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Friday, July 30, 2010

Fly by Fragments

Does anyone else feel like this week has just flown by? Why is it that some weeks drag on and by Tuesday you feel like it should be Friday and others seem like the days are passing in a millisecond? Guess if I had the answer to that, I'd be some Nobel Prize winning physicist or something smart like that.

Mommy's Idea

What I do have is fragments and a link to Mrs. 4444's Friday Fragments. Those little bits and pieces of thought that are taking up space in my head, put out here for you to enjoy and me to finally put to rest.

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Heading back to work after a week off was a good thing. I really like the people I work with and generally like the work I do. Plus, I can only take so much iCarly and South Africa FIFA soccer on the PS3.

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The dog is good. So far, it was a good decision. She and Robbie are having a great time playing tug of war. She loves to play and it's good, deep sensory input for him.

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I don't normally work on Fridays, but I had to go into the office today because we're hosting a big conference and my boss asked if I could put all the speakers' presentations into one continuous PowerPoint. I did it yesterday just fine.

This morning, there were no technical difficulties. But there were three speakers who came in later than expected, who were having a heyday chatting it up with each other and who decided to change their slides at the last minute. I didn't really feel like I could be too pushy because I'm just a girl with a bachelor's in journalism and these folks are all PhDs, well known in the field of physical therapy and rehabilitation. One of them was a neuroscientist for crying out loud!

Nothing to get your heart pumping like trying to merge 4 presentations into one, save it on the flash drive, run it backstage and save it to the computer attached to the projector all while introductions are already taking place!

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Friday night is Family Movie Night at our house. Tonight, instead of a movie, I want to watch the episode of Wipeout I recorded earlier in the week. I don't know why, but I love that show! Maybe that's what I should do for my 40th birthday -- try to get on Wipeout.

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I think that's all I've got for today. Hope it's a great weekend for everyone!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad cook

I love the Food Network. If I were allowed to pick television channels from an a la carte menu, the Food Network would be one of three that I would choose. (The other two would be MSNBC so I could watch "Lock Up" and Discovery Health for "Untold Stories of the E.R.")

But just as standing in a garage does not make one a car, watching the Food Network does not make a person a gourmet chef. I'm such a non-chef that I couldn't get a job as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab. (Spongebob, anyone?)

I'm pretty much a utilitarian cook. I cook because we have to eat. But if I ever win the lottery, the first thing I'm doing is hiring a personal chef.

My first food fiasco happened on my 12th birthday. My mom was at work and I was home baking my own birthday cake. I don't remember exactly what went wrong, except that everything went wrong and I called my mom several times that day in tears about the cake.

Then, before Mike and I were married, I made dinner for us in my apartment one night. I was trying to make use of what was in the pantry. So I took some canned tuna, mixed it with some barbecue sauce and patted it in a pan. Then, I slapped a couple of pieces of fat-free cheese on top of it and put the whole thing into the oven. When it came out, looking like a kid's rain slicker had melted onto the tuna, Mike took one look at it and promptly carried the whole mess, pan and all, to the dumpster in the parking lot.

It's not that I don't know how to follow a recipe; I do. But sometimes my downfall is in the technique required for certain recipes. Other times, it's because I don't really understand food well enough to what flavors complement other flavors and what textures are appealing with what foods.

This was tonight's dinner (avert your eyes if you have a weak stomach):

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It actually came from a recipe. But anyone who knows how to cook probably would have taken one look at that recipe and known it was going to turn out like a tight perm on short hair - hideous!

Once I figured out that dinner as I had planned it was inedible (I did taste it and it tasted a bit like spicy wallpaper paste seasoned with tree bark), it was time for Plan B. Tonight's Plan B -- when you cook like I do, every night has a Plan B just in case -- was take and bake pizza.

Here's the other problem with cooking. You have to pay attention. I was lying here on the couch, enjoying relative quiet and thinking "It's too bad that crockpot dinner was so terrible, because honestly it smells good."

As the good smell got stronger and stronger, I realized it wasn't the crockpot vomitus that was fragrancing the kitchen. It was the pizza that I put in the oven AND FORGOT ABOUT.

Insert a few expletives (this is a rated PG blog after all). A quick run over to the oven led me to find this:

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A little well done, extra crunchy, but not inedible. Someone else's kids might have turned their noses up if this was served for dinner. But mine know that this is good as it gets some nights. So they ate it. . . and asked if they could have ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dog days

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Well, we've been dog owners for a little over 48 hours. Here's what's gone down around here:
  • Dungy the cat hid under Charlie's bed for the first 16 hours. Then he ran outside and stayed there, watching the dog through the window for the next 6 hours. Then Annie brought him in to try to get them used to each other. There was some hissing, a feline swat, and Gabby yielded the floor to Dungy. They are not fast friends yet, but they are civil enough to be in the same room.

  • Gabby has been on about 10 walks in two days. The kids fight over who gets to walk her. Anyone want to place bets on how long that lasts? Mike and I took her out for a walk tonight. She does great on the leash and doesn't bark at other dogs, even if they bark at her first. Wish I could get my kids to be so polite.

  • Sunday night, Gabby barked for about 15 minutes after being put to bed in her crate. I ignored her. I'm good at that. I've had 13 years of practice ignoring whining, crying and yapping. Last night, she only barked for 10 minutes. Tonight, she dug in her heels a bit and didn't want to go, but I "persuaded" her fairly easily and she hasn't made a peep.

  • I'm learning that the word "housebroken" is open to interpretation. It's nothing tragic. She does go potty outside, for which we praise her immensely. But she's also baptized a few spots in the house as well. I had a hunch buying that pet stain/odor remover would be a good idea.
All in all, it's been a great experience. Guess I'm not so crazy after all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh the places I'll go

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Two years ago today, I started this blog. My plan to was to give myself a place to stretch my writing wings beyond the corporate and academic stuff I do for a living. I had no idea where, in just a little over 700 days, this little project would take me.

Grab a drink, pull up a chair and reminisce with me as I think about how, in the past two years, I've gotten to:
And none of that even covers the friends I've made blogging (check 'em out in my sidebar!) and the other blogging opportunities that have opened up to me (including FitCity and The Indiana Insider).

Whether you've been a friend of the 4th Frog since the beginning or you've recently found my little corner of the internet, thanks for being here!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A hole in my head

Does anyone one know where I can go to get a hole in my head? Not sure what kind of hole I might need. Definitely not one of those gross ear gauges. Probably not a nose ring. But I definitely think I need a hole in my head because I also felt the need for one of these:

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Her name is Gabby. She's a 3-ish year old basset beagle mix, also known as a bagle hound. I found her on PetFinder.com when I was looking for a medium-sized, housetrained, good with cats, non-puppy in early July. I've been e-mailing back and forth with the Loving Heart Animal Shelter about Gabby since then.

Alyson from Loving Heart brought her over to visit today, which turned out to be an adoption not just a visit. Annie fell instantly in love. Robbie, who is a little unsure of dogs, has thoroughly enjoyed her. She likes to play ball so that made her immediately a fit for Charlie.

