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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Eve classic tale

Some occasions just beg for the telling of the same story over and over again. In our house, New Year's Eve is one of them. Amazingly, I've never told this one here so tonight I thought I'd share.

We have a grocery store near our house that used to have a lobster tank. Every time we went to the store with Robbie there was a certain routine we had to follow. First, a stop at the bakery for the free cookie. Then off to the seafood/meat department to see the lobsters.

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Our crustaceanic visit was never long. Just a minute or two to see which lobster was moving that day (not always guaranteed) or which was the biggest. But there was no setting foot into that store without making an appearance at the lobster tank.

So one year when Robbie was about three years old, New Year's Eve rolled around and Mike and I were trying to think of festive ways to celebrate the occasion at home. We decided it would be fun to have lobster for dinner (and fish sticks for the kids). We couldn't wait to tell Robbie that we were going to pick out a lobster.

The morning of New Year's Eve, we told Robbie we were going to the store to pick out a lobster and asked if he wanted to help. Well, of course he did! So we went to the store, made the obligatory stop at the bakery, and headed to the lobster tank.

We picked out our lobster and asked the guy behind the tank to cook it for us so we could pick it up at dinner time. For the record, that's the only way I'd ever serve lobster in my house -- pre-cooked.

Later that evening, Mike went back to the store to pick up the lobster and bring it home. We put it on a white platter, where it's now-bright red shell stood out. Robbie was so excited. He picked it up and looked at it up close before putting the lobster back on the platter.

About 10 minutes of final dinner prep went by and we sat down to eat. Mike was the first to start in on the lobster, taking a large claw in his grasp and ripping it off the rest of the body.

This was the point at which the screaming of bloody murder started. It wasn't the lobster, who was sufficiently dead and cooked. Instead, the screaming came from Robbie. We tried to assure him it was ok as I took my turn to messily remove another claw, which led to more tortured screaming.

Eventually, Robbie became so inconsolable that I had to take him to his bedroom. It wasn't until the kitchen was quiet again that we figured out what had upset Robbie so badly. Poor kid thought we were bringing home a lobster to be a pet. And then we proceeded to tear it from limb to limb!

And the story has become a New Year's Eve classic, told every year at least once, sometimes more often. Oh, and we've never brought another lobster home again.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Adventures in sleep

On Wednesday night I had a sleep study. I've done plenty of studying in near states of sleep, but sleep was actually the point of this endeavor.

I'm not a stranger to the world of sleep study. I had one about 5 years ago, which resulted in me becoming the owner of a space-age looking CPAP machine. But I'd gotten away from using the machine after I lost a good amount of weight. Since I've found all that weight again, I found myself doing the wakefulness and near-choking that comes with sleep apnea. My fatigue had gotten so bad that I actually pulled the machine out to use again.

That would have been a great idea, except now the machine makes a really loud and annoying noise. Mike actually said he'd rather hear my snoring. So I called the sleep clinic to find out how to fix it or get a new one. Of course, they couldn't talk to me without a referral from my doctor. So I called my doc who said that since my study was so long ago, she wanted me to have another one. It was like one of those books -- "If You Give a Girl a CPAP Machine..."

So, all that resulted in me checking in to the sleep clinic at 8pm on Wednesday night. I packed light -- jammies, toothbrush and two books to read. I used the jammies and the toothbrush, but the books stayed in the bag once I found The Holiday (Jack Black's best role ever!) on the Lifetime Channel. My mother would have been appalled, though, that my pajama shirt had two small holes in it. I think wearing jammies with holes in them to a sleep study is somewhat akin to having dirty underwear on when you get into a car accident.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppFor you mommies or wives or women in general who need a little getaway, may I recommend a sleep study. I mean check out this room built for relaxation:


Ok. So there is no jacuzzi tub or in-room massage (both of which I'm going to recommend on my satisfaction survey). But there is a clean room with no dirty laundry on the floor, a television that only turns to Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network if you want it to, and absolutely no way for an 8-year-old to climb into your bed during the night.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppAnd there is a Sleep Number bed. Is that brilliant marketing or what? Here you have a captive audience of people who are clamoring for a good night's sleep, so why not give them a bed that's custom comfort? The most firm setting is 100. One of my FB friends suggested that I try a level 5 just for kicks. As she said, it's like trying to climb out of a deflated raft. It turns out that my sleep number is somewhere around 55.


 Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppAbout an hour after I got settled in, Sheila came in to get me hooked up. Talk about being wired for sleep! I think I had a dozen or so wires pasted to various parts of my body.

Then there were the chest straps to measure my breaths, the microphone on my throat to record my snoring (as if I snore!), and the wires going up my nose. I snapped a few pics of myself pre-nasal wires. It's a lovely look, I know.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Once my movie was over, I was ready to sleep. After a few tests of the equipment -- Sheila called them in over the intercom -- it was snoozeville. I fell asleep pretty easily (I always do), but woke and tossed and turned several times over the next two hours.

At about 1:30am, Sheila came in to hook me up to the CPAP machine, which they do for people with "severe apnea episodes." No big surprise there. She set me up with a this mask that just plugged right into my nostrils. Not too bad. But then she asked if I was a mouth-breather. Well, duh, aren't all people who snore? So that earned me a chin strap to keep my mouth closed and another back of the head velcro something or other. I was really sleepy, but I distinctly remember thinking "Being fat is so not worth all of this."

Once the CPAP was set up, I fell back to sleep within a few minutes. And then I SLEPT. No waking. No coughing. No tossing. No turning.

When Kevin, the night supervisor, came in to wake me, I felt good! I would have felt better if it was 8am instead of 6:30am -- seriously, for what that night's sleep probably cost me (or at least my insurance company), I should have gotten to stay 'til 11am with a room service breakfast). But still, I felt remarkably rested. As he was removing all my electrodes, he stepped back and said "Oh! I forgot you have blue hair." We both got a chuckle out of that and I told him how the blue hair came about. He said "When I saw your blue hair when you came in, I thought to myself 'I bet that lady's fun.'" Love it!

I asked how often I was waking per hour. I got the coy "You had several wakeful arousals, but your doctor will get the specific results in the next week." I hate that. It's my information for crying out loud. I know for sure that cozying up with a CPAP machine is in my future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Whatcha reading?

I like to read for fun, but I don't read often. Usually, I read one or two books over Christmas break, a handful of books during the summer, and maybe another book or two at other times of the year. I think the last book I read was The Help, which I read before the movie came out last summer.

Such an on-again-off-again romance with reading often leaves me unsure of what books are worth my time to read. I used to read all the John Grisham novels, until they got so formulaic. I like Elizabeth Berg, but have read most of her stuff. I read the entire Harry Potter series, but have no desire to read The Hunger Games, which seems to be a popular series these days.

So yesterday, I posted this on Facebook:

I'm kind of itchy to read something. I generally like historical fiction, chick lit, even young adult reads. Nothing heavy or depressing. Any suggestions?

Let me tell you, if you want a lot of chatter on your Facebook page, ask people what you should read. I got 39 responses, including some farcical suggestion from Mike that I read some dumb star Wars book. Mike's comment aside, I hated to lose such good suggestions or to keep them to myself.

