Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Sound Out

From Orlando, where armadillos roam free, it's your host, the woman who single-handedly broke half her sprinklers while edging with a shovel because she's special that way, Dawn Meehan! Now here are the answers to your questions from the past couple weeks.

Are you and your kids excited about watching the last shuttle launch from you back yard or at least nearby?
The kids were less than excited, so I opted to watch it from my computer instead of forcing them to go and listening to them complain while battling half a million people on the coast.

Also, I have discovered your daughter's celebrity match--Rachel McAdams. Have you heard that before?
Nope, I've never heard that. I don't really see it. Then again, I always hear that I look like or sound like Kirstie Alley and I totally don't see that either.

DId I miss anything, Austin has a gf now? Great! So does it mean they cant see each other now :(
Yeah, he's had a girlfriend since March, I think. They still talk online most days.

I thought of you today. Aren't you glad now that you're here in Florida, compared to being in the heat of the midwest?!
Yeah, but it'll cool off in a week or so back home. Here? Notsomuch. Besides, anything over 90 is hot. It doesn't really matter what the thermometer says when it gets to that point.

Oh..have you encountered any of the local wildlife yet?
Like the alligators? Or flying cockroaches? Or lizards? Or frogs? Or armadillos? Or snakes? Or red ants? I've seen them all and I still think I may have driven farther south than Florida. Like maybe Brazil.

While I have no comment regarding the self-inflicted haircuts (only one of my kids ever did that, and it wasn’t too bad), I have to comment on Brooklyn! When did she get so grown up???? Where’d the little pre-schooler go?
I don't know! I was just thinking the same thing. I've done a double-take a couple of times, thinking she was Lexington. Of course, Brooklyn still acts like Brooklyn. (That's not necessarily a good thing.)

SSO question: My Oldest Boy (8) is just about to start organized sports. Which means practices and meets…all with our 3 younger kids in tow. Advice? Did you feed everyone before you went? While you were there? After you got home? How do you keep the other kids (relatively) happy? This is all new territory for me so any advice (or good humor tips) would be great! I’m NOT a single mom but for all intents and purposes during this phase of the day I will be (my husband works until 6PM).
Good question! Pack a bag with items to amuse the younger kids and keep it in the car. Include coloring books, paper, crayons, art supplies, outdoor toys like balls, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, etc., snacks, bottles of water, sweatshirts, and wipes/hand sanitizer (because they ALWAYS have to go to the bathroom while you're at the game and port-a-potties are gross!) When you feed them depends on when you have to get them to practices/games. I sometimes fed my kids before the game, but they usually ended up hungry afterward and needed a snack when we got home. Sometimes, I just packed dinner and fed the little kids at the game. Oftentimes, there are other kids and playgrounds to occupy the little ones. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Wow, did you take that rainbow picture?
Yep. I take almost all the pictures on my blogs (unless otherwise noted). The sunsets, sky, and rainbows down here are just gorgeous.

Where can we write Sunday Sound Out questions? Wanted to tell you how happy I am for you and the kids, and was wondering if any family from home has been in contact since you're moved?
Sure, I've talked to most of my family and friends from back home. Technology is a good thing!

The kids and I tried out a new church today. I just didn't feel really comfortable going to the huge one we'd been visiting. I mean, I know I could join a small group and get to know people. I know I shouldn't expect people to just come up and introduce themselves to me, but after a couple visits, it just felt like a big, impersonal church to me. So we decided to try out a different one today. And people at this church actually did come up and introduce themselves to us! Members encouraged my kids to attend youth group. People actually went around the room and introduced themselves to me in my Sunday school class. It was nice. I didn't enjoy the worship service as much as megachurch's, but I liked the small, friendly, homey feel of this one. I believe we'll go back next week.

Have a sunshiny week!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

You Might be a Mom If . . .

“You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word “milo,” which is mean “apple,” so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek word “portokali,” which mean “orange.” So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit.”
I love that quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. We’re all different, yet we have many things in common. I’m talking about moms here. Moms are a unique breed and we have much in common with each other. We speak a secret language only other moms can understand. We understand “mom behavior” that may baffle those who have never cared for a child. Moms understand the “Mom Purse”.  They understand how one could go weeks without shaving one’s legs simply because it could be dangerous to take that much time in the shower when there are small kids and crayons in the next room.  Moms get it when you say your maternity clothes are simply your clothes despite the fact your baby is in high school.
So, here, in no particular order, are a dozen things that set us moms apart from the crowd.
You might be a mom if . . .
…you’ve ever put your hand out to catch something your child spits out of his mouth, or wiped snot from your child’s face – with your bare hand. This is what moms do. I don’t know why this is, but ask any mom and she’ll tell you the same.

…you’ve ever uttered the phrase “Take the hotdog out of your nose”, “We don’t lick our friends”, “No, frogs do not fly”, or “Because I said so!” Moms tend to say some crazy, inane words and the thing is – we don’t even realize it. To us, it’s perfectly normal to say, “Stop burping show tunes at the dinner table.”

