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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bitter and sweet

Yesterday was the last day of school and I'm not sure who was more excited about it, me or the kids. I am absolutely over homework and field trip chaperoning and "Mom, I need more money in my lunch account" and making sure gym uniforms are clean on the right days.

Kindergarten got out first at 11am. I was standing there waiting when Robbie came running up to me, excited as could be, shouting "Mommy! I'm a first grader!" -- except that he's not. We're having him repeat kindergarten next year, which he obviously does not know yet. So his excitement nearly broke me in two. I just hugged him tight and said "I love you!"

He declared his first grade status several times on the way to the car, so I finally had to say something. But I wasn't about to go bursting bubbles yesterday. Instead, I told him, "Know what? There's no school for three months so that means right now you're a Summer Boy!" We'll tell him the news in a few weeks, once he's had a chance to make friends with some boys on the swim team who will also be in kindergarten next year.

After I picked up Robbie, he and I had a special afternoon, just the two of us. We picked up McDonald's for him and took it to a park to eat. Then we played on the playground for a while. I just love to swing. I don't care how ridiculous I look, there is something wonderfully freeing about my body gliding through the air higher and higher.

From there, we took some leftover cheeseburger bun to a nearby walking bridge and fed the ducks. Of all three of my kids, Robbie is my biggest animal lover. I loved watching how excited he was as the ducks swam over to where he was dropping pieces of bun into the water.

The big kids had an awards ceremony at 1:00pm, but I wasn't in a real hurry to get there. I knew Robbie would be bored and I knew that neither of my other two would be getting one of the first awards, so I figured we could be a little late.

So at 1:10pm, I was standing in the school office talking to the secretary whose daughter is going to babysit for me this summer, when I got a text message: "Annie just won a scholarship!"

What?! They always let the parents know ahead of time if their child is going to win a special award. Had I known, I would have staked out a great seat and had camera -- and probably video camera -- in hand. But in another "not Mother of the Year" showing, I missed it.

When I got to the gym, Annie was heading to get a drink of water. I saw her, gave her a big hug and told her how proud I was. I don't think she realized I wasn't there when they announced her name. It was only after school was out that I learned the scholarship is for $500 toward next year's tuition and was given to one boy and one girl going into the 7th or 8th grade who exhibit a spirit of service. I am so proud of her!

Charlie got a certificate for perfect attendance for the 4th quarter. I always thought perfect attendance awards were stupid -- avoiding the flu does not seem like a notable achievement. But, Charlie was so proud to have a piece of paper in his hands, I was grateful for the award. Maybe next quarter, he'll be back on the honor roll.

We celebrated the last day of school in a variety of ways. Annie went home and spent the night with a friend. Charlie had a buddy spend the night here. Robbie got a new (to him) bike.

None of them are thinking about next school year yet. Though I am mentally catalogging the things I want to do differently/better (like take more pictures -- I have a few that I'll share here later). But that's for another day. Today, I'm just going to enjoy the first day of summer break!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lost cat?

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I'm not really a cat person. (Actually I'm not really an animal person at all.) But about 18 months ago, I agreed to chaperone a Girl Scout field trip to the Humane Society and there was this little gray kitten there named Smokey.

For some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about this kitten. About two days after the field trip, I was still thinking about Smokey and how his days were probably numbered. So I took Mike to the Humane Society and showed him the kitten.

For some crazy reason, we decided to adopt Smokey. "Cats are a whole lot easier to take care of than dogs," I reasoned. Plus, we felt the lesson in responsibility would be good for the kids. Their first responsibility was to re-name the kitten. They chose Dungy after the then-coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Even though Dungy had been a stray, we decided that he would be an indoor cat. So we had his front claws removed to protect our furniture. And for several months, we were all very happy. Then spring arrived and Dungy began crying to go outside. I had no idea a cat could meow so loudly and so persistently. So we let him out.

At first Dungy stayed in our yard. Then he started venturing to the house next door, often meowing to be let inside there. They often obliged. Guess it takes a village to raise a cat, too.

About nine months after Smokey became Dungy, I got a call from a neighbor a few houses down. She had painters at her house and they'd left the front door open. Dungy took that as an open invitation and wandered into her house. She was newly pregnant and worried about being around a cat, so I quickly went and retrieved our feline trespasser.

Since then, Dungy has gotten more adventurous in his escapades, going as far as a block away. I know because every couple of weeks we get a phone call from someone the street over asking if we've lost our cat, saying they've got him. Sometimes instead of a call, civic-minded little girls come walking up to our front door, errant cat in arms.

All of this is a little confusing to me. I thought the whole point of having a cat was that they didn't need a leash or a fence. I thought opening the door and letting them roam was what you did with cats, that they'll come home when they are ready. If that's true, then why do people keep calling asking if our cat is lost?

