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Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Cubs win for the birthday

Charlie turns 12 years old today. (Turned, actually, at 9:05am) To celebrate the occasion...and Mike's 40th...and Father's Day, I sent them on the Megabus to Chicago for  a Cubs game last night. In honor of my guys, the Cubs pulled out a win in extra innings.

I think this picture is a winner too:


Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Trial and error gardening

Remember that raised garden I was so excited about planting at the community center? The one that started out like this:


Here's what it looked like the other day:



There's a chance that I planted a few too many things in my 4x8-foot box. For starters, zucchini. My father-in-law told me not to plant zucchini. He said it would take over everything. The man is a master gardener. Why didn't I listen to him? 

So the other day, I uprooted the three zucchini plants and brought them home to the backyard. I'm not sure if they'll survive the transfer or not. I already had one good size zucchini and several smaller. Can you use the little zucchini? Or will it be bitter or tough or something else yucky?

My broccoli, sadly, had mostly gone to flower. I didn't know that could happen. That's the downside of having your garden somewhere other than your back yard. It's harder to keep an eye on it. We've had so much rain that I haven't stopped by as often as I should because I knew the garden was well watered. I was able to save about a head and a half of it.And then I pulled those plants, too. I'll re-plant more broccoli in the fall.

The cilantro has also flowered. So I'm thinking that's not any good either. I may be able to salvage and dry out some of the leaves at the base of the plant. And some of my tomato plants have these weird spiky things on them:


I have no idea what those are. 

I need to stake up the tomato plants and add some structure so the snow peas can climb. I'm hoping that the extra room in the garden will encourage the tomatoes and peppers to grow more. The basil is doing well and the sweet marjoram smells good, even though I have no idea what to do with it.

Next year, I'm going to be smarter about how I plant the garden. I'll plant fewer plants and plant them in waves so that there's always something ripe and ready. I'm getting a little impatient waiting for the tomatoes and peppers.Although, I have a feeling that once they come in, I'll have more than I know what to do with. 

In the meantime, I need to do something with that zucchini.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Please not the giraffe again

NO. That was the answer that came to Mike this afternoon via e-mail.

Oh, it was much nicer than a flat-out "no." There were admissions of the decision being difficult and best wishes for the future and blah, blah, blah.

Best wishes don't pay the power bill, sweetheart.


This whole process of looking for a job just really sucks.

It's like riding a carousel. You stand in line, watching the animals go round and round. You pick out the one that would be just perfect for you, noting a few others that you wouldn't mind riding either. The ticket taker moves the velvet rope and you race forward, trying to be polite and not seem too eager, but moving with enough determination that its clear that you really want the black horse with the green diamond studded headdress.

And then some kid gets there before you. And you have to scramble around, tying your hopes to some other horse, or God-forbid the stupid giraffe that doesn't even move up and down. You tell yourself that the black horse with the green diamonds wasn't as great as it seemed anyway. That a much cooler animal -- maybe the tiger with the menacing teeth -- is just waiting for you to find your way to it.

Every day, you park yourself atop some animal, going round and round and round. You begin to feel sick to your stomach and you're not sure if it's that you've been going around for so long or if it's that you've heard that damn syrupy music-box music one too many times. All you know is that you're ready to get off the ride. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Math fragments

Mommy's Idea

I know, I know. It's Friday and all thoughts are towards the weekend and who wants to do math over the weekend? But bear with me for this edition of Friday Fragments.

  1. A king-size bed is 76x80 inches. If Person A is 5 feet 3 inches and Person B is 6 feet 2 inches and their combined width does not exceed the width of the bed (even allowing for plenty of extra room), is a king-size bed big enough for Person A + Person B. Answer: No. Factor in Person C who is 48 inches tall, give or take a few inches, and who climbs in the king-size bed and sleeps at a diagonal slant, then a king-size bed is NOT big enough.

  2. The distance from point A (home) to point B (work) is approximately 20 miles. Given an average driving speed of 45 miles per hour, how long does it take to get from point A to point B? Answer: 120 minutes. Did I mention the required stops at points C, D, and E to deliver children to their activities that start at 8am, 8:30am and 9am, respectively? So glad next week is camp and summer-school free.

