Monday, August 31, 2009

Fourth Day of School

I pulled up in the Kiss 'n Drive lane to get Clay from kindergarten today. As I shifted into park, I saw his teacher walk him toward the car. Uh oh, I thought. That's never a good sign.

She approached my car and told me, "I just wanted to let you know that Clay punched a girl in the face today."
"I had money on next Wednesday for his first visit to the principal's office." "Ugh, Clayton, it's only the 4th day of school!"

She went on to explain that a girl had been bugging him by touching his arm (where he has a rug burn courtesy of big brother Austin. Don't ask.) According to his teacher, Clay did tell her to stop touching him several times, but the girl continued despite Clay's requests. When she did it again, he hauled off and smacked her.

I'm happy that the "use your words" and "if someone is bothering you, ask them to stop" lessons sunk in, but clearly I failed to follow up with the "if they won't listen to you, tell your teacher instead of slugging them" lesson. That has since been remedied. For good measure, I also added the "don't bite them, don't kick them, don't call them names, don't body slam them, don't trip them, don't grab their toy away from them, and don't spit on them" lessons for good measure. You know, because some kids (cough cough Austin and Clayton) like to exploit loopholes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Day of School

I won the worst mom in the world award.  Again.  I committed to going to Minnesota before I realized the trip fell over the first and second days of school.  Had I known that, I would've declined.  But noooo, despite the fact that I was counting down to the start of school, it totally slipped my mind.  I usually make the kids a "back-to-school" cookie for their first day.  I knew I'd be gone, so I stayed up late baking it the night before so they'd have their after-school treat.  Unfortunately, it did little to assuage the overwhelming guilt I felt.

As it was, I got the kids off for their first day of school and headed to the airport.  Later, I called them from Minneapolis to hear all about their first days of school.  I talked to five of the kids who told me about their days.  Those conversations were productive. 

"How was your first day?"


"Do you have friends in your classes?"


"That's great!  Who did you sit with at lunch?"



"You don't know them."

"Do you think you'll like your teachers?"

"I dunno."

"Good talking to you.  Put your brother on the line."

Austin, the sixth and last kid got on the phone.  "How was your first day of HIGH SCHOOL?" I asked, giddy to hear all about his day.

"Oh, you want to talk to Savannah," my smart-mouthed son said.

"Very funny.  How was it?" I asked again.

"Huh?  Are you talking to me?" he asked in his usual smart-aleck fashion.

"Can you just tell me about your day?  Is that so hard?" I asked, getting frustrated.

"Oh, you want to talk to Savannah?  Here Savannah," Austin called to his sister as he tossed the phone across the room to her.  I heard Savannah yell, "Austin!  Just talk to Mom, you dork!" right before the line went dead.  Click.  I made a mental note to smack Austin upside the head when I got home from Minnesota.

The pizza-sized chocolate chip cookie


Here are my kids who just keeping older every year!


9th grade


 8th grade


 5th grade


 3rd grade




missing her brothers and sisters and wishing she could go to school too

Friday, August 28, 2009

Death by Hot Tub

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (mom2my6pack) or have friended me on Facebook know that I've been traveling a bit this month. Between my 3 short trips and getting everything ready for back-to-school time, Ive kinda been MIA here. But now (WHEW!) the kids are back in school and I'm staying put for a while.

I went to New York for one night to learn about the Smart Choices program, then to Chicago for one night to cook and brainstorm in the Kraft kitchens (more on that to come), then, most recently, to Minneapolis to check out the General Mills kitchens and photo studio (more on that to come too). In other words, I've done nothing but eat for 2 weeks.

It's a little chilly here in Chicago, so I pulled on a pair of jeans today for the first time in months. Actually, let me rephrase that. I attempted to pull on a pair of jeans today. Ohmygosh. I can't breathe, I'm pretty sure I've completely cut off all circulation to my legs, and I'm quite certain I'll need medical assistance, and likely the jaws of life, to get them off, but I refuse to admit defeat (and the fact that I've gained weight my jeans have shrunk).

This is the same reason I refuse to pack a bathing suit when I travel. I know the hotels that I stay in have pools. I love to swim. But, 50 fellow camera-toting bloggers are not going to see me in a suit. So, 2 nights ago, in Minnesota, my awesome, admirable, sweet friend
Liz from ThisFullHouse and I decided that the hot tub in the hotel looked really inviting. We decided to sit on the edge of the tub and dangle our feet in the water. After a day of traveling, the warm, swirling water felt wonderful and made us long to hop in. So we did. In capris and t-shirts. What the heck? It was late at night. There were only a couple other awesome bloggers around. No big deal, right? Except I had my phone in my pocket. My newish iPhone. In my pocket. In the hot tub. That's right. It was probably a good ten minutes before I got out and realized what I'd done. (Wine may or may not have been involved.)

Now I know sometimes a phone that's had a little water damage, can dry out. Opening the phone, taking out the battery and card and putting it in a container of rice can sometimes pull the moisture out of it. However, after I steeped my phone in very hot water for 10 minutes, I knew there would be no reviving it. I killed it. It was dead. Not mostly dead. All, 100%, totally dead.

