Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Christmas in Florida Looks Like

I lived in Chicagoland for 41 years. There was no mistaking winter in Illinois. Everyone knew when Christmas was near because the bitter cold, the snow and ice, the boots, snowpants, gloves, and furnace running nonstop signaled the season. Here in Florida, however, it’s a little different. The Christmas music plays and we see the decorations, but the fact that the sun is shining and we’re wearing shorts makes it difficult to get in the Christmas spirit. There’s just some sort of disconnect there. It’s like those pictures in Highlights Magazine where you have to cross out the things that don’t belong. Christmas music? Check. A decorated tree? Check. Gingerbread men? Check. Santa? Check. A swimming pool? Nope, doesn’t belong in the picture.

This was my family’s third year here in Florida and although the homesickness has mostly subsided, it’s still a little weird around Christmas time. Our traditions have changed some. We no longer go to downtown Chicago to Daley Plaza and Navy Pier. We don’t go sledding or ice skating. We also don’t have to shovel our driveway or try to navigate the shopping cart through the snow and sludge in the parking lot while our hands and noses freeze. Instead, we’ve found some different traditions. We go to the beach. We go to Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees that take refuge there when the ocean water gets too cold. We go to the Christmas parade and sit in the sun, sweating. We go outside in the warm evening and wait for Santa to ride by on a firetruck a week before Christmas. And we go to theme parks and enjoy the decorations, all while wearing our shorts and t-shirts.

See for yourself what Christmas in Florida looks like:


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dear Santa, Here's my Wish List

Dear Santa,

As I sit curled up on my couch in my silent living room admiring the little colored lights twinkling on my beautifully decorated Christmas tree, I can’t help but reflect on the past year. I smile as Bing Crosby’s melodic voice softly fills the air and the scent of freshly baked gingerbread wafts in from my toasty kitchen signaling the commencement of the holiday season. While my kids are sleeping soundly in their beds, I’m sipping creamy eggnog from a crystal glass and taking a few minutes to write to you.

I suppose I should start by saying that the whole first paragraph is a big fat lie. I guess you already know that, huh? What with you being Santa and all. I mean, if you know when we’re sleeping and when we’re awake, then I guess you know that my kids aren’t sleeping soundly in their beds at all. One is passed out on the floor of the living room after throwing a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her eat the gingerbread ornaments she made 3 years ago. Another one is playing Xbox in his room, the sounds of gunfire coming through his closed door. Another couple kids are upstairs fighting about when Jesus was really born, and a couple others are running around the neighborhood playing football in the dark because they don’t understand what language I’m speaking when I say, “It’s time to come inside! And where the crap are your shoes anyway???”

There is no smell of gingerbread because I forgot to go to the store and buy molasses inciting the kids to start chanting, “You ruined Christmas, Mom!” My Christmas tree has 30 ornaments hung from one branch and is about to tip over. It looks like Christmas threw up in my house. A dozen boxes of decorations lay open, their contents spilled across my floors because my kids like to take everything out, but somehow run out of steam when it comes to the actual decorating and packing the empty boxes away. Oh and the “eggnog” I’m drinking from a crystal goblet is pretty much straight rum in a Tupperware container because it’s the only clean dish in the house at the moment. Don’t judge.

Santa, I’m sure you know that I try my best. I’m not a perfect parent. I lose my cool sometimes. I break down and cry now and then. Some days, I’m convinced that I just can’t handle everything one more day. I’ve gone as much as a week without cooking a decent dinner for my family. Sometimes I forget to check homework and sign planners. I haven’t had time to update my students’ grades a time or two. Occasionally I have so much laundry piled up that it’s probably a fire hazard. I’ve been known to take my kids to their football games without first checking that they have things like cleats and pants and helmets. Yeah, I’m that mom.

But still, I get up and do it every day. I try. And for that, I think I deserve a little something in my stocking. This year I’m asking for a new car. Or well, it’s doesn’t have to be new per se; just new for me. And preferably not held together by duct tape. Imagine my embarrassment when my date went to close my van door and the handle, which was duct-taped to the door, fell off in his hand. Oh yeah, and speaking of dates, could I get just one or two dates with a guy who isn’t a big lying liarpants? Perhaps a guy who doesn’t have a bunch of issues? Or well, at least not any more issues than I have?

I’d also like an extra dose of willpower because I’m getting really tired of losing these same 10 pounds again and again, quite frankly. If it isn’t asking too much, maybe you could arrange for my little ones to stop fighting over things like who gets to mix the Kool-Aid (I’m still cleaning that! Do you have any idea how far a gallon of grape Kool-Aid can fly? I do!) Oooo, maybe you could get me a maid to clean the random Kool-Aid spills that happen more often than you think.

And perhaps you can help my son to understand phrases like “Clean your room”, “Put away your laundry”, “Do your homework”, and “Stop hiding that plastic bug around the house or I’m going to have an actual heart attack and leave you an orphan.” Finally, perhaps we can have a family dinner once this year without the topic of poop coming up in conversation.

There are more things I’d like, but I don’t want to be greedy. I know there are a lot of deserving parents out there who are hoping for some goodies in their stockings this year. In fact, let me help you out there too, Santa. In case you don’t know what to get other parents, I have some suggestions. I ask that you bring the gift of happiness to other parents. I hope that parents everywhere will find enjoyment in their children this year. Please let parents get a glimpse of the world through their children’s eyes. If you can, please give parents the ability to see beyond the messes and the chaos to the brilliance that motivates those children to make the messes and create the chaos. Give parents the gift that lets them appreciate all those little things like sticky kisses, big hugs, artwork on whatever surface it appears, long rambling stories that don’t make any sense, gifts made out of PlayDough, and unconditional love. Hmmmm, maybe you better throw a nice bottle of booze in their stockings too. You know, just in case.

Thank you, Santa!

P.S. I promise not to eat all the cookies my kids leave you this year.


Dawn Meehan

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Conversations That Make you Thankful Thanksgiving is Only Once a Year

Thanksgiving, that wonderful time of year. The time when families come together to celebrate, to give thanks, to kick off that most magical season of holidays and parties. The time when everyone gathers around the festively adorned table and Uncle Fred passes gas, Grandpa talks about his hemorrhoids, Aunt Lucy drinks directly from the wine bottle, Mom complains about the consistency of the mashed potatoes, and Cousin Ed announces that he just eloped. With his boyfriend. Who doesn't speak English. And has 3 dozen piercings. And is a communist. It's inevitable. You get family together around a table and the conversation takes off.

My family's conversations usually mirror the dinner scene in the movie While You Were Sleeping. Disjointed conversations about the creaminess of the mashed potatoes, Argentina having good beef, and how tall Dustin Hoffman is all happen simultaneously around my table. Or well, around MY table, the conversations are usually more about the consistency of poop after consuming corn, what kinds of sounds a Pterodactyl makes (including demonstrations of those sounds), and a heated debate as to what the actual lyrics to Bennie and the Jets are.

