Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Now That's Cooking with Gas (or um, a Lightbulb)!

I remember the Easy-Bake Oven I had as a kid. It looked like one of those fancy new inventions called microwaves, and it was in the hottest colors of the era - harvest gold and poop brown. It was at the top of my Christmas list back in the day and I was thrilled when I woke up Christmas morning and discovered that Santa had delivered! I remember playing with this toy often. Sure, it took like half a day to bake a cake with a 60 watt lightbulb, but how awesome it was to bake my very own dessert! After I frosted my amazing confection, I would cut it into 4 pieces, each roughly the size of a nickel, to share with my family.

The Easy Bake Oven has a much different look these days.  The good ole 60 watt has been replaced by a heating element, similar to what’s used in an actual oven. The only things I remember baking in my oven were cakes, cookies, and brownies. Today there are a bunch of super delicious-looking mixes you can use with it though, including pizza, pretzels, checkerboard cakes, dessert dippers, and more. I’m thinking about getting my kids one of these for Christmas just so I can sample the yummy concoctions. My oldest son is planning on attending Le Cordon Bleu next year. If I play my cards right, I might be able to get another kid or two to learn how to cook and bake, and then I won’t have to set foot in the kitchen again! I think I’ll have to speak to Santa about this plan and remind him that he can get the fancy new Easy Bake oven (along with all the hottest toys) at Target!

Want a set of toys of your own? Enter by December 8th, 2012 for your chance to win TWO big giveaways:

Do you know a deserving family this holiday season? We’re giving away a set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To nominate a family to win, simply comment and tell us who they are and why you’ve selected them!

Is your family getting into the holiday spirit? We’re also giving away another set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment and tell us your funniest Christmas/holiday story!

Good luck!

A big thanks to Target for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

It's Okay to Freak out with Xbox 360 + Kinect

I was sitting on the couch, laptop open, staring at my screen while trying to come up with something brilliant to write. I couldn’t focus on my task at hand, however, because my teens were playing a video game and I found myself constantly looking up at the TV.
“Are those zombies?” I asked, incredulously. “You’re killing zombies?”
“Yeah,” they answered as one of them shot a slowly advancing zombie in the head.
“I want to play!” I said excitedly, “I want to save the world from the walking undead!”

My teens gave me a raised-eyebrow, dubious look. You see, they know how I play video games, and although I’m actually pretty good at many games, I suck at anything with aiming and shooting, or racing vehicles. I mean, I SUCK at it. But knowing it would be useless to argue, they set me up and handed me a controller.

“Okay, you push this one to move. Push this button to jump. This one is to shoot. This one changes the angle. If you push this one, you can aim. This button lets you slash the zombie if you run out of bullets, but you can get new guns if you find them.”

“Whaaaaa?” I looked at my daughter, thoroughly confused. “You lost me after the button that lets you move.”

She rolled her eyes and went over everything again. I knew there was no way I’d remember it all, or have the coordination to use all the buttons at once, so I just concentrated on the buttons to move and shoot. That should be good enough, I decided.

It wasn’t good enough.

She started the game. I walked forward. And burst into flames.

“Mom, you’re on fire! You have to move!”

“What? Why am I on fire? Move where? Ugh, a zombie is coming!” I started shooting wildly, nowhere near the approaching zombie, until I ran out of bullets and died.

“You have to jump over the fire, Mom! And aim at the zombies! And don’t waste your bullets like that!”

“But I don’t know how to jump,” I whined.

Somehow, Savannah revived me and I was back to fighting zombies. This time, I saw a zombie and started shooting and slashing until Savannah yelled, “Mom, why are you shooting me? You’re supposed to shoot the zombies!”

“I thought you were a zombie!” I apologized. Then a zombie ate my brain.

I was determined to beat the game (or at least make it more than 60 seconds without dying) so I had her start it yet again. By this time all my kids had gathered around to watch, and they were laughing uncontrollably. According to my kids, I have this little habit of moving the controller and, well, my entire body, in the direction I want to go. Instead of simply pressing a button, I lean right, moving the controller a couple feet to my right. I lift it above my head. I kind of jump up if I want my little guy on the screen to jump. Apparently, this is not how you’re supposed to play and it causes kids to laugh at you. A lot.

