Friday, December 2, 2011

Wanting To Quit (But I Didn't)

In this past year and within the same week, I had two friends – both young moms of four children – diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was saddened and shocked and had the thought, “That could be me!” run through my head more than once.  About a week after my friends were diagnosed, my other (crazy) friend Michelle asked if I would consider doing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure with her.  It took me about two seconds to reply with a resounding YES!  YES I will walk 60 miles in three days!  YES I will camp and go without electricity for three days!  YES I will raise the money!  YES I will support my friends and push myself to every limit!  YES!

[Let’s pause here and let me state that this is NOT about the moral quandary of the Komen Foundation giving money to Planned Parenthood.  Believe me, I’ve heard and read all the arguments from people with their undies in a bunch over this.  If you do some simple research, you will find that some of the biggest supporters of Planned Parenthood are the Girls Scouts, Nike, Whole Foods, Adobe (the software), Johnson & Johnson, eBay, Ford, Target, General Mills, American Express, AARP, Unilever, Bank of America, Walt Disney – the list goes ON AND ON!  Over thirty percent of PP grants came from the federal government…as in your taxes.  So please back down a bit.  And thank you.]

Needless to say, about three months into training, my enthusiastic YES was a grumbling bunch of “why-did-I-say-yes?” and “I-CANNOT-do-this!” and “what-was-I-smoking-when-I said YES?” whines.  Michelle wasn’t too far away in her lamenting.  Michelle’s friend Lisa, who was the third spoke in our wheel of amazingness, was eternally optimistic and cheerful…so we’re just not gonna talk about her.

I learned a number of things about myself, about others and about life in general while on the 3-day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) walk.  Which was in Chicago.  In August.  Therefore, some lessons learned were purely simple (I really, truly DO NOT like the heat) and some were much deeper as I spent lots of time with some amazing men and women.

PORTA POTTIES WON’T KILL ME:  They may even make my immune system stronger!  Between my two teen sons, I sit at a LOT of baseball games – about 150 each year.  The majority of the baseball fields have porta potties.  I am the mom who holds it, or drives to the nearest place with indoor plumbing when the holding it option is no longer going to work.  While on the 3-day walk, my ONLY option was a porta potty.  Yes, they were well maintained and set up just for the thousands of us who participated in the walk, either as a walker, volunteer or employee.  However, they were still porta potties, sitting there in sunny, 90-degree weather.  And do you know what?  As each day marched on, the issues I used to have faded away.  My practice of “making a nest” before using any kind of public bathroom (this rear is NOT touching a public seat) went away for those three days.  With the heat and sweat, it didn’t require complete genius to realize I’d be peeling off toilet paper in a most unlady-like manner if I went with the nest option.  In those three days, I contracted no disease or rashes, and I gagged not once.  I thanked all the ladies who had the duty of reloading the toilet paper in and cleaning those portable bathrooms.  The thought that I was dealing with porta potties while scores of others were dealing with chemo and radiation was not lost on me, and I got over myself real quick.

SHOWERING IN A TRUCK IS WEIRD, NOT BAD: After the porta potty issues, you’d think I would boldly walk into the semi-truck, all fears aside, ready to shower.  But I’m a slow learner.  Near the tents at our camping site, there was a line of semi truck beds with stairs leading up to each truck.  Inside were stalls with privacy curtains, a little bench area and then the shower stall itself, set apart with another privacy curtain.  There was a guy’s truck and the rest were for us women-folk.  It was really weird, but honestly, it was absolutely wonderful to step into a refreshing shower!  We got clean and that was the whole goal of a shower.  It was not luxurious, but it served its purpose.  And, I respect ANY woman who was able to shave her legs in that stall.  While showering on a truck was not on my bucket list, it DID make me cross one more “I can’t do THAT!” item off my list of impossibilities.

PUBLIC PAJAMAS ARE SOMETIMES OK: After the shower, I changed into my “Sweet Stuff” pink jammies and continued my evening.  There were many sets of sinks outside the shower trucks and that’s where we all brushed our teeth and hair (no hair dryers), applied creams and lotions and whatever else was a part of our night time routine.  On an average day (ok, on ANY day) I would never walk around my neighborhood in my jammies and wearing no makeup.  But on the 3-day walk, I realized everything was basically public.  Heck, I slept six inches away from total strangers in the tent next to me.  I shattered so many of my “I’d NEVER do that in public” statements.  In some ways, all sense of personal pride was gone, but we were all in the same situation.  Oh sure, there were the Barbie doll types who didn’t sweat or stink, and wore full makeup every day and somehow their hair was always gorgeous…nothing like the frizzed ‘do I sported.  But, we just avoided those cheerleader types and were fine!  And, I kept thinking of my friends who had to decide if they should go in public with their wig or scarf.  And, somehow, jammies and no make up in public seemed like such a trivial worry.

ESSENTIAL - MOISTURE WICKING UNDERPANTS:  Who knew?  And who knew we had so many sweat glands in our body?  (Aren't you glad there's no picture here?!)

A GOOD CUP OF COFFEE IS NECESSARY:  I cannot operate without coffee.  I have tried and it has been (I’m about to make my kid proud for using this phrase...) an epic fail.  The powers that be really didn’t like us to drink caffeine on the 3-day walk because it acts as a diuretic and depletes the body of fluids.  There were some cups of black beauty available in the morning, but it was about 1:30pm that I needed it most…and all we were given was water and Gatorade.  One of the happiest moments on the walk was when we turned a corner and saw a coffee shop across the street.  We took our sweaty, stinky, makeup-less selves into that shop and my iced Americano was JUST what I needed.  Honestly, I think it gave me the energy – physical and emotional – to carry on.  And ya know, as long as it’s not immoral or illegal, sometimes we all need that little perk and boost to keep us going.

