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Thursday, October 28, 2010

A dash of this, a pinch of that

It's Friday (well, in 45 minutes it will be) and I've got all these little dashes and pinches of info floating around my head, which perfectly lend themselves to Mrs. 4444s Friday Fragments.

Mommy's Idea

Carrying on with the cooking theme, you can win an e-book about once a month holiday cooking at 4tunate, a blog by a mom with 4 of the most adorable little boy quadruplets ever. I seriously should do once a month cooking because I pretty much do my big shopping just once each month. Maybe I'll add it to my list of non-resolutions for 2011.

Thank you so much to all of you who left thoughtful responses to my "Impatient Follower" post. It really meant a lot to me that you would take so much time to  respond with such understanding and compassion.

Can I just say that I am SO OVER Halloween? First, there was Annie's haunted acres debacle. You were all so kind in your responses, but I got the idea that many of you consider me a mean ol' mom for suggesting that she go back in there and harrumphing around that her deathly fear of getting dismantled by a chainsaw wielding clown was ruining my evening plans. Then Robbie caught a glimpse of a show on TV about zombies, so he's been up twice tonight crying. Hope he gets used to it b/c I'm going to be a zombie if I don't get some sleep. Finally, Charlie said he keeps trying to go to sleep, but instead keeps seeing scary people when he closes his eyes. Whatever happened to those cute, sweet Halloweens where little boys dressed up as firemen or non-bloodied football players and little girls dropped sparkly glitter from their tutus as they bounced up the steps of the porch in search of candy?

We took a little trip up the road for the kids' Fall Break and left the dog with some friends. I told them that if she gets out, just open the car door and ask if she wants to go for a ride. She got out. They opened the car door. Worked like a charm. Crazy, bad dog. 

I saw the best billboard ever today. It's an advertisement for a hospital's maternity services, but it announces the names, birthdates and birth weights of every baby born at the hospital. Isn't that genius?! Check it out here:
babybillboard

Note: this is just a file pic. I couldn't get a good shot from my car.

Ok. Falling asleep at the keyboard here. Guess that's as good a reason as any to sign off. Have a terrific weekend!

Do you know where your Christmas spreadsheet is?

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If you are a fan of the 4th Frog Facebook page, you know that I was recently fretting about being late to start my Christmas shopping. It's happened before, but I can't recall ever starting this late in the season. Once I get started though, it doesn't take long for the whole process to whip itself up into a near obsession. It's not the rush of spending that makes me enjoy the whole Christmas shopping frenzy. It's the thrill of the chase and the fun of thinking of gifts that I know will make another person smile -- or even better, squeal in delight.

A few days ago, I was successful in getting my shopping spreadsheet set up. I list each person by name, then assign categories of Feast of St. Nicholas, Santa, Mom& Dad, Stocking -- making a column for budgeted amount and actual amount spent. Then I start populating the list with ideas. Somethings are easy. For instance, Santa always puts band-aids in the stockings. Others are things that I know the kids want or need. We keep the gifts to four per kid -- 3 from Santa and 1 from Mom & Dad. (Unless Mike goes all rogue on me and starts buying things without prior approval!)

Anyway, in addition to the kids & Mike, I list all the other people we will give to for the season -- nieces and nephews, siblings drawn in the "gift a-change" (as my sister likes to call it), Giving Tree families, and teachers.

It can get pretty pricey. This year, I'm really trying to be disciplined and frugal in our holiday spending. I purchased a $50 gift for FREE from Amazon.com yesterday, using credit I'd earned through Swag Bucks -- and I still have enough credit to buy a couple more gifts. I'm going to do some weekend seasonal work for a friend who owns a children's book & toy store. I plan to use my pay to fund other Christmas purchases and will take advantage of the discount on gifts for my nieces and nephews.

Where I'm a little stuck is on teacher gifts. In years past, I've done brownies in a jar, movie ticket with a box of movie theater candy and hand-stamped notecards. I could do any of those again -- with the exception of the notecards because I just don't have the time or the desire to make them right now.

I plan to give to six teachers. I would love to hear your creative and economical ideas for teacher gifts -- or for other giftees.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Impatient follower

I consider myself a fairly faithful person. I attend Mass regularly. I pray before meals (well, ok, dinner). I am aware of God at work in my life and try to remember to say thank you. But, I am an impatient follower. I find myself running to God with the urgent request of the day (or the week or the month), then tapping my foot waiting for an answer. If only God used instant messenger.