So c'mon cat people (and cat haters), enlighten me. Should I not let him outside any more? Should I take off his collar so people quit calling to tell me he is alive?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wimping out

I called our cable provider to make some changes to our plan today. I dropped a second phone line and canceled one cable box in the basement that we never use. Then I tried to cancel the cable all together because I know my kids will waste half the summer away sitting mindlessly in front of the television.

The lady on the other end of the line was appalled. "You mean you want no TV at all?"

"Yes. That's what I mean."

"Even though on June 12th, you'll need cable to get even local channels?"

Crud. I hadn't thought of that. Now, I know all about the digital cable conversion and the converter boxes that you can get to pull in the local channels. But I started getting all wishy washy. What if the stores are sold out of the boxes? What if the box doesn't work and a tornado is headed right for us and we won't know it?

"Ok, well, then I want to go down to the basic cable."

"That will be only channels 76 below, ma'am."

"Yes, I know. That's what I want."

"Well, if you do that, you'll be disrupting your phone/internet/cable bundle, so your pricing will be affected."

To make a long, wimpy story short, I ended up hanging up the phone with the same cable arrangement I had when I called in the first place.

Then later in the day, I went to pick up my prescriptions from Costco. I had intended to move the scripts to Walgreens for the next refills because I can use the pharmacy drive-through and because Walgreens pharmacy is open earlier and later than Costco's. The scripts I picked up tonight had been waiting for over a week because I never could get to Costco when the pharmacy was open.

So I went in, determined this would be my last Costco Rx pickup. But then the pharmacy tech walked up to me and said "I'll be right with you Ms. M..." Wow. She knows my name. Suddenly this big box pharmacy seemed a little smaller and more intimate.

"But the hours of the pharmacy here are not good," I told myself.

"Yes, but she knows my name. That's personal attention," I argued back, my resolve crumbling.

So I left there not letting them know we'd be changing pharmacies because of course, now I don't know. Maybe the hours aren't such a big deal?

I don't know why I have such a hard time standing my ground. I think it has to do with my role as a people-pleasing firstborn. I don't want anyone to think badly of me. I'm trying to toughen up a little bit. Someone at work recently told me "If it's not 100% yes, then it's a no."

Hmmm...that sounds 98% good.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Taking Chance

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Today is Memorial Day, the day we've set aside in this country to honor fallen soldiers. This weekend I watched a movie on HBO called Taking Chance that fits the theme of this day beautifully.

Taking Chance is based on a true story and an article written by a Marine Lt. Colonel about his experience escorting home the body of Marine PFC Chance Phelps. Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who was played by actor Kevin Bacon, did not know Chance Phelps. But he had his own personal reasons for volunteering to escort Phelps' body from Dover Air Force Base to a small town in Wyoming.

The film showed how much respect and care are given when the bodies of fallen soldiers are prepared for return to their families. I'd never really thought of the fact that when these soldiers die in combat, they are likely to be dirty -- not to mention bloody. As gracefully -- not graphically -- depicted in the film, the military takes great care to present these soldiers in the most dignified manner, even if their families elect not to view the bodies.

I was struck by the profound respect and honor with which Strobl, and more importantly Phelps, were treated in their journey across the country. Flight attendants, tarmac personnel, passengers all showed a somber reverence for what was taking place. The film is pretty true to the facts shared in the original article written by Lt. Col. Strobl.

I think what makes this such an amazing and tender film is the lack of political propaganda. There is no attempt to judge the war in Iraq as just or not. It's not a movie about a war. It's a movie about how the military and everyday Americans say thank you to the men and women who give their lives in service to our country.

The film ends with pictures of Chance Phelps, underscoring the reality of the story.

The DVD and a CD of the film's soundtrack are available for purchase at the HBO Shop. It might be worth buying to watch and then donating to your local library or high school.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Taking it offline

I've met some really cool people online. Some via this blog. Others through participation in other social network sites. But I've only met a handful of them in person. Yesterday, I upped that total by one when I had lunch with Angie of Angelica Grace Designs.

I invited her to lunch because we live in the same school district and they've had a really good experience with the resource programs available for her daughter who has special needs. (She's the cutie who models all the AGD clothing.) I just wanted to hear about what the public school district has to offer to make sure we're doing right by Robbie as far as school goes.

The discussion about school was about 1/8 of my conversation with Angie. We talked about how much my Charlie and her Brennan would get along. I asked about how she started AGD. We talked about how we both got married fairly young (she at 18, me at 23) and how we'd never let our own kids do the same (as if we have any control over that!). We nodded in agreement that women need their girlfriends.

It was a very nice way to spend an hour or so. Her family is leaving soon for the summer, but I hope Angie and I have a chance to catch up again next fall. Have you ever met up with someone in person who you first met online? Is there someone you know from online that you'd like to meet in real life? Or do you think that's crazy and/or dangerous? Tell us a little about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pedi season

With Memorial Day just a few days away, I decided today that it is officially pedicure season. So I walked into CheChiPla -- cheap Chinese place -- and put myself on the list for a pedi.