  3. How many days are in a week? Answer: 647. At least that's what it feels like when you're waiting for some news about the interview your husband had last Thursday.

  4. 681 Facebook friends + 1,303 Twitter followers = a.) This person has too much time on their hands. b.) This person is not good at time management. c.) This person does not sleep much. d.) This person needs to get a life. e.) All of the above.

  5. There are 5 people in a family.  Each person wears 2 outfits and 1 pair of pajamas each day, how many loads of laundry does this family generate in an average week? Answer: 56. I know. I don't get it either, but I get to wash, dry and fold it.

  6. How many days does it take for a nectarine to ripen to juicy perfection while sitting on your desk? Answer: 4, but it was so worth the wait.

  7. You've come to the end of my Friday Fragments and you're wanting more. What time is it? Answer: It's Half-Past Kissin' Time. Head over there for more Friday Fragments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



This is the dog.
This is the bad dog.
This is the bad dog we love.

She's been granted a temporary stay of expulsion.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dog-gone summer

It's come to THIS. Again.

The stairs are gated -- she finagles around/over/through the gate and heads upstairs to pee and poop. Our bedroom and Robbie's seem to be her favorite. This is after she's been outside for plenty of time or recently walked.

When she is good, she is a joy. Brings smiles and laughter. But when you come home to find poop all over the hallway (and not just easy to pick up poop), the smiles and laughter disappear. We've had the carpets cleaned twice by "professionals" and twice by us with a do-it-yourself machine. All to end up back in the same spot.

So now there are tears. And guilt. Maybe we didn't do enough?

It's not her fault, but she's the final straw in a very stressful home right now. Mike is still looking for work (waiting, waiting, waiting to hear about interviews from last week). My mother-in-law's death is still fresh. And our tolerance for shit, literally, is very low.

I wish there were a place to take her where we could go visit her and play with her once in a while. I hope there is a place that she can call home, for good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sundays in My City: Specially ordinary

Unknown Mami

Location: In a gorgeous backyard somewhere in Indianapolis, Indiana

Occasion: None. Just girlfriends getting together to enjoy each other's company.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into my friend Bonnie's backyard to this beautiful scene:





The food was just as spectacular -- make-your-own grilled pizza, grilled pineapple, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, fruit pizza, and fancy cupcakes.




Better than the scene or the food was the company. I've known this group of women through activities at church for a long time, though I've not really been social with most of them. But my wise friend Ann has been kind enough to invite me to join these ladies for a prayer group and for social events known as "porch therapy."  This latest gathering had us laughing until we were crying well into the night.

I'm generally a no-frills kind of girl, but I was surprised to see how special this ordinary evening felt just because of a few details like flowers on the table, cloth napkins, food not served straight from the bag.

That's Sunday in my city. What's happening in yours? Visit Unknown Mami to see what's happening in other cities.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fragments in 8 minutes or less

It's Friday. It's Fragments. And I'm frantic to whip these out before I have to go pick Annie up from summer gym in 8, yipes!, 7 minutes.

Going for the acrostic approach to today's fragments.

F: Filter. Is yours on? Do you know what I'm talking about?

R: Robins. Our baby robins are getting so big! Mike's hooking up the baby bird cam again and I'll post a new video here soon.

A: Amy. That's my name. It's also the first name of about a bazillion other girls born in or around 1970. If this is your first visit, nice to meetcha.

G: Girlfriends. Gotta have 'em. I used to get together with mine weekly. But then we all started working more and coffee-klatching less. I miss them.

M: Mike. He had two job interviews this week. Please pray that something -- the right thing -- happens soon.

E: Envy. My sister sent me a video of her big pregnant belly and the little squirt dancing in there. I swear I an arm or a leg almost popped right out of the top of her belly button. It made me a little envious. I LOVED being pregnant. Now, when my belly moves all on its own, it's not so cute.

N: Needs. In our current budget-challenged state, when there are so many things I want -- a new phone, new tennis shoes, a new car, a nice vacation -- I have to be mindful to be thankful that while there are plenty of wants, our needs do not go unanswered.

