Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Faith Restored

I attended the same church from the time I was 2 until I moved away at the age of 41. I was baptized and confirmed in this church. I taught Sunday school. I participated in Bible study classes. I was on the drama committee. And under all of that, I believed. There existed in me, a plain and simple, unwavering belief.

The past five years have been rough. My kids and I have enjoyed some good times, some laughter, some happiness, but woven throughout has been an undercurrent of sadness, apprehension, worry and despair. Still, I've held to my faith. I've believed that things happen for a reason. I've tried to be patient, certain that my knowledge of the situation is minute and I can't possibly comprehend, at this moment in time, the bigger picture and why things have happened as they have. I know I need to maintain a positive attitude and be thankful for all the many blessings I have: six awesome kids, our health, friends who look out for us, a job I like . . . But it has gotten hard to remember the good things, the positive points of light interspersed with the bad.

My house is in foreclosure now. It was in foreclosure a couple years ago, but I was able to attain a modification in the nick of time to save it. Unfortunately, that isn't the case this time around. Funny, that the amount I owe on the house is the amount my ex owes me in child support. Unlike my ex, I can't give my mortgage company an 'I'm sorry. I don't have it now. I'll pay you when I can' excuse. It's a gut wrenching feeling - not knowing where you're going to live in a couple months, knowing that the rentals around you are about a third the size of your current house and more money that what you're paying now. Not wanting to be homeless, not wanting to live in a hotel, not wanting to stay in a homeless shelter. It all sucks.

And it has all made me lose faith. I've found myself thinking, over the past few months, that there is no God, and if there is, He sure as heck doesn't care about me. Understanding my foundation, it's hard to fathom how I got to such a low place in my faith. In the past, throughout every struggle, I've always received some little bit of inspiration at just the right time. As I was about to give up writing, I'd get an email thanking me for something I'd written. When I didn't know how I'd pay a bill, just the right amount of money would find its way to me. When I started fooling myself into believing that no one cared, I'd get a phone call from a friend. But none of those things had been happening recently. And I sank lower and lower instead of keeping a positive attitude and simply believing that things would work out.

And then something happened. I've been struggling to find the words to express my gratitude about it for the past couple weeks.

I received a letter in the mail from a reader. It was a hand-written, 2-page letter thanking me for being an inspiration to her. She thanked me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it most. It brought me to tears. And it made me think that maybe, just maybe God is still here; does still care.

Then I got a phone call from the UPS store where I've had a mailbox for the past couple years. The owner explained that an envelope with no return address had arrived for me, but my mailbox had expired a few months earlier. I didn't realize I no longer had a mailbox there! He said he'd hang onto the envelope if I wanted to stop by and pick it up. I did. My youngest three kids and I stopped to pick up the envelope on our way to the mall. It was $100 cash from an anonymous person. Just the day before I had gone to the store to buy presents for my kids - toothbrushes, underwear, and socks, and my card had been declined. I had forgotten about my insurance payment that was taken out of my account, so my balance was too low to get them anything. And then this amazing act of kindness happened. I cried again.

After getting the envelope with the money, my youngest three kids and I continued to the outdoor mall to pick out a present for someone. As we were walking around, we saw a woman offering small, homemade wreaths "so she could buy Christmas presents for her kids." I didn't have any cash on me, so we walked on by, but I felt bad and guilty as we made our way in and out of stores, looking for our gift. Remembering the envelope of cash I had left in my car, the kids and I walked back to the parking lot, grabbed one of the 20s from the envelope, and found the woman. "I was recently blessed with some money and I want to pass that blessing on to you," I told her. I gave her a big hug, wished her a merry Christmas, and the kids complained on the way back to our car, not that I had given away some much needed, much appreciated money, but that "I wanted to give it to her. No, I wanted to! I asked first!" I hope the anonymous person who sent this is happy that I paid it forward a little, and not upset that I didn't use all the money for its intended purpose, but I couldn't not help this woman when someone had so generously helped me.

A ton of food was donated to my school for our homeless and struggling families. I was able to take some home and it has helped tremendously.

Then another gift from a reader arrived. Attached was a thank you to me for bringing joy to others, and a generous gift card for Target. With this, I was able to buy my kids some clothes so they each had something to open on Christmas day.

Finally, the day before Christmas, a nice man and his beautiful daughter rang our doorbell and handed us boxes of wrapped presents. These are the same people who have delivered us presents every year that we've lived here. Five years! For five years, some anonymous person (and it KILLS me that they're anonymous because I want to thank them!) has adopted us and gone out of their way to buy gifts for each of us.

I had a nice Christmas. Yes, it was nice because of the tangible. nice and generous things that friends and strangers and anonymous people did for us. But those acts did so, so, so much more than that. It restored my faith. It made me feel ashamed to doubt God's love. It made me pick up a Bible and stop dwelling on all the crap, and instead embrace all the wonderful blessings. Now, even faced with homelessness (although I'm admittedly not looking forward to the prospect), I can breathe a little easier knowing that we'll be okay no matter what happens. Maybe, for whatever unfathomable reason, I need to know what it feels like to be without a home. Maybe this somehow fits into a much bigger picture. Who knows? All I know is that we'll be okay.I'm reminded of the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith's character went through a lot of crap before he came out on the other end. And yeah, it sucked for a long time. But stepping back and seeing the big picture - it all worked out well in the end. Although if God is taking requests, after this homelessness stint, I'd really like him to show me what it's like to be happily married and have enough money to not only pay my bills, but help out other people. Just sayin' . . .