A few minutes later, I was choosing a color and plopping down on one of the pedi chairs with an amazingly recent magazine. As I rolled my pants up, I realized that it's probably been a couple of days since I've shaved my legs. Oops.

But by this time my feet were already in the swirling water and I was looking forward to seeing how "I'll Always Have Paris" looked on my toes. So I sat there unapologetically and waited for the nail tech (of some Asian persuasion, I can't say for sure she was Chinese) to start talking in a foreign language about my hairy legs and gnarly calloused and cracked feet to the girl next to her.

To my surprise, she didn't seem disgusted or even mildly shocked at the state of my lower extremities. So I sat back, read all about Michael J. Fox's new book, and answered a phone call from my sister as Miss Must-Have-Seen-A-Lot-of-Ooogly-Feet went to work. My relaxation was interrupted by a whiny voice next to me.

"Can you fix that one there? And I need two coats," said a 20-something in the next chair. She was blonde and skinny and had legs that extended up to her armpits, so I knew immediately that I didn't like her. Her nail tech nodded obligingly and started applying a second coat to WB's (whiny blonde's) French manicure, well, pedicure.

A minute or so later, the tech told WB that she was finished.

"Is that two coats?" (Yes, the tech assured.)

"By why does it look so yellow?" To which the tech explained that WB had been wearing red polish and after it's removed it leaves a residual stain that might be a little yellowish. "But can't you add another coat?"

Apparently WB missed the color conversation in kindergarten. Clear is not a color. So you can add 100 coats of clear and the underlying color will still be seen.

"I don't understand why they are so yellow?" Again with the red polish explanation. "But even when all I used to wear was French, they always looked yellow."

By now, I was looking at the supposedly offending yellow. Um, hello, sister. That's not yellow. That's Caucasian. You want to see yellow? You come on over to my house.

"It's just so ugly to have yellow nails," she whined on. Now, let me tell you, the only thing ugly about this girl was her attitude.

Soon enough, WB was drying her toes in the foot dryer and I went back to enjoying my own pedicure. My favorite part was coming up -- the part where they take that razor thing and scrape off all the dead, rough skin. First she put some lotion on my feet. Then had me soak them in the water. Then more lotion. Then she rubbed them with a pumice stone. She put it down and I was almost giddy at the prospect of having all that junk removed from my feet.

Waahhh! She didn't do it. She muttered something, but her accent prevented me from understanding what she said. I think it was "Our sandblaster is in the repair shop, so I can't do anything more for your nasty feet."

All that was left to do was apply two coats of "I'll Always Have Paris," which turned out darker than I expected. So now instead of springy dark purple toenails, I have nails that look almost black. I was going to take a picture, but a) I can't find the cord that connects the camera to the computer and b) some of you might be reading this over breakfast or lunch and a picture of my goth-like toes on feet attached to minorly hairy legs might make you lose your appetite.

But be certain that if you see me any time between now and October 1st, I'll be wearing sandals to show off my pedicured feet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Word to the Wide 3.0

You know it's time to go on a diet when your belly fat keeps re-setting the count on your pedometer. I walked almost two miles yesterday and the count on my pedometer was 366 steps because my bouncing belly kept hitting the re-set button.

For more words to the wide, check out the original and WTW 2.0.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pancake prayers

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This morning, I posted this as my Facebook status update:

God is not just in the a-ha's of life. Sometimes He is in the ordinary. Sometimes He uses pancakes to answer prayers.

A few people asked me if there was a story in this and there is. I wasn't sure if I wanted to share it here, but it struck me so much and has stayed with me all day that I've decided to go ahead.

I've made brief mention here that Mike and I are weathering some tough times. But sometimes I forget that it's more than just me and him in this tension.

This morning, I was in the kitchen getting out the griddle to make pancakes for breakfast. Annie came downstairs, walked in the kitchen and said, "Mom, what are you doing?"

"Making pancakes."

She got a funny smile on her face, walked out of the room, came back in and smiled at me again. When I asked what was going on, I got the typical pre-teen, "Nothing…"

Unsatisfied with that response, I asked her again.

"Well, yesterday I heard you and Daddy fighting. I was scared, so I said a prayer. I asked God to let Mom make pancakes in the morning so I'd know everything was going to be ok."

She started crying. I did too. I scooped her into my arms - as much as you can scoop someone already taller than yourself - and assured her that everything would indeed be ok. I told her that Mike and I are going to counseling together and that we both have every hope for a long future.

I also explained that we weren't fighting, but having a loud discussion about the merits (or not) of having Obama speak at Notre Dame and being awarded an honorary degree.

I feel guilty for the fear and anxiety she is obviously feeling. (She does have access to a counselor.) I hope that as she went to school today, she felt some comfort in the knowledge that sometimes God answers prayers with pancakes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Indiana: Try it. You'll like it.

Visit Indiana

We interrupt this blog for a brief commercial message about fun and affordable family vacations. Who needs oceans and mountains? Who needs big city traffic and high cost excursions? What you really need is Indiana!

