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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Starting to sink in...

PPL mag

Today, for at least the 3rd or 4th year in a row, I purchased the People Magazine "Half Their Size" issue, convinced that something among those pages would click with me. Some words of wisdom, some inspirational motivation, some stark truth that would make me get off my butt, move more, and eat less.

As I was unloading the groceries at home, I pulled from the bag the People with the newly skinny folks on the cover. Next, I took out Tostitos with a hint of lime, marshmallows, mozzarella sticks, vanilla ice cream and break-and-bake Hershey Kissables chocolate chip cookies.

Hmmmm....

Better get on making that Biggest Loser application video today!

The Official Christmas Letter

I am notorious for buying cards, having a Christmas picture printed and then never actually mailing the Christmas cards. So I've given myself until the end of Christmas break to get the cards in the mail. And instead of printing a Christmas letter, I decided to publish the "official" Christmas letter here and hopefully snag a few dedicated readers by directing them here from our Christmas cards. Sneaky? Maybe? But I prefer the term "creative."

Dear Friends and Family,

Happy New Year (since I've obviously missed the "Merry Christmas" opportunity)! Hard to believe that it's 2009 already. Seems like only yesterday, we were all stockpiling bottled water and blankets for the apocalypse of Y2K.

As the t-shirts say, "Life is good." Sure we can look around and point to things in our lives we wish were better -- or at least different. But we can look the other way and see so many who have lives so much more difficult than ours and we quickly remember our blessings.

October 9, 2008 marked the 15th anniversary of the day Mike and I got married. Boy have we learned a lot in those years.

The kids are great. Helpful and funny, sometimes whiny and demanding, like most kids can be, except maybe the child Jesus, you know -- being God and all. They've all had a good year. Robbie started kindergarten and his slow, 12-year march toward independence; Annie had her tonsils out; and Charlie broke his arm, eliminating both the football and soccer seasons in one fell swoop. "Never a dull moment," as the saying goes and we wouldn't trade any of the moments we have with them.

We haven't really done a lot of traveling, though we did finally manage to take a quick trip with my parents, siblings and their families. Nineteen of us descended on Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana for two days of affordable, clean amusement park/water park fun. We've been trying to do a group trip like this for years. It was awesome!

Holiday World-the fam

And if anyone tells you that I shouted profanities with my 9-year-old son sitting next to me on the Liberty Launch, I will vehemently deny it (unless video exists to prove otherwise).

When we're not having potty-mouthed fun, Mike and I are working. He moved his office back home in August and has enjoyed being with the kids more. He is looking at moving his business to more of a freelance model while returning to traditional employment. He's got a few prospects on the horizon, so your prayers in that direction would be much appreciated.

I'm working 28 hours/week as a Communications Manager for a local college. Annie was at the office with me one day and asked if my job was boring. I gave it genuine consideration and decided, no it's not. I have a variety of projects to work on and co-workers who are fun to work with. It's a terrific job that I feel lucky to have.

Outside of friends, family and job -- for which I am supremely grateful -- this blog has been a blessing in my life. It gives me a place to stretch the creative side of my brain and gives me a little boost to know that a couple handfuls of people care to read what I have to say. Mostly, it's been a source of fun for the whole family. "You should blog about that!" is an oft-uttered phrase around here.

Mike dabbles in the blogsophere as well. While he doesn't post as frequently, his entries are often more intellectual in nature. He and I are tossing around the idea of starting a blog on which we'll jointly author entries. Could be a fun, and nerdy, sort of hobby for us to share.

We hope you and your families are enjoying life. We sincerely wish you the most blessed 2009.

Amy & Mike
Annie, Charlie & Robbie
(and Dungy the Cat)

PS -- If you'd like to keep up with this blog, either click "Follow this Blog" to have entries posted to your free Blogger account, or subscribe via e-mail.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Adventures in bra shopping

OTS boulder holder

After we left the football game on Sunday, Mike and I headed over to the mall to check out the Colts Pro Shop and to give the crowds a chance to get out of the parking garage. No great deals there, so we decided to walk around a bit.

On our way to the Food Court (no big surprise there, huh?), we passed the Lane Bryant store. I told Mike I wanted to go in and just look around. Being more of a clothes horse than I am, he agreed.

As is my usual custom, I looked at a few things at the front of the store before heading back to the clearance racks where I found a jacket and a cool v-neck blouse with an empire waist. I took both to the dressing room to give them a try.

Once I had the blouse on, I opened the door to ask Mike's opinion. He liked it, but I wanted to hear that from someone who isn't bound by wedding vows to say nice things. So I called the saleslady over to ask her opinion. (I wish I knew her name, but I don't. So let's just call her Maggie.)

Maggie took one look and said, "You can do it but you need a really supportive bra to make it work."

That one statement set in motion an undergarment quest that lasted for another 45 minutes. I knew she was right. The bra I was wearing that day was formerly an underwire -- I'd pulled the wires out with pliers when they broke and started to draw blood -- and didn't exactly keep the girls standing at attention.

So Maggie brought me two options. The first was your standard run-of-the mill underwire bra. The second was a "plunge" style which seemed almost scandalous to me despite it's neutral color.

I tried the plunge on first, threw a sweater on over it and stepped out of the dressing room. It took Maggie all of 5 seconds to locate what she termed "some poppage" and to declare I needed the next size up.

She brought the new one and handed it to me with instructions to "lean forward, pull the fleshy part and jiggle."

Now I am a grown woman and have been wearing bras for longer than I have not. But I just started giggling at the thought of shaking and shimmying my girls into place. The fact that Mike was sitting patiently on the other side of the door listening to the entire conversation made me laugh even more.

Appropriately shaken (not stirred), I pulled on the sweater again and stepped out for review. The new site of my chest gave Maggie one more idea which involved an inflatable pouch to help balance the underachieving side of my chest.

I am not a small-busted woman. Never in my life would I have considered the possibility of stuffing my bra with a pocket of air. But when I emerged once again from the dressing room for approval, Mike noticed the difference immediately and even said I looked thinner in this new bra.

