Monday, February 28, 2011

When I Was Seven. . .

I'm still cracking up over the many artistic masterpieces I created when I was little. Tonight, I'm sharing another gem I found in my box o' greatness from grade school. (Basically because I don't want to write a post about how many times my kids said the phrase, "Shut up!" tonight.)

So, here is a little booklet I made when I was in first grade.



No, I didn't do a bad job drawing my hair. This is what it really looked like.


This was pre-Dorothy Hammill (which really wasn't much of an improvement.) I still think my mom wanted a boy and was determined to make me look like one when I was a kid. But I'm happy as a clam (or a big floating head) with my purple eyes.


"Congratulations, Mrs. Damalas, you've given birth to a creepy old man with red vampire teeth."

I don't know if I really, truly liked my name as a child or if I (most likely) simply didn't follow the directions, and wrote my name twice.


Sigh. Yeah, some things don't change. It would be nice to be 17 and once again know everything.


Yes, I had big green eyes with red lashes, but what I really wanted were tiny pink eyes with red lashes.


Okay, what was this teacher thinking with all these, "I would rather look like this. . ." questions? I wonder how many kids got a complex after completing this assignment. Or maybe she did plastic surgery on the side.


My favorite sound is a chicken??? I was born in Chicago! I don't think I'd ever even heard a chicken when I was 7 years old! This is probably another case of Dawn not paying attention. I probably thought the question was, "What's your favorite food?" Either that, or I was just deranged.


Hmmm, this must have been a short-lived purple phase because my favorite color has always been pink. But let's take a closer look at this picture with the sloppy coloring. . .



Let's see, there's a unicorn, a flying fish, a giant foot with a head and top hat. . . Yep, I think this (along with every Sid and Marty Krofft show) proves that everyone was on acid in the 70s.


That is the worst drawing of The Dukes of Hazzard I've ever seen!

AdDress Your Heart

Campbell Soup Company Celebrates Heart Health

As part of the fifth consecutive year of the company’s signature “AdDress Your Heart” campaign, Campbell reinforced its commitment to heart health by teaming up with Monica Potter, star of NBC’s Parenthood, and NFL Mom Deborah Johnson, mother of defensive end Jay Richardson, both of whom walked the red carpet in Campbell red dresses and talked about their motivation to raise awareness for heart disease, the number one killer of women.

Visit CampbellsAdDressYourHeart.com to watch Monica Potter's and Deborah Johnson's videos. For every view through March 31, 2011, Campbell will donate $1 to the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, up to $625,000. This is part of the overall $3.6 million donation Campbell has committed to the organization by 2012.


Campbell offers more than 100 convenient, great-tasting products that fit into a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes all 25 Campbell’s® Healthy Request® soups, Low Sodium V8® 100% vegetable juice and Prego® Heart Smart Italian sauces. All of these products have been screened and verified to meet the American Heart Association's certification criteria to display its heart-check mark. For more information about the campaign and Campbell’s heart-healthy products, visit www.CampbellsAddressYourHeart.com.

Go watch the videos, then leave me a comment here including your email address for a chance to win a Campbell's gift including an AdDress Your Heart fleece pull-over, an AdDress Your Heart apron, and some delicious heart-healthy products from Campbell's! I'll choose a random winner on Wednesday!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sunday Sound Out

From Chicago, where it's apparently never going to stop snowing, it's your host, the woman who went inline skating for the first time in 17 years and lived to tell the tale, Dawn Damalas Meehan!

Nice job on the cakes! Is Rapunzel's tower made out of cake? Because how on earth did it not topple over?
Whenever I have to make structures like that, I either use Rice Krispie treats or styrofoam to avoid a cake landslide. Although you can do a lot with cake if you support it well.

How did you do the bricks?
I rolled out the fondant, pressed a brick mold into it, and put the fondant on the cake. Then I dipped my finger in red and brown color and lightly brushed it over the bricks. Voila!

When are we going to see pics of your bathroom redo?
What? You (gasp!) skim my blog??? No soup for you!

BTW, the friend's shoe is in between the mattress and boxspring of your youngest child's bed. I don't know why it's there either. Like you, I stopped asking.
Nope. Actually we found it outside on the driveway behind my car in the snow. I have no idea. None of us even went outside!