The only family member who doesn't like her is Dungy. When Gabby came through the door, Dungy was sitting on Mike's lap. He jumped up, ran into the kitchen and arched his back. I didn't actually hear him hiss, but I'm pretty sure he was thinking it in his head. A minute later, Dungy ran upstairs and kept watch from the top of the landing. That is until Gabby ran up to check her out. That's when Dungy ran for cover in Charlie's room. We haven't seen him since. Alyson said to just let them get to know each other on Dungy's timetable.

So far we've found out that Gabby will snag food off the table if its available, is good walking on a leash, likes to cuddle and doesn't bark much. In fact, we haven't heard her bark at all, even when Annie took her on a walk and they passed several other dogs.

So about that hole in my head. Maybe that's the wild thing I'll do in honor of my 40th birthday -- wilder than getting a dog, that is.

Crab salad



I just posted this status update on my Facebook page:

"Warning: I am crabby today. Like I could eat small children for breakfast. That is all."

For the record, I already had breakfast (that did not include any human ingredients), so I am not crabby because I'm hungry. And I feel a little guilty spewing my crabbiness online on a Sunday, but I'm hoping that getting it off my chest makes me feel better.

So here is a list of ingredients for today's Crab Salad:
  1. My children keep reading over my shoulder. "Mom, what did you just type? Why are you looking up that?" Next time they do it, maybe I'll Google "How to give your kids up for adoption" or "3 ways to pay for military school."
  2. Mike is trying to plan a 40th birthday party for me, which is very nice. What is not nice is that he is not listening to my pleas for something simple. So when I logged into Facebook to see that he is looking for a freaking BAND to perform at the party, I went from content to crab in about 1.4 seconds.
  3. I'm anxious about money. Who isn't? But this time of year -- back to school -- seems to suck it out of my bank account faster than it goes in.
  4. Charlie's birthday party is today (only 4 weeks after his actual birthday) and he's not being very humble about it. I know he's excited and he's 11 and it's my job to teach him to be humble and gracious, but why does he have to be so thick-skulled about it?
  5. Robbie did not go to bed until after 11pm last night because I was not home. And the effects of the late bedtime are already showing. This must-be-within-3-feet-of-mom-at-all-times phase is really starting to wear on me.
  6. I have to go back to work tomorrow and I'm regretting not getting more done around home during my week off.
I guess the good news is that I didn't even make it to 10 things that are making me crabby. Only 6, which is likely manageable. So maybe later today I'll be able to come back here and post something that is more wit than whine. Thanks for letting me vent.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Frags: Feelin' Fine

Mommy's Idea

Goooooooooood Morning Froggy Friends! (said in my best Adrian Cronauer voice...hmmm, wait while I go add "Good Morning Vietnam" to my Netflix queue...) It's Friday and I am feeling F-I-N-E! So good in fact that I'm going to link this post up to Friday Frags and Feel Good Friday, just to mix it up a bit.

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While I've really enjoyed my week off work, I had a meeting this morning that reminded me how much I like working, too. I'm so glad I can work part-time and have the best of both worlds.

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Have you ever had the experience of one person doing something simple that brings a smile to your face? It's happened to me twice this week. The first was the guy at the ice cream counter in Kringle's Kafe at Holiday World. I asked him if he could give us a single dip cone, but with two flavors on it. He said sure. (These are the biggest single dip cones I've ever seen.) That's not what made me smile. What did it was him asking if it mattered which flavor went on the cone first. If you are a.) an ice cream aficionado or b.) a parent of a child whose ever had a meltdown over the fact that the chocolate ice cream was not on top of the cookie dough ice cream, you would smile at that question, too.

The second person to make me smile was a lady cleaning tables at the Central Library this morning. I said hello and asked how she was, to which she replied "Comme ci, comme ca." I recognized this from my high school French class, but I couldn't recall exactly what it meant. She sensed this and told me "that means so-so." Then we had nice, but brief, conversation about languages and her home on the Panama Canal. It was just such a friendly, and unexpected, exchange that I had to smile.

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Quoteables In The Blog World

When I opened my e-mail this morning, I had a note from the blog Quoteables in the Blog World alerting me that I'd been quoted. The honored snippet was "One piece of anatomy I didn't need help locating was my right ovary -- because I'm pretty sure I dislodged it trying to do a move that should only be reserved for professional members of Cirq de Soleil," which came from my Namaste post. I did notice that most of the "quoteables" were a little risque in nature. I didn't dig back to see if they are always that way or if the Qoddess was going for a theme this week. But you can submit funny quoteables if you find some that should be shared.

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Yesterday, one of my children said something that made me sad and proud at the same moment. I can't say who or where, but let me just say that it's good to know that even in the process of messing our kids up, sometimes we can do something right and take small comfort in that.

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Tomorrow my sisters and I are taking our mom out for her Mother's Day gift. Can you believe she's never had a pedicure in her almost 62 years? So it's pedis and lunch and maybe a movie. My feet and my I've-spent-all-week-with-the-kids psyche are smiling already.

Hope your Friday is leaving you feeling F-I-N-E, too!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(! * # @ ; /)

As someone who writes for a living, I have opinions about punctuation.

I won't claim that they are the most knowledgeable opinions. Sometimes I'm unsure whether a comma or a semi-colon is called for. I use punctuation more because it "feels" right than because it fits within the rules set for by Strunk and White. That must be the creative side of me leaking out.

For a long time, I had a love affair with the ellipses. You know, those three cute little dots that allow a thought to linger. . . I still find the ellipses enjoyable, but don't use them as often as I once did.

The dash -- can't remember if it's technically an em dash or an en dash and I don't really care -- also has a place in my compositional heart. It lets me interrupt myself, which is something I do frequently when I'm talking.

As an editor trying clean up other people's writing, the bane of my existence has always been the exclamation point. Do we really need to make that many exclamations? And even if the situation calls for a statement to be delivered with that much enthusiasm or emphasis, in my mind there is never an excuse for the mulitple exclamations. Seeing !!!!!! in a letter or article just makes my skin crawl.

A strange thing happened, however. I started blogging and I started finding myself using the exclamation point more freely -- though never in multiples. What's more, I use it in combination with the question mark on a fairly regular basis. How crazy is that?!

Do other people think about punctuation like I do? Obviously some must because the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves was popular enough to make it to the book section of Costco. (Strangely, I've never read it. ) And way before Lynn Truss turned her frustration with punctuational ignorance into a best-seller, Schoolhouse Rock addressed the use of punctuation in the context of catchy grammar lessons.



Do you have a favorite piece of punctuation? Or are you like E.E. Cummings, who felt that punctuation was optional?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rx for a sensory seeker

I've written before about some of the challenges Robbie has as a result of his sensory processing disorder (SPD). But he's come a long way and we've learned a lot about what works for him and what doesn't.

Rob is primarily a sensory seeker. That means that he is under-responsive to touch and movement. As a result, he seeks out what we refer to in our house as "deep impact." When he was a toddler, he was a literal head banger. If he's going to hug you, he's going to hug you hard. He loves to wrestle and knock over blocks and do lots of things that you'd expect little boys to do, but maybe a little more zealously than other kids. Swimming and gymnastics meet his needs more than soccer does.