It would be bad enough if I'd killed my phone at home, but killing it when I was in another state made me insane. I couldn't talk to Joe or the kids. I couldn't Twitter. I couldn't check my mail. I couldn't listen to music. I couldn't play solitaire. I couldn't look at my blog. I came to the conclusion that I was addicted to missed my phone. I started crying, shaking, and twitching uncontrollably. This was followed by hyperventilating and mumbling incoherently causing fellow bloggers to slap me repeatedly, "Snap out of it!"

Long story short, Greg from General Mills and Allison from Coyne PR both offered to take me to a nearby mall so I could replace my phone. Now, that's going the extra mile, don't you think? Allison ended up driving me over to the Ridgedale Mall. We found the AT&T store, I walked in and asked if I could get a new iPhone. The guy looked up and said, "We don't sell iPhones here."
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" I shouted. "Oh, that's unfortunate," I lamented.
"But there's an Apple store in the mall," he offered.
"YES!!!!!!" I shouted. "I mean, thank you, sir."

So, we headed to the Apple store where half the population of Minnesota was. Seriously, where did all the people come from? It was a Thursday afternoon. Didn't anyone work??? Although it was impossibly crowded, the guys there were nice and helpful and sympathetic about my plight. When I told them I was from out of town and had to catch a plane in an hour, they managed to squeeze me in and get me all set up with a new phone just in time for my trip home. Oh yeah, and they suggested I don't take my phone in the hot tub with me again. Gee, ya think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smart Choices

I was invited to New York to learn about the new Smart Choices food labeling program. You may have already seen my pictures from Times Square. If not, you can check them out HERE. Yeah, there were some strange folks walking around New York City. And there were 7 awesome bloggers there too. After my 5 hour plane ride (thanks to rain delays) to New York, I met up with Elizabeth, Meghan, Carmen, Daniel, Asha, Jo-Lynne for a fabulous dinner at La Trattoria dell'Arte. I sat across the table from Wendy Bazilian and her husband who are slim, healthy, and fit. I mean, she's a nutrition expert and author of The SuperFoods Rx Diet, right. And here I am, ordering wine, fried eggplant with rigatoni, and some sinful lemon dessert. Uh huh. That's making a smart choice, no?

The next day, we headed to the Food Emporium where Wendy led a little tour around the store while explaining the Smart Choices program. Here it is in a nutshell - The Smart Choices program is a universal labeling program. Any company can apply to have their food labeled, but no food receives the Smart Choices check mark unless it meets specific dietary criteria (which you can find
HERE.) The criteria was established by a coalition of scientists, academicians, nutrition educators, public health organizations, food manufacturers, retailers and government observers. Nutritional criteria are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, reports by the Institute of Medicine, and others. The Smart Choices program is a non-profit organization that, I think, will benefit everyone.

Yes, we can always look up the nutrition information on the back of packages and compare fat and fiber and sodium grams. We can figure out which items are the best source of vitamin D or calcium, or iron. And really, we should. But, let's face it - sometimes when we're at the grocery store (you know, like when we have our kids with us) we want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. The Smart Choices program helps with that. If you're shopping for cereal, for example, you can rest assured that it has met the dietary criteria for a wise choice if the box carries the Smart Choice check mark. Now, that's not to say if a box doesn't have the Smart Choices seal, it's a poor choice, however, as not all companies will apply to have their products labeled.

Families are spending more time cooking and eating together at home. It's a lot cheaper and healthier than going out to eat or driving through your local fast food joint. Americans are not only spending more time cooking and eating together at home, but we're also trying to eat a little healthier. Sure, ideally, it would be great if we were all eating homecooked meals using fresh, whole foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats and low fat dairy products. But in the real world, we use a lot of prepackaged foods. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Prepackaged foods save us time and help us to join together for a family dinner. Can you use prepackaged foods and still eat healthy? Sure! Some foods are healthier than others though. Whole grain pasta is a better choice than pasta made with bleached white flour, for example. The Smart Choices program takes the work out of figuring out which foods are healthier choices than others. If a food has the check mark - it's a smarter choice.

If you have specific dietary concerns (maybe you're trying to lose weight, you're diabetic, you're pregnant), you want to check the nutrition labels. Perhaps a box of cereal meets the Smart Choice criteria for the check mark, but may still contain a bit too much sugar if you're diabetic. Yes, the Smart Choice label won't automatically tell you which foods to eat and which to avoid, however, I do think it's a good starting point.

I love Wendy's attitude about eating healthier. You don't have to do a 180 degree change in your diet to be healthier. You can make positive changes wherever you're at - whether you eat fast food every day, or you cook all your meals with whole foods. Every small, positive change you make helps. Forgo the giant bagel slathered with cream cheese and have a bowl of bran flakes with blueberries for breakfast. Perhaps, when you're sitting across the table from Wendy, you could opt to order the fresh watermelon for dessert instead of something that "sits atop of bed of whipped cream". Ahem. Anyway, it's not a big change. But it's a smarter choice. Little things like that add up. This labeling program helps with that.

In the end, I don't think this program will solve America's dietary and health problems, but I do think it's a very good starting point. The Smart Choices program will help many people navigate the myriad of choices and make healthier, smarter choices with their simple, universal labels.

ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kelloggs, Kraft, PepsiCo, Tyson and Unilever are some of the companies who already have foods that have qualified for the program and there are sure to be many more to follow in the very near future. Take a look the next time you're at the grocery store and see if you can find some green, Smart Choices check marks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Sound Out

Here, after 2 weeks, are the answers to your questions...