Manuscript? Are you writing another book? I just finished your new one and LOVED it. SO much.
Awww, thank you. I did some rewriting on Because I Said So and it's going to be re-released by Simon & Schuster later this year.

Did you know that you were mentioned in this New York Times article?
Yeah, Lisa Belkin mentioned me on The Motherload last week. Gee, I'm glad I didn't have a stupid post up about not knowing what to write when 10,000 potential new readers ventured over here. I'm sure all those people will come back to read again. I mean, it's not like I scared them away with a picture of a decapitated doll head in my fridge or anything.

After reading about your ex and your inlaws calling dcfs on you I have to ask you a question-maybe for the Sunday sound off? How did you know when you had had enough? How did you know when your marriage was not going to be able to work? As someone who has alcoholics in my life I am just wondering how you know that enough is enough. I know in previous posts you mentioned that things had been difficult for years and I am wondering why did you stay then and what finally made you leave. I know these are really personal questions so ignore this comment if you want and know that I will still be a reader of your blog.
I stayed for the kids. And then one day, he dragged the kids into his lies. And that was the last straw. I realized it was no longer in the kids' best interest. And since then, he's made one poor decision after another. Decisions that have hurt my kids and hurt himself. Decisions that he can never take back. Decisions that have assured me that I did the right thing by saying "enough".

(And how much is the [library] fine for one year -- that must be a lot!
Nooo, the movie wasn't out for a year. I'd returned it long ago. The $4 fine was just sitting there on my account for a year. It's not like I'd had The Tropic of Cancer out since 1971.

How did you develop a thick skin or did you always have one? My problem is I know judgmental and mean spirted comments would keep me up at night obsessing about it. I know you rarely comment on them and you don't let the negative people keep you from just being yourself. Everyone tells me to write a book, a blog, or something but I really think the fear of being criticized holds me back. I would love to just let it roll off my back and just stay true to myself. I have always admired the way you handle that. I wasn't sure if you learned this over time or you just had a thick skin to begin with.
I don't have thick skin at all! Far from it. I used to cry buckets when I'd get a negative comment. It didn't matter how many positive comments I got; they faded away in the face of one single negative one. At some point, however, I realized that I had to change the way I looked at things. The negative comments are almost always from an anonymous person; an anonymous person who knows very little about what they're saying; an anonymous person who takes the tiny bit I share and makes huge assumptions. My friend Kelli always reminds me that wounded people wound people. When I started looking at it like that, I felt sorry for the commenter instead of angry at them. I mean, how would you like to be so filled with negativity that you feel the need to lash out at a stranger for no particular reason? It would suck.
At a Christian writers' retreat this past fall, Jennifer Degler led a devotion about how we eat up the compliments like Oreos. But when we put so much stock in what others think, we then choke on the negative comments like a rotten ole banana peel. Her talk was great and really spoke to me. I'm not writing to get everyone's approval. That's impossible. Not even the best writers on earth will get everyone's approval. I only need the approval of One.
I still hate to get negative comments. But I no longer cry or lose sleep over them. In fact, I have my own special hate mail form for them HERE.

How many people visit your blog everyday? Everytime I see your map, it is loaded with red dots visiting your blog...!!!
At least 2 or 3.

Okay, go forth and have a wonderful week and remember to be excellent to each other! (I've gotta stop quoting TV shows and movies from the 80s.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Come to California!

My mom saved a box of school work from when I was in grade school, and at some point, she dumped all this crap on me gave me this wealth of blogging material. I was looking through the box this evening when I found the most awesome little booklet I made back in May of 1978. I was eight years old at the time. It's a travel guide for California. Hey, Jerry Brown, you might want to use this in your advertising. I'm tellin' ya, you'll have people flooding to California when they see this compelling gem!


Right there, you have some amazing graphics! I mean, the cover of this travel brochure alone makes me want to hop a plane west! Yeah, so the fisherman apparently has a bad case of gout. Maybe that's why he needs to go fishing for a bigger boot. But still, California looks appealing despite that, don't you think? I mean, the sun is smiling down on the poor fisherman with the disfigured foot and that's always a good sign!


Ahhh, yes, the famous Motel 6 of Napa. I believe I saw Robin Leach feature this hotel just last month! And at only one dollar a night, you really can't beat it! Now that's affordable luxury! But this travel guide also includes an impressive itinerary. Not only can you stay at the Napa Motel 6 for two nights, but you can spend a third night at the Ramada in San Francisco!


