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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Friday Fragments: New Year's Edition

Mommy's Idea

Thanks again to Mrs. 4444 for hosting Friday Fragments. To participate -- or to read more Friday Fragments, click the button above.

Happy New Year! Charlie and I rang it in together. Annie was babysitting for my niece. Mike and Robbie had fallen asleep before the stroke of midnight. I would have gone to bed myself, but Charlie was so excited to watch the ball drop that it made me want to stay up with him.

Tomorrow, we're hosting my family here for our traditional New Year's Day dinner of cabbage rolls, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.

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After a month of prep appointments and tests, the Better U challenge is all set to begin. With an official start date of Monday, January 4, the blog is up and running and I've been asked to be on the Sunday morning news with another challenger to discuss the opportunity. Guess I need to be looking for a red outfit that doesn't make me look too fat!

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Mike and I spent today cleaning up the basement which had gotten embarrassingly out of hand. I may have been willing to show you pictures of my horribly messy closet, but even I drew the line at a public display of the disgrace that was the basement! But no more. It's awesome. And the kids felt like it was Christmas all over again because we unearthed so many toys that they'd forgotten about. Even so, we still gave away a huge bag of toys and threw away two large bags of trash as well.
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2010 will get off to a fun start when I take the whole crew to see the Harlem Globetrotters in Indianapolis in a few weeks. I checking out the ticket prices when online when I saw something about a blogging discount. So I e-mailed the folks at Coyne Public Relations to ask about it. Turns out they are offering a $7 discount* off tickets and just for telling you all about it (and blogging about it on the Indiana Insider blog), they've offered my family free tickets and a chance to meet some of the Globetrotters!

To get your discount tickets -- no matter where you live -- simply visit www.harlemglobetrotters.com, to locate a game near you and purchase tickets using the promotional code: HGMOM to redeem the offer. *Please note that the discount is not valid on VIP or courtside seats. Tickets must be purchased online. Discount tickets are available until the day before the show.

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Happy Friday everyone!

No resolutions here

Thanks to Just Heather, I've found a way around traditional New Year's resolutions. Anytime I've made resolutions in the past, they've seemed like wispy puffs of hope thrown up into the universe, dissolving into little bits before they even float back down to earth.

Instead of resolutions, Heather made a 2010 to do list. Now that I can do. Very specific, reasonable actions on a list that can be triumphantly crossed off as they are accomplished. So without any further delay, away we go:

Amy's 2010 To Do List
  1. Go on a vacation (even just a weekend) with my husband.
  2. Make a prioritized list of all the home improvement/fix-it projects that I'd like to do. Start and finish at least 3 things on the list.
  3. Take a yoga class.
  4. Read one "parenting" book for each of my children.
  5. Create a livable system for organizing -- and using -- coupons.
  6. Buy a roll of stamps and use it to send letters and cards to let family and friends know I'm thinking of them.
  7. Throw/give away socks that have no matches.
  8. Go to Holiday World at least once. (We didn't make it last year and the kids were disappointed.)
  9. Get a pedicure.
  10. Clean out the basement storage room.
  11. Go to Eucharistic Adoration once each month.
So there it is. I know 11 is an odd number. What can I say? I'm an overachiever? Or at least a hopeless optimist? Some of the items will be easier than others, which is ok. Most of them, I can control. A few I'll need some assistance with, which is also ok.

Notice that there's nothing there about exercise or weight loss? Obviously, given my involvement in the Better U challenge, those things will be a part of my life. But I feel like they're already in motion. Plus, they seemed a little New Year's cliche to put on the list. So I left them off. But rest assured, Denzel and I are in good standing and I have high hopes -- I mean, I am determined -- to arrive at the February 26 Go Red for Women luncheon leaner and healthier than I am today.

Now to print out my 2010 To Do List (in triplicate would be good) and post it in places where I can be reminded of it (and be held accountable to it) often.

Do you make resolutions? Does an annual To Do list appeal to you? What's on yours?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

G is for groceries...and grateful

If you're one of my Facebook friends, then you might know that I had to go to the grocery store today because Annie argued that she couldn't make a breakfast out of carrots and hot dog buns. While I agree w/my friend Shelley that Annie just needs to be more culinarily creative, I did sit down to make out a menu and a shopping list.

I was feeling a little guilty (look! another G word) that I didn't have any coupons to take with me, but I decided to just plow ahead. I did at least plan to go to Meijer where I have found the groceries to be cheaper than at the two stores that are actually closer to my house. And I looked over the weekly ad, so I could plan my menu around the sales.

Once I was ready to go, I asked Robbie if he would come with me. I'm not sure what made me do that. I generally have a rule that I go grocery shopping alone -- keeps those impulse purchases to a minimum. But, I must have been thinking that having only two kids at home while I was gone would keep the peace a little better. So I asked Robbie to join me and amazingly he said yes. He's really a homebody and pretty much always will choose "stay home" when given the option.