Check out some great Hoosier destinations at The Indiana Insider Blog. Pay special attention to some of the entries posted by yours truly, including:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Clean sweep

I spent about six hours today cleaning out four closets, four dressers and a desk. Unfortunately, none of it was in my own house. Instead, my sisters, my brother-in-law Steve and I gathered at my parents' house to take on the job of cleaning out three bedrooms that are only used when we come home for a visit.

We started in my sister Angie's old room. She worked on one walk-in closet, while I dove in to the second. Considering that my parents have lived in this house for 16 years or so, we found some pretty interesting things, including:
  • A sterile cup that held the metal screw that used to be in Angie's ankle after surgery for a soccer injury.
  • Two sailor dresses from our annual sorority "Cruise Night" rush party
  • About a dozen or so old dance recital costume and a nun costume
  • My mom's senior prom dress (which we counted has been moved to at least seven different houses)
  • A couple of Angie's kindergarten projects (mind you, she is 31 years old)
  • More pairs of old underwear than I care to count
  • Lots and lots of old pictures, one of which I'm going to scan and e-mail to AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com
In my sister Shelley's room, we found enough wrapping paper, gift tags, curly ribbon and gift bags to stock the North Pole for five years. Never again will I have my kids hit up Grandma for the annual wrapping paper sale. Shelley's closet yielded several outfits that once belonged to a now-deceased distant relative that my mom felt the need to take in. The only thing that could be worse than Mom taking these clothes and storing them in a closet for five years would be if Mom had actually worn them in public. Off to the Goodwill with them.

My brother Nick's old room actually had a few useful items in it, not too surprising since he's only 4, 6 and 10 years older than my kids. I snagged a couple of boxes of math flash cards (won't my kiddos be happy!) and two sport coat/pants outfits that may come in handy for the next time we have a wedding or a funeral to attend.

All total, we bagged up seven 55-gallon bags of trash and delivered eight 55-gallon bags of cast offs to the Goodwill. That's 825 gallons of stuff! We're going to list some of the furniture on Craig's List and a few smaller items on eBay.

I'm only heading home with a small laundry basket of items, which is one benefit of having never actually lived in this house. Just wait until Angie's husband eyes the three boxes of stuff she's bringing home.

It was a big job, but we had a lot of fun going through some of the stuff, especially the old pictures. So much fun, in fact, that we're looking for a date to come back and tackle the basement!

Self-indictment

Annie is at a friend's house. I've asked the boys to pick up the family room -- fold and put away the blankets, put the cushions back on the couch, take all the shoes to their owners bedrooms.

Charlie is reluctantly doing the lion's share of the work, while Robbie is being, well....lazy. Which made Charlie offer up the following self-indictment:

"I feel like I'm Annie and Robbie is me. The "Annie" is doing all the work and the "Charlie" is just sitting around doing nothing!"

Friday, May 15, 2009

A story problem

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The Question:
Robbie is a 6-year-old boy who weighs 58 pounds and is 48 inches tall. His mom is a 38-year old woman who weighs X pounds, is 62 inches tall and has 95% heartburn. If Robbie climbs in his mom's bed, which is 76 inches wide, and proceeds to sleep at a 90 degree angle to the top of the bed approximately 1/3 of the way from the edge of the bed, where does that leave his mom?

The Answer:
Blogging on the couch at 3:40am

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Biggest Loser finale: Surprise Ending

BL upside down

The finale of the Biggest Loser last night delivered a surprise ending -- a surprise especially to me because I fell asleep in the commercial break before the final weigh in, which is why I am finishing this blog at 4:30am.

Flying in and snatching certain victory from game dominator Tara was Helen, who clinched the win by losing 54.47% (140 pounds) of her total body weight.

Helen before Helen after

In fact, with a 52.72% weight loss, Tara ended up coming in third place after both Helen and Mike, who lost 53.35% of his total body weight.

If it's any consolation, Tara looked healthier (read: better) than Helen. But Helen obviously worked her butt off (literally) and deserves the congratulations.

The competition between the eliminated players was handily won by 64-year-old Jerry who posted a 47.97% weight loss of 177 pounds.

Now that I've gotten the big news out of the way, I'll run down the show as it happened. (I wrote this as it happened, which is why it is written in present tense.)

Mike is the first up. He is crazy skinny. I think he must be burning 200 calories a minute just by smiling.

Ron's next. Holy smokes! I cannot believe how good he looks. But which one did America choose to be the 3rd finalist?

It's Mike! That's gonna make the race to the title pretty interesting. Mike, Tara & Helen. I'd like to say that it's between Tara and Mike, but I could see Helen sneaking in for the win. (ETA: Did I call that or what?!)