I bet you didn't know you could take the clark to the airport from the Ramada in San Francisco, did you? Well, you can!

This travel guide even has an exhaustive list of all the things you can do in the great state of California!

* Fisherman's Wharf
* Cable Cars
* China Town
* Shops
* Lunch



Ah yes, and if you want to swim, you can go to California because both the Motel 6 and the Ramada have pools! I know! It's impressive, huh?

You're welcome, California. I'm sure this blog post is going to send thousands of people running to their computers to book their vacations to sunny CA! Or maybe a hundred. A dozen. One? I'm sure at least one person will check out California. You know, because I'm going to check it out now. . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Not Just a Movie Store

I went to my local library today. Did you know that libraries have BOOKS? For 18 years, I thought my library was a Blockbuster. I selected three DVDs many deep, thought-provoking books. Upon checking out, I was informed I had an overdue fine from March, 2010. For a writer, that's pretty sad. Oh, who am I kidding? That's sad for a human! Seriously, I haven't been to the library in a YEAR?! And the fine? Yeah, it was for a Will Ferrell movie.

"Oh, my ex husband must have checked that out on my card," I stammered.

The librarian stared at me, unconvinced.

I shoved my hands in my pockets, looked down at my shoes and whistled. "So, um, how 'bout them Cubs? You think they have a chance this year? Ahem."

Honestly, after that scene, I felt a little embarrassed asking the librarian if she'd be interested in having me speak there. But I asked anyway. I told her the title of my newest book, You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth). She asked me if it was a book about weight loss. I wet my pants, may have snorted laughed until I was doubled over with cramps.

The librarian maintained her no-nonsense expression. I straightened, cleared my throat, and asked, "Do you want it to be a book about weight loss? It could be a book about weight loss. I do tons of exercise I'd be happy to talk about. I do toe touches every day to stay limber and flexible. I pick up shoes, coats, granola bar wrappers, gummy bears, potato chip crumbs, socks, games, cheese, videotapes, pennies, tea cups, crayons, remote controls, Barbies, turtle food, those stupid plastic bracelets, Matchbox cars, and the occasional wombat.

And just today, I washed all the bedding and made the bunk beds. That's a workout worthy of any triathlete. Seriously, have you ever tried that? Balancing on the rungs of the stupid ladder alone takes Herculean strength, flexibility, and the ability to get along with no feeling in the bottom of your feet for the rest of the day.

The librarian still stared at me, unmoved.

"Um no, no it's not a book on weight loss. It's just funny stuff about pregnancy," I meekly admitted.

I don't need to call her; she'll call me. Next time, I'll use the eye patch and say, "Ahoy! I be needin' t' speak about me new book at yer library." That ought to do it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Don't Know What to Write

I mentioned on Facebook that I couldn't think of anything to blog about and I asked if I could just blog about not having anything to blog about. My friends on Facebook gave me the thumbs up. So, really the following blog post is their fault. Hunt them down; not me.

Soooo, as I was saying. I wanted to write a nice blog post because I've been kinda busy lately what with kids and my manuscript and such and I've been kinda, sorta, a little bit, notsomuch writing here. In case you hadn't noticed. But when I sat down at my computer, I couldn't think of anything to write. So I had some coconut M&Ms thanks to my reader Jennifer, for sending them to me.
Hopped up on the heavenly combination of coconut and chocolate, I looked back at my keyboard, ready to start writing. But I read some mail instead. Did you know that Dr. Clement Okon requests my confidence in an urgent business matter that will net me 21,000,000 US dollars? I know! I was pretty excited about that too!

Done with my spam folder, I pulled up my blog once more, but was sidetracked by Lexi who had gotten out of bed to tattle tell me that Clay was out of bed. After duct-taping the kids back in bed (No, Joe, you and your parents don't need to call DCFS; I didn't really tape them in bed. I know you don't comprehend this, but I use humor and sarcasm in my blog.), I sat down and stared at my computer screen again.

Since nothing exciting happened to me today (well, excluding the part where I was at the grocery store and saw the Black Eyed Peas. I took a picture of them and twittered about it, but no one thought it was quite as cool as I did. In fact, Austin even told me I was a dork. So, naturally, I posted it on his Facebook wall.