…you’ve ever updated your Facebook status with “the funniest thing your child just said” or “the cutest thing your child just did”.

…your favorite television show is a cartoon. I recently wrote on Facebook how much I loved Phineas and Ferb and within minutes, I had over forty comments from other moms admitting their love of kids’ shows. image: DisneyChannel


…you’ve ever had a conversation about poop at the dinner table. “Hey Mom, I had a sinker this morning, pass the orange juice.”

…you’ve subsisted a week on nothing but your kid’s leftovers. Lucky Charms, mac-n-cheese, and chicken nuggets. It’s a
health mom thing.

…you know how to get nail polish out of carpet, permanent marker off the dining room table, gum out of hair, playdough out of clothing, and disposable diaper gel out of the washing machine.

…you have Barbie shoes, Legos, used tissues, a sucker covered in lint, cookie crumbs, fruit snacks, a Match Box car, a pacifier, a rock, and the handle from the toilet in your purse. And all that seems perfectly normal to you.

…you have thirty coloring book apps on your phone. The phone that’s covered with sticky, little finger prints. Yeah, that phone. The one you never get to use.

…you stand by the window, waiting for the mailman (which, incidentally, is the highlight of your day) just to
see what he brought you have a little adult conversation.

…you’ve ever pretended to be asleep when a child comes into your room at 5:00AM just to buy yourself another five minutes of sleep.

…you’ve ever sat through a baseball game in 30 degree weather, put together a science project at midnight, sewed a Halloween costume, forgotten to play Tooth Fairy, potty trained a child, taught a child to drive, taught a child to swim, fed your kids ice cream for breakfast because you were just too tired to fight about it, or found a toy dinosaur in the toilet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Tomorrow night marks four weeks that we’ve been here in Florida. In some ways, it seems like we just got here. In others, it feels like we’ve always lived here. I don’t know how to explain it. I really thought I’d be spending my nights, curled up in bed, sobbing over how much I miss my old house. I haven’t done that even once. I thought I’d have moments of melancholy as memories of good times with friends flashed through my head. I haven’t experienced that either. I mean, I do miss my friends, but I haven’t had any gut-wrenching feelings of loneliness. I want to breathe a sigh of relief that this move is indeed a good thing and the reason it seems so easy is because it’s an improvement and a much needed change. But I’m afraid to let my guard down and relax because Murphy’s Law dictates that everything will fall apart in that instant.

It just seems somehow wrong that we could adjust this easily. We should be struggling more, right? We should be wrestling with mixed emotions. And we just aren’t. I mean, the kids have had a couple brief moments where, in missing their friends, they yelled out that they hate Florida, but within minutes, they’ve changed their minds and they tell me they love it here.

Other than a handful of boxes in the garage, things are unpacked and put away. The walls are still bare, but it definitely looks like a family lives here. A very messy family with half a dozen kids, that is. A very messy family that’s spilled nail polish on the floor. A very messy family with wet towels lying all over the lanai. Yeah, that family. I have a new license, my plates and registration have been switched to Florida. Savannah has her permit and Austin will be getting his later this week. I found a place to get low cost physicals for the kids (since I don’t have medical insurance) and as soon as that’s done, I can get them signed up for school. I’m learning my way around here and know where the important things are – the pool and Target. One by one, I’ve crossed things off my mile-long to-do list. I’ve taken care of things, paid bills, put furniture together, ordered appliances, spent time with the kids, gotten cable, internet, and phone hooked up, bought birthday presents for family and friends, opened a UPS box, written dozens of articles, taken care of my lawn to please the HOA, tackled the mountain of paperwork needed to register kids for school in a new state, and gathered estimates to submit a claim to the warranty company.

But I can’t shake this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m so happy that I’m happy about the move. So when will I be able to sit back, relax, and be confident that I’m not going to wake up one morning, suddenly miserable?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Tried Childproofing my Home, but They Keep Getting In

I recently viewed this short video with tips on babyproofing your kitchen so it’s safe for toddlers yet still aesthetically pleasing. The expert in the video recommends putting those little plastic latches on the inside of your cabinets so as not to create the ugly eyesore of a big white lock on the outside. I wonder if the expert has kids? Or has ever been around kids? Or knows anything about kids?

I know, firsthand, that it takes an average of three tries before a toddler figures out how to depress those little childproof latches on a cabinet. There are other options out there for locking your cabinets. One that I had in my old house was a sturdy lock that could only be opened with a strong magnet. I thought it was great! Until my child found the hidden magnet and lost it, but not before using it to turn the TV all sorts of pretty rainbow colors.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Just a Little Off the Top, Please.