But often, there is that period of quiet and stillness where my plea is hanging out there and no lightning bolts of clarity are coming in response. For as much as I beg my kids for peace and quiet, I'm uncomfortable with it when it comes from my God. Tell me what to do. Give me a sign that I'm on the right path. Hello God, it's me, Amy. Are you there?

In the absence of an immediate response from Him, I fill that silence with a twisting, emotional debate between my heart and my head. Trying to force an answer, trying to control the outcome of whatever the situation might be. It's exhausting, really.

And foolish, because if I would rest in the quiet, if I would let go of my need to orchestrate every last detail, if I would trust that God will lead where I should follow, I have a sneaking suspicion that I would hear the answer I'm so impatiently waiting for. That instead of being tired and worn out, I would be fulfilled by the assurance that someone greater is at the controls.

Thanks for letting me:

Monday, October 25, 2010

That's what she said

Words, thoughts, by other women that I think should be passed on...

Momza on trials: 
The truth is,
trials come in all sizes.
But here's the predictable thing about trials:
More often than not,
They Pass.

We're going to fall/stumble
into many more Ponds
than Oceans and Lakes.
And it's helpful to know that
on the edge of every ocean shore
or lake shore,
there's a sign posted:
NEVER SWIM ALONE.

Read the entire post here.

Nancy C. (Away We Go) on her son's emergence as a reader:

I know what it all means. I know that his world is about to become much grander. Soon, very soon, he will walk into the pages of a book. If he is lucky, and it is the right book, he will walk out changed.

It's a miracle.

Read about the miracle here.

Finally, poet Katie Makkai on "pretty:"
Note -- She does use a variation of the "F" word once. But don't let that scare you off. This is powerful.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nice moms finish frustrated

Here was my agenda for last night:
  1. Laundry
  2. Blog
  3. Make my Christmas gift-giving spreadsheet
  4. Clean my bedroom.
I had from about 5pm until whenever free and clear to get all of these things at least started, if not finished. But Annie wanted to go to a haunted house with a group of her friends. It is on the other side of town and she and a few friends needed a ride.

I figured laundry could wait. This is her 8th grade year. She's got a great group of friends. It was something a little different than a movie. So I said that I would drive several of them down there. I picked the first friends up at 5:30pm. By the time we met up with another driver and group of kids, then picked up the final kid who was going, and arrived at the Hanna Haunted Acres, I'd been in the car for almost 2 hours.

This place is not like any haunted house I've been to. There is a haunted hayride, a scary corn maze and four other structures of spooky fun. There is a also a "no touching" policy, meaning that the scarers cannot touch the scarees. And it is not cheap. $27 to go through all the attractions. I gave Annie $30, with the agreement that she would work it off around the house.

The other mother and I gathered the kids before turning them loose, giving them the "stay together and don't do anything you would be embarrassed for your grandmother or your priest to find out about" speech. Then we sent them off to buy their tickets for two hours of fright.

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The few parents who were with us gathered in the field that stood in the center of all the scary attractions. We walked around a little, checking things out and listening to people getting their scream on. (I'd brought my laptop in the car, hoping to get a little blogging finished, but the nearest free WIFI was over 6 miles away.) After about 45 minutes, my cell phone rang. It was Annie, panicked and frantic. She got chased by some guy with a chainsaw and then a clown (which she hates) popped out of the corn maze and she WAS NOT GOING BACK IN.

What?! I gave up my whole night -- and $30 -- and you're not going back in? Oh, no way. Soon, two of her friends appeared and told me that Annie didn't want to come back in and they would sit in the car with her. One girl had lost her ticket in the corn maze and couldn't go into any of the other attractions without it. The other one was just being nice enough to stay with her friends. I told them to wait a minute and I'd go talk to Annie.

I found her standing at the entrance alone. Um, hello? Did you forget about staying together?! She had wound herself into quite a tizzy. They had gotten chased by the chainsaw guy in the field on the way in -- I saw him chasing other people. He was just an ordinary guy with a de-chained chainsaw. She screamed and ran. Then when she thought she was safe, he chased her again and "Mom, I thought he was going to cut my head off!"

"Annie, they can't touch you. It's all for show. Touching is against the rules."

"But Mom, robbing a bank is against the rules and people still do it!"

Then she told me that her friends got her to go into the corn maze, but about 1/4 of the way in, a scary clown jumped out in front of them, again with a chainsaw, and she ran back out of the maze, across the field and back to the entrance and she WAS NOT GOING BACK IN!

I tried the sympathetic approach."I know you were scared, but it's all pretend. Let's go in and find your friends so you can have fun with them."