Sold! and I'll take one in every color!

So for those of you who know me in real life, the next time you see me, don't feel the need to say anything, but be sure to take note of my new -- uplifted -- profile. And don't hug me too tight because I just might pop.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Suite experience -- Go Colts!

Last fall, Mike and I attended a charity auction. Going in, we briefly discussed how much money we were willing to spend. So we bid on a few items in the silent auction and I thought that was that. Which is why I didn't pay any attention to the live auction until I heard excitement mounting. I walked in the room just in time to hear "Sold!" and see the auctioneer's gavel pointed at Mike. He had purchased an Indianapolis Colts package that included two tickets in a suite to any game of our choice. Let's just say the winning bid was well above the small amount we'd previously planned to spend.

The prospect of getting to see a Colts game from a suite was enough to help me get over my irritation pretty quickly. We looked over the schedule and chose the Colts vs. Tennessee Titans game, which took place today.

It was my first time inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the new home of the Colts.

pregame

We made our way to the suite and I have to admit that I was a little nervous about spending the next three hours or so with total strangers. We walked into the suite and tried to blend in. Fortunately, one woman in the suite recognized us from the kids' school and introduced us around.

Feeling a little more at ease, we loaded our plates with buffalo wings and veggie sandwiches and took two seats in the front row of the suite as the pre-game activities wound down and the Colts came out of the locker room.

your Indpls Colts

Soon, Peyton and crew were on the field beginning their rout of the Titans. It turns out the game itself wasn't a great one to see -- both the Colts and the Titans had already secured playoff berths, so both teams quickly sent in their second string quarterbacks. Which was a good thing, because about halfway thru the first quarter, someone came to us and informed us we were in their seats.

A little confused -- we thought once you were in the suite, you just sat wherever -- we moved back into the casual area of the suite and began to watch the game on three wall-mounted TVs. I have to say that I was more than a little frustrated. I could have stayed home and watched the game on TV for free. Kelly, the school mom, seemed to sense this and asked for our tickets to see what she could do.

Turns out that our tickets were marked SRO -- Standing Room Only. Are you kidding me?! If I wasn't mad at Mike for the purchase the night of the auction, I sure was once I found that our hard-earned, easily spent money didn't even get us a place to sit for the game.

But the money was already spent, we were at the game, and the food and drink was free. So I made up my mind to just enjoy the experience. Since Peyton was already on the sidelines calling plays instead of on the field running them and since we didn't exactly have a good view of the field, we decided to explore the stadium a bit.

And it was impressive. From the larger-than-life displays:

helmet cam 2

big colt

to the massive window that opens during games in warmer weather:

the big window

And despite the disappointment over our suite experience, Mike and I really had a good time:

New Colts

Just as half-time began, we returned to the suite and this time found some amazing blueberry cobbler (it always comes back to the food with me, doesn't it?) and two open seats. Actually, Kelly offered to give us two of their seats, although the combo of the Colts sizable lead and the lack of marquee players on the field led to a handful of seats being open, so we got to sit and watch most of the second half.

After the game, someone snapped a picture of us with the field behind us.

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All in all, it was a great day. We got to know a school family we didn't know before; Mike made some potential business contacts; I can say I've been to Lucas Oil Stadium; and the Colts won! Even so, it will be a long time before I give Mike a bidder paddle again.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Clutter-induced insomnia

It's 4:17am. I've been awake for almost two hours. I have a headache, which probably is caused by lack of sleep. And it's the reason I can't sleep.

I've watched "Miracle on 34th Street" and caught up on a few message boards that I frequent. So it's either toss up a post here or go do laundry. And since I did housework from 1am to 4pm last night, I'm giving myself a night off.

I've tried ibuprofen, caffeine, no caffeine, watching TV. Nothing seems to take away this headache and/or put me to sleep. Of course I'm probably oxygen deprived and if I would go upstairs and drag out the CPAP machine for a little forced-air-assisted sleep, that might work.

But, oh, that's right. I can't use the CPAP machine because it's next to my bed and what's ON my bed is about five loads of laundry waiting to be folded and put away. I'd move that to my floor, except what's on my floor is about 10 pairs of shoes, four rolls of wrapping paper, two baskets' worth of socks, assorted discarded outfits that weren't right for whatever occasion and a partridge in a pear tree.

Boy do I feel like a hypocrite when I tell the kids to clean their rooms. It's definitely a case of do as I say and not as I do. See this kids -- learn from my mistakes. Whatever you do, do not turn your room into a replica of the Goodwill warehouse. Trust me, you will lose sleep over it.

Nothing like a little insomnia to make a girl start airing her dirty laundry -- or her clean laundry as the case may be. I figure if I don't ever make it on the Biggest Loser, I may have a shot at one of those de-cluttering home improvement shows.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas past

About 56 hours ago, we kicked off our Christmas celebration with our attendance at the 4pm Mass, commonly known as the "Children's Mass."

Because Annie and Charlie were both in the Children's Choir, we arrived with plenty of time to get a good seat. (Is that sacreligious -- to designate a seat at church as "a good seat?") Robbie was happy with our location because it put him right in front of his friend Paul, which meant we spent plenty of time during Mass saying "Turn around" and "Leave Paul alone."

I loved watching Charlie sing because it's such a deviation from his ordinary persona.

Annie was a different story. She absolutely did not want to sing in the choir and her face showed it. She was, so "bershon," as we've come to refer to tweens and teens who wear their misery on their faces. We made her be in the choir because we were already making the drive to and from practices and it would be a good use of her talents in service to the church.

To make matters even worse, I told her "consider it your birthday present to the Baby Jesus." Wow, somehow my mouth was channeling my mother's mouth at that moment. The fact that she towered above the rest of the kids in the choir like Buddy the Elf over the rest of the real elves did not help the situation, either.

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After church, we went out to dinner, drove around looking at Christmas lights and seeing wither we could see Rudolph leading Santa's sleigh, then came home to watch a little Christmas-appropriate TV. With the kids finally in bed and sound asleep, Mike and I got to work.

