Another Lunch
Lunch in a Box
Just Bento

Locally, you can purchase some basic Bento boxes (like Laptop Lunches) at local favorite Park + Vine. On my next trip to the market, I'll take a closer look at Saigon Market to see what they've got in stock, too. And I'd bet that Jungle Jim's has some interesting Bento supplies, though I haven't been up there in ages...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kids Not Welcome

Every time a new restaurant/diner opens downtown, and a friend tells me of their recent visit there, I ask a simple question: Did you see any kids or highchairs?

Most people, obviously, don't look for a highchair when they walk into a new place. But, from a parent's perspective, the absence of this simple object says one thing to me: Your kids are not welcome here.

I can understand a restaurant owner's fear of becoming a *gasp* "Family Restaurant," and I can understand that a toddler is not their primary clientele. But, I also know that there a very large number of young adults with young children who would love to be able to support these local businesses, but the businesses seem to not want their support.

Yes, I can still sneak in with my son and let him sit on my lap while we both try to eat. And, yes, a booster seat is a step in the right direction. But, a young toddler is much more likely to sit still if seated in a high chair. My son is very well behaved (and we know when our son is not behaving and it's time to leave). Heck, these business owners might actually like having us around!


Dear Business Owners:

I support local business and I'd love to support yours. But, until you are willing to accommodate my small and well-behaved family, you'll be relegated to my "date night" restaurant list. This list is large and not often consulted for dinner plans. Maybe we'll see you (and you'll see our money) in a few years?

Your neighbor.

(And don't even get me started on coffee shops and gas station bathrooms without diaper changing stations... ugh!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sharing Space in Urban Homes

It's a common deterrent for those looking at urban homes, condos, and apartments: "We just can't find a place big enough."

For those who live alone, are married and child-free, or cohabitate without children, this might not be an issue; one or two people can easily squeeze themselves into a small living space and get comfortable there for a long, long time. But, what about those of us with children? Not just that, what about those of us who want multiple children?

How can a large family (I'm talking about a family with at least two children) find a place that's affordable, while allowing each family member enough room to stretch their legs every once and a while?

Some options to consider:

1. Share your bedroom with an infant/toddler.

My husband and I lived in a loft apartment when our son was born and, therefore, ended up sleeping in the same room as our son for the first 18 months of his life. We started with a co-sleeper attached to the bed, then moved it to the wall next to the bed (4ft away), then to the other side of the room (about 20ft away). This arrangement is not nearly as inconvenient as one might think and comes in really handy for a mother who plans on nursing her children past their first year. In such circumstances, this arrangement is actually more convenient. In our new home, our son sleeps just on the other side of our bedroom door (but usually ends up in our bed at about 6am each morning anyway). Frankly, we have grown accustomed to him being nearby and we like it that way for now.

It should not be assumed that, once a couple discovers there is a baby on the way, they must shop around for a two-bedroom home. Sharing a room with your child may not work for everyone, but it's at least worth a shot. You can all be perfectly comfortable sharing a bedroom for a very long time, before you ever need to consider "upscaling." And, when the time comes to shop around...

2. Reconsider "bedroom."

Why does a toddler (or a preschooler, for that matter) need a large bedroom? I can understand a parent's desire to create a space unique to their child. (I feel that desire, too.) But, is a separate room really necessary? Take a quick search through home design blogs and you'll find examples of excellent kids' space built into closets, attics, breakfast nooks, lofts, and other odd places. A child can be afforded plenty of privacy, seclusion, and creativity in any sort of space, regardless of size. (This includes even tiny outdoor spaces, which are often overlooked when it comes to providing space for kids.) When did our idea of "bedroom" expand to include a private library, playroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet? With a little creativity, any extra bit of space can be transformed into a bedroom for a small child! And, when all else fails...

3. Think "Bunkhouse."

I grew up in a house where both me and my two brothers each had our own bedroom, so I understand the desire for individuality, privacy, and space. And I know that there are many benefits to living in a large home--especially when considering entertaining guests. But, just because there are benefits to each family member having individual private space, we shouldn't feel like we are neglecting our kids by making them share their bedrooms. In fact, it might be in their better interest to learn to share space now, before they find themselves in their freshman year at college, fighting with their new roommate over whose job it is to wash the window.