Clearly, Call of Duty, Black Ops II is not for me. I think I’ll stick to Kinect Rush or Kinect Sports with my little kids. There aren’t any zombies in those games, plus I CAN MOVE ALL OVER THE ROOM and it’s not only okay, but it’s necessary!

Thanks to Xbox for sponsoring this campaign. Visit to learn more. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The New War on Men and Why Women Are to Blame

So I was reading this article by Suzanne Venker on Fox News here. The article was in response to a report from the Pew Research Center showing that women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Suzanne has written three books on the American family and its intersection with pop culture. She claims that many men she has talked to over the years have told her they’re never getting married because “women aren’t women anymore.”

Gee, ya think?

I completely agree. These men are right. Women aren’t women anymore. And you know whose fault it is? Women! I for one, am perfectly happy staying home, cooking, cleaning, taking care of my house and family. I cannot (nor do I have any desire to learn how to) fix stuff or perform car maintenance. I’d really rather not have all the weight of “bringing home the bacon” on my shoulders. I don’t think a woman has to climb that corporate ladder to prove to men that she can do everything they can do. I have no problem whatsoever with a man who expects the woman to do his laundry and cook his meals. But guess what? I’m one of twenty-three women in this country who feel that way. (Or so it seems.) Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against women who feel the need to burn their bras and do everything that man can do, only better. More power to ya. But it doesn’t seem to go the other way. It is simply not socially acceptable to only be a housewife or just be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a weakness if a woman can’t be self-sufficient and take care of herself by herself. Personally, I have found this attitude coming from women much more often than men.

Immediately after I got divorced, my ex was fired and I was left trying to support my six kids on my own. I wrote a blog post confessing that I was scared because I’d been out of the workforce for so long staying home to raise my family, that I didn’t know how to go about re-entering the working world. I didn’t know what I was qualified to do and I didn’t know how I was going to make ends meet. Lisa Belkin, who was writing for the The Motherlode, NYT, at the time, wrote a piece and mentioned me and my situation. I was absolutely flamed for it. Strangers who knew nothing about me berated me for not having worked all along. I was called stupid and foolish for not getting a degree and pursuing a career, instead giving it all up for a family. People judged and condemed me for my poor choices that left me in a situation where I couldn’t easily get a job that would support my family.

People couldn’t seem to fathom that I hadn’t “thrown away a chance at a career.” Rather, I had purposely chosen to stay home and care for everyone because that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what my husband and I thought best for our family at the time. And through 18 years of marriage, that’s what I happily did. Sure it was unfortunate when things unfolded the way they did, but what really makes me sad is how people reacted with scorn instead of sympathy. I’m certain that had I chosen to put my kids in daycare while I worked throughout my marriage, and I had been the one to lose my job, I would’ve received nothing but heartfelt sympathy and the only scorn would have been directed at the economy, which was undoubtedly to blame for my loss of income. And the state of the economy would surely be blamed on men.

Of course women aren’t women anymore when we live in a world where a woman is bashed and called stupid and lazy if she chooses a more traditionally feminine role as caregiver and homemaker. Today, it seems that women don’t have the choice to embrace the differences between men and women, letting the man earn the living and fix stuff and be manly while she devotes her time to taking care of him and his kids, making sure he has a comfortable, pleasant home, food on the table, bills paid, clothes washed, and details of daily living taken care of. Today, if a woman chooses that sort of life, she’s letting big, bad men win. And if he’s winning, she’s surely losing.

Here’s another example. My friend got a flat tire the other day and a man stopped to help her change it. She was a little insulted and said, “I can change my own tire!” Granted, she had a lot of stuff going on right then and maybe reacted more harshly than she ordinarily would have.  She told me this on the very day that I got a flat tire myself. My flat tire happened at my house so I called AAA to rescue me, but had it happened while I was out and about, and a man had stopped to help me, I would have been immeasurably happy and I probably would’ve gotten contact info for him so I could drop off some brownies to thank him!

The scenario could be interpreted like this: the man cherishes the woman and wants to protect her. He wants her to stand aside so she doesn’t get dirty or hurt while he takes care of the tire. And the woman appreciates the man for rescuing her so she doesn’t have to get dirty or break a nail. He’s her hero. But would any of you look at the situation like that? Or would you look at it like this: the woman is a loser who can’t even change her own tire. She clearly shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Not knowing how to change a tire is simply inexcusable.