So here you go: what to read if you don't know what to read:
  1. Jen Lancaster memoirs 
  2. Highlander by Diana Gabaldon
  3. Beverly Lewis Amish series
  4. Jennifer Weiner, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin
  5. Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs by Gerry Bartlett
  6. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
  7. Marian Keys, Jane Greene, Elin Hildebrand, Kristin Hannah
  8. Bossypants by Tina Fey (honestly, I've started it and am not loving it)
  9. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  10. The Virgin Cure by Amy McKay
  11. Killing Lincoln
  12. James Patterson
  13. War Horse
  14. Becoming Marie Antoinette
  15. Sarah's Key (which I've read and loved!)
  16. The Help (again, read it, loved it)
  17. Secret Daughter
  18. The Secret Life of Bees (I've read it, but just might read it again)
  19. Me and Emma
  20. The Kite Runner
  21. Sharon Kay Penman - Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, The Reckoning
  22. When Christ and His Saints Slept trilogy
  23. The Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King
  24. Tana French
  25. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by
    Laura Hillenbrand
  26. The Aquanet Diaries by Jennifer Nivens
  27. The Brides quartet by Nora Roberts
  28. Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert
  29. The Next Always by Nora Roberts
  30. Water for Elephants (one of my favorites)
  31. Blaize Clements -- apparently good for people who like cats and mysteries, an odd combination
  32. Catherine Coulter
  33. The Legacy by Stephen Frey -- someone has a video of the JFK assassination from the other side of the grassy knoll and tons of people want to get it
  34. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
  35. Hangman's Daughter
  36. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  37. 11/23/63 by Stephen King
  38. Philippa Gregory
  39. Jean Plaidy
  40. The Story of Beautiful Girl
  41. New Found Land -- about the Lewis & Clark expedition
I'm going to highjack borrow Annie's Nook and download a few books. I think I'll start with Prairie Tale -- who wouldn't want the dish about Little House on the Prairie? Then The Aquanet Diaries, which is a memoir about growing up in Richmond, Indiana where I lived for a few years when I was a little girl. After that it's a toss up between The Legacy and Unbroken.

So, what are you reading? Anything else I should add to this list?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A grievance against the elves

Elfin Grievance Form -- NP123

Date: December 26, 2011

Grievance filed by: Amy M. (aka The 4th Frog)

Nature of grievance: 

___ Shoddy worksmanship   ___ Poor packaging   ___ Wrong item sent   _X__ Other

Please provide details of the complaint:

Our son Charlie received a basketball shooting game for Christmas. He was thrilled. Unfortunately, the elves in the sporting goods department must have slipped the box into Santa's bag before Santa could notice that they didn't actually assemble the game. Luckily, Charlie was kept plenty busy with his other Christmas gifts that he didn't seem to mind that the gift was still in the box.

The day after Christmas, Charlie opened the box, assuming that he would just need to unfold the game and it would be ready to go. Ha! If only we'd been so lucky. The box was filled with no less than 247 individual pieces that required significant assembly.

There were more than a dozen metal pieces that had to be put together to create the frame. To the elves' credit, these were all clearly marked and actually matched up with the numbers included in the instruction booklet. If only the bolts were as clearly marked. Yes, they were separated and labeled initially, but once the package was opened it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between a #24 bolt and a #25 bolt.

I started the assembly with Charlie helping me. That lasted about 17 minutes. Then it was Annie to the rescue. She and I matched metal poles and nuts and bolts and washers, hoping that the entire contraption would not collapse on top of us. Annie kept saying "Aren't there people who get paid to do this?" She is her GoGo's granddaughter!

Mike called us to lunch and we emerged from the basement, not yet finished, amazed to find that we had been working on this little project for more than 2 hours!

After lunch, we had to tighten up the bolts, install the hoops, hang the backboard, install the scoring system -- and oh, yeah -- find batteries, something else those elves forgot to do. All told (some unscrewing and correcting of erroneous building), it took us about 3-1/2 hours to put Charlie's gift together. I'm thinking the elves could have had it done in 45 minutes or so.

I suppose it was a character building experience. It was some mother-daughter bonding time. In the end, what really matters is that Charlie is having fun with his gift. And so are the rest of us. 

But, I do think that someone might want to have a word with those sporting goods elves.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, over and out

PhotobucketAs a Christmas gift to myself and my family, I'm logging off the internet for the next 24 hours or so.

It'll be a challenge to not run to Facebook to post funny stories or make lamentations about awkward family moments. But I'm giving myself presence as a present. And as much as I'd like to believe it's not true, I'm pretty sure the whole of the internet will not come crashing down as a result of my absence.

So Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dear Santa, I'm the one with the blue hair

Dear Santa,

I know you'll be making your big flight tomorrow and I didn't want you to get confused when you peeked in our window and saw some lady with blue hair sleeping in my bed. It's really me.

You might have heard that I promised to dye my hair blue in exchange for donations to a little girl's Make-a-Wish Fund. Well, we got the donations and I kept my word. Let me tell you, it was not an easy process. I was at the salon for 5-1/2 hours! But Shana was a good elf and did a great job.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppFirst, she put bleach on the parts of my hair that were going to get the blue. Then I sat. Then she wiped the bleach off and put more on. Then I sat. Then she wiped that bleach off and shampooed my hair.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppIt was so weird to see myself with blonde hair! I'm pretty sure I prefer being a brunette, but it was fun to see what a little yellow would look like.

After the bleach was all gone, Shana put some stuff in my hair called "Prepare." I had my own little prepare concoction, too. It wasn't the margarita that I had envisioned, but it turns out Almond Snickers do almost as good of a job calming pre-dye job jitters. So does a visit from a social media buddy, Chris Theisen, who works nearby and thought he'd come offer a little support, which was nice considering he's one of the two people who got me into this in the first place.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App After the preparation, it was time do the blue. Shana dried my hair completely and then it was time for the bluification to begin. As if on cue, the other person who was responsible for getting me involved in helping make Kamylle's wish come true walked in the door. Leilan aka BgKahuna made a louder entrance than Chris and was his usual entertaining self. Plus, he acted as the official blue hair photographer.

PhotobucketLook at that gorgeous color!

Shana said they do a lot of reds and pinks, but I'm the first person to ever ask for blue. I love being a trendsetter!

Photobucket That's Shana in the picture putting the blue on my temporarily blonde hair. Shana was even wearing blue for the occasion (well, I like to think that she was anyway). It turned out that a couple of my neighbors were in the salon that day too. I offered to share the blue with them, but neither of them took me up on it. That's too bad, because they are both blondes (or closer to it than I am) and it would have been a much easier process.

PhotobucketOnce Shana got the blue dye where we were going to put it -- bangs, temples and some subtle (as subtle as blue gets) highlights in the back -- she put me under the dryer to set it. BgKahuna joined me there. Except he had no blue dye. He also has no hair (his contribution to the Make-a-Wish effort). We had a very Zen experience.

Twenty minutes later, it was time for the wet reveal. My blue locks drew plenty of attention from the other "elves" at the salon, all of whom said they loved it. I don't think they were lying -- you know, trying to stay on the Nice List and all, Santa.

Are you tired yet? Because by this point, I was getting there. But Shana still had to touch up the rest of my color (apparently blue and gray together is not a good look), then wax my eyebrows (which were in desperate need), then do the cut and style.

Whew! But it was so worth all the effort. Well, I hope Shana thinks so because my effort consisted of sitting there, eating Almond Snickers, playing Words with Friends and updating Facebook on my phone.

Here's the final product:

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App 

It shows up differently depending on the lighting. Here's a pic my sister took the next day in her office under much brighter lights:

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I think I might be a little addicted to color now. It's so fun, isn't it?

The reaction from other people has been pretty varied. Some people -- Mike included -- love it. Others are disappointed that I didn't do my whole head. Several people wanted to know if I was going to last night's Colts game (Nope.). Random people have commented that they like it. A few people looked at it and didn't say a word. I guess they are of the "if you can't say anything nice..." school of thought.

The best response came from the kids in Robbie's class. A little girl looked at me and said "What happened to your hair?!"  I played dumb and said, "What do you mean? What's wrong with my hair?"

"It's blue!" she shrieked.

"It is?!," I said, playing shocked. "I knew I shouldn't have kissed that Smurf yesterday!" Of course that elicited lots of shrieks about Smurfy PDA.

