Saturday, June 28, 2014

The "My Air Conditioning is Broken and it's 90 Degrees" Sale

The AC went out in my house. It's Florida in summer which means every day is 90-some degrees. It's pretty miserable. Fixing it is probably out of the question, but I'm trying to raise a little money to buy some box fans.

Email me your choice(s), shipping info, and to whom you want it signed. mom2my6pack at aol dot com. You can pay via Paypal. Thank you!



Yes, there are times when it’s appropriate to reason with your child, to patiently and eloquently explain why he or she needs to do as you ask. you might present convincing arguments like “Because it makes you strong”; “Because it will keep you safe”; “Because it’s good for you”; “Because it’s bad for you.” But there are times when the only thing that really makes sense is … “Because I said so!!”
This book is a hilarious, honest romp through motherhood–the joys, the sleeplessness, the frazzled days, the unending carpooling, the in-house refereeing, the dieting (yeah right), the worrying–and did we say, the joy?

Here’s what some of that joy looks like — with excerpts straight from the book:
  • I tried to do the Buns of Steel video, but quickly realized that it wasn’t intended for people who have buns of pudding.
  • I felt like my head might explode. I kind of hoped it would so I could take a nice, peaceful ambulance ride out of there.
  • I was a little at a loss. I mean, those parenting books don’t tell you how to break up a fight over an imaginary friend.
  • Moms aren’t allowed to get sick more than one day a year. Single moms aren’t allowed to get sick ever.
  • Before you have children you can’t imagine yourself saying things like “Don’t put chocolate milk in your pants,” “Take the hot dog out of your nose,” or “Because I said so!”
If you’re a mom-to-be or a mom in the trenches, you’ll love knowing that you’re not the only one out there who sometimes just figures it out as you go along–and sometimes can’t figure it out at all. But in the end, Dawn has these words of encouragement just for you: “Enjoy this time. Even when they make you crazy, these are the best days of your life.” And they really are, aren’t they?


You’ll Lose the Baby Weight is a humorous look at pregnancy and childbirth.  Meant to entertain and amuse, Dawn’s true-to-life accounts of pregnancy will ring true with anyone who hears the word, “Mom,” over a 100 times a day.
As a mother of six children, Dawn shares her hard-earned wisdom with readers.  Such as…
*  Varicose veins runs in families, which means you should get on the phone and start yelling at your mom and grandmother for passing on lousy genes to you.
*  Although there’s no evidence cleaning your house is bad for you during pregnancy, go ahead and pretend it is.
*  A well-rounded pregnancy diet should include:
  1. Dairy – a chocolate shake and half a pound of cheese should do the trick.
  2. Vegetables – a sixteen-ounce container of spinach dip will do nicely.
  3. Fruit – a quarter of a cheesecake topped with raspberry sauce fulfills your fruit requirement
  4. Bread – a  loaf of King’s Hawaiian bread (you need something with which to eat the spinach dip) and a pound of butter cookies takes care of your bread requirement.
  5. Protein – sausage pizza, a big, fat hamburger, and twenty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (What? Peanut butter has protein!) fills the need for protein.
*  If you plan to give up caffeine altogether, just wear a sign around your neck to give others fair warning:  “I’m pregnant and I haven’t had any coffee.” People will see you coming and make a hasty retreat, which should help you avoid any unnecessary violence.
*  Your baby can be kicking for twenty minutes straight, but the minute you try to get your husband or mom or friend to put their hand on your belly so they can feel her move, she’ll stop. Without fail. Every time.
*  In order to prepare for Baby, go out to your car and spill juice on the seats.  Scatter French fries, crayons, and toys on the floor, and put a Veggie Tales CD in the player.
*  Before weighing in at every appointment, take off your shoes, empty your pockets, and tweeze your eyebrows.
With such chapters as “I’m Not a Doctor; I Just Play One on TV” and “Morning Sickness: It Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore,”this hilarious book takes readers through nine months of pregnancy and all the accompanying symptoms to labor and delivery and the weeks postpartum. It will have readers doubled over in laughter, trying not to wet their pants because, let’s face it, pregnant women have weak bladder control.


After experiencing the death of both parents, Margaret McSweeney recognized the importance of community like never before. Through these difficult times in life, she learned how God uses gritty circumstances to conform us to the stunning image of Christ.
McSweeney also realized that she was not at all alone. It is for this reason that she decided to compile essays into an inspiring book: Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace.Through this collection, readers will be encouraged by the heartfelt writings that deal with loss and hardship in a real and honest way. Respected authors such as Shaunti Feldhahn, Melody Carson, Debbie Macomber, Robin Jones Gunn and others help remind every woman that they are not alone and that no circumstance is beyond the grace of God.