T: Time. Never enough of it. Or maybe I'm a bad manager of it (more likely the case). But my to-do lists are fast growing. Hoping to catch up on a bunch of it this weekend.

S: Shoot! Two minutes over my deadline. Guess that makes this "Fragments in 10 minutes or less."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How's your filter?


My grandmother has Alzheimer's disease. She's living in a nursing home right now. And while Alzheimer's is a sad disease, it has brought some funny moments. It seems that Grandma's filter is gone now. You know, that filter that stops you from saying things that might be inappropriate or at least better left unsaid.

Last weekend a nurse offered Grandma a chocolate milkshake. She took it, sucked it right down, and declared, "That was better than sex!"

To which the nurse responded, "It would be pretty hard for you to say that, considering you had 13 kids!"

We've laughed and said Grandma has probably been thinking these things her whole life and is only know actually saying them out loud. Whether it's a result of her disease or she figures at 87 years old, she's earned it, only Grandma knows.

Little kids have to be taught to use their filters. I remember once when Annie was about 3 or 4 years old. I was holding a friend's new baby. Annie came over and I said, "Look Annie. Isn't she cute?"

Annie matter-of-factly replied, "Eh. Kind of cute. Kind of ugly" and ran off to play, leaving me mortified and stammering for an appropriate apology.

Has your kid ever asked someone, regardless of gender, when the baby was going to come out of their belly? And the person. was. not. pregnant.

There are days I really wish my filter was broken. When I would like to just let loose whatever sentiment comes to mind, regardless of to whom it is directed and how it might affect them. Facebook seems to be the corner coffee shop of those with broken filters. Like the inability to see the reaction on someone's face somehow absolves the "speaker" from the consequences of what they've just put out there.

Sometimes I think a filter leak is a good thing. It gets people's attention, maybe wakes them up to something they've not been able to see before. But mostly, I trust my filter to keep me in the "treat others as I want to be treated" mode. 

Remember "You've Got Mail?" Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) had no filter and often regretted it. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) had a broad filter and often felt frustrated by it. I suppose the secret to these filters is, like everything else in life, balance.

So how's your filter? Do you say what you want when you want to? Or do you bite your tongue as a matter of etiquette and good will?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baby birds

Remember the Mama Robin and her eggs sitting in the nest outside our front door? Well, she flew away.

One night she was on the nest, the next day she was gone and we didn't see her for several days, even though there were still eggs in the nest. A week later, there was a Mama Robin in the nest again, though we think it is probably a different bird. This one is more skittish than the previous resident. And soon there were six eggs in the nest.

One day last week, I saw a bunch of motionless fuzz in the nest. Soon, the fuzz was indeed moving. Then chirping. Poor Robbie is so curious, although he seems to have learned his lesson about messing with the nest. So Mike set up a video camera on a tripod to capture some of the avian action. That way Robbie (and the rest of us) could get a bird's eye view -- sorry, couldn't resist -- without disturbing the nest.

Check out baby birds' feeding time!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fragments, already

It took me 5 long minutes to come up with that winner of a title. I think I've caught writer's block from my friend Insomnimom. Hopefully dishing it out in small doses via Mrs. 4444s Friday Fragments will help shake things loose.

School's out. And back in. The boys finished up on Tuesday. Annie started summer school on Wednesday. Then the next two weeks are camps for the boys -- sports camp, art camp, science camp. Why does everything happen in June? June is when I want to kick back and relax. Offer camps in July when we're all sick of each other again.

PhotobucketThis is Charlie on one of the last days of school -- Field Day. Who could resist a charmer like this?

Who knew that my lack of social life would elicit such a response? Lots of interesting comments re: the reality (or not) of Facebook. And one sad comment about the effect of having children on the capacity for fun, which I will respond to in a future post. As far as Facebook goes, I think I'm pretty honest about my life in my comments. If I'm having a fat day or a crummy day, I don't mind putting it out there. The same if something good happens. But I know some people only put the "pretty" stuff on their statuses.