No major assembly this year, thank goodness, just some last minute gift coordination. Of course, it almost came to a screeching halt when Robbie woke up and started to head downstairs around midnight. Fifteen minutes later, the kid crisis was averted and the "what happened to the power" crisis reared its head. Crisis is probably a bit strong of a word, but the power did go out for a quick 5 seconds or so, bringing to mind the year the power went out for about 45 minutes and Mike was left to assemble a Fisher Price Little People garage with the help of a head-mounted flash light.

Finally, the tree was ringed with gifts, the stockings were stuffed and we were ready for bed. I suggested to Mike that we wake the kids and get the gift-opening madness over while we were still awake. Then we could go to bed while they stayed up and played all night, eventually falling asleep and letting us sleep even longer. Mike was not to be convinced, so we headed to bed around 1am.

At 3:30am, Charlie came in. "Mom, can we go downstairs?"

"Are you nuts?!" So he climbed into our bed and fell back to sleep, until...

4:30am --

"Mom!," Robbie yelled as loud as you can yell while still whispering. "Santa came. I can see the stockings. Can we go?"

"Are you nuts?! It's 4:30am!" So he climbed into our bed and tossed and turned, until...

5:00am --

"Mom! Can we get up?" Annie this time.

"I must be nuts," I thought as Mike and I got up, defeated and barely coherent. We told the kids to wait on the stairs while we checked to see if Santa had really come -- and while we poured our very big glasses of Diet Coke.

"C'mon! Now? Can we come down?" This is how they looked through my bleary eyes:

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About 45 minutes later, at about 6am if you're keeping track, this is all that was left of the carefully wrapped and coordinated Christmas:

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Among the highlights were a Ben 10 Omnitrix and shirt for Robbie, iPods for Annie and Charlie, a hoodie from Aeropostale for Annie, an Indiana Jones hat for Mike, and four games for the Wii -- including Wii Fit. As for me, Santa brought several books I was hoping for and a great cardigan sweater jacket.

By 6:30am, the new clothes were on, the iPods were downloading, and paints were open.

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Oh, and we discovered that the little power blink the night before rendered our Wii console useless. I could hear Mike cursing in the basement, to which I yelled, "Let's remember the real meaning of this day!" Again, my mother's voice coming out of my mouth...

Fortunately, in an occurrence more akin to Easter than Christmas, the Wii resurrected itself and by noon, lightsaber duels were underway. Which may go down in our family as the second greatest miracle of Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #12 - Santa's favorite GIFT

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Merry Christmas!

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #11 - 'Twas the night before Christmas and I'm all out of breath...

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house 
the Mommy was blogging with the click of the mouse. 

The stockings were filled, busting the seams 
the tree bore the fruits of holiday dreams. 

The Daddy was futzing with a last minute gift 
and poor Mommy's eyelids needed a lift. 

Mommy in her jammies about to log off for the night, 
when a noise upstairs caused her feet to take flight. 

The stumble of footsteps above was the sound 
and Mommy ran straight up the stairs in a bound. 

The wee one who sleeps like his Mom -- or does not, 
was standing there peering down at the lot. 

Mommy raced up the stairs, body blocking the view 
before the young boy could see one stocking shoe. 

"Oh honey, c'mon we must be in bed, 
or Santa won't find us," to the bedroom she led.
 
Together they fell into bed very quick, 
Mommy breathing so heavily she thought she'd be sick. 

Huffing and puffing she thought to herself, 
"I should have left those cookies alone on the shelf." 

"And the ice cream and candy, the burgers and fries. 
It's just that it looks so good in my eyes." 

The young little lad fell quickly to sleep,
while Mommy gained breath -- just enough for a peep.

"Dear Santa, one favor -- just one wish more
I'd like to lose some pounds, maybe one hundred and four."

And so in the morning when Mommy arises 
she'll run to the mirror to see her transformed thighs-es. 

And if the reflection shows a figure robust, 
well dear old Santa, he won't be cussed. 

Because Mommy knows that Santa may not grant a wish so airy. 
So next year she'll ask the Hanukkah Fairy.


Hanukkah Fairy

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #10 - And a little child shall lead them...

Did anyone notice anything unusual about the photo of the Fontanini Nativity in the entry I made yesterday? No? Look again:

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See the #1 candle in the back of the stable? That's been a permanent fixture in this Nativity scene for the past five or six years. The story of how it got there is one of my favorite Christmas stories:

I had put out all the Christmas decorations and had them arranged just as I liked them. One day I walked past the Fontanini Nativity and saw the candle I'd used on the kids' first birthday cakes standing against the wall in the stable.

I took the candle out and put it in the junk drawer. A day or so later, it was back in the stable. Again, I put it in the junk drawer. The next day, I saw Annie putting it in the stable again.

"Annie! Stop messing with my Nativity," I said. "Get that candle out of there."

Setting her up to see how clever she was, I went on...

"That candle does not belong in the Nativity," I goaded, waiting for her to refute me with the reminder that Christmas is indeed the birthday of Jesus.

"Yes it does," she said as she took the bait.

"Oh yeah? Why?"

"I put that candle in the stable because Jesus is number one!"

And so every year, that polka-dotted candle takes its place in the stable behind the Baby Jesus to help us remember that whether the gifts are bought, the cookies are baked, the cards are sent, what really matters is that Jesus is, indeed, #1.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #9 - O Come Let Us Adore Him!

One of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas is unpacking and displaying my Nativity collection. It started when we got married and someone gave us the Fontanini collection Holy Family. Since then, we've added a new piece every year or two to that set.

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And I've added other Nativities to the collection. I love having Nativity sets around as a reminder of the reason for the season. And because the collection gets packed away in January every year, I don't have to continually dust it, which is definitely a bonus.

Since this is my blog and I can do what I want to, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorites from the collection...

There's the Peruvian Nativity:

Peruvian nativity

the George Carruth stone-carved Nativity from my friend Claire:

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the fireplace Nativity screen I bought as a gift to myself for my 35th birthday:

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the "Rita" Nativity, a collection handbuilt by artist Rita Jackson and given to me by Mike's grandmother:

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though several of the pieces are broken and are waiting for me to fix them with Mighty Putty.

