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Thursday, April 30, 2009

A date with John Denver

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It's been raining here for about three days, leaving me feeling melancholy and tired. So tonight after dinner seemed the perfect time to fire up the PBS special on John Denver that I DVR'd the other night.

Now, I know what you're thinking. John Denver? John Denver?!

In my own defense, I think I've always been an old soul. Either that or I just imprinted on my parents extremely well. Or I'm just a nerd at heart. I was the kid who called up WING radio in Dayton to complain when they switched from a talk format to top 40s. I cut my teeth on the Carpenters.

So tonight, I was in the mood for a little John Denver. My children, however, were not.

As soon as Denver's shaggy-haired, bespectacled self appeared on the screen singing "Calypso," there were protests.

"Mom! Not this! I want to watch Transformers," Robbie argued.

"That guy has dorky glasses," observed Charlie. I assured him that he would be wearing different glasses in a few minutes.

"Is this what you and your friends used to listen to?" Annie wanted to know. I told her that I really didn't listen to or talk about music with my friends. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. A minute later, she retreated upstairs.

With Annie gone, Robbie laid on the floor whining about not wanting to watch John Denver and hollering "Not this song again!" for about four different songs.

Charlie, however, watched somewhat intently. I thought I might have another old soul on my hands, or at least someone who appreciated John Denver like I do. Denver appeared on the screen in a different concert venue, indeed wearing circular, wire-framed glasses this time.

"Is that the same guy?" Charlie asked.

"Yep."

"His glasses are still dorky."

By now, I was ignoring Robbie and enjoying "Annie's Song." Charlie was still watching and listening and apparently getting past the whole eyewear thing. After "Annie's Song" was "Sunshine on My Shoulders," which got this reaction from Robbie:

"This movie is gonna make me throw up. It's giving me a headache."

He didn't throw up and Charlie and I continued to watch as Denver belted out "Rocky Mountain High" and "Thank God, I'm a Country Boy." Charlie actually seemed to be enjoying himself -- and John Denver.

"Do you like this music?" I asked him. "We could download some for your iPod," I offered.

"No," he said quite matter of factly and without hesitation.

Well, maybe I'll download some for my iPod.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Biggest Loser: Down to the Final Four

Biggest Loser logo

Maybe it's because I wish Kristin was still there. Maybe it's because I'm PO'd that Ron is. Maybe it's because I'm just cynical and glass is half-empty, but tonight's episode of The Biggest Loser put me in a bad mood.

I know in my head this is a game. I know it's all about the money. But I hate this. It's creepy and manipulative and Ron is a big fat (pun intended) liar, lying straight to Bob's face saying he had nothing to do with Mike's choice to vote Kristin out.

It irritates me that Ron is still there -- even more than I'm irritated that Helen is there. I mean Ron flat out quit or didn't even start how many challenges? How many times was Ron in the bottom two? That man is a master manipulator -- which could likely give him a share of $250,000.

It was irritating how they kept saying "it only took 17 weeks!" "We did this in 17 weeks." "17 weeks ago, I couldn't do a push up."

Yes, in 17 weeks, so many of them have lost 100 pounds or more. So many of them have become real athletes. But they worked out 8+ hours a day. They had controlled food at their disposal. How many people in the real world could do that?

Do you really believe that Tara and Helen had those clothes in their closets forever and just brought them just in case? Did all they have to bring "goal outfits?"

This was the last week on the ranch, which seemed to come as a shock to the players left in the game. Filipe knew everyone left at the ranch is gunning for him.

Much of the show was spent looking back at how far they've all come. We got to see pics of most of their big bellies and then what they look like now. At least they didn't show us Ron's outsides -- we got to see his insides, which was actually pretty cool.

The last challenge of the contest was to run over 16 sand hills carrying weight equivalent to what they've lost on the ranch. At each hill, they got to drop as much weight as they did in the corresponding week on the ranch.

The winner of the challenge could choose $10,000 or a 1 pound advantage at the weigh in. The 2nd place finisher got whichever prize the winner doesn't take.

I know some people don't like Filipe. But how can you not when he said to Tara as she passed him -- "You're doing great Tara. You can do this."

And she did -- win the challenge handily, that is. My guess was that she would take the 1 pound advantage this time, since she took the $$ last time.

Ron was at the top of the week 6 hill, when Mike went back to help him. Filipe also joined him to help out. (See what a great guy he is?)

Then it was time for the last chance workout -- but guess what? It was Train the Trainer day! So Bob and Jillian got put through the paces by their contestants. For almost the first time in the episode, I found myself smiling.

Of course there really was a last chance workout and it was fierce. It's hard to really tell because of the editing. But it seems like Jillian's people did more cardio than Bob's. I wonder if that's really the way it is?

Weigh in...
Before the weigh in, Allison asked Mike if he thought he still has the game in the bag. He said he "Last week I knew I could win. This week, I hope I can."

When asked if she thinks she can win it, Tara very wisely (and I think honestly) said, "It doesn't matter -- I've won my life back."

Tara chose the 1 pound advantage as her prize for winning the challenge.

Ron was the first to weigh in -- he lost 9 pounds -- 3.02% of his total weight. Then it was Filipe's turn: he lost 10 pounds (4.10%)! Mike's upset was pretty veiled, but it was there. Ron was gritting his teething behind his forced smile.

Helen was up next. She needed 4 pounds to hit the 100 pound mark. She had to lose 7 pounds to stay in the final 4...and she did. Darn it. I was also bugged that Jillian kept making a big deal about Helen being 48 years old, like that's ancient or something.

Tara and Mike were left to weigh in. Mike was worried that he and Ron would be below the yellow line together. I was worried that they wouldn't be.

Mike stepped on the scale and they cut to the commercial break after they show a bunch of shocked faces, which totally told me that Mike lost the 10 pounds he needed to. Yep. He lost freakin' 11 pounds. I know I should be happy for him. But he's part of the evil brown empire (not as evil as last season's brown team of course).

Tara, who has never been below the yellow line, needs more than 6 pounds, which she of course gets and then 2 more. Again, Mike's disappointment is visible.

So it's Ron and Filipe below the yellow line. There's really no question who will not make the final four. Filipe -- I love you man!

Ron played the "keep me b/c I'm not a threat" card. Filipe begged to stay because he wanted the accomplishment. He tells them "to be the best, you gotta beat the best." That might speak to Tara, but ultimately I think she'll go the easy route.

Filipe was all gentleman when he was voted off. He spoke of not being sad, of being blessed, of being an inspiration. Tara herself looked inspired. I wish we could have seen who she voted for, even though it didn't matter.

The final four will all go home for 30 days. Then they will return for one more weigh in before the finale.

They showed Filipe's homecoming. He's got quite a job ahead of him, creating a change among the Tongan people -- the welcome home feast was fried chicken, potato salad. He's offering an exercise class at his house once a week. He sure had those folks sweating!

