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Monday, May 30, 2011

Sensory recall

Isn't it funny how a smell or a color or another bit of sensory input can transport us back to an earlier place and time?

I might have mentioned that our air conditioner is on the fritz. As in completely kaput and in need of replacement. It's been that way for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, relief in the form of a new unit is on its way later this week. Until then, however, we're rocking the open windows and fans -- ceiling fans, box fans, oscillating fans.

With temps in the 90s and humidity high, the sensation of hot, muggy air takes me back to my grandparents' house when I was growing up. Grandma and Grandpa didn't have air conditioning, so summer days and nights were spent with the windows open and fans blowing.

The adults would often head to the covered back porch to sit and visit. My favorite place to retreat to was my Aunt Molly's room. It was at the end of the hall, just past the holy water font and the bathroom with the peachy pink tile. Molly's room was painted lavender and had two or three rectangular windows positioned on the wall facing the backyard. The windows tilted outward, meaning any breeze would have to maneuver its way underneath the open panes before it could reach me.

I would lie down on the bed -- it was always made -- with the lights off. The gray box fan on the floor would be aimed toward me. I would lie perfectly still, avoiding any movement so as not to generate more body heat, and listen to the grown ups' conversation on the back porch just outside the window.

There was something peaceful about that hot, muggy quiet. The hum of the fan. The chatter of the outside world -- people talking, screen doors slamming shut, leaves rustling with the occasional breeze. The stillness of my own body.

It's a happy memory for me, a memory that is a silver lining 30 years later, when I'm sitting in my own house, wishing for air conditioning. 

In memory

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. A day to remember with gratitude the sacrifices of those who serve our country, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Looking for something to do today? Go to a cemetery and place flags or flowers on the graves of soldiers. Pick up the tab for a military family you see at a local restaurant. Pray for the safety of those currently on duty in our military. Read this post, then watch the movie "Taking Chance," and be humbled and grateful.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If you saw this

If you saw this:


what would come to your mind? Would it be this:


If you saw this:


how could you not smile?

If you read this:


would you be surprised to see it on this:


If you saw this:

will you still be my friend?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

At least he wasn't naked

We had our carpets cleaned yesterday. Because we're still waiting to get our A/C replaced, the carpet cleaners said it would take 24-48 hours for them to dry. We had furniture piled in the kitchen, the front hall and the bathrooms. We decided to pack up and spend the night in a hotel.

I told the kids to pack the field day clothes they would need for school today. Navy blue shirt for Charlie, light blue for Annie, yellow for Robbie -- the colors assigned by their grade levels. They were so excited for a mini-adventure, they all ran upstairs to pack. Even Robbie packed his own bag.

This is where your Spidey senses should be wigging out, as in "check the bag! check the bag!" Unfortunately, my sensors must have been turned off.

When we woke up in the hotel this morning -- everyone should have made-to-order breakfast before work/school, I pulled out Robbie's clothes to find that he must have pulled his yellow t-shirt out of the dirty clothes. There was not a whole lot I could do about it; I didn't have anything else for him to wear. So I (unsuccessfully) tried to scrub the dirty shoulder clean with a washcloth.

After I dropped them off at school, I stopped in the parking lot to e-mail is teacher:

Subject: I can explain...

Why Robbie looks like he's been shot in the shoulder and bled chocolate milk.

Short story: He picked out his own clothes (apparently from the dirty clothes bin) and I didn't check it until it was too late.

Long story: Wet/drying carpets (had them cleaned) and no A/C, so we decided to head to a hotel. INSERT ABOVE EXPLANATION. When it was time to get up this a.m., I discovered the chocolate milk massacre. I contemplated stopping at WalMart for a new yellow shirt, but I decided in a few hours the look would be the same.

About mid-morning, I logged into my e-mail and realized I'd missed a few messages from the night before. Including one from the teacher that said:

Field day dress: Green shirt

Wonderful! Not only did he go to school in a dirty t-shirt, but also in the wrong color. I'm so not winning Mother-of-the-Year this year. I replied with the same sentiment to the teacher who said "I was laughing at your earlier e-mail and I wasn't about to tell you 'green.'"

Have I mentioned I love this teacher?!

I snapped this picture of Robbie after school today. All that mess on the sleeve? Yep. It was there this morning. Luckily for both of us, he didn't seem to mind.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stop him before he organizes again.

My husband needs a job. I am afraid of what will happen if he continues to spend the majority of his waking hours in our house.

It started with the brown bins. You know, the art deco-ish kind they sell at Target to make you think that THIS time you really are going to get your stuff together?

I think he said that the bins were for school, bills and mail. Or maybe they were for mail, bills and coupons? I can't remember. Right now in their dust-gathering spot on the dining room table, they are for random papers, newspapers and impossibly old school papers. (Don't ask me where the bills are.)

Then there were the big laundry tubs. 5 of them -- one for each member of the family. 4 blue and 1 pink, for Annie because she's a girl. Apparently Mike forgot that I possess a set of ovaries as well. Anyway, I was skeptical of the laundry bins because they are round. Who folds round clothes?

The kids weren't as skeptical as I was about the new laundry tubs. In fact, they love them:

I will admit that the tubs are handy for moving laundry in and out of the laundry room. So it wasn't all for naught, but they aren't working out exactly as Mike envisioned. (Three of them are sitting in the entryway as I type.)

But today, he moved from container cravings to higher realms. Higher as in he bought plastic bed risers to put under the frame of our bed. I went upstairs and felt like I'd fallen into the Princess and Pea fairy tale. Keep in mind that I am only 5'3" on a day when I'm standing up very straight. This new uplifting experience has raised the top of our mattress to about 31 inches. My bed is almost half as tall as I am. And the poor dog -- she can't jump on the top of the mattress anymore. She gets hung up on the edge and just gives you a look like "Hey, can a dog get some help here?"