I've seen some amazing ideas online for shared bedrooms for kids--everything from a preschooler sharing with a newborn, to preteen siblings (a brother and sister, nonetheless) learning to give each other space in a room where space is limited, to four sisters sharing a room well into their teens. From my own experience, thinking of the friends I've known throughout my life who have siblings, it seems that most shared their room at some point in time. I might venture to say that, with some exceptions, most would not have had it any other way. Sharing a bedroom teaches children cooperation, consideration, and aids in bonding. Think: summer camp every day.

Sure, there are some sisters who end up as enemies from childhood spats in their shared room; and there are certainly stories I would have rather not heard about shared boys' rooms. But, we all need to learn to share space eventually and we shouldn't feel guilty if we start our kids young. Heck, they might end up as best friends because of it!

I guess my point is pretty simple:

If we think that a growing families necessitates a growing home (which often insinuates moving out of the city), we are missing out on the ways we can adapt the space we currently have to meet our growing needs.

Why can't a family of four be comfortable in a two-bedroom home?
Why can't a family of six live in a three-bedroom home?

I know that there are obvious caveats to this: to keep the average person sane, there must be at least some private space or some way to get away from the others--a quiet reading nook, a cozy bathroom, a backyard patio. So, that's where creativity comes in!

What's the coolest space adaption you've seen a family make?

Photo credits:
1. Apartment Therapy
2. oh happy day
3. Cookie Mag

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer is Over?


Today was the first day of class at Cincinnati Public Schools and I'm amazed. Has Summer really passed by so quickly? Did school start this early for me when I was a child?

I've noticed recently how slowly I seem to be moving compared to my surroundings.
Maybe it's my lack of media consumption that keeps me out of the loop;
Maybe it's the constant attention I give to my toddler;
Maybe it's my husband's busy building schedule;
Maybe it's our move from busy Vine St. to this quiet, tree-lined street five blocks away.

In addition to the start of the school year, which always signifies the official end of Summer to me, downtown Cincinnati--and Over-the-Rhine, specifically--seems to be moving very fast. New restaurants; new shops; new neighbors. It's enough to make a girl like myself yell, "Stop! I just can't keep up!" I swear, even though I leave the house every day and walk these streets, I cannot seem to move quickly enough to participate in all the excitement!

More often than not, in conversations with other young parents who live outside the city, I hear a lot of "Oh... I wish I could move into the city, but...." And then they elaborate on one of many (sometimes legitimate) reasons why moving into the city is unrealistic for their family.

To them, I say that there could not be a better time for young families to move into the City of Cincinnati.

Heck, I will go so far as to say that there has never been a better time to live downtown.

(And this is not the idealism of a brand new resident speaking. I've lived in OTR the better part of three years and worked here the two years before that. Even though I may not be a long-term resident yet, I'm definitely not new to the scene.)

It's an exciting time to be in Cincinnati, no?

I only wish I had more time to spend with neighbors, make new friends, eat new foods, buy new goods, and take it all in. Maybe as the weather cools, time will slow down a bit and I will get a chance to really inhabit our great city.

Happy end of Summer, folks!
Maybe I'll catch up with you in the Fall?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Looking for Advice!

What would YOU do?

My husband and I are now three weeks into our new home and we love it, but still have a monstrous amount of work to do before it feels like it's "ours." One of the questions on the table--along with a complete remodel of the kitchen, updating of three bathrooms, and all new flooring--is what to do with the backyard.

The current condition:

It is fenced-in and measures about 20' wide by 27' long. There is a gate leading to the adjacent yard, which is confusing but not particularly troublesome. It is completely shaded most of the day; the eastern 1/3 of it gets sunlight at the day's peak. There are three raised planting beds lining the back fence, parallel to the house and one ground-level bed next to the house. I have no idea what was/is planted in the beds. Grass has not been able to survive in the yard for the past three decades, the yard is not level, and the soil is fairly impermeable.

The building-side planting bed lies directly below what was once an exit from the first floor (bottom left of the photo). Though a walk-out is still possible, that room is now a large utility room and the door has been blocked by a screened-in and locked gate. It is about four feet above ground level.

The kitchen is now on the second floor and has a screened in landing that was designed to lead to a nice walk-out, as well.

The entrance to the basement is at ground level on the other side of the building, with our sidewalk alley to its side.