THE KINDNESS OF STANGERS IS PRICELESS:  I was literally moved to tears by the kindness, support and love shown to us walkers.   And, the best part is that it wasn’t limited to the large groups that gathered at the prescribed “cheering stations.”  On a residential street, there was a little girl sitting with her mom at a table with a free lemonade stand, just for us walkers!  On a different street, there was a middle-aged guy sitting on a chair on his front lawn, playing his guitar, which was plugged into an amp that was attached to extension cords.  This man chose to spend part of his afternoon sitting in the heat, just to play and smile at us and tell us “Good job!” as we walked by.  There were people handing out freezer pops, kids making Gatorade sno-cones, people standing there with baskets of cookies, waving pink pom poms, and doing numerous other small gestures of encouragement.  I wish I could tell each and every one of them that EVERY piece of encouragement was magnified due to our state of extreme fatigue, frustration and blisters.  The people who left cases of water bottles on their front lawns with signs reading “good job walkers!” – like a feast to a starving person!  The sister-hood and brother-hood among the walkers was REAL and I felt it.  The walkers were actually looking out for each other and I felt safe and appreciated the whole time.  Even when we had to get into a sweep van to bring us to the next rest stop, we were cheered, patted on the back and given more verbal affirmation than I thought possible.  If I ever doubted the impact of kindness or the value in the time used to practice some thoughtfulness, I am fully convinced it’s all worth it.  Even if the recipient never says thank you.  When in need, the smallest gesture feels like a million bucks!  For the 2012 walk I will definitely be on the sidelines cheering on the weary, often teary walkers.  Who can’t use another cheerleader in life?

HANDWIRTTEN NOTES WILL NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE, EVER:  What I’ve kinda glossed over up to this point is the fact that after the first day of walking, I was sitting in my tent, crying and wanting to go home.  I am sure I wasn’t the only walker in this situation.  The plan was to walk about 22 miles the first day, and I only walked 15.  Thinking I had let down all my supporters was shameful.  My body was worn out, the over-heated feeling never left, we had to pitch our tents on a parking lot due to flooding in the grassy field and I was feeling nauseated from the heat and minor dehydration.  At camp there was an area where we could go and pick up mail.  (AND, the THREE chocolates that some girlfriends sent to me!)  For a few months leading up to the 3-day walk, I begged on Facebook and via emails, asking people to send mail to me at the 3-day camp. Imagine my total shock when I went to pick up my mail and I couldn’t hold it all!  I received 55 pieces of mail!  I cried when I saw all the mail and cried again as I read each and every note, letter and card.  The cards were from dear friends, some family and people I now only “see” on Facebook.  I was humbled beyond words.  I was encouraged, given renewed hope and challenged to “stick with it.”  I got the distinct feeling that NO ONE was going to think less of my 3-day walk efforts if I didn’t walk every step of every mile.  The written words were like a good ‘ol strong cuppa coffee for my soul!  I am 100% convinced that it was the words of love, encouragement, humor and care that gave me the necessary stamina to “stick with it” even though I didn’t want to.

Seriously, I could barely hold all the mail!
MY LIFE IS GOOD:  I am sad to report that I often whined during those 3 days of walking in the heat of August.  I did an awful job of always keeping my happy face on, and sometimes I just wanted to pinch the upbeat, cheery walkers.  (Lisa, please tell everyone that neither Michelle nor I pinched you.  Or kicked you in the knees.)  But, the life-stories of my co-walkers snapped me out of my pathetic whining.  The men and women who had experienced such heartbreak and loss from the ugly beast known as cancer was sobering.  The testimonies of beauty from ashes and hope from pain were uplifting.  It was like a megaphone in my face reminding me that life is precious and my life is really darn good.  I had raised over $3,000, had two pair of good shoes JUST for this walk, a snappy fanny pack, moisture-wicking underwear and FIFTY-FIVE people who loved me enough to write me a note!  It was like perspective given intravenously and it quickly went systemic!  When I arrived at the end of the walk at Soldier Field and saw my family and some dear friends, the tears started again!  Yes, my life is good and I am a blessed woman.

This woman's t-shirt said it perfectly.

SOLDIER FIELD IS BEAUTIFUL: Let’s just say that I have NEVER been happier to enter a sporting stadium.  EVER.

I LOVE MY SOFA:  When I got home on Sunday evening, I showered and ate pizza, in that order.  Then, I sat down on my sofa and that fast turned into lying down.  It was then that it hit me that I had not sat on anything more comfortable than a folding chair after I got out of our car about 5am on Friday morning.  I appreciated my sofa in a whole new way.

My two friends have been through their surgeries and treatments and are doing well and they both have a good prognosis!

While on the walk, I got two buttons that summed up my weekend perfectly.

Button one: I thought you said 3 miles in 60 days!

Button two: Blisters don’t need chemo.

Michelle, Lisa and me - worn out, sweaty, swollen, tired and overheated - but WE DID IT!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gift Giving and All That Stress

It has happened!  The catalogs are in full assault, the red cups are back and (except for Nordstrom), it seems every store has been decorated for Christmas for months.  This also means that the stores will be filled with bewildered people wondering which item…which Black Friday Door Buster…is the “perfect gift” for dad, niece, grandma, son, teacher – and the list goes on.  I’ve seen the stressful masses and I do not enjoy being a part of them.  This “what-do-I-buy?” happens throughout the year with events such as birthdays, weddings, mother’s and father’s day, and graduation, but it’s most acutely felt at Christmastime.

Over the years, I have had some successes and failures with gift giving.  (I did not see it coming that my middle child decided he outgrew light sabers after we proudly presented him with tricked-out, battery eating beauties.  Definite fail.)  Good gift giving takes a little creativity, moderate planning and a lot of copying.  Some of the best gifts I’ve given have been variations of something I’ve seen.

Before you run out to buy anything, take some time to make an actual list of EVERYONE on your gift list.  Next to each name, jot a few notes, no matter how seemingly random, about the person’s interests, hobbies, dreams and profession.   You never know what is going to jump off that list and inspire you when you’re out shopping.  A few months ago, I found some police themed sleeping pants (on clearance sale!) that were perfect for my son who wants to go into law enforcement.  Think back to conversations (or start purposefully listening to current conversations) and pay attention to phrases such as, “Oh, I just love…” or “Isn’t that cool?” or “Gosh, I wish…” Knowing my mother in law would love to visit the Provencal region of France led me to give her a beautiful full-color calendar of the area.

It’s also a good idea to develop some kind of system to track your purchases, or you’ll have ten perfectly adorable gifts for the 7-year old girl and nothing for the 17-year old boy.  Keep your system simple and then use it!  Write on 3 x 5 notecards, in a notebook, under ‘notes’ on your smartphone – whatever works for you.

In no particular order, below are some thoughts and ideas about gift giving.  It should be understood that a lot of my purchases are made well in advance with helpful sales involved.  I am basically done with our Christmas shopping and that is a stress-reliever for me!

TEACHER GIFTS: Having a dad who was a teacher confirmed to me the over-use of #1 Teacher-themed mugs, notepads or ornaments and the plates of suspicious looking home-baked treats.  In recent years, I think most everyone has gotten away from the teacher-themed gifts and that’s a good thing!  Better options are scented hand soap in a pump bottle, a monogrammed hand towel (I bought some at Kohl’s for less than $5 each) or (especially for the guys) a gift card to local coffee shop, sandwich shop or bookstore.