When I asked him what had motivated him to put our bed on stilts, he didn't hear me at first. He was too busy looking at books on feng shui on, heaven help me. Once I finally got his attention, he said he did it so we can store stuff under the bed.

"Store stuff?" I asked. "We already store stuff under the bed -- dust bunnies, escaped fruit snack wrappers, fugitive socks and an eclectic assortment of Littlest Pet Shop toys and Legos."

Mike failed to see the humor or the logic in this.

"No, really," he went on. "See, I got these baskets to slide under the bed to store stuff." 

Again with the baskets?! But I hold my tongue because my dearly departed mother-in-law was famous for using laundry baskets as a haphazard filing and storage "system" and I think the mourning period is still in effect. Instead, I asked Mike what "stuff" he had in mind for the baskets. 

"The stuff that we have all over. The stuff in the closets."

"You mean the stuff we should just give away and be rid of?"

His body language conceded defeat on that one. But then he came in with the save -- "For shoes! We can store our shoes in the baskets under the bed."

Again, because I'm trying not to be too disagreeable I offered up an "ok," not mentioning that if we cleaned out the closets, there would be plenty of room in there for the shoes. 

I did ask what the acceptable weight load for these plastic risers is. He said something about using 6 risers instead of 4 so it will be fine. I'm thinking we might want to sleep in shifts, just in case. We are not the smallest people, after all.

I can only imagine what he's got planned for tomorrow, and I am afraid.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Playing catch up

Hey strangers! Sorry to be MIA over the weekend (not that anyone noticed). Yesterday was nonstop and today I had trouble getting going. Of course, now that it's 11:34pm, I'm awake and trying to catch up on some loose ends here.

The first order of business tonight is the Eversave/Red Mango giveaway. There weren't too many entries for this giveaway. Of the 5 commenters, only 3 were local. So I used to come up with Kristin as the winner of the Red Mango Save and an additional $5 in Save credit.

However, I didn't want Michele from GotchaBaby or Ms. Dawn to go away empty-handed. One of the things I love about Eversave is their referral credits. I've got quite a few racked up, so I used some of my referral credits to buy the Red Mango Save for Michele and Dawn as a gift from me. If all three of you will send me the e-mail address you use for, I'll make sure you get your prizes. (My e-mail is 4thfrog70 (at) gmail (dot) com.)

Speaking of saving money, yesterday I hosted a couponing class taught by my friend Cherie, aka the Queen of Free. We had 12+ people there and lots of good info shared. What I liked about Cherie's approach was that she advocates "practical couponing" as opposed to "extreme couponing." She is also very ethical in her approach to making the most of the coupons provided by manufacturers and retailers. If you haven't done so yet, head over to the Cherie's site and check it out.

PhotobucketThis is Annie's last week of classes before 8th grade graduation. Holy sands of time, Batman! How did that get here already?! The boys go until the first week of June. They won't be happy when they still have to go to school and she doesn't.

Last week, Annie was in the school's production of Into the Woods, Jr. (an age-appropriate version of the original). She played Jack & the Beanstalk's mother. I know I'm biased, but she did a great job!

Also last week, Charlie brought this sticker home from the school book fair. I have no idea why he would have chosen this one:


Given that it's almost midnight, it seems like that's a good note to end on. Hope you all have a terrific week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

I scream, you scream for FREE ice cream

It's almost summertime! And summertime means ice cream time! (Well, for me, so does fall, winter and spring, but that's not the point of this post.)

Have I ever told you how I feel about ice cream? Let me remind you -- I LOVE it. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be ice cream.


I like the 50-cent McDonald's soft serve cone for a not-too-indulgent treat. I like Maggie Moo's dark chocolate and Cinna-Moo mixed with almonds for something special. And if I'm near a Baskin-Robbins, it's definitely the chocolate peanut butter. And I don't keep ice cream at home because that would be trouble!

In fact, the only downside to ice cream is that pesky fat and calorie thing. But it seems that new frozen yogurt shops are popping up all over the country. It's like ice cream without the guilt. All-natural, probiotic, gluten-free and kosher. Not only is it delicious, it's also very PC.

And today through Sunday, I'm hosting one delicious giveaway with One lucky winner in the Indianapolis area will win a Save at Red Mango Frozen Yogurt, plus $5 in Save Rewards to use on an Eversave daily deal of their choice!

 To enter to win this yummy giveaway, do the following:
  • Sign up for Eversave Indianapolis
  • “Like” Eversave Indy on Facebook and/or follow Eversave Indy on Twitter
  • Leave a comment here telling me what your favorite ice cream flavor or combo is.
You can earn extra entries by tweeting: “I want to win a free ice cream Save from @EversaveIND and @4thFrog”

If you don't want to wait for the giveaway, you can snag this Save for yourself. Spend just $5 for two medium, one-topping frozen yogurts from Red Mango in Broad Ripple ($10.24 value). Here's the fine print:
  • Eversavers may buy 2 Saves per person and 2 additional Saves as gifts
  • Customers may use one Save per visit
  • Customers may add as many more toppings as they like (that fit in the cup) for just 50 cents more!
  • Promotional value of the Save expires on Nov. 20, 2011
Now, don't go feeling left out if you don't live in Indianapolis. Eversave is throwing a virtual ice cream social by offering great ice cream saves in several cities across the U.S. Click the picture below to find deals near you.


