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Monday, May 31, 2010

Hell hath no fury...

...like a woman trying on a swimsuits.

I like to shop. I might even go so far as to say I love to shop. But not for swimsuits. Shopping for a swimsuit is the essence of evilness. Shopping for a swimsuit under a deadline is like dancing with the devil himself.

It's Memorial Day weekend, so all the pools were open. And of course the kids were just dying to go. I did not have a suit to wear, however. So on Sunday, I left the kids with Mike at the pool and dashed off to the store to find a suit.

Actually, I had bought two suits at Costco earlier in the day. Unfortunately, when I got them home to try them on, the first one made me look like a decorative sausage. The second one spilled my "girls" more than a toddler spills apple juice when learning to drink out of a big kid cup.

So, I headed to JC Penney. I've had luck there finding sensible, reasonably priced, relatively non-ugly fashions before. But once I found the swimsuits, I had a hard time figuring out which ones were meant for someone of my age and, let's politely say, composition. After a few minutes, I keyed into the racks that said "Misses" and "Women's" on them and felt pretty confident I could find something there.

I took about six suits into the dressing room with me. Suits 1, 2 and 3 were quickly rejected for reasons of fit, pattern, support (or not) in the chestal region, and the degree of nether region shaving that would be required to wear them.

Suits 4, 5, and 6 were all possibilities. I had to try them each on several times. Kind of like when you go to the eye doctor and he says "Which is better 4 or 5? 5 or 6? 4 or 6?" Of course it was so blasted hot, that putting the suits on my sweaty body (all essential areas covered, thankyouverymuch) was not an easy task.

The suit (#5) I settled on was a "this will do in a pinch" choice. The pattern might be a little matronly -- though I'd love to have it in a bedspread. And there is a part of me that associates swim dress with grandmother, but I like that the skirt provides more coverage of my rear and thighs.

Photobucket

You didn't think I was actually going to post a picture of me WEARING the suit, did you? I've bared myself in the fat dress, but I draw the line at swimsuits.

When I called to tell Mike I was on my way back to the pool, he asked if I'd found a sexy suit. Now, I do have clothes that make me feel curvy and attractive, and yes, even sexy. However, this swimsuit -- likely, ANY swimsuit -- does not do that.

But it keeps me from having to go skinny dipping at a public pool, so I'll take it.

To:



Dad
Grandpa Michel
Tom
Uncle Paul
Uncle Chris
BaaBaa
Janelle
Lydia
Uncle Jerry
The Husbands of the Military Mag Moms
Mr. Webb
Pam and Gordon
Stretch
All those who have served our country with duty, honor and courage

THANK YOU

If you haven't seen the film "Taking Chance," be sure to read this post.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Baby Graduate

See this guy?

Nick-CJgrad

His name is Nick. He graduated from high school last week. He is my baby brother. I am old enough to be his mother.

Nick was born six weeks after I graduated from college. I'm sure that when I was born and my mom thought ahead to the day when I'd be accepting my diploma from a university somewhere, she did not even begin to think that she might be 8 months pregnant.

I remember when my parents told us that there was a bun in the oven. My sister Shelley and I had come home from college for a weekend. I was a senior, Shelley a freshman. Right in the entryway of our house hung family pictures. On this particular trip, there was a little black and white filmy looking square of paper stuck in the corner of the frame of one of the pictures. The image was kind of pie-shaped with some black areas and some white blobby areas as well.

At the time, my mom and dad were building a house on land that had 2 ponds. The shape of their land was a little pie-shaped and the black blobby things in the picture in front of me could have been the ponds. So I reasoned that it was some kind of aerial or thermal picture of the land where they were building.

I don't remember how I figured out that what I was really looking at was an ultrasound picture. Maybe my mom told me? What I do remember is that my siblings and I were elated at the thought of having another sibling. There were four of us at the time, and when Nick was born, we would range in age from almost 22 to just turned 14.

Yes, the idea of a new baby was exciting. That is until Shelley and I were driving back to college and we realized that all of our friends would know that our parents STILL HAD SEX! Ewwwww! They were in their 40s for crying out loud!

Shopping for maternity clothes with your 42-year-old pregnant mother is pretty funny. We went to a maternity store one day and kept presenting her with options: "Mom, try this one." "Mom, I think you'd look good in this."

Finally, she said under her breath, "Would you girls please quit calling me 'Mom' in this store?" To which my sister replied, ""Grandma, what do you think of this one?"

As pregnancies tend to do when you're not the one who is pregnant, my brother's gestation flew by. Before I knew it, I had graduated from college and started a new job. I'm pretty sure my request for time off when my baby sibling was born was a new one for my boss, but she agreed.

The morning Nick was born, I finished getting ready for work early and thought maybe I should pack my suitcase, knowing the baby could make an appearance any day. However, being the dutiful employee that I was, I decided to go in to work early to get a jumpstart on some projects that were awaiting me.

I hadn't been at work more than 10 minutes when I got a call from home that my mother was in labor and I should make the 2 hour drive right away so I could be there for the birth. I shut down my computer, raced back to my apartment, threw some clothes in a bag and left. About 3 blocks from my apartment, I realized I didn't pack any underwear.

Any fool with a brain (is that an oxymoron) would know that underwear can be purchased in one of a zillion places and would have just kept going. But not me. I turned me car around, ran back into the apartment, grabbed some clean underwear and headed out again.

When I reached the hospital, I learned that my new sibling -- a baby brother -- had arrived just 5 minutes earlier, roughly the same amount of time it took me to go back home for the skivvies.

And now that baby brother isn't so much a baby anymore. Sitting at his graduation last week was a little surreal. I'm generally not a crier, so I wasn't boohooing, but I did find myself wondering how did that much time pass so quickly?

How is it that he aged almost 18 years, when I still feel like I could blend in to the student crowd on a college campus myself (all right, a little delusional, but back off...)?