And of course the Fisher Price Nativity. Though in our version, Joseph has gone to the local watering hole with a shepherd and a couple of wise men, leaving Mary to look after the Savior of the World and a bunch of animals by herself:

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There are more, but I didn't have the energy to unpack them all this year. I'll be scouring the after Christmas sales for my next favorite and maybe next year I'll put them all out.

What is your favorite part of Christmas decorating?

Monday, December 22, 2008

On being a good sport

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Volleyball tryouts were last week and Annie was hoping to make the "A" team, where most of her friends would likely be assigned. I knew that the "A" team was a stretch, so I tried to hedge her bets by reminding her that lots of girls went out and only so many girls could be assigned to the "A" team.

We got an e-mail today letting us know that she did not make the "A" team, or even the "B" team, but has been placed on the "C" team. The majority of players on that team are 5th graders, with Annie and two other 6th graders rounding out the roster. She was crushed.

"Mom, I'm so embarrassed! I don't want to play on the "C" team! I don't want to play at all," she literally cried.

I tried to console her with such logical statements as "You have a real chance to be a leader on the "C" team because you're one of the 6th graders" and "You might make some new friends with some of the 5th graders you don't know."

But what I wanted to do was stomp my feet and beat my fists and rant about how "they" didn't know what they were doing when they put her on the "C" team. I wanted to theorize that her glasses are loose and in need of repair and she was inhibited by that. I wanted to tell her that of course she can quit and I totally understand why she wouldn't want to waste her time on the "C" team.

But I didn't. Because while all of those things might have made her -- and me -- feel better at the moment, none of those things would give her the benefit of using this trial to make her a stronger, better person.

I know how she feels, though. I was cut from my fair share of teams -- two soccer and a basketball team, if I remember correctly. I remember the feelings of embarrassment, of not feeling good enough, of being shut out of somewhere I desperately wanted to fit in. I still curse the name of Matt Money who cut me from the freshman and senior high school soccer teams. But I was the kid and not the mother, which makes this all the harder.

However, I have to remind myself, she was not cut. She has a spot on a team. Not the team she wanted. But a team where she does have a chance to learn and grow and contribute. And so I'll drive back and forth to practices, go to every game, cheer her on as though her name is Misty May and the musty CYO gym is a sandy volleyball pit in Beijing.

I will be a good sport and show her how to be one as well. (And when she's not looking, I just might stick my tongue out at the bozos who put her on the "C" team.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #9 - Christmas Round One

We went to the in-laws today for round one of the gift-giving-and-getting frenzy that is Christmas. Compared to years past, my in-laws were quite tame in their gift giving, which is a good thing. Of course, I did the majority of their shopping, so I had some control over the situation. 

The big hits were Madden '09 for the Nintendo DS (Charlie), books 1 & 2 of the Twilight series (Annie) and two Ben 10 guys -- Swampfire and Humongasaur (Robbie). 

Karen & Tom seemed happy with the Dan in Real Life BluRay (I could watch that movie 50 times), their GoGo & Poppo wordles, and the fresh-from-the-German bakery springerle cookies.

Mike & I were surprised by our gift of green stuff which came with the directive to "buy something to add value to your house and stimulate the economy." Mike is trying to convince me of the relative value of a BluRay player, while I am set on helping him understand the benefit of new curtains in the family room. 

Our big family gift will come in February, in the form of four days in sunny (Please, God!) Sanibel, Florida. My father-in-law had wrapped a football with a note that said, "The next time we throw this football, we will all be where the birds are. Where will we be?" 

Now, I'm not sure if that says "Florida" to you, but it didn't for my kids. "The zoo! The pet store? Kentucky? (!)" It took a little hand holding to get to Florida. By that time they were so confused, they sort of acted like, "oh, a trip to Florida," kind of like you would expect them to respond to the revealing of a new scent of laundry detergent. 

As a mother, I was embarrassed that they weren't more expressively appreciative. So I said, "Do you know how we're gonna get to Florida?" 

"We're flying?!" There's the ticket -- and suddenly my in-laws were the heroes they deserve to be.  

Commence with the shrieking and squealing and generally goofy running around-ness. Except for one small, scared sounding whimper, which came from me as I realized that I only have about six weeks to lose 50 pounds. Hmmm...wonder if Bob or Jillian have any free time right now? 
BobJillian

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #8 - Not genetically engineered for baking

My mom is really good at a lot of stuff. She's artistic and crafty. She can fix just about anything with a rubberband and a paperclip. But I don't really think of her as a great cook. She's a decent cook. But there's not really one dish I think of and say "Oh, Mom makes the best..."

I don't get the idea that my NaNa (my Mom's mom) was a terrific cook either. Again, like my Mom, I think she was a pretty utilitarian cook -- she cooked for basic survival. My point is not to trash the reputations of my mother and grandmother, but rather to establish a case that the girls in my family were not genetically engineered to be good cooks.

For instance, my sister Shelley once made Jell-O that sat in the refrigerator for three days and never jelled. And it seems that the story of my "Cajun tuna surprise" will never die -- at least as long as Mike is around to perpetuate it.

So I wasn't surprised when I got this e-mail from my sister Angie:

Good morning!

Let me just tell you why I suck...at least as a cookie baker....
All excited to make my Grandma's famous gum drop cookies, I drug myself and Ava to the store last night at 8:30pm after playing 'single mom of 2' all day. I was careful to buy exactly what my Grandma said - the right gum drops, flour and even the 2 pound bag of light brown sugar.

After getting home, I carefully read over the recipe then began whipping together the ingredients one by one. Just as good old Grandma advised, I thoroughly mixed one before the other. Finally it is time to put them in the over at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!

They're done!...or are they?? They look like Grandma's cookies...until I cut into them...they're soup! How could this be? I followed the directions to a "t". So back in the oven they go for another 15 minutes.