Disclosure: I'm promoting this giveaway on behalf of Eversave. In exchange for participating, I earned Save Bucks. The content of this post was all written by me, myself and I. And any change to the landscape of my butt as a result of consumption of ice cream is solely my responsibility.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Put your party planning hat on

In just less than three weeks, Mike will turn 40 years old. He wants a party. And truthfully, given the year we've had so far, he NEEDS a party. But I'm at a bit of a loss at what to do.

I thought about taking a group of people out to the baseball game. I considered renting out a theater for a showing of Star Wars or some equally nerdy movie, although I'm not sure you can actually do that.

Oh, and there's that little detail where he currently is unemployed and money is kind of tight. (Although he does have some hopeful prospects out there, so that could change...)

He had the oh-so-helpful suggestion of renting a replica of the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee and nemesis sheriff's car and parking them in my front yard. Yes, he is turning 40, not 14.

Anyway, a home party would probably be the most cost-effective, but perhaps a little more work to pull it off than I'm hoping to do. I still have the stable from the Christmas nativity sitting in the family room if that gives you an idea of what it would take to get this house party-ready. idea is a bad idea. What's been the most fun 40th birthday party you've attended? What kind of party would you want to be invited to? (That's no guarantee of an invitation.) How would you want to celebrate a milestone birthday?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Secret keeper

I've been keeping a little secret. No. I am not pregnant. The last one almost killed me, so I'm not going there again. Anyway, this is not exactly a huge secret. I've actually talked about it several times in the past, but now I've got more to show than just talk about.

The INShape Indiana video segments I've been shooting since last fall have been arriving in people's e-mail boxes and on the INShape website. The first two of six episodes have been released. That's my big secret. Sorry if you were expecting something more fun.

When INShape Indiana approached me, they said they were looking for an "everywoman" type person. From the very beginning, I've been putting myself out there as honestly as possible. I'm not a fitness or nutrition expert (obviously). I'm just one person trying, not always successfully,  to build healthy habits for myself and my family.  For the record, I am not getting rich doing these. In fact, I didn't get paid for my participation at all. Of course, being asked to participate was quite ego-stroking which, as any attention-loving Leo will tell you, is priceless.

The first episode was e-mailed out a couple of weeks ago. I didn't rush right over here to tell you because I'm a little uneasy about it. I agreed to do the shoots last fall when I much thinner. I didn't know at the time that the process would go on for as long as it has and that I would gain 20+ pounds from fall to spring. So I feel a little hypocritical. There are plenty of people (like my friend Liz) who are making some great strides in the health and fitness arena. But I hope people are able to relate to my experiences -- and to the piles of folded laundry stacked on my couch that can be seen in the background of some episodes!

Although only two episodes have been released, I've seen four of them. I really like what I hear. I just don't like what I see. Whoever said the camera adds 10 pounds grossly underestimated. And why didn't Jason, the camera guy tell me that my necklace did not match my sweater in episode 2?! (Because he's a man, that's why.)

The process has been really fun. Jason and the rest of the crew from Cantaloupe TV have been great to work with. The style of the videos is like me -- casual and approachable. I've met some great people along the way. Maybe this will be my big break and I'll be discovered. 4thFrog TV? Who knows?

So...enough talk.

Meet Amy...Episode 1

and Episode 2

If you want to be among the first to see the new episodes as they are released, head over to the INShape Indiana website and sign up for their newsletter (bottom right of the homepage).

So...That's the big secret. Hope it was worth your time.

This post made possible by Target

I've had the pics for this post for several weeks. I just needed to find the right time to use them. Today, the Queen of Free gave me that nudge when I read her Grocery Store Commandments. I am a frequent violator of #6: Thou Shalt Not Shop for Leisure.  Trips to Target or Walmart should not be a hobby. 

Are you kidding me? Tell me that a trip to Target by yourself isn't almost as good as a mini-vacation? Especially if I go by myself at night, Target is the perfect place to aimlessly wander the aisles just to see what's there and to avoid having to pull bedtime duty at home.

Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago. As if that wasn't fun enough, I pulled out my trusty cell phone camera and snapped pics of things that I thought were noteworthy:


I guess the silly band craze is over. A bazillion silly bands on clearance. 
Boy, don't those people who paid $4.99 a package feel dumb now?

Proof that my husband is not the only nerd out there. What says "Happy Father's Day" better than a verbal duel between Captains Kirk and Picard?

I wonder if my grandma knows Target pulled a Julie Andrews 
and cut up her curtains to make dresses?

New nail polish intended to keep you awake if you've stayed up blogging to late. Hello bright colors!

The package says "real construction." Except it's not real wood. Plastic "wood-like product" to be cut with a plastic saw. Time to let the boy out of the plastic bubble, people.

Wrong-way stripes, why do you tempt me so? I love you, but you don't love me back.

What's the best/worst/strangest thing you've seen a Target (or a similar store) lately?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Friend In Need and the Wisdom of Pooh Bear

Today's guest post is from my long-time bloggy turned real-life friend, Liz, who you can find at her blog, Eternal Lizdom. Thanks Liz for helping out while I'm spending time with my family, celebrating the life of Mike's mom.
Eternal Lizdom

Sometimes, it is so hard to know what to do or say when someone you know is going through something difficult. My first response is always that I am praying for them. And I mean it- they aren’t words I use lightly and I will lift them up in prayer immediately and anytime they enter my mind after that.

For some situations, prayer and kind words are all I have to offer.

But what about the other things that friends do for us? What are the things that you are particularly good at doing when someone is facing hard times? And what holds you back from reaching out and asking to help?

Maybe you make an awesome casserole that is insanely easy to reheat and serve. Maybe you also make delicious cookies. What stops you from throwing together that meal and dropping it off to a friend going through a hard time?