So, I say it’s no wonder so many men don’t want to get married. I don’t blame them. Who would want to marry a woman who feels the need to beat him down and prove that she’s better than him in all areas? Today’s woman can land the same job and work her butt off until she earns more than him, she can pay the bills, make the dinner, help the kids with homework, run a marathon, regrout the shower, and change her own damn tire. What does she need a man for?

EDITED 11/28/12 TO ADD:
Judging by the comments I’m getting on my Facebook page, most of you are missing my point here. Apparently, I’m not very good at expressing myself. I’m not judging or criticizing anyone or their choices. I’m not debating WAHMs vs. working moms; there is no debate. I’m not saying women who are educated and career-driven are wrong or bad or anything of the sort. Quite the contrary. My friend who changed her own tire is well-educated. She holds a position of the highest power in her field and has many men under her. And she’s an amazing mother. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her. Many days, I feel like I want to be her when I grow up.

In today’s world, it is simply not looked upon favorably when a woman chooses a more traditional role. Period.

BUT, that’s not even what this post is about! I only used those personal examples to highlight how society’s views have changed. Women have changed. Women’s roles have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Men’s roles – not so much. I can see where a growing number of men might be put off marriage because of this. I understand. I never said that no man will ever want to marry an educated woman. That’s ludicrous.

Honestly, the fact that so many women stepped up to voice their insult and outrage and turned this into a battle between working women and stay-at-home women kind of illustrates the point. As Suzanne Venker writes, “In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly.”


Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'm "Tired" of This

I walked outside this afternoon, planning on running to the store to buy some goodies for one of Lexi's friends who is in the hospital with congestive heart failure (prayers for Kristin are appreciated.) I ordinarily would've gotten in the car and driven away without a second thought. But because I had cleaned out the garage this week and had a mountain of garbage on my driveway, I walked around my van in order to drag everything down to the curb and that's when I noticed that one of my tires was flat. I mean, FLAT.

My first instinct was to pretend I hadn't seen the tire and go ahead with my plan to run to the store, but I was pretty sure that would be a bad idea and people would yell at me for being stupid when I finally took it to a car shop. My second thought was - Whew, at least it wasn't on the driver's side or I'd worry that the tire went flat because of excess weight on the driver's side. That thought was immediately replaced with - Uh oh, I've been sitting on the passenger side pretty often while the kids drive! That thought was instantly replaced with - Is it even possible to flatten a tire because you're too fat? Then I thought - I'm hungry; I think there's a Dunkin' Donuts next to a tire shop. Finally, that thought was replaced with - I need therapy.

I took a picture of the tire and put it on Facebook along with a caption that read something like: Help! How does one go about fixing this?!  Among the many suggestions, was one that said I should call AAA.  AAA! Yes! I JUST joined AAA about a month ago! How fortuitous! I called and they asked me a bunch of questions.

“I have a flat tire.”

“Which tire is it?”

“It’s in the back and it’s on the left. Or the right. Hmmm, well if you’re looking at the front of the car, it’s on the left. At the back. It’s the tire closest to Lexi’s seat. Or is that where Jackson usually sits?”

“Do you have a spare tire?”

“I have no idea. Where would it be? I don’t think I have a spare. Maybe I do. Is there a hidden spare compartment in a van? I think I would’ve noticed that by now if there was. Then again, this isn’t really my department. Um no. No, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a spare. No.”

“What’s the make, model, and year of the vehicle, ma’am?”

“Um, it’s a Chevy Express, and it’s, well, I don’t know the year. 2000? I don’t know. It’s burgundy.”

The representative said, “Okay ma’am,” which I’m pretty sure meant: “You’re an idiot and shouldn’t be allowed to drive. You give women and all of humankind a bad name.” She continued with, “Do you know where you want it towed?”

“I don’t know. I’m kinda new here. Don’t you have a list of places?”

“I have the names of some places near you, but I don’t know if any of them are open today.”

“Oh, that’s right. It’s Sunday.”  I hung up so I could make some calls and find a place that was open.

Down here, a lot of places are closed on Sunday (I’m looking at you 4 Rivers and Chick-fil-A) so it took a while to find one that was open and was within the five-mile free-towing radius. Walmart it was. I called back AAA and they dispatched a tow truck.