What do you think Santa? Is my new 'do gift-worthy? Not that it matters. The gift has really been in the experience and in knowing that a little dye on my head helped create happy memories for a very sick little girl.

So, have a safe flight, Santa. We'll be waiting for you here. And please be sure to leave something nice for each of my friends who contributed to Kamylle's Make-a-Wish fund.

Love,

Amy

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 cool things that are blue

  1. Clear blue sky on a spring day
  2. Fresh blueberries on vanilla ice cream
  3. The Twitter bird
  4. Navy blue walls in my family room and kitchen
  5. Sapphires
  6. Crystal blue oceans
  7. Cheese, bleu that is
  8. Butler Blue II (see below)
  9. A favorite pair of perfectly broken-in jeans
  10. My hair -- I hope. Time will soon tell!
butler bulldog blue II Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

1 day to blue hair

Can you believe it's been almost 6 weeks since I offered up my brunette (and gray) locks in exchange for donations to Kamylle's Make-a-Wish fund? I was supposed to undergo the dye a few weeks ago, when fever struck. But tomorrow is the day!

Tomorrow I'll submit my head to the capable hands of Shaina at Allure Salon -- now re-open in their pre-fire location. I admit, I'm a little bit nervous. But it's just hair, right?

Shaina and I have done a little strategizing and have determined that blue streaks/highlights are probably the way to go, not because I'm unwilling to go full-headed azure, but because she's afraid the dye on bleach might do some damage to my hair. Yikes! But it's just hair, right?

I'm envisioning my first trip to Target after the blue-ification. "Mommy, why is that lady's hair blue?" Maybe I should have some business cards made that answer the question. Maybe no one will notice, what with everyone scurrying around finishing their holiday shopping.

At church, maybe I can pass it off as an homage to Mary the Mother of God? I figure the one place I'll really fit in is Annie's school, where hair colors change almost as often as the weather.

What if it's awful? It's just hair, right?  I can cut, re-dye it or invest in a collection of hats and scarves.

Better yet, what if I love it and want to keep it up? I suppose in just 1 more day I'll know. And so will you. Stay tuned.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Where are you, Christmas?


Here we are, less than a week away from Christmas, and I find myself asking "Where are you, Christmas?" 

I've listened to the all-Christmas-all-the-time channel on the radio. I've fired up the Christian Christmas music on Pandora while I'm at work. I've wrapped Christmas presents. I've watched Christmas movie after Christmas movie and still I'm just not feeling it. 

I feel guilty over the fact that we haven't baked cookies or gone caroling or made any kind of Christmas memories that my kids will recall in years to come. But a combination of too many places to be and too much effort to make has done all that in.

I've tried to be charitable, to be in the spirit of the holiday, but dropping a gift under a tree for someone I whose need I can't see and whose face I won't experience feels so impersonal. I've handed money through the car window to the people on the street corner with their signs of despair. Yet, it's not enough. I feel like I want to get out and learn their stories. 

I think I'm overwhelmed by all of the stuff of Christmas. And the fact that nearly every paragraph of this post starts with "I" isn't lost on me. I'm feeling a very physical yearning to make some personal connection that will touch the Christmas place in my heart. How do I get outside of my own head?

I have six days left to make it happen. Six days to find Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extreme fragments

Mommy's Idea

Today, I'm taking Friday Fragments to the extreme. I'm sure our hostess, Mrs. 4444s, won't mind.

First, let's start with an extreme Christmas tree. It's my brother's tree.

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Why yes, that is a flatbed trailer he's using to haul the tree to his house. 

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And yes, that is his 6-foot, 4-inch friend standing there dwarfed by the tree. 

Is that awesome or what?!

Then let's throw in some extreme temperatures. Today is December 15. The high here today was 59 degrees! Holy tropical heat wave, Santa!

For extreme temps of a different sort, this time last week I was running a temp of 103.8 degrees! I think that is the sickest I've been in my adult life. I feel much better now, though I've had some extreme bedtimes trying to get my energy back. How's 7:45pm and 8:30pm grab ya? AND, I slept all night long! Terrible for getting things done, but awesome for the body.

This weekend, we're going to be doing some extreme housecleaning. We have a dumpster scheduled to arrive tomorrow. I'm giddy at the thought of just pitching so much STUFF.

Finally, my extreme hairstyle is scheduled to appear next Wednesday. I was supposed to have it done last week, but that's when I was sick, sick, sick.

And now, I am extremely tired and ready for bed. Have a good one!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How do I find "Idunno?"

This time of year, it's not unusual for us to be thinking of places far from home.

Visions of the North Pole occupy the minds of small children who dream of meeting Santa on his own turf. Candy cane streetlights and gingerbread doorways. Rooms overflowing with colorful papers and ribbons and bows (yes, Mom, I know, Santa does not wrap presents). Entire teams of elves whipping up hot chocolate and snickerdoodle cookies.

Grown ups have their own fantasy locales. Tropical beaches where the sun is warm and the drinks are cold.  Where the only things on the to do list involve taking naps and reading for pleasure. Elves of a different sort bring food not cooked by you on dishes that don't have to be washed by you.

Ahhh...

But I don't want to go to either place. No, I'm more interested in finding the magical, mysterical (yes, I just made up that word) land of Idunno. For it is there, in the land of Idunno, that -- apparently -- all the forgotten and lost items find a home.

I ordered Charlie a school basketball sweatshirt. I think it was gray. I'm not sure, because it was delivered to school, given to Charlie and never seen again. When I asked him where his new basketball sweatshirt was, he said "Idunno." Did he bring it home from school? He's not exactly certain. He checked the lost and found (after I asked him to, of course. Does any kid ever go to the lost and found on his own?). No luck. So where could it be?

Idunno.

I loaned Annie my new, not-yet-2-weeks-old winter coat to wear to a retreat at church. She came home coatless, but certain of where it was. We went back to look. No coat. We checked another coat rack and the lost and found. No luck. Well, Annie, where could it have gone?

Idunno.

Robbie is not immune to the allure of the Land of Idunno either. Apparently his tennis shoes up and walked there with his Nintendo DS. Charlie's lunchbox decided to tag along, too. As did Annie's blue and white scarf. And probably a whole host of other things I haven't even realized are missing yet.

And if I ever find this elusive destination of Idunno, I hope I find my sanity waiting there for me as well.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A better use of your time than my whining

Earlier this evening, I published what was intended to be a funny and whiney post about all that I've imagined ails me.

Then I opened my e-mail to several messages from our parish prayer tree requesting prayer for people who are experiencing real suffering and even death. Can you say "perspective?"

So please, take a moment if you will to pray for all those who are waging battle against sickness, disease and tragedy. I can suck it up for them.

And if you know of someone in need of those prayers, please feel free to leave a request for their needs so we can all keep them in our prayers.

Who's the hypochondriac now?

Apparently the illness doesn't fall far from the tree. In the past 24 hours, I've had:
  • The flu
  • Thyroid disease
  • Anemia
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Kidney stones
  • Slipped disc
  • Menopause
I'm hot. I'm cold. I'm achey. I'm tired. At one point, I was pretty near death (or so it seemed). Today I'm at least upright.

Still, I recommend you go wash your hands after reading this.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

BNO*

*Bloggers' Night Out

It's been a little while since I've gone to a bloggers' event. My last opportunity was the Container Store, which sadly, I had to miss for some reason that was very important then, but that I can't remember now.  So when I got the invitation to attend a night hosted by Plum District (a mom-to-mom deal company), I was happy. When I realized it would take place at one of my favorite stores -- 4 Kids Books & Toys -- I was thrilled.

The purpose of the event was to help area bloggers get to know Plum District and vice versa. Oh yeah, and to eat and leave with swag bags and prizes.