A Peek at my Family's Trip to St. Augustine

I love spending time with my kids and really enjoy being around them. We always have a good time when we’re together, and I’m thankful that my teens aren’t too cool to hang out with me. I’m thankful that my oldest son is able to continue living at home while attending college as well. I like coming up with fun day trips to take with my gang. Living in Central Florida, there are so many fun things to do within a couple hours of us. We drive to Clearwater Beach, go see the manatees, head to the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, go to Daytona Beach, and visit the theme parks. This weekend, we took off for St. Augustine, the oldest city in America. It was first explored in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon and was later founded in 1565 by Pedro Menedez de Aviles of Spain and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years. I couldn’t wait to take my kids and my camera and explore this ancient city.

St. Augustine is brimming with cute shops and a variety of restaurants, e.g. Greek restaurants, bakeries, sandwich shops, seafood restaurants, and tapas spots. Although St. Augustine is pretty “touristy,” it offers some interesting museums and tours. My kids and I toured the Castillo de San Marcos and the oldest wooden schoolhouse while we were there. We can’t wait to go back so we can check out the pirate museum, the lighthouse, and a good tapas restaurant the next time. If you ever get to Central Florida, spend a day in St. Augustine. You’ll be happy you did.

Here’s a little slideshow of our day in St. Augustine. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them!


Friday, November 22, 2013

This is Why You Should Teach Your Kids How to Fix a Toilet

The toilet in my bathroom has been making this trickling sound for a good month now. Water constantly dribbles into the bowl which wouldn’t be so bad, but my bathroom is connected to my bedroom and for someone who has given birth 6 times (thus has no bladder control), the unending sound of running water was causing me to awaken every night. I first tried to fix it by simply closing the door to the bathroom. Voila! No dripping water sounds. After a couple weeks, however, the drip morphed into a steady current. Then it progressed to a torrent. Then I started worrying about my water bill.

Yesterday I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I ran up to Ace after work and walked to the aisle labeled “plumbing/toilets.” I stood there for a minute staring at the shelves as if I had a clue what I needed. When nothing jumped out at me, I admitted that I had no idea what I was doing and I hunted down a helpful hardware man.

“Water keeps trickling from the tank to the bowl of my toilet. Here, I took a picture of the tank,” I stated as I showed him the picture on my phone.

“You need to replace the flapper,” he said handing me a package with a small rubber disc. He continued, “But I would replace the entire thing. You have an old system and you’ll probably have to replace other parts soon. This one,” he indicated a box on the shelf, “is more efficient and will save you water.”

I eyed the box full of parts. “How hard is it to do?” I asked warily.

“It’s pretty easy. You have to take the tank off though.”

“Whaaaat? Take the tank off?! That’s way beyond my capabilities. I think I’ll just replace the flapper,” I said, looking at the package in my hand, wondering if I’d even be able to manage that.

“It’s really not hard to take the tank off. You’ll just need 2 hands so you don’t drop it or it’ll break and it’s hard to find a replacement tank that will fit so you’ll probably need to replace the whole thing if you break it.”

I just stared at him. “Do you need a bunch of tools to fix it?”

“You just need a screwdriver and a crescent wrench.”

“I have no idea what a crescent wrench is. I know what crescent rolls are though. Mmmmm, I could go for some crescent rolls,” I drooled a little. Then, snapping back to the present,”I pretty much only have a butter knife and a shoe.”

Another guy standing in the aisle overheard me and laughed. He laughed! He didn’t offer to come over and fix my toilet for me, no. He laughed.

At this point, the Ace guy changed his mind. “Actually, you should probably just replace the flapper. This is all you need,” he pointed to the package in my hand.

“No. Now it’s a quest! Now, I have to fix it the right way! I have to take it apart or die trying!”

He looked at me, mouth open, brow creased, eyebrows raised.

I shrugged. “I need a blog post.”

So this is how I fixed my toilet.

Everything You Need

Since it says that it includes everything I need, naturally I assumed Ty Pennington was in the box. He wasn’t. Lie #1.


Friday, November 15, 2013

From Divorced to Dating: The (Almost) Completely Normal Progression

introI remember thinking, when I first got divorced, that I'd have time to date every other weekend when my ex had the kids. Well, he's never taken the kids for a night, let alone a weekend so that plan was shot down real fast. Then there was the fact that I wasn't ready to date right away. My attention was on my kids and helping them get through the upheaval, as it well should have been. But now? Well, I've been on my own for 4 years now. I think it's time. Or not. Maybe. I'm not sure. Yes. Maybe later. Okay now!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Preview of my new novel

I turned into the parking lot and pulled in a spot as far away from the entrance as I could get. I figured if the guy turned out to be an ax murderer, I could run out of the restaurant, hop in my car and speed away before he could get the license number and track me down so he could make a suit out of my skin. It’s good to be prepared. You know, just in case. I pulled my visor down to check my makeup one last time. “If I’m going to be killed by an ax murderer, I might as well look good when the police arrive on the scene,” I muttered to myself. I hastily swiped my lip gloss wand across my mouth. Good enough. “Okay, let’s get this over with,” I sighed as I gathered my purse and climbed out of my car.

“Get out there and live a little. Fall in love. You have to experience romance to write about romance she says. Hmph.” Walking into the restaurant, I squinted as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. Good call. If we eat in the dark maybe I won’t notice how hideous you are. I mentally glared at myself for being so negative. You’re not even giving the guy a chance. Be open-minded, I reminded myself. Maybe he’ll end up being the love of your life. Tired of my inner pep talk, the realistic part of my brain took over again. Forget the love of your life. Maybe he’ll provide you with just enough material to finish your book.

I noticed someone sitting at the bar and waving in my direction. I blinked a couple times and moved toward the bar, bringing the shadowy figure into focus. Oh my gosh, he’s gorgeous! I blinked again in disbelief. He’s a hunk! He’s Adonis! He’s got all his teeth! My mind played a movie comprised of scenes of the two of us – laughing over dinner, walking hand in hand on the beach, feeding each other toasted marshmallows while sitting around a campfire, walking down the aisle in our wedding finery, sipping eggnog around the Christmas tree with our children, a boy and a girl, dressed in matching Christmas outfits. I couldn’t stop the grin that engulfed my face as I strode toward the bar. Just as I reached him, a heavily perfumed blonde rushed up from behind me and gave him a kiss on the cheek as he wrapped her in his embrace. Of course he wasn’t waving at me. I furtively glanced around to see if anyone had noticed me acting like a fool while fervently praying for an earthquake to open the floor and swallow me. Florida’s not really known for its earthquakes though. Maybe a lightning strike? When it became apparent that no freak act of nature was going to take me out of my misery, I forced myself to continue walking to the bar as if that had been my plan all along. I hoisted myself up onto a barstool and ordered a glass of chardonnay.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's B.B.O.

I left work and walked through the parking lot toward my van. Since my air conditioning doesn't work and I live in Florida where it gets to be fifteen-million degrees, the instant I reach my car, I open the door, thrust the key in the ignition, and roll down the windows before I ever actually set foot in the vehicle. This day was no exception. The only difference was that on this day, when I opened my door, a wave of vomit-scented heatwaves escaped the confines of my van and assaulted my nostrils. What the heck? What is that smell? Did something DIE in here, I wondered. Unfortunately, I was running late for a meeting and didn't have time to investigate further. I drove to my destination, my head hanging out the window, gasping for a breath of air that didn't reek of puke.