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE BEST THINGS ABOUT HAVING A BIG FAMILY (ACCORDING TO MY 6 KIDS)

I have six kids. (What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time.) And although my days are hectic, there’s a never-ending pile of laundry, and I don’t always remember my kids’ names, there are also many benefits to having a large family. I asked my kids (aged 9 – 20) to share the best things about being part of a big family. Here’s what they had to say:

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

21 Signs That Parenting Has Made You Lose Your Damn Mind

My friends and I used to be cool. We used to do fun things. Now, we spend our days wondering what happened to us and how we went from intelligent adults to crazy people who spend their time bribing their kids to go potty, eat something more than ketchup and Goldfish crackers for days on end, and pleading with them to stop taking selfies of their belly buttons on our phones.

Every parent I know would agree that having children has given their lives meaning, a sense of fulfillment, and a kind of joy previously unimagined. We love our children. We love caring for them. We love watching them grow. Yet, at the same time, we realize that parenting has made us crazy.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How About a Small Tiara?

I have an irrational perfectly appropriate fear of the dentist. To that end, I try to avoid the him at all costs. I mean, I don't dislike my dentist as a person. If I saw him at oh say, the grocery store, for example, I wouldn't duck around the aisle and try to dodge him or anything. Then again, he probably doesn't walk around the grocery store with a drill or a 3-foot syringe. But in his office . . . well, I kind of hate him there. I picture Steve Martin dancing around in The Little Shop of Horrors every time I see him.





And just thinking about going to the dentist makes me react like this . . .





Or this . . .


.

Or even this . . .




But when a filling fell out, I couldn't put it off any longer. Actually, I did put it off for 4 weeks a little while. But when my tooth started hurting, I decided I needed to pay my dentist a little visit. By the time I got to the office, my palms were sweating, I was hyperventilating, and trying to think up plausible reasons why I couldn't keep my appointment today. By the time the dentist called me back, the only excuse I'd come up with was, "I'm sorry, but I can't keep my appointment because see . . . the problem here is that, . . . my little brother, this morning, got his arm caught in the microwave, and uh . . . my grandmother dropped acid and she freaked out, and hijacked a school bus full of . . . penguins, so it's kind of a family crisis . . . so I'll come back later, okay?"

I didn't think it would work. 

Back in the chair, the dentist took some xrays. I don't know why, but I can't handle that stupid little cardboard thing in my mouth. I gag. A lot. The xrays come out blurry. They need to be taken again. I gag again. The process repeats. The dentist throws up his hands and decides that xrays are overrated. He looks in my mouth and tells me I need a crown. After he told me the price of a crown, I suggested a small tiara instead. Apparently that's not an option. Thankfully, a payment plan that alleviates my immediate pain and earns me a crown upon my final payment is an option.

He gives me a shot of novocaine and walks away while I attempt to relax. I think to myself that I should probably find a dentist who will knock me out. Or maybe I should drink heavily before future appointments. Maybe I should just let all my teeth rot out of my head. How bad could it be subsisting on a liquid diet for the rest of my life? I need to lose weight anyway; I think it could work.

My dentist returns and asks me if I'm numb. As usual, I'm not. This concerns me a lot because A. If I'm not numb, I'll feel it when he drills, and B. I'LL FEEL IT WHEN HE DRILLS!

He gives me a second shot and leaves again. When he returns several minutes later, he confidently says, "Your tongue should be pretty numb by now, huh?"

"No, it isn't numb at all!" I counter, worried that he'll start working while I can still feel everything.

"How about your lip. Half of your lips are numb, right?"

"No! My cheek is slightly tingly, but I'm not numb! Do I look numb? I'm not numb! Look! I'm smiling. Does my face look weird? Does it look droopy like I just had a stroke?" I asked, only slightly maniacal. "If I was numb, I'd look weird. I'm not numb!"

He poked around in my mouth a little and seemed surprised that I could still feel everything, so . . . he gave me a third shot of novocaine.

Finally, I get numb and he starts drilling. I try to practice deep, slow breathing. I make a conscious effort to relax my muscles, but it only lasts a few seconds until my shoulders are up by ears, my fingernails are digging into my palms, and my butt cheeks are clenched so tightly that I'm literally raised about 6 inches out of the chair. This went on for a while until my brain told me, "Ummm, there are a few too many things in your mouth here. Something needs to be removed or I'm going to send a signal to your stomach to puke."

I gagged. The dentist and his assistant jumped back immediately. "Are you okay?" he asked, concerned about getting my vomit on his new shoes.

"I'm okay, but my brain has informed me that 2 pairs of hands, a drill, a mirror, a sucky thing, a plastic jack to hold my mouth open, and those tampon-looking cotton things are at least one too many items to be in my mouth at once. I'm sorry, but something has to go."