New vote: Two people vying for final spot on the next season. America gets to vote which one should be on the show. It's between Erinn, who is a senior at Ohio State, and Amanda, a 19-year-old from New Jersey. They look very similar, both in size and physical appearance -- pretty blondes. They are going to work out with Bob and Jillian during the show. Amanda looks tough in the workouts. Reminds me of Tara II. Seems like Erinn needs the help the most. But what do I know? Because Amanda was voted in as the final contestant on the next season of The Biggest Loser.

Estella and Jerry: They both look great, but definitely older. Annie thinks Jerry is dressed pretty sharply.

Damien and Nicole: He did ok. She is smokin'! When she walks down the aisle in August, her wedding dress will be a size 8.

Pound for Pound challenge. Please leave a comment if you participated -- and how much you've lost! Across the country, nearly 3 million pounds lost! Plus, if you pledge to pounds to lose this summer, General Mills will donate up to 1 million more pounds of food. Last chance pledges will be accepted through the end of this month.

Finally -- time to start weighing in...

Estella:
SW: 242. CW: 159 (-83 pounds). 34.3% weight loss

Jerry: SW: 369. CW: 192 (-177 pounds) 47.97% weight loss

Damien:
SW: 381. CW: 245 (-136 pounds) 35.7% weight loss

Nicole: SW: 269. CW: 146 (-123 pounds) 45.72% weight loss

Sione: Totally hot! SW: 372. CW: 226 (-146 pounds) 39.25% weight loss

Filipe: Needs some fashion advice. SW: 364. CW: 229 (-135 pounds) 37.09%

The newly buff Filipe and Sione did the Tongan dance again. It was awesome!

Carla: SW: 379. CW: 251 (-128 pounds) 33.77%

Joelle: Really looks beautiful. SW: 309. CW: 229 (-80 pounds) 25.89%

Blaine: SW: 365. CW: 249. (-116 pounds) 31.78%

Dane: SW: 412. CW: 258 (-154 pounds) 37.38%

In the three weeks before the finale, Blaine and Dane completed a 1/2 marathon, a full marathon, and a 1/2 iron man competition!

Mandie: SW: 263. CW: 171 (-92 pounds) 34.98%

Aubrey: SW: 249. CW: 194 (-55 pounds) 22.09% -- 11 pounds for each of her 5 kids! In the scheme of this game, 55 pounds doesn't seem like much, but I wouldn't turn it down if it came my way.

Cathy: SW: 293. CW: 198 (-95 pounds) 32.42% weight loss

Kristin: As a blonde! Not sure I like that so much. It reminds me of that crazy Susan Powter woman. SW: 360. CW: 193 (-167 pounds). 46.39%. She missed overtaking Jerry by just 5 pounds!

David: SW: 393. CW: 350 (-43) 10.94%.

Daniel: I love this guy. When he came out, he said "I can lose 100 pounds and I'm still obese. Then I can lose another 100 and 50 more if I gotta. The point is don't ever give up." SW: 454. CW: 312 (-142 pounds) 31.28%.

Laura: SW: 285. CW: 199 (-86 pounds). 30.18%

Jerry just needs to beat Shannon and Ron to win the $100,000. He's got Shannon, no problem. Ron...I'm not sure. As Jerry said, it comes down to the two old guys.

Shannon: SW: 283. CW: 191 (-92 pounds) 32.51% A lot of us felt like Helen should have let Shannon stay on the ranch when the choice was between the two of them. But Shannon has lost almost 100 pounds on her own, so kudos to her.

Ron: SW: 430. CW: 238 (-192 pounds)

Jerry wins the $100,000! To celebrate, he hoisted Jillian up in his arms. At age 64, he's the oldest competitor ever on The Biggest Loser!

Now on to the three finalists:
As I said earlier, Mike looks super skinny. Helen, well, she looks a kind of wrinkly, but skinny. Think she could have chosen a more tasteful dress. Then Tara, again with the ugly dress, but she looks amazing. If I had to guess, I'd say Mike's gonna take the prize. (ETA: Guess I wasn't so sure earlier...)

Tara chose the order of weight loss, based on percentage of weight lost on the ranch:

Helen: SW: 257. CW: 117 (-140 pounds) 54.47% Freakin' amazing!

Mike: SW: 388. CW: 181 (-207 pounds) 53.35%. Not enough to beat Helen, but close. He needed to lose another 5 pounds.

Tara looks like she knows that Helen has won it. She needs to lose more than 160 pounds. Did she do it?

Nope.

Tara:
SW: 294. CW: 139 (-155 pounds) 52.72%

I know that Tara (and all of the contestants) have "won" by earning their lives, back. But I'd be lying if I said I was ok with the outcome. Helen beating Tara in the final weigh in was kind of like the New York Giants beating the then-unbeaten New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, except that I was happy with the Super Bowl outcome.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I smell a recall...

or a lawsuit.

Who in the world thought a scooter that shoots fire out the end was a good idea? I mean seriously, what do the user instructions say?
  1. Do not ride while wearing long pants.
  2. Do not ride near gas sources.
  3. If you are especially hairy, wax your leg hair before attempting to ride.
  4. Before riding, please review the attached instructions for stop, drop and roll.