When I was done playing around on my son's wall, I brought up my blog once more. And once more, I was distracted from writing; this time by Lexi telling me that Jackson's turtle was on the floor.

"Jackson, why is your turtle on the floor?"

"Because I spilled his food on the floor."

I stared at him. "???"

"He's cleaning it up for me."

I glanced at an entire jar of turtle food on the floor. I looked at his tiny little turtle. Yep, makes sense to me. I turned on my heel and left.

Back at my computer, I stared at my blank screen, willing something brilliant to pop into my head. The only thing that crossed my mind, however, was that I was thirsty. I went to the fridge to pour myself some orange juice. This is what I saw. I didn't even question who put the shrunken head there or why. Some things just don't surprise me anymore. It's normal to see a decapitated head in the fridge, it's normal to hear Clay sing a song about pooping in the USA, and it's normal when one of the kids has a friend over and when it's time for the friend to go, we can't find her shoe. Anywhere. For two days.
Okay, enough procrastinating, Dawn. You have to think of something to write. Your readers expect you to come up with something now and then. Think, think, think. Ugh, this is ridiculous! It shouldn't be this hard to think of something to write, for crying out loud!

I stalled some more by cleaning all the garbage out from under the couches. I decided to do some sit-ups since I was already on the floor and all. I did two before my abdominal muscles got up and walked right out of my body, leaving me lying in a ball, crying in pain on the floor. From that great vantage point, I saw an M&M I'd dropped and ate it promptly threw it in the garbage can.

I went back to the kitchen and added a little rum to my orange juice. After a few minutes, I decided that perhaps my rum to orange juice ratio wasn't quite right. I started thinking it would be fun to actually wear an eye patch to Target tomorrow, and talk like a pirate to everyone. "Shiver me timbers, I can't find the laundry detergent! Can ya be helping a poor pirate to find it, matey?"

Realizing that my blogging was going nowhere, I opted to take a shower and think about it. Somewhere between washing my hair and shaving my legs, I forgot about blogging and started writing dialogue in my head for a great romance novel. I write novels in my head all day long. I don't even realize I do it. I just do. I have since I can remember. As a little kid, I was always "writing" stories in my head. Too bad I don't write brilliant blog posts in my head, huh? And if you've read this far, thinking I'd eventually have a point, all I can say is (in the words of Clay), "Sucks to be you!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Sound Out

From Chicago, home of the puffy shirt, it's your host, the woman who never yada yadas over the important stuff, Dawn Damalas Meehan!

I am curious - why would you put a toilet paper holder in your bathroom? Do your kids know how to properly use one? No one, but me knows.
They know how to use the toilet paper. Know how I know this? Because I found a wad of it behind my washing machine the other day. Hmmm, which, on second thought, probably means that they don't really know how to use it. And they certainly don't know how to replace the empty cardboard tube with a fresh roll. Yeah, I have no idea why I'm putting a toilet paper holder in the bathroom.

Is it wrong that I would be willing to pay $15 for a pirate eye patch alone?!? Because *that* will help my dating situation...
That depends. It might work if you're trying to date a pirate. Ooo, ooo, or an eye doctor! Tell ya what, I'll wear an eye patch with you and we'll go out and have fun!

(Argh! Like my hook hand?)

This is unrelated, but I had a question. Had you ever thought about photoshopping your ex out of that nifty caricature [at the top of my blog]? I'd be happy to do it for you. :)
I thought about removing him, but I think it's apropos considering, if you look closely, it shows the ex literally running away from the family. Besides, Rick from Organized Doodles drew that for me and I really like it.

His handwriting is 1000 better than my husband's. But I must confess...I don't use soap when I go poo. I don't really know how you would...
Remind me not to shake your hand. Ever.

I had a a birthday party for Brooklyn and Clayton yesterday. Brooklyn wanted a Rapunzel cake. I started making Rapunzel's tower. The bricks and ivy turned out pretty awesome looking. . .


Then I ran out of time and just slapped the top together. I almost took it off and threw it away before guests arrived because I hated it so much, but Brooklyn insisted it was good and must stay on top.


And I had very little time to do Clay's cake. In fact, Austin made the Pokeballs himself! Good job for his first time working with fondant, no? Oh well, a couple years ago, I spent many hours working on Clay's Lightning McQueen cake and then just slapped together a Nemo cake for Brooklyn. I think, in the future, I'll do their "cakes" ahead of time on styrofoam and just make a small, plain actual cake to cut and serve.