Not wanting to be on the receiving end of the product of my gagging, the dentist removed the little jack and the sucky thing, then continued. Until lightning exploded in my tooth and traveled through my nerves to every corner of my body. I reacted like this . . .

That reaction earned me my fourth shot of novocaine. I'll spare you the agonizing details of the next hour or so. There was a lot of drilling and butt clenching (seriously, Jillian Michaels couldn't conceive of a better butt workout) interspersed with copious amounts of gagging. When the dentist finally stopped drilling, his assistant put dozens of different foul tasting concoctions in my mouth. Why does everything taste like a cross between an ashtray, butt sweat, and raw sewage? How hard could it be to flavor those compounds with peppermint or cinnamon or really anything that's a step above butt sweat? And for those of you wondering (there are always those who wonder) no, I've never tasted butt sweat. I just know it probably tastes like the nasty junk they put on my tooth.

Finally, the most diabolical thing happened. The dental assistant took her ice pick and started shoving a string soaked in gasoline down between my tooth and gum. It was agonizingly painful. I guess I was still supposed to be numb. Enter novocaine shot #5 which adequately numbed me so that she could finish her evil mission of shoving that stupid string down in my gums. 



After biting down on some combination of gum, Play-Doh, and Silly Putty to take an impression of what was left of my tooth, and getting a temporary crown glued on, they let me leave. 2 1/2 hours after they started. 

When I got out to my car, I looked in the mirror to get a glance of my new "tooth." Instead, I discovered that mascara had run down my cheeks while I was crying, all traces of makeup had been drooled off my chin, and I had some sizable chunks of cement stuck to my lips and cheek. Pretty.



And that is why I hate going to the dentist. Time for me to go take 20 more Advil now.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Guilty Pleasure on Netflix



Know who loves The Office? This guy! Or gal. Me! I love The Office! In my humble (but always correct) opinion, it is the funniest sitcom to ever grace the airwaves.

Here are just a few reasons why you should binge watch every episode of all 9 seasons on Netflix, and when you finish, repeat at least 5 times. Because who hasn't worked with these guys at one time or another? (Yes, I know they work at a paper company, but I adapted this to where I work - a middle school.)


 
 When you thought it was Friday, but just found out it's only Thursday.

 
 When your coworker actually manages to do their job for once.


Every other day when your coworker just takes up space.



What you fantasize about doing to your coworker every time she opens her mouth.


When your students all turn in their homework. On time.


When you remember that Friday is a no-work holiday!

  
 When your students come in after a lunch of sugar-coated sugar.


While explaining the latest management directive video.


When your students walk in to your class directly after PE and either smell like sweat or Axe (I'm not sure which is worse.)

 
 When a parent calls for you. "I'm not here! I'm not here!"


When you find out the state says you need to collect even more data.


Please tell me all about how your child is a precious flower who shouldn't have to follow the rules that everyone else adheres to.



When you're watching a district-made video that talks down to you like you're a 4-year-old instead of an educated person entrusted to teaching our nation's youth.


When you run into a student at the store.


When a student finally gets what you've been teaching for the past 3 weeks.


That one teacher who runs all her classes like this.


When you hear your student's excuse for not turning in their homework.


Those Friday afternoons when you're like - Did this week actually just happen?

And those are just a few of the reasons why you need to watch The Office on Netflix. If you do, you'll understand me when I say, "Bears, beats, Battlestar Galactica!"

#StreamTeam

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Cooper Tire Ride and Drive Experience

Check it out! I have a personalized video from my time at the Cooper Tire Ride and Drive event this summer! So cool! It's like I'm starring in a commercial! (Yeah, it doesn't take much to impress me!) See it here -



And here's an even better one featuring all the parenting bloggers who attended! 




Thursday, August 13, 2015

If Full House Were On Air Today

My family hasn’t had cable TV in years. It was just not something I was willing or able to pay for, especially when we’re rarely even around to watch it. And honestly, I’d rather stab myself in the eye than to watch reality TV. I have enough reality in my own life; I don’t need to watch anyone else’s drama.

I know I sound old, but I don’t understand the kind of stuff that’s on TV these days. Back in the good ole days, there were shows that were family-friendly and taught a lesson. Like The Brady Bunch, Growing Pains, Little House on the Prairie, The Wonder Years, and Full House to name a few.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dessert Hack: Piña Colada "Cake" Pops

Confession: I really love cake pops. I mean, what’s not to love, right? They’re bite sized, chocolate-covered pieces of cake! Delicious.

Although I love eating cake pops, I have to admit, I’m less fond of making them, mainly because they’re time-consuming, and it’s difficult to make them look pretty and smooth. Mine, more often than not, end up looking like Pinterest fails! So I thought: how can I make cake pops in less time, with less work? (I’m an expert at thinking of ways to get out of work!)

I decided to swap out cake for rice cereal treats! And these Piña Colada Pops eliminate the need for perfectly smooth chocolate, since the goal is to make them look like coconuts. So easy your kids can do it … so easy I can do it!