And how much do you have to pay for the pleasure of this pyrotechnic pasttime? A mere $70! Heck, put your kid on a regular scooter and I'll run after them with a lit match for only $50.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hallmark doesn't write 'em this good

Just so you know that I'm not as shallow as I sounded when I complained about the Jillian Michaels Wii game, I thought I'd share with you something each of my children said to me on the occasion of Mother's Day:

Last night at church, Fr. Scott offered a blessing for all mothers in the congregation, saying something about how mothers needed our love and support.

"Mom," Annie leaned over and whispered, "I support you."

Then this morning, while I was still in bed, Robbie crawled up and asked if he could cuddle up with me. "Sure," I said.

"When you are warm, I love you," he said. Melt me...

Finally, each of the kids made me a card. Charlie's said "Mom, you are the best. I wish I could have married you."

Those three things...that's all I needed for Mother's Day.

To the moms who make me a better mom

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Happy Mother's Day to:

My mom, Julie: Who demonstrates commitment and perseverance and the importance of serving others

My mother-in-law, Karen: Who has taught me the value of laughter and who gave me the phrase "Please, boys, please..." which I use often

My grandma, Janet: Who continues to show me that you don't have to be the center of attention to make a difference

My NaNa: Who I miss dearly

Buck: Who has taught me that a mother's work (and love) is never done, even if I do live until I'm 90

Shelley, Angie & Erin: Who are beautifully raising the best nieces and nephews an aunt can ask for

Denise: Who has shown me that being the "mean" mom is often being the good mom

Beth: Who reminds me that standing up for our kids and sometimes questioning authority is part of the job

Lisa: Who is as much a spiritual model to me as she is to her own children

Birdie: Who is a huge reason why I am here today, still mothering

Lynn, Sharon, Momza, Shannon and all the other moms of the blogosphere: Who help me realize that even when we feel alone in our efforts, we mothers are part of a sisterhood where our experiences are often universal and where we are supported and held accountable for this most important job of ours

And lastly, to Mary, Mother of God: To whom I turn for divine intercession and whose example of holy motherhood is inspiring.

It's the thought that counts.

My husband is a terrible secret-keeper. One of the worst. Now, this year he didn't tell me what he was getting me for Mother's Day. Just as bad, he told the kids.

"It's something for the Wii," Charlie hinted a few days ago. And since I'm unaware of any Scrabble game for the Wii, I guessed to myself that it was something Biggest Loser-related.

My suspicions were confirmed when there were about 15 minutes of panic yesterday in which Mike and the kids seemed to have misplaced the gift. It wasn't real hard to figure out what they were talking about with Mike hollering "Where is the Jillian game?!"

Now, I KNOW that it's the thought that counts. And I KNOW that Mike saw this game and thought "Biggest Loser! She loves the Biggest Loser!" And that is truly sweet.

But, let's all put our chubby-plus thinking caps on. What might this gift say to someone who needs to lose 70 pounds?

"Hey, honey, you're fat so I bought you this," comes to mind.

In Mike's defense, he wanted to have my car detailed as a Mother's Day gift, but I declined because it was too much money. Using my own logic, the gift of a car detail might have said "Gee, your car is a pig sty," which is true (or was until I made the kids clean it out yesterday). But I can view my car being called a pig sty far more objectively than I can my body being called fat.

To be sure, he never said "You're fat," that's all my own inner translation of the message. I know that in Mike's mind, this gift said "I want you to be healthy and around for a long time."

And truthfully, it IS the thought that counts. Which is exactly what I will be telling myself as I exchange the Jillian Michael's game for a new outfit.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gaining momentum: BL Twitter-quest

Update on my Twitter-quest to get to the Biggest Loser finale. I'm seeing more tweets, thanks to some of you who have been kind enough to call attention to my efforts on your own blogs. You people rock!

Of course, Alison Sweeney & Jillian Michaels probably think I'm a stalker now...

Earning an F

The other day Chris wrote at Notes from the Trenches about little ways she fails her kids. This morning, I'm really feeling like I'm failing mine -- Charlie especially -- in big ways.

I got an e-mail from Charlie's teacher yesterday that he'd had missing assignments two days in a row. I wasn't aware there was homework he didn't do because I didn't check his assignment notebook. I asked him if he finished his homework. He said yes.

Now, I knew in my mind that I needed to double check. To have him show me the work. But I took him at his word because I was too tired (read: lazy) to check. When I looked at his assignment notebook this morning (yes, about 12 hours too late), I saw that he has two tests today. I asked if he studied for them at after care yesterday. I got a blank stare in return.

He didn't even bring his reading book home, so he's on his own for that test. We went over the spelling words several times. As we were doing so, I realized this was the first time that I've seen the list all week.

I reached into his backpack and came up with handfuls of old crumpled papers. His desk at school is the same way. And why wouldn't they be? That's the way I am. Every time a teacher writes in a report card that one of my children needs to be more organized, it's a personal conviction against my character because they are not learning organization at home.