I saw some familiar bloggers (shout out to DesignHerMomma, The Average Parent and In Good Cents). I also met some new-to-me bloggers. One woman, Erin Wilson, is the founder of a company called CupCase. Can you guess what she sells?  No cheating. Guess first, then click the link.
 
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Travel cases for your bra. Yes. That's exactly what I just said. Truthfully, I thought she was nuts. Who the heck needs a case for her bra? Shove it in the suitcase and be off.  Erin said she gets a lot of that, but she also talks to lots of women who are on her same wavelength and love the idea.

But she was a hoot and she was also one of the only other moms there who was beyond the diapers-preschool-little people stage. Plus, her contraption did make one cute little purse. She said they currently come in sizes A-B and C-D. I suppose if you are a GG, you could carry one as a bowling bag instead of a purse.

So after some wine and a few snacks (yes, I did make myself eat some veggies), it felt like a good time to go home. But there were the prize drawings, so I decided to wait. My name was the last one drawn (everyone got a Plum District deal as a prize) and if I had been my own mother, I would have been appalled at my behavior.

Some of the other ladies got frozen yogurt deals and bounce house passes and other fun stuff. Me? I got two Pilates sessions. My gut reaction kicked in before my be gracious reaction and I made a face that looked more like I'd just won a free pap smear. About 60 seconds later, I came to my senses and feebly said something about "maybe I'll give it a try." Geesh! One plastic cup of wine and all my manners went out the window.

The night ended with me finding that my keys were locked in my car (on purpose, but that's a boring detail). So Erin offered me a ride home. It was fun to get to know her better (raised in West Lafayette, Indiana University grad, athlete), even if she does put her bra in a protective case.

Oh, and if you're interested in the Plum District deals, check out the widget at the bottom of my blog.It's an affiliate link, so if you click it and buy the deal, I get some money. I'm not planning on getting rich from it, but if it pays for a Diet Coke from time to time, I'll be happy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 completely fictional causes I could stand behind

Doesn't it seem like there's always a new petition to sign or cause to support? I was thinking about this yesterday and thought of a few that I'd happily lend my signature to.
  1. "Occupy December" -- A movement to stay home the entire month of December and alternatively be lazy and efficiently domestic
  2. Bring back the "Facts of Life" -- A petition to get Nickelodeon, The Hub, TBS, TVLand or some other television channel to start airing re-runs of the '80s sitcom "The Facts of Life"
  3. Fashion declaration -- A push to have Stacey and Clinton declare on "What Not to Wear" that which I already know: Lime green is the new neutral.
  4. Cereal: It's What's for Dinner -- A move to alleviate guilt on the part of mothers everywhere by declaring one day a month (even better, a week!) as Cereal for Dinner day.
  5. Accio Siesta! -- So I just mixed a little Harry Potter speak with Spanish, but bring on the afternoon naptimes. My brother-in-law commented over Thanksgiving that I sleep in phases, a few hours here and there. See how well an afternoon siesta would work for me?
What fictitious cause could you get behind?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A cautionary tale for new moms

When your doctor tells you at your postpartum appointment to do your Kegel exercises, listen. Do them while you're washing the dishes. Do them while you're watching TV. Do them while you're waiting in line at Target.

Because someday, you're going to be older and saggier in all sorts of places and you might get a really wicked cough that not only makes your head hurt and your body ache, but also makes you really wish you'd done your Kegel exercises.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to do.

Friday, November 25, 2011

In defense of Black Friday

Best Black Friday Deals Pictures, Images and Photos

Black Friday. People seem to either love it or hate it.

The haters are staunch in their opposition. These are two recent comments that were in my Facebook stream about the subject:

"I can't believe people have to work tonight & miss time w/family so others can bow at the altar of greed."

"But the crowds of people that scream and run into the mall as the doors are opened...there's just something about it that is so representative of messed up priorities."

I am friends with both of these people and we're all entitled to our opinions, but when it comes to Black Friday, I am a lover. 

I am devoted to Black Friday for the deals, yes. But for me, it's really about the experience. 

There's a hum of excitement that bubbles through the crowd as we stand wrapped around the backside of the Target building waiting for the doors to open. Shoppers scan the ad and the map that shows the location of the doorbuster deals inside the store. There's conversation among strangers about who has already been where, what deals they're looking for and what store they'll be heading to next. 

Then the doors open and there's a joyful whoop as the crowd starts moving forward. I've never been in a crush of people or feared for my life. I go straight to the deal at the top of my list. Then I wander the store, looking for other can't miss opportunities. I'm not there to shop just for the sake of spending money, but I'm happy to snag deals where I can. 

Once I've gotten everything I need, I head to the check out. Sometimes it's a quick process. Other times I may as well get comfortable because I'll be there for a while. Most often there is happy chatter between shoppers. Sometimes there are some complaints. People are human after all. But mostly, the vibe is positive. 

Black Friday is also the stage of many traditions between families and friends who travel the same route from store to store each year, making their annual stop at the Cracker Barrel or the local coffee shop along the way.

As for the assertions that Black Friday puts a magnifying glass on the greed of America or that people who shop that day don't have their priorities straight, I think it can be viewed in another way. 

People have finite amounts of disposable income. There is nothing wrong with trying to stretch those dollars as far as they will go -- housewives have been doing that with the grocery budget for more than a century. If I have $100 budget for gift giving, I can shop any old day and purchase 2 or 3 gifts. Or I can shop on Black Friday and purchase 5 or 6 gifts. 

I have a few rules I abide by that allow me to enjoy Black Friday:
  1. Go with a buddy. Deals are more fun when shared with a friend. Plus, the whole divide and conquer strategy can be key to getting what you came for. 
  2. Start with low expectations. Life will not be over if you do not end up with a 42" TV for $200. There will be other sales, maybe not as great, but probably close.
  3. Go with a list and a budget and stick to both. This one is challenging to me, but I've learned from past experience that the Black Friday high is not worth the buyer's remorse low when I get home and think "What in the world possessed me to buy THAT?"
  4. Do not go to Walmart on Black Friday. I know plenty of people do, but this is my own personal rule.
  5. Do not go to Best Buy or the electronics department of Target within 2-3 hours of the store opening. Again, just a personal preference, but generally the deals aren't worth the masses of humanity trying to move through there.
  6. Be cheerful and express gratitude to store employees. From the security guards monitoring lines to cashiers who are ringing up countless shoppers, I've found everyone likes to be appreciated. A simple "thank you" and some conversation can make the experience happier for everyone. 
  7. If you're stuck in a long line, acknowledge to yourself that it's just a line for "stuff," not a line for food or water, as thousands of people around the world often wait in.
  8. Take a copy of the ads with you. It helps keep you focused on what you wanted in each store and it can be useful at the checkout if the register isn't reflecting the advertised price. 
  9. Wear comfy shoes. Black Friday is not for fashion. 
  10. Don't wear a coat. Even if it's 30 degrees out, the rush of the crowd will keep you warm. 
I know that Black Friday is not for everyone. I'm not saying it should be. But I also don't think the fact that I happily participate in the annual ritual means that I have to hang my head in shame.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude is never cliche

It started with Oprah Winfrey and her gratitude journal. Thousands of people jumped in and began keeping nightly lists of 3 things for which they were thankful that day. But I didn't. It all seemed so cliche (I really wish I knew how to make an accent mark above the "e."), everyone rushing to do it just because Oprah said so.

I think the saying "have an attitude of gratitude" followed shortly after (or at least was resurrected). That got tired pretty quickly.

Then there are the annual daily November postings on Facebook. Beginning November 1, people post one status update each day that share something they are grateful for in there lives. But you won't find any of those posts from me. That's just so...unoriginal, maybe?