So off we went, my little helper and I, armed with nothing but a grocery list. And do you know, we had a wonderful time! The store was not very crowded. We started out choosing a few pairs of waterproof gloves at 40% off and a $5 pair of slippers for Robbie's icy cold morning feet. Then it was off to the grocery department.

Robbie asked if we could stop to look at the fish -- the live ones swimming, not the dead ones in the meat case. So we did. We then headed to the dairy department, where we picked out cheese and yogurt and cinnamon rolls for breakfast one day this week. Robbie was so fun to be with. No whining, no pleading, no running off without me. When I turned down his cereal selections (Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms), but offered that he could pick out a box of fruit snacks, he was fine with that.

He did get a little weary, but didn't whine about it. Instead he asked, "Mom, is our cart full yet?" I'm sure some of you will think that I'm making way too big a deal about grocery shopping, but it was one of those experiences where I just felt so grateful to be there with that child, to be sharing a simple yet lovely time with a kid who often leaves me exasperated.

When, finally, our cart was indeed full, we took our place in line. As I unloaded the groceries onto the belt, an older woman came up to me, reached out a few pieces of paper in her hand and asked if I could use them. I looked and they were 3 coupons for 5% off the total grocery order -- and you could combine up to 4 of them at once. So instead of having no coupon savings, as I thought I would when we left the house, I ended up saving $40. All thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

So yes, G is for groceries...and for very grateful.

Whatcha readin'?

I love to read. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine - guilty only because when I get into a book, I have a hard time putting it down and things like laundry, dishes and dinner feel like they can just wait until I'm finished. Maybe that's why I don't read all the time. I read when life is a little slower -- Spring Break, summertime and Christmas vacation.

Since Saturday, I've started and finished two books. The first was a chick lit read called Through Thick and Thin. It was ok. I picked it up for $1.99 at Garden Ridge a couple of weeks ago, so I didn't mind that it wasn't the great American novel. But I am curious as to why so many chick lit books have main characters who are either journalists or in PR?

(Also, a Garden Ridge bargain was Jared, the Subway Guy, which was a quick read and surprisingly enjoyable.)

The second book was Push by Sapphire. Definitely not a fun read, but one I couldn't put down. This is the book that is the basis for the movie Precious. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie because so often the movie really screws up the story (My Sister's Keeper comes to mind -- I've never seen the movie because I know how badly they ruined that one.).

My brother-in-law gave me Push as a Christmas gift. When I opened it, Annie recognized it and said that she wanted to read it after I was finished. I said, "Sure." That was before I'd cracked the book open. Now that I've finished it, this is a book I don't think I want her reading. There are very graphic incest scenes that I would rather not have taking up space in my not-yet-thirteen year old's head.

It was a hard book to read, thinking that those kind of things really happen to people. But for an admittedly white bread girl born and raised in the suburbs, living and raising her own kids in the suburbs, I think it was good for me to challenge myself with.

So now I have to figure out what to read next. My friend Cynthia gave me a few books to read when I was at her house last week (because you know that I'm on the lam from the library), so I'll probably pick up one of those.

How about you? What are you reading? Got any good suggestions for me?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas miracle that wasn't

On Christmas Eve, Annie and I were on our way to Midnight Mass (Robbie spent the day throwing up, so Mike and I split up for church). We had to stop at Walgreen's for a few last minute items -- it was crazy crowded! Anyway, back to my story.

As we left the store, we ran to the car to avoid as much as possible getting wet from the rain that was washing our white Christmas away. I opened the driver's side door and looked down. It quite dark, but I saw what looked like money on the ground. I reached down and picked up what was indeed a bill.

I got in the car, unfolded the bill and saw this:

$1M bill

A $1 MILLION bill!

My heart beat a few paces quicker, wondering who could have dropped it? A drug dealer? A little old lady who kept her life savings in her purse? Someone from the infamous Indianapolis mafia?

Annie was beside herself excited. "OMG, Mom! What are we going to do with that?!"

That's when I came to my senses a bit. I pulled out my trusty iPhone, handed it to Annie and asked her to text ChaCha to see if a $1 million bill even exists.

"And if it is real, we are going to the nearest police station and turning this in," I informed her, all the while spending the reward money in my head. Surely the reward for finding $1 million would be at least $10,000.

While we waited for the good folks at ChaCha to respond, it occurred to me that I don't even know where the nearest police station actually is.

Alas, turns out there was no need for a trip to the police station. ChaCha quickly returned a seemingly canned answer that in fact, $1 million bills are not printed by the U.S. Treasury department. (For some pretty interesting facts about U.S. currency, click here.)

And so, there went my Christmas miracle of finding $1 million. Gone was the certainty of media interviews, of thanks from either the rightful owner of the bill or the police who were glad to have it out of the hands of hardened, money-laundering criminals. And still sitting there waiting for me at home would be the bills that would not be paid off with any grateful reward money.