How much more quickly will the next 5 years race by until I find myself at Annie's high school graduation?

How much trouble would I get into for punching the obnoxious people sitting behind me who kept screaming "Aaannngelll!" into my ear every time they spotted their graduate in the crowd? --- Ooops. Sorry. That was not part of my reflective mood, but it was certainly a thought I entertained more than once during the ceremony.

Anyway, congratulations to my baby brother. You should be proud of what you've done -- even if you are a "show out."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Moving violations

I had to institute a new rule in the car today. It doesn't have anything to do with not eating in the car or not putting your feet on the dashboard or your hands out the window. It's not about the volume of the music or who must sit where in the carpool.

Nope. The new rule is this: There is NO punching the driver.

For the past 3 weeks or so, Annie has been balling up her fist and socking my right shoulder, saying "Green one" or "blue one" or "silver one." Of course, she was playing the punch buggy game. Or what I know to be the punch buggy game. When you see a VW bug, you punch the person next to you and call out the color.

However, thanks to this VW commercial, the game has gotten way out of hand:



Except it's not called "Punch Buggy," as it was when I was a kid. Now it's called "Punch Dub" and the alleged new rules are that you can punch any time you see any model of VW -- Beetle, Passat, Routan, etc. Well, that leads to a heck of a lot of punching -- and that doesn't even count the "2 for flinching" or the "3 for lying."

If that's not bad enough, the kids are also playing the "tweeter" game, which calls for a person to holler "tweeter" and land a punch every time they see a yellow car. Trust me, there are more yellow vehicles out there than you'd think.



Now, these two games are dangerous. First, you just can't have someone hauling off and hitting the driver. It's distracting and startling and a little painful. Second, the driver then starts taking his or her eyes off the traffic around them just to search out a VW or a yellow car -- or in the ultimate victory, a yellow VW.

I can hear it now. "No, officer, I was not texting while driving. I was trying to punch my kid for the blue one before she could do it to me."

Seriously, I think Oprah may have to get involved.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Favors

Hey folks, I'm asking for a few favors and I'm hoping some of you will feel like granting them.

  1. I just did a "Fitness Fragments" post at the FitCity Moms Blog. Like Friday Frags here, it's just a collection of thoughts I put out there. I'd love to get your input on the questions I asked. So please click on over, read and leave a comment on the Fit City page with your input.

  2. There's some excitement going on behind the scenes here at the 4th Frog. Before I reveal exactly what it is, I need to create a tagline that tells what the heck this blog is about. I need to get this buttoned up soon, so check out the three tags listed below and let me know which you like best. Or come up with something completely different! I'm flexible...
  • The true story of what happens when life happens to a working wife and mother of 3.
  • If you want sugar-coated, buy some crappy cereal. The 4th Frog Blog dishes up the true tales of a working wife and mother of 3.
  • The true stories of a working wife and mother of three...warts and all.
That's it. Simple enough, huh? Need to catch some zzzzz's then I'll catch you all later.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Biggest Loser: It is finished.

You know life must be crazy when I tell you that I completely forgot that tonight was the finale of this season of The Biggest Loser. Have no fear, however, my trusty DVR got it all for me.

The final four were Koli, Daris, Ashley and Michael, with the latter two guaranteed to be in the running for the money and the title of "The Biggest Loser." America voted between Koli and Daris to determine who should be the 3rd to compete for the money.

Daris has a girlfriend -- and it's not Ashley as some folks speculated. Her name is Heather and she's very cute. Koli was rocking the pink pants and looking more like a fashionista than a football coach.

I loved the special effects that had the "new" contestants walking next to their old selves. The difference was remarkable.

The winner of America's vote was Daris, which left Koli still eligible to win the at-home $100,000 prize.

Before they began weighing this season's contestants, they brought back Shay who started last season weighing in at 476. After last season's finale, Subway offered her $1,000 for every pound she's lost to encourage her to keep moving toward her healthier self. At the end of last season, she weighed 304 pounds.

Her current weight last night was 252, a loss of an additional 52 pounds, earning her $52,000 from Subway. Her big ol' check was presented by Jared the Subway guy. The check was blank because Subway offered that if Shay could finish a marathon with Jared, they would double her earnings to $104,000. And of course to help her, they're giving her free Subway breakfast sandwiches and subs. Hey Shay, wanna meet for lunch?

After Shay weighed in, the moved on to bringing out the voted off contestants and weighing them in. To be honest, I fast forwarded through most of the stories -- just show me the scale. Unfortunately, I didn't catch everyone's percentage of weight loss, but I did get the total pounds lost which was phenomenal.

Cherita - From 277 to 186 (-91)
Victoria - From 358 to 222 (-136)
Sherry - From 218 to 119 (-99, 45.41%)
Maria - From 281 to 167 (-114, 40.57%)
Patty - From 243 to 170 (-73, 30.04%)
Stephanie - From 264 to 165 (-99)
James - From 485 to 357 (-128, 26.39%)
John - From 484 to 335 (-149, 30.79%)
Melissa - From 233 to 143 (-90, 38.63%)
Lance - From 365 to 237 (-128, 35.07%)
Migdalia - From 265 to 213 (-52, 19.62%)
Miggy - From 240 to 149 (-91, 37.92%)
O'Neal - From 389 to 230 (-159, 40.87%)
Sunshine - From 275 to 161 (-114, 41.45%)
Darrell - From 413 to 224 (-189, 45.76%)
Drea - From 298 to 214 (-84, 28.19%)
Cheryl - From 227 to 151 (-76, 33.48%)
Sam - From 372 to 230 (-142,
Koli - From 403 to 188 (-215, 53.35%)

Melissa looked buff and healthy. Miggy looked happy. O'Neal looked like a totally new man. Darrell looked amazing. Cheryl looked beautiful. Sam looked like a stripper dressed as a policeman. Then there was Koli in the pink pants...