These tropical, summery treats are perfect for picnics, BBQs, birthday parties, and just because. Here’s how to make them:

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Kids Are Just . . Sigh . . . My Kids

Jackson and Lexi are visiting family and friends back home this week. They saved enough money to pay for airfare (and I got an amazing deal on it too!) so I took them to the airport this morning. Unfortunately they wouldn't allow me to accompany them to the gate this year because the cut-off age is 15 and Jackson is almost 17. I said goodbye at security and stuck around to make sure they found the gate. We'd gone over how to find the gate, and how to make their connection in Charlotte, and I was confident that the kids would be fine. Still, I was a little sad not being able to stay with them until they boarded. Instead, I texted them until they got on the plane.











Yep. Those are my kids. Good luck to all my family and friends in Chicago who are taking them in.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Calling all Dragon Trainers!

We're Netflix addicts in my house, and now that it's summer vacation, I may possibly be guilty of letting my kids sit around and watch Netflix for HOURS some days. It's summer. It happens. (Here in Florida, it's too hot to play outside during the day unless we're at the pool, and it rains every afternoon.)

Recently my kids found Dreamworks Dragons: Race to the Edge on Netflix. They just can't get enough of Hiccup and Toothless. When Netflix sent us a package of Dragon goodies, my 11-year-old was crazy-excited, hoping it was the "Dragon Eye" in the box. (In the series, the "Dragon Eye" is powered by a dragon's fiery breath and it shows a map.) Alas, it was not the "Dragon Eye." It was a package of dragon themed goodies!



(If you have little dragon trainers in your home, you can give them a dragon-themed snacks of "dragon scales" Doritos, and "dragon claws" Bugles. Cute!)


My favorite item in this box of goodies was the sidewalk chalk because my kids voluntarily turned off the TV and ran outside to draw their own dragons and maps on the cement, and they played make-believe dragon trainer games all afternoon! Well, they played until the rain came, anyway.




Check out this new series on Netflix with your little dragon trainers!
#Streamteam

Why I Support My Kids' Questionable Decisions

“Aren’t you supposed to be at school?” I asked my 20-year-old son who attends Le Cordon Bleu.

He looked up from his video game and responded, “Uhhh, no. I don’t have school.”

I didn’t question it. In between class sessions, he usually has a couple days off.

A few days later, I got home from work and found my son and his girlfriend hanging out at my house. “Why aren’t you at school?” I asked, puzzled.

His girlfriend gave him a look and said, “You haven’t told your mom?”

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You Have the Power to Change the Person Looking Back at You


I don't like myself. I look in the mirror and tell myself, "You're not a nice person." And when you don't like what you see reflected back at you, it can perpetuate the behavior that you don't like. It's quite the self-defeating cycle. 

I'm crabby and irritable. I snap at the people I love. I wake up with a headache and I cry myself to sleep. I feel an enormous weight on my shoulders. Constantly. I worry about money. Or lack thereof. I wonder if anyone will take us in when we're evicted. Or will some miracle happen enabling me to save my home from foreclosure? I worry that I won't be able to feed my kids. I feel seething anger toward my ex who doesn't live up to his responsibilities. I fear living like this for the rest of my life. I agonize over decisions that will affect me and my kids forever. I let these fears rule my life. I let them dictate my behavior. And I hate it.

When you look in the mirror and don't like the person looking back, it can hurl you into a deep depression. Unless you look in that mirror and realize that you have the power to change the person looking back at you.

I had to go to the store today. I absolutely detest going to this particular store that rhymes with Halmart. I push my cart around, loudly sighing and rolling my eyes every time I encounter another patron blocking the aisle or walking slowly in front of me. I grunt and snort and make other passive aggressive noises, getting more and more angry with every person I encounter. By the time I reach the check-out, which is always 419 people deep, I'm texting my friends, Stand by with bail money. I'm at that store that rhymes with Halmart, and I'm about to go postal.

Today, however, I made it a point to smile at everyone. I grinned at every single person I encountered. Ordinarily I would've muttered under my breath a sarcastic, "Could you take up any more room?" to the woman blocking the entire aisle and completely clueless to my presence as I tried to push my cart past her. Today, I smiled and said, "Excuse me." 

Instead of contrition and an apology, however, she had the unmitigated gall to look at ME like I was annoying HER. Normally, I would have made a barely audible, snotty comment, calling her clueless and annoying, implying that she should live in a zoo, or something along those lines. Don't get me wrong; I'm not proud of that. I'm admitting that I've become a mean, impatient, short-tempered person with no tolerance for others. But today, I merely pushed my cart along, ignoring her surliness, a smile plastered to my face.

I left the store and pushed my cart along the walkway, stuck behind an elderly woman who was propelling her cart exceedingly slowly as she struggled to maneuver it along the path in front of the store. I didn't get frustrated, as I followed along toward the crosswalk that leads into the parking lot.

I loaded my groceries into my car, proud of myself for not losing my cool the entire trip. Then I stopped. I was congratulating myself on not being a total jerk. What was wrong with me? That behavior is not worthy of congratulations; that behavior is just how humans are supposed to act! I returned my cart to the corral and looked around the parking lot, searching for the older woman. I found her a couple rows over in a handicapped spot, and I headed that way.