No longer afraid to handle the soaking wet bill for fear that it would tear and I would have instantly lost $1 million, I picked up the worthless paper and looked at it more closely. The back side referred to the "million dollar question," something about going to heaven when you die.

While I was mildly irritated by the deception for evangelical purposes, the fact that the bill turned out to be phony was probably a good thing. Can you imagine how distracted I would have been at Midnight Mass knowing I had $1 million in my purse? Instead, I was still Christmas Eve-poor, but rich in the reminder that Christmas is not about stocking stuffers and wish lists, but about the gift of God's own son.

I hope your Christmas was truly blessed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fragments: Froggy Fashion

Mommy's Idea

I had lunch with Liz of Eternal Lizdom fame today. It was fun to finally meet her in real life. And because I've been reading her blog for so long, it felt like meeting up with an old friend. We talked about peaks and valleys of blogging (among other things). Liz encouraged me to participate in Friday Fragments, hosted by Mrs.4444, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. If you want to join the fun, click the image above.

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I left home at 7:15am today. First stop, breakfast for the Go Red for Women Better U Challenge. Egg Beaters and turkey sausage this time. Stop #5 was to renew my 4-months expired driver's license. I got in and out of the BMV in under 15 minutes! Woohoo! Lunch with Liz was stop #9. By the time I got home for good tonight, I'd made 17 stops!

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My second V.I. Peel was Wednesday night. Right now, I have just a little sloughing on my chin, but by tomorrow I'll be in full shed. So I'm hoping to not go out of the house. Hope Mike is up to quite a bit of driving!

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Robbie has had a really rough week at school. When I talked to his occupational therapist this afternoon, she said lots of sensory processing disorder kiddos have trouble during the holidays. He spent the first 15 minutes of OT today swinging in the body swing. He hasn't needed that since we started OT last March.

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Annie is watching "Say Yes to the Dress," again! She's addicted to that show. I can't believe the amount of money these women spend on their wedding dresses. My $550 wedding dress probably wouldn't even make it to the discount rack at Kleinfeld's. The other thing I can't believe is how many women would purchase a wedding dress that looks like lingerie. Not my daughter, I tell you!

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Ugh! Mike just came home with the cake he took to the office pitch in -- the WHOLE cake. Turns out they had an abundance of desserts. I cannot survive the weekend with an entire chocolate fudge-frosted cake taunting me from the kitchen. "Amy...eat me...you know you want to..." Think I'll allow everyone one piece and then we'll be dumping that puppy in the trash. Heaven forgive me for wasting food...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My morning in kindergarten

Today was my day to volunteer in Robbie's kindergarten classroom. I don't get to do that as much as I would like to, so it was a real treat. It was also a real eye opener.

My job was to help small groups of small people complete a Polar Express book. On each page, there were a few sentences at the top and an open space for the kids to draw a picture. Two of the pages required gluing something to the page.

The first thing I did was mess up the glue bottles. Who knew that you didn't unscrew the tops, but instead just pushed down and rubbed. Ok, so the kindergartners knew -- but they didn't tell me. I unscrewed the top of the glue bottle, squeezed and promptly got a big glob of glue oozing down the side of the bottle.

Once I got the glue thing figured out, the first group finished with their gluing and drawing. You would have thought that I said they could have ice cream for breakfast when I told them they could color their books with markers. Apparently, markers are a special treat.

Robbie was in my first group. He did pretty well, though he was a little distracted and got up from his chair a few times. While he was gone, a few of the kids decided I needed to know that sometimes Robbie goes to time out and sometimes Robbie acts bad. Duh, I'm his mom. I know that. But they kept it up and I wanted to seal up their little lips with the drippy glue.

Fortunately, the teacher rang the chimes signaling time to move to the next group. Little Miss Boss at the table (I'm pretty sure this was me as a kid), attempted to collect everyone's books and put them on the designated chair. A few of the kids readily handed them over. A few other were clearly annoyed with Miss Boss and declined to give her their books.

The second group was pretty good, with the exception of Miss Whiner. Oh my gosh, this kid whined about everything. Whine, whine, whine about the glue. Whine, whine, whine about the red marker. Whine, Whine, whine about not being able to draw a Christmas tree. By the time group two was finished, I needed some wine.

When the third group arrived, I started reading the story and one little boy told me he could read it. And I'll be darned if he could! So I let him read each page of the book, which was a welcome change because I could feel a headache coming on. There was a low rumble throughout the room the whole time I was there. No one out of control, just the sound of 22 little people in various activities of learning.

I was a little nervous for the fourth group to get to my table. There was a student in that group who is autistic and I wasn't sure how much she could do for herself. She wrote her own name and drew some pictures. But she was easily distracted and sang "Jingle Bells" over and over and I generally got the idea that she was in other place. The other kids were really terrific with her. She wandered from my table several times. A few times I was able to call her back to the table. Other times I let her wander. When the teacher came over, she gently sat the girl down and asked her to look at the book.

