Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Graduation Guilt Trip

I took the day off work to go to Le Cordon Bleu and meet with the financial aid department, and to take Austin to his graduation practice. Before I could do any of that, I had to pick up Lexi from school because she had another migraine that was making her throw up. I guess it’s good that I’d already taken the day off. And of course it’s good that she threw up at school before I got her because you guys know how I feel about vomit!
So this afternoon I took Austin to his graduation practice because it’s very important to practice graduating before actually graduating. I mean, how else will a bunch of 18 year olds figure out how to walk, sit, and stand without first practicing? So I drove him to UCF and watched him walk, sit, and stand for a couple hours. It’s okay though, Austin’s rotten attitude more than made up for it.
“Why are you so mad and crabby?”
“Because I don’t want to be here.”
“Why? It’s graduation!” I enunciated every syllable, convinced I could change his mind if I really put some emphasis on the word ‘graduation’.
“It’ll be hot and boring just sitting there in that robe for hours.”
“Oh wah wah. Guess what. When I graduated, I had to sit out on the football field and it was 120 degrees that day because weather was much hotter back then and we had over 800 people in my graduating class!” (I almost added the part that I was hungover to top it off, but stopped before incriminating myself. I’m lucky I have pretty good kids because I was a rotten teenager. Sorry once again, Mom and Dad.)
“Well, graduation is stupid and pointless,” Austin insisted.
Frustrated with his complaining, I snapped,”It’s not for you, Austin. Do you have any idea how many band concerts I’ve sat through? How many baseball games I’ve frozen my butt off watching? How many times I’ve helped you with homework? How many school projects and papers of yours I’ve saved? How many parent/teacher conferences I’ve attended? How many holiday parties I planned as a room mom? Do you think I did those things for me?”
I have no problem resorting to The Guilt Trip. It can be an effective parenting tool. Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well with Austin.
“Then why on earth would you want to sit around for 6 hours just to see me walk across a stage?” he asked, using my little guilt trip against me, suggesting that I’d put in my time and should just sit this one out.
Believe me, after enduring his surly attitude for a couple hours, I was ready to shout, “Fine! Stay home! What do I care?! Forget the stupid graduation!” But there was no way on earth I was giving in because A. I’m stubborn, B. I wasn’t going to give Austin his way just because he was being a crabbutt, and C. it’s his GRAD-U-A-TION! And up until a couple days ago, I didn’t even know if he would be graduating this spring!
As he was practicing sitting down in a chair, I was sitting there in the audience with a stomachache. Oh wait, that’s not a stomachache, I thought. Oh no. No, no, no. That’s not a stomachache. That’s cramps! Oh great. I rummaged in my purse for um, supplies, but then remembered that I’d conveniently removed all ‘unnecessary’ items from my purse to make it lighter. Wasn’t that smart thinking on my part?
I slinked off to the bathroom and found a vending machine. I dug in my wallet for a quarter before remembering that I had also conveniently taken the change out of my wallet and put it in my desk drawer at school in case I needed something really important like a Diet Dr. Pepper or a Rice Krispies Treat. Yep, I am just full of smart plans. Okay, what are my options? It’s too far to drive home. By the time I walk to my car and head to a store, Austin will be done with practice. I could go on stage, borrow the microphone and make an announcement, asking any senior girls if they could help me out. That could be a little embarrassing though. I ransacked my purse once more and found one lone quarter stuck somewhere in the ripped lining. Yes! I held the quarter aloft, my face filled with awe and wonder as if I’d unearthed a rare gold coin from ancient Rome.
I inserted the coin and tried to turn the handle. It was stuck. I tried the other side. Coin in, turn handle, stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck! Neither handle would budge. I braced myself with my foot on the machine and yanked with all my strength. Nothing.
“Oh you have got to be kidding me!” I yelled to the empty bathroom, my voice reverberating off the walls.
I tried to retrieve my quarter so I could search out another bathroom, but it was stuck. I was desperate and when people are desperate, they tend to do crazy things. I suppose that would explain why I came up with this plan. I shoved a piece of gum in my mouth, chewed until it was soft, took it out, and smashed it onto the quarter. I guess I really should’ve thought the plan through because I had no idea how I was supposed to retrieve the quarter with a piece of chewed gum. I bet MacGyver could get a tampon with a piece of chewed gum.
Thankfully, the practice ended before I could come up with yet another brilliant plan. (And believe me, it’s a good thing because I’d started concocting a way to get a covert picture of one of the guidance counselors who looks just like Mark Twain!)
So, here’s a recap. Austin’s still pouty about going to graduation. (Ha, he thinks sitting in the arena for 2 hours is bad? Wait until he sees how many pictures I make him take.) There may or may not still be a gum-covered quarter stuck in a UCF bathroom. Lexi still doesn’t feel too well. And my vacuum cleaner died tonight. At least I have a legitimate excuse for having filthy floors. And finally, if Austin continues to complain about attending the graduation ceremony, I will have no problem pulling out the big guns and layering on a few more guilt-laden stories of all the sacrifices I’ve made through the years to ensure he actually got to the point of graduation. I may even throw in the story of today’s debacle for good measure. It’s what I do. All in a day’s work for a mom.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When you Step out of Your Comfort Zone