In my book, Because I Said So, I wrote a section on haircuts (or more specifically, the haircuts kids give themselves and their siblings). I think every one of my kids has had at least one self-inflicted haircut over the years. I’ve given up all efforts to stop it from happening. There is no stopping it. It WILL happen. Once you resign yourself to this fact, you can breathe a little more easily. When it does eventually come to pass, you’ll need to remind yourself that hair grows. Practice now. Repeat after me – Hair grows, hair grows, hair grows. It’s no big deal; it’s hair. Hair grows back. So she’ll look like a freak for a while. It’s okay. All kids do this. Buy a copy of my book for reference and bookmark this page because I guarantee when you first see those strands of hair on the ground indicating that your little one has found the scissors, you’ll forget that it’s just hair and you’ll freak out. At least for a minute or two.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to deal with the situation when your young child takes it upon herself to cut her hair.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Driving me to Drink

I took Savannah to get her permit today.  Part of me was hoping she’d fail her test so I could put off teaching her to drive for just a little longer. But unfortunately, she passed.  I mean, yay! She passed her test and got her permit! I’m so proud!

I guess I’ve had it easy with Austin who will be seventeen in a couple months. He doesn’t have his permit, nor does he have any real desire to drive. Maybe I should encourage him to get his permit, but I figure the longer he waits, the less insurance will cost and the more mature he’ll be when he starts driving. Savannah, on the other hand, is more like I was when I was her age. She’s just chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel.

My dad taught me how to drive. We went to the big, empty parking lot of a college near our house. I don’t remember my mom taking me out driving often. Now I think I know why. It’s freaking scary! My mom knocked a Fred Flintstone-like hole in the floorboard, trying to use the non-existent passenger side brake. Tonight, I did the same thing. I also caused some nerve damage in my right hand from gripping the door so tightly. It’s okay; I’m starting to get feeling back in my hand this evening. Tingling is a good sign, right?

Savannah did a fine job. She drove around the parking lot for a while, she practiced parking and backing up, and then she drove the couple blocks home on the little side streets. I, on the other hand, didn’t do such a great job. I mean, I pretty much stayed calm and kept my cool even when she hit the curb, but inside I was fuh-reak-ing out. People make mistakes when they’re learning something new. It happens. But, in the case of driving, making a mistake could cost you, and/or others, your lives. That’s some serious stuff.

I think part of the reason I’m having such a hard time with this whole driving thing is because I have a huge car. I mean, I drive the “church van”! It’s a big ole Chevy Express 200 passenger van! It’s hard to maneuver and park. There are many blind spots. It was an adjustment when I started driving this van and I was an experienced driver.

I know, in my mind, that the only way for her to learn is to practice. The only way for her to gain the experience and wisdom required to be a good, defensive driver, is by putting in many hours of driving practice. I know this in my mind. But my gut? Well, my gut says, “Pull over so I can throw up! Here! Pull over here! Slow down! Watch out for that armadillo in the road! Ohmygosh, did you hit it? Pull over now! Don’t hit the curb! Put it in park! Park, not reverse! Aaarrgh!”

And then I blow up like Mrs. Puff.

Just Another Day in Paradise

I took the kids to swim this evening. I didn’t bother to put my own suit on, but instead grabbed a notebook and pen to take notes for some blog posts. It was a long day. I was feeling tired and down, and was looking forward to watching my kids play in the water while I lounged in the shade with my notebook. Fate, however, had other plans.

Brooklyn was playing with her facemask and snorkel. She has no clue how to use a snorkel and I’m just waiting for the day the lifeguard has to rescue her from the water-filled breathing device.  It’s futile trying to teach her how to use it too because she’s five and knows much, much more than I do, so naturally, she’s insulted if I dare to suggest something crazy like keeping the end of the snorkel above the surface of the pool.

Clay kept asking her for a turn with the snorkel. Brooklyn refused to share. Clay came to me with his complaint. I told Brooklyn, “Take turns and share or I’ll give the the snorkel to Clay for the rest of the evening.” She took that very well. I believe her exact words were, “NO!” as she swam away from the edge of the pool. The one time I hadn’t put my suit on, of course, and she was swimming out of my reach. I enlisted Savannah’s help in catching her and bringing her to me poolside. Brooklyn took that very well too. I believe her exact words were, “I hate you!”

At this point, we’re a freak show that has gained the attention of everyone at the pool. All eyes are on the bratty child and the mom who obviously has no clue how to discipline. I wanted to throw her in the car and take her home right then and there so I could grab a beer, but my other five kids were behaving beautifully and they’d waited all day for the chance to go to the pool and cool off. I didn’t want to punish them for her attitude. Instead, I grabbed up Brooklyn who kept making a bee-line back toward the pool and held her. So much for relaxing. So much for writing. So much for staying dry.

I quietly told her to get a grip and calm down. She screamed. I calmly told her she could go back in the pool once she got control of herself. She kicked. I whispered that she needed to take a deep breath and settle down. She tried to bite me.

I knew everyone at the pool was staring at me. I could feel their eyes burning into my back, but I dared not look. I know I might have seen a friendly ‘been there, done that’ look from another parent. But I still wasn’t willing to look up because I knew there was just as good a chance I’d see a disapproving, shake of someone’s head who was judging me as completely incompetent.