She wasn't having any of it. So I tried the peer pressure approach, "Annie, I said you could come to this because I thought it would be a great way for you to spend some time with your friends and standing out here at the entrance is definitely not spending time with your friends."

No luck. Then I tried the guilt trip approach. "Annie, I had plenty of things planned to do tonight. But I put that all aside to drive you and your friends down here. I gave you $30. And you have spent not even 5 minutes trying it out? Are you kidding me?! And I can't even just cut my losses and take you home because I'm responsible for getting three other kids home -- kids who are in there having a good time."

In the end, we gave Annie's ticket to her friend Jordan, who had lost her ticket, and Annie and I sat in the car. I called Mike to share my frustration. He had some good insight and was more sympathetic to Annie than I had been. (Easy for him to do, he wasn't the one who spent time driving all over hell's half acre with a crop of teenagers.)

By the time we got back home, I'd spent 6 hours and $41 on this little excursion (the extra $$ was from the stop at Steak-n-Shake on the way home for some emotional eating). I know I can't be mad at Annie for the way she felt -- I'm a big chicken and would never do that stuff. Now we know she is too, so we can avoid this scenario in the future. Lesson learned.

The whole night wasn't a loss. I had fun talking with Annie's friends and maybe scored a few points as a cool mom. Still, in the end, this cool mom finished frustrated.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who's angry now?

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There's a 99-cent game on the iPhone called "Angry Birds." A bunch of green pigs tried to steal the birds' eggs and the birds are out for revenge. So they slingshot themselves (well, you slingshot them) into structures where the pigs are hiding in an attempt to get rid of the pigs once and for all. 

My boys love this game. Robbie especially is obsessed with Angry Birds. For the past month, he has been telling everyone that he's going to be an angry bird for Halloween. Specifically, he wanted to be the red angry bird. Unfortunately, despite the game's popularity -- it was the #1 downloaded app for a long time -- there is no angry bird costume in any store. 

So Mike and I thought about it and decided that we could use a red bean bag chair to create the round red body of Robbie's new favorite character. Too bad we recently got rid of one. So we bought a new giant red bean bag and after school today I went to work creating Robbie's angry bird costume. 

First, Annie helped me empty all the styrofoam pellets out of the bean bag and into a trash bag. That's how I learned that one bean bag chair can hold 39 gallons of pellets. Unfortunately, not all of those 39 gallons ended up in the garbage bag. If I had to guess, I'd say about 2-1/2 gallons spilled out onto my kitchen floor -- and quickly made their way to the dining room, the living room and who knows where else?

Once the bean bag was emptied, I cut a circle out of the base of the bag for Robbie's head. Then we slid the open zippered end of the bag over his body and popped his head through the hole I'd cut. I guestimated where to cut armholes and soon enough, he was wearing the bean bag. But the bean bag hung from Robbie's shoulders like a sack. It was time to plump it up, giving it the signature rotund look of the red angry bird.

I decided to stuff the costume with bedsheets. Six bedsheets later, Robbie looked a little like the angry bird he wanted and a whole lot like a pear-shaped apple. He wasn't at all convinced with the costume, but I told him to wait until we got his beak made. I made the beak from a yellow folder, cutting it to size and rolling it kind of like a party hat.

By the time I got the yarn taped to the beak to tie around his head, Robbie was starting to complain that the costume was too heavy, that he couldn't run in it, and that it was "too fat."

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In fact, what he actually said was "Great...now I look like a fat, sad, angry bird!" 

A few minutes later, he declared that he didn't want to be an angry bird for Halloween anymore. What?! After hearing for weeks that he wanted to be an angry bird? After I tried to talk him into something a little easier to come up with ? After we spent $20 on the bean bag chair, then proceeded to cut it up so it can not  be re-used for its original purpose? 

"I think I'll just be Spiderman." 

If I'd had a mirror in front of me at that moment, I'm pretty sure I'm the one who would have looked like an angry bird.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I said NO.

Today, I did something rather out of the ordinary for me. I said NO Not to my kids, but to someone who asked me to do something. The word no is not a routine part of my vocabulary, unless it comes in a sentence such as, "No, it's all right. I'll do it."

NO is not an easy word for a people-pleasing first-born like me. I want people to like me. I want to help. NO does not lend itself to either of those things. I can remember one of the first times in my adult life that I had to force myself to say no.