On Friday, I chaperoned a bunch of 8th graders on a field trip. Middle schools from all over Florida participate in an event called Gradventure, where the 8th graders get to go to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure here in Orlando and stay until midnight. The parks are closed to outside guests for the duration so the kids pretty much have the place to themselves. It’s a really fun night!

Being a chaperone rocks! Many schools (mine included) turn the kids loose at 7:00 and give them the privilege and responsibility of walking around by themselves, then meeting in the designated area on time. So basically, unless there’s a problem or emergency, we’re on our own for the evening. There are lovely, air-conditioned chaperone lounges with free beverages and snacks, set up in both parks. Many chaperones plant their butts there and don’t move until it’s time to leave. But chaperones also get wristbands that act as fast passes! How could one sit all evening in the lounge when they have a fast pass for all the rides in the park, right?

So, I walked around with my friend Cheri who is a roller coaster fanatic. I like roller coasters, but I’m very selective. I love fast ones, ones that twist and turn, ones that go upside down, ones that are in the dark, ones that have loud music, and ones that have scary themes. But I do NOT like roller coasters with steep drops. At Islands of Adventure, there’s a roller coaster called The Hulk. I’ve never gone on this one because I usually stay with my little kids in Thneedville while the older ones ride it have this fear I’ll die, or throw up, or die, or pass out, or DIE on it.

Cheri forced me at gunpoint to ride this beast. Okay, so maybe there were no guns involved. I willingly chose to go on this roller coaster so I wouldn’t feel like a big sissy. But in my defense, I can go on the Harry Potter ride (or any other simulator/virtual reality type ride) with no problem and Cheri can’t. Still, the sissy factor won out and I decided to suck it up and ride The Hulk. I mean, heck, I had a fast pass! I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, right?

I may or may not have scream-laughed (that’s where you try to scream, but hysterics take over and you end up laughing like a maniacal serial killer) throughout the ride. But I did it! I stepped out of my comfort zone and I did it! And you know what? It was FUN! It got me thinking of how often we sidestep those things that seem scary; things that we might end up enjoying if we could only muster the courage to give them a try. Or how we sometimes think that something will be a total disaster and it ends up pleasantly surprising us. What would happen if we threw caution to the wind more often and took a chance on something that scares the snot out of us? What might we accomplish if we refuse to let fear rule our decisions?

I was so caught up in this thought that I just knew I’d have to go home and write a blog post about it the next day. However, when ‘the next day’ came, I could barely roll out of bed. My feet hurt. My knees hurt. I was dizzy. My head was pounding and my ears were ringing. My mouth was dry. I was tired! I felt like I had a hangover which is really unfair since I wasn’t even drinking! I think this was the point I decided that taking chances, throwing caution to the wind, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone is for the birds. There’s a reason they have air-conditioned resting places for the chaperones. Because we’re OLD and staying out half the night, riding coaster after coaster will bring us to our knees. I’m pretty sure there’s a booth and a Diet Coke with my name on in waiting for me in the lounge for next year!