Gumdrop Mess1

While I waited for the gumdrop cookies to finish cooking I decided I'd go ahead and make the "easy" cookies...Ritz Peanut Butter Cookies. Sounded easy - two crackers, some peanut butter dipped in chocolate. I'm sure for anyone else it IS easy..but for me, not so much!

I dumped the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, added a little olive oil to make the chocolate shiny and threw it in the microwave careful not to cook it too long, as I didn't want to burn it. Two minutes - not done. In for another 1 minute, still not done...so back in it goes for one final minute. Before I even heard the beep, I smelled the burn. Yep - leave it up to me to scorch the fricken chocolate chips!!

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.

Back to the gum drop cookies now that one recipe was completely destroyed. I pulled them out of the oven for the second time. So then I think, well maybe they just need to set up.

So off to bed I go with visions of gumdrop cookies in my head. When I get up this morning, I carefully peeled back the wax paper, inserted the knife...my eyes got big and my heart sank - still not right!

Gumdrop Mess2

So do you think anyone would mind if I brought store bought cookies to the Cookie Exchange??!

Sincerely,
Santa's Sucky Cookie Cooker

Now, no offense to Grandma, I never liked those gumdrop cookies. But her springerles? Pure black licorice heaven. But I know better than to try baking those myself. So I'll be headed to the local German bakery next week to pick up mine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I knew it!

For years, I have endured unsolicited commentary, criticism and even open hostility from the people who are supposed to love me most -- my husband, my mother, my sisters. And I sheepishly took that which they leveled at me, having no ground on which to fight their allegations.

But tonight I have proof! Proof that I am not nocturnally auditorily offensive. Proof that they are delusional. Tonight I have proof that I do NOT snore. Judge for yourself:


Amyasleep from Mike Magan on Vimeo.

The irony is that Mike shot this video (obviously in very low light) to prove that I do snore. But I didn't! I don't! I won't be made to feel guilty about supposedly keeping someone awake with my "chainsaw-like breathing" again!

Thanks, honey, for the vindication!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does Santa have a Lands End gift for you?

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I'm really not a brand-specific clothing shopper. Heck, I'm happy if it fits regardless of what name is on the label. But one brand I am partial to is Lands' End. The clothes are well-made and hold up superbly in the wash. And they carry what I like to refer to as "teapot" clothes -- those made for the short and stout.

So when I got an invitation to enter to win a $100 Lands' End gift card, I didn't have to think twice. Want in on the deal? Just take a few minutes to complete the Lands' End Sun.Life 2008 Survey.

It's quick -- only 22 multiple choice questions. Once you finish, your name will be entered to win one of five $100 Lands' End Gift Cards. But hurry, you have to complete the survey by midnight (CST) on Friday, December 19th. That's tomorrow! So put down the Christmas card list and get clicking:

Lands' End Sun.Life 2008

New one in name calling

So Robbie was bugging Annie in the way that little brothers are born to bug big sisters. Flicking her with a string. Jumping in front of the TV she was watching. Trying to step on her foot.

"Robbie! Get out of here! You're annoying," she yelled at him.

"Oh yeah?! Well you're a stink-bra," he hollered back.

Did I show any favoritism when I laughed at that? Stink-bra...I'll have to remember that one, especially on laundry day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #7 - O Perfect Nite!

Starry NIght

There hasn't been a night in several weeks that has been as perfect as tonight...

...no one has to go to a practice (except Christmas choir, which we are skipping b/c of the weather)

...there is no homework to be done (except Annie's extra credit report, but she's a 6th grader, she can handle that)

...the teacher gifts are wrapped (no exceptions there), as are most of the other Christmas gifts

This is THE perfect night for playing "Mommy's legs are broken and she can't get off the couch."

Yes, there is laundry to be folded (about 3 loads). There are dishes to be done. There are Christmas cards to be addressed. But not tonight. The only effort I intend to exert tonight is scrolling, clicking and typing. Oh, and breathing. This is my Christmas season gift to myself.

And so here I am. Favorite red-checked fleece blanket tucked around my legs, pillow behind me, laptop resting on my, well duh...lap. We're watching a Muppet Christmas movie and I am NOT going to move.

I just sent the boys upstairs to get their jammies on -- by themselves. Without me. And if they come back downstairs wearing dinosaur bottoms and penguin tops, so be it. Because I am not getting off the couch.

In fact, since school's only in session until about 11am tomorrow, I'm going to let Robbie watch the movie until he falls asleep in the chair. And when Mike returns home, I'll have him carry the boy up to bed. Because I am not getting of the couch.

Maybe I'll even sleep here tonight, cuddled up in my cocoon safe away from snoring husbands (ok, he might argue that I'm the real auditory offender) and wandering children.

O Perfect Nite for being a snuggled in, warmed up, logged on Mommy who is not getting off the couch.

Wordless Wednesday: Hail to the Victor!

Photobucket

Go here for the Biggest Loser finale recap. Click here for more Wordless Wednesday fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Biggest Loser lovers -- are you ready?

Ok, I have my DVR set (in case one of the kids needs something during the show, God forbid), NBC tuned in (in high def to make Mike happy), and keyboard at the ready. Catch you after the show!

I'm back. I couldn't stay away, so I'm blogging throughout the show. The question is do I hit publish after every segment or wait to the end. I might drive my e-mail subscribers crazy if I publish multiple times throughout. And I worked hard for those subscribers.

*********
Here it goes...Ed or Heba?

Holy cow Heba! She looks good! All right, she looks great! (Of course she hasn't opened her mouth yet...) She does need a little more support for the "girls," though.

Ed looks like a totally different person. Doofus or not, he does love his wife, which is endearing.

It's ED! It's ED!

Why did this happen? Because Heba has been nasty for an entire season and America is sending a message that nasty does not pay off.

They do look disappointed and they should be. Because it looks like Heba lost so much weight, she would have been a serious contender.

**********
Bringing out the old crew. Boy, those floors must be slick. Heba and Stacy have both slipped.

Guess I didn't know what I was talking about when I picked Tom & LT. They look like they could've used a few more weeks on the ranch.