When I arrived, I climbed out of my van and walked to the building. I strode through the parking lot and with every step I took, I got another waft of the noxious stench. Is the aroma so deeply embedded in my nose that I'm continuing to smell it? Or has it attached itself to me? My face contorted with a look of horror. I grabbed a lock of hair and brought it to my face, inhaling. Does my hair smell like barf? Ohmygosh, I think it does! I paused outside the door to my meeting. I can't walk in there smelling like vomit! What to do, what to do? I turned on my heel, trotted back to my car, and opened my door once more as another wave of stink hit me. I rummaged in my purse until I found my perfume, then doused myself from head to toe. I wasn't sure if smelling like a perfumery was actually an improvement over smelling like a bathroom during a bout of gastroenteritis, but I was going with the idea that it was.

I retraced my steps back to the building and entered. It could have been my imagination, but I'm pretty sure the other patrons retreated, leaving me a wide berth. And who could blame them? I smelled like perfume-covered puke! I can't be certain, but I think the gentleman with whom I met, wrinkled his nose with distaste more than once. Since this was the first time I'd met him (and so I didn't know his habits), I conceded that it was possible that he just makes random rabbit-nose faces, but I'm convinced he was turning up his nose at the mixture of barf and Miss Dior.

I sat back as far as possible, so as not to offend too much, and debated between pretending like nothing was amiss and confessing to him that my car had leeched its malodorous funk onto every fiber of my clothing, every strand of my hair, and every cell of my body. I chose a third option: babble like an idiot.

"I don't always smell like this. I sprayed a lot of perfume a couple minutes ago. I mean, I didn't do that on purpose. I mean, actually I did do it on purpose, but not because I thought it was a good idea to bathe in perfume. I smelled like barf. I didn't get sick. But maybe someone did. I'm not sure. Something might have died in my van. I don't kill people. I mean, I don't have any dead bodies in there or anything. (Nervous laughter.) I mean, my van smells really bad and I don't know why. It's possible an animal died in there. I have six kids. They do weird things. They might have put a frog or something in my van. My daughter had a frog in her bag of Halloween candy for some reason. Um, I have BBO. That's Beyond B. O. It's a Seinfeld reference. I reference random TV shows. I'll stop talking now."

I'm not sure when the horrified look replaced his pleasant countenance, but somewhere during my circumlocutory speech, his face definitely took on the look of a person morbidly fascinated, yet completely repulsed. I have that effect on people.

After my meeting, I picked up my little kids who immediately cringed and screamed, "Did someone poop in here?!" I drove home, my head hanging out the window like a Labrador. When I pulled into my driveway and cut the engine, we all evacuated the vehicle and began searching for the source of the foul stench. 

"I think I found it!" Clay exclaimed. He held up a small milk jug from McDonalds, the top off, the contents the texture of thick glue, oozed from it. Jackson's milk jug. I thought for a minute, then said in alarm, "I stopped at McDonalds TWO WEEKS ago on the way to that early football game!" That milk has been cooking in here for TWO WEEKS until it exploded its chunky, nasty, pukey contents in my van!" 

I made Jackson use my little carpet steamer in my van. It made no difference. He used it again the next day and followed it up with a good saturation of Febreeze. It made no difference. He cleaned it again. Simultaneously, I was washing my hair. And washing it again. And yet again. I have a feeling we're all going to need to be "sauced."


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Child’s School Does Not Need to Know What Medications I’m Taking

Yesterday my 7-year-old brought home an assignment that was to be completed with the students’ families and returned to school the next day. We’ve had many of these over the years. We’ve decorated turkeys, created timelines, and made family trees. I know the assignments are just to encourage families to do something together. For some kids, I’m sure it offers some much-needed interaction with their parents. However, we do things together as a family continually, and searching for feathers, buttons, felt, and markers to decorate a turkey isn’t a fun activity; it’s a pain in the butt. 
Nevertheless, we participate anyway. Yesterday’s assignment was a little different. When I read the instructions I was left a bit dumbfounded. And by ‘dumbfounded’, I mean I was saying, “What the crap? This can’t be real!” See for yourselves:

I understand why this activity was sent out. It makes perfect sense that a 7-year-old should be able to identify and know the difference between prescription and over-the-counter medication. There’s no reason why a 7-year-old should simply be taught that medicine should never be taken unless your adult caregiver or a doctor gives to you. They should absolutely know the difference and be able to tell what condition each medication is used to treat. It’s never to early to start training our future doctors and pharmacists. It’s also important that this personal health information be shared with the students’ teachers and classmates. I mean, how else will they know which houses have the “good drugs”?

The last part of the assignment is the best. “Discuss with your child the responsible way to take prescription medicines and how they help the person for whom they were prescribed.” It doesn’t even mention OTC medicine. Yes, let’s confuse the kids and teach them that only prescription medications can be dangerous. You can take as much OTC stuff as you want. It’s practically candy! But like the activity suggests, I think every parent should have the following kinds of conversations with their 7-year-olds.

“Well Johnny, this is your father’s Viagra. It helps him … perform. And these are my birth control pills so I don’t have any more babies. And these are my antidepressants because without them, I’d jump off a bridge. And this here is your father’s hemorrhoid cream because he has ouchies on his butt.”

Under the “RX” and the “OTC” columns, I was going to list the following medications: Vagisil, anti-fungal cream, painkillers, Preparation H, prescription dandruff shampoo, wart medication, anti-psychotics, more painkillers, Viagra, Ex-Lax, anti-diarrhea medicine, more painkillers, lice shampoo, Rogaine, more painkillers, anti-flatulence meds, and finally, some more painkillers. I decided I’d create a third column labeled “illegal” and list things like: marijuana, crack, molly, heroine, LSD, bath salts, and ecstasy. In the end, I decided against that plan however, because I don’t especially want DCFS knocking on my door. I had friends tell me to call the school, complain to the principal, take it to the school board, and call in the media! People screamed “HIPAA violation!” That’s really not my style though. I didn’t think this was an assignment created by my child’s teacher to search out drugs, or garner a bit too much information about the families of her students. I didn’t think it was an underhanded way for the government to keep tabs on us. I thought it was nothing more than a poorly thought-out activity assigned as a drug awareness exercise during Red Ribbon Week. A VERY poorly thought-out activity.

Instead, I emailed my daughter’s teacher and wrote, I’m curious about last night’s home activity. Who came up with that assignment? (I’m guessing it was something every teacher was told to pass out.) I felt like it was inappropriate on many levels. In my opinion, a 7-year-old doesn’t need to differentiate between prescription and OTC drugs; they just need to know that you don’t take any medication unless your adult caregiver gives it to you. They don’t need to know who takes what prescriptions and why, nor does anyone at the school need that information. I opted not to do the activity, but instead talked to Brooklyn about not taking any medication unless I give it to her.