But sometime in the last few days as I've been thinking about what I might write about for Thanksgiving, I've come to the realization that gratitude is never cliche. Gratitude should really be a lifestyle, not a single action. And those people who write in their daily gratitude journals or who take the time to deliberately consider their blessings each day and share those thoughts are the ones who have it right. Instead of rolling my eyes or congratulating myself on being an original thinker, I should fall in line and, yes, adopt an attitude of gratitude.

It's not that I'm not thankful. I've written before Thanksgiving posts that acknowledge my blessings, even when they seem hidden. But somehow, I've missed the opportunity to practice gratitude as a way of life. I don't think I'm a bad person. I think I'm a busy, over-extended, overtired person. I saw myself in Judy Daniell's post on Momaha.com, Turning a Day of Thanks into a Life of Thanksgiving.

I'm don't know that I'll start a gratitude journal. But I will start trying to be more intentional about acknowledging my blessings. I saw this on Facebook yesterday and am pretty sure there is some truth to it. So I'll leave you with it now:

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A catch up haiku

Conference was great.
Kids were good. My feet hurt bad.
Bring on the turkey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keepin' the faith

Let no one disregard you because you are young, but be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity. -- 1 Timothy 4:12

For the next three days, I will be chaperoning a group of teenagers (including Annie) from our church as they join 20,000 other teens for the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. I'm looking forward to the time away and am really hoping to be transported back to my own high school days were the LIFE group was such a huge part of my faith and social experience. 

One of the lessons I'm going to try to stay in touch with was one from a retreat the summer before my senior year of high school. "Be here now."

I'm really going to try to stay in the present while I'm gone. Not worrying about how Mike and the boys are getting along at home. Not thinking about what tasks will be waiting for me when the weekend is over. I hope that my present presence encourages the kids with us to do the same.

Mostly, I'm really looking forward to the unique exuberance kids bring to faith. I'm anticipating great music, honest faith-sharing, and of course the hilarity and silliness that comes when you get a bunch of teenagers together.

I would appreciate prayers for our group and for all the teens at the conference. In the spirit of "be here now," I don't plan to blog again until I return home on Sunday.

Enjoy the days and know I'll be keeping you in prayer as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Diagnosis: Hypochondriacal Imagination

Not me. My kid.

My middle kid to be exact. (Although my husband and my mother might suggest that he takes after me. I can't help it if I earned my medical degree from Google University.)

In the past 7 days, Charlie has had:
  • A "tweaked" ankle
  • A bruised "bone that sticks out under your shoulder"
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • A bleeding mole
  • A sore throat
  • Deafness in his right ear
Often, these complaints come at the end of a sports practice or game. Mostly, my response is "that's part of playing sports. Either deal with it or don't play." Compassion is apparently not my strong suit.

Yet, I am not totally without mercy. I don't want to dismiss every complaint as a figment of his imagination. I have, on occasion, been wrong when I've alleged that he is just fine.

After a few days of complaining about the tweaked ankle, I did buy him an ankle support to wear during practice and games.

His comment after the first game? "This ankle brace hurts my foot."

Seriously?!

Then, there are the situational afflictions -- namely nausea and headache that seemed to perfectly coincide with a class for which he had not done the homework.

Honestly, if I had a quarter for every time he complained about an ache, a pain, a twinge or a tweak, I could probably single-handedly fund national healthcare.

Am I alone in this? Do any of your kids do this? What would your take on it be? Attention-seeking? Boredom? Overactive imagination? Or maybe he's been secretly attending Google University too?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blue math

So it's been a week since I offered my brown locks in exchange for donations to a little girl's Make-a-Wish fund. Thanks to those of you who have donated.The terms of the deal have changed a bit, so I wanted to update.

M.K. Fischer and I will go blue when Kamylle's fund hits $2,500 by November 18. That's a little less money and a few days shorter than I'd originally anticipated, but I'm going with the flow here.

As of right now, the fund has $1,780.30 in it. That means we need $719.70 in the next 48 hours. That seems a little overwhelming, so let's break it down:

If just 2 people donate $359.85 each, we're there. Of course that's a lot of money.

So maybe 4 people could donate $180 each. (I work better in round figures. Maybe because I am one.) Still a lot, but do-able for some.

Or 8 people could donate $90 each.

Or 16 people could pony up $45 each. That's one family meal eaten at home instead of out this week.

If 70 people decided they could do without going out to lunch one day this week or Starbucks a couple of days, we'd be at the threshold.

(You know I'm so not a #s person, so that right there was a big ol' brain stretch for me.)

Here's the reality folks. Even when Kamylle's wish fund hits $2,500, it won't be finished. I get that. So maybe this just isn't compelling enough. And it's the holidays and times are tough. Yep. Get that too.

My friend Liz wrote today about being a spark. That's all this is. Me, taking a spark from some other folks, and passing it on to spread a little light.

If you can fan the flames by spreading the word, by making even a small contribution, we can help make Kamylle's world a little brighter and a little warmer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homemade potato soup -- or how I almost burned the house down

Occasionally, I get to feeling domestic. I make menus and go grocery shopping based on those menus and do things like plan to cook from scratch. When. Will. I. Learn?

Tonight's dinner plan called for homemade potato soup.

As I scanned the recipe, I noted that it called for bacon. Originally, I planned to use that pre-cooked bacon. But all the reviews talked about how the bacon fat imparted such great flavor to the soup.

I must remember reviews on recipe sites are typically written by people who can cook. And I cannot cook.

Blindly optimistic, I bought the real bacon. Fast forward to 4:15pm today. I put the bacon in a pan and turned the burner on high. I stirred it a bit and then put a lid on the pan so the grease wouldn't splatter. While the bacon was cooking, I turned to chop the onion, which would be sauteed in the bacon fat.

But when I lifted the lid of the pan to toss the onion in, flames shot about 2 feet into the air, licking the microwave. Expletive, expletive, expletive.

I had enough presence of mind not to put water on a grease fire. So I reached for the lid, which I'd dropped when the flames appeared, and attempted to put it on the burning pan. I got it sort of on the pan, but not all the way. I grabbed a dish towel and tried to put the lid on the pan. Instead of suffocating the flames, the lid slid all the way off, the flames reached higher and I made a run for it with the pan.

We're having some construction done on the back porch and the back door is blocked (a situation which will be remedied ASAP), so there I was, holding onto a dishtowel-wrapped pan handle, flames shooting out, running for the front door, screaming for someone to open it. Just as Annie opened the door, I could feel the fire on my thumb and pointer finger and my feet flew out from underneath me.

The flaming pan went flying out the door (thankfully!) and I landed on my arse. Unfortunately, the pan landed on the landscaping where the dry leaves are collected. So now the kitchen was not in danger of going up in flames, but the landscaping and front porch was. 

PhotobucketAnnie and I ran with bowls of water to put it out, screaming over the insistent chirping of the smoke alarms (yep, they work!). I finally came enough to my senses to turn on the hose and drag it to the mostly smoky leaves.

PhotobucketSo here we are, 90 minutes later. My hand hurts like a son-of-a-gun (waiting for the 800mg of ibuprofen to kick in). We have no dinner. The house smells like burnt bacon. The microwave has a smoky gray film on it.

And I'm sending Mike out to buy a fire extinguisher. I would tell him to buy a new pan, too, but I'm not allowed in the kitchen anymore.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's not about the hair

When I told my family about my offer to dye my hair blue to help make a sick little girl's wish come true, my 14 year old daughter wanted to know "WHY?"

It's a valid question and one I've been thinking about. I know one thing. It's not about the hair. It's not about being eccentric or controversial or talked about. It is about stepping outside of myself and doing something good. It's not about the hair and it's not about me.