Once we got hooked up with an occupational therapist who specializes in SPD, I jokingly said that the treatment for a sensory seeker is to allow them to do everything you've spent their whole life telling them not to do. Crawl downstairs on your belly headfirst? Go for it! Put all the couch/chair cushions on the floor, stand on a chair and jump into them? Have at it!

But I recently discovered an even better Rx for my little sensory seeker. Big, scary rides!

A few weeks ago, I took Robbie, Annie and a friend to Holiday World for a quick one-day trip as part of my Indiana tourism gig. I told Annie and her friend they could go off and ride all the big rides while I took Robbie to the more tame attractions. Well, Robbie wasn't going to have any of it. He begged, pleaded, whined and near pitched a fit that he wanted to ride The Legend, a roller coaster the girls were headed for.

So I sent him to the line and motioned to Annie that he was going to ride with them. Seconds later, I got a text from her:

"MOM! He's can't ride this. He's going to FREAK out!"

"I know," I texted back. "Then I can take him to the little rides and you guys will be free."

We were all shocked when he got off The Legend (100 feet high, nearly 60mph) and hollered "That was wicked awesome!"

I did let the girls go off on their own and took Robbie on the high-flying swings, the "octopus" ride, the Turkey Twhirl and several other rides that made me sick while leading my daredevil to a state of sensory bliss.

If I thought he was wild then, I had no idea what he was capable of handling. Last weekend, we took a mini-vacation back to Holiday World. This kid -- my little 7-year-old, 60+ pound boy -- not only rode The Legend three times, but he also rode the Raven three times and the Voyage (70 mph!) twice, along with several other wild rides.

Legend Photobucket

Raven boys Revolution

Too bad I can't get our insurance to cover a season pass.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Those evil Happy Meal toys



I just posted "Why suing McDonald's leaves a bad taste in my mouth" on the FitCity Mom's blog. I'd love it if you would check it out and leave a comment there with your thoughts on the issue. Do you agree with me or think I'm way off base? Join the conversation at FitCity.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good shoes and banana peppers

When I am an old woman...I will not wear a purple dress or a red hat. Nor will I join one of those clubs that insist you wear both at the same time. But as time quickly passes before my 40th birthday (32 days for those of you who are counting), I have noticed a few things that have changed about me as I've gotten older.

  1. I will spend good money on comfortable shoes and a good haircut. I might wince a little at the register at first, but in the long run, I'm happier and I'm worth it.

  2. The spirit may be willing, but the stomach is weak. We just spent a day at Holiday World and let me say, that if you spin me right 'round baby right 'round, like a record baby, I'm going to throw up on your shoes or have to sip Sierra Mist and sit on a bench for the next hour or so.

  3. The spicier the better. Give me banana peppers over pickles on my sandwich any day. I prefer salsa to ranch dip for my veggies and chips. Unless I've just been on Paul Revere's Midnight Ride at Holiday World, in which case, give me a bed in an air conditioned room, hold the banana peppers.

  4. Number 3 is only true if I'd had my little purple pill, which is Nexium for heartburn, not to be confused with the little blue pill, Viagra, which is for burning hearts of a different sort and which I don't think would be useful to me.

  5. I am less sure of what I want to be when I grow up than I was at 22 when I graduated from college. At this point, I'm considering mortuary school, hospital chaplain, or being independently wealthy. It's a toss up.

  6. I sometimes think it would have been nice to have one more child. Of course when I think this, I think that I should be paying attention for other signs of dementia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Artistic frags

Mommy's Idea

If you're new to Friday Fragments, it's a cyber party hosted by Mrs. 4444s that gives us a chance to put out there the bits and pieces that are floating out in our brains.

This week, it turns out my frags all have a creative bent to them. Consider it my attempt to bring a little culture to the blogosphere.

First up: A haiku! You may remember from your literature class in junior high that a haiku is a poem that has three lines and a syllable pattern that goes 5-7-5. For some reason, Mike likes the haiku. So much in fact that he has a blog called "How You, Haiku?" that he updates from time to time. This week he wrote and posted one that I just love.

Frivolity stops
A beetle crosses boy's path
He sits and watches

It's about Robbie playing outside and stopping to watch a bug. I don't know why, but it makes me smile.

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Today's second frag is a quote that a guy I knew in high school posted on his Facebook page:

Sound when stretched is music,
Movement when stretched is dance,
Mind when stretched is meditation,
...Life when stretched is celebration.
~Ravi Shankar~

The classmate who posted it is an artist himself, living and working in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I asked him when he became an artist. He said, in true artist form, "at birth." Grooooovy!

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Last week, I got together with a bunch of my sorority sisters to celebrate our 40th birthdays. One of my friends is an attorney in Manhattan. Her husband is working on his music career as part of a "melodius acoustic rock" band called The Hillary Step. I've listened to a few snippets of music on their website and it didn't make me want to turn the audio off. I would probably even buy a song or two off iTunes. Mostly, I was interested because of the origin of the band's name. Apparently, the Hillary Step is the last step climbers take before reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, a nod to Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person ever known to reach the top.

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Do you know what kind of art I just don't have an appreciation for? Ugly animation. All that Japanese anime stuff? YUCK! My boys love shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Z Chai. I can't get past the ugly animation to see if I like the story or not.


Give me something with softer lines and more cheerful colors anytime. Something like this:


Or this:


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Of course my favorite art is the stuff made just for me:

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Made up

I think I started wearing makeup in the 8th grade. I don't remember if I wore foundation or lip gloss or mascara. What I do remember is the cobalt blue eyeliner. I liked it because I thought it brought out the blue in my eyes.

In high school, I wore make up daily. As the oldest daughter of a woman who didn't really wear makeup, I didn't have anyone to teach me how to wear makeup. I think I just kind of figured it out (or made it up) as I went along. High school was when I really started wearing foundation. I had to so I could hide the embarrassing hairs that had begun growing out of my chin.

And of course in college, makeup was a must -- even on days when I wore pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt to class.

I'm not sure when it was that I stopped wearing makeup. When I stayed home with my kids when they were little, I would stay au naturel on days we actually stayed at home. But if we went to church or the grocery store or the park, I put my face on.

I know that when I went back to work almost five years ago, I went back wearing makeup. My sister sells Mary Kay and I'm sure that I was well-outfitted with foundation, blush, eyeliner, lip liner (people still wore it then, I'm sure), mascara and maybe even some eyeshadow.

Exactly when I quit wearing makeup, I'm not sure. Maybe in the last two or three years. I recall that the first few times I went to work without a trace of "paint" on my face, I was very self-conscious, apologetic even, about my untouched appearance. I didn't go cold turkey. On most days I wore makeup. But from time to time, if I was running late or had misplaced my makeup bag, I'd go without. Eventually, I quit being self-conscious about it and I quit wearing makeup all together.

Once in a while, for a special occasion I'd put my face on. But it had to be really special. Like a wedding or the Go Red for Women fashion show.