Tim Gunn, you met Tim Gunn - OMG. Sorry Dawn, I love you dearly and your blog, but Tim Gunn. Was he nice, how was he dressed?
Here's how the meeting went. A man walked in and people cheered. I said, "Who's the old guy in the suit and why are people cheering for him?"
"It's Tim Gunn!"
blank stare from me and sound of crickets in background
"It's Tim Gunn!
blank stare
"From Project Runway?!"
"Is that a TV thing?"
At this point, I got a dirty look for being clueless and was left standing alone.

Do you know how many the Ford Flex seats?
I believe it seats up to 7. Hmmm, which kid should we leave behind...

Yeah, camping is a pain in the butt! Your kids, however, will be talking about it for years! At least you are done until next summer, right?
You would think, but no, we're planning another trip this fall.

Oh, SOS, What should a large family do for a reunion when some siblings have $$$ and other siblings owe $$?
That's a tough one. You don't want to make it impossible for those, without cash to burn, to attend the reunion. Those with money may not understand why they're stuck having a camp-out reunion. In the end, I think the wise thing to do would be to claim you have no money at all and just stay home. That way, you won't have to camp, or deal with Uncle Mike's storytelling, Aunt Mimi's drinking problem, Cousin Earl's tattooed girlfriend and her parole officer, or Grandpa's Phil's gassy indigestion.

Hmmm..I am confused. You mean you have to pay a fee to register your children at State schools?
Yup. Well, not all states charge registration fees, but IL does.

So, I guess this means you're not considering homeschooling this year?
I consider homeschooling every year when it's 40 below and snowy and I have to get up early to take the kids to school.

I have two kids--ages 10 and 7--they play this horrible game in the car and it drives me crazy. It's called punch buggy. When they see a Volkswagen Bug, they scream (and I do mean scream) "punch buggy" and then the one that screams it clobbers/punches the other. Then they argue for 10 minutes (or at least until they see ANOTHER bug) about who saw it first and how one has a better view out the window, etc...When will this end? HELP ME!!!
When will it end? Ummm, let's see...yesterday Joe yelled out, "Slug Bug!" and hit Austin when we passed a VW Bug, so I'd say they have at least 30 more years to go...

Just wondering, is Clay going to school this year? or does he have another year of pre-school, if he is going to school who is going to entertain Brooklyn?
Clay's going to kindergarten this year hooray! His poor teacher. As far as Brooklyn goes, I think the Little Einsteins, Phineas & Ferb, Elmo, and the Backyardigans will be entertaining her while Clay's gone.

Yes, but was the mohawk given by his brother? i have to know...
Nope, I cut Clay's hair.

So how did Clay really get the mohawk? Was your answer B or C? Personally, I'm not a big fan of mohawks, so I'm hoping one of your kids did it. Otherwise, that means you took him to the barbershop and gave him that haircut on purpose! (Sorry to be the only one not gushing about how great mohawks are. I wonder if my comment will even be published...)
I don't personally like mohawks which is why I'll never cut my hair like that. Clay does, however, and it's his hair so whatever. I cut it. No biggie.

Did you have a margarita? The margarita's at Cheeseburger in Paradise in Downer's Grove were FABULOUS!!!
No, but I did have coconut iced tea! Coconut! Yum! The best flavor on earth!

do you think you'll ever have another child, dawn?
Sure, I will! When chicken have teeth.

Oh, and I almost forgot to ask, did you by chance get to have any cute fireman over???
Not yet, but with Clay in the house, the chance is always there.

What no pictures of the Naked Cowboy??
I know! I guess I'll have to find time to get back to New York!

I hope you don't have an ear infection--the one I had about 3 weeks ago bled and I was MISERABLE, then the antibiotic made me barf. So, thinking good thoughts for you!
Ugh, that stinks, Stephanie! Really! My ear doesn't hurt, but I still can't hear out of it. I'm getting used to it though. It's kinda nice blocking some of the noise out. I'm kinda hoping my right ear will plug up too.

Oh My Gosh, Dawn!! You got to stay at the same place Rosie O'Donnell used to have her guests on her show stay. Did you at least get to do a little bit of quik shopping?!
Umm, I bought a bottle of water. Does that count? Really, these blogging events are usually quick in and quick out with no time for sightseeing or shopping.

I have a SSO question, if you don't mind.. I know a lot of people don't believe in it, and I totally respect that- but out of my odd curiosity, what are your kids signs? So far as I can remember, you're a Pisces and Joe's a Scorpio.
I have no idea! I'll look them up..... OK, I'm back. Austin's a Scorpio, Savannah's a Gemini, Jackson's a Leo, Lexington's a Gemini, Clay's a Capricorn, and Brooklyn's an Aquarius.

I'm about to fly with my nine week old. Any advice????
Sedatives. You might want to take one too.

Hey Dawn! I was at Lake Tahoe this past weekend, I happened to stumble across a wooden plate that read "Who are these kids and why are they calling me 'Mom'?!"Do you have any wooden plates of the liking or would at the moment like one for your birthday?

Chocolate or mud? [hand prints]
They were chocolate syrup hand prints because Brooklyn lives on ketchup, chocolate milk, and like 4 strands of spaghetti a week.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Jax!