Like oysters, women often encounter unexpected grit during their everyday lives. In response, God’s love and grace covers this grit and transforms the pain into a precious pearl that leaves a layered, luminous lining within a shell: Mother of Pearl. This brilliant luster is strong, lasting, and purposeful—just like the love, lessons, and legacies left by the special women in our lives. Mother of Pearl celebrates the collective iridescence of motherhood. 

Margaret McSweeney presents a collection of heartfelt vignettes from authors who communicate the importance of the unique relationships between mothers and their children, between granddaughters and grandmothers and between children and the mother-figures in their lives. These stories tell of the power of faith, prayer, and values, exploring coming of age, the joy of becoming a mother, the importance of motherhood, the ways to heal from a bad relationship with a mother and weathering the death of a special loved one. Poignant and thought-provoking, the stories serve to inspire, encourage, instill hope, and strengthen faith.

Friday, June 27, 2014

10 Super-Cute Hairstyles Anyone Can Create!

I love playing with my girls’ hair! I always have. In fact, when I was a kid I was forever stealing my sister’s Barbie Styling Head so I could play with its hair. (Sorry about that, Deb!) But now, with my girls, it’s like having my own life-size dolls to play with!

Recently, I’ve been searching for some cute, fun braids and other hairstyles I could try out on my girls. (Summer vacation is the perfect time to try out new hairstyles. It’s much easier to play and practice different styles when you’re not rushing around, trying to get everyone ready and off to school on time!) I chose seven styles that I thought looked complicated and intricate, yet promised to be easy to duplicate. 
Admittedly, I have basic braiding knowledge, but I’m no professional hair stylist! I wanted to see how easy, for an average mom, it would be to recreate these styles. With these easy-to-follow tutorials, you don’t have to be a professional hairstylist to create these amazing looks. After each design, I’ve included a photo of how the style turned out for me, along with how long it took me to complete it so you can see how easy they are for an average mom without tons of hairstyling experience.

(If you don’t know how to braid at all, you’ll need to watch a tutorial on braiding, French braiding, and/or fish tail braiding first. Then just practice, practice, practice.)

Let's put these to the test!

I thought this 3 dimensional twist on the classic braid was really cool. I just had to try it myself!

Here's Brooklyn with the 3D braid. I think it turned out really well!

This braid only took 2 minutes to do. I can even manage this on school days!

This was super-easy to do! If you can do a regular braid, you'll be able to do this with no problems.



Waterfall braids are so popular, but I've never tried to do one myself. Now is the time!

You can watch the tutorial at Cute Girls Hairstyles here.

Here's Lexi wearing my attempt at the waterfall braid. Considering it was my first try, I think it turned out okay.

This took me 9 minutes to complete because I goofed up and had to start again a couple times.

I think this is probably a pretty easy braid to do once you get the hang of it. You can see where I goofed up a little. I need more practice.


I found this style featured on Princess Hairstyles. It's Kori's take on Astrid's hairstyle from the movie How to Train Your Dragon 2.


I tried to duplicate this hairstyle on Savannah. I goofed up a little and forgot to put the headband under the section of hair near her face. Oops.

This took me 10 minutes to complete. I think the hardest part was just getting the headband on correctly. I didn't do so well there.

The braid with the knots and the other loose braid were both really easy to do.


This braid looks so pretty and different, I just had to give it a shot.
You can watch the tutorial at Princess Hairstyles here.

Okay, so mine looks nothing like the one on Princess Hairstyles. I don't think it looks bad; it's kind of cool. But it's clearly not quite right.

This took me 8 minutes to finish. Fishtail braids tend to take longer than other types of braids.

Well, the version I managed to do was really easy. Maybe I'll practice a bit more to get it to look like the one on Princess Hairstyles.


Here's a fun style from Cute Girls Hairstyles! This would be perfect for Valentine's Day.
You can watch the tutorial at Cute Girls Hairstyles here.

I love this hairstyle! It's such a cute hairdo for a little girl.

It took me 7 minutes to do this hairstyle. It would've been even quicker had I done a straight part instead of the zig-zag one.

This is a very easy hairstyle to do. In the tutorial, Mindy used a Topsy Tail which is undoubtedly a bit easier than doing the pigtails by hand like I did.


Here's another one from Princess Hairstyles. I love this look with the soft waves and the dainty flowers. I think it would be a terrific look for a flower girl.

I think this turned out beautifully. It looks pretty cool with Savannah's ombre hair.

It took me 13 minutes to complete this style. The longest part was curling her hair. The little twist only took a few seconds.