"Tell me what this says," the teacher requested.

And do you know that child READ the entire booklet, word...for...word! You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was like she was a different person. Floored, I tell you.

When my two hours were up, the headache was knocking on my forehead and I was exhausted. Don't get me wrong, I had fun and will definitely go back. But so many little personalities to stroke, so much gentle correction and patient hand-holding to be done.

I made a mental note that perhaps hot chocolate and a Christmas mug is not enough of a holiday thanks for kindergarten teachers. I'm thinking tequila and an extra-large bottle of ibuprofen might be a better choice.

For more kindergarten reflections, click here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quick bits

Suh-weet!
Last weekend I took the boys to the Martinsville Candy Kitchen to watch them make candy canes -- by hand! I'd taken Annie's Girl Scout troop there a few years ago. We had a great time and will definitely go back next year. To read more about our visit, check out The Indiana Insider blog.

Robbie Candy Canes

Free tastes
Michelle at Bargains Rock! is hosting her first giveaway -- a prize pack of Tastefully Simple items. Entry deadline is 11pm CST on December 15, so get over there and enter today!

Thumbs up
We celebrated Christmas with my in-laws this weekend. The kids each got a game that has already brought us loads of fun. If you're still in need of ideas, you should check out these:

Castle Logix - No batteries required. Configure the wooden blocks and rods to build a castle that matches the one in the picture. 48 puzzle challenges which get progressively harder. Though it was a gift for Robbie, Annie and I have had fun with this one too.

Say What - Made by the same people who make the 20Q (another favorite of ours), the point of this game is to unscramble pop culture phrases. Great for working on listening skills and for plenty of laughs.

Bop It! - Another one that requires good listening skills (do you detect a theme here?), you have to respond quickly to the game's commands or you're out!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Double the angst

It's really hard to watch your child hurting -- physically or emotionally. It's doubly hard to watch it and know that you caused it.

Last year, Annie played on a club volleyball team. She had a good time and made some friends from other schools that she still keeps up with today. She was looking forward to playing on the team again this year. It's not an inexpensive venture, but this is one sport she really likes, so we've agreed to it.

In my head, the registration deadline was December 10. So last week, on December 8, I pulled out the registration materials, ready to complete them, write the check and drop everything off. My stomach sank when I looked at the materials again and read, "Registration deadline December 3." It sank even further when I saw, "Registration deadline is firm. If registrations come in after the deadline, they will be placed on a waiting list."

So I typed up a letter, explaining my error, hoping it would be enough to make a different and hoping that maybe the teams wouldn't be full. If my stomach sank when I read the deadline, it crashed to my feet and oozed out my toes last night when I got a voice mail from the coach saying that she was sorry but the teams are indeed full.

She'll hold on to my check for a few days in case someone decides not to participate. It's probably wrong of me to pray that if some 7th grade girl is destined to break her arm in the next day or two, it's one of the girls signed up for that club team, isn't it?

I was just sick when I went to bed, anticipating having to tell Annie the news. I waited for the right moment (is there ever a right moment for bad news?), which happened to be after we returned from my in-laws house. She was rightfully upset. There were tears. There were shouts. There were declarations of just quitting volleyball all together then. And there was me feeling like a total heel for being the cause of all of this.

I know that my calendar error did not ruin her life (even though it might feel like that to her now). But I do feel bad. Mike is going to go to the parents meeting tonight anyway to talk to the coach and see if there isn't any way they can make room for one more player. And we're looking into the possibility of another club team.

But it might take some time before both Annie and I can get over the fact that, in this instance, I let her down.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Decent proposal

Tonight we went through one of those drive-thru Christmas light displays. As we pulled past a large lighted castle, we saw a man down on one knee in front of a woman, holding her hand and a small box. He was her prince, asking her to marry him in front of a castle. How romantic is that?! We invaded their privacy by staring at them long enough to see that she did accept.

That sparked the conversation about how Mike & I got engaged. Annie wanted to know all about it.

It was October 31, 1992. We were going to Mike's fraternity dance (yes, we were YOUNG, though I had graduated from college the previous spring) on the north side of Indianapolis. However, he insisted that we go to dinner downtown - not remotely near where the dance was being held.

So I had a sense that this might be THE night because Monument Circle in Indianapolis is our spot -- it's where we had our make-up kiss when we got back together after having been broken up for bit the first year we dated. It's where he gave me his fraternity lavaliere. And sure enough, it's where he asked me to marry him.

I don't remember exactly what he said. But I, obviously, said yes. Then we went to the dance and I told a friend of mine that we'd gotten engaged and she made an announcement to the whole dance. Mike and I were circled by the fraternity guys who serenaded us with "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi."