I had a nice conversation with the driver who was from New York. Ninety-five percent of the people I’ve met in Florida are from New York. I’m going to start a petition to have Florida renamed South New York. When I told him I have six kids, he looked taken aback and swore I didn’t look old enough to have six kids. He’s my new best friend.

While the mechanics fixed my tire, they traded comments about the disgusting state of my van. In the back, I have sand toys complete with sand, a couple boogie boards, a couple dozen reusable Aldi bags, and 3 boxes of toys, games, and books to be donated to Goodwill. There are towels, shoes, clothes, and garbage aplenty strewn throughout the rest of my car. I was just too lazy busy to clean it this week. They probably commented on my lovely duct-tape job as well. While they were doing that, I was wasting time in Walmart.

I’ve always hated Walmart and I do anything I can to get out of shopping there, but I have to say this about the store — it does an amazing job at making me feel better about myself. By the time I leave Walmart, I feel like a well-adjusted, exceedingly smart, super-model-looking, well-dressed, awesome parent.

Anyway, I left with one new tire and the strongly worded suggestion that I get two more new tires and an alignment soon. Maybe I should’ve picked up a lottery ticket while I was there …

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Bet I Got Better Black Friday Deals Than You Did

After my kids and I got the Thanksgiving dinner all cleaned up and the leftovers put away, we shot some zombies, then watched a couple movies. In fact, Savannah and I stayed up until 2:00am watching movies. So, today while all the deranged people were fighting with the rest of humanity over bargain-priced electronics, I was sleeping in my nice, toasty, comfy bed. No one banged their cart into my ankles. No one grabbed the last 3-pronged thingamawhoozit out of my hands. I didn't stand in any lines for hours. I wasn't arrested for cutting in line. No one threatened to stab me. I didn't inhale a cloud of pepper spray. I didn't witness anyone getting trampled.

The whole concept of Black Friday just rubs me the wrong way. Somehow, the celebration of Christ’s birth has been reduced to a competitive sport, in which all rules of civilized behavior (and many laws) are out the window. It’s like a water polo game – no blood, no foul as long as you score (the hottest toy of the season for $20.00 off).

Although watching humanity being reduced to the lowest life form is always appealing, I opted to spend the day being thankful for our gorgeous Florida weather. My kids and I went to Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees. Then we had a picnic of Thanksgiving leftovers. Not wanting to call it a day yet, we decided to drive over to the beach and enjoy the ocean.

In the end, I think I scored some of the BEST deals out there today!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Time Flies!

It's hard to believe I've been blogging for nearly 5 1/2 years now. Man, has time flown! It's hard to even remember back to when I first started. So many things have changed since then. When I wrote my first blog post on June 29, 2007, my kids were 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12 years old. They're now 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, and 18. I was a married stay-at-home mom. Now, I'm divorced and working full-time out of the house as well as working from home. I lived in Chicagoland when I started my blog. Now, I'm living in Orlando.

Back when I began blogging, I was dealing with things like yogurt painted on the TV, marker on the walls, a baby playing in the toilet, and lots and lots of baseball games. Now my life is filled with things like looking at colleges, teaching kids how to drive, football, water polo, teens working and dating.

However, many things have stayed the same. I still love spending time with my kids. I still like laughing and enjoying the lighter side of life. My kids may not get into as much mischief as they did when I first started writing, but they still make me laugh and smile (and yes, shake my head) every single day.

I know it's hard to take the time to enjoy the little things when you're in the thick of the day-to-day "stuff". Sometimes we just get so wrapped up in all the things we need to do. Some days we find ourselves saying, "Not now. I'm too busy. Maybe later." But in a few years, when we look back at how our time was spent, will we say, "Boy, I'm sure glad I put off spending time with my kids so I could pay those bills or watch that TV show, or do those errands!"? No. I guarantee you won't be saying that.

Do you want to remember that time you baked cookies with your kids and it took you guys an hour to clean up the kitchen afterward, but it was worth it when you saw the smiles on the kids as they happily munched on the warm goodies? Do you want to remember the times you played with and read to your kids before bed, and the times you packed a picnic and rode your bikes to the park? Or do you want to live with the regret that comes when you realize your kids are nearly grown and you said, "Not now" just a few too many times? Go through old photo albums or home movies with your kids tonight and remind yourself of how fast they grow. Then give them a big hug!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Five More Minutes

My alarm went off this morning as it does every morning. Instead of simply turning it off and getting out of bed, however, I played my game. It's the same game I play every day. It's the same game I've played every day of my life since I can remember. Oh, the words might have changed a little over the years, but the game is the same. I run through various scenarios in my head in an attempt to buy myself some extra time in bed. I wonder what I can give up in order to sleep for another 5 minutes.