We had Jackson's birthday party today. This kid's favorite group is The Beach Boys, and although he's never even seen the ocean in person, he loves it. So, I made him a surfboard cake for his eleventh birthday.

The birthday boy himself

Friday, August 21, 2009

Caught Brown-Handed

Let me translate this for you. It says, "Brooklyn was here!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still Sick :(

I know I haven't updated for days. I have a good excuse. I'm dying of a stuffy nose. Really, I can't hear out of my left ear, my nose is congested, it feels like my face is going to explode, and I've lost my voice. I've been using the neti-pot 50 times a day just so I can breathe. Yes, yes, I know the snot pot is kinda gross, but cold medicine makes my heart race like crazy. Decongestants, antihistimes, anything. They make me feel worse than the cold symptoms I had to begin with.

Anyway, I'm trying to enjoy these last few days until the kids go back to school. My cold has kinda put a damper on that though. Last minute supply shopping, a couple last trips to the pool, and the last few days of sleeping in a bit are on my agenda for this weekend.

Lexi has started cheerleading. I'm not a football fan. I find myself glancing over at the baseball field longingly, wishing that she could cheer for baseball games. I'm not a fan of cold weather. I'm already havng to bring a sweatshirt to her practices. I'm also not a fan of watching my daughter fly through the air. (I still have some medical bills to pay off before my next ER visit!) I find myself closing my eyes when she's being held in the air. I don't know how I'll handle this.

Monday, August 17, 2009

When in New York - look for weirdos in Times Square

I boarded my flight to New York and sat on the plane for 3 hours until we took off. Still, it wasn't horrible because they left the air on, thankfully, and my kids weren't there fighting or getting bored and going nuts. Plus I got to talk to some nice normal folks across the aisle, Lynn and her son, Ben. And I was sitting next to the only empty seat on the plane! Unfortunately the girl sitting next to the window sneezed at least 78 times on the flight. I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach, congested, and with a sore throat. Upon take-off on my return flight this evening, my left ear was plugged up and hurting. During the descent, my ear was killing me and now I can't hear a thing out of it. It's the most disconcerting thing not being able to hear. I have a new sympathy for my kids' ear infections now.

I have much to tell about the Smart Choices program, but it'll have to wait a bit. I want to hang with my kiddies tonight. I miss them. I'll leave you with a few pictures though...

The black and white cookie. Look to the cookie!

Again, I'm fascinated grossed out by the piles of garbage on the streets of NY.

Times Square

Mmmmm chocolate

Times Square

Ummm, pardon me, Miss, but your bra strap is showing a little bit.

What do you think? Did this woman have an accident with a vehicle of some sort and get a wheel stuck around her waist? Or perhaps she's invented a personal space device to keep other weirdos at least a foot away. Perhaps it's the belt of the future? Must be fun going through revolving doors with that.

I started to take a picture of this woman's shiny silver pants, but then I noticed the seemingly dead animal hanging out of her purse.

Now that's my size coffee cup!

Although it's always a good idea to repent and be saved, I'm not sure about his "the apocalypse is coming next week" prediction.

I always thought the Statue of Liberty was little, um, bigger.

And finally, my room at Le Parker Meridien

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I was styling my hair yesterday when my dryer just turned off. I pressed the reset button and got it to start up again. After a few seconds, the dryer shut off once more. Again, I pressed the reset button on the dryer. When that didn't work, I unplugged it, pressed the reset button on the GFCI outlet, and plugged the dryer back in. After hitting the reset button on the dryer a few more times, it finally started again, only to turn off a few seconds later. What the heck is wrong with my dryer, I wondered. I started to reach for the plug once again when POOF! flames shot out from the cord near the outlet. It was on fire and all I could do was stand there and point to it shouting, "It's on fire! It's on fire! OH MY GOSH, IT'S ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!" I think we can all agree that I handle stressful situations in a calm, logical manner.

Joe came by and unplugged the flaming appliance of death before I let it burn the house down as I stood there babbling about fire. Yeah, yeah, I was worried about the house catching on fire, and concerned about the "what ifs" of my kids using the dryer, but more importantly, I was overwrought with the fact that I had no way of finishing my hair and I was certain I was going to look like the guy from Flock of Seagulls!

Today, after buying a new dryer (that's PINK!), I took a closer look at the spontaneous combustion dryer. This is what I found...

burned-out cord

black spots that are left on the wall

And then I read this.


Now a person with half a brain would realize when the button pops up repeatedly and the dryer turns off, that the safety mechanism is trying to prevent damage and injury. I, on the other hand, managed to disable the safety feature and nearly burn the house down. And no, the dryer was not clogged with hair. I clean it regularly. And no, Clay didn't try to the take the dryer apart to see how it works, leaving it a fiery death trap. And no, although tempting, I didn't do it on purpose to try and get a team of firemen over to my house. But now you know, those pretty little red and blue buttons are there for a reason. If your dryer doesn't want to work, there may just be a good reason for it. Unless you want to have your hair look like this...

just unplug it and walk away.
This has been a public service announcement.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Choo Choos and Cheeseburgers

I called my parents up and asked them if they wanted to go on a little fieldtrip with me and the kids today. They agreed, hopped on the train, and rode it to where the kids and I picked it up. From there, we cruised to DesPlaines (which, for you non-Chicagoans, is pronounced DeS Plaines, not De_ Plaines. Now you can say DesPlaines the right way in your head as you read this. Aren't you glad?)