If you make your way around the blogosphere much, you might have seen that there's a push this month for the 30 Day Giving Challenge. I thought about doing that. I kind of feel like I've been revolving around my own little planet lately and I need to stretch myself.

But honestly, the thought of intentional giving for 30 days and of blogging about it for 30 days seemed overwhelming and exhausting. Lame, I'm sure. It's not that I'm not a nice person or that I am a stranger to generosity. I just didn't want to start something I couldn't finish.

Then I saw that my friend Leilan had volunteered to shave his head if people donated $1,000 to a 3-year-old's Make a Wish fund. He reached the $1,000 pretty easily, primarily through promotion via Facebook and Twitter.

I wondered what would the next incentive be to keep Kamylle's fund growing. So I, without much thought, offered up that for $2,500 in donations, I would dye my hair blue.

And then I got scared.

What was I thinking? So I quickly dashed off an e-mail to the organizer saying I needed a little time to think about it. Except...

He didn't get the message. And the next thing I knew my offer was out there -- on his blog, on Twitter -- and someone else had joined in and offered to do the same. I'm not quite sure, but I think that the threshhold is even a bit lower than I'd said. (I was shooting for $2,500 MORE. The countdown is going for $2,500 total.)

I could have said "Whoa!" I could have backed out. But I chose to go with it for three fairly simple reasons:
  1. I said I would. I think keeping my word is important.
  2. I don't know this little girl. I have no investment in her happiness. Her parents are not friends of mine. I've never even met her. But doing something for someone completely outside my own circle feels right to me -- like a perfect way to get out of my own orbit.
  3. I'm scared. I donate to charity. I make meals for church members who are sick or who've had a new baby. I give a piece of each paycheck to United Way. I'm comfortable with those things. But this is way out of my comfort zone. Oh, I've talked a good game about blue hair, but I think I thought it was always in the realm of talk. Not anymore. The commitment to giving something of myself in a way that makes me feel a little uncomfortable makes me feel like this is something I really need to do. 
As of right now, Kamylle's Wish Fund is at $1,640.30. Thank you to those of you who have contributed. If you haven't made a contribution yet and are in a position to do so -- even $5 -- please. Do it for Kamylle, the 3-year-old with acute myeloid leukemia. It's about her. It's not about the hair. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blue for a cause

If you've been reading The 4th Frog Blog for a while, you might recall that I've long been tempted to dye my brown hair blue. I considered doing it for my 40th birthday, but went the spray can route instead.

Then a few weeks ago, I had one of those feathers put in my hair -- pink, not blue. It was fun for a few days, but really wasn't the look I was going for, so I took it out.

PhotobucketLast week, I started seeing #shaveawish all over Twitter and Facebook. It turns out that my friend BgKahuna has offered to shave off his golden locks if people donated $1,000 to a little girl's Make-A-Wish fund.

Kamylle is a 3-year-old girl who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In 2010, Kamylle was diagnosed with a condition called Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer of the myeloid blood cells. Her wish is to be a princess and go to Disney World.

After BgKahuna's efforts, Kamylle's wish fund is currently at $1,485.30. The total goal is $6,000.

Maybe it was low blood sugar. Maybe it was midlife crisis. Maybe it was just a way to fulfill my own wish, but I have volunteered to have my hair colored blue if my friends, family and followers (and anyone else who wishes to make Kamylle's wish come true) will contribute another $2,500 to Kamylle's wish fund by November 21, 2011.


Here's how you can help:
  1. Go to Kamylle's Make-a-Wish page and click the Donate Today button. 
  2. Make your donation -- $5, $10, $100 -- whatever you have to spare.
  3. In the Special Note section on the donation page, be sure to write Turn 4th Frog Blue so we can track the dollars. 
  4. Invite your friends to help out as well.
It turns out there is another woman, M.K. Fischer who has offered to do the same thing. If both M.K. and I can reach our goals, Kamylle will be princess-like in no time. 

If you're on Twitter, follow our progress at #shaveawish

Friday, November 4, 2011

2-for-1 Friday

Mommy's Idea

Can you believe it? Two blog posts in one day. Guess I'm feeling chatty or inspired or something. It's been a bit since I've done a Friday Fragments post and I'm kind of missing Mrs. 4444s and all the friends I encounter via Friday Fragments so let's not waste any more time.

PhotobucketHalloween was fun -- how can endless flowing candy be otherwise? Robbie went as an Angry Bird (of course -- his latest obsession). Charlie went as a cereal killer. I made the hat myself with spray adhesive. I think I might be in love with spray adhesive. I'm tempted to use it to put the patches on Robbie's Cub Scout uniform.

Robbie was insistent that he carry a Nerf gun as part of his Angry Bird ensemble. Then he would walk up to the door of each house and say "Trick or treat. I'm just a Angry Bird...wif a gun." It was so funny. As we walked through the neighborhood, people would say "Look! An Angry Bird," to which Robbie would shout  while raising his hand in the air "wif a gun!"

We're 4 days into November already and I don't even have my Christmas shopping spreadsheet created yet. What's happening to me? This year instead of shopping in Cleveland, my mom, sisters and I are shopping here in Indy. I'm going to really try to make most of my purchases from independent stores and avoid the big box retailers as much as possible.

PhotobucketI'm still totally loving my green El Naturalista shoes. Look how nice they went with the mammogram robe I got at the breast center today! (It was the same soft, cozy robe I had last year too.) When the tech led me to the changing room, she offered hangers that I could use to hang my clothes up on. I thought it best not to say "Oh, that's ok, I just picked these clothes up off my bedroom floor 30 minutes ago."


How would you love to not have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, but still get to eat all the yummy deliciousness? FitCity Indianapolis and Avec Moi are giving away a free, healthy and still tasty Thanksgiving dinner for 8. If you're in the area and want to enter -- or if you live far away and want to enter and bring the meal to my house to eat -- visit the FitCity Facebook page.


Mike is wrapping up week 2 of the new job. He likes it, but its a transition for all of us. That's a whole 'nother blog post. So please come back to read again later. In the meantime, go visit Mrs. 4444s and all of the other Friday Fragmenters.



Words that move people

It's early November. Mornings are dark and chilly, which doesn't exactly make people in my house (me included) want to jump right out of bed when the alarm goes off.

There are, however, some words that have been proven to act as eject buttons, jettisoning people right out from under the covers and onto their feet. They include:
  1. Pancakes/donuts/pizza for breakfast.
  2. There's basketball practice tonight. 
  3. I DVR'd (insert coveted show); you can watch it after you're dressed and ready.
  4. I bought marshmallows for the hot chocolate.
  5. Did you finish that homework?
  6. If you're not up in 2 minutes, you don't go to basketball practice tonight.
  7. I brought you a Diet Coke with ice. 
  8. I hear the garbage truck -- is the trash out? 
  9. It's dress-down day today.
  10. There's no school today. 
Adding this bonus -- "Oh crap! The alarm didn't go off!"
What gets you and your family moving in the mornings?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Best dumpster ever

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It gives a whole new meaning to "take out...the trash."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My love/hate relationship with Halloween

Things I hate about Halloween:
  1. Gross, bloody costumes
  2. People jumping out at you from the dark when you go up to their house to trick-or-treat
  3. Carving pumpkins. It always sounds like fun, but it's a big mess and the kids lose interest after 10 or 15 minutes.
  4. Perfect mom types who send homemade popcorn balls and cutesy little perfectly iced jack-o-lantern cookies to school
  5. Those same moms who whip up elaborately sewn costumes like it's no big deal
  6. Haunted houses. If I wanted to lose my breath and wet my pants, I'd drink a Biggie Diet Coke and go for a run.
  7. Kids way too big for trick-or-treating ringing my doorbell anyway
  8. Stupid candy like Dots and Dum Dum suckers
  9. All the television channels being dominated by scary movies

Things I love about Halloween:
  1. Vanilla Tootsie Rolls -- best when twisted together with the chocolate
  2. Preschool Halloween songs -- "5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate..."
  3. Friendly ghost and smiley witch decorations
  4. Other people's fabulously carved jack-o-lanterns
  5. Candy corn and peanuts or mallowcreme pumpkins all by themselves
  6. The Today Show costume reveal
  7. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
  8. Answering the door for trick-or-treaters (appropriately aged) 
  9. Clever and creative costumes -- check out the great one below
This is a girl who goes to our church:

gum shoe costume

Can you guess what she is? 

Gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe! Isn't that great? Here's what her mom said about how they put it together:

We got the pink clothes from goodwill, and then hot glue gunned the shoe to a headband. Easy peasy. If you didn't want to buy costume giant shoes, you could blow up photos of shoes and paste them to foam core board and then hot glue those to a hat, hoodie, or headband.

Friday, October 28, 2011

So it seemed like a good idea at the time

Mike and I are going to a fundraiser tonight that is black tie optional, tennis shoes required. So when I was getting my hair cut last night, I got a crazy idea to put one of those new-dangled feathers in my hair.

They didn't have a hot pink one, which is what I wanted, but they did have light pink. I figured that would be good.

Then I had the choice of clip in or the more semi-permanent bead-set. I decided if I was going to do this, I was going for the "rill dill." I had a feeling Annie would freak, but I thought one tiny feather was better than turning my whole head blue -- which I still think about doing.

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She didn't exactly freak, but she did say "What did you do to your hair and why?," followed by "You're over 40, you know. Not some teenager."

She also said "It looks like a leopard and a bird mated."

Last night, I didn't care. It felt like an impulsive, carefree and fun idea.

This morning, my feather feels a little silly and -- don't tell Annie -- young for me. It actually kind of looks like a leobird is burrowing under my hair and into my brain. I guess I'll keep it through the gala tonight and probably through the weekend, then we'll see.

Maybe if I cut it so it's not quite so long, I would like it better. Maybe as my hair grows, it will be a bit more subtle. Maybe I'll just go blue after all.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grief-stricken, self-indulgent, joy-filled fragments

Mommy's Idea If there were ever a week for Mrs. 4444s' Friday Fragments, this is it. My mind is bouncing in about 100 different directions. Not to worry, I will not share 100 fragments. I'll just give you the highlights.

This has been a week of grief. First, my Aunt Connie died two days ago. Then this morning, my Uncle Jim passed away. My mom's sister. My dad's brother. I hate cancer.

All the sadness in my week has me craving comfort food. For two days, I couldn't stop thinking about donuts and how much better donuts would make me feel. I was thinking about donut-induced happiness and said to myself "Donuts make the world go 'round." Then that made me laugh. Because that's the problem. Donuts DO make the world (or at least my rear end and belly) round.


Photobucket We took Annie to New York City for her Fall Break last week. We had a great time. We went to see "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying." Daniel Radcliffe was wonderful. There was no trace of Harry Potter in him on stage at all. They did a really good job of covering up his scar.

One of the coolest things we saw in the City was a cozy little waterfall, tucked between a couple of buildings in Midtown. We just happened upon it. It was a little oasis of peacefulness. The sound of the water even drowned out most of the sounds of the city. 

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PhotobucketYou might have already read about the awesome new shoes I bought in New York. Actually, I bought two pair -- one black and one green. They are the most comfortable shoes I've had on my feet in a long time. I walked to and from the subway in them, around Chinatown, in Times Square and in the airport. I "heart" these shoes. But the best part? Check out what's on the bottom. Those are frogs! We were meant for each other.

I had some age spot/warty thing frozen off my cheek the other day. Except it's still there, looking uglier than before. How long does it take for these things to fall off?

After four days of rain, the sun is finally shining here. What's sad is that I didn't even notice the absence of the rain until I saw a post on Facebook that said, "Hey, it's not raining!" Guess it's time I woke up and smelled the roses (or the hot apple cider).

Hug those you love today. Do something that will bring a smile to someone who needs it. Buy a pair of green shoes. Eat a donut. Find the joy.

Fashion statement

You might not have heard this from Stacy London or Clinton Kelly on "What Not to Wear." I don't know if this has ever been said on "Project Runway." Calvin Klein may not agree with me, but I have a fashion statement to make.

(I'll wait for you to get paper and pen so you can write this down.)

Ready?

Ok. Here it is.

LIME GREEN IS THE NEW NEUTRAL.

Yep. That's what I said -- lime green is the new neutral. It goes with virtually everything. Case in point, my new shoes:

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Besides the fact that these shoes are too cute with their little swirly design,  they make great fashion sense because they go with everything. 

Lime green and black? Yep.
Lime green and purple? Of course.
Lime green and brown? Works for the kiwi.
Lime green and orange? So fun.
Lime green and blue? Sure. 
Lime green and pink? Love it.
Lime green and red? Daring, but go for it.  

I really think I'm on to something. So when you see it in the magazines or maybe even on QVC, remember you saw it here first.

PS -- Because so many have asked, the brand is El Natura Lista. Please don't tell Mike they make men's shoes. He has too many shoes as it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The way I see it

I've written and re-written this post 3 times. I think I'm hesitant to share my view of the afterlife because I don't want to be criticized or debated. I don't want my cousins to feel like I am using their loss as mere fodder for my blog. So I'm just going to put this out there and say it's from the heart and it doesn't begin to describe the fun and loving woman who slipped from this earth today.

My Aunt Connie passed away today after a long and valiant battle against ovarian cancer. I am sad that she is gone, but have found myself comforted by what I'm choosing to believe happened in heaven this morning.

When Connie arrived, escorted by angels, I imagine that God met her at the pearly gates with a huge hug, nodding his head, saying "very good, very good" -- which was one of Aunt Connie's signature phrases. Tell her about a deal you got on a pair of jeans and she would smile, nod and say "very good, very good." Share a joke she enjoyed and get a "very good, very good" in response.

In my mind, God was not the only one waiting for Connie's arrival. My NaNa (Connie's mom) and MaMa (her grandmother) were there too. Seeing the three of them together again brings a smile to my heart. In no time at all, I'm sure NaNa showed Connie where the Ohio State loving angels hang out.

Connie's illness and death have made me miss all the more my mother-in-law who passed away last spring. I think she was there to welcome Connie, too. Karen was so welcoming in life that I'm sure she would be on hand to greet someone I loved. Though Karen and Aunt Connie only met a few times, I know they would have been friends if they'd lived closer together. For one thing, they both believed if one is good, 10 is better, evidenced by the fact that on one of our annual shopping trips, Connie bought 8 pairs of boots for my cousin, just because she couldn't make up her mind which ones Teresa would like best. I think a lot of those went back to the store, but I just laughed as the boots kept piling up. (It was also Aunt Connie who taught me about themes for Christmas gift giving.)

It's been a year of loss in our family, as my sister lost her father-in-law in January. I'm sure Steve was on the welcome wagon, too. His love of running and beer and his sense of humor reminded me a bit of my Uncle Ed, Connie's husband. I like to think that Steve is there to look out for Connie.

It's probably a juvenile view of heaven and probably not 100% theologically accurate, but today it has helped me. I think Aunt Connie would even nod and say "very good, very good."

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The pic is fuzzy, but Aunt Connie is the first on the left in the front row.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rainy day surprise

It's raining here -- has been since last night. Despite the gray and gloomy and wet conditions outside, a couple of friends at work and I decided to walk to a nearby Thai food restaurant for lunch.