Of course, as the winner of $100,000, I guess he can wear whatever color pants he wants to.

Then it was time to bring out the final three. Michael got to choose the order of the weigh in, so he put them in age order.

When Daris weighed in, there was no trace of the old, fat Daris to be seen. He went from 365 to 178 (-168, 48.55%).

Ashley looked amazing, but that dress was not the most flattering. However, she went from 374 to 191 (-183, 48.93%) and should be (and admitted she is) incredibly proud.

Finally, Michael - WOW! H-O-T. HOT! But that belt buckle. must. go.

BL-Finale Sn9

He very sweetly gave a rose to his mom, his "#1 inspiration and motivation." Amazingly, he went from 526 to 262 (-264, 50.19%) Did anyone else feel the sparks between Ashley and Michael? I'd like to see something happen between the two of them.

Ok -- my boss is hounding me to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to our meeting. The nerve...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Houseguest

I have a babysitter coming to spend the night with the boys tonight. Annie and I are going to Ohio for my baby brother's high school graduation, so our awesome sitter Caitlin is staying here with the boys.

Because Caitlin has been babysitting for us for a couple of years -- and because she's one of 10 kids -- there's probably nothing about my house that could surprise her. But she's never spent the night before, so I'm a little nervous about making sure the house is well up to snuff.

That means I have to clean my room. She won't inherently know which crazy path to take to the bathroom in the middle of the night in order to avoid plowing through piles of clean but folded clothes. And clean sheets on the bed, especially since Robbie so kindly (and not tidily) ate a bunch of graham crackers in it last night.

Which reminds me, I need to warn her that Robbie will probably be climbing into bed with her around 2 am or so and when he does she should make him go potty before laying down.

I have to make sure there is toilet paper in all the bathrooms. TP is of course not just reserved for guests, but don't tell me you've never been in a bathroom and had to holler for someone to bring you some toilet paper because you didn't notice the roll was out.

And towels. Fresh, clean hand towels and bath towels. The ones that don't smell like they sat wet in the washing machine for too long.

Then there are the school clothes and shoes and backpacks to be laid out. And notes for breakfast in the morning. Nothing fancy -- cereal will do. If I get the time, maybe I'll make some peach cobbler. Charlie would appreciate that.

It seems like I should do something nice for Caitlin to enjoy after the boys go to bed. Maybe I'll ask if there is a Netflix instant download she'd like me to add to the queue. Or maybe just a cold Diet Coke. She's such a sweet girl that she'll probably say she doesn't need anything. Well, other than bed sheets that are not crunchy with graham cracker crumbs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fragments: 3:40am

Mommy's Idea

What should a girl do when it's 3:40am and she can't sleep and she's already tried prayer and Facebook? Frag, of course! Thanks to Mrs. 4444s for hosting tonight's insomnia aid.

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This will not come as a surprise to any one who knows me IRL, but my house is a disaster right now. (Of course you people who've seen it can't speak a word because of the contract of silence that you signed at the front door as you left.) Last night, it was too much for even me, so I did a zillion dishes and found the tops of the kitchen counters. Which means I need to revise my opening statement -- my house is a disaster right now, except for the kitchen.

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It's getting to be garage sale season. I need to have a garage sale, but I'm thinking it would be so much less work to tag stuff right where it currently sits, throw open the front door and tell people to come in and shop.

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I chaperoned Robbie's kindergarten field trip to the Indiana State Fairgrounds yesterday. In the first 5 minutes, of my 4 charges one lost a shoe, one wiped out and scraped her knee, and one was complaining of being freezing. Things got better, however. Until we met Attila the Tour Guide who took our group through Little Hands on the Farm.

"Are you standing on my grass? Don't stand on my grass. Are you talking? Are you swinging your basket? Are you daring to have fun on a field trip? DON'T."

Ok, she didn't say that last part, but seriously, it was the most nervous I'd ever been on a field trip. I even took a picture of one of the other parents standing on the grass so that if she saw the grass matted down, she couldn't blame me:

Photobucket

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Do you remember the beaded safety pin fad when you were in school? People wore them on their shoes and it was all the rage? Earlier this year, in Charlie's class the "it" thing was Japanese erasers -- these little puzzle erasers that no one erased anything with, but that everyone had to have to trade.

Well now that I've just gotten used to these darn erasers, the game has changed and now it's all about Silly Bands. Kind of like those jelly bracelets, but in shapes -- animals, food, musical instruments, vehicles. And everyone wants to have a shape that no one else has. Of course, you'd never know what the shape is because once you put it on, you can't tell that it had a shape at all:

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My youngest brother graduates from high school on Monday night. That's right -- my brother, young enough really to be my son. Woohoo! Congrats Nick!

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I've got the song "For Good" from Wicked stuck in my head. It's so true for so many people in my life. Here's a version of it being sung by Kristen Chenowith with the Boston Pops Orchestra:



I actually don't like this version as much as I like the soundtrack version. But it's still a beautiful song.

Seems like a good place to end. (Plus, Robbie just climbed into my bed and I need to at least fake sleep so he'll go back to sleep.)

Have a great Friday everyone!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The sisterhood of the numb butts

The last track meet of the season was tonight. The finals and relays of the CYO City Meet. It was held at the stadium on a college campus downtown. A very nice stadium with very tall, very hard, metal bleachers.

I sat on the bleachers for several hours chatting with the mothers of other runners from my kids' school. These are all women who I've known for a long time. Women I like, though not women that I speak to frequently or see socially.

But sitting on those bleachers, cheering on our school as our rear ends went a bit numb from being motionless on the metal for so long, I felt lucky to be part of the "sisterhood" of women. Our conversations ranged from supporting our husbands in their jobs, to how many balloons do we need for next week's 8th grade graduation reception, to book clubs, to why don't we all get together for drinks some night.