Although we have not experienced any serious parking problems yet, my husband would like to tear down the back fence and pave a parking space. This would be especially helpful for my husband's need to access the basement for work and for visiting guests so they won't have to mess with on-street parking. We also believe this might increase the resale value of the home much more than landscaping would. BUT, we would sacrifice the security and privacy of our small yard--which is priceless, if you ask me. Our best idea for parking involves paving a diagonal space that leaves as much of the yard in-tact as possible. One problem: the alley in the back of the property is narrow and cannot accommodate a large vehicle. Although we don't intend to purchase a Hummer anytime soon, we will be having more children eventually and will probably end up with a vehicle larger than a Mini Cooper. So, is the parking space even worth the trouble?

Some other ideas:

-Since the ground level is fairly useless at this point, we've considered creating a parking space covered by a greenroof/deck that extends all the way to the second floor. Basically, raising the entire functional greenspace 10ft or so above ground.

-We've considered turning the utility room into a small summer kitchen/outdoor playroom with a three season patio extending into the yard.

-We could build cascading porches like those in the neighboring backyard. (We've even considered cutting out one half of one of the 3rd floor bedrooms to create a rooftop patio.)

-We'd like to level the yard and install permeable pavement or ground cover and then completely reconfigure and rebuild the planting areas.

Although it will probably be a LONG time until we have the time and resources to undertake any serious project like this, we're having fun dreaming big and making plans for our yard. I'm looking for ideas and suggestions!

What would YOU do with this backyard?

For now, we're settling for this:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Read This: The Urbivore

I've discovered a new blog--The Urbivore's Dilemma.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Prediger at Urbivore's Dilemma.

I was turned on to it by the folks over at GOOD. (Check them out if you're not already familiar.) It chronicles a New Yorker's experience of switching from a diet consisting of mostly take-out to one of primarily local produce from her new CSA share.

Since this is my first year as a CSA shareholder (I've bought into an Urban Farm Project), I immediately understood the dilemma. The challenge of a CSA is not only adjusting to a vegetable-based diet, but of learning to cook with whatever food is fresh, in-season, and available. The first few weeks of my CSA were hard to navigate--lots of lettuce and greens, beets, and turnips. (I froze a lot of the root vegetables, hoping to figure out what to do with them at a later time.) But the past few weeks have been much easier--carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, etc. It's been a relief to use the vegetables in meals I would normally cook, but still gives me a little room to experiment. The familiarity of the more recent produce makes my investment seem more reasonable.

I'm excited to follow along with the Urbivore's experiment in changing her diet and maybe get some good ideas for my own local produce experiment. Does anyone else want to share their experience of learning to eat local, in-season produce? Recipes? Funny recipe failures?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Read This: Suburban vs City Living costs

According to a recent article in the New York Times, most families will actually save money by choosing to live in New York City rather than moving to the suburbs once they have children.

There are a few caveats:
- The cost of paying for private schooling in lieu of public city schools changes the numbers quite drastically.
- The article presumes that the working parent(s) work in the city.
- As stated in the article, sometimes ideology or suburban lifestyle trumps affordability for growing families and they leave the city anyway.

You can read the full article here.

I would love to see the same article written for Cincinnati. My presumption is that the numbers would be the same: for a family whose working parent(s) work in the city, they would save money by living nearer to work. This should be common sense, no?

Maybe I'll write that article, all numbers and statistics included.


Monday, June 28, 2010


Browsing on Good Magazine's website, I stumbled upon a brilliant street art project by French artist Jerome G. Demuth (also known as "G"). He's been installing swings in public places around Paris!

Check out the article here and more photos of his work here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Things to Love, Take Two

Four quick things I'm crazy about these days:

Studio 1a.m Measure Me Stick-

I saw these featured on a blog a few months ago, though I can't remember which one. I am a fan of the old-school marks on the wall to measure a child's growth, but I understand that not every parent wants to make marks on their walls. (Heck, my dad would have never done it.) For parents like that (or for folks who want a growth chart they can take with them when they move), this is a great option. And, unlike most growth charts, it isn't painted to look like a cartoon frog or tree or anything like that. Classic. I like that.

Little Sapling Toys-

This Etsy store is full of great wooden toys--from teething rings like the Ohio state one pictured here to toy cars, peg boards, and rocking horses. Aren't they adorable? The store is family-owned and they claim to plant a tree for every toy sold. Even their photos are beautiful!

The Building Blog is a collection of "Architectural Conjecture, Urban Speculation, and Landscape Futures." The writer, a gentleman named Geoff Manaugh, collects stories, articles, and photos from across the world. I can't figure out exactly what he's most interested in writing about, but I love it all. Some posts are building and architecture-related; some are more anthropological or sociological. I found the blog linked from another that I frequent. The story was about The Duplicative Forest in Oregon and you can read it here.