I wish I could dig up a picture from that -- I was wearing a matronly floral dress with a lace, pilgrimish collar. Mike was sporting a scruffy beard that refused to come in fully. But we were happy.

We called my parents to tell them the news -- Mike hadn't asked my dad's permission because I had told him previously it wasn't necessary. He (Mike) is still mad at me for that suggestion to this day! And just in case Annie's future husband is reading this -- you better ask her dad or he will be very upset!

Your turn: leave a comment and tell us about how you got engaged -- or how you would like to be asked if it hasn't happened for you yet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Denzel

Denzel is tall and dark.

Denzel is the strong and mostly silent type.

Denzel gets me all hot and bothered.

Meet Denzel:

Denzel

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's unofficial

Better U

Today was my appointment with the cardiologist for the Better U challenge. Though the 12 weeks of the challenge doesn't officially start until January 1, 2010, as far as Dr. Branyas is concerned it's all systems go from here on out.

All in all, the appointment went well. Dr. Branyas spent a lot of time with me, going over my blood work and discussing my lifestyle habits that need a little, shall we say, tweaking (ok, overhauling).

The good news:
  1. My EKG was normal.
  2. My blood pressure was only mildly high.
The bad news:
  1. My good cholesterol is low.
  2. My bad cholesterol is high.
  3. My C-reactive protein, which is associated with inflammation that can lead to clogging of the arteries, is almost 3 times what it should be. Dr. Branyas said that 60% of their open heart patients have high bad cholesterol and high CRP.
The hard to swallow news:
  1. I need to lose 47 pounds just to be considered "overweight" and not the other "o" word.
Wow. That one was like a punch in the oversized gut. Trust me, I'm well aware of my size and my weight. But looking at it in that way was really a wake up call.

I talked with the good doctor about my food vices -- sugar and fried foods. She said she's never, NEVER, eaten at McDonald's and that once she went into one to use the bathroom and she was sickened by the smell of the oil in the air.

Are you kidding me? That's one of the best parts of McDonald's -- the smell of french fries getting all crispy, soaking up all that offensive oil. But Dr. Branyas assured me that soon I'll find it just as wretched as she does.

When she asked me what I usually order -- a #3 with a Diet Coke, I proudly told her that I always ask for them to only put 1 slice of cheese on my quarter pounder instead of two. Amazingly, Dr. Branyas was underwhelmed by this information.

Then she asked about my exercise routine. I knew it would come to this.

"Oh, I walk about 6 times a day -- from my office to the printer about 100 feet down the hall."

I admitted that I own an elliptical machine and it's located just 24 short stairs from my bedroom. That's when Dr. Branyas laid down the new law. Exercise. Every day. In the morning. Before the shower.

"Tell yourself that you cannot get in the shower until you've exercised," she advised.

Little did she know that not showering might not be such a big threat. I was sitting in her office, after all, unshowered. What can I say? I was running a little behind schedule this morning.

But I agreed. Elliptical before shower. Daily. 10 minutes a day to start is all she asked. That can't be too difficult, right?

So I've decided that since I'm going to be spending so much time with this contraption, the elliptical should have a name. My first thought was Jillian.

I posed the question on Facebook and got Attila and Torture. A few other people took the tack of naming it something more appealing, like Patrick Dempsey, George Clooney and McSteamy. Not a bad idea - spending time with a Hollywood hottie every morning doesn't sound so awful.

But I still haven't settled on anything. Maybe I'll give it a spin tomorrow and see if a name comes to me. And I'm open to your suggestions, so please, lay 'em on me.

The rest of the appointment went well. Dr. Branyas said she expects that by the Go Red for Women luncheon on February 26, I will have lost 20 pounds. (Really?!) I left the office armed with lots to read, a new cookbook and a fast food guide, feeling hopeful, slightly overwhelmed and inexplicably craving McDonald's.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy, holly, hoppy feet

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For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Biggest Loser: Hang in with me HOWIE - The finals edition

Biggest Loser logo

Top 15 Moments of the Biggest Loser Finale

  1. Danny won the Biggest Loser! He started on the ranch weighing 430 and lost 239 pounds for a total percentage of weight loss of 55.58%!