I held my ground and kept my screaming, crying child out of the pool. When the pool closed, soon after the whole Brooklyn extravaganza began, Austin, Savannah, Jackson, Lexington, Clayton, and I gathered our things and started walking to our car. Brooklyn, on the other hand, stood there pouting and crabbing. So we left her. We knew she’d give up and follow us. Eventually. But the darn lifeguard, needing to rescue someone, came to her defense. I briefly thought of running to the car and burning rubber, leaving the lifeguard to take Brooklyn home with him, but he seemed like a really nice guy and I didn’t want to do that to him. So we took her home with us and it only took me a quick ten minutes to buckle her writhing body into her car seat!

She’s in bed now. And I’m grabbing that beer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Donating Your Old Stuff is a Win-Win!

The cool thing about moving is the chance, nay, the obligation to declutter. I was ruthless in getting rid of anything and everything in my old house that hadn't served a specific purpose. If it was packed away in my attic and hadn't been touched in years, it was discarded. If it was old, outdated, broken, useless, it was tossed. After all my cleaning, I ended up donating fourteen garbage bags and several boxes full of clothes and household goods to Wings. I had less stuff to move, Wings got some great stuff that they can sell, the people who buy the items will get a terrific deal, and the money raised will go to support programs that help women and children fleeing domestic violence. Everyone wins!

You don't actually have to move to clean out and donate either. Back to school time is perfect for going through old clothes and taking inventory before buying new. And when you donate to a place with a retail shop, you can shop for new clothes there, saving money! And don't forget to keep track of your donations for tax purposes!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't Fret the Sweat Winner!

Thank you to everyone who left a comment and liked the Don't Fret the Sweat page!

Congratulations to the random winner of the beach bag filled with goodies from Don't Fret the Sweat!

hockeygrrrrl said...
Woot! I'd love to win this. :)
I'm gonna run right over and tweet it too [Hipchick73]
Don't worry - Florida gets better, in September or so...heh. :) Sure am enjoying the stories!

Thank you!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A House Isn't a Home Until . . .

. . . someone spills nail polish all over the carpet.  I ran out to the store this afternoon to get embroidery floss for Lexi who wanted to make friendship bracelets for the girls she’s missing back home. Oh yeah, and one for Eric too.  :) Then I stopped at the store for Jackson’s medicine and I went to the bank to open a checking account here. While the teller was entering my information in her computer, I felt my phone vibrate. Seeing the text was from Jackson, I glanced at the message. “Brooklyn spilled nail polish on the carpet.”

I had just finished telling the banker that I wrote humorous parenting books. “I have six kids and they provide me with plenty of material,” I’d boasted. After seeing Jackson’s text, I looked up and continued, “For example,” I indicated my phone, “apparently my five-year-old has spilled nail polish on the new carpet.”

The banker didn’t miss a beat and used the opportunity to tell me about their home equity loans with which I could buy new carpeting. I just nodded and smiled, but thought, ‘Why on earth would I spend money on carpet that’s just going to be destroyed again? Did I learn nothing from the nail polish incident? Have I learned nothing from the past 16 1/2 years with kids?’

Upon seeing the extent of the damage when I arrived back home, I tweeted that I had broken glass and multi-colored nail polish splats all over the carpet. People wrote back asking if Brooklyn was still alive. They said they would’ve lost it and flipped out. Others emailed me, asking if I’d beaten her into next week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m mad that there’s nail polish on the carpet. It stinks. But, what good would freaking out do? What good would yelling at Brooklyn do? It was an accident. She was trying to reach the container of nail polish on a high shelf and it fell to the ground, causing several bottles to break. If I freaked out and yelled, what would it accomplish? The nail polish would still be on the floor. And Brooklyn would feel worse than she already did. I can’t count how many times she said, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” I had never instructed her to stay out of the polish. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I’ve told her to pick out a color so I could paint her nails many times.

I know it’s easy to simply react. But it’s important to take a minute to stop and think. Nail polish on the floor is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Do you think the parents of the little boy who was recently found dismembered in Brooklyn would give a crap if he spilled a truckload of polish on the floor? Do you think Mimi would care if Julian spilled a gallon of paint on the floor? I’m pretty sure they’d just be thrilled to have their little boys.

Anyway, the nail polish was pretty dry by the time I got to it. I used a steam cleaner which basically just made the carpet wet and had no effect on the crusty polish. Then I grabbed a small pair of scissors and carefully trimmed the polish-soaked carpet fibers. It helped a lot, but I couldn’t get it all. Well, I could’ve, but then I’d have lovely sculptured carpet which would be fine if it was say, 1970. Seriously, we had lovely pea green, sculptured carpeting in our living room while I was growing up. Sigh, there was really nothing attractive about that era, was there?

So now the carpet looks like this.

186 300x200 A House Isnt a Home Until . . .

It’s an improvement, but it’s still, well, it’s kinda, uh, who am I kidding? It still looks awful. But it also looks like a mom and six kids live here. It didn’t take us long at all to break in our new house, huh? I’d say it’s now officially a home. And I think I just found the perfect spot for that potted plant.