Okay. So, ignore the language. Ignore the pretentious fashion culture. And ignore, for a moment, the fact that the clothing on some of these kids means that their parents have either too much money or too much time on their hands (or both). Just pay attention to how awesome these kids look. Seriously. I was the least-cool kid in the world before I entered middle school. And, even then, I was a weird, eccentric thrift-store junky with no concept of color or texture. (And I'll openly admit that it's easier to dress my son than it is to dress myself most days.) Unlike me as a child, the kids featured on this blog/site are super hip and super cute.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer in the City

Between buying a house, packing up our apartment, wrapping up the busy season at work, my husband beginning his busy season at work, and taking care of my mother in-law after spine surgery, blogging hasn't been a priority in the McEwan house.


I wanted to take at least a moment to share my favorite things about summers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tall Stacks Festival-
Tall Stacks is supposed to happen every three or four years, but hasn't happened since 2006 and can't find any information about when we can expect the next festival. The festival features national, regional, and local music acts, loads of expressions of Ohio river culture, and appearances by dozens of fabulous riverboats. Highlights from 2006: Heartless Bastards, Wilco, Medeski Martin & Wood, Over the Rhine, Blind Boys of Alabama, and Rosanne Cash. I sure hope they schedule another one soon... (Does anyone know any insider information about this?)

Fountain Square-
Cincinnati really does it up on the Square during the summer. There are public events scheduled nearly around the clock, with everything from family-friendly movie nights to wine tastings. You can expect live music nearly every night of the week (Friday nights courtesy of Midpoint Music Festival) and some days during the lunch hour (I'll be playing an Acoustic Thursday on August 26th). It's nice to know that I can walk down to Fountain Square on any given day and find tons of people milling around. The energy is infectious.

Kayaking on the Little Miami-
Although I haven't been since my son was born, taking a day-long kayak trip down the river is easily one of my top five favorite summer activities. I don't have my own boat, but I have rented multiple times from Morgan's Canoe Livery and have always been pleased (though the price has increased quite a bit since my first time five years ago). Does anyone else have a favorite Livery?

Backpacking at the Red River Gorge-
Confession: I've never been to the Gorge in the Summer, but I'm sure it's just as fantastic as it's been in the Spring. If you're looking for a nice extended weekend backpacking trip within a few hour drive, it can't be beat. And if backcountry camping is not your bag, you can find rental cabins with basic amentities to soften the wilderness experience. Try Red River Gorgeous on for size.

Local State Parks-
Growing up in Chicago, with the beautiful Lake Michigan in the city and (seemingly) millions of fresh water lakes within driving distance, lake culture is in my blood. Since I can't drive the 6 hours to Michigan where my family has a small summer cottage, it's nice to have other lakes nearby. The only one I've spent a decent amount of time at is at Caesar Creek State Park, where the beach is clean and swimming-friendly, if a bit cold. A lot of my friends frequent East Fork State Park, as well. (There was a national rowing regatta held there last weekend. How cool is that?)

The Public Library-
I know that the library is not a particularly summer activity, but hot summers do give me a new appreciation for the downtown library's convenient, walkable location and it's air conditioned comfort. It's the perfect place to pop-in during a hot walk downtown, use the bathroom, change a diaper, and see what's new on the shelves. They just held their summer Friends of the Library book sale, which was awesome. (Sorry if you missed it!)

Biking to work-
I'll admit it--I'm a fair weather bicyclist. But, since I live a mile from my office, I have absolutely no excuse to drive to work unless necessary. Since the onset of Spring, I've walked or biked to work about 80% of the time and it's proven to be a great decision. Not only do I get some exercise, but I get to see bits and pieces of downtown in a way I wouldn't if I was driving. And, I actually save a bit of time when I ride my bike since I don't have to worry about finding free parking near City Hall. (Parking tickets suck.) I hope I can continue this into the Fall (and Winter?).

Gratisfest is like that favorite coffeeshop that you love too much to keep secret, but way too much to tell everyone about, lest it become everyone else's favorite coffeeshop and, suddenly, you can't find an open table. It's a small, mostly private (though not invite-only) music and arts festival on a family farm in SE Indiana. It's super family-friendly, but also super grown-up (which is awfully hard to find), with good food, good music, communal art projects, camping, beer, and fresh air. Suffice to say, when the patron saint of Gratisfest birthed the event a few years ago, he brought something amazing to life and I've been honored to be included in the fun the past few years. It's the perfect way to end the summer.

