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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."