Maybe you knit or are otherwise crafty. Why not knit a scarf for a friend who is hurting and give it to them with a note that says “wear this and feel my arms embracing you as you go through this difficulty?” Or maybe a blanket they can snuggle up with- those fleece knot blanket or a simple pieced together quilt?

You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
Maybe you are great at entertaining kids. Why not call up your mom friend who has a husband who is out of town on business and she’s been frazzled with work stress and health issues and money problems and offer to pick up the kids and give her a few hours to herself?

Maybe you are an artist. Why not paint or draw a calm and serene picture full of calm and warm colors to give to someone who is hurting?

"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.

"Yes, Piglet?"

"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

Maybe you just know the things that leave you feeling loved and you can give that to someone. Schedule (and pay for) a massage appointment for a friend who has helped you through some fitness hurdles and is suffering some muscle and tension pain. Make a comfort basket of their favorite treats- wine, chocolate, Diet Coke, fuzzy socks, a cozy scented candle.

Maybe you like to work outside. What stops you from going next door to your widowed neighbor’s yard and mowing or raking or shoveling snow?

And maybe you can write and reach people with your words. What stops you from writing a guest post for a friend’s blog or writing a post that asks others to help someone? Why not start typing and use your words and network to uplift and support?

A friend in need is a friend indeed. I hope that my friends know they can call on me when they have a need- just like my friend Amy did. I also hope that I can be in tune with the people around me and that I can see a need and not be afraid to reach out and fulfill it. That I can let down my guard and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone to make a positive impact in someone’s life, to show them that they are thought of and cared about and loved.

"Friendship," said Christopher Robin, "is a very comforting thing to have."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why do they gain it back?

I'm going to be scheduling some guest posts over the next few days while I spend time with our family to celebrate the life of my mother-in-law. Thanks so much to Beth for pitching in to help me out. 

When Amy asked me to guest post I knew that my topic would be The Biggest Loser. It's how I first met Amy and is one of the subjects for which she is known. Then as I sat down to write I knew that, hard as it might be, I would write on "Why Do They Gain It Back?"

Monday morning I had an 8:15 appointment with my Pain Management Doctor. In the reception area I had to sit in an armchair and hope that the arms wouldn't decide to give way thanks to my substantial hip width. They didn't. The nurse came to get me and led me to a scale not unlike the platform scale on Biggest Loser. It's a square silver platform. I took off my shoes and stood nose to nose with blinking red numbers on a black LCD screen. Where will they stop? This time they stopped at 402!

Four years ago I stepped on a different scale and gazed with pride on the 248 revealed there. I had lost, through discipline, diet, and sheer hard work, 200 pounds! And I believed that I had at least another 50 in me. I looked good. I felt good. I could sit in booths. I could stand up from sitting on the ground. My joints didn't hurt. I was friends with my scale and my mirror.

What happened? I've spent a lot of time considering the answer to that question. There are some simple answers and some for which I am still digging. I need to keep looking though because I really don't wish to see 450 again! Here are a few of MY answers:

Routine not as easy at home as it is on the ranch! Okay ... I never went to the ranch! But I was blessed to be able to spend 20+ years as a stay at home mom. And during the 2 year period that I worked on losing 200 pounds I was spending 5 or 6 hours a day at the gym. When I went back to work (clerical) in 2007, long days in the gym were replaced by long days in the office! My schedule was suddenly FILLED with a work day, my family's needs, and housework that I didn't think I would ever catch up on! I promised myself that I would find a way to get back to a disciplined gym routine but something else always came first so I never did.

Support at home is not as supportive! Don't misunderstand me here. My family and friends were overjoyed with my weight loss and my ability to fully participate in life because of it. And they have despaired with me as the weight came back on. And their words are almost always supportive. But when we go out to eat they choose pasta (actually I choose pasta a lot too ... they don't talk me out of it). My family has not stepped up to take over the housework, meal prep, etc. so that I can take time for the gym and make me a priority! I have an awesome husband and in the last couple of years he HAS taken over doing the dishes, grocery shopping, and some meal prep. But I always see the things that still need to be done! Beyond that ... the only support they give me is the positive kind. And some days ... I need a kick in the seat of the pants!

Bob and Jillian aren't there! Most of us don't have, and can't afford, a trainer! During my two years of dedicated gym attendance I watched a lot of people work with trainers. I never hired one. It just wasn't it the budget! But I know that those of us who need to lose a lot of weight NEED someone yelling at us to go further, push harder, reach beyond what we believe to be our endurance limits. Because we will NOT push ourselves that far!

It hurts! Another aspect of not having a trainer, and not knowing our own limits, is that we can, and sometimes do, hurt ourselves and that throws a major wrench in the weight loss or maintenance works! Have you noticed the times on the show when they have all been in a training room with wraps on their joints, ice packs on their sore places, and medics standing by in case of an emergency? I don't have that. So if something hurts ... I stop using it to allow it time to heal. And some times that break in the routine is the straw that breaks the camels back!

Real life happens! 2 1/2 years ago I totaled my car when I ran it into a phone pole. I walked away "uninjured" and blessed to be alive. The next day I woke up in horrendous pain. I've lived in pain since then. Whiplash and neuropathy. No real answers. Too many pills. 2 years ago I was diagnosed with depression and put on more pills. (Most of those pills come with a weight gain side effect.) A year ago we were coping with some serious legal and financial stresses. 6 months ago we took guardianship of a 5 year old grandchild. Every physical issue, every personal, financial, familial stress makes it harder to find the energy to get up and move! And it makes it harder to insist on the need to invest time, money and energy in MY needs!

And finally ... because Amy asked me for a post ... not a book ...