This is a super-easy hairstyle to copy. I just love the loose-flowing curls and the casual twist with the flowers.


Savannah showed me this style and told me I should try it. She found it on Cute Girls Hairstyles.

Here's Brooklyn with my attempt at the Starbust Crown Braid. I've done a crown braid before, but I like this one with the starburst even better.

It took me 8 minutes to do this hairstyle. It looks like it would take longer, but it actually goes pretty quickly.

This is very easy to do. The hardest part was getting Brooklyn to sit still and quit whining when her hair was in her face as I was braiding.

I found this gorgeous hairstyle on Locks and Locks of Hairstyles and couldn't resist trying it out! It took me 20 minutes to complete.

I've done a similar braid in the past, but I called it a zig-zag braid and I went back and forth a few more times. I like this gentle curving braid. This definitely looks more complicated than it is. It only took me 4 minutes to do.

Keren says this hairstyle was inspired by The Hobbit. I just thought it looked really cool! This took me 10 minutes to do. It would be even quicker without the fishtail part if you want to skip that and just continue the pattern.

Give these a try with your girls and let me know how they turn out in the comments!

Images that aren’t my own are courtesy of Princess Hairstyles and Cute Girl Hairstyles.

One Bad Mother Interview

I did an interview with Biz and Theresa at One Bad Mother this week. I admit I'm a little disturbed that I was featured on a show called, "Let's Get Pregnant Again." I'm pretty sure I sounded like an idiot during the interview, but these girls are hilarious so you should listen to it! Just click the link to go listen to the interview. Here's a description of this week's show -

Biz and Theresa want to know why, after all the misery of pregnancy and all the lack of sleep of life with a newborn, we would even think of having another baby. Where does that urge come from? Let’s kill it when we find out. Plus, Theresa compliments her partner and Biz realizes there are no voices in her head except her own. We are joined by author and blogger Dawn Meehan, who is a single mom with six kids!

ONE BAD MOTHER: Ep. 61: Let's Get Pregnant Again with Guest Dawn Meehan

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Identical,This Fall's Must-See Movie!

This week I attended a screening of the movie, The Identical. Produced by City of Peace Films, a company that boasts a framework where music, films, and video with "redeeming value" can be developed, The Identical will hit theaters September 5th. And you do not want to miss it!

The story is about identical twin brothers (played by Blake Rayne) born into poverty during the Great Depression. Their parents, (Brian Geraghty and Amanda Crew) out of work, cannot afford to feed and care for the infants. Their dad, after hearing a preacher (Ray Liotta) talk about how his wife (Ashley Judd) has suffered another miscarriage, and how it's better to give than to receive, makes the painstaking decision to let the preacher and his wife adopt one of the boys.

One of the twins becomes the famous rock and roll star, Drexel Hemsley. The twin adopted by the preacher, Ryan Wade, shares his brother's passion for music, but spends his time trying to please his father by following in his footsteps on the path to ministry.

Ryan, after several years, finds his path and follows his dreams to find success and happiness doing what he loves, and attains peace with his family at the same time.

The movie has a great story line (my little synopsis doesn't do it justice.) Even if there was nothing else to recommend this film, it's an entertaining movie to be sure. I don't think anyone would walk away disappointed. But there's so much more to it!

Not only is there a great story, but it's told very well. I love how the movie goes from the 1930s to the 1970s. They do a great job of representing the different eras with attention to detail from the way the characters dress, talk, and think, to the cars, and furniture and decorations. I enjoyed seeing how things changed through the years.

The movie is also well-cast. Newcomer, Blake Rayne plays Ryan Wade/Drexel Hemsley. He's got this whole 'Elvis thing' going on. Ryan is a really likeable character. He's just someone you want to be friends with. Ray Liotta does great job as Reece Wade. I can just picture the deadpan look he gives as his young son, trying to recite a Bible verse in church, breaks out into song and sings the verse because that's how he memorized it - as a song. The whole theater laughed aloud at that part (and several others.) Ashley Judd is perfect as Ryan's devoted mother. Seth Green provides comic relief as Ryan's best friend, Dino. Another laugh aloud part is when the cops bust Dino for taking his dad's car and present him with the option of going to jail or going home to his dad. The offier follows it up with, "I've talked to your dad. I recommend jail." Joe Pantoliano and Erin Cottrell round out the cast of relatable, likeable characters.

The soundtrack is awesome! It makes you want to jump up and sing along and dance in the aisle. And I don't dance. Like ever. I look like I'm swatting at invisible bees and having a seizure when I try. But I digress. That Blake Rayne has a voice! You can actually listen to some of the music from The Identical HERE.