What if I don’t shower? How bad is it if I don’t shower, and (more importantly) how many minutes will that buy me? I’m not sure if this is a common thing or if it’s just one more of my many psychoses. I created a flow chart, detailing my thoughts this morning. What do you think? Do other people do this or am I just one of those people who shouldn’t have access to scissors or other sharp objects?

014b Just Five More Minutes


Monday, November 12, 2012

Shopping (and Avenging) at Target this Holiday Season

I do almost all my shopping at Target. I LOVE that store! So when they asked me if I wanted to talk about the hottest toys this holiday season, I jumped at the chance! Sure, you can do your Christmas shopping at Target, but I love that you can also get your groceries, clothes, household items, Christmas cards and decorations, bath towels, lightbulbs, laundry detergent, pretty much everything! I don't have time to run around from store to store and I love the fact that I can usually get everything I need at one place - Target.

I took my son Austin and headed to Target to check out some of the top twenty toys of the season. Here’s a look at our trip. Oh and if you want to put on the Incredible Hulk mask and join us, we can be The Avengers and patrol the aisles of Target, protecting citizens from evil (at least until they kick us out).

Want a set of toys of your own? Enter by December 8th, 2012 for your chance to win TWO big giveaways:

Do you know a deserving family this holiday season? We’re giving away a set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To nominate a family to win, simply comment and tell us who they are and why you’ve selected them!

Is your family getting into the holiday spirit? We’re also giving away another set of 20 toys from Target, including those mentioned in this post! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment and tell us your funniest Christmas/holiday story!

Good luck!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Second Thought, Maybe I Will Start Dating

I had the most awesome date Friday night! I know, I know, I said I didn’t have time to date and wasn’t interested in getting to know anyone who would undoubtedly just wind up annoying me anyway. But I couldn’t resist this guy. He was just so darn cute! Seriously, he’s one of the cutest guys I’ve ever seen. So I figured, why not? My kids could handle making dinner and cleaning up by themselves one evening, right? I reasoned that I deserved an evening out since it had been many months since I’d had the chance to do something for myself. So I agreed to the date.

We started with dinner at a casual place with a lively atmosphere. Right from the start, I was completely comfortable with him. We talked about our days and our families. It was so laid-back and enjoyable that I even started joking around with a couple sitting near us. He laughed at my jokes instead of being embarrassed by me. (I totally judge a person by their sense of humor and I could tell that this guy had a good one!)  We spent a large part of the night laughing which, in my opinion, means it was an excellent date! We ordered Diet Coke to drink and he called it, “pop.” That right there was enough to convince that this was my kinda guy! He also offered me part of his dessert which pretty much made me love him.

I learned a few things on my date also. Did you know most people can taste phenylthiocarbamide, but about 30% of the population can’t taste it at all?  Apparently I have the gene that enables one to taste it and let me tell you, it’s horribly, horribly bitter! It was almost as vile as Vegemite (sorry to my Australian readers.) I never knew that until Friday night. My date impressed me with his knowledge of the digestive system too. I think he’s pretty smart.

Although I think this guy is wonderful, I admit that he may not be entirely perfect. There were moments where our conversation included words like pee, poop, vomit, and boogers which are things you don’t generally talk about on dates. But hey, when you really like someone, those little things just don’t matter all that much.

I hope we get to do this again sometime soon. It completely changed my mind about dating and I’m looking forward to the next time. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I even kissed him goodnight!

Would you like to see a picture of my date?

thumbs gross out On Second Thought, Maybe I Will Start Dating
thumbs gross out3 On Second Thought, Maybe I Will Start Dating
thumbs gross out2 On Second Thought, Maybe I Will Start Dating
thumbs meclay On Second Thought, Maybe I Will Start Dating

Yes, my date was my eight-year-old son. His school held a Mother/Son Gross-Out Night on Friday. We had Subway sandwiches and pop in the cafeteria, then we visited different stations that were set up throughout the lunch room. Each station featured “gross’ science-y stuff like poop, vomit, scabs, boogers, and warts. Clay had fun going around and getting his passport signed at each station and I had fun spending some one-on-one time with my son. I’m going to try to continue this, doing date night with each of my kids so we all get the chance to spend some one-on-one time with each other.  Being a single mom to six kids, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but I still think it’s important to make the effort to have a little alone time with each kid even if it’s just taking one to the grocery store or the bank with you. These are times to bond and make memories and just enjoy each other’s company. :)

It's November. You Know What That Means!