The walk there wasn't bad. A little chilly, but not very rainy. The rain was coming down harder when we left to return to the office, but I didn't mind so much because this little surprise was there waiting to greet us as we walked by:

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I couldn't help but smile. I hope it has the same effect on you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A few words

HAPPY! HAPPY!
JOY! JOY!
Oh, what a feeling! 
Thank you, Jesus!
 
Mike has a new job!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What's a church-going parent to do?

I really don't like conflict. Have I mentioned that before? So imagine how I feel when the conflict is within myself.

There is a proposal to put a not-for-profit correctional facility for non-violent female offenders across the street from my kids' school and our church. As in right across the street. The women, most of whom would be serving the last portion of their sentences in this facility, would be living there with their pre-school age children.

From the first time I heard of the plan, I was determined to be prudent in collecting facts and to consider those facts as non-emotionally as possible. The churchgoer in me is all about charity and forgiveness and WWJD. The parent in me who pays tuition to send my kids to school and who is first concerned with their safety is crying "not so fast."

I've talked to social workers and funders who've worked with this facility, who vouch for the strict procedures and low recidivism rates the facility has employed and achieved. They don't see an issue. I've talked to prosecutors and attorneys who are concerned that in order for non-violent offenders to be incarcerated they must be repeat offenders who've failed previous opportunities for probation.

Some people from the church (most who don't have kids in the school) and our priest are hopeful about opportunities for outreach and service the church could have. School parents -- myself included -- are concerned about the recruiting challenges having a facility like this across the street could present to the school.

The organization that is hoping to move into the building across the street has already been taking care of the grass, weeding the overgrowth along the building. Clearly, they are demonstrating a desire to be a good neighbor. They intend to build a playground on the property for the women and their children. The residents are only able to leave the building for pre-approved reasons at pre-approved times. They are not permitted to drive. Visitors are pre-qualified and screened. No one on probation or parole is permitted to visit.

But what about one of those non-approved visitors who comes to the facility, gets enraged by not being let in and who crosses the street to take out that anger on our church and school? What about the property values for homeowners in the area?

There are no easy answers.

To be truthful, the neighborhood the school is in is definitely in an urban area. There have been lockdowns in the school based on nearby incidents before. According to the organization hoping to move into the neighborhood, there have been 53 phone calls to the police in the past 10 months about crime and suspicious activity on the now-vacant property. Vandals have stripped the building of all the copper, commercial kitchen equipment, and anything else salable on the black market.

Would it be better to have the facility occupied by a responsible tenant with 24/7 security than to continue to allow it to sit empty and be picked apart? Or are there other, less controversial organizations that might occupy the building?

Are there benefits that the organization could bring to the neighborhood? Perhaps having this facility would lead to increased police patrols in the area, which would benefit everyone. Maybe public transportation routes would be improved because the organization would advocate for that to better serve their clients who rely on the city bus to look for work and get to appointments? 

Can you see that I'm torn? I want to act in love and charity, but I also want to protect my children and their school and the place we go to church.

And I'm well aware (and extremely grateful) that the decision is not mine. Ultimately, the decision will fall to the zoning board that will have to grant a variance for the facility to occupy the building. Based on the ruling of the zoning board, I know there will be other decisions that will follow -- by the church, by school parents, by neighbors, and perhaps by the organization itself.

My decision is made. I'm turning it over to prayer. (Check out the prayer that was used to open an informational meeting tonight.) Maybe that's a cop-out. But it's the only decision I can find peace in right now.

What would you do?

Modern definitions

Indian summer: When your brain is ready for jeans and sweaters, but your body still wants sandals and shorts.

High school: Four years during which you will never see your child.

Exercise: Punishment for all the bad stuff you ate yesterday or you plan to eat today.

Weekend: Two days on which the laundry is high and the motivation is low.

Dinner: 1. Something someone else cooks for you in a kitchen not your own. 2. Cereal.

Courage: This

Do you have any modern definitions to share? Feel free to do so in the comments.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

6,575 days

157,800 hours

9,468,000 minutes 

568,080,000 seconds

Sometimes happily
Sometimes grudgingly

Sometimes with laughter
Sometimes with gritted teeth

Sometimes in fatness
Sometimes in shape

Sometimes in plenty
Sometimes in want (relatively speaking...)

Sometimes with absolute certainty
Sometimes with doubt

Always blessed

568,080,000 seconds

9,468,000 minutes  

157,800 hours 

6,575 days

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18 years of "I do."
Happy anniversary to my huzzzband.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Interrupted

I've been scarce around here I told you to put it away yesterday lately. Life has been a little crazy For the third time, do the dishes now and overwhelming. We're all good I can't bring your math homework to school, I'm in a meeting but moving in 100 different direc What's burning? tions, which is quite a lot for just 5 people. It's one of those seasons of You'll have to ask Santa for it because I'm not buying it life where I feel like I'm not doing a very good Uh, yeah boss. I'll have it to you at the end of the day job at anything I'm doing. Some of it is because I can't say NO we are not getting a puppy no. I can't help it, I'm a people pleaser. I'm sorry if you don't like me, I'm not changing my mind.  Some of it is poor time management on my part How did it get to be after 2 o'clock already? Damn Facebook! Some of it is just the luck of the draw I suppose. I'm not complaining Why is every durn road in this town under construction? I'm trying to remember my blessings and be thankful that my burdens are really just inconveniences. Cancer -- so sad. She's so young. And when I'm frazzled and fallen I need some ibuprofen now I'll take a deep breath and try again. Be back soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What was I so afraid of?

I've had a long-standing personal rule: No boy parties at my house. I know it's unfair and probably sexist, but groups of boys scare me. They're loud. They tackle things. They eat a lot. They're stinky.  Last weekend, I decided I needed to get over myself. Seriously, I'm a 41-year old woman. I can handle a few boys, can't I?

It turns out I can!

Charlie invited friends to spend the night on Saturday. I was nervous because Mike was out with Annie, so it was just me and 6 boys (Robbie included). Even Charlie was a little unsure. "Mom, you're good at inviting people, but Dad is good at the actual sleepover."  I really couldn't argue.

But I've figured out the magic formula for surviving a boys' sleepover:

Basement + Video Games = Easy Peasy

While I put the pizzas in the oven, the boys headed downstairs to play video games -- Cars 2, Michael Jackson's dance off or something like that, and some sports game. As I cut carrots and apples to serve with the pizza, I heard the boys squaring off in tournament-like pairings for the video games. Those who weren't playing at the time were tossing the football -- a common occurrence in our house.

I braced myself for the stampede when I called them up to eat. You could have knocked me over with a feather:

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These growing boys ate less than Annie's friends did at her last sleepover. There was pizza, cheese curls, a few carrots, some apples and root beer left after they got up from the table.

Post-dinner activities included a movie, more video games and some chatter. Oh, a few times I had to remind them that the basement wall wasn't so good at catching the football. And I did have to extract Robbie from the fun so he wouldn't cramp his big brother's style. At 11:30pm, I gave them the 30-minute lights out warning. An hour in the dark later, there was still some laughing going on, so I had to put on my "mom voice" and be firm about them going to sleep. But that was it.

There was no cackling and squealing. I did not find myself in search of the ibuprofen. And no one asked me to make a last minute maxi-pad and candy run. In fact, the second bag of cheese curls, a bag of caramel popcorn and a family-size pack of Twizzlers went untouched!

The morning brought more video games, a backyard game of football and breakfast. Those boys may not have been big on snacking, but their breakfast consumption was more in line with my expectations. A dozen eggs, a loaf of cinnamon bread, milk, OJ and two pounds of bacon. They wanted donuts too, but because sometime around 7am they'd found and eaten some cupcakes, I put the kibosh on the donuts.

After the last boy went home, I found myself wondering what the heck I'd been afraid of?