Amy, who writes over at Pregnant Chicken is giving away a signed copy of You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth) HERE. After leaving a comment for a chance to win my book, look around. She's hilarious! You have to check out her post about awkward pregnancy photos HERE. The pictures are funny, but her commentary will have you snorting coffee out your nose!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LEGOLAND Discount

My four youngest kids love this place! If you have any Lego fanatics at home or you just want something different and fun to do with your kids, take a trip to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago located in Schaumburg, IL.



To celebrate President’s Day, LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago is offering guests $5 off each full paid admission from February 17 - 25!




Other discounts include:

· Buy ANY LEGO Game, get Robo Champ (3835) for $1.00!
· Buy $50 or more of of Atlantis boxed sets and receive $10 off your purchase!
· Purchase a Pirate Sword, Pirate Hat, and Pirate Eye Patch for $15! ($23 value separately)
· Buy 1 LEGO over the shoulder bag, get 1 LEGO Classic Large Magnet set FREE!




For more information, hours, and directions, click HERE!



Monday, February 14, 2011

How Do You Spell Soap?

Every Monday, Clayton has to write several sentences using his spelling words. And every Monday, it's a several hour battle to get him to do it. I give him suggestions. I try to get him to think of different ways he can use the spelling words. And he sits there, whining that he can't think of anything to write. For three or four hours. Literally. I don't even sit there that long when I whine about not knowing what to write on my blog!

Anyway, last night, he got stuck on the word soap.

I suggested, "I use soap in the shower."

Clay looked at me blankly.

I suggested, "You need to wash your hands with soap."

He stared at me, a vacant look on his face.

I said, "I give up. Think of a sentence and write it! You could've been done with your homework an hour ago if you'd Just! Do! It!"

Another twenty minutes passed before he'd finally managed to finish the sentence. This is what he wrote. . .



It says, I use soap when I go poo.

His teacher has got to wonder about us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Why Valentine's Day Sucks

10. It's the anniversary of a massacre.
Al Capone had the right idea. Instead of sending flowers, he sent his buddies to kill seven members of the Bugs Moran gang. I'm sure there was a good reason for it though. Bugs had probably forgotten to make dinner reservations forcing the gangsters to dine at Denny's.

9. No one even has a clue why we celebrate Valentine's Day.
Is it for the three martyrs named Valentine? Is it because of the Feast of Lupercalia? Is it because Hallmark and DeBeers say we should?

8. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
If you buy into the commercialism of the holiday, then you're only giving gifts/going out to dinner because the holiday is dictating you must do those things. Where's the meaning? If you refuse to be sucked into the commercialism, your significant other is going to be mad. I mean, like not talking to you for a month, mad. I mean, like canceling your subscription to Sports Illustrated, shredding your baseball season tickets, and dumping your sorry butt, mad. Especially if you're the guy in this scenario because whether or not your girl is into Valentine's Day, her friends are. And they will compare notes.

7. Heart candies are horrible.
Those stupid little heart candies taste like chalk and are hard enough to break a tooth. Not to mention, they say stupid things. They should make candies like these. . .







6. Valentine's Day starts sucking in grade school.
Yep, even little kids in grade school aren't immune to the suckiness that is Valentine's Day. Every year, kids come home in tears because they didn't get a valentine from so & so, but he gave the rest of the class one. And so & so didn't accept your valentine because "you have cooties". The drama starts early and never ends.

5. The jealousy factor can kill you.
When you're single, you certainly want your friends to be happy and would rather see them in love than alone and miserable. But, at the same time, there's that part of you that wishes them a slow, painful death you had a special someone too.

4. Is it the thought that counts?
Sure, the thought counts, but what are you trying to say when you stop at the gas station on the way home to pick up a gift for your sweetheart? I mean, I like scratch-off lottery tickets, Snickers bars and lighters as much as the next person, but they don't exactly scream, I care enough about you to put a little effort into your present. The same goes for sending a virtual teddy bear hug on Facebook.