I made a new recipe to take to a pitch-in the other night. It was an easy enough recipe that even a bad cook like me couldn't mess it up:

PhotobucketGuacamole Kabobs

2 avacados
2 TBS lime juice
2 TBS cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
Cherry or grape tomatoes

Cut the avacados down the middle, remove the pit, cut the flesh from the skin. Cube the avacado. Toss with lime juice, cilantro and salt. Put on party pics, alternating tomato, avacado, tomato. The yumminess of guacamole, without the added calories and fat of chips to dip in it.

Question:  Parents of high schoolers -- Does your kid have an internet-capable phone? Why or why not?

I think that's about it for this week's edition of Friday Fragments. Until next time, join the 4th Frog fun on Facebook, where you can see things like this little gal. (Her name's Tootsie and I met her in the nail salon!)

Don't forget to visit Mrs. 4444s for more fragmented folks!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The down side of Facebook (or where did my social life go?)

I think Facebook is one of the best inventions of my lifetime. (For the reasons why I think this, read this previous post.) But one down side of Facebook is I get to see how much more fun other people's lives are than mine.

Did you know there are people out there who go on actual vacations? Trips to interesting places that don't involve familial obligations. Heck, there are couples I know who actually get together with other couples. For fun. On a regular basis. I'm talking people my own age and even older. It's not only the young'uns out there having fun.

Back in the day, Mike and I used to have a social life -- a pretty active one. Summer evenings were spent with several neighbors in the backyard, watching the kids run around having fun while us parents enjoyed liquid fun and good conversation.

We also used to spend quite a bit of time with other couples from church. Pretty much the same M.O. Kids running, playing and after dark, watching movies on the VCR (you can tell how long ago it was). Parents sitting out on the deck, citronella candles flickering, talking and laughing until late into the evening.

I miss those social days.

Now, Friday and Saturday nights generally consist of me with my laptop, Mike at the desktop computer, half watching whatever superhero or anime movie the boys picked from the Netflix queue. Of course, Annie being the happening teenager generally is with friends. Once we get the boys to bed, we might put a grown up movie on. Fast-forward 27 minutes and I'm snoring on the couch and Mike has flipped to some dreadfully boring (to me) show on the Military Channel.

What has happened to us?  Why is it that people we know are out there having fun and being social and we're home acting like a bunch of old people?

Some of it is a function of age. Not our age so much as the kids ages. Instead of running around the backyard with friends, our kids have social or sports obligations of their own. And they're not old enough to drive, so we're the ones running the shuttle back and forth.

Some of it is a function of geography. Many of the people who we used to spend weekend evenings with have moved to other cities. Then there's the whole "we don't drink like we used to" thing. That kind of puts a damper on the party life.

I realize the remedy to this situation lies within. The old "if you want to make a friend, be a friend."  This weekend, we're hosting a block/lawn party in the backyard. Maybe Sunday morning, I'll have something interesting to share on Facebook too.

For more PYHO posts, visit Shell at Things I Can't Say.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


  1. One newly purchased roll of Scotch tape.
  2. One pink and white New Balance tennis shoe, size 8.
  3. One high school sweatshirt, black half-zip with white embroidery.
  4. One book, The Holy Temple, half-read.
  5. One Sonitrol access card.
Let me know if you've seen them. What are you looking for?

Monday, June 6, 2011

40 20 wishes for his birthday

Today is Mike's birthday. His 40th birthday to be exact. I gave him his gift over the weekend. I wished him a happy day on Facebook. We're going out to dinner tonight. But I still felt compelled to offer my celebratory salutations here on the blog, too. So, I've decided to list 40 wishes for my husband's birthday:
  1. I wish he would replace the toilet paper on the roll.
  2. I wish he would scrub the dishes before he puts them in the dishwasher.
  3. I wish he would permanently forget the password to his eBay bidder account.
Oh wait...that's not quite what I was going for.  I'll finish that list for MY birthday. Let me try this again.