It means that Christmas is just around the corner! As soon as Halloween is over, I start freaking out about Christmas shopping. It's also when I start getting the inquiries from friends and family, "What do your kids want for Christmas?" Although my younger kids could come up with a wish list longer than War and Peace, I don't generally get them a bunch of smaller, less expensive toys. Why? Because most of those toys get played with for only a couple weeks before they're discarded and abandoned, relegated to the corners of their rooms and closets. I personally prefer getting one nice family gift than a bunch of smaller ones that won't have the same longevity.

My parents love it when I can come up with an idea for a “family gift.” As you can imagine, shopping for six kids can be daunting. This is especially true for grandparents, I think. My parents, understandably, aren’t in touch with what’s hot this season and what the kids like these days. Instead of sending them on a wild goose chase for the must-have, hottest toy of the season for six different kids, I try to give my parents an idea for a great family present. It makes shopping so much easier for them.

Not only does one big family present make shopping easier for the giver, but it makes the recipients happy too. Think of how many toys your kids have begged for over the years. Now think of how many of those toys are still played with regularly. I’d rather have one gift that I know my family will enjoy for years than to be stepping on miscellaneous parts of discarded toys and games scattered on the floors of my kids’ rooms.

Xbox 360 totally fits this bill. Xbox has features my whole family (me, my teenagers, my tweens, and my little kids) love. With Xbox 360 + Kinect, we can play games that get us all up and moving. With Xbox LIVE we can stream movies and listen to music and when we use Xbox + Kinect, all we have to do is say the name of what movie we want to watch and Xbox finds it! It’s a far cry from the days of Pong! It’s like something out of Back to the Future! I know this is something that will keep us thoroughly entertained for the long-term.

Thanks to Xbox for sponsoring this campaign. Visit to learn more. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

School Survival Guide

As a single mom to six kids, I feel like an expert on surviving the school year. Actually, we don't only "survive" the year, but we thrive! Here are some of my tips for getting through the school year intact (and dare I say, even enjoying it)!

1.  PLAN
I have a big calendar that nearly takes up an entire side of my refrigerator. It's color-coded which may sound a little anal, but it makes it easy to see at a glance which kid has what activity. By putting ballet lessons in pink, baseball in blue, church meetings in red, etc., anyone who looks at the calendar can easily tell what's on the agenda for any given day.

I limit my kids to one activity each for many reasons. I can't afford to put them in multiple activities, I don't want to spread myself too thin, and I don't want my kids to be overloaded with commitments. Everyone needs downtime and I try to make sure we all get enough by keeping a balance of activities, sports, homework, family time, fun time.

Set aside time for homework every night. Even if the kids don't have assignments, they can use that time to study and read. My younger kids do their homework at the YMCA before I pick them up, but when I was a stay-at-home-mom, they would gather around the kitchen table and do their work while having an afterschool snack that would tide them over until dinner. Especially when you have a lot of sports practices going on in the evening, it's important that you have some designated homework time so grades don't start slipping during sports season.

I'm a big believer in having dinner together as a family. In off seasons, we all sit down together to break bread. When my kids have sports going on, we don't usually have dinner together. But that's okay because, with a little improvising, we still find time to eat something together. During football, for example, we tend to grab quick snacks that will get us through practice. Warm, filling Tyson's Any'tizers are perfect for this! And when we're all back home, we gather around the table for a late meal or even just a bedtime snack. It doesn't matter if we're eating a 5 course dinner or munching on some chicken wings, or even having a bowl of cereal. It's still time spent together as a family.

I make sure backpacks are ready to go before I retire for the night. This makes the morning rush so much easier. Have all permission slips and homework journals signed. Have all homework checked and put back into backpacks. Make lunches the night before. Even having the kids pick out their outfits for the next day, makes mornings less stressful.

For more great school survival tips (or to share your own!), check out the Tyson Any'tizer School Survival Guide on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Parkour, Parkour!

