Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm not cut out for Dating!

A few days ago, Savannah texted me. "Mom, he asked me out!!!" referring to the boy she'd been talking about nonstop for the past week.
I immediately replied, "Yay!"
About two seconds later, I came to my senses and realized what I'd just written. What was wrong with me. Yay??? What was I thinking? What happened to those days of normal, rational thinking when boys said hi to my daughter.

I quickly texted back.
“I mean, aren’t you a little young? Yes, yes, you are. You’re too young.  Tell him thank you, but you’re not allowed to date until you’re thirty.”
Then I added, “Make that thirty-five.”

I don’t think she was amused.

Savannah asked me if her boy…, her boyfr…, her boyf…ugh, her friend who is male could come over here Friday night.

“You want to bring him here? To our house? Where we live with all your brothers and sisters? You remember your brothers and sisters, right? And you still want him to come over?” I asked incredulously. Maybe the thrill of this crush had melted her brain. Normally, Austin and Savannah don’t even want to bring longtime friends home because you never know what the little kids are going to do, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll do something embarrassing.  But she insisted she wanted him to come over here and meet everyone. 

So this young man came over this evening in his truck.  He drove.  He can drive.  By himself.  As we sat outside, eating what passes for pizza down here in Florida, this boy started talking about how he hurt himself while jumping over a chain link fence.  Being completely sensible and not one to jump to conclusions, I only thought for the briefest moment that he’d probably injured himself running from the police after knocking off a liquor store.  He went on to explain that he and some buddies had been “‘gator fishin’”.

“‘Gator fishin’?”  I inquired.  “As in fishing for alligators?  You’re a native Floridian, aren’t you?”

“Yes ma’am, fishing for alligators.”

“How does one fish for an alligator, and more importantly, why would one fish for an alligator?”

“Oh you just do it like you would fish for saltwater fish.”

“Ahhh yes, yes, how I would fish for saltwater fish,”  I said like I was an expert saltwater fisherman.

“And then there was this time my friends dared me to kiss a baby alligator, so I did.  And it clamped down on my mouth and we couldn’t pry its mouth open even with a knife.”

“Oh, so you give in to peer pressure and you’re stupid?  I mean, ouch, that must have hurt.  Did you need stitches?

“I don’t hang around with those guys anymore because they turned into real rednecks.  They shot a squirrel and cooked it for dinner.”

I threw up in my mouth a little before asking, “And these are the stories you tell people when you meet them for the first time?”

At one point in the evening, my good friend Eric called.  I told him that Savannah had a boy over and he instructed me to give him a message.  “Take two fingers and point at your eyes, then point at him,” Eric told me.  It wasn’t exactly the same as an overprotective father with a shotgun, but it’ll have to do, I guess.

Honestly, he seems like a nice boy and the fact that he was willing to come over here and brave the masses says a lot right there!  Still, Savannah’s never going anywhere in a car with a boy, no matter how nice he is.  She can just live with me forever.  We’ll get cats.  And drink tea.  And watch chic flicks every night.  It’ll be fun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Because We Moms Like to Talk About Pregnancy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We're Going to Hollywood!

My parents got me and my kids three-day passes to Disney World for Christmas which is awesome because, as it turns out “the happiest place on earth” is also one of “the most expensive places on earth”. Yesterday, I took my kids to Hollywood Studios. We had a ton of fun and I learned a few things about my family as well, so really it was an educational trip.

1.  I learned that I have absolutely no patience or tolerance for people who drift along in their own little world, completely oblivious to everyone else on the planet. Why must people suddenly stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk to look at a map? Is it so difficult to consider the 80,000 thousand people behind them and walk 2 steps over to the side, out of the way?

2.  I have absolutely no tolerance for people who try to spoon me while standing in line. Especially because not one of them was a cute, single man!  Do these people have no concept of personal space? These are the same people who stand there watching their children smash into my butt repeatedly without intervening. By the end of the day, I resorted to turning around and coughing until it sounded like my lung would fall out, then stammering an apology and mumbling something about tuberculosis.