Sea World

As a new Floridian, I've been checking out the deals for residents at local theme parks. SeaWorld has some good deals for residents and visitos alike. We went to SeaWorld and Discovery Cove back in October of 2007. You can read about it here. It was the most awesome vacation we've ever had! We got to swim with dolphins! It was so cool!

My kids have been asking me when we can go back and I might possibly be as anxious as they are. What can I say? It was fun! So I thought I'd share this deal with residents and folks who are visiting Orlando this summer.

SeaWorld Orlando has something called Summer Nights. After dark, SeaWorld is filled with unforgettable nighttime shows like Shamu Rocks, a hilarious, evening-only sea lion show, roller coasters under the stars, and to top it off, a fountain and fireworks extravaganza.

They also offer a new after-3 p.m. ticket for $49.99. For a discounted priced, you can enjoy all the fun SeaWorld has to offer from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. now through August 14. Or, they also offer a cool package that includes all-you-care-to-eat-and-drink at participating restaurants for $59.99 a person. This deal can be purchased online or at the Information Counter upon arrival.

There are also special deals for families looking for an all-day SeaWorld adventure. Adults pay the kid’s price and get a 2nd visit free. As with all of SeaWorld’s special events, Summer Nights is included with park admission.

For more information, visit

Saturday, July 16, 2011

And These are the Things I Could Live Without

Yesterday, I shared my favorite things about Florida. We’ve been here about two weeks now and we’re settling in. Boxes are almost all unpacked, rooms are set up, we’re finding positive things about living here. But with all the good things, there are some that aren’t so wonderful. There are some that are just strange and foreign to us. And then there are some that make us want to move back home (cough cough Palmetto bugs)!

The good definitely outweighs the bad, but in the interest of fairness, here’s a list of the notsogood things about living in Florida.


Friday, July 15, 2011

These Are a Few of my Favorite Things

Yes, there are some things that stink about moving to Florida. Leaving friends and family and having to start over finding new schools, church, shopping, friends, etc. can be intimidating. Sometimes, like when I see a sign advertising hog traps, gator meat, and ammo all at one store, I think I’ve moved to another planet. But, there are so many awesome things about Florida too. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t move here years ago. Here are my favorite things about Florida!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Win a Beach Bag Full of Goodies Including an iPod from Don't Fret the Sweat!

It's HOT here in Florida! When we first moved into our house, I set the thermostat at 72 which is what I kept my house at in Illinois during the summer. When I told my friend who lives here that my air was set to 72, her jaw hit the floor, and I started to realize that I'd probably need to make some adjustments if I didn't want a $500 electric bill. I've been turning the temperature up a degree every day. I'm up to 76 so far and honestly, when I come in from outside, it feels a little too cold sometimes. I guess anything less than the outdoor temp (approximately 400 degrees) is cool.

I'm pretty sure I'm single-handedly keeping Unilever in business with all the deodorant I'm using every day! I'm almost to the point of rubbing a stick of Degree on my head to keep the sweat from pouring down into my eyes. I know, I'm quite the babe with my hair matted to my face.

But I've figured out the secret to living in Florida during the summer! When you're not in the air conditioning, you need to spend all day at the pool or beach! What a great way for anyone to spend their free time during the summer! And I've got an awesome giveaway to help you do just that!

Here’s what you’ll find in the “Don’t Fret the Sweat” beach bag (valued at $137):

Exclusive Don’t Fret the Sweat beach bag
2GB iPod Shuffle
$25 iTunes gift card
Beach towel
Beach ball
Sports water bottle
Vaseline Daily Aloe Fresh Moisturizing Body Gel
Unilever deodorant sticks

Ways to enter:

1. Leave me a comment here (BE SURE TO INCLUDE CONTACT INFORMATION) for a chance to win.

2. Like the Don't Fret the Sweat Facebook page here. Then leave me another comment letting me know that you liked the page for another chance to win.

3. Tweet about the giveaway and leave me another comment here letting me know that you tweeted about it for another chance to win.

I'll choose a random winner on Monday, July 18. Good luck!

I am working with Unilever to help parents raise healthy tweens through the Don't Fret the Sweat page and have been compensated for my time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Party at Sonic!

Right before I left Chicagoland, I had a little get-together at our local Sonic. I invited friends to meet me on the patio so we could try out Sonic's new hotdogs. The hotdogs were de-lish! The limeades were yummy and refreshing, and the real ice cream was cool and delicious! Here are some pictures from our night!

When we got there, we found tables reserved just for us. We felt so important-like! :)

Sonic is now offering All American hotdogs, Chicago dogs (mine is pictured below yum. Actually, come to think of it, that wasn't my hotdog. I scarfed mine down before I remembered to take a picture. It was yummy!), New York dogs, chili cheese coneys, and baja dogs. For details, see their menu here.

Me and Val

Having fun with friends, enjoying the nice evening, and gobbling up hotdogs!

A reader, Tina and family

Savannah and Kimmy (her real name is Shannon, but she'll always be lovingly called Kimmy Gibbler by me)

me and Sue

Aj and his girlfriend, Jenny

Looking stylish in her many, many Sonic hats!