3. Who decided that chocolate should be part of the Valentine's Day ritual, anyway?
Not that I have anything against chocolate, of course. I could eat chocolate for every meal without any problems. Well, except for the problem of not being able to fasten my jeans anymore. But a lot of people start their annual diets January 1st, in the hopes of taking off that holiday weight in time for swimsuit weather. And then that evil Valentine's Day comes along and suddenly you have five pounds of chocolate staring you in the face. You can't just leave it there or give it to your kids. You have to eat it. It's the law. And there goes your diet.

2. Sappy love songs become increasingly annoying on Valentine's Day.
You feel like John Cusack in Better Off Dead when he rips the radio out of his car and launches it out the window while it continues to play songs about breaking up as a reminder that you're all alone. And even if you're in a loving relationship, hearing those cheesy love songs makes you want to vomit. Really, is there any other time of year, where you want to hear Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack? And what kind of name is Peabo anyway???

1. Valentine's Day's mascot is creepy.
Who wants to celebrate a holiday represented by a manbaby in a diaper who flies around shooting people with his bow and arrows??? If Cupid was hanging around your neighborhood, you'd be dialing 9-1-1 faster than you can say "registered offender".

Sunday Sound Out

From Chicago, the city that removes tough stains and smells springtime fresh, it's your host, the woman who drove around town in a 45 degree heatwave with her head hanging out the window like a dog, Dawn Damalas Meehan!

Since you are a Greek girl, I am thinking you are probably a REALLY good cook, because I stereo type like that....but to me, that would be the best part of a Greek family...the food!!!
Sure, I cook lamb on a spit in my front yard! Oh wait, no, that's not me; that's My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Eh, I can cook okay when I have the time, but I never have the time! My mom used to always joke that she married the only Greek who not only doesn't own a restaurant, but can't even boil water.

The response to the last question made Crack Up!! How DO you remember all that stuff!?!
I remember useless trivia, but forget stuff like doctor's appointments, baseball sign-up, and my kids' names. It's a trade-off.

I wanted to revisit the "sucks to be you" comment. I first heard it in the Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man. Out of all the funny things in the movie, that was the one comment my son picked up on and I got to the point that I had to tell him to stop. Not such a funny comment when your kid says it all the time and mine did! I hope yours doesn't (was it Jackson?)
It was Clay originally, but now everyone says it. All. The. Time.

"Ouch, I hurt my toe!"
"Sucks to be you!"
"I can't find my phone."
"Sucks to be you!"
"I got a C on my test."
"Sucks to be you!"
"I have a ton of homework tonight!"
"Sucks to be you!"

Oh yeah, the fun is never ending around these here parts.

How beautiful. He's a great writer, like his mom! :) Is he feeling better? What about Jackson? Praying for y'all.
Austin and Jackson are both doing better as far as depression goes, but they both still have a ways to go. Thank you for asking and praying. :)

Wow...what a heartfelt tribute to you, Dawn. Must mean you're doing something right, huh?
Eh, either that, or he wants something.

Has Austin started thinking about college yet?
Austin has informed me that he intends to be a hobo after high school. At least he's not wasting his gifts of intelligence, humor, and creativity on something silly. Sigh

Is the bathroom done yet, post pics if it is!!
It's almost done. Chris removed every trace of mold and installed new drywall, studs, floor joists, and floor. He installed the sink, shower, and new tile (all the right way, I might add.) I just need to finish patching and sanding the walls, prime and paint, and install the towel rack and toilet paper holder.



Oh how I feel your pain! Telling us that she says, "Look what I can do!" instantly put an image of the Mad TV character 'Stewart' in my head....
You and me both!






The winner of the Nestle Cookie Tin is -

Chris said...
I love baking cookies from scratch. Chocolate chip or fragile crispy sugar cookies...doesn't matter. I just love it. I also bake when it's snowing or I'm housebound. Then I normally make cakes. Gotta love some good carrot cake! Chris in PA


Congratulations! Email me with your shipping address and I'll pop this in the mail right away!


This is one of my favorite pictures. I took this on the beach in North Carolina this summer. I just really love this picture! My good friend, Michelle, has taken this picture and improved it...




Check it out! She DREW this! She added a big, bright, sun and called it Dawn of a New Day! She's the most talented artist I know! Thank you so much, Michelle, for this awesome Brownlow original!





And she's offering prints and notecards of her original drawing in her Etsy store HERE! Check it out! She's selling the notecards as a fundraiser for me. How sweet!