What runs throughout the movie is the theme of following your dreams. I want to say it's a Christian movie, but it isn't so much Christ-centered as it is God-centered. There are numerous mentions of the Jews in the movie. The twin boys are half Jewish, Reece Wade lights a menorah for Isreal during the war, Reece preaches to his congregation, "If we love God, then we must love what God loves, and God loves his chosen people," and both twins wear necklaces with the Hebrew symbol chai. But honestly, even if you aren't religious at all, you'll still be able to appreciate the concept of following your dreams, family dynamics, and the struggle to do the right thing, be happy, and make others happy as well. Of course, the deeper meaning is: If He is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! When I left the theater, I stopped to talk to the folks hosting the screening. "I loved the movie, but you really should warn people that it's a crying movie! I didn't bring tissues. My sleeve is covered in snot now." She took a step back and gave me a horrified expression. Maybe I shouldn't tell people that I just wiped about 20 ounces of snot on my clothing, but they should warn people! So, here's my warning to you - it's a crying movie. There are several places where you'll laugh, but you'll cry too. Unless you have a cold, dead heart, you can't help but be touched by the story and the acting. But it's okay because you'll leave the theater smiling (albeit possibly covered in mucus) because it's a heartwarming, feel-good story with a happy ending, and who doesn't love that?

I'll leave you with this trailer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In the Wild

Jackson has been making videos this summer. I love my kids' creativity! They crack me up! Here, for your viewing pleasure, is one of his first videos. (I have no idea what that accent is or where it came from!)

The Pros and Cons

As many of you know, I've worked in a middle school for the past 3 years. It was actually my friend Cheri (the principal of the school) who gave me my job. A few years ago, when the person who was in my position retired, I remember Cheri mentioning to me, "Do you want to move to Florida? I have a job that I think you'd be great at!" At the time I laughed because I had no intentions of moving to Florida. 

Fast forward. Divorce, no job, need medical insurance for my kids . . . "You remember that job you mentioned a while back? It's not still available, is it?"

Which brings us to now. Here in Orange County, they like to arbitrarily move administration around every few years. It's kind of like the Methodist Church. Just when you get used to your pastor, they yank him away and give you someone new. So Cheri has been at the school for 5 years. Every year that she's been there, the school has attained academic gains. It's an "A" school (they give schools grades down here based on how kids do on the almighty FCAT.) She finally has all the programs in place, a staff and faculty that she likes, and everything set so that the school can function at its best and the students can be successful. 

She just received the call that they're transferring her to another school. And not just another school, but a middle school in the "hood." It's an "F" school. Only 35% of its students are reading at grade level. The breakdown of students is about 85% black, 14% Hispanic, and 1% white, and 100% of its students receive free breakfast and lunch. 

When Cheri told me she'd been transferred there, she immediately followed it with a request, "Come with me?" I couldn't give her an answer. The thought of moving, and moving to this school in particular, scared the snot out of me. I'm a list person so I made a list of pros and cons.


I like my classroom. I just painted it, decorated it, and got a comfy chair!
I know what I'm doing finally, after 3 years. I've got it down now.
I know all the teachers and their assignments so it's easy to help the kids.
I don't have to worry about getting caught in gang crossfire on the way to work.
I'd miss everyone from my current school.
If I leave, I'll miss out on the "A" School bonus (over $1000!)
There's no Dunkin Donuts on the way to the new school!


I'd still be with Cheri who is a great principal.
If I ever need to leave early or take a day off for a sick kid, there's never any problem at all.
The new principal could come in and be a real jerk.
The new principal could do away with my position altogether.
I'll never run out of material should I choose to write a book about how we improved this "F" school.
The campus is new and surprisingly beautiful, and definitely more secure than my current school.
It would be a chance to make a big difference.

After I made my list, I still couldn't decide. Days and then weeks went by. Meanwhile, every time I talked to Cheri, she oozed excitement. She has jumped in headfirst and is taking on this challenge with gusto. I know if anyone can turn that school around, she can. Her excitement is contagious. While talking to her, I found myself saying things like, "So where would my classroom be? What exactly would I be doing? Is there a good security officer there? Who else is coming to this school with us?" I was speaking as if I'd made up my mind to go. That's when I realized that I'd made up my mind to go.

I'm scared. And excited. And did I mention scared?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How to Keep Your Young Athletes Hydrated

I'm the most unathletic spaz on the planet (and possibly other planets too.) My kids, however are all athletic. I've spent many a day (and many a dollar) supporting my kids' interests in sports. I really don't think I can even count all the hours I've spent watching baseball, softball, football, cheer, hockey, swim, water polo, and gymnastics. Another unfathomable thing is the number of hours I've spent trying to get stains out of baseball pants and stink out of football and hockey pads, and my car!