Anyway, as I was saying, we cruised to a suburb of Chicago to go to this landmark restaurant, The Choo Choo. The Choo Choo has been around for more than 50 years and has an actual working train that delivers your food. I thought my kids would have fun riding on the choo choo and eating at The Choo Choo. So, we walked over to The Choo Choo from the train station and the whole time, my mom is saying, "It's going to be so crowded. I should've suggested we go later in the day. Getting there at noon is probably a bad idea." I rolled my eyes and said something like, "Wow, you're uptight, Mom." "Oh yeah, that might have been a good idea."

So we get there and there's a line long enough to circle the equator 4 1/2 times outside the door of this tiny restaurant. (Thank you, Mom, for not doing the I-Told-You-So song and dance.) The adults didn't mind waiting, but it was really hot out there on the sidewalk for the kids and after taking a peek through the window at the little train running around the counter, they were completely unimpressed. The kids were starved half-to-death because it had been almost an hour since they'd last eaten. They flopped on the ground and writhed in pain, stopping passersby and begging with outstretched hands, "Please sir, can I have a little morsel, something, anything?"

I looked across the street and a light shone down from heaven illuminating the Cheeseburger in Paradise sign. Cheeseburgers, paradise, Jimmy Buffet, less than a 2 year wait? Count me in! We all decided to head over there for lunch. I was happy they had coconut iced tea, the kids were happy there were fried pickles, the little ones were thrilled with their standard restaurant fare (mac-n-cheese), Jackson was happy because it's a very tropical restaurant, Austin was happy because he had a little paper umbrella which he inverted into a "broomstick" which "Harry Potter" (his fingers) rode through Savannah's hair. Savannah was less than thrilled with this. My parents were tolerant happy to spend the day with their grandkids.

I love this picture of Brooklyn with my dad :)

Ahh yeah, this one's pretty self-explanatory

Thanks YiaYia and Papa for a fun day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Parenting Quiz

Ever wonder what kind of a parent you are? I've written a little quiz to help answer that question.

Your 3-year-old insists on wearing pink wool knee socks with her bathing suit to the pool. You....

A. ...tell her you won't leave for the pool until she takes the socks off and puts her sandals on.

B. ...don't want to squash her budding interest in fashion. You let her wear the socks and hope that her latest outfit will land her on What Not to Wear, and after Stacy and Clinton get over their heart palpitations, she'll get a whole new wardrobe.

C. ...don't even notice her socks because your son and his friend have taken all the couch cushions off and are using them like a trampoline, you teenager is begging you to let her go to her friend's house, and 2 of your other kids are throwing their toothbrushes at each other for some odd reason.

Your 5-year-old son asks you if he can have a mohawk. You...

A. ...put your foot down and inform him, in no uncertain terms, that you will NOT let him look like a punk.

B. ...realize it's just hair and hair grows out. You know this is a sign of self-expression so you take him to the barber to get his mohawk.

C. ... tell him, "Sure!" then totally forget about it until you see the pile of hair on the floor and you discover that his brother went ahead and gave him a, well, um, it's sort of like a mohawk.

Your 5-year-old scales the shelves in the garage to get the lighter fluid and a lighter, then he proceeds to try to burn the garage to the ground light the sidewalk on fire. You...

A. ... freak out, spank his butt, send him to his room, and threaten to send him to juvenile hall.

B. ... say, "Eh, the garage is falling apart anyway. It could use some major remodeling."

C. ... decide this is the perfect excuse to invite some hot firemen over to flex and pose have a little talk with your son.

Your baby drops her pacifier on the ground. You...

A. ...pick it up, put it in a special pacifier pouch, take it home and run it through the dishwasher to sanitize it.

B. ... pour some bottled water on the pacifier to clean it off.

C. ... pick it up out of the mud, wipe it on your shirt, pop it back in baby's mouth and assure yourself that germs build up the immune system.

Your 13-year-old daughter asks if she can meet a boy at the pool. You...

A. ... say, "No way, Missy! Now, put on your burqa and sit down and watch those Little House on the Prairie DVDs I got you!"

B. ... understand that she's growing up and let her have the freedom to meet a boy in a public place, trusting that you've taught her well.

C. ... say, "Yes! And take your brothers and sisters with you!" then go take a nap in peace and quiet.

I was going to assign points to each answer, but I decided that, much like Who's Line Is It Anyway?, the points don't matter. All I will say is that Clay is now sporting a mohawk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Best $850 Spent

I took the kids to get school supplies today. Each of the 5 kids attending school this year has a mile-long list of very specific supplies they need. This is on top of the registration fees, gym uniforms, band fees, instrument rental, yearbooks, PTO membership, athletic boosters, and band boosters. I think Illinois is one of few states that charges insane registration fees for public school. So far, I've shelled out $850 (without any supplies) for public school! Still, I keep thinking - It's worth it! Think of the pay-off, Dawn! Soon they'll be in school! Soon they'll be back in school!!! (insert the crazed cackling of a woman at the end of her rope)

Really, I love having the kids home from school. By the end of May, I count down the days until school's out. I'm tired of the routine and the homework and making lunches and all the activities and can't wait for the laziness of summer. I love sleeping in and getting up without a plan for the day. I enjoy just winging it and seeing where the day takes us. Perhaps the pool, or the library, or the zoo, or the park.