3.  I wish I had Austin’s quick wit. As we walked toward a ride, a Disney cast member looked at Brooklyn and said, “Hello, Princess.” Without missing a beat, Austin replied, “Hi!” in his best 'princess voice.'

4.  I may have a slight problem with competition. After going on Midway Mania (a ride where you wear 3D glasses and shoot at arcade style targets to accumulate points) I slid out of the car and immediately asked my kids their scores. Upon hearing the numbers (and realizing I’d beaten them) I whipped my 3D glasses down as if I was spiking a football in the end zone, jumped up, did a little dance and cheered, “I beat you! Yes! Ha! In your face!” My kids (and a few hundred spectators) looked at me like the parenting failure I am.

5.  My kids have amazing ingenuity. Because Brooklyn was too little to go on Rock’N’Roller Coaster, we took turns watching her while we used ride swap tickets. When I got off the ride and walked over to where Austin was watching Brooklyn, I saw that he had created a makeshift Tic-Tac-Toe game using small leaves for the Xs and bits of tree bark for the Os. The grid was constructed of small palm fronds. What a great idea to keep her occupied and it beats the heck out of the game 'Punch me in the arm until I can no longer take the pain.' (I said they had amazing ingenuity; not that their ideas are always great.)

6.  As self-reliant as I am, it’s sometimes hard to do everything myself. I hate to admit this one. Hate it. I’m used to taking care of everyone and everything and it bothers me to no end when I drop a ball. I give the advice to lighten up and give yourselves a break. I tell other parents not to worry over every little mistake. It’s not a big deal. And I wholeheartedly believe this wisdom I’m spouting. But I have a hard time accepting my own advice. I remembered my camera. I even remembered to charge the battery and make sure the memory card was installed. I remembered to go to the bank and pull out some cash for food. I remembered to go to the grocery store and get some granola bars and fruit snacks to have on hand in case the little kids got hungry instead of spending money on snacks in the park. I remembered to pack water bottles. I remembered to give Clay his penicillin before we left. But I forgot the tickets. When we were only fifteen minutes away from the park, we had to turn around and go home for them. I beat myself up for hours about this (and it was only partly due to the fact that Savannah was driving on the tollway and now I’d have to white-knuckle it even longer.)

7.  I should never ask Austin and Savannah to hold my camera for me. Last night, after getting home, showering the germs of a million people off me, and getting my kids to bed, I sat down and looked at the pictures I’d taken throughout the day. There were about thirty close-ups of random people on my memory card. If you happened to be at Hollywood Studios yesterday, there’s a good chance I have a picture of you on my camera (especially if you were dressed oddly or had a goofy expression on your face or were picking your nose.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Small Act of Kindness - Week Three

A couple days ago, Savannah and I were sitting in the waiting room of her orthopedist. It’s a large, wide-open room and at the time, we were the only ones occupying it. After a few minutes of waiting, an elderly woman in a wheel chair rolled through the doors. She came to stop right next to us. I mean, she was as close as she could possibly get without actually crashing into us. I gave Savannah a sidelong glance meant to convey the following thoughts: She’s got the whole, entire, empty room and she chooses to sit on top of us? Personal space, lady!

Savannah shot me a raised-eyebrow, dubious look back. I carefully avoided eye contact with the woman because obviously, only crazy people get so close for no particular reason. The fact that I wasn’t being very neighborly only played at the fringes of my mind as I studiously ignored the woman. Although, honestly, it wasn’t really a conscious decision to avoid the woman; it just sort of came naturally. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people, but I guess it’s simply easier to stay in my own world with blinders on to everything else.