Her teacher responded, Yes, I understand your concern about the family activity that was sent home last night.  This work is given if the parents want to do the activity with their child-IT’S NOT MANDATORY. :) I completely understand what you wrote to me addressing your concerns.  I also told the students that the only thing they take is if their parents give it to them when they are sick or if they go to the doctor and have to get medicine to make them well.  We were all given these activities to send home to the parents in case they would like do them with their children.  Don’t worry about not doing the activity.  It’s only optional.  :)  I hope this makes you feel a little more at ease about this.  Please let me know if you have any more questions or concerns.

I like Brooklyn’s teacher and know she didn’t come up with this assignment herself, but I’m a little disappointed that, optional or not, it was handed out at all. Whoever thought this was an appropriate activity didn’t use common sense, in this parent’s opinion.

Has anyone else gotten any assignments like this? I’m curious if other schools participated in this ‘Learning for Life Substance Abuse Prevention Education Program’. If so, did you do the assignment? Were you outraged and did you go to the school board? Or did you just skip the activity?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Before I was a Mom (27 Things I Remember from my Pre-Mom Days)

I love being a mom and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I honestly have a hard time remembering what life was like before I had kids. My oldest child will be 19 this week, and considering I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast, it’s not surprising I can’t remember those pre-mom days from nearly 2 decades ago.

Before I was a mom…

my jeans fit.
I drove a Mustang, not a church van.
there weren’t any fruit snacks smashed into the seatbelts in my car.
there weren’t any drawings on the furniture in my house.
I had never tried the delicacy of a chicken nugget.
there wasn’t a single strand of gray in my hair.
I didn’t know that blue food coloring could make a kid’s poop to neon green.
I never uttered the phrases, “Don’t put that lizard in your sister’s bed,” “Why did you shove a Tic Tac up your nose?” or “Stop trying to fly; the ceiling fan has a weight limit, you know!”
I slept all night without any feet in my face.
I could go to the bathroom without seeing fingers poking under the door.
I was smart. And then I was presented with 6th grade math.
I took showers that lasted more than 2 minutes and when I left the bathroom, I never discovered the dog covered in pink yogurt.
my floor wasn’t covered in toys.
I ate food while it was still warm.
I knew the perfect way to raise kids.
I didn’t have any Barbies, Legos, or Happy Meal toys in my purse.
There wasn’t Play Doh or nail polish permanently stuck to my carpet.
I did my hair and makeup every day.
my name was Dawn, not Mom.
I had money. Or well, more money than I have now.
my time was my own and I never used that time to sit at a football field for 12 hours straight.
I never considered making a diorama of the Potawatomi Indians the night before it was due.
I arrived at destinations on time and with matching shoes.
I had never heard of The Wiggles, Super Why, or Bubble Guppies.
I didn’t know what it felt like to be a role model.
I didn’t know how amazingly incredible it felt to hold your own baby.
I didn’t know I could love anyone as strongly as I do now.

How about you? Fill in the blank. Before I was a mom____________.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beauty is Pain (the things we women do in the name of glamour)

A couple days ago I posted the following status on Facebook. Lunging around the house to loosen up my jeans. In a matter of minutes, I had 195 likes and many comments saying, "Been there, done that." All by women. One man said, "Or, you could just do what guys do... we buy pants that actually fit us." Clearly, he doesn't understand how this works. We can't just buy a bigger pair. That's like giving up. We're not quitters! We will do what it takes to fit into that pair of jeans or die trying. And that's not all. Here are some of the things we do on a regular basis to look bee-you-tee-ful. 

Yes, I know (before anyone comments) a woman’s self-worth shouldn’t be tied to her physical appearance. We need to teach our daughters to love themselves no matter how they look. A woman doesn’t need makeup to look beautiful. Blah blah blah. But here in my world, this is how things happen and this is what I do most days . . .


Friday, October 4, 2013

I Can do Home Maintenance! (Sort of. Mostly.)

After my amazing job of fixing my washing machine (you can read all about it here), I’ve come to the conclusion that I can fix anything. I’m awesome. I’m amazing. Home Maintenance is my middle name! I’m like Bob Vila! Or Ty Pennington! Or some other astonishing home improvement guy! Or Ty Pennington (he deserves to be mentioned twice because he’s Ty Pennington!)

So when my washing machine started leaking, I thought to myself, No problem! I’m an expert! I can totally fix this! See? You give me a small taste of success and it goes right to my head.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t had time to take a look at the washer this week. I figured it just wasn’t draining properly again and I’d probably have to take the whole thing apart once more in order to figure out where the leak was. Last night, I finally found a few minutes to take a look. I opened the laundry room door and a tidal wave of water came sloshing out over my head, engulfing everything in its path. Or so it felt. I slogged through the piles of sopping wet laundry on the floor, stagnant, smelly water squishing up between my toes with every step I took. I grabbed onto the washing machine and tried to pull it away from the wall, but given the fact that I have the upper body strength of a gerbil, I lost my grip and fell back into the puddle of wet clothes. Still, I’m Master Builder Meehan; I can do anything! I tried again. “I know I pulled it out from the wall the last time,” I said through gritted teeth while heaving with all my strength. It didn’t budge. Wow, my gerbil-like strength might have to be downgraded to that of a jellyfish, I thought. Then I realized the washer was full of clothes.Yes! I’m not a weakling, after all!

I emptied the washer and tried again. It took me a few minutes of scooting the washer this way an inch, then that way an inch, then this way an inch, then that way an inch. Sure, that method is time consuming, but it’s effective. As I angled it out, it jammed up against the wall and I thought of Ross. “PIVOT!” I yelled to no one in particular. (You get bonus points and will be my new best friend if you understand that reference.)

No sooner had I moved the appliance away from the wall then I saw where the water was coming from. It wasn’t the washer that was leaking at all. It was the hose that runs from the wall to the washer that had a small, steady stream of water pouring from it. Hallelujah! I don’t have to take the whole washer apart again! I just have to tighten up this thingy that screws these two hoses together. I can do that!

I unplugged the machine and turned the water off before I began because I’m smarter than your average bear that way (and because I may learn things the hard way, but I do tend to remember those lessons.) I gripped the pieces and twisted with all my might. Nothing happened. Well, actually something happened. My hand turned red and got indentations from the screwy part. But I couldn’t tighten it. No problem. I’ll ask Austin. I’m pretty sure the Hardware Rule Book states that I don’t have to abdicate my title as Amazing Fixit Guy just because I need a little help in the manly muscle department.

Austin got a grippy tool and was able to tighten the part. I turned the water back on. The good news is that there was no longer a steady trickle of water. The bad news is that the water now sprayed out in an impressive arch kinda like when you were a kid playing outside with the garden hose and you put your thumb over the nozzle so you could shoot your sister from across the yard. Yeah. Being the quick-thinker I am, I took less than 5 minutes to realize I needed to turn off the water again.

Okay, plan B. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that you always need a plan B when fixing stuff. It’s usually a pretty good idea to have a plan C, D, E, and F as well. You know, just in case.