Two more weigh ins. Of the four finalists, I sure hope Tara wins the whole thing.

8 is (more than) enough

Last week I promised Joanie I would do the meme of 8 she tagged me with. (Where did that word "meme" come from anyway?) And now Jessica tagged me with the same one. I'm going to spare you 16 items in each of the following category and kill two birds with one meme. So here goes:

8 Things I’m Looking Forward To

1. My cough going away.
2. Bedtime. Theirs and mine.
3. Planting a veggie garden this year.
4. Social media class tomorrow.
5. Knocking off some things from my work to-do list.
6. Shopping with Annie where I don't have to pay! (She has gift cards to use.)
7. My brother, SIL, niece and nephew arriving tomorrow night.
8. A pedicure -- not that I have one scheduled. I'm just looking forward to it whenever.

8 Things I Did Yesterday

1. Worked.
2. Tried out a new Chinese restaurant.
3. FINALLY went grocery shopping.
4. Saved $23.30 with coupons and Mike's discount.
5. Watched the finale of "Last Cake Standing" on DVR.
6. Nearly missed an important meeting due to an e-mail glitch.
7. Talked with a friend.
8. Ate M&Ms.

8 Things I Wish I Could Do

1. Speak Spanish.
2. Lose 10 (20, 40, 70) pounds.
3. Go to NYC and take in some Broadway shows.
4. Take the kids to Disney World.
5. Sew.
6. Lay in bed all day for 3 or 4 days.
7. Buy my mom and dad a new car.
8. Blog for a living.

8 Shows I Watch

1. The Biggest Loser
2. Desperate Housewives
3. Extreme Home Makeover
4. Moving Up (TLC)
5. The Office
6. Grey's Anatomy
7. Food Network Challenge -- any of the pastry/cake challenges
8. Lock Up Raw (MSNBC)

8 People I Tag

1. Sharon
2. Shannon
3. Liz
4. Momza
5. Mrs. Furious
6. Marine Wife
7. April
8. Becky

"Thank you" would be nice

Robbie Dungy

I am NOT an animal person. My favorite kind of dog is stuffed. People who kiss their pets on the lips or let the animal lick them in the face kind of gross me out.

But a few years ago, I chaperoned a Girl Scout field trip to the Humane Society. That's where I saw "Smokey," a little gray kitten who'd been there for six weeks or so. He was cute, I had to admit.

For the next couple of days, I couldn't stop thinking about that kitten. I worried that his days were numbered. I took Mike back o the shelter to look at him and we decided to take him home. I must have been under the influence of heavy drugs or severe lack of sleep, or both.

Nonetheless, a little bit of paperwork and a check for $100 and Smokey was ours. The kids were elated and for a few days, I was totally the coolest mom on Earth.

We renamed the kitten Dungy, after the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and bought him a blue Colts tag shaped like a dog bone. We bought cat toys and a special bed. We had officially become cat people.

And so how does Dungy repay me for saving his life? By biting my toes and meowing incessantly at me at 4:30am today. Darn cat. A simple thank you would have sufficed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Livin' the day

Wow. Today was a great day. I am dog tired, but in a good way.

It was just one of those mostly ordinary days. I slept until 9am -- that's always a good start. When I got up, I decided to make my grocery list and gather my coupons because it's pretty slim pickin's in our fridge and pantry.

Do you know that it took me almost two hours to get through all the coupon inserts and try to match them up to the sales? By then, it was time to make lunch and then get ready for Charlie's soccer game. So while the kids finished lunch, I ran to Target to get a few must-haves, including dishwasher soap.

It was the first time that I've had a chance to use Mike's Target discount. I saved $5.20. Not riches, but I'll take it. Mike is really enjoying the job. It's not what he wants to do forever, but I think he's happy to be working as part of a team.

Then it was off to Charlie's soccer game. I really love watching soccer. I grew up playing it (bet you wouldn't have guessed that, huh?). Charlie's been playing with the same team for about 2 years. It's technically a travel team, but so far the travel has all been pretty local.

He scored a beautiful goal today. He was standing just in front of right midfield when the ball came to him. He set it up and took an awesome left-footed shot that sailed right through an opening in the defenders and arched to the left into the goal. Just after he made the shot, I wished that I'd had a videotape of it to show it here. But, in truth, I was enjoying just living the day and being present in the moment.

After soccer, we went to the First Communion Mass (which counts as Sunday Mass, so woohoo! Guess who is sleeping in tomorrow?!). All those little girls in pretty white dresses and boys who look like mini versions of their fathers in khakis and navy sport coats, faces clean and hair brushed (for once!).

We were invited to our friends' house to celebrate their son Jack's First Communion. So we finished out the evening sitting around visiting with friends, which is always good.

See? Nothing too special. But definitely a great day. Hope yours was too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

She'll kill me for this...

...but I'm gonna do it anyway. Sorry for all the radio silence this week. I have a cough that is kicking my butt. Unfortunately, it has resulted in several incidents like last week's (though thankfully none in my car). I sound like Typhoid Mary -- bad enough that I scared off a few people sitting near us at the Mexican restaurant last night.

So I was going to make a movie of me coughing in the dark and have you all guess who was making that sound -- a foghorn, a seal, a dog...and then reveal barky old me. But when I opened Photobooth to make the movie, I found this instead and decided it is MUCH more entertaining:



I hope to be back in action soon. (Joanie, I'm working on your meme.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biggest Loser: Cowards & Weasels

Biggest Loser logo

Gonna make this quick tonight.

The coward (that's me!)
Nope. Never. No way would I get in those bird cages suspended 45 feet above the ground. Where are the liability lawyers on this show?

Winner gets $10K or a 1 pound advantage at the weigh-in.

Going UP! Holding on to one rope, supporting total weight. My palms are getting sweaty as I sit on my couch.

Lots of praying going on up there -- "Oh my God!"

Mike gave up b/c he was afraid of the height. It's 28 degrees outside -- aren't they in California?!

Ron and Tara look totally cool. Filipe talking trash to get some others to lose focus. It works on Ron. And then it backfired on Filipe.

Tara, Kristin and Helen all left. Then just Helen and Tara. I think Tara might be one of the Borg or some other species of super alien who has come to take over the earth.

I'm tired of hearing Tara acting all surprised at winning. "Oh, I didn't think I had a chance!" That's like the valedictorian of my high school class (who is a friend of mine and who I love dearly) swearing that she KNOWS she just failed that test.

The infommercial
The nutrition information throughout the show was really interesting and informative. A reminder that it's possible to have too few calories and fat, as well as too many. Of course, it ultimately turned into an infommercial for the BL designer whey protein.

The last chance workouts
The last chance workouts were crazy intense and if they had happened in a sorority house instead of a designer gym, they probably would have been considered hazing.

I totally would have laughed if Mike had clocked Jillian in the head!

Mike talked with his dad about he let his boys get so fat. "Why wasn't enough enough?" Mike wanted to know. Why does it click with some people and not with others? -- that's what I want to know.

