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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?