I love the men in my life (my boys, my husband, my father), but I wouldn't trade places with them for a minute. I love being part of this sisterhood of women and I'm grateful for the ways that those relationships -- even the ones that are played out on the hard metal bleachers at a track meet -- feed my soul.

So thanks Mary, Theresa, Patti and Cynthia for being my sisters tonight. Now, somebody schedule that girls' night out!

For more thoughts on what being a woman means to me, check out this post.

And in honor of those women in our lives who let us pour our hearts out to them, I'm tagging this post with the Pour My Heart Out button. Click it to find more heart-felt posts from other bloggers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's a marathon

I'm going to get to the punch line of tonight's Biggest Loser quickly because I want to spend some time talking about life as a marathon.

You'll recall that the Final Four were Koli, Ashley, Daris and Michael. Ashley and Michael lost more than 7% of their total body weight in the month they spent at home, so they are definitely in the running for the title "Biggest Loser." Koli lost a little more than 5% of his weight (13 pounds). And Daris gained 2 pounds, despite training to compete in the Biggest Loser Marathon. He later admitted to out of control eating late at night.

Click here to vote for who you'd like to see included in the top 3.

This is not the first time the Final Four on the Biggest Loser has had to complete a marathon -- 26.2 miles -- as their final challenge. But it was the first time that the marathon struck me as a metaphor for life.

As they four made their way through the marathon course, they were not alone. There were people who stood by on the sidelines and cheered them on. There were others -- several former Biggest Loser champions and family members -- who joined them for part of the journey. But ultimately, they had to finish on their own.

While watching, I was struck by the fact that life is like that. It's not just about finishing -- it's about who we encounter and how we carry ourselves along the way. Daris's knee was hurting. Mike's thigh was cramping. They acknowledged the pain, but plowed ahead, not giving in to something that would have, just 17 weeks earlier, kept them from getting off the couch in the first place. The journey can be made more pleasant by those who join us along the way. And sometimes they're presence is not just about enjoyment, but about the ability to keep on keeping on.

When Koli weighed in at the end and had only lost 13 pounds, he owned up to being singularly focused on having the confetti rain down on him. He said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the end result, that he forgot to celebrate the small successes along the way. I get that. Whether it's being focused on wearing a certain size or being in a rush to get to the point where the kids are more independent, if we forget to breathe in and embrace all the moments that actually make up a life, we'll be left to look back and wonder what happened and what we might have done differently.

And while we can talk about life "taking a village," ultimately, we are accountable for our own choices, our own failures and our own victories. And in the end, it's not about the destination. It's about the journey.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The way we were

Thanks to Sharon for the suggestion on my Facebook page that I write about how Mike and I met. It's funny because Annie was just asking me about it tonight.

We were both students at Butler University. I was a sophomore and Mike was a freshman. (That's right -- I'm a cradle robber!) Butler had an annual weekend camping experience called "Freshman Weekend." It took place on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend because there were classes on Labor Day.

Freshman Weekend was put on by the Butler YMCA as an extended mixer, if you will, to help members of the freshman class get to know each other. I went as a camper my freshman year and returned as a "counselor" my sophomore year. It took place at a YMCA camp called Flat Rock.

Mike said he first noticed me when I was in the middle of a circle as we were playing "Smile if you love me, honey." Someone stands in the center and one at time, people come up and say -- in the most outrageous way they can think of -- "Smile if you love me, honey." Once the person in the middle cracks a smile, the person who made them smile takes the center.

I don't remember Mike from that activity. It wasn't until he was assigned to my skit group that I noticed him. Annie asked what I noticed first. I think it was his hair -- dark, definitely my type. Then I probably noticed he was big and cuddly-looking, also features I was attracted to. I'm sure I noticed his smile. At least I think I probably did.

After our group finished practicing the skit (I can't remember for the life of me what it was about), we went back to Mike's cabin -- the SCANDAL! There were several other guys there and we all just sat around and chatted. Mike, however, proceeded to lay down on his bunk and fall asleep. Or so I thought. Several months later, he told me that he was only pretending to sleep because he wanted to listen to see what I was like.

I remember walking down to the campfire with him that night, though I don't remember if we held hands or not. There were more games and singing at the campfire. Including a song called "Sing a song or kiss a counselor." Someone had a flashlight. If the flashlight fell on you, you had to immediately start singing a song. If you hesitated, you would have to kiss a counselor.

Of course the light fell on Mike -- and much to my disappointment, he started belting out the theme from "The Flintstones!" Boy, I probably sound like a floozy admitting I'd hoped he would opt to kiss me.

In fact, he didn't kiss me that whole weekend. What a gentleman. But we did share a few dances. And went for a walk on campus shortly after we returned. Which is when he finally did kiss me.

How did you meet your significant other?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Loose ends

Just trying to tie up some loose ends on Sunday night.

  1. The winner of the Energizer Keep Safe, Keep Going giveaway is Jessica from Texas who said: "I could use this now that it's tornado season here in TX. I've been through several tornados but never had actual damage done to my house. We've had trees ripped up and sheet metal put right through the middle of a tree (crazy!). My worst disaster experience though was when we were at a car show a micro burst hit (very bad straight line winds) and about 200 people were gathered in the pavalions holding onto the metal beams. We thought it was a tornado. Huge metal barrels that places use as trash cans were being hurled across the car show area. Very scary!"

  2. I'm contemplating giving the fridge a good scrubbing tonight because it is M-T! I really need to go grocery shopping, but I really need Mike's paycheck tomorrow first. But from time to time it's good to be forced to be creative. Right now, I have blueberry cobbler in the oven for breakfast tomorrow because I had all the ingredients for it in the pantry. It smells yummy!