The weigh in
Tara had a choice -- $10,000 or a 1-pound advantage for winning the challenge. She went for the money! Then Allison gave her a chance to change her mind, as she is standing on the scale. But she stuck with the money again.

She lost five pounds, so it looks like she made a decent choice.

Ron -- Under 300 pounds for the first time since his early teens.

Helen only lost 1 pound. That may set her up for elimination, depending on what Mike, Kristin and Filipe do.

Mike lost 8 pounds!

Filipe needed more than three pounds and he got it exactly. So now it's down to Kristin. Either she or Filipe will be below the yellow line with Helen. She needs to lose more than 2 pounds.

And she gained a pound!

So it's Kristin and Helen below the yellow line.

The weasel
Kristin talked to Ron to secure his vote. Ron said he would talk to Mike. I wondered how much weight (pardon the pun) that would have.

Oooohh! What a weasel Ron is. He didn't lie to Kristin -- he wasn't going to write Kristin's name down, but he made sure that Mike -- his little puppet -- would.

The elimination was the most uncomfortable ever. Not that it was surprising, Kristin got voted off with Mike as the swing vote. But Kristin called Mike --and Ron -- on the carpet and let them know she knew their game. She forced Mike to admit he thought that the game was all his. Then it was totally creepy when Ron said "My son will win," like he has some Obi Wan Kenobi mind control powers.

So the final 5 are Tara, Helen, Ron, Mike and Filipe. Guess I'm part of the Filipe fan club now.

It it finished.

The morning get-out-the-door-for-school rush, that is. And this morning it was particularly painful.

Charlie felt the need to tell me in detail every move he played in some archery video game -- walking in and out of the room as he was doing so. Which meant that if I really was interested in what he was saying (I wasn't), it would have been impossible for me to hear it anyway.

I was trying to get in Robbie's "sensory diet" -- activities that give adequate input to his sensory system so that when he gets to school he'll be in a better frame of mind to take on the day. On this morning's diet menu was having him crawl upstairs and back down (head first) several times, which he wasn't very interested in. Having him jump off the landing into the entryway over and over again, which then Charlie wanted to do, too, and the whole thing turned into a circus.

Annie was coughing up a lung every three minutes. And in the moments where she wasn't hacking like a chain smoker, she was bossing the other two around.

I finally sent Charlie for a run around the cul de sac. That earned me about 2 minutes of relative peace.

And of course the carpool was late today, so when I expected to have the house to myself at 7:05am, I wasn't alone until almost 7:15am.

So now I am sitting in the blissful silence, the tapping of the keyboard the only sound I hear. I'll take a few minutes before I have to get dressed to pray for those noisy, wild, wonderful kids of mine and assure myself that, for the next seven hours, they are the teachers' challenge.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hat-titude

Remember back when the highlight of your week was going to hang out at the mall with your friends and your parents just dropped you off and left you there? (Annie, don't get any ideas. It's a WAY different world!) Our hangout was the Salem Mall in Dayton, Ohio and one of my favorite things to do there was go to Donenfeld's and try on the fancy Sunday hats.

So when I had a chance to go see the musical play Crowns at the Indiana Repertory Theatre yesterday, I was all over it! Crowns tells the stories of six African-American women through the many Sunday hats they wear. The characters include a Brooklyn teenager (Shannon Antalan) sent to live with her grandmother after the teen's brother was murdered, the grandmother (Chandra Currelley) and four other church-goin' women (Terry Burrell, Crystal Fox, Valerie Payton and Roz White).

Ensemble

The stage was set with dozens of hats hanging on coat racks and I found myself anxious to see certain hats on the heads of the actors, especially a black and red feathery number that turned out to be more appealing on the rack than on someone's head.

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The opening scene reminded me of the opening of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, with colorful and swirling robes. (Though when I look at the pic below, it doesn't seem very Joseph, but trust me, that's what came to mind.)

Swirling robes

The script offered some historical perspective on the tradition of wearing hats to Sunday worship. Hats were used to adorn oneself for worship. One of the characters said, "I'm going to meet the King; I'd better look good." In addition, hats were a status symbol. When a woman got some money, she spent it on hats and the place to show that hat was church.

From the very beginning of the show, the music -- Gospel and spirituals -- was engaging. It started out controlled and a little tame, leaving me hungry for some Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! moments. All in good time, Amy, all in good time.

I'm sure that someone who grew up on a steady diet of Gospel music could name more of the songs, but one that I recognized and thoroughly enjoyed was "His Eye is on the Sparrow." There were plenty of other uplifting and joyful songs that lent themselves to clapping and participation by the audience. I wish I had some mp3 files of the music to share with you. Or a soundtrack to listen to in my car.

The six female voices were joined by a lone male voice, that of Dennis Spears. Now, I'll admit to having a little bit of a thing for bald men (which is good news for Mike in his later years). Add to that the silky, sexy tone of Spears' voice and I was hooked. Too bad they didn't have a meet and greet after the show so I could rub that round brown "crown."

Spears

Besides wondering what it would feel like to touch Dennis Spears' head, Crowns made me wonder several other things:
  1. Do African-American women still where hats to church? My own church is pretty diverse, but in my experience you don't see a lot of hats in Catholic churches.

  2. What part of my heritage do I have to pass down? It was clear that Sunday hats are part of a cultural heritage in the African-American community. What is the heritage that I will pass down to my children and grandchildren? Since I'm sort of a human mutt when it comes to nationalities, it is probably my Catholic heritage that I will transfer most strongly.

  3. Is there something in my life that I use as these characters use hats? Two lines of the script struck me: "Hats are like people -- sometimes they reveal, sometimes they conceal" and "Sometimes under those hats is a lot of joy and a lot of sorrow." What in my life do I use to display or hide my joy and sorrow?
I'll admit I was lost a little in the script for part of the show, not sure how some of the women's recollections tied in with the theme of hats. But in the end, I recognized that there were really two stories told by this show. The first was how hats play a role in the African-American culture. The second was the tale of a journey from despair to hope and joy, and for me that's where the power and the inspiration of the show came.

Crowns is adapted from a coffee table-type book of the same name by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry. It runs on the Mainstage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre through May 2. You can buy tickets in advance or stop by the IRT box office one hour for showtime when any remaining tickets are available for 50% off!

Photos by R. Brent Smith, courtesy of IRT

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Happy" Sunday

When I was growing up, we used to have a phrase in our house that was reserved for one particular day of the week. It was "Happy Sunday" and we used it to mean exactly the opposite of what it sounds like.

Sundays in our house were generally crabby. Parents dreading the start of the work week and barking out orders to pick up the house; kids putting off due-on-Monday homework and bickering and fighthing as a result of not enough sleep. By about two or three o'clock in the afternoon, at least one or two of us kids would roll our eyes and declare "Happy Sunday!" in our most cynical voices.