When Gatorade invited me to learn more about their brand, I eagerly accepted since Gatorade is a staple in my house during sports seasons. I, along with 9 other bloggers, got to take a tour of IMG Academy here in sunny Sarasota. There's a Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) satellite branch at IMG. This place is an athlete's dream come true! Kids come from all over the world come to attend sports camp or to go to boarding school here. It's an incredible (and immense) facility! There were tents set up with Gatorade all over the campus. Athletes can refuel and hydrate anywhere, anytime. I learned a ton while I was there!

1.  I'm an idiot for not knowing that Gatorade was developed because an assistant coach at the University of Florida asked university physicians why his players were running out of steam on the field in the extreme Florida heat and humidity. The doctors determined the players were losing too much fluid and electrolytes through sweat, and were using up their stores of carbohydrates in the body. They developed the sports drink to replenish fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates. They named it Gatorade. You know, after the University of Florida Gators. Gators - Gatorade. Duh, how did I not know this?

2.  I am out of shape. Like seriously out of shape. After our workout with Vinnie the IMG trainer (half of which was spent lying on the artificial turf while clutching my chest and dramatically claiming, "This is the big one!" I realized I need to work out more regularly. For the following couple days, I literally cried every time I had to use the bathroom because my thigh muscles didn't want to perform the whole "sitting down" thing.

3.  I knew nothing about nutrition in general, and more specifically, the kind of nutrition my kids need before, during, and after games and practices. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here, judging by the halftime, and after-game snacks some parents bring to games. Pop, potato chips, candy, and cupcakes are pretty poor choices for fueling athletes, but I see kids eating them after games all the time.

There's so much information I'd like to share with you, but today I'm just going to focus on hydration. I'll write more about sports nutrition in the coming days. I hope this helps you to plan healthy meals, snacks, and drinks that will optimize your kids' performance and make them feel good instead of making them feel like falling over during a tough workout. I can't wait until football season to utilize my newfound knowledge on my own kids.

I think everyone knows that dehydration is bad. You want your kids to stay well-hydrated. But what should they drink and how much? When your kids are just hanging out at home, at school, playing outside, or having short (less than an hour) practices, they can stay hydrated with good old fashioned water. On a daily basis, water is perfect for keeping hydrated. Kids who are sitting around playing video games, for example, shouldn't be chugging Gatorade. They don't need the carbs or calories at that time.

When your kids are active, on the other hand, Gatorade is a better choice for hydrating. Why?

1.  Gatorade has sodium which your body needs. If you've ever had an IV at the hospital, then you know that they don't hang up a bag of Aquafina; they hang a bag of saline solution. If you have a really salty sweater, then you especially need to replenish the sodium they lose while sweating. I'm sure a few of you probably know what I'm talking about - you go to wash your son's uniform and it's got white stains all over it from the salt residue that's left behind after their sweat dries on it.

2.  Not only do their bodies need the sodium, but it will help drive thirst so your child drinks more.

3.  These are kids we're talking about here. The best form of hydration in the world does no good if they won't drink it. In general, kids prefer the flavors of Gatorade to plain water and will therefore drink more.

4.  Gatorade also contains carbs in the form of sugars that are fast-acting (as opposed to say slow-acting carbs like vegetables and whole grains which should be consumed daily, of course.) As your child's glycogen stores are depleted, the fast-acting carbs in Gatorade will give your child energy while they're performing. Have you ever seen a professional athlete eating a giant plate of pasta with veggies at halftime? (Michael Scott chowing down on fettucine alfredo immediately before his Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure doesn't count.) No, that doesn't happen. They sip on Gatorade or eat the Gatorade chews throughout the game to fuel their activity.

5.  Especially in hot weather, your kids will lose sweat quickly. When it's humid too, their sweat doesn't evaporate very well to cool their bodies so overheating becomes a serious problem. Replacing fluids and electrolytes is imperative.

So, put the Gatorade away when your kiddos are watching TV, playing, going to school, or doing everyday activities. They don't need it. Get the Gatorade out on game day, when they're at practice for an hour or more, if they're very salty sweaters, if their practice/game is taking place in heat/humidity, or if they ate lunch at 10:30, have practice immediately after school at 3:30 and don't have time for a meal before getting to the locker room. That's when they need the specialized hydration of a sports drink. Gatorade should be sipped throughout practices and games, not guzzled down all at once. (A tummy full of sloshing liquid can turn into vomit on the field.