Charlie was just over 3 months old. I was in the very ugly grip of severe postpartum depression. I had invited a dozen or so moms and their kids over for a Halloween party, but I just was not up to all the cleaning and cooking and socializing the event would require. The woman who ran the PPD support group  somehow got it through my head that no was not a negative word, that saying no in that situation was actually a positive move for my own sanity.

So I called the moms I'd invited to let them know I was canceling the party. Do you know what? Not one of them threw a hissy fit. Not one of them stopped being friendly to me. And several of them, after hearing about what I was going through, shared their own postpartum struggles with me or offered to help by watching the kids for a few hours or bringing over a meal.

It was my first real experience with the power of NO. It was not, however, the beginning of a close relationship. I still have troubling declining requests. I was asked to serve on the PTO at school. I tried to say NO -- really, I did. But I ended up saying yes, just to something smaller.

Besides wanting people to like me and not wanting to disappoint them, there is another reason NO is such a hard word to form on my lips. In addition to being a people-pleasing first-born, I am an affirmation-craving Leo. I like to be needed and wanted -- it flatters me.

So when the American Heart Association people -- those who were so good to me last year during the Better U effort -- called and asked if I would be willing to chair the Better U committee this year, I was flattered. They asked ME! Sure, there was an instant red flag going off in my gut, but it was such an honor to be asked. However, I have learned a few things in the years since that not-to-be-thrown Halloween party, so I said "maybe."

I asked what was involved, what did the time commitment look like? They offered to come to my office to talk to me about it. "Sure," I said. "Let's talk."

Three of the AHA staff from Indianapolis came to my office. We talked about last year's experience, what was good, what I might do differently. Then they explained what they had in mind for this year, letting me know that much of the structure of the program would be up to me and my committee. As I sat  across from the three of them at my desk, my head -- that's the part that craves the limelight and loves to be in charge -- was saying "yes, yes, yes!" But to be truthful, my heart and my gut -- the parts that have been feeling so overwhelmed with the jobs of wife, mother and communications manager, were saying, "Whoa! Slow down a minute."

I told the heart folks that I would think it over, that I was leaning toward yes, but I needed to take some time to consider it. And I did. And as much as I wanted to say yes -- as much as I wanted to run the show and make this great thing happen -- I knew that saying yes to this project would be saying NO to my family, my work, even this blog.

So, in the end, I thanked the Heart Association folks for thinking of me and giving me the opportunity to consider taking this project on, but I felt the need to decline. I said NO. And once the word was out there, those parts of me that are guided by the truth of who I am -- my heart and my gut -- those parts said, "Yes...yes...thank you for saying NO."

Monday, October 18, 2010

How moms get away

When I first was invited to go to the French Lick Springs Resort for a free overnight as part of my role as a blogger for the Indiana Insider Blog, my first thought was "girls weekend!" Making that happen turned out to be more difficult that one would think.

I first invited the three women from our small church group. Our group has had a hard time getting together lately and I thought it would be a great, budget-friendly way to re-connect. But one mom's daughter was having a birthday party on the night we were to be gone. Another mom was chaperoning her kid's crew team at a regatta out of state. I was holding out hope for mom #3, until her daughter's marching band needed parents to accompany them to a competition in St. Louis.

So, plan B was Mike. That wasn't really any easier. We needed to make arrangements for the kids and the dog. Annie was scheduled to be at a sleepover where she could have stayed longer if necessary, so no worries there. But the boys -- Charlie had a football game on Sunday that we didn't want him to have to miss, so we called our favorite babysitter to see if she could do an overnighter. Nope. Blacksmithing convention with her dad.

Because my mom had just watched my sister's kids overnight, I figured she'd have a tough time declining my request for the same. And she didn't decline. But she needed us to bring the boys to Ohio. She and my dad were getting ready to set up shop to sell spiritwear at a high school spaghetti supper on Sunday. They had lots to do before the event. In all fairness, my parents would have taken the boys, but it wouldn't have really been fun for the boys; it would have been a pain for my folks; and it would have added 4 extra hours of drive time to our schedule.

On Friday afternoon, I invited 2 other moms -- ladies I've been friends with for probably 12 years. They both seemed interested. But when Lisa checked her schedule, she realized they were hosting card club and then her mom was coming into town on Sunday. Bummer. Maureen, however, managed to figure out how to get away, which is pretty amazing considering she has 6 kids.

We were set, then. I told Mo we'd leave around 1pm. Which we would have, if I didn't have to take Charlie to and from football practice in the morning, try to get assistance from the help desk for a computer virus on my work computer, shower, pack, deliver trash bag orders, go to the bank, and get Annie to her friend's house who would then get her to the sleepover.