"Gray hair, wrinkles, heart palpitations, frequent flyer card at the local ER."

"What is 'life with boys', Alex? "

"That is correct!"

I’ve written before about the differences between boys and girls (like this post here, and this one here, and in my book Because I Said So.) Having three girls and three boys, I feel qualified to speak on this topic, and the conclusion at which I’ve arrived is this: Boys are nuts. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys just as much as I love my girls. But they’re nuts. Think about America’s Funniest Home Videos. Ninety percent of the videos on that show are of boys doing stupid things. Boys are just hard-wired to be nuts. For example, take this video of my boys and their need to jump from high places. (Yes, yes, I know my girls are doing many of the same things in the video. But guess whose idea it was. Yeah.

(Although, come to think of it, maybe I should simply say that kids are nuts because the girls didn’t need much convincing to join in.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Yield for Idiots

I completely understand why my car insurance nearly doubled when I moved to Florida. People drive like idiots down here. It’s probably why every other billboard and radio commercial is about accident injury lawyers. Before learning Old MacDonald or The Itsy Bitsy Spider, kids down here learn the 411-PAIN jingle.

I try to be calm and make allowances for the other drivers on the road. I remind myself regularly of the sage saying - What would Jesus do? But, you know what? Jesus didn’t have to drive on I-4. If He did, there would surely be another chapter in the Bible with a colorful description of how Jesus went postal on the other drivers, much like the money changers in Matthew 21, but you know, with guns.

Because there are far too many people who should never have been given a license (you know who I’m talking about, Mr. Drives-30-mph-in-the-LEFT-LANE), I’ve decided to provide a public service announcement on driving rules. No need to thank me; it’s what I do.

thumbs 102 Yield for Idiots: The 10 Most Annoying People You Meet While Driving
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So what bugs you about drivers? Slow drivers? Drivers who like to play Pole Position? Drivers who go along with their turn signal blinking for miles?


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Can You Get a Degree in the Art of Being a Hobo?

I attended "senior night" at my kids' high school last night. The evening was designed to give parents of seniors heart palpitations and cold sweats as the reality of college was drilled into our heads. The woman presenting the information must have said, "your kids will be graduating in only 26 short weeks" a dozen times.

 I realized just how far behind I am in the whole Get This Kid Off To College Process when she told us to turn in any acceptance letters our child had received. Acceptance letters?! You mean, we should have already applied? You mean, we should have visited colleges? You mean, we should at least know the name of a college or two, and maybe my son should have an inkling of what he’d like to study? As she spoke to the auditorium overflowing with parents eager to send their kids off to the world of higher education, I started breathing into a paper bag.

You see, we haven’t visited any colleges. We haven’t looked into funding, loans, scholarships, and financial aid. In fact, up until last night, Austin insisted he wanted to be a hobo! Honestly. Read this guest blog post from him and you’ll see what I mean. Really, you need to read it to fully understand. It’s worth it, I promise. My Son, the Hobo (otherwise entitled “I’m so Proud.”)

So you see, as creative as he is, he has no interest in school. Heck, I’ll be elated if he even makes it through the next 26 weeks in order to graduate.

When I got home from senior night I was shell-shocked. For one thing, I had no idea where to send my son to college. I mean, it’s not like they have an abundance of universities that teach professional whistling. I was also overwhelmed with the impossibility of paying for college for six kids. But mostly I was upset because as I looked around the auditorium, I felt very young (until I realized I’d be well into my 50s by the time Brooklyn graduates).

After senior night, I had a serious (well, as serious as you can get with Austin) talk about his future. He said he’d like to go to culinary school which is definitely a step up from being a hobo. In fact, I’ll happily volunteer to help him by sampling his homework. But having a kid getting ready for college sure makes me rethink those preschool days. I’ll take crayon-covered walls any day over this new brand of stress.

Lauren's Hope Jewelry

Those of you who follow my blog regularly, know that I had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot that went to my lung) this summer. It wasn't the first clot I've had. I have a genetic clotting disorder that makes me more prone to develop life-threatening blood clots. In fact, further bloodwork revealed I may have a second clotting disorder, a lupus anticoagulant, as well. Because of the disorders and the fact that I've developed a number of clots, my doctor has put me on blood thinners and I'll most likely have to continue taking them for the rest of my life. 