Then she dropped the magazines that had been perched on her lap. Without thinking, I reached down, scooped up the scattered pages and handed them back to her. She thanked me and said, “You’re so kind.” I didn’t feel very kind, however. I felt ashamed that my first instinct was to avoid all contact. I decided to remedy that. I smiled and we started talking. I learned that she’d been a chemistry major back in the day and she had to walk upstairs to do her labs and a girl in her class had had polio and couldn’t walk so every day, four guys would carry her upstairs so she could participate in the labs, and bathroom doors are too heavy, and the train tracks from here to Louisiana were damaged in Hurricane Katrina and hadn’t been repaired yet, and if she was running the world, things would be different. The conversation was mostly one-sided, but I think she was just happy to have someone to listen to her chatter.

This encounter gave me the idea for this week’s small act of kindness. Talk to a stranger. At least once this week, don’t take the easy way out. Make an effort to connect with another human. You never know, perhaps they live alone and are lonely for conversation. Maybe they’re depressed and wondering what’s the point. Maybe they’re an angel walking among us. Sure, sometimes it can be uncomfortable stepping out of our zone like that, but you never know the effect it might have on another human being. So give it a try.

And as always, please share your ideas and experiences here. What you have to say could inspire another individual and give them an idea. And thank you to all who have taken time to comment on the past couple weeks’ posts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Having Fun at the Table

Since we've moved to Florida, our lives have changed quite a bit. Some things, although they seemed like a curse at first, are now looking a little more like blessings. When we first moved, I refused to sign my kids up for sports. First, I wasn't sure where or how to sign them up. Secondly, I didn't have the money to pay for registration fees and uniforms and such. Also, being new to town, I didn't have any friends with whom to carpool. I wasn't sure how work was going to go and how much time I'd have to devote to a sports schedule, especially with no friends to help me out by getting a kid to practice now and then. I felt like I was depriving my kids by not letting them participate in baseball, football, dance, softball, hockey, etc. But now? I feel a little differently.

The good thing that has come from this is that the seven of us have dinner together every night. I've always made it a priority to come together at the dinner table, but when the kids are involved in activities (even with my one activity per kid rule), we end up catching a lot of meals on the fly which can be less-than-healthy, expensive, and stressful. For the past six months, my kids and I have sat down to a meal together and it's given us the chance to connect in ways we wouldn't have otherwise. In fact, we eat outside on our screened-in porch half the time. We couldn't do that back home in Chicagoland!

Sometimes we share the best and worst parts of our days, but for the teens this generally deteriorates into, "The worst part of my day is playing this game and trying to think of the best and worst parts of my day". More often, we just goof around, tell jokes, talk about silly things that happened during the day, and laugh with each other. It may not make for deep, profound conversations, but it relaxes us, lets us enjoy each other's company, and enables us to simply unwind and laugh while sharing a meal. In fact, just last night, my five-year-old Brooklyn looked at seventeen-year-old Austin and said, "If you were a girl, you'd be pretty."
"Um, thanks, Brooklyn?"
This was followed by a monster burp courtesy of Clayton.

Yeah, we're classy that way. But we have fun together. So, what are your favorite dinnertime traditions? There's an article on Subway's Fresh Takes on Family Time site right now that talks about how one family has a different theme for every week night to make dinnertime fun and give them something to look forward to while waiting for the weekend. Check it out. And while you're there, submit your own fun family traditions for a chance to have your story featured on the site and/or a chance to win a Subway gift card!

This website is a part of an incentivized online influencer network for Fresh Takes on Family Time Powered by Subway.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Awkward Photos are the Best!

Over at Subway's Fresh Takes on Family Time, there's an article about creating an album of shame. Basically, it talks about how, in this digital age, we simply delete the pictures wherein a family member has bad hair, a double-chin, or a goofy smile. Or maybe we go to town with Photoshop, ensuring everyone looks perfect in the family photo. This article encourages us to keep those goofy pictures and use them in our own Awkward Family Photos type album. I couldn't agree more! With six kids, it's near impossible to get them all looking and smiling at the same time. For every "perfect" picture, I have fifty hilarious ones and those are the ones I love. They capture my goofy family much better than the posed, matched clothes, smiling ones.