For some reason, last Friday on the way to my aerial acrobatic adventure, I looked in the mirror and thought "I wish I'd put on some makeup." Something about the way my lips blended in with my skin, which was pale even though I'd not yet gone upside 30,000 feet over Lake Michigan, made me think a little color would be nice.

So when I met up with some college friends that night, I got real wild and wore, gasp!, lip gloss! By Saturday morning, I was back to sporting the "organic" look. Same for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday, when I got dressed, the dry cracks in my heels were killing me. So I slathered on the Heeltastic and put on socks and tennies. You can't exactly wear something nice with socks and tennies, so I chose a pair of khaki capris and turquoise v-neck t-shirt.

When I dropped the kids off at the babysitter's, her mom said "Oh, you're not going into the office today?" I guess that I did look a little bit like I was ready for a day of garage saling. A few hours later, at the office, I was sitting in a meeting with four other women. I looked around and noticed, "everyone at this table is wearing makeup...except me."

I didn't think about it again until this morning. Unlike the past 500 or so days, today, I thought I'd wear some makeup. Of course I had to go out in the garage to find the bag of random stuff I cleaned out of the Pilot when we sold it nearly a month ago. That's where my Mary Kay tinted moisturizer was.

To finish the rest of my face, I had to find Annie's makeup bag. Good thing I have a teenage daughter or I would have been out of luck!

I thought I might feel instantly transformed once my face was done. But I didn't. I was pleased with the results, though. It was Mike's day off, so he was spending the day with the kids and he noticed. When I got to work, one of my co-workers said "You look really nice" and then an hour or so later said, "You're wearing makeup!"

I considered putting a picture of the made up me in this post. But the point isn't how I looked. It's how I felt. And today, I felt like wearing makeup. And I'll probably wear it again. Maybe even tomorrow. Probably not every day. But whenever the mood strikes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scaredy cat



For the past week or so, Robbie has been afraid.

I think it started when all three of the kids decided it would be fun to scare each other. They'd wait outside the bathroom or around the corner when they knew someone was headed for the family room or under the covers in the bedroom. Then, at just the right moment, they'd jump out and yell "Boo!" at the generally unsuspecting party. Although he was often on the receiving end of the scaring, Robbie dished up his own fair share of scare tactics as well.

Then late last week, they watched Batman vs. Dracula, a cartoon that I had chosen for instant streaming from Netflix. Usually, Robbie is fascinated by the topic of vampires. He's never seen Twilight or any of the sequels, but he asks Annie endless questions about them. But for some reason, Batman vs. Dracula scared the Bela Lagosi out of him.

Since then, he is afraid to go anywhere by himself. I'm not talking about going outside to play. I'm talking about going to a different room.

If I tell him to go upstairs to get his shoes, he can't because he's scared. If I ask him to get me a Diet Coke out of the garage fridge, he says its too dark in there. If I move to turn over while lying down with him at bedtime, he is instantly sitting up, asking where I'm going.

I'm trying to be sympathetic without being coddling. If he wants to go to the basement to play Legos but is afraid because it's too dark, I offer to stand at the top of the stairs and watch him as he turns the lights on. I've issued an edict that there is to be no more jumping out and scaring each other. If I'm in another room, he'll randomly call out my name. When I say "Yes, Robbie..." he says, "Oh, ok," as if he's just checking that I haven't left him alone in the house.

I feel bad for him. I also feel impatient, hoping this phase passes quickly and not entirely sure of how to help it along. So if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Houston, we have lift off!

Back at the Gary Jet Center, I was all buckled in and harnessed to my parachute. Mark the pilot was as casual as if we were taking the family car for a spin around the block. I was nervously chatty and completely regretting my decision to participate in this activity that was clearly meant for someone braver than I. It was not that I thought we were going to crash. I never thought I might die. I was just more concerned about throwing up.

It wasn't until we were rolling toward the runway that I realized there was virtually nothing in my little space of a cockpit for me to hold on to. I found one small bracket in front of me that I could awkwardly reach with my left hand. My right hand was in charge of the video camera.

We pulled on to the runway, swerving back and forth like the Indy cars do when they are warming up their tires. Mark said that's so he can see the other plane in front of him. If he didn't swerve, he wouldn't be able to see in front of the nose. Then, swerve away, I told him.

We lined up in formation with the two other AT-6 Texans of the Aeroshell team. Taking off and flying in formation was amazing. The takeoff was much smoother and less scary than in a passenger airplane.

Just the "normal" flying was beautiful. The sky was so blue. And the clear canopy over my head let me view everything around and above me. I could see Lake Michigan and the beach and all the patchwork pieces of land below us.

We were within 6 to 12 feet of the two other planes for the entire flight. I looked over and saw the passengers in the other planes and waved at them -- and they waved back! That's how close we were. It was kind of a Top Gun moment, only we weren't inverted and no one flipped the bird.

So close we could touch

I also noticed that the pilot in the lead plane wasn't wearing a helmet. I said something to Mark into my microphone about that.

"He's not wearing helmet. His parents or his wife should give him heck for that!"

"Oh, he's not married," Mark replied. "And his parents don't like him much."

I laughed and then a few minutes later realized, "Wait a minute! I'm not wearing a helmet either!" That's when Mark said the helmets are more for communication than for safety. I guess if the plane were to go down, a helmet wouldn't help much anyway.

Just as I was really thinking I was glad I'd decided to do this and I couldn't believe how enjoyable it was, Mark said "Ok, here we go!"

I heard the engines of all three planes gunning and in an instant we went from a smooth forward motion to an incredibly fast, incredibly scary ascent straight up into the sky. I said "Oh sh*t!," followed by "Jesus, Mary, Joseph!" I grabbed my parachute with my left hand and held like mad onto the videocamera, which was still rolling, with my right hand.

Then we started to flip -- forwards or backwards I'm not sure because my eyes were closed. One of my Facebook friends said I should keep my eyes open so I didn't miss it, but I don't think that was even an option. The force of gravity pushing down against the plane climbing up was so strong. The video camera felt like it weighed 50 pounds.

Other than my first utterance as we were racing upwards, I didn't cuss. I didn't scream. Mostly because it's impossible to do either when you are not breathing.

The flip was over before I knew it. I was just getting air back into my lungs when Mark's voice came into my headphones and said, "And here we go with the roll..."

Again, my eyes closed and my breathing stopped. And again it was over so quickly. That's when I was sorry I'd missed it. I wished I'd kept my eyes open and thought about asking if we could do one more stunt. Then I decided maybe it was the lack of oxygen to my brain entertaining that idea and I should just keep quiet.

I looked out the window and saw circular smoke underneath us. I asked Mark if it was our trail, but he pointed out the 6 smaller, yellow Lima Lima precision planes flying below.

From there, we headed back to the Jet Center, me enjoying the beautiful, air around us. That is until without warning, we pealed up and off to the left. In hindsight, it wasn't really scary. Just startling in an "excuse me while I get my stomach out of my shoes" kind of way. We circled around and landed.

Mark swears the flight was about 15 minutes long. It seemed to start and finish in about 3 minutes to me. And it seemed like maybe it wasn't such a crazy thing to do after all. Maybe I will still dye my hair blue.