I had Austin use his grippy tool to take the hoses apart, then I inspected them as if I had a clue what I was looking for. There was a black rubber thingy inside one of them. “Aha!” I exclaimed. I bet I need a new one of these. This looks like something that could make a washing machine leak,” I informed Austin who looked disinterested in the whole process.

I grabbed the black rubber thingy and headed to Ace. I assume everyone ran and hid when they saw me approaching because it took me several minutes to find someone to help me. It might have something to do with the weed whacker incident.

When I finally found someone, I produced my black rubber thingy and said, “I need one of these because my washing machine is leaking.”

He looked at the little black circle in my palm and said, “You need a new washer.”

“Really? It’s only two years old! I don’t think I need a new washer. I’m pretty sure I can fix the leak if I get a new one of these thingys,” I countered, indicating the rubber circle.

The guy just looked at me.

“What?” I asked innocently obliviously. “You don’t think this is the problem? This couldn’t be causing the leak?”

Realizing that I wasn’t being a smartbutt and that, in actuality, I really am this stupid, the guy said (in very small, simple terms), “This little black circle is called a washer. You need a new washer. And yes, this is probably why it’s leaking.”

“Isn’t that a little confusing? A washer for the washer?” I asked. “It should really be named something else. Like Little Black Circle. Now that makes sense.”

He stopped and looked at me again. I got the feeling the other Ace guys had tipped him off about me.

He led me to an aisle with plumbing type stuff, grabbed a pack of orange washers off the wall, and handed it to me.

“These aren’t the same,” I informed him.

He wrinkled his brow and took the black washer from me, comparing it to the ones in the package. After a brief moment, he assured me, “Yep. They’re the same.”

“It doesn’t matter that these are orange?” I asked. In hindsight, I guess it was stupid of me, but at the time, I didn’t know. I thought maybe they were color-coded. You know like the hangers at Target. Each size has its own color tab on top. I understand clothes shopping. I don’t understand hardware shopping.

So I went home, jammed the washer into the screwy part of the hose and tightened it all up again. I turned the water on full-blast, proud of myself for figuring out what was wrong and fixing it all by myself. (If Ty knew about my skills, he’d be all over me.)

Water spewed from the hose, spraying my face, the wall, the dry clothes stacked neatly on the dryer, basically everything.

I calmly turned off the water again and declared, “It’s unfixable. Time for a new washer, and not the little rubber circle kind either!”

I suppose I could’ve Googled how to fix this sort of thing. I could’ve messed around with it until a lightbulb appeared above my head. But instead I ran to my neighbor’s house. “Help? My washing machine is broken and I don’t know what to do.”

My neighbor came over and took a look at the hoses. “I’ve had just enough beers that I think I can fix this,” he said. I remember the time my son, Jackson let this particular neighbor give him a haircut after a few beers.

“Actually, I might not need help after all,” I changed my mind.

“Nah, this is an easy fix. You just need a new hose,” he stated confidently.

“They sell those?”

“Of course!”

“At Ace?”

“Probably. If not, you can get them at Lowe’s.”

I thought about going to Lowe’s, but I figured, They already think I’m unbalanced at Ace; why add a second store of employees who think I’m mentally challenged? I ran to Ace, found the same guy, told him the new washer didn’t work, and asked him to point me in the direction of the hoses.

Long story short (or long story not quite as long as I could make it), I got the new hoses and my neighbor installed them. Not only that, but while he was installing them, Savannah was asking me questions for her psychology homework. My neighbor helped with that too by giving her such helpful answers as “flux capacitor” and “I’m sorry, but that question wasn’t asked in the form of an answer.”

I may have gotten help with this repair, but I’m still retaining my self-imposed title of Fixit Queen of the World. I can do that since I live in my own fantasyworld. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I no longer need a fixit guy. I’ve got this single mom thing down pat! I’ll just borrow my neighbor’s husband now and then and I’ll get cats. Lots of cats. The cats are really optional, but they represent the fact that I don’t need a fixit guy since this single mom is now the Fixit Queen of the World. Unless Ty Pennington wants to be my fixit guy. I’ll ditch the Cat Plan for him.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For the Love of the Sport - Part Two

I just wrote about how I’ll let my son play football despite the possibility of injuries. I mean, I just wrote it! Literally one day after I wrote that blog post, my child was injured. It wasn’t my football-playing son who was injured, however. It was my cheerleading daughter. Last night, while at practice, she fell doing a basic stunt. Her team does some really crazy stunts that scare me, but last night it was just a very basic lift that went wrong. From a height of about 5-6 feet in the air, Lexi fell backwards. It happens so fast when a flyer falls. About all they can do is trust their bases and spotters to catch them. Last night, Lexi’s bases and back spotter failed to catch her or even cushion her blow. She hit the ground, landing on her shoulder which jammed into her neck with nothing but an inch of foam to help soften the impact.

She lay there, crying, struggling to breathe, moaning about the pain in her shoulder and her neck, then taking great gulps of air and crying that her neck hurt to breathe. Immediately her coaches held her head still and kept her stationary while trying to ascertain where her injury was, and how serious it was. Her right shoulder appeared a little deformed and swollen, but even more concerning was the pain in her neck.

I left the bleachers and made my way onto the field, not aware of how badly she was hurt at first. I mean, I’ve seen her fall dozens of times. In fact, she’d fallen several times earlier that night and each time, she stood up and got right back up in the stunt. When I reached her, I knew immediately how badly she was hurt.

After a few minutes that seemed like forever, the coaches (one of whom is a nurse), called the ambulance. Lexi’s neck pain was scary. Seriously scary. So scary, in fact, that I didn’t even notice the paramedics! Right away they put a collar around her neck to stabilize her head, and strapped her to a board before lifting her to the stretcher.

As the paramedics wheeled her across the field to the ambulance, Brooklyn and Clayton who were practicing right there ran over to see Lexi. That’s when I lost it. I’d been holding it together, keeping my head up for Lex, and silently praying, “Please don’t let her neck be broken. Please don’t let her neck be broken”, but when Brooklyn came over bawling her eyes out, I lost it. It was a heartbreaking scene, Brooklyn’s coach lifting her up so she could clutch at Lexi while crying frightened tears for her big sister.

In the end, after a CT of her neck and x-rays of her shoulder and clavicle, it was determined that Lexi’s spine is fine and her shoulder is a little separated, but it wasn’t a bad enough tear to show up on the x-ray. Her arm is in a sling, she has medicine for the pain, has a lot of neck pain, and will be out of cheer while she heals. The good news is that her injuries aren’t bad at all. The other good news is that this incident really made me feel like Florida is finally home. Friends gathered around the football field offering to take my younger kids home, offering to get my car for me, offering to do anything I needed at the moment. Texts poured in with messages of support, offers of help, and requests to be updated on Lexi’s status. In that instant, it felt like we had a network of family and friends. 