    **** The rest of these occurred chronologically from the beginning of the show to the end.****

  2. The side-by-side walking of the then and now. Pretty cool effect.
  3. Liz looked great - healthy and happy (but, see #2 in the worst list below)
  4. Julio -- now he's one HOT tamale!
  5. Jillian looking Fergie-licious (ok, that one was contributed by my husband)
  6. Replays of Jillian's "encouragement" of Julio at the ranch: "There's no crying with tractor tires...Every time you lay down, I'm going to think "dead father."
  7. Abby. "There is always hope." 'Nuf said.
  8. Dina - My biggest obstacle to conquering that box was fear. Boy, can I relate.
  9. Shay looks beautiful. She certainly has more work to do, but she is striking. And statistically speaking, she's added 13 years to her life!
  10. Rebecca and Tracey both looking amazingly toned and fit.
  11. Shay invited back Season 9's finale - for every pound she loses, Subway will pay her $1,ooo! She could earn $100,000!
  12. Antoine proposing to Alexandra. Predictable, but sweet nonetheless. "I've accomplished the impossible in my life because I had you by my side."
  13. Rudy BROUGHT it!
  14. Danny's ear-to-ear, brilliant smile - he looks fabulously amazing!
  15. Danny talking about what an inspiration Rudy was to him. I could see the mutual admiration.
Worst Moments of the Biggest Loser Finale
  1. Amanda getting picked. It's ageism, I tell you. Or stupid men mesmerized by long, blonde hair and boobs.
  2. Liz may have done a great job at weight loss, but she needs a better bra!
  3. That purple monstrosity of a dress that Tracey was wearing.
  4. Rebecca lost a ton of weight -- and her common sense. Where are your pants and what's up with that hair, girl?
  5. Dr. H's hair. Can you say mullet-ish? Nothing new, but next season maybe they should include him in the makeover episode.
  6. "America chose me." Everytime I heard that tonight, it was like fingernails on a chalk board."
  7. Nine at-home players had higher percentages of weight loss than Amanda, who was in the finals.
  8. Only the Biggest Loser gets a cash prize. I think the top 1 and 2 from the ranch and the top 1 and 2 at home should get some green.
The Stats
Alexandra - 309 to 218 (-91, 29.45%)
Antoine - 367 to 215 (-152, 41.42%)
Sean - 444 to 289 (-155, 34.91%)
Julio - 407 to 227 (-180, 44.23%)
Coach Mo - 355 to 263 (-92, 25.92%)
Dina - 253 to 174 (-79, 31.23%)
Abby - 247 to 147 (-100, 40.49%)
Tracey - 250 to 132 (-118, 47.20%)
Shay - 476 to 304 (-176, 36.13%)
Daniel - 312 to 201 (-111, 35. 58%) (from his highest of 454!)
Rebecca - 279 to 140 (-139, 49.82%)
Allen - 325 to 209 (-116, 35.69%)
Liz - 267 to 176 (-91, 34.08%)

The BIGGEST Loser Finalists:

Rudy - 442 to 208 (-234, 52.94%)
Danny - 430 to 191 (-239, 55.58%)
Amanda - 250 to 163 (-87, 34.80%)

Thanks for joining me for The Biggest Loser this season!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nothing to fear but...

Check out my latest entry on the Fit City Moms Blog. Can you relate?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Heartfelt inspiration

It's not a holiday story. Well, it is a Holladay story.

It's a real life story - one that starts in tragedy and ends in hope. And it was written by my Better U co-challenger Ruth Holladay. Check it out here (article titled "Straight from the Heart).

If you are here from Ruth's blog and want to read my thoughts on the Better U opportunity, check out these entries:

Authentic Bethlehem

When I picked Annie up from a retreat at a church last night, I saw this sign hanging in several places. Note that "You'll taste, see and smell what daily life was like when Jesus was born." An authentic Bethlehem experience. Then read the information in parenthesis.

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Shepherds, wisemen and Santa? Guess I missed the appearance of the jolly fat guy in the Christmas story all these years!

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

It's definitely feeling like Christmas now. Besides the decorations at home, here are some of the things that are telltale signs of Christmas around here:
  1. I play the all-Christmas, all-the-time radio station whenever I'm in the car and Annie complains about it, all-whining, all-the-time. Guess she's forgotten that the big man is watching (and I don't mean her dad!).
  2. We've gotten a few Christmas cards in the mail. Please don't ask about ours. They might get sent out by Easter.
  3. We picked a tag off the giving tree at church and Charlie wanted to know what he has to do to get his name on there.
  4. The DVR is working overtime taping all the Christmas specials.
  5. There were snow flurries in the air as I went to a Christmas concert with a friend tonight.
  6. I've taken back three gifts, with a 4th one waiting to go to the post office.
  7. Every day this week, there have been boxes waiting for me on the front porch and kids standing over the boxes asking "is that one for me?!" (Duh! Santa doesn't deliver gifts in Amazon.com boxes.)
  8. Robbie asks every day how many days until bowling with Santa.
  9. My Christmas gift-giving spreadsheet is color-coded. Yellow for purchased and in-hand. Gray for purchased, but not yet delivered. White for not yet purchased.
  10. My kids have light envy. They keep asking when we can put up our Christmas lights. I keep telling them the lights are up. But when your house looks like this:
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it's hard to compete with this:

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and this:

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(The pics aren't great quality, but it was the best I could do with an iPhone in 20 degree weather at 1:30am!) What's the holiday view from your house right now?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going Red

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The kick-off breakfast for the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women Better U Challenge" was yesterday. I have to admit that I was a little nervous, wondering what the heck I've gotten myself into. I tried to distract my nerves by obsessing over choosing the right red outfit to wear.