Again, I want to thank all my readers for their kind, thoughtful, generous spirits! I've taped the cards you've sent me up on my bedroom wall. It's a total pick-me-up when I walk past these! And thank you for all the letters, emails, gift cards, donations, books, jewelry, soaps and lotions, etc. Most days, I go along, trusting that things will work out. I'm working hard, trying to bring in enough to support my family on my own. But some days, I absolutely freak out at the reality of the situation. The thought of losing my house makes me hyperventilate. The thought of being unable to buy groceries or pay for medical care for my kids makes me sick with worry when I let it get to me. And there are definitely those days when it gets to me. On those days when I think, Oh my gosh, what AM I going to do??? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!!!, I like to walk by my Wall of Encouragement. It helps me to calm down and keep a level head. It helps me to push on even though I'm tired. It helps me to remember that things will work out, one way or another. Thank you for that!



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Look What I Can Do!

Brooklyn sat at the table drawing a picture. Actually, it wasn't so much a picture as it was just filling in squares on graph paper. After she colored in each square, she held up her paper and asked, "See what it looks like now? Do you like it now, Mama?"

For the first twenty or so squares, I played along, looking up from what I was doing, to offer lavish praise on this work of art. At some point, however, I stopped glancing over at the paper, and started offering a half-hearted, completely disinterested, "Mmm hmm".

By the time she got to about the fortieth square, I felt myself actually getting mad. I've looked at your paper a thousand times! You don't have to show me your progress every stinkin' minute!" "Yes, Brooklyn. I still think you're doing an awesome job. It looks great!" I said, exasperated.

This was not an isolated incidence tonight, oh no. On any given day, she can be seen doing something that needs immediate attention. Like hopping on one leg. "Mom. Mom! MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM!"

I turn away from the pot I'm stirring on the stove and offer a weary, "Yes, Brooklyn?"

"Look what I can do!" she instructs me as she proudly shows off her mad hopping skills.

This will continue the whole time I'm cooking. "Look. Look! Mom, look at me! Look at me! Look at me!"

I turn to see the same child hopping the same way. "That's great, honey. You're so talented."

"Noooo, I was hopping on my other foot that time! See?"

"Oh yes, I see," I say, turning back to my dinner preparations.

"Now look. Mom. Mom! Now look what I can do! See what I can do? Mom!"

"Yes, Brooklyn. Oh yes, that's wonderful! I wish I had a tenth of your energy."

"That time I was hopping while flapping my arms. Now look at me! I can hop and stick my fingers in my ears. Now look! I'm hopping and turning around! Now look at me! Look! I can hop with my eyes closed! Mom! Look, LOOK, LOOK!!!"

This is an especially fun activity while I'm the phone. The minute I get on the phone, the child is instantly drawn to me. It doesn't matter that they've been playing quietly for the last half hour. They sense the minute I pick up the phone to dial and they pull out all the stops, just begging for attention.

I know there are some of you without kids, or some of you who have little kids who aren't to this stage yet, and you're probably thinking that I'm impatient and/or mean. And I'll admit, before I had kids, I would have probably agreed with you. If anyone had told me that it could be exhausting just watching a child play, I would've thought they were nuts. How tiring could it possibly be to simply watch a child play, right? Well, if you have kids, you know. If you don't, try this - set your alarm to go off every sixty seconds then sit down to write an article, or cook dinner, or pay bills, or have a phone conversation. Every time the alarm goes off, you must look away from the task at hand, and say, "Oh yes, dear. That's great! Good job, sweetie!" Have fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bake Some Love

I was sent this cookie tin from Nestle. I love baking (mostly because I love eating baked goods). So, Brooklyn and I baked today.


Not naming any names, but one of us tried to eat the raw dough before getting caught.


We pressed the dough into the tin. As we did, Brooklyn asked, "Couldn't we just bake little cookies and put them in here, Mom?"

"What, make several little cookies? Bake batch after batch? That's way too much work, Brooklyn. Now squish the dough in there."


According to Brooklyn, everything's better with sprinkles. Lots and lots of sprinkles.


Yum! Actually, my kids and I do enjoy baking and making recipes from scratch, but sometimes, it's nice to have a fresh batch of yummy warm cookies without all the work.