And for those of you wondering if I’ll allow Lexi to cheer again, the answer is yes. I’m not sure if she’ll want to go back to it, or if she’ll ever trust her bases and spotters to fly with them again, but if she does, I’ll support her. Consider this - in the end, Lexi wasn’t badly hurt. My friend’s 7-year-old daughter, however, was accidentally kicked in the head at school yesterday. She seemed fine and went about her day and went to cheer last night. In the middle of the night, she woke up vomiting. After a visit to the hospital, it was determined that she had a concussion. This is her second concussion. The first one was worse and it happened while playing on the playground during summer camp. Two major head injuries, both the result of non-sports related accidents. In the end, you just never know.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

For the Love of the Game: an interview with my son about the dangers of football

Last week I read an article about a 16-year-old boy who died after sustaining injuries that resulted from a helmet to helmet collision during a football game. Of course I felt horrible for the boy’s family. And as the mom of sons who play football, I feel scared for my own boys’ safety. I mean, I know that injuries can occur in any sport. Heck, injuries can occur outside of sports too. But catastrophic head injuries are much more prevalent in football than in any other sport. Oftentimes, head injuries that don’t seem serious at the time cause problems down the line when repeated head trauma has a cumulative affect on the player. I asked my 15-year-old freshman what he thought about football and the risks involved with playing.

DAWN: What do you think of when you hear about a kid your age who has a helmet-to-helmet injury in a football game and ends up dying from it?

JACKSON: I think that that’s just a way of life. Stuff like that happens all the time.

DAWN: Have you seen any injuries during games or practices?

JACKSON: I have seen plenty of injuries during practices and games and it doesn’t faze me one bit. I specifically remember one practice when one of my teammates broke his arm to where his elbow was sticking out and he needed to be rushed to the hospital.

DAWN: Are you scared of being hurt? Does it make you want to change sports and participate in something less dangerous?

JACKSON: I am never really thinking that I’ll get hurt. The way I see it, it’s either hit or be hit, and if I do that I won’t be the one getting hurt. I keep my head up, pay attention, and do what the coaches have taught me to do.

DAWN: Why do you risk injury to play the game? What do you get out of it?

JACKSON: I risk the injuries of this game because I just love to play football and everything about it. Football teaches so many life lessons such as teamwork, leadership, and discipline, and that’s why I love it.

DAWN: Given the chance, will you play football again next year?

JACKSON: If I got a chance to play football next year, I would sign up without missing a beat, I honestly love everything about football.

DAWN: 500,000 football injuries occur each year, 2 times as many as any other sport. 60-70 concussions occur for every 1000 games/practices. No one would disagree that contact sports like football are dangerous. What if your mom refuses to let you play because she’s worried about injuries?

JACKSON: I’d try to find a way to play. Football is really important to me. I’d play touch football with some friends in the backyard at least if I couldn’t play anything else.

DAWN: What if your best friend was seriously injured? What if he had a bad concussion? Would that make you stop and think twice about playing?

JACKSON:  If my best friend got injured, I’d definitely think twice about it, but I’d still play.

I want to let my son play. He loves the game and he’s good at it. It gives him an acceptable venue to expend his energy and aggression. He feels good about himself when he plays and it forces him to keep his grades up in order to play. But I have to admit, the fear of brain injury does give me pause. I wonder what my chances are of talking him into a less dangerous sport. Then I can move on to my daughter who is a flyer on her cheerleading team. Oy, talk about being a nervous wreck while watching your child compete . . 

What do you think? Should you let your child play the sport they love and remember that injuries can happen anywhere; there’s no reason to worry about what might happen? Or do you put your foot down and tell them to pick a less dangerous sport?

*****Edited to add*****     I’ve had so many people on Facebook state that they would never take a chance and let their child play football, that the risks aren’t worth it, that a parent needs to learn how to say “no” to their child. I hear you and understand that everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion. But let me say this – my son Jackson has played football for many years and has never been hurt. However, while riding his bike, the tire skidded on some gravel causing an injury that required an ER visit, an overnight hospital stay, and later, surgery to repair the hernia that the injury caused. My daughter Savannah has had 2 knee surgeries and her knee will never be quite right. It had nothing to do with sports. I guess I prefer to let my kids play the sports about which they’re passionate and leave the worrying to things I can control. I can’t control when/how my kids may get injured some day and I refuse to keep them in a bubble in an effort to protect them from every fictitious scenario I can dream up.

Monday, September 23, 2013

7 Things I Learned About Running

A bunch of us at work are doing a “Biggest Loser” competition. We each paid $10 to join and we’re weighing in once a week. At the end of the first quarter, the person who has lost the biggest percentage of weight, takes the pot. When that happens, I’ll be using my money to shop for new clothes. Yes, it’s a forgone conclusion that I’ll win. I may hate exercising, but I hate losing a contest even more. 

 I can be found on the football field every night from 6:00 – 8:00, watching my kids practice. A few weeks ago, however, it hit me that I don’t exactly watch them per se. Truth be told, it’s really more of a glancing up at them now and then while I talk to my friends. When I admitted that, I realized I had 2 hours of time that I could use to do something a little more productive. I grabbed my friend who has been doing an amazing job losing weight, and said, “Come on, we’re walking!”

We took off and headed toward the West Orange Trail, a multipurpose, paved greenway that spans 22 miles. We walked at a pace that was fast enough to make it cardiovascular exercise, but not so fast that we couldn’t converse. As we walked and talked, I noticed the other people using the trails. We saw some folks walking their dogs, some people skating, and several bicycling. But most of the people we saw were running.

I kept thinking of the Nike commercial that Helen Hunt came up with in the movie What Women Want. She’s running. It’s early, it’s quiet. Just the sound of her feet on the asphalt. She likes to run alone. No pressure, no stress. This is the one place she can be herself. Look any way she wants, dress, think any way she wants. Nike. No games. Just sports. The ad makes it sound so attractive. It makes me want to be a runner. It makes me want to feel that freedom. But in reality, I can’t comprehend why running is so appealing. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the allure. I watched the runners on the trail, arms pumping, feet pounding the asphalt, breathing labored, looks of grim determination plastered to their faces along with sweat-covered hair. I tried to gasp the fact that there are so many people who like to run, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I mean, I don’t run unless someone’s chasing me. With a chainsaw. I just don’t think I want to do anything that makes me look like I’m being tortured. Seriously, look at a runner’s face sometime. They don’t smile. They don’t look happy. They look like they’re enduring bamboo shoved under their nails.

Still, I thought – there has to be something to running. I’m not sure what it is, but there has to be some amazing pay-off that is worth the mask of pain on every runner’s face. Yesterday, instead of my brisk 5-mile walk, I decided to run. I just had to see what it was all about. This is what I learned.

Running Hurts

I’m pretty sure my knees are broken. My back isn't doing too well either.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

There's no Crying in Baseball!

Everyone knows the scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks’s character bellows to Evelyn, “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! Roger Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry? NO. And do you know why? Because there's no crying in baseball. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!”