But I've determined that summer vacation, as wonderful as it is, lasts three weeks too long! About a week ago, my kids decided they needed the structure of school. Ok, so they didn't actually come to that conclusion; the decision was made for them. I think I came to the realization that summer vacation was officially over when my kids, in fits of boredom, started trying to kill each other on a daily hourly basis. I fear my teenagers have turned into vampires which would explain why they sleep all day lest they turn to dust. They have resorted to whining that "there's nothing to do" about every 5 minutes.

On the rare occasion they actually find something to do, it usually includes destroying the house or trying to land in the ER. The other day, Clay hauled his bike up a huge set of stairs, put swim goggles over his eyes (you know, for protection) and geared up to ride his bike down the stairs. Thankfully we noticed and stopped him before he could play Evel Knievel.

And I find myself losing patience and yelling at the kids regularly. In fact, they made me so crazy this morning, I went for a walk by myself. Do you understand what I'm saying? I loathe exercise! I purposely went for a long walk just to get away from the little animals darlings! I took my chances on having a heart attack just for an hour of quiet!

Yep, it's definitely time to get my 850+ dollar's worth. Only 15 days, 8 hours, 12 minutes, and 32 seconds left.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I'm home from camping. We unpacked the 5000 pounds of crap stuff that must be packed when one camps. I have laundry stacked to my ceiling. It's midnight and I'm on my fourth load with no end in sight. I've showered all the camping germs off me and am ready to sleep in my own comfy bed, but first a little blog post...

Here are my top ten reasons why no human should ever go camping.

1. There are hotels.
2. 52, 398 mosquito bites
3. Have you ever tried occupying 10 kids while camping in a monsoon?
4. The campfire smell that doesn't ever come out of your hair
5. There are hotels.
6. Showering with the water pressure of someone spitting on you
7. Having to cook like the pioneers
8. Having to sleep in cramped quarters with family members who snore and/or fart all night long
9. Having to walk 18 miles to the bathroom
10. There are hotels!

OK, OK, so some of you have accused me of actually (gasp!) liking camping. I don't. I swear I don't. But, in all fairness, I do like to look at the glass as half-full, so here's my list of reasons why camping doesn't totally suck.

1. Sleeping in a small space together promotes family bonding.
2. It's inexpensive (until you factor in the movie tickets because it rained all weekend, the carpet extractor rental fee from when the kids flooded the camper, the prescription cost because your daughter had a terrible allergic reaction to peanut butter thanks to the stupid Meehans for not being more careful (SORRY EMMA!), and the bazillion quarters for the laundromat because towels left out in the rain do not dry - ever.
3. All the walking to the bathrooms helps you to work off the 42 2 s'mores you ate.
4. Speaking of - s'mores
5. It's fun to laugh at your Eagle Scout husband who uses lighter fluid to get a fire going.
6. When the kids flood the camper, the carpet gets cleaned for the first time in 5 years. (THANKS JOE!)
7. With no TV or video games, it's fun to see the kids make up games like "Name Methods of Torture from A-Z"
8. When you eat outside, you don't have to worry about crumbs on the floor.
9. Sitting outside, seeing the stars (and quite possibly a UFO. The verdict is still out on that one.)
10. And finally, you get to see the kids do stuff like this... (Esther Williams, eat your heart out)

Actually, besides our friends' daughter, Emma, having a bad allergic reaction after coming in contact with peanut butter, Jackson scraping the skin off 2 toes, me breaking a toe, Jenny spraining her ankle, the never-ending thunderstorms, and the toilet overflowing and flooding the camper, it was a pretty good trip. (That kinda tells you how bad our trips usually are.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Joys of Camping

We went camping with our friends and their kids in Wisconsin this week. You know, because I’m stupid it’s good wholesome, inexpensive, family fun. The first time we went to this particular campground, Hidden Valley, we lost our bikes. We lost everyone’s bike. How, you ask? Well, Joe put them on a rack on the back of the camper before leaving for the campground. When we arrived, however, the entire rack and all its contents were gone. Yep, a half dozen bikes fell off somewhere between Chicago and Milton, WI and we didn’t even realize it. I can just imagine the 12 car pile-up we left in our wake when the bikes went flying off.

On this same trip, Lexington broke her first pair of glasses. The pair she’d had for exactly 24 hours.

But those things don’t hold a candle to what Clay did. At the ripe old age of 2, he hijacked a golf cart (right in front of 4 adults, no less) and drove it into our camper, doing $1000 worth of damage.

So, when we left Wednesday and made it up here in less than 13 hours, I was shocked happy. When the weather was nice and we had an enjoyable evening, I was confused happy. When we spent the whole day at the pool with no major injuries, I wondered what was wrong with the universe was happy. Last night, however, things started to make sense once again. At 4:00 in the morning, Joe heard water running. We knew they were calling for storms, so he assumed the rain had started. After a few minutes, he realized it wasn’t rain he was hearing, oh no. It was the toilet. The last person to use it (ahem, Austin) didn’t flip the switch back, so the water kept running. And running. And running. All night long. It overflowed the toilet and covered the floor in the bathroom. It ran down through the kitchen. It continued into the bedroom where it soaked the carpet. It ran out the front door. It seeped out through the walls of the bedroom. When Joe set foot in the bedroom, a fountain of water splashed up through the carpet beneath his feet. Yep, now this is a typical Meehan camping adventure.