So at almost 2:30pm, we were on the road. We settled in for the 2-ish hour drive and Maureen pulled out  this massive stack of coupons. She spent the drive sorting through expired coupons, clipping coupons she wanted and organizing them in some invisible system she's worked out. Because I was driving, I couldn't be quite as productive, except to call Mike and remind him that he was responsible for the Bible and the banner at the children's liturgy on Sunday.

Once we arrived at the hotel -- beautiful, gorgeous, ahhhh -- Maureen and I crashed and vegged in the room for an hour or so before it was time for dinner, then the tour of West Baden. (Watch the Indiana Insider blog for the write-up.)After the tour, we walked the 1+ mile back to our room and grabbed a quick drink at the bar.  Then it was back to the room, where Mo finished her coupons and we both spent the evening looking through catalogs, making our Christmas shopping lists.

The next morning, we were up and out the door by 9ish because we each had to be back for a kid's football game. We grabbed breakfast on the road -- homebaked yumminess at the Lost River Market & Deli in Paoli -- and headed home. Maureen worked on some kind of project (don't remember what it was) and I tried to get the fly out of the transportation ointment when Annie texted to say the plans I'd set in place for her getting to Sunday School weren't going to work out.

Less than 24 hours after we returned, I dropped Maureen at her son's football game and drive across town to where Charlie was playing. Afterwards, I had to hit the grocery store to get the week's snacks for Robbie's class. Plus the other Sunday night activities of homework, laundry, dinner, etc.

I had a great time away, but it's no wonder that it just didn't seem long enough. I think that's just where I am. However, let me assure you that when my nest is empty, I'm planning one of the best, longest, loungiest, girls getaways the world has ever known.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My kid did what?! and other random truths

Mommy's Idea

Exhale....it's Friday! So looking forward to the weekend. Happy to kick it off with five fragments on Friday. Thanks, as usual, to Mrs. 4444s for the frag fix.


1. I'm feeling a little guilty about the slower pace of this blog lately. So much going on, however, not a whole lot that I can talk about here. So when I come to blog, I'm feeling a little forced because what I really want to say, I can't and what I can say isn't what I really need to say. Capeesh? The good news is that no one is dying or even sick. But lots of stuff I'm juggling and would appreciate your prayers for.

2. You know you're in trouble when you get to a meeting and before you're hind end has even made full connection with the chair, someone says "Oh, I HAVE to tell you what Robbie did today!" Apparently, my youngest (though likely not brightest) child was having a debate with a classmate about getting sick. Robbie was so adamant that he never gets sick that he said, "Watch -- I'll lick the cafeteria floor and I won't be sick tomorrow!" And he did it! He leaned over and he LICKED the CAFETERIA FLOOR! Ewwww! Thanks to the teacher who was also at the meeting who pointed out that, on the upside, Robbie's class is the first lunch period of the day. That was small consolation. And for the record, he didn't get sick.

3. Speaking of licks, Mike and I are headed to French Lick, Indiana tomorrow. Yes, it's a real place. I'm going for my Visit Indiana gig. (I love that job!) I had hoped to make a girls' weekend, but my girlfriends apparently have more of a life than I do. So I settled for Mike. He suggested I blog about it and call it "When your first love is your second choice."

4. We're half-way through October and I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet. This is almost unheard of. What am I waiting for? Please don't tell me yours is not only finished, but also wrapped. I don't need that kind of pressure.

5. Annie's got 2/3 of her high school shadowing finished. She spent the day at School B on Wednesday and really liked it. She said it's higher on her list than School A, but still below School D. She shadows at School D next week. I'm torn between schools B & D. Can't wait until the decision is made.

Ok folks. I've had 3 glasses of Diet Pepsi (at Panera -- no other option) and my bladder is demanding that I wrap this up. Hope you have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Squeezed

I had my mammogram yesterday. I really didn't intend to get one this year; since I had a baseline screening mammogram last year, I figured I was good to go for a few years. But my doctor encouraged me to do it, especially because I did have to have a repeat scan last time around.

It was also not my intention to make my mammogram coincide with national breast cancer awareness month. It just kind of worked out that way. My doctor's appointment was in early September. It took me three weeks to get around to scheduling the mammogram, which by then they were scheduling two weeks out, which landed me smack dab in the middle of breast cancer awareness month.