(There is one exception to giving the teacher-themed gifts and that’s for a homeschooling mom! I have one mug, one ornament and one teacher-themed writing paper set and I LOVE them!)

GIFT CARDS: Although these may seem impersonal as a go-to gift for family members and close friends, they are perfect for tutors, teachers, the newspaper delivery guy and anyone else you don’t know on a personal level.  (Do not mistake the beautiful gift of a coffee shop gift card as impersonal for me!)  I always try to support local ice-cream stores, pizza places, coffee shops, bakeries and markets by giving gift cards to the privately owned places.  A gift card to a casual restaurant (Portillo’s, Chipotle, Culvers, Panera, pizza place, etc.) is a thoughtful gift to add to a baby congratulations card.

MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS:  This is a fun and often overlooked gift idea.  And, it’s the gift that keeps on giving all throughout the year!  There are magazines on every subject imaginable, from crafts, cooking and computers to animals, science, news and travel.  Check out the expansive magazine selection at your library or bookstore for ideas, and then search online for subscription discounts.  There is some kind of discount available for almost every magazine.  Both World Magazine and Focus On the Family have some great Christian-based options for children of various ages.  Do you know someone who homeschools?  Try The Old Schoolhouse for some helpful ideas and encouragement.  A middle or high school aged sports fanatic?  My kids LOVED Sports Illustrated Kids (and yes, it was appropriate for children).  National Geographic for Kids and the offerings from the National Wildlife Federation are great options that my kids have enjoyed.  (As a side note, all these websites are chock full of great articles, information and activities.)

GIFTS FOR GRANDPARENTS:  How many homemade ornaments or Popsicle stick trivets does one Grandma need?  For the people who seem to have whatever they need and swear they don’t need anything else, there are still good gift ideas out there!  Consider a photo gift – a mouse pad, notebook, deck of playing cards, and a tote bag are just a few of the numerous items offered by the photo sites of Walgreens, Snapfish and Shutterfly, to name a few.  Get all the grandkids together for a photo shoot and present a framed masterpiece to the proud grandparents.  One year I copied and expanded on an idea I saw in a jewelry store, and my mother-in-law was thrilled.  I had a bracelet made for her with each child and grandchild’s birthstone represented by a colored crystal bead.  Not only was it pretty to look at, but it had personal meaning.  Other gift ideas for the grandparent set are DVD collections of favorite TV shows from “back in the day” (Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, Gunsmoke, etc.), CD compilations of old time radio (The Green Hornet, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, etc.), or a DVD collection of TV commercials from the 1940’s, ‘50’s and 60’s.  ( carries all these items and at competitive prices.)  Tickets to a local dinner theatre, symphony or museum exhibit are well loved.  My folks got a paid membership to a DVD mail-rental service and loved it.  Gifts that don’t require storage or dusting are always a big hit with my folks!

PHOTO BOOKS:  Dispel the idea that you need to become a scrapbooking maniac in order to make a photo book as a gift!  It seems everyone in the photo business has beautifully simple, SUPER easy to assemble digital photo books.  A year-in-review photo book makes a special gift for an out-of-state grandparent.  I’m in the process of creating a photo book of a trip a few of us took for my friend’s 50th birthday – what a great way to commemorate all the fun we had!  Scan old photos from your high school days and make a digital photo book for a friend’s 20th reunion or 40th birthday.  The options are endless and there is ALWAYS some discount available!

MIDDLE SCHOOL/HIGH SCHOOL: For a guy - start his toolbox!  Even if you have an artsy, musical guy in your life, he will need certain items like work gloves, a tape measure, screwdriver and a hammer.  (And, although they may not realize it now, girls will need and use this stuff too!)  Giving a Live Butterfly Garden is an educational AND fun gift that is enjoyed by all ages.  (The box said it was for ages 5+ and I can assure you I enjoyed ours as much as my kids did!)  The aforementioned magazine subscription is a good gift option, as are event tickets.  Send a teen and a friend to a music festival or concert and you’re instantly cool!  We surprised our middle kiddo with “Monster Jam” tickets, and he enjoyed an insanely loud afternoon watching monster trucks drive, jump, flip and crash.  Arrange to enroll the pre-teen or teen in a class or camp that feeds an interest, like a jewelry making class or a cartoon drawing class or a winter-break sports camp.  Check with the local park district for a list of available classes and camps.  Our county's forest preserve district offers a wide variety of activities and classes that a teen would love.  Spending time with the teen in your life is a great memory-building gift.  Treat him or her to lunch followed by shopping/bowling/movie/afternoon of baking/video gaming.  I remember how special and loved I felt when an adult who wasn’t mom or dad chose to spend time with me.

WEDDING:  If you want to include a little gift in addition to cash or something off the registry, there are some useful gifts to consider.  Return address labels are a fun gift to give, especially when the newly married couple will have a lot of thank-you notes to send!  Another fun gift idea is a subscription to a cooking magazine.  A gift card to a hardware store is always useful, even if the couple lives in an apartment!  A helpful gift to a newly-wed couple is to drop off a meal when they just get home from their honeymoon.  Most couples return and hit the ground running, and it’s awfully nice to have dinner ready to go!

HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION:  Yes, money is needed and appreciated by all high school graduates, but another gift that is a guaranteed hit is something from their prospective college.  Go to the college’s online bookstore and buy a t-shirt, folder, notebook, mug, etc. for the graduate.  Did you know that for about $10 you can get a roll of duct tape with a college logo?  How fun is that? sells collegiate themed duct tape for about fifty different state schools and universities!

GROUP COUPONS: and have become very helpful for creative gift giving!  (Quick summary: Local businesses offer gift certificates for products or services at roughly half off.  Recent offers have included restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, magazine subscriptions, manicures/pedicures, cooking classes, digital photo books, bowling, golf and so much more.)  Do a Google search for “group coupons” and you can find numerous sites that serve cities all across America!  These group coupons can be printed and presented or emailed to the recipient.  I recently bought my nephews and niece a $10 gift certificate to a frozen yogurt shop near their house and paid only $5.  My boys were thrilled to receive a gift certificate for the local batting cages, mini golf course and concession stand.  These group coupon sites are a sensible way to check out different businesses, and I've become a return customer at many!