When we landed and Mark parked the plane back in its original location, Mike and the kids ran out to congratulate me. Annie and Charlie said I looked pale. Mike said he was jealous. Robbie said "let's get lunch."

We signed the Aeroshell log books and got an autographed picture from the team. Though I wasn't the least bit sick or queasy in the air, once I'd been on the ground for about 3 or 4 minutes, my legs started getting shaky and I felt the need to eat something -- fast. It was like the rapidly changing altitude and the battle with gravity caught up with me as the day went on.

I spent much of the ride home reclined and feeling a little woozy. Oh, and I think those g-forces must have had some kind of crazy intrauterine effect because my monthly visitor made an unexpected appearance later in the day as well (either that or I'm just a really bad calendar keeper).

I learned at least two things from this experience:
  1. I am braver than I think I am.
  2. I am a really terrible videographer.
I apparently kept zooming in on things (didn't mean too, honest!) during the flight. But thank goodness for a techy husband who likes to edit video. The first 1-2 minutes are of the pre-flight instructions. Followed by some funny photography Mike laid in -- but enjoy the nervous conversation I was having with Mark. When you start seeing the video going sideways, that's the roll! Just watching the video makes me get all nervous and hold my breath again. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dear Panera



Dear Panera --

I love you for your Fuji Apple Chicken salad, your low-fat vegetarian black bean soup and your chocolate chip muffies. I I love you for your free WIFI that makes this a perfect office away from home.

I would love you more if you jacked up the thermostat a bit, but that's nothing that a pair of jeans and a sweater cannot fix. I would love you even more than that if you served Diet Coke instead of Diet Pepsi, but I can get over it.

However, our long-term relationship might come to a screeching halt over this monumentally annoying jazz music with its "makes-my-mind-race" tempo and its blaring horn solos.

Will miss you much (unless I invest in some noise-canceling headphones),
Amy

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One step closer to the craziest thing I've ever done

When I last left off, we had just arrived at the Gary Jet Center and my kids had been forbidden to say anything about any bodily functions that might inadvertently occur during my flight on a AT-6 Texan.

The Jet Center is a small private airport that see lots of corporate traffic from people doing business in or from Chicago and "the Region," as northwest Indiana is referred to. So while this crazy air show-related flight was a big deal to those of us going up, the folks at the Jet Center were a little inconvenienced by all the extra people milling around, possibly getting in the way of their real business.

I checked in with Erika from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau who got me into this mess in the first place invited me to join this adventure. The kids (Mike being one of the kids here) were entertained to see several kinds of planes -- the Thunderbirds jets, the Lima Lima precision planes, the Texans and the Yak-52s lined up on the tarmac.

The Gary South Shore Air Show is what they call a deployed show. The planes take off from one location (the Jet Center), but perform at another location (over the beach on Lake Michigan). Within a few minutes, we met one of the air show volunteers, whose name escapes me now.

The volunteer was an Italian grandmotherly type. She told us that before our flight, we'd go over safety procedures with the pilot. When she said that we'd all be wearing parachutes, I didn't know whether to feel secure or scared sh*tless.

Grandma Airplane asked if anyone gets car sick. "If your stomach drops when you're on a roller coaster, that's normal," she said. "But if you have to sit in the front seat and hang your head out the window of the car on the highway, you might want to reconsider because it's no fun for us to have to stop everything to get you down and clean out the plane."

I told her I don't really get carsick, but I don't do roller coasters so I didn't know what my stomach would do. She had me really worried, but I wasn't about to change my mind. I'd already invested 150 miles and more than 3 hours in this adventure.

Then she took us out to get a closer look at the Texan:

T6 Texan

Of all the planes on the tarmac, the Texans had the bulkiest body. Although I really wasn't nervous at this point, I was happy to have been assigned to the chubby plane. Probably because of my own size and shape, I've always been drawn to the stockier sorts. Plus, it just felt safer and, I reasoned, would be likely to roll and flip more slowly than those skinny little planes parked nearby.

Most of the folks in our group kept a reasonable distance from the planes, as the FAA was still on site inspecting them. Of course "most" does not include Mike, Robbie and Charlie who cozied up right next to the plane, checking out everything. I was only slightly mortified when one of the Jet Center employees rushed over to the air show volunteer and whispered something, after which the volunteer loudly announced that no one should touch the planes. In the boys' defense, it wasn't like they were climbing on the wing or spinning the propeller. But I kind of wanted to hide anyway.

After our meet and greet with the planes, it was back to the exterior of the Jet Center to wait for FAA clearance. The weather was perfect -- upper 70s, lower 80s, beautiful blue and not humid skies.

My new friend Cherie, aka the Queen of Free, had not yet arrived and I began to wonder if maybe she'd changed her mind. But soon enough she was there with her daughter, a friend, and most importantly to me, gum and non-drowsy Dramamine. Well, it was Wal-amine. She is a frugal blogger after all.

There was a quite a bit of waiting to be done. And then, suddenly, they were calling my name and it was showtime! I closely watched the people coming off the Texans before us, looking for any sign of green faces, rubbery legs or other indications that might suggest to me I should turn and run. But they -- a radio station intern, a photographer for the Chicago Tribune, and reporter for a northern Indiana newspaper -- seemed no worse for the wear. Well, they weren't fist pumping and clamoring for another ride, but they weren't kissing the ground either.

Mike went out with me to snap a few pictures. I realized afterward that I didn't hug and kiss the kids goodbye. I just slipped away while they were watching a huge transport plane that looked like a manatee with wings maneuver along with runway.

Lined up

Amazingly, I still wasn't nervous. I was just excited about the opportunity. We would be flying with the Aeroshell team. I met Mark, my pilot, and after a quick introduction, he told me to go ahead and get in the plane.

I had to climb up onto the left wing, put my right foot on a hold in the side of the plane and climb in. Had I been any shorter than my 5-feet, 2-inches, I might have had to get a boost from behind.

Mike walked around to the other side of the plane to shoot video of Mark giving me the pre-flight instructions:



About the time Mark said "if you had to get out, you gotta do it yourself," I thought maybe I should get out of the plane NOW. But I didn't say anything other than "Ok. ok." and "I don't know what I've said yes to."

As I double checked the location of the sick bag, Mark climbed into his seat in front of me and Mike walked back to the Jet Center. I didn't kiss him goodbye either, which would have been hard to do from my ultra-buckled-attached-to-a-parachute spot in the back of the Texan. So it's a good thing I didn't die because I didn't kiss anyone before we took off. It's also a good thing I didn't die because I had to sign a waiver abdicating my right to sue should anything happen.

This was my view from the back seat:

View from the passenger seat

I started talking a lot to Mark because I was nervous. I asked him if he was a praying man (yes) and assured him that I'd already said more than a few Hail Marys. I found out he's from Birmingham, Alabama, that he's been flying aerial acrobatic planes for 25 years, and that he doesn't like roller coasters. Really?! There's some hope for me!