I feel like I'm failing him because I haven't been able to make him see that school is his most important job, probably because by my inattention, I'm giving him the message that it's not.

It goes beyond school. He wanted a short-sleeve shirt to wear today, but I haven't washed them. He's gone for two weeks without his medication because I lost the Rx. (See above re: organization. Found the Rx last night.) He and Robbie are taking their lunches wrapped in enough foil to tune in the TV on the international space station because I'm out of Ziploc bags. And the contents of their lunch are lean because our pantry and fridge are void of most things beside condiments.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, I just realized that he is singing in the choir at church this morning -- Mass started 20 minutes ago -- and I'm not there. If I wasn't trying to keep this a rated PG blog, I'd spew a string of expletives right here.

This is definitely one of those mornings where I'm ready to move to a hillside in Kentucky.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Not sure what to get Mom for Mother's Day?

How about a new kitchen?

Check it out here: HH Gregg-It's All About Mom

But hurry...deadline is TODAY!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tweet me up, baby

Biggest Loser logo + Photobucket+ Photobucket = Photobucket

Ok, I am serious about wanting to go to the Biggest Loser finale and live Tweet/blog from there. I try not to get too whiny here about asking for favors, but today I am asking. If you Twitter, PUH-LEEZE tweet this:

@JillianMichaels @nbc @Ali_Sweeney send @4thfrog to live tweet/blog the Biggest Loser finale http://4thfrog.blogspot.com

If you already follow me on Twitter 1) thank you! and 2) you can RT the message above that I just posted.

Finally, if you are on Twitter, leave your Twitter name in the comment section so I can follow you too.

UPDATED to add: If you don't Twitter, but you do blog, I would kiss you if you blogged about my Twitter request. This is totally a long shot, but it would demonstrate the power of social media...or wishful thinking.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Biggest Loser: Who will you vote for?

Biggest Loser logo

It's down to the wire for Season 7 of the Biggest Loser. Tara, Helen, Mike and Ron are the last four contestants in the competition. Everyone headed home for 30 days, knowing that they would go back to the ranch for one last weigh in before the finale.

Much of the first half of the show focused on the homecomings. I couldn't help but feel bad for Shanon, Helen's daughter, and Max, Mike's brother. Tara was positively glowing.

Being at home was a struggle for all of the contestants. Mike's admission about closet eating hit home with me. Eat it before you get home so no one knows you've eaten. Yep. Been there, done that.

Helen said she knew there was a beautiful person inside of her. That's part of my problem. I don't have a vision of the skinny me inside. In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't believe it's possible.

Ron's guilt over setting a bad example for his kids, well, let's just say that might be the first thing Ron and I have ever agreed on.

Finally, Tara spoke of never living life to the fullest when she was heavy because she was so self-conscious. I refer to it as "living on the surface of life."

The Challenge
While they were home, the four were informed that their final Biggest Loser challenge would be to complete a marathon -- 26.2 miles. This was by far the most inspirational challenge I've seen on any season of this show.

It was cool to see Tara finish the course strong. It was uplifting to see Helen finish in under six hours. I was glad to see Mike persevere despite being unable to run the marathon due to a hip injury. Having past Biggest Losers (Ali and Michelle) and past at-home winners (Jay, Heba, Jim) was a great addition.

But I will readily admit that I had tears in my eyes to see Ron -- who either sat out of or quit most of the season's challenges -- walk the entire 26.2 miles. It took him 13 hours to do it, but Ron freakin' finished a marathon! I still think you might have ties to the Mafia, Ron, but tonight, you are da man, dude.

The Weigh-In
After the marathon, the weigh-in was almost anti-climatic. Mike, Ron & Tara each lost 10 pounds in their 30 days at home. Helen lost 7 pounds. Based on total percentage of weight loss, Tara and Helen are definitely finalists.

The Vote
America gets to vote between Ron and Mike to determine the 3rd finalist. I think my vote is with Mike, mostly because I think he deserves it and because he can give Tara and Helen the best run for the money and the title.

Voting will take place between now and tomorrow night at 10pm. To vote for Mike, call 1-866-613-0002. To vote for Ron, call 1-866-613-0001.

The Biggest Idea
I would love to be live blogging in the audience at the finale. Who thinks it would be a great idea? Twitter that to @Ali_Sweeney, @JillianMichaels and @nbc!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mean girl

I have a confession to make. I'm kind of a mean girl. Yes, really. Me. I know you're all probably shocked. But I am.

Now, if you were to meet me at a dinner party, I'd be very nice to you. I'm only mean to you if I already know you and love you. And I'm not mean in a horrible, witchy, backstabbing kind of way. But in a "wouldn't it be funny if..." sort of way.

I already told you about the joke I played on a co-worker, which sort of falls into the "mean" (but funny) category.