Stress not!  You CAN give “the perfect gift” and avoid aimless wandering through the over-heated, crazy-people packed malls.  Remember to make a list, copy ideas and tweak them until they’re just right. 

And, if they only made Stars Wars themed duct tape, I'd be Aunt Hero!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just Wondering.....Why?

Why did I ever loathe going to bed?  From a crying a baby to a teen who stayed up way too late – why, oh why did I not embrace a good night’s sleep from the start?

Why did I think so negatively about my teenage/pre-baby body?  Who in the heck made me believe a size 8 was too big?  Or my personal favorite: I had a big butt in those size 8 jeans.  Really??  That size 8 body had no idea what was coming!

Why did I believe that I’d become a tidy neat-freak once I was a stay-at-home mom and “had time to be home”?  I could almost laugh if I wasn’t crying.

Why did I save all that crap?  Throwing away the last four inches of ribbon would not have been wasteful.  My “save it just in case I need it” pile requires its own storage room! Ripping out all the magazine articles to read while the kids napped?  Hahaha.  I’m finding five-year-old articles about the upcoming “smart phones that may prove to be revolutionary.”

Why did I think the toddler years were so tiring and exhausting as I was dreaming of the day the kids were older and more independent?  Um—no change.  It’s different, yes.  But it’s still tiring and exhausting.

Why didn’t I just donate those clothes instead of moving the boxes around every few years?  I’m not going to wear the Winnie-the-Pooh shirt that I once thought was cute.

Why did I not label all my photos as I had them developed and printed?  (Where was that Easter egg hunt?  And who the heck is that lady at my wedding shower?)

Why did I worry so much about pleasing everybody and their neighbor?  Why was I so afraid to say “no” when it would have been the best thing for my family?  Playing a faux super woman takes its toll on the woman, her husband and their children.

Why did I never ask these questions earlier in my life?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Because I'm Not Your Friend

Although this may never be scientifically proven, I sincerely doubt that I am “irreversibly ruining your life” with the way I mother you.  Despite being old and decrepit and out of touch, I still have a few working brain cells and I am using them to parent you.  I would say, “I’m sorry” about all the ways I have deprived you, but I’m really not sorry at all.

I am your mother, not your friend.

While “everyone else” has unlimited, 24-hour a day access to the internet, cable, their mp3 player, and internet cell phone, I have cruelly set limits on your tech time.  I even ask that you talk to me beyond ur txts 2 me asking wats 4 dinnr.  You’re not going to freak out, lose it or hyperventilate because you can’t have your mini-speakers shoved into your ear holes when we’re in the car driving from point A to B to C.  Look around, notice your environment, and talk with dear old mom.  I’ll turn up my hearing aide and pop in my dentures so I can hear you AND respond.  And while I agree that YouTube is incredibly entertaining, there is more to life than bitten fingers, sneezing pandas, unicorns and various dance moves.  Actual, real, living people are all around us….I see living people.  Meet them.  Chat.  Develop new friendships with all people of all ages.  Yes, I am seriously old-fashioned that way.

Because I am your mother, not your friend.

I should probably also confess that my anti “hanging out” views are not newly developed opinions, created to ruin your free time.  When you were a baby and the stroller and I had to dodge throngs of teens just “hanging out” at the mall or in town, I CLEARLY remember resolving to squash the hang out habit.  If you have a shopping list, money and a goal, then by all means – enjoy the mall.  But, you and eleven of your closest friends needing a whole afternoon to procure some flip flops…uh…NO.  If you’re going into town for a movie or a burrito, I’m all for that.  Wanna meet up to eat pizza and play wiffle ball?  Great!  But, just loitering while penniless in a group of teens is not cool, no matter how awesome you think you all look.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a constant, so have an organized purpose.

Because I am your mother, not your friend.

Speaking of penniless – I probably won’t be changing my mind about your “financial freedom.”  Dad and I aren’t holding you accountable for the usage of your money because we are power-hungry control freaks.  We are doing you a favor for your future as an adult by training you now in healthy financial habits.  Trust me on this one.  Giving away and saving portions of your funds are healthy practices.  Learning to plan and save for big ticket items instead of impulse buying will serve you well in the future.  The sooner you learn you can’t have it all, the better.  Appreciate what you have.  Learn contentment.  You’re not gonna have the latest and greatest and I’m okay with that.

Because I’m your mother, not your friend.

And, about my multiple “interrogations” about your, I am not practicing my skills for the FBI, CIA or a future as a PI.  I birthed you (future counseling already anticipated for this realization), you live with me and I’m responsible for you, for many years to come.  You can bet your butt I want to know your friends.  I actually care about your school day and “fine” is not an acceptable adjective to describe a 7 ½ hour day.  Remember the game we started playing when you were in preschool?  Every day when I was making dinner, I’d ask for you to tell me the best part of your day and the worst part of your day?  Notice how I still play that game with you on a regular basis?  Come on…play along!

Because I’m your mother, not your friend.

So you see, I’m not hurt or concerned that you think I am terribly old-fashioned and pathetically uncool.  Truly, I do not want to embarrass you.  But you need to know that I am not afraid of you and your displeasure in me.  I am not trying to earn your approval.  I know I’ll never be given the “cool, fun, awesome” award.  Heck, I may even win the "Meanest Mom" award.  (I clearly remember your grandma winning that award when I was living at home.  Huh.)  I’m not going to fix every hard knock in your life or rush out to counter-balance your every disappointment.

Because I’m your mother, not your friend.

And, if I do this mom thing right, someday I’ll say, “Because I’m your mother and your friend.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recipe Time - All Fruit.

A new post is long over due and ‘tis the season for recipes featuring fresh fruit!  These are my go-to choices when entertaining and they are guaranteed winners!  (“Guaranteed” as in: if you don’t like the recipe, just don’t make it again!)  The base of each recipe is not original…I clipped it from the newspaper, or copied it from a magazine or collected it from any number of places.  However, I have tweaked each recipe, making changes in both ingredients and measurements, and even merging a few like recipes into one “perfect” recipe, and I now consider these my own.  After each recipe, I have added some notes with extra prep or storage information.

½ c. oil (canola or vegetable)
1/3 c. white sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 c. milk
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
½ c. chopped walnuts (more to taste)
TOPPING: 1-2 tsp cinnamon mixed with ¼ c. brown sugar

With mixer, beat together oil and sugars.  Mix in eggs, milk, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and oatmeal.  Beat well, then stir in blueberries and walnuts.  Pour into lightly greased casserole dish, or an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan.  (ceramic or glass is best)  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, remove pan from fridge and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle oatmeal with cinnamon-brown sugar mix.  Bake until firm, about 35 minutes.  Serve hot.