  3. I've folded 2 loads of laundry. May try to stay up to get a few more loads cycled through. Or maybe I'll just give up and go to bed.

  4. Have a great week!

Robbie's turn

I never really bought into the "baby of the family" psychology where parents talk about treating the youngest different because he or she is "the baby." That is until I had my own baby of the family.

I think there is something about trying to hold on to that bit of childlike innocence. And when you're parenting the first or second child (at least in my case), there's a sense of enjoying it, yes, but also a bit of getting through it. Wishing they were old enough to get dressed themselves or fix breakfast or take a shower.

But with the baby, there's a realization that this is IT. This is the last kid I'll get to read bedtime stories to. This is the last kid who will want to climb in my bed and cuddle up. And finally, I get that whole "baby of the family" thing and why it's so different.

Which of course, brings me to Robbie. In the past week, I've found myself just chuckling about him. One day last week was dress down day at school. Robbie was so excited, he picked out his own outfit, right down to the socks:

RobbieSW

Then there was the day that I woke him up for school and he looked at me and said, "Mom, can you just snuggle with me?" Who could say no to that?!

When I tell Robbie to do something he doesn't want to do, like take the sheets off his bed or put away the silverware, he says "No thank you." At least he's polite about it.

Much of Robbie's time this week (well, every week!) has been taken up with Legos. Another morning this week, he said "Mom, I had a great dream. I dreamed a nice lion was helping me build a Lego castle!"

He got a Lego catalog in the mail and has "read" it at least 50 times. No joke. Every night at bedtime, that's what he wants to read. He takes it in the car in the mornings on the way to school and asks me to put it in the house when I get back home. And of course, he took it to "share" (show-n-tell) on Friday. As I type, he's downstairs working on building the Prince of Persia castle in the catalog out of the Legos he already has.

And lately his favorite thing has been to engage me in a "tickle fight!" I do most of the tickling, but we both laugh plenty.

I won't say that Robbie has me wrapped around his finger, just maybe a little bit curved.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Alive

Thank you all so much for your kind words after my mini-meltdown on Wednesday. By the time Thursday morning rolled around, I had rallied enough to get out of bed and at least go through the motions of getting on with life.

After I dropped the kids off at school, I headed to the gym. I figured after nearly 24 hours in bed, my body needed to MOVE. Still, it took a good five minutes of positive self-talk to get me out of the car. Once I opened the car door and stepped outside, I knew there was no way I could go inside that gym. The morning was cool and slightly damp, smelling like springtime -- new grass and fresh rain and bits of flowery buds.

So I decided to walk/run on the grounds outside. The gym where I work out is at a community center set in a wooded residential area. Before Thursday, I'd never walked anywhere on the grounds besides from the parking lot to the building.

I put the ear buds in my ears, fired up the Pandora Radio and took off. It felt so good to breathe in the cool air as I made my way around the curving drive. I picked out a target ahead and commanded my feet to run until I reached it. I took in the bright spring green of the new leaves, the rich browns of the wet earth on the floor of the woods. I nodded and smiled at the few people arriving to work or to work out. I felt alive!

By the time I made it back to my original starting point, I felt like I needed to stop and give my legs a good stretch. I spied some benches ahead, to the left of the path I'd gone on before, and headed over there. It turned out to be a holocaust memorial garden. It was tranquil and reverent and beautiful.

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When I looked up from my stretch, I noticed the words on the memorial -- not the ones in Hebrew, I can't read that -- that said "Surviving Spirit." After my day on Wednesday (not that it in any way compares with the holocaust), it seemed like an affirmation, a reminder, a message of hope meant just for me.

That sense of "surviving spirit" stayed with me as I took off on another lap around the campus. This time I ran longer and farther. I sang out loud to the words of the songs flowing to my ears. I was completely aware of how thankful I was to be there in that moment. And when I finished that lap, I returned to the garden. I sat on a bench, listened to a morning reflection on my iPhone, and, once again, felt alive.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Plate spinner

Most of the time, I come to my blog and say whatever the heck I want to say because, well, it's my blog. But today, I've gone back and forth about whether or not to write what I'm feeling. In part because I like for this blog to be a place where people can come to get their daily dose of laughter -- or at least a smile. And in part because people I know read this blog and I feel kind of vulnerable.

I looked at the titles of every post I've written in 2010, wanting to make sure that I haven't been delivering up regular doses of "woe is me." I don't think I have (at least not an overwhelming amount of woe, anyway.) Ultimately, I decided that what I value in the blogs that I read is honesty and I want to reciprocate that here.

So people, I am feeling overwhelmed. sad. crushed. broken. weary. Not over any one thing in particular, but by the convergence of several things. It's like I'm one of those plate spinners in the circus and I've been doing (I think) an admirable job of keeping those plates spinning, mostly out of necessity, a bit out of pride, a lot out of fear of what happens when those plates fall and crash to the floor in thousands of shattered pieces at my feet.

plate spinning

Well, this week, I have pretty much walked away from those damn plates. I have put myself in survival mode and have done just what I've needed (and the kids have needed) to do to get by.

And today, I'm waving the white flag. I took a sick day. Dropped the kids off at school, went to Weight Watchers (don't ask), came home and climbed into bed. That was more than 2 hours ago. And I don't have any intention of getting out of this bed until the kids get home from school, unless it's to take a hot bath, which I might do.

I tried to sleep, to no avail. I perused Facebook which led me to read the entire 27 pages of the story of a young mother's unsuccessful fight against cancer. When I came to the final entry, I cried. Quietly at first, for the loss her family must be feeling. For the heartache my friends who knew her are now knowing. And then, I sobbed, the grief from her story unlocking the sadness and fears about my own life that I had so successfully buried inside.