Try one of the yummy new hotdogs at a Sonic near you! If you don't have any Sonics near you, I guess you'll just have to come visit!

Sonic provided me with complimentary products so my friends and I could try out their new hotdogs.

Hallelujah, There are Doughnuts!

Before I moved to Florida, a couple from my church in Chicagoland emailed me.  They’d retired to Florida and they wrote to invite me to check out their church down here.  The first Sunday we were here, we were still buried knee-deep in boxes and my friend Eric was here, helping us move and fixing some things around the house so we stayed home and worked.  But yesterday, I decided that we needed to go to church.  It’s important to me to find a church home.

I’ve known people who’ve searched for a church they like and meets their needs.  I’ve never had that experience because I’ve attended the same church for almost 40 years.  I was comfortable there.  I knew people there.  Over the years, I had taught Sunday school, taken bible study classes, and participated in the drama group.  I called fellow members Mr. So&So and Mrs. So&So instead of by their first names because once upon a time, I was in their Sunday school classes and it just seemed strange to call someone who used to teach you bible verses, by their first names.  My parents attend the same church.  It was home.

And now I have to begin the process of searching for a new one. 

So, we checked out the church my friends recommended.  It was big.  Huge.  Much bigger than my church back in Chicagoland.  They actually handed out a map along with a welcome packet, no joke.  The kids and I parked and walked around what could only be described as a campus while searching for the sanctuary.  I felt lost and insignificant there.  I longed for the familiarity and small, homey, friendliness of my old church.  I felt tears spring to my eyes as we wandered around, trying to find where on earth they held worship services in this place.  I was frustrated and hot.  Sweat was literally dripping down my face as I dragged the kids from building to building outside in the heat, hoping to find the sanctuary before the service began.

We finally found the building and I inquired as to where Sunday school was held for the kids.  After much deliberation and consultation with a few different members, it was determined that we’d chosen the one service out of their four dozen weekly services that didn’t have Sunday school at the same time.  I felt defeated and almost turned around and just headed back home.  But the senior pastor of the church came up and warmly welcomed us.  Another woman from the women’s group showed us around a bit.  The woman who was preaching that particular Sunday welcomed us and shook all the kids’ hands.

My nerves eased, the kids and I walked into the sanctuary just as the service started.  Excellent.  Way to make an entrance and make sure everyone notices the crazy lady with the six kids.  We made our way to the front of the church where there were open seats.  The front of the church is the absolute best place to sit if you want to be sure everyone in the congregation will see your kids act up and embarrass you, so naturally, I was delighted with our seats.

Honestly, other than one monstrous burp from Clay, the kids were awesome throughout the entire service.  A woman seated behind us even complimented them, “What delightful children!” she exuded in that way that only southern people can.

The sermon was great and I ended up really enjoying the service.  My kids, however, were less-than-thrilled.  That is, until we were told about the doughnuts.  Apparently they serve coffee, juice and (hallelujah) doughnuts every week.  Now my kids are asking, “Is it Sunday yet?  How many more days until we can get more doughnuts?”  It’s good to know they’ve gotten the most important message out of church, church=doughnuts.

Eating Disorders an Increasing Problem in Males

In a recent article that appeared in Marie Claire magazine, eating disorders are compared to AIDS in that they’re an increasing problem and they don’t spare any demographic.

“We’ve moved away from this as a Caucasian, upper-middle-class, ‘princess’ disease. It’s everybody’s disease,” says Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, medical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center in Denver.

When you think of anorexia, you picture young girls, their skeletal frames looking sickly to everyone, but themselves. You can’t understand how they could look at their reflection in the mirror and feel fat. But very young children, seniors, boys, other ethnic groups are all being affected by eating disorders these days. In fact, research has shown that boys as young as 10-years-old are making themselves throw up to lose weight.  Some people argue that the media is to blame. Images of thin girls and perfectly tanned men with six-pack abs make us all question our ideas of beauty. There are those who would claim the lure of looking like super models drives people to eating disorders. And I absolutely believe the media plays a role in the rise of eating disorders.  But it’s more complicated than that.

A teenage boy I know has grappled with an eating disorder. In his case, as in many, many cases, his problems didn’t originate because he wanted to look like an Abercrombie model. No, for him, it wasn’t really about the weight at all. It was about self-esteem. In order to feel better about himself, he starved himself. His thinking became a little tangled as he thought all he needed to do was lose some weight and he’d feel better about himself. As time went on, he began to feel he was fat despite the fact that he’d lost 30 pounds in a short amount of time and his six foot frame looked gaunt, at best.

In individuals who are predisposed for eating disorders (as there’s a hereditary component to the disease), a traumatic event can trigger the behaviors of anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating. In my teenage friend, it was his parents’ divorce and, more specifically, his father walking out on him that started his eating problems. His thinking was that he wasn’t even good enough for his dad to care, therefore he wasn’t good enough for anyone. It was a huge blow to his already fragile self-esteem. It led to the kind of warped thinking that if he could only lose weight, he’d be okay. And losing weight was something he could control. He could go without eating and the weight would drop off. He couldn’t control his father’s actions or the uncertainty he felt about his future, but he could control his weight.