  • This recipe can easily be doubled and made in a 9 x 13 pan.
  • It is not pertinent to assemble this the night before.  I actually prefer this dish mixed together the morning it is to be served, but do what works best for your schedule.
  • The blueberries, walnuts and cinnamon can be increased or decreased to taste.  Pecans or almonds can be substituted for the walnuts.
  • This is NOT a mushy, lumpy, gruel-like, icky porridgy Little Red Riding Hood dish.  It tastes more like a sweetened granola cake.
  • Keeps in the fridge for a few days after it’s made.


4 c. chopped cabbage
2 unpeeled red apples, washed, cored and chopped fine
2 unpeeled Granny Smith apples, washed, cored and chopped fine
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
½ c. finely chopped red pepper
3-4 green onions, finely chopped
½ c. mayo
¼ c. brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, apples, carrot, red pepper and green onions.  In a small bowl, mix mayo, brown sugar and lemon juice.  Pour dressing over salad.  Toss.  Refrigerate before serving.

  • More dressing can be used, to taste.
  • The beauty of this slaw is that the veggie and fruit measurements can be increased or decreased to taste.
  • I use the packaged, ready-to-use shredded cabbage

(* the term “muffins” is used lightly…these are more like cake!)

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
2 c. strawberries, finely chopped
2 eggs
½ c. butter, melted
½ c. milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Melt butter in the microwave and set aside to cool a bit.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Add strawberries and gently toss till coated.  Set aside.  Beat together cooled butter, eggs, milk and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Gently stir till combined.  Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin tin (or use paper liners) until 2/3 full.  Sprinkle each muffin with large granulated decorator sugar.  (regular sugar can also be used)  Bake until set, about 25 min.

  • Do not use dark metal muffin tins.  The berries will burn.
  • If you can find the decorator sugar, it’s worth it for this recipe.  You will need to go to a bulk food store, a restaurant supply store or check in the cake-decorating aisle of a big box store.

2/3 c. Crisco
2 ½ c. flour
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream Crisco and sugar together.  Add remaining ingredients and mix till moist.  Then, beat 2 min. on med speed.  Scrap sides of bowl.

1/3 c. buttermilk  (yes, ANOTHER round of buttermilk!)
2 eggs

Beat 2 min. longer

Stir in 2/3 c. chopped walnuts (opt)

Lightly grease and flour 9 x 13 pan.  Pour cake batter into pan and bake 35 – 40 min. until set and golden brown on top.  Pour half bag to a whole bag of mini chocolate chips on top of cake.  Once chocolate chips soften, spread to cover the top of the cake.  Cut cake after cooled, but before chocolate topping hardens.

  • To make a quick version of buttermilk, add half to one teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and let sit a few minutes until lumpy.

3 eggs
¾ c. oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 ¼ c. sugar
3 c. shredded zucchini, water squeezed out
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.  In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar.  Stir in zucchini.  Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder and soda and cinnamon.  Fold in the blueberries.  Pour into loaf pans. Bake 50 min or until knife inserted in the center of loaf is clean.  Cool 20-30 min in pan then remove to cool on wire rack.

  • Be sure to remove as much water from the zucchini as possible.  I grate the zucchini on a stand-up cheese grater, then lay it out on paper towels and cover it with more paper towels to absorb the water.
  • I call this blueberry cake bread and my kids eat it.  They would TELL you they don’t like zucchini, but they love this bread!
  • This bread freezes well and makes a great hostess gift.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Exercising In Skinny Jeans

So here’s the honest truth: I really don’t like to exercise.  I never have and I kinda doubt I ever will.  I actually loathe exercise.  (However, if hell freezes over and I start to love exercise, I’ll be happy.  I guess.)  

You know how there are those lithe chicks who throw their hair up into a ponytail, put on exercise pants/capris (of course, with room to spare because they don’t come smaller than size zero) and workout for an hour (oh—just a little workout!) with hardly breaking a sweat?  Then, they grab coffee with a friend while still wearing their workout clothes, but looking darn cute and still freshly coifed, and run to the grocery store before heading home.  And, of course, they’re cheerful and perky the whole time.

Yeah, that’s so not me.

I sweat like a pig.  Or a teenage boy playing baseball.  (Not that there’s much difference.)  I don’t make workout clothes look cute.*  Exercise does not make me cheerful and perky.  I throw my hair up into a ponytail and my frizz-prone hair looks like I was caught in a down pour…and that’s just after the exercise warm ups.  I sweat in places where I didn’t know sweat glands existed.  And, it’s obvious sweating.  Roll-down-my-face-sweating.  Not “glowing” or “glistening” or any other cutesy word.  It’s full out, man-sized sweating.  It’s gross.  
They say that exercise should release some kind of hormone or chemical that makes you feel great!  I don’t think I was born with that hormone/chemical.  
I’m tired, crabby and hungry when I’m done exercising.  (* When my middle teenaged child saw me in my new sausage casing workout capris, he asked, “Holy cow, Mom! Did you, like, get skinny jeans?!?!”)

While I may not feel or look (or smell) good after I exercise, I AM proud of myself for actually doing it.  Exercise is good for my health, regardless of how I feel about it.  If I waited until I was “in the mood” to exercise, I’d never do it.  Kinda like I have NEVER ONCE craved a salad or peas or carrots.  If I waited until I was “in the mood” for veggies, they’d never pass these lips.  (Although, in full disclosure, I do not and will not eat peas.  I have my personal limits.)

So although I don’t like it, I AM exercising.  And having accountability really helps.  My friend Michelle and I got on this kick together as we are training for walking 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk For A Cure.  (  In Chicago.  In August.  (Did I mention I don’t like to exercise?  Or sweat?  Yeah.)  Michelle is motivated and doing far more than and better than me.  But, having her accountability and companionship has been motivating me to do more.  She and I have some striking similarities.  We both sweat A LOT.  We don’t love and adore exercise.  (Sometimes, on occasion, we even tend to whine about it.  Occasionally and sometimes.)  And, we’re not lithe ladies.  (yet)

The quote, “A burden shared is a burden halved” and the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up”) are so true!  A five-mile walk on my treadmill does not seem to fly-by as does a five-mile walk with Michelle.  By doing a disliked discipline together, we are providing encouragement and help to each other.  When I’m on the treadmill because the weather is too bad to be outside, the miles are easier to endure if I can distract myself from watching the minutes go by.  I started with listening to music and talk radio, but found that my eyes needed to be OFF the mile and calorie counters.  (Oh yay—all that work for burning off the 14 M&M’s.)  Reading has proven to be a great distraction while on the treadmill.  It almost makes me really want to hop on that conveyer belt going no-where just to read a few more chapters!  Yes, it is pathetic to dangle that carrot in front of myself – but hey, it works!  Pathetic or not, I need to use whatever is going to work

So what’s your dreaded thing that needs to get done?  If you seek out accountability from someone who can share the burden, it WILL be easier to get going and stay going!  Or, figure out what you can do to entice yourself—dangle a carrot for yourself!  There are very creative solutions out there!