The emotional stuff is hard and not all of us are willing to do it! There is a reason beyond the food we eat and the time we spend exercising for why people become morbidly obese. We, at least in my experience, have self-image issues that need to be confronted before we will ever make peace with our bodies! Some of us have histories that we have been stuffing down with the calories for decades and that is a hard habit to stop. Some of us have never know thin and healthy and have no idea what to do with it! At least fat we know how to live with. And there is a very real fear that comes into play when the person we look at in the mirror does not match who we believe ourselves to be. We long for thin and healthy but we aren't sure what that entails and not knowing is scary!

It is not easy to wake up and face a mirror, or a scale, when you have gained back the weight that you worked so hard to lose. Knowing that you need to do it again, and have no guarantee that you won't gain it back, is scary and painful. Some of them will rise up and face that challenge. I'm trying to join them!

Beth is a prolific blogger who is trying to keep up with 4 blogs in addition to a family, friends, job, and gym schedule. You can find her at Beth: A Work In Progress, Testify!, Journey to a Healthier Me, and Faith Walk.

Digital comfort

Thank you all so much for your kind words regarding the loss of my mother-in-law, Karen. Some of you are people I know in real life, people who will be quick to offer a hug or help the next we see each other. Many of you, however, are people I'll likely never see face-to-face. We've been brought together by the magical workings of the internet.

I've spent quite a bit of time over the past 24 hours reading posts on Facebook, e-mails sent directly to me, comments on the funeral home's condolence page and on the newspaper's article about Karen's legacy and I have to say I am so thankful for the "digital comfort" that has been shared.

It's been enlightening to read the words of people who knew Karen in different ways than I did. She was my mother-in-law and I saw her through the lens of "family." So many others knew her as a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a guide.

I wanted to share some of the things that have been written in various places online about Karen since her passing:

Karen loved fiercely, gave generously, and encouraged others in a way that empowered them to do more.

I worked for Leadership Evansville many years ago....I never met her but remember she was the one who made sure I had a paycheck once...what a generous soul. 

She was a bright light in this world ~ bless her.

She always impressed me as one gutsy dame ... 

Her work with children, especially cMoe, and all of her unsung, known-only-to-her kindnesses will live on. She will be missed, but the love she has spread will live on. Everyone who knew her is a better person because of her.


I'm going to be away from this blog for the next couple of days. Don't fear, though, I've got a couple of terrific guest posts lined up for you. And I'll likely check in on Facebook from time to time, because I can do that from my phone.

Thank you again for the comfort you have shared with me and with my family. It really has meant more than I would have expected to receive via a computer screen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What the obituary will not say


My mother-in-law, Karen, passed away this morning.

I was home asleep on the couch (thank you tooth extraction) and Mike came downstairs to tell me his dad had just called. "My mom died."

We both sat there, almost in disbelief, taking in the words as they still hung in the air between us. The windows were open and I was aware of how beautiful the day outside was. I took small comfort in knowing that the day of Karen's death was one of sun and loveliness.

My tears were the first to come. They were a mix of relief that she is no longer suffering and sadness that she is gone. I called my parents, who loved Karen too, and Mike went to call his brother and a few friends. And then I turned here.

I've been contemplating how I would handle Karen's death in this space. It occurs to me that there is so much more to Karen than what her obituary will say.

The notice of her death might mention her multiple degrees. But it won't tell you that the greatest measure of Karen's brain was her emotional intelligence. She loved people and she loved making connections between people. I often joked that it would take 20 minutes to leave a restaurant because Karen would invariably stop at several tables to talk with people she knew -- and she knew EVERYONE.  Karen was the physical embodiment of Facebook before Facebook even existed.

Her obituary will most certainly include mention of her civic accomplishments, most notably her role as the founder of the Children's Museum of Evansville. It was her second greatest passion. Her first was her family. She was quick to rise up and defend her children from the time they were small and she knew no greater role than that of grandmother -- GoGo as she chose to be called.

She was not overly religious, but she was unflinchingly supportive of the fact that we choose to raise our own children in faith. And every time she pulled out of the driveway, she would toot the horn twice in front of an elderly neighbor's house and instruct her passengers to "Pray for Alma Baker."

I will be listed among her survivors, but no amount of column inches in the newspaper can begin to express how much I loved her. She has been part of my life for more than half of my years (that's what you get when you marry young). And she was my champion in my roles as wife and mother. She leaped to my defense on the Blue River when Mike was hollering at me to "look for the V" from the front of our canoe. She paid to have nearly 100 pounds of unfinished laundry carted out of my house to be washed, dried and folded by the dry cleaner. More importantly, in the recent years when our marriage has been tried, Karen stood by my side and reassured me that I was doing the right thing.

There is no way that the newsprint will be able to convey her laughter. It's one of the things I will miss the most. She'll no doubt be laughing from heaven when I say that her first question at the pearly gates is probably "What's for lunch?"

And no paper in the world would print that her favorite curse word was "F*ck," generally used in triplicate when something went wrong.

The obituary for my mother-in-law will not begin to describe who she really was. And I've probably done a miserable job trying to capture it here.

So I'll just leave it at this: Her name was Karen. And she was loved.

Linking this up with this week's Pour Your Heart Out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The root canal that wasn't

Today was the day I've been looking forward to for the past two and a half weeks. Today was root canal day! Ordinarily, I wouldn't be so happy about a root canal, but over the course of the wait, my tooth had gone from bad to worse, so much that 600 mg of ibuprofen every four hours was not enough to keep the pain in check.

My appointment was scheduled for 1:40pm, but I got a call asking if I could come in earlier. You betcha! So by about 12:45pm, I was sitting in the chair, Facebooking a few last remarks about the occasion.