What about you?
What are your favorite things about Summer in Cincinnati?

Monday, May 10, 2010

We Did It! (Well, we're going to do it.)

We're buying a house!

As you can imagine, the buy-a-house-before-the-tax-credit-runs-out adventure has taken a lot of energy for both me and my husband, hence the reason I have had nothing to say on this blog for the past few weeks.

Suffice to say:
The house is in Over-the-Rhine.
It is a single-family home.
And it has a backyard.

As long as the few last-minute things come together, we will be in the house by the 4th of July (and then maybe climb out on the roof to see the fireworks!).

I couldn't be happier.

More later...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We're Trying to Buy a House

My husband and I are trying to buy a house. Not one house in particular, but a house in general.

We've found about four homes in the past six months that we're willing to purchase--under the right conditions. Those conditions being: selling price and financing and... well, mostly financing. Needless to say, nothing has come together quite yet. Either the price is always out of our range or there are financing restrictions due to the renovation costs, etc.

I know we're not the only potential homeowners who are having a hard time actually purchasing a home. And with the deadline for the government's glorious "first-time homeowners" incentive looming so near over us, we're quickly losing steam (and losing hope).

The homes we've seen and loved have all met one of two qualifications:

1. A single-family home that is downtown ("downtown" loosely referring here to the valley between the hills that surround the central business district of our city--as opposed to "Uptown"), large enough for us to have another child or two (or three) before we need to consider up-sizing, some sort of parking (even if just one off-street or nearby space for my husband's work vehicle), and a historic home (as opposed to the new, builders' grade Drees homes in the West End) with minimal crappy renovations done by the previous owners.

2. A multi-family building or a historic single-family home on a large property that we can use to further our crazy shared vision for a nonprofit organization and housing co-op. We would prefer this to be as near downtown as possible (we had a potential property in the West End), though I've told my husband I would be willing to sacrifice being downtown for either a walkable business district or a large city park.

So, who wants to sell us their house?
You've got twenty-three days and counting.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Urban Revitalization

A few weeks ago, I represented my organization by sitting on a panel for a Give Back Cincinnati "Sounding Session." The topic was urban revitalization. I was supposed to be representing the nonprofit perspective on what it takes to revitalize a community, what stands in the way, and how an individual can help the cause in their community. I may have had a few things to say as a "professional," but I actually walked away with more personal reflection than anything else. In fact, I've been thinking about the topic ever since.

A few thoughts on the issue:

- One of the biggest deterrents to urban revitalization is both the transient nature of many would-be urban dwellers and a city's neglect of amenities that would encourage long-term commitment from residents. Because of the rapid life changes that many residents will go through (college graduation, first jobs, marriage, first child, third child, retirement, etc.), they feel the need to move to a different neighborhood every five years to accommodate those changes. Whether it is the sheer absence of single-family residences, a lack of greenspace and natural areas, parking issues, or safety concerns, most families would not consider living in the same location where they rented their first college apartment. And most residents are simply unwilling to commit to staying put in a community where they are not certain they will be comfortable in 25 years. I believe that the issue here is as much imagined as it is realistic, which leads me to my next point...

- Perceived issues are sometimes more a deterrent than real issues. For example, people may believe it's impractical to live in downtown Cincinnati because "there is no place to buy groceries," but they are wrong in their assumption. And even if they were correct, it would be no more difficult to drive from their downtown home to the nearest large grocery store than it would be for them to drive from their Mason home to the nearest grocery store. In fact, it might be nearer to them and take less time. Another example is the popular notion of how "terrible" the schools are. Not only is this an improper assumption, but it is irrelevant given that in Cincinnati parents can send their children to the public school of their choice, anywhere in the city. All it takes is some ingenuity and effort on the part of the parents and their children can have the same quality education as a child who lives next door to Fairview German School or Walnut Hills High School. (And don't even get me started on the ridiculous notion that once a couple decides to have a child, it is time for them to move to a new subdivision on the outskirts of town, where all the families live. UGH!)