 Many years ago, I used to cry often. Things would upset me and the tears would flow. It happened regularly. After I got divorced, I stopped crying. I refused to allow myself the luxury. Crying is for the weak and I’m not weak. I’m strong. Strong people don’t cry. That’s what I told myself. Strong people suck it up, rub some dirt on it, and plow through whatever adversity faces them. I wasn’t about to let my kids know that I was scared half to death about carrying on as a single mother. I didn’t let them know I had major doubts about my ability to do everything. I didn’t express how overwhelmed I was with the massive responsibility of caring for my kids 24/7 without an ounce of help from their father, or how I was pretty sure I’d never be able to make enough to support everyone.

No, there was no crying. I put on my game face, turned my baseball cap around and rallied because I flat-out refused to let my kids become a statistic of a broken home. I vowed to be strong and to continue making them my priority. I intended to show them I was bulletproof. But here’s the thing – when you take a sensitive, highly emotional person and put a cork in them, preventing them from expressing those emotions, something happens. The stressors are still there, the emotions are still piling up inside – the letters from lawyers over bills, the foreclosure notices, the medical issues you can’t solve because you only have 20 minutes a day in which to make phone calls and you’ve never been on hold for less than half an hour – it’s all still there. Then one day, over something as silly as someone not changing the empty roll of toilet paper or someone unfriending you on Facebook or someone leaving a nasty comment on your blog, you lose it. The tears flow for hours. Great sobs wrack your entire body. You use an whole box of tissues. Your head pounds, your eyes swell shut, your nose becomes so congested you can’t breathe. And every time you start to pull yourself together, another wave hits you and you’re back to sobbing uncontrollably until you feel like nothing but a hollow shell.

Then the next day when I’m applying makeup with a spatula in an attempt to disguise the swollen eyelids and bags, no scratch that – the suitcases under my eyes, my kids will look at me and ask, “Are you okay? Are you sick? What’s wrong with your eyes?”

I’ll answer, “I think I’m getting a cold,” lest they discover I’m human and I sometimes feel down because there’s no crying in baseball.

But for some reason, today when my kids looked at my face in horror and asked, “What’s wrong with your eyes, Mom?” I answered, “I was crying.”

Their jaws dropped a little and they asked, “You were crying???”

“Yeah,” I admitted.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still rather be bulletproof, but maybe, just maybe, it’s better to teach my kids that everyone gets overwhelmed now and then. Maybe, just occasionally, there is crying in baseball. And I guess that’s okay as long as you suck it up, rub some dirt on it, turn that cap around and go hit a homerun when you’re done sniffling.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Is Getting a “Fat Letter” from Your Kid’s School So Terrible?

A recent article on HLN asks, “Are schools fat-shaming kids with these letters?” A school in Massachusetts is catching flack for sending home letters with the results of a BMI screening, much like they would for a vision, hearing, or scoliosis screening. They’re learning that it's okay to send home a notice alerting parents that their child failed the hearing screening which may indicate a problem and should receive further evaluation, but it’s not okay to let a parent know that their child’s BMI falls into the overweight or obese category which may indicate a problem and warrants further evaluation. Because that may be insulting. It may hurt the child’s feelings. You can’t go around alerting parents to their child’s potentially increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, etc. that come with being overweight. It might damage Junior’s precious self-esteem if he thinks he’s fat.

Please, look at a copy of the so-called “fat letter” HERE. Note the wording. Yet, according to the article, Tracy Watson, mother of a 10-year-boy whose BMI fell into the 95% percentile, complained that they were “offended by the letter, and bothered that a number of children went to bed that night not feeling great about themselves.” She claims her son is athletic (football, martial arts, wrestling) and that BMI is not an accurate picture of his health. Gee, it’s a good thing she actually READ the letter, especially this part: BMI may not tell the whole story about your child’s weight. Other things can affect your child’s BMI. For example, BMI cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat. An athletic child with a lot of muscle may have a high BMI but not be overweight.

I think she’s right. Schools shouldn’t offend families by showing concern over potential health problems. That’s crazy! Instead, they should send home letters to Mom and Dad stating that their child is perfect in every way. Children should be made to invite the entire class to their birthday party lest anyone feel left out. If one child is given and award or a trophy for an achievement, then each and every child should receive an award or a trophy so they don’t feel bad about themselves. A child with Ds and Fs on his report card shouldn’t feel any less amazing than the child who worked for and earned straight As. In fact, I think schools should completely change the way they issue report cards too. It’s horrible when Junior comes home with anything less than an A. Kids all over the country go to bed not feeling great about themselves when they bring home bad grades. It’s a travesty, really. Kids shouldn’t bring home the grades that they earn. They should all be given As to protect their feelings and make sure they feel good about their mediocrity.

And for those who say that schools shouldn’t be involved in any health screenings to begin with, I think you’re right. The fact that numerous kids in my school (and many schools across the nation) don’t receive adequate health  care for a variety of reasons doesn’t matter. If Mom and Dad can’t afford to take Junior to the doctor, too bad. If Mom works 3 jobs to make ends meet because Dad is in jail so she doesn’t have time to take Junior to the doctor, tough luck. Each man for himself, is what I say. No one should be responsible for anyone else, and schools need to stick to teaching, not looking out for the well-being of its students.

Or maybe, just maybe, we can stop complaining about every damn thing. Maybe we can learn to take constructive criticism in the vein in which it’s intended. Maybe we can stop worrying so much about Junior’s fragile self-esteem and we can teach Junior that for every action there is a consequence. Just a thought.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Naps are Hazardous to Your Health

I used to like taking naps when the rare occasion presented itself, however, they’re something in which I’ve not indulged for years now. Maybe it’s the whole “single mom to 6 kids” thing and the overwhelming self-inflicted guilt I feel when I take time for myself. At any rate, I never sleep during the day.

Sunday, it rained. Of course it rained. It’s August in Florida. Anyway, it rained, effectively putting a damper on my plans to hang out at the pool with my kids, so instead, I plopped down on my bed with a bottle of nail polish, planning to take a few minutes to give myself a pedicure. The next thing I knew, I was waking up completely disoriented. I thought I’d overslept for work. When I realized it was too light outside to be 6 am, I tried to figure out what day it was and why I was in bed. Looking at the clock, I discovered I’d been asleep for two hours. TWO HOURS! Two hours of my day were gone and all I had to show for it was a grogginess and headache that made me feel like I’d been out drinking all night.

I never was able to completely wake up and function for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and ended up going to bed by 9 o’clock. Sleeping in the afternoon and going to bed at 9 has its price and it’s called insomnia. At 3 am, I awoke, ready to start my day. Try as I might, I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs to get a drink of water. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I screamed. There was a snake on the floor by my front door! It was dark in the house, but from the sliver of light shining through the window, I could see the black beast coiled up and lying there, just ready to make a meal out of me. I ran down the hall and clambered to safety atop a kitchen chair. I crouched there while my heart rate skyrocketed to somewhere between 190 and explode.

From my vantage point, I could still see the snake. It hadn’t moved. I picked up a napkin and threw it at the snake, but it just wafted down a couple inches from where I stood. You know, because it was a napkin and even my 7-year-old understands the physics that would make a paper napkin a poor projectile. Did I mention it was 3 o’clock in the morning, my eyes weren’t focusing, I was tired, and there was a SNAKE in my house? Thinking rationally was not on my list of capabilities at the time.