Check out Fresh Takes for Family for inspired ideas on fun family traditions! And, as always, you can submit your own story for a chance at a Subway gift card and a chance to have your story featured on the site!

This website is a part of an incentivized online influencer network for Fresh Takes on Family Time Powered by Subway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Goes Up, Must Comes Down

It seems my kids are incapable of taking off their socks without turning them inside out. They’re incapable of putting their bikes anywhere but in a heap on the driveway. They can’t seem to put their plates in the dishwasher without fifteen reminders. And you can just forget about them ever figuring out something as complicated as the toilet paper holder. Their shoes can be found pretty much anywhere in the house except on the shoe rack. Despite numerous reminders, homework remains scattered about the house during the night until the morning scramble to get out the door. They think the ‘no eating in the family room’ rule doesn’t apply to them, and that sleeves and napkins are interchangeable.

But today, I discovered a brand-spanking-new task they’re incapable of.  They (or more precisely, Clayton) apparently do not know how to eat an apple.

It doesn’t seem too difficult, does it? 

Step 1:  Grab an apple.

Step 2:  Eat it.

Complicated stuff, no?

Clay, however, grabbed an apple and, instead of eating it, threw it in the air.  Lo and behold . . .

Photo0547 225x300 What Goes Up, Must Come Down

It stuck on the air conditioning vent.  On the ceiling.  Yeah.

Congratulations, Clayton, for finding a new way to amaze me.


Monday, January 9, 2012

One Small Act of Kindness - Week Two

My idea for week two is to bake something for someone. Make a cake for a neighbor, bake some cookies for your coworkers, whip up a pan of brownies for a member of your church who's been going through a tough time, recently had surgery, has their hands full taking care of sick kids. I mean, who doesn't love baked goods, right? And this is a perfect way to get your kids involved. They can help you come up with names of people to whom you can deliver the goodies, and they can help you bake or decorate the cookies, cupcakes, etc. What a fun way to spend time with your kids and teach them about selfless giving!

I made a pan of baklava that I'm going to bring to work to share with my new coworkers who have helped me, shown me patience while I've learned the ropes, and simply befriended me. I hope they enjoy it. :)

So, who's with me this week? If you choose to participate every week or just now and then, please, please, please leave a comment here and let us know what you did, how it made you feel, and how you think it will affect others. I can't wait to hear your stories!

One Small Act of Kindness - Week One

This is a project I wanted to start the first week of this new year, however, as with so many things these days, I dropped the ball and didn't get this post up in time. Still, I really want to do this project, so I figured it's better late than never.

You can't underestimate the power of a random act of kindness, a kind word, a small gesture, a thoughtful gift. Like the picture Jackson drew last year when he was in the hospital, you never know how your small act of kindness will affect others. It can be so far-reaching.

Jackson is in the center. He does something nice for three people. They, in turn, do something nice for two or three more people, and so on, and so on, and so on . . .

I'll toss out some ideas every week. You can use my idea or come up with your own. If you have a great idea that you'd like to share with everyone, please do!

My idea for week one (which has already passed, I know, but you can still fit it in sometime) is to pick up the tab for a stranger. I know sometimes it can be difficult to step out of your comfort zone so I thought we'd start off easy this week. While in line at Starbucks, McDonald's, etc., pay for the person's order behind you. Or while driving through the tollbooth, give the attendant money for the car (or two or ten) behind you. You don't have to spend a lot. Imagine how it will make someone's day when they pull up to the window to pay for their coffee only to discover that the person in front of them already picked up the tab!

So, who's with me? If you choose to participate every week or just now and then, please, please, please leave a comment here and let us know what you did, how it made you feel, and how you think it will affect others. I can't wait to hear your stories!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Santa's on MY Naughty List

I need to have a serious talk with Santa. Year after year, he brings my kids gifts that drive me up a wall. I’m sure his intentions are pure, but he sure makes some stupid gift choices. I really don’t understand these rookie mistakes. I mean, the guy’s been delivering presents to good little boys and girls for what, like a bazillion years, right? And speaking of good little boys and girls, I’m not entirely sure his “checking it twice” method is working. I’m pretty sure I have a kid or two who should’ve been on the naughty list.