Just about the time Mark powered up the engine, I thought maybe I should tell him I changed my mind. I envisioned myself tossing off the parachute, hopping from the plane and running like a mad woman for the Jet Center, where I would grab my kids, hop in the van, head home and tell everyone that the flight had been canceled on account of bad weather.

But because I wanted to save face more than I wanted escape certain nausea, I stayed put. Besides, I had a blog to write! Now you stay put for the dramatic conclusion to my aerial adventure.

Cleaning (virtual) house

I should be cleaning real house, but virtual cleaning is easier and doesn't make me sweat. One of my Facebook friends mentioned that she pared down her list of Facebook friends. It's never occurred to me to do that.

I currently have 538 Facebook friends. Some of them are people I see regularly -- people from church or work or the kids' school. Others are friends from college and high school. A few are Mike's friends from high school who happen to like me too.

In the couple of years I've been on Facebook, I don't think I've ever unfriended anyone. Mostly because I don't want anyone's feelings to get hurt, though the reality is that they would probably never even notice. The chances are pretty good that I have been unfriended and have remained clueless about it. I have "hidden" a few people so, while they remain my friend, I don't see their updates.

Sitting here, I can think of a couple of people I might consider weeding from my Facebook friends list. Of course, I probably can't remember most of who those 538 people are. Is it time to clean my Facebook house?

It feels kind of like when the volume of catalogs delivered by the mail lady or the number of e-mail advertisements in my in-box gets too overwhelming, I go and unsubscribe from a bunch of stuff.

Is there a Facebook friend threshhold? If I pared down my list of friends, would I simultaneously be cutting back on my Facebook time, too?

If you Facebook, have you ever gone in and cleaned up your list? Was there any fall out? Did you feel better after you did it?

(And if you do Facebook, have you "liked" the 4th Frog fan page yet?! Sorry, blatant self-promotion there.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pre-flight prep

My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning. I climbed over the two boys sleeping between the clock and me to hit the snooze.

5:39am. I crawled over the still-sleeping kids, hit the snooze again.

5:48am. I got out of the bed and walked around to turn off the alarm and enied myself any thoughts of the flight that the morning would hold. I hopped in the shower and shaved my legs. I didn’t want any hair standing on end before I even got to the Gary Jet Center. Once out of the shower, I wondered, “Hmmm…what does one wear when going 3Gs?”

By this point, Robbie had woken up. From the bathroom, he called to me. “Mom, so how do you feel about going in an airplane that will be upside down?”

“Oh, I’m excited,” I said. And I was. But I was also trying not to think about it at all.

“You might get sick,” Robbie offered.

“I hope not.”

“Mom, I will get you a trash can if you do throw up.” It’s this kind of sweetness that has saved his life on more than one occasion.

Just as I was putting on a pair of khaki shorts and my favorite white shirt, Annie yelled from her bedroom, “Don’t wear white!”

“Why not?”

“Because if you throw up, it will ruin the shirt!”

“Great,” I thought as I searched for a more puke-proof shirt, digging through the pile of clean clothes on my bedroom floor that haven’t quite made it into the drawer yet.

Suitably dressed in a cranberry-colored t-shirt and black shorts, I went downstairs to eat breakfast.

“Mom, just think,” said Charlie while he was waiting on his peanut butter toast, “you’re going to be up in a little airplane and they are going to flip you over. You are SO going to get sick!”

That’s when I had to lay down the first rule of the morning. Nobody was allowed to say anything about anything that might go wrong on my flight. I didn’t want to hear any more about throwing up or rolling over or peeing my pants. Happily, everyone obliged my request.

The drive to Gary went pretty quickly. We stopped for a little caffeine, though I was so conscious of keeping my stomach relatively empty that I only drank about ¼ of my morning-ritual Diet Coke. Before I knew it, we were driving through Gary. Past the urban baseball stadium where the Gary Rail Cats play. Past the courthouse. And directly to the Gary Jet Center where 12 stunt planes sat innocently parked on the tarmac, just down from a half-dozen U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jets.

Since we’d driven two and a half hours to get there, I guessed there was no backing out of this flight now. Stay tuned…

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fragging with the lights on

Mommy's Idea

Hey folks! This week's Friday Fragments is being put together from my bed at 11:10pm, where I am laying (lying? I can never keep it straight) with the lights on. Not because I want them on, but because I am sharing the bed with two boys who are both afraid. Charlie heard an Amber Alert* on the radio and that "freaked me out a lot, Mom." Robbie watched a cartoon of Batman vs. Dracula and is now convinced that we can't turn the lights off or a vampire will come get us. I would go sleep in one of their rooms, but every time I get off the bed, one of them wakes up and asks in a near panic where I am going. (*The kid has been found safe and sound.)

First off, I can't thank Mrs. 4444s enough for giving me the "Favorite Friday Fragmenter" for last week. Being a people-pleasing first-born, getting this little button was like winning (a small) lottery:

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In less than 12 hours, my feet should be back on the ground following my flight in a T6 Texan WW II airplane. I hope my stomach follows my feet. I'm really not nervous...yet. I plan to eat something very light 3-4 hours before the flight; keep a picture of my family in one pocket and my rosary beads in another; and warn the pilot that under extreme speed and the influence of aerial acrobatics, I cannot be held responsible for what escapes my mouth -- in the form of colorful language or other, er, stuff.

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In "Mother-of-the-Year" award news, Charlie is supposed to be having a birthday party on Sunday. Guess who forgot to send invitations? I'll be lighting up the e-mails tonight. Please don't tell Miss Manners (or Charlie).

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I've mentioned before that I love Sara's whimsical style. Today on her blog, she posted a picture of a yummy looking watermelon cake. I was totally with her -- until she gave the recipe and revealed that the frosting is made with Cool Whip. I don't do whipped cream icing. Buttercream or bust, baby! Guess it's a good thing she didn't invite me to have any. I would hate to be rude and decline.

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Robbie asked me today how many more days until school starts. (He's so excited to be in the 1st grade.) I counted -- 43 days. I don't know whether to cheer or cry.

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I took the kids to the pool this week. I don't know if it's because it was 4th of July week and everyone is on vacation or if it was just too hot for sane people to be outside, but there was hardly anyone there. We had so much fun -- I even went on the water slides! (Guess I'm getting daring as I push 40.) Imagine my surprise when Nancy at Away We Go captured exactly how I felt about the time at the pool with my kids.

Have a great weekend! Check back here for all the details of my Amelia Earhart impersonation. Or click on over to my Facebook page for an up-to-the-minute account of the adventure. My friends made me promise not to Facebook from the plane. I said ok...mostly because I'm not sure I can get internet access from up there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What would you do for $5

The other day I was looking for information on buying a netbook, so I went to my favorite tech-head, Mr. Noobie. After I found the netbook stuff I was after, I clicked a few links on the Noobie website and found myself at Fiverr.com.

Basically, Fiverr.com is a service exchange website. People post what they'll do for $5. Other people come along and buy the service. The Fiverr people keep $1 and $4 goes to the seller.