My appointment was at 7:40am -- crazily, my 3rd stop of the day. So I got up bright and early to shower. After I did the shampoo and conditioner thing to my head, I started shaving my legs. It wasn't until I was finishing up the second leg that I remembered I was having a mammogram today, not a pap smear. I was concentrating on the wrong lady parts. I totally could have gotten away with hairy legs for this occasion.

The entrance to the hospital was decked out in so much rosy pink that I laughed as I thought of the scene in "Steel Magnolias" where Shelby, describing her wedding, said "My colors are 'blush' and 'bashful.'" And her mom interjects, "Her colors are pink and pink. It looks like the sanctuary's been sprayed with Pepto Bismol."

The lobby of the Women's Diagnostic Center was empty, except for the receptionist, who was wearing pink, of course. She was quite friendly and we chatted about the fact that it's almost the middle of October and I don't have enough of my Christmas shopping done yet, but that she is finished with the shopping for her 3-1/2 year old daughter, though has no idea what to get her husband. She took my information and printed out a wristband for me to wear. As she put it on my arm, I glanced down and lost my breath for just a moment.

There, just under my name, it said "Age: 40." That's the first time I think I've seen that number, in reference to my time on earth, printed right in front of me. It wasn't "Happy 40th Birthday!" It was just a cold, hard fact. Age: 40. I think that might have been the hardest part of the whole experience.

Shortly after I'd re-gained my breath, Andrea came to lead me back to the exam area. I think she might have been the one to do my mammogram the last time, but if she remembered me or my breasts, she didn't say so. She opened a little dressing room for me, set out a gown, instructed me to remove everything from the waist up and put the gown on so it opened in the front.

I did as I was told, neatly folding my clothes and leaving them on the bench, as if I would be awarded points for tidiness. I slipped into the gown and was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't one of those flimsy cotton jobbies that leave you freezing, which is not exactly the way you want it to be when some stranger is going to be deliberately handling your ta tas. No, this gown was soft -- like Karen Neuberger jammies soft -- and warm. It made me want to curl up and take a nap.

Napping, of course, was not on the agenda. Rather, the agenda was full of small talk and instructions to lean forward, chin up, hold here, don't breathe and let me know if that's too much pressure. The chin up instruction was possibly the most annoying because I really wanted to see if, like last year, my breast flattened in the machine looked like chicken in shrink wrap. In the quick glance that I got, I did notice that breasts look bigger all squished like a pancake then they do when they are free and reaching for the floor.

When I was finished, Andrea told me I should hear about the results by Thursday and gave me a complimentary nylon backpack in honor of breast cancer awareness month. I wished she'd given me that snuggly, warm gown instead.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Can I quote you on that?

Isn't it funny how little snippets of speech climb into our subconscious and stay there, popping up from time to time? Sometimes they are quotes that we deliberately commit to memory and maybe even spend time reflecting on. Some are laced with memories about the situations where we first heard them or the people who spoke them. Others are just phrases bandied about as part of the public vernacular that we end up incorporating into our own speech.

One that I recall when my kids complain about having to go to church (I know! Heathens!) is one of the classics my own mom used to lay on us:

"Do you think Jesus wanted to climb up on that cross and die for you?!"

Another, that I might have shared here before, is one that I've spent a fair amount of time mulling over in the trials of the past several months:

"The safest place to be is within the will of God."

Finally, I came across this classic from Erma Bombeck. It makes me laugh, which, as they say, is sometimes the best medicine:

"I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair."

Amen, Sister Erma.

What little pearls do you carry with you? Do you print them out and post them on the fridge or on your computer? Set them as a screen saver or use them on your kids?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Creative surfing

We've been without access to the internet from home since Thursday, which has required me to do some creative finagling to get online. (If you're about to suggest that I could have gone on a multi-day internet fast, you obviously don't know me well.)

Thursday evening, I was offline. That was ok because we were busy with the high school open house and all. Friday morning, I met my friend Beth for breakfast and some wifi at Panera. Then I went into the office where the internet was flowing just fine. On Friday night while Charlie was at football practice, I snagged a drink and wifi at Dunkin' Donuts -- where I did NOT eat a donut, aren't you so proud of me?!

Yesterday was our 17th wedding anniversary. So Mike and I took a long walk with the dog, then stole away to Panera. Two nerds with their laptops, enjoying that "we don't have to talk all the time" silence while soaking up the world wide waves over breakfast power sandwiches. For dinner last night, we took the family to McAlister's where they have a great selection of food, sweet tea (though I just ordered water) and, you guessed it, free wifi.