As I approached her, I had second thoughts. "What am I doing? I'm such a dork!" I told myself as I walked up to her, then continued walking, lest she (or anyone else) think I was weird for stopping to help her. Angry once again with myself for the way I was acting, I screeched to a stop, pivoted on my heel and turned right back around. Great, I thought as I paced back and forth in front of this woman, she probably thinks I'm casing her, weighing my chances of stealing her purse and getting away with it. She's going to take out her cane and beat me with it, no doubt, because I'm being so weird and creepy.

"Hi. I'll take your cart for you," I offered.

She looked at me and smiled, joking, "Can I get my groceries out of it first?"

I laughed and said, "I don't know. I forgot to buy ice cream and that looks pretty good," eyeing her bags of food. Oh yeah, good move, Dawn. Imply you're going to steal a senior citizen's ice cream. That's great! I berated myself with sarcasm while looking to see if she was picking up her cane to clock me.

I helped her put her bags in her trunk while making small talk about the weather. Although it was super hot and humid, she asserted that she was happy for the heat because her laundry was hanging on the clothes line at home. We chatted about laundry and HOAs and her husband for a few minutes. Then I told her to have a great afternoon as I took her cart and walked across the parking lot to the cart-return. I smiled the whole way. Not because I was forcing the smile on my face. Not because I was proud of myself for doing what everyone should do every day just because it's right. I smiled because I felt good. For the first time in a long time, I just felt good.

It doesn't matter what you're going through because guess what - everyone else is going through stuff too. Wallowing in self pity and taking out your frustration on others doesn't fix anything. It doesn't help the situation; it just makes you feel worse. Getting outside yourself and your issues and putting others before you makes you feel good. It lets you forget about the garbage in your life and enables you to focus on someone else, so not only are you helping another person, but you are making yourself feel better in the process. Win-win!

It seems brainless, right? Why wouldn't we do this every minute of every day? Why indeed. We let ourselves get so wrapped up in our own little lives and our own little problems that we have blinders on to the rest of the world. We need to remind ourselves every single day to take those blinders off, look in the mirror and act in a manner we want reflected back at us.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Style It Yourself with Suave's Luxe Style Infusion!

I've been using Suave hair care products for years! Not only are they a FRACTION of salon products (and even other drugstore brands), but they do an AMAZING job! As a single mom to 6 kiddos, I'm always looking for ways to save money, but so often you get what you pay for; you may save money, but you'll sacrifice performance. It's so rare that you find a product that is affordable yet works as well as more expensive brands. Suave is that brand! Luxe Style Infusion are those products!

I have very thick, coarse, dry hair. I live in Florida where there's always 1000% humidity. By the end of the day, I look like Roseanne Roseannadanna.



Really. See the resemblance?


Who has the time or the money to get a blow-out every week? But thanks to Suave's Smoothing Light Weight Weather-Proof Cream, and Anti-Humidity Hairspray, I can look like this . . .


I love how lightweight the smoothing cream feels. My hair doesn't feel weighed down with a lot of "gunk" when I use it. I use a small amount of the Smoothing Light Weight Weather-Proof Cream on my wet hair, then I blow it dry if I have the time. If not, I let it air dry while I do other chores. Then I use a flat iron to smooth it out. Finally, I finish with a mist of the Anti-Humidity Hairspray. Voila!

Ignore the weird face I'm making. It was a quicky selfie.

On days that I don't have time to flat iron my hair, I use Suave's Curl Defining Gel Serum. This stuff is awesome! I just pump a couple squirts in my hand, distribute it throughout my wet hair, and go. (If you use too much, it can make your hair a little crunchy. A squirt or 2 is all it takes.) It tames my curls/waves and prevents the frizz of epic proportions that would otherwise occur.

Suave also has a line of volumizing styling products if you have thin, limp hair. You can check out Suave's Luxe Style Infusion products and instructions on how to Style It Yourself HERE!


Monday, July 13, 2015

23 Signs It's Summer Vacation


The temps are high, the days are long, the smell of freshly mowed lawns fills the air, and the sound of kids whining, “I’m bored” engulfs your senses. Ahhh, summer vacation … that magical time of year when the kids are home. All. Day. Long. As a parent, I have a love/hate relationship with summer vacation. On the one hand, I love that my kids are home and no one has to get up early! But on the other hand, I really hate that all I do all day long is pick up “stuff” and do dishes!

Here are 29 tell-tale signs it’s summer vacation …

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Driving Safely on Cooper Tires

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Testing Center (CTVTC) in Texas. While I was there, I got to drive SUVs that were identical in every way except their tires. One was equipped with Cooper SRX tires, the other had a set of the leading, comparable, competitor's tires. I drove three laps in each vehicle on Cooper's wet pad. (Driving on the wet surface, enables one to get a good idea of tire performance at lower, safer speeds than would be required on a dry surface.)

Several bloggers took turns driving before I had the chance to test the tires. As they completed their laps, they got out of the vehicle, exclaiming what a difference they felt between the two sets of tires. Ever skeptical, I didn't buy it. I didn't think there would be any discernible difference. I mean, they're tires! Comparable tires! How different could they be, right? I expressed my skepticism to one of the guys from Cooper. "I don't think I'll be able to tell a difference," I stated confidently. "No offense, but they're tires! Tires are tires, right?"