- Poor housing and real estate stock is a serious deterrent to revitalization. There is often a shortage of single-family homes in urban areas and, even where there are homes, parking is an issue. In addition, most parents want a backyard for their children and would even settle for a small, fenced courtyard if given the option. But, concrete reigns supreme instead. In many lower-income areas, beautiful single-family residences have been chopped into poorly-maintained and tastelessly-renovated multi-family buildings (Cincinnati's Avondale neighborhood is a prime example of this). In addition, many vacant buildings cannot be developed because they are owned by absentee landlords who are either slumlords or speculators.

- Quality and diversity of commerce is important for the revitalization of a community. One common theme that I heard at the Sounding Session was that residents and visitors want to see and support businesses that can only be found there, in that community. Sometimes we call these "Mom and Pop" businesses and they are sometimes the best thing drawing people and money to an area. I will add to this, though, that the mere presence of these businesses is not enough. Residents must continue to support them financially on a regular basis. (See the 3/50 Project website for more a comprehensive writing on this issue.)

- No one person, family, or business can revitalize a community alone. In order for a community to experience real renewal, it must be a cooperative task between neighbors, friends, and organizations. In my exercises in community organizing for work, I have seen that the issue of cooperation (or lack-there-off) can really make or break a community. First, those in control of community resources (money, real estate, connections, etc.) must consider the shared vision of those in the entire community or either watch their single vision die or become an unwelcome guest. Now, add to this every person's need for deep and authentic relationships. This makes it simply impossible for one entity to accomplish anything great alone, unless they have the support of those around them. I have all sorts of crazy ideas related to this issue, but I won't go into it now.

All in all, this entire issue of "revitalization" is huge and impossible to conquer in one conversation or one blog post. In fact, most people who dedicate their lives to seeing their community revitalized may not witness the fruits of their effort in their lifetime. This is, indeed, big work. And this issue quickly becomes a battle of ideologies, ethics, culture, and politics, which so often ends the conversation entirely.

Suffice to say this (for now):

I have committed myself to never simply residing in my community.
If I am not somehow benefiting it--creating something, bringing something new to life (or bringing something dead back to life), making it safer or stronger, or more beautiful, then I am a waste of space and have surrendered my rights as a resident of the community.

So, I suppose this is where the real conversation begins:

What are you doing to bring your community to life?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do This: Ohio State Roadway Cleanup

I know it might be a little taboo to promote a work event on my personal blog, but here goes:

With millions passing through Cincinnati every month, potholes and heavy traffic aren’t our only problems.

Would you like to know that your concerns about highway litter are being answered? Are you ready to be a part of the solution?

For years, the Ohio Department of Transportation and volunteers with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful have been working to keep litter off of our Ohio State roadways. This year, as a part of the annual State Roadway Cleanup on March 27th, we’ve asked for your help in choosing the cleanup locations! The results are in and will be used to mobilize volunteers during the State Roadway Cleanup, an extension of the nationwide Great American Cleanup.

Now, you are invited to be a part of the solution by volunteering on Saturday, March 27th for the annual State Roadway Cleanup, a partnership between Keep Ohio Beautiful, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and the Ohio Department of Transportation. To volunteer in the Cincinnati area, you can complete the online volunteer form at Once your volunteer form has been submitted and accepted, you will be sent a confirmation email with complete event details and volunteer information. Please allow a few days to process your volunteer form.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

8:30am- Registration;

9:00am- Kick-off Event;

9:30-12:30pm Cleanup Event

Meeting Location:

Cincinnati Union Terminal 1301 Western Avenue

Cincinnati, OH 45203-1123

All State Roadway Cleanup volunteers who sign up through Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will receive a $1 coupon for the Cincinnati Museum Center’s new Omnimax film: Under the Sea and are eligible to receive one of five pairs of tickets that will be raffled during the event kick-off press conference!

Volunteers will meet in the Cincinnati Union Terminal parking lot, participate in a state-wide kick-off ceremony, and then be mobilized to their respective cleanup locations. This kick-off event will include a special appearance by Cincinnati Bengal Andre Smith, live music by local favorites Jake Speed and the Freddies, and light coffee breakfast.

Volunteers for the State Roadway Cleanup events in Cincinnati must be aged 18 or over, as all cleanup locations will be on or near Ohio State highways. Carpooling to Union Terminal is highly recommended. Some volunteers will ride together in a bus; others will transport themselves to the cleanup locations. All cleanup locations will be overseen by ODOT staff and all proper safety measures will be observed. All cleanup supplies will be provided. Volunteers should dress for weather conditions and light outdoor manual labor. Closed-toed shoes are required. For more information, visit, call (513)352-4384 or email