I opted against buying something new and went with a red knit top and skirt with a scarf. It worked just fine, even if I did look a bit like a juicy tomato. When I arrived at the breakfast, I was greeted warmly and got a chance to meet the other four challengers. Ruth, Kimila, Dee and Jessica.

Ruth declared herself the "senior member" of the group. She is a former columnist for the Indianapolis Star and has a blog you can read here. Kimila is tall and skinny as a bean pole, claiming genetics as the reason for her svelte figure. But she is hoping to adopt healthy habits (she said "sometimes I forget to eat;" I didn't mention that sometimes I forget to stop), including quitting smoking.

The first thing I noticed about Dee is how beautiful she is. I don't know what they'll do with her at the skin center, because her skin is flawless already. At 26 years old, she's hoping to lower her BMI and get her husband to share this new lifestyle with her. Jessica, I can tell, is a hoot. She is also passionate about changing her life. She'll be 50 this year, which shocked me. I had her pegged for about 35. I hope over the next few months, we'll all get to spend some time together and get to know each other better.

It turns out that the chair of February's Go Red for Women luncheon is Sue Ann Gilroy, a good friend of Mike's aunt, mom and grandmother. I've met her before, so it was nice to see her familiar face in the room full of strangers. When she found out that I'm one of the challengers, she decided then and there that Mike's grandmother MUST buy a table at the luncheon. Ha! I'm sure Buck will love that!

Then we figured out that Sue Ann is on the board of the university where I work, so before I left, I heard her telling on the of the Heart Association people to send a letter to the president of the University, asking her to buy a table too. It was all quite serendipitous.

Shortly after I arrived, we were invited to get some breakfast and take our seats. I headed to the table where the continental breakfast was laid out -- bagels, fruit, fat free yogurt, and DONUTS! One of the challengers, Jessica, and I had a good laugh about that. Like this was our first challenge -- to pass up the donuts. Of course there was no way in a room full of cardiologists, dietitians, exercise gurus, etc. that I was going to go for a donut. Instead, Jessica snapped a picture with her cell phone (but hasn't been able to get it to email to me). I think we'll call that picture "The Donuts That Lived."

Each of us were invited to introduce ourselves and tell why we wanted to participate in this challenge. I refrained from blurting out "because this is the closest I'll ever get to being on the Biggest Loser" and instead said that I wanted to enter my 40s healthier -- and on fewer medications -- than I am now.

Then the "team" introduced themselves to us. Pretty much everyone was there -- gals from the Heart Association, the cardiologist and members of her staff, the "coaches" who are going to be our cheerleaders. Everyone except the personal trainers. Darn! Guess we'll have to wait a little longer for that.

Several people in the room talked about how brave we all are for taking on this challenge. How we're going to be so inspiring to the 600-900 people who will attend the Go Red for Women luncheon in February. Again, I began to sweat a little and wonder what in the heck I have gotten myself into.

The challenge officially starts January 1. But all the pre-work is going on now. Appointments with the cardiologist, blood tests, etc. And when one of the Heart Association women said we could enjoy turkey and pie over the holidays, the cardiologist was quick to jump in and say, "as far as I'm concerned, we're starting now." Ooops. No pie (or donuts, I guess).

Today, I had my heart scan. The test itself was easy. I laid on the table, arms over head, fully clothed. The table moved into the scan machine, about up to my chin, whirred for a few seconds, I held my breath and it was over.

I was more than a little afraid they would escort me straight from the scan into the OR to open some dangerously clogged artery of mine. But the tech brought me the results in about 10 minutes. My score was ZERO -- as in zero plaque in my arteries! Woohoo! If I'd known that, I would have eaten the donuts. (Instead, I treated myself to some hot chocolate and a peanut butter cookie to celebrate. These people have their work cut out with me, don't they?)

In the coming weeks, I'll be meeting with the cardiologist, having another facial peel and going for my video shoot (heaven help me!). I'd love for any of you to join the Better U challenge with me. Maybe we can motivate each other. Click the Better U link to the right for more info. And stay away from the donuts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Biggest Loser: Who gets your vote?



At the start of tonight's show, the final 4 -- Danny, Liz, Rudy and Amanda -- head to their individual homes for 60 days. There are celebrations welcoming them home, a video from Bob and Jillian telling them they would be running a marathon, and a look at how they are adjusting to being home.

I could relate most to Rudy. How do you find/make time for yourself in the face of work and family demands? Liz's discussion about her marital difficulties felt like TMI and made me feel sorry for her husband.

Honestly, the 1 hour spent on the first half of the show could have been done in about 30 minutes. I thought the show really picked up and became interesting when they arrived back in California to run the marathon.