Minor aside...couldn't they find a better dress for Allison?

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Contest -- win $10K and a BL prize pack. Guess what? It's overloaded nbc.com. Better enter via text from your phone.

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From the comments:

@Angie -- GMTA -- that preggo dress is so wrong! Didn't I just say that?

@MichelleF -- I'm glad I voted for Ed too. I don't begrudge Heba her progress, but I wasn't about to reward her behavior with my vote.

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Wow! If I lost 29% of my body weight, I'd weigh 315lbs! LOL! Sorry, inside joke. I really wouldn't. But no way am I gonna tell you what I would weigh.

LT needs to lose more than 105 lbs. Nope. But I wouldn't kick 87 pounds out of bed for eating crackers. Tom lost the mirror amount -- 78lbs.

********
Jerry: Now there's a cop who looks like he's skipping the donut shop. Amazing difference.
Colleen: I thought she was whiney on the show, but she looks great now.

Shellay: I think she might be my favorite transformation.
Amy: She looks awesome. And so confident. What a difference from her "before" segment at the top of the show when she talked about being ashamed for anyone to see her. Beautiful!

Hey BL people: Can we get a new doc for next season? This guy kind of creeps me out.

Can Amy hold on to her lead? I think she meant Stacy. Wonder if that's a Freudian slip? Guess not since it's a live show.

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My apologies to those on the e-mail subscription. I decided to multi-publish this blog. I promise I won't do this again (at least until the American Idol finale).

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-115 for Jerry. What he gained in health is worth way more than $250K.
-64 for Colleen, two shy of de-throning her Dad. I don't think she's disappointed.

LOL! I'd never seen that clip of Shellay and Amy in the dressing room w/the too-small pants on. That's great!

-74 for Shellay. You know in the scope of the Biggest Loser show, 74 pounds doesn't seem like much. But what a difference in makes.

Can Amy C. lose more than 81? Yes ma'am she did! 104! Sounds like she's a crowd favorite.

OHHHH EMMMMM GEEEEE! Phil and Amy. Can't wait for Vicky to see them now.

There's Brady. Still don't like him.

And Renee. Her haircut is adorable! And probably good for at least 5 pounds.

*********
Here we go, Phil & Amy's weigh ins. Oh, he's totally bald now. Did I ever mention I have a thing for bald men? -151! 45% of his body weight gone?! I'm sorry for Amy C., but way to go Phil! Please let it be enough to keep Brady at bay.

Now Amy knocked Phil off the top with a 105lb. weight loss. That's more than 250 pounds of weight gone between them. You know there's some serious lovin' goin' on in that house!

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Drat! Phone call. It's my MIL. I love her, but she's gonna have to leave a message tonight.

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Brady has to lose more than 156. Please don't. Please don't. Holding my breath!

NOT EVEN CLOSE! Take that Vicky! I would love to see Amy be the one to snatch that $100K as a reward for all the crap Vicky gave her and Phil.

Renee's up. I like her so much. As much as you can like someone you've never met. -106 pounds. I think that has to be at least 4 or 5 100+ losers.

I didn't even recognize Heba. I'm pretty sure she lost more than 134 pounds. She was close to 300 on the first day at the ranch. I bet she's lost close to 150. Darn...I mean, good for her!

She lost 138 pounds! Nasty or not, she earned it. $100,000! Just please, please, let Michelle win the Biggest Loser prize...

************
Ed's discussion about how hard the temptation of food is hit home. I would imagine that a naturally thin person wouldn't even think about the way a potato chip feels in your mouth. But it wasn't a stretch for me at all. He's right how hard it is when your demon is food. It's not like alcohol that you can swear off of forever. (He didn't say the demon part, I just expanded the discussion.)

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Vicky's reveal. If you can't say something nice...

Every time she wanted to quit or give up, she thought about...$$$$.

She's gonna be the superwoman. She did not learn one thing. Unrealistic expectations breed contempt. She doesn't get home until 9pm at night? Even she acknowledges that's not what she wants her life to be. I truly hope when this game is over, she gains some perspective.

And this "I've lost 2 pounds in 7 weeks"stuff? I smell more gameplay...

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Michelle's turn. Please, oh, please..

Nice product placement. Bet the Subway folks are pulling for Michelle now too.

Michelle just makes me feel happy inside. Please let the nice girl win.

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Here they are. Vicky. Again with the slipping. Is it bad that I laughed and hoped to see Vicky fall right on her butt? She doesn't really look healthy. And that dress? I'm biting my tongue.

Michelle. Now she is smokin'! And very healthy looking. And classy. (Except I could do without the feathery necklace.)

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A new season in January already? Hate to say it, but it looks like The Biggest Loser Freak show. I'm afraid Biggest Loser might be jumping the shark with this next season.

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Vicky's little winking and smooching? Blech!

Ok. Ed's up...

-139 pounds. 41% of body weight. Together, he and Heba have lost 280 pounds.

Vicky. Just typing the name feels icky. But I will say this. She knew what she wanted, right or wrong, and she worked hard to achieve it. But I'm not sure she learned what she needed to for this to be a lifelong change.

-101! Two pounds shy of taking over Ed. Ding dong the witch is dead! Skinny, maybe, but definitely NOT the Biggest Loser!

Michelle's turn. Breathe, Amy, breathe. She deserves this. Please, let her win this. She needs to have lost more than 100 pounds. I thought for sure that Vicky had it in the bag. I'm not taking anything for granted.

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From the comments:

@MichelleF. -- I agree with you. Michelle does look like the same person, just a thinner version of herself. And it is completely evident that what's on the inside really does show on the outside.

@Fox and Dawg -- (Great name, btw). LOL! You're right about the necklaces. Maybe they are launching own signature line of jewelry.

**********
This is it. Either Michelle gets $250K and the title or Ed & Heba go home with the whole kit and kaboodle.

Crossing my fingers, holding my breath!

YES! -110!

Nice guys do finish first!


Congratulations Michelle!

Monday, December 15, 2008

While visions of basketball danced in their heads...