The dental assistant asked if I wanted nitrous oxide or just local anesthesia. Have I mentioned how much I dislike dental procedures. My legs get all tense and I feel like I could climb right out of the chair. So, yes, nitrous oxide, please. In fact, make it a double.

The endodontist came in to talk to me. He wasn't sure if he could save the tooth, but he was going to try. I didn't hear much of that because I was busy trying not to look at the booger hanging from his right nostril. Fortunately, when he returned to start working on my tooth, he had a mask on so I didn't have to worry about looking at the booger or about whether it was going to fall out of his nose onto my face. 

Soon, I was lying under the warm and fuzzy "blanket" of nitrous oxide and I didn't even seem to care that they had jammed something in my mouth to keep it open or that the endodontist was drilling away on what was left of my broken tooth. Instead, I was enjoying the feeling that my legs were floating in the air. I was distinctly aware of my back and my rear end being up against the chair, but my legs looked and felt like they were loose, noodly appendages waving in the wind.

It wasn't all fun and games though. At one point, I became aware that I wasn't breathing. I tried to breathe through my mouth with no luck. Calmly told myself to breathe through my nose and couldn't come up with the air then either. Mild panic swept through me, which I must have indicated in some way because the dentist asked if I was ok. Suddenly, the air returned and all was well.

After what seemed like 10 minutes, but was in reality about 90 minutes, the dentist said "Amy" and I popped back into reality. Bad news. He wasn't able to save the tooth, but he had the nerve all exposed and thought it would be in my best interest to go have it extracted right away.

I had immediate commiseration for my friend Valerie, who when in labor with her first child, pushed for 3 hours only to finally be taken to the OR for a c-section. An hour and a half of drilling and poking and the dang tooth had to come out anyway.

Within 10 minutes, I had the referral to the oral surgery group, a copy of my x-ray and the endodontist's wishes for good luck.

Now, they will tell you that nitrous oxide wears off in about 3 minutes. I will tell you that nobody should think about driving anywhere if they've been under the laughing gas for an hour or more. I creepy crawled my way home -- thankfully the office is located across from my neighborhood -- and had my friend Jane drive me to the oral surgeon's office.

They informed me that my insurance wouldn't cover IV sedation. I could have the extraction done under local anesthetic, pay $75 for nitrous oxide, or pay $495 for the IV. The $75 hit of nitrous sounded good to me.

So the assistant got me set up and the surgeon came in to get started. He numbed the area around the tooth with a couple of shots, which I didn't mind because I was already starting to get that wonderful floaty leg feeling. He said he'd be back in a few minutes to do the extraction.

"Ok," I said, " But first, who are you?"  He hadn't introduced himself to me yet.

That's when things got interesting. He told me his name, which I recognized right away. He was the ex-husband of a friend of mine from church. I'd never met him, but I'd heard plenty about him. Given that he was going to performing a potentially painful procedure on me momentarily, I didn't really think I should share that information.

Instead I said, "Can I tell you a secret?" (That was the nitrous talking.)

"Sure," he said.

"My daughter babysits for your kids." I breathed a sigh of relief that my relaxed state did not induce me into mouthing off and I think he breathed one that my "secret" wasn't anything scandalous.

We talked a bit about what we should do with the gaping hole that would be left in my mouth once the tooth was gone. He suggested a titanium implant screwed into the bone (triple nitrous, please). I asked about whether my insurance would cover it and he said he would check and we could work something out. I suggested perhaps I would qualify for the "favorite babysitter discount." He laughed and said that might be possible.

Things were great from there. He knew Annie and talked about how much his kids like her. I talked about how cute the kids are and how much Annie enjoys babysitting for them. And then it was showtime.

PhotobucketDo you know how they extract a tooth? Basically, they take a pair of fancy pliers and pull and pull until the darn thing pops out of your head. It wasn't painful, but I certainly felt a ton of pressure as he yanked and yanked on my tooth. In my altered mental state, I could see my head detached from my body, rolling from left to right. It kind of looked in my mind's eye like one of those PBS Kids characters. 

In addition to literally pulling, I recall him banging on my tooth with some kind of hammer and I just envisioned the thing cracking off right inside my mouth. Just after he asked the assistant to prepare the hand blade -- they really should come up with a much less scary name than that -- so he could cut the tooth out, the stubborn thing popped out under the force of the pliers. Thank goodness for small favors.

Mike picked me up from the appointment, got me a Frosty, which was actually written on the post-op instructions -- and picked up my pain medicine, which I am now overdue for but I was trying to hold off so I could get this post written.

My new-friend-the-oral-surgeon told me to expect to feel pretty sore tomorrow. The fact that I was lying in a chair with my mouth open for 3-1/2 hours, plus all the tugging and pulling on my tooth, will make me especially thankful for the pain meds. Since coming home, I've slept in fits and starts and expect the night will bring more of the same. Too bad I don't have any nitrous oxide to take at home.

Getting double-duty out of this post by linking up to Once a Upon a Miracle's True Story Tuesday. Click on over for more wild, weird, wacky...and true...tales.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In search of Mother's Day dinner

For the past several years, I've had a rule about Mother's Day. I don't travel. I love my mom and my mother-in-law, but I've chosen to celebrate Mother's Day by spending it with my own husband and children, enjoying each other's company.

This year, however, I suspended that rule because we wanted to go for what is likely a last visit with Mike's mom. (I know, I've said that before. Apparently this end-of-life stuff is not an exact science. I was glad to have another chance to let her know how much I love her.) Because, as a family, we are a force to be reckoned with and because Mike's dad is pretty worn out by Mike's mom's condition, we decided to just make a it a day trip. Down and back all in one day -- a total of about 7 hours of driving. (Have I ever mentioned my kids are not great travelers?)