This year, Santa brought Brooklyn a little play kitchen. It was quite the hit with her as she’s been cooking up a storm non-stop since Christmas morning. On the one hand, it seems like a good idea. Start ‘em early. Train ‘em up. Get ‘em in the kitchen making 5 star dinners for you by the tender age of 8. However, (and this is where the rookie mistake comes in), while Brooklyn has been practicing her sautĂ©ing, flambĂ©ing, and caramelizing, guess who has had the privilege of consuming these tasty morsels? That’s right. But please, let me explain.

Santa also made the huge mistake of delivering a ginormous pack of Play-Doh for my little kids. Which means, the culinary masterpieces I’ve been sampling are all made from the famous squishable dough.

“Do you want to try this, Mama?”

As I eye the yellow pancake with red and white balls piled atop it, I gush, “Oooo, that looks delicious! What is it?

“It’s coconut cherry pie!” smiles a delighted Brooklyn, so happy I’m going to partake of the treat over which she’s slaved for the past ten minutes.

“Om nom nom nom,” I smack my lips as I take huge bites of the air around the Play Dough creation. (One time, I actually took a bite of the Play Dough itself. I don’t recommend it. The kids, on the other hand, found it hilarious and will never let me forget that I did that.) “What a fabulous cook you are, Sweetie! Thank you!”

“No, you didn’t eat it all. There’s still some more left.” Brooklyn wrinkled her brow in concern at my obvious disregard for all the starving children in Africa, so I took a couple more mouthfuls of Play Dough scented air.

“Ummmm, I’m full,” I sighed contentedly, reclining on the couch, my hand on my tummy.

“I’m going to make you some more!” Brooklyn happily announced as she skipped off to her kitchen.

“I can’t wait,” I replied with only the barest hint of sarcasm.

This has gone on during every waking hour for the past week and a half. I’ve consumed over 42,586,273 calories in pretend food since Christmas. I’ve eaten pears, apples, ice cream cones, edamame (What can I say? Brooklyn’s got weird tastes) pizza, pie, tacos, cheeseburgers, cookies, sushi (again – weird kid), and beans. She’s been using the Play Dough so much that it’s now all an unappetizing shade of gray-brown. It’s starting to dry out a bit making everything al dente as well. As Brooklyn brings me another plate of delectable treats, she grins from ear to ear.  She’s just so cute and excited that I forget all about the little flakes of Play Dough drying in the carpet.

Oops, I have to go. My appetizer is here. It’s a torchon of foie gras with fig jam and brioche. Hmmm, maybe Santa knows what he’s doing after all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

If I Fall Asleep RIGHT NOW . . .

Over my two week winter break, I slowly reverted back to my habit of staying up late and sleeping in even later, but in an effort to get myself ready to go back to work, yesterday I woke up early (okay, I woke up at 8:00 which, in all fairness, was early compared to how late I’d been sleeping). Then, last night, I went to bed at 10:00 like a good girl so I could wake up all bright-eyed and ready to take on my students once again. And by bright-eyed and ready to take on my students, of course I mean, getting out of bed, having a pulse, and not falling asleep during any classes.

However, instead of falling asleep the moment my head hit the pillow, I lay awake, my brain spinning like an out-of-control top. I glanced at the clock. 10:15. “That’s okay”, I told myself. It’s still early. I’ll just put on a movie for a bit. That should make me sleepy. I flipped on the tv and watched one of my faves, While You Were Sleeping. I mean, the movie had the word sleeping in it! That had to help me sleep, right? At 12:00, I turned off the tv, pulled my covers up around my head, and snuggled in to sleep. My brain didn’t get the memo that it was time for bed. Nope, it was on some sort of schizophrenic mission to keep me awake all night.