Monday, May 13, 2013

You Won't Believe my Excuse for Avoiding Exercise This Time!

At this time last year, I was all about working out. I started out walking a few blocks while feeling certain I was going into cardiac arrest. After a couple months, I was half-walking/half-running about 5K every day. Fast forward through a year of blood clots, a pulmonary embolism, plantar faciitis, and extreme laziness and here I am. I climb a flight of stairs, then gulp down oxygen while trying to hide the fact that I’m winded from walking up a dozen steps. And all the while, I’m vowing to start working out again. 

 Determined to get back into the groove of exercising regularly, I went for a walk yesterday. Instead of taking into account the fact that I can hardly make it up the stairs, I took off walking on my old 5K route. A smart person would have known that this little endeavor would not end well. Heck, even a stupid person would have probably known that. Clearly, I’m a level below stupid because I couldn’t see anything wrong with my plan.

It didn’t help that I’d spent the morning at the pool with my kids and was already tired from playing with the kids in the water. It also didn’t help that I was wearing jeans for this walk because “I didn’t want anyone to see my fat legs.” It also didn’t help that it was 92 degrees outside. Yeah, yeah, I know. But you’ve gotta give me points for blind determination, right?

So I started walking, moving along at a decent rate. I even made it to the halfway point without dropping dead so I figured I was doing pretty well. I reached the lake and made the turn to follow the shore around and start heading back. And then it happened. It’s not what you think. I didn’t pass out or throw up. I didn’t stop and sit down to rest. I didn’t lose my mind and jump into the foul-smelling, alligator-infested water to cool off. Nope. I was hit. By a fish. Falling from the sky. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

There I was just walking along, minding my own business, listening to my tunes when a fish-bomb pegged me on the shoulder. I kind of freaked out. What am I saying? Of course, I freaked out! Fish rarely come flying out of the sky and land on people. In fact, I can safely say that this has never happened to me before. So I freaked out and jumped and tried to figure out what had hit me and who had thrown it. It took me what seemed like 5 minutes before I realized that a bird flying overhead had targeted me with his catch of the day.

I fumbled with my phone, trying to unlock it and go from Pandora to my camera so I could get visual proof of the fish lying lifeless on the sidewalk, but before I could untangle myself from my ear buds and get my act together, the kamikaze bird dove for my head. I assumed the duck and cover position while screaming like an idiot and dancing around, not because I was scared, mind you, but because I was pretty sure that would be an effective bird-deterrent move. Oh, who am I kidding? I jumped around like an idiot because it’s human nature to jump around like an idiot when a bird dive bombs you. And I’m a big baby. And birds freak me out in a Hitchcock sort of way.

As the bird came closer, he veered toward the sidewalk and swooped in, grabbing the fish. He spared me a glance and I’m pretty sure he laughed at me before flying off. Shaken from my run-in with the psycho bird, I hightailed it out of there. I got about a block away when I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. I’m blaming it on the waning surge of bird-induced adrenaline.

I texted Savannah, Help! I’m dying!

She wrote back, Uhm

I continued, What a stupid idea!

She asked, Want me to get you?

Yes! And bring my purse!

A moment later, she pulled up in my van and like a big loser, I climbed in and plastered my face against the vents blasting cold air.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “I thought you got stung by a bee and asked for your purse so you could get your epi-pen!”

“No, no bees. I was attacked by a bird and a fish. And I’m out of shape. The purse is so you can drive me to Walgreens for chocolate.”

I’m pretty sure Savannah will never answer my texts again. I’m also fairly certain that I’ll be finding some nice safe indoor exercise from now on.