And now I am a grown up and it's Sunday in our house. I'm the one barking out the orders and wishing that homework/dishes/laundry/bills had been attended to earlier in the weekend. And my children are the ones saying, "Please! We're not going to clean again!" (You know because they just cleaned their rooms seven days ago.)

Truthfully, today I would love to play "Mommy's legs are broken and she can't get off the couch." If for no other reason than I could say that we honor the 4th commandment, "Keep holy the day of the Lord."

But there will be no clean dishes for dinner tonight and no clean underwear for school/work tomorrow. Of course, the latter wouldn't bother Robbie and Charlie; they prefer going commando anyway. (Why is that? If there are any men/boys reading this, can you please explain the appeal of going commando?)

And so, I carry on the tradition started when I was a little girl. And hopefully by dinner time tonight, the tasks will be done and we can all settle into the family room for a little "America's Funniest Home Videos." Then might actually feel like a happy Sunday.

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Of course, it's only after I'd taken 15 minutes to write this that I realized the irony in me going on about how much there is to do, yet I'm sitting in this chair, doing something that clearly could wait!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My mind's eye needs glasses

I've been contemplating this post for about 10 days or so. Ever since someone tagged me in a picture on Facebook. But I never got around to writing it. Then last night, I read a post by Annie at Fairies 'n' Firecrackers that said pretty much exactly what I feel. So, Annie, I'm not copying your post, just acknowledging the feelings.

There are some truths in my life that have been there since I was young. I've always been the smart girl. I've always been the helpful girl. And I've always been the "big" (read: fat) girl. I know it and throughout my life I've gone back in forth between trying to ignore it, trying to fix it, and owning it.

So, I've got some pounds to lose. Yup. That's me. Except in my mind's eye, my body looks like this (and no, I'm not pregnant in this picture):

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But a picture taken of me at my sister Shelley's baby shower a few weeks ago tells a different, and unfortunately true, story:

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In case you're not sure, I'm the fat one on the left. Oh yes, my mind's eye definitely needs glasses! I'm pretty sure it was my myopic internal vision that told me I could climb that stinkin' mountain in Georgia.

Over at Fairies 'n' Firecrackers, Annie is recommitting herself to do something about her weight. I wish I could say the same. But truthfully, I'm not sure I'm there yet. Oh, I know I NEED to do something. I take more daily meds than I have children. Walking from the car to my office often leaves me breathless, even if I do take the elevator (which I do about 1/2 the time). I've chosen to ignore the fact that the last pair of pants I bought was a size bigger ("Probably cut smaller in some cheap Chinese factory," I reasoned with myself.).

But, it is springtime and the weather outside is inviting. So, while I'm not ready to do something about my weight specifically, I am willing to commit to going for a walk 3 days a week. Small steps. But maybe in time, my mind's eye will refocus for a more clear picture -- or my body will change to fit the view that's in there now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be here now.

When I was in high school, I went on a retreat. One of the main instructions on that retreat was "Be Here Now!" Live in the present, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. That's what came to mind when I stopped by Eternal Lizdom today.

Liz posted a challenge that came from Lisa at Adventures in Motherhood who got it from Tricia at Unringing the Bell.

The challenge is this: Take a picture of yourself RIGHT NOW and post it, either on your blog or on a photo site. Then post the link to it in the comments section here.

Here is my pic:

jennifer garner Pictures, Images and Photos

Ok, so not really! Really, this is me...

ME -- NOW

Not too bad. I can live with it. How about you? Will you show your face?

Thumbs up Thursday!

Thumbs Up Pictures, Images and Photos

Ok, after yesterday's barf blog -- thanks to those of you who made it through that -- I'm feeling the need to post something lighter, airy, happier. So here goes.

Happy News #1: Got the all clear on my repeat mammogram. What they thought they saw was apparently some twisted blood vessels.

Happy News #2: The sun has finally made it's way to Indiana! It's not ultra-warm, but it is sunny with clear blue skies.

Happy News #3: Momza made a lovely post the other day about cactus blooms. I've been meaning to share it and what better time than Thumbs up Thursday?!

Happy News # 4: Maybe you've already seen this, but I just saw it for the first time today. Graying, chubby 47-year old Scot named Susan Boyle auditions for Britain's Got Talent. The set up leads you to believe she'll be terrible. Then she starts to sing and what comes out of her mouth is unbelievable! What I enjoyed more than the singing was the sincere and astounded reactions of the judges -- including Simon Cowell. Check it out here.

How about you? Got any happy news you want to share?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Puke makes me want to barf

I planned on coming here today to tell you that I did such a great job at yesterday's mammogram that they've invited me to come back tomorrow to do it again. I was going to tell you that 98% of me is totally cool and unaffected and only 2% of me is trying to envision myself with one boob and no hair. Yep, that was going to be today's post...until the puke hit the fan, or more accurately, the street.

I was driving to work from Kyle Lacy's SMASH course on social media when I started to get that irritating tickle in the back of my throat. I coughed a few times, hard, and thought it was over. But it came back worse, feeling like I had a popcorn kernel stuck in my swallower. I coughed again and started to gag. So instead of coughing, I just kept making that ccchmmm...ccchmmm... clearing my throat sound, hoping it would work.

No luck. Soon I was really coughing and gagging and coughing and driving down the highway all at the same time. Just as I was pulling getting off at the exit, I threw up a little bit in my mouth and forced myself to swallow it back down. Disgusting, I know, but true.

Only about 4 blocks from work, I was putting my best Lamaze breathing to work, trying to make it to the parking lot where I could get one of the bottles of water that I knew was in my trunk. But my gut had other plans. Before I knew it, I could feel the chuck coming up again and this time it was too much to force back down.

So I did the only thing I could -- I rolled down the window, hung my head out like a dog and threw up all the way down Shelby Street, driving left of center in the process (you try driving with your barfing head hanging out the window!), hoping I wasn't going to hit any pedestrians or bike riders.

Now, let me tell you. I do NOT handle barf very well. When one of the kids gets sick, I deal with the kid; Mike deals with the puke. But here I was in the parking lot at work, the regurgitated remnants of bagel with a shmear all over my shirt, running down the inside of the driver's side door and heavily streaked across the side of the car. There was no one there to handle it, except me -- although I did think for a minute whether this task might fall into the job duties of a graduate assistant.

So, I peeled off the denim shirt that I had on over a long-sleeved t-shirt and began to use it to wipe up the inside of the car. When I was finished, I put it in the back seat of the car. I contemplated throwing the shirt away, but I really like that shirt!

I called our administrative assistant to tell her I was in the parking lot cleaning up myself and the car and I'd be in in just a few minutes. At this point, I planned to go on into the office still. That's until I started throwing up again with Stephanie still on the phone. Sorry, Stephanie. I did have the courtesy to hang up. When I called her back, I said on second thought I'm going home.