At about 3am last night, I was searching for some wifi to hop on to in my neighborhood, but those smart neighbors of mine all have their networks secure -- as do we). Which meant I was sorting laundry until 4am.

After church, I treated Robbie to hotcakes at McD's and myself to a Diet Coke and (say it with me...) free wifi. And now, mostly because Charlie was starving after his football game, I'm sitting at Panera -- a different one, getting my last hit until I can get to the office in the morning. I'm sure my boss will wonder what I'm doing there at 5am.

All in all, this dang snafu has cost me probably $65 and hundreds (thousands?) of calories. At least I've learned one thing about myself for sure -- I cannot live off the grid.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The great high school hunt

Where I grew up, when it came to high schools, you had two choices. The Catholic school or the public school. And if you lived in my house, you had one choice -- the Catholic school. Now that Annie is about to enter the 2nd quarter of her 8th grade year, we're knee deep in the great high school hunt.

Actually, we started checking out our (her) options last year, going to the open houses of three different schools. Before the open houses, we had schools A, B & C on our radar. Going in, I liked school A, based just on what I knew from other families. Annie liked school B, and we were both mixed on school C.

After the open houses, I liked school B best, she liked school A best and school C had pretty much been thrown out. So I was pretty sure that we'd be choosing between schools A & B this year. However, last May, enter school D.

D was really out a bit out of my comfort zone. It's a public school; I've always thought that our kids will spend 12 years at Catholic school. But, it's a charter public school, so it does have some of that private school feel. And it's got an arts bent to it, which sold Annie on the idea of school D even before she set foot in the building.

Mike and I decided we wanted to check out school D for ourselves before we allowed her to get all carried away with excitement (too late!). We scheduled a tour and spent an hour or so in the school during a regular school day. We were very surprised to find that we really liked school D. Some of our concerns -- there would be lots of weird kids there, it would be too small -- were just not true. The curriculum structure makes sense to us. But we still wanted her to look at schools A & B.

On Wednesday, Annie shadowed at school A. When I picked her up, she was all smiles -- so much that I wondered if someone had injected her with Botox in the science lab. She had a great time. Everyone was so awesome. People were very friendly. She knew a lot of the answers in Spanish class. The art teacher was really cool. And it was fun to see kids she knew from grade school. She said that on a scale of 1 to 10, one being "get me the heck out of here" and 10 being "sign me up now!," she would give school A a 9.

I began to wonder how schools B & D would hold up in comparison. The next evening, school D hosted an open house. I wasn't sure we needed to go. Mike and I had already seen the school and Annie will be shadowing there in a couple of weeks. But Annie really wanted to go and since we didn't have anything else planned and since it is kind of her FUTURE, I piled everyone in the car and we headed down there.

First, we went in the wrong door. Here I am, not even a school parent yet and already breaking the rules. We made our way to the cookie table first, to keep Robbie quiet get the boys a snack, then were paired up with two students to show us around the school. There were musical performances going on, amazing art displays on the walls and a whole heckuvalotuv people there. I was surprised to see six other families that we knew.

As we went from room to room, Annie started warming up, asking a question here and there to either the students showing us around or to the teacher at the front of the room. By the time we got upstairs, she had actual conversations with a math teacher, an art teacher and was deciphering Latin with the help of one of the school's Latin teachers.

By the end of the night, she'd made friends with a sophomore that one of her current school friends introduced her to and said she wanted to shadow with that student on her assigned visit day. I looked across the large room where we were standing and saw her standing there with these kids, absolutely at ease, not at all nervous.

Because the open house was drawing to a close, I gave Robbie and Charlie another cookie (so I didn't have to hear "what's for bedtime snack" when we got home) and tore Annie away from her conversation. On the way to the car, I asked her what she thought of school D on that same scale of 1 to 10. She said, "well, if school A was a 9, school D was a 13!"

She did not stop talking all the way home. She must have said "I love that school!" at least a dozen times. If I had said, "If you go to school D, you must scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush every night," I'm pretty sure she would have said OK.

We are still making her do the shadow day for school B (and for school D). But I'm afraid school B is going to have to spin upside down on its head while twirling firecrackers to get Annie's stamp of approval. And if it can, more power to them.

I wish I could explain how awesome it felt to see how alive she came just at the prospect of being part of the school D community. Awesome doesn't begin to describe it. But I looked at her, I watched her eyes, I listened to her talking to the teachers and I felt joy...JOY....to see that she knew where she belonged.

