Archive: Jun 2011

My current full-time gig

While writing grants and promotional materials may not be exactly what I hope to do with my life, my current job is the best I’ve had in terms of both management and program quality. I recently shot some photos and wrote this feature story to build awareness for the program to help it expand.

MSU program improves childcare quality

Chloe Gray, 4, a student at Train up a Child Christian Learning Center in Clinton, takes a leap during physical development activities as part of the Nurturing Homes Initiative, an MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Department of Human Services project.

If home is where the heart is, then it’s no wonder that 54 percent of Mississippi children attend unlicensed home childcare programs.

Known by a variety of names, these businesses whether called “family childcare,” “in-home childcare,” or “family home care,” are places where caregivers open their homes to create safe learning environments. As part of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the Nurturing Homes Initiative (NHI) partners with these businesses to increase the quality of care.

As the only employees of their own small business, home care providers often operate with limited access to materials that encourage emotional, social, physical, and intellectual growth in children. To fill that void, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Early Childhood Care and Development, funds NHI to teach best practices and provide supplies.

NHI has worked with over 1,200 in-home child caregivers to improve learning opportunities for over 6,000 children. By meeting with providers in their homes, NHI field technicians provide one-on-one, hands-on mentoring by reviewing lesson materials, discussing challenges and concerns, and modeling age-appropriate activities. While the state requires child caregivers at licensed centers to earn 15 hours of staff development each year, home providers have no state-mandated education requirements and can face challenges accessing education. Continue Reading »


Big fish stories

It is not beyond my father to exaggerate.

Much like salt water taffy, my father’s stories are stretched near the breaking point before folding in on thin layers of jokes, made up acronyms, and outright lies.

So when my father called Saturday to tell me he caught a giant fish – a fish so big it would not fit in his cooler. So big, he had to recruit the help of a lanky 14 year old to help him with his net. So big, the lanky 14 year old hollered for his mother to come hold on to his legs because he was going over the railing. So, so big that the mother, while gripping her son, yelled, “Mister, your net is breaking!” So big that it did indeed break his net but not his resolve to reel him in.

The story was so big, that I had to talk to my mother to verify that this miniature whale existed. While she’d normally love to rein in his stories, all she could say was, “It’s a big fish!”

As the photo evidence confirmed, it was indeed a big fish:

My daddy with the big, big fish

Continue Reading »


Climbing Rocks at Tishomingo State Park

As a long state, Mississippi has quite the variety of terrain. The Coast where I grew up is filled with swamps, sand, and gnats more dangerous than gators we saw as we rode our bikes. Like the Coast, Starkville has mostly pine woods though it’s slightly less flat and boasts several surrounding manmade lakes. If you go more north, you’ll see the elevation continue to change as you land in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Yes, it’s still Mississippi. Yes, it’s still mostly pine. But! You find rocks. Big, fun, climbable rocks that make a 3 mile trail a fun and at times heart rate raising adventure.

This was our second trip to Tishomingo State Park. The previous trip happened in the fall when we were short on daylight and turned back before finishing the trail. This time with a long, hot summer day, we finished in plenty of daylight. The only downside to the trip was the marking. Far too often we had to question, “Are we still on the trail?” The map they give you is no help. Just say no to the blue map. The white one is better, but even still it does not include all the little side paths that are marked as trail as well that you can explore.

Explore we did:


That’s me and D hanging out on some rocks. This post is going to be mostly photos all in chronological order. You’ll get to go on the trail as we experienced it from reading the map to taking the road that led us home. Continue Reading »


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