Go BU!

After I put the boys to bed tonight, I walked back down the hallway to grab some laundry. As I reached for the reds, Charlie called out to me:

"Mom?"

"What Charlie?"

"When A.J. Graves made that deep shot from the nozone against the Flames, were the Bulldogs down by 2 or 1?"

"Um, I think you're gonna have to discuss that with your Dad."

Now I know what little boys always have on their minds before they become big boys with something else always on their minds.

Fabulous!

Fabulous

Apparently, I am FABULOUS! Or at least my blog is. Or at least Liz from Eternal Lizdom thinks it is. And so I thought I'd mention it here.

It's really a fine line to walk between being pompous and self-loving about one's own blog and participating in the love fest that I've come to realize makes the blogosphere go 'round. I think I've missed mentioning some other blog love that I've been sent. But I decided to do this one because in addition to acknowledging the fabulousness of my own blog, I get to name five other fabulous blogs and talk about five things that I think are fabulous as well.

So here goes:

Five FABULOUS blogs you should definitely check out:
  1. Williams Family Farm - I will never again complain about my busy life with 3 kids. Lisa has 7 kiddos and lives on a farm living a life that makes me look amazingly pampered. She hasn't updated in a few weeks, but you try to raise 7 kids and blog everyday. She's got a year's worth of content for you to savor in the meantime.

  2. Noobie/What's Noo - If you've ever found yourself confounded by technology, Mr. Noobie is your go-to guy.

  3. The One-Minute Writer - Who said that brains are wasted online? (Did anyone actually say that?) Stretch your brain, and your fingertips, at this cool site.

  4. Notes from the Trenches - I try to give the blog love to unknown bloggers, like myself, but I really do love this blog. Even if I am jealous at her blog fame. Someday...

  5. The Adventures of Bittyman and IttyBitty Boy -- This blog is short and sweet. And generally just full of happiness.

Five things that I find FABULOUS:
  1. Pedicures. I don't care if I get a pedicure at a fancy day spa, where I lounge in a robe while they serve me sparkling lime water; or if it's at the Chinese place in the strip mall, where I just hike up the ankles of my jeans and wonder if they are talking about me in all their foreign chatter. Pedicures are fabulous, especially when they use that razor thing on my crusty heels (sorry, hope no one is eating).

  2. Diet Coke. In a glass. With ice. 'Nuff said.

  3. The word "blogosphere." I don't know why I love it so much, but I do. Like when I first got married, I looked for every occasion to say "my husband."

    "Can I help you find something, ma'am?"
    "Oh no, I'm just waiting for my husband."

    Except there are a lot more opportunities to say husband than blogosphere. But it's still a fabulous word.

  4. DVR. Whoever invented DVR should get a prize. All you Biggest Loser fans -- do you have yours set for tomorrow night?

  5. Snow days. Because it's 17 degrees outside and I keep thinking how awesome it would be to not have to go to work tomorrow, I definitely have to say that snow days are fabulous.
What's on your fabulous list?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The 12 blogs of Christmas: #6 -- Unrealistic Expectations

reindeer dude

A few days ago, we were talking about what Charlie could take to school to sell for "stores," a mini economy activity (fueled by play money) that the kids love and the parents hate because generally the kids come home with a bunch of junk that you have to sneak into the garbage little by little so they don't realize that it's gone. At least that's what I've heard other parents do.

Anyway, I suggested to Charlie that we make candy cane reindeer for him to sell at stores. While he wasn't at all interested in that suggestion, Robbie was all over it and asked me several times when we could make the reindeer. So, today while I was out, I bought the necessary supplies (candy canes, pipe cleaners, red puffy balls and googly eyes), came home and told Robbie tonight was the night.

He was all set. We decided to make 24 candy cane reindeer -- one for each kid and teacher in his class. He was on nose duty. I was in charge of the googly eyes and the pipe cleaner antlers. Then he gave each set of antlers a re-twist until he had them just so. That's how our process went -- for about 5 reindeer. Then he said, "You can do the rest, Mom. I'm going to watch a show."

Hey, now wait a minute! What happened to our mother-son quality time? So I tried to convince him to stick around a bit longer.

"But Robbie, we have to finish them all so you can take them to your friends at school."

To which he replied, "Oh, you can take them in Mom. I'm not going to school."

box o reindeer


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We took the kids to a living Nativity last weekend. It was wet and freezing and a perfect night to stay inside. But the kids were bouncing off the walls and I decided we had to get out. Besides, the cold might freeze their joints a bit so they would be a little less bouncy, I reasoned.

So we drove to the ground of the hospital where the living Nativity was to take place. My eyes first fell on a huge white tent where the performance would take place and I muttered a genuine, "Thank you Jesus!" Inside, we were surprised (and pleased) to find free hot chocolate, popcorn and cookies, though I did have to remind the kids that concessions were not actually served at the birth of Jesus.

We took our seats -- another great surprise, as I thought we'd be standing -- and watched as the live camels and the choir got into place. The event started and Robbie came to sit on my lap.

"Look," I whispered. "There's Mary and Joseph. They have to stay in that barn because there's no room for them anywhere else. See the donkey with them?"

I began to feel all warm inside, not from hot chocolate, but from the joy of realizing that we were helping to shore up the kids' understanding that Christmas is not all about toys and wish lists, but is truly a celebration of Jesus' birth.

"Yeah, I see the donkey," said Robbie. "But where's Santa Claus?"

At your service

service 1 service 2

In the past 48 hours, I have had the pleasure of eating out at two restaurants. I mean REAL restaurants where the food was ordered from a menu I actually held in my hands, instead of one that is backlit and hung above the milkshake machine. And when I relayed my order, no one asked me if I wanted to supersize that. And I began think about how much a server can make or break a meal.

On Friday morning, I met my friends Beth and Denise for our weekly "therapy session." Rather than our standard Panera meet-up, we decided to go to Le Peep and treat ourselves to a sit-down meal. When I arrived, the other two had already been seated at a table by the window. I sat down with my back to the window. Our server, Cheri, came right over, took my order for Diet Coke and re-arranged the condiments on the center of the table, apparently based on where I'd chosen to sit.