For more information, visit Gatorade Moms HERE.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Nails in the Table

I've lived in my house for three years now. Three years. And guess how many pictures I have on my walls. Go ahead, take a guess. If you guessed zero, you're correct. I have thousands upon thousands of photos, several of them framed and ready to go. I have an entire cedar chest filled with framed pictures that graced the walls of my old house. So why aren't they on the walls of this house, you ask? Good question. I could blame it on the fact that I'm a single mom with 6 kids and I'm just too busy. I could blame it on the fact that I'm just too lazy to get up and put forth the effort. I could blame it on the fact that the only time I think of things like hanging pictures on the walls is when I'm lying in bed, with my mind racing, making mental to-do lists instead of sleeping. (And it's not a great idea to get up at 2:00AM and start pounding nails into the wall. Believe me, I know.) But the plain, simple truth is that I am completely inept at hanging things on walls.

Yesterday Savannah walked downstairs to find me in the kitchen, picture frame on the table, hammer in hand. I was swinging at the frame until Savannah asked, "What are you doing???"

"The frame is a little bit broken. The wood is separating on the corners so I thought I'd hammer this nail into it to hold it together." I grabbed the frame so I could lift it up and show Savannah. But it was stuck. To the table. With the nail I'd just pounded into it.

"What did you do, Mom? You hammered the frame to the kitchen table!" Savannah wasn't sure whether she should laugh or just shake her head. She shook her head.

"Well, I tried to hammer it on an angle."

Savannah gave me another incredulous look. I turned the hammer around and tried to pry the nail out of the table. After a minute of working at it, she grabbed the hammer out of my hand and pulled it out herself.

She grabbed a new nail and hammered it into the corner of the frame like Bob Stinkin' Villa. Pound, pound, pound, and that was it. Voila! Frame was fixed. She flipped the frame over to inspect the backside and saw the colorful, plaid duct tape plastered to it. She held it up and looked to me, eyebrows raised, for explanation.

I shrugged. "I thought I could tape it together." 

At this point, she started laughing. At me.

"What is this?" She ran her finger along the duct tape, feeling sharp little bumps underneath.

"Well, um, before I taped it I thought maybe I could um, staple it."

At this point, she doubled over, laughing at me. "You stapled it with a regular paper stapler? Then you put duct tape on it? Then you hammered it to the kitchen table? Bwaaaa haaaaa haaaaa!"

I joined her laughter because as she said it, I realized it did sound pretty stupid. What can I say? I don't always have the most brilliant ideas. I took the fixed frame and walked to the hallway where I'd put some marks on the wall. Savannah followed me (probably because she was looking for another good laugh.)

"You put marks on the wall with pen? Why didn't you use pencil, Mom? Then you could erase it."

"Pen shows up better."

Savannah did some more head shaking. "Did you measure it?"

"No, but it looks pretty even." I tilted my head to the side and squinted a little, approving my scientific method.

"Ugh Mom." She walked away, collected a ruler, a level, and a pencil, then snatched the frame from me. "I've got this. Just go . . ." she paused, "Just go."

Guess who is going to be put to work hanging the rest of the pictures?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kids These Days! (Maybe They're Not So Bad After All?)

Every day you hear another report of kids gone bad. Kids bullying others, kids stealing, lying, cheating, kids being lazy and unmotivated, kids bringing a weapon to school intent on doing harm. This is not one of those stories. This is a story about kids coming together to do some pretty amazing things.

I work at a middle school in central Florida. It’s a pretty large school with nearly 1,500 students and staff. Sure, I see kids being lazy, cheating, fighting. But I also see kids picking up garbage on the floor as they walk by just because. I see kids opening doors for others. Kids volunteer to help their classmates with math problems they don’t understand. Kids surprise their teachers by decorating their rooms with balloons and signs to let them know they’re appreciated. I see kids going out of their way to be nice to a student with autism who sometimes acts in ways they can’t understand. I see kids volunteering their time. I see kids taking a new student under their wing and introducing her around.

These kind of things go on every day, but tend to be overlooked. This year my school brought in over 3,000 food items to help the needy at Thanksgiving. They donated 1,023 toys for a Christmas toy drive, and they raised $3,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I think that’s cool in and of itself, but the fact that this is coming from a school where 60% of its students are on the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, well that’s pretty darn impressive! No matter how many depressing headlines there are about kids today, remember that kids today also accomplish some really great things!

At the end of the year, we all came together in another way. We joined together as a school to film a lip dub. The entire school was involved! Our GTV teacher, Erin Elliott did an AMAZING job planning this video and putting it together. Really, she did an amazing job all year, putting together our GTV News every morning and filming more fun videos and music parodies than I can count, all while teaching 8th grade language arts as well. In fact, she’s done an incredible job every year she’s been at the school! She’s one of those teachers who honestly, truly cares about her kids and the proof is in how much her students love her.