I reached over and picked up a AA battery that was lying on the table and launched it at the snake. I have no idea why. I don’t really know what my purpose was. I don’t think it’s possible to kill a snake with a AA battery from four yards away. I’d probably only tick him off and make him come bite my ankles. I’m going to reiterate that it was 3 am once more.

After the battery flew from my hands and hit the wall above the snake I braced myself for the snake to come slithering toward me. It didn’t move. That’s weird. Do snakes sleep? Surely a battery pegging the wall near it would wake it up. Wouldn’t it? Why didn’t I pay more attention to all the books about snakes and lizards and such that I’ve read to the boys over the years? Not that they contained instructions for killing snakes in your house from four yards away while half-asleep.

I carefully lowered myself from my perch atop the chair and inch-by-inch, crept a little closer to the snake, all the while vigilant and aware that it may fly toward me and wrap itself around my neck at any moment. When I got within a few feet of the thing, I blinked several times, trying to bring the world into focus. Not only was the snake not moving, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it didn’t seem to have an ending or a beginning. It looked almost like it was just a big loop that was haphazardly twisted around.

Finally I thought to turn on the light. I glanced down and saw that the snake was actually a headband. I calmly flipped off the light, turned toward the kitchen, and poured myself a glass of wine before returning to bed.

The next morning my kids asked me, “What were you doing downstairs last night? You woke me up with the light.”

“Yeah, why were you screaming? Did you see a cockroach or something?”

“It was worse,” I said gravely. “I saw a snake.”

“For real?” they asked incredulously. “There was a snake in the house?!”

“Well, it could have been a venomous snake,” I hedged. “But it was a mumble mumble mumble…”

“What? What did you say?”

“It was a headband,” I whispered sheepishly.

“BWAAAA HAAAAA HAAAAAA!!!! You were screaming at a headband? HAAAAAAA!”

Indignant, I repeated, “Well, it could have been a poisonous snake! I could have been killed!”

They continued laughing until they fell off the couch, holding their stomachs. I’m never going to live this down.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lightning Strikes

Nine years ago in Orange County, a 10-year-old girl was struck by lightning shortly after getting off her school bus at the end of the day. She died. This put the "30/30 rule" in place for the county's school district. The 30/30 rule states that if there are 30 seconds or less between the lightning flash and the thunder, then you must wait 30 minutes before leaving shelter. In Orange County schools, every time you see lightning or hear thunder, you have to reset the clock and wait another 30 minutes. During a 30/30 hold, children are not permitted to leave their classes. If it happens near dismissal time, kids are kept at school to prevent an unspeakable tragedy like the family of that 10-year-old girl experienced not long ago. However, parents can choose to come sign out their child and take responsibility for their well-being as they leave the protection of the building.

Yesterday, 10 minutes before dismissal, the lightning and thunder started. The principal called a 30/30 hold. I don't actually have a 7th period class so I could have left. Except that the parking lot is also the car rider loop. In other words, there was no way on earth I was getting out of that parking lot anytime in the foreseeable future. So, I stood outside the main office and helped direct parents to the line where they'd need to wait in order to sign out their child, then, when they had a pass, I directed them to their child's class so they could pick them up.

Parents waited in their cars for a chance to turn into the overcrowded parking lot. They double-parked, came inside, and waited in another line in order to sign out their child. Sometimes a parent would get in line and we'd shout out a reminder that they must have a photo ID in order to pick up their kid. Then they'd get mad and stomp back off to the car in order to get the wallet they'd left there. I understand how frustrating it was for them. I get it. Some of them had to get to work and didn't have time to wait around. Some of them were worried about getting their kid to football/gymnastics/guitar lessons/etc. It wasn't fun. I tried to be sympathetic.

Most of the parents, although frustrated, understood and accepted the procedures we had to follow. But some . . . Well, let's put it this way: after watching some of the parents in line, I understand why their children act the way they do.

There was the mom who stalked over to the line, then angrily proclaimed for all to hear, "My dad came to pick up my son and you wouldn't release him to him!"

"Was your dad on the list of approved people?"


"We can only release the students to people you've put on your list. This is to keep them safe."

"Well, I just drove 90 miles an hour to get here and they (apparently meaning every person who works at the school) don't even care if someone gets in an accident on the way here to get their kid!"

I my mind, I said, "You're right. We don't care if you drive like an idiot and get in an accident. We care about your son and keeping him safe. Tell you what, if you'd killed yourself driving like a moron, then we would've released your son to his grandfather. You know, because you'd be dead." In reality I said sympathetically, "I'm sorry. I know it's frustrating. Unfortunately, we have no control over the weather and we have to follow the district's rules in situations like this."

Then there was the dad who flashed his police badge at me and asked, "Will this get me to the front of the line?"

In my mind, I rolled my eyes, then held up my OCPS badge and asked, "Will this get me out of a speeding ticket?" In reality I said, "Nope, I'm sorry. There are 3 lines. Please have your photo ID with you."

And who could forget the mom who yelled, "This is ridiculous! You should all be fired! I have other kids I need to pick up, you know!"

I my mind, I shouted back, "Guess what! I have 6 kids of my own! Half the teachers here have their own kids to pick up! My daughter needed to be at work at 5:00 but I'm still not home to drive her! I have 2 kids at the YMCA that need to be picked up before 6:00 and that's not gonna happen. My 7th grader had to walk home in the rain. The principal's kid has been stuck, sitting on his bus for over an hour because his school called a 30/30 right after they started dismissing! And guess what! We're all stuck here, unable to take care of our OWN kids because we're caring for YOURS! So shut up!" In reality, I said, "I'm really sorry for the inconvenience. I know it's frustrating."

There were plenty of people who ranted and complained while in line. And as they walked out and I saw what kids were with them, a lightbulb went on and I thought, 'Ahhhhh, that makes so much sense now. I completely understand why your kid acts the way he does in school.'

So, if you happen to live in a district that institutes a 30/30 rule during inclement weather, please, please, please remember this: The parents of the little girl who died would give anything to navigate a busy parking lot, stand in line for 20 minutes, and miss their evening activities. But they can't do that. It's too late for them. For the rest of you, frustrating as it may be, it is NOT the end of the world. In the whole scheme of things, it is NOT a big deal. Choose to be happy that your kids have the chance to go to school at a place where people are looking out for their welfare, instead of choosing to dwell on the fact that your evening plans have been disrupted. 

If waiting in line to pick up your kid from school is your biggest problem (worthy of ranting and raving), then you have a pretty blessed life. Something I noticed was that the parents of the ESE (special needs) kids were the ones who were consistently calm and patient. I think they understand what is important and what really isn't.

And remember this. Your kids look to you for guidance. Think about the kind of example you want to provide them. You can tell them how you expect them to behave until you're blue in the face, but it won't make the slightest bit of difference unless you're modeling that behavior yourself.

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