And if you know someone who is working on something fairly dreadful and frustrating (a diet, exercising, job searching…heck, parenting can be included), give them some encouragement to spur them on!  You may not be able to physically walk five miles alongside someone, but a few positive, uplifting words can be just as effective.

Now to squeeze back into my “skinny jeans” because I have a book to finish!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Mother's Day! (Now Leave Me Alone)

Dear Children (and their father),

I know you all love me, as you frequently tell me and write so sweetly in the handmade mother’s day cards that I receive each year.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate your efforts…I really do!  It’s just that I have a new idea for our celebration this year and I thought I’d throw it past you to see what you all think.

You know how every Mother’s Day before church, you each tell me “Happy Mother’s Day!” somewhere in-between my badgering one of you to PLEASE go find some clean socks and put them on and I ask the other to stop shoveling handfuls of Apple Jacks into your mouth while standing in front of the cabinet (would it kill ya to use a bowl?), while I continually nag the third slowpoke to brush your hair so no one mistakes you for someone in need of a homeless shelter?  Yeah, THAT Mother’s Day morning.  Not that any of us can differentiate the Mother’s Days in my life.  Well, except that many years ago, my mornings revolved around changing diapers and giving bottles and sippie cups and getting you all dressed in some semi-respectable form and hoping we could be out the door for church before someone needed another round of diapers/bottles/sippie cups/clothes.  I guess somewhere in there, I was supposed to be getting dressed and eating breakfast and putting on make up.  But, I eventually got used to eating a cheese stick en route to church and having my “morning coffee” sometime after I fed everyone lunch and got the youngest down for naptime.

Where was I??  Oh yes!  My new idea!

Now perhaps it’s just that I’m feeling worn down like old carpeting that spurred me on to my brilliant plan.  Or it’s that I finally realized that with the exception of being handed your beautiful cards and sometimes going out to lunch, Mother’s Day was kinda feeling like most any other day.  Although, when you were all younger, I think it was MORE work for me (and you too, dear) to take the three of you out to eat.  You were always wonderful little eater-outers, but I still schlepped the loaded-diaper kiddo to the grimy, tray-in-the-wall changing station thingie, helped everyone pick out the perfect menu item that I knew you’d each love AND eat, cut everyone’s food, listened to the same knock-knock joke at least three times (since you each needed to give it a shot) and eventually ate a few bites of my (then cold) lunch, washed down with my luke-warm coffee.  Now that you’re all growing up so fast and have far more interesting/wonderful/funny friends than I can ever hope to be, it’s become a juggling act of schedules (and I play master-juggler) to make sure I see each of you on Mother’s Day.  Although I DO see you quite well from the metal bleachers as both of you boys usually have baseball tournaments on Mother’s Day weekend.  So, as I’m working fast and furiously on my farmer’s tan and numb butt, you’re right; I DO see you.  At the plate.  On the pitcher’s mound.  At first base.  At short stop.  That is, I see you boys when I’m not off looking to keep an eye on you, the baseball bored sister.  Or, accompanying you to the pervert-attracting bathrooms at the baseball field.  (At least I’m sure they are, based on a NightLine episode I saw once.)

Remember that Mother’s Day a few years ago when the weather was gross and I didn’t feel all that great?  And, I stayed in bed ALL DAY and watched TV and ate all my meals in bed and in front of the TV?  And, I shut the door so you all thought I was deathly ill, but remained conscience enough to watch really old movies (like“Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”) on TV?  And it was WONDERFUL?!?!  Remember that?  It gave birth to my ingenious idea!

My amazing idea:

Could you all please leave me alone on Mother’s Day?

Like, after church, you guys all go do whatever you want to….but don’t include me.  Really, truly, honestly, I am NOT offended.  Maybe Dad can take you to a new movie, or on a really LONG walk, or out to lunch and dinner….or do all these ideas!  I wish you all could fully understand the sheer joy I would have by being given a few solid hours ALONE.  IN.  MY.  OWN.  HOME.  It’s better than a day at the spa!!!  I would crank my music (which, yes, you've all assured me is horrible, talentless noise compared to the gems of songs you guys love), sing as loud as I wanted to, eat popcorn for lunch, sit and stare at a wall for a bit (because I CAN) and even curl up with a good book.  And, you wouldn't KNOW I was sitting down with a good book, so none of you would HAVE to need me at that exact moment with some variety of a crisis.  Brilliant, huh?  I might even take myself to a coffee shop and instead of grabbing my coffee and leaving, I may become a sit-there-with-a-book woman.  AND, I may get a refill on my coffee if the book is especially captivating.  It’s almost downright deliciously scandalous.

Kids, I KNOW you’ll have fun with Dad.  And Sweetie, the kids really do crave more quality time with you considering all the long hours you put in.  Truly, we’re all getting the best of both worlds.  See!  I’m a great mom….still thinking of what’s best for all of you, even on Mother’s Day! :)  So, whaddya think?  Genius, huh?

Love you all a bunch and I hope you have an amazing time on your special day out together.


P.S.  And to anyone else who may find this letter and think, “This awful mother needs to appreciate what Mother’s Day means and be with her family all day!  Family is precious and this mother won’t know what she’s missing until one day it’s gone!”  Yes, I agree.  My family is amazingly precious and I love them dearly.  And, I’ve got 364 other days of the year to marinate in the constant preciousness of the job called “motherhood.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What If.....I'm Prepared?

(I understand there is wide spread devastation throughout the Mid-West and the South from recent severe storms, and I do not intend to make light of those situations.  It is even more pressing to me that families begin to give serious thought to what could, should and would happen if they were part of any kind of disaster.  I hope that each family feels spurred on to have a plan for handling situations ranging from a minor inconvenience to a major tragedy and everything in-between.)