And I felt silly, stupid really. I do not have a terminal illness. My children are healthy. I have a job and people who love me. So what if I'm convinced that the teachers at school think I'm "that mother" -- that disengaged, disorganized, dis...whatever mother. So what if the bushes in the front yard need to be cut back and the garage is a mess and the inside of my car desperately needs to make friends with a vacuum cleaner. (Please don't think that's all that's driven me to this pity party. There's more, but I'm just not ready to share it all.)

But no matter how stupid I felt, I let the tears fall. Because this is my life. This is how I'm feeling and I'm determined to feel it. Not for days on end, but at least until 3pm this afternoon, at which point, I will put my big girl panties and my perma-press smile on and go back to dealing with it.

Since that's kind of what I just did, I'm tagging this post with the Pour My Heart Out button. Click it to find more heart-felt posts from other bloggers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Biggest Loser: Last week on the ranch

Over and over we hear from the Biggest Loser contestants, "I have to do what's best for me." I'm invoking that philosophy tonight. I'm just not up to a long post about this episode which chronicled the last week on the ranch for the remaining contestants of Season 9.

But I will share the highlights:
  • There was no yellow line, only a red one. Whoever had the lowest percentage of weight loss would go home.
  • Past winners Helen (Season 7) and Erik (Season 3) came to share their wisdom. Erik's insight was especially helpful because he gained back most of the 200+ lbs he lost on the show and is trying to lose it all again.
  • The challenge was the "Put the Weight Back on Challenge." Daris won -- and with it the option of $10,000 or a 1 lb. advantage, which he chose.
  • Michael had a meltdown in the gym.
  • The boys (Michael, Daris, Koli) all posted huge numbers at the weigh in.
  • Sunshine only lost 2 pounds, which put her below the red line. She was very gracious, however.
I'm not sure when the next episode is, if next week is the finale or if it will be a few weeks out. If you know, please be sure to leave it in the comments.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Be prepared (for a giveaway!)

When I was a freshman in high school, our house was hit by a tornado.

Well, I don't know if that's exactly accurate. There was a tornado warning and the roof over my bedroom was torn off by high winds, knocking part of the chimney into my parents bedroom, before the remnants of roof came to rest in the neighbor's yard. But whether it was actually tornadic activity or just high winds associated with it, I don't know. But it's easier (and more dramatic) to say "my house was hit by a tornado."

The events of that afternoon are a little fuzzy. I remember we were gathered in the laundry room in the basement. I remember that we didn't even realize the roof was gone on that part of the house until the neighbor came to tell us. And I remember that the fire department came to nail tarps down over the roof.

My memory may be a little fuzzy, but my dislike of those crazy spring thunderstorms lives on. So when the folks at Energizer asked if I'd like to blog about their Keep Safe. Keep Going emergency power kit, I didn't have to think twice.

Energizer has teamed up with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) to promote severe weather preparedness and home safety. Every year, more than 15,000 home fires are caused by candles, many of which are lit when the power goes out in a storm.

The three organizations are encouraging people to be prepared for power outages (weather-related or not) by having back-up power supplies, flashlights and lanterns on hand.

They suggest to have the following in an Emergency Power Kit:
  • Battery-powered or crank radio
  • Plenty of extra batteries, including specialty batteries that power critical things such as hearing aids and blood glucose and blood pressure monitors
  • Flashlight (one for each member of the family is a great idea)
  • Battery-powered cell phone charger
(Of course, I'm thinking batteries to power a small DVD player are a must for parents with kids likely to go stir crazy 10 minutes after the power goes out.)

And it just so happens, that the list of things Energizer and friends recommend is exactly what came in my very own Energizer Keep Safe. Keep Going emergency power kit. Check it out:

emergency kit

Plus, it came with a handy drawstring bag to keep all that emergency gear together in one place.

Now, you might be thinking, "well, isn't that nice for you."

But it could be nice for you, too. Because the Energizer folks will give an Energizer Keep Safe. Keep Going emergency power kit to one lucky 4th Frog reader. Even better, they'll send it directly to you so you don't have to wait for me to get to the post office. Which is a good thing, because I definitely fail at the U.S. Postal Service.

There are two ways to enter this giveaway:
  1. Leave a comment on this entry and tell me about your worst weather-related disaster.
  2. Visit the 4th Frog Facebook page and leave a comment there on the entry about this giveaway.
On Thursday night at 8pm EDT, I'll use the random number generator to choose the lucky winner and post his/her name in my Friday Fragments post next Friday. Simple, huh?

While you're waiting for your emergency power kit to arrive, Energizer also suggests you stock up on water and nonperishable food and to have copies of important documents such as medical records and insurance papers. For more information on being prepared in a storm, visit www.energizer.com/preparedness.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Motherhood is not for the egotistical

There are plenty of things that can be said about motherhood -- how it's like putting your heart in another body and watching it walk around, how it's a privilege and a blessing to be a mother. But what I want to talk about is how motherhood is not for those who require lots of emotional stroking.

Nothing takes me down a notch or two quicker than a small child who says "Mommy, do you have a baby in you belly?," when in fact there is no baby in my belly. (A large child who says that is subject to a swift kick.)

Or the kid who comes home from a sleepover raving that so-and-so's Mom is the most awesome because she a.) let them stay up all night, b.) made homemade donuts and fresh-squeezed orange juice, and c.) puts on makeup just for doing the dishes. (For the record, I totally would not be friends with so-and-so's Mom.)

No, to be a mother requires a tough outer shell. One that deflects statements like "You're wearing that to the school program?!" quicker than a Redwings goalie deflects a flying puck.

To be a mom means to have a big heart and a little ego, to practice what you preach when you say "Sticks and stones..."

Having said all that and despite popular belief, mothers are not superheros. (Though I do have at least one superhuman skill.) And sometimes a chink in my teflon armor lets a zinger through that stings a little (or a lot).