See for yourself how Gotha Middle School’s very first lip dub turned out below. See how a diverse group of kids can come together in a fun way! What a great way to end the year! Thank you, Ms. Elliott! (Oh and she added a fun Where’s Waldo Ellen? theme too! A couple dozen kids had print-outs of Ellen DeGeneres’ face held in front of their own. See how many you can find. I spotted 8!)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Bet I Can Lose Weight. Really.

I've struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. Actually, "struggle" isn't quite the right word. I'm not sure what words fits this situation - I've thought about my weight EVERY SINGLE DAY for at least 25 years. I weigh myself and get depressed if the number has gone up while telling myself "Who cares? Might as well eat." I weigh myself and feel like "Oh yay, the number went down! I can treat myself with ice cream!" I weigh myself and calculate how much I have to lose. I get depressed because the amount seems impossible so why bother? I try to button snaps on my jeans and cry because they won't fasten. I notice little tears along the back pockets of my capris because the fabric has been stretched a little too much for a little too long. I get winded while walking up the stairs. I workout for a couple days and feel good about myself. Then I stop. And I beat myself up for being a lazy, fat cow. I eat really well for a couple days, then I gorge on pizza and tell myself I'm a loser. I hate trying on clothes and always end the day in a depressed funk when I have to go clothes shopping for some reason. I think about dating, but then conclude that no one would ever want to date a fatty like me. I worry about getting diabetes. I'm concerned that I'll pass poor habits along to my kids. I wake up and think about my weight first thing every morning, and decide that today's the day! Today is the day that I turn it all around. I go to bed, mad at myself, depressed, and vowing that tomorrow's the day. Tomorrow is the day that I will turn it all around. I've tried more diets that I can count, some healthy and sound like Weight Watchers, some idiotic and unhealthy like eating only veggies and one cup of yogurt a day. I've tried more exercise plans than I can count. None of them last. And every time I try, I end up more depressed, more disgusted with myself, and more defeated about the whole thing.

It's exhausting! And it's unproductive. I've wasted most of my life, obsessing over my weight, unhappy with myself, and not doing anything about it. How stupid is that? There are so many things in life that we cannot control. We can't change the weather, we can't change what other people do or how they act. We can, however, change our weight, our eating habits, our exercise routines. We have the power to do that. I have the power to change those things, and in a world where there's so much I can't control, why wouldn't I take the power to change that one thing that makes me feel awful every single day?

Those of you who have read my blog for some time, know I have a little, itty, bitty problem with competition. My kids refuse to play board games with me for this very reason. If it's a contest, I must win. It doesn't matter what the contest is about, I must win. When a website, approached me and gave me information about their site, a little lightbulb went on over my head.

Here's how Healthywage works: You place a bet on how much weight you will lose in a certain number of months. If you meet your goal, you win a hefty payout! If you don't, you're out the money you've wagered. Most of us don't have a bunch of extra cash lying around so if we're going to bet $50 month that we'll lose 50 pounds in 6 months, we will do whatever it takes to not lose that money! And if we reach our goals, we get an awesome cash prize!

For people like me who are competitive and/or could really use the money, this just might be the incentive they need to stick with a diet and exercise plan. It's easy to sign up. You decide how much money you'd like to wager, how much weight you'd like to lose, and the time frame in which you'd like to lose it. Then, you can either make a quick, private, 30-second video showing you weighing in, or you can get your weight verified by one of HealthyWage's partners like Weight Watchers meetings, health care professionals, health clubs, etc. At the end of the challenge, you get your weight verified once more either by a private video, or by a HealthyWage partner. The top pay-out is $10,000 (the amount you win when you hit your goal depends on how much you have to lose, how much money you wager, and the length of time in which you're losing weight. You can get an idea of your pay-out by plugging in your variables HERE.) You can earn even more money by inviting others to join. 

Last week, I signed up. This first week I dropped 8 pounds. The money I stand to win is a HUGE incentive to me! The past few days I spent at IMG Academy talking to the folks at Gatorade, registered dietitians, doctors, and other professionals in the field of sports nutrition have also motivated me to change my eating habits both for me and for my children. I've made a commitment to not only drop 50 pounds, but to change my lifestyle permanently. I will not stop working out when I hit my goal. I will not stop eating well when I lose 50 pounds. This is the way I want to live and the way I want to look, and since this is one thing over which I have control, I will do it. Not to mention the fact that I stand to win $1000 when I hit my goal!

