A Loon(e)y Family Vacation

I’ve always been a fan of the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies. Which, as I realized last week when I was in Florida, is partially due to the fact that my family seems to encounter situations comparable to Clark. We may not hold up policeman to get into Wallyworld or max out multiple credit cards in Vegas, but we always get involved in an array of awkwardness. Here are two of my favorite Florida moments:

1.) We were about to leave my Uncle Rick’s apartment and made it to the car. We then, however, realized that this was impossible because we did not have a key to get into the car. My grandma and grandpa had brought the wrong set of keys, and only had a key to start the car. Our solution? My Uncle Rick yelled from the parking lot to the third floor where his neighbor, Ramon, was. Ramon figured out how to open our car (way too easily), and then offered Rick a chance to stay with him in Cuba whenever he’d like. Knowing my Uncle Rick, he will surely take him up on that offer…even if it involves transporting in a van with bars.

2.) My family decided to go to the Port Orange Flea Market early to get souvenirs. We were informed of this event after my mom read the paper to see that they offered “designer jeans for $5.” I had my grandma wake me up at 7:15 to run before this “event,” since my mom stressed that we needed to get there early to “beat the crowds.” The vendors offered an array of awesome options, including boxes of Captain Crunch Cereal, dirty dolls and old tool sets,

My grandma felt sorry for one of the vendors and bought a pair of [probably used] batteries for $1. My sister Stacy saw way too much of a vendor who was standing with one leg propped up on the table.

What are your family vacations like?


Things that Make Me Old

I am 23 years old, and, according to most, I look significantly younger. I have never NOT been carded, and a 7th grader even said to me once “Um, can you be teaching us? You’re 17 or 18.”

But despite the fact that I neither look my age (or clearly have many of the life skills that I should), some of my habits and hobbies would be considered ancient rather than adolescent. Here are a few things that make me old:

1.) I very rarely drive over 5 miles past the speeding limit. I also drive with both hands on the wheel, and actually slow down at yellow lights. I think Danny Tanner would be proud.

2.) I consider “sleeping in” 8 o’clock. I will stay up until 4AM on the weekend and still rise at a ridiculous hour. When I get older, I’m hoping someone creates a caffeine pump.

3.) I always, always eat 3 meals. I’ve also been known to eat dinner at 4 PM.

4.) I subscribe to Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and Family Circle. I do not have kids, or a garden, and live in an apartment. [Keep in mind I also subscribe to a zillion other magazines, including Seventeen.]

5.) I have to go to a “Foot and Ankle Specialist.” I have never broken a bone, or even had a fracture. However, my feet are 1.5 inches different in length. I have to wear an orthotic which my doctor calls “my hammer.” Nearly everyone other patient carries a cane, or, at the very least, requires specialized medical “comfort” shoes.

What are some habits or hobbies that make you “old?”

First Date Flying


Some love it. Others hate it. My sister, Jamie, for example, hates it so much that she will literally squeeze my hand so hard mid-flight that it makes me lose circulation and turn purple.

However, for me, there is one thing that is far more nerve-racking than the fact that you’re flying thousands of miles in mid-air. My fear? Who will be my plane passengers.

I will be flying to Florida this Saturday, and, fortunately, I’m flying with my family. However, this usually does NOT mean that I will be flying beside my family, for they usually decide that I will be the one to sit next to a stranger.

These flights always feel like a first date. They can either go really well, ok, or really, really badly. The problem? You have absolutely no way to run. You can’t fake a headache. You can’t escape early to “let your dog out.” You are stuck for thousands of miles making small talk.

I understand that most people probably don’t have this problem. You don’t actually have to talk to your fellow passenger. You can simply slip on headphones or sleep. Unfortunately, I hate awkward silences so much that I feel obligated to introduce myself immediately. This introduction, inevitably, leads to the flying first date. Like regular dating, I have had an awesome first date and a really (really) awful one:

Best: I was flying with my family to Hawaii. My mom, dad, sisters, and cousin Bobby all got to sit next to each other. I, as usual, was given the seat next to the stranger. It was a girl about four years older than me, covered in tattoos, with short, bright red hair. She was dressed stylishly, and I was wearing sweatpants. Basically, we were the same person. But in this case, opposites did attract. We ended up talking for the entire 10 hour flight. Although we did make a “first date” faus pas and shared FAR more than you probably should…

Worst: I was flying with my parents to Switzerland. There was an open seat next to me until moments before the flight. However, then, a man came and sat next to me that would honestly put Biggest Loser contestants to shame. I was able to sit in about 1/3 of my actual seat. He was also about as outgoing as Oscar the Grouch. The flight home was about 17 hours. I had to go to the bathroom at least five times, and had a window seat. Every time I had to get up, I had to tap him on the shoulder. When he got up, he breathed as heavily as if he’d just finished the Boston Marathon. This got even more awkward when he started to sleep (and yes, of course he was a snorer).

To make matters worse, five hours before we came back to Chicago, I got a horrible stomachache. It was horrible enough that I had to be escorted off my flight by the Medical Emergency staff. The stranger gave me absolutely zero sympathy.

Have you had any awesome, awkward, or awful flying “first dates?” Or, do you immediately turn on your headphones and sleep away the strangers?

Crushes By Grade

There are many things that I love about my temporary stint substitute teaching. However, there is one aspect of substituting that I love above all.

Getting clued in about their crushes.

For some reasons, students really love revealing their romances (or in some grades, complete lack thereof). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve substituted every grade from preschool through high school. Through this, I’ve begun to notice how crushes start—and then change— with age. Here is a glimpse into genders by grade:

Preschool: The only way that students notice if their classmates are a boy or girl are their color preferences and names. Girls like pink and purple. Boys are obsessed with blue. If it was not for color preferences and names, I’m pretty certain preschoolers would not pay any attention to gender. They are far too excited to share every single detail about their dogs, cats, fish, trips, favorite song and food to notice these things.

