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.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shower Rules

It’s football season which means crazy dinner times. Either we eat super-early before practice, or we eat super-late after practice. Yesterday, the kids scarfed down some snacks after school so we opted to eat dinner after practice. When we walk in the door from football/cheer, the girls are usually hungry, Clay has generally lost his appetite, and Jackson tends to be famished. Then again, Jackson’s pretty much always hungry. Of course, when we walk in the door after football/cheer, the boys are drenched in sweat as well. Yesterday, Jackson found a solution to his daily predicament: shower or eat first? 

He stripped out of his sweat-covered practice gear, carefully placed it in his designated area (in a heap on his floor), wrapped a towel around his waist and headed to the refrigerator. He opened the door and peered inside for a moment, then turned to me and asked, “What’s the rule about eating apples in the shower?” 

I wasn’t aware we actually had such an oddly specific rule. I know we have rules about taking showers that last half an hour. We have rules about mopping up the floor after forgetting to close the curtain all the way and flooding the bathroom. We need rules about leaving half a dozen empty shampoo bottles in the shower and leaving wet towels on the floor, but I’m pretty sure there are no apple-eating rules. 

I gave Jackson a blank stare. 

“I’m really hungry,” he explained. 

“How are you going to wash yourself with an apple in your hand?” I asked. 

He gave me a look reserved for talking to the simple-minded, explaining to young children why they shouldn’t run out in the street, or answering a clueless parent, and said, “I have two hands.” Duh 

I gave Jackson another blank stare. 

Savannah, who was sitting next to me at the table, gave Jackson a blank stare. 

Savannah and I turned to look at each other, expressionless. 

Jackson, taking my dumbstruck silence as acquiescence, grabbed an apple and headed off to the shower. 

A little while later he reappeared in the kitchen and proclaimed, “BEST. SHOWER. EVER!” 

Savannah and I shook our heads. 

“My friend Johnny says that he eats cereal in the shower!” Jackson exclaimed excitedly. “I’m totally gonna try that! Think of all the time I’ll save!” 

“Think of all the plumbing bills,” I muttered under my breath. I guess I need to come up with some shower rules now. Maybe a laminated list. Where to put it though? On the bathroom door or the pantry?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

15 Things Your Child's Teacher Wants you to Know

The pencils are sharpened, the notebook paper bought, the folders labeled. It’s that time of year again. As a parent and an educator, I’ve experienced both the ‘Woo Hoo, it’s the most wonderful time of the year’side and the ‘Sigh, it’s time to go back to work’ side. I’m fortunate in that I have a glimpse into both worlds. At this time, as we head back to school, I’m going to tell you what your kids’ teachers would like you to know.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Keep Your Kids Positive About School (aka: Embarrassing my Children, Just one More Service I Offer)

I remember trying to get to all 3 of my kids' schools on the same night, two years ago, when my kids and I first moved to Florida. It was awful. I was at such a loss. I didn't know anyone here, wasn't familiar with the schools, didn't know the teachers, wasn't used to the stifling heat, and I felt like a total failure, certain that moving here had ruined my kids' lives. The night ended with me having a breakdown and crying like a baby.  I'm not proud of that. I wish someone had been around to slap me and tell me to get a grip, or to make me laugh about the situation.

I’m very happy to declare that I’ve since become more familiar with things here in Florida and, more importantly, I’ve regained my sense of humor. Tonight I took Jackson to the high school to pick up his schedule, get his ID, and walk the campus, searching for his classes. Jackson is a freshman this year. He’s not happy about it. He walked around, sulking all evening. Granted, there were a zillion people there, it was raining, and it was slightly hotter than the surface of the sun, but still…his attitude was less than delightful.

“Freshman year is gonna suck,” Jackson pouted. “The first week of school is gonna suck. Getting to all my classes is gonna suck. Being a freshman sucks. This whole year is gonna suck.” The litany continued throughout our evening.

At first, I offered cheery rebuttals. “It isn’t going to suck. It’s going to be awesome! I loved high school! No way will it suck — you’re outgoing! You’ll make tons of friends and have so much fun! Jackson, I’m not worried about you at all. You’ll adapt and fit in right away, you’ll see.”

However, the negativism kept seeping from him, making the humid air grow even more oppressive with his dark thoughts.

We were standing in line in the media center, waiting so Jackson could have his picture taken for his student ID, when he said once more, “This is going to suck.”