After she left, I decided to switch seats to get away from the cold of the large glass window. When Cheri returned with my Diet Coke, she jokingly chastised me for moving to the new chair and then proceeded to re-arrange the condiments again. We told her we needed a little time to decide what we wanted. No problem.

When she came back to take our order, she'll plopped down into the empty chair (by the cold window) at the table. Beth ordered oatmeal and Cheri said, "Seriously?! Don't you want to be a little more exciting than that?" We all laughed. Cheri wasn't being rude, just playful. When I asked if it would be possible to get a hamburger, she said "No problem!" And when I changed my mind 2 minutes later after she'd written down all our requests, she appropriately gave me a pseudo hard time for being difficult.

Over the course of the breakfast, we learned that Cheri gives cool red and green bottles of wine to her friends for Christmas, except those guy friends who get the Budweiser Holiday beer in the special packaging. But she is stumped as to what to get her mother, who just buys whatever she wants or needs. So we threw out a few ideas, none of which passed muster with Cheri.

That's when Denise said that I should blog about it and see if any of the 4th Frog readers had any good ideas. Cheri thought that sounded cool, so I gave her the URL and told her I'd get on it. So, if you have any good ideas, leave them in the comments section for Cheri to check out.

When we left, I gave Cheri a Christmas bonus tip and thought how her friendly demeanor guaranteed that we'll be back to Le Peep for breakfast.

Then last night, Mike and I had an actual date that didn't involve using a coupon. Keltie's is the nicest restaurant we've been to in a while. I could tell this place was special because of the white tablecloths. Usually if there's white on a table at restaurant we're eating at, it's of the paper variety and comes with crayons for doodling.

Our server was Robert. (How can you go wrong with a guy named Robert?) It didn't hurt that he was handsome. Not hot in a youthful way, but handsome in a seasoned, I've lived a little way.

When we ordered soup and salad -- navy bean soup for mean and Caesar salad for Mike -- and said we'd wait until after we got that to order an entree, Robert didn't rush us. When he brought our starters, and we told him that we decided to split the crab cake appetizer and the horseradish crusted NY strip entree, he didn't act irritated.

Robert was attentive without hovering, making sure we had adequate water (me) and Diet Coke (Mike). Finally, when it was time for dessert, he brought the tray and convincingly told us that while he is a chocoholic, he highly recommended the mini cheesecake trio. He was right!

Mike and I both agreed it was one of the best meals -- and dates -- we've had in a long time. The food was delicious and the pace was perfect. And the one person that brought it all together was Robert.

Where Cheri made breakfast a great experience by her approachable style, Robert sealed the deal at dinner with his cordial yet professional demeanor. And since it will likely be a while before I am somewhere that my dinner doesn't have a number (as in, "I'll take a #3 with no onions and a large Diet Coke), I'm thankful to have run into Cheri and Robert when and where I did.

And NOW the winner is...

Oh Susan! I hate disappointing people. It goes against my nature to hurt someone's feelings. But it's past noon on Sunday and I still haven't heard from you to claim your RIDEMAKERZ gift card. So as much as it makes me uncomfortable to do it, I have to award the gift card to someone else.

Melanieinaz2003, come on down! You'll be the coolest stepmom in Arizona when your stepson opens his RIDEMAKERZ gift! Please contact me via e-mail at 4thfrog70 at gmail dot com by 8pm on Monday with your mailing address and I'll send your gift card along its way.

As I told Susan, if you want to take pics of your finished ride, I'd love to post them here for everyone to enjoy.

Merry early Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Operation: Comment!


I know many of you have been wondering what to get me for Christmas. I have a suggestion that is easy, free and way better than a virtual tchotchke on my Facebook page. It wasn't my idea. It actually came from Dad Gone Mad, a guy whose been on my blogroll almost since my first leap into the 4th Frog Blog.

He calls it "Operation: Comment!" Ok, well he actually calls it "Operation: Comment Your B***s/B***s off!" But you know I don't blog quite like that. Nevertheless, Dad's idea is that between now and January 1, we all embark on a bit of a blog love fest, leaving short comments on blogs that we frequent.

I've got about 20 blogs that I try to keep up with, at least once or twice a week. Is it any wonder I don't sleep much?! Visiting and commenting on each one every day would be crazy, even for me. But I could visit three each night.

Why is Operation: Comment so important? Well, it's not. Not important in terms of world security or a solution to end homelessness or even the answer to "what's for dinner?" -- though actually, you can find that information. Especially when Sharon is on top of Menu Plan Monday.

But Operation: Comment is important because it gets at what blogging is really all about -- making connections with people. It's pretty amazing how quickly the world can become smaller when I reach out and connect with someone over something we have in common -- or even something where we have differing opinions. I found Shannon (Gabi's World) through a Wordless Wednesday post. Now I feel like it would be cool to meet her someday, even though I don't have a clue where she actually lives.

Operation: Comment is also a good idea because it strokes the ego of bloggers like me who just want to know that when I hit "publish post," I'm not talking to the digital hand. Helloooo??? Is anybody out there?

I've been pretty lucky that many of the folks who find their way to this blog have been nice enough to leave a note. But you know how sometimes when you eat a potato chip, you can't just stop at one? I'm that way with comments. So I'd love it if you'd keep it up!

But don't just share the love with me. Leave comments on other blogs too. Not sure where to start? Check out the links in my blog roll. Or visit one of these folks:
  • Rest Stops and Diversions -- She's a brand spankin' new blogger. Let's give her some encouragement.

  • Lynn's Addiction -- This blog will make you go hmmm...and that's a good thing.

  • Eternal Lizdom -- This blogger and I have different opinions on lots of stuff. But I like her. Or at least who she is on her blog, which seems pretty genuine to me.
There are plenty of others (I can't list them all here). Click my "Follow Me" faces. Or google something your interested in plus blog, like "Scrabble + Blog." (You'll find this among others.)

Just be sure to let somebody know you're there.