Today, as I sit here writing this, it’s pouring down rain. Jen and I are washing towels covered in raw sewage doing laundry. The kids are playing in the mud rain. I have a raging headache. My ankles have at least 4 million mosquito bites. Camping is fun.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ford: What Women Want

As most of you know, I had the chance to visit the Ford assembly plant in Chicago last week. I learned some surprising information about Ford and was able to pass your ideas on to the folks at Ford as well.

When I asked you for your input on what features you'd like to see in a vehicle, you guys didn't let me down and you wrote in with dozens of awesome ideas. When I went to the Ford plant, I was amazed to see that a lot of your brilliant ideas are already being implemented in Fords now! For example:

You said you'd like to see a vehicle with a fridge since you spend so much time in your car. The Ford Flex has that option! Yes, you can get a little refrigerated compartment in the vehicle! How cool is that? No more sippy cups left out in the sun until the milk turns to cottage cheese!

Another thing you said you wanted to see in a vehicle was massaging chairs. Ford has those too! Seriously. They designed them so it's not like a deep tissue massage that will put you right to sleep while you're cruising down the interstate, but so it keeps the blood flowing and improves circulation so you don't nod off on the cross country family vacation road trip extravaganza.

Here's a feature that I don't remember anyone asking about, but Ford has it and it's pretty cool. It's called My Key. Austin's going to high school this year which means it won't be long before he's driving. (freaked out scream!) The My Key technology allows parents to program a key for their young driver. You can set a maximum volume on the radio. If your teen doesn't buckle up, the radio shuts off and they get no tunes until they buckle up. You can also set a maximum speed so your young driver can't drag race down the street at insane speeds. When you put your master key in the ignition, you can also see just how many miles your child has driven so when they say they're just driving to work, you can check and be sure they weren't running around anywhere else.

Another thing you asked for was more cup holders. There were cup holders-a-plenty on the Fords I saw there. And not only that, but they have this ambient lighting on the new models. It's so cool! There's a subtle, ice blue light around the cup holders and other areas in the car. It illuminates the cup holders and dash enough that you can see without turning on the lights and waking a sleeping child.

One of the coolest features I saw was the parallel park assist. I got to drive a car with this and it was the freakiest thing ever. The car parked itself! I kid you not! You don't even touch the steering wheel at all. The car does all the work. There's a little video about that HERE.

Better fuel efficiency was another big item you brought to me. Ford is making leaps and bounds there with several hybrid vehicles. They have a completely electric car in the works for the near future too. It will go 40 miles before switching over to a gas tank back-up while the battery recharges as you continue to drive. On the dash of several Fords, you'll see a little tree. The more eco-friendly driving you do, the more leaves appear on the tree graphic so you know you're saving gas. Not only are they making their cars more efficient, but they're using renewable sources on some of their lines now. For example, the foam used in the seat cushions contains a percentage (sorry, I can't remember how much) of soy. They're also experimenting with making fabric from corn and other sources which is cool because if you're driving along and you get hungry, you can just take a bite of your seat.

You asked for more cleanable surfaces. Ford has several with this molded plastic type material in the interior. It wipes clean, but looks like leather. I mean, I got a real close-up look and I could swear I could see stitching on it, but it was just part of their process to make it look like leather while it's actually very cleanable.

Unfortunately I didn't see any models with privacy glass between the driver and the passengers. Nor were there any cars with front mounted missiles I could launch at the slow drivers ahead of me. I didn't see any with a flame thrower on the back that I could fire at tailgaters either. What? I thought they were good ideas! I also didn't see any flying cars, but I did see some other feature that was very "Jetsons-like". It's called Sync. You can plug your phone, iPod, memory card, MP3 player, or whatever into the car and voila, with a simple voice command, it will play any track or artist you want. You can say, for example,"Call home," and your car will call home for hands-free talking. You can ask where the nearest Mexican restaurant is or what the traffic conditions are like on the way to work. You can get directions to anywhere and get 9-1-1 assistance. It will babysit your kids, do your grocery shopping and make sure your laundry is spring-fresh. It's like Kit! (I may be dating myself with that one.) Seriously, it. is. awesome.

Although my first car was a Ford Mustang (may it rest in peace), I haven't owned one since. Joe is a Chevy kinda guy so that's what we've always had. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Chevy was a sponsor of BlogHer, so there were cars in Chevy's line-up at the conference, and being a curious sort of gal, I thought I'd check them out and compare. Honestly, I was much more impressed by all the features Ford offers. I didn't think that Chevy had nearly the cool bells and whistles that Ford does. And nope, Ford didn't pay me to say any of this.

Here's yours truly showing just what a dork she really is...

And finally, the random winner of a signed copy of Because I Said so is...

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-08-05 06:32:14 UTC

Comment 95 came from Jessica who said...
Cupholders and places to put miscellanous other "stuff" - little console-like areas throughout. Oh, and the cupholders can't block other important things (like the radio, A/C control, etc) when there's actually a cup in them.

Leg room! Leg room! Leg room!

Versatility - seats that come out or otherwise disappear are the best.

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to leave me a comment!

I don't do paid reviews, but Ford did arrange a night's lodging and meals during the tour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paula Deen Winner

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my Paula Deen post! You guys are awesome! Here's the random winner of the signed bag full of Walmart goodies...