I had to drive the 30 minutes home with the windows cracked to air out the car, which made for a cold ride considering it was only 43 degrees. It's a good thing I wasn't driving topless! And before I went home I stopped at the car wash. Ordinarily, I hate spending money on car washes. But seeing as I had bile and vomitus clinging to the side of my car, it seemed like money well spent.

So now I am home, tired from my adventure, a bit queasy in the stomach still and telling my tale here. Aren't you glad I don't have pictures to include?!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Biggest Loser: Makeover Week

Biggest Loser logo

This was makeover week! But before the contestants could set foot in a salon, they had to get past the zipline challenge.

This was not like just pushing off and whizzing across a canyon. They had to walk their way across wires stretching over a 10-story high canyon. Any thoughts I ever had about wanting to be on the Biggest Loser just went out the window -- or more like spiraled down the canyon. All I could think is "don't look down!"

Like every other challenge,Tara totally dominated and Ron quit before he barely got started.

Then it was time for the makeovers. I found myself getting frustrated with Helen and her weepiness in Macy's. I'm sure that's not fair of me, but that's how I felt. Speaking of Helen, her dh looks so young. Like he could be her son. And come on? Were any of them really surprised that their loved ones were there? We all know that a family member is there at the end of the makeover.

Someone needs to teach Tara how to walk like a lady -- she came trucking down those stairs like a linebacker in a dress.

Filipe in the burgundy velvet jacket -- his coat matched his wife's hair! His face looked so much thinner with his hair cut close to his head.

Kristin -- I was disappointed with her dress. It was too matronly -- and black. I know she still has some size on her, but black is the last color I would have picked for Kristin.

Laura wins the makeover prize in my opinion. The dark hair totally rocks!

Ron lookin' like a naked mole rat without his beard. But like a good naked mole rat. The beard-free look is good on him.

Mike looked like someone I'd let my daughter date, when she is MUCH older of course.

I felt really bad for Mike's brother Max. I think it's gonna be hard for him. I kind of felt like Mike's words to Max about losing weight were empty and had an air of arrogance about them. And let's face it, unless he gets on the show himself, there's no way Max is going to lose 100+ pounds in 15 weeks, which will be frustrating to him.

After all the reveals, the contestants and their family members watched video clips from the beginning of the season. The changes in the past 15 weeks are pretty unbelievable!

Back at the ranch, the last chance workout was on the agenda. Bob was crazy! Jillian pushed her team hard too, but she didn't seem as desperate as Bob did.

At the weigh-in, Mike broke the all-time, most weight lost on campus tonight -- 145 pounds in 15 weeks! Kristin and Laura both fell below the yellow line, Kristin losing 2 pounds and Laura gaining 3.

Laura has a microfracture in her hip. That is scary! She can't do any exercise that causes her pain and can't really bear any weight on her leg. I do feel bad for her. Seems like maybe the pool would come in handy now.

I can't imagine how anyone could vote Kristin out, based solely on the fact that staying on the ranch could be dangerous for Laura. But Kristin is the bigger threat of the two, so from a gameplay standpoint, Kristin is in the crosshairs. However, stranger things have happened on this show.

Tara and Helen voted to send Kristin home. Ron and Mike voted to send Laura. The deciding vote was Filipe's -- and he voted to send Laura home, which I think was absolutely the right thing. I really hope she is able get her hip healed and continue her new healthy habits. I think if it were me, I would be tempted to cope with the injury with ice cream!

Sending Laura home also evened out the teams -- 3 players left on Bob's team, 3 players left on Jillian's. Next week should be interesting.

It looked like chicken: The story of my 1st mammogram

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So today was the big mammogram day. And I have to say, what's the big deal?

I arrived a little early and enjoyed a few minutes of the Today show before the perky blonde tech (Andrea was her name) called me back. She led me to a small changing room that could have been at home in a fancy women's clothing boutique, except for the "Mammowipes" in case I had on any deodorant I needed to wipe off. I didn't.

I stripped from the waist up and put on my mammogown, then went to an interior waiting area until Andrea was ready for me. After just a short wait, she came back and led me to the boobal imaging suite. I sat in the chair while Andrea went over the paperwork. Then it was showtime!

She had me stand in front of the machine and uncover half of my chest. Then it was time for the moving and the shaking -- well, the pulling and the squishing anyway. I was prepared for tremendous pain, for tear-producing agony. But it didn't come.

It was almost as though my boobs were disconnected from my body. In fact, they kind of looked like chicken. The only really awkward part was when they kept trying to roll off the metal plate before Andrea could get the smash done. And when she did, there really wasn't any pain. A little discomfort, yes. But pain? Not so much.

And before I knew it, it was over. Since then, my breasts have been a little tender, but nothing I can't handle. In fact, I'd rather have a mammogram than have my teeth cleaned. How's that for a resounding endorsement? I think they should print that on a bumper sticker:

Mammograms: Much better than a teeth cleaning!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Randomness

Just a collection of quick and likely unrelated items that are floating in my brain tonight.

You haven't got mail...
I would never make it as a U.S. postal worker. In fact, I stink at the mail. I owe mail to Cheryl (aka Ruby's Mom) who is still waiting on her prize pack from the BL contest; Shannon who I promised BL socks to; and Sharon and Momza who each won some lithium batteries from the Energizer Bunny post. (Actually, Sharon and Momza, I need your address. You can send it to 4thfrog70 at gmail dot com.)

I really have all the stuff ready to go and be mailed. It's the actual taking it to the post office and getting it sent part I'm stuck on. But it's on my list to do by the end of the month! I told you I'm a terrible procrastinator.

You guys don't miss a thing...
I really wrestled with whether or not to mention anything here about the situation with Mike. I work hard at keeping this blog authentic and true to my life. But I also have certain parts of my life that I keep to myself. So rather than write some big dramatic post, I just quietly passed along the information that Mike is not living at home right now where it fit and where it seemed pertinent. But nothing's getting past you all! Let me just say that Mike is not in prison, is not dying in a hospital from some exotic disease, is not circumnavigating the globe and is not shacking up with anyone. We're taking some space so we can each work on some things and we both are committed to each other, our marriage and our family. Your prayers are appreciated.

Why do I do this to myself?
I think I am a glutton for punishment. I sat and watched Jon & Kate + 8 tonight, even though I know that show grates on my nerves. I get all twisted up about how mean Kate is to Jon, even though it's none of my business. Why in the world did I sit there and watch it? And what's worse, I watched it while eating Moose Tracks ice cream (the light version, if it can be called that), knowing all the while that my dumb tooth would start hurting,which it did. I watched even though I knew I should be packing lunches, which I didn't and which will mean a little extra chaos in the morning.

Say cheese!
My first mammogram is in the morning. I have a pretty bra laid out to wear. And yes, I know that they won't be needing that. I have ibuprofen ready to take before the big squish. The hypochondriac in me already has them finding something terrible. But mostly, I'm just hoping I get some good blog fodder out of the whole experience!