Nestle sent me two of these cookies kits so I have one to give away to a lucky reader. Leave me a comment here and tell me your favorite baking tradition and I'll choose a random winner on Saturday. Winner will have 48 hours to claim prize before an alternate winner is chosen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And Sometimes They Surprise You

Austin shared this essay he wrote for school, with me. It made me cry.

Renaissance Person of the Year
Austin Meehan

I believe that there are many characteristics that a modern day man or women would need to be considered a renaissance person of the year. A renaissance person needs to be well rounded and have great qualities to make up an ideal role model for others in today’s society. This modern day renaissance person would need to be honest, smart, hopeful, caring, trusting, hardworking and strong on the inside. I believe that my mom has all of the characteristics needed to be a modern day renaissance person, so I nominate her.

My mom is very honest and at times this can be extremely difficult. She can tell the truth even when it hurts. I remember one time when my mom was feeling down, so I asked what was wrong. Instead of saying nothing was wrong like most parents would do, she told me what was making her feel that way and what I could do to help so that things would eventually be better. Unlike other parents, she doesn’t just glaze over her children’s work; instead she not only tells us what can be improved, but she helps us get it to that stage.

My mom is very trusting and smart. I can tell her anything or any of my problems and she will be able to understand them and tell me what to do if I want to fix them. Many of my friends have told me they have a bad relationship between with their parents. They aren’t able to talk to their parents without their parents being disappointed or not knowing what to do or say. My mom understands me and shares her own experiences so we can relate to each other.

A modern renaissance person of the year would need to be hardworking and strong to achieve that award. My mom stays up for hours into the night writing her blog and humor books that inspire thousands of parents to enjoy their kids and see the lighter side of life while being a mom to me and my five siblings. She works hard to make enough money for us because my parents are divorced and my dad isn’t reliable with child support. Even with all these stressors and factors working against her, she is still able to keep calm and make it through without help. She does everything she can to make life for us better while still being there for us as a caring mom.

There are few, if any, modern day men and women that meet the requirements for the renaissance person of the year, but I agree completely that my mom is one of the few that deserves it. She is honest, trusting, hardworking and everything in-between. She is what makes life for my siblings and me great; she’s the well rounded renaissance women of our society.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let's Play Dolls

Brooklyn asked me to play dolls with her like she regularly does. I have to admit that I usually just kinda hold a doll, jump it around the house a little and get bored. I mean, I can play dolls with her for hours, but after the first five minutes, it's SO boring not entirely enjoyable. But today, I got into playing dolls. Perhaps a bit too much...


"It's Monday. The kids were home all weekend, so naturally, the house is destroyed. Time to clean. La la la la la, whistle while you work...I'm going to make the beds and straighten up the bedrooms because a clean room is a happy room."



"Time to clean the bathrooms. It's amazing how disgusting those bathtubs can get. How DO those bathtubs get so gross so fast?"



At this point, Brooklyn interrupted me to tell me I wasn't playing the right way. "Mooom, she doesn't clean the bathroom. She puts on makeup to get ready for her date."

"Wow, you really have a good imagination, Brooklyn!" I said, impressed. Then I went back to my way of playing.

"I need to pull the curtains down to wash them since someone didn't want their pasta and ended up flipping her plate against the window while throwing a fit because I dared to feed her something other than chocolate milk and peanut butter."



"Next, it's time to dust the entertainment center, scrub the marker off the TV, and vacuum up the weekend's popcorn extravaganza."



"Oh, I think I hear the kids coming home from school now! Hi guys! How was your day? Do you have any homework?



Great, well you do your homework while I get dinner started."



"Hey kids, dinner's almost.....



.....what on earth have you guys done to the family room?!?!?!"



"Seriously? Seriously??? You've been home for one hour! ONE! Who put the milk by the TV? Why are there cupcakes on the couch? A boogie board? Why in the world did you guys bring the boogie board in here?! Put the kitchen chair back and clean up this mess. NOW!"



"Oh yeah, I love bedtime. Ahhhh, I'd get another rum and Coke, but I'm too tired to get up."



Brooklyn stopped me again. "Moooom, that's NOT how you play dolls! You have to take the kids to Chuck E Cheese. You don't make them clean up. You're not playing right."

Clearly, my kids have better imaginations than I do because no matter how hard I try, I can't fathom putting on makeup, going on a date, and taking my kids to Chuck E Cheese.

But, on the bright side, I think I've gotten out of playing dolls with Brooklyn for a while.

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