I think I’ll make spaghetti for dinner tomorrow. An easy meal after my first day back at work. Besides, I can make garlic bread with that loaf that’s starting to dry out. Oh shoot, I forgot to take out the corned beef to thaw so I can put it in the crockpot for Wednesday’s dinner. I wonder if I have spaghetti sauce. I guess I can stop at the store on the way home. Oh no, did I mail my mortgage payment? I don’t think I did. I remember writing a check. Maybe it’s on my desk. Oh, I really need to go to the bank after work tomorrow. I shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate before bed.

I reached for the Tums on my nightstand and saw the clock. 12:48. If I fall asleep right now, I’ll be able to get 5 hours and 12 minutes of sleep. I rolled over, prepared to nod off.

Boy, it sure is windy. Maybe I should have turned on the heat. I remember when our furnace went out last year. How did we survive that? It was so cold. I hope my air conditioner doesn’t go out here. Man, that would really stink. I really need to write some more articles or I won’t have enough money to go home this summer and I’ve promised my kids we’d go back and visit. I wonder what the alligators do when it’s so cold out.

This is ridiculous, I thought. I glanced at the clock. 1:17. If I fall asleep right now, I can still get 4 hours and 43 minutes of sleep. I fluffed up my pillow, took a deep breath, consciously relaxed my jaw, and snuggled back into my bed.

What’s that noise? Someone’s in the bathroom. It’s probably Austin. Is he clipping his nails? Who clips their nails at 1:30 in the morning? He’s going to have a hard time getting up in the morning. I should’ve dug out the winter coats before I went to bed. I bet the kids are going to need coats tomorrow. Where are they? In the garage, I think. I’m going to have to work on the chapter eight vocabulary words with the eighth graders tomorrow. Most of them need to retake that vocab test. I hope I still have the words. What am I going to wear tomorrow? Definitely pants since it’s so cold. I wonder if I can find my gloves since I have to monitor the courtyard before school starts. I hope we’re not out of apples. I think I’ll take an apple for a snack.

Frustrated because my brain was being an idiot and I was powerless to stop it, I looked at the clock again. 2:28. If I fall asleep right now, I can still get 3 hours and 32 minutes of sleep. I can function on that, right? Sure, I can. It’ll be fine. I just need to fall asleep right now.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the kids went back to school tomorrow, but I got to stay home for another week. Oh, the stuff I could get done! Oh darn, I totally forgot to take down the tree. I was going to pack away the Christmas decorations. Now, who knows when I’ll get to it. Maybe I can assign the kids this chore. Or just leave them up until next year. I bet the HOA has a rule about lights being left up outside. Oh that’s right, I still need to pay my association fee. Ugh. I need to write more.

I consciously unclenched my jaw again and looked at the clock. 3:07. If I fall asleep right now, I can still get 2 hours and 53 minutes of sleep. In fact, if I skip my shower, I can even get 3 hours and 8 minutes of sleep. I considered getting up and pouring myself a glass of wine to help me relax, but I decided it was too cold and I was too lazy to get out of my nice, warm bed and walk downstairs. So, instead, I angrily punched my pillow and flipped back over while pondering the possibility of installing a mini-bar in my nightstand.

I really don’t want to have a colonoscopy. I’m afraid they’re going to tell me I need surgery to remove part of my bowel. Do people automatically need poop bags if they have that surgery? I’ll have to Google that tomorrow. Although, if I need surgery, I’d get a nice little hospital stay. That could be relaxing. Wait a minute. No, that won’t work because I wouldn’t have anyone to watch my kids. Oh shoot, I don’t think I put the kids’ thank you notes in the mail. I’ll have to do that tomorrow. I bet if I have to have surgery, I could lose some serious weight.

The last thing I remember is dreaming that I was looking out the window at school and seeing an enormous tornado, then looking at the clock and freaking out that I was going to be late to school, even though I was already there and apparently about to be whisked away to Oz.

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