To my huzzzband:
  1. I wish you a big bubble in your pizza crust, just like you like it.
  2. I wish you sunglasses that don't have finger smudges on the lenses.
  3. I wish you 3 stars on every board of Angry Birds. (I know you've already got that, but this will cover you for future releases.)
  4. I wish you moments in every day that release your big laughter.
  5. I wish you Diet Mountain Dew available in every restaurant you go to.
  6. I wish you a dedicated Star Wars channel on cable TV.
  7. I wish that someday you will get to ride in the General Lee.
  8. I wish you good health.
  9. I wish you summers with air conditioning.
  10. I wish you winters with heat.
  11. I wish you a trip to see the last Space Shuttle launch.
  12. I wish you a trip to see a Cubs game at night. (Oh yeah, wish granted.)
  13. I wish you Geno's East Pizza.  
  14. I wish you uninterrupted sleep for at least one night. 
  15. I wish you the return of the loyalty you show others. 
  16. I wish you the forgiveness you so easily give.
  17. I wish you success in your profession.
  18. I wish you peace in your heart.
  19. I wish you happy memories of your mom.
  20. I wish you serenity.
Sorry honey. 40 is a very big number and I'm running out of things to wish for you, unless I go back to my original line of thinking. Let me just say:


I wish you a very happy "Bee"-day!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

True or False

True or false: Is this an actual conversation that took place somewhere in the U.S. tonight?

Child 1: I'm kind of nervous about starting summer gym. I'm afraid I'll be the only person who won't know anyone.

Parent: Well, just tell yourself that you'll get to know just one person on the first day.

Child 1: Mom, this is not the 80s or the 90s. It's not some movie where you meet someone on the first day and then you're lifelong friends. High school is like a shark pit. You have to flounder in the water for a while and try not to move. Then when a shark comes along, you have to make friends with it.

Child 2: Yeah, Mom. No one goes around shaking hands.

Child 1: Seriously. If you go up and introduce yourself to someone, you're automatically tagged as a "holy roller."

Parent: Whatever you say, dear. I have to go finish ironing name labels into your gym clothes.

Just me, the dog and Chopped

Dateline 4th Frog House -- 4:29am -- I'm awake. So is the dog. We're watching Chopped on DVR. I love this show, though I've seen this episode before. They can only use grills. Not my favorite episode, but good enough for insomnia.

Actually, I'm not sure this counts as insomnia. This is more child-induced sleeplessness, as in Robbie is in my bed, taking up 3/4 of the king size mattress. So I came downstairs to sleep on the couch only to find Charlie sleeping in my spot there. Arrrgh!

Looking on the bright side, it gives me a chance to catch up on a little blogging.

The boys have 1.5 days of school left, though truthfully, I think everyone has pretty much checked out already. We usually go to school past Memorial Day, but for some reason this year it seems that we should have ended before then. Maybe because most of the public schools did.

Annie starts summer school on Wednesday. She's taking gym this session. In July, she'll be taking a math class. I'm hoping it's a good introduction to the school and she'll make some friends before school starts in August.

Speaking of Annie, now she's awake and down here, too. I might sneak up and lay down in her bed. Unlike Charlie's, which is rock hard, Annie's bed is enticingly soft and comfy.

I'm thinking we're going to have to set up some rules/guidelines for summer. I can already see chaos ruling. Kids thinking they can stay up until whenever. Kids sleeping all over the house. Kids thinking they can sleepovers every night. I'll have to enlist Mike's help in making the rules since he'll be the one enforcing them.

Speaking of Mike, he had a job interview on Friday. Please say a little prayer that he makes it to the next round. Please say a big prayer that ultimately he is offered the job.

Oh! Commercial for The Next Food Network Star. It starts tonight. I love that show! For someone who is culinarily challenged, I sure like to watch other people  cook on TV.

Ugh. The search function on this blog is not working. I just tried to find a previous post to demonstrate how bad of a cook I am and the search didn't work. I also need to work on the links at the top of the page. NOW, DON'T GO CLICKING THERE. There's nothing there yet. Add it to the to-do list.

The problem with watching Food Network in the middle of the night? Now I'm hungry! But I will not eat. Well, maybe some watermelon. That wouldn't be too bad, right?