They all looked good, but Danny looked freaking amazing! Rudy pulled out to an early lead in the marathon, followed closely by Amanda. Danny and Liz went at a much slower pace, staying together and encouraging each other through significant hip and knee pain.

Along the route, various people were placed to offer moral support. One of them was Tara. She ran with Danny and Liz for a while, then caught up to Amanda, who was running with her best friend Brian. By mile 17 Amanda was crying that she couldn't do it. No surprise there, although I won't pick on her because most I've ever done is 13.1 miles.

Dina, Rudy's blue team partner, ran about 1/2 of the marathon with him. For the last mile, Bob ran with them both -- the same path they all ran in their first 1 mile challenge the first day on the ranch. It struck me how cruel it was that the last steps were in the sand. Running on the sand is hard. Running 26.2 miles is miserable. But running the final mile of 26.2 miles on the sand is plain ridiculous.

Rudy finished first, followed by Amanda. I really had my doubts about whether Danny would finish. I expected Liz to go ahead without him. But they stuck together and they finished in under 7 hours!

I kept waiting for the product placement during the marathon - where was the Biggest Loser carb gel or whatever?

In the personal vignettes, several of the 4 talked about fear. The fear that they will go back to being those morbidly obese people, fear that they wouldn't finish the marathon, fear that they couldn't assimilate back into their families. Tomorrow is the kick-off breakfast for the American Heart Association's Heart Healthy Makeover and I'm finding myself pushing back a little, afraid of what I've gotten myself into, afraid that I won't be able to follow through. Ok, enough about me. Back to the Biggest Loser...

After the marathon, it was time for the weigh in. I've listed the contestants in order of their weigh in, starting weight, last weight at the ranch, current weight:

Liz - 267 - 198 - 182 (-16 pounds at home; total of 85 lost since start)
Amanda - 250 - 186 - 170 (-16 pounds at home; total of 80 lost since start)
Danny - 430 - 288 - 229 (-59 pounds at home; total of 201 lost since start)
Rudy - 442 - 296 - 253 (-43 pounds at home; total of 191 lost since start)

I know that men lose faster than women, but it's unbelievable to me that Liz and Amanda only lost 16 pounds in 2 months, compared to the major losses recorded by Danny and Rudy.

So the vote comes down to between Liz and Amanda. I almost couldn't stomach Amanda's "pick me again" plea. Though her "let me start what I've finished" logic made some sense to me.

Liz chose the "I'm the oldest female in the final 4. I could be the oldest contestant in the final 3" argument. I think that was the wrong tack to take. I think she should have talked about how she could compete, how she has the ability to put up the numbers it will take to be competitive.

But really, who to vote for? Think it over and cast your vote at www.nbc.com.

Bedecked

Given that it's December 1st, I thought it was time to deck the walls here at the 4th Frog. And I'm quite tickled that I was able to do it all by myself. It was mostly a cut and paste job, but I did have to go in and edit the HTML. So a little woot! woot! to moi!

But what's way more amazing than the fact that my blog is looking all holiday-ish is the fact that my house is. And I can't take any credit for that.

I left home at 10am on Saturday morning to take Charlie to basketball practice, ran a few errands, picked him up at practice at noon, ran a few more errands and came home to Christmas central. A not-so-short elf named Annie had been busy for several hours decking the halls -- and the bookshelves and the staircase.

I can't tell you how good it felt to walk in and have all that work done. Just about the only thing she didn't do was put up the Christmas tree. So, when Robbie looked at me and said, for about the 12th time since I carried the $49 bargain Christmas-tree-in-a-box into the house, "NOW can we PLEASE put up the Christmas tree?!," I happily said yes.

There was definitely some apprehension as I took the tree out of the box, hoping it wouldn't look like a $49 tree. It went together easily enough. But it as the branches unfurled, the tree was looking a little Charlie Brown-ish.

Annie was moritifed. "Mom! You bought a Christmas stick! I can see right through to the middle."

As I assured it her it would look fine once we fluffed all the branches and hung all the ornaments, inside I was afraid she was right. But I was determined to make it work. So we all kept fluffing and hanging, waiting for the transformation from Charlie Brown to Martha Stewart.

Hearing the kids recall where certain ornaments came from, seeing them light up upon finding foam-laden, puffy paint-coated ornaments made by their formerly preschool hands gave me that warm, tingly "thank you God for putting me here" feeling.

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When it was all said and done, I'm not sure what we got was Martha Stewart, though truthfully I'm not the Martha Stewart type. What we ended up with was the warm, hodge-podgy look I love in a Christmas tree.

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Now that the decking is done, I'm hoping we can spend the next weeks of Advent creating more of those "thanks for putting me here" moments, really enjoying the season. Driving around looking at lights, doing a little holiday baking, going to Christmas concert and live nativities, etc.

How about you? Have you decked your halls yet? What do you hope to do before Christmas arrives?