So how do eating disorders look in a male? How can you tell if this might be something affecting your son? The disease often manifests differently in men.  Instead of the emaciated, frail-looking women we think of, oftentimes men simply look lean and muscular. Instead of starving themselves, making themselves vomit, or abusing laxatives, men are more likely to exercise obsessively. This kind of behavior generally receives applause. People praise the young men for being so healthy and dedicated to their workout routine which in turn, exacerbates the problem.

Sometimes the problem starts innocently enough.  A wrestler says, “I just need to lose five pounds to make my weight class.”  A football player starves himself before weighing in so he can play in the game.  But for some individuals, it doesn’t end there.  The need to lose weight accelerates and continues until it’s out of control.

Another thing that’s common, affecting approximately 25% of individuals with eating disorders, is other self-injurious behaviors. When you think about it, it makes sense as eating disorders really are ways of injuring yourself. A quarter of those with eating disorders may cut, burn, or scratch themselves, pull their eyelashes out, or even more seriously, attempt suicide.

My teenage friend received several weeks of inpatient treatment followed by ongoing outpatient treatment and counseling and is now, six months later, doing very well thanks to quick intervention at the first signs of the illness.  If you witness troubling behavior in your son (obsessing over food, diet, exercise, or self-injuring), don’t automatically discount the possibility of an eating disorder simply because he’s not a teenage, white, upper-middle class girl. Eating disorders can affect anyone and, as with most problems, early intervention can help.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Drinking, Driving, and the DMV

I went to the DMV, or tag agency, or whatever they call it down here. I checked in, was given a number, and was directed to the waiting area. I glanced at the paper with my number on it. Number 852. I looked up at the screen which displayed the current number being served. Number 2. I looked back at the number in my hand. I blinked a few times. I looked up again. Then I resigned myself to dying right there at the DMV sitting there for a long time.

I took a seat and settled back into the hard, plastic chair to get as comfy as possible. And then I heard it. The unmistakable sound of flatulence. Then again. And again. I looked toward the offending sound and saw a little boy playing with an iPod. There must have been some sort of fart app on the iPod because it sounded like the thing was passing gas nonstop. For TWENTY minutes. Twenty minutes may not seem like a long time. Until you’re sitting at the DMV listening to farting.

At some point, I’m not even sure when, the boy stopped playing with the fart app and switched to barnyard animals. Moooooo, oink oink oink, hee haw, hee haw, hee haw, neigh! I’m really unsure if that was an improvement or not.

An hour later, when they were on number 15, I decided I was going to pass out from dehydration if I didn’t get something to drink. I’ve never had so much water as I have since moving here. It seems like I always have sweat dripping down my face. Attractive, I know. Anyway, since there was enough time to drive back to Chicago, get a nice glass of Lake Michigan water, and make it back before they got to number 852, I got up and left. I walked around the deserted strip mall, looking for some sort of restaurant where I could get some pop or water or something. I found a grocery store, went in and bought a case of water. Then I walked back to the DMV, lugging my purchase with me.

Apparently people don’t generally walk into the DMV carrying a case of water because everyone there stopped what they were doing, and as if on cue, turned and stared at me. I smiled and said, “I’m really thirsty! Actually, I got water for all you guys! Who wants a bottle of water? Water anyone? C’mon, free water! It’s a million degrees outside! Who wouldn’t like a bottle of water?”

How does that scripture go that if you give a cup of water to one because he is a disciple, you will certainly not lose your reward. Yeah, well, what do you do if no one will accept a drink from you? They continued to stare at the freak show that was me. Not one single person accepted a bottle of water. I gave up and sat down with my 2 dozen bottles of water and prayed that time would accelerate.

To make a long story short, I was finally called, the woman who helped me was very nice and friendly, however because of a misunderstanding, I wasn’t able to get my license. I need a copy of my marriage certificate in order to prove that I am who I am since my birth certificate has my maiden name on in. I thought my judgement for divorce would work since it contained both my names. She said it was fine, but she thought I was asking if I could get a license in my maiden name. Anyway…..

And I wasn’t able to get my plates because they have to go outside and check the VIN on the vehicle and they don’t do that in the rain. Of course, it was raining by the time it was my turn because it rains every stinking day in Florida. The heat, the rain, the cockroaches, lizards, frogs, and locusts of biblical proportions have me convinced I’ve actually moved to the Amazonian rainforest and not the theme park capital of the world. Anyway, after two hours, I left with nothing.