Age discrimination?
I've decided to pay a visit to a counselor, you know the head-shrinking type. I called a local center here, gave them my info and got a return call from a therapist. I haven't scheduled an appointment yet because on the voice mail, this "woman" sounds about 12 years old. Is it rude of me to ask how old she is or whether she has dealt with life issues beyond some boy she likes taking another girl to the high school prom?

Another one bites the dust...
I just got e-mail notification that one of my subscribers has unsubscribed from this blog. So of course, I start wondering "was it something I said?" or something I didn't say? Was yesterday's Alleluia post too heavy-handed? I'm a first-born, so it's in my nature to be a people pleaser and losing subscribers/followers is clear evidence that someone is not pleased. But I'm a big girl and I can take it. I write this blog as much for me as for anyone else and I won't get all wigged out over losing one subscriber. Of course, if you were all to send the link to my blog to say...10 of your closest friends and tell them to follow/subscribe, I'd be ok with that too! LOL! Shameless, aren't I?!

Catch you all tomorrow, post-mammy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Alleluia! Still He lives...

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The sun was gorgeous today...
...Alleluia!

My kitchen didn't get cleaned before Easter morning...
...and still He lives...

The baskets were pretty simple and the kids still had fun...
...Alleluia!

The Easter Bunny forgot the jelly beans...
...and still He lives...

The kids and I snuggled up to watch a movie this morning...
...Alleluia!

I lost my cool with Charlie for losing his cool with Robbie...
...and still He lives...

I got to take a nap today...
...Alleluia!

I stayed in my pajamas until 2:30pm today...
...and still He lives...

We had a great time at Trader's Point Creamery...
...Alleluia!

We didn't go to any big celebrations today; it was just us...
...and still He lives...

My tooth didn't hurt hardly at all...
...Alleluia!

One of the altar servers at Mass had on jeans and cheapie flip flops under her cassock...
...and still He lives...

Robbie slept through Mass tonight...
...Alleluia!

Our Easter dinner was Donato's pizza...
...and still He lives...

The beauty and grace of Easter is that in both days of joy and times of hardship, when things are all right and when they aren't, Christ is risen! Alleluia!

He is risen, but I am barely awake

4:35am. That's what time Robbie started asking, "Mom! Mom! Can we go find our Easter baskets?" (Note to my own mother: Stop laughing. I know what you are thinking about paybacks.)

Holy hoppin' rabbits, kid, go back to sleep! But no...every 15 (or 10 or 5) minutes, it was more of the same..."Mom! Can we go do Easter now?!"

I held them off until about 5:55am. Then by the time I went to the bathroom, had a good stretch, turned on the lights, it was about 6am, which sounds at least a little more sane.

Robbie was the first to find his basket, hidden behind the blanket chest in the family room. Charlie found his next on the bookshelves. Annie's was in the living room on top of the bookcase, behind the globes. Finally, I found ours next to the couch.

As usual, E.B. did not disappoint. There were mini cans of soda and packs of sugar-free bubble gum, Reese's peanut butter eggs and marshmallow Peeps.

There was an iguana puzzle for Robbie, though it was the small chocolate bunny that got his attention. See the evidence on his face?

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Charlie got a Vortex something or other football "autographed" by Peyton Manning. I didn't have the heart to tell him the signature was mass-produced:

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Probably the best surprise was that the Easter Bunny found Annie's Nintendo DS that has been missing since November! (Thanks Aunt Betsy for the help!)

DS

Oh, and the Twilight SweetTarts were a hit as well.

Twilight sweettarts

In the midst of all the fun, Charlie, who is proving to be a sensitive kid, said something akin to "Daddy is missing out." I haven't said it here before, but Mike is not living at home right now. So I suggested we give him a call. It was about 6:19am.

He was sleepy, but glad to share in the Easter festivities by phone anyway. He'll be here later this afternoon and we'll all go to the 6pm Mass together.

After we hung up with Mike, I put a kibbosh on the candy eating and put all the baskets on the fireplace, declaring it the "no eating zone."

baskets

I know, who am I kidding? The only way to keep them from devouring the candy is to lock it away. But I think I am subscribing to the "eat it all and get it over with" theory.

The breakfast menu was cinnamon rolls, hard boiled eggs and smoked sausages. Now we're vegging out and watching Nim's Island. Love that movie!

Looks like it's going to be a pretty day. Hope it is where you are. Of course, regardless of the weather, Easter Sunday is a glorious day, indeed!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Do-it-yourself mammograms

mammogram Pictures, Images and Photos
(Hey Mike -- this pic's for you!)

Since a few of you asked about it and since it's 3:23 and I have been awake for almost 2 hours (stupid tooth), I thought I'd tell the story about my DIY mammogram.

Of course, the experience didn't yield any actual pictures -- thank the Lord for that! But it did provide me with a story that I've gotten quite a bit of mileage out of.

It was a little over 12 years ago. I was working in the media relations department of a pharmaceutical company. Which means I spent 50% of my time writing responses to hypothetical questions, routing those responses to no less than a dozen people for approval, then filing the approved responses -- the actual paper copies -- into a drawer in case some reporter some day might ask the hypothetical question. About 40% of my time was spent arguing with attorneys who insisted on crazy stuff like including footnotes in a press release. The final bit of time was devoted to worrying about whether being quoted in the newspaper was going to get me a package from the Unabomber, who was still on the loose.

Anyhoo -- one day I was sitting in my small khaki cubicle working on something urgent, I'm sure. I was about 7 months pregnant with Annie and was belly up to the front of my desk. I needed something from the back of the desk, paper clips maybe. Now, I'm pretty short -- 5'2", which means that a.) reaching the back of my desk was a challenge for my short little arms and 2.) that a soon-to-be 10+ pound baby in a 5'2" frame meant that I had a ginormous belly.

So, back to the paper clips. I leaned forward to reach the clips, unaware that the pen drawer at the front of my desk was slightly open (you see where this is going, right?). As I leaned forward, my breasts fell into the drawer. The momentum of my body and the enormity of my belly combined to shove the drawer closed -- right on my boobal appendages! YOWZA!

As if that's not bad enough, a week or so later, I did it to myself again! So, my Officer Buckle safety tip of the day is always double check that your pen drawer is closed before reaching for something on the back of the desk.

My more recent experiences with DIY mammograms have been courtesy of Robbie, who comes in my bed almost every night. Robbie is like a heat-seeking missle. He has to be shoved right up against you, which sounds all sweet and cuddly, but which can be downright painful if you sleep on your side and have generous ta-tas that sort of flop onto the mattress.

Because what happens is that while you are sleeping, the boy smashed up against you will decide to switch positions, raising himself up slightly, then flopping down hard on your boob that just happens to be in the way, smashing it between his ribcage (or shoulder or butt) and the mattress and stretching/pulling the nipplage just enough to make you involuntary shriek. Trust me, it's not a nice way to wake up.