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:241
Timestamp: 2009-08-04 05:37:51 UTC

Number 241 came from -

Quotes from the Sandbox said...
Love your blog. Love Paula Deen's accent and personality. My brother-in-law would like the signed bag. :)

August 1, 2009 3:22 PM

Congratulations! Email me at with your address.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday Sound Out

What a long tiring week this was. Vacation bible school should really be renamed because it is NOT a vacation. Nor is camping, but we're getting ready to go camping this week too. Joe and I had a date for the first time in many years on Friday. It was nice to go out without any kiddos. Then Saturday, we all went to the Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin and bummed around Kenosha for the day. Here are some pictures from that trip...

Here we have all the kids except...

...Brooklyn, who didn't want her picture taken thankyouverymuch.

This was taken right before Brooklyn fell in the lake necessitating a trip to a very icky Walmart to get her some dry clothes before stopping at Cracker Barrel on the way home.

It was raining when we left Cracker Barrel. The whole sky was very dark. Except this one little spot of light. As we watched, the heavens opened up and the sun peeked through. It was very cool. I wish I'd been able to capture just how dark the sky was around it, for as far as we could see.

And now for a little question answering before I go to bed...

Okay, question for you...What were some of the best ideas that you received from your fellow blog fans about car design? I'd be curious...Did you get to pass them on to Ford?
Did I miss where you posted the winner of the drawing for your autographed book for posting info to share with Ford?

Thanks for the reminder. I did get to talk to the Ford people and pass ideas on. You wouldn't believe how many of your ideas are already in the 2010 Ford line-up! I'll write up a post about my visit to the Ford manufacturing plant this week and announce the winner of the book.

It was great to meet you Dawn and I just loved it how everyone screamed when they saw you in the Expo Hall. You really are a famous blogger!
LOL! Yeah, in case anyone's interested, the way to get a group of people to scream when you enter a room is to enter just in front of an actual celebrity. In this case, I walked in right before Tim Gunn and everyone screamed for him. I only bowed, thanked everyone, and offered to sign autographs for a minute before I realized he was standing behind me.

Did you go to Sears (Willis)Tower and have someone take a pic of you standing on the ledge (new glass enclosure - even the floor - where you feel like you're floating in mid-air?
Nope. I was too busy napping going to BlogHer seminars and didn't have time to sightsee.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the gifts that God has given to you?
I'm overwhelmed by 6 particular gifts daily.
In a nutshell (or nut house, as the case may be) - yes.

I have a question for you... I'm thinking of going to the next BlogHer convention... firstly, are foreigners allowed? (Yes, Canada is 'foreign') And how do you get a roomie? Did you know your roomie and make arrangements ahead of time or can you request to be shacked up (ooo la la) with somebody (and, if so, is Matthew Perry going to be there?!?)? I think having a roomie would help me meet people. As long as they aren't lame, stinky or prone to stealing my half of the toiletries!
Yes, Canadians are allowed. LOL Two of my favorite Canadians were at this BlogHer, in fact. Susan and Janice from
5 Minutes For Mom were there. (They have an awesome site, btw. Check it out when you have time.) I just went to the hotel without a reservation and started knocking on doors until I found someone who took pity on me and let me room with her. But you can check the BlogHer website for information on booking a room and such for the 2010 BlogHer conference.

Weren't those butter bars delish? btw the fruit flies kept following me all weekend. Did they eventually leave you alone?AND did you make it to vacation bible school on time!
I didn't actually try the butter bars. Can you believe it? I had just chugged down 2 Izze sparkling juice things (I had never heard of these until BlogHer, but now I'm addicted) and I was too full to try one.
And fruit flies? Ummm no. I'm thinking maybe it's just you, Michelle...
As far as vacation bible school...well, I really thought of 9:00 as more of a guideline, if you will - a kind of a ballpark time to shoot for.

Awesome artwork Austin! Thinking about using that as a career path? I'm sure you'd be great at wherever that road would take you!
According to Austin, he wants to be either a hobo or a bagel salesman when he grows up. Yep, that's working up to your potential, hon. Go for it.

So is Austin going to school in Savannah or Sarasota when he graduates? Awesomeness.
I'm just praying he makes it through his freshman year of high school.

Question: When your first child was 3 yrs old, did you get to sleep in at all? I have been trying to sleep in even though Jazz wakes up super early. Then I got "yelled at" by some other moms. Just wondering what you did before you had the older ones to look after the younger ones in the morning.
I can't even remember back that far. I think my memory has suffered from lack of sleep.

Was Joe home polishing the shotgun?!
No! He's much more calm than I am about the whole dating/boys talking to our daughter thing. What's up with that???

That's right! They had the story about Jesus asking Peter to step out of the boat in the middle of the lake with him, didn't they?
I don't think they did that story. They did have the kids write down a mistake they'd made and felt sorry about on a piece of paper though. Then the kids gave the papers to the leaders who lit them on fire while holding them in one hand. The message was - when you tell God about your mistakes, God forgives you and forgets about it; the mistakes disappear. So the leaders lit these pieces of paper on fire and they instantly (poof!) disappeared in mid-air. They used magic paper that completely went up in flames and vanished before it hit the ground.
I give it a week before Clay burns down the house trying this one out despite my telling him a thousand times that they used special paper and he can't try it at home.

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