"Just give it a try. It's a safe closed track, so remember to really push the vehicles," he encouraged me. 

So I did.

 

Seeing (or driving) is believing. The Cooper SRX tires way outperformed the competitor's tires, and when you discover that Cooper tires are more affordable than brands like Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone, etc., it's a no-brainer. 

I never really thought much about tires until I visited the CTVTC. Honestly, they're just tires so who cares? But after experiencing the difference in tires firsthand, it has made me rethink things. Like most of you, I haul the most precious cargo ever - my kids. Skidding all over the place on a closed track is one thing; I wouldn't want to skid into oncoming traffic on the highway, however. And I have teens who, although they're good drivers, are inexperienced drivers. I don't want them driving on tires that aren't going to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, tires are one of those things that you have to buy blind, and oftentimes you need to purchase tires on an emergency basis - your tire goes flat and you need a new one pronto. You can't go to a tire dealer and say, "Hey, will you put these Cooper tires on my car and I'll test drive them for a week and let you know if I want to keep them, okay?" It just doesn't work that way. Cooper understands this and offers a 45-Day Road Test Warranty which lets you try out the tires and if you aren't satisfied, you may return them to your original dealer within 45 days of purchase for a FREE OF CHARGE Cooper brand replacement, including mounting and balancing.

The next time your vehicle needs tires, I urge you to check out the Cooper SRX or CS5 tires. I really believe that, like me, you'll be pleasantly surprised! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Turn Off the Light! No, YOU Turn Off the Light!

I was letting my friend's dog out last night when my daughter texted me this.









This was quickly followed by a text from Mara . . .



Tell me I'm not the only one. Lie to me if you have to. These girls are planning to move into their own apartment in less than a year. Maybe I should get them a Clapper for a housewarming present. Do they still make those?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

11 Things You MUST Know Before Dating A Woman Fluent In Sarcasm

Sarcastic women aren't THAT funny. Just kidding, we totally are. (That was sarcasm.)
I've been told I'm sarcastic, but I just call it an intolerance for stupidity. Most of my friends appreciate my quick wit even if it can be snarky at times.
Now and then, I run across someone who doesn't get my humor. I had a date with a guy I'd met on an online dating site last week. We started talking and he asked, "How many kids do you have?" I responded, "I have 6. Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time."
The waiter stopped by to take our order and my date asked me, "Do you drink?" I answered with, "Did you not hear the part about 6 kids?" He continued to stare, solemn-faced, waiting for me to answer him. I knew right then that there was no chance of a relationship with this guy.
 
Not everyone can appreciate the utter brilliance of a sarcastic person. Not everyone "gets it." Not everyone can handle dating someone with a sarcastic sense of humor. Can you?
Here are 11 things you need to know before embarking on a relationship with someone whose primary mode of communication is sarcasm.

21 Struggles Only Chronically Late People Understand

I had a date last week. We were supposed to meet at a restaurant at 7 p.m. At 7 p.m., when I was still miles away from the restaurant, I texted the guy and said, "This might be a good time to mention that I'm one of those annoying, perpetually late people."
Way to make a first impression, right? The thing is, I really thought I'd be on time. In fact, I thought I'd be early.
I was late for a variety of reasons: my hair looked crazy, my kids needed to tell me a very long, involved story about hunting for Sasquatch right as I was about to walk out the door, the place we were supposed to meet at was 40 minutes away, I got lost, I got stuck behind a train, and I was also dealing with the paradoxical "extra time."
 
The struggle is real, people. Here are 21 struggles of perpetually late people:

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Monday, June 8, 2015

That Time I Got To Do Laps With Johnny Unser In A Corvette At Cooper Tire

I had the privilege of attending the Cooper Tire Ride-n-Drive event in Texas last month and I learned so much valuable information while I was there! If you missed it, you can see my post about TIRE SAFETY HERE! It's chock-full of really great tips that will benefit anyone.

While I was there, not only did I get to test drive vehicles with different tires, but I got to do some hot laps with veteran race car driver, Johnny Unser. That was FUN! I want that job - testing Cooper tires by racing around the track! Here's a video from my laps in the Corvette Stingray with Johnny. He told me we were going about 90 mph. That may not seem all that fast, but when you're flying around corners at that speed, it's like the most awesome roller coaster ever! (Note how Johnny stays upright in his seat while I flop around like a ragdoll. Ha ha!)


Sunday, June 7, 2015

80s Movies on Netflix

I believe it’s my duty as a parent to teach my kids all they need to know to grow up to be conscientious adults and well-adjusted, contributing members of society. I also believe that education just wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share the classic movies of the 80s with them. I mean, John Hughes defined a generation! What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t share those iconic movies with my kids? Enter Netflix! My kids and I have watched The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Adventures in Babysitting, The Goonies, The Karate Kid, and many more on Netflix. And you know what, they love those movies as much as I do! Okay, maybe they don’t love them quite as much as I do, but they do have an appreciation for them. Hmmmm, maybe they just humor me and tolerate them . . . Nah, that can’t be it. I’ve heard them quote the movies (sad and demented, but social) so I know they like them. Plus there are lessons to be learned from each movie!