I'm hoping the drawer incident and the bedtime smash have prepared me well for the discomfort of a real mammogram. Guess I'll find out on Tuesday!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The dish in 3 minutes in or less...

It's 9:27pm and I am determined to turn out the lights and go to sleep by 9:30pm. So here's a fast run-down of the day:

Went to the doctor for wretched cough that makes me feel blackish and like I'm going to pass out. Allergies, she said. And that'll be $20. And here's a referral for a mammogram.

Which reminds me that someday I'll tell you about my do-it-yourself mammogram.

Gotta remind the Easter Bunny to hit Walgreen's tomorrow for some candy, especially since all 7 packs of Peeps Joanie sent me are long gone!

I have a tooth that need some attention (which I know because eating ice cream today about sent me through the roof), but I HATE going to the dentist. It's never one visit and "see ya in six months." It's "we have some extensive work to do and let's make six appointments and oh, yeah, it's time for your cleaning again and gee, there's lots of work to be done here..." Hmmm...maybe it has to do with all those sugary Peeps?

Ok...that's it. Sianara, arrividercci, adios, good night folks! Catch you at sun-up.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Entrance to Heaven


I'm not exactly sure what the entrance to Heaven looks like, but I hope it's something like this:


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For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Biggest Loser: Career Planning

Biggest Loser logo

Every week I watch the Biggest Loser for entertainment and for inspiration. This week, the show gave me something more. It gave me some career direction.

After a few minutes of reaction to last week's vote in which Sione and Filipe tried to toss Ron overboard, the show pretty quickly moved to a food tempation which turned into a feeding frenzy. There were 100 covered trays. On each tray was either a high calorie snack, Extra sugar-free gum (sorry for the commercial!) coupled with cash, and under one tray was a golden ticket. This ticket gave the finder the one and only vote at this week's elimination.

My career a-ha came as I was watching the contestants eating cupcakes, big pretzels, donuts and potato chips. Suddenly, I knew -- this is my calling! I could be the pinch eater for contestants on the Biggest Loser. Kind of like a body double, but only a digestive double. Think anyone will go for it?

Anyway, back to the show. Laura gets the one vote of the week. She wants Tara to gain weight to throw the weigh in. Tara is not so sure.

Filipe and Tara both looked crappy after they ate all that junk. Tara alone ate 4,600 calories!. For all the times they've shown Tara puking, I'm surprised we didn't see it tonight.

Jillian and Bob are major PO'd when they walk into the gym and see the carnage from the temptation. Jillian said, "Eating in this gym where you lost all that weight -- it's like desecrating the place!"

Is it bad that I was amused at how Bob and Jillian talked about how they were going to "bust these contestants up!" as punishment for all the food they ate?

Fast-forwarded through the Subway commercial and on to the Rose Bowl challenge. Boys vs. Girls, running up and down the stairs at the Rose Bowl Stadium. 2,156 stairs in all -- and I thought Stone Mountain was rough.

Tara and Sione finished first. Their prize? They got to do it AGAIN! Why would you even want to win that? Two weeks at some fitness spa? Not sure that'd be worth it for me to do 2,000+ stairs again. Not surprisingly, Tara won. I bet Sione is sick of losing to Tara, who is actually growing on me again.

This week was oozing with gameplay. Helen tried to get inside Laura's head and plant the seed about sending Tara home. Mike was so crazy about getting Sione and Filipe back for voting against Ron last week that he kind of scared me.

Tara only lost 3 pounds, which secured Ron's spot in the house for next week. She insisted that she didn't do it on purpose, but lots of people, including Jillian, weren't so sure.

At the end of the weigh-in, Helen and Sione were below the yellow line and it was up to Laura to send one of them home. But before the vote, they showed Filipe and Sione doing a Tongan warrior dance. It's probably not politically correct to laugh, but I sure was.

I wasn't laughing, though, when Laura voted Sione off. It was the vote that was in Tara's best interest, but perhaps not Laura's. Only time will tell.

Don't miss next week -- it's makeover night!

Consequences

easter m and ms Pictures, Images and Photos

Last night when I got home from work, I didn't put my shoes away. So this morning, when I was in a hurry to get out the door, I couldn't find them. Instead of the black penny loafers I wanted to wear, I threw on a pair of black slingback heels.

On the way to work, I nibbled on some pastel-colored M&Ms I had hidden in the car so the kids wouldn't find them and eat them all. I decided I'd better leave the M&Ms in the car so I wouldn't eat them all, which was sure to happen if I took them into my office with me.

But those little candies were calling to me after I finished my lunch of half a Starbucks breakfast sandwich and some blackberry yogurt. Honestly, I didn't even try to fight it. Instead, I grabbed my keys and headed to my car to retrieve the M&Ms.

Well, apparently, Karma did not want me to have those M&Ms because as I approached the car, my ankle turned in my slingback heels and I went sprawling across the parking lot. If only I had put my penny loafers away last night, I wouldn't have been scraping blacktop and dirt out of my palms.

So I did what anyone in my situation would have done -- I got up, opened the car and consoled myself with some M&Ms.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Break wrap-up

Too much sugar and junk food.
Not enough sleep.

Too much rain.
Not enough sunshine.

Plenty of laughs.
Lack of oxygen.

1,162 miles.
Only 1 traffic jam.

Lots of family.
Little solitude.

Excited to go.
Happy to come back.

All in all, it was a great week! Hope yours was, too.




Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mountain reflections

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Now that the oxygen has fully returned to my brain -- it only took about 48 hours -- I have some more thoughts about our Stone Mountain hike that didn't make it in to my original post.

First of all, you know those certificates that I was so excited for the the kids to get so they could show their friends at school that they did indeed climb a mountain? Yeah -- I was in such an altered state, i.e., struggling to regain my breath, that we forgot to get them once we reached the top. I do have a penny that we made in one of those penny press machines. It says "I climbed Stone Mountain!" and shows a fit-looking guy. Funny, there was not one that pictured a short, apple-shaped woman.

Second, if you recall, we took a picture of the kids at the base of the mountain. They were standing in front of a sign that listed rules and guidelines to consider before making the climb.

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Maybe I should have read those before starting our ascent. They are too hard to make out in that picture, so let me help you:

GUIDELINES FOR HEALTH & SAFETY WHEN CLIMBING STONE MOUNTAIN:
  1. If you have ever considered applying to be a contestant on NBC's The Biggest Loser, you might want to re-think climbing this mountain.
  2. If bending over to tie your shoes leaves you a little breathless, this might not be the activity for you.
  3. If your idea of exercise is going to the freezer for seconds on ice cream, consider riding the Sky Tram to the top of Stone Mountain.
  4. If the last time you climbed this mountain was as a child and you remember it being easy, take some time to consider the difference in your physical stamina then and now.
  5. If you take any type of medication for mood disorders, your desire to climb this mountain may be a symptom of your general craziness or other mental instability. You should turn back now and call your doctor for an increased dose of medication.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's just a little hill...