The trip down went pretty quickly, probably because I slept through most of it. The trip back, however, went about as fast as the schoolyard bully walks to the principal's office. We decided to break it up a little bit by stopping for Mother's Day dinner on the way home. I had a hard time deciding where I wanted to go. Thanks to the Urbanspoon app on my iPhone, I settled on Gray Brothers Cafeteria. (It's Mother's Day; don't judge.)

As we were approaching the exit on the highway, I was already contemplating meatloaf, green beans, rolls and some yummy institutional chocolate pudding. (Again, don't judge.) But when we pulled off the highway and made the necessary right turn, we were faced with a "Road Closed" sign. Having no idea what alternate route would get us to Gray's, I decided I would just choose another restaurant.

After we'd been back on the highway for about five or six miles, I decided Maxine's Chicken and Waffles would be a fun place for Mother's Day dinner. It sounds 100 kinds of wrong, I know, but trust me, this place is all right. I'd first eaten there earlier in the week and was anxious to try the sweet potato waffle on this trip. So we followed the highway into downtown Indianapolis, navigated the one way streets and pulled up to Maxine's at about 6:19pm. Only to find out they closed at 6:00pm.

Ugh! This was just about the time I decided to get a little pouty.

How about Scotty's? Mike suggested.
Bazbeaux Pizza?
We had pizza for lunch.
Wrong direction and too pricey.

I was rocking the prima donna thing, but it was Mother's Day and I'd been in the car for over 4 hours (on the return trip) and I was hungry. As we drive all over kingdom come, I finally agreed to Binkley's Kitchen. I haven't eaten there in a long time and after being twice foiled in my attempts to eat decadently, a salad was beginning to sound good.

So we arrived at Binkley's, piled out of the car and didn't even make it through the door when the people who'd gone in ahead of us came right back out, saying the wait was at least an hour.

Seriously? For the love of Pete, it's Mother's Day and I'm a mother. A very hungry mother at that. Why can't all those other people just get out of my way and let me eat in peace (or at least not in a moving vehicle)?

Wanting something inexpensive and fast, I directed Mike to head to Five Guys. I've never known those French fries to do me wrong. Of course, he had to take the scenic route there, just in case we'd happen upon another restaurant that sounded good.

If you've never been to Five Guys, let me tell you a.) it's GOOD, b.) it's not necessarily good for you, c.) the menu is pretty limited. But I was determined to make it not a total nutritional fiasco. I ordered one order of fries (ok, it was size large) for the whole family to share. Then instead of choosing the hamburger or hot dog, I went for the veggie and cheese sandwich. My choices of veggies, grilled, and served on a bun with one slice of cheese. I figured I needed the protein, right?

It turns out Five Guys was pretty darn busy for Mother's Day, too. So after about a 15 minute wait, our food came. I couldn't wait to bite into my grilled veggie sandwich, proud of myself for making a reasonably healthy selection at a place known all over for it's greasy food fare.

My grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, grilled green peppers, grilled tomatoes and cheese sandwich, turned out to be raw onions (blech!), mildly warm mushrooms, crisp green peppers and regular old tomatoes with wilted cheese. Still somewhat of a nutritional victory, I ate it anyway because it was almost 8pm and I was too darn hungry and tired to make a fuss.

And so that's how my search for Mother's Day dinner came to a close. But honestly, the day itself -- for all the driving and frustration and imperfections that came with it -- was a great one. I got to take a nap (in the car); I spent the day with people I love; and I climbed into bed when we got home, free from bath and bedtime duty.

In the end, I have just one thing to say about Mother's Day: Next year, reservations.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Classic tale for Mother's Day


One of the great things about being a Mom is all the funny experiences that weave their way into oft-told tales for years to come. We were with friends tonight and one of them reminded me of this story. She said she's been waiting for it to appear on my blog -- so Lori, Happy Mother's Day.

Basking in the glow of motherhood
Charlie was probably about 2 months old. Annie was about 2-1/2. We were in the kids' bathroom, where I was giving Charlie a bath. I had the baby bath tub set inside the big bathtub and was leaning over the edge of the tub, cooing at Charlie while running the soapy washcloth over his baby rolls. (He actually had rolls back then.)

Annie stood behind me and started brushing my hair. Now at this time in her life, Annie HATED having her hair brushed. It was a real ordeal. So when she started brushing mine, I took the opportunity to tell her how nice it felt. How it was such a treat to have my hair brushed.

As all this was going on, I took in the scene. Here I was lovingly tending to my newborn while engaging my 2-year-old in a teachable moment and I felt like a great mom. Truthfully, I was basking in the glow of motherhood.

This went on for a few minutes. Charlie was content and Annie kept brushing. I turned slightly to grab the hooded towel (oh, I miss those things!) for Charlie when, for the first time, I got a look at Annie.


"No! Yucky! Yuck! Yuck!" I screamed, scooping Charlie up as fast as I could.

Annie, sensing trouble, took off running down the hall waving the toilet bowl brush high overhead.

I ran after her, wet, slippery Charlie tucked under my arm. The basking was definitely over.

Looking back, I should have known the idyllic moments in the bathroom that I felt so glowing about were too good to be true. Because, really, my experience of motherhood has mostly been about running, hollering and having a good story to tell at the end.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Somewhere out there

Photobucket(Anyone feel like breaking into the song from An American Tail?)

It's almost 2:30am. I'm awake. Nothing unusual in that. But I'm hoping that Annie is asleep. I don't know for sure because she is on a bus with her classmates somewhere between Washington D.C. and here. They are making their way home from their 8th grade class trip.