Here are some of the 80s movies you can catch on Netflix right now! The only question is - which one will you share with your teens first?

Dirty Dancing – Who, when confronted with a cute boy, hasn’t completely frozen up and stuttered something ridiculous? “I carried a watermelon.”






Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”



Girls Just Want to Have Fun – I’ve used this sentence as my go-to topic changer for as long as I can remember. I think I probably originally got it from this movie. “So! How about them Cubs? I think it's their year!”


Labyrinth – You have to kind of wonder what kind of drugs everyone was on when they made this movie. This is a good lesson for your kids. Don’t do drugs. “You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power. What power? The power of voodoo. Who do? You do. Do what? Remind me of the babe.”


Top Gun - "I feel the need, the need for speed!"




Heathers



Footloose - You can't go wrong with a choreographed dance number.



Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure




Stand by Me



#StreamTeam

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Rules of Being a Baseball Parent

It’s baseball season once again, which means it’s the perfect time to remind everyone of the most important rules of the sport. And I’m not talking about stuff like infield flies, here. I’m not even talking about how to be supportive without trying to relive your glory days through your kids, or why you shouldn’t yell at the poor high school kid who’s umping for your son’s game — which are all good rules.

Nope, I’m talking about those truths that veteran baseball parents know. But really, most of these can apply to any sport your child plays. Pay attention, rookies! You’ll thank me later.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tires 101 For Dummies

I had the opportunity to visit the Cooper Tire & Vehicle Testing Center (CTVTC) in Texas last week and wow, did I learn A LOT in the couple days I was there! I feel a little stupid; I feel like I should have already known these things, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there who is undereducated when it comes to tires. I attribute my ignorance to the fact that I was married for 18 years to a guy who took care of all my car maintenance. I never had to give it a second thought. Also, and I think most of us fall into this category, who thinks about tires? Really, as long as your vehicle is running, who really ponders the tires on which it sits?


This happened to my tire a few months ago. It happened on my way to work in a really bad neighborhood. Thankfully, it was only inconvenient for me; it could have been disastrous. Yes, I realize it's extreme and most people would have recognized that their tire was completely bald long before it split like this. I didn't. I never considered checking my tires. I never thought about it. When the tow truck arrived, I had them take my van to Walmart where I bought one tire to replace the flat. I'm a single mom of 6 kiddos, trying to make ends meet, and I was going for the cheapest option possible. But, as is always the case, you get what you pay for.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn much about tires and tire maintenance, and I'm excited to share that information with you because there's no reason for a flat tire (like that pictured above) to happen to anyone!


Check your tires once a month

1. You can't see when your tires are low.
At the CTVTC, folks from Cooper had me walk around a truck to inspect the tires, then they asked me which one had low pressure. "The back right. No. Yes. Wait, maybe it's the front left. Yeah. No, wait. I'm not sure.Yes, definitely the front left." They had me check all the tires with a tire pressure gauge. The back right one was low. The moral of this story is that you cannot tell if a tire is low just by looking at it. By the time you can visually see that the tire is a little flat, it's significantly low on air. That is why you should check them regularly.

2.  Those little caps don't hold in the air.
These caps don't keep the air from escaping the tire, but they do keep dirt, gravel, salt, and other debris away from the valve, preventing problems with it. You should always keep the valves covered. If you're missing some caps, pick up new ones at an auto parts store.


3.  Maintain proper inflation.
Do not go by the number printed on the tire itself; that number indicates the maximum pressure the tire can hold, not the recommended pressure for the tire/vehicle. The correct amount of inflation for your tires is specified by the vehicle manufacturer and is usually shown inside the driver's door (and also in the owner's manual.)

4.  Check your tires when they're cool. 
Wait at least 3 hours after driving to get an accurate measurement of tire pressure.


5.  Use a tire gauge to measure pressure.
Make sure the slide ruler part of the tire gauge is pushed all the way in before measuring to get an accurate reading.



6.  Do not overinflate.
More is not always better. At any given time, the surface area of the tire which is in contact with the ground is about the size of your hand. (We teased the good folks at Cooper about being hand models here!) If you put too much air in the tire, you reduce the area of the tire in contact with the pavement. Less contact - less control.

7.  Save money.
Proper tire inflation leads to better fuel consumption, saving you money. It also helps you get the most potential wear out of your tires, so they don't need to be replaced as often.


8.  Inspect tire tread while checking inflation. 
Visually check your tires for signs of nails or other embedded objects, gouges, cuts, bulges, or other irregularities. Check to make sure you still have enough tread. Traction and resistance to hydroplaning is diminished as tread wears down. An easy test is to place a penny, upside down, in one of the grooves. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by the tread, you're okay. If his entire head is showing, your tread is too worn and your tire needs to be replaced.


9.  Check the Wear Squares.
Cooper Tires come equipped with a number of Wear Squares on each tire. This is a super-handy, fool-proof indicator that takes the guess work out of deciding when you need to replace your tires. When your tires are brand new, you see a full square imprinted on the tire. As they wear, you see the sides of the square disappear until you're left with an "!" as a message to replace the tire.
(This video features a different tire than the one I tried out, but it has a great demonstration of the Wear Square.)