So what will people do for $5?
  • Give insider travel advice for San Francisco (offered by a local)
  • Fire someone over the phone
  • Fix your Wordpress blog issue
  • Photoshop a picture
  • Answer one psychic question
  • Secret shop customer service employees (via phone)
  • Design a t-shirt
  • Give an honest review of your music
Some of the offers are things that I would definitely pass on. Like "I will build a business plan for you for $5." With a $5 business plan in hand, I would hope you have a Plan B. Same goes for the design of a $5 corporate logo. There are plenty of offers for linking to your blog or getting you Twitter followers, but those are things I wouldn't do. I think those are things you should earn.

For those desperate enough, there are offers such as "I will pray for you every night for one month for $5" and "I will marry you and love you for $5." (Ladies, he's 29 and living in Israel, if you're interested.)

There were a few things that I might be tempted to spend $5 on -- if I money to burn, which I don't. They include:
  • I will sing "Happy Birthday" to anyone of your choice and put the video on YouTube. (What better gift for the person who has everything?)
  • I will interpret your dream.
  • I will change my Facebook status to say anything.
Then I got to thinking about what I could offer. Here's what I came up with:
  • I will write your family Christmas letter for $5.
  • I will give you a list of 5 gift ideas for a hard-to-shop-for person for $5.
  • I will make you a funky yarn scarf (no knitting or crocheting involved) for $5.
  • I will name your dog or cat for $5 (I might charge $10 or $15 to name a kid).
  • I will create a custom word cloud for $5.
  • I make three magnetic bookmarks for $5.
It was really hard to come up with what I would do for $5-- and I don't have any intention of posting any of the services on the site.

How about you? What would you do for $5?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Up in flames, but not down on their luck

A little over two weeks ago, on June 22, we had the mother of all electrical storms here. It was the thunder that woke me up at about 3am. But it was the lightning that kept me awake -- I felt like I had to stay on alert in case lightning struck the house. (So, I tend to lean toward the dramatic and the anxious.)

Because I was awake, I was on Facebook. I wasn't alone; there were several storm watchers on Facebook with me. Still, I was shocked when I got an update from the Facebook page of my hair salon at 4am that said:

It's with a heavy heart I have to tell you lightening struck, spreading through out the entire building, taking Allure with it. Don't worry we have a plan. We have a salon to work out of until Allure is back on it's feet. I do need you to help with reloading your appointments, please email me your appointments. We will be closed Tues 6/22 to work on details. We will contact you with all the details ASAP Melissa :)

What?! I flipped to the 4:30am newscast (who watches the news at 4:30am?) and sure enough, my hair salon had gone up in flames. But it wasn't just the salon that was gone. Lightning struck the El Rodeo restaurant that's saved me from cooking dinner on numerous occasions and ignited a fire that wiped out the entire strip. (For some unbelievable pictures of the blaze, click here.)

Besides our Mexican restaurant and my hair salon, also gone were the dry cleaner where Mike takes his clothes, the nail salon that I go to as an occasional treat, the UPS store that has my Georgia niece and nephew's address stored in their computer, our Hallmark store, our Subway and a few other stores.

I was still wrapping my brain around my disbelief when I received an e-mail from the salon owner at 5:10 am -- less than 4 hours after the crazy fire had started:

Early Tuesday morning lightening struck El Rodeo and fire spread through the entire plaza, taking Allure with it. Don't worry we have a recovery plan. We have a salon we are going to work at until we are back on our feet. We do need your help with reloading your appointments. Please email me a list of all your appointments so we can get back on track. We will not be working today Tues June 22, to get things in order. If you have an appointment today please email me so I can reschedule you for this week. YES THIS WEEK! Although this is a horrible event we will NOT let this get the best of us. We will update you with our temporary location as soon as we work all the details out this today. Please pass this on to anyone you know that visits Allure, in case we don't have their email.

The kids and I drove to the scene later that morning. Yellow police tape marked off the area and firefighters were still on their ladders, putting out hot spots. The crowd gathered was a mix of rubberneckers (including me) and owners/employees of the businesses that had been busy just the day before.


But true to Melissa's pledge, Allure Salon carried on. By Thursday of that week -- just two days after the fire -- they were serving clients in borrowed space at another salon. And today, an incredible two weeks later, Allure opened its temporary digs on Main Street in Zionsville.

I just so happened to have an appointment scheduled for today and was curious to see what the new shop would look like.

As I imagined, the amazingly relaxing, dark-as-night shampoo room from the old shop had not been replicated in the new place (yet -- Melissa said she's got some ideas about that). But other than product shelves that were still being filled and paper signs announcing the presence of the shop on the front window, the rest of the salon did not give any indication that it had been thrown together in just two weeks. Ok, no traditional salon chairs and I missed the blow dryers suspended from the ceiling. Still...

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More remarkable than the fact that they were re-opened two weeks after the salon burned down was how upbeat and positive the entire staff was. Shana, who cut my hair in the wake of my stylist leaving suddenly last week, said everyone pitched in and worked long hours to clean, paint and outfit the new space.

There was a bit of an air of urgency as Melissa was trying to track down a truck carrying furniture and other equipment. There was a little fumbling with paper appointment books -- the computers will be back up by next week. But there was still the amazing head massage. The offer of a beverage when I arrived. It was still a treat for me to let the gals at Allure whisk me away from my day for an hour or so.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Adventures of a G-list celebrity

Today was the annual Carmelfest 4th of July parade, or "prade" if you ask Charlie:

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As one last vestige of the "celebrity" status bestowed on me by my participation in the Go Red Better U Challenge, I was invited to ride the St. Vincent Heart Center float in the parade. I really hadn't planned to do it because I weigh about 10 pounds more than my self-inflicted goal I'd set when the invite was first issued last March. But when Pam Irick from the Heart Center tracked me down via Facebook yesterday, I figured what the heck and told her I'd be there.

Before the parade started, all of the people representing St. Vincent in the parade were given red t-shirts. Co-challenger Kimila Brown and I went into Hobby Lobby to change clothes. That's where we ran into St. Vincent social worker Teresa who had just finished doctoring her over-sized shirt. She happily took a pair of scissors to our shirts as well, making them a little better fitting and a lot more airy.

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Soon, it was time to load up and roll out.

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This was the view from the beginning of the route:

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As we pulled past my family, Annie and Charlie were waving madly. Mike was snapping pictures. Robbie, upon seeing me standing on the first float in the parade, shouted "Hey Mom, look up there! See that airplane?!" Perhaps G-list celebrity is thinking a bit too highly of myself.

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To be honest, I felt pretty silly up on that float waving at people I mostly didn't know. I was glad for the St. Vincent volunteers walking alongside us who were handing out tchotchkes because all the kids were clapping and cheering for the free stuff, but at least I could pretend they were cheering for us float-riders. Of course, even the foldable frisbees they were flinging couldn't compete with the real object of the kiddies' desires: candy!

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After about 10 or 15 minutes into the route, we picked up a straggler (no need to alert the authorities, her parents were walking with the St. V crew):

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There were several bigger kids who were real troopers who walked (or rolled) the entire 1.6 mile route:

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Those people with the tents (check out the rollerblade picture again) really know how to watch a parade. In addition to self-made shade, they had quite a spread. If I'd been a little gutsier, I might have hollered for them to give me something to drink.