Did you know that you can subscribe to text alerts from ComEd?  You will be notified about power outages and can receive updates about restoration efforts.  And although I could write pages about the awful and out dated power infrastructure here in the south end of town, I’ll just say I have a healthy texting relationship with the power company.  As in, they almost qualify for the “friends and family” reduced texting rates.  Almost.

During a cold winter outage in February (I think someone sneezed near a transformer), I was chatting with a friend about keeping a home at a tolerable temperature during cold weather conditions and no power.  She admitted that she had no plan and no solid idea about what to do.  We discussed a few ideas about closing off the house and using the fireplace, how to keep the pipes from freezing (run both the hot and cold water at a very S-L-O-W drip, using one sink on each level of the house) and I told her about playing the “What If?” game.  My Mom made up this game, and I now play it with my own children.  It’s a creative thinking game, meant to spur conversation and spark ideas.  It goes something like this:

  • WHAT IF we lost power for a day in the deep of winter?
  • WHAT IF we lost power for four days in the hottest part of August?
  • WHAT IF a pipe burst in the basement and it started to flood?
  • WHAT IF I (mom) was lying on the floor, unresponsive?
  • WHAT IF a micro burst (cousin to a tornado) ripped through our town and the tornado sirens were sounding?
In the past four years, every one of those “what if” questions became reality for my family.  And despite stress (and a touch of frantic hyperventilating), we had a workable plan for each scenario.  I’m not saying it was easy to deal with each situation, but it sure helped our family to have some kind of plan BEFORE it happened!

Consider a few more questions in the “What If?” game.

WHAT IF oil prices skyrocketed and gasoline DID get to $6 or $7 a gallon?  What car trips would be eliminated and how could I best combine all my running around into an organized, well thought out plan?  What would I do if there was a gasoline shortage?  Did you know that in 1974, the government printed, but did not distribute, five billion gasoline-rationing coupons?

WHAT IF the economy got so bad that there was a run on the bank (a la George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life) and the ATM was all out of money?  (How sad is it that my kids used to think money only came from the “box at the bank”?!)  It’s really not a far-fetched idea considering a bank run happened in England only a few years ago.   What would I do if the power was out for an extended time and credit card readers didn’t work?  I am NOT suggesting putting your life savings under a mattress, but do you have any cash in reserves that you can access without going to the bank?

WHAT IF the power was out long enough to keep the grocery stores closed for days on end?  A week?  (What if the coffee shops were closed?? gasp!)  If the power outage was compounded by flooding and roads were impassable, what would I do?  How would I heat or cool my home?  Do I have any non-perishable food stored?  It may be time to start thinking in terms of camping and “roughing it” at home!  Did you know that the average grocery store has only 2-3 days of food in reserve?  What is your plan if the food delivery trucks don't arrive at the grocery store?  Stocking up just before an impending storm usually results in bare shelves and plenty of news reports about the bare shelves!  Who wants to be shopping with everyone else, thinking their frozen pizza, jar of peanut butter and gallon of milk will supply their family for a week?  (After our power was out, it did make me chuckle to think of all the frozen pizzas I saw being purchased.)

WHAT IF our water became unsafe for use?  Do I have the means or know-how to make the water safe?

WHAT IF some futuristic-like, funky techie disaster happened and the Internet went down?  Not a power outage that kills your modem, but an actual “my smart phone doesn’t work!” scenario.  We’d be email-less! Facebook-less!  Twitter-less!  YouTube-less!  In other words: life-less, use-less and hope-less.  Take comfort—we’d be full of pathetic-ness!

It may seem this blog post is supremely depressing and pessimistic.  (I’m still reeling from the possibility of coffee shops being closed for long stretches of time!)  However, I think it’s good to give thought and consideration to these questions and countless others like it.  It is reality that “stuff” will happen.  Just watch the news—severe weather, natural disaster, economic distress.  During Chicago’s 2011 snowstorm (AKA Snoprah, Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, SnOMG), I am certain that many of the stranded motorists thought they’d “never” get stuck in their car, on a freeway for over twelve hours.

View the “What If?” game like insurance or a warranty.  Most everyone has insurance for their car, health, house and life and warranties on their washing machine, car, ear buds, etc.  (Yep, my teen son has a two-year, full-coverage warranty on his ear buds, and it set him back a total of $5 for the two years.)  With insurance and warranties, you hope to never need to make a claim or use them in any way.  But, when the day comes you thought “would never happen,” aren’t you grateful for the coverage?  (Like when the right ear bud quit working and it was replaced!)  No one mocks having car and health insurance as being over the top and fanatical, so don’t be afraid to think about these “What If?” game questions.

By taking the first steps of thinking about and discussing a workable plan for a potential disaster*, you will be a bit more prepared to use your time on action and not emotion.  (* “unfortunate incident” may be used to sound less threatening.  Use whatever language makes you feel less like a back woods survivalist freak.)  

I know a lot has been said about “preparedness” and there are many survival books, readiness blogs and seminars…some great and some way over the top.  To go from “I have one jar of peanut butter” to “I’m stocked with 27 gallons of peanut butter” is a huge jump.  (And NOT one I’m recommending you take!)  (Unless you really have a thing for peanut butter.)  It cannot hurt to open your mind to some possibilities and solutions.  In the midst of a flood, power outage or earthquake is NOT the time to start thinking about “What if…..”  A good teacher doesn’t walk into the classroom and start lesson planning after the students are in their seats.  I am certain that I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared!

To get some sane answers to some of the “What If?” game questions, I would recommend the following resources:

  •   Here you can access common sense check lists, each state’s readiness website, as well as links to ReadyKids, which is designed just for children.
  •  Um…if Seasame Street is getting involved, I think it’s VERY reasonable that you should too.
  •  Be sure to check out this site, especially the blog portion where you will find very interesting news items and commentary.  I would HIGHLY recommend the book Just In Case, which is sold on this site, as a great beginning tool.  If you “like” The Prep Room on FaceBook. you will receive a discount when buying anything from their site!
  • Another great resource to get you asking more “What If” questions is to watch History Channel’s “After Armageddon” on YouTube.  The show is divided into segments, so be sure to watch them in order.

There is so much more to be said on this topic and it could easily become a three-part post!  Leave a comment if you would find more articles on this topic helpful.  The bottom line is that we all need to start somewhere, and I’d suggest you start by playing the “What If?” game to get the conversation going!  And with the rate of “unfortunate incidences” I’m seeing on the news, I wouldn’t wait to start.

For me, I’m still working on, “What if I didn’t get my morning coffee?”  (And hoping the answer is less dramatic than “Armageddon” or “apocalypse.”)