I did, however, learn that there isn’t driver’s ed down here. No driver’s ed! Seriously, teens just have to take a short online drug and alcohol class and quiz and then they can get their permit. Mom and Dad teach the teen to drive and after putting in 50 hours of driving practice, they can get their license. I think I’ve determined why my car insurance went up by $1600 a year when I moved here.
Austin still doesn’t really care about driving, but Savannah took the class immediately and is begging me take her to get her permit. In fact, tonight, she gave me this . . .
022 200x300 Drinking, Driving, and the DMV

Anyone want to teach her to drive? Because I’m terrified to do it! I hate being the passenger when a seasoned driver is behind the wheel. But I truly can’t stomach the idea of sitting in a giant van being driven by someone who is just learning. Especially if that someone has gotten her driving ideas from SpongeBob.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Billionaire Dumps Wife Via Social Media (and other stupid ways to use Twitter)

The New York Times recently had an interesting article on how anonymity is disappearing thanks to the Internet. It’s a paradox. People can log on and make scathing comments on a site, all while hiding behind their anonymity. Yet, a person who has never even touched a computer can find things they’ve said and pictures of themselves splashed across the Web.

The subway rider in NY who argued with the conducter, stating how “well educated” she was last Tuesday was identified from the uploaded YouTube video in no time.

Anthony Weiner and his, ah, penpals discovered just how quickly details they thought were private can become public.

Some of the people who set fire to cars and looted businesses after Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup playoffs were identified from pictures posted online.

Billionaire Wang Gongquan, an investor in China, announced to the world that he was leaving his wife via China’s equivilant of Twitter, Sina Weibo. Mr. Gongquan writes, “I am giving up everything and eloping with Wang Qin. I feel ashamed and so am leaving without saying goodbye. I kneel down and beg forgiveness!”

It all makes you wonder.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

And Then Sometimes Everything Falls into Place

Yesterday was a bad day. There wasn’t one specific thing that happened. It was just one of those days where I didn’t feel right, but couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. 

Moving into a new house, you have to expect some things will need repair. It comes with the territory. However, when your inspection doesn’t mention the things that are wrong and you don’t learn of them until you actually move in and see them firsthand, well, that’s not a good kind of surprise. The showerhead in the master bath was broken and lying on the floor of the shower. That same shower doesn’t drain properly and after one shower, I discovered a stain of water that had leaked down into the ceiling of the laundry room and puddled onto the floor. That same shower has a hole in the floor making it pretty useless. The other bathroom has a large crack in the tub, again, rendering it useless. The microwave doesn’t work, nor did the garbage disposal until my friend replaced it for me.

I know these aren’t huge issues in the whole scheme of things, but it’s aggravating nonetheless. I paid for an inspection and I feel like the inspector ripped me off. Thankfully, I have a 90 day warranty that should cover the repairs. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to send them a box of Florida cockroaches that, despite the cute name “Palmetto Bugs” that Floridians call them, are the size of cats. That ought to send a message.

I also have a yard full of weeds that I was aware would need to be resodded. I’m sure it can wait a bit, but I do have an HOA and it’s only a matter of time until they bring it up. The estimate I received was a bit more than I thought it would be. And then, to top things off, the air conditioner went out in my car.

At some point in the afternoon, after riding around in 90-some degree weather in the hot car, Savannah broke down and cried that she hates Florida. It broke my heart. I knew that I was at least partly to blame because my surly attitude was affecting her.

I know all these things are fixable and certainly not the end of the world. But when they all kind of pile up at once, well, it put me in a funk.

However, things have a way of working out. They always do. A wonderful blog reader and Facebook friend who lives nearby, told me that her husband owns a car repair shop and would be happy to look at my van. He was great and took a look at my car right away. As I was sitting in the waiting room, another woman walked in and the owner, Brandon, talked to her like they were old friends. She told me she’d been taking her cars there for many years and she refused to go anywhere else. That tells you a lot about a business right there. I’m so happy to have found a reputable mechanic I can trust. Anyone in the central Florida area, check out the Aamco in Apopka!

Then, as I was unpacking boxes today, I found a card that I picked up from my PO Box the day we moved. I never opened it, but just threw it in a box. Today, I opened it and found a sweet note along with a generous gift card from a reader named Kathryn. I used it to buy a pool pass and my kids were ecstatic to go swimming this evening! Back home, my kids spend most of their time outside. They’re always playing outside. But here? Well, I feel like it’s almost child abuse to tell the kids to go outside and play when it’s so hot. So they were beyond thrilled to have the chance to swim!
As they splashed and swam this evening, I lay back in a lounge chair and watched them. Austin stood a couple feet from the edge of the pool, his hands outstretched to catch Brooklyn who giggled and jumped in. Savannah and Jackson threw a frisbee back and forth. Lexi and Clay dove down repeatedly to find the goggles they’d tossed to the depths. Then Brooklyn and Lexi played on the stairs while Clay and Jackson walked around the deck trying to catch a lizard. Austin and Savannah raced across the pool. Then Savannah played with Clay and Austin threw Lexi in the air while she laughed, limbs flailing before she hit the water. Jackson held Brooklyn and spun her around the pool. I watched, a smile on my face as the sun set over the lake. The palm trees swayed in the warm, gentle breeze, the sky behind them a beautiful pink. This is good, I thought. This is where we’re supposed to be.

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