Speaking of food, you should see our garden. It's big and leafy. I should have snapped a few pics when I was there. I'm going to have to transplant the zucchini. It's giant and overshadowing some of the peppers and something else I can't remember what it is. Maybe snow peas? My spices are doing well. So are the tomato plants. I need to get some tomato cages to support those. I can't wait until we have fresh veggies from the garden. Next year, I'll be smarter about planting some early harvest things so we don't have to wait so long for some bounty

My MIL's birthday was Friday. She would have be 69. We're doing pretty well. I found myself wishing she could have been with us to celebrate Annie's graduation. Mike's dad seems to be doing ok, too. His grandmother, however, is having a hard time with Karen being gone. She just turned 92 last week. And on Friday night, her best friend, who was 95, died. My heart just aches for her.

Chopped is just about over, so I'll wrap this up. I'm going to have a giveaway coming up soon. Chex Mix Muddy Buddies. Trust me, this is one delicious giveaway. More on that later today. For now, I'm off to find somewhere to sleep.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A better job than I thought

There are some things about parenthood that are universal. Things like thinking your baby is the cutest ever born. Or dreaming of the day she says "Mama" or "Dada" or "Diet Coke." Or praying that whatever you do, you don't screw up your kid too much. 

Annie graduated from the 8th grade last night. Apparently, big deal 8th grade graduations are a Catholic school thing. I wouldn't know because it's all I know. I had one -- which I got to watch from the cry room because I had the chicken pox. My siblings all had them.

I digress. So, Annie graduated from the 8th grade last night. It was the culmination of about a month of special activities for her and her classmates. I wasn't nearly as teary as I'd anticipated I would be, although I was trying to figure out how she went from this:


to this:


In fact, I was pretty proud of myself for not crying at all. The graduation Mass and ceremony was really a celebration. Of the 49 kids graduating, about 43 of them have been students at the school since kindergarten. Sitting there, listening to the names of kids I've watch grow up being called for recognition of scholarships and awards, I was truly happy for the kids and the class as a whole. And I was so thankful for the role the school has played in our lives.

One of the final awards to be given was the Joseph Maley Foundation scholarship. Joseph is the son of a school/church family. He was born with multiple disabilities and died from leukemia at the young age of 18.  After his death, his family created the foundation to serve children of all abilities. Though we are not especially close friends of the Maley family, I do have two distinct memories involving them.

The first was before Annie had even started school. I saw the family with their 5 boys leaving church one Sunday and made some comment about them having enough boys to form their own basketball team. I remember Vivian's good-natured laugh, even though she'd probably heard the comment more than a few times.

The second memory is from when Annie was in second or third grade. The school was observing disability awareness month. Vivian and Joseph had made an appearance at the school, telling Joseph's story. It was a story that really stuck with Annie. She came home and talked about Joseph several times for the next few weeks.

The Joseph Maley Foundation award is given each year to a student who has shown integrity, kindness, quiet leadership and openness to all people, regardless of abilities.

Of course because this is my blog, you've probably figured out that Annie won this award. However, I didn't have the benefit of that insight sitting in the church last night, so I was taken by surprise when last year's winner called Annie's name.

Here is what was said about Annie:

"This year's recipient was nominated by her peers and teachers. She is described by her teachers as patient, nurturing and a leader; she has learned from her experiences with her family and her classmates how to treat every person with compassion. Whether it's being patient with her kindergarten buddy or helping one of her peers, she reflects the best in each of us."

Ok. So that got me crying.

Mike and I were talking about it this morning and what he said really sums up the pride that I feel. He said that the best part of Annie receiving the Joseph Maley Foundation award is that it wasn't something she had to compete for. It is a recognition of who she is already is as a person (well the part of her that is not the snarly 14-year old who was rearing her attitude earlier in the day).

One of the youth ministry staff posted this on Annie's Facebook wall:

Congrats Annie! I was sitting across from you and as they read the description I thought they were talking about you and I could see you saying to someone "it's you, it's you" and then the look of shock on your face was priceless! That was why you won...b/c you never even suspected that you might, you just treat others that way naturally. Always keep that attitude!

And while I think most of credit for this amazing kid goes to grace from God, I am glad to know that maybe the job Mike and I are doing raising her and her brothers is not too shabby either.