Like a few weeks ago when Annie came home from a school retreat, all excited to share the details of her day. She said one of the activities was to talk about someone who has inspired her. I could feel myself getting all warm and glowy inside, waiting to hear exactly what I had done to inspire her and grateful that she was willing to share that revelation with me, when she said, "I said that Dad has inspired me because he's had issues to work through and he has kept working on them and persevered."

I was stunned. And hurt. And quite frankly, a little angry. But I didn't tell her that. I nodded and said, "That's great. You should be sure to tell Daddy that."

But, as a good friend pointed out, it's to my credit that she is able to recognize qualities like perseverance as inspirational. And I feel pretty good about that.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all mothers out there. I got a diamond bracelet that I absolutely adore! Click thru to the 4th Frog Facebook page to see a picture of it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Fragments: Ultimate procrastination

Mommy's Idea

Oh, I have about a kajillion things to do today, but I'd much rather play in Mrs. 4444's Friday Fragment sandbox!

Mother's Day is Sunday. I got an e-mail from Laser Flash suggesting that Dad and the kids take Mom to their loud, frantic, sweaty place for laser tag and pizza to celebrate the occasion. Thanks, I'll pass.

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Did you get your "free bagel and shmear" coupon from the Einstein Bagel Facebook page? I bribed the kids this morning that if they got up and got ready quickly, we could stop at Einstein before school. I gave each kid their own coupon and I bought the drinks. The guy at the counter didn't seem to happy about it. But happy, schmappy. I might have to go back for lunch soon to try out the new turkey-bacon-avocado bagel thin sandwich. It looks really yummy!

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When I'm finished with Friday Frags, I want to go dig my garden. I have 3 tomato plants, 4 cilantro plants, 2 basil plants, 4 pepper plants and 2 strawberry plants to go in. I hope to get it all done this weekend.

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I cannot wait for school to be over. Charlie's teacher just assigned ANOTHER science project. We just finished a big, took-3-days-to-do-the-experiment-and-another-day-to-do-the-write-up science project. That one was on the effect of heat and cold on popcorn kernels. For this one, he's doing what kind of ice cream melts the fastest (premium, light, frozen yogurt, etc.). I figure eating the ice cream will be consolation for having to do a big project in the final weeks of school.

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The Go Red/Better U challenge officially wrapped up last night with a thank you party. It was so great to get to say thanks to all those people who helped us along the way.

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I saw a church sign -- you know those message board ones -- last week that has stuck in my head. It said "The safest place to be is within the will of God." I liked it so much that I wrote it out and stuck it on my computer monitor at work.

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Well, I think I'm all fragged out. Have a terrific weekend and enjoy Mother's Day, whether you're on the giving or receiving end.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How I got here

On Tuesday, I snuck this into my post about The Biggest Loser:

A quick sidebar: I had a similar "new reality" experience last weekend. Usually, when I shop I go straight to the plus-size department and choose from the limited selection offered there. But last weekend at Macy's, I shopped in the "regular" departments. While it was exciting, it was also overwhelming. Still, I'll take the size 14s I bought on Saturday over the size 20s I was busting out of last September any day.

My friend Liz left this comment:

AND AMY!!! SIZE 14!!! WOOT! I think that deserves more than just some little mention in the middle of a blog post about Biggest Loser!! Time for a before and after pic!! Brag on yourself, sister! Talk about what you are doing and the changes you are making! You can seriously inspire others!

I've been thinking about her comment. I am proud of what I've done. And if you missed the recent before/after pics, click here. But I am also cautious.

I've been down this weight loss road before. When Robbie was about a year old, I lost about 40 pounds. I don't remember how low my weight got, but obviously, I didn't stay there. This time in addition to making changes in my eating (card-carrying member of Weight Watchers), I've added a consistent exercise effort. I have the Better U challenge to thank for that.

I could post daily menus and exercise tallies. And some people might copy exactly what I've done and be successful. But I've come to understand that, for me at least, success in this endeavor does not start with what I do or do not put in my mouth or how many days a week I hit the gym. For me, success starts in between my ears.

Amazingly, I can't put my finger on exactly what clicked for me. I do know it was a combination of factors. I started Weight Watchers in September and pretty much floundered for the first 3 months, losing only 8 pounds. Enter the Better U challenge.

Three people involved in that really helped get me on the right track. Dr. Nancy Branyas was encouraging in a matter-of-fact way. She told me I had to exercise and encouraged me to start with just 10 minutes a day and build on that.

Then there were Kyle Heerdink and Kara Wagner, two trainers at Lifetime Fitness. Kyle was my weekly trainer. He pushed me and helped me see that I could do more than I thought I could. Who knew that a high five could be such a powerful reward for effort? But Kyle also respected my limitations. He had a great way of knowing when I was saying "I can't" and when I actually couldn't.

I worked with Kara a handful of times throughout the Better U challenge. She helped introduce me to exercise beyond the treadmill. Every time I get on the bike or the elliptical and I know how to push myself, I thank Kara in my head. Because of basic geography -- I live too far away from Lifetime to make it workable in my daily routine -- I joined a different gym. But Lifetime Fitness laid the foundation for me.

A third -- and probably most important -- element to my success has been an attitude change. For some reason, this time, I believe that I am worth the investment of time and effort. In general, I look forward to my workout time as "me" time. Sometimes I work out with other people and I have fun. And if I'm by myself, I enjoy logging on to Pandora Radio and listening to whatever strikes my fancy for the day.

For all of the changes I've made, I'm still cautious. At 30+ pounds lost, I'm less than halfway to my final goal (I'm hoping to hit a total of 80 pounds). The week Mike was in the hospital, I gained 5 pounds! Old habits die hard and I know that I have to be vigilant and not give in to the emotional eating that I fell into during that week. I get discouraged that I can't run outside as well as I can run on the treadmill. But I have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, not look for perfection, and keep on keeping on.