(Of course, she's a 13-year-old girl. So probably next week, she'll be all about schools X,Y, and Z and I'll be left shaking my head...)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Speechless

I am really finding myself at a loss for blog words these days. I'm not sure what the cause is -- I think of things to write about, but don't seem to find the energy to put the fingers to the keys to make it entertaining, or even mildly coherent.

Maybe what I need is another outlet to spark the creativity -- like painting or ceramics or something. Not necessarily a new hobby, just a night out to do something a little different. Maybe a little Wine and Canvas. Check that out. Does that sound cool or what?! Or there's an "Evening with Clay" at a local retreat center next month. The idea of sinking my hands in the clay sounds good.

Or planting bulbs! Every spring I wish that I'd planted tulip and daffodil bulbs the previous fall. Maybe that's what I'll do on Saturday. Digging my hands into the dirt sounds quite appealing.

What do you do when you feel like you need a little creative boost?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Holy pets, Batman!

Today was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. In honor of the day, the kids' school held a pet blessing just before dismissal. Robbie was beside himself with excitement that Gabby could come to school -- well, at least to the parking lot of the school.

So despite day three of my monumental and hormonal headache, I put the dog in the car and headed down for what might have been her first religious experience (aren't I a good mom?!). This is the two of us in the car:

On the road

There were several dogs already there when we arrived. Most everyone was behaving nicely on their leashes. However, one friend of mine was crazy enough to bring their three BIG black labs (if I'm a good mom, she's a stellar mom) who thought nothing of using their combined weight to bring her to her knees and eventually belly down in the grass. I noticed by the time the blessing actually got underway, she was down to one dog.

When the classes came outside, Robbie found Gabby and me rather quickly and sat with us for the blessing, though I don't know if Gabs considered Robbie's presence a blessing:

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Soon, Charlie joined us, too. Annie said hello but opted to stand with her friends, who for the record, thought that Gabby was adorable. Once everyone was gathered, Fr. Jeremy, the associate pastor, began the blessing ceremony. I wondered if this job traditionally goes to the second priest on the totem pole? 

A few prayers, a reading from Genesis, some outstretched hands, a light sprinkle of holy water and we had ourselves a blessed bagle hound. 

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If only those few words and that little bit of holy water could work some magic on the whole chewing and housebreaking thing...unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. 

The majority of pets at the blessing were dogs, though I did see one dad holding a box of guinea pigs and Fr. Jeremy said there were a couple of cats in carriers. And Robbie's teacher put their class pet -- a catfish named Whiskers -- in a bucket so he (she?) could be blessed, too.

Blessed fish

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fragging when I should be sleeping

Mommy's Idea

It's Friday. Really, even though I woke up on Thursday morning and haven't gone back to sleep yet. (Guess it was all that stockpiled sleep from when I went to bed at 7:53pm Wednesday night.) And because it's Friday, here I am, fragging with Mrs. 4444s.

Tomorrow -- I mean today -- is going to be a big day. First, I will be dropping off Annie's first high school admission application. Did I just type that? Who gave her permission to be ready to find a high school already? 

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Then, after a long-overdue breakfast with a friend, it's home to do some last minute cleaning so the IN Shape Indiana video guy won't capture some embarrassingly messy scenes when he's here to shoot my interview

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At the end of the afternoon, I have a counseling session. I told Annie last week that I was leaving for an appointment. "For what," she asked. "Well, it's a counseling appointment," I told her. I didn't want her to think that counseling is a bad thing. Most people would benefit from it once in a while and those who think they don't need probably need it the most. Annie didn't quite see it that way. "WHAT?! You're seeing a THER-A-PIST?" Someday she'll have kids of her own...

(This little revelation inspired by this post: The disease called "perfection." )

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Tomorrow night, Mike and I have a FREE date night -- we got tickets from Scotty's Brewhouse to see "The Social Network." Thanks, Scotty and crew!

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What I hope tomorrow does not bring is a trip to the doctor for Charlie. He got tackled at recess today and spent much of the day complaining about his ribs and his belly hurting. The belly hurting thing alerted the "I got my medical degree from Google University" in me and I invoked the "doctor lives across the street" privilege to have my neighbor come over and check him out. She said she thought he was ok -- probably sore, but likely embellishing the pain a bit. Tonight, after he went to bed, I went in and pushed around on his stomach to see how he would respond. (Sounds familiar, huh?) He didn't flinch, so I'm thinking we're good.

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Watching TV after midnight is just not the same without cable, so I think it's finally time to sign off and go to bed.(Although I think I might sleep right here on the couch. It's my favorite place to sleep. It runs in the family.)