The parade was a lot of fun. We haven't been for several years, but there bands and fire engines, fancy cars carrying politicians and political hopefuls, veterans groups and of course, clowns.

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We invited one dripping-with-sweat clown to hop aboard the pick-up pulling our float because, quite honestly, I was afraid we were gonna have to put that "best heart care in Indiana" slogan to the test if we didn't give him a lift. I wish we'd had him with us from the beginning. He really got the crowd going!

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Before I knew it, we were at the end of the parade route. That's when I realized I wasn't sure how I was going to get back to my car. I was resigned to walking when a very nice group of church goers offered us a ride on their deluxe, multi-row golf cart.

For the first few minutes, I found myself waving to cars and people on the sidewalk, obviously still in "parade mode." But when we pulled out onto Rangeline Road, alongside real cars going real fast (at least compared to the putt-putt speed of our transport), I stopped waving and held on for dear life. Have you ever ridden a golf cart down a main thoroughfare? I think flying in a WWII stunt plane would be safer!

And that was pretty much the end of my "celebrity" adventure. I'm sure there were plenty of people scratching their heads, wondering who that not-so-fit lady was on the Heart Center float. And there were a lot of kids wishing we had candy for them. But at the very least, I got a chance to scope out where I want to sit to watch the parade next year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Did you have a Buzz or a Woody?

I saw Toy Story 3 this morning. I went by myself while rest of my family (who'd already seen TS3) went to see The Last Airbender, which I had no interest in seeing. I was warned in advance to bring tissues. I didn't. And I didn't need them. It's not that I didn't find the ending touching. I did, just not tearfully so. But the movie did make me think about the toys from my childhood.

Unless I just have a really bad memory, I can't think of any toys that I was really attached to. I had a very soft, stuffed koala bear that I remember because my dog chewed off one of the legs. I don't remember the bear before its leg was chewed off. I don't recall the day or the circumstances surrounding the canine attack. I just remember the rough edges of what was left behind, the peachy-orange of stuffing poking out.

We had blocks that were stored in a white cotton sack with a drawstring. I really liked the blocks, but they weren't the kind of toy that you would take to bed with you.

I did have a Barbie phase that I do remember fondly. We lived in Richmond, Indiana. My friend Paige lived across the street and we played Barbies at her house quite often. It seems that Paige's parents were always decorating something in the house, so we would take scraps of carpet and wallpaper and make our own Barbie houses out of cardboard boxes. It seems that we played Barbies in her basement for a long time, every day, listening to the "Free to Be You and Me" album on the record player.

But for as much as I remember enjoying the Barbies, I don't think I ever tucked them in with me at night, took them to church or propped them up at the dinner table next to me. And when we moved from Indiana to Ohio when I was nine, my Barbies mysteriously disappeared. I never saw them again and, oddly, I wasn't upset.

My kids are the same way. We've never had to drive back to some hotel or even a friend's house to retrieve a well-loved doll or stuff animal left behind. Annie had a Bitty Baby, but she wasn't particularly attached. When Charlie was 2, he asked Santa for a Nutcracker and a doll baby. Santa delivered a Beanie Baby Kid dressed in a soccer uniform (a compromise between Mr. and Mrs. Claus). He was happy to have him on Christmas morning, but forgot about him soon after. Robbie has come the closest to having an Andy-like relationship with a toy. When he was a toddler and preschooler, he had Eddie, a Fisher Price little people doll, that he would sleep with and take for nap time at Mother's Day Out. But once Robbie discovered dinosaurs, Eddie lost his appeal. Eddie is still around, as is Bitty Baby and "Charlie," but mostly because they remind me of when my kids were little. I think I am more connected to my children's toys than I ever was to my own or they were attached to them.

I know some kids do have ties to their toys. Annie's friend Olivia had a pink bear named, of all things, Pinka, that went everywhere with her. But for some reason, that's just never been true for me or my children. Maybe that's why I didn't get teary at the end of Toy Story 3. Or maybe I just haven't met the right toy yet.

Did you have a Buzz or Woody or some kind of toy that you were attached to? Do you still have it?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Facing the fat

Today was the day that I decided to face the fat. I hadn't been to Weight Watchers since May 19. Of course I kept paying for the membership, thinking that I was going to go "this week," "next Tuesday," "after work." I knew that my weight was up. That was easy to tell by the way my clothes were fitting and by the few times I was brave enough to step, ever so briefly, on my bathroom scale.

But I need the accountability of weighing in to someone else. Standing on my own bathroom scale, I can rationalize that my weight must be affected by the time of day, the amount of clothes I'm wearing, the imprecise nature of the Target-bought scale. The official Weight Watchers scale, though, I never argue with. It is what it is and I take it seriously. So I knew to get myself back on track, I had to go submit to the scale.

If you've ever been on a weight loss program where you have to go in and weigh in front of someone else, you know that it's not a simple as getting in the car and getting on the scale. First there is the pre-grooming.

I took a shower and made sure to shave my legs, you know, because all that hairy stubble might weigh a quarter of an ounce or so. When I got out of the shower, I took extra time to dry my hair, lest any water left in my tresses should add weight to the scale. Wearing glasses and jewelry, is of course, totally out of the question. Do you know how heavy a pair of earrings can be? (I do make an exception for my wedding ring. But if I had a 3 carat rock, it would totally be left behind before the weigh-in.)

Once all the grooming is done, then it's time to get dressed. Generally, my rule of thumb is "as little and as light" as possible. But today, I had to think about that. If I wore something a bit heavier, maybe jean shorts, then I could more likely post an impressive loss next week by wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt. That could be pretty motivating. However, if I did that, I would rationalize whatever gain I might show today, blaming it all on the clothes. So I opted for a pair of knit shorts and a cotton t-shirt.

No need for breakfast because every person whose ever been on a diet...excuse me, a "lifestyle change," knows one of the cardinal rules of weigh-ins is that you don't eat or drink anything before you step on the scale. One last trip to the bathroom (weigh-ins call for the emptiest bladder possible), and I was out the door.

On the drive over to the meeting, I mulled over all of the excuses I might offer for what I anticipated to be a 9 or 10-pound gain. We were on vacation (so what if it was just 24 hours in Southern Indiana). The kids are home and there's more food in the house. My routine is broken so there is no time to get to the gym (never mind the fact that Denzel is collecting cobwebs in my basement).

The nice lady behind the desk didn't ask for any excuses and I saved her from having to tell me I gained by forewarning her that I was anticipating a sharp increase. She smiled and handed me my weigh-in booklet. I didn't let myself look at it until I was sitting in the classroom, waiting for the meeting to start.

Up 6.6 pounds. Now all you skinny-never-had-a-weight-problem people out there are probably gasping. But those of you who've been where I am likely understand when I say I was actually pleased that I only gained 6.6 pounds. Not that I want to keep up the trend of gaining 1.1 pounds a week (the exact opposite would be great), but I was expecting worse.

I faced the fat and survived. I can move ahead with renewed determination...right after I get something to eat. I didn't eat breakfast and I'm starving.