Friday, March 25, 2011

And The Category Is.....

Recently, wisdom had me keep my mouth shut in a situation where my initial thoughts were ones of being dumbfounded, then ticked.  I simmered in my astonishment before settling in to hash out my exact feelings on the subject.  Although this letter will never make it to the guy who left me speechless, I sure feel better after getting this down on paper.

Dear Screener Man for XYZ Research Company,

Yesterday, you and I spoke for a few minutes regarding an upcoming research study for which you were screening me.  I thought our conversation started pleasantly enough, and I was excited to see if I qualified for the good-paying study group that was being put together for moms.

After verifying my name, age, children’s ages and other demographic information, you asked if I was “employed, unemployed or retired.” Upon realizing there were no other categories from which to choose, I said, “Well then, I guess I’d be considered unemployed.”  While I kept my voice happy and cheerful, I was already bristling on the inside. Really?  My life is now limited to three categories?  You said, “Ok, so you’re not working” to which I replied, “Well, I’m a homemaker and unsure how to define when I’m NOT working!”  As if your comment about me not working wasn’t enough, you then said, “Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that.  I’m sure it’s not what you want and I hope that changes soon for you.”


Actually, it IS my choice to stay home and I do not wish it to change! As a matter of fact, I have been homeschooling my kids for the past eleven years, which takes an astonishing amount of time.  I am sure you are familiar with the quips that state some version of: “I am a nurse, a chauffeur, a social worker, a tutor, a psychologist, an organizer, on-call 24 hours a day” etc. with the bottom line being, “I am a mom.”

Whether or not I am working outside the home, please do not ever say that I am not working.  EVERY mom is a working mom!  

Earlier in our conversation, we had established the fact that I have three children.  Exactly where do you think they would be in life were it not for my very hard work?  And, when I chose to stay home, please do not belittle my choice, feel sorry for me or wish me out of my current situation.

There are many women who have to work, but wish they were home, and there are women who are home, but wish they were working. And, there are many, many women who work their tails off to be able to stay home.  I am one of the work-my-tail-off, stay-at-home moms.

For your own job security, I would highly recommend that you are more careful in your choice of words and guarded in your assumptions.  My own mom (an “unemployed” mom who “didn’t work”) taught me an easy reminder about being careful when we are tempted to ASSUME something.  It makes an ASS of U and ME.

And as a side note, it did not help matters that I did not qualify for your study on “food packaging geared towards kids” because I homeschool my children.  If only they were “in real school, it would have worked out” even though the focus group was for me.  It would seem your company assumes that homeschooled kids have no opinions or social life and don’t want/beg for the kid-dazzling food products and packaging.  Interesting.

Good luck in your recruiting efforts.  You may need it more than you think.

A non-working mom

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoughtful Tips For Your Next Water Park Visit

My friend and I recently took our (homeschooled) kids on a little road trip to an indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells.  After spending a couple days there, I had a few revelations.  So, I jotted down a few pointers that may be helpful to the future thoughtful water park attendee.

If He’s In The Women’s Bathroom and Texting While Waiting For Mom/Sister/Grandma/Aunt, He’s Probably Old Enough To Wait Outside
I know there’s that age where you have to bring your boys into the ladies’ bathroom, but at some point, it’s just not right.  And, if he really is only 6 years old and just looks old for his age and just looks like he needs to shave (again), for Pete’s sake, PLEASE just put the cell phone away while waiting.  And perhaps you shouldn’t stand so close to the shower area ‘cause it’s getting kinda weird.

Nix The Thong
Yes, you’re a mom of two and still super hot, but we are at an indoor family water park in February, not in Florida on spring break.  The wave pool is making it hard for the average woman and girl to keep her LL Bean tankini on her body in a semi-modest way.  Do you have any idea what is happening to your itty bitty thong bikini?

Buy A Bigger Swimsuit
It is wonderful that all shapes and sizes can have fun at a water park and move around in the water.   But there comes a day when one needs to accept the fact that a larger swimsuit (or swim trunks) is needed.  Unless you really are comfortable in a one-piece suit that wasn’t meant to be a thong, but is currently a thong.  But watching you dig to excavate your swimsuit leads me to think you didn’t want the thong look.  Or feel.  I am confident there are swimsuits made for the larger body.  Trust me, I KNOW they exist.  When we can see more of you than a baby sees when nursing…well, let’s just say the look on the guys’ faces isn’t one of admiration.  Especially since you’re pushing retirement.

And while we’re on the topic of swimsuits – letting your little boy swim in his underpants isn’t cool.  And really, dude…white swim trunks?

Um, You’re Gonna Get Wet
This is a water park.  There is water being shot, sprayed, splashed and otherwise flung everywhere.  To screech and jump back like someone has just thrown fire ants at you seems a bit excessive.  I understand that you’re holding your smart phone so you can text, update FaceBook and Twitter, but ***NEWSFLASH*** you came to a water park and it’s safe to assume there’s gonna be water.  Everywhere.  Possibly when you don’t expect it.  Like when the little grizzly bear statue thing randomly spits out water.  (Gotta admit that one surprised me too.)  Another thing: it’s gonna be slippery.  So, be careful when you screech and try to jump away from the water.  Either that, or wait until I have my video camera up and running because I could really use the $10,000 prize money.

Wear Footwear In The Bathroom (PLEASE!)
I admit that I am more germaphobic than your average woman, but did no one else think that barefoot in the bathroom is just gross?  It’s a bathroom, people.  Little boys are missing their porcelain target, and then you’re stepping in it!  There was one bathroom that emitted such offensive odors, my friend chose to wait a bit longer before entering.  And yet, barefoot people entered and exited!  I found myself watching all barefooted potty goers in the same way I watch (for about 3.4 seconds) someone eat their boogers.  We all agree that’s gross behavior!  How about naked feet on a public bathroom floor?  Perhaps this is why the pools have enough chlorine to melt off the first layer of skin.

And now for some thank you’s….
To all the folks whose body art we observed, we thank you for the endless entertainment of trying to decipher the meaning of your various tattoos.  (I am still fascinated by the “Pooh Bear” sprawled across one man’s back in what looked like five year old penmanship.)  We moved on from admiring and interpreting your body murals to guesstimating the cost of all your inkwork.  I do believe one young couple could have put my eldest through college with what they must have spent on tatts and piercings.  (Except the Pooh Bear tattoo…hope that one was on the house.)

And, I will NEVER AGAIN make fun of men who shave or wax their backs.  We all thank you.