This is not really a new trait. When I was about seven years old or so, we lived in a house that had a laundry chute from my parents' closet down to a closet on the first floor. I told my sister Shelley to stand under the chute and wait for a surprise. Being only four years old, she did. Which is when I squirted shaving cream down the laundry chute and on to her head.

A few years later -- different house, different sister, I told my sister Angie that there was a puppy stuck in the shower drain. She, too, was probably about four years old, which would have made me 12ish. I took her in my parents bathroom and begged her to help me get the puppy out of the drain.

"I don't see a puppy," she said.

"Oh no! It's way down there," I explained. "You have to get down and look really close."

So she got in the shower, fully clothed, down on her hands and knees, and put her eye right up against the drain. That's when I turned the shower on.

Horrible, isn't it? But I was young then.

Not sure what my excuse was tonight.

Annie was in the shower, singing away. I told her to wrap it up -- the girl takes showers long enough to fillibuster the Senate for a week. She insisted she'd just gotten in.

Oh, I just couldn't resist. I knew she'd be mad, but I decided it was worth it.

I went to my bathroom and filled up a 32-ounce cup with cold water. Then I tiptoed back to the kids' bathroom (well, Annie's bathroom, since she's taken it over), climbed up on the toilet and dumped the cold water over the shower curtain and onto my unsuspecting daughter!

Awful aren't I? (tee hee hee!)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Porcine paranoia

Swine Flu Pictures, Images and Photos

I'm trying not to get all freaked out about this swine flu business, but I have to say I'm losing my own fight.

Earlier in the week, I reminded my kids that the best way we can avoid the swine flu is to wash, wash, wash our hands. I work in a building with a community health center on the first floor and welfare offices on the second floor, so I've been taking the stairs to my third floor office when I can and washing my hands ASAP on the occasions I've ridden the elevator.

But yesterday, they announced that two elementary schools here will be closed for at least a week due to confirmed cases of swine flu. Then I started to get a little more nervous. I have friends whose kids go to one of the schools. It's in the same township as my own kids' school.

Tonight at church, Fr. Scott announced that we would not be holding hands during the Our Father and would be exchanging verbal greetings, not handshakes, at the sign of peace. I looked around and was suddenly glad that we'd chosen to go to 5:30pm Mass -- not only because we get to sleep in, but because fewer people attend that Mass than the Sunday morning services.

When it was time for Communion, all the communion distributors came out from behind the sanctuary obviously rubbing hand sanitizer into their hands. Maybe they've always done that, but tonight I noticed it. Then I leaned over to my kids and told them not to take the wine. I thought it might be paranoia, but when I saw at least two church members who are doctors skip the wine too, I felt vindicated. Frankly, I'm surprised that they still offered the wine at communion.

I'd already promised the kids we would have Fazoli's for dinner after church. But all the talk (and thought) about pandemic at church made me a little hesitant. Still, it was already almost 7pm and we were all hungry. So I compromised and did the Fazoli's drive-thru. That way we could at least avoid the germs that might be lurking on the tables, booths and the self-service pop machines.

I haven't bought face masks (no need to -- I have them left over from the post-911 emergency kit) and I'm not barricading the kids in the house (yet), but I am trying to be prudent.

Anyone else got swine flu on the brain?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Crossing the color line

When I was in my 20's, I had ideas for how my life was going to work and generally didn't have any trouble sharing my life's expectations with family, friends and co-workers. One of the things I was adamant about was that, when the time came, I would gray gracefully. I would not fall into the vanity of coloring my hair.

That coming from a 20-something is like a single woman declaring "When I have children, they will not run around the grocery store like heathens, they will be perfectly behaved in restaurants, and they will never talk back to me." Lofty goals, unlikely reality.

Sometime in my early 30s, I started coloring a bit just for the fun of going auburn or experimenting with blondish highlights. It really wasn't about hiding anything.

Now 18 years and 3 children after my bold declaration about graying, the hormones, the years, and the stress from both of those things have done a number on my hair. On the top, the strands of gray are becoming more prevalent. Why is that the gray hairs are the crazy-whack-funky ones that stand straight up or kink in four different directions?

I'll admit to having colored my hair on several occasions for the purpose of preserving my youth. Usually the color came from a box. Sometimes from a salon. But for the past four or five months, I've been going back to that "gray gracefully" theory. I work in a place that's all about positive aging, for crying out loud. So shouldn't I embrace my age instead of try to cover it up?

Well...that sounds good. However, the fact of the matter is that we're not talking about a few straggly grays in the crown of my head. Nope. The sides of my head are almost completely white. It's most noticeable when I wear my sunglasses like a headband (frequently) or when I tuck my hair behind my ears (almost always). Mike said I look like Paulie Walnuts from the Sopranos:

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We talk a lot at work about successful aging. And I think that perhaps that means growing old on your own terms, aging in a way that you are comfortable with.

If that's an accurate definition, then I plan to be incredibly successful tomorrow with a box of Clairol Natural Instincts #20 Hazelnut.