I'm not sure if this post provided any inspiration, or even an inside look into the brain of a fat woman. But it's been good to take some time to look back and see where I've been and how I might have gotten there. Thanks for the prompt, Liz.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

In belated recognition of Intergalactic Star Wars Day:

Amy/C3PO

Star Wars t-shirt

Robbie the droid

Mike/STrooper

I think Annie will consider it a victory that she is not pictured in this Star Wars montage.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here. And don't forget to check the 4th Frog Facebook page for today's round of "What in the World Wednesday!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Biggest Loser: Makeover Week!

Biggest Loser logo

It's Makeover Week! Woohoo! I think this might be everyone's favorite episode because the changes are generally so dramatic.

Each player got $1,000 to spend on new clothes. Instead of shopping with a fashion guru, they got to go wherever they chose (or more likely to whichever store paid for the privelege) and select their own outfits.

Several of the players talked about a new reality shopping for clothes. Sam said he wasn't looking for any X's. Daris said he used to shop at the farm store for his jeans because he knew they would fit. Sunshine found herself too small for the plus-size store she and Ashley were shopping in.

I felt bad for Michael because he was still shopping in a big and tall store and obviously frustrated (or fusstrated, as he said) with that. Ashley was still wearing larger sizes, too, but she was upbeat about it, acknowledging that she was at midpoint in her journey.

(A quick sidebar: I had a similar "new reality" experience last weekend. Usually, when I shop I go straight to the plus-size department and choose from the limited selection offered there. But last weekend at Macy's, I shopped in the "regular" departments. While it was exciting, it was also overwhelming. Still, I'll take the size 14s I bought on Saturday over the size 20s I was busting out of last September any day.)

Once the shopping was finished, they all went to Jonathan Antin, who described himself as the "go to hair guy."

Anting gave same the "handsome version of the classic penitentiary look." And of all the guy contestants, Sam's facial hair actually looked good when he was finished.

As we all hoped, Daris got rid of the mop. He looked 30 pounds thinner with all that hair off! In fact, his hair was long enough to donate to Locks of Love.

Michael looked so young, with the exception of the bald spot that was uncovered by the haircut. But I wish they would have shaved that nasty goatee. When he saw himself all put together, he said, "I fit in one mirror!"

Speaking of unflattering facial hair, Koli looked so studious, but please, that bit of hair under his his lower lip was giving me the creeps. And it looked like Johnathan Antin gave Koli Jonathan's own hairstyle.

Ashley and Sunshine, while I'm sure they enjoyed the experience, didn't look that much different. I wish they would have gone shorter with Sunny's hair and maybe put some other color in Ashley's.

After the makeovers were finished and each player was joined by family members, they all went to a small, intimate concert performed by Ashanti. That hot pink number Ashanti was wearing? Could she please put some more clothes on? The skirt was too short and the top looked like she was going to fall out of it.

Like all good things, the fun of the makeover had to end and it was time to get back to the ranch and back to work.

The challenge has Jacob's Ladders suspended over a pool. Before I could really focus on the challenge, I had to wonder what the heck happened to Daris' hair?! It was a big curly, moppy mess on top of his head. Dude, do not lose sight of the hair gel. It is a MUST!

Back to the challenge. The winner would get a 1 lb. advantage. The first player to fall in the water would get a 1 lb. disadvantage.

Ashley was the first to fall in, after only 3+ minutes of climbing the ladder. She was followed by Michael, then Sunshine. Then, unexpectedly (to me at least) Sam fell, which meant that Koli and Daris were left climbing. They went on for more than 2 hours! Ultimately at 2 hours, 30 minutes Daris gave in and Koli won the 1 lb. advantage.

Daris, Daris...if you cannot handle the use of hair gel, please just shave the rest of your head ASAP. Ewwww!

During the last chance workout, Ashley and Daris were the targets of Jillian and Bob. Ashley because she had to fight the 1 lb. disadvantage. Daris because Bob was trying to get him to dig into his mental strength, which Daris said was lacking when he gave up the ladder challenge.

At one point during the LCW, Ashley was running 9.0 mph. That it totally CRAZY! I was feeling triumphant running at 4.4 mph this morning. 9.0?! I might try it the next time at the gym just to see if I can do it without being spit out by the treadmill.

At the end of the weigh-in, it was Michael and Sam below the yellow line. They both pleaded their case. In the end, the vote was a tie, leaving the one with the lowest percentage of weight loss packing his bags. That was Sam.

Sam was the first person ever on The Biggest Loser to get to his goal wait while on the ranch. The transformation moment showed how he's moved to California -- and in with Stephanie!

So now there are only 5 players left. I wonder which one will be left out of the final four? Who do you think?

Monday, May 3, 2010

That's not a microphone

Annie had an English assignment over the weekend to identify a favorite family tale that she will later write up and contribute to a book of passed down stories. That led us to recall several funny experiences we've had over the years -- many of which are too inappropriate for re-telling at school.

One I thought of on the way to school this morning took place shortly after Robbie was born.

As usual, I decided to give breastfeeding the old college try. However, this was my third kid and my track record for milk production would have had me sent to the hamburger factory long before if I'd been a cow.

So I had an industrial-strength breast pump on hand to help encourage production. If you've never seen a breast pump, they look like this:



Those two horn-like things go exactly where you think they would go.

Anyway, one day Charlie, who was not quite 4 years old, was carrying around one of the horn-shaped pieces of my breast pump, singing and hollering into it.

Annie, who was 6 and quite irritated with her brother's immaturity, grabbed it and snapped at him saying, "Charlie! THAT is not a microphone! THAT is a boob sucker!"

I was in tears with laughter for quite some time over that. And I was still laughing as I recounted the story on the way to school today. Unfortunately, so was Robbie, who must have said "boob sucker" about 20 times before he left the car.