10.  Compare your tires.
Compare the Wear Squares and/or the tread on all 4 tires to determine if they're wearing evenly. Uneven wear may indicate a problem with alignment that needs to be corrected.

I hope you have found this information as helpful as I did. Stay tuned for Tires 102 for Dummies coming this week, as there was much too much information to condense into one blog post.

Cooper Tire paid for my trip to learn about their tires. The opinions expressed here are entirely mine.

Legally Blonde on Netflix

Now on Netflix: Legally Blonde! I love Reese Witherspoon and I enjoy this movie, but I think it's especially cool because I met the writer, Kiwi Smith a few years ago when I was in Hollywood for the Glamour Reel Moments movie premiere. 

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is Miss Popularity. She's the president of her sorority, dates Warner, the cutest guy on campus, and is loved by all. When her boyfriend leaves to go to Harvard and dumps her because she's too "blonde" to be accepted by his blue blood family, Elle is determined to win him back. She works to be accepted into Harvard law school, then proves to Warner, and more importantly, to herself, that she's more than just some blonde.


Me and Kiwi Smith at Chateau Marmont in Hollywood after the Glamour Reel Moments premiere.
I love movies that demonstrate a girl can be pretty, feminine, sweet and kind to everyone she meets, and still kick a little butt in the intelligence department! I enjoy watching these with my teens girls. It's important to me to teach them to believe in themselves.

What's your favorite Girl Power movie?

#StreamTeam

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

12 Photos I Guarantee No Other Parent Has on Their Phone

I was looking through the pictures on my phone the other day when I came to the conclusion that my kids are nuts. I think all parents probably feel this way at some point. (At least that’s the theory I’m going with here.) But my kids specifically? I just don’t know what goes through their heads sometimes.

What could possibly possess a 20-year-old to suction half a dozen rubber duckies to his face? And why would a 9-year-old voluntarily get into the (thankfully clean) Guinea pig’s cage? These are questions that plague me on a daily basis. See for yourself.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Standardized Tests Sucked the Love of Learning Out of My Child

You may or may not have seen this viral video of 9-year-old Sydney Smooth schooling her school board on the hypocrisy of standardized testing. As the parent of a 9-year-old daughter who is currently feeling the pressure of the FSA (Florida’s standardized test), I applaud her for speaking up to school administrators. I have a somewhat unique perspective in that I’m the parent of six kids, several of whom will be taking the FSAs this year, and I’m employed in a middle school in Florida.

As a parent, I can say with certainty that the standardized testing in Florida has sucked the love of learning right out of my daughter. As an educator, I can say that teachers aren’t any happier about this than parents are.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mako Mermaids, an H2O Adventure on Netflix

A guest post by Lexi Meehan on Mako Mermaids, an H2O Adventure now on Netflix (and she's well-qualified since she's my kid who wants to be a mermaid when she grows up!)

At first when I heard of Mako Mermaids, an H2O Adventure, I thought it was just a copy of the original H2O, but it turned out to be different, and pretty cool. I say it’s the best. I especially liked the second episode because when they were walking because they looked so funny!

Mako Mermaids, an H2O Adventure is a show all girls will like. It’s about three girls who have to protect the Moon Pool in order to be part of a pod (a pod is a group of mermaids), but a guy named Zach falls into the Moon Pool. Zach turns into a mermaid and gets powers. While he’s telling his friend about this, the three mermaids: Sirena, played by Amy Ruffle, Lyla, played by Lucy Fry, and Nixie, played by Ivy Latimer overhear him and find out. The mermaids try taking away his powers and his mermaid abilities, but . . .  (I would ruin the surprise if I told you! Watch Mako Mermaids, an H2O Adventure on Netflix for yourselves to see what happens!)

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Can't Stop Thinking About the Woman I Turned Away

One night last week, a knock sounded at my front door. My kids jumped up to answer it and I followed behind, wondering who could possibly be at my door at 8:00 on such a rainy night. I looked out over my kids’ heads to see a strange woman standing there, holding a plastic shopping bag and soaked to the core.

She said she lived across the street and started mumbling something about having to watch kittens. She asked me if I knew where some place named “Pages” was. I couldn’t figure out if the woman had been drinking or if she was just unwell, but something didn’t seem quite right.

I don’t know my neighbors across the street well, but I knew I’d never seen this woman before. I tried to clarify, “You live across the street?” She said she did. Disbelieving, I asked again, “You live right across the street there?” I pointed to the house. She insisted that she did indeed live there.

CONTINUE READING HERE!

10 Things That Scare me as a Single Parent

Being a part of the single parent club is not easy. When the other parent is absent and/or you have no family around to help, it's even harder. Some days, it feels impossible to let go of the paralyzing fear that grips all single parents at one time or another.

The worry about having enough money to fill your gas tank or put food on the table, the worry that you can't be at your son's baseball game and your daughter's talent show at the same time, the worry that you'll screw up your kids more than married parents do, the worry that you'll be alone forever ... they all rob you of the joy you could experience every day.

I have to remind myself to let go of these fears almost daily ... and I admit it isn't always easy.

Here's what keeps me up at night:

CONTINUE READING HERE!

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