I looked at him and said, “School isn’t going to suck. You know what’s going to suck? It’s going to suck when I get fed up with your complaining and I start doing this…”

Then I raised my voice a bit and said, “This is my son, Jackson. He’s new here. Will you be his friend? He’s a nice guy.” I turned and approached someone else. “Hi, I’m Dawn and this is my son, Jackson. He’s scared about high school. Would you like to be his friend?” I greeted another person. “This is my son, Jackson. Isn’t he cute? He doesn’t have many friends. Would you like to be his friend? He’s a nice boy.”

I’m not sure, but I think Jackson was debating between laughing, running away, and having me locked up. At any rate, he cut the negativity and smiled for his ID picture.

As we walked back to the car, I told him, “Listen, it’s going to be fine. Yeah, it’s scary, but you’re a great guy. You’re outgoing and make friends easily. You’ll find your way around just like everyone else here. You’ll have a good year, I know it. And if you don’t, I can always drop you off on the first day and get out of the car in my pajamas and introduce you around some more.”

Jackson gave me his ‘I am not amused’ look and stated, “I would rather walk to school on my butt cheeks, but thanks anyway.”

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a good year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Have Wheels, Will Travel

I remember when my first-born son got his first set of wheels. It was a black truck that he got for a Christmas present. It took him to far away, exotic places like the End of our Driveway and the Next Door Neighbor's House. I could handle him taking off in that truck because I never left his side, as this truck was mom-powered. I spent many hours pushing him around town and had the aching back to prove it.

As he got a little older, he explored a little further - going down the street, sometimes around the corner. Now and then, he'd carry cargo like action figures, Matchbox cars, a jelly sandwich, or a sibling. The truck was converted from mom power to toddler power. I can still see him driving that truck down the sidewalk, his little toddler legs powering the vehicle at breathtaking speeds of .5 mph.

He went off on his own and met neighbors. He stopped along the way and explored, picking dandelions and collecting rocks and sticks. He sometimes stopped at a friend's house and let her have a turn with the truck. Always, he came back home after his little adventure, happy to share his stories of what he'd done and seen along the way. And I'd listen to his tales and admire the treasures (spiders, wood chips, cigarette butts, and handfuls of grass) he'd found along the route, smiling at my little child who was starting to pull away from me and figure out who he was on his own. I knew it was a normal milestone. He was investigating his environment, learning from all he saw and experienced. It was a good thing for a toddler/preschooler to do.

That same child just bought his first set of wheels that actually has an engine. And it will take him much farther than our driveway or the neighbor's front yard. It will take him wherever he wants to go. It will open new worlds to him. It will present him with choices and opportunities. And I won't be there behind him, pushing him on. He'll be on his own.

Now that he has a car, he has a new level of freedom and I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, he's 18 years old, it's time that he break away and have freedom. If he was away at college, I wouldn't be there to monitor his every move. He'd essentially be on his own. He wouldn't have to ask permission to go to the mall or the movies or to hang out with friends. He'd have to make those decisions on his own. Since he's living at home while going to school, however, it's a little different. I sometimes forget he's 18. I sometimes look at him like he's that same little kid in the plastic, foot-powered truck, toddling down the driveway. I maybe, sort of, want to hang onto him and not let him go anywhere because he's my baby and I can't protect him if he's not by my side.

So we're finding a balance of freedom and consideration. Although I have no problem with him taking off to go to the store when he feels like it, and I don't feel like he needs my explicit permission to do every little thing, he is still living in this house and common courtesy dictates that he check in with me and confirm plans before leaving. I want to let him go, yet being a single mom to 6 kids, I sometimes still need him to help out. It's a balancing act and we're figuring it out as we go.

Much like his first Little Tikes truck, this car will take him new places. It will take him to college and a job. It will take him to the store and on dates with his girlfriend. One day, it  might even take him to his own wedding. It's conceivable that it could take him to the hospital where he'll bring home his own newborn baby who will grow up and drive a toddler-powered truck down his driveway one day. He'll explore and discover new things along the way. He'll collect items (probably not sticks, rocks, and worms anymore) and memories. And it's all good. That's the way it should be. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

What She Left Us Winner!

Here is the random winner of Stephanie Elliot's newest book, WHAT SHE LEFT US!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2013-08-01 00:27:34 UTC

 Bailey's Leaf said...
My Kindle would love a new book! :)
July 25, 2013 at 9:31 AM


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