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
Image: courtesy Flickr

Monday, June 2, 2014

Yes, She's on Food Stamps, and no, You Shouldn't Judge Her For It

“Must be nice to have the government pay for your food,” a man muttered under his breath to a woman bagging the eggs, milk, and bread she’d just gotten at Aldi. The woman to whom his comments were directed, walked out to her car, her cheeks flaming, her stomach churning, its meager contents threatening to make a reappearance. The not-so-nice voice that resides in her head sneered at her, saying, “You can’t even buy food for your kids. You’re such a loser.” She wrenched open the broken door of the beat-up, old van and the voice continued, “You can’t even afford a car that isn’t falling apart!”

She set the bag of groceries on the floor, got in, put her head down on the steering wheel and lost it. Hot tears streaked a path down her cheeks like lava steadily flowing from a volcano. That’s the thing about keeping your emotions in check, tamping them down, pretending they don’t exist – at some point, much like that volcano, they burst forth at the slightest provocation.

Fat tears continued to fall, leaving slight black mascara stains on her pants as she did that gasping/hiccuping/snotting thing, her face contorted with every ounce of pain she felt. She swiped at her drippy nose with the back of her hand, pulled it together, put on a happy face, and drove home to her kids.

I remember reading a friend’s Facebook status a while ago wherein he complained that a woman had paid for her groceries with food stamps then proceeded to walk out of Walmart and get into a Cadillac. He had no problem judging this woman to be a scam artist based on his “vast knowledge” of her. Clearly, if she drove away in a Cadillac, the only logical conclusion is that she’s scamming the system. Or maybe, just maybe she –

Was borrowing her sister’s car because she doesn’t actually own a vehicle.
Owns that Cadillac and lives in it too because her house was foreclosed on.
Saved up and bought the Cadillac a couple years ago before her husband died leaving her with no source of income.
Has a child dying of cancer and medical bills most of us can’t even fathom and needs the food stamps to feed her other children right now.
Bought the car long before her husband walked out on her and has since thought about selling her car to pay for food, but then she wouldn’t have transportation to and from her job that barely pays the rent.
Can hardly make ends meet herself yet has taken in her drug-addicted sister’s kids to help raise them in a more stable environment.
Any number of other scenarios that aren’t nefarious.
This isn’t about food stamps specifically. It’s about judging others. Why are people so darn quick to judge? WHY? Why do people think they have enough information that they can determine the whole picture? Who appointed random strangers the judge, jury, and executioner of all mankind?

Maybe the man in Aldi would’ve kept his words to himself if he knew that the woman’s 18-year marriage had ended and she was struggling, working two jobs, to take care of her kids by herself. Maybe if he knew that she received less than an third of the child support she was originally granted. Maybe if he knew she had over $10,000 in medical bills. Maybe if he knew she’d spent the morning at the courthouse trying to buy some time before her house is foreclosed on so that she could get a loan modification. Maybe if he knew this was her third attempt at going through the modification process because the first time it was denied because the bank wrote down her phone number incorrectly and apparently no one there knows how to use mail or email. After going through the whole tedious process a second time, it was denied because there was one typo on the employment verification letter and instead of simply asking her to correct and resubmit it, they denied her request altogether. Maybe if he knew she was missing work to go to court and was sick to her stomach because when she doesn’t get paid for a couple hours, it makes a big difference. Maybe if he knew she was told it would take 5 minutes this morning, yet she fed the meter 2 hours’ worth of quarters “just in case.” Still, when she returned to her car, she found a parking ticket attached to the windshield because the meter had expired 5 minutes earlier. Maybe if he knew that when she got back to work, a coworker asked her, “What did you get your daughter for her birthday?” and she had to choke back tears, bite her lip until she tasted the metallic tang of blood, and cheerfully lie, “Oh I haven’t really had time to shop yet.” Maybe if he knew that her checking account had a negative balance because it’s a week later than she usually gets paid and still no check from her one job, yet her automatic payments have gone through.

Then again, maybe it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to him. Maybe he was having a bad day himself. Maybe his own problems were weighing so heavily on his mind that he couldn’t see beyond them. Maybe he was sinking in his own spiral of despair, questioning the existence of a God who doesn’t seem to care. Maybe he was thinking, Why bother? What’s the point? Or maybe he was just a close-minded jerk. Who knows? But that’s my point. Who actually knows what’s going on with the people around us? To think we have a clue based on a teeny, tiny glimpse into someone’s life is ludicrous. We don’t. So stop judging. Take a minute and realize that the person you’re judging as rude, incompetent, stupid, annoying, ignorant might just be having a really crappy day. Know that you can’t possibly know enough about this stranger to make an informed decision about their motivations and even if you could, it’s still not your place to judge him. Period.

That is all. Carry on.

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