Blood thinners could save my life. Of course, they could also kill me if I was ever badly injured, as I could bleed to death. This is why I went online and searched for medical ID bracelets. My doctor recommended I wear one so medical personnel would be aware of my condition should (God forbid) I ever get in an accident and end up unconscious.

Most of the sites I looked at offered plain, silver link bracelets with plain, silver tags. They were not something I wanted to wear for a day, let alone the rest of my life. I started having second thoughts about my medical alert jewelry idea. Then I found Lauren's Hope. They offer medical alert jewelry in a zillion different designs for men, women and children. The only drawback is that you'll have a tough time choosing between their cute, creative, beautiful, fun, and flirty designs. And Lauren's Hope has even taken care of that problem with their interchangeable tags! You can easily remove the tag and attach it to different bands!

The wide variety of styles at Lauren's Hope is especially awesome for kids! If you have a child with autism, diabetes, or a life-threatening allergy, medical alert jewelry can give you great piece of mind. But it only works if your child actually wears it. And if they think the jewelry is stupid and ugly, they won't want to wear it. From cute bracelets to popular silicone bands to dog tags, and more, you're sure to find something your child will love!

I especially love the fact that Lauren's Hope was founded in 1994 by two women. Originally, they sold their mother's bracelets at craft fairs. What started out as a "fun little business" has now grown into a thriving enterprise that offers an incredible selection of jewelry that is both functional and fashionable. I just love stories about women who start up a little business that takes off into more than they ever dreamed of! In fact, Lauren's Hope has even donated over $100,000 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

If you or a loved one has a condition like: diabetes, pacemaker, food allergy, Penicillin allergy, bee sting allergy, allergic to contrast dye, on blood thinners, gastric bypass patient, Alzheimer's, cancer, asthma, stroke, autism, organ transplant, seizure disorder, manic depressive, on multiple medications or any other chronic medical conditions, you should really consider getting a medical ID bracelet for them. My friend who is an EMT says that's the first thing they look for. Having this essential information about health problems can help medical professionals take care of you/save your life.

Right now, Lauren's Hope is offering my readers a discount just in time for Christmas! (These would make terrific presents, btw!) Just enter the promo code:  6PACK to enjoy 10% off now until December 31, 2012!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Fail

I used to be a good mom, I did! I used to start brainstorming ideas for creative Halloween costumes during the summer. I made awesome costumes for my kids year after year. (My sister is really the creative one as you’ll see from the pictures, but I held my own.) I was the room mom for my kids’ classes every single year. I organized great parties with the best games and I made homemade goodies that would turn Martha Stewart green with envy. The mom I am now would hate the guts of the mom I was back then. I would call that mom an overachiever and a stuck-up Miss June Cleaver. And that hatred would be fueled by pure jealously. As I’m sure you can tell by my posts over the last year, I’m having issues and struggling with feelings of inadequacy. I know on an intellectual level that I’m in a different place and simply cannot do all the things I used to do as a married, stay-at-home-mom. I know this. But still, there’s this little part of me that cannot help but lament the mom I once was (even while wanting to punch her face in at the same time). Yes, yes I know I probably need psychiatric help.

Anyway, the beginning of October when my kids asked me, “What are we going to be for Halloween?” I brushed them off and replied, “I dunno. I can’t think about that right now.” Two days before Halloween, they asked again, “What are we going to be?”

I thought for a minute, then answered, “Well, you have a choice. You can be yourself or you can look in the Halloween box or dress-up box and throw together some sort of outfit. Or, hey! I know! You can wear your cheer and football uniforms!” Then, under my breath, “I paid enough for those. You might as well get use out of them. Or you could be a hobo and wear those ripped up, too-small jeans you were trying to squeeze into yesterday. No, no no! I’ve got it! How about I just buy you guys some bags of candy and we go out for pizza instead of trick-or-treating?”

I thought that plan was brilliant! A relaxing evening out with my kids sounded fabulous to me! Why hadn’t I thought of this years ago? They were less-than-thrilled with my helpful suggestions, but in the end they accepted the fact that I’d become a crappy busy mom and this was the best I could do.

In case you were like me this year and didn’t think about Halloween until a week before, I’ll help you out for next year. Here are some ideas, taken from my Martha Stewart days, you can use for next year’s costumes. (I would’ve helped you out with these ideas earlier this month, but that would’ve ruined the whole Halloween Failure Thing I’ve got going on.)

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