We dropped her off at school at 7am Monday morning to board the bus. She had fruit snacks, granola bars, gum, magazines, books, her camera, spending money and NO cell phone. In fact, none of the kids had phones with them -- they were outlawed on this trip so that the kids would fully engage in the experience, not spend all day with their heads bent over little cell phone screens.

Totally understandable. Great idea. But hard for this Mom. We had phone numbers for the chaperones and were free to call them to get in touch with our kids. But I wasn't about to risk the "MOM! That was so embarrassing!" lecture, so I resisted. Annie did call on Monday night to let us know they'd arrived at the hotel. (The teacher coordinating the trip sent nightly e-mails so we weren't completely incommunicado.)

By Tuesday night, I was definitely missing her. I wanted to talk about her experience at Arlington National Cemetery. I wanted to know if she slept well in the hotel. I didn't expect her to call, but I would have been happy if she did.

On Wednesday, they went to the Holocaust Museum. I wanted to know how it moved her. I thought she might call. But the phone remained silent. I saw a few Facebook updates from her friends and hoped that she might have stopped at the hotel's lobby computer or found a friend with an iPod touch, just so I could hear from her, or better yet, see a picture of her. No such luck.

I knew she was having a good time and that no news was good news. But boy, was that hard. By Thursday afternoon, I was contemplating -- out loud on Facebook -- whether I should call one of the chaperones' phones to talk to Annie. I really thought all my FB friends would say, "Sure! Give her a ring!"

PhotobucketNope. I was counseled to wait it out, which would have been tough to do. I was rescued by an e-mail from one of the chaperones. There was no message, only this wonderful, awful, grainy picture of Annie next to Fonzie's leather jacket at the Smithsonian. It was so good to see her smiling face!

It turns out, I wasn't the only one missing Annie. Robbie has been counting down the days to her return since Monday afternoon.

Charlie was a completely different kid without her here. Usually, he is the kid that you have nag, nag, nag, prod and plead to get chores done. Without Annie here to fill the shoes of responsible oldest kid, Charlie stepped up.

He picked up the family room without being asked. He did his homework without reminders. He helped Robbie with his homework. I'm wondering if we can sneak Annie home without letting Charlie know? I'm totally enjoying this new-found son of mine.

We finally heard from Annie at 8pm last night, when she called to say they were boarding the bus for home. I talked to her for a few minutes. Mike did too. I was surprised when Charlie said he wanted to talk to her, and even more surprised when I heard him say, "I miss you. I love you."

I'm enjoying the memory of that because I'm sure by tonight, they'll be back to picking at each other. Just as it should be.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wait! Don't leave...

You are at the right place. This is still the 4th Frog blog. Just made all pretty and new! (If you're reading this in a reader or as a note on Facebook, do yourself a favor and click over to the blog URL to enjoy all the prettiness.)

I can't say thank you enough to Kristin from Simply Klassic Blog Design for this great new look. I won a free blog makeover from Kristin by entering a giveaway at Absolutely Narcissism.

To be honest, I was a little nervous about working with Kristin to for a blog makeover. Don't get me wrong. She does great work, but many of the other blogs she's designed are so pretty and delicate and soft. Not my style. But she had me complete a very thorough questionnaire to let her know what I wanted, what colors I like, what style of letters, etc. She let me have a peek at what she was working on several times through the process to make sure she was headed in the right direction.

And boy, did she deliver! There is still some work I need to do on my end (like linking pages to the menu bar items at the top), but I love it. I think this is the happiest I've ever been at 4 o'clock in the morning. Well, the happiest I'm willing to talk about in public...

If you have a blog and feel like it needs a pick-me-up, please give Kristin from Simply Klassic Blog Design a try. You'll be happy you did.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vera happy news

for one of you, anyway. The winner of the Vera lovely giveaway is Hyvie! She is a teacher at my kids' school.

Before you cry foul, I used to choose the winner. Besides, she is a preschool teacher so she is in no position to give my kiddos any favors when it comes to their report cards. When she entered the giveaway, she said, "If I won the Vera bag I'd use it to carry books, magazines, my kindle and other stuff to the pool this summer!"

Well, get thee to the library, Hyvie, because you've got a brand new bag!

Now, for those of you who didn't win, look what "Vera" cool thing I discovered today.

If you "like" Vera Bradley on Facebook, then click the "downloads" link, you can select one of dozens of digital Vera Bradley backgrounds -- including the Viva la Vera pattern -- for your computer, iPad or mobile device. Click "downloads archive" to see all the backgrounds available. Best of all, it's free!

I set mine to Deco Daisy:


Sunday, May 1, 2011

The pros and cons of 12

Consider the number 12.

It can be a nice number. There are the 12 days of Christmas. The 12 months of the year. 12 eggs in a carton. The 12 apostles of Jesus. Charlie's 12th birthday this summer.

Even the sound of the word is a bit sophisticated. "Tw-el-ve." All that blending of syllables seems a little aristocratic.

There is size 12 in clothing, which may or may not be a good thing depending on which side of size 12 you stand on. Personally? I'd be elated to see a 12 again.

A shoe size of 12 might make you happy if you are a man (or are married to a man with a size 12 foot). Although a size 12 in the women's shoe department does not carry quite the same badge of honor.

But the worst 12 there is? The most unhappy 12 I can think of today?


The 12 loads of laundry I need to deal with today. (There are so many, I can't fit them all in the picture, plus 2 are in the washer and dryer). 

Once they are all clean, only half of those items are going back upstairs. The other half will find their way to the Goodwill today -- even if it takes me 12 trips to get them there.

What is your favorite (or least favorite) 12?