Kindergarten/1st grade: Boys and girls begin to notice their strengths. A girl offers to assist a boy with his artwork. Another girl helps a boy spell his long last name. A boy puts a puzzle back together for a girl. Another boy helps a girl tie her shoe. However, the only time that they actually decide to do any of these things, of course, if they have a crush.

2nd/3rd grade: This is when the crushes start to break out…but are usually one-sided. In one class, I had a boy reveal his intense romantic feelings in the middle of music class. The girl was mortified. She thinks that kissing is disgusting. The boy was ready to kiss her in Kindergarten.

4th grade: Boys and girls start giving each other space. Boys hang out with the boys. Girls hang out with the girls. Girls discover gossip at this age, and discuss every single detail of their classmate’s crushes…but ONLY speak about their own to their (five or fifteen) best friends. Of course, at this age, secret keeping is not a strong suit. The best friend accidentally spills the secret, and the boy knows within about six seconds. The boy is either disgusted or pumped, depending on whether he’s hit puberty.

5th grade: Romance is on the rise as kids hit the double digits. Boys and girls are both, shockingly, extremely open about their crushes. I have had numerous 5th graders make entire classroom confessions about their crushes. However, they may be willing to make the confession, but are clueless as to exactly what to do about it. The following is a direct texting conversation that I overheard from a 5th grade Girl and Boy:

G: So…I sometimes get bored. I’ll probably text you.

B: Um, ok.

G: (Shyly laughing) Sorry, I just, like, get bored.

B: I’ll probably just be downstairs in my basement watching TV and drinking Pepsi.

Me: You’re going to text her exactly that, aren’t you?

B: Yes. Exactly.

6th/7th grade: Puberty makes crushes problematic. Girls become disinterested, since most of the boys are at shoulder height. They become obsessed with Justin Beiber instead.

8th grade: Boys start to grow a bit, and then get back in the game. They grow their hair long to look like Justin Beiber. Girls go gaga. There is a HUGE range of what actually results in this, however. Some “couples” need their friends to arrange a hugging session. Others find a place in the principal’s office.

Do you remember your crushes at different ages? What was the most awkward encounter you experienced (either from yourself or someone else)?

Seeing 50 States

When I was younger, my family had a weird ritual whenever we crossed into a new state. Approximately 15 seconds before crossing over the sign, we would start saying (extremely slowly) “Welcome…to….” We would hold our breath until then, and then finally say [INDIANA, KENTUCKY, etc.].

I still do this when I’m driving alone. I also do this possibly louder than my family of five put together.

I’ve always been obsessed with seeing new states. I love road trips. Growing up, my family drove to Florida every year to visit my grandma and grandpa. I actually enjoyed 1,300 miles in a mini-van with my two sisters, mom, dad, and golden retriever. One trip, however, I did not enjoy was when I was about 8 years old. Our transmission blew out with 700 miles to go. It was December 23rd, and repair shops decided to celebrate Christmas a few days early. Everything was closed. Our car wouldn’t go any faster than 30 miles per hour. We had to drive on one-lane, country roads.

I learned what “giving someone the finger” meant on that trip.

My love of road trips has brought me to a new resolution. I want to visit all 50 states. This is not a feat that I will accomplish anytime soon (unless I meet a kind stranger who would like nothing more than to fund this feat).

However, I need your help. This resolution needs rules. What counts as “seeing” a state? I have “touched” several states (like eating at a McDonald’s in Arkansas) but does eating a meal make the cut? Does it have to be my final destination? Does getting lost (and hopefully found) there count?


Happy Birthday, Beiber

I can’t go an hour at a Junior High without hearing a mention, note, or heartfelt love confession about “the Beib.” I also can’t walk far without witnessing a teenage boy trying to copy his infamous hairdo.

In case you’re not exposed to a mound of Beiber memorabilia like me, you may have missed today’s memo.

Today is Justin Beiber’s 17th birthday. Which of course means that, exactly one year from today, there will be quite a few Cougars that come out with their (creepy) confession of love for a singer that is no-longer (legally) a boy. Let’s home that these cougars don’t set their screensavers for this countdown as many men did for Miley Cyrus [I’ll never known what these men actually expect. That Miley Cyrus is all of a sudden going to be stopped at a truck stop in Texas and realize that, hey, now that she’s 18, she’s tired of spending time dating celebrities and would instead prefer to be with a man twice her age with about 2% of her income?]

I taught Spanish today, and was immediately greeted with news of Beiber’s birthday. One girl wore Beiber gear from head to toe. Literally. She even wore a Beiber lanyard. She also said how she and her friend were going to celebrate Beiber’s birthday by going out for ice cream. They are then going to spend the rest of their night talking all about him (in person, on the phone, and online). She is convinced that if she and Justin Beiber met, they would have an instant, Bachelor-style “incredible connection.”

I will admit: I have a mild case of Beiber Fever. I could Karaoke to “Baby” with ease. I actually do smile when I hear him sing “U Smile” (although I don’t understand how someone who is talented enough to learn the guitar as a toddler can’t take the time to properly spell “You”). However, I will not be spending $8.99/month to have access to “Exclusive videos and photos” of him.

I definitely had celebrity crushes when I was a teenager (and still do). However, the obsession with Beiber is far beyond my days of tearing out pictures of N’Sync from my Tiger Beat and today, even seeing a scary movie if it means catching a glimpse of Ryan Reynolds.

Did you ever have a (huge) celebrity crush? Where is that crush today? Do you have a bad case of Beiber Fever?