The one thing that I wanted to do for sure when I planned this trip to see my brother and his family was to go to Stone Mountain. When I was a little girl, my aunt and uncle lived in Stone Mountain and we made a couple of trips to the park for a walk up the mountain.

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The mountain is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. As if that weren't enough, there is a memorial carving on the side of the mountain that depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. The carving was done over a period of 60 years.

How cool it would be if my kids could come back from Spring Break and tell their friends that they climbed a mountain on their vacation. Once they reached the top, they would get a certificate that said "I climbed Stone Mountain!"

Plus, it would only cost $8/car to get into the park and walk the mountain trail. (Taking in the other attractions -- most of which aren't open for the season yet anyway -- is considerably pricier.)

A trip to Stone Mountain, I reasoned, would be economical, physically active and memorable. Turns out I was right on all three counts.

With my sister-in-law Erin staying behind to work, my brother Jeff and I loaded the five kids in the van and headed for our destination. Most of them were excited at the prospect of climbing the mountain, except Jack who slept the whole way there and Annie who doesn't get excited about the prospect of most anything that can be construed as exercise.

"Oh, Annie, it's just a little hill," I assured her.

Here they are at the base of the mountain walk-up trail:

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Immediately, I was surprised at how the walk-up trail was more level in my memory. I think my brother thought the same thing. Of course the last time he went up, he wasn't carrying a three-year-old in his arms.

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About 100 or so yards up the trail, I was the one asking "are we almost there?" The kids did a great job of stopping to wait for me (and Jack and Jeff) to catch up. Annie kept telling me to "channel my inner Jillian (trainer from the Biggest Loser)."

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Adding to my breathlessness, Jeff and I kept laughing -- at how ridiculously out of shape we are, (though really more me than he), at how the kids were practically taking the mountain at a run, at how much more of the mountain we had to climb.

Thank God I was the one with the camera. It gave me an excuse to stop every so often to "take a picture," which actually translates to "gasp for air." Charlie found his name carved in the granite:

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Then we found a cool caterpillar. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have said "Neat!" and moved on. But I was happy to stop and snap several pictures just long enough for the jello-y feelings in my legs to go away.

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I'm not sure how far into our ascent we were when I took this video. Far enough that the oxygen deprivation of my brain caused me to not realize that I was shooting the video sideways. So turn your head a bit:



Shortly after this video was shot (I think), this was the view:

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By this point, I wasn't even pretending that I was taking this all in stride. I was definitely sucking wind and there was no point in hiding it. I laughed at how in my head I am not nearly as fat and out of shape as I am in real life. I also began mentally blogging the whole experience.

"Look at it this way, Amy, your kids will remember this forever," my brother said.

"Yes," I replied. "They will forever remember the day their mother died on the side of a Georgia mountain!"

Hey, if I was going down, I was going down laughing. A little while later, we were maybe 2/3 of the way up. A couple was coming down the mountain.

"Are we almost there?" I practically begged.

"In distance, yes. But not in effort. The next part is the hardest part of the climb." I considered throwing myself off the side of the granite to end the misery there.

If you look closely in the picture below, you will see two things. The first are the yellow stripes, marking the way to the top. They will be important later. The second is a set of metal handrails (just left of center) to help you climb this VERY steep part of the trail.

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I practically dragged myself up the slope holding on to those handrails. It might have been easier if I could have stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Of course Charlie and Robbie walked right up the center of the handrails, barely holding on at all.

I guessed that this was the toughest part of the climb, seeing as they provided those handrails. Well, I guessed wrong. The next part was almost insurmountable. Annie asked if I wanted to stop there and wait for them to come back. I declined, determined to finish the climb and afraid that I might pass out and roll all the way back down if I stopped.

Charlie was the first to make it up, with the other kids following closely behind.

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Remember those yellow stripes leading the way? By this part of the trail, I was literally willing myself to make it to the next yellow stripe and then resting there for a minute. And crazily, I did begin channeling my inner Jillian. I think it was not so much determination as hallucination.

But I persevered and made it! I wish this picture looked a little more victorious. But I was lucky to be upright at all:

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I was so happy to have reached the top that I went in and promptly plunked down $23.20 to buy tickets to ride the Sky Tram back down, rather than hiking our way back to the base. It was the best money I've spent on this trip!

After we'd left Stone Mountain Park, we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. This was the view from the parking lot up to the entrance located on the front of the building:

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"Why is everything in Georgia so steep?" Charlie asked.

Good question.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Slow goin'

Since we got to my brother's house on Monday, we've kind of taken a slow approach to getting the day started. Right now it's 11:30am and I'm still in my pajamas.

Yesterday, we hung around the house and let the kids just play in the morning. Our plan had been to go to Stone Mountain, but the weatherman had other ideas. So we had lunch at home before heading out for the day. The afternoon consisted of Monkey Joe's -- one of those indoor inflatable jumpy places, Borders and Fuji Hana hibachi grill for dinner. I have pictures to share, but no cord to upload them from my camera, so you'll just have to use your imagination for now.

My boys had never been to a hibachi restaurant before. They loved it! They each caught fried egg in their mouth and couldn't get enough of the fire. (I'm trying not to worry about their fascination with pyrotechnics.)

Annie, in one of her wanna-be-cool 'tween moments, passed on the flying egg, until she saw everyone else doing it. Guess fun outweighed cool; I'm glad.

Camryn caught an egg in her mouth and was so proud of herself.

"It's my first time to ever catch the egg, Aunt Amy!" she kept saying over and over.

Charlie was quite interested in the chef.

"When did you decide to be a cook?"

"How old were you?"

"Do you ever cut yourself?" (You know, flying knives and all.)

Of course as cool as they thought the hibachi chef and his tricks were -- the giant flame and the onion volcano were favorites, there was no way those boys were going to bother eating what he cooked. So as we all enjoyed steak, shrimp, chicken and veggies from the hibachi, Robbie and Charlie munched through cheeseburgers and fries.

Poor Jack, though, being 3 years old and not getting a nap does not lend itself to staying awake for the hibachi show. He slept soundly through dinner!

By the time we got home, I was ready to sleep soundly, though I didn't go to bed for another 4 hours -- it was Biggest Loser night.

I have a wicked cough that started as a tickle in my throat but seems to be finding a home in my chest. It is kicking my butt. It wakes me up in the middle of the night (who am I kidding? Cough or not I'm usually up in the middle of the night). So I've been going back to bed around 4 or 5am and sleeping late -- until after 10am two days in row!

The cough just kind of comes over me quickly. Last night I coughed so hard that I thought my water had broken -- until I remembered that I am not pregnant, which is when I realized that I just peed myself a little bit.

I am hopeful that Stone Mountain might be on the agenda for this afternoon. It's gray and cloudy, but not rainy. I remember thinking it was so cool to go there when I was a kid. I'd love to take my kids to see it. Plus, what better way is there to wear out five kids than to hike them up the side of a mountain and back down again?