My Diva Demands on my Tour Rider

I saw an article on HuffPo about Beyonce's tour rider. Allegedly, she has demanded such oddities as alkaline water that must be chilled to 21 degrees and served with $900 titanium straws, and bathrooms which have new toilet seats and red toilet paper at every venue. I, for one, completely understand this. I mean, if I was going on a world tour, there are certain necessities I'd require as well. Living in luxury hotel rooms night after night can be tough. One can't be on the road for extended periods of time without those little touches that bring a sense of comfort and hominess. If it was me, I'd require the following on my tour rider.

*  Strawberry margaritas made with $1030.00 DeLeon Leona Tequila Reserva. They must be slightly slushy, but not frozen, with pink sugar only on half the circumference of the rim, and one mint sprig dropped in, but not crushed at all.

*  A king-sized bed covered in light pink sheets with a thread count of 1200. An independent lab must verify the thread count. It must also have pillows stuffed with the humanely-gathered fur shed from free-range chinchillas, and a white blanket woven by the Zulu people of South Africa with imported silk fibers. The blanket must smell like my grandparents' old cottage in Indiana.

*  100-gallon aquariums filled with pink gravel and jellyfish placed around the room exactly 8 1/2 feet apart.

But before I could continue down this path, I changed my mind. If I was going on a world tour, my kids would have to come with me because I’d miss them too much to leave them behind. So THIS is what I would really require on my rider . . .

1.  Someone to stand outside my bathroom and guard the door to be sure no one knocks on it while I pee.

2.  Meals that consists of anything at all besides chicken nuggets and macaroni-and-cheese.

3.  A box of Nutrisse hair color (color #56 Sangria) every 5 weeks.

4.  An assistant who does nothing, but sign homework planners for me.

5.  Ear plugs to block out the sound when my kids argue about what they want to watch on T.V.

6.  Someone to monitor all dinnertime conversations and the minute “poop” (or any other bodily function) is mentioned, the culprit will receive a little electric shock through their chair until they’ve been trained to avoid all disgusting talk at the table.

7.  Someone to turn all my kids wadded-up, inside-out socks around before I wash them. Or better yet, someone to do all laundry while on tour.

8.  Calypso Crunch cookies from Publix, assorted chocolate, coconut coffee, bottles of Roditis, an obscene amount of Little Debbies, and Coke Zero to wash it all down.

9.  Someone to enter the room before me and kick all the shoes, books, toys, and miscellaneous crap out of the way.

10.  A nap. That’s all. I just want a nap.

So what would you put on your tour rider? Sky’s the limit! I’m dying to hear what you would require!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Through Little Eyes

The best thing about Mother’s Day is that it isn’t just one day. I get to be a mother 365 days a year. Yeah, some days motherhood is hard. With 6 kids, I’ve had more than my fair share of broken bones, stitches, and surgeries. I’ve had way more than enough broken glasses, lost mittens, foot prints on the floor, foot prints on the walls, marker on the table, yogurt on the TV, Legos on the floor, and messes of every variety imaginable (and many you wouldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams.)

I’ve changed a zillion dirty diapers and spent more sleepless nights than there are stars in the sky. I’ve waited up for a child to get home before curfew, I’ve driven children and their friends all over the earth, and I’ve dished out money for the movies/bowling/skating more times than I can count. I’ve read a thousand books and listened patiently while a thousand more were read to me.  I’ve had my kids bring me wild squirrels (held by the tail), dead rabbits (held on a shovel) and a few dozen frogs, lizards, and turtles. I’ve had my kids pour soap all over the kitchen floor so they could “skate through it”, and I’ve had them pour water on the floor and leave the freezer door open to make an indoor ice rink. I’ve had them carve their names into the paint on the side of my van and I’ve had them draw in permanent marker on the TV. I’ve had them use my toothbrush to stir a potion of water, toothpaste, lotion, and worms in the bathroom sink. Yeah, some days are hard.

But I have also given and received more hugs and kisses than there are grains of sand. I’ve been told, “I love you” daily. I’ve had the absolute blessing of seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Nothing can change your perspective and make you smile quite like seeing things through a child’s eyes. When you stop and take a minute to look at things from a different viewpoint, it can turn your whole day around. The kids didn’t just fill my bathtub with frogs. No, they rounded up as many frogs as they could to save them from the wild (nevermind that they live in the wild). The kids didn’t just draw all over the wall with black Sharpie. No, they were leaving me their artwork; artwork that will bring fond smiles and laughs a few years from now when I recall it.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself. Then see what your kids see.


Fun at the Pool!

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app - and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here.

I was asked to review this new app by Disney called Story. I agreed, thinking that I'd check it out, write up a review, and move on. I imagined it would be a cool app, but didn't think I'd probably use it much after I reviewed it. I was wrong. I think it's my new favorite app! 

I love how Story takes the pictures and videos on your iPhone and organizes them by the date they were taken. All you have to do is choose a template, add captions and text, arrange the pictures in whatever order you'd like, and click to share. It couldn't be simpler! It only took me about 15 minutes to put this together. 

We spent some time at the pool over this weekend. No matter how busy I am, my kids can always talk me into taking them to the beach or the pool. (Between you and me, it doesn't take a lot of convincing.) I captured some of our fun on my iPhone while we were there. I may not always bring my camera to ordinary events like going to the pool, or taking a walk by the lake, or playing in a blanket fort, or riding our bikes down the street. But those are the moments that are so much fun to remember. I mean, sure we all record Christmas and graduations and birthdays, but the cool thing about cell phones today is that you can easily capture all those everyday moments that make you smile. And with the Disney Story app, it's super-easy and fun to tell those stories and share them with your loved ones! Check out my story about our fun at the pool!

(If this doesn't show up well with your browser, you can click the URL here instead: )


Download the Disney Story app from iTunes  – for FREE – right here!

Disney Story Twitter

Disney Story Facebook

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Open Letter to all Male Members of any Online Dating Site

Dear Hopeful Single,

I’m not writing because I’m interested in you. I’m writing because I feel sorry for you. Your online dating profile makes me cringe; it floods me with embarrassment for you. Your emails help me to understand why you’re single. Now, in real life, I don’t go around judging a person based solely (oh, and speaking of sole, it’s soulmate, not solemate, and honestly, you really shouldn’t even be using the word at all) on their ability to write and take a decent photograph, but on an online dating site, that’s all I have to go by. When I receive a couple dozen emails, winks, and likes a day, I have to weed through them and yes, unfair as it may be, I skip over those of you who start emails with “Hey Hotstuff”, have pictures of your dog sitting on your Harley, and have phrases such as “herpes-free” in your profiles.

Although I don’t know you personally, I want to help you. I want to give you some advice so you don’t end up a lonely old, (hmmm, what’s the male version of a crazy cat lady?) well, a lonely old coot.  I’ve devised this form letter that I think will be beneficial in your dating endeavors. Please note the following comments and fix any with a check mark. I (and all the rest of the female dating population) thank you.

  You have pictures of your dog/cat/goat. I’m not looking to date your pets.

  You have pictures of your motorcycle/car/boat. I’m also not looking to date your vehicles.

  You have pictures of the fish you caught. Would you like to see pictures on my profile of shopping bags containing the bargains I just scored at the mall? Enough said.

  You have pictures of sunsets and other assorted scenery. This may come as a shock, but I already know what a tree looks like. I want to see what you look like!

  You have pictures of yourself from 1992. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing it comes as a shock when someone meets you for a drink and there you are, the spitting image of your photos , only with 40 extra pounds and no hair. 

 Your photos all contain a bunch of people. I have no idea which one is you.

 Your photos are all taken from about 100 yards away. You look like a speck of dust.

  Your photo looks like a mugshot. Try smiling.

  You look like a serial killer. Try a little less psycho-looking expression.

  Your pictures were all taken in the bathroom mirror and to top it off, there’s a layer of film on the mirror, hemorrhoid cream on the counter, and you used a flash so in place of your head, there’s a big, white light.

  You have a picture with your shirt off and you either

A.      don’t look good with it off, or

B.      look like the guy from Right Said Fred.

  You only have pictures of yourself wearing sunglasses. Do you even have eyes?

  Your entire, 200 word profile doesn’t contain a single punctuation mark. It would take me half an hour to decipher it!

  Your entire, 200 word profile only contains 7 words that are spelled correctly. Use spell check and/or hire someone to proofread!

  You incorrectly used the word(s) your, you’re, there, their, they’re, here, and/or hear. My FIRST grader knows what a homophone is!

  Your profile is so poorly written, I can’t even tell what language it is.

  You, like 95% of the guys here, wrote that you like long walks on the beach. By my calculations, if every one of you likes walking on the beach so much, on any given day the beach should be as crowded as Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

  You, like 95% of the guys here, wrote that you like snuggling on the couch on a rainy day. What, is there some profile template that every guy uses? Why do you all say the same lame things?

  You don’t know that “a lot” is NOT one word!

  You started off an email to me with “Hey babe/gorgeous/beautiful. Who taught you to address correspondence with someone you don’t know like that?

  You sent me an email saying, “Hi I want to chat with you.” If you want to talk to me, then talk! Don’t send one stupid line.

  You sent me an email that reads, “Hey ur rily cute. Your pics are gr8. Lol. Write back,” which leads me to believe you are a 14 year old.

  You sent me an email asking me to meet you for coffee and you live in another state. Thanks, but I’m not keen on driving to New Jersey for coffee (or anything else for that matter.)

  You emailed me your undying love even though you’re 76 years old and my profile clearly states that I’m looking for someone between the ages of 38 and 48.

  You emailed me and asked me something stupid like, “Do you like kids?” even though it clearly states in my profile that I have six kids. Perhaps before emailing a potential date, you should, oh, I don’t know, read her profile!

I’m sure you’re a great guy. I’m positive women would like to get to know you. I’m pretty sure at least one person would like to meet you. Remember, God loves you. And if you make a few of these simple changes, perhaps someone else will take the time to get to know you as well. Good luck and best wishes on your search!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Celebrating Greek Easter

My dad is Greek. My mom is, well, a little bit of everything. That makes me half Greek and half mutt. (And that's the extent of the math I'm willing to do.) As a kid, my family would celebrate Easter, and many years we'd also celebrate Greek Easter which, going by the Greek Orthodox calendar, usually falls on a different day. Sometimes we went to my aunt Vasiliki's home to celebrate, sometimes we went to a restaurant, and oftentimes we celebrated at home. My favorite Greek Easter tradition is tsougrisma, cracking red eggs.

The eggs symbolize new life and the color red symbolizes Christ’s blood shed for us. Each person chooses an egg (hard boiled and dyed red). They hold their egg upright while another person lightly taps their egg against it. The person whose egg cracks then turns it around and uses the other end. When both ends are cracked, that player is out. We take turns going around the table cracking the eggs. The person with at least one end intact at the end wins and will have good luck throughout the year.

One year, when we were little kids, my sister won this game. I swear I remember her keeping the winning egg and saving it in her closet at home until her room began to stink and my mom found it there. She insists that never happened, but will admit to saving some chicken bones wrapped in paper towels for her stuffed dog, Blooper. I guess we’ll never know for sure (I’m right), but the point is that I have some fond memories from celebrating Greek Easter with my family. And I hope my own kids will look back one day and recall some fun memories from celebrating this little part of our heritage as well.

Having no relatives around didn’t stop us from celebrating this year. Traditionally, a soup made from icky lamb parts is made. Since my kids and I aren’t into lamb livers, hears, and intestines, we decided to cook some of our favorite Greek foods(spanakopita, pistichio, tsoureki, kourabiethes, and melamakarona). Well, we cooked the few things we could get ingredients for, that is. Central Florida isn’t exactly like Chicago in that you can’t always find what you’re looking for in terms of international foods. I’ll share my recipe for spanakopita here. I make spanakopita as a snack or appetizer, folding spinach and feta cheese into small